Kevin DeYoung delivered a message at TGC’s 2019 Southwest Clarus Conference titled “Laodicea,” drawing from Revelation 3:14–22. Closing out a series on Jesus’s words to the seven churches, DeYoung addressed the spiritual apathy of the church in Laodicea as the worst of the seven. He pointed out that the most comfortable and prosperous church of the seven was, in Jesus’s estimation, the one who had gotten things the most wrong. The church was stale, stagnant, and smelly.
To those who said, “We are something,” Christ responded with a gracious warning: “You are far less than you think.” Many in the American church need to recognize that we share the same tendencies as Laodicea; therefore, we need to humbly listen for similar words from Christ to our own churches.
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Kevin DeYoung: So we come to the last of these seven churches, the church in Laodicea, and we read this in Revelation Chapter 3 beginning at Verse 14. “And to the angel in the church in Laodicea writes, the words of the amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. I know your works. You are neither cold nor hot, would that you are either cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold I will spit you out of my mouth, for you say I am rich, I have prospered and I need nothing. Not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I can counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich, in 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 those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him and he with me, 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. He who has ears, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches.”
Seven churches, seven letters, seven possible points of application for us. Emphasis was your loveless, fundamentalist church and we’re orthodox, moral, hardworking, but they lost their first love. Perhaps love for each other, love for the laws, love for God. They were doctrinally sound naval gazers and to them, and to us, Jesus says, “Love?” Smyrna was your persecuted 10/40 window church. They were afflicted, slandered, impoverished, yet they were spiritually rich. They were vibrant but fearful. To them and to us Jesus says, “Be faithful.”
Pergamon was your ungrounded college ministry church, faithful, passionate, in witness, but they had compromised with the world, accommodated to the sexual immorality and idolatry of their culture. To them and to us, Jesus says, “Be discerning.” Thyatira was your warm-hearted liberal church, strong in love and faith and service and perseverance, but they undervalued doctrinal integrity and moral purity. They were loving but over-tolerant. To them and to us, Jesus says, “Think.” Sardis was your flashy, successful, shallow megachurch or perhaps a church in the Bible Belt somewhere that is filled every Sunday but filled with nominal Christians and hypocrites. They had a great reputation but in reality they were dead. They were a church of the whitewashed tombs and to them and to us, Jesus says, “Wake up.” Philadelphia was your small, storefront church in a rundown part of the city. They felt weak and unimpressive but they had kept the word of God, had not denied his name, they were a struggling, strong church. To them and to us, Jesus says, “Press on.”
Which brings us to Laodicea. Laodicea was your ritzy, influential church out in the nice part of the suburbs and they thought that they had it together. Their lives were comfortable, but they were as spiritually poor as they were materially rich. The church was filled with affluence and apathy, two things which too often go hand and hand, apathy and affluence. To them and to us, Jesus says, “Be zealous.”
Of all the seven churches in Revelation, Laodicea is probably the worst. Emphasis was in danger of being snuffed out as a church, but at least they had many good things about them. Sardis is the other church that has nothing good said about them, but at least we read there that there was a remnant who had remained faithful. But Laodicea is so bad it makes Jesus want to puke. That’s what it says. Surely there’s a warning for us, don’t presume to know the socioeconomic demographics of this church or how they compare to the church that I serve but I imagine that there are many people here, middle class, upper middle class, maybe even rich and certainly if we compare ourselves to the rest of human history and we compare ourselves to the rest of the world, you all realize we are all 1%ers or .1%ers. Fabulously wealthy by the world’s standards, and so we must pause to think that the church in Revelation that had it most comfortable and most prosperous was in Jesus’ estimation, the church that had gotten it most wrong.
It’s a warning. The word in Verse 16, “I will spit you out of my mouth,” [inaudible], it means just what it says there, to spit out, to vomit. The same word is used in the Greek translation [inaudible] of Isaiah 19:14 where it says, “The Lord has poured into them a spirit of dizziness that makes Egypt stagger in all that she does as a drunkard staggers around in his vomit.” It’s a graphic, gruesome word. Laodicea is a stale, stagnant, smelly church. I promise I won’t take you too far down this road but I want you to imagine some puke for a moment. Those of you who are parents think, “Yes, that was yesterday.”
My very first job, I worked at a grocery store and in the bottle returns, the third shift, I’ll tell you about that sometime. That was everything to the Lord but that was enough to send me off to college. No shame if you don’t of course, but from time to time, there would be a cleanup on Aisle Five and somebody or some kid had thrown up and sometimes it would be, “Kevin, can you come and take care of this?” What you found is in the back of the bowels of the store, there was this special sawdust mixture that you put on it. I don’t why know why they don’t sell those things to parents but you put it on it and it soaks it all up and then you get to sweep up this thing, but I can tell you, in walking to that aisle, and seeing it, and smelling it, it’s nasty and it’s one thing if it’s your kids or your own, but this is someone else’s. I don’t know where this puke has been. I don’t know what bad guacamole caused this.
So you’ve all experienced vomit, seen it, smelled it. It’s a strong word that the Lord Jesus is giving. “You make me want to throw up, Laodicea.” And yet they thought that they were pretty sweet stuff. No church in Revelation is worse off than Laodicea and no church had a higher opinion of itself than Laodicea. Verse 17, “I am rich. I have acquired wealth. I do not need a thing.” They may not have actually verbalized those words but it was certainly their attitude. It was a trust issue, sincerity issue, a dependence issue. They thought they had arrived and they were all set. “God, thanks but no thanks. We’ve got it covered. We’ve got our church. Got our bills paid, we’ve got our people, we have a good life, we’re pursuing the Laodicean dream. We are something.” Jesus says, “You are much less than you think.”
That’s what Laodicea thought, we are something, but it’s not what Jesus thought. What Laodicea could not see about themselves Jesus could see, and so he will give them their real report card.
You may have noticed at the beginning of each of these seven letters, they’re very structured and the words are tailor-made for their specific situation. The reward is to match their particular struggle and the description of Jesus is to speak into their present situation, so it’s no coincidence that Jesus is described as the amen, or the [inaudible]. My family and I, we lived in England for a couple of months a few years ago and was doing some studying and some speaking and we were going to all of these English churches of course and all of their prayers were [inaudible] and my sweet little Mary who was three or four at the time, she said, “Daddy, what about the women? All they ever say is all men.” I said, “Well, we’ll ask them to say all women next time too.”
He is the amen, the [inaudible], the faithful, and true witness. It’s no coincidence he’s described there as the faithful and true witness because he is going to give them the true indication of their spiritual condition. They did not see who they really are. It is very possible that you do not know who you really are, self-deception runs deep in every single one of us, and what you may not be able to see about yourself, other people may be able to see clearly. It’s the age-old problem of ketchup on the chin when you’re dipping your fries and you’re having a nice meal with somebody, and you notice your friend across from you got a big glob of ketchup right here with that last bite and they’re talking and you’re trying to listen and you’re nodding and all you’re thinking is, “Your face is a mess.” You try to motion things and … Cheeky, huh? [inaudible] Trying to just give subtle signals until finally you just say, “Pause. I can’t concentrate. Your face is a mess.” You’re the last one to see it because it’s your own face.
C.S. Lewis has a wonderful little essay called The Problem With X. He says that in all of our lives, we’ve all had those conversations where you say, “You know what the problem with X is?” It’s that person in your life, it’s that friend, it’s that co-worker, it’s that teacher, and you all sort of commiserate together, the problem with x and she can’t see it but she just talks too much or the problem with x is he’s so critical and nobody … Everyone knows it except he can’t see it about himself. We all have those conversations. We all know the problem with x, and C.S. Lewis says you have to realize that you are the x in someone’s life.
At some point, someone has sat down with someone else and they’ve said, “You know that Kevin?” Here’s what they say in the South, “God bless him,” which means buckle up because we’re about to get really nasty here or … “You know the problem with Kevin is,” and I’m sure there’s been a group of people and they all nod and they say, “Yeah, we all see it and he doesn’t see about it himself.” That’s me, that’s you, that was Laodicea. They had obvious issues. Jesus could see it, maybe others could see it. They couldn’t see it about themselves. That’s why you need a church, why you need accountability, why you need a small group, why you need to have a heart to heart with your roommate or your friend or your spouse. Why we need to have a humble heart prepared to hear the Lord’s rebuke. [inaudible] one of the prayers that seems like the Lord always answers in my life. “Dear God, show me my sin.” Man, he always answers that one. Like some other ones but sure enough, in a matter of days or weeks, somehow, I seee what I should have seen so obviously before and didn’t see it.
Are you coming to the Lord with that sort of humility? In his word, regularly, praying regularly, sitting at his feet and before good teaching regularly that you might have the opportunity to hear the Lord’s rebuke in your life. He disciplines those whom he loves. If he has hard things to say to you, it’s because he loves you. If he didn’t love you he wouldn’t speak to you anymore. That’s the opposite of love, that’s the real definition of hate is a callous indifference, to let you go, to give you over, and to go your own way. Be thankful for the Lord’s severe mercy in your life when he shows you and he shows me my sin.
Are you open to seeing that? When is the last time you’ve ever changed your mind about something? When’s the last time that you said to someone in your life, close to you, friend, family member, co-worker, “You know what? I’m sorry.” When’s the last time you said, “You were right, I was wrong.” When was the last time you said that? “I changed my mind.” Those simple statements are some of the hardest things for us and so we need to be in a posture of humility to hear what the Lord has to say. That’s why each church ends with the phrase “he who has ears, let him hear.”
Do you have a heart of faith to receive what God needs to say to you? Jesus said to Laodicea, “You may think you are rich, you are impressive, but I am telling you, you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, naked.” Many scholars see a connection between Laodicea’s spiritual condition and their material and societal condition. Now we can’t know for sure about some of these things and we’re dealing with things 2,000 years ago but many scholars have argued that from ancient documents or more likely from archeological surveys, it seems that Laodicea was well-known for three prominent industries, finance or money and coin, clothing, and medicine, and in particular there’s evidence of a special eye ointment that originated in Laodicea.
Now if that’s the case and we hold to these sort of connections loosely but if that’s the case, then the irony here is very thick. If Laodiceans dealt with money all the time, but Jesus says yu’re spiritually impoverished. If they manufactured clothing and Jesus says you’re naked. If they produced a famous eye ointment, medicinal properties for the world and Jesus says you’re blind. So Jesus gives counsel to them in Verse 18. “Buy gold from me refined by fire, clothes to cover your nakedness, salve for your eyes to see.” Again perhaps there is a parallel there with their very livelihood and industry. “You think you have money, you need true riches from me. You think you have clothing, only I can cover your spiritual nakedness. You think that you have medicine for the eye, come to me lest you are blind and cannot see.” Jesus is saying you need to stop this dogged pursuit of wealth and enjoy true spiritual riches. Stop the shameful impurities and be clothed with with the deeds of righteousness. Stop walking around in blindness and listen to my words and heed my rebuke that you may truly see.
Notice, the second half of what Jesus says there. The first half comes earlier. That’s the second part of his rebuke but the first part and the most famous part is up in Verse 15. “I know your works. You are neither cold nor hot. [inaudible] that you are either cold or hot because you are lukewarm. Neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Now listen very carefully because it’s possible that we have a misunderstanding about this verse. This does not mean Jesus wishes they were either really spiritual or really unspiritual. It is true, God says, do not hesitate between two opinions if the Lord be God worship him, if Baal be God worship him, so that sort of choose for yourself which way are you going is true in scripture but he isn’t wishing for lukewarm Christians to be positively righteous or positively wicked. That’s not what is meant by hot or cold. Jesus is not saying I wish you were on fire for the Lord or I wish you were just an out and out, totally reprobate pagan.
No, when Jesus says I wish you were cold or hot, he means very simply, I wish that you are good for something. He’s criticizing their ineffective faith. We understand this. Cold water is refreshing, satisfying. As I have over the years traveled to different countries, it always … I guess it’s an American thing, I don’t know, it just boggles my mind that people don’t put ice in the water. They come, I say, “Would you like water?” In many places, it’s not tap water, it’s bottled or spring water and sometimes I say tap water’s fine and they look at me like, “Why don’t we just get it from a toilet? Where are you from?” They come and they’ll get me a nice water and it’s room temperature. I don’t want room temperature. I want cold. I want ice. Cold water is refreshing. Cold water cools you on a hot day. Cool water quenches your thirst and hot water in the ancient world, certainly we understand, it can be used for cooking or for sterilizing or to soothe aches and pains. It was the lukewarm water that was just plain blah.
Again, there may be another specific reference to Laodicea’s context in this word picture. There were three towns along a trade route and Laodicea was in the middle. To the north was the town Hierapolis, which had hot springs that people would often travel to for medicinal purposes and it soothes your achy joints. The water bubbled over in Hierapolis and then flowed down to Laodicea by which time it was rather stagnant and lukewarm.
By contrast, the water south on this trade route in Laodicea, in Colossae was cold, pure, drinking water from a nearby stream. So whether or not all of this is in the background, Laodicea, you’re actually known for this. You go up north and you get the hot bubbly water, you go down south here and you get the cool refreshing water and you have the stale, stagnant water in between, whether that’s the case or not, we can see the point. Jesus is saying to Laodicea not I wish you would be virtuous or I wish you would be wicked, but he’s saying I wish you would be spiritually good for something and you’re not.
The heart of their problem and indeed the definition of spiritual lukewarmness is found in their description in Verse 17. “For you say I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.” Spiritual lukewarmness is living your life as if you needed nothing from God. Most of us have probably been around the church enough to know that that’s not something we verbalize. That’s I’m just guessing not in your statement of faith. We need nothing from God. We know that’s the wrong answer. Like the Sunday school teacher who said to the class, “What’s gray, has a long trunk, is big and has floppy ears?” and the students said, “Well, sounds like an elephant but it’s Sunday school so Jesus.” We know what the right answer is and yet many of us can live our lives as practical atheists. We got medicine to help us get better and we got insurance in case something happens and we have retirement accounts and you know what? I have all of those things and they’re not wrong and the Lord can use them, but we come to a posture that day by day, we think getting through this day depends on me.
I’m often struck by the Lord’s prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” daily bread. We’d like to know, “Lord, give us this day bread for retirement,” but the prayer there was today. Give me what I need today. “Lead us not into temptation.” How often are we praying lead us not into temptation? You don’t think you wake up in the morning and you’re going to have temptation? Do I think that I don’t have sins that I’m not capable of falling into that I don’t have to be vigilant before the Lord, that I can just go into my day, ready to conquer? No, many of us live our lives as if really we did not need anything from the Lord. Maybe when there’s a bad diagnosis, maybe when we want to get through traffic, then we come and we pray but basically we need nothing.
We have all sorts of blessings and so most of us don’t worry about where we’re going to get our food. There may be too much rain, there may be too little rain and yet we don’t really worry that there won’t be bread in the grocery store or there won’t be milk. We don’t worry that we won’t have food on the table, most of us. So we live our lives as if we needed nothing, it is the definition of spiritual lukewarmness. We live with a pervasive sense of self-sufficiency. I don’t like to be made aware of my needs. We just had an elders meeting this past week and I … Just in a moment of some vulnerability before our elders, I just said, “[inaudible] need to know that we have this crisis going on in the church and we have this thing swirling around and I’m going through this thing in my family and you need to know that I need you to pray for me.” I told the man, I said, “I don’t like this feeling but it’s probably a feeling I ought to have more often because it’s more accurate. I don’t know how we’re going to get through without the Lord.”
We don’t like to feel that way. We like to feel like we got a plan, we got the right people, we got some money in the bank, we know how we’re going to get through this. Of course Proverbs tells us as many good things about storing up and about planning and preparation, but we live with this myth of self-sufficiency.
1 Timothy 6, “Command those who are rich in the present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. So God says, “You want security? Good. You want safety? Right. You want good things for your children? You want to be certain about your future?” God says, “Amen, I want you to have safety, security, blessing, don’t look for it in money. It’s a leaky bucket. It’s a broken cistern. Hope in God.”
Matthew 13, Jesus says, “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it out making it unfruitful.” The two thorns that choke out the word of God according to Jesus are all the stuff that we have and all the energy it takes to maintain our stuff. Again, I said in the earlier service that Abraham is held up as an example. He was wealthy and David and Solomon, the pinnacle of Israel’s kingdom was surrounded by great wealth. We can’t say with some absolute scriptural authority that to be rich is to be evil. Clearly it’s not. Poverty is a spiritual category in the New Testament more than an economic one and yet we are fooling ourselves if we do not think that great wealth brings about it great danger. Jesus says it’s the deceitfulness of wealth, it’s thinking that because you have this, you’re secure and you need nothing, and he’s saying it’s the worries of life.
It’s not wrong to have a boat, it’s not wrong to have a cottage that you go to in the summer. It’s not wrong to take a nice vacation, but we need to check ourselves if [inaudible] that cottage that we go to prevents us from really going to church, prevents us from being involved. If the boat becomes instead of a blessing and a fun thing we might be able to do with our family and others, it becomes an occupation in and unto itself, all of the energy it takes to keep up with all of our stuff, all of the worries of life.
“Woe to those who are at ease in Zion,” Amos said. “To those who feel secure on Mount [Sumeria], you notable men of the foremost nation, you lie on beds with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. You strum away on your harps like David, you drink wine by the bowlful and the finest lotions but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.” Are we at ease in Zion? So easy for us, go to church, get some friends, get a little Jesus in our lives, guilty feelings gone. But over time, there’s none of that passion, there’s none of that spiritual zeal or discipline. There’s no real service. Instead there’s a voice in our head growing louder and louder that says I really don’t need anything, and it becomes simply a habit and nothing more.
The problem in Laodicea is they were lukewarm and it made Jesus sick. Are you making Jesus sick? Now here’s the good news. Jesus still loves them. Verse 19, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.” It’s the church after all. There’s hope, even for the worst of the seven churches and as a sign that he is not finished with them yet, Jesus gives them a command, an invitation, and a promise. First the command, Verse 19. “Be zealous and repent. Be zealous and repent.” That’s the remedy. If you don’t want to be Jesus’ vomit, be earnest. The worst place a church can go is nowhere. The other churches in Revelation needed help getting on track but they were going somewhere, they had something good to work with. Sardis and Laodicea are the worst churches because they are going nowhere. They don’t just need to adjust their course or alter their trajectory, they need to start moving and we know in reality as [inaudible] said over the weekend that if you’re not really moving, you’re actually sliding back.
Sardis and Laodicea had very similar situations. They looked good on the outside, we don’t hear of opposition or harassment and both are rotten to the core, spiritually distant, disinterest. Maybe they had people in their congregation who said, “You know what? I’ll think of God when I’m older. That’s something I do later. Right now I’m having fun.” Or they say, “You know what? I’m so busy and this is just a season in life, a stage in life with all the kids and everything. I’ll get real serious about this later. Or you know what? I’m not the super spiritual type of person. It’s just not my personality.” Or the person [inaudible] “Well you know what? When I hit rock bottom I’m glad that God will be there and then I’ll call out to him.”
So often it’s always the next thing. “You know, I’ll get serious about God in college. College is fun, I’ll get serious about God when I get married. I’ll get serious when I have kids. I’ll be serious, it’s so busy now, when the kids and the soccer is done and when they’re out of the house .. Well now I have to work on my career, some day when I’m retired. You know what? I’m retired, well, I still have a lot of things to do and places I want to go. Someday, someday, someday I’ll get serious about Jesus,” and we are not guaranteed any some days.
Be zealous. Ditch the indifference. Make an impact. Get involved. If you say, “Well, I don’t want to be a hypocrite and so I’m not feeling this right now so it would be hypocritical of me to really get involved, really go to church, really be zealous.” No, that’s not hypocrisy, that’s called maturity, it’s called adulthood, doing things that are right even when you may not feel them at the time. Yes sometimes in the Christian life it’s our feelings or affections which lead the way and then our actions come but very often we have to choose the right actions and then the affections come and follow in their train. So don’t hear be zealous means get emotional. Maybe it is, maybe you’re an emotional person. It is interesting, I mean, a lot of Christians, sometimes men who say, “Well, I’m just not a very emotional, passionate person and that’s why I’m just sort of chill when it comes to God.” I say, “Have you ever seen yourself when you’re watching football? You got emotions in there. I’ve seen them come out.”
Be zealous, fight, snap out of the comfy, narcissistic existence, serve the Lord, live like you mean it. Like you care about Jesus, his church and his world. Churches can sing all sorts of different songs and different styles. Don’t think that unbelievers are coming in to hear this particular song or this particular style but they do notice if you are singing like you mean it. Like you’re gripped by these very things. That’s the command, be zealous. Here’s the invitation. The invitation is for fellowship with Jesus.
Verse 20, you see it there. Famous verse, “I stand at the door and knock.” It’s often used as an evangelistic text and it could be used appropriately as such, but that’s not how the verse is used here. Remember, this is written to a church, professing believers. This isn’t an evangelistic rally, Jesus is standing the door, sort of hat in hand, “Would you just please let me in and it’s cold outside?” That’s not the picture. It’s possible it’s an in-time sort of invitation as we see with Jesus in the Parables, where the master of the house returns and he asks his servant to open the door because the master is here. At the end, will you welcome me in is the question, but even if it has a future orientation, there’s certainly also a present application to the church of Laodicea and to us.
Jesus is saying to the lukewarm Christians and the church, “Do you want to dine with me again? Talk to me again. To have fellowship with me again.” You always must remember the theological categories, union with Christ, communion with Christ. Union with Christ is fixed and unalterable. You can’t have more or less union with Christ. All of these blessings that flow from union with Christ and are captured in it are justification, are sanctification for being joined to him, but then there is communion with Christ which can ebb and flow. Just like in a marriage, you’re married or you’re not. You don’t wake up and say, “Honey, I’ll be half-married today.” No, you’re married, you’re in or you’re out, and yet you know that in that marriage the relationship can wax and wane and your communion can be strong or it can be weak and so if we have union with Christ, it’s a call here, an invitation to also pursue the communion with Christ.
In terms that all of us can understand, Jesus says, “It’s been a long time friend since you’ve invited me over for dinner. It’s been a long time since we’ve sat down and really talked. Been in my word, that you’ve talked to me in prayer.” I said, “When I get home I’ll have making up to do, being gone, relieving my wife, relieving …” I don’t know that my relief is always everything that she would hope for but life is busy and certainly I feel this wife my wife and you do with those of you who are married. You have days where you’re in the throes of kids and carpools and going everywhere in work or maybe you travel for business and there’s a sense, isn’t there. There’s a sense and my wife will say it, “Honey, I haven’t heard what’s going on in your day for the last week or I feel it too. Honey, we haven’t caught up for a long time. We’ve been in the same space, we’ve had the same meals, we put the same kids to bed but we haven’t really caught up and just had that time to sit on the couch and talk.”
You know as a married couple that you need that and you know that it’s a great warning sign when you don’t have it and it’s even worse of a warning sign when you don’t want it anymore. So it is with Christ. Has it been a long time since you’ve had Jesus over for dinner? Had him come in and sit down and spend uninterrupted time with him? That’s the invitation. Come, welcome me in. Even with … It’s amazing, isn’t it? Jesus says, “I want to spit you out of my mouth. You make me want to puke, but I’d love to come over to your house for dinner.” That’s Jesus for you.
The command is for zeal, the invitation is for fellowship and the promise, the promise is to give them real authority. See they thought they had it. They thought they had arrived. We’re rich, we’re somebody, we’re something, I don’t need anything and Jesus says, “Oh no. You’re poor, you’re naked, you’re pitiable, you’re blind, but to the one who conquers,” Verse 21, “I will grant him to sit with me on my throne as I conquered and sat down with my father on his throne.” In other words, “I’ll give you real wealth. I’ll give you real authority. You can reign with me.” They thought they were rich, prosperous, they valued strength and Jesus promises them strength. “You can sit with me on my throne but you must overcome your apathy and your indifference and your utter disregard for being with me.”
What might the Lord Jesus say to your church? Of course I’m not a prophet or the son of a prophet, though I do work for a non-profit as the saying goes. So I don’t know even if I had lived among you for years and years, no pastor should claim to speak with divine inspiration, let alone one who is visiting for the weekend. This seems to be a very good church, I know you have a very good pastor and I have enjoyed meeting the other staff members and elders and this is a church I would go to. So you have a good church, and yet consider what we’ve seen in these seven churches.
Might there be some among you who seem to have come from Emphasis, you love the doctrine, but when’s the last time you shared your faith? When’s the last time you’ve had the warmth of affection and love for the Lord Jesus? Maybe there are people here that are from Pergamon and Thyatira, they’re not discerning, they’re eager, they’re active, they’re zealous but they’re tolerant of error and they have mistaken love for unconditional affirmation when the two are not the same. Maybe there’s people in your church from Sardis, Christians in name only. They need to wake up before it’s too late. Or maybe there are some from Smyrna or from Philadelphia and weak and struggling and need to know all that the Lord has promised to keep them going and pressing on. Or might some of you be from Laodicea, passive, apathetic, indifferent, punching your church card for an hour and 15 minutes and this guest preacher better know that we’re almost done and that’s it, put a little salve on your conscience for the week, go about the rest of your life.
I don’t know what you need to hear, what city you might be from, but across this country and perhaps in every single church there’s likely to be some of each one of these. I know it’s possible in my own life to be too much Laodicean and grow half-hearted in disciplines or half-hearted in giving or half-hearted in witness or half-hearted in the pursuit of holiness and half-hearted and desiring God. It’s an individual danger and it’s a corporate danger.
Let me close with another one of my favorite verses tucked away in an out of way place, the first service I mentioned Zechariah, this service I close with Zefania. Zefania 1:12, favorite little verse there. It gives a great definition of complacency. It says, “At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs.” You’ve drunk off all the good parts and it’s just the … It’s the dregs, you think of drinking coffee and it’s just some of the grounds there and who wants to drink the last bit of this sludge. That’s what it is to be complacent, all the good stuff is gone and just the dregs are left. Then it says this. “Who think the Lord will do nothing either good or bad.” That’s the biblical definition of complacency.
What’s the difference between contentment and complacency? Contentment says God will take care of me. Complacency says God does not care what I do. The Lord will do nothing either good or bad. Left on the dregs. That was complacency in Israel. They looked out, they said, “We’re God’s people. We’ll always be God’s people. We’re just on our way as God’s people and you know what? I put in a lot of effort, pursue holiness, ain’t going to matter. I’ve fallen to some sins and I don’t follow the law very carefully, the Lord’s got a lot of grace.” That’s the definition of complacency, not expecting the Lord to judge wickedness nor believing that he can come in great and unexpected power for the righteous. Do you believe that God is not through with you yet? He’s not through with me, I hope, I know. If we are complacent, if we are lukewarm, if we are bored, if we have nothing to look forward to, then what we do look forward to is discipline and rebuke. But if we are zealous, if we live in the truth, if we love the Lord, if we love his people, if we have the laws, then count on it. God may yet do more than all that we can ask or imagine.
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, we give thanks for your word for all that we learn from these seven churches. Bless this dear church for all their witness that they do in and around Albuquerque for the workers and the missionaries that they support, for the children that they disciple, for the [inaudible] to Christ, we pray for their pastors, their elders, their leaders that they might keep a close watch on their life and their doctrine and pray that you would bless this church, bless Christ’s covenant, bless every congregation that calls upon your name and believes your gospel and preaches your word that you might not spit us out of your mouth, that we would be zealous, knowing that you love us. In Jesus we pray, amen.