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A Spiritual Evaluation—Evaluating Ourselves and Our Churches by Jesus' Evaluation of the 7 Churches in Revelation - Part 5

Revelation 2 and 3

Part Five: Laodicea

I don't know if you have ever had a job evaluation, but it can be an intimidating experience. You've worked at a job for one year and now it's time for the annual review. Usually a job review is based on some criteria/job description agreed upon when a person is hired, and may go something like this:

  • The job description is usually reviewed.
  • An evaluation of work habits, achievements, progress is given.
  • Areas where growth, change, or correction are needed are discussed.

It can be an affirming time and a renewal of vision created, if the review is favorable. It can be devastating, however, if the boss finds nothing to affirm and the employee is put on probation. Sometimes, if there is still reason for hope and the employer wants to give the employee a chance to change, then he/she will give goals, guidelines, steps to bring about change so the person's job can be retained.

How would you like

  • your family reviewed by an expert
  • a friendship evaluation by a friend
  • an evaluation of your personal resources by an expert
  • a health evaluation by a doctor

These would all be helpful, particularly if the person doing the evaluating was known to us; had our best interests in mind; and wanted us to succeed.

Now, how would we feel about a spiritual evaluation by Jesus? Sometimes we're so busy, so overwhelmed by the experiences we are going through, we don't really know how we are doing spiritually. How would we like Jesus to give us such an evaluation? How would we feel about being evaluated as a church?

We already know Jesus has our best interests in mind; we know He wants us to succeed, so such an evaluation would be helpful and trustworthy. Obviously we don't have our own personal evaluations in the Scripture, but we do have the evaluations of others to look at. Therefore, if we use the Scripture as God intended, we can apply the criteria to evaluate our own lives. That is what we are doing in our study of Revelation 2-3.

In the last book in the New Testament, we find letters to seven churches that can be seen as spiritual evaluations. We have studied six of the letters thus far, and will conclude with the seventh today. Thus far we have seen a number of positive and negative points of evaluation that Jesus has made about these churches. I encourage you to take a look at these lists and use them as a means to evaluate your own spiritual life. By the way, we are encouraged to do this type of a review in several places in Scripture: Gal. 6:4; 2 Cor. 8:8; 13:5-7. For example, Gal. 6:4 says, Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else...

Here again are a number of key questions we have been asking and attempting to answer concerning these letters.

  1. How do we apply the letters of the seven churches to our day?
  2. What if an angel from God came down from heaven and delivered a letter from Jesus to our church; what would be affirmed and what would be criticized?
  3. How do we apply this section of Scripture to our individual lives in our personal renewal/revival? (e.g., going into our prayer closet, drawing a circle around ourselves, and praying until revival/renewal comes to us)

Today, the focus is on the seventh and last church:

The Church in Laodicea—3:14-22.

Destination of the letter—Laodicea

Laodicea was located about 145 miles from Philadelphia and 100 miles east of Ephesus. Archaeology has given us some interesting background to this letter. Laodicea was a banking center and textile town. According to one commentary, the city prospered because of the production of a fine quality glossy, black wool. Her wealth was so great that after a horrendous earthquake in A.D. 17, the people of the town were able to rebuild their city entirely by themselves; no help from Rome was requested (see Allen Johnson, Revelation, in the Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 12, p. 456). The city was also famous for the manufacture of a certain kind of eye ointment (see v. 18 later).

Jesus' references to lukewarm Christians in the latter part of this letter had an interesting geographical parallel; lime-laden water flowed in a tepid and sickly form from a nearby spring (see v. 16 later). Again, these historical references show how the Lord related to the historical context in order to speak to the needs of this church.

I wonder, if Jesus was speaking to your local church, what geographical/historical references He would use in order to describe your spiritual condition? I am fascinated by how the Lord uses something familiar, over and over again, to describe an area He wants a person or church to grow in or repent of. This is a good example for all of us, especially leaders and parents.

Qualities to pray for

If you look at what Jesus says to Laodicea, unlike the other churches, there is nothing commendable. It is an employee's, a church's worst nightmare: nothing is positive about the evaluation.

Diagnosis of the Sins to Repent of, i.e., symptoms.

In keeping with our pattern of all of the other six churches, I want you to notice now the following sins in the life of the church at Laodicea.

  1. neither hot nor cold—lukewarm in faith—v. 15

yes no sometimes

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! There should be no mistake here about the Lord's judgment of Laodicea—I wish you were either one or the other! It is very important for us to remember that the Lord prefers even a cold Christianity to the sort that He finds here. This lukewarmness at Laodicea is apparently the worst condition a church can sink to. It was apparently like its drinking water—lukewarm, and maybe even flat. It seems these people were useless to Christ because of their middle-of-the-road complacency. They seem to have been self-satisfied and indifferent to real issues of faith.

  1. unaware of their true, spiritual condition.—v. 17

yes no sometimes

v. 17— You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

How is it that a church and individuals in the church don't know how they are doing spiritually? How does one become so unaware of his/her spiritual condition? I believe the answer could be found by summarizing these two sins in two words: compromising and conceited.

Let's ask ourselves some questions:

  1. Ask yourself as you view these verses, "how would I feel if these statements were said about me—or about us as a church"?
  2. Can you imagine ever being in this state spiritually? I can. There have been many times in my spiritual life over the last 40 years that I have been lukewarm—not hot or cold spiritually. Sadly, most of the time I wasn't aware of it until something or someone revealed it to me! You see, the insidious nature of a lukewarm condition is that you can look pretty good on the outside, and fool yourself and others as to how you are doing spiritually.

    In times of inaccurate spiritual assessment, I have been guilty of comparing myself with others. I can always find someone who seems worse off than me, i.e., someone who wouldn't even be classified as lukewarm, but cold. Also, I was unconcerned about how I was doing as long as I wasn't cold spiritually. As long as there was some spiritual life, then I was okay or average in my spiritual life—not bad, not excellent, just mediocre—kind of a "C" average in my Christianity.

  3. How does this passage shock us into reality?

    3:16—So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. The Lord's reaction certainly would get our attention, especially if we were the ones becoming spiritual spittle. We might not even be concerned about our condition, until we understand how Jesus reacts to our condition.

    If you or I know our spiritual condition makes Jesus sick, it should get our attention, right? In his book, The Message, Eugene Peterson translates these verses this way:

    To Laodicea: "I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You're not cold, you're not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You're stale. You're stagnant. You make me want to vomit. You brag..."

  4. Why would Jesus get sick because we are lukewarm? Before I answer that, let's ask some more clarifying questions and see if we can't understand why Jesus would react so dramatically. Do you like your coffee or tea hot? Do you like it lukewarm? I remember a time when I picked up what I thought was a cup of hot tea. I drank it quickly. Well, it was a coke someone in my house had poured into an identical cup. So I put this coke, which had lost its fizz and was now room temperature/ lukewarm, to my lips, and quickly drank it. Do you know what I did? I spit it out! I expected something else in that cup, because of the way it looked, but it was a different temperature and substance.
  5. Why this kind of revulsion by Jesus? One word: hypocrisy. It is misrepresentation and fakery. When Jesus looked at the church in Laodicea, He expected they would be something else, red hot believers. The outside of the cup looked good, but they were a different temperature and substance. They weren't what they appeared to be to others. Obviously He knew they were hypocrites all along, but that isn't how they appeared to the public, and that made Jesus want to spit them out.

The harshest words Jesus said in the gospels were directed to the hypocrites—i.e., the religious hypocrites, the scribes and Pharisees. Here is one example: Matt. 23:27—

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. 28] In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

Some of the most difficult people to deal with in the world are lukewarm, blind, religious hypocrites. Lukewarm Christians say they are wholehearted for the Lord, but they have in fact compromised their beliefs and their behavior. Lukewarm Christians are afraid to stand on anything, because they don't want to offend. Apparently Jesus is making it clear that like their tepid water supply, one that induces vomiting, the Lord detests their attitude of "compromise and peace at any cost."

No wonder some don't want to become Christians due to lukewarm believers. I am thankful the Lord doesn't leave us with the guarantee that lukewarm people have no future but being spittle. He has designed

a solution for their symptoms—3:17-19.

17] "You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18] I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19] Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.

The true condition of a hypocrite is always different from what they appear to be to themselves. Jesus quotes them when He says: "You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing..." Notice they believe they are rich; that they do not need a thing. The doctor of their soul, however, sees something else:

"But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. "

What a list!

  • wretched
  • pitiful
  • poor
  • blind
  • naked

Although the Lord is disgusted with these Laodicean Christians, He isn't about to give up on them. With grace and strong counsel, He offers these believers a cure for their condition. Rev. 3:18-19—I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.19] Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.

Prescription #1 for spiritual poverty. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich...—v. 18a. Even though the church in Laodicea has been diagnosed as being poor, the Lord now gives it a chance to become rich. The church is to no longer trust in its financial success or business prosperity, but come to the Lord and find real gold. Real gold that comes from the Lord comes only through testing and trials. It is on the other side of those growing/stretching experiences that the true gold of Christ's character and the fruit of the Spirit are seen. If you want to be rich in Christ, you will have to be burned. When you think you are being destroyed and can't make it, know God is making you rich. He is giving you gold refined through the fire—1 Pet. 1:6-7.

Prescription #2 for spiritual nakedness. I counsel you to buy from me..white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness...—v. 18b. The people of this city were proud of their textile industry and thought they were clothed in the finest fashions, but they were really naked. What they needed was to be clothed in the white garments of forgiveness only Christ could supply. How could we receive this clothing? It comes by confession of sin and a reaffirmation of our dedication to the Lord; or in the words of Eph. 4:22—You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23] to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24] and to put on the new self, created to be like God in truerighteousness and holiness.

In other words, put off clothes of hypocrisy and conceit, but make sure you put something on instead. The Lord doesn't want you spiritually unclothed. There are new clothes created by Christ that are the clothes of true righteousness and holiness. It is the new self God intends all believers to be. Study the description of what God tells believers to put on and off in Eph. 4:25-5:21. We must take off the old before we put on the new.

Prescription #3 for spiritual blindness. I counsel you to buy from me..salve to put on your eyes, so you can see...—v. 18c. Laodicea was famous for manufacturing an eye salve sold all over the Roman empire. Jesus was reminding the Laodiceans that they need a spiritual eye medicine that could be purchased from Him, so they could see clearly. When our spiritual eyes are so weak that we can't see the effects of our lukewarmness, we need the Lord to open our eyes. No modern medicine can cure self-deception or hypocrisy; only the Word and God's Spirit can lead us into the truth about ourselves. In other words, what we need is some time spent in searching prayer of our hearts by the Spirit, and asking the Lord to reveal His heart through the Word. We can count on nothaving an accurate view of ourselves if we are not spending regular time in the Scriptures, or in prayer for the Lord to search our hearts. If that is our condition, we will be spiritually blind to how we are really doing and how Jesus sees us.

Prescription #4 for spiritual lukewarmness and hypocrisy. I counsel you to be earnest, andrepent—v. 19. The Lord offers the Laodiceans and us an opportunity to repent. The spiritual fire can be rekindled in our lives only when we have changed our minds and our wills through an act of repentance. Are you ready to seriously repent and be earnest about your Christianity?—v. 19.

Now why would the Lord give such a strong rebuke, and supply these prescriptions for spiritual health? It sounds on one hand like He was absolutely disgusted and sickened by those in Laodicea. Why did He turn around and offer them help? Verse 19a gives the answer. Those whom I love Irebuke and discipline—v. 19a.

Because He loves us, there is no spiritual condition we can have that the Lord will not cure. If you feel conviction at being lukewarm/mediocre in your Christian life; if you feel like you really don't know how you are doing, maybe blind to your true spiritual condition, understand that the Lord's discipline and rebuke is given because He loves you.

The Cause For Praise: Jesus

In relationship to Laodicea, we see Jesus described as follows: Rev. 3:14—To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation.

Look at the four attributes that Christ highlights about Himself in this description. These qualities make it clear that Jesus not only loves the church (v. 19), He has a correct assessment of the church.

He is Amen

There is no room for another viewpoint. Jesus is the faithful and true witness, and His Word is the last word on any subject. He is the Amen!

He is faithful

He is consistent and reliable, but not only is Jesus the Amen and the faithful...

He is the true witness—Rev. 3:7b.

"This means He is wholly trustworthy and reliable in His actions and in His words." (Johnson, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, p. 452.) The word "true" also means Jesus is genuine/real—the real Lord and Messiah of the world.

He is the ruler of God's creation

He is the creative source of the entire universe.

In light of all these things, He is the proper one to give an accurate evaluation, as well as the One who can create something new in a person if they will submit to His loving counsel, rebuke and discipline. If you are a believer here today and are wondering what is going on in your life and whether God is in control, your Lord can take the worst possible circumstance and create something new for you, even if you don't have a lot of good things going on in your life right now.

To the person who thinks his evaluation of himself is accurate, that he is doing just fine based on outward appearance and accomplishments, Jesus' words make it clear He is the One who has the best and most accurate evaluation of a person's life. Before we get too smug, then, in our condition, we had better ask Jesus for His evaluation.

If you are not a follower of Christ, you should also understand that the Lord Jesus loves you too. If you feel some heat/conviction/calling from the Lord right now, it is because He loves you. He wants you in His family. He wants to bring you out of your cold state into a warm family relationship and friendship with Him.

Jesus concludes this section with an invitation and a promise.

The invitation is for all people, whether Christian or not, hypocritical or genuine. v. 20—Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

We have come to the end of these seven letters. The Lord offers you an invitation for fellowship; for Him to be in control and at home in your heart. Is that what you want? Are you willing to open up the door of your life and invite Him in to the circle of your heart? If you will, the Lord offers the following promise to all who open the door up to fellowship with Him. v. 21—To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.

Does that sound good to you? The call of the Laodicean church is to repentance and submission of the door and heart of their life. Do you want to secure this promise? Do you want to have a continual renewal/Chalk Revival all the days of your life? Do you want to sit down on the heavenly throne with the ultimate Father of the universe and have a friendship and fellowship with Him?

Whether you are a believer or a preChristian, the solution is three words: "Open the door."

I want you to bow your head and in a moment, say these words, "I open the door."

  1. If you see yourself as lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, basically putting on a facade of Christianity, but not a whole lot is going on inside, then you need to say to the Lord, "I open the door."
  2. If you would recognize your faith is cold or do not have a friendship/fellowship with the Lord, then you need to say to Him, "I open the door."
  3. If you have a warm and wonderful relationship with the Lord and want to continue to grow and be revived and renewed in that relationship, you need to say, "I open the door."
  4. If you want to investigate and taste and see Christianity is all that it reports to be, then you need to say, "I open the door."

 

 

Ephesus—Rev. 2:1-7. Jesus holds the churches in His hand and walks among us. Ephesus—Rev. 2:1-7.
a. forsaking love of Christ, i.e., the quality/intensity of love has weakened—v. 4
yes no sometimes

b. solution: vv. 5-7

Smyrna—Rev. 2:8-11. Jesus is the first and the last (Alpha & Omega). He was dead (crucified) and came to life (resurrected). Smyrna—Rev. 2:8-11.
a. no sin to repent of
b. encouragement: vv. 9-11
Pergamum—Rev. 2:12-17; Heb. 4:12. Jesus has the sharp, two-edged sword, a sword He gives to us (the Word of God). He also has power over life and death—Rev. 1:16; 19:15,21. Pergamum—Rev. 2:12-17.
a. compromise which leads to sexual immorality—v. 14
yes no sometimes
b. pushing Christian liberty to an extreme/self-indulgence—v. 15

yes no sometimes

c. solution: vv. 16-17

Thyatira—Rev. 2:18-29. Jesus has eyes like a flame of fire—sees through seductive arguments. His feet are like burnished bronze, i.e., He has strength and splendor; rules with authority—v. 27. Thyatira—Rev. 2:18-29.
a. tolerating false teaching and sinful behavior rather than confronting it—vv. 20-21
yes no sometimes
b. Would you like to be singled out by Christ by name?
c. solution: v. 21
Sardis—Rev. 3:1-6.
Jesus holds the 7 Spirits of God (Is. 11:2-5; or it means full range of power of H.S.); & the 7 stars, i.e., pastors. He never erases an overcomer's name from the Book of Life, but acknowledges his name before the Father/angels.
Sardis—Rev. 3:1-6. 
a. look spiritual but dead inside—v. 1
yes no sometimes
b. solution: vv. 2-6
Philadelphia—Rev. 3:7-13.
Jesus is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What He opens no one can shut; what He shuts, no one can open. He knows our deeds; no plan/project/scheme succeeds if He uses the key to shut it out (or vice versa). Writes on us a new name—v. 12.
Philadelphia—Rev. 3:7-13. —nothing to repent of
Laodicea —Rev. 3:14-18.
Jesus is the Amen; the faithful &true witness; the ruler of God's creation.
Laodicea—Rev. 3:14-18.
a. neither hot nor cold - lukewarm in faith—v. 15
All churches/people—Rev. 3:19-22. Those He loves He rebukes and disciplines. He stands at the door and knocks—v. 20. He gives the right to sit on His throne to all who overcome, as He did—v. 21.