“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…Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:17, 20)
These words were spoken by the Lord Jesus through His servant John to the Assembly at Laodicea. The word “Laodicea” literally means “the opinions of the people” or “people’s opinions.” In many churches within wider Christendom today you have men’s opinions replacing the plain and unadulterated Word of the Living God as the final authority in all matters pertaining to Biblical doctrine and living. There are some who say doctrine is not important, however, what we believe will effect what we say and do. Paul writing to Timothy says; “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1Timothy 4:16) C.H. Spurgeon said; “The Word of God is the iron anvil upon which the hammers of men’s opinions are smashed.”
Re-contextualize not re-define
It is one thing to re-contextualize the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom but something else to re-define the Gospel of the Kingdom. For example a missionary preaching the gospel to people on a tropical island re-contextualises the text which says, ”Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be white as snow” and changes it to “though your sins be as scarlet they shall be white as coconut.” The Island people had never seen snow but they ate cocoanuts all the time and knew they were white inside. The missionary had re-contextualised the gospel message without changing it. If he had preached any other message of salvation other than that which comes through the atoning death, the blood and the merits of the Lord Jesus alone received and acted upon by faith, then that missionary would have been re-defining the gospel. Re-contextualising the gospel of the Kingdom is okay but re-defining it is not okay! The Gospel of the Kingdom is being re-defined in many churches within wider Christendom today. This is the mark of a lukewarm church, one that has lost its passion and zeal for God, for the Lord Jesus, for the power of the Holy Spirit, for the absolute and final authority of the Word of God and for the salvation of souls. How then is it being re-defined in many churches today?
What then are the marks of Laodicea or of a Laodicean Church?
1. Its Instamatic:
This is the mentality that we must have it all now. Many today crave to see instantaneous signs, miracles and wonders and have instant spiritual ‘fixes’ of one sort or another but know very little if nothing about the text that says we are to “imitate (mimic) those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:12) Faith and patience are required. Not everything in the Christian life is spiritually instantaneous. Sometimes there is a long waiting period between the “yes” and the “Amen.” Faith is grown and matured through difficult situations and through trusting God’s Word when things in the natural have not changed. We read in the Book of Hebrews that; “By faith Moses left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:27) As we also read; “But if we hope for what we do not yet see, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:25)
Sometimes God says “yes” and sometimes He says “No” and sometimes He says “wait.” While the Lord Jesus does do instantaneous healings and answers to prayer today for the most part it is a process of faith, patience and endurance knowing that “shall not the judge of all the earth do right.” We must always leave room for the sovereignty of God. Added to this we know that the Lord Jesus is “the same yesterday, today and forever!” and that what He did in the Bible He can do today!
2. Its Media Driven:
There are many ‘ministries’ today on Television and on the internet that are ‘peddling’ the Word of God for profit. They offer people instant answers and solutions to their problems and are always appealing for money. Many preachers love to be before the cameras to promote their CD’s and books. One cannot help but sense that in many cases it is all about money, prestige and power. While there is a place for genuine advertising and promotion of Biblically centred and sound ministries there is no room for ‘showmanship’ which many convey in their misguided zeal to promote themselves, their ministries and their products. Many end up believing their own publicity. The media itself is a very useful tool in seeing souls saved and saints sanctified but also one of Satan’s chief avenues for spiritual deception today. Satan is called “the prince of the power of the air” and the Greek word used for “air” is the atmosphere just above the surface of the earth where the television, radio and internet waves travel. It is his domain and primary sphere and mode of operation.
3. Its Psychologized:
Today there are those ministers and church leaders who psychologize the Word of God. In effect they are trying to make the Bible fit human psychology. For many into human based psychology the Bible is used as a prop if the text agrees with their ‘theory.’ Many propagate ‘feel-good’ psychotherapy rather than the Word of God. They give people what will make them happy psychology. Many emotional and mental problems today are spiritual problems. While mental sickness is a fact of our fallen world there are many without and within Christendom whose problem is a spiritual one.
God’s psychology is the Book of Proverbs. God’s wisdom is the very best wisdom we can have. As it is written; “My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; Keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them And health to all their body.” (Proverbs 4:20-22) many pastors today are trying to deal with people’s problems and find it is like chopping off branches but not getting down to the roots. For many their mental and emotional problem is in reality a spiritual problem because “The human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately evil (beyond cure) and who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Of course there needs to be discernment in such matters. This is a gift of the Holy Spirit that is greatly needed in the wider Body of the messiah today!
4. Its Multi-faith or Ecumenical:
These days we have interfaith conferences between professing Christians with those of other faiths. The Roman Catholic Papacy is leading the way in this matter. All false religions have their idols and icons which they worship or venerate in some way or the other. The Bible tells us that the worship of idols is the worship of demons (Deuteronomy 32:16-17) (1 Corinthians 10:20) Whether it is a Buddhist bowing down to a statue of the Budda or a Roman Catholic bowing down to an image of a saint or the Virgin Mary or worshipping the bread and the wine on the altar of a Roman Catholic Church it is an act of idolatry and a violation of the first of the 10 Commandments. (Exodus 20:3-6) The primary issue is that those within wider Christendom that are into interfaith/ecumenical associations are denying the only way of salvation found in the uniqueness of the Lord Jesus by faith alone and the one who said; “I am the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the father unless he comes through Me.” (John 14:6) As Peter declares; “Salvation exists in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Any other gospel is accursed by God. As Paul writes; “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be under a divine curse! As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you embraced, let him be under a divine curse!” (Galatians 1:8-9) Cultural diversity in worship is a great thing provided the gospel preached is the one ordained by God in his Word. We can re-contextualise God’s Word but not re-define it! The Holy Spirit has not given any minister of the gospel the authority or right to change, to take away from, or to add to the Word of God! We have apostolic doctrine and authority in the New Testament. There is no ‘new doctrine’ but only a deeper understanding of what God has already said in His Word.
5. Its Existential:
Existentialism is the notion that whatever you believe about God is okay for you and you do not have the right to enforce it on others. There are no absolutes in existential thinking. The Bible is a matter of interpretation to an existentialist and exhibits a form of Gnosticism which denies the centrality of Salvation found only in the Lord Jesus alone. Often those into existential thinking ignore scripture in its context and in light of its co-texts. They will often try to make scripture fit into their thinking if they can while denying that the Bible in itself and in its entirety is absolute truth. Existentialism is a bedfellow with experiential subjective experience that overrides the plain teaching of the Word of God.
6. Its Experiential:
This is a church where more is placed on the importance of one’s subjective experience rather than on the Word of God. While dreams, revelations, visions and prophecies are Biblical they will always be subject to the Word of God. While God does guide through dreams and visions and through prophetic utterance the primary method He uses today is His Word the Bible. (Psalm 119:9-11, 18, 25, 37,49,89,97 -100,103-105, 130, 133) The Word of God is the spiritual instrument the Holy Spirit uses to anchor the soul especially when the strong and contrary winds of unsound Biblical doctrines, dreams and revelations inundate the local Body of the Messiah. There is an infestation of this ‘experiential theology’ within Christendom. While ones spiritual experience is unique it will always be endorsed and affirmed in some way by the Word of God. It is the same with dreams, visions and personal prophecies.
7. Its New Age:
This is another form of Gnosticism which practices things that are not endorsed by God’s Word and in some cases even demonic in nature. In one Church in California they have been involved in the practice of grave-soaking. This is where a Christian lays across the grave stone of a famous past evangelist or Bible teachers to draw up the anointing of the Spirit that rested on them when they were alive on earth. It is a form of necromancy or seeking in some way to communicate with the dead, a practice soundly condemned in scripture. One picture actually shows the wife of the pastor of this church lying prostrate on the grave stone of Smith Wigglesworth. Another practice of this church is the reading of tarot destiny cards where Christians seek to find out God’s will for those who want to know what He has planned for them in the future. It is a form of witchcraft fortune telling and also a practice soundly condemned in scripture.
Some years ago now we saw the laughing revival and it was clear that those involved were manifesting the same signs as those involved in Kundalini Yoga. The comparison is very clear when viewed simultaneously. The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of Self-Control not chaos! (2 Timothy 1:7) (Galatians 5:22) Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. When you see well known pastors and leaders, who should know better and Christian believers out of control, you know it is not the Holy Spirit. These days it is glory clouds, gold dust, falling feathers and who knows what other ‘manifestations’ that will immerge. The Lord Jesus Himself said; “A wicked and adulterous generation demands a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” (Matthew 16:4) In other words the sign of Jonah is the work of the cross He was referring to.
Many do not want to embrace the cross because of what it will mean for their life. Many there are that hunger and thirst after signs, miracles and wonders and manifestations that tickle the ears and fancies of those into them, but very few hunger and thirst after righteousness. Not all supernatural signs are from God; neither does a supernatural ministry validate ones sanctification. In the last century there was a man called William Branham, a man who was really gifted, but he denied the trinity and said publically that “it was of the devil.” Did God’s power really operate through this man?
Today we have showmen blowing on people and waving their coats over crowds and calling it the Holy Spirit or they are seen on TV advertising their so called ‘bottles of anointing oil’. Seeking signs, miracles and wonders is a mark of a Laodician Church. While gifts, miracles, signs, wonders, deeds of power and manifestations as revealed in the Bible have their place in the local assemblies of believers they are never substitutes for the solid and sound exposition of God’s Word. Signs follow the preaching of God’s Word they do not substitute for it. Sadly Spirit anointed expository preaching is a ‘dying art’ in many churches today. In some cases of extreme Charismania the leaders do not even know how to rightly divide the Word of God. They should go out and get a proper job. Those who are worthy of double honorarium (pay) are those who labour over and minister in and out of the Word of God. (1Timothy 5:17)
8. Its Marketing strategized:
Today Church growth is ‘the name of the game’ in many churches. Some think that if they only have the right ‘programme’ then they will bring in the people. Many churches are run like corporations and getting the right programme is all the rage in many of them. Whether it is Alpha or Purpose Driven it is not so much what they are saying but what they are not saying. Many wanting to feel better within themselves will readily embrace the idea of being loved by God and seek some emotional release of one sort or another, but not many embrace holiness, righteousness, judgement, sin and hell or the Second Coming of the Messiah. These kinds of subjects are not fashionable today in many churches. In some of the mega-churches it’s all hype and hysteria in some cases and mesmerising music and pop psychology with some Bible verses tossed in to make the message more palatable. Instead of “save yourselves from this crooked and perverse generation” it is “put your hand over your heart and ask Jesus into your life and things will be better and He will clean up your life.” No mention of repentance and humbling oneself before God and crying out to Him to have mercy on a wretched sinner and rebel.
When the Church has been going through a spiritual drought they always try to come up with something that will break it but nothing happens. The psalmist put it this way; “Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?” (Psalm 85:6) Seasons of spiritual refreshment from the presence of the LORD only come after repentance, not before it (Acts 3:19-20) any local assembly completely open to the Holy Spirit and His gifts will not have any problems bringing people in. The blessed Holy Spirit will give them the strategies He knows best that will do the job. He may use some programmes and music or some other method but at the end of the day it is a fact that “unless the LORD builds the house they labour in vain that seek to build it.”(Psalm 127:1) In the Book of Acts we read where the LORD added to the Church daily those who were being saved.” How many churches today see souls being saved on a daily basis? The message is what is important not the marketing strategy! As Paul writes; “For the Messiah did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with eloquent words of wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:17-18)
And again he writes; “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5) Did Paul have a marketing strategy for Church growth?
9. Its Mystical:
Mysticism is seen where Churches place more value on candles and icons and even relics and though these objects seek to touch God as it were through them. In many cases there is a belief that spiritual merit and power can be received through these things. Religious rituals of one sort or another are often the means by which some seek to approach God and by these rituals draw His divine power into themselves. Some will even fall into a trance like state of mind when praying and think that this will somehow bring them closer to God or in the process focusing their attention on a religious symbol or icon or statue. Within the sacramental Christendom many worship and bow down before the bread and the wine and worship it as the incarnate body and blood of the Lord Jesus expecting that by doing this they will receive a special impartation or bestowal of an ethereal spiritually divine substance which they call “grace.” Of course this is not the meaning of the word Grace in the New Testament. It is divine favour shown to sinners who do not deserve it, earn it or merit it in any way. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Now during communion the blessed Holy Spirit can and does minister to the saints in a special way but there is no spiritual merit in the elements of bread and wine itself. The danger with mysticism is that it can become a substitute for plain, down to earth, Biblical truth that needs to be embraced and obeyed to receive real spiritual blessing. Meditation is not mysticism. Meditation should always be focused on God’s Word not focused on ‘navel gazing’. The psalmist put it this way; “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or set foot on the path of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, yielding its fruit in season, whose leaf does not wither, and who prospers in all he does.” (Psalm 1:1-3) To meditate is to ‘chew the cud’ to chew on and digest the Word of God as a cow chews on the cud.
10. Its Post Modern:
Post Modernism is a bedfellow with Existentialism. Basically, a Post –modernist has no absolutes. It is the idea of “it works for me don’t criticize.” It makes allowances that there may be other ways to God apart from coming through the Lord Jesus alone. (John 14:6) It denies the absolute and final authority of scripture in all matters related to Christian doctrine and living. Those who are born again and know the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth and not error, know “that salvation exists in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by whom we must be saved.” That name of course is the Lord Jesus the anointed Messiah. Post Modernism denies this truth because it denies absolute truth concerning God, hence you see many churches within wider Christendom even entertaining interfaith associations. There is absolute truth concerning the way of salvation and it can only be found in the Lord Jesus and in His Word, the Bible and that being the instrument through which the Holy Spirit sets believers apart to God. (John 14:6) (John 17:16)
11. Its Prosperity Driven:
The names of those in the hyper faith prosperity camp are well known today whose doctrines mask covetousness. Prosperity, abundance and having things good in this world, marked the assembly at Laodicea. (Revelation 3:17) The problem was not the wealth itself but their attitude towards it and the results it had produced in their daily lives. Because of this abundance they had fallen into the trap of spiritual pride and in fact had been deceived into thinking that they were blessed by God because of the wealth they had. Luxury and wealth are very subtle enemies to spiritual growth and sanctification.
Paul writing to timothy says; “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1Timothy 6:6-10)
Those into hyper faith prosperity may have lots of money and have their designer clothing, jewellery, their jets and mansions but according to the Word of the LORD they have already hit the reef spiritually and are sinking into the depths of perdition and do not even know it. Such is the way of spiritual deception. Many are dancing on the dollars on the yellow brick road that is part and parcel of the Land of Oz with its glitz and glamour but what they do not realise is that at the end of the road they will not find the Wizard of Oz but someone more dark and sinister and terrifying to those who have served him.
These people are those who see godliness as a means to gain money. Most of these prosperity preachers actually preach another gospel which teaches that Jesus died spiritually and had to be born again in hell before the work of salvation was complete but this is a separate issue in itself and not the subject of this article. Those preaching faith prosperity a raking in the money know nothing of the life that has crucified the lusts of the flesh with its passions and desires.
Now God does bless and prosper his people but the main reason He dos is to get the finances needed to preach the gospel of the kingdom. This is the primary reason He prospers some believers. Actually philanthropy or generosity is a spiritual gift according to the Bible and God loves a hilarious giver! As Paul also writes; “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful (hilarious) giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7)
Having said this, the main purpose God has in granting prosperity to his servants is to confirm His Covenant namely that ultimate and perfect one which was cut in the blood of the Messiah our Lord Jesus. As it is written; “You may say in your heart, “The power and the strength of my hand have made this wealth for me.” But remember that it is the LORD your God who gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm His covenant that He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18)
The reality is that God cannot trust many men with prosperity but there are those who excel in the matter of giving and God takes care of them and their businesses. When you look at these wealthy hyper faith prosperity teachers “profiteering on the blood of the lamb” and “fleecing the gullible sheep” of their money what will they have to say to the LORD when they stand alone before Him one day after the stage lights are off and the television cameras have stopped filming? What will they have to say for themselves? Indeed all of us who love and follow the Lord Jesus need to keep in mind that we to will have to stand before the Lord Jesus to give an account to Him as to how we have lived and used the gifts He has given to us including how we have used our money.
There is a prayer to the LORD in the book of proverbs which is one of the best prayers to pray concerning this matter of wealth. Solomon wrote; “Keep falsehood and deceitful words far from me. Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the bread that is my portion. Otherwise, I may have too much and deny You, saying, “Who is the LORD?” Or I may become poor and steal, profaning the name of my God.”(Proverbs 30:8-9)
How then can the world be evangelised when we see these marks of a Laodician Church? What will it take today? The only place to look for the answer is the unchanging eternal Word of God the Bible.
The prophet Isaiah writes; “Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7)
God is calling the Church in the west to repent while He is near for the time will come when it will be too late. There must be a willingness within the fellowships to have the Lord change their thoughts and actions and to revise their thinking concerning evangelism and discipleship and a willingness to do things His way. There needs to be repentance of indolence and laziness in seeking to see souls saved and saints sanctified. There must be a willingness to throw out the false doctrines of the Word of Faith money preachers with their warped theology being a mask for covetousness. There must be a willingness to cry out to the blessed Holy Spirit to empower and to direct the daily affairs of the local assemblies as He did in the Book of Acts. There must be a willingness to put away any plan or programme that does not teach the whole counsel of God and a willingness to forsake any manifestations and practices that do not line up with the Word of God.
There must be a willingness to put away any sin and any weight that so easily besets the saints and a wholeheartedness as the community of God’s elect saints to love the LORD their God with all of their heart, with all of their soul, and with all of their mind, and with all of their strength and to love their neighbour as they love themselves. There must be a willingness to give God’s Word the centrality it merits in all matters of Christian doctrine, living and ministry and a willingness to rely totally upon the guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit and to move in his gifts.
There must be a forsaking of everything that defiles flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God and a returning to the LORD for mercy and abundant pardon. God pardons in abundance because He loves His people for whom His Son our Lord Jesus bled and died but He will not tolerate those things that go contrary to His Word. The secret to success in living the Christian life and in seeing the Church spiritually empowered is to have a fresh and continuous and daily personal relationship with the Lord Jesus and by keeping short accounts with Him. In this way being lukewarm will not be an issue. The Lord Jesus wants to come into many churches today. He is saying to them what he said to Laodicea…
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)
Many church fellowships today have an abundance of programmes and strategies for Church growth and financial stability and even wealth in some of the bigger fellowships but the Lord Jesus is on the outside. There is a famous painting of the Lord Jesus knocking on the door of a Church and the handle is on the inside of the door as there was no handle on the outside. He is pictured standing at the door knocking. This was the precise case with the assembly at Laodicea.
The one trait that had brought them spiritually undone was the fact that they were an assembly where people’s opinions mattered more than the plain teaching and revelation of the Word of God. They thought they were spiritually healthy when in fact they were spiritually sick and in danger of being vomited up by the Lord Jesus. Their wealth, ease and prosperity had dulled their spiritual senses and inoculated them against having a heart aflame with the love of God shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5:5)
They were loved by God but being rebuked by the Lord Jesus and about to be disciplined by Him. The Lord Jesus wanted to come into there in that city but they would not let Him in. He is saying to many churches today; “Let Me in and I will personally show you how to see souls saved and saints sanctified and how to disciple them…
…will you let me in?”