Summary: The message to the church in Laodicea shows us that in order to get what we really need in life, we must let Jesus in to our lives.
In his book, The Second Coming of the Church, Christian researcher and pollster, George Barna, documents his findings about the differences in behaviors between those who identify themselves as born again Christians and non-Christians here in the United States. Among the results of his surveys are these:
• Have been divorced:
o Born again Christians – 27%
o Non-Christians – 23%
• Donated money to a non-profit organization in the last month:
o Born again Christians – 47%
o Non-Christians – 48%
• Bought a lottery ticket in the past week:
o Born again Christians – 23%
o Non-Christians – 27%
• Gave money to a homeless person or poor person in the past year:
o Born again Christians – 24%
o Non-Christians – 34%
He found similar results with people’s attitudes:
• Satisfied with your life today:
o Born again Christians – 69%
o Non-Christians – 68%
• You are still trying to figure out your purpose in life:
o Born again Christians – 36%
o Non-Christians – 47%
As a result of these findings as well as the results of other surveys his company has completed over the years, Barna made this insightful, but troubling comment:
The vast majority of Christians do not behave differently because we do not think differently, and we do not think differently because we have never trained or equipped ourselves, or held one another accountable to do so.
Although the church in America certainly has much in common with all of the seven churches addressed in chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Revelation, it is probably most like the church that we’ll read about this morning – the church in Laodicea. And that certainly explains why we often don’t see a lot of difference between those who claim to be Christians and the rest of the world. Let’s read Jesus’ words to the church in Laodicea:
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
We’ll use the same outline that we’ve used to examine the previous six messages.
1. Church – Laodicea
The name of the city – Laodicea – is a compound Greek word that means “decision of the people” and as we’ll see, that is certainly an accurate description of what was going on in the church there. Although it had a significant Jewish population it was also a center for Caesar worship. The city was known for three institutions that are very relevant to what Jesus has to say to the church there:
• Banking system. Laodicea was a wealthy city that stood at the intersection of two major trade routes. In fact, there was so much wealth in the city that when it was devastated by an earthquake in AD 60, they refused the help of the Romans in rebuilding the city and instead relied upon their own resources.
• Clothing industry. Through careful breeding, the people had produced sheep with soft glossy black wool which was woven into expensive garments.
• Medical school. The medical school was located 13 miles northwest of the city and was associated with the healing god Asklepios, who also played an important role in Pergamum, as we saw several weeks ago. People came from all around the region to obtain their famous eye salve.
One of the city’s biggest problems was its lack of adequate drinking water. Because they had to bring in water through an underground aqueduct system, they were vulnerable to enemies who could easily cut off that supply. So the political leaders there were constantly accommodating and compromising with their enemies.