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Whitsun 2004 am What the Spirit says to the churches

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What the Spirit says to the churches

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 

17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see.

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 

20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

                                                                                                                                                Rev 3:20

Scripture reminds us that the Holy Spirit has been busy since the foundation of the world and beyond. 

We read of His work brooding over the disordered chaos and darkness at the beginning of time in Genesis 1, and joining in the chorus of expectation at the Coming of the Lord in glory in Revelation 22

Genesis 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters

Rev 22: 17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

In our present age He is still busy – brooding over the prevailing unbelief and ministering to those who will receive Him.

Nothing gives Him greater joy than to bring the wonder and completeness of Jesus into the lives of those who need Him.

Here in this most familiar passage of Revelation the Holy Spirit speaks seven times to seven very different churches – and of all the messages this one to Laodicea is arguably the most critical.

All of the letters to the churches are relevant to the church of today – and to us – but on this Whitsun morning I have to leave with you what the Spirit says to the lukewarm church.

What is recorded here has many applications – but this morning I want to hear what the Spirit says to me – and what I believe He is saying to you.

·        It is sadly possible that Christ may be excluded

·        It is His loving ministry to ask for admission

·        It is our responsibility to admit Him

1.  The exclusion of Christ

In that most familiar of verses v 20 Jesus is heard knocking from outside, and asking to be admitted.

This is an amazing situation for any church and any individual.   

Here we are celebrating as it were the “birthday” of the Church – and yet it remains possible that as a church we may be closing the door on Jesus.   It remains possible that as individual Christians we are doing the same.   It is of course entirely likely that there are some here this morning who have never truly given Him admission.

In this critical review of the ancient church at Laodicea we see the SIGNS OF CHRIST’S EXCLUSION:

Lukewarm                        3,15

Complacent                     3,17a

Spiritually bankrupt        3,17b

Lukewarm                        3,15

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 

Complacent                     3,17a

 

17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’

Spiritually bankrupt        3,17b 18

But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see.

What a horrifying indictment!

Yet arguably this is a perfect description of the Western church in the twenty-first century.

It is striking too that it seems to take so little effort to achieve this condition – these are the marks of a privileged materialistic group who are making no effort to maintain their spiritual witness.   They are not being troubled from outside – not subject to persecution or difficulty. All their problems arise from a failure to give the Lord His rightful place in their spiritual community.

These are folk who are not marked out by any spiritual stance;

They are folk who have concluded they need nothing;

They are totally blind to the real bankruptcy of their condition.

How has this come about?

In words that remind us of Song of Songs:

Where the Beloved hears the voice at the door but is too drowsy to get up and let Him in :

2 I slept but my heart was awake.

Listen! My lover is knocking:

“Open to me, my sister, my darling,

my dove, my flawless one.

My head is drenched with dew,

my hair with the dampness of the night.”

3 I have taken off my robe—

must I put it on again?

I have washed my feet—

must I soil them again?

4 My lover thrust his hand through the latch-opening;

my heart began to pound for him.

5 I arose to open for my lover,

and my hands dripped with myrrh,

my fingers with flowing myrrh,

on the handles of the lock.

6 I opened for my lover,

but my lover had left; he was gone.

My heart sank at his departure.

I looked for him but did not find him.

I called him but he did not answer.

The Lord has been excluded:

By a cooling off of spiritual devotion

By a neglect of spiritual fellowship

By a growing independence

By deluding ourselves we are alright.

At a personal level it may be true of us – we are materially satisfied – increasingly independent of what God offers.

At fellowship level we may behave as if all is well – simply because we are more influenced by the standards of this world’s view of success – and blind to our state as Christ sees us.

It is all to easy too for the individual on the fringes of the Church to conclude that Christ offers less and less in a world where material things count more and more.

At heart we are MEDIOCRE – neither hot nor cold – having not fervent spirit for the things of God – but no pronounced antagonism either.

In such a state Christ is excluded.

2.  His gracious ministry

20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

It is possible to see this well known figure as representing the approaching Christ at the end of the age – as it were about to knock and re-enter.

But such an interpretation leaves us in our spiritual complacency.

I believe the traditional view is right here:  the excluded Lord – as in that familiar but very old fashioned picture by Holman Hunt – longs to gain admission :

·        to the heart of the believer so that He may be whole once more

·        to the heart of the Church so that He may be seen and known once more

·        to the life of the self-sufficient unbeliever who has concluded he has no need of Jesus.

Know this – that Christ has the sovereign right to come in. He has secured a warrant to our lives by all that He has done.

Yet it remains a miracle of His Grace that He stands outside knocking and calling out.

There are three very simple truths to observe here:

Þ   He is outside

 

Þ   He asks admission

 

Þ   He offers everything

Whatever the reasons for this change in my spiritual life : Christ is no longer WITHIN but without.

Whatever the reasons for this situation in a fellowship : Christ is OUTSIDE

Whatever you may *think* your spiritual state is, the Spirit of God is telling you that your independence is false – your riches on which you depend are counterfeit.

But it is a wonder of the Christian Gospel that Jesus is constantly seeking to enter our lives.

Ours is not a search for truth or for God – God has searched out and found us and longs to enter our lives.

Sometimes we find that offensive – but it is at the heart of the gospel.

Can you hear the knock?

Can you hear His voice?

What does He offer that I do not have?   Everything.

But I am blind to His gracious promise – deaf to His pleading.

“I will come in and eat with him and he with me”

Þ   There could be a celebration

Þ   There could be a re-union

Þ   There could be a renewal

Þ   There could be a sharing

3.  My responsibility

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 

20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

These two verses encapsulate the response that Christ requires from the Laodicean Church, from us – from anyone who would recognise Him.

On the one hand a DEFINITE CHANGE IS NEEDED

Do not expect to slide back into a relationship of Christ centred living in the same way as you slid out of it!

“Be earnest and repent”  

Set your heart on – be deeply committed    //  repent

Nothing short of an about turn in attitude is called for.

Oh how easily we are content with a backward look – instead of an about turn!

Oh how easily we are content with “review” or “revise” when “repent” is intended!

Secondly you will notice that the invitation/command of v20 is SINGULAR

“If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,”

Like so many gracious invitations in the Gospel the target audience is wide indeed: ANYONE – but the response is ALWAYS INTENSELY PERSONAL.

To hear – and to open the door.

In such a manner does THE SPIRIT SPEAK TO THE CHURCHES – AND SPECIFICALLY TO YOU

What is the alternative?

A continuing slide into increasing poverty, independence, blindness, ?

Will we hear His voice – the word of the Spirit to the churches – and to me?

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