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THE LAODICEAN LEGACY
Intro: This passage contains the last of seven letters the Lord Jesus sent to the seven churches of Asia Minor. This letter is harsher than all the others. The Lord Jesus comes to this church with no words of blessing and no words of commendation. He examines this church and sees nothing in it that is worthy of praise.
This letter is 2,000 years old, yet it is still very important today. We may wonder what a 2,000 year old letter could possibly teach us in 2012. The reason this letter still speaks is because the modern church is very much like the ancient church in Laodicea. While individual churches might not perfectly fit the mold of the church in Laodicea, elements of the problems that existed in Laodicea can be found in many churches. Those same problems can be found here, if we are not careful. They might even be found here, if we were honest!
Before we begin to look into these verses, let me give you a little background on the city of Laodicea.
This city was founded by Antiochus II sometime before 253 BC. It was named after his wife Laodice.
The city was located on a high plateau and it was very secure from enemy attack.
One problem in Laodicea was the fact that there was no ready source of water in the city. The Lycus River was nearby, but the waters were too muddy to drink. Water had to be piped in through aqueducts. Water from the hot springs in Hierapolis six miles to the north was brought into the city. Water was also piped in from Colossae, which was located 10 miles to the east.
Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake in 61 AD. The city was so wealthy and so self-sufficient that they rebuilt their city with their own resources, refusing an offer of aid from Caesar and the Roman government.
Laodicea was famous for three things:
1. Laodicea was famous as a center of Finance - Laodicea was a center of banking and finance. The city renowned throughout the Roman Empire for its wealth and financial power.
2. Laodicea was famous as a center of Fashion - Laodicea was renowned for the soft, black wool produced there. This wool was considered a luxury item and was sought after for clothing and rugs. Laodicea was the center of fashion in its day. The newest styles appeared here first. It was like modern Paris, Milan, or New York in that regard.
3. Laodicea was famous as a center of Medicine - There was a large medical school in Laodicea which produced a tablet that was sold all over the Roman Empire. This tablet was crushed, mixed with water to form a paste. This paste was rubbed into the eyes and was reported to cure a variety of eye problems.
Laodicea was a very important city. The church that existed in Laodicea was important as well. It was very important to God. This church was the human representation of the invisible God. How the church was perceived, was how God would be perceived. That is why the spiritual condition of every local church is important to God.
The Lords words to this church are particularly relevant in our day. Churches like Laodicea, dominate the landscape in our world. We need to our church and place it alongside the church of Laodicea. We need to compare this church to that church, and see if there are any similarities between us and them. If there are, then we need to deal with those areas and bring them into line with Gods Word and His will.
Its easy to tell if a church has inherited a Laodicean mindset. The characteristics of that kind of church are revealed here. Lets consider The Laodicean Legacy. Notice the characteristics of a church that has inherited The Laodicean Legacy. that are taught here.
I. v. 14-17 THIS CHURCH HAD PROBLEMS
Jesus comes to this church without a single word of commendation. As He considers them, He has nothing good to say at all. He simply comes to them and lays out the problems He sees in Laodicea.
A. v. 14 There Was A Problem With Control – Notice the words the church OF the Laodiceans. If you will take a moment to look at each of the other letters in Revelation 2-3, you will see the words, the church OF or IN , and then the name of the city. In the other cities, it was the Lords church in that city. In Laodicea, it was their church, and not the Lords! It was their church and they did as they pleased, not considering either the will, or the word, of the Lord.
We must never forget why the church exists. It is not a platform that exists to promote people. It is not a forum for us to advance our agendas or our ideas. It is not a place we can run or dominate. His church is not our church. It is His church!
Jesus died for the church. He purchased it with His Own blood, Acts 20:28. He builds it and He sustains it, Matt. 16:18-19 ; Eph. 2:19-22. The church exists for His glory. We are here for Him and for Him alone! Our duty is to preach Him; praise Him; promote Him; and publish Him.
Laodicea had I trouble, v. 17. Theirs was a me centered church. We need to beware of that mentality. This is not your church! This is not my church! It is His church! We need no other Lord but Jesus. No is qualified to take His place. This church must be centered in Him!
B. v. 15a There Was A Problem With Passion – Remember that water problem I spoke of earlier? Water from the hot springs in Hierapolis six miles away was brought into the city by aqueducts. By the time it reached Laodicea, the water was no longer hot; it was lukewarm. Cold water from Colossae was also piped in; by the time it reached Laodicea, this water was lukewarm as well. This tepid, lukewarm water made getting refreshment in Laodicea difficult.
Jesus tells them, that like the water in their city, they have become lukewarm. This means they have lost their passion for the Lord. They were indifferent and apathetic. They were going through the motions, but they were unmoved by the things of the Lord. They were indifferent toward the things of God. The cross of Jesus; the Word of God; and the condition of the lost people around them no longer moved them. They were not burning with passion for Jesus, but neither were they totally dead and cold. They were somewhere in between. Their condition was sickening to the Lord!
This is a crystal clear depiction of the modern church. Many in the church today are going through the motions; there is no passion for the things of the Lord!
For the most part, church people are no longer moved by the cross! We read about the crucifixion, we hear about it, and we sit unmoved! We are unmoved by the plight of the lost! We know people are lost and we know they are going to Hell, but we really dont care. We say, Thats terrible, I wish they would get saved. We dont pray or witness; We really dont care! As long as the members of our immediate family profess to be saved; we are satisfied.
The average church in our day is a study in complacency and apathy! The church is not exactly dead, because they pray, preach, sing, etc. Yet, the church is not exactly on fire either. There is no excitement and no passion about Who they serve, Whom they belong to, what they hear, and what they are doing. The modern Church is somewhere in the middle of the road.
We enter the church, we take our seats, and we are finished. We lack a desire pray. We lack a will to testify and praise the Lord. We just come and go. We are satisfied with one or two services a week, if we can make it. We are not moved by the need of the lost, the need of the church, or the will of the Lord. We are here, but just barely.
A church that has been afflicted with The Laodicean Legacy is a hard church to move toward the Lord. Jesus was a Man of passion! He was on fire, and it showed in His life and ministry. His disciples were passionate men and they lived passionate lives for the Lord Jesus. When we are indifferent and unmoved and unconcerned, it gives a false impression of Jesus, Who He is, what He has done, and what He stands for!
There are some things about which you cannot be indifferent! Indifference and apathy are not options when it comes to Jesus Christ! No one, who is right with God, can pass Calvary and see the Lord bleeding, broken and dead, and be unmoved.
No one can hear the claims of Christ and be ambivalent! He claims to be God in the flesh! He claims to be the only Savior! He lays absolute claim to your life and mine! No one can walk in the middle of the road when it comes to Jesus! You are either for Him, or you are against Him! You must either accept Him as Lord, or you must stone Him as a fool!
C. v. 17 There Was A Problem With Perception – When the people in Laodicea looked at themselves, they saw the perfect church. They were wealthy, powerful and they had arrived. They looked at their position, their possessions and their power and they said, We have everything! There were indifferent, apathetic, and unmoved and they believed they were in good shape.
Their opinion of themselves was based in blindness. Jesus tells them that they are totally wrong about what they have and where they are with Him. We will look at His words to them in a moment. For now, we need to remember that how we see ourselves and how He sees us may be two different things altogether.
Many churches are right here today. There is a sense that they have arrived. If the Lord walked into the average church today and told them that they needed to get right with Him, they would be offended. If He encouraged them to get on fire for God, they would say, Look at us and all we have! We are doing fine and we need nothing!
I pray that we never reach that place! The sad truth is that some get more excited about money in the bank than they do souls on the altar. They get more stirred up about a big number on a board than they do about worshiping the Lord. They are more blessed by what they have than by the Lord showing up and moving in a service! They are pleased with themselves because they have done a little, when the Lord has so much more for them.
We need more than money; crowds; buildings; recognition in the community; more than many of the things in which we place such great value. Church we need Jesus and we need what He can do for us! I would rather have Him, His presence and His power than anything material you can name! We need Him! We must seek Him! We must welcome Him! We must worship Him! We must honor Him! We must follow Him! We must obey Him!
A church is like and airplane. An airplane is about the only vehicle that does not have brakes. When an airplane stops going forward, it starts going down! The same is true with a church. When a church stops moving forward; when a church loses its vision; when a church stops being passionate about Jesus and what He can do for them; they are headed for a rough landing! Ill say it again: We need Him!
I. This Church Had Problems
II. v. 14-19 THE LORD HAD A PLAN
This church is in trouble, but not all hope is lost. There is hope! Jesus comes to give them His cure for their ailment. His plan involves
A. v. 14 He Proclaims His Authority
1. There Is A Word Of Confirmation – He comes as the Amen. Amen is a Hebrew word that means So be it; let it be so; or it is so. It expressed the ideas of faithfulness and truth. It means, Let it be so! It means, It is so, or it is true! It is a word of confirmation and finality. When Jesus comes to this church, He comes as Gods final word to humanity, Heb. 1:2. He comes as the confirmer of all Gods promises, 2 Cor. 1:20. Regardless of how the Laodiceans saw themselves, Jesus comes to tell them the truth, He comes to have the final word.
2. He Comes With A Word Of Confrontation – He comes as the faithful and true witness. This church had a vision of itself what was flawed. Jesus wants them to know that He knows them as they really are and that He has comes to reveal their true state. Their testimony lied about Him and He has come to set the record straight.
3. He Comes With A Word Of Domination – He is called the beginning of the creation of God. This identifies Jesus as the Creator and the Controller of all things. Not a speck of dust can move in this universe without His permission! He comes to a church that thought it was running its own show. Jesus comes to remind them that in spite of what they might think, His hand is still on the wheel and He is the One Who controls the church.
It would do us well to remember Who Jesus is! He is still Gods final word to the church. He is the One Who knows us better than we know ourselves. He is the One in control, in spite of what some people may think!
B. v. 15b-16 A Proclaims His Opinion
1. v. 15b His Desire For The Church – The water situation in Laodicea is reflected in the church. Jesus tells His church that He wants them to be either hot or cold. He wants His church to be a place people can relax and find healing, like a trip to a hot springs. He wants His church to be a place people where can be refreshed by His worship and His presence. The church should be a place of healing and it should be a place of refreshment.
2. v. 16 He Is Disgusted By The CHurch – Because of their condition, the Lord tells them that He will spue them out of His mouth. The word spue is a strong word. It means to vomit, to throw up. The Greek word is emeo. We get our English word emetic from it. An emetic is something that makes you want to throw up. For instance, ipecac is a drug often used to induce vomiting in cases of poison, etc.
Jesus tells this church that like a drink of lukewarm water, they make Him want to throw up. He cannot and will tolerate their indifference and apathy!
3. v. 17 He Describes The Church - They thought they had it all, v. 17. Jesus looks at them and says, You have nothing!
They were proud of their achievements. Jesus says they are wretched, which means troubled; and miserable, which means to be pitied.
They were proud of their wealth. Jesus says they are actually poor. This word means, destitute and reduced to begging.
They were proud of their vision of themselves. Jesus says that they are blind. They cannot see themselves as they really are. Someone said, There is no one so blind as he who will not see.
They were proud of their fashions and fine clothing. Jesus says they are naked. They are revealed for what they really are. Ill. To be naked in that society was the ultimate humiliation. They stand humiliated before Him.
C. v. 17-18 He Proclaims His Will – Jesus tells them where they can find all they need.
1. Come To Jesus For Spiritual Wealth – If they will come to Him, put Him first and live out the Word of God, they will know true riches. He calls them to get on the spiritual gold standard and live out a genuine faith before a lost world. They might see their wealth disappear down here, but they will be laying us treasures over there, Matt. 6:19-21; 1 Pet. 1:3-5.
2. Come To Jesus For Spiritual Garments – He invites them to come to Him for spiritual garments. This is an invitation to come to Him for salvation. They are naked and lost in their sins. If they will come to Him, He will cloth them in robes of righteousness and they will be no longer naked in the sight of God, Isa. 61:10; Rev. 19:8.
3. Come To Jesus For Spiritual Vision – He invites them to come to Him so that He can restore their spiritual vision. When that spiritual vision is restored, they will be able to see themselves as they are and they will be able to see Him as He is. This will lead the repentance, obedience and humble service. We need that spiritual vision!
D. v. 19 A Proclaims His Love – Jesus gives them a much needed word of advice.
As many as I love – In spite of their indifference toward Him, He still loves them! What a blessing! Jesus doesnt just write people off when they dont do as He pleases, but He calls them and continue to love them even what they reject Him and His love.
I rebuke and chasten – Jesus tells them His people that just because He loves them like they are, He loves them too much to leave them as they are. He uses two methods to turn them to Him.
He uses rebuke. This word means to convict, or to correct. He speaks to us about our spiritual condition. He sends His Word and He convicts us in our hearts, John 16:7-11. If we come to Him, He will receive us.
If we fail to heed His rebukes, He will use more direct methods. The word chasten means to correct with blows. He may touch any area of life to get our attention; He might even use death, 1 Cor. 11:30.
Be zealous and repent – The word zealous gives us the word zesty. It means to come to a boil. Jesus is calling this church to get on fire for Him. When they see their need and turn to Him, it will manifest itself in genuine repentance. Repentance is defined as a change of mind that results in a change of direction. If Laodicea would repent, they would come alive to the Lord, and to His presence in their church. They would be moved by the cross and by the plight of the lost sinner.
We need to heed the voice of the Lord in these days, and went need to repent of our lukewarm condition, of our apathy, of our complacency. We need to ask the Lord to let us see ourselves as we really are. We need to be able to see Him as He really is. We need to come to a boil; to get on fire for Him and repent of our indifference, our apathy our lack of conviction and concern. God help us to get to Him before His judgment falls on us, 1 Pet. 4:17.
I. The Church Had Problems
II. The Lord Had A Plan
III. v. 20-21 THEY HAVE HIS PROMISES
Our Lord closes this letter with some wonderful promises. Laodicea has evicted Jesus Christ from their church. He is on the outside trying to gain admission. Yet, He loves them and reaches out to them.
A. v. 20a A Present Promise – He says I stand at the door and knock – In His effort to get back into this church, Jesus stands there and knocks. These verbs are in the Present Tense. It could be stated this way, Behold, I am continually standing at the door, and I am continually knocking on the door He never gives up in His efforts to enter the lives of those He loves. I am glad that He never gave up on me!
B. v. 20b A Personal Promise – if any man hear my voice, and open the door – Jesus does not need for the whole church to get on fire so that He can come in; He merely needs just one person to hear him and to open the door.
By the way, this is not a verse calling lost people to come to the Lord. This verse is calling the church to open the door to allow Him back inside. This verses is not about regeneration; it is about repentance.
C. v. 20c A Precious Promise – Sup with him and he with me – The ancient Greeks enjoyed three meals. They usually ate a large breakfast, a much smaller lunch, and then a leisurely evening meal, which they called supper. At this evening meal, the family would take their time, talk and fellowship. It was a time of intimacy for the family. Jesus says, If you will just open the door, I will come in and fellowship with you!
You can be a member of a dead, dry church, but you dont have to be that way yourself. If you will open the door to Jesus, He will come in to you. You can have rejoicing in your life while everyone else sits around in deadness and apathy. Dont blame your dry condition on others; open the door and let Jesus in!
D. v. 21 A Powerful Promise – This verse is a promise that all the benefits of salvation will be given to the person who overcomes. The converted person will become identified with Jesus; His heavenly Father and His heavenly Home. Those who come to Jesus are promised that they will reign with Him and rejoice with Him in His heaven some day. That is a powerful promise!
When Jesus speaks to the church of Laodicea, He is speaking to a church of lost people. He invites them to open the door of their hearts, and let Him in, so they can be saved. If they will, He promises to them make it worthwhile.
He made that offer to me one day, and I am glad He gave me grace to accept Him. Have you been saved? You can be if He is calling you to come to Him!
Conc: Where does this message find you?
Are you saved by His grace? Was there a day when the Lord convicted you of your sins, called you to Himself and saved your soul?
Are you zealous for God and committed to the Lord and His work? Do you get excited about the Bible, the church and prayer? Does the thought of sharing the Gospel and seeing others saved thrill your soul?
Are you indifferent and apathetic toward the things of the Lord? Could you really care less whether or not you go to church? Do you lack the desire to read the Bible, pray, to go church, share the Gospel, or serve the Lord?
Do you know that you are lost? Do you need to come to Jesus today for salvation?
Can you hear His voice calling: Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. If you can, that is the Lord calling you to come to Him. Why not come to Him and take whatever steps He is calling you to make to day?
Where does this passage find our church? Have we evicted the Lord from Calvary Baptist? Do we need to open the door and allow Him back in? It doesnt take the whole church; it only takes one! Will that one be you?