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August 9, 2011

The Spirit of the Laodicean Church in America

By Anthony Wade

The Spirit of the Laodicean Church in America


The Spirit of the Laodicean Church in America

Revelation 3: 14-17 "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. (NIV)

A Methodist Church in Iowa last December displayed a nativity scene with two women serving as the parents of Jesus. The Presbyterian Church changed its constitution regarding ordination of ministers by removing all language about marriage being between a man and a woman and any references to the need to repent of sin. The 60 year old ministry formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ has changed its name to "cru", removing Christ from its name. The Prophet Isaiah warns:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Isaiah 5: 20 (NIV)

You have to realize the foundations these ministries and churches were built upon to truly grasp the sadness of the current state of affairs. The Presbyterian Church was founded in the 1500's by a man who studied with John Calvin, the force behind the Protestant Reformation which brought the church out of the dark ages and back to God. The Methodist Church foundation is credited to John Wesley in the 1700's. Campus Crusade for Christ has 25,000 team members, ministering in 191 countries today. In response to their firestorm, the Vice President for "cru" Steve Sellers said, "Cru enables us to have discussions about Christ with people who might initially be turned off by a more overtly Christian name. We believe that our interaction and our communication with the world will be what ultimately honors and glorifies Christ." Huh? So you are going to trick them into Christianity? Is His Word no longer powerful enough to break yokes and set captives free? "Cru" should consider the words from Job:

"Are you defending God with lies? Do you make your dishonest arguments for his sake? Will you slant your testimony in his favor? Will you argue God's case for him? What will happen when he finds out what you are doing? Can you fool him as easily as you fool people? No, you will be in trouble with him if you secretly slant your testimony in his favor. Doesn't his majesty terrify you?  Doesn't your fear of him overwhelm you? Your platitudes are as valuable as ashes. Your defense is as fragile as a clay pot. Job 13: 7-12 (NLT)

Not only has the American church lost the terror of God's majesty but in many cases it is not even considered anymore. To Mr. Sellers it might seem like a sensible thing but we do not honor and glorify Christ be refusing to include His name:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3: 17 (NIV)

Now, this is not an exercise of picking on one ministry or denominational error. These are actually just a representative microcosm of what we see throughout this country in mainstream churches. There are so many parallels between the modern church and the nation of Israel during the Old Testament times. The Prophet Jeremiah speaks to Israel a final warning we all need to heed today as the days grow short:

"From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them," says the LORD. Jeremiah 6: 13-15 (NIV)

Let us examine these warnings. First of all, God is saying that there are no exceptions. From the least to the greatest, none are exempt. I believe this speaks to the propensity we have in this country for looking down upon someone else as a means for avoiding looking in the mirror. Modern American Christianity is too externally focused. It is constantly engaging in what is wrong with the world or with the culture and society of the world. Remember, the actual problem the world has is not the symptoms we usually look at. Their problem is not gay marriage, abortion and taking God out of the classroom. Their problem is not the war on Christmas, evolution, or apathy towards God. Those are all symptoms of the actual problem; which is their separation from God. Jesus did not instruct us to go into all the world and convert people with the morality of religion. He did not say that we should hit people over the head with the Bible either. God's Word is a two edged sword not a blunt instrument. We are fond in the church of being outraged when the world behaves as the world is expected to behave. We are fond of speaking about healing our land. But what does God actually say about that:

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2Chronicles 7: 14-15 (NIV)

WE are the people called by His name. We are the Christians. We are supposed to humble ourselves, seek His face and repent if we expect God to heal our land. Remember, whenever someone is crying for repentance it should always start with "me". We all need to repent. God continues through Jeremiah to say that all are greedy and deceitful, including the prophets and priests. We see the wanna-be prophets of today, prophesying about money and schemes to make your life better by "sowing seed" into their ministries. Go back and read the prophets in the Old Testament. They were not bringing news of glad tidings to God's people. They were usually telling them to repent; again a repeated theme we have trouble with.

What is interesting is the charge God makes against the people who claim to represent Him. First, they dress the wound of my people as if it were not serious. Note the usage of the singular. God does not deal with whatever other "wounds" we might be experiencing, the symptoms, because only the condition matters. That open wound is the state of the soul in relation to God. Saved or unsaved. Modern American Christianity has turned salvation into a three sentence magic prayer viola! Now you are going to heaven! No, you are not. Going up to the altar does not make you a child of God anymore than going into a firehouse makes you a fireman. There has to be repentance which means a turning away from the sins in your life. There needs to be a regeneration of the heart which means you are no longer the same person you were. God has changed your heart towards Him and away from the carnality of the world. So I believe what God is saying here through Jeremiah is there is too much of an emphasis on surface salvation, people in the pews, and fancy church growth schemes than there is on the gaping open wound we are actually charged with tending to. Secondly, God says that His ministers say "peace, peace" when there is no peace. Once again, God reaffirming that not only are His ministers not addressing the wound but they pretend that they are. They tell people that they have peace with God when in reality they are not at peace at all:

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God's laws, and it never will. That's why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. Romans 8: 5-8 (NLT)

If you say the sinner's prayer without repentance and regeneration, your sinful nature will still be hostile towards God. Someone can say "peace peace" all they like but it is only the spirit controlled mind that leads to life and peace. Jeremiah concludes by lamenting that not only does this sad state of affairs exist but that those who perpetrate it have no shame about it. They do not even know how to blush! God forbid that we get so full of ourselves that we stop seeing God. That we think it is somehow glorifying of God to remove His name from our lips or our ministries. That we think repentance from sin is not necessary language for ordained ministers. That to avoid looking in the mirror, we assail the world for its symptomology instead of its sickness. God forbid we continue to become the Laodicean Church.

And that bring us back to our key verses. Jesus Christ is addressing seven churches in His Revelation to John the Apostle. In some of the other letters, Jesus starts out by praising what they are doing right before addressing what they need to change. Not so with the Laodiceans. Jesus starts right away by demanding that they decide what they will represent or He will spit them out of His mouth. Lukewarm is having just enough Christianity to appear right to the untrained eye and the unsaved soul. We see it in many churches today. It is more about the band and choir than God. Worship songs speaking more about what God can do for us than about what He already has done through His son. Self-indulgence distracting worship. Youth Ministries more focused on being hip than being right. A study in self help disguised as the Word of God. Dead preachers, preaching dead sermons, to dead congregations. Everything may sound right and may look right but deep down you know it doesn't feel right. Because what is missing is the Spirit of God. It is the Spirit that brings you into His presence during worship. It is His Spirit that convicts you during the Word and brings you to the altar for repentance. Look at the key verses and what God is saying to the Church with the Laodicean spirit! We think we are rich and blessed because we employ the latest church scheme. We think we are rich and blessed because attendance has risen every year for five straight years. We think we are rich and blessed because we have attained mega-church status.

But we do not realize that we are wretched and pitiful. The dictionary defines wretched as contemptible. That is what God is saying here! He will hold us in contempt for what we do. Wretched also means characterized by misery and sorrow. How loathsome are we when we cannot even see our own misery and sorrow! Where do we rely upon for our joy? Is it in catchy sermons, feel good preaching, and snazzy choir numbers as we all sing Kumbaya on our way to hell? Or do we take our wretched self to the cross and find the fullness of joy in the presence of God?

Likewise we do not realize that we are poor in the things of God. The Bible says that He will supply all of my needs according to His riches found in Christ Jesus. Pursuing the materialism of this world will only lead you away from the riches of God. When your Christianity has become about Jesus being your ATM, you will not experience His riches in glory. Remember that this life is but a vapor and storing up riches on earth will only rust and fade with time. Storing up riches in heaven however, will last eternally.

We also do not realize that we are blind. Jesus once referred to the Pharisees as blind guides. They had plenty of religion. They had the best services. They had the best show in town. But they had no idea where they were going because their religion became about them instead of about God. Without God there is no light, only darkness. Our religion becomes an exercise in furthering the distance between us and God. Remember the Gospel of Matthew says that at the end times Jesus will look plainly at people who thought they had served Him their entire lives and say that He never knew them. Blind guides leading blind congregations.

Lastly, we do not even realize that we are naked before God. The dictionary defines naked as being bare of any covering. I believe this means two things that are equally sobering. First it means that we go forward without the covering of God, while we think we are operating under it! Constantly having to convince ourselves that something is of God when we have no covering at all. Secondly, it means that God sees it all anyway. What we do is always naked before Him. We cannot escape His watch.

I know this wasn't one of the most "feel good" messages but remember beloved, these are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation and heaven forbid if we do not take heed.

Reverend Anthony Wade August 9, 2011

Authors Bio:
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.