A Church Called Laodicea – Revelation 3:14-22

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Have you ever been around a Christian or group of Christians that had no passion for God?

The main issue that was happening in Laodicea was that the people there had grown lukewarm in their faith. They had begun settling into a belief that really wasn’t belief at all.

As the pastor of this church, I have many things that I do (contrary to popular belief, I do work other days aside from Sundays). Sundays, I’m usually doing church business until at least 5 p.m. Then, on Mondays I leave for seminary around 1 p.m. and I don’t get home from that until 11 p.m. During Tuesdays I do meetings and discipleship with some of the men here at Breathe followed by leading a small group; getting home around 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays I’m writing the sermon, laboring over the words and doctrines to ensure that what I speak from this pulpit are the words of my master (some sermons take longer than others but I have yet to write a sermon that took less than 8 hours) followed every other week by leadership meetings. Thursdays, I review the sermon and once again, most Thursdays are booked with meetings and administrative duties until dinner time when I eat with my children. This dinner is almost always followed by a family bible study. Fridays, I usually try to take off time in which I often am forced to do homework for seminary. Saturday, I Sabbath and this day begins with the study of Scripture and prayer. Saturday nights are often when my family does another bible study, then the cycle starts over again. I’m not saying this so that you’ll feel bad for me or give me pity; as George Whitefield once said, “I’d rather wear out than rust out.” The point I’m making is that we must immerse ourselves with calling, laboring fervently in the Spirit for the kingdom’s cause.

The problem with lukewarm belief is that it robs Christianity of the core of what it was meant to be. Christianity was never meant to be a set of simple principles that were meant to somehow make your life better or simply more moral. You cannot excuse the commands of Christ in times of inconvenience or for your earthly benefit.
The Scriptures speak of being a Christian as a form of death. It is not considered by Christ to be the type of life where one adds Christ to their life, it is one in which a person gives up their former life altogether; it is a death and rebirth into obedience.

Doctrine of sermon:
The church that has not fully committed themselves to Christ have not been truly saved

The church that has not fully committed themselves to Christ makes Christ nauseous

Because the church of Laodicea was not fully committed to the cause of Christ, it actually made Christ sick to his stomach.

I can remember one time when my wife and I had just moved into an apartment. We had been married for less than a year and she wanted to clean the oven. After she had sprayed down the oven with oven cleaner (unbeknownst to me) I decided to make meat loaf for dinner. Unwittingly, I placed the pan into the oven, cooked the meat loaf with oven cleaner still in the oven, and ate a big slice of it all before finding out (by getting food poisoning) that she had cleaned the oven. I can’t remember any other time in my life when I felt as ill as I did that day. That’s the way Christ felt about the Laodicean’s faith.

The word in this text, “will spit” is a point of contention for some translators. The word is “emew” which translated in the strictest sense means “to vomit.” That is that lukewarm Christianity makes Christ ill. Here’s the other issue, lukewarm believers don’t make it to heaven.

The play on words in this passage would have been recognized by the Laodiceans. There were two other cities nearby that had springs of water in them. Colossae had cold water springs which refreshing to anyone drinking from them. Hierapolis which was also nearby to Laodicea had hot water springs which were soothing. Laodicea had lukewarm water that was filled with minerals which tasted so bad that it made people sick. The church in Laodicea had become like their water.

To be a Christian is to live a life obsessed with the man Jesus Christ and nothing less. Jesus here is saying you are both cold and refreshing to those who are weary or a comfort to those seeking healing. There is no middle ground for the believer.

Redemption:
The church that has not fully devoted themselves to Christ must realize that they are in need of some serious spiritual reflection…

The church that has not fully committed themselves to Christ is both blind and naked

The city of Laodicea was extremely wealthy, so much so that they had an earthquake in A.D. 17 and then again A.D. 60. The city accepted no money from the emperor and instead paid for the rebuilding of the city out of their own pockets. Their wealth was one of the main reasons that they had so many issues. Christ says that they’re blind.

Once again, this was a play on words that Christ was doing here. Laodicea was famous for their healing eye salve which would be applied to the eyes for various conditions. There was even a medical school in Laodicea that specialized in this healing ointment.

Christ was saying that the church was able to heal their physical eyes but that they were helpless to heal their spiritual eyes. Again, he says that the church in Laodicea was also naked as well as blind.

The city of Laodicea was also famous for black wool which was highly valued and it was widely distributed throughout the empire during this time. Jesus encourages them to place on themselves white garments rather than the black ones they had been wearing.

If the church in Laodicea was going to be spiritually healed and clothed, their only hope was to turn away from their pride and their self-sufficiency and rely on Christ.

Redemption:
The church that has some of the worst issues can still turn away from them and return to what they originally were…

The church that has not fully committed themselves to Christ is still given a chance to turn

The predominant theme throughout this section to the seven churches is that the ones that had fallen away from what Christ had called them to were given a chance to repent.

Jesus is the door according to the gospel of John, Jesus commands believers to knock according to the gospel of Matthew. Yet here we find the roles reversed. Many have taken this passage in an evangelistic sense but Jesus is here speaking to the church who has neglected his commands. He calls these believers in Laodicea back to obedience gently, calling out to them and reminding them of the fellowship that they once had with him.

There are a list of things in life that are better when their subtle or gentle:

  • Cologne or perfume is always better if it’s subtle
  • Garlic is always better when it’s subtle
  • When someone is letting you know your zipper is down
  • When someone is letting you know you need a breath mint

How about when you’re being corrected? How about when someone has something hard they need to tell you.

I can say that for myself, I prefer if someone has something difficult or something hard to say to me that they do it in a spirit of gentleness. This is the spirit in which Christ is approaching the church of Laodicea.

Redemption:
When the church falls into a state of negligence, we can be certain Christ is there gently calling us back.

Conclusion

Doctrine of sermon:
The church that has not fully committed themselves to Christ have not been truly saved

Illustration:
There is still hope; Laodicea must have taken the command to turn and repent to heart. They remained a thriving, dynamic community and church long after many of the other 6 churches had ceased to exist. Much like Nineveh before it, God spoke to Laodicea and the people turned. They examined themselves and found that they came up short and so changed their lives.

Read 2 Corinthians 13:5

Application:
Jonathan Edwards had a method for determining if a movement truly was a movement of God. I have here modified it to apply to the Christian life as questions that must be asked of ourselves:

  • Does your life exalt the true Christ?
  • Does your life oppose the interests of Satan?
  • Does your life point people to the Scriptures?
  • Does your life elevate truth?
  • Does your life produce love for God and for others?

A Church Called Philadelphia – Revelation 3:7-13

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Have you ever been a part of a losing team or worked really hard at something, just to have it ultimately seem pointless?

A church may often times have very little power or influence in the world around it.  A church may be weak in membership, influence, and monetarily. (Smyrna was another example of a church that was both poor and persecuted)

A tortoise, lazily basking in the sun, complained to the sea-birds of her hard fate, that no one would teach her to fly. An Eagle, hovering near, heard her lamentation and demanded what reward she would give him if he would take her aloft and float her in the air. “I will give you,” she said, “all the riches of the Red Sea.” “I will teach you to fly then,” said the Eagle; and taking her up in his talons he carried her almost to the clouds suddenly he let her go, and she fell on a lofty mountain, dashing her shell to pieces. The Tortoise exclaimed in the moment of death: “I have deserved my present fate; for what had I to do with wings and clouds, who can with difficulty move about on the earth?’

Sometimes, we’re given difficult situations or circumstances in life and try as we might, we can’t seem to change it.  Even if we could make things easier, the options that we have that could change our circumstances might be more harmful than good.  However Christ would encourage us to do well wherever we find ourselves (even if it’s in the dirt, like the tortoise).  Although they both were facing tough life situations, both Smyrna and Philadelphia are the only 2 churches out of the seven John wrote to that are not criticized by Jesus.  One was poor financially and persecuted even to martyrdom; the other was very weak in its ability.

Hardship, as I’ve said before when looking at Smyrna, doesn’t mean that God has forgotten you. It also doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being punished.  The church at Philadelphia was true to their name: “filoV” which was the Greek word for affection between friends or brothers and “adelfoV” which meant “brother.”  I pray that all churches in our world would be churches of “brotherly love.”

Doctrine of sermon:
The church that stands firm regardless of circumstance will be rewarded by Christ.

The church that stands firm, regardless of their ability has a permanently open door

The church in Philadelphia, according to Christ had very little strength and yet their aim and their sole obligation regardless was faithfulness to Christ.  This left before them a door into heaven that was never closed.

When Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius there were many persons buried in the ruins who were afterwards found in very different positions.

There were some found in deep vaults, as if they had gone there for security. There were some found in lofty chambers. But where did they find the Roman sentinel?

They found him standing at the city gate where he had been placed by the captain, with his hands still grasping the weapon. There, while the earth shook beneath him; there, while the floods of ashes and cinders overwhelmed him, he had stood at his post; and there, after a thousand years, he was found.

The word appears in this text when John wrote that this church had “kept” the word of Christ is a derivative of “τηρέω.”  This word was used in many different instances but could also mean to observe, to aim for, or could even be used when describing marital faithfulness or fidelity.  In other words, the church in Philadelphia had no other god or commands who they were married to; only those of Christ. What happens when the commands of Christ are forgotten, or the word neglected?

It was 1095 A.D. and Christianity had begun to neglect the commands of Scripture for political power.  Pope Urban the 2nd declared, “I say to those who are present.  I command that it be said to those who are absent.  Christ commands it.  All who go thither and lose their lives, be it on the road or on the sea, or in the fight against the pagans, will be granted immediate forgiveness for their sins.  This I grant to all who will march, by virtue of the great gift which God has given me.”  Knights left Europe, slaughtered thousands of Jews, came to Jerusalem, took the city by force, burned a synagogue with Jews inside, thrown against walls, women were raped, and non-combatants were also killed.  You can say, “I’m Protestant, not Catholic” if you’d like.  There were no Protestants during this time, this story is part of the roots of Christianity’s story and therefore it is part of ours; shameful or no.  Even worse, people had visions and said that the Crusades were necessary.  Even worse, because others said that children were innocent, that they had to play a special role in Jerusalem.  Children were sent out of Europe only to die on the journey or to be captured and forced into slavery.

Why do I preach every week?  So that we constantly keep the focus on Christ’s commands.  Why do we gather in Bible studies throughout the week?  So that we constantly keep the focus on Christ’s commands.  Let us be as the church in Philadelphia was, let’s stay faithful to what Christ has spoken.

Redemption:

The church that stands firm will have unbelievers that will someday bow before them

This passage speaks of those who are Jews but are not.  They had somehow in this passage afflicted the church in Philadelphia.  But Jesus promises a few things and that is that if they will withstand the attack against them.  First that the hymn in Philippians 2:10-11 which reads “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” will be fulfilled when we’re seated with Christ.  These liars Christ speaks of won’t be bowing down to us, rather they will be bowing to Christ. Second, that they will be victorious in the end; even being preserved from God’s wrath.   There may be times when victory or preservation doesn’t seem possible, but God is capable of preserving what He wants to.

It was 1947 and a group of shepherd boys noticed some caves in a cliff face.  Allegedly, one of the boys was throwing rocks to the back of the cave and heard a shattering sound.  He then went into the cave and came out with an armload of ancient scrolls.  Among the scrolls eventually discovered at the Qumran caves was a complete scroll of the prophet Isaiah that is almost identical to the current copies we currently have even though some have dated the scrolls to as early as 335 B.C. meaning that the text has been  preserved almost perfectly for 2,349 years.  (Show slide of Isaiah scroll) By the way this ended many arguments about the reliability of much of the Old Testament’s reliability.  Secular historians and archeologists can never be too careful when craftily concocting contrivances concerning Christianity’s conceptions.  They may accidentally prove their truths false and what they said was false true.

Some have argued that this passage, when referring to Christ preserving them from his wrath is verification of a pre-tribulation rapture.  However, the more obvious meaning is that he promises to protect or “keep” these believers from the experience of his wrath.  In John 17:15 Jesus had prayed, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them.” This uses the same Greek verb as is in verse 3:10 and is likewise used to support a post-tribulationist perspective. Which one is the one we should consider? First, this passage isn’t speaking to Christ’s second advent meaning his second coming rather it is simply speaking to a trail of some sort.  Second, the Greek word here for “trial” can also be translated as “temptation” which would simply mean that Christ will save the church of Philadelphia from the hour of temptation coming into the world.  Third, while God has assured believers that they can’t escape the devil’s wrath, the question needing to be posed is: Isn’t God able to protect and preserve what He will, even amidst the worst of circumstances?

Turn to Exodus 11:4-7

According to many secular historians throughout the centuries, Pontius Pilate (as we know was the prefect who sentenced Jesus to die) was considered to be a myth.  Many said that the gospel writers had written him into the narrative in order to try and further their own agenda.  However, in 1961 a stone was found with this inscription translated from Latin “Pontius Pilate…prefect of Judea…has dedicated this.” (Show picture of stone). The Pilate stone survived rebellions, thousands of years, and Jerusalem being destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.  Secular historian’s greatest enemy is often archeological evidence. Secular historians and archeologists can never be too careful when craftily concocting contrivances concerning Christianity’s conceptions.  They may accidentally prove their truths false and what they said was false true.

God is able to save us from His wrath and any other circumstances that He wishes.  Just as the Dead Sea scrolls were saved from destruction, just as the Pilate stone was saved from being destroyed; God can certainly save His people from suffering destruction.

Redemption:
Ultimately, this is true in a temporary and in an eternal sense.

The church that stands firm in patience will never again have to leave the presence of God

In this passage we see a few very cool things concerning the security of a believer once they’ve entered the presence of God:

He says he will make them a pillar-The picture of the holy city or temple in which we shall eventually dwell (here called “the new Jerusalem”).  In this city, there will be no temple as there will be no separation between God and ourselves; there will be no separation between that which is holy and that which is common; there will be no more room for darkness and shadow. We will never again leave the presence of God!

Have you ever seen someone try to move a pillar in a building?  What would happen if someone tried to move a pillar inside of a building?  Wouldn’t the building collapse under the weight?  God is going to make us an essential part of the structure of heaven in ways we can’t imagine!

  1. He will write on us the name of God-This means that we are holy to God alone. –Turn to Exodus 28:36-38
  2. He will write on us the name of new Jerusalem-This simply means that we are citizens of this city; citizens of God himself.
  3. We will yet learn even another name of Christ-There are things, even yet in this life, that we will not discover until we are in his very presence.  We’re not done learning from our master yet.

When we look at the fall of Adam and Eve, it wasn’t simply that they would die when they ate of the tree of knowledge; rather it was that we were no longer sinless and able to stand in the presence of God.  We now see it will be reversed in the last days in which we will not only be permanently in the kingdom, but we will never go out again. Will we be able to sin in Heaven?  No, if we were able to, we would not be able to remain with God.

The story of the Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan always makes me long for eternity. He describes much about heaven which makes me want to be there sooner rather than later.  A small excerpt about heaven, when Christian and hopeful finally enter in reads:

Now, just as the gates were opened to let in the men, I looked in after them, and behold the city shone like the sun; the streets also were paved with gold; and in them walked many men, with crowns on their heads, palms in their hands, and golden harps, to sing praises withal. There were also of them that had wings, and they answered one another without intermission, saying, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord. And after that they shut up the gates; which, when I had seen, I wished myself among them.

Paul sums up this thinking when he says in Philippians 1:21-24, “ For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.  I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.  But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”

Redemption:
Our aim should be to never again leave the presence of our Lord; in order to do so we must stand firm.

Conclusion

Doctrine of sermon:
The church that stands firm regardless of circumstance will be rewarded by Christ

Illustration:

The Hare was once boasting of his speed before the other animals. “I have never yet been beaten,” said he, “when I put forth my full speed. I challenge any one here to race with me.”

The Tortoise said quietly, “I accept your challenge.”

“That is a good joke,” said the Hare; “I could dance round you all the way.”

“Keep your boasting till you’ve beaten,” answered the Tortoise. “Shall we race?”

So a course was fixed and a start was made. The Hare darted almost out of sight at once, but soon stopped and, to show his contempt for the Tortoise, lay down to have a nap. The Tortoise plodded on and plodded on, and when the Hare awoke from his nap, he saw the Tortoise just near the winning-post and could not run up in time to save the race. Then said the Tortoise:

“Plodding wins the race.”

Application:

Sources

  1. Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), 1587.
  2. Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 58.
  3. John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which Is to Come (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995).

A Church Called Sardis – Revelation 3:1-6

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Have you ever participated in something which everyone said was exciting, but then found out it was a let down?

The church in Sardis was facing a very difficult dilemma in that the church had a reputation for being a living church that was filled with the Spirit, but was actually close to being dead.

I can remember a time, probably about 2-3 years ago, when one of my deacons and me attended a particular congregation that some people had been telling us was pretty great. It had lively worship, dancing, and a lot of people attending every service. The people that we rode up to the service with sang the praises of the leader the entire time to the point where I was even a little excited to get there. When we got there and finally heard the teaching, however it was one verse taken out of context after another followed by vain speculations about the apocalypse. I’m not sure if the teacher said one concrete, useful thing the entire time we listened to him speak. He then spent the last half hour or so talking about money; giving thousands to the ministry. He did this while wearing an extremely expensive looking pin-stripe suit. Needless to say, the ride home was extremely awkward. This congregation had a reputation for being alive, but they were certainly dead.

Many of us in this room have experienced something that we thought was going to be the answer to all of our troubles, yet have found out that it was nothing more than a let-down. We’ve sought out many different religions without finding the answers we sought; we’ve sought out relationships that left us believing that hope itself was hopeless leaving us hollow, haunted, and helpless. Just as many in history have discovered there is a vast array of things that promise life but have instead dragged us further into the grave.

I often see that when people have built something up in their minds it’s because they need something. The greatest human need that I’ve ever seen is contentment. You could also call this “peace” and I truly believe that all mankind is looking for it but only one source offers it.

Doctrine of sermon:
Even the church that is dead may still have the opportunity to turn and live Click to read the rest of this post >>

A Church Called Thyatira – Revelation 2:18-29

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Have you ever had trouble with temptation, since giving your life to Christ?

In Thyatira, the church had issues with two primary things: lust and idolatry.  People were more than likely going to the temples of pagan gods to worship them which included having sex with one another to please the gods.  The church was giving into that which they knew was immoral and harmful to their spiritual life.

In the story of the Odyssey written by Homer, there is a part where Odysseus (the hero of the story) is warned that when he is out to sea, he will come across a particular obstacle called “the sirens.”  The sirens were beautiful women whose voices drew sailors in to crash on the rocks of their island.  Odysseus is warned that the sirens sound so beautiful, that if they are heard, that they would ensnare any man who came near to them.  Odysseus commands his men to shove wax in their ears and to tie him to the mast of the ship so that he can hear the sirens sing, but can’t reach them.  As they passed the sounds of the beautiful sirens singing, Odysseus cries out for his men to turn the boat toward the sound, but fortunately his men are unable to hear him and the crew makes it through the temptation of the sirens song.

Each one of us has things in our lives that we’re drawn to which we know can hurt us either physically or spiritually.  These things may even be harmful to others around us as well, yet we’re still drawn to them.

The only reason that Odysseus didn’t jump off the boat and swim towards the great temptation of the sirens was because he had taken steps before to ensure that he wouldn’t.  He had proactively requested that his men keep themselves out of harm’s reach and also that he himself be tied down.  This is all a metaphor for accountability.  Accountability and confession are the only true methods that we have that can defend us against temptations that may be too powerful for us to handle on our own.

Doctrine of sermon:
The church that has permitted sinful behavior will be divided and feeble
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