October 1, 2008

Praying in Laodicea, Part 4

In our pursuit to learn how to pray during the Laodicean Church Age, we have explored John’s documentation of Laodicea found in Revelation 3 and the Church’s interpretation of Laodicea throughout Church history. We are now in the process of discovering today’s manifestation of Laodicea. In Part One, we saw that Jesus’ appearance to this church as the true witness was in stark contrast to the church’s repeated embracing of lies. The Philadelphian Church became the Laodicean Church by believing the lie that success is preeminent. Embracing one lie always leads to embracing another. The Scriptural term for this accumulation of lies is iniquity. The Laodicean Church’s iniquity is daily increased by its reception of the world’s ways.

Today’s Manifestation of Laodicea

Part Two: The Reception of Laodicea

Jesus’ words to the Laodicean Church found in Revelation 3:15,16 are straightforward and clearly reveal His dissatisfaction with its members and their labor: I know thy works that thou are neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. The surrounding area near the historic city of Laodicea was known for its therapeutic natural hot springs and cold springs, but the city of Laodicea had neither to offer. Its natural flowing water was tepid and polluted with sulfur. It was nauseating to anyone who attempted to drink it. Jesus chose this city to reveal a profound characteristic of the Church during its last days on earth.

In this passage, the Greek word interpreted as “cold” denotes a reduction of temperature by evaporation. Jesus is describing those who have become apathetic because they have lost the passion they once had. The Greek word interpreted as “hot” indicates a movement toward boiling. Our word “zest” is a derivative of that Greek word. Jesus is describing those who have a zeal for Him and His truth. The Greek word interpreted “lukewarm” denotes a reflection of the environmental temperature. When Jesus calls the Laodicean Church lukewarm, He is not saying the church is apathetic, as is often taught. He communicated that concept by using the word “cold”. When He uses the word “lukewarm” He is saying that the church reflects the climate of the world around it. Hence, the Laodicean Church is the culture-sensitive church. It is the church that so embraces the lies of the culture that it has no distinction from its environment. By its environmental standards, it has need of nothing! Yet it nauseates the Lord. According to Jesus’ words, He would prefer the cold, dead life-style and worship of a church which has lost the passion it once had to the life-style and worship of the culture-sensitive church! Those are certainly not pleasant words to the church that has need of nothing!

Paul warned the believers in Romans 12:2 not to be conformed to the world. In his notes on this verse, Kenneth Wuest says that the word “conformed” means masquerading an outward appearance that does not come from within nor is representative of what is within. He contends that “the modernism of your appearance nullifies the fundamentalism of your doctrine.” In other words, when a church takes on the appearance of the culture in which it resides, it nullifies the truths it claims. When a church employs the structure of the world’s educational system, the methods of the world’s businesses, and the entertainment of the world’s stars, the church is actually denying the truths it preaches concerning holiness and separation. The Greek word Paul used that is interpreted “world” means age or time. Paul is saying that we should neither adjust ourselves, our church structure and methods, nor our worship to the age or time in which we live.

In our youth, we were constantly being challenged not to be conformed to the world. At our camp meetings, we were challenged to burn any items that we possessed that connected us with the world’s value system. The separation in our lives guaranteed that the members of our youth group were not also the popular “in” group at school. But when we went to seminary and encountered people from outside the “Bible-Belt”, we met plenty of seminary students who dressed in and possessed many of those items we were challenged to burn. Our eyes were opened to the opportunity to be believers and to be popular in secular settings at the same time. We did not know then what we realize now: We were being invited to change our church membership from the church at Philadelphia to the church at Laodicea. The success and acceptance was tempting, but the leanness to our souls that such a change would bring served as a barrier. Sadly, when we returned to our “Bible-Belt” home, progressiveness had reached our own church. The phrase “being worldly” is a foreign concept now in almost all of our churches. Pastors enjoy their own worldliness and community prestige far too much to speak against it.

Contemporary (meaning “with the times”) and progressive are popular words in the Laodicean Church. Both words are synonymous with being conformed to the world. From the days of Adam’s children the earth has been inhabited by two kingdoms: the progressive kingdom of the world and the stable kingdom of God. In Genesis 4:16-24 Cain left the presence of God and built a city named after his son. His kingdom abounded and became a highly developed culture with advancing tools, entertainment, and sin. On the other hand, Adam’s children through his son Seth chose to call upon the name of the Lord. They did not seek an advanced culture, but were humble men who met the needs of their families through what God had created (Genesis 4:25-5:32). The advancing culture of Cain’s descendants so polluted the world that it became necessary for God to destroy them through the flood of Noah’s time. After the flood, a new kingdom of this world was developed. Nimrod, a man who became mighty in the earth and was an aggressive hunter against the Lord, was its leader (Genesis 10:8,9). His advancing culture became so evil that God found it necessary to destroy communication between the people to prevent the evil culture from permeating the whole earth (Genesis 11:1-9). God then established a covenant with Abraham for his descendants to be God’s kingdom on earth. God made them a special people and put them in a special place for His special purpose. He desired for all the nations of the world who would pass through the crossroads of Israel to see the life-style of His people and to embrace Him as their God. Sadly, instead of Israel impacting all who traveled through their land, they became enamored with the life-style and possessions of the progressive kingdom of the world. Their life-style became so polluted by the kingdom of the world that God set them aside and chose the Church to be His kingdom on the earth. Jesus prayed that His Church would not be of the world, even though they were left in the world (John 17). Yet his assessment of the Laodicean Church was that it had also become polluted by the progressive culture of the kingdom of the world. The sad thing is those within the church do not even know it. Yet on the positive side, the Lord still has His remnant: those who will hear His voice, open the door, and sup with Him. That is “praying in Laodicea.”

Perfect Your Praying In Laodicea

God’s Word Says:

Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16

Note: We have been chosen by the Lord to stand at a most unusual time in the history of the Church. In our midst we have a very few elderly believers who have been impacted by the God-pleasing Philadelphian Church Age and those who have been impacted by Philadelphian literature. However, we also have in our midst the ever-increasing, God-nauseating, worldly Laodicean Church. Just as their descriptions would imply, these church members are at odds with one another. The elderly are labeled as those who resist change. We have even been in a conference where the pastors were told to leave the elderly in their dead churches and let them die off! It is not unusual to hear that styles and methods do not matter, that the most important thing is to reach this new generation that thinks and learns differently. Oh, that God would increase those who will stand in the ways, and see.

Tell God:
The ways in which you have sought to be contemporary and progressive.
The ways in which you have shown disrespect for the elderly in your life.
Ask God:
To give you the discernment to see the difference between the Philadelphian and Laodicean Churches.
To show you what you can do to encourage your church to be Philadelphian.
To give you freedom from your drive to be conformed to the world.
To show you specific steps to take to walk in the old paths.
To guide you to an elderly person who can impact your life through conversations about living in the Philadelphian Church Age.

Christ's bondservant,
Rob Finley

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