David Jeremiah - The Disgusting Church
The Lord describes the church of Laodicea in very unflattering terms. He says the church is neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm. Here was a church that was materially well-fixed, a church that considered any activity for the Lord to be unnecessary because they had everything they wanted. They thought they had need of nothing. But in reality, they were the most needy of all of the seven churches. This is the only church of the seven about which the Lord has nothing positive to say. In fact, the church made God sick.
It is interesting that God looks at apostasy and he gets angry, he looks at indifference and he gets sick. This church intrigues us most as we study the seven churches because it represents the last of the churches. And in the chronological order of the churches of Revelation, the last church represents the actual church that will be on the earth when Jesus comes back at the Rapture. So if you want to know what the church condition is going to be like when the Lord Jesus comes back, study this letter with me and you'll have a pretty good idea. The church when Jesus comes back will be exactly like this church to which this letter was written.
So, I want you to think about the church. I want you to think about your own lives because, remember, these letters not only give us a picture of the condition of an historic church, of a church in history as we follow it through, but they also tell us some things about individual Christians, which will help us if we allow them to. First of all, notice the correspondent to the last age church. Remember, all of these letters start with a particular description of Jesus Christ, which is designed by the writer to fit exactly the need the church has. And the correspondent to the last age church is Jesus. And we learn about him first that he is the confirmation of the Word.
Revelation 3:14 says, "These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness". As the Lord addresses the church, he identifies himself, first of all, as the Amen, the Faithful and the True Witness. In all of the other letters, these terms are the descriptions of the Lord that emphasize his attributes, which are necessary for the needy church to whom he writes. As the Amen and Faithful and True Witness, he exposes by his very title the deceit and superficiality that characterized the assembly in the church of Laodicea.
The Laodiceans claimed to be rich, increased with goods, and needing nothing. But in reality, the Scripture says they were wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. With his blazing, penetrating eyes of fire, the Lord, who is himself truth, strips away all of the outward shell and exposes the emptiness that's inside this church. He's the confirmation of the Word. He's also the creator of the world.
Notice at the end of the verse, "These things says the beginning of the creation of God". The beginning of the creation of God does not suggest that Jesus was created. The Bible doesn't teach that. It's not that Jesus is created. It means he is the source of creation, he is the origin of creation. "All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that was made," says the Scripture. "God has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds," Hebrews 1:2.
This is a message to the Laodiceans that, in their wealth and complacency, thinking themselves in control, Jesus is telling them, "No, you're not in control. You're not in control at all. I am the very source. In fact, everything you have originated ultimately with me". We sometimes think we're self-made men, self-made women. That's foolishness if you're a Christian. All that you have is from God, every good gift and every perfect gift comes down from the Father, with whom there is no variableness, nor shadow of turning. And so, these arrogant people in this church, who have, over a period of time, assumed to themselves this spirit of invincibility, they're about to discover how very vulnerable they are. Jesus is the confirmation of the Word of God, and he's the creator of the world.
Now, that's the correspondent. Notice the characteristics of this last age church, beginning in verse 15. First of all, the Laodicean church is a compromising church. "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish," says the Lord, "that you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth". In every other area of life, men and women, whether it's entertainment or sports or life, all of our Christian experience is either dead and cold, or live and hot. For instance, if you're a sports fan and you really love this team, you don't care who sees how excited you are.
You know, when I was first getting started back in Fort Wayne, Indiana, I was then a Dallas Cowboy fan. Every weekend, we would watch the Cowboys in our home. And sometimes, I'd have one of our babies in my hands. My wife finally decided that was not good for the baby's health. One night, I almost passed him across the room to an unknown receiver. When you get into the whole area of sports, isn't it interesting how fanatical we become? We don't care who watches us. We jump up and down, and we scream.
And at first, when we're Christians, we are on fire for God, isn't that true? We find out what it means to be a Christian, we're so excited about what God has done for us, what Christ has done for us, and we're just on fire for the Lord. And then, after a while, we get in with some tepid Christians, who cool us off. And we get tepid, and we get lukewarm. The Laodicean church was a compromising church. Notice, secondly, it was a conceited church. Verse 17, "Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,' and you do not know that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked".
The Laodiceans are typical of the modern church today, which revels in the fact that everything you can see is so good, but it seems untouched by the gospel, and does not see beyond the veil of the material, to the unseen things that really make a difference in the vitality of a church". The church is the citadel of God's truth. When you come to church, you should hear the truth of God. When you come to God's church, you should be nourished up in his truth. But if all you have is entertainment, and some of the bizarre things I have read about that people do, then you're just like this church in Laodicea. You think you're doing good, but you're not. You think you're wealthy, but you're poor.
The Laodicean church was a compromising church, and it was a conceited church. But it was also a Christ-less church. Notice verse 20 in this text. "Behold," Jesus says, "I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me". Here is the last characteristic of the church. Jesus Christ is on the outside of the church, trying to get in. Now, we often take this passage in Revelation 3:20 as an invitation passage for personal salvation. It can be used for that, but that's not what it means.
Here is a picture, according to the writer of the book of Revelation, of the condition of the church in the last days. Jesus Christ is not a part of the church. He's on the outside of the church. He's knocking at the door, trying to get into the church, and obviously, he's not being received. What a tragic picture of the church of Jesus Christ in our age. During his first visit to this world, Christ predicted that his Second Coming would be met with unbelief. He said in Luke 18:8, "Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, shall he find faith on this earth"? And the expected answer is certainly not.
So the condition of the church at the time of Christ's return is a Christ-less condition. Jesus isn't in the church. It's the church of Jesus, but he's not there. He's trying to get in. He's knocking at the door of the church, seeking entrance back into the church, but he's not welcome. The correspondent to the last church is Jesus, who is the Amen of God. The characteristics of the church are that it is compromised, conceited, and Christ-less. Notice the counsel that is given to this church, what should they do? The God of the universe condescends to give counsel to this sick, lukewarm church. As a doctor would prescribe medicine for a sick human body, so the great physician prescribes help for this weak spiritual body.
First of all, notice the prescription for spiritual poverty. Verse 18, "I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich". This is ironic. These Laodiceans were well-endowed with the riches of the earth. But what they really needed, they could not buy with their gold. It didn't transfer into the currency of heaven. Isaiah the prophet alludes to this. He says, "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the water. And you who have no money, come buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price".
The Laodiceans had a lot of earthly money, but it didn't do any good in the heavenly realm. So they couldn't get anything worthwhile with the money they had accumulated. And Jesus says, "What you need for your poverty is some spiritual gold, some spiritual wealth". Notice the prescription for spiritual nakedness. Jesus said to this church, "You are poor, and you are naked". But notice in verse 18, he says, "I counsel you to buy white garments, that you might be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness might not be revealed".
Instead of being clothed with righteous acts as believers, they thought they were good because they had a lot of stuff. And the Bible says that in all reality, they were just, like, walking around naked, spiritually naked. The prescription for spiritual blindness, no, he doesn't miss one, watch this. "I counsel you to anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see". In the city of Laodicea, there was a medical center. And one of the products of that medical center that was manufactured there, and exported from that medical center all around the then-known world was a tablet that the Roman Empire thrived on.
The tablet was called tephra Phrygia, and it was used to heal a wide range of eye ailments. The users would crush the tablet, mix it with a small amount of water, and put it on their eyes, and wait for the healing to take place. The tephra Phrygia was a famous eye salve that originated in the city of Laodicea. And Jesus was reminding these blind Laodiceans that they needed more than the tephra Phrygia to see. They needed the truth of God, which only Christ could bring them. While they may have had good eyesight physically, they were blind spiritually.
And what informs the way you see the world, men and women? Do you view the world through the lenses given to you by the Holy Spirit, and have you ground those lenses in the pages of the Holy Scripture? Or has the spirit of the age placed a set of lenses over your eyes, that you do not even realize are there? So many Christians today have forgotten, have forgotten what it means to have spiritual insight. We've lost our spiritual eyesight. In our country now, even among Christians, we don't look at life as Bible-believing Christians. We look at life through the secular lenses we have adopted by living in this messed up world.
And so, when we see something happening in our world, if we're not careful, we wait to see what the pundits say about it, and then we sort of give it a little Christian pat on the back, and we adopt the pundit's view. We get to the place where we're willing to say that things that are wrong, that we know are wrong, are maybe not as wrong as we thought they were. Maybe they're almost right. And so, that which is good we call evil, and that which evil we end up calling good. Because our eyesight has been tested and ruined by not spending time in the Lord's Word.
So that we keep our spiritual lenses clean, we allow our eyes to be fogged over with the mess of the world. And then when things happen that we don't understand, or we hear people asking about them, we have no clue, because we haven't seen things spiritually for so long, we wouldn't know a spiritual truth if it jumped up and bit us. The prescription for spiritual blindness is spiritual eyesight. Take the tephra Phrygia of God, the tablet from the Word of God. Notice the prescription for spiritual compromise. It says in verse 19, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent".
It is interesting that the only other church that Jesus explicitly says he loves is the church at Philadelphia, interestingly enough. Jesus loves the church of Laodicea. He loves this church that's lost its way. He loves this church of Europe that no longer understands who Jesus is, or even wants his name mentioned. He loves the culture of America, where we're not sure whether God belongs in a program or out of a program, whether he can be mentioned in an organizational meal. He loves this culture. He doesn't love what this culture does.
Look down at your verse again, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten". He's speaking to the people in this church. He's saying, "I love you. And the reason I rebuke you is because of my love". If Jesus did not call people to repentance, he would be sending them a message. Do you know what that message would be? The message would be, "Go to hell". Rebuke here in the text describes pointing out a problem, and convincing someone to do something about it. Chasten is a reference to correction or punishment, with the purpose of training an individual. A zeal or eagerness to get right with God must replace the lukewarm spirituality that characterized the church, and the zeal will be seen in repentance.
"Wow, Pastor, this is about me. I used to be on fire for God. I used to want to serve God more than anything else in my life, and I've gotten warped into this culture. So now, I'm just like these people, I'm lukewarm too. The things of God aren't nearly as important to me as they once were, nor are they as important to me as now I wish they were". Where do you go from that, people? What do you do about a compromising church? What do you do for spiritual compromise? There's only one thing you can do: repent of it. Ask God to forgive you of it. Get on your knees when you get home tonight and say, "Lord God, I am sick and tired of only being halfway into my faith. From now on, I want to be all in, all in, Lord, with everything I've got".
The prescription for spiritual poverty, for spiritual nakedness, for spiritual blindness, and for spiritual compromise, and now notice lastly Revelation 3:20 again, "Behold, I stand at the door and I knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me". There is not a more wonderful invitation in all of the Word of God. There are only 33 words in this English version of this verse, and all except three words are short, crisp words of one syllable. They are the words "Behold, any, open".
There's an amazing strength and simplicity in this invitation. In his other invitations, Jesus called men to come to him. In this invitation, he comes in person and stands at the door to knock. Christ is here pictured in our relationship to the church, as well as to the individual, and he stands outside of the professing church that claims to know Jesus but obviously doesn't, and here's Jesus knocking at the door, trying to get into his own church. Although a lot of people, as I mentioned, have used this verse as an evangelistic call to unbelievers, and I think by way of application that's certainly okay, what it really is is Christ and his church in the last days.
The church has kicked Christ out of its programming, out of its messages, out of its ministry, out of its ordinances, out of its very being. And Jesus Christ wants back in. And he's knocking at the door. We should be knocking at his door; he's knocking at ours. The seven letters end with these words, "To him who overcomes, I will grant to sit with me on my throne. I also overcome and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear".
These letters, and especially the last one, men and women, teach us one important lesson. Listen carefully. The church must be Jesus-driven. I've heard about seeker-driven churches, and small group-driven churches. But the church in this age, for it to be of any viability at all, must be a Jesus-driven church. If the church is not that, it is not the church of Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is on the outside, still knocking at the door. I'm here to tell you Jesus is in this church. He's in this church. And it behooves us, men and women, to commit ourselves to one another that Jesus Christ never be pushed to the circumference of this church, but that he always maintains his position at the center.
"My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name. On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand"!
May God help us to commit to one another that the church will not become lukewarm, but will continue to have zeal for the things of God. And may God double our zeal, and may God infuse within us even greater desire to do his will. We stand in great need in our culture, and in our country, and in our communities. And here is the thing that we need: Jesus is the answer. We have the answer; what's the problem? We have the answer; what is the need? As we employ our ministry in the name of Jesus, he will bless us, and we will be continually on the edge of adventure as we walk with him into these new days.