Two questions of great importance: what is real, what is true. Surrounded by all sorts of things that strive to convince of one view or another that may bear little resemblance to reality. All that pales in significance when consider two other categories: sin and Satan.
Church in Laodicea, according to evaluation by Lord Jesus, largely deceived about their real condition, where to find what is true. Had become complacent, smug in their self-satisfaction, largely infiltrated by culture around them. Satan had done good enough job he could move on to next target.
Locally grown black glossy wool for high-end manufacture. Noted in medical community for eye-salve, made from base of nard with other ingredients. At least two theaters plus immense stadium for athletic events, adequate seating for all in city and surrounding countryside. Sufficient resources to entertain entire city at one time.
To church in Laodicea, Christ gives no commendation whatever, only fearsome rebuke. Should serve as warning to contemporary church – none are immune or exempt. Be careful not to become like Laodicea. Did not start out like what they had become:
Col. 4:12-13, 16 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. …And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.
Paul wrote Colossians 60+AD from prison in Rome (the first time). Not a surprise, churches only a few miles apart suffered from similar challenges. Is apparent from Paul’s instruction: Colossian and Laodicean churches to read each other’s letters. Issue/heresy addressed in Colossians (a church only few years old, <10) also a problem in Laodicea
Col. 2:1For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face,
Heresy – the sufficiency of Christ. Somehow, idea was gaining traction that the world has something to teach the church – believing in Jesus is good… as far as it goes; if you really want to succeed, need more than that, need more than Christ. Paul’s response:
Col. 2:2-3that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Then he warns them:
Col. 2:8-10Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
Sad to say, Laodicean church did not heed warning, at least long-term. Instead had not only listened to, had followed world’s philosophy, world’s way of thinking in both private and public life including church life. Paul struggled over their situation because was so serious; 30 years later, Christ himself ready to spit them out if they don’t have ears to hear.
you say v.17
I am rich — as much as to say “I can meet my own needs, I can take care of myself” – have ability to know what is of true value
and have become wealthy — accurately identified and adequately provided for future as well as present, and btw, must be doing it right because obviously God is blessing
and need nothing — perhaps the height of arrogance or depth of self-deception: that a mere mortal can comprehensively assess personal need present and future and think “got it all covered”
and you do not know
doesn’t happen overnight, is result of barely perceptible drift over time – lose sight of what doesn’t change: God, Bible
is what happens when we get comfortable in the world, begin to conform to world’s priorities, values, ways of thinking
that you are wretched — deceived about your quality of life – are living way below standard of love / joy / peace / freedom God wants for his children
miserable — are to be pitied – have access to greatest treasure of all, Jesus, have pursued trinkets of world instead and convinced yourself they are satisfying
poor — riches you are counting on are fool’s gold – have appearance but not substance of what has true value – failure to treasure things God esteems
blind — have your plan all mapped out for future but you cannot see the truth, cannot see yourself, cannot see your way
and naked — things you believe cover you and all your needs no more real than emperor’s new clothes, no more useful than old fig leaves
you have believed a lie
that things can be acquired apart from God that will meet need, satisfy desire… and just because you heard it at church doesn’t make it truth – does it come from God through his Word applied by His Spirit
church too often acts like it is what you have or what you do that is of utmost importance – facilities and programs and large crowds and worship teams and on it goes
God says it is who you have and who you are that really counts – have Spirit of God indwelling and directing your life because you are blood-bought child of God adopted into his family
I advise v.18
buy from Me — complete paradigm shift necessary – stop trusting in world’s ways whether in personal life or for corporate church methods
gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich — things of true eternal value can only be obtained from Jesus – is our inheritance in Christ that is not subject to decay or devaluing: recognize/pursue what has eternal value
and white clothes so that you may be dressed, and your shameful nakedness will not be revealed — important contrast here: glossy black wool prized for its texture and appearance; in Christ’s view, is black and white
only thing that truly covers is righteousness of Christ – no clothing anyone else manufactures will suffice, no matter how good it looks here; only his righteousness goes with us into God’s presence
and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see — chemical analysis of their eyesalve: nothing in ingredients that would make it useful… basically a placebo, soothe mind, not eyes
only eye salve applied by Holy Spirit removes scales of sin and worldliness from eyes so we can see God’s truth and follow it
I do v.19-20
I rebuke and discipline — hard to hear? tough love? you bet, but don’t forget it is tough love; love doesn’t stay silent in presence of danger, especially spiritual danger that puts eternal soul at risk
are times get so focused on immediate we lose track of surroundings – God has to speak sharply to get attention, keep from danger: person on smartphone oblivious
I stand at the door and knock — gracious Lord of church has not given up… yet on Laodicea, as disgusting as they are to him – still treats them as his church
could read “I am standing at the door and I am knocking” – persistent ongoing action, not knock once or twice and leave
important note: church organization may lose identity as church according to Christ; he will never abandon those faithful to him
pray for brothers and sisters in those situations, that they will remain faithful and overcome, depending on Christ
I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me — Jesus stands ready to fellowship with his people as soon as they respond to his rebuke and chastening
begin to get clue here about Jesus’ focus – in this statement, he’s talking about benefits we receive in this life; v.21 deals with next life and what to expect there
our existence now is physical one but Jesus promises spiritual benefit – 2-way fellowship with him that we can experience now!
you should v.19-20, 22
be zealous and repent — stoke up the fire, zeal you had at first – turn back to truth, to God’s way, not halfheartedly but with true energy and desire
hear My voice and opens the door — not knocking at door of sinner’s heart, is knocking at door of lukewarm church: are there any left inside who are paying attention – if there’s only one to open the door, Christ will have fellowship
listen to the Savior’s voice and respond – don’t keep at arm’s length, welcome him back in to place of honor and respect
hear what the Spirit says — don’t listen to what world says, especially about matters of faith – listen to what the Spirit says, follow his direction, display evidence of Spirit’s presence and leading
if / then v.21
The one who overcomes I will give him the right to sit down with Me on My throne as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne
what is world’s attitude toward one faithfully following Christ? ridicule, opposition, persecution – marginalize or dismiss individual or organization along with its ideas
just as Christ overcame seemingly impossible odds, with his help and strength so will we – if we pursue Christ, we will overcome Satan and all his forces, we will receive eternal reward
That’s the key – how not to become like Laodicea: pursue Christ. Deny self, take up cross, follow Christ. Follow his example: what was important to Jesus? Remember paralyzed man (Luke 5:18-26), brought by friends to be healed by Jesus. Couldn’t get close, hole in roof,Jesus’ first words – “your sins are forgiven”. Only after scribes and Pharisees questioned, Jesus challenged them then told him “take up your bed and walk”. Notice carefully Jesus’ order of priority – addressed his spiritual need first, then his physical affliction. Our priorities should be in same order as Jesus set his. Prayer came before sleep for him. Doing for others before self.
Christ calls us to faithfulness – to follow him wherever he leads us. Cannot do that using resources world offers, following world’s solutions. Only possible when we move forward in faith, depending on Christ to supply all our needs.