Week Commencing 18th March 2018   With a PDF found here

Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on Revelation 3:14-22, “To the church in Laodicea.”

A reminder that we see a predictable pattern and outline in these letters, with a few exceptions. Here’s the typical pattern –

  1. Authority – why does Jesus have the authority to speak?
  2. What’s good in this church?
  3. What’s not (so good)?
  4. The call to action?
  5. What encouragement is offered in for those who overcome or are victorious?

DAY 1: Read Revelation 3:14-22

Laodicea, was a banking centre and a textile town, famous also for the manufacture of a certain kind of eye ointment; lime-laden water flowed, tepid and sickly, from nearby springs. So Jesus’ words to the church there were very appropriate, picking up well-known aspects of life in that city.

Yet even without such background knowledge, the confronting nature of Jesus’ condemnation arises from the page: you are neither cold or hot. I wish you were either one or the other. Says Michael Wilcock “What more terrible condemnation could there be of a church’s condition, than that the Lord would prefer even a cold Christianity to the sort he actually finds in her?” (p 37)

“The lukewarmness of Laodicea is the worst condition to which a church can sink. It is even worse than Sardis, where a glimmer of life remained.” (Wilcock p37) Surely the lukewarmness arose out of the church’s self-sufficiency! You say, ‘I am rich. I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing’. But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked’. Although financiers, physicians, clothing manufacturers are among its notable citizens, ‘poor, blind and naked’ is the verdict on its church. “It has failed to find in Christ the course of all true wealth, splendour and vision”. Caird (as quoted by Wilcock, p37).

Sardis had a reputation for being alive but was dead. Laodicea is lukewarm. In both cases, there is nothing to commend the church. Although I consider there is much lukewarm Christianity in the western world today, with a thankful heart, I can say that I don’t think this is true of the Anglican Church of Noosa. It may be true however, of some individuals. In tomorrow’s reflection, we’ll explore what lukewarm Christianity looks like.

DAY 2: Read Revelation 3:14-22

Here is a church that is so bland, so wishy-washy, so apathetic about its faith that Jesus warns it will have nothing more to do with it! They have no vision, no plan, no direction – neither do they care that they have no vision, no plan, no direction.  They are not fired up for evangelism, but they are not against it! They’re not clear on the gospel – but they don’t mind it. They’re not trying to grapple with the Scriptures – but they are not against them. They are not looking to grow in their relationship with God and grow in the likeness of the Lord Jesus – but they are not against that sort of thing! Can you see how sad that is? And the sad thing is that our denomination (and others) around the country has many churches like this. Harmless gatherings Sunday by Sunday where ministers don’t want to say anything controversial or do anything courageous or take a Biblical stand on anything, in case they offend some one. And it makes Jesus sick!

These churches are characterised by people who think they have everything they need or want, when all the time, spiritually speaking they are bankrupt! They have nothing! Now, although with thanks to God, I don’t think this is our problem – we need to reflect on two points:

  1. we must ensure that it is never our problem. We need to pray and do all we can to ensure that we are always fired up and so keen to serve the Lord, bring glory to him, promote the gospel and live distinctive, God-pleasing lives that it could never be said of us that we are lukewarm! We must humbly always admit our need before God and come to him for the spiritual riches we need. We must seek his robe of righteousness and we must ask him to open our eyes. We must determine more now than ever, never to become complacent; never to give up, never to lose our passion and never think we have arrived and we can put our feet up.
  2. I have to ask – have you grown lukewarm in your faith? Has your love grown cold, but you don’t really care anymore? Are you middle of the road and soft at the edges when it comes to your love for Jesus? It may be that you’re certainly not against the gospel, but you are not actually fired up about it either? My prayer is that the gospel itself will fire you again, and that your mediocrity and half-heartedness will die a natural death so that together here, we can grow hot and keen and clear and purposeful in the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ!

DAY 3: Read Revelation 3: 14-22

Well, we discover that even Laodicea has a chance! The fact that Jesus rebukes her shows that he still loves her (v19), and the threat of total rejection if she will not repent is balanced by the promise of total reinstatement if she will!

In v18, Jesus counsels the church to buy true spiritual riches. There is only one market from which they can buy the goods Jesus offers—“from me.” First, He counsels them to buy “gold refined by fire.” Refined gold is a biblical idiom for purifying one’s life by removing sin (see Malachi 3:2-3, Zechariah 13:9, 1 Peter 1:6-9). He is urging them to “buy” God’s purifying work, Jesus’ robe of righteousness and the Spirit’s work of opening their eyes to see the truth of God’s word.

v20: Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (3:20). This verse pictures the Lord Jesus seeking entrance into His own church for the purpose of renewed fellowship. This is not a gospel appeal. It is addressed to Christians and is inviting them to have fellowship with Jesus. And when and if they open the door and invite him in, then they will enjoy sweet fellowship with one another and in the end (v21), a place with Jesus ruling for all eternity.

Perhaps he’s knocking on your door today?

DAY 4: Read Psalm 1

Here are some questions for your reflection:

  1. What influences you more – the world or the Word?
  2. Are you delighting in the law of the Lord and meditating on it day and night? What does this actually mean and what would it look like if you were doing this?
  3. In v3 – what is promised if you delight in the word in the way described? What does the picture language used here, mean in practice?
  4. In vv4-6 – what is promised for the ‘wicked’ and for the ‘righteous’?

Surely delighting in God’s word, and meditating on it, will help guard against the lukewarmness of the Laodiceans!

 

References: Paul Barnett: “Apocalypse Now and Then: Reading Revelation Today”;
and Michael Wilcock, “The Message of Revelation” in the Bible speaks today series.
Some sections used word for word.