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Laodicea: What Can We Learn

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Laodicea

What Can We Learn

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Laodicea: What Can We Learn

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We are all undoubtedly familiar with the message to the Laodicean church found in Revelation 3:14-22. What would you say is the main problem with those to whom it is written, and what can we learn from that?

Sermon Notes

Living in a Laodicean World

6-19-16 Bend

Introduction – We are all undoubtedly familiar with the message to the Laodicean church found in Revelation 3:14-22 Revelation 3:14-22 [14] And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things said the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; [15] I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I would you were cold or hot. [16] So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. [17] Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: [18] I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness do not appear; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. [19] As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. [20] 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. [21] To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. [22] He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches.
American King James Version×
.

SPS – I have a question for you—What would you say is the main problem with those to whom it is written, and what can we learn from that?

Revelation 3:14-22 Revelation 3:14-22 [14] And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things said the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; [15] I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I would you were cold or hot. [16] So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. [17] Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: [18] I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness do not appear; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. [19] As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. [20] 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. [21] To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. [22] He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches.
American King James Version×
" And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ' These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 ¶ "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 "Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' -- and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked -- 18 "I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him, and he with Me. 21 "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." ' "

Background information:

“Laodicea was about forty-five miles southeast of Philadelphia and about one hundred miles due east of Ephesus. Along with Colosse and Hierapolis, it was one of the cities in the fertile Lyous valley. The great Roman road stretching to the inland of Asia from the coast at Ephesus ran straight through its center, making Laodicea an important center of trade and communication. In addition, its wealth came from the production of a fine quality of famous glossy black wool…. So wealthy was Laodicea that after the great earthquake of A.D. 17, which destroyed it, the people refused imperial help in rebuilding the city, choosing rather to do it entirely by themselves.

“Laodicea had a famous school of medicine; and a special ointment known as "Phrygian powder," famous for its cure of eye defects, was either manufactured or distributed there, as were ear ointments also. Near the temple of the special god associated with healing … there was a market for trading all sorts of goods…. Zeus, the supreme god, was also worshiped in the city.

“ … Laodicea is difficult to describe because no one thing stands out. There were no excesses or notable achievements to distinguish it. It was a city with a people who had learned to compromise and accommodate themselves to the needs and wishes of others. They did not zealously stand for anything. A six-mile-long aqueduct brought Laodicea its supply of water from the south. The water came either from hot springs and was cooled to lukewarm or came from a cooler source and warmed up in the aqueduct on the way. For all its wealth, the city had poor water” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary).

15-16) I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.

“Since the city of Hierapolis, seven miles north of Laodicea, had famous "hot springs," it may be that similar springs were located south of Laodicea and affected the temperature of the water supply. "I am about to spit [emesai, `vomit'] you out of my mouth" seems to allude to the lukewarm water. "Cold" could refer to the useful cool water located at Colosse, less than ten miles away. "Hot" would remind the Laodiceans of the beneficial "hot springs" to the north of Hierapolis. Yet Laodicea, for all its wealth, had an insipid water supply--one that induced vomiting! Christ detests a Laodicean attitude of compromise, one that seeks easy accommodation and peace at any cost. With such a condition, he must deal harshly. To be a Christian means to be useful to Christ” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary).

“The one attitude which the risen Christ unsparingly condemns is indifference. It has been said that it is possible to write a good biography if the author loves or hates the subject, but not if there is only a feeling of cold indifference. Of all things, indifference is the hardest to combat. The problem of modern evangelism is not hostility to Christianity; it would be better if it were so. The problem is that, to so many, Christianity and the Church have ceased to have any relevance, and people regard them with complete indifference. This indifference can be broken down only by the actual demonstration that Christianity is a power to make life strong and a grace to make life beautiful” (The New Daily Study Bible).

17) …you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' -- and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked….

“The deeper problem in the Laodicean church was not simply their indifference. It was the ignorance of their real condition: "You say, `I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.'" … [T]his indictment is related to the general condition of the populace at large--rich in material possessions and self-sufficient. The spirit of the surrounding culture had crept into the congregation and had paralyzed their spiritual life. But did they actually claim to be materially rich or spiritually rich? Since it is difficult to see how a Christian community would boast of material wealth, many prefer the latter interpretation. Yet the Laodiceans may have interpreted their material wealth as a blessing from God and thus have been self-deceived as to their true spiritual state. In any case, they had misread their true condition” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary).

Matthew 13:22 Matthew 13:22He also that received seed among the thorns is he that hears the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.
American King James Version×
  22 "Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.

Mark 4:18-19 Mark 4:18-19 [18] And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, [19] And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
American King James Version×
  18 "Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word,  19 "and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

The “deceitfulness of riches” refers to the mistaken assumption that financial prosperity and material wealth are an indication of one’s spiritual condition.

“The tragedy of Laodicea was that it was convinced of its own wealth and blind to its own poverty. Humanly speaking, anyone would say that there was not a more prosperous town in Asia Minor. Spiritually speaking, the Risen Christ declares that there was not a more poverty-stricken community” (The Daily Study Bible by Barclay).

18a) I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich…

NLT 1 Peter 1:7 1 Peter 1:7That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found to praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×
These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold -- though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.

Hard times can accomplish what good times cannot.

They force those so afflicted to face reality re. their faith and commitment, with the potential to strengthen their faith.

18b) and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed;

“Laodicea prided itself on its clothing trade. The garments made there were famous over all the world, and the wool of the sheep of Laodicea was a luxury article which all men knew, But, says the Risen Christ, Laodicea is spiritually naked; if it wants really to be clothed it must come to him. The Risen Christ speaks of "the shame of the nakedness of Laodicea.

“This would mean even more in the ancient world than now. In the ancient world to be stripped naked was the worst humiliation.

It was thus that Hannum treated the servants of David (2Sam.10:4).

The threat to Egypt is that Assyria will lead her people naked and barefoot (Isaiah 20:4 Isaiah 20:4So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.
American King James Version×
).

It was Ezekiel's threat to Israel that her enemies would strip her of her clothes (Ezekiel 16:37-39 Ezekiel 16:37-39 [37] Behold, therefore I will gather all your lovers, with whom you have taken pleasure, and all them that you have loved, with all them that you have hated; I will even gather them round about against you, and will discover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness. [38] And I will judge you, as women that break wedlock and shed blood are judged; and I will give you blood in fury and jealousy. [39] And I will also give you into their hand, and they shall throw down your eminent place, and shall break down your high places: they shall strip you also of your clothes, and shall take your fair jewels, and leave you naked and bore.
American King James Version×
; Ezekiel 23:26-29 Ezekiel 23:26-29 [26] They shall also strip you out of your clothes, and take away your fair jewels. [27] Thus will I make your lewdness to cease from you, and your prostitution brought from the land of Egypt: so that you shall not lift up your eyes to them, nor remember Egypt any more. [28] For thus said the Lord GOD; Behold, I will deliver you into the hand of them whom you hate, into the hand of them from whom your mind is alienated: [29] And they shall deal with you hatefully, and shall take away all your labor, and shall leave you naked and bore: and the nakedness of your prostitutions shall be discovered, both your lewdness and your prostitutions.
American King James Version×
; compare Hosea 2:3 Hosea 2:3Lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born, and make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst.
American King James Version×
,9; Micah 1:8 Micah 1:8Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked: I will make a wailing like the dragons, and mourning as the owls.
American King James Version×
,11).

God's threat passed on by Nahum to the disobedient people was: "I will let nations look on your nakedness, and on your kingdoms shame" (Nahum 3:5 Nahum 3:5Behold, I am against you, said the LORD of hosts; and I will discover your skirts on your face, and I will show the nations your nakedness, and the kingdoms your shame.
American King James Version×
).

“On the other hand, to be clothed in fine raiment was the greatest honor.

Pharaoh honored Joseph by clothing him in vestures of fine linen (Genesis 41:42 Genesis 41:42And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it on Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in clothing of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck;
American King James Version×
).

Daniel is clothed in purple by Belshazzar (Dn.5:29).

The royal apparel is for the man whom the king honors (Esth.6:6-11).

When the prodigal son returns, it is the best robe that is put upon him (Lk.15:22)” (The Daily Study Bible by Barclay).

Nakedness is a metaphor that represents lack of what is needed for what is required.

Ex. dreaming of not being fully dressed for a particular occasion

What is required of us is righteous conduct.

Revelation 19:7-8 Revelation 19:7-8 [7] Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready. [8] And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
American King James Version×
  7 "Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb, has come, and His wife has made herself ready."  8 And to her, it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

18c) and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.

“Laodicea prided itself on its famous eye-salve, but the facts of the case show that it was blind to its own poverty and nakedness… All eye-salves in the ancient world caused the eyes to smart at their first application, and Laodicea had no wish to see itself as it was” (The Daily Study Bible by Barclay).

I have some more questions for you:

Would you say that the description of the Laodicean church aptly describes the affluent western world today—especially the United States?

NLT 2 Timothy 3:1-5 2 Timothy 3:1-5 [1] This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. [2] For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, [3] Without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, [4] Traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; [5] Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
American King James Version×
You should know this … that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

Doesn’t this sound a lot like the spiritual condition in the church at Laodicea?

But how many of our leaders acknowledge this?

Do you think that the world that we live in has an effect on us?

Zeitgeist (from German Zeitgeist, literally "spirit of the age," from zeit "time" + geist "spirit") = “the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.”

NRS 1 Corinthians 2:12 1 Corinthians 2:12Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
American King James Version×
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God….

More specifically, how much do you think that your thoughts and conduct are influenced by the world that we live in?

Remember the analogy of the frog in boiling water?

“The boiling frog is an anecdote describing a frog slowly being boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of threats that occur gradually.

“While some 19th-century experiments suggested that the underlying premise is true if the heating is sufficiently gradual, according to contemporary biologists the premise is false: a submerged frog gradually heated will jump out….

“As part of advancing science, several experiments observing the reaction of frogs to slowly heated water took place in the 19th century. In 1869, while doing experiments searching for the location of the soul, German physiologist Friedrich Goltz demonstrated that a frog that has had its brain removed will remain in slowly heated water, but an intact frog attempted to escape the water when it reached 25 °C” (Wikipedia).

Is there a lesson in this?

We need to use our brain to realize the danger of the gradual deterioration of our culture!

So what do you think is the greatest danger that we face by living in a Laodicean world?

Answer = not being aware of the possibility of being lukewarm and spiritually poor.

Assuming that our material comforts are blessings from God because He is pleased with our spiritual condition.

NRS 2 Corinthians 13:5 2 Corinthians 13:5Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates?
American King James Version×
 Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?-- unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test!

More questions—to help you examine yourself:

1.  Do you pray daily?

2. How good is the quality of your prayer?

Do you feel close to God?

Do you pray from the heart, or just “get in your prayer”?

Psalms 62:8 Psalms 62:8Trust in him at all times; you people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.
American King James Version×
Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.

NLT James 5:16 James 5:16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
American King James Version×
The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

3. Do you enjoy daily, meaningful personal Bible study?

If not, why not?

If so, why don’t we have Bible study questions like decades ago in the church?

Do you think you know everything that you need to know?

NRS Acts 17:11 Acts 17:11These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
American King James Version×
These Jews were more receptive than those in Thessalonica, for they welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so.

The Bereans were commended for their zealous interest in the truth and their diligent, meaningful Bible study.

4. Do you fast regularly, or only on the Day of Atonement?

Matthew 9:14-15 Matthew 9:14-15 [14] Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but your disciples fast not? [15] And Jesus said to them, Can the children of the bridal chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.
American King James Version×
Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?"  15 And Jesus said to them, "Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.

Matthew 6:16 Matthew 6:16Moreover when you fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear to men to fast. Truly I say to you, They have their reward.
American King James Version×
Moreover, when you fast… (not if you fast)

5. What do you talk about—especially on the Sabbath?

Matthew 12:34 Matthew 12:34O generation of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
American King James Version×
Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

NLT Matthew 12:34 Matthew 12:34O generation of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
American King James Version×
Whatever is in your heart determines what you say.

6.  Are you still excited about the plan and promises of God?

NLT Matthew 13:44-46 Matthew 13:44-46 [44] Again, the kingdom of heaven is like to treasure hid in a field; the which when a man has found, he hides, and for joy thereof goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. [45] Again, the kingdom of heaven is like to a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: [46] Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
American King James Version×
The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. 45"Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. 46 When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!

7. If so, what can you point to for proof?

Ex. sale of my western magazine collection – “I am really excited about this…. “This really is a dream come true…. This is the best thing ever offered to me.”

He is driving up from Riverside CA as we speak (15-hour trip) and back home in time to go to work on Monday.

So where does all of this leave us?

We cannot simply withdraw from the world.

We have to live in the world without allowing it to determine how we live.

Jesus prayed to the Father to help us accomplish this.

NIV John 17:15 John 17:15I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil.
American King James Version×
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

The model prayer teaches us to pray, “Do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13 Matthew 6:13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For your is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
American King James Version×
).

That includes deliverance from the spirit of the world.

Conclusion – I will add a question for you to think about: If Jesus were to send a letter to the United Church of God in Bend, what would it say?

What would do you think He would commend us for, and what would He list as our main problems?

Every letter in Revelation 2-3 ends with the words: "Let him who has an ear hear what the Spirit is saying to the Churches.

The point of this famous statement from each letter is that we can learn at least some of the answers from what was written to these churches.

So in that sense, Jesus has written to the United Church of God in Bend.

“This saying does two things.

 “ (i) It individualizes the message of the letters. It says to every man: "This means you." So often we listen to a message which comes through a preacher and applies it to everyone but ourselves. In our heart of hearts, we believe that the stern words cannot possibly be meant for us and that the promises are too good to be true for us. This phrase says to every one of us: "All these things are meant for you."

  “(ii) It generalizes the message of the letters. It means that their message was not confined to the people in the seven Churches nineteen hundred years ago, but that through them the Spirit is speaking to every man in every generation. We have set these letters carefully against the local situations to which they were addressed, but their message is not local and temporary. It is eternal and in them, the Spirit still speaks to us” (The Daily Study Bible by Barclay).

BBE Luke 21:34-36 Luke 21:34-36 [34] And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come on you unawares. [35] For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. [36] Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
American King James Version×
 But give attention to yourselves, for fear that your hearts become over-full of the pleasures of food and wine, and the cares of this life, and that day may come on you suddenly, and take you as in a net: 35 ¶ For so it will come on all those who are living on the face of all the earth. 36 But keep watch at all times with prayer, that you may be strong enough to come through all these things and take your place before the Son of man.