In this message to the church in Laodicea Jesus describes Himself in verse 14.
“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation.’”
Jesus is the Amen. Amen means, it is true. Jesus is the Amen, the faithful and true witness. He verifies the truth, He is the truth. When we say it, we are saying yes I testify that what was said is true! I agree! Isaiah 65:16 uses the Hebrew word for Amen as a title for God. Jesus description refers the reader to that scripture. Isaiah 65:13-16 reads,
“Therefore thus says the Lord God:
“Behold, my servants shall eat,
but you shall be hungry;
behold, my servants shall drink,
but you shall be thirsty;
behold, my servants shall rejoice,
but you shall be put to shame;
14 behold, my servants shall sing for gladness of heart,
but you shall cry out for pain of heart
and shall wail for breaking of spirit.
15 You shall leave your name to my chosen for a curse,
and the Lord God will put you to death,
but his servants he will call by another name.
16 So that he who blesses himself in the land
shall bless himself by the God of truth,
and he who takes an oath in the land
shall swear by the God of truth;
because the former troubles are forgotten
and are hidden from my eyes.”
The servants of God, the followers of Jesus will be satisfied, while those who did not recognize their needs will watch and be hungry and thirsty and not be able to get relief form their pain. Jesus’ message to the church is in verses 15-17.
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. “
My friend recently referred to the church in America as the same as the church in Laodicea. I certainly can see the similarities between the church there and the church here. I think what makes us so lucky in countries like America is the same thing that blinds us to the truth and binds us from real Spiritual power. We, like they are rich financially, we’ve prospered, and need nothing. According to Forbes, although we have the largest discrepancy of rich and poor among large advanced nations, the poorest 10% of Americans still live better than the richest 10% of people from countries like Russia, Portugal, and Mexico[i].
But the abundance and ease of our lives, even for those of us who are the poorest in America, keeps us from full dependence on God. We don’t need God to be God for us, because we can go to the store for food and we can turn a faucet for water. Jobs can be found. The government does the churches’ job and takes care of the poor. This has caused many of us to live a partial spiritual life. We don’t have time to zealously pursue God because we have to make money to live. We don’t need to pray fervently because our lives are so easy. Because of that we have no idea that we are starving spiritually, that we are not clothed in the garments of Christ, or that our treasure is not in Heaven.
Consider the times when you were most passionate for Jesus, remember the times when you were on a “Spiritual mountain top.” Those times were probably during and just after great suffering, a time when you had to rely on God to carry you through. When did you grow the most in Christ? When did you display the power of and fruit of the Spirit most clearly? Was it after you had been disciplined by the Lord? Was it when you were facing tribulation, persecution, and need? I would venture to guess that like me, the times you most resembled Jesus, were filled with the Spirit, and glorified the Father were those times of suffering.
I’ve heard stories about underground churches in countries like China where Christianity was illegal. The church had to meet secretly at undisclosed locations. No one could risk sending out messages about where the church would gather, yet every Christian met at the right place and the right time because the Holy Spirit told them where to go. Why doesn’t that happen in the US or the UK? We have no need of the Spirit to do that for us. We have watches, Facebook, Email, phones, and no laws restricting us yet. I’ve heard reports about churches in third world countries who meet for worship and stay and listen to teaching for hours and hours, where the people do not want to leave, where the Spirit manifests obviously throughout the day in every way. They don’t have their own bibles, they can’t regularly hear God’s word taught, and they savor the chances they have to hear it. Why don’t we experience that in the US? We have easy access to the Bible, to teaching, and to one another. We don’t know we need God’s Word so desperately so after the sermon reaches 45 minutes we start waiting for it to wind down and then think which restaurant we’ll go to after service has ended.
This easy life has made some of us complacent in our Christian walk. We’ve compartmentalized our lives, job, family, recreation, church, and Jesus. And rarely do the compartments mix. Jesus may be part of our lives if we walk like that but He is not our lives. Jesus tells us what to do if we are tepid rather than on fire, if we are complacent instead of hungry for God in verses 18-19.
“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”
To buy that pure untarnished treasure takes no money. The poorest or the richest can buy it from Jesus. Isaiah 55:1-3 reads,
“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.”
Jesus is the living water who quenches our thirst perfectly. John 4:13-14 reads,
“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
He is the bread of life. John 6:35-40 says,
“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Too many of us have seen Jesus, have heard the truth, but have not believed. We have access to the treasure of gold refined by fire, but we don’t understand its worth. Matthew 13:44 reads,
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Would we be willing to give everything up, all our effortlessness of life for the treasure of the Kingdom of Heaven? Or would we like the rich young man, like many who live life without struggle who walked away unsatisfied and afraid to trust God? (Matthew 19:16-22). Jesus loves us and He wants the best for us, which is why He disciplines those He loves. He knows that in order to experience the fullness of who He is, we need to lose some of what we have on earth. We need to suffer, to be refined by fire in order to get rid of the dross (the scum) of our lives. Isaiah 48:9-11 tells us that suffering is what purifies us and makes us better able to glorify God (reflect His image). He doesn’t discipline out of anger, He disciplines out of love.
“For my name's sake I defer my anger,
for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
that I may not cut you off.
10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.”
Suffering is not just something to endure, it is something to rejoice about, to embrace, and to thank God for. It is through suffer that we truly manifest the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:1-5 reads,
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us”
Jesus is waiting for us to give up our comfortable life and depend on Him. He is waiting for us to ask for gold refined by fire, garments washed in His blood (forgiveness of sin) living water, and the bread of life. Verses 20-22 read,
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
All we have to do is recognize He is offering it and open the door and accept what He has. What He has is a treasure worth more than our lives and complete satisfaction in Him. We can let some of the ease of life go and embrace our suffering which will make our joy complete. When we do that and conquer we will sit with God on His throne. We will experience perfection of eternity in unity with the Lord and there will be no more suffering. It’s okay to suffer now so that we can enjoy an eternity without it. Revelation 21:3-4 reads.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
[i] Worstall, T. (2013, July 1). Astonishing numbers: America's poor still live better than most of the rest of humanity. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2013/06/01/astonishing-numbers-americas-poor-still-live-better-than-most-of-the-rest-of-humanity/