by Pastor Dylan Barkman
Please open your Bible and refer to Rev. 3:14-22 to the Church in Laodicea. Notice that in verse 14, this “evaluation” or “report card” is not written to unbelievers; it is written to the Church, arguably a group of people that already ought to be “advancing Christ’s kingdom culture”!
In verses 15-16 Jesus judges their deeds as “lukewarm” and as a result is about to spit them out of His mouth!
Consider what “lukewarm” refers to in terms of a hot tub. We naturally consider the water to be hot. However, hot water is 100oC and cold water is 1C. We enjoy sitting in water around 38ƒ, which is “lukewarm” in comparison to hot or cold water. The effect of this “lukewarm” water puts us in a place where we are content, relaxed, exert little effort, want for nothing, and desire to stay that way forever, nearly asleep.
This attitude in the Church infuriates Jesus (the Ultimate Judge, 1 Tim. 4:1), who is about to “spit them out” as a result.
Jesus quotes them as saying, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” They were wealthy and tempted to look to their wealth as their source of strength. Like them, we are likely the richest generation of Christians to date, proved by our abundance of “toys” and “wants.” And whether we admit it or not, we take pride in our wealth even as a conference.
In verses 17-18 Jesus says, “You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”
We will understand what “the gold refined in the fire” is once we see the five steps Jesus lays out for us.
The first step is “be earnest and repent.” Because this letter is written to the gathered church it begs the question, “Does your church, or the conference, have something in place where people can intentionally repent and deal with sin?”
Truthfully, many churches assume people deal with all their sin on their own, when what typically happens is that we get really good at sweeping certain sins under the rug and still present ourselves as “good Christians” on Sunday morning. The weight of unconfessed sin just feels normal. Yikes!
Then in verse 20 Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
Remember Jesus is speaking to a movement of people that ought to be advancing His kingdom culture! However, the obvious question is, “What is Jesus doing outside of the door of the Church?”
To answer that question, consider the following diagram. The circle represents your life. In your life is a throne on which whatever is “Lord” or “King” of your life sits. Before receiving Christ, your life is ruled by “self” and Jesus is not part of your life. At the time when you accept Jesus as Lord of your life through faith, He becomes ruler of your life. He is truly Lord and King and you no longer are number one in your life. This is as it should be.
Frightfully, for the rest of our lives, unless we are intentional about keeping Jesus as Lord, our selfish tendencies kick in and we drift back onto the throne. Although Jesus is still in our lives, He no longer has true function as the actual Lord of our life. As Jesus’ own analogy goes, He is still nearby; however, He is on the wrong side of the door.
What is it that competes with Jesus as being the true Lord or King of our churches and our conference? It does not have to be obvious sins like pornography or alcoholism that replace Him as Lord. It can be subtle things like a focus on money, intellect, education or tradition. Ultimately anything at all, even good things, that replaces Him as the true King and Lord is rebellion against God and sinful.
Hear His Voice!
Jesus is the one who knows the correct answer to this question, which is why we need to listen to Him in prayer. In other words, we need to “hear His voice,” which according to verse 20 is step two.
If we do not follow through with step one “earnest repentance,” we will not make it to step two “hear His voice” (see Ezekiel 12:1-2). Rebellion against God (unconfessed sin) is the reason for not being able to hear even though we have ears to hear!
It should also be noted that just because Jesus is omnipresent, it doesn’t mean that hearing His voice is inescapable. Consider Elijah’s experience in 1 Kings 19:11-12. The Lord was not in inescapable things like the wind, earthquake or fire. Rather, the Lord came as a gentle whisper, which is easy to escape. In fact, one has to be intentional in order to hear it.
Open the Door
This leads us to the third step: “Open the door.” Like the Laodiceans, it is alarming that a barrier (the closed door) has come between us and Jesus. Something we have control over, like resistance to His Holy Spirit (Isaiah 63:10, Acts 7:51, Eph. 4:30, 1 Thess. 5:19) prevents us from experiencing the presence of Jesus.
We Open the Door
The Holy Spirit is God and convicts us of sin. He is gentle, good, gives good gifts, and is a deposit guaranteeing what is yet to come (2 Cor. 1:22, 5:5; Eph. 1:14). If we justify resisting the Holy Spirit, who lives inside us, we believe a lie. The truth is that everything that the Holy Spirit has for us is for our benefit, and, therefore, we should welcome Him with open arms.
Or as in the analogy of Jesus outside the door, in order for the fourth step (Jesus’ “coming in”) to occur, the responsibility lies with us to “open the door”! Jesus doesn’t force his way in.
The fifth step is to experience a personal, intimate, two way communicative relationship with Jesus, as though you were sitting down to a meal of your choice with Him in person. This is what it means to truly know Jesus, which is very different than just knowing about Jesus (Matt. 7:21-23)!
The presence of Jesus is the “gold refined in the fire” (v. 18) because it is the presence of Jesus that:
• We can only get from Jesus.
• Cannot be purchased with money, but will make us truly rich.
• When we experience it, it will take away our shame unlike clothes that only mask our shame.
• Will be far more satisfying than anything our fat bank accounts can ever buy because it will open our eyes to His truth.
• Is something that we can expect to be in Heaven! (And is actually what makes Heaven great anyway!)
The communication (prayer) that our churches and conference have with Jesus should reflect this kind of personal and real relationship with Him.
When we take these five steps, our conference will be victorious (vv. 21-22).
Dylan Barkman is the teaching pastor of Pansy Chapel in S.E. Manitoba. This article is adapted from his Convention 2016 message shared on Sunday morning, July 3.