Message to Laodicea - Rebuke and Remedy, Pt. 1

Scripture: Revelation 3:14-22
Date: 12/03/2011 
This is the first in a two part message on the church of Laodicea as spoken of in Revelation 3.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Today we have a very important message, and to be sure I’ll be able to cover the information, I’ve titled it Part One. It’s dealing with the “Message to Laodicea—Rebuke and Remedy.” This would be part one. Today is really dealing with the rebuke side, but I don’t want to leave you discouraged. We’ll be dealing more with the solution and the remedy in our next message.

In the message of Laodicea, you have a combination of a mystery, you have a little bit of misery, and then it concludes with majesty. I’d like to read it for you. If you turn in your Bibles to the book of Revelation, the message to the church of Laodicea is the last of the seven messages to the seven churches that you find in Asia Minor. As a matter of fact, the whole book of Revelation is written to be sent to these churches, and the last message given is to the church of Laodicea. We’re going to study that today because I think it is especially relevant for us who are living here on the threshold of eternity.

Revelation 3, and it begins with verse 14. Revelation 3:14, “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, 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. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’”

That concludes chapter 3 of Revelation, and that concludes the message to the seven churches, and that concludes the message to the church of Laodicea.

Have you ever eaten something that, shortly after you put it in your mouth, you realized you had made a mistake? Maybe you looked to your right and to your left and wondered how to deal with it. I had a friend tell me a story that, when he went to elementary school, some of the other boys (he was like 10 or 12 years old) decided to play a prank on him. How many of you—you might be a little older—remember when you went to elementary school, they gave these little pints of milk to the students? They were in the little cartons that you would pop open, and they were little. It wasn’t even a pint; it was probably half a pint. It was small. And they’d give them to you on your cafeteria tray as you went through when they had the cafeteria meals.

My friend told me that some of his buddies decided to play a joke on him, and one of them didn’t drink his milk one day. He left it sealed up in its little cardboard container, and he tossed it in his gym locker for about a month. Then he pulled it out, and he conspired with three or four of his other friends, and they said, “Look, when we go into the cafeteria, we’re going to swap out Joe’s milk with this milk, and then let’s have a race to see who can drink our milk the fastest.” So while he was looking the other way, they swapped his fresh, cold milk with this milk that had been in the gym locker for a month, and they said, “Okay, we’re going to have a race today to see who can drink our milk the fastest.” Like I said, that’s nothing for a hungry 12-year-old, and they were only like about half pint of milk, and Joe was all in for it. So they said, “All right, you ready? On your mark, get set, go!” And they all put their milk up to their mouth, and they began to chug their cold milk, except my friend, who had his mind made up, he was going to win this race. He said he had half of it down before he realized that it was warm and curdled. I’m going to stop the story right here. But I just want you to know it didn’t go well. Can you imagine if you expect something cool and refreshing, and you put it to your mouth, and it’s nauseating? Have any of you ever had a drink of warm sulfur water?

I want to talk to you a little bit about Laodicea today.

By the way, there is a scripture in the Bible about Jesus wanting to drink something and not being able to drink. It’s when He hung upon the cross. Matthew 27:33, “And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a Skull,” He was thirsty. He said on the cross, “I’m thirsty.” “They gave Him sour wine,” or vinegar, “mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it” and He realized it was a narcotic, “He would not drink” it.

The Lord is thirsting for something that you and I can only give Him to satisfy. He wants holiness in our lives. When He was talking to the woman at the well about the living water and the disciples brought Him back some lunch from Samaria, He still hadn’t eaten anything, and He said, “I have food that you don’t know about.” He said, “I am satisfied, I am refreshed, by seeing souls converted and saved.” And in the same way that that refreshes the Lord, people who pretend to be His followers, who are really still caught by the world, it nauseates the Lord. It’s something He can’t drink.

We’re talking about the Laodicean church today, and maybe I should first begin by giving you an overview of the seven churches. When you get to Revelation chapter 1, there’s an introduction there, and it tells us the whole book of Revelation is delivered (you can read verse 11, for instance) to these seven churches in Asia Minor, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and finally Laodicea. I’ll show you a map of those churches in just a minute, but those seven churches are represented as seven candlesticks, and Jesus is in the midst of them. You might wonder, “Why, since there were churches”—by the first century there were churches all over the Roman Empire, “Why are these messages that God, that Jesus, specifically, personally gives to these churches, only to these seven churches that sort of form a circle? They’re given in order like you’re walking in a circle around Asia Minor. They represent God’s message to His church from the first coming to the second coming. When you think about the seven messages to the seven churches, and I don’t know if you’re taking any notes, but they represent primarily three things, maybe four.

First of all, those churches that He wrote to probably were experiencing some of the problems and characteristics identified in the message. But it was much bigger than that. Please don’t forget this. God is so powerful that when a people experience something in history, it can also be an allegory of salvation. For instance, did the children of Israel really become slaves, a whole nation of slaves, and then they were delivered and God parted the sea and He fed them with bread from heaven and water out of a rock, brought them into the Promised Land—that really did happen to them, right? That story that the Israelites have, some people say, “Oh, there’s no historical evidence. They made it up. It’s an allegory of salvation.” It’s history. It really did happen to those people. But what really happened to them then became a lesson for the church in all ages. The problems those seven churches were having, and the blessings they were having, in Asia, also are an analogy of the history of God’s church from the first coming to the second coming, the first church being Ephesus, and so forth; the last church being Laodicea. When you read the seven messages to the seven churches, you are looking at a panorama of the history of God’s church from the first coming to the second coming. That is the bigger message as opposed to specific problems those churches were having.

Third thing it represents, people often go through a cycle—individuals—just like those ages of the church. They start out like Ephesus with this first love, and they might even go through a phase of Philadelphia, of brotherly love, a time of persecution like Smyrna, and often they end up like Laodicea. The Lutheran church in the days of Luther, did it look like the Lutheran church today? It started out as a revival movement in love with the Word of God, on fire, and then after several generations, you can find it turns a little lukewarm. I’m not trying to be critical of my Lutheran friends. I think they’d admit it. Martin Luther would probably turn over in his grave, as would John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church. Are the Methodists today filled with the same fervor and enthusiasm and passion for the Word and holiness as they were in John Wesley’s day? And that would be true of Calvinists and Church of Christ, Campbell followers, and many others I can mention. They began with a passion. Are we immune in our church? Can you gradually—I hate using the word evolve, but that’s really what it is; it’s an evolution from Ephesus to Laodicea that often happens. It’s happened with God’s people over history. It happens in individuals’ lives. It happens in congregations (that was the fourth one I was thinking about), and it’s happened to those individual churches in Asia.

The reason I’m jumping past the church of Ephesus and Smyrna and Sardis and Thyatira and Pergamos, and I’m going right down to Laodicea, is because if those churches represent a panorama of the history of God’s church, Laodicea represents the last church, and where do you think we land? We’re living in the age of the last church. So I thought I would fast forward right to the church that I think is especially relevant for us today as we prepare for the Lord’s coming. So that’s the reason why—you might be thinking, “Pastor Doug, why don’t you do a series on all seven churches?” I don’t think we have time. I thought we’d better get right to the part… Have any of you ever gone to the instructions manual of something and you get right to the end to figure out how you turn it on? So I’m just getting right to it, friends.

As we begin to explore this message, I want to especially impress upon you, this is not a message from Pastor Doug to his church in Sacramento (it’s not my church, for one thing), but it is a message from Jesus to His church. One of the things you read in the beginning of Revelation, it says this is a message that came from God the Father to Jesus, to His angel, to John, to us. So I may be adding one more layer. I’m taking it from the apostle John, and you can take it from the apostle John right out of your Bible. But it’s a message—it’s in red letters, meaning it’s the words of Christ to us, the people living in the last age of the church. It is a letter from Jesus to us today. You would think if you would send out an announcement around Sacramento and say, “Now hear this: At this church on this day, Jesus is going to be speaking a special message relevant to our day that we’re living in,” people would jam the doors trying to get in to hear that message. Well, that’s in reality what we’re hearing today, a message from Jesus to His church for our age today. So this is very relevant, and it’s very important.

In the beginning of this message that we’re reading from Jesus, it says, “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans” (I’ll say more about the meaning of the word later) “write, ‘These things’” (this is talking about who it’s coming from) “‘says the Amen.’” Why does He identify Himself as the Amen? You can read in 2 Corinthians 1:20, “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” In other words, every promise of God is made available to us through Christ, who is the Amen. In other words, Jesus places the stamp of His name on every promise because of His blood. How do we end all our prayers? “In Jesus’ name, amen.” When the children of Israel entered the Promised Land, one group would stand on Mount Gerizim, and the other group of tribes would stand on Mount Ebal, and they would pronounce the blessings, and then the others would say, “Amen.” They’d pronounce the curses, and they would say, “Amen.” So the covenants are sealed with “amen.” Does “amen” come at the beginning or the ending of a prayer? Typically at the end. This is the last age of the church. He’s saying, “I am the Amen.” It’s all getting ready to be finalized. The promises of God are about to meet their fulfilment. Christ is the Seal of the covenants. He is the Amen.

It not only identifies Him as the Amen, it says He is the Faithful and the True Witness. Why does it say that? John 5:31, 32. Jesus said, “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true.” Christ is the most faithful witness to the truth. God became a man, came into our world, to witness to what is truth. So He is the Faithful Witness. You know what else He is a witness to? He is the only man that ever came into our world that lived a perfect life. Can I have a witness? And He came as our example. He said, “I am the faithful witness that you can live according to God’s will.” “Thy will be done.”

Then here’s a part that often confuses people. It says “the Beginning of the creation of God.” When I first read that it didn’t bother me, but later I ran into people who read that, and they thought that meant that Christ is a creation—He was just the beginning, or the first, of God’s creation. No. The word there that’s translated for the “beginning of the creation of God” is arche, and it means in Greek, “chief or magistrate; the governor,” in other words, the one who is in charge of the creation of God. It doesn’t mean that in a sequence of God creating things, He thought, “All right, what’s first off the assembly line? Jesus, My Son, will be the first creation.” No, He is from everlasting to everlasting. Keep in mind, if Christ were the first creation of God, I can think of one scripture that isn’t true. “All things”—all things—“that were made were made by Him.” So how could He make Himself? God has created all things through Jesus. Jesus was not created; otherwise, the scripture would say, “All things were made by Jesus, except Jesus, who was made by the Father.” It doesn’t say that. So if you’re going to be consistent, and if God is love, and if God cannot be love without loving someone else, at least God the Father, Son, and Spirit have always been in existence to share their love, because if there’s no one to share your love with, you don’t have love. Does that make sense? Some have taken this to think it means that He is a creature. Jesus is not a creature who has been created. He is the Creator. A lot of people have been confused on that point. I think it’s very important. God did not send a creation to save us from our sins. The Creator saved the creation. So He is the Beginning, or the Chief, the Magistrate, the Governor, of the creation of God, is what that means.

A little bit about the introduction. Now when we’re talking about the message to the Laodiceans, it’s probably helpful to look at a little map and find out, “Where is Laodicea?” It’s in what we would call Asia Minor. Laodicea was about five or six miles south of Hierapolis, and it was north of Colossae. As a matter of fact, Laodicea is mentioned in the letter—several times in the New Testament—but it’s mentioned in the letter of the Colossians, and Paul asked that that letter be read in Laodicea, because they were so close together, he said, “I’ll send it to you. Make a Xerox. Make sure they get a copy, and read it to them, too,” and that was just good economy.

Most cities are typically built by the ocean or by a river or on a hill. The advantage of being built down by a river is you have an easy access to the water, and this plays into the story. It’s very important. But the problem with being at a river, water runs downhill; it’s usually at the lowest spot, which means, for a defensive position in the event of war, those cities that are down in the valleys by the rivers are easy targets if there are any hills around. The cities that are on hills are easy to defend. The most ideal thing is if you could have a city on a hill with water. Jerusalem had springs even though they were on a hill, and that made it a great place for a city.

Laodicea had a great location, very fertile soil, great grazing area, but they were up on a hill for defensive purposes. They were right by the crossroads. You can see location, location, location is everything. Because of their location, they became very wealthy. Trading routes that went through Asia, even from the Far East, even coming up from Africa, often made their way through Laodicea. So it became a very prosperous city. But one of the problems they had was water problems. Because they were up on a hill, up above the Lycus River, which you can see there going by, they had to bring water from Hierapolis up to the North through aqueducts, and they have these Turkish hot springs that are still up there today, but as that water traveled through the uninsulated Roman aqueducts over those five miles, it came out hot, but by the time they got it, it was lukewarm. Then there was water they also got from springs at Colossae, came cold from the springs there, but by the time they got it to their city, it was once again lukewarm. So Laodicea was kind of famous for not having hot water, not having cold water, but having lukewarm water. So for the people they were writing to back then, they understood that.

Let me give you a little history about Laodicea. It was one of the wealthiest cities in Asia Minor. By the way, if you go to visit Laodicea today, you might not see anyone there. It’s not like it’s a big tourist center. Some of the cities from ancient Asia that you read about, the seven churches of Revelation, are still populated towns or cities today. But you’ll see a few, very diminutive signs that point and say “Laodicea,” and you might drive right by and not know it’s there. There are no tourist shops. They’re not selling t-shirts. There may be no other tourists there. It’s sort of a pathetic place. You’re looking right now at about all that’s left of the ruins. Most of it is covered. But it was a massive site. It was a very big city. It evidently fell into kind of a curse. Something like what our world will look like during the millennium is what happened to Laodicea. That’s a warning for us.

But you can still see some remnants of the pipes. They had these terra cotta pipes, these clay pipes, but they had a problem all the time because the mineral waters that were coming from Hierapolis in the North would fill them in and clog them, just like cholesterol in an artery. But the water came into the city through these pipes. You can see remnants of the Roman arches. There may be some aqueducts they had. But they were a fabulously wealthy city. They had a big banking industry.

One of the things they had that made them stand out, they had their own medical school, and in particular in the medical school, they had a patent, so to speak, on a special eye salve that they made. Back during Bible times they did not have sunglasses, and a lot of people crossing those deserts and crossing the sea had a lot of problems with their eyes being sore, and different diseases, but they had made this salve for their eyes out of some plants or something, some concoction, but evidently it really did offer some benefit, and they would dry it and put it in tablet form. It was shipped all throughout the Roman Empire. They would crush it up, rehydrate it, and maybe put in some olive oil or whatever, and they’d put it on their eyes, and it had some healing properties to it.

They were not only known for their medical school, they had libraries, their learning. They were known for their banking system. They were also known for their clothing, the textile industry, because they had a special brand of sheep there that put out this soft, silky, raven black wool that kings wanted, and it was very expensive, and you could only get it from Laodicea, and they grazed these sheep up on the hills up there, and they didn’t want anyone else cross-pollinating with their sheep. They kept them local, and you had to get them there. Well, they became very wealthy and they had their own banking industry. They were so wealthy that when an earthquake—you know, in Turkey they have a lot of earthquakes—when an earthquake destroyed Laodicea, flattened the city, practically, in A.D. 60, the emperor offered them money to rebuild, and they told Nero, “Thank you very much. We will do it ourselves.” They didn’t want the government bail-out. You have to be pretty rich to turn that down. And they rebuilt their own city. They thought, “We have plenty of money. That won’t be a problem.”

It’s interesting, Jesus in His letter talks about the clothing, it talks about the riches, it talks about the eyes. Laodicea had riches and they had clothing and they had eye salve, and Christ said, “You’re naked, you’re poor, you’re blind.” So that all had great relevance to the people who were living there back then. It was one of the wealthiest cities. They had a stadium, and you can still find the remains of the bowl where they had this great Roman stadium. They had races, a place for their entertainment. Make a mental note of that. The running track was actually 600 feet, but the whole stadium was 900 feet across, and you can still see remnants of that there today.

If you look in your Bible, Colossians chapter 4 (remember, Colossae was just south of Laodicea), Colossians 4:13-15, Paul said, “For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis.” There are the cities that were just referred to. “Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you. Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea.” It’s interesting that Luke, he was known in Laodicea; that’s why he’s mentioned by name. He was a doctor; they had a medical school. “Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house.” So the church in Laodicea was not in some big cathedral, but they had a house. But the people there, being wealthy, it may have been a nice house.

By the way, there was a Council of Laodicea. How many of you have heard of the Council of Laodicea? It happened the fourth century. It became very famous. For one thing, they did something good there. They sort of solidified what the canon of New Testament Scripture was in a very firm way. They did something bad at the Council of Laodicea. The Jews were being persecuted throughout the Roman Empire, and so in that council they said, “We don’t want to be identified with the Jews, so those Christians among us who are still keeping the seventh day Sabbath, stop. Start working on that day. We’ll keep Sunday, the Lord’s Day, and if you continue to Judaize…” That tells us that 360 years after Christ, they were still keeping the seventh-day Sabbath because they had to be chastised for doing it. It had become politically very incorrect. They were being told you would be anathema. It was the Council of Laodicea that pronounced anathema on those who were continuing to keep the seventh-day Sabbath. You can read that for yourself. It’s in print.

Jesus said, “I wish you were hot or cold.” What does He mean, hot or cold? Some people think that means that Jesus is saying, “I wish that you were saved, or I wish that you were lost, but don’t be half way.” Would Jesus ever say He would rather that we’re lost? Not unless He’s talking about in a repentant condition and knowing we need Him. I’d like to suggest what hot means. It means, “I wish that you were full of zeal and passion and desire and enthusiasm about being a Christian. Be filled with power.” Don’t be apathetic about your experience with the Lord. Christ wants Christians that are full of zeal, right? If you’re going to be a Christian, be a Christian. Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might. Nothing I think is a worse witness for Christianity than apathetic Christians. If you believe this is the most important thing, that eternity is at stake, that the gospel is good news, and we behave apathetically about it, our behavior denies our profession. We do more harm than good if we are apathetic Christians, being lukewarm.

Being hot means on fire. Being cold means being in a position where you’re kneeling and asking for forgiveness. Jesus said in Matthew 24:12, “Because iniquity [KJV] will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” What is that coldness that he’s talking about? We know that He wants us to have love. That’s being on fire. That’s the gold we’ll talk about next week. Luke 18:10. I’m not going to read the whole story. I think I did a sermon on it a few weeks ago. It’s probably been a few months ago, but it seems like a few weeks to me.

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a publican [KJV].” Right there you have it. One hot, one cold. No, one lukewarm, one cold. The publican, who was repenting and saying, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner,” he was cold, meaning he humbled himself before the Lord. He recognized his need. He was repentant. God wants that. Was the Lord happy? He couldn’t say he was out zealously <_____living the Lord._____> He couldn’t say that. But what he could say is, “I’m coming to my senses. I’m humbling myself. I’m seeking after You.” That’s cold. God wants that. He can work with that. Or He could work with someone who’s on fire out working for the Lord, enthusiastic, like Paul was after his conversion. Paul was enthusiastic before his conversion. He just was enthusiastic without knowledge. But when you’re like the Pharisee, lukewarm, who said, “I thank You that I’m not as other men. I pay tithe of all that I have. I fast twice a week.” He thought that he was rich and increased with goods spiritually, but Jesus said that the spiritually poor publican, he went home justified. The self-righteous Pharisee who was lukewarm, he was not justified. He was spewed out of Christ’s mouth. So, I just wanted you to understand what does hot and cold mean? We don’t want to be lukewarm Christians and be spewed out of Christ’s mouth.

When I was in Indonesia a couple months ago (I forget exactly when it was anymore; September—Karen remembers when I’m gone), one of the members there, a very nice gentleman, he said, “Doug, I know you’ve been eating little at the hotel, but I want to take you out for some genuine Indonesian food, and there’s a restaurant that serves excellent vegetarian Indonesian food, and I want to take you.” He was a successful businessman. He was very kind, took me out. We were like the only ones in the restaurant, and they were all kind of hopping around and serving. We had two or three people taking care of our table, and it was a very nice restaurant. There are some very wealthy people in Indonesia. It’s a big country, 230 million people.

They brought out this delicious food, vegetarian food. It’s my kind of food, and I was just really enjoying it, and after I ate all of mine, I ate what was left of his. Then when I got done, I was still hungry. And we had chopsticks, and so I was picking at the garnish on the plate. You know, sometimes they put a little parsley and stuff down, and I said, “Looks good to me,” and we’re talking, and he’s looking at me like, “You must have really been hungry!” Then I saw there was one little green bean left, and so I ate that little green bean. I put it in my mouth, and as soon as I bit down, I realized that wasn’t a green bean. That was a pepper.

Now, it’s in my mouth, it’s a nice restaurant, and I thought, “It’s not going to look very good for me to spit anything out,” so I thought, “I’m from California. We eat Mexican food. I can handle a chili.” This was a chili from another world. They don’t grow them in this planet anywhere. At least, I had never heard of them before. And I did something really dumb. I will never, ever forget that experience. I decided, “I’m sure it’s just a little one.” It’s like what Lot said to the angel, “Is it not a little one?” It was not even a whole chili. It was cut like a little green bean. I thought it was a green bean. It was just a little part of a chili, and I thought, “I can just swallow that.” So I bit it a couple times, found out what it was. I thought, “Don’t spit it out; take it down.” So I swallowed it. That was a mistake. And just like a chemical reaction, all of a sudden my eyes began to water uncontrollably, my nose began to run uncontrollably, and I began to hiccup loudly. And it was obvious because now my whole body is in distress, and he’s looking at me, and he says, “Are you okay?” And I’m going, hiccup, hiccup, hiccup. Then he signaled and they brought me some water, some cold water to drink, so I drank all of my water, and then I drank his. And I should have spit it out. The Lord is not going to take in something that isn’t right, and we have to make sure that we’re of the right substance so that He can swallow us.

What does lukewarm mean? What is He saying to this church in the last days? I’d like to think that we’re not included here, but I know better. I think I’m included; I think maybe you’re included, that we’re in danger. Lukewarm is looking for the middle ground. You have a stove. Most of us have those stoves, and you have the burner, and you can turn it on hot, you can turn it on low, and then you have medium. I think a lot of people in the church today try to go through their Christian experience and say, “I love Jesus and I want to be a Christian and I want to go to heaven, but I also want the world and the things that it offers, and I want to take up my cross and deny myself and follow Christ and come to church and be faithful in my tithes, but I also want to do what the people in the world are doing and watch what they’re watching and read what they’re reading and go where they’re going,” and in the process of trying to serve two masters, thinking we’re in the middle, that we’re in some kind of spiritual Switzerland, we become lukewarm. And lukewarm, trying to serve Christ and the devil, really casts a vote for the devil, because Jesus said, “I can take you hot or cold, but I can’t take you—. I can work with you if you know you’re lost and you’re seeking after Me, or if you’re filled with the Spirit and serving Me. But if you’re not poor in spirit, and if you’re not full of zeal, then you are automatically disqualified. I have to spew you out of My mouth.”

Now, it may make you feel better to know that, while some translations translate this “vomit” (that’s a very strong word), it doesn’t really mean that. Because typically you don’t vomit something from your mouth, you do it from your stomach. It can be translated that way, but more likely what’s happening here is Jesus is saying, “As soon as I got it in My mouth and realized it was lukewarm,” you don’t have to wait until something gets to your stomach before you realize it’s lukewarm, like my friend that half chugged that carton of milk. Jesus says, “As soon as I taste it, I spit it out.” So really He’s saying, “As soon as it’s in My mouth, I spew it out,” and that’s the way I think the King James translates it. He can’t swallow it. He wants to. He’s thirsty, but it’s going to make Him sick. It’s not right.

Lukewarm means that you’re a Christian and you’ve been on an upward experience, but you get to where you think you’re doing okay, and you plateau, and you say, “I think I’m there.” I don’t want to discourage you, but in the Christian life, if you get to where you’re satisfied that you have enough of God, you’re in trouble. You cannot plateau as a Christian. As soon as you think you plateau, you may not know that it’s sloping downhill, but you’re going to start backsliding. You must always, ever be pressing on and upward, because until you think, “I perfectly reflect Christ,” your road is an upward road. Isn’t that true?

So, for those in the church that think, “I am comfortable where I’m at,” that troubles me. One of the jobs of a pastor is to comfort those who are uncomfortable and to make those who are comfortable uncomfortable. You know what I’m saying? To give rest to the restless and to make those at rest wake up. But if we get to the place where we think we’ve plateaued, that’s when you’re in danger of really being one of those Laodicean or lukewarm Christians. If we get to where we’re comfortable trying to serve both Caesar and Christ, if we think we can serve both God and the governor… You know how when a person gets political they tell everybody what they think they want to hear? Sometimes can we get political with God, where we say, “God, I know what You want from me. Let me tell you what I think You want to hear. And then I’m going to tell the world what they want to hear, and I have to try to get elected by everybody.” That’s the fastest way to lose God’s vote. You have to be honest with the Lord.

Then He says that the Laodiceans don’t have the real riches. Galatians 6:3, “For if anyone thinks himself to be something” (this was actually in our Sabbath School lesson today), “if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” That’s especially dangerous. Notice, when Paul mentions Laodicea in Colossians 2:1 [KJV] (go to Colossians 2:1 in your Bibles), “For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea,” whenever he writes to the church of the Colossians, he includes Laodicea. They’re neighbors. Paul probably planted this church, or it was planted shortly after by Epaphras or one of his early workers. “And … as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all,” notice, “riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; in whom are hid all the treasures,” notice—riches and treasures, “of wisdom and knowledge.”

What is it that makes us rich? Materialism? The things of the world? If you were going to look for an age of the church that thought they were rich and increased with goods—that’s one of the characteristics, we are living in the age of the church that has more stuff than any other age in the history of man. We don’t even need to leave our house to get more stuff now. We can log on and order it online, and they just deliver the stuff to our house. Internet sales, I understand, are up 30% in some categories this year, just over last year. And here we are on the cusp of the Christmas shopping season. Well, we’re over the cusp now, aren’t we? And everybody is going to buy more of what they don’t need, spending money they don’t have to please people they don’t like. We are living in the age of being rich and increased with goods, and I’m not just talking to the church in Sacramento or North America. It’s global now, isn’t it? You go around the world—I’ve been around the world. I was just in Jakarta; went to a shopping mall there. It’s a lot more elaborate than any I’d been to here. Went to Dubai, the Middle East, shopping mall there. Wow! Talk about opulence! The materialism in the world has never been this bad. There has never been a time when you could have more things, be rich and increased with goods.

And in the church, we’re also living where… One of the fastest growing philosophies in North America—I read an article about it last night, it’s called prosperity preaching—name it and claim it, health and wealth theology, that the reason you come to Jesus is if you have enough faith and you pray and you give your donations to that dubious pastor, that God is somehow going to bless you with materialism. The article I was reading last night is talking about a new spurt of prosperity churches in New York City. They thought New Yorkers would be way too sophisticated for this, but they’re taking off and exploding, and then the author of the article said, “Well, after all, New York has worshiped the dollar on Wall Street for a long time. This would only make sense they’d make a religion of it.”

Yes, even in the church, it’s like it’s all about being rich and increased with goods. Proverbs 13:7, “There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; and one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches.” I want to read that again. Solomon sums it up very tersely there. “There is one who makes himself rich,” he works to be rich, and “has nothing.” And then there’s “one who makes himself”—it’s not that he got hit with hard times, he chooses to make himself “poor, yet has great riches.” Christ said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” You cannot have the riches of Laodicea and also have the riches of Christ. Matthew 19:23, “Jesus said to His disciples,” (this is the fastest way for a pastor to get himself out of a job is to read these verses), “‘Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of [heaven].’”

So when Jesus said, “You think you’re rich and increased with good,” why do they think they’re rich? That wealthy banking city, the members probably had good economy themselves. They were comfortable. Do you remember what our opening verse was that Kyle read, the memory verse? It came from Deuteronomy, not Revelation. Moses, before he died, told the children of Israel, “You’re preparing to enter into a land that is established. They have a good economy. They’re flowing with milk and honey. You’re going to be eating from vineyards that were planted long ago, and you get to enjoy them now.” Karen and I planted a mandarin tree six years ago. This year is the first time we got a whole bowl of mandarins. They’re really good, too. It takes years to get fruit. God told the Israelites, “You’re going to get there; the trees are already bearing. The vineyards are already bearing. You’re going to drink from wells; you didn’t even have to dig them out and wait for them to clear out, and you’re going to move into houses you didn’t even build. And when the Lord blesses you, and you sit under the shade tree digesting, beware that you don’t forget about Me.” It’s often when the people were at the pinnacle of their success that things started going bad. He said beware.

There’s a story in the Bible I’ll close with, rich young ruler. Mark 10:17, “As [Jesus] was going [down] the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’

“So Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not bear false witness,” “Do not defraud,” “Honor your father and your mother.”’

“And he answered and said to Him, ‘Teacher,’” and I really wish we could have been there, because I think what you would have seen happening, Christ was going through the Ten Commandments (they’re not exactly in order, by the way, that you find them on the tables of stone), and this young man interrupted Jesus, just wondering, “Teacher…” Every Jewish boy had the whole book of Deuteronomy memorized, and that included the Ten Commandments in chapter 5. “Of course I know this. You don’t need to recite the Ten Commandments.” He says, “I’m looking for something else. What am I missing?” “All these things I have kept from my youth [until now.]”

Was this a good young man? It says Jesus, looking at him, loved him. He loved him. It doesn’t say that about everybody. He had tremendous potential. He was a spiritual young man. He is the one that came to Jesus, because Jesus had just finished blessing the children. He was watching from a distance. Mothers brought their children to Jesus. This young ruler, wealthy young man, is watching, and the disciples say, “No, He’s busy.” And Jesus said, “No, no, no! Let the little children come to Me,” and He takes them up, and He blesses them. And he thought, “He is so different from the other religious teachers. He has the Spirit of God. He has love. He has something I’m missing. I want eternal life. I believe that He has the answer of what’s missing in my life because I have everything the world can offer, and I’m still empty.” There is he that makes himself rich and yet has nothing, and that rich young ruler realized that there was a big vacuum in his heart.

Jesus got up; it says He was going down the road. After blessing the children, He’s going down the road, and the young ruler thought, “I can’t let Him get away,” and he ran after Him, and he said, “Before You pass out of this territory, I need to ask you, What do I do to go to heaven? Where do I find this missing piece?”

Jesus said, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, and that is God.” Christ was letting him know that He was God. He said, “But if you would be perfect and enter into the kingdom, then keep the commandments.”

He said, “Which ones?”

He goes through the Ten Commandments.

“Oh, well, I know that. I’ve kept all these from my youth until now.”

Then He said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” What kind of riches do you want, riches here or riches there? “And come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” He was inviting him to be an apostle. The same thing that Jesus said to Peter, James, and John, He said to him, “Follow Me.”

“But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

All of us are going to be faced with the same options with the message to Laodicea that this young man did. But if we’re ever going to break out of that, then we have to make a decision. It’s all the way. We either have to cool off and get on our knees and repent of our sins and come to Jesus and pray to be filled with the Spirit…

I read something this week that touched my heart. One of the Christian reformers was saying, “I used to think I went to the fountain of blood, and I was washed, and then I went away.” Then they realized you go to the fountain, you’re washed, and you stay in the fountain; that we are daily, continually needing to be filled by God’s Spirit and cleansed by His blood and empowered every day with that zeal and that enthusiasm.

The Lord, in His last message to the church of Laodicea, He said, “This is the Amen,” and before the message is over He says there’s a door that’s going to close. As a matter of fact, the end of chapter 3 talks about a door that Jesus knocks at. The beginning of chapter 4 talks about another door. This is the church that is at a portal. We are living in history right now at a portal to eternity. Soon the door of mercy is going to close. Probation is going to close. Do you know that eschatologically that is one of the next things on the horizon?

I haven’t yet gotten to what the message of judgment is for Laodicea, and I’ll talk more about that next week. But right now, I just want you to search your heart. Have you gotten where you’re trying to ride the middle, live in that neutral country? You’re plateauing as a Christian? You’ve become satisfied? Maybe you look around you, and you say, “I’m not as bad as those other people,” and you think you’re rich and increased with goods. Could it be the Lord is trying to help us hear Him say, “I’m going to spew you out of My mouth unless you become zealous about living a Spirit-filled life,” or get on your knees and say, “Lord, forgive me. Lord, save me, a sinner”? But don’t stay in that lukewarm condition, because it is fatal. It’s not just not good; it is deadly. Jesus said He can’t bear it. Now the answer is that He’s passing by, and He’s knocking on the door. Do we want to open that door and let Him in?

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