The Lord is so gracious to allow circumstances causing discomfort, for the purpose of exposing and purifying something within (Hebrews 12:11; John 15:2). I am convinced one of His core messages in this challenging COVID season relates to Jesus’ letter to the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22.
Because of His big picture plan to partner with the global Church to fulfill His Great Commission, I firmly believe Jesus is purifying His bride – pruning, beckoning, wooing her – preparing her to bear more fruit among unreached peoples of the world in the coming years.
It is necessary to understand His message through the lens of Jesus’ lavish love, inviting His global Church to throw off spiritual boredom and complacency, embracing wholeheartedness. He is not mad at us or rejecting us, knowing we are dust (Psalm 103:11-14), that our spirit is willing yet our flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).
Jesus was correcting the Laodiceans (and us) because of His intense love, not blasting them because they missed the mark. Love is willing to tell them the truth about themselves in order to awaken them from slumber.
The pandemic has exposed the global Church’s spiritual boredom, complacency and slumber. It is tempting to think this is true of the other guy, but not me. In reality, we are all prone to this spiritual condition.
The three corrections of Jesus revealed three primary concerns the Lord had with the Laodiceans. First, He revealed the true spiritual condition of the church, “I know your works that you are neither hot nor cold (vs. 15).” Second, He showed them their inflated opinion of themselves, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have no need of anything (vs. 17).” Third, He contrasted their opinion with what He saw, “…and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, naked (vs. 17).”
The spiritual condition of the Laodiceans was lukewarm, tepid. No urgency, conviction, compassion – no sense of being part of the redemptive story of God in the earth. These believers were indifferent, passive in their devotion to Jesus and His call to discipleship – denying themselves, taking up their cross, following Him (Matthew 16:24).
Lukewarm-ness is at odds with true Christianity. With all the blessings, privileges and benefits we’ve received in God’s Kingdom, how can we be anything but red-hot in dedication, abandonment and devotion to Him? When believers are lukewarm, it is because they have bought into a politically correct, societally friendly, religious, traditional and cultural form of Christianity, not the true, countercultural New Testament type.
Next, Jesus showed them the foolishness of their pride. The Laodicean Christians believed, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing (vs. 17).” Jesus pointed out their independence, correcting their elevated impression of themselves with a sobering indictment. In direct contrast with the natural factors Laodicea was known for wealth, healing eye-salve and luxurious black cloth, Jesus told the Laodicean church, “you are poor, blind and naked.”
These words were spoken in tender, gentle love, knowing their blind condition. He was not giving up on them, yet needed them to see truth. Like a blind beggar, destitute, clothed in rags, they were spiritually groping to find their way.
Though outwardly appearing successful, Jesus assessed the Laodiceans heart condition. Indifference and spiritual complacency are born out of desiring independence from God. In addition, we can misunderstand material blessing thinking that we are doing well spiritually, but only leave us destitute on the inside.
Complacent, lukewarm churches, failing to exhibit the inner fire of growing wholehearted love for Jesus and His global Kingdom purposes, produce blind, poor and beggarly believers. This too is our condition apart from repentance and receiving the fullness of life as Jesus intended.
To deliver the Laodiceans from this condition, Jesus showed them how to obtain true wealth. “Buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich,” or engage in the God-ordained process of acquiring deep relationship with Jesus.
“Buy” comes from Isaiah 55:1-3. The gold of godly character and faith makes us spiritually rich by forming our hearts and enlarging our desire for Him. We embrace the ways of God in the life of faith, growing and expanding our inner spiritual capacities.
All gold is developed by the refining of fire. True faith (gold) is only developed as we willingly embrace hardships, sufferings, setbacks, disappointments of life and ministry (refining by fire), maintaining the right eternal perspective.
Spiritual riches are for those “rich in God.” Meaning their hearts are ablaze with love, surrendered to His will, yielded to Him as Lord, obedient to His ways, refined through various challenges and activated in His Great Commission assignments.
This is a common concept in Scripture. Peter taught, “That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold…though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus… (1 Pet. 1:7)” and again, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you (1 Pet. 4:12).”
The Old Testament prophet Malachi revealed, “Who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the LORD an offering in righteousness (Mal. 3:2-3).”
Let us embrace the purifying, refining hand of the Lord by inviting Him to search our hearts related to spiritual boredom, complacency and lukewarm-ness (Psalm 139:23-24). Respond to Him in whatever way He leads.
Confess mistakes and shortcomings, receiving His enabling grace to set your heart toward
wholehearted, abandoned devotion for Jesus – the necessary foundation for impacting the unreached for Christ and fulfilling the Great Commission.