Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: The call to repentance is not a negative call. It is the most positive call in the world. It’s redemptive; it’s restorative. It’s what offers hope so that the church can avoid the punishment they will otherwise suffer and can once again be useful and fruitful for the Lord.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for Wednesday, November 8, 2017.

The book of Revelation begins with seven letters. They’re full of practical, helpful truth for women today. We’ve been discovering this in several series this year, one series for each letter. This week we’re focusing on the church in Laodicea. But before we return to the series, I want to remind you of the big news around here.

There’s a brand new curriculum kit based on Nancy’s book Adorned. This would be a perfect study on Titus 2 for your small group. We’re providing fourteen lessons on video from a variety of speakers from last month’s Revive '17 conference. We’re giving you group discussion questions to help your group dig deeper into Titus 2 together. Get all the details on the Adorned Small Group Kit by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com.

Okay, let’s get back to Nancy’s series in Revelation called "The Cure for a Lukewarm Faith."

Nancy: Let me back up for those of you who are just joining us in this series. Beginning in verse 15 of Revelation 3, Jesus says,

You are neither cold nor hot. [This just jumps right into His view of this church.] Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

I can’t stand dealing with you. It nauseates Me. This makes Me sick, for you say—this is your assessment of your condition.

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor,

And you don’t realize that the truth is you are the wretched one—literally—you are pitiable. You are to be pitied. You are poor. That’s a word for utterly, absolutely destitute—not just a little bit poor; very poor.

You are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked (vv. 15–17).

That’s love—telling them what they need to hear, not what they perhaps had hoped to hear, especially after hearing the letter to the church in Philadelphia that went right before them, hearing about this faithful church where Jesus has nothing to condemn. I can just imagine those people in Laodicea thinking, Oh, what’s He going to say about us? Oh, wow. Tough message!

But then He says in verse 18 that I’ve got a provision for your need. "I counsel you to buy from me gold." Now, you won’t buy if you haven’t acknowledged that you have a need. But once you acknowledge that you have a need, come to Me, and I will meet your need.

Buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be [truly] rich [spiritually 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 [so you can have spiritual perception and discernment, vision and understanding].

Then we come to verse 19.

Those whom I love [Jesus says], I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

“Those whom I love.” A lot of times when you read the word love in the New Testament, it’s the word related to agape. That’s not the word here. The word love here is the Greek word phileo. It means "to love dearly," "to have an affectionate heart towards someone." I phileo you; I love you dearly; I care deeply for you.

In spite of having been treated by this church the way that He has been—they’ve left Him outside in the cold; they have ignored Him; they have been lukewarm toward Him; they have not been zealous toward Him. In spite of how they have treated Him, Christ still loves them. He has not withdrawn His love. 

That's one of the things I love about Jesus—His pursuing heart. When we have spurned Him,

I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me, a sinner condemned, unclean.
Oh, how marvelous; oh, how wonderful, and my sound shall ever be.
Oh, how marvelous; oh, how wonderful, is my Savior's love for me.

He says, “I love you. In spite of the way that you treated Me. Here’s how I’m going to show My love for you.

There are two expressions of His love that come out in this verse. “Those whom I love I reprove and I discipline.”

First, “I reprove”—that’s a word that means "to convict." It’s the word used in John 16 where it says, “The Holy Spirit will convince the world of sin” (v. 8). To convict, to reprove, to rebuke until people say, “You’re right; I’m wrong.” It means "to reprimand," "to scold," "to tell someone they have done wrong." Jesus says, “If I love you, I reprove you. I convict you.”

The Holy Spirit has been given to those of us who are children of God. He lives within us to convict us when we have sinned, and that can be painful. It can be hard, but what an incredible gift that is.

Then this second word, “I discipline; I chasten,” some of your translations say. That’s a word that can be used in two different ways: It can be used in a milder sense of "to train or to correct someone," or it can be a stronger sense of "punishing, physically chastising."

Aren't you glad when the Lord shows us when we've done wrong? He doesn't just let us go on that way. He says, "Those whom I love, I reprove; I convict; I tell them they have done wrong."

And then that second word: "I discipline." "I chasten," some of your translations say. 

Now, that's a word that can be used in two different ways. It can be used in a milder sense: to train or to correct someone. Or it can be a stronger sense: of punishing—physically chastising."

I think God does both with us. He corrects us with the milder forms, and if we don’t respond to that, then He gets more intense in his chastisement. “Those whom I love, I convict—I reprove—and I discipline—I chasten.”

That word is to instruct by chastisement, not just to tell you where you’ve been wrong, but to show you how you got off the path and what you need to do to get back on the path. “I correct you.”

Many of you in this room are mothers. If you are a good mother, you do some convicting; you do some reproving; you do some discipling; you do some chastising, because children are born sinners. They need to be corrected. They need to be shown where they've done wrong. Once they come to Christ, the Holy Spirit can work in them. But you have a job to work with the Holy Spirit to tell them, to show them, to explain to them when they've done wrong. If they don't get it, you have ways of helping them get it. "Those whom I love I reprove and discipline."

That’s the heart we see in Hebrews chapter 12, verses 5 and 6: “My son”—this is written from a father to a son—“do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord.” That’s that word chasten, the chastening of the Lord. “Nor be weary when reproved of Him”—convicted, shown that you are wrong. It’s the same two words we see in Revelation 3. “For the Lord disciplines”—He chastens—“the one He loves, and He chastises”—this is yet a stronger word. It’s a word that means to flog or to scourge. “He chastises every son whom He receives.”

First He gives an exhortation, the correction, the reproof, the conviction. If we don’t respond to that, He brings the chastening. If we don’t respond to that, He may bring more severe measures—the flogging, the scourging spiritually of our souls. But He does it for sons that he loves.

So this is actually a word of comfort. It’s a word of encouragement. “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.”

Pruning in our lives is evidence that God cares, that He has purposes for us that are greater than being consumed with ourselves.

The goal of reproof and chastening is to arouse us from our sleep, to restore us to a place of intimate fellowship with Christ, a place of usefulness and fruitfulness.

So Jesus says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.” So what is your response to be? What is my response to be? “So be zealous and repent.” Be zealous.

Have you ever had zesty hot sauce? That’s a word related to the Greek word from which we get the word zealous. “Be zealous and repent.”

In fact, that word zealous has the same root word that the word hot does a couple of verses earlier. “I would that you were either hot or cold." You’re not hot or cold. Hot and zealous. It’s a word that means "to boil," "to have warmth of feeling for or against," "to seek or desire eagerly."

The word zesty—I looked it up in my English Dictionary this morning. It means "energetic or active."

Here’s this complacent, lethargic, lukewarm church. Jesus says, “I’m reproving and disciplining you because I love you, so that you will be energetic, be active; you will wake up; you will be zesty; you will be zealous; you will be hot; you will get out of your lethargy.

That word to be zealous is used in a continuous present sense. It’s not something that you do just one time when you go to a revival meeting and you have an emotional experience with the Lord, and you really get hot hearted. Kids go to camp, and they come back. And boy, they’re hot for God for three days. No, it’s being zealous and keep on being zealous. This is a continuing attitude.

It’s the very opposite of being lukewarm. Don’t be lukewarm anymore; be zealous. Rekindle the white hot fire of love for Christ that has died out, and be intentional in safeguarding it. Don’t let it die out again.

“Be zealous and repent.” Now that repent is a definitive action. It means "mourn over your sin and turn from it." Put it behind you and move on.

In five of the seven letters to the churches in Revelation, that is the bottom line exhortation: Repent.

Repentance is God’s remedy for everything that ails the Church. Again and again that’s what He comes back to: Repent! Repent! This is Jesus’ last word to His Church.

We sometimes say that the last words of Jesus to His Church are the Great Commission. But this is actually Jesus’ last word to the Church: Repent! Repent so that your lampstand can keep its place; so you can continue to shine the light of Christ and His Gospel in this world.

The call to repentance is not a negative call. It is the most positive call in the world. It’s redemptive; it’s restorative. It’s what offers hope so that the church can avoid the punishment they will otherwise suffer and can once again be useful and fruitful for the Lord.

Now, as I’ve studied this passage, there are a couple of questions which have kept recurring, and I’ve been pondering these questions over the last weeks.

First of all: This message, “be zealous and repent,” is this given to backslidden believers, or is it given to unregenerate church members professing to know Christ but having no relationship with Him at all?

If you read some commentaries, they’ll say one. If you read other commentaries bi-equally, good Bible scholars, they’ll say the other. You know what I think the answer is? I think it’s both. It’s written to both.

Sometimes in the lukewarm condition of the church, you can’t tell which people are. So whichever condition you’re in, repent.

Here’s another question that surfaces: Is He speaking to the church as a whole, or is He speaking to individuals within the church?

Again, you’ll read commentators that take one or the other position, and having studied these, pondered this, meditated on this, I think, again, the answer is: Yes. He’s speaking to both. He’s speaking to lukewarm churches and lukewarm believers or lukewarm church members because lukewarm churches are made up of lukewarm church members. And lukewarm church members produce lukewarm churches. So it’s the church that needs to repent, and it’s the individuals within the church who need to repent.

Jesus is standing at the door of the church, knocking. He’s pleading with the church to corporately repent of its lukewarmness, to renew its passion for Christ, to become an effective witness in a pagan world. But He’s also standing at the door of individual’s hearts, knocking, appealing to every lukewarm church member to get honest, to repent, and to become a zealous, hot-hearted believer.

Our response to His plea, our response to His invitation demonstrates whether we do, in fact, belong to Christ as we claim. If we are true believers, then we will do what He says to do here. We will be zealous, and we will repent.

Remember, His evaluation may seem severe. His prescription may seem harsh or hard, but it’s all out of love.

So He says, “Be zealous and repent.”

You don't accuse the doctor of being harsh and judgmental because he tells you the truth about your condition. You thank him for telling you the truth so that you can do something about it. We ought to be saying, "Thank You, Jesus, for loving us enough to tell us about our condition and what to do about it." If He didn't love us, He would let us go on as we are. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend." So He says, "Be zealous, and repent."

Then He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” Then one of the most famous verses in all of Scripture—“If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to Him and eat with him, and he with me” (v. 20).

Now, do you remember several sessions ago where we talked about the church in Philadelphia and Jesus said, “I have opened a door for you”? That was the church where Jesus said, “I have opened a door, you need to walk through it.” Now in Laodicea, Jesus is appealing to this church to open their door for Him.

We often hear this verse used as an invitation to lost sinners, and I think it works very well as an invitation to lost sinners. But I want to suggest it’s a broader invitation. It’s not just for lost sinners. It’s for believers as well. It’s for individual believers. It’s for churches. It’s for us individually and collectively, the call to open the door and respond to Christ.

Now, several things stand out to me, several observations in this invitation.

First of all is just the obvious fact that Christ is standing—where? Outside His own church. What’s wrong with that picture? How tragic is that? None of us wants to stay where we’re not welcome, and Jesus doesn’t want to stay where He’s not welcome. So when other things take center stage in our lives, when we become consumed with temporal priorities, we drive Him out.

We drive Him out of our lives—not that we can lose our salvation—but we drive Him out of the center sphere of our lives. We marginalize Him in our lives and in our churches.

Then it strikes me that the one doing the initiating here is Jesus. He doesn’t turn away from this lukewarm church that disgusts Him—“You nauseate Me” is in effect what He has said. He doesn’t turn away from them as we are prone to do when there are believers or churches that we find disgusting, doing disgusting things. He doesn’t turn away from them. He draws near to them. He approaches them. He initiates relationship with them.

Oh the longsuffering heart of Christ. Though we have edged Him out of our lives and our churches at times, what does He do? He pursues us, and He keeps pursuing.

I’m reminded that if He did not pursue our hearts, if He left us to ourselves, we would never pursue Him. We wouldn’t come knocking at His door if He didn’t come first knocking at our door.

We're the ones who should be standing at the door—He is the door, and He's told us to knock. We should be knocking at His door. But He condescends to come and stand at our door and knock.

Notice that He doesn’t compel us. He doesn’t barrel His way in. He doesn’t force His way in. He seeks admission. He doesn’t demand an entrance.

What a Savior!

He will reprove. He will chasten. He can create motivation for us to open the door, but we’re the ones who have to do that.

It also strikes me here—this maybe seems very obvious—but I think it’s worth stating that it’s not too late to repent.

As bad a condition this church is in, in spite of the fact that there is nothing worth commending about this church, there’s nothing praise worthy that He finds to point out about this church, there is still grace available.

We have a great redeeming, reconciling God who is making all things new. It’s not too late for His church. It’s not too late for you. It’s not too late for your family, for that son or daughter, that person you love who is ruining their life; that person who is living in lukewarmness, not hot, not cold, stranded in the middle there who nauseates Jesus. It’s not too late for them to repent.

If you’re in that condition, it’s not too late for you to repent. He’s still standing, still knocking, still asking admission.

So He stands at the door of the church, the door of the individual life. He knocks, and He says, “If anyone hears my voice.” That’s a personal invitation. That’s an individual invitation. Christ knocks at the door of His church. He wants to enter His church, but He appeals for anyone to invite Him in.

How does He stand? How does He knock? He does it by His providences. He does it by His Spirit. He does it by His Word. "If anyone hears My voice . . ." How do you hear His voice? You get into this Book, and you get this Book into you! And God speaks to you. There is nothing mythical here. There's nothing magical. There is no audible voice required.

God has spoken to us in these last days through His Son and through His Word. He draws our hearts to Himself. He calls for true believers to renew our fellowship with Him that we have lost because we have marginalized Him. We have become complacent and self-satisfied.

And He calls for unregenerate church members who are playing church to repent and to believe the gospel and to make their profession genuine.

So He stands at the door of the church, the door of individuals, and He says, "If anyone hears My voice." That's a personal invitation. That's an individual invitation. Christ knocks on the door of His Church and He wants to enter in, but He appeals for any one to invite Him in.

The implication is: Don’t wait for your church to respond to Christ. You respond. Don’t wait for everyone else to get right with God. You get right with God.

The Church opens its door to Christ by individual members opening their heart to Christ. The church will only be made right as individuals are made right.

I saw this because I know that many who have been listeners of Revive Our Hearts share my burden for the Church in this country. But sometimes it’s easy to look at our burden for the Church and step over or neglect Christ’s concern for our own life.

He says, “If anyone hears My voice—if you hear My voice—open the door. I will come into your church. I’ll come into you. I’ll come into the midst. I will re-engage.”

So what’s the appropriate response? Open the door; open the door. That means to acknowledge Him, to welcome Him, to let Him in, to yield control to Him, to give Him His rightful place.

Our response to His invitation reveals our true heart condition. If we are really His children, we’ll open the door. We’ll say, “Lord, I want more of You. I want You to come in. I want You to have Your way in my life. I want to be filled with You.”

If we’re not His children, we’ll delay. We’ll make excuses. We’ll have other priorities. We’ll be distracted or too busy or have diversion that will keep us from letting Him come in.

If we open the door to Him, His promise is that we will not be disappointed. He says, “I will come in to him. I won’t let him down. I will eat with him and he with Me.”

That word eat comes from a Greek word that has to do with the main evening meal. It’s not a hurried snack. It’s not just a quick stop by. It’s not a fast food restaurant. This is an unhurried, leisurely meal where you sit and visit and talk with each other. It’s a picture of intimate fellowship. That’s what He wants with you and me. That’s what He wants with His Church. The great thing about Jesus is, He brings the meal.

Remember when He did that in John 21? Remember what He said to His disciples? This is after His resurrection. They were out fishing, and He’s standing on the shore. He says, “Have you any food?” When they got to shore, they found out that Jesus had already somehow miraculously brought a catch of fish and grilled them on the shore there (see vv. 1–14).

He gives us Himself to eat.

You say, “That sounds strange.”

Well, that’s what John 6 says: “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him” (v. 56).

We feast on Christ, the Living Bread, the Living Water, the Bread from heaven, the One who satisfies our starving souls.

This dinner, this meal that we enjoy together is something that will be consummated at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb of which the Lord’s Supper is a foretaste that we enjoy as we celebrate together our crucified, risen Savior.

Leslie: Don’t you want to have that kind of a relationship with Jesus?

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been showing us why repentance is such a positive word. When you repent, you move toward a deeper, satisfying relationship with God.

Reproof and repentance aren’t very user-friendly concepts these days. But if you appreciate Nancy’s honest approach to some challenging biblical text, I hope you’ll get a copy of this entire series on CD. It’s called "The Cure for a Lukewarm Faith." Order that at ReviveOurHearts.com.

This series is a great example of the kind of helpful teaching I enjoy hearing on Revive Our Hearts. My knowledge of the Bible has deepened. My attitudes have changed, and my walk with God has grown as a result of listening to Revive Our Hearts.

Do you feel the same way? Those results are possible thanks to listeners who pray for Revive Our Hearts and support the ministry financially.

When you support the ministry with a gift of any amount, we’ll show our thanks by sending you the 2018 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar. The theme is “The Truth That Sets Us Free.” So each month you’ll get encouragement to set your heart on the truth. The artwork illustrates these concepts beautifully. I hope you’ll see an example for yourself at ReviveOurHearts.com. That’s also where you can donate and ask for your calendar, or call and ask for the wall calendar. The number is 1–800–569–5959. 

Members of the troubled church in Laodicea were invited to sit on the throne of Jesus. Nancy says this is very surprising. Find out why, tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you walk in genuine, joyful repentance. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

 

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