Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Laodicea today

"You say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked." Revelation 3:17

Michael Spencer's provocative article prompts me to turn to Revelation 3:14-22. Here's the picture. You see some strange guy walking down the street of your town. You can't help but notice that he is:

1. wretched, or, "suffering, distressed, miserable" according to Liddell-Scott-Jones' Greek lexicon;

2. pitiable, or as we would say, pathetic;

3. poor, that is, beggarly, penniless;

4. blind, that is, he cannot see the obvious;

5. naked, that is, embarrassingly exposed.

So here he comes down the street, banged up from encounters with light posts and mailboxes, naked as a jaybird. You approach the poor guy and say, "Sir, may I help you?" And his answer is, "I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing." Delusional.

This was the church in Laodicea. This is too many churches today. We focus on our strengths and successes. And there is just enough good going on in our ministries that we can plausibly refuse a blunt reappraisal of our weaknesses. But the Lord is saying, "That whole mentality is wrong. It is lukewarm. It makes me want to vomit (verse 16). I am not asking you whether you hate my guts. You don't. I almost wish you did. But I am confronting you that you don't love me wholeheartedly, so that you go into repentance and reevaluation and change. Here's what you need to do: Stop telling yourself you're okay and go back into re-conversion (verse 18). Change your complacency into zealous repentance (verse 19). Hey, are you listening to me? I'm that faint voice you can barely hear any more. I'm outside your church, banging on your door. You didn't even notice when I walked out. But I'm back, one more time. If anyone in there is listening, just open the door and I will come in. I won't smack you down. I will befriend you (verse 20). The others in your church may or may not join us, but all I'm asking for is one open, honest heart."

Usually, our churches settle for half-way remedies, which is why they limp along in mediocrity. But every now and then, someone humbly opens that door, and Jesus walks in. He is ready to bless any church if anyone there is willing to start admitting, "I am not rich, I have not prospered, and I need everything."

This corny but honest old gospel song nailed it:

"Out of my bondage, sorrow and night, Jesus I come
Into thy freedom, gladness and light, Jesus I come to thee
Out of my sickness into thy health
Out of my want and into thy wealth
Out of my sin and into thyself, Jesus I come to thee."

Lord, receive even me.