This lessons comes from the book of Revelation, the revelation of Jesus Christ to His bride, the church. This is the last book of the Bible because it is the final inspired revelation to mankind from the throne of heaven. Jesus Christ gave this messages to the church through His servant, Saint John, on the isle of Patmos.
I want to take a look at the letter to the church in Laodicea. The book of Revelation is divided into three parts, according to chapter 1. In verse 19, Jesus tells John to write down the things which he has seen, and the things which are, and the things that will take place after these things. In chapter 1, John sees Jesus Christ. In chapter 2 and 3, the things that are means the 7 churches to whom he writes. Chapters 4 through the end of the book, John writes about the things that are to come, after the church period. The churches begin with the “hub” church planted in Asia Minor, the Ephesian church. Then the order of the following churches is the along the mail route in Asia Minor. The Ephesian church sent out the Word of God with the message of the Gospel along the mail route. In the picture, you can see the order of the churches as they follow the mail route in Asia Minor. The last church on the route is the church of Laodicea. This church had a problem. This one, root problem stemmed out to many different problems. With the previous 6 churches, Christ first praised them before getting into their problems. One example of this is the church in Ephesus. Before exposing the root of their problem, the fact that they had left their first love, Jesus praised them for all of the great things that they were doing. With the church in Laodicea, its all rebuke. Let’s find out the root of their problem, see what other problems stem from that root problem, and then discover Christ’s solution.
I. They are too far from the source
Jesus knows what their deeds are. They are neither hot nor cold. They are lukewarm. Some people want to interpret this to mean that Jesus wants us to be on fire for Him, or to be completely turned off to Him (cold). Being a bit hot and a bit cold, trying to have one foot with the Lord and one foot with the world makes us lukewarm. In theory, that sounds nice, but, that has nothing to do with the message that Jesus was trying to communicate with His church. Laodicea is mountainous and there are two kinds of springs that would feed water into the area, hot water from the hot springs in the mountain and cold water from the cold springs in the mountain. The closer you were to the source, the more useful the water was. Hot water coming out of the mountain springs was useful for bathing, washing, and cleaning. The further from the source you were, the cooler the hot water became as it made it to you. If you were too far away from the source, the original hot water became lukewarm and useless by the time it got to you. I do not know about you, but I do not like to bathe in lukewarm water. I like hot water. On the other hand, I do not like to drink hot water unless I have coffee or tea. I like to drink cold water. Those cold water springs brought cool drinking water, refreshing water to you. Again, the further that you were from the source, the warmer the water got as it traveled your way. If too far away, the cold water would become lukewarm and useless. Jesus is not saying that hot is good and cold is bad. Hot is useful and cold is useful. Lukewarm is bad because it is too far from the source and is useless. The church in Laodicea was too far away from the source to be useful. They could not produce the good deeds for Jesus to brag on them. This reminds me of John chapter 15 when Jesus told His disciples:
4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing
Because they were too far from the source, they did not see reality as it was. As the Apostle Paul wrote in many of his epistles, “do not be deceived” or, “do not deceive yourselves”. These people were greatly deceived. In their minds, reality was one way, yet, from Christ’s view, the source of reality, things were much different. In their minds, they were rich, they had become wealthy, and they had need for nothing. This is in direct contrast from the teaching of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount when He taught:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
When Jesus talks about being poor or poverty in spirit, He does not refer to physical poverty, that is why He says “in spirit”. He is describing the attitude of a person who must totally depend upon God for everything. Spiritually speaking, he is bankrupt. He is a beggar before the Lord. He has nothing to offer to God and only to receive. The righteousness of man teaches that we get to God through our good works while the righteousness of God teaches that we come before Him as bankrupt beggars in need of help. Which position have you been taught, do you try to work your way to God with your good works or do you recognize the fact that you are spiritually bankrupt and have nothing to offer and only to receive?
II. Jesus is outside the church
I want to share a passage with you from this chapter of Revelation, a verse that many people use to tell sinners that Jesus wants to have a relationship with them. Now that this verse is placed in its proper context, the entire meaning changes. As always, the rule of context is, context rules.
20 ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.
John is writing to a church that had locked Jesus out. This is another way to emphasize the fact that the church in Laodicea was too far from the source. In fact, they were so far from the source that Jesus was not even present among them. This is dire and very scary. If the rapture were to take place tomorrow, how many churches would continue on with things as usual and how long would they be able to keep the ball of church “ministry” rolling. As a result of Jesus being on the outside, and the fact that they were too far from the source, they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. This is harsh but it is reality. They needed to be confronted with the reality of things so that they can take the necessary actions. This is the refining process that God puts us through on a daily basis. The Apostle Paul explains it to Timothy. There is a clear pattern in II Timothy 3:16.The Word of God does the following for us:
- Teaches us
- Reproves us
- Corrects us
- Trains us
God uses His Word to teach us. Part of the teaching process is reproving us, meaning that we are shown where we are wrong. After showing us where we are wrong, God corrects us so that we can get right. This is much needed in all aspects of life, especially in our spiritual lives.
Jesus reproves His church because He loves the people who make up the church. They need to have reality pointed out to them so that they will heed Jesus’ advice. This discipline is Jesus knocking on the door to inform the church that He has been left out, that they are too far away from the source.
Now that Jesus has their attention, He reveals the plan of action to get back right. They need to repent. As I explain to our kids; repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of heart, that leads to a change of actions (direction). If you like technical definitions of words or ideas, the Greek word that is transliterated into English as “repentance” is “Metanoia“. It is composed of 2 other Greek words, “meta” which means “after” and “noia” which means “to understand profoundly”. When the 2 words come together to form “Metanoia” we get “after understanding profoundly”. The word “Metanoia” in itself means a change of mind that leads to a change of action. So, the word “repentance” literally means “after you understand the Gospel in a profound way, you have a change of mind that leads to a lifestyle change”. Repentance will allow the believers to become rich in spiritual things. Repentance will allow the believers not to be deceived any longer. Their eyes will be opened and they will see things as they are. Repentance will allow them to hear the Lord knocking, open the door and let Him in so that they can reconnect with the source. They will be able to overcome the things that cause them shame (their sin).
What about you my dear friend, are you too far away from the source? Is Jesus on the outside knocking, asking to be let back in? Do you see reality as it is or, has your sin caused you to be deceived and to deceive yourself? Do you need to repent? How do you handle God’s discipline?
May the Lord help us stay connected to the source!