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. What is your spiritual temperature

WHAT IS YOUR SPIRITUAL TEMPERATURE?

 

Revelation 3:14-22 (ESV) 14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. 15 “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 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 eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered 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.’”


Introduction.

 

My desire for Logos in 2022 will be the church that Jesus intended us to be. In 2018 we did a series on the 7 churches of Asia and saw what Christ was saying to these churches.  Now, we want to know what Christ says about our church, and in studying what He says to the 7 churches of Asia, all of us can extract truths to guide us, challenge us and reform us.

 

Just a reminder that these 7 churches are actual churches that existed. And they received actual letters from John, inspired by the living Christ by His Spirit. It is not 7 church ages as some theologians propose. And we are not living in the dispensation of Laodicea which they propose. We have seen throughout the churches that Christ is relevant to all of us, in many of the ways He has revealed Himself to these churches. Sometimes more than one of His attributes can be relevant to us at the same time.

 

But today we see how He reveals Himself to Laodicea.

 

Now how many modern churches do you know with the name Laodicea? It is like calling your child Judas. So at least it seems that most people agree that it was a bad church. There are numerous churches with the name Philadelphia. My first congregation was called Philadelphia.

 

This is the worst of the 7 churches. Nothing good to be said to them. It is literally the church that made God gag.

 

There are theologians including Dr Mac Arthur who believe that this is a church of unbelievers, an unregenerate church, tares, goats, an unredeemed church as they had a wrong view of Christ. I understand why they say so, as there is nothing good said about this church, but I find it difficult to think that Christ will call such a church – “church”, and regard it as one of His ‘lamp stands’ if they were not redeemed. The word ‘church’ comes from the word “ekklysia” which in itself means “called out ones”. I personally think they might have had some unredeemed people in the church, which is many times true of all churches as Satan sows his seeds in the same field. They were rather to use Christ’s words ‘lukewarm’, or simply Christians not worthy of the Name they bear. They were out of fellowship with Christ. But I believe they were a legitimate church out of fellowship with Christ, otherwise they would not be reckoned amongst the churches. Christ stands amongst His churches and holds His leaders in His right hand.

 

Laodicea was located in the Lycus River Valley in southwest Phrygia. It’s the most easterly city of the seven cities, about 72 Km away from Philadelphia. Its sister cities were Colossae and Hierapolis. Colossae’s about 16 km away, and Hierapolis is only about 10 km away. Antiochus II founded the city in the third century before Christ and named it after his wife Laodice. He named it after her and then divorced her; but the name stuck. The modern name of the Turkish city is Eski-hassar, which means in Turkish “the old fortress.” It had a very large Jewish population.

 

A few things you need to know about this city that has bearing on this letter.


First of all, the development of any city requires water. Without water a population cannot survive. We know all about this don’t we. Of late our household being so high is more often without water than with water. As this city grew the local water sources no longer sufficed and they had to make a plan.  So, they built an amazing underground aqueduct. They put it underground so that their enemies wouldn’t have access to it. They used pipes made from stone.

 

They got their water from the area of Hierapolis which was rich in hot springs. People went there for the healing properties of the hot springs. Even today people go on vacation to that area to enjoy the hot springs. It will be similar to our places like Tshipise, Eiland and Warm Baths. So, the water flowed through this aqueduct to Laodicea and the water was collected in a central water tower and then distributed through the streets by pipes radiating from the central water tower.

 

The water tower in the sections of the terracotta pipes are still visible today. Some archaeologists have suggested that the pipes came from 8 km away. There is much more detail regarding these pipes which I will not share for time sake.

 

There’s a second thing that dominated this city, and that was a great commercial enterprise of banking. The city was very wealthy. It was so wealthy that after the earthquake of 60 A. D. which levelled this city and some of the others in the area, the people of Laodicea prided themselves on rejecting an offer of financial help from Rome because they had enough money of their own to completely rebuild a beautiful city without any help. Tacitus, a Roman historian wrote: “Laodicea arose from the ruins by the strength of her own resources with no help from us.”

Another thing that Laodicea was famous for was the wool industry. The major product being a soft wool, glossy wool which was black in colour. It was used for carpets and it was used for clothing, both locally and then also for exportation.

The city also gained much respect and honour for its medical school. A medical school was established in connection with a temple to an ancient god of healing, later identified as Asclepius. We see him in Corinth as well. Famous medical teachers were there, and they developed a famous and highly-valued salve to be used for eye ailments. All three industries namely finance, the black wool, and eye salve play a part in this letter, and so does the water supply.

 

Let’s hear what the Lord says to this church.

 

1. The introduction of Christ.

 

In verse 14 He says: “The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.”

 

There is no doubt who is speaking here.

 

1.1 He is the Amen.

 

 

The word ‘amen’ is often used in Scripture to affirm the truthfulness of a statement. It is an affirmation. We end our prayers with it, and often when we agree with somebody we say ‘Amen’. At times, I call for an ‘Amen’ while preaching, seeking for you to acknowledge agreement in your ears for the value of what I said. The Hebrew word translated “amen” literally means “truly” or “so be it.” “Amen” is also found in the Greek New Testament and has the same meaning. It is a kind of verbal guarantee that what has been said is true. It is essentially the same at the end as putting the word “verily” at the beginning. We read many times in the New Testament, “Verily, verily, or truly, truly I say unto you,” and then the Lord goes on to say something. Verily at the beginning of a statement affirms the statement that is about to be made; and amen at the end of a statement seals its veracity and its certainty.

 

Our Lord is the firm, fixed, certain, faithful, unchangeable Amen, because He is true all the time, in every way; and specifically, because all that He says is true, and all that He promises is true, and all His covenants are true; and He Himself is the guarantee and affirmation. Christ, in fact, is the Amen to God’s promises. He is the Amen to God’s covenants. Paul summarises it nicely in 2 Corinthians 1:20 (NKJV) 20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” God’s promises are then validated in Christ. They are made certain in Christ. He is God’s Amen, the One who confirms all divine promises. This, of course, is to establish His glory, and His truthfulness, and His unity with God.

 

1.2 He is the Faithful and true witness.

 

This says to us that the great Amen is completely trustworthy. He is perfectly accurate. He is reliable. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the perfect Witness – to all testimony which He bears to God, to the character of God, to the purposes of God, the plans of God, the promises of God, the covenants of God.

 

I am so glad I do not understand everything about God, or that I understand His mind fully. If I could understand God fully, is He worth worshipping? Because then He is very much like me, then He cannot be God. He has hidden attributes we will never comprehend. Think about it. Humanly speaking you cannot speak anything into being, but God can. I promise you that this side of the grave you will never understand it.

 

All that He says is a faithful Witness. Remember the words of Jesus to Nikodemus in John 3:31-32 (ESV) 31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony.”

 

Everything Jesus does and says is sincere and true. This establishes at the very beginning in dealing with this church, that truth is critical. Truth is the necessary foundation for every church, that is why we are not purpose driven, that is why we are not programme driven, that is why we are Bible driven.

 

1.3 He is the beginning of God’s creation.

 

It sounds like He was the first one created by God and that is the view of Jehovah’s witnesses. But that is not true. It is the same thought as in Colossians 1:15 (ESV) 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” The Greek word is ‘Protokos’ which means that He is the premier or primary or preeminent one of all creation. Paul explains it further in Colossians 1:16-19 (ESV) 16 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. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 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. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,..”

 

Christ is the everything of God. All that God is, He is. He is the Creator. He is the Author of life, both spiritual life and physical life. So, when it says, “He is the Beginning of God’s creation,” we can interpret it as the primary One, the premier one, the source of all creation. John 1:3 (ESV) 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”

 

Because Jesus is the great Amen, because He is the faithful witness, because He is the beginning of God’s creation, there is nobody more authoritative to offer any form of opinion about this church.

 

2. The condemnation.


2.1 They are like their water.


15 ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

 

As to all the other churches, Jesus says that He knows their works, and their works are to be gagged at, it is nauseating. It is a sad day in any church when Christ knows their works and there is just nothing to commend them for. At least with some of the other bad churches there were some good deeds amongst the negative statements.

 

Then Christ makes a statement in verse 15 and uses their local water situation as a backdrop to their judgment. “Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

 

I have often heard sermons that this church should have been a hot church, but Christ seems to be happy with either hot or cold, just not lukewarm. He would either have them hot as the healing waters of Hierapolis with all their beneficial properties, or cold and refreshing like the waters of Colossae.  There was a cold perennial stream, which made it the earliest settlement in the area; and the water was refreshing, clear.

 

But they were lukewarm like the dirty, foul, tepid water that flowed for kilometres through a filthy aqueduct. It wasn’t hot enough to relax or restore. It wasn’t cool enough to quench. It was foul, and it made people nauseous. That’s what our Lord’s saying about this church: “You make Me sick.”

 

Sadly, in our day and age there are many churches that make God sick. These are churches who have lost their Biblical purpose. They have a wrong understanding of who Christ is. In seeking to please the world by being seeker sensitive, they no longer please Christ, they actually cause Him to want to vomit. They have a form of religion but have denied the power of God and are leaning on their own power, their own abilities, their own resources and their own riches. They love the world and the world loves them. They embrace other religions as if we serve the same father. They make God sick. They deny the power of the gospel. They have exchanged the authority of God’s Word and the true power of the spirit and they rest in fanciful dreams, the prophecies of day dreamers, the wisdom and stories of man, and lean on the success of their programs instead of the power of their God. This causes God to want to vomit, because Christ did not die for this. He died that we may have true salvation, that we can become born-again, by a rebirth wrought by the Spirit of God, which changes lives, so that we will either be hot or cold, but not lukewarm like the water that arrived through the pipes in Laodicea.

 

Oh, may Logos not be a church like that. May we not cause God to want to vomit. May we rather be a sweet-smelling fragrance to God of the life we enjoy in Christ Jesus.

 

We will end here today and continue in my next sermon with this church. There are some more valuable lessons to learn from their context.

 

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church – 09 January 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So verse 17 adds – and this would be true: “Not only are you sickening hypocrites, but you are deceived, as all sickening hypocrites are. You say one thing and you don’t know your true condition. You say, ‘I am rich and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” One thing about nonbelievers who have come together in a “church” is they’re in no position to assess their spiritual condition. They cannot know reality.

Laodicea was a wealthy city: wealthy in material wealth, famous for its banking, for its riches. And the church’s opinion of its own identity, was a baseless fiction that somehow they possessed not only material wealth, but even spiritual wealth. Maybe they were not only those who denied the deity of Christ, but maybe they had been influenced by a source of that kind of denial – Gnosticism, sort of pre-Gnosticism. Maybe they met together in spiritual pride thinking they were the elevated people.

That was what Gnosticism and pre-Gnosticism was – comes from the Greek word “to know,” the people who had the secret elevated knowledge. They had the money, they had the riches; they saw themselves as transcending to hoi polloi, to a kind of knowledge that was above everybody else; a spiritual pride to go along with their material pride. They say, “I’m rich. I have become wealthy. I have need of nothing.”

That is the worst state a person can be in. It would be better, it would be better to be an atheist. It would be better to be completely ignorant of the church and the gospel. Anything would be better than this. This is the ultimate apostate hypocrisy: you know about Christ and you’ve created a false Christ, you know about God and you’ve created a false god, and you’re smugly self-confident in that.

This characterizes entire denominations across the world in an American history, even up to today. This characterizes “Christian universities and seminaries.” They think they’re rich materially, they think they’re rich in spiritual knowledge, they have the elevated knowledge, and they don’t know their condition – the condition that comes to anybody who has a wrong view of Christ. When the major denominations began to attack the deity of Christ, it was clear evidence that Laodicea had become the norm.

I had the opportunity to do a book review while I was over in Scotland, and Iain Murray gave me a book and asked if I would review it was featuring the idea that it was sad for people to have to leave the Church of Scotland. They finally had come – some people had come to the conclusion they had to leave the Church of Scotland; and what triggered that was same-sex marriage and the ordination of homosexuals.

So I read the book, and it’s really well done. And good people wrote the book, good people, faithful people. But my response to the book was this: “You didn’t leave when they denied the Bible. You didn’t leave when they denied the deity of Christ. Now you’re leaving over same-sex marriage? You’re going to be accused of making that the high ground, and you’re going to reinforce the idea that Christians are just people who have a different set of social morals. How could you stay when they denied the inspiration and authority of Scripture? How could you stay when they denied the deity of Christ; and now you leave? I’m glad you leave, but I think it’s going to be misunderstood, it’s going to be misunderstood.”

Once they deny Scripture and deny Christ, it’s Laodicea. “You don’t know – ” He says “ – that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”

Look, there’s nothing you can do with those words to make them Christians. Christians are not wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. So when you’re asking, “Who are these people?” these are non-Christians in a church, a church of non-Christians, the sickening condition of thinking you’re spiritually rich, when you’re bankrupt; of thinking you’re beautiful, when you’re wretched; of imagining that you’re to be envied, when you’re to be pitied; of believing you see everything clearly, when you see nothing and are stone blind; feeling you are clothed in spiritual finery, when you’re naked. You may have your bank account, you may wear your black wool, you may have your eye salve; but spiritually, you are miserable, wretched, poor, blind, and naked, and you are to be most pitied. You have no riches with God, you wear no robes of righteousness, you see no spiritual reality, and you don’t know it.

That is the condition of a church of nonbelievers. In reality, those kinds of churches, even today, are the proudest of churches. They are the proudest of churches. They think they’re rich, they think they’re clothed in finery, they think they don’t need anything: they have no idea of their condition.

At that point, our Lord speaks to them in verses 18 to 20. His message is very direct. “I advise you  to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.”

Here is grace offered to hypocrites. Not surprising, is it, that the Lord would offer grace to hypocrites: “To buy from Me.” Like Isaiah 55:1, right? “Come, without money and without price, and buy. You think you can buy anything you want, you’ve got it all, you need nothing. What you really need only comes from Me. Come. Come to Me and buy, without price, without money, without works.”

“What shall a man profit if he – ” what? “ – gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” “If you want riches, come to Me. If you want clothing, come to Me. If you want sight, come to Me. Come to Me, and I’ll give you gold refined by fire,” pure gold, no impurities. This refers to all spiritual blessings, all spiritual wealth that is pure and priceless, and it all comes from Me. All spiritual blessings in the heavenlies come from Me.”

“True faith – ” in 1 Peter 1:7 “ – is more precious than gold which is perishable, even though it’s tested by fire, it’s found ultimately to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

“Come to Me and buy the true and tested gold so you will not be poor anymore. And then come to Me to receive a white garment that you may clothe yourself, and the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed. Get rid of your black robe, and come and get a white robe,” which in the book of Revelation several times is the righteousness of the saints, the imputed righteousness of God placed over the saints. And the word white here is leukos: dazzling, brilliant, like the white of a lightbulb, not like a white cloth. This is the robe of righteousness of Isaiah 61:10 that covers the sinner.

“And then since you’re blind, come and take the eye salve that I have, and I’ll anoint your eyes so that you can see.” Apparently that eye salve was a kind of coarse dough that they put together, and they mixed in it some Phrygian power that had demonstrated that it had some kind of soothing affect on eyes that had been irritated. Obviously, it’s not going to correct vision. But it was salve that helped heal wounds that had come to the eye.

“Come to Me, I’ll make you see. Come to Me, I’ll cover you in a white garment. Come to Me, I’ll make you rich.” So just as poor, naked, blind unbelievers have no idea of what their condition is, our Lord says, “Take this letter and read it to them.”

Salvation is that gold which makes us spiritually rich in faith. It is that white robe that covers our sinful nakedness with the righteousness of God through Christ. It is that eye salve which gives us the knowledge of God, illuminating grace and an understanding of God’s truth. This is a call to salvation in a three-fold description, and it is a magnificent picture. “Come, the price has been paid. Buy without money and without price,” Isaiah 55:1. “Come. Come.”

And then in verse 19 He says something interesting: “Those whom I love I reprove and discipline; therefore, be zealous and repent.” That first statement has caused some people to think He’s talking to Christians here, but the context doesn’t allow that. This is just an axiomatic statement about God and about Christ. “Those whom I love I reprove and discipline,” which is no different than to say this: “God so loved the – ” what? “ – world, that He gave His only begotten Son.”

God does reprove and rebuke unbelievers. You’re going to see that in John, chapter 16: “He convicts the world, through the Holy Spirit, of sin and righteousness and judgment.” And by the way, the word “reprove” there is to treat with contempt, to convict, Matthew 18:15, “to expose.”

“He loves the world, and He exposes the sin of the world, and He reproves it, and He even punishes it.” The word “discipline” here is used in Luke 23 twice at it referred to punishment.

Second Timothy 2:25, it’s used with regard to unbelievers. He loves unbelievers, He loves sinners, that’s why we have ceased to be sinners and been given salvation. And that love demonstrated, starts with reproof. It’s starts with unmasking our wretchedness. It starts with punishment.

There’s a note of tenderness in these words, as there is in the whole letter. He has a tender affection for these people. It’s phile. He doesn’t love them with an agape kind of love, He loves them with a divine kind of affection, but no relationship. But He’s saying, “You’re on the edge of conviction and exposure and punishment, and God finds no pleasure in such punishment.”

So He says, “Therefore, be zealous and repent.” That’s a call to salvation: Repent, repent – a decisive act; a zealous, eager act. Do it with all your might. Do it with all your heart. Repent.”

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote on repentance: “Repentance means that you realize that you’re a guilty, vile sinner in the presence of God, that you deserve the wrath and punishment of God, and that you are hell bound. It means that you begin to realize that this thing called sin is in you, and that you long to get rid of it, and that you turn your back on it in every shape and form; you renounce the world, whatever the cost – the world in its mind and outlook, as well as its practice – and you deny yourself, and take up the cross, and go after Christ, your nearest and dearest. And the whole world may call you a fool or say you have religious mania. You may have to suffer financially, but it makes no difference: that is repentance. Repentance is only going to come if you realize you’re not rich, and you’re not wealthy and in need of nothing.

The message to the unsaved church is, “Repent and do it fast. Pursue repentance with zeal.” And it is that general, divine affection expressed in the phileó love of that verse that is behind this reproof. And the invitation in verse 20 is one of the most familiar in all the Bible, one of the most misunderstood. This is compassion. This is divine mercy.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” Who is He talking about? Himself. The door of what? Not the door of your heart, the door of the church, right? “I stand at the door of your church and I knock. Is there anyone who will hear My voice and open the door? I will come in to him and will dine with him and he with Me.” This is a church that Christ is not in.

Popular idea, I understand that, we’ve heard that all our lives knocking on the heart. That’s not the picture here. This is the door of the church metaphorically speaking. Christ says, “I will come in to your church.”

In the church at Sardis, He was there in the presence of the few that were believers. He’s outside this church. There are thousands of churches like this – thousands, tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands around the world – and Christ is outside. And in compassion He knocks, shut out of church that bears His name.

I go by so many of these dead, liberal churches, and Christ is in the name of the church, but He’s not in the church. The knocking in this letter is Christ saying, “I will come in if  someone, anyone, anyone hears My voice, meaning: the assessment of the spiritual condition that I have just described and is willing to repent with zeal, if someone will open the door and be saved, I’ll come into that church.” And that’s all it takes, folks, one true Christian in a church and Christ is there. He may not be in control.

The act of saving faith that rejects works, recognizing spiritual bankruptcy, spiritual nakedness, and spiritual blindness; abandoning self-righteousness, works, and self-sufficiency, turning from sin and opening the door. If it’s just one, He will enter the church. Salvation will come inside that church: “And I’ll dine with that person: – fellowship, communion, shared life, shared joy, closeness, affection, intimacy.”

A shared meal was a symbol of union. A shared meal was a symbol of fellowship. This is deipnon, the evening meal, the last one of the day that lasted a long time before night fell. Jesus is saying, “If somebody – somebody in Laodicea, somebody - will come and open the door, I’ll come in and I’ll save you, and I’ll have fellowship with you.”

This is one final plea, one last plea. So our Lord stands knocking on the door of Laodicea. He’s still there outside these churches; still there in the cold, in the dark, knocking on the door of sickening, unsaved churches, seeking entrance before eternal night falls and it is everlastingly too late, too late.

There’s a wonderful story about a woman theologian named Lindemann – you remember the story, I know it’s deep – who was a Christ-denying, Scripture-denying liberal scholar. And by the grace of God – and, of course, a part of a church that was no church, a church where Christ was outside. But she opened the door, Christ came in and saved her – very rare – in the midst of liberalism. And she had written books and books and books, denying Christ, scholastic books denying Scripture. And after Christ came in, people asked her, “What do we do with your books?” Her famous answer is this: “Throw them away like I did; they’re worthless.”

And then a final promise, verse 21: “He who overcomes.” What is it that overcomes? First John 5:5, our faith: “He who overcomes – ” our faith “ – if you will believe, I will not only come in and sit down with you and fellowship with you now, but I will grant to that person who comes in faith to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. I’ll take you all the way to glory and sit you on My throne.”

We saw in chapter 1 that He has a throne, and we know God has a throne. The throne of God and the throne of Christ becomes the throne of the penitent believer. This is the supreme elevation to humanity, to have the dignity of sitting on the throne of God and the throne of Christ. We don’t receive a kind of minimal salvation. He knocks on the church that is not church. He calls for the people who are not Christians to repent. “And if they do – ” He says, “I’ll come in and I’ll linger with you, and I’ll be present with you and will commune and have fellowship. And someday, I will take you and seat you on My throne – the throne of My Father and My throne.”

That’s the message to the apostates, to the liberals, to the Christ-deniers, the Bible-deniers, who think they’re the elevated, scholarly, intellectuals who are far above true believers. “You don’t know your condition. You are poor and blind. You are wretched, miserable, naked.” But Christ, in grace, offers salvation.

And, again, as all the letters close, He says, “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Are you listening? Are you listening?