Laodicea – Revelation 3
“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. “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–
This is us. Where are we? God has harsh things to say to us and about us. Of course, we all know that He means the other people, the other church, the other religion. We are fine, We are God’s chosen people. ‘Is not the Lord among us? No evil can come upon us.’ But, God goes on: we are lukewarm and He will ‘vomit us out of His mouth.’ Graphic language. So, where and who are we? How are we living? Just look around.
We have the luxury of marriage struggles, pornography, romance novels, R and X rated movies, counseling, church problems, entertainment, wealth, pride, arrogance, expensive clothing, movies, TV, console games, professional sports, vacations, social stratification …anything – but God. Christians are strung out over entertainment. Any thing – but God
We are in-grown and complacent. We focus on me and us and my. Where will it stop? When will it stop? How will it stop? It is time to stop.
Jesus told us to pray to OUR FATHER, not to my father. Of course He is my Father, but most of all He is OUR FATHER. We are a body. The focus of the Reformation was (and still is) personal. Personal, even religion is about me. OUR FATHER is about US. All believers. Not just me and God.
We need to get that nailed down in our hearts and minds. We are His body, the Church of Jesus Christ. Indwelled and controlled and led by His Holy Spirit. We are a community.
We are dividing and splitting and splintering the body. What could be sadder? How many different churches will it take to satisfy everybody?
These basic things should be done-deals. Finished. We should not be taken up with little (or big) details of physical, material life that are so basic to life. They should be settled long ago in our minds. Family, home, work, etc.
We have created a life of perception and image. We look good on the outside. We ‘say we are rich and increased in goods.’ We are actually impoverished. In God’s eyes we are: ‘wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.’ We hoard stuff and money. We withhold love and care. We are the center of our universe.
We are playing little king-on-the-mountain games where I am better than you and my church and my ideas are better than yours. My doctrine is right and yours is wrong. Pride is killing the church. You better do it my way or else. Or else what? Or else I will make your life difficult. I will make sure that your life is hard.
Powerful people control and manipulate. How sad can this be? How did we get here?
While we war, the enemy is advancing. We will fall easily. We are falling easily. We have so many capable people but they are not in the front lines. We are distracted by the lure of the world and its pleasures. We should all be evangelists. We know so much that the world needs to know. We should all be preachers. Get out there and preach the gospel of the love of God. The world needs to hear the message. We are sitting on the message of life in a dying world. Send Paul one way and send Barnabas the other way.
What does it matter what kind of car you drive? What kind of house you live in? What does it matter? We are the rich man in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Fun now, Hell later.
Church politics is killing our children. God will hold us accountable. Pride is killing our marriages. God will hold us accountable. Lust is destroying our moral life. God will hold us accountable. Our neighbors do not hear about God. God will hold us accountable.
Bigger tractors. More trucks. Fancier clothes. More land and houses. For what? I ask. For what? ‘Having food and clothing,’ Jesus said, we should ‘be content.’
Worship is a distant concept. We need to fall on our faces and repent and ‘count the cost.’ ‘Neither do I count my life dear unto myself,’ the Apostle said. Our focus needs to be on Creator, God and we need to worship Him with our whole heart, soul, mind and body.
It was my blessing to grow up in a simpler time. Grandpa would take time to lie on the grass on his back as dark settled over the farm. He looked up and spoke of the God who made all those stars. We had enough hay in the mow to feed our ten cows and few heifers. We were not trying to buy the neighbors farm and get bigger and bigger. Neighbors worked together to get the work done. We helped each other. We did not try to out-do each other.
We tried to bless people by meeting their needs. We did not close at five O’clock. We did not take two week vacations. Our goal was not to make money. Our goal was to bless those around us. We took their needs seriously. People talked and laughed. Life was not always perfect but we made the best of it.
Dating was fun, instead of traumatic. Church was a constant, instead of a variable. Family was fixed, instead of in flux. We were content, not confused. Life was not perfect but we made the most of what we had.
Sure, people had problems. But, people cared about people and we met each other’s needs. We took time to go sledding on the hill behind the barn. No need to go to an expensive ski slope and mingle with the world and spend a ton of money.
We have allowed the world to tell us lies. Unfortunately, we have believed those lies.
We may soon have the blessing of blessing each other in suffering. We will then look back at the opportunities we missed. Our things will be worthless. That is the way cycles of life work. We have ridden the crest of the worldly wave.
Now is the time to re-evaluate.
Now is the time to put your house in order.
Now is the time to invest in people.
Now is the time to love.
Now is the time to care.
There is no time for politics.
There is no time for power plays.
Ideological wars are just as deadly as physical wars.
It is time to stop.
Turn back to God and stop and live.
“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.
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.
“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.
The Bible addresses the subject of feasts of charity. It seems that, in spite of Apostle Paul’s exhortation to self-examination, the feasts were not without difficulty.
The intent of the feasts was and is to be an expression of love in the community of saints. However, it was not always so. The Bible warns of insincerity of love at some of the feasts.
Jude 1:12 These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots;
The NASB calls these spots, “hidden reefs” in your feasts. Some versions refer to them as “craggy rocks.” The implications are obvious. Hidden problems can cause shipwreck to those who are not wise and discerning.
II Peter 2:13 and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you,
Peter paints them as spots and blemishes and deceptions, all the while feasting with the saints.
What is love feast to be? It is to be a group of Godly, Spirit-led believers who have examined their own lives and share the meal and bread and cup together in remembrance of Christ Jesus’ death for them. It also looks forward to the marriage supper of the Lamb. It is to be a feast held in unpretentious love – love without hypocrisy.
They honor one another, not only in a symbolic way but in fact and life. Partakers of the Divine nature, they display the love of God in the symbolic feast. The feast is not the love. The feast is symbolic of the love. The symbolic is effective only if genuine love is actually present. The feast is representative of that love. The feast does not produce the love. The love produces the feast.
Will that always be true? Apparently not. As Apostle Paul says,
II Corinthians 11:19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
Heresies are teachings of those who depart from the truth of the Word of God. Their presence in the feast makes a sharp contrast to those who stand for and live the truth as it is in Jesus. In fact, the heretics are there in order to make it evident who are the genuine believers.
I Cor. 11:28-29, 34 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.
Paul was coming to Corinth to set things in order.
Jesus is coming to earth to set things in order.
There will be a feast then. Are you ready?
Job had to be very strong in face of the false accusations of his “friends.”
How can you be just as strong in the midst of false accusations and abuse?
Know your heart before God.
Be sure to search your heart before God.
What does it tell you about those who falsely accuse?
They are not Spiritually sensitive.
They are lacking in Spiritual discernment.
They are politically motivated.
They are deceived.
They could be honestly in error.
How does this impact the fellowship?
Creates an atmosphere of lack of discernment in the church.
Creates needless lack of fellowship in the group.
Becomes the dividing line between real sons and daughters of God and disobedient followers.
It must needs be that offences come!
God may be using less Spiritual people to chasten you. You are in good company. You are in the company of: David, Jeremiah, Jesus, Stephen, Paul and many other named and unnamed saints.
How to respond:
Accept the chastening.
Grow from the abuse.
Do not become bitter.
Have pity on those who are deceived.
Claim the truth of God’s Word
Fall on the mercies of God
Identify with Jesus Christ
This is the baptism of suffering and death
Know that God sees and hears everything
It is OK to state your case for innocence.
It is OK to speak out for truth.
It is not OK to become defensive.
Truth will eventually prevail.
Eternity will reveal the real truth.
Know that God will eventually vindicate.
Trust God to vindicate.
Do not take vengeance into your own hands.
Possible attitudes that can develop in your heart and mind:
Does God not know or care what is happening?
What about all the people who may be deceived by the wrong-doers?
Fear of man.
God is refining you because you are His child.
Illegitimate children are not chastened.
Faith is to see beyond what is seen.
Fear God – fear to hurt Him – fear to break His heart.
Do not have fear of man.
For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. Amos 9:9
That is God’s promise. Regardless of your circumstances, that is God’s promise. You may think that you do not matter and that you are the “least grain.” Even if that is true, God knows and you need to know that He knows and that He cares and that He cares for you and that nothing you do will go unnoticed by Him.
Trust Him today. “I know that when I am tried, I shall come forth as gold.”
Key to understanding of the Anabaptist and Pietist beginnings is the Holy Spirit. The early leaders and the people heavily depended on the Holy Spirit. Their understanding of the Scripture included the constant work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of individuals and also in the Church.
Jesus’ promise of sending His Spirit after He left this earth became the link between Jesus and His followers during His absence in bodily form on this earth. This was particularly true of the Anabaptists.
The Anabaptist movement began with the statement: “The Spirit of God Decides!” These words were spoken by Simon Stumpf during a disputation with Zwingli and the Zurich council. Zwingli chose to allow the civil authorities to make decisions about Spiritual matters. Stumpf’s response indicates the level of commitment that existed in the earliest Anabaptists. This commitment was to the leading of the Spirit of God.
Unfortunately, what happened in the early days of the Mennonites and the Brethren was a move away from the close association with the Spirit. There were people who claimed the Spirit and then did not live lives of Biblical obedience. This sent concern into the hearts of the people and they moved away from the control of the Spirit and into more of a dependence on the written word. From there the groups went in somewhat different directions.
The Brethren in Christ up to the mid 1900’s had a more or less holiness/charismatic approach to the Spirit. They anticipated and experienced the second work of grace and believed that the baptism of the Spirit happened sometime after conversion. Some of them claimed perfection and unbroken fellowship with God for extended periods of time. That emphasis on the intimate association of the Holy Spirit has mostly disappeared in their move to evangelicalism.
Mennonite’s journey was somewhat curious. The 1527, Schlietheim confession mentions the Spirit but does not have a separate article on the Spirit of God. The 1632, Dutch Mennonite, Dordrecht Confession also mentions the Spirit but it also did not have a separate article on that subject. When the Dordrecht Confession came to the Swiss Brethren the Swiss inserted article VI on the Holy Spirit. Since then the Dordrecht Confession has always included an article on the Holy Spirit. Dordrecht is the basis of all Mennonite and Amish confessions.
Menno Simons – “We believe and confess the Holy Ghost to be a true, real, or personal Holy Ghost, and that in a divine way—even as the Father is a true father, and the Son a true son; which Holy Ghost is a mystery to all mankind, incomprehensible, inexpressible, and indescribable, . . . divine with His divine attributes, going forth from the Father through the being of the Father and the Son
Mennonites later moved to more confessions and disciplines and books of rules. This had a tendency to make obedience a matter of wooden behavior. Genuine heart obedience struggled to maintain its earlier strength. Consistent, community dress and behavior eventually was maintained by written statements.
Principles were recognized but applications became codified to the extent of local expressions becoming requirements. It is easy for this type of discipline to become out of date just because the applications vary and new situations develop for which no applications have been produced.
The Amish ordnung are an example. The ordnung is 80% about farming while the Amish are now only about 30% farmers. The farmers have to use outdated methods while tradesmen can use air or hydraulic power to operate equipment that is just as fast and powerful as electricity.
The telephone would be another example. The idea of being connected to the world through electric wires or phone wires has been taught as being wrong. Now, the cell phone, not connected to the world system through wires, is OK. The ordnung simply could not anticipate the arrival of the wireless age.
Brethren typically made decisions by consensus. Leaders, led by the Holy Spirit, discussed subjects until they came to a Biblical consensus.
The earliest Brethren believed that the Holy Spirit was the “eternal truth.” He inspired the text of Scripture and His message is identical with Scripture. The Holy Spirit calls, leads, illuminates the mind and heart, controls behaviors, is the “inner voice or Word of God” opens the ‘inner ears’ and gives gifts to the Church
Later the Brethren moved to parliamentary procedure. Large meetings did not lend themselves to consensus. Parliamentary procedure allowed the most skilled orators and most clever politicians to control the decisions of the church. This produced heroes – men who were bigger-than-life leaders. Their persuasive skills controlled the people. They still talked about the Holy Spirit but the real decisions were made by popular vote swayed by powerful leaders.
Current – Young people today are hungry for teaching about, and understanding the leading of, the Holy Spirit. Older people are rightfully concerned about the current emphasis on the Holy Spirit. They have seen and experienced extreme and unbalanced focus on the Spirit. They do not want to see that repeated.
What to do? What we need today is more Biblical teaching and understanding of the Spirit of God. Then we need to heed the Spirit in our decisions by prayer and discernment. Then we need to seek the Spirit to direct our Church services and allow and expect the Spirit to illuminate our hearts and minds to His Word.
We need not fear the Holy Spirit. We need to honor and follow the Spirit like the earliest believers in the Book of Acts and like the earliest Anabaptists. This is one of the most pressing tasks before us. We must not be led astray by false teachers or extremists who claim Spiritual powers but who do not follow the Scripture. We must try the spirits to see if they be of God. The test of truth is the primary way to test the spirits
Our children are hungry for the Holy Spirit and worship. It is critical that we guide them through this hunger with Godly wisdom and Biblical foundations. As we surrender ourselves to the Spirit, we will become changed and grow more and more like Jesus Christ.
It is time to return to the Biblical and early Anabaptist dependence on the Holy Spirit of God. That will occasion a change in our thinking and behavior. It is time. God is waiting to bless us if we are ready to cast our total dependence on Him.
The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to search our hearts and teach us His way.
Ps. 19 – who can know his sin? Only the Holy Spirit can lead us through our lives.
Heb. 4:12 – piercing even to … The Spirit of God discerns what is in our hearts and souls and minds.
Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. I Corinthians 3:17-18.
The priests stood with the people and presented the people to God.
The prophets stood with God and presented God to the People.
The prophets were typically lonely people.
They stood for truth even if no one else did.
They spoke the truth even when no one else did.
They lived the truth even though no one else did.
Menno Simons was a prophet.
Alexander Mack was a prophet.
There were many other prophets.
People honor prophets without realizing the price the prophets paid. We pay them lip-service while they paid life-service. They stood with God and they stood alone. At the risk of their lives, they stood alone. Sometimes it cost their lives.
“God’s word is truth” are the words of Jesus. “Truth is immortal” was a watch-word of the Anabaptist movement. Human life is mortal. Truth is immortal. Truth, therefore, is of more value than my earthly, human life. Faced with the choice of life or truth, we must choose truth.
Let us not just honor the prophets with our words. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day did that. Let us honor the Lord by honoring the prophets God sends to us.
There are prophets in Scripture.
There are prophets in history.
There are prophets among us today.
They are the ones to whom God has given a keen sense of discernment and wisdom. They resist and refuse the politics of their day.
They carry a huge burden for the souls of their people.
They are the voice that God uses to proclaim His message.
Listen to them.
When people do not want to hear the truth,
It is usually because they are living a lie.
Job’s “friends” came to counsel and advise him. They saw his grief and they sat quietly for seven days. They had the concern to come to see him and the wisdom to keep silent for seven days. That seems to have been the extent of their wisdom.
They began, one by one, to accuse Job of wrong-doing. With only minor exceptions to recognize his past integrity, they falsely accused Job of sin. Instead of blessing him, they did just the opposite. They should have brought blessing and hope to Job.
Job’s “friends” failed to do that. They failed to bring hope in Job’s deepest sorrow. Even his wife said, “Curse God and die. How much inner strength must God have given to Job to be able to rise above, not only his sorrow but also the accusations of his “friends?”
When his difficulties began Job took a Godly attitude:
Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.
How did Job respond to his ‘friends’ lack of compassion and understanding?
But ye are forgers of lies, ye are all physicians of no value Job 13:4.
I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all Job 16:2.
Then Job answered and said: “How long will you torment my soul, And break me in pieces with words? These ten times you have reproached me; You are not ashamed that you have wronged me.
Upon the bad counsel of his wife: But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips. Job 2:10
Job knew his own heart and declared his innocence before God. God still had more lessons for Job to learn. God was chastening and perfecting an already diligent, and committed son.
What can we learn from this?
• Be careful when you attempt to bring care to the heart of a friend.
• Many people are experiencing ‘dark nights of the soul’
• Do not jump to conclusions, no matter how obvious they may seem to you.
• Do not falsely accuse.
• Be honest.
• Be caring.
• Acknowledge the level of grief and hurt.
In Biblical counseling we give “hope’ and “homework.” Hope is needed for people in difficult circumstances. Homework is practical, doable, Biblical, exhortation to guide the struggling person into healthy thinking and behaviors. We know that the Holy Spirit is the real counselor. We are just there to support and bless during times of chastening. The love of God flowing through us blesses and encourages those Godly persons whom God brings into our lives.