Twice recently, our pastor has mentioned the Laodicean church in his messages. Something sparked in me the first time, and when he mentioned it again tonight I thought I’d blog about it. 🙂
My thoughts are a bit of a muddle about this but I am hoping that clarity will come as I write, which is usually the case for me. So if this post seems a bit muddled you’ll know the clarity didn’t kick in like it was supposed to. Hehehe
The Laodicean church in Revelations is the one that Jesus says is neither hot nor cold but lukewarm, therefore he will spew it out of his mouth. He goes on to say that they see themselves as rich and increased with goods, in need of nothing, and that they are blissfully unaware that they are actually miserable, poor, blind and naked.
As sweet and redemptive as Jesus is, he offers the way out for their wretched condition:
Rev 3:18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
He goes on to say that as many as he loves he rebukes and chastens…can you hear the tenderness in his voice as he says that? He is completely motivated by love. His only desire is for them to repent and open the door on which he is knocking so that he could come in and have a real, face-to-face relationship with them.
The problem with the Laodicean church is that it has lived up to its name. Laodicea comes from a compound of two words, and if I can paraphrase what the two words mean together it goes something like this: “a people who are concerned with being judged right according to the customs and laws of the time.” It is a church whose primary focus is to show itself ‘right’ in the eyes of the prevailing culture, to be ‘cool’ and seeker-friendly, to create a good impression of itself in the eyes of others.
What is so wrong with that? There is nothing wrong with living the christian life to such an extent that it ‘provokes others to jealousy’ and makes them desire the kind of relationship with Jesus that you have. But if you are so focussed on people-pleasing that you become assimilated in the prevailing culture (and ours is very materialistic and success-driven), you have lost something. The message of the gospel becomes watered-down to a pep-talk about prosperity and being successful in everything you do, with Jesus as the means to achieve that.
There is so much more to the christian life than that! The crux of it all is that Jesus wants to be admitted to the inner sanctum of our lives where he wants to ‘sup’ with us, and have us ‘sup’ with him. When is the last time you have sat down and eaten at his table, and tasted the bread of his presence? (I am ashamed to say that I do not go to his table often enough.)
The deal with the Laodicean church (and humanity for that matter) is, that we seek out that which is comfortable, familiar, self-indulgent, and conformist. It is hard to go against the grain, to press into the deeper things of God, to change. Walking with Jesus requires that we are always going from strength to strength, from glory to glory. We constantly need to be willing to shed our old wineskins and put on the new, so that we can carry more of his character in our lives. Change does not come naturally for us, even though we have a deep-seated (and God-given) desire for it. It often means that we need to embrace our own cross and die to our own desires and inclinations.
The remedy for the Laodicaean church is to open the door to Jesus and his ways, and to allow his fire to bring forth his character (gold) in their lives. The way of Jesus is the way of self-denial. It is the place where we embrace the fiery trials that come our way, knowing that:
Rom 8:18 …the sufferings of this present time (fire) are not worthy to be compared with the glory (gold) which shall be revealed in us.
The suffering we go through has a purpose. It is all about us becoming something…a people who will carry his glory to those around us!
I was thinking about the scripture where Solomon says that:
Pro 27:7 The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.
The Laodicean church is like the ‘full soul’ that is comfortable in its’ prowess, its’ success, its’ prosperity, and loathes the sweet things of Jesus’ presence. But those of us who are dissatified with our blindness, our nakedness, our wretched and miserable condition, are hungry for the things of God. Even the trails, the bitter times of suffering and dying to ourselves, are sweet, because we know that it brings us closer to Him!
I have said it before but it bears saying again…Paul talks about the fellowship of his suffering in the book of Phillipians. There is an intimacy with Jesus, a fellowship and a closeness, that can only be found in the place of our suffering. I have found time and time again that his persence is extra sweet and tender and precious in those times. Haven’t you?