What Ruins Christian Fellowship? Revelation 3c
Stephen Caswell © 2001
To Love The World Or The Word
Just one letter of the alphabet makes all the difference between us now, said a recently converted young woman to an unsaved friend, who could not understand the great change that had come over her. You love the world, she said, and I love the Word. That's the way it should be for every believer. Our love for Christ and His Word should replace our love for the things of this world. In fact if we don't think this way we can't have Christian fellowship.
Last Sunday we saw what Christian Fellowship is! It means to have all things in common. What can ruin Christian fellowship? Last week we saw that unbelief, hatred and sin can do it. This morning we will see the greatest threat to Christian fellowship; being lukewarm. This isn't a new problem. Jesus Christ personally warned the Laodicean Church of the dangers of being lukewarm. In fact, He stood outside the Church knocking, seeking fellowship inside. The Laodiceans lost their fellowship with Christ. Today we will see three things in Christ's letter. The Correspondence, The Condemnation and The Counsel.
Firstly, The Correspondence
Revelation 3:14a: And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write.
a. The City
Laodicea was an illustrious city for many reasons. The city was situated on an important trade route from Ephesus on the coast to inland Asia. Laodicea was also known for its fine black wool which was exported far and wide. Fine black garments were made from this wool also. As well as this, they boasted of medical ointments to treat eye and ear complaints. Because of all this trade, and tourism Laodicea became an important center of commerce. The city boasted large banking assets. In fact when Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake in 17 ad. they refused imperial help to rebuild it. They completely financed the city's rebuilding themselves. Yes, Laodicea was very self sufficient. They had much to be proud of.
b. The Church
The Laodicean Church had been involved in the Lord's service for many years. Epaphras a convert of Paul himself had founded their Church. Their Church had celebrated at least thirty years of ministry. They probably had beautiful buildings and a good reputation in the community. They had no debts and even had a surplus on their bank balance. Surely they had accomplished all this because God was pleased with them.
Because of all these things the Laodicean Church thought that they were rich. They believed that God had blessed them greatly. After all they lacked nothing. They had an impressive record of material and spiritual achievement. What need did they have? Why shouldn't they be confident? Why shouldn't they be content? They were entitled to rest on their laurels, weren't they? The Laodiceans honestly believed that they were spiritually rich.
c. Jesus Christ
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:
How do we view our Christian faith? Do you have a good Christian heritage? Were your parents committed Christians? Were they devoted to the Lord's work? Have you followed in their footsteps? Have you given your time and talents to the Lord? Have you served as a Sunday School teacher, Boy's Brigade Leader or Youth Worker? Have you witnessed for the Lord amongst your work mates and neighbors? How do you rate your Christian life?
Secondly, The Condemnation
Let's see How Christ rated the Laodiceans. 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: By introducing Himself this way Christ was emphasizing that His testimony was true. The Church was blind to its own needs and unwilling to face the truth. So Christ revealed to them the plain truth. He revealed four areas of need that they had.
a. They Had Lost Their Vigor
3:15-17a: 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.
The Springs At Hierapolis And Colosse
The city of Hierapolis was only seven miles north of Laodicea. Hierapolis was famous for its hot springs. Many people sort after the hot water from these mineral springs for medicinal uses. The City of Colosse was also located near Laodicea. It was famous for cold pure water. A drink from this spring was very refreshing. By the time that the hot mineral waters of Hierapolis flowed to Laodicea they became lukewarm. Lukewarm water is useless for medicinal purposes and cannot refresh your thirst either. After you drink a mouthful of it you spit it out on the ground. Jesus gave a special warning for Christians living in the last days. Matthew 24:12: And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.
Firstly, Christ complained that they were lukewarm. How does water become lukewarm? If you fill a mug with hot water from the tap it starts out hot. But if you leave it sitting still it will soon become luke warm. For water to remain hot it must remain in an energy source like an earn or hot water system. There was a time that the were on fire for God. They loved the Lord fervently. But now they were resting on their past achievements. They sat around and their love became luke warm. God was not at all happy with them because they were half hearted. The Laodicean Church was complacent, self-satisfied and indifferent to the real issues of faith in Him and discipleship. The Lord wants people who love Him fervently.
Paul said this in 2 Timothy 2:6: For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. God wants His servants to be on fire for Him, not lukewarm. He wants people who are fervent, who love Him greatly. When two people are in love they spend a lot of time together. They enjoy doing things together. They serve each other willingly and tell others of their beloved. But if their love grows cold they stop doing these things.
The Laodiceans thought they had arrived spiritually. They had served God fervently. But now they had become halfhearted or lukewarm. Do you love the Lord with the same zeal you had in the past? Luke warm Christians are useless to Christ. God can't use them to heal the dying or to refresh the weary in this sinful world. What does God do with lukewarm believers? He spits them out of His mouth. The admonition Christ gave to all seven Churches He gives to all. Jesus knows our works. We can't hide them from Him. How does Christ see your works? Declining and becoming lukewarm or becoming more fervent each year! What is the temperature of your Christian faith? Is it hot, cold or lukewarm.
b. They Had Lost Their Values
Revelation 3:17-18a 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;
Secondly, Christ complained that they were poor and wretched. The Laodiceans thought that they were rich and had become wealthy, but they were wrong. In fact their values were all wrong. They thought that they had no need, but they were using the wrong standard to measure themselves by. This is a fault that we can all make. A few of the seven Churches made wrong judgments about themselves. The Church at Sardis had a reputation for being alive but Christ said they were dead. The church at Smyrna thought itself poor, but Christ told them that they were rich. The Laodiceans who boasted they were rich, were in fact poor.
The Laodicean Values
Perhaps we have here a hint of why this church declined spiritually: they had become proud of their ministry and had begun to measure things by human standards instead of by spiritual values. They were, in the eyes of the Lord, wretched, miserable, and poor. Laodicea was a wealthy city and a banking center. Perhaps some of the spirit of the marketplace crept into the church so that their values became twisted. They valued material wealth more than spiritual. The Christian Church must not obtain its values from the world.
What was the solution? Pay the price to get true gold tried in the fire. True riches come only from God. His gold is pure because it has been refined in the fire. The Laodicaeans wealth was corrupt in God's sight. They needed to gain true riches from the Lord. This highlights the fact that the Laodicean’s were trusting in the wrong kind of wealth.
Paul gave the same advice to Timothy. 1 Timothy 6:9,17-19 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
It also suggests that the church needed some persecution; they were too comfortable. Nothing makes God’s people examine their priorities faster than suffering! Gold tried in the fire refers to service and suffering for Christ's sake. These kind of sacrifices are valuable to God.
Russian Girl Goes To Canada
After many months of waiting, a Russian girl finally obtained a visa to visit her relatives in Canada for three months. She arrived in Canada and was shown around the various attractions, amusements, and entertainment's. The young Russian seemed immensely impressed by the amounts of things that people were wrapped up with. As the three months drew to a close, everyone expected her to defect and seek political asylum in Canada.
She surprised them by expressing a desire to return to her family in Russia and the small group of believers to which they belonged. She explained that in North America everyone seemed wrapped up in things and doesn't have time for people. In Russia, they don't have as many material possessions and consequently they need each other. She wanted to return to a place where people relied on each other, where Christian fellowship was important.
The Church at Smyrna thought that they were poor, but Christ said that they were rich. The Church at Laodicea thought that they were rich, but Christ said that they were poor. It all depends on the values that you use. What do you value most? God or gold? You say to me that you value God most! Then are you investing as much as you can of your time and wealth into His kingdom? Or are you spending it on yourself? Remember God knows these things. He knew what the Laodiceans were doing and He knows what kind of wealth we are storing up too. Do you have the right set of values? Are you rich or poor in God's sight?
c. They Had Lost Their Vestments
3:17b: Because you do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.
Thirdly, Christ complained that they were naked. The Laodicean Church was unaware of this. In fact they thought that they had no need. Like the emperor in Hans Christian Andersen’s story, these Christians thought they were clothed in splendor when they were naked! To be naked meant to be defeated and humiliated. There is no divine commendation given to this church. Of course, the Laodiceans were busy commending themselves! They thought they were glorifying God, when in reality they were disgracing His name just as though they were naked. The Laodiceans could go to the market and purchase fine black woolen garments, but that would not meet their real need. Such garments couldn't cover them anymore than the fig leaves covered Adam and Eve. They needed the white garments of God’s righteousness and grace.
Revelation 3:18a I counsel you to buy from white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed;
Salvation means that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, put to our account; but sanctification means that His righteousness is imparted to us, made a part of our character and conduct. Revelation 19:8 speaks of this: And to her [the bride of Christ] it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
The Church at Laodicea arrayed themselves in the finest clothes. They thought that they looked very sheik. But God saw them differently. He said that they were naked. How does God see us? Does He see you clothed in fine white clothes? Are you dressed in the righteous acts of Christian service? Or do you stand before God naked and ashamed? Remember God knows us better than we know ourselves. He sees us as we really are. How does Christ see you now? Clothed in fine in fine white garments, or naked.
d. They Had Lost Their Vision
Revelation 3:17b 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.
An elderly man who was very near sighted thought of himself as an expert in evaluating art. One day he visited a museum with some friends. He had forgotten his glasses and couldn't see the pictures clearly, but that didn't stop him airing his strong opinions. As soon as they walked into the gallery, he began critiquing the various paintings. Stopping before what he thought was a full-length portrait, he began to criticize it. With an air of superiority he began, the frame is altogether out of keeping with the picture. The man is too homely and shabbily dressed. In fact, it was a great mistake of the artist to select such a shoddy subject for his portrait. The old fellow was babbling on when his wife finally managed to get him and pull him aside. She whispered to him, My dear, you are looking into a mirror.
Fourthly, Christ complained that they were blind. Like the elderly man, they couldn't see reality. They were living in a fool’s paradise, proud of a church that was about to be rejected. These people could not see themselves as they really were. Nor could they see their Lord as He stood outside the door of the church. Nor could they see the open doors of opportunity. They were so wrapped up in building their own kingdom that they had become lukewarm in their concern for a lost world. Proverbs 29:18a says: Where there is no vision, the people perish. What was the solution for their blindness? Apply the heavenly eye salve! Revelation 3:18b says: and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.
The city of Laodicea was noted for its eye salve, but the kind of medication the saints needed was not available in the local medicine shop. The eye is one of the body’s most sensitive areas, and only the Great Physician can operate on it restore clear vision. But we must submit to His treatment, and maintain good spiritual health habits so that our vision grows keener.
The Laodicean Church thought that they were healthy. But Christ called them blind. They couldn't see the spiritual realities around them. They were blind to their own wretched state. They couldn't see the pressing needs of the lost or the open doors for service. And they couldn't see Jesus Christ standing outside the Church knocking and seeking their fellowship. Do you see the fields white unto harvest all around us? Do you see the lost people perishing outside your door? Are you blind to this? Is Christ knocking outside your door to come in?
Thirdly, The Counsel
Revelation 3:19a As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.
Christ's Loving Concern
Jesus Christ rebuked them because He loved them, even though their love for Him had grown cold. He planned to chasten them as proof of His love. God permits churches to go through times of trial so that they might become what He wants them to become. He wants them to be restored to Himself. However Christ can't have fellowship with half hearted Christians. He demands first place in our lives. He won't settle for anything less.
We cannot serve God and mammon. Christ won't have fellowship with believers that are wrapped up in material wealth. He vomits them out of His mouth. How could the Laodicean Church avoid being vomited out of Christ's mouth? By obeying His commands to them. The word therefore indicates that Christ requires a particular response from them. He gives the Church three commands to obey if they want to be restored to fellowship with Him, Reheat, Repent & Receive. Then He gives them a promise if they do, a Reward.
Revelation 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous.
The command to be zealous zhleuw means, to desire, to earnestly strive after. It is akin to the word hot in v 16. Christ tells them to be on fire. He can't tolerate their lukewarm state. Christ wants them to serve Him with all their heart, not halfheartedly. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Revelation 3:19a As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.
The command to repent metanoew means to change their mind about how they live. It means to feel remorse for ones sins. Basically it means to turn around and walk God's way. The church at Laodicea had to repent of their pride and humble themselves before the Lord. They had to stir up that inner fire and cultivate it to a burning heart.
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 dine with him, and he with Me.
The third command was to behold Christ standing outside pleading for opening back in to their lives. The Lord was standing outside the Laodicean church! He spoke to the individual — if anyone — not to the whole congregation. He appealed to a small remnant in Sardis, and now He appeals to the individual. God can do great things in a church, even through one dedicated individual. He knocks through circumstances and He calls through His Word. For what is He appealing? Fellowship and communion, the people’s desire to abide in Him. To eat with Christ is to enjoy intimate fellowship with Him. The Laodiceans were an independent church that had need of nothing, but they were not abiding in Christ and drawing their power from Him. Unless we abide in Christ we are nothing and can do nothing.
Revelation 3:21-22: 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.
Note that when we invite Him in, the supper room becomes a throne room! It is through communion with Christ that we find victory and become overcomers indeed. Christ gives a far greater reward to faithful saints than we can obtain on earth. What's more it is an eternal reward that won't fade or perish. If believers will place Jesus Christ in the center of their lives, He will place them in the center of His. On His throne. What a privilege. There is no comparison to this.
The Dog And His Bone
One of Aesop's fables is the story of the dog who saw his image reflected in a pool of water beneath his feet. Though he already had a bone, he was jealous of the bone he saw in the other dog's mouth. He opened his jaws to snarl and snatch at the bone's reflection and of course lost his bone when it fell into the water. This perfectly describes the Laodicean Church! Not satisfied with the promises of God, the church in this wealthy Roman city pursued and acquired earthly power through wealth. But she had in reality become poor, and in the end would lose her wealth. Christ will share His wealth with us but asks us to forsake the riches of this world in return. He won't have fellowship with worldly Christians.
Jesus exposed their great needs, and lovingly commanded them to return to Him. He wanted them to have fellowship with the Laodiceans again. However He couldn't excuse their sin. So Christ commanded them to do three things. To Reheat, Repent and Receive.
Has Christ touched your heart this morning? Is He standing outside your door knocking? Is He asking you to be zealous for Him like you once were? Is He asking you to repent of your lukewarmness? Is He asking you to stop pursuing material wealth? Is He asking to come back into your life and have fellowship with you? How will you respond to Christ's call? Will you open the door and invite Him back in or leave Him standing outside? The Choice is yours. But remember Jesus knows our works, we can't deceive Him! He knows if our spiritual temperature is on the way up or the way down. How does Christ see you today?
2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.