AGCC Sun. a.m. 11/17/91
#7 (Book of Revelation Series-Addition messages on the 7 Churches)
"MAD ENOUGH TO SPIT!"
TEXT: Rev. 3:14-22
INTRO:What is the worse thing that can happen to a Church?
a. lack of finances?
b. lack of Church activities?
c. lack of a Pastor? (sounds like a possible answer ... if you are a Pastor!)
d. lack of facilities?
e. lack of committees ... on second thought!
It is none of the above! The surprising thing is this: the greatest problem a Church can have is to feel that it needs nothing, thus it is self-sufficient.
The reason is simple, the Church that has no needs becomes complacent. God thus ends up on the outside of the Church knocking to get in, the very picture we find in Rev. 3:20! (this verse is often misquoted by Christians for salvation, it is a picture of Christ and His Church, with Christ on the outside hoping to be let back in!)
PROP. SENT: The text will teach us that God wants us to guard our personal and corporate life as His people from feeling so self-satisfied that we become spiritually lukewarm! "Lukewarmness" makes God mad enough to spit!" Remember Jonah's lukewarm response to go and preach at Nineveh, even the large fish "spit" him out!
I. TEMPERATURE OF THE CHURCH Rev. 3:14-16
A. "No Good!" 3:14-15
1. Laodicea was probably the wealthiest city in the world in the first century!
a. Since we live in the wealthiest country today the parallels are likely to be strong.
b. Its wealth was so great that in A.D. 60 when the entire city was leveled by a huge earthquake it was entirely rebuilt without any financial help from Rome or any other outside source ... it was rebuilt with its own wealth!
2. The city was known for 3 major things:
a. It had a vast and wealthy banking system (A New Testament Wall street!)
b. It had a huge textile industry whose specialty was black wool clothe.
c. It had a large and famous Medical school which was famous for an eye salve that was world known called "Cellyrium."
3. All 3 of the things they were famous for and proud of are used by God to address the Church's spiritual needs.
4. The Church itself no doubt was also extremely wealthy, it is stated so by God Himself!
5. Yet, in spite of all its advantages this Church is the most condemned of the 7 Churches!
a. It had a wonderful facility no doubt (Archeological digs have uncovered 3 buildings of early Christian churches)
b. It certainly operated in a most business like fashion, and did well financially! (the text stated that they needed nothing materially!) The financial prowess of this Church was such that any Pastor or Board would envy it!
c. With all the bankers in town and businessmen it was a Church that no doubt was top notch run, YET …
d. God takes great exception to this Church's spiritual condition!
6. When God took their spiritual temperature He pronounced them SICK!
ILLUS:In ancient China the people were sick of the raids from the barbarians to their north, so they built a great wall! They spent much energy and resources building what would be one of the great wonders of the world, a wall thousands of miles long and so wide and tall that it could not be climbed or battered down! However, during the first 100 years of its existence China was still invaded successfully, was the wall a failure? NO, it was never successfully climbed, nor broken through, it had never been run around, it was too long, how had the barbarians succeeded? They had simply bribed several of the gatekeepers along the wall and marched right through! Human nature was the flaw, enough money in a bribe let the enemy through! The fatal flaw in the Chinese plan was placing too much reliance on the wall (things) and not putting as much effort into building character in the gatekeepers!
a. The Church in Laodicea had put great pride in what they possessed and not as much in being God's possession!
b. The fires had dimmed in the light of self-sufficiency and an over-reliance on material things.
c. While they weren't yet cold they weren't hot either, they were lukewarm and thus NO GOOD, they of all people understand how useless LUKEWARM water was, consider the following:
ILLUS:Laodicea had one serious flaw, no natural water supply near by! Thus they constructed aqueducts to bring water to the city from 2 sources some distance from them: The hot mineral waters from springs 6 miles away in Hierapolis, these waters were used for their healing properties; and icy cold waters from springs 6 miles in the other direction. The cold waters fed fountains in the middle of the city of Laodicea. The problem was this, The mineral hot spring waters cooled in their journey of 6 miles by aqueducts, by the time it arrived in town the minerals seeped out of the water and the temperature was only lukewarm -- thus the water was useless for healing properties, and in fact, poisonous to drink! The icy waters went through a similar fate over their 6 miles journey. The cold water warmed up as it passed through the 6 miles of aqueduct so that by the time it arrived at the fountains in the center of the city the water had become lukewarm. A new visitor to the city having traveled the hot plains would be seen taking a big gulp of water from a fountain expecting cold refreshment only to be surprised by the lukewarm water, and they could be seen spitting it out in disgust! The message in this statement by God was obvious to them! "So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth." LUKEWARM Christianity neither brings healing to the spiritually sick nor refreshment to those who are thirsty for God!
7. Their spiritual temperature was NOT GOOD!
B. Nauseating! 3:16
1. The word translated "Spit" is literally "Vomit." God used a pretty strong word picture to make His point to this Church!
2. Jonah knew this experience quite well! His lukewarm ended with a giant fish "vomiting" him out also.
3. It was their usefulness … or lack of it that God was upset about. They were existing just fine, but they were not useful!
ILLUS:In Hawaii on the northbound Pali Highway you can get off on Park street and then travel one block and you will wind up on EASY STREET! So many Christians try and find this "EASY STREET" life ... but if you continue down easy street you will come to another sign labeled, DEAD END!
3. The Church seemed quite impressive; good finances, good business practices, good name, probably well organized, board members were probably locally successful business men, or perhaps students from the medical school, and the well educated. But looks were deceiving, their self sufficiency and arrogance had cooled their spiritual temperature!
ILLUS:How deceiving is the child's rhyme and play we all grew up with: "Ring around the rosies, a pocket full of posies, a tishoo! a-tishoo! we all fall down!" This rhyme arose around 1665 in the streets of London to teach the warnings of the deadly black death plague that struck at that time: "RING AROUND THE ROSIES" were the red rash like spots on the skin; "A POCKET FULL OF POSIES" had to do with the belief that evil spirits were associated with bad smells and that if fresh smelling flowers were put in the pockets of the sufferers these evil spirits would have to flee! "A-TISHOO, A-TISHOO" is the familiar sound of those infected when sneezing! "WE ALL FALL DOWN" is the final note of death! It was not a pleasant fun childhood rhyme, it was a story of horror and death! Laodicea's Church may have sounded fine ... but the real story was death coming!
II. TROUBLE OF THE CHURCH 3:17-18
A. Narcissistic! 3:17
1. The bottom line of their problem stemmed from over-reliance on material things! (not the "things" themselves ... their security from those things however!)
2. Like the town, this Church had through their 25-30 history acquired great wealth and great influence. With banks everywhere, and a huge textile plant, as well as a great medical university this Church must have been full of business men, bankers, college students and professors, supervisors, etc.!
3. No doubt they felt on top of the world ... they were the Church all the others could envy!
a. They couldn't see how distorted their values had become.
b. Instead of their abundance being accredited to God, they were taking the credit for it and relying on it instead of God!
ILLUS:Like Dr. H.A. Ironside who confessed one day to a friend that he felt he wasn't as humble as he thought he should be. His friend advised him to take some wood and make a sandwich board with the plan of salvation written on it and walk all day through downtown Chicago. Ironside did this, the humiliation was great, all day he was humiliated by those passing by but as he got home he caught himself saying to himself, "There's not another person in all Chicago that would be willing to do what I did today!"
B. Necessities 3:17b-18
1. God tells them they lack the very necessities of spiritual life in terms they would well understand!
a. they were "poor!"
b. they were "naked!"
c. they were "blind!"
2. They lacked the very 3 things they were most secure in, just in a different sense!
3. So they are counseled to open up their accounts and BUY NEW:
a. "Gold refined in fire" ... spiritual wealth that comes only from going through trials!
b. White clothes vs. the black clothes they were famous for! (purity) Also, to cover their nakedness ... nakedness was considered the most shameful thing that could happen to a person. (this says something about Christ's nakedness on the cross!)
c. Eye salve was needed to correct their blindness problem, obviously a spiritual awakening so they could see spiritual things. The Holy Spirit is a healer!
d. If they saw no need they got lazy ... so God offers them what they DON'T possess!
ILLUS:Years ago a major American company had trouble keeping employees working at a plant in Panama. They were paid cash and paid pretty well. The problem was finally discovered, they had cash but nothing to spend it on so they didn't care to get more than they could spend! No motivation speeches would work, they didn't want to cut salaries lest they got mad ... finally a solution was found to motivate them to work more ... they gave each man a SEARS catalog! Now they wanted things they didn't know they could have before ... and they worked!
5. This is what God was doing with Laodicea, offering them a different kind of wealth, the kind they were sorely lacking!
6. These were the real necessities, not what they already possessed!
Ill. TEST OF THE CHURCH 3:19-22
A. Nudged! 3:19
1. God explains His reason for such a harsh word to them … He loves them!
a. Love does not sit by while some one ruins their life ...
b. this is why Parents discipline their children!
c. God would not sit by and let them sink deeper into sin, their values were taking them away from God
2. By loading up on this world's stuff they were setting the stage for their own demise!
ILLUS:Years ago a great ship struck a reef and began to sink, on board was a great hoard of gold and other valuables. It soon became clear to the passengers that they had very little time to get into the lifeboats for safety. One man ran to the hold and began filling his pockets with as much gold as he could cram into them. He then put on his life jacket and ran to-the edge of the boat and jumped for safety ... however as you might have guessed the heavy weight of the gold pulled him under like a lead weight and he sank right to the bottom and died ... he had his gold, but no longer his life! When the ship begins to sink in the world we need to remember what will really keep us afloat!
3. God's Word to them was 2-fold:
a. "be earnest! 3:19b (not half-hearted)
b. "repent" 3: 19c (turn around and head the other direction!)
B. Notice 3:20
1. This verse has been so misinterpreted through the years, often used as a salvation appeal for the individual, its context however is quite different from this!
a. the context is the Church in Laodicea ... not just individuals.
b. the context is about the Christians in this Church ... not unbelievers.
c. the picture is of Jesus who is OUTSIDE the Church trying to gain entrance! ... how far this Church had drifted!! Their wealth had crated a self-sufficiency so great that it was as if Jesus was OUTSIDE the Church trying to gain entrance again!
2. Jesus will not force Himself upon them, He knocks seeking entrance.
ILLUS:Holman Hunt's famous painting of Jesus standing at a door knocking when unveiled caught one critic's attention, prompting him to ask Holman Hunt this question, "Mr. Hunt, you have painted a masterpiece, but you have made one very serious mistake. You have painted a door without a handle." "That is no mistake," replied the artist, "the handle is on the inside!" [The painting hangs in St. Paul's Cathedral in London.]
3. If the door is opened, Christ promises to enter and share a meal with the Church … or even an individual.
a. This is interesting in that the meal spoken of here was the evening meal, the last and most important meal of the day.
b. It was the last call for dinner before the darkness of night set in, a possible reference here to the end time Tribulation period.
c. Notice the promise includes mutual sharing, real fellowship with God.
d. Mealtimes are one of the great places of sharing between people, it is here families share their mutual struggles and praises with each other, the events of the day and their lives together as family ... context being the Church. Great symbolic meaning here for the "communion" time.
C. Nobility! 3:21-22
1. The final promise is that of RULERSHIP & REST
a. "on my throne"-- rulership.
b. "sit ..." -- idea of completion or rest.
c. The picture is of a Church that will rule with Christ, finally their work complete!
2. Though we live as servants now ... we shall be rulers with Christ then!
3. After all we are King's Kids, our great inheritance awaits our rapture, so store up your treasures where moth and rust will not corrupt them.
4. We need to invest in HEAVEN'S SECURITIES & LOAN BANK ... they are FDIC approved! (Forever Deposited In Christ!)
5. This Church had settled for earthly security and had fallen into mediocrity, nothing will rob the Church or the believer more than this. This is evidenced by the fact that this was one of the most condemned of the Churches!
a. A lukewarm Church can make God sick to His stomach!
b. There was no "ALL TEMPERATURE 'CHEER"' in God's kingdom ... hot or cold, but not lukewarm!
CONCLUSION: There is no middle ground between heaven and hell, nor is there between commitment or no commitment to Christ! God's call is to be "hot" or "cold"… to be saved or not saved! There is no category of "sort of saved" or "sort of lost"! God finds warmness unacceptable ... enough to make Him spit!