SermonsDiscover the Joy of Leaving Laodicea Behind
Each of us, when presented with the call of Christ, goes through certain stages of our commitment to Him. This happened with all the disciples, even Peter. We start out optimistic and full of hope and then, if we’re not careful, we end up sad, apathetic, and discouraged because things didn’t turn out the way we envisioned in the beginning. Or, we begin our relationship with Christ at a full sprint, with reckless abandon, only to lose our fervency over time as we see others do the same.
But this is not the way our life with Him was designed from the beginning. If you remember, we were bought with a price and no longer belong to ourselves. We are now His and His alone.
Just think, in John 2:11 the disciples believed in Him but had yet to totally commit their lives to Him. Their belief and commitment to Jesus at this time was much like our commitment to Him today. We maintain our independence and call our own shots yet claim total devotion to the Lord. But that is not what He was looking for then.
Nor is it what He is looking for now.
In this study, we’ll look at how long it took Peter to move from part-time follower to forsaking all for the Lord. It is a gradual process of letting go of what you know and embracing the unknown by faith. And as it was with Peter then, so it is with many of us today.
In the Christian life, surrounded by our brothers and sisters who, like us, have failed in their walk with Christ, we often define sanctification as simply stumbling forward. We hear sermons, Sunday after Sunday, that tell us to grow closer to Him and bear His fruit (John 15:1-8), but they never seem to tell us how. And we are left feeling like we have to put together a dresser from Ikea without any instructions. But the Christian life, once we know the “how” to do what we must do, is so much more than stumbling forward.
And the key is knowing how to do the things we know we need to do. Or how to obey the commands of Christ that we struggle with. Consider these “how to do them” questions:
How to live by faith (Gal. 2:20).
How to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).
How to walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh (Gal. 5:16).
How to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).
How to lay my life down as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2).
How to have victory over sin (1 John 5:4).
How to pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17).
How to rejoice always in every situation (Phil. 4:4).
How to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33).
How to experience the peace of God (Phil. 4:7).
How to hear God’s voice (2 Peter 1:18).
How to have God’s Word become alive to me (Heb. 4:12).
There are so many how questions in the Christian life. And there is so little teaching on how to answer them.
When we look at the times in which we live, no question seems more important than this: Where are we in prophetic history? And what is going to happen next? What is next on the prophetic calendar? Where are we in regards to Matthew 24 or Daniel 9 or the book of Revelation? Where are we, right now, in the continuum of prophetic history?
And the answer to that question will either fill you with peace or dread, depending on your relationship with the Lord. If you long for His return, then the signs of His coming provide great encouragement. But if you are trying to live your best life now, then His return and judgment should keep you up at night.
Scripture gives us a few signs, like a timeline, for the end. And when we see these signs coming in rapid successions, like birth pains, we know the time of His return is near. Let’s look at just a few of these signs.
- The Regathering of the Jewish People to their Land
- Increasing Apostasy in the Church
- The Coming Middle East Peace
- Reuniting of the Roman Empire (East / West)
- The Proliferation of Globalism
Remember what our Lord said about these signs:
Matthew 24:4-8 – “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
Did you catch that? The “beginning of sorrows (or travail from childbirth).”
What is the condition of the church today? Is the bride of Christ pure like our Lord commanded? Or have we compromised and sold our birthright for a bowl of stew?
The church, made up of true believers, is to be the assembly of those who are the light of the world (Matt. 5:14) and salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13). But sadly, as we see the church compromise and the world’s acceptance and approval of us loom large in the hearts of many, our influence wanes to the point of being a non-factor in our culture. How did that happen? We allowed our focus to move from the Lord to ourselves as we judge truth by how it affects each of us. This is the current condition of the church.
And it really should not be any surprise to us. After all, Jesus said it would be this way for those who live, like we do, in the Laodicean church age.
- Denial of God – Luke 17:26; 2 Timothy 3:4-5
- Denial of Christ – 1 John 2:18; 4:3; 2 Peter 2:6
- Denial of Christ’s Return – 2 Peter 3:3-4
- Denial of the Faith – 1 Timothy 4:1-2; Jude 3
- Denial of Sound Doctrine – 2 Timothy 4:3-4
- Denial of the Separated Life – 2 Timothy 3:1-7
- Denial of Christian Liberty – 1 Timothy 4:3-4
- Denial of Morals – 2 Timothy 3:1-8,13; Jude 18
- Denial of Authority – 2 Timothy 3:4
What else does the Scripture teach about the condition of the church in the end times?
When we read Scripture, we usually focus on the obvious “who, what, where, and what does it say and what does it mean” questions. But what is often overlooked are the vital “why” questions. And learning how to ask the “why” questions takes some time. It is not something that comes naturally. You almost have to train your brain to look beyond the obvious and force yourself to try to understand the “why” questions that come with every passage of Scripture.
Not, “why did God choose to put this statement in His Scripture?” Or, “why is the Song of Solomon included in the Bible?” But “why did Paul write this letter to the church at Phillipi in the first place?” What was the problem that needed to be addressed or the ministry that needed to be encouraged? And how would I feel if I was a member of that church, listening to Paul’s letter being read publically? What impact would it have on me?
For example, consider the following well-known teaching from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
Philippians 4:6-7 – Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Now, let’s ask some questions about the text in order to better understand “why” Paul wrote this letter to them.
What was the setting for this statement?
Where was Paul when he wrote the letter?
What worries or fears did the church at Philippi have?
Next, begin to make it personal.
What worries and fears do I have?
What keeps me from experiencing His peace or robs me of experiencing His joy?
And what worries and fears do I have that rob me of my joy?
As in the time of Joel, the church today needs to come together and call for a sacred assembly, or a time of national repentance and spiritual renewal. A sacred assembly is a time where everyone who is called by the name of the Lord drops everything and comes together for a season of fasting, praying, repentance, and revival. But before there can be a national move of the Spirit in our land, there has to be a move of the Spirit in our individual lives. Hence, individual revival must come before a national revival.
And this is why the call for individual brokenness and repentance is so important today. Consider what the Lord said to Joel in his time about personal repentance.
Joel 2:12 – “Now, therefore,” says the LORD, “Turn to Me with all your heart, (how) with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning (wailing, great lamenting).”
And then, after the people are revived, the nation can be revived.
Joel 2:15-16 – Blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes; let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room.
No one is exempt. This is a time of communion with the Lord.
Scriptures teach that our heart is deceitfully wicked, even to the point it will deceive itself (Jer. 17:9). And this often happens in regards to true salvation, or the difference between saving faith and non-saving faith. That is why we are commanded to examine ourselves, to take on the difficult task of self-examination, in order to see if we are truly saved. And often this self-examination is both painful and revealing. Consider the following:
2 Corinthians 13:5 – Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?— unless indeed you are disqualified (reprobates, those not approved, those who fail the test).
Ouch! That stings.
How can we go about looking at our spiritual lives in the light of Scripture? What questions do we ask ourselves? How is the process of self-examination and salvation accomplished?
And how can we know we are saved and not disqualified?
One of the most frightening truths is the fact that many who claim the name of Christ, who profess salvation, are actually lost and on their way to eternal separation from Him. How can that be? How can someone be so duped into believing they are saved when, in fact, just the opposite is true? The answer is found in our understanding of the difference between regeneration (being born again) and conversion (exercising faith and repentance). Conversion must follow regeneration for true salvation to take place. If the order is reversed, nothing eternal happens.
Often, with good intentions, we focus on getting someone to convert to Christ by emphasizing their need to recite the “sinner’s prayer”— which focuses on faith (Romans 10:9-10) and repentance. But without regeneration (being born again), the converted individual (who prayed a prayer) is not saved. They have made a verbal assent (faith) to a code of ethics or a religion or a way of life, but without a supernatural change in nature. And it is only the change in nature (regeneration) that leads to salvation. Sadly, the converted, yet unregenerate sinner, becomes another unsaved, baptized, deceived, church member.
This is exactly what Jesus spoke of in His Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13) and warned about at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Consider carefully His words:
Matthew 7:21-23 – “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'”
So what are we to do?
Peace seems like such an elusive commodity today. After all, it seems we are surrounded by ever-increasing chaos and turmoil with no end in sight. What are believers to do in a climate like we are facing today? We are to strive to experience the peace of God. Note, not peace with God, which is something quite different. But the peace of God. It is a peace that only comes from Him, the peace He also experienced while on earth, the indescribable, supernatural peace of God.
Paul tells us exactly how to find this peace. Consider the following:
Philippians 4:6-7 – Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and (the promise) the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
But what kind of peace is that? And how can I experience that promised peace? Is it something I muster up myself? Or is it something I internalize myself? Or does it, like faith, come from outside of myself? And, if so, how can I obtain this peace of God?
Great questions. But the answer is simple. The peace of God is a gift from our Lord, left to each of us as a part of our inheritance in Him. It is the peace Jesus personally experienced while on earth, facing untold trials, tribulation, betrayals, and spiritual attacks. And He gives us, as a gift, this very peace as a promise— a promise so wonderful it cannot be described or even understood.
When you read anything, including Scripture, there’s something that happens that is called the theater of your mind. It is in the theater of your mind that you take descriptive text and add details to make the story more personal, more alive, more kinetic. For example, consider this simple description: “It was raining. As he walked to the car, he pulled his coat tight around himself and quickened his steps.”
Now, what scene are you seeing in your mind? And what details have you added to make this descriptive statement more descriptive? How hard was it raining? Was this a rural setting or a side street in New York City? Or was the man on his front porch walking across his lawn to his car, or was he coming out of a restaurant or an office building in downtown Chicago? Did this take place in winter, maybe mid-January? Or was it in early Spring, during the first week of May? What was the color of his coat? How old was the man? Was he dressed in a tuxedo like he was heading to a wedding? Or was he tired, in worn-out overalls, on his way home after spending twelve hours in a wheat field on a John Deere Harvester? How do you see this in the theater of your mind?
There is no right or wrong answer. You are the one who adds these secondary elements to what you read and paints black and white text with a pallet of colors you make up in your own mind. We all do this. Everyone does this when we read descriptive text.