SermonsDiscover the Joy of Leaving Laodicea Behind
When we look at the turmoil in the world and the lukewarmness of the church, sometimes it feels natural to get depressed and throw up our hands and see the problem as too big and the solution as too small. We long for others to step up and stand in the gap against the rising tide of sin in our land. And we’ll gladly support those that do. But they seem so few and the enemy seems so many.
What are we to do?
One Man is All God Needs
But there are some encouraging words for us in the Proverbs. Consider the following:
Proverbs 28:2 – Because of the transgression (rebellion) of a land, (result) many are its princes (ruler, official, chieftain); But (what) by (through) a man (one, singular, individual) of understanding (biyn – to discern, to pay careful attention to, to consider diligently) and knowledge (yāḏa) right will be prolonged.
Did you catch that? It only takes one man, one single man of understanding and knowledge for God to prolonger what is right in a land. Just one man. That’s why the Lord continually addresses the remnant in His letters to the church at Thyatira and Sardis.
Revelation 2:24 – “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira (the remnant), as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden.”
Revelation 3:4 – “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments (the remnant); and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.”
Do you want to be part of the remnant? Do you want to be the man, the single man the Lord can use to change the face of our culture? Do you want to know Him more than you do today? Then keep listening.
The Lord said some rather horrific things about the church at Thyatira. In fact, His words to this sinning church should strike fear in all of us who have leadership positions in our own church. Consider the following:
“Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works” (Revelation 2:20-23).
The Sin of Thyatira
So what was the sin of Thyatira? Was it Jezebel, or the teaching of Jezebel that led God’s people into sin? Or was it the sin itself? Was it the sexual immorality and idolatry the church freely embraced?
No, as sobering as it sounds, the sin in Thyatira was not Jezebel. It was the church, and the leadership of the church, that allowed the teaching of Jezebel into the church. They were asleep at the wheel. There was no watchman on the wall. No guard at the gate of the church. No protective shepherd watching over the sheep. Nothing.
So what does this say about our leadership today that allows all sorts of sin and false teaching into the church just to give the appearance of growth or vitality or acceptance by the culture? What does it say about the prosperity gospel or multi-campus mega-churches or rock concerts disguised as worship experiences? Where do we fit into all of this?
If you are concerned about how this letter to Thyatira applies to the church of today, then keep listening.
Faith is not free. In fact, faith costs everyone associated with it something. No, I’m not talking about saving faith or salvation. But even then, salvation has a cost. It costs Christ His life and the Father His only Son. And it costs each of us who embrace saving faith the one thing we hold most dear. Us. Salvation costs each of us who we are.
But the faith we are talking about is the Hebrews 11 kind of faith. It’s the faith defined as the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). It’s the faith that made the notable men of the Scripture, notable. And it’s the faith that helps us answer the why questions in life.
The Why Questions
Why does God allow bad things to happen to people who love Him?
Why does God allow innocent babies to die?
Why does God allow drug addiction and abortion and rape and child abuse and starvation and disease?
Why, oh why, oh why?
Get the point? But having the faith to trust God’s answer to these questions will cost you something. Why? Because it costs Abraham and Noah and Jacob and Moses and many, many others what it will cost you to know the truth. Are you willing to understand the cost of faith? Do you want to know the answer to the most troubling questions in the Christian life? If so, then keep listening.
In our Lord’s seven letters to His seven churches, He says both good and bad things about three of the churches (Ephesus, Pergamos, and Thyatira). Two churches have only good things said about them (Smyrna and Philadelphia) and two have only bad (Sardis and Laodicea). And when we look at how these seven letters lay out for us church history in advance, we would assume the church that represents the Medieval church, the church of the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church, would have only bad things said about it.
But that’s not what happens. In fact, incredulously, the Lord says some pretty good things about the church at Thyatira, which represents the Catholic church (along with some pretty bad things too). For example:
“I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first” – Revelation 2:19.
Note this is the first time the Lord commends a church for their love (agape). Love? How can He say that about a church known for corruption, false doctrine and the Inquisition? And then He says the church that represents the Catholic church is actually getting better. After all, our Lord says, “I know your works” and “the last are more than the first.” Really? How can that be?
How can the Lord have anything good to say about a church filled with so much corruption and have nothing good to say about the church (Sardis) that shed their own blood to remove themselves from that corruption? How is that possible? Is there something we’re missing?
I think so. To find out more, keep listening.
Some of the hardest questions in the Christian life have to do with God not answering our prayers— no matter how much we pray or how much faith we can collectively muster. Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? Why didn’t God do what I prayed He would do? Why doesn’t God love me? Because if He did, He would not have let happen what happened? Where was God during my time of deepest need? I prayed to God for ________ and it did not happen.
Which inevitably leads us to ask this: Why God? Is the problem with me? Am I not doing enough to get my prayers answered? Or is the problem with You? Are You showing favorites and am I on the bottom of Your list? What’s the problem? Help me understand this, God, because this is hurtful and doesn’t make any sense.
You’re Right, It Doesn’t Make Much Sense
And the reason for that is our reliance on Cliff Note theology. We grab a few Scriptures, usually out of context, and hold on to them like a life preserver vainly trying to get them to say something they don’t. Consider these:
1 John 5:14-15 – Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
Did you notice something? The key, according to this verse, is praying “according to His will.” When that happens, badda bing, badda boom, prayers get answered. But when we ask for something not according to the will of God, all bets are off. The answer will be, “Not today, not ever.”
Matthew 18:19 – “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.”
First, this statement by our Lord has nothing to do with prayer, but with dealing with a sinning believer. And even if it did give us a prescription for prayer, can two people agree for world peace and the end of all wars, and it be a guarantee from the Lord? I think not. Why? Because God has already revealed to us that in the future we “will hear of wars and rumors of wars” (Matt. 24:6). God has already spoken prophetic truth to us and won’t violate His Word because of our prayers.
Do you want to know the reason God often doesn’t answer our prayers? Because the reason will change the way you look at God and prayer from this point forward. If you want to know more, then keep listening.
You want some great advice? Good. Then “do the next right thing.”
When we’re faced with depression, chilling disappointment, or numbing loss, what are we to do? What happens when all our dreams come crashing down around us like Jenga pieces scattered on our dining room floor? What happens when the intimacy we once felt with our Lord evaporates right before our eyes— and we don’t know why? What do we to do when the only voice we hear is our own doubt and paralyzing fear? What happens when our pain compels us to sleep 18 hours a day, and we forget who we are and Who we serve? What are we do to then?
“Do the next right thing?” Simply stumble forward.
Do you realize that if your goal was to run 5 miles and all you could do was stand and then fall flat on your face, eventually you’d get there. One body length at a time. That’s exactly what our Bible heroes of old did. They stood on their feet and did he next right thing. They chose to not doubt in the dark what they believed in the light. After all, truth doesn’t change. But our circumstances do.
What did Moses do when decades passed and it looked like God had forgotten and forsaken Him? He did the next right thing. And remember Elijah, who was struggling with self-doubt and depression to the point he wanted to die. What did God say to him as they met at the mouth of the cave? Essentially this, “Do the next right thing.” How about David when he learned his son was dead due to his own sin with Bathsheba? What did David do? The next right thing.
The Scriptures are full of those, just like you and me, who stumble forward in the dark faithfully doing the next right thing, even when we don’t know why or how. They just did what was right. And they made sure it was the next thing they did. Do you want to know more about putting one step in front of another and doing the next right thing? Then keep listening.
The word Pergamos comes from a combination of two Greek words that mean “mixed, objectionable” and “marriage.” Pergamos therefore means a “mixed marriage” that is “objectionable” to God. Prophetically, it represents the marriage of the church and state where the state elevates the church to a place of acceptance or political correctness at the expense of the church’s devotion to God.
Look at what the Lord had to say about this church:
“But I have a few things against you, because you have there (in the church) those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those (in the church) who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate” – Revelation 2:14-15.
The Sin of Compromise
The church, although commended by Christ for the fact they have not denied His name under severe trials and suffering (Rev. 2:13), nevertheless dropped the ball and allowed those into the church who were heretics and sought to drive the believers away from God and into sin. And the church did nothing about it. Why? Because, like the church of today, they allowed themselves to compromise with the world and allow all sorts of worldliness into His church. And they also showed a glaring lack of discernment and church discipline.
Sadly, the same can be said of the church today. Which raises a couple of questions:
How should we, as His church, respond to compromise and worldliness in the church?
What can we do as a congregation to foster a spirit of holiness in our time together?
What can you, as a member of His body, do to present yourself before Him spotless?
What areas of your life need to be addressed?
And what are you prepared to do about it?
There’s a time when the Lord gives us what we want: freedom, autonomy, independence, and to have no authority over our lives but ourselves. That’s right. God gives us over to our selfish, carnal attitudes and allows us to experience the consequences of our sins. It’s like He says, “Ok, you want to go your own way? Have at it. I’ll be here when you come to your senses.” It’s the story of the prodigal son played out in our lives in real time.
This is called the curse of God’s abandonment. It’s when He removes His protecting grace from our lives and our nation and let’s us see how we like life without Him. And the results are catastrophic.
Samson, after having his hair cut by Delilah, woke up to confront his enemies still believing he had the same strength as before because his God was with him. But that was not the case. He said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him (Judges 16:20). Samson was experiencing the abandonment of God.
God Gave Them Up
In Romans 1 we see three examples of this very act of God’s abandonment:
Therefore God also gave them up – Romans 1:24.
For this reason God gave them up – Romans 1:26.
God gave them over – Romans 1:28.
But who are the “them” in these verses? The lost? The unregenerate? Those nations that reject truth and justice? Yes. But if you will study these verses closely you will find the object of God’s curse of abandonment is also the church. It includes His wayward believers. It includes you and me.
Does this seem strange to you? Maybe hard to believe? Then I suggest you keep listening and find out the truth for yourself. And remember, “judgment begins at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17). Are you ready?
greedy businessman, or the government. How are we supposed to follow that command?
Another example deals with how we respond to a personal attack. Jesus said, “But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also” (Matt. 5:39-40). How does this play out in real life in real time? If the church followed this command the future of the legal profession would be in great peril.
But one of the hardest teachings in Scripture, especially to an opulent, narcissistic church like we have today, is the idea that suffering or persecution could be a good thing. That sentiment is hard to swallow, let alone believe. How could persecution be a good thing? Ever? To anybody?
The Church at Smyrna
In the second of our Lord’s seven personal epistles to His church, found in Revelation 2 and 3, He has nothing but kind words to say about the church at Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11). And the primary characteristic of this church was their faithful perseverance under extreme persecution that lasted centuries. We would be well advised as a church, and as individuals, to emulate in our life what brought this church such praise from our Lord.
To find out more about the Lord’s letter to the church at Smyrna, and what we can learn about our own view of suffering, then keep listening.
Baptism has fallen out of favor in the church today. Many people are confused about baptism. And since there seems to be such a wide diversity of opinion about what baptism means and how important it is, many in the church have relegated it to an archaic, antiquated ritual and not much more. And that is a grave mistake. Why? Because baptism is your first act of obedience as a Christian.
Many in the church who call themselves Christians have not been baptized according to the New Testament baptism. That may include some of you who are listening to this podcast. But think, if we are unfaithful to the first command of obedience to our Lord who saved us, it makes it much easier to disobey His other commands. Does this describe you?
The question we ask today is why don’t people get baptized? And there are at least five reasons: ignorance, pride, indifference, rebellion, or because they are simply lost. In this message we will look at each of these in detail.
Are you confused about baptism and why it seemed so important in New Testament times but not so much today? If that describes you, then keep listening.