Monday, September 2, 2013

P1 Jesus wants a r.o.c.k solid church - Revelation 3:14-22

Revelation 3:14-15  “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot."

Introduction: Built on a rock-solid, God-ordained foundation
I will never forget as a boy traveling to see the wonder called "The Natural Bridge" in Virginia. An entire park is built around it and a two lane highway passes overhead.  When you first approach the Natural Bridge, it looks like an enormous archway.  When you walk underneath it you are swallowed up by the 200 feet of sheer walls that arch up on either side and gracefully curve to make a perfect "bridge" of a 100 feet in length. As you walk underneath the archway, a small creek runs nearby and you and hear cars and truck passing up above you on the highway.  Amazingly the ground underneath you does not shake because of the rock-solid base upon which the little highway sits.  That imagery is how I picture the churches and the highway of history that runs through Revelation 2-3.  The road at times has been windy.  Nevertheless Jesus promises in Matthew 16:18 "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it."  That "rock" of which Christ speaks is not Peter (whose name in the Greek refers to a detached stone) nor is the "rock" referring to Peter's faith or saving faith.  Rather the "rock" upon which the church is to be built is Jesus Himself.  The word for "rock" speaks of a living stone or self-sufficient stone or uncut stone. Other passages clearly portray Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone and living stone upon which the church is built. (Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:7) 

The church at Laodicea was a church that was anything but solid.  Of all the seven churches, Laodicea is perhaps in the worse of shape and receives the sharpest rebuke.  Laodicea shows us what not to do and what not to be in these last days leading up to Christ's coming.  As we consider this seventh letter of Jesus to the churches, the aim will be to see how it is that Jesus desires a rock solid church before His return.  In order to find our way through Revelation 3:14-22, we will utilize the acronym r.o.c.k to represent the characteristics necessary to be Jesus' r.o.c.k solid church of rock solid Christian people. So what does it take to be a r.o.c.k solid church that Jesus wants?

1. Recognition of Jesus' ownership.  3:14,18
2. Occupy in good deeds.                 3:15-16
3. Check your heart.                         3:17-20 
4. Keep on until Jesus comes.          3:21-22

In today's post we will consider the first two characteristics...

Recognition of Jesus' ownership. Rev 3:14,18
In Revelation 3:14 we see Jesus begin this letter by identifying Himself with various titles.  In all the seven letters of Revelation we find at least 15 titles that Jesus uses to describe His Divine authority and love for His church.  Of all the titles that Jesus mentions, the one title used in the letter to Laodicea, "The Beginning of God's creation", is perhaps the most explicit one in terms of declaring His Deity and Divine authority.  Another way we could render that title "The Beginning" could be "The Beginner", being that the same Greek word is found in Colossians 1:16-20, wherein Christ is described as being the One "through whom all things are made". Later on in the same passage where He is described as head over His church.  By virtue of He being Divine, Jesus Christ has complete authority over the lives of Christians, the church and this world.  In terms of the rights of authority, Jesus Christ in His humanity purchased the salvation of every believer in His church with His blood. (Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Ephesians 1:7) 

As we mentioned at the beginning, Jesus Christ is that "rock" upon which the church is built.  It is He to whom we must continually recognize if we are going to finish the race of faith well as a church and as individual Christians. So to be r.o.c.k solid in these last days, we must recognize Jesus' ownership of the church, but notice also...

Occupy in good deeds.  Revelation 3:14-16
What was Laodicea's problem? Jesus states in Revelation 3:15-16 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot;I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth." Ladoicea was known throughout the Roman world as a banking center.  In fact she had experienced a similar earthquake like we saw in out study of the church of Philadelphia.  However unlike Philadelphia, Laodicea rebuilt herself with her own money.  Furthermore, the city was less than ten miles away from two other cities that supplied her with hot and cold water.  Heiropolis was North of Laodicea and was known for its hot springs and healing baths.  Laodicea in time came to use the crushed stone from the white cliffs of heropolis to make medicines.  The hot waters of Heiropolis were piped in to Laodicea by way of an underground stone pipe that caused the water to arrive "lukewarm" and undrinkable.  The other city that was of equal distance from Laodicea was Colosse, the famed city to which the Apotle Paul wrote his Epistle to the Colossians some 30 years prior.  Colosse was known for its cold mineral springs and those chilly waters were piped in through a similar aqueduct to Colosse and arrived in a lukewarm condition as well. 
Undoubtedly Jesus is using this background to critique Laodicea on account of her ineffective works.  

Hot water is good for cleaning clothes, dishes and taking bathes and was used in those day to provide reviving of health.  Cold water is good for a tall refreshing drink on a hot day.  Jesus wants his church to occupy in good deeds that refresh and revive those whom she impacts and influences.  Truly our quality of faith is measured by not only the quantity but quality of good deeds.  To not have any good deeds is a sign of counterfeit, non-saving faith.  James reminds us in James 2:17 "Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, 
being by itself." The church at Laodicea had deeds, however the deeds were neither refreshing nor reviving. According to Revelation 3:16, they were like lukewarm water, unpalatable and causing Jesus Himself to literally want to "spit" or "vomit".  

John Walvoord in his commentary characterizes the situation at Laodicea where the church had turned into an organization of "churchianity" rather than "Christianity". Walvoord writes: If those who are shepherds of the flock never make clear the necessity of the New Birth and the need for a dramatic change in life...and do not proclaim accurately the depravity and sin of the human heart and the divine remedy provided alone in the salvation offered by the crucified Christ...the result is churchianity."1 

What kind of quality of deeds ought Christians be occupying? Like the cold refreshing waters of Colosse, deeds of refreshing are like what Jesus describes in Matthew 10:42  "And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward."  Cold water deeds refresh and relieve the downtrodden and depressed. James again states in James 1:27 "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."  Likewise we as believers must occupy in the reviving hot water deeds.  Should not being in contact with God's people lead you to have zest to live more for Jesus?  Too often our churches seem to suck the spiritual life out of people.  Jesus is calling His church to occupy in good deeds.  As we read in the opening part of Hebrews 10:24 "and let us consider how to stimulate one another onto love and good 

More tomorrow...

1. John Walvoord. A Commentary on the Book of Revelation. Moody. 1966. Page 93

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