Sunday, November 11, 2012

Living in Laodicea: Introduction

Today my family and I attended a Sunday morning service at a local church. The worship and preaching was Spirit led and spot on. The service culminated with the congregation gathering around an American flag that had been placed at the altar. Many took their turn to step up to the flag and lift prayers for America. These prayers were genuine, heartfelt, and much needed. In fact, the Bible instructs us to do this, and I’m glad to have been a part. Still, as I listened to the heart of the congregation, my mind went back to a word God placed in my heart while I was in Bible study the morning after Election Day.

The results of last Tuesday night were a big eye opener for me. Now, I’m not ignorant of current affairs or na├»ve about the state of the Union. I believe I have a better than average handle on the spiritual and moral condition of America. However, there were some unfortunate results on Election Day that I didn’t see coming…and I’m not referring to the Presidential vote. Even more alarming to me were the results that came from the state ballots. As some of you are well aware, two states voted to legalize recreational marijuana, two more states voted in homosexual marriage, and one state elected the first openly homosexual senator. In these cases, we are not referring to the under-the-radar activities of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats; we are talking here about the voice of the people. You don’t have to look too hard to see the spiritual and moral degradation of our American society. These smaller state level votes are really a microcosm if the spiritual temperature of America as a whole. As a nation, I believe we are blindly slipping down a slope that could very possibly lead to destruction. I know many of you agree with me on this….and I realize that many of you don’t agree at all. Either way, Election Day was a great indicator that our nation is greatly divided in thought, opinion, and in general, in what is right and wrong. Now, with all that said, my objective is not to write a referendum on the spiritual status of the nation. My thoughts are on something quite different.
Truth be told, America’s issues can be boiled down to one common denominator. There is a single reason that we have plummeted socially, economically, domestically, educationally, and spiritually. To make a long story short, I’ll put it like this. America’s problem is not that corrupt people are in leadership. America’s problem is not that greedy people are getting richer while hard workers are becoming poorer. It’s not that the majority is oppressing the rights of the minority or that 50% of our population is dependent on the government for support. The real issue is something quite different from the campaign talking points that we have been inundated with as of late. America’s problem is not that sinners are sinning….you see, that’s what sinners do. It is the height of foolishness to expect the lost sinner , even if he/she is an elected official, to live like a saint; because they absolutely cannot! Our number one issue is not that sinners are sinning; it’s that the Church has forgotten how to be the Church.
As the Church goes, so goes the Nation. Please let me repeat: As the Church goes, so goes the Nation.
1 Peter 4:17 says: For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.
That being said, my objective with this blog is not to convince you that this is true. A short look into history will verify this claim. Israel’s history, Great Britain’s history, and now America’s history all prove that the health of the nation is inextricably tied to the scriptural and spiritual purity of the body of Christ.
Very well then, what is my objective? My desire is not to call out the Nation or to justify the idea that as the Church goes, so goes the Nation. Instead, what I feel led to do is use the Word of God to help define the condition of the modern American Church. If the blinders might be taken off, if the light is allowed to pour in, if we can know the TRUTH, then perhaps we can regain an appropriate position before the Father. Perhaps He will be able to forgive our sins and heal our land.
Scripturally, what is wrong with the Church today? What does the Bible say about this? What is the result of being in this condition? Where do we go from here? These are the questions I desire to tackle with this study. To accomplish this, we will have to break this study into sections. For this first lesson, I just want to give you a brief introduction to the text. Then, in the proceeding installments, we will unearth the scriptural treasures that God desires for us to find.

INTRODUCTION
When the book of Revelation is mentioned, people tend to jump into one of two camps. Normally, there is not much grey area here. People either love it or steer clear of it. Some don’t understand what they are reading, so they avoid it. Others are able to comprehend, but they don’t like the drastic, graphic depictions Revelation contains…so they avoid it. Whether you are pro-Rev or opposed-Rev, I contend that it is one of the most amazing books in the entirety of the Word. It’s the only book that is almost entirely “yet to come.” Also, it’s the only book in the Bible that comes with its own blessing for the reader.
Revelations 22:7 says: Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keeps the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
This blessing comes to those who receive the words of this book as a message from God; who makes use of them to teach and comfort others in the last days; and who are obedient to the instructions of the book as they are written. We shouldn’t avoid anything in the Word, we should embrace it all!
When John was commanded to write the book of Revelation, God’s instruction to John was very specific.
Revelation 1:19 says: Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter  
We see here a three part command given to the Apostle. First, write the things which you have seen. These “things” were the sights and sounds of the vision John had received. You can read about these “things” in the first chapter of Revelation. Secondly, John was to write the things which are. These “things” referred to the letters to the 7 churches that were dictated in Revelation 2 and 3. Finally, John was told to write the things which shall be hereafter. Obviously these “things” were the prophesies that are chronicled in Revelation chapters 4-22.
Most of the time, when we think of the last book of the Bible, we tend to recall horsemen, bowls of wrath, the antichrist, Armageddon, and so on. However, one of the most instructive parts of the book has little to do with these topics. In fact, it’s a section that is regularly skipped over. I’m referring to “the letters to the seven churches” found in the first 3 chapters of Revelation. In these letters, Jesus himself gives specific words of encouragement, praise, instruction, rebuke, and correction to the 7 churches of Asia. John was instructed to write down exactly what Jesus wanted the 7 churches to know.
Although the letters applied specifically to the Asian churches in John’s day, they are also prophetic to the progressive experiences and conditions of the worldwide Church down through the centuries. In fact, the progression, or the seven ages, of the Church can be traced by studying these seven letters in the order they were given.
The first letter was written to the church at Ephesus. The word Ephesus means “desirable”. In the prophetic since, the Ephesian church represented the first century church after Christ ascended. The teachings of the Apostles were at the forefront of this body. They were powerful and effective, turning the first century world on its ear for the Gospel of Christ. However, by the time John was writing the book of Revelation, before the end of the century, the first glimpses of distraction were beginning to be seen. Undoubtedly, this is what caused Jesus to say, "Nevertheless, I have something against thee, because thou has left thy first love"(Rev 2:4).
I won’t take the time to outline all seven letters and their prospective Church ages, as this is not my objective. However, I highly encourage the study. It is eye opening and, at times, stunning; just as the prophesy of our Lord always is. Instead, my desire is to key in on the final letter to the Church of Laodicea.
The word Laodicea means “judgment”. This church represents the last church age. With this station, Laodicea denotes the last bearer of the Gospel before Christ’s return for the Church. As much hope as this may bring, the letter to Laodicea stands in stark contrast to the previous letters. In the other letters, Jesus gives a measure of praise to the church. Laodicea receives no such praise. In fact Jesus’ rebuke is ,”you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked”(Rev 3:17). It is bitter-sweet to realize that this church represents the Church age we are currently living out. This is why it is vital for us to study and understand what Jesus is saying to the Church of today.
In the following installments, I am going to dig down into the letter to the Laodicean church. My objective will be to unpack the words of Christ to this first century church, and then relate His message to the 21st century Church we are serving in. This will be exciting and sobering. I hope you are willing to join me as we understand what “Living in Laodicea” is all about.