Saturday, November 14, 2015

151115 Lukewarm Won’t Get It

Revelation 3:14-22  “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. 15 “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 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 eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ”
We come to the final church addressed by Jesus in the prologue of the book of Revelation. These seven letters were written to real churches and actual cities in the Roman province of Asia. These churches are representative of all the churches of all the ages. Laodicea is the last and if you will the worst of the churches. Only two of the churches received no condemnation, Smyrna and Philadelphia. The other five churches in the list reflect the serious problems that are seen even today. Beginning with Ephesus that had left its first love and continuing to Laodicea — a church that caused Jesus to vomit because it was so far from what it should be.
Ephesus was on the brink of judgment because it had left its first love. Pergamos was on the brink of judgment because it was tolerating sin. Thyatira was in a full-blown compromise with evil. Sardis was dead. Laodicea, imagine this, was an unsaved church!
Jesus pours on it unsparing condemnation. There is no redeeming virtue in this church. Sardis still had a few believers though it was dead as far as being a church is concerned. Even though Jesus sees only condemnation in the church at Laodicea it was a proud church — proud and unconverted. At the beginning of the letter Jesus designates that it is to go to the angel of the church in Laodicea and then…
Jesus identifies himself. The Colossian church was in the same general region of the world, and one or two generations before, Paul wrote the church in Colossae this description of Jesus. Colossians 1:15-20. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
In the book of Revelation there are three things said about Jesus: He is identified as the Amen; the faithful and true witness and the beginning of God’s creation. Being the Amen, Jesus confirms all God’s promises. He is faithful and true. He is reliable. He himself said that he is the Way the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). He is the perfect witness the Laodiceans would have known about Paul’s letter to the Colossians. They would have recognized these truths about Jesus. He’s the very image of the unseen God. He created all things. He holds everything together. He is the head of the church which is his body! He died for our sins and conquered death and hell. In him all the fullness of God is pleased to dwell. Through him God reconciles all things to himself! By the blood of his cross he makes peace!
In identifying himself he is…
Beginning as God. Let’s see what the writer of Hebrews has to say. Hebrews 1:1-4. Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
This description of Jesus, as well as the one we found in Colossians, does not refer to Jesus as the first to be created instead the Scriptures refer to Jesus as the premier one of all creation. Not only is he the premier but also by him all things were created. He is the light that brings glory to God. He is the exact imprint of God’s nature. He now holds everything together and he holds everything up by the word of his power. That is an amazingly wonderful truth but the most important thing is that he made purification for our sins. Oh how we need Him! Because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God! (Romans 3:23) And the wages of sin is death! But the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23) He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we could become the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21) These are all truths that the Laodiceans would have known and yet they completely ignored the truth. You see…
Laodicea was neither cold nor hot. Jude, who had wanted to write about their common salvation found himself needing to appeal to his hearers that they should contend for the faith. Jude 3-4 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
The church at Laodicea had been infiltrated by ungodly people who perverted the grace of God just as much as those that Jude wrote to. They said they were rich! They said they had prospered! They said that they needed nothing! They did not realize that they were really wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. In the midst of their proud congregation they were in need of everything! There are churches today in exactly the same condition! Pray, pray, pray that our church will never descend into that pit of despair. In spite of all this…
Jesus’ counsel. Even with all the condemnation that Jesus poured out on them he still counseled them to buy from him gold so they could be really rich. Isaiah had written 700 years before “Come buy… without money and without price.” (Isaiah 55:1) Just as Jesus advocated when he was on earth as recorded in John 7:37-39. On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Those who thirst should come to Jesus not to the philosophies of the world! No matter how we dress up our robes of human righteousness are simply dirty rags (Isaiah 64:6).  Seeing the condition of the church in Laodicea Jesus appealed to them to let their gold go. Like the rich young ruler that asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus counseled him to give up his earthly wealth, give it to the poor, and follow him (Luke 16:18-30). The gold that counts is kept in heaven for us!
The Laodiceans depended on a mineral rich water that was lukewarm when it arrived and caused those who drank it to be nauseous. They couldn’t see spiritual truth because they had never really committed their lives to Christ.
Laodicea was complacent. These people were surrounded by Christian churches. It is only about ten miles to Colossae. In the opposite direction it was a little further to Philadelphia and then on to Sardis and beyond that was Smyrna. The church of Ephesus was near enough to walk to. Yet, with all this reinforcement, the people of Laodicea simply didn’t care. What could’ve been wrong? Paul answered that question in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.   
The Laodiceans could not see what their need was because their spiritual eyes were blinded. Jesus then counseled with them to buy salve to anoint their eyes so that they may see. The only cure for the veil covering the eyes of unbelievers is God’s healing salve.
And having purchased godly gold, white garments and salve to anoint their eyes they could begin to see the love of God. The love that’s mentioned here is not the agape love normally associated with Jesus. It is the phileo love that God has for all his creation. This is a divine kind of love that does not involve relationship. Those who are spiritually blind need to repent and come to Christ.
What is repentance? What does it really mean?
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote on repentance: “Repentance means that you realize that you’re a guilty, vile sinner in the presence of God, that you deserve the wrath and punishment of God, and that you are hell bound. It means that you begin to realize that this thing called sin is in you, and that you long to get rid of it, and that you turn your back on it in every shape and form; you renounce the world, whatever the cost – the world in its mind and outlook, as well as its practice – and you deny yourself, and take up the cross, and go after Christ, your nearest and dearest. And the whole world may call you a fool or say you have religious mania. You may have to suffer financially, but it makes no difference: that is repentance.”
Love equals discipline. Hebrews 12:7-8 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
We find in Hebrews God’s kind of love even the phileo love he has for all people includes a call to repent! When God disciplines he is treating us as his children. Even those who are not his children receive discipline in order to cause them to become aware of their need to repent. Their problem is…
Jesus is on the outside! Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
This passage of Scripture is often used, wrongly, in speaking of Christ being on the outside of the individual knocking on the door of the heart. That is the popular idea of the meaning of this verse. What’s going on here? Jesus stands at “the door” what is he talking about? Is it the door of a heart? No it is the door of a church! This is a church — the one in Laodicea — that Christ is not in. Jesus is on the outside! The picture that is usually used to depict this shows a door with no outside handle meaning that it has to be opened from the inside. I believe that is accurate. In order for Jesus to come in to the church those on the inside have to open up and let him in. Jesus is saying that he will come in if someone, anyone, hears his voice and will repent with zeal and be saved. That’s all it takes, one true Christian in a church and Christ is there. He may not be in control but he is present.
The act of saving faith rejects good works as spiritual bankruptcy, spiritual nakedness, and spiritual blindness. Saving faith abandons all self-righteousness, good works, and self-sufficiency and turns from sin and opens the door. If just one person will do that Jesus will enter that church. Salvation will happen inside that church. Then Jesus says that he will have fellowship, communion and a shared life with that person and begin the process of bringing that church into a useful condition. And as a result…
There can still be conquerors. Just as with all the other churches — real churches — Jesus speaks of one who conquers.
The church in Laodicea is filled with unsaved people. There’s not any commendation at all coming from Jesus and yet, at the same time, he speaks of “conquerors”. If anyone hears Jesus’ voice and opens the door that person will be a conqueror. And when Christ comes that person will sit with Jesus on his throne. Coming from a church that is completely dead the one who repents will bring life and there will be an abundant outpouring of the love of God. The church will no longer be lukewarm but will be either refreshingly cool or encouragingly hot! If you have a spiritual ear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches!
The letter to the church at Laodicea is one of the most frightening passages of Scripture to me. It represents the church that was born in evangelistic outreach and died in self-centered mediocrity. They had begun to live in the routine day to day activities that no longer lifted up Christ or proclaimed the gospel. Think about it!
Have you put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? We have all sinned and come short of God’s glory. The bad news is that the wages of sin is death! But the good news is God demonstrated his love for us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. So, if we will confess Jesus as Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead we will be saved.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Friday, November 6, 2015

151108 Brotherly Love

Revelation 3:7-13 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. 8 ‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Jesus’ message to the church in Philadelphia identifies the author very clearly as being the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. Five of the churches are told that Jesus knows their works. Philadelphia is the fourth church so identified. Laodicea is the fifth and we’ll talk about that next week. The Lord Jesus is very clear in presenting how the churches operate and how he will help them. The Philadelphian church is assured that Jesus is on their side. Or, as we might say today, “God’s got it!” They are encouraged by Jesus’ promises, as we should be as well.
“Philadelphia” can be translated as “brotherly love”. Obviously, the church is named after the city in which it exists. I do not know why the ancients so designated their city. I assume that the city was founded by a group of people who practiced love for one another. One of the stories tell us that the city was founded by man who “loved his brother” who was the king of the region at the time.
Jesus chose to include Philadelphia in the list of churches that the book of Revelation was specifically addressed to. I believe these churches combine to show the strengths and weaknesses of the church universal. By including these churches Jesus sends the Revelation out to all the churches of all ages. The church at Philadelphia was not particularly strong but was assisted by the Lord Jesus in that he set before them an open door. A door that no one could close. Jesus recognized that they had but little power. However…
Little power is better than none at all. Jesus often referred to his disciples as people with “little faith”! He did not reject them because of that. He told a parable that speaks of the strength of a little faith. Listen while I read Mark 4:30-32. And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
Dr. Paul Younggi Cho, the founding pastor of the largest church in the world, gave an example of how little faith will work. He said that after a trip to the Holy Land he brought back some mustard seed to show what Jesus was talking about. During one of the several services held at his church one Sunday morning he asked the crowd to come around one at a time to look at some mustard seed in order to see how small something can be that will grow up to be large. As the thousands of people moved past the seed one of the ladies sneezed! When she did the mustard seed was gone. Rather than thinking that was a bad thing the pastor immediately said that a faith that is small enough to be blown away by a sneeze can still work miracles.
The church of Philadelphia had but little power. We should rejoice in that because it teaches us that we do not have to build a strong faith before God will work. If we had to operate on our faith being strong — and we actually could work up a strong faith — the work would not be God’s, it would be ours. Remember, it is not by works of righteousness we have done but by God’s mercy that we are saved and we serve. (Titus 3:5) It was God who opened the door for them to minister. That door was one that could not be shut by anyone. The little power they had was reflected in the fact that…
They kept his word and did not deny his name. Listen while I read from 1 Peter 1:3-9.  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
The churches that Peter wrote to also had a little strength. That strength is reflected in the fact that they had been born again in the strength of Jesus’ resurrection to a living hope. That hope, which we all share in, gives believers in the Lord Jesus Christ an inheritance. That inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It cannot be taken away from us because it is kept in heaven not here on earth.
I am so grateful that our salvation does not depend on the strength of the church — any church — but instead it depends on God’s power! God who is capable of guarding us along the way, not waiting to see what we would do. Here Peter confirms the words of the apostle Paul who said, “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. (2 Timothy 1:12)
The church at Philadelphia had but little power, yet they had kept Jesus’ word and had not denied his name. Remember, if we will confess his name before men he will also confess our name in heaven. (Luke 12:6) It is essential that we keep his word and refuse to deny his name. Across the world today we see Christians confronted by radical Islam who give their lives rather than deny Jesus’ name.
There’s a chorus that goes something like this: In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus, we have the victory. In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus, Satan will have to flee. When we stand in the name of Jesus, tell me who can stand before us? In the mighty name of Jesus we have the victory!
The consequence of their faithful stand for the Lord Jesus Christ was that…
Their enemies will bow down to them. There is a promise I’d like to read for you found in Isaiah 60:14. The sons of those who afflicted you shall come bending low to you, and all who despised you shall bow down at your feet; they shall call you the City of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
This promise is that all those who oppose true believers will ultimately have to bow before them. The church in Philadelphia shared space with the synagogue of Satan. God’s promise is that he will make them come and bow down before the true Christians. Those who follow our enemy will ultimately understand that Jesus loves his church. For those out there in the world who claim to love Jesus but who dislike the church are in a very dangerous position. The Bible says that Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Just as a good husband loves his wife the Risen Lord Jesus loves his church which is characterized as his bride! (Ephesians 5:25-32)
It is not a good idea to tell someone that you like them but dislike his wife. Jesus gave his life for the universal church not just for each individual believer. Because the Philadelphians kept his word he promises to keep them from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world. Jesus commended them because they had learned that…
Patience grows with endurance. Throughout the Bible this same truth is taught. Listen while I read Colossians 1:11-14. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Paul writes to the believers in the church at Colossae and expresses his prayer for them. By the way, pretty much every Christian needs to have this prayer prayed for them. If you don’t know what to pray for someone who knows the Lord Jesus Christ you can always use these few verses.
Paul asks the father to strengthen the believers by his own strength so that they will be able to endure and be patient with joy. Now that’s kind of a hard thing to consider! I would say usually Christians refer to patience as something that is hard earned but here we are told that patience gives joy! Why should we consider it that way? Because such endurance is recognized by God who then qualifies us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. We can be patient with joy because he has transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son and has delivered us from the domain of darkness. We have redemption in Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins. Because of patient endurance…
The church does not collapse in the face of trouble. One of the earlier examples is found in Acts 8:1b-4. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.
God turns every hour of trial that we endure into an opportunity for witness. In Acts chapter eight we find the church being persecuted. Stephen had become the first martyr and now Saul of Tarsus was rounding up the Christians who had stayed in Jerusalem in spite of the instruction of the Lord Jesus to go into all the world. The apostles chose to continue to stay in Jerusalem but the people were scattered out across Judea and Samaria. It was no longer just the apostles who were preaching the gospel it was now everyone! What a blessing!
The church in Philadelphia was facing persecution and Christ had already chosen to protect them from the hour of trial that was beginning. He simply asked them to hold fast what they had so that no one could seize their crown. We know from history that persecuting the church does not make it smaller or weaker. The first immediate result of persecution is that those whose faith is shallow step aside and deny their faith. Those who remain are steadfast and therefore the church is stronger than it was before the persecution occurred. Then onlookers join the faith.
Surveys, being taken across America today, show that the church is getting smaller while at the same time those who attend have a stronger faith. Of course that would be the case! Those who don’t have the heart of faith will turn aside under any kind of opposition. And there is a growing opposition to Christianity in America. The opposition does not mean the church is weaker it simply means that the enemy is stronger. The church of the Lord Jesus Christ in America today will not only survive but will thrive in the years ahead.
One large part of the decline in the church is the cultural shifts in the South and West. It is no longer “popular” to be a Christian. Those who oppose Christianity are no longer afraid to speak out. That is a positive thing! Between 8000 and 10,000 “churches” are closing each year. Before, when everyone was in church, it was hard to tell who the players were. Churches were, and in some cases still are, religious social clubs. As the popularity of churches decline the sincerity of attenders will grow because they will be those who are willing to lay down their life, if necessary, in defense of their faith.
The church does not collapse in the face of opposition. The church “stiffens” and carries on with the gospel no matter what the enemy throws at it. You see the church is not a building made of stone or wood. The church is the people who have given their hearts and lives to Jesus. The church indeed is a building but…
The church is a living building — and will forever be! Listen while I read 1 Peter 2:4-5. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is indeed the living cornerstone and we who have put our faith in him are living stones. The apostles and prophets are the foundation and Jesus holds it all together. (Ephesians 2:20) We are all part of the structure that is growing into a holy temple in the Lord. This building built out of lively stones is joined together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
The true church is scattered over the entire world and ultimately will speak all the languages of earth because it will comprise people from every nation, every tribe, every language and every people group (Revelation 14:6).
The God we serve will identify us as his people. We will be identified by his name and the name of his city written on us. The New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven will be our residence forever and ever. When we’ve been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun! Have you put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? We have all sinned and come short of God’s glory. (Romans 3:23) The bad news is that the wages of sin is death! (Romans 6:23) But the good news is God has demonstrated his love for us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) So that if we will confess Jesus as Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead we will be saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.