- Sermon Notes
The Church God Desires – 2
Amen. All right, the great Apostle John has been given this prophecy, so that the church might understand the things which must quickly take place. Now, before he gets into the specific words of prophecy, he first speaks to the churches. He says the seven churches in Asia. They represent really all the churches, but why is he speaking to the churches before he gets into this prophetic vision? The answer is because he wants to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
This is really what is happening today. Anyone with spiritual discernment recognizes that there is a storm cloud on the horizon. That things are changing before our eyes and that there is a sense of danger that is rising in the earth today. Therefore, he wants the church to be ready, to prepare a people made ready for the return of the Lord. Really, in many ways, this is a great time for us to go into the book of Revelation because of what is happening right now, because he wants us through this your job to be ready.
He speaks to these churches and he gives words of commendation for things that they’re doing well, but he also speaks words of correction. Sometimes the words of correction seem strong, but he tells us why in verse 19, He says, “For those whom I love I reprove and I discipline.” In other words, he loves you so much, he is going to change the course. He is going to correct the course so as to bring blessing and to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Last week we looked at his letter he wrote to Ephesus. This week it’s the church in Laodicea. Now, Laodicea is a very large wealthy Roman town, about 100 miles to the east of Ephesus, more inland. It was a center of banking and finance for the kingdom or for the empire of Rome, a very, very wealthy community. It had an industry surrounding a unique clothing industry. The farmers nearby grew these or raised these black sheep.
They had this glossy black Laodicean wool. Those who would buy it at a high value, it was like a status symbol to get a garment, a black glossy Laodicean wool. That was interesting. Also there was a temple there to Ascelpius, which is like a medical call claiming to have healing powers and such. They had a famous Phrygian powder that they would make into like eye salve, which would heal the eye– Soothe the eyes but wouldn’t heal anything.
The symbol of two serpents on a stuff, which was like the symbol of medical clinics and hospitals today, actually was used at the temple of Asclepius there, interesting little connection. Another little interesting thing is that nearby Laodicea, about five six miles away, there was a place called Hierapolis. Today is called Pamukkale. In Turkish it means a cotton castles because of these hot springs that would come out of the earth and it has produced this calcification of these white formations that is absolutely glandulous.
The water is beautiful and it’s hot. They claimed it had healing powers, whether someone would bathe in it or someone would drink it. They would come from a long way to drink of this hot springs healing water. Someone had the great idea of building an aqueduct from Hierapolis and bring the water down to Laodicea. The problem is it left Hierapolis hot and it got to Laodicea lukewarm. Interestingly he brings all of this in. The aspects of the city really speaks to what he says to the church.
This is really important for us to understand.
Interestingly, this is like the one church where he has no words of commendation. They’re like all words of correction. Let’s read it, Revelation 3 beginning in verse 14. “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write,” first he introduces who is speaking. This is a powerful description of Jesus, right? The Son of Man, the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the beginning of the creation of God.” What a powerful way of seeing Him.
He says this, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I would that you were either cold or hot, so because you are lukewarm” and see this plan what’s happening there, “Because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Literally, I will vomit you, which is a pretty graphic picture. Then He says, “Because you say I am rich and have become wealthy and have need of nothing and yet you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”
“I advise you,” I love that phrase right there. That’s just so compelling. When God says I give you some advice, is like that’s a good word to pay attention to. “I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire.” In other words, center of banking and finance, wealthy community who are seeking after worldly wealth, he says, wrong pursuit. “I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich spiritually rich.”
“I advise you to buy white garments,” this is a play on the wonderfully expensive glossy black Laodicean wool. “Now, you buy white garments from me that you may clothe yourself and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed.” This is deep insight into our need. “Then I advise you to buy eye salve.” Here again is a contrasting with the Phrygian powder ointment that supposedly healed but did nothing. “I advise you to buy from me eye salve to anoint your eyes that you may see.”
“For those whom I love I reprove and I discipline.” Be zealous. God gives them the answer of what He wants them to do. I want you to be zealous. “Be zealous therefore and repent,” which is to make a correction, turn around. Then verse 20 is famous. I love verse 20. I quote it so often because it gives the heart of the Lord. Verse 20, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and will dine with him and He with me.”
What a picture of God pursuing. “He who overcomes I will grant to him to sit down with me on my thrown, as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on His thrown. He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” We should hear. We need to put that to our hearts, and say, “God, is there anything here in these verses that we should apply, take hold of?” Here is why, because many people believe that the church at Laodicea is like the church that most closely resembles the modern day in which we live.
Perhaps like our condition here is like very similar to that. Let’s start with this, we live in the wealthiest country this world has ever seen, isn’t that true? America, right? The wealthiest country this world has ever seen, and not only that, we live in like the best state in the United States.
Isn’t that true? Not only that, we live like in the best community in the States. Here we are in this area, we have a robust economy. There are jobs, there is wealth, there is pretty good wages and what we have– We have the world’s largest Costco people.
What we have here, Solomon and all of his glory didn’t have microwave popcorn. The things we take for granted– We just take this for granted, like that’s nothing, but these things which we take for granted are like huge luxuries to the world. What we have could easily make us spiritually blind. That’s why we need to really hear these words. He who has an ear let him hear. What is He saying to us? He is saying, He wants us to become spiritually hot, that’s what He is saying.
I. Become Spiritually Hot
See verse 15, they were neither cold nor hot, they were lukewarm. He says, “So He would spew them out of his mouth.” Literally vomit, very graphic, very powerful description, right? We love taking Scriptures and putting them on cards or plaques. Nobody puts that on a plaque I’m telling you. Nobody is going to knit that and put it on a pillow, yet it’s powerful, it’s very important. Because it speaks to the urgency that God places on our spiritual condition. There needs to be a sense of urgency about this. Urgency comes when something’s really important. Now you pay special attention because there’s a sense of urgency. Reminds me of when we’re raising our kids– I taught five kids how to drive, and I’m still okay.
Mostly. But here’s what I would do. First day, she or he is sitting behind the steering wheel. Before we even turn on the ignition, I give a little speech. I say, “I’m going to give you a rule which is the most important rule you’ll ever hear when it comes to learning how to drive. This is a rule which is the rule over all other rules, and it’s this. You do exactly what I say.” If you’d ever taught someone to drive, you know what I’m saying. There must be an urgency to you listen to everything I say. Now to me, that’s like God’s Word today, because of what’s happening in the world, because of the arising of danger in this world right now.
A. Lukewarm is spiritually dangerous
We need a sense of urgency on God’s Word. We will listen to every word you say, Lord. Here’s why. Because lukewarm is a spiritually dangerous condition, it’s dangerous. Here’s why it’s dangerous, because it makes a person complacent, it makes a person think that everything’s fine when everything’s not fine. It makes a person think that everything’s okay when everything’s not okay. There’s like a deception to lukewarmness, like you’re doing well when it’s not true. Lukewarm is a condition of what I might describe as being in the miserable middle. In other words, a person like that wants it both ways. They want to be in God, but they also want to be in the world.
B. How to become spiritually lukewarm
The problem is that they have just enough of Jesus to be miserable in the world, and they got just enough of the world to not really be able to enjoy the Lord. They’re stuck in the middle, and it’s miserable. That’s the great danger. The great danger is of course, God’s not pleased with it, because a person like that doesn’t move, they need to be woken up to it. What we really need to see is how does this happen? How does a person become spiritually lukewarm? We need to know how it happens. It’s so dangerous. Well, I suggest a few things. First of all, I think spiritual compromise leads to being lukewarm. Spiritual compromise is keeping enough of the world that it keeps you from drawing near to the Lord.
You’re holding on– When you’re holding on to the things of the world it keeps you from having that spiritual hot that He’s asking us for. Don’t be lukewarm, be hot. You see, there’s that spiritual compromise that keeps us from it. It reminds me of a story of a guy who was– He wrote about when he was a boy. He and his family had gone into town, it’s kind of a country thing. They’d gotten into town. In those days things were a little different. Everybody went their own direction. The boy, he meandered up this alley way, and he found a cigar. Someone had thrown the cigar, and it was still lit and smoldering. He picked it up and was holding in his hand, and was debating in his mind about smoking it. And he’s just a boy.
He was debating in his mind about smoking this cigar, when he sees his father coming down the alley, then he realizes, “Okay, this is not good at all.” So he puts it behind his back, not realizing that there’s smoke wafting up from behind him. His father says, “What are you doing?” He thinks quickly. What is he going to say? What’s he going to do?” He decides for distraction. He sees a billboard in the distance of a circus. He says, “Dad, look, there’s a circus. Wouldn’t it be great? Why don’t we go to this circus? All of us, our whole family. It’d be wonderful, family time. Let’s all go to the circus.” His father says, “Son, never make an impassioned plea for something honorable while holding sin behind your back.”
He said, “I never forgot that lesson all of my life.” It’s a really good point, isn’t it, spiritually? Because we want to make impassioned pleas, we want God to hear our prayers, and yet, what are we holding onto? There’s kind of that spiritual compromise condition that He’s saying to us. Isaiah 29:15 “Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the Lord, and whose deeds are done in a dark place.” And they say, “Who sees us, or who knows us?” But God does.
Another thing I think that leads to spiritual lukewarmness is religious ritual. Religious ritual is when the fire is not there anymore, yet a person continues, they go through the motions of the thing. It’s got the appearance, it looks like, but it’s void, it’s empty of a real heart after it. Heart of God is not there. It particularly likes to appear religious before others, we don’t want anyone else to know.
But yet, what God thinks is the most important part of us. I love what Jesus taught. Jesus taught on this. In Matthew 6 verse 1, he said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men in order to be noticed by them, otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” That’s the most important thing. That’s the one thing we should desire above all else.
Matthew 6, verses 5 to 6, He continues and He says, “Let’s talk about prayer. When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners in order that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you–” I love the way He just turns it, makes it personal, and He’s just going to bring a correction to the course. “But you,” He says, “When you pray, go into your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
C. The blessings of hot and cold
Like, wow, what a picture of real life, sincere, authentic, genuine, spiritual– There’s power to that. By the way, if you’ve never seen the movie War Room, you’ve got to see this movie, because it really shows us what that might look like in a very practical, powerful picture for us. He says, “That’s a life that God wants for us.” Not spiritual compromise, not spiritual emptiness, nor spiritual or religious ritual, but the heart of it is right. What is He showing us? He’s showing us the blessings of being hot and cold. “Say what? There’s blessing in being cold?”
Jesus said, “I would that you were either hot or cold.” Well, is there some kind of blessing in being cold? Well yes, in the sense that at least that person might experience the blessing of being broken, because there’s a blessing that comes when there’s like this reality that comes on a person, and they go, “I need God, I need God in my life.” They begin to recognize their own spiritual condition, and then they wake up to a spiritual reality. “I need God. I need to get my life right with the Lord.”
Now oftentimes what happens is that the first response is oftentimes grief, or shame. Grief because the person, in seeing their spiritual need, oftentimes begins with this, “I’ve wasted so much time. I’ve made bad decisions for so long. I’ve wasted so many years.” But I love what Paul says. He says, “There’s a blessing to this, there’s a blessing to this.” He says, “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God will produce a repentance without regret.” Now that is a great phrase right there. Because you’re waking up spiritually. You’re about to make a really great reality decision based on your recognition of your spiritual need.
He says, “This leads to salvation. Now the sorrow of the world produces death.” Now, we also recognize the spiritual blessing of being hot. Isn’t that what He’s calling them to? There’s a huge spiritual blessing to being hot. The word hot in Greek, is the word we know. It’s the same root from which we get zest or zeal. That’s why He’s telling them the answer, “Be zealous therefore, repent, turn the course. Be zealous.” That’s what God wants for us. Zeal after the Lord, a passion, something that’s alive. “Be zealous,” He says.
Now when you get a spiritual condition that pleases the Lord, I’m telling you, blessings flow out of that. Be zealous for the Lord. Blessings will flow out of that. Now if we had a spiritual condition that grieves the Lord, you can be sure that discipline will follow. But what comes out of discipline is blessing. When He changes the course, He’s changing the course towards the direction of great blessings. That’s what God’s going to do. What else should He do, He loves us, so that’s what He does. When there is diligence and a right heart God is pleased, when there is zeal God is pleased, and that’s why I love Psalm 37 verses 3 to 5 because it’s a beautiful picture of it. He says, “Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness, delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord and trust also in Him and He will do it.”
II. God is the Answer to Our Greatest Need
I love that picture right there see. He says delight yourself in the Lord. Isn’t that a picture of spiritual zeal? Delight yourself on the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Desires speak to what you pursue, what you want, the zeal that’s after it. Commit your way to the Lord and He will do it. Why is He speaking such a word? Because He knows this, God is the answer to our greatest need, that’s what He knows and He knows what we need.
One of the greatest problems in Laodicea is that they were blind to their spiritual need. They were well off physically, they were quite comfortable in regards to material things but that’s what caused their spiritual blindness. They didn’t recognize their spiritual poverty which is why Jesus is pointing that to them and He says, “Because you say oh I’m rich, I’m wealthy, I have need of nothing but you do not know,” He says that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.
A. Purchase spiritual things from God
I advise you– I love this answer. He gives them the answer. Here’s the correction, I advise you to buy from me. To purchase spiritual things from God is what He’s saying because He says, “I advise you to buy gold refined by fire,” well banking finance center, wealth, very prominent in the city. They wanted worldly gold and wealth, wrong pursuit, putting the value when the wrong thing. He says I want you to find spiritual wealth. I advise you to buy gold refined by fire.
In contrast, we looked last Wednesday at the church in Smyrna that thought they were poor. They were under such persecution that they were having their good seize that no one would hire a Christian. He says, “I see that you’re poor,” but I’ll tell you what He says to Smyrna, “You’re rich, you are spiritually rich.” What is he saying to Laodicea, you think you’re rich but I’m telling you what, you’re actually poor. He’s trying to wake them up. What is it you’re pursuing? You’re pursuing the wrong thing.
Someone famously said the true worth of a man can be measured by what he pursues. We need to value spiritual things greater than material or worldly things. In other words we need to become spiritually wealthy, spiritually rich, rich toward God. See what Jesus said in Luke 12 versus 21 and 31, He says, “So is the man who stores up for himself treasure but is not rich toward God. Seek first his kingdom and these things shall be added unto you.” What a powerful word.
So is the man who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich spiritually. Be spiritually rich toward God. I love the word rich, it’s like rich. I’m heads deep, that is deep. You take note of that? Get to think about that one time. “Be spiritually wealthy toward the Lord,” He says. I love Isaiah 55. Listen to this because it just speaks God’s heart. Oh everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, you who have no money, come buy and eat, come buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
There, I love right there that heart of the Lord, the gracious generosity of the Lord. You’re seeking after the wrong thing, you’re seeking after worldly things, seek first the kingdom and His righteousness and He will pour out upon you abundantly, graciously, lavishly all the grace of the Lord. He says, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread? Why do you spend your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me.” Doesn’t that I sound like I advise you. Listen carefully to me and eat what is good and delight yourself in abundance, spiritual abundance.
Delight yourself in spiritual abundance and I will lavishly, generously give to you. That’s the issue, worldly wealth is temporary, but what we need is spiritual, being wealthy towards the Lord, spiritual depth and life. Have some zeal, man. That’s the real value of a person. You want to be spiritually valuable, have a real zeal after the Lord. Then He says, “I advise you to buy from me white garments that you may cover your shame of your nakedness.” He’s speaking to their real need.
This is playing obviously on the the highly valued and sought after black glossy Laodicean wool. It’s like a status symbol. Like in the days of old Corinthian leather was like the thing. Now He says, “You value highly the status symbol of this glossy black Laodicean garments.” Status Symbol. We understand this. In our society we absolutely understand the idea of a status symbol. In my day growing up it was Converse shoes. All the rich kid had Converse shoes, of course I didn’t.
I know. I didn’t. What I had was my old work shoes that were packed with dirt inside. I know. You know when you go to grade school and they go to gym class right and they make you take your shoes off so you can be on the mat, I hated those days because I had to take off my shoes and everyone can tell where I was, you could just follow the dirt trail. I know. I’ve been in counseling ever since, but see we get this, we understand what He’s saying because we live in a culture where there’s all kinds of status symbols.
Got to have the new iPhone X. What is that? A $1,000 right for a phone. If you want to real phone get– Okay, I’m just kidding. Just kidding. Just kidding.
We get this, right? He’s saying, “Listen, I advise you to buy white garments that will cover your shame and your nakedness.” He’s speaking to the fact that they don’t recognize their spiritual poverty, their spiritual need. He says, “You know that God will give to you a robe of righteousness?” He says in another place, “When you stand before the great throne of God you will not be standing there in the nakedness of your sin.”
You will be covered over with a robe of righteousness which was purchased for you by the Blood of Jesus Christ and He gives it to you free without cost. He’s telling us this word, I advise you to get this. White garments that God would give you. Then He says, “I advise you to buy for me eye salve that you may see.” Of course the medical, high of the temple of Asclepius and this Phrygian powders ointment that didn’t heal anything. You get eye salve from and you’ll see.
They’re like contrasts, right? Doesn’t it remind you of when Jesus spit in the dirt and then He made mud out of the spit and then He pressed it into this man who was blind, He pressed it into his eyes and He said, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam,” and then he could see? Then there’s power, there’s this spiritual power, and He’s speaking here to a spiritual condition because spiritual blindness is blindness of the worst kind. That’s why Paul wrote in the Ephesians 1 verses 18 and 19, he says, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened,” opened.
B. Open every door of your heart
Let the light of God and His truth come into your heart, open the eyes or your heart, then you will know– This is what you’ll know. You open your eyes to the Lord, this is what you’ll know, you will know by hope of His calling, you will know the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, you will know the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. Well, if you know that it will change your heart, it’ll change your life.
Then lastly he says, verse 20, “Open the door of your heart, open every door of your heart.” This is the most beautiful verse in Scripture I think because it shows you the desire of the Lord to pursue you, like 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. Oh, what a powerful picture. Who is speaking here?
Jesus, the Son of the Living God, the beginning of all of creation. If anyone could blow down the door wouldn’t it– He spoke and the universe came into being. He says every star, He knows them every one by name and because of the power and might not one of them is missing. He stands at the door and knocks. Isn’t that amazing? See when someone knocks there is a message there. The message is I’m wanting to come in, but He does goes even further and He calls out, “John, are you home? John, I want to come in. Mary, open the door.”
Well, why doesn’t he just blow down the door? I’m convinced here’s why. Because he wants the heart to be willing to open the door. I stand at the door and knock. I call out your name. I am pursuing a relationship with you. Here’s why. Because I want you to go over there and I want you to open the door and I want you to invite me in. See here’s what you see. God pursues. God is on the move. God is pursuing. God is calling. God is knocking but he wants the willing heart to open the door.
Open the door, but when you open the door, you need to invite him to be master of the house. You know how a lot of people by the front door they’ve got this little square. Tiles or vinyl or whatever and they got this low square. Sometimes when someone knocks on the door they come and they stand right there in that little square. They open the door and they just stand right there. “Can I help you? Need something?”
What are they communicating by that? They’re saying, “Okay, see that line right there, there is a line, carpet, vinyl right there. See, there’s a line. Don’t go past that line.” When Jesus is pursuing relationship and He’s calling out your name, you open that door and you say, “Lord, you can come in and you can be master of this house. There is no door inside this house that I withhold from you. Even that closet with all the secret stuff in it, I trust your love. I trust your love. I trust your grace. I trust your hand. I open my heart and I say, ‘Lord, you be master of this.'”
Revelation 3:14-22 NSAB
15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.17 Because 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, 18 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.