Jesus Says: Repent!
This letter is particularly difficult. The letter to Laodicea is a tough pill to swallow because of the seven churches, this one above all others finds parallels in the American church. Jesus has a harsh rebuke for this church because their wealth has caused them to abandon him.
And most people, when they hear “wealth,” think they are excluded from that category. Let me give you a biblical definition of wealth just so no one closes their ears to the message of Jesus:
Do you know where today’s meals are going to come from?
Do you walk everywhere you go?
Do you worry about how you’re going to heat your home?
If you answered “no” to those questions, congratulations, you’re rich. According to how the Bible defines rich, you are rich. We all are. We have better medicine, better opportunities, we eat better, and we are far more comfortable than even Caesar dreamed in the days of the Roman empire.
We have devices that we carry in our pockets that have access to all the information of all people throughout history, and we use them to watch cat videos, post selfies, and gripe about how hard our lives are. According to how to Bible defines it, you are wealthy.
And let me say, being wealthy isn’t a sin. It isn’t wrong to be wealthy. As long as you haven’t come by your wealth immorally, there is no shame in having stuff. The issue for us, and the issue of the Laodicean church is who your master is.
No one can serve two masters…
The Laodiceans chose theirs, which will you choose? As your pastor, I have a great burden for your souls. Making sure that I am diligently leading you in truth is a heavy burden. And I hate talking about money. But I would fail you if I didn’t hammer this point now- you can serve money or you can serve Jesus. You can’t serve both. And if you’re not giving to this church, and you’ve been coming here and calling this church your home, (and I truly don’t know, I don’t look at the money), you need to give. Not because we need your money, but because God wants your heart, and you can’t love something or someone you’re not investing in.
Yes, we use that money to pay the bills and fund ministry, but if you didn’t give God would provide for his church in other ways. It’s not for the church that you give, but because there is a direct line between your wallet and your heart.
Forsyth Christian Church Illustration
And so Jesus’ message to the Church in Laodicea is “Repent!”
Hear his hard-hitting words:
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen—the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s new creation: “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne. “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”
Jesus is the Amen. Amen just means, “Yes!” or “I agree”, and so Jesus is the one who agrees with all of the Word of God.
He is also the beginning of God’s creation. He is first. Not that Jesus is saying that he was created, because we have the same author say:
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God.
He is first in preeminence. Jesus is the most important in all of creation. He is the inaugurator of a new covenant by being the first to rise from the dead. And because he is the beginning of new creation (instigator and first participant), we get to join with him in it if we are in him.
He is preeminent. In fact, many commentators link verse 14 to Colossians 1, another letter that the Laodiceans have received, and I’m just going to read it, not put it on the screen. Listen:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
Preeminent. Top. Nothing above him. Nothing else to gain. Nothing else to get. The goal. The end. What it's all about is Jesus.
Following Jesus is not going to make you wealthy.
Following Jesus does not guarantee that you're going to be healthy.
The message of Scripture and the Gospel of Christ is not that in following him, everything goes right, but that he is ENOUGH no matter what happens.
That's the message of the Gospel. And it's maddening to me that the Prosperity Gospel is so unbelievably popular among people who then have to completely disregard Scripture as well as Christian history.
Every apostle in the Bible dies horrifically!
They get beheaded.
They get crucified upside down.
They get boiled in oil.
They die poor.
And they're slaughtered.
Spurgeon, the "Prince of Preachers", struggled with depression his whole life and then died.
Christianity has been built, and has carried through the generations on the blood of men, not on the wealth. This is an absurd idea that would make Christ not preeminent, but what he could give you. That is not Christianity. That is something entirely different. And it's heresy that would have gotten you burned alive 200 years ago.
it is a ridiculous notion.
Jesus is enough.
We pursue healing. Maybe we get it, maybe we don't.
He's enough if we don't.
This is the message- that Jesus is sufficient.
Jesus is preeminent.
Top of the chain.
Nothing else to want.
Nothing else to pursue.
He is enough.
(Matt Chandler, “Jesus is Enough”)
And this is the message that the church in Laodicea has forgotten.
So Jesus says:
“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!
Every lexicon I consulted about this word says that it should be translated "vomit" and some "convulsively vomit". Why do our translations shy away from uncomfortable language?
Lukewarm- Hieropolis hot springs, Colossae- cool springs.
The water at Laodicea the moment you take a drink from it, it makes you want to vomit.
Once the water made it from Hieropolis to Laodicea, it was lukewarm. Hot water is useful. Cold water is useful. Lukewarm water is good for nothing. Stop being good for nothing.
You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.
3 Reasons for their wealth:
Banking center- tons of gold
Laodicean clothing line (couldn't get their dark black wools anywhere else)
Eye salve- hospital that was performing cataract surgeries. Famous eye salve would heal a lot of ophthalmological issues.
“What you think has made you rich is killing you! The things that you think make you important are the things that are taking you away from me!”
AD 60- massive earthquake destroyed a large portion of the city and the Roman government offered assistance, and the Laodiceans said, “We don’t need you. We’re rich. We’ll do it ourselves.” Jesus is saying "you're treating me this way."
They became this way because of their wealth. The refused to trust Jesus. In America, we are all as wealthy as these people were. It isn't an issue of rich or poor, but heart. This message is for all of us.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The point isn’t that there are some who are spiritually rich and some who are spiritually poor. We’re all destitute, but sometimes, we don’t want to admit that because we’re in church. So we settle.
Not rich (pride) (not quite as overt as the church in Laodicea).
Not poor (humiliated)
Middle-class in spirit.
There is no praise for Laodicea. This is why it's difficult. Materialism and social seduction are the most dangerous temptations for Christians.
I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.
These are the only semi-encouraging things that Jesus says to them.
This is not an evangelistic text. This isn’t telling non-believers to let Jesus in. No, you need to make sure you're letting Jesus in.
This is a communion passage. Jesus is saying, “you’ve turned your back on me so much that when you take my ‘body’ and my ‘blood’, I’m not even there. Open the door, so I can join you for the meal that it supposed to honor me!”
This is also an invitation to intimacy. Even though this church is rejecting Christ, he is still willing to dine with them!
I listened to a pastor recently tell a story about his dying father. His heart was blocked in 3 arteries. 90% blockage in three of them.
A doctor could have prescribed to him diet and exercise ‘til the cows came home and it would have made ZERO difference. He didn’t need to work harder. He needed a new heart. And that’s what the doctor prescribed.
He spent months on the donor list, and they were about to give up hope, when suddenly the doctor called and let him know they had one. He went in immediately prepared for open heart surgery. They put knocked him out, put him on a bypass machine - once he adjusted, they cut out old heart - sewed in the new heart. After that, they said he was a new man. He had strength and energy he hadn’t experienced in years!
Christianity is a heart transplant.
The problem is WE NEED A NEW HEART! It isn’t that we need to do better, try harder, eat better, rest more, etc. WE NEED A NEW HEART.
But like for Patrick’s father, for us to live, someone has to die.
To go from death to life, Jesus had to go from life to death.
Jesus didn’t come to make good people better, he came to bring dead people to life.
And that’s the message of Jesus to the church in Laodicea and to us:
“Give me your dead heart, and I’ll give you life. Give me the junk you call riches that pass away, and I’ll give you treasures that NEVER pass away.”