SermonsDiscover the Joy of Leaving Laodicea Behind
Unfortunately, in our walk with the Lord, Chaucer’s ancient adage proves true: Familiarity Breeds Contempt. It breeds contempt in the form of apathy, laziness, indifference, lack of honor or respect and, finally, of misplaced love. It seems to be the curse of Western Christianity that wants for nothing save the things that matter.
What can we do when we find our relationship with the Lord boring at best? What happens when, to quote the classic song by the Righteous Brothers, “we’ve lost that lovin’ feelin'”? What happens then?
How can we recapture what we have a hard time even remembering? We find the answer in the Lord’s letter to His church in Ephesus.
Familiarity Breeds Contempt
The church at Ephesus, when John penned the Revelation, was only one generation removed from the life of the Lord. They were a hard-working bunch of committed believers who had a resume and doctrinal purity that would be the envy of almost any church today.
“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary” – Revelation 2:2-3.
In fact, they worked for the Lord to the point of sheer exhaustion.
“I know your works (the results of employment, duty, business, something to be done), your labor (to toil to the point of exhaustion, the labor which demands the whole strength of a man exerted to the utmost to accomplish the task), your patience (to remain under, to bear up under), and that you cannot bear (support, stand) those who are evil (bad, worthless, wicked, vicious, harmful, bad in heart, conduct, and character). And you have tested (tried, to prove either good or bad) those who say (affirm, proclaim) they are apostles (messengers, sent ones) and are not, and have found (by examination, search, or inquiry) them liars (false); and you have persevered (to bear up under patiently) and have patience (to endure, to remain under), and have labored (to be fatigued, worn out, weary, faint) for (what) My name’s sake and have not become weary (faint from constant work).”
I get tired just reading all that they did. But, like the church today, they had missed the most important part of their relationship with Jesus. The relationship!
“Nevertheless (in spite of all this) I (Jesus) have this against you, that you have left (to forsake, quit, abandon, desert) your first love ( agapē)” – Revelation 2:4.
Sobering words. The Lord said He is “against” them… even after all the good they had done. How could that be? And what can they do to right their sinking ship?
It may seem simple, but it is hard to remember the right things. Sometimes it is painfully hard.
“Remember (to call to mind, to keep on remembering) therefore from where (why, how) you have fallen (to fall off or from, to fall away, to fail, to be without effect, in vain); repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place— unless you repent” – Revelation 2:5.
Do You Remember?
It may seem simple, but it is hard to remember the right things. Sometimes it is painfully hard. Consider the following questions to help begin the process of remembering:
There comes a time in each of our spiritual lives when the Lord brings to us His divine interruption that always comes with a choice. And that choice, other than obedience, seems to focus on our willingness to let Him move us into an area that we are totally unfamiliar with. Or will we choose to remain where we feel safe and comfortable? The choice is either to follow Him into the deep or remain in the kiddie pool holding fast to our water wings. And as always, the choice becomes a matter of faith, of trust.
After all, we sing songs about Him being a “good, good Father.” Do we really mean it? Or is that just for church?
The question or choice is simply this:
Are you in? Or are you out?
If you look at the major faith personalities in the Bible, you will find every one of them had to ask themselves the same question. Every one of them was faced with a choice that comes with a set of troubling questions: “Do I continue in the course that seems right to me? Or do I trust I actually heard from the Lord and go in a direction totally unfamiliar to anything I’ve ever done or known? How much faith do I really have?”
We call these moments Divine Interruptions.
In this message, we’ll look at these interruptions from the vantage point of:
James and John and Peter and Andrew
And finally, Hosea.
A Personal Note
And I will share with you the divine interruption I received this week while preparing for this message from Jude. In fact, in the weeks to follow I will share more about the changes the Lord has brought in my life regarding what His will is for me and this ministry. And I rejoice in that. Why? Because He has simply answered a prayer I have prayed for almost two years in a most profound way.
When it comes to revival, personal revival, we are somewhat hamstrung by the reality that many in the church today have no idea what that even looks like. Think about it. It’s not like you can pick up the phone and call a mature Christian saint who is at the top of their game spiritually, and has been for years, and ask them to mentor us in personal revival. It seems, at least in the West, that those people are few and far between if they exist at all.
And this is to the shame of the church… and to each of us as individuals.
So we’re back to the main question.
What Does Personal Revival Look Like?
In this message, we’ll look at a few Scriptures that describe to us what true, Spirit-led, personal revival looks like. Some of the passages we’ll examine are Psalm 119:25, 37, and 40, along with a few of the kingdom parables (Matthew 13:44-46). We then look at Philippians 3:7-8, and a few other passages, and conclude by asking just a few questions.
What is worth selling all you have to acquire?
What is worth everything you are?
What is the thing you value the most?
Have you asked the Lord to show you things in your life that are worthless and deceitful and are causing you to sin and grieve the Holy Spirit?
Or are you too afraid of what He might say?
What will you do if He shows you what must go?
Is the promise of living your life more alive and more abundantly than you are now worth more than holding on to what we are convinced brings lasting joy?
Will you ask Him right now to reveal it to you?
But as we shared last week…
The greatest need for the church, and for our fractured nations, is revival. No, not the kind of revival we have been satisfied with over the last two generations: the hired evangelist that comes once a year to preach all week to half the congregation of a church, salvation messages to people who are already saved. That’s not real revival. It’s a cheap second. A knock-off.
So what is real revival and is it even possible?
The First and Second Great Awakening
Real revival has taken place on our shores, but it was several centuries ago and has become known as the First and Second Great Awakening. It was spurred on by the preaching of Charles Finney, Wesley, Whitefield, and many others, who faithfully preached about the conviction of sin and the need for repentance and conversion. In fact, the results in the communities where revival took place were remarkable.
But note this, modern, manufactured feel-good meetings are not true revival. In fact, they are a cheap substitute for something Spirit-led and ordained by a sovereign God.
In 1932, William Sprague took upon himself to research the Great Awakenings in our nation and wrote a book titled, Lectures on Revival. In his book, he quoted many ministers who had experienced, first hand, the Spirit-led move of God on this land. One of these men was Francis Wayland, a Baptist pastor and president of Brown University. Wayland described the true revival he had experienced as follows:
As the Christmas season is winding down, it would be appropriate for us to look at the greatest gift we have ever received from the greatest Person we have ever known— our Lord, and to give Him praise for that wondrous gift. And for me, I find that gift revealed to me in Colossians.
Let’s look at this gift together.
No Longer Alienated and Enemies of the Lord
The Scriptures say that I, and all who are called by His name, are no longer “alienated and enemies” of the Lord. Look at this marvelous gift found in Colossians 1:21-22:
And you (your name), who once were (past tense) alienated (apallotrióō – to estrange, alienate entirely) and enemies (echthrós – hatred, hostility, enmity) in your mind by (what) wicked works, yet now (present tense) He (Christ’s actions) has reconciled (apokatallássō – the restoration of a relationship of peace which has been disturbed) in the body of His flesh (how) through death, (why) to present (paristánō – to cause to stand near or before) you (your name) holy (hágios – set apart, sanctified, consecrated, a saint), and blameless (ámōmos – unblameable, without spot or blemish) and above reproach (anégklētos –unreproveable, not merely unaccusable but unaccused, free from any legal charge) in His sight (presence, before His face).
But there is more. He keeps us from stumbling and presents us faultless before His glory. Amazing. Read it yourself in Jude 1:24.
Now to Him (Christ) who is able to keep you (your name) from stumbling (áptaistos – falling), and to present you (your name) faultless (where) before the presence of His glory (how) with exceeding joy (agallíasis – extreme exultation, exuberant joy),
And how do we respond to this incredible gift? Read the next verse.
To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.
I pray you will begin the next year with the same praise and passion for your Lord that you ended the last one. And you can do that by realizing what a great God we serve and what a great gift He has given us in His Son. Will you join with me in exalting His Name?
One of the major failures of the church today is to downplay the place of Christ when we come together to worship. Yes, you heard right. We, hopefully unknowingly, often relegate Christ to the back pew or the second chair. And who do we elevate in His place? Usually the pastor or, often, the worship leader.
And when we come together as a church we have a tendency to preach on the “what’s” and “why’s” of the Scripture and seldom the “how’s”. Think about it. We know we are commanded to “present our bodies as a living sacrifice” ( ), but are never told exactly how to do that. Did you ever wonder why?
We are commanded to “walk according to the Spirit” ( ), yet are never instructed on how to do that. We know what it means and why it’s important. But for some reason, our pastors fail to take our hands and show us exactly how to accomplish this command. Why?
Is it because practical Christianity is not in vogue today? Or could it be we have become a church made up of those who can tell us what to do but have never experienced it themselves? Are we more like cowboys driving cattle from the rear than a shepherd leading from the front?
What are we to do?
Seven Things the Church Failed to Teach Me
Recently I was reading a blog that shared these seven things the author said the church never taught him. And I couldn’t agree more. Consider the following:
- How to practically live by the Christ who dwells inside me.
- How to practically learn how to hear the Lord’s voice beyond “pray and read your Bible.”
- That church-as-we-know-it is drastically different from church-as-God-would-have-it.
- What the gospel of the kingdom is and how radically it can alter a human life.
- How deep the tentacles of the world system go and how to break free from them.
- That God’s presence is extremely subtle most of the time.
- How to find Christ in the Scriptures, including the entire Old Testament.
So in 2019, I have committed to teach the church I pastor the “how’s” of the Christian faith and to answer these, and other, practical questions about living for Him. Will you join with me as we explore the breathtaking view of our Lord together?
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.