Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: The things we value today are so different in our churches in many cases than what God values.

Leslie Basham: This is Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy: We value public perception and reputation of our churches, our PR kits, our press releases, our write-ups. We value that more than we value purity and integrity of heart. We’re more impressed with our programs than we are desperate for the power of God.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for Friday, November 3, 2017.

We read seven letters at the beginning of Revelation. Nancy’s devoting one series to each this year. This week we are focusing on a church that made Jesus sick. This series is called, The Cure for a Lukewarm Faith.

Nancy: Part of me would rather teach something that is easier to hear, something that’s not quite so confrontational, something that’s a little more palatable. I don’t want to be a negative person. I don’t want to always be crying, “Evil!” I want to be pointing out the things that are positive.

In many letters Jesus does point out the things that are positive in the church. When we see those we need to point it out. But we come here to a letter where there is nothing positive to be said about this church. In order to be true to the Scripture, I have to exposit what it says.

Our modern twenty-first century ears don’t like hearing this kind of teaching. We want something that makes us feel good, that’s warm and fuzzy, that’s comfortable, that’s seeker friendly. It doesn’t drive people away.

I’ll be the first to say that I’m concerned about people being driven away from Revive Our Hearts and thinking, “Oh, that’s just negative.” But I’ll tell you what, if I know that Jesus has a negative word to say to His Church, hearing it is the most positive thing we could do. Hearing it and heeding it.

So I’m not trying to be weighed down and heavy in my tone. But we’ve got to be true to what Jesus says in His Scripture. If we will listen to His Word, then He will show us how we can get relief, how we can get freed up from the burden and the heaviness of our fallen condition.

I had a call from a friend several days ago, and she was calling from an earlier time zone. She said, “Are you still up?”

She said, “I am so grieved.” She and her husband had been in a church that wasn’t their own church. Her husband was preaching in another church and they had been there for several days. This woman and her husband had been counseling with a number of different situations in that church.

She had had a day full of ministering to people in this small church. She said,

I’m so burdened over the condition of the church. I can’t believe what I’m hearing. I know some of these people are just lost. But we’re the outsiders in this church situation, and we’re the ones who are grieved. We are the ones who are heavy hearted. What is wrong with this picture?

As I listened to my friend I thought, “This is just a small glimpse of how the Lord Jesus must have felt as He looked at the church in Laodicea and He saw there nothing He could commend." He saw people just living their lives for themselves, for their flesh, for material prosperity, as we’ll see in today’s passage, but without any spiritual heart or passion or zeal and just going on with their daily, normal church life as if everything was okay. And everything wasn’t okay.

Well, what does Jesus see as He looks in at the church in Laodicea? Revelation chapter 3, verse 15, He says,

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot. . . . So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you [I will vomit you] out of my mouth.

Jesus says, “You make me sick.”

You say, “Jesus wouldn’t talk that way.”

Yes He does, right here. He says, “I’m repulsed by this. You’re going on as if everything is fine. I’m nauseated by this.” Verse 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.

So not only is this church lukewarm, half-hearted, complacent, but they’re blind to their true condition. They’re deceived about what’s really going on with their church. They’re oblivious to the fact that they’re lukewarm. They’re insensitive. They’ve become desensitized to spiritual realities.

They’re not even aware that there’s an absence of spiritual vitality and life and zeal within their church. They think they’re fine. They’ve gotten used to the dark. They’ve gotten used to Jesus standing outside the door to their church. They’ve gotten accustomed to the dark. They’ve become anesthetized, deadened to their true condition.

The reason that they’re lukewarm is that they think they’re fine. So when you think you’re doing okay spiritually, there’s no motivation to press on, to grow spiritually, to engage in spiritual warfare.

Now we see in verse 17 that there’s a huge gap between how these Christians in Laodicea felt that they were doing spiritually and how Jesus felt they were doing spiritually. There’s a huge difference between their assessment of their spiritual condition and Jesus’ evaluation of their spiritual condition.

Let’s look at their assessment. “You say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’”

Here’s a church, a group of believers, so-called, self-professing believers who think very highly of themselves. Now, remember that Laodicea was a great commercial, affluent center. Material wealth more often than not tends to foster within us a sense of self-sufficiency—not always, but generally.

Affluence is no friend of grace. In the same way that material wealth tends to foster self-sufficiency, so material poverty often, not always, but often fosters a greater sense of humility and need. It’s easier to be poor in spirit when you have less to be proud of.

So here’s a church that may have felt that their economic health was an indicator of their spiritual welfare. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

They said, “I need nothing. I’m rich. I’ve prospered. I need nothing.”

I mentioned a couple of sessions ago that about thirty-five years before this letter was written, in 60 A.D., there was a massive earthquake that devastated this region. Unlike Ephesus and Sardis, Laodicea quickly recovered from the earthquake. They boasted that they did not need any outside assistance.

In fact, the Roman government offered some assistance, and Laodicea turned it down. They said, “We don’t need your assistance.”

Tacitus was a Roman historian of the era and he said, “Laodicea arose from the ruins by the strength of her own resources, and with no help from us.”

Now isn’t that a picture of the condition of this church? “We’ll pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Things are tough. We’ll make a go of it. We’ll have a new program. We’ll buy some help. We’ll buy more staff. We’ll get ourselves out of this situation. We don’t need help from anyone else. We have no need.”

There’s a church that was self-sufficient, satisfied. They didn’t think they had serious needs. They thought they were in decent spiritual condition.

It reminds me of Hosea chapter 12, verse 8 where Ephraim, Israel, says, “But I am rich; I have found wealth for myself; in all my labors they cannot find in me iniquity or sin.”

“I’m rich. I’ve prospered. I need nothing. I’m doing fine.”

Now here’s a church in Laodicea that may have been doing economically well because of compromise with the idolatrous trade guilds that we studied in the letters to the churches in Pergamum and Thyatira. They may have accommodated to the culture and compromised their faith in order to make do economically. They may have made spiritual compromises. They may have sold out their faith by accommodation to the pagan culture around them.

Charles Spurgeon said, “The world is always at peace with a lukewarm church, and such a church is always pleased with itself.”

Here’s a church that was pleased with itself. Apparently they expected God to feel the same way about them. They expected Christ to approve of how they were doing.

“We have need of nothing, not even You, Lord.” They might not have said that, but that was the essence of how they were thinking.

Then we see Christ’s assessment of their spiritual condition. Their own assessment was: “We have need of nothing. We’re rich. We’re fine. We don’t need anything.”

But what was Christ’s assessment? Remember that Christ knows us better than we know ourselves. He is the Amen, the faithful and true witness. He’s the One who knows the true condition of our hearts and our churches.

Christ said, “You say I’m rich, I have prospered, I need nothing." But you don’t realize that—here’s Christ’s assessment—“you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (3:17). 

What a contrast! What a gap between what they thought and what Christ saw. They were proud of themselves, oblivious to their true condition.

And Jesus said, “You are literally the wretched one.” The wretched one. That word wretched—"unhappy," "unfortunate," "pathetic." You are pitiable. That means "to be pitied." You’re proud of how you are doing, but Jesus says you ought to be pitied. Wretched, pitiable.

Warren Wiersbe says in his commentary on this passage, “Their material wealth and glowing statistics were but shrouds hiding a rotting corpse.” Tough words, but true.

It’s like that man in Luke 18, the Pharisee that went into the temple to pray, full of himself. He said, “Oh God, I thank thee that I’m not like other men. I pray all these times. I fast all these times. I don’t do all these things” (see 18:11–14). He paraded all his religious credentials before God.

“I thank you that I’m not like this low-down, scumbag sinner over here.” This man, he’s proud. “I’m rich. I’ve prospered. I need nothing.”

The Scripture says he went back to his home not having been justified, not having met with God. He did not realize his true spiritual condition—wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

The contrast to that proud Pharisee is what we see of the apostle Paul in Romans chapter 7 as he realizes that at times he is captive to the law of sin that is working within him. And he says, “Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (v. 24).

There’s Paul being honest about the rotting, decaying aspect of his spiritual interior life. It’s the other use of this word wretched in the New Testament. “Wretched man that I am,” being honest about his spiritual condition.

There’s an interesting comparison here between the church in Laodicea and an earlier church that we studied, the church in Smyrna, in chapter 2. In that case Jesus said, “I know your poverty.” They were materially poor. But Jesus said, “You are rich.” They were materially poor but spiritually rich.

To the Laodicean church Jesus says, “You are materially rich, but you are spiritually poverty stricken. You’re bankrupt.” They thought they had everything, but they lacked the most basic spiritual necessities.

In order to help them see that, Jesus used the three things that Laodicea was known for and took pride in to explain what the church lacked spiritually. Remember, we said first of all that Laodicea was a banking center. It had material wealth.

But Jesus said, “You are spiritually bankrupt.” Spiritual pride and lukewarmness are often produced, as we’ve said, by material prosperity.

Mathew Henry says, “Their souls were starving in the midst of material abundance.”

And let me say, if that’s not a description of the church today, I don’t know what is. We say, “We’re going through an economic bust.”

Listen, our economic bust is way high prosperity compared with most of the rest of the world. We’re swimming in material abundance even when we think we’re hurting. But our souls, in so many cases, are starving.

So here’s a church that was content with material wealth but unaware and unconcerned about their spiritual condition and needs.

The second thing Laodicea was known for was their medical school and their eye doctors. They’re famous for this eye salve, this ointment. They thought they could see.

But Jesus said, “You’re spiritually blind.”

That word blind doesn’t mean literally you can’t see at all. It’s a word that means “opaque” or “smoky.” Your vision is distorted. You can’t see well. You’ve got cloudy vision. They lacked clear vision and understanding and insight, spiritually speaking.

Then they were known for their textile industry, for the making of wool and cloth. But Jesus said, “You’re spiritually naked. You’re not clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Everything that you think you have materially and do have materially is a picture of what you’re lacking spiritually.”

The church in Laodicea is typical of so many churches today who are content to have beautiful buildings and sophisticated technology and multiple services and programs and polished performances. They think that all of that equals spiritual health, that it equals godliness while they are oblivious to their spiritual needs, spiritually poor, blind, and naked.

You see, the things we value today are so different in many cases than what God values. We value public perception and reputation of our churches, our PR kits, our press releases, our write-ups. We value that more than we value purity and integrity of heart.

In many cases in the church today we esteem communication skills more highly than we esteem faithfulness to the Scripture and proclaiming whatever truth needs to be said to the people of our day. We esteem natural talent and leadership gifts more than the anointing of the Spirit.

You say, “You’re being harsh.” I read a lot of different Christian magazines that are directed to Christian workers and pastors and preachers and leaders. And some get it. But I want to tell you for the most part there’s this sense of natural gifts, natural leadership, impressive outward performance, being more critical than the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

We’re more impressed with our programs than we are desperate for the power of God. We’re more concerned about maintaining status quo than about glorifying God, even if that means our status quo gets radically shaken up.

Brian Edwards has been for many years a pastor in Britain. He wrote a book a number of years ago called Revival: A People Saturated with God. It’s a call to hot-hearted Christianity. Let me read something he wrote in that book about the condition of the Church. "The problem with our nation,” and he was writing in Britain, but the same could be said here in the United States.

The problem with our nation is not the government, or the education system, or the economic conditions, and it is not that dead and lifeless institutional religion that believes everything or nothing.

The real problem lies with the evangelical churches who claim to have the truth and think they are rich in spiritual gifts and life, and yet are cold, complacent and unattractive to the watching world. I am afraid this means most of us today.

Covering our tracks with big bonanzas and impressive projects will never convince a godless world of the reality of our God, though the world may certainly admire our expertise at showmanship.

We can gather large numbers of Christians together for giant conferences, monster banner-waving marches and technically brilliant satellite-related missions.

All these may have their place and value, but the danger is that they fool us into thinking that there are a lot of us and that we are making a strong impact upon society. In reality we are thinly scattered among a godless nation and we are hardly making a scratch on its surface (page 16).

Now let me say what Brian Edwards said about churches, evangelical churches, could be said not just of churches but of church members. How often are we proud, self-deceived, deluded? That’s a perilous place to be when we are self-satisfied because it’s harder for the arrow of conviction to penetrate our hearts.

When we have all our physical and material needs met and don’t have to pray for daily bread, we tend to overlook the needs of our souls. We more easily become complacent, lukewarm, half-hearted, indifferent, oblivious to our spiritual needs.

And I believe that a message like ours that we’re trying to proclaim through Revive Our Hearts is actually going to find more fertile soil in days like these because people are having the props pulled out from under them. Some of them are actually getting desperate enough to lift their eyes up to heaven and cry out to the Lord.

If that desperation materially makes us desperate for God then it will prove to have been a great blessing.

How would you describe your spiritual condition? How would Jesus describe your spiritual condition?

As I’ve been over the last weeks studying and living in this passage, I’ve prayed again and again, “Oh Lord, am I blind?"

  • Am I blind to things in my life that You see that I can’t see?
  • Are there areas of my life that I’m lukewarm?
  • Lord would You open my eyes? Would You show me what You see?
  • Would You help me to see and agree with You about the true condition of my life?

Which is more characteristic of your heart attitude? “I need nothing,” or “I’m desperately in need”?

“I need nothing. I’m doing fine spiritually. No major spiritual needs.”

You say, “I wouldn’t say that.” Well, when is the last time you confessed spiritual desperation and need and spiritual poverty to the Lord or to anyone else? When is the last time you opened your heart and said, “I’m failing in this area?”

“I’ve got a stronghold, a sinful bondage in my life in this area. I’m half-hearted. I’m complacent. I love TV more than I love the Word of God. I’m addicted to the Internet or to Internet games or to this relationship on the Internet.”

When’s the last time you really stripped off the veneer and got honest? “I’m desperately needy.” That’s the heart attitude God wants to hear. “I can’t make it on my own. Apart from You, Lord, I am destitute. I am utterly, utterly dependent upon You.

"I need Thee every hour. Lord, it’s not my brother, it’s not my sister, it’s not the deacons, it’s not the pastor, it’s not the young people. It’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.”

That’s the heart that God revives.

Leslie: Jesus warned the church in Laodicea to stop trusting in their wealth and power. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been explaining why that warning is so applicable in our churches today. She’ll be right back to pray.

As we just heard, with success comes danger. It’s easy for churches and ministries to create impressive programs without maintaining true, broken hearts before God.

Revive Our Hearts is on radio stations across the nation and growing an audience around the world. It looks like a big success, but we are desperately needy. We could not do anything without God’s power working through His people.

If Revive Our Hearts ever drifts from God’s calling, if we ever make an idol out of success or size, you shouldn’t donate to the ministry. But if your heart resonates with Nancy’s teaching and the effect it’s having on women, I hope you’ll give and help keep the program coming to you each weekday.

When you support Revive Our Hearts, we’d like to send you a Bible study booklet called Ears to Hear. It’ll help you press into these biblical passages Nancy’s been addressing. When you get the booklet, you’ll read a devotional for each of the seven churches in Revelation. Then you can read these biblical passages for yourself and answer the questions provided in the booklet. The questions will help you apply the truths of these letters to your day to day life.

Give us a call to make a donation of any amount, and we’ll say "thanks" by sending you the booklet, Ears to Hear. Ask for it when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

You know the church in Laodicea was told to buy gold from Jesus Himself. What does that mean? Nancy will explain tomorrow. Now she’s here to pray.

Nancy: Oh God, how I pray that You would help us to see our spiritual need, to agree with You. Forgive us for being blind, for being self-deceived, for being deluded, for thinking we’re fine when You know the truth.

And oh God, open our eyes. Open our hearts. May we humble ourselves and agree with You. Then may we receive the prescription, the tonic, the provision that You have made to deliver us from our lukewarmness. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth knows the truth will set us free. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

 

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