In this last of the series I share judgements of the Lord in the lives of Christians that do not lead to death. Today I'll share how the Lord exposes secret sin or secret impurities in our hearts if we won't deal with them privately between Him and us. Next week I start a series naturally related to this one; When do we cut off fellowship with someone? But for today...
Laodecia is mentioned in Revelation 3. The city had important financial and medical centers and was very rich. To give you an idea how wealthy, after the city was destroyed by an earthquake in the year 60 AD, about 40 years before The Revelation was written, citizens rebuilt the city from their own wealth, refusing federal money from Rome. Can you imagine any city today, leveled by an earthquake but being wealthy enough the citizens could rebuild it bigger and better out of their own bank accounts? They were rich.
They had a lot of health clinics, especially eye clinics, because of thermal springs outside of town. People came from all over the Roman Empire to soak in the naturally hot water, have mud baths, and from these eye salves were made and applied to diseased eyes.
The city got its water from these hot springs via an aqueduct. But the arriving water was too hot to be able to drink right away, yet too cool to immediately be used in cooking - it had to either cool down or be heated up to be useful for anything - it was lukewarm.
Jesus, always wanting to make His teaching understandable, refers to this when He addresses them:
"I know your life and that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth! (Why?) Because you say, 'I am rich. I have prospered and grown wealthy. I have need of nothing.'
But you don't realize you are actually wretched, pitiable, poor, and blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy me gold tried in the fire, that you may be truly wealthy, and white clothes to clothe you to keep the shame of your nudity from being seen, and put salve on your eyes that you may see.
Those who I love, I tell their faults to and convict and convince them, and reprove and chasten them. So be enthusiastic and in earnest and with burning zeal repent (change your mind and attitude). I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to my voice and heeds what I say and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he eat with Me..." (Revelation 3:14-22, Amplified Version)
Lukewarm; a Christian near you!
Being lukewarm isn't that you can't work up the same level of emotion at pastor's messages. It isn't being bored with morning scripture reading. It is spiritual blindness brought on by self-deceit which focuses on money and outward appearance, thinking prosperity is the badge of God's blessing and that you have need of nothing. That is how Jesus defined being lukewarm in this passage.
Of greater interest to my topic today is the phrase, "Buy me gold tried in the fire that you may be truly wealthy and clothe you, to keep the shame of your nudity from being seen." Their nudity is not physical, but spiritual - they aren't righteous before Him in this area. Revelation 19:7-8 says 'the bride has made herself ready, and to her was given fine linen, clean and white, for fine linen is the righteousness of saints.'
Unfortunately we are raised to think a person is either 100% in right standing before God, or 100% not in right standing before God. But not a single one of us is perfect, which means we can be 100% righteous in some areas, but maybe in 1 or 2 or more areas we are unrighteous.
A matter of degrees
Perhaps an otherwise mature believer holds onto unforgiveness against a sibling for something they did 10 years earlier. That person is right before the Lord in every other area - growing in love, in knowledge, and so on - except for that 1 area concerning their sibling. And it is that 1 area the Lord will deal with. That 1 area is the wood, hay and stubble that will be burned away at judgement if not dealt with. But that 1 area doesn't send a person to hell - it just means in that one area they aren't right before God.
To put it in natural terms - you may have an immature son or daughter who say, continually forgets to keep their room neat or forgets to empty the trash or breaks curfew you set for them, but you don't kick them out of the family for their immaturity in that 1 or 2 areas. In other areas they are the model child, so you overlook and try to work on the shortcomings of character while accepting whole heartedly that which is good and mature in them. Same with the Father and Lord.
The great graciousness of God is often mistaken as a stamp of approval on a person's life. A back-biting person in church may be blessed in every other area of life, and the person wronged may think something like; "Well, the Lord is blessing them in the rest of their life, so it must be me instead of them." or "That minister may be a drunk and adulterer, but his meetings are sure anointed so God must be OK with him."
Not understanding God honors any part of His Word even a donkey might utter, Him healing someone is not a stamp of approval on the donkey that talks. Someone may think 'God is blessing the whole package'. Wrong. He is so good He blesses what He can, and because He is discreet, He keeps the matters He is trying to deal with in that person's heart, confidential - for now.
At this point their unrighteousness in an area is between Him and them only - unseen by human eyes, a private issue in the heart of the believer that Jesus doesn't want to make public. But He threatens to expose their unrighteousness to others if they don't repent. (I'll talk about this 'matter of degrees' in next month's cd/MP3 series, so stay tuned)
A person's unrighteousness exposed
Some of you will remember the Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker scandals of the 1980's. Jim was convicted of financial crimes though an affair with a secretary was also exposed. Swaggart was caught with a prostitute and admitted he had battled porn since he was a teenager, if memory serves.
In recent years Ted Haggard's battle with homosexuality was made public, and Todd Bentley's excessive drinking, affair, and marriage to his children's nanny were made public.
Coming to a church or family near you
I'm sure in your area you know of churches rocked by scandals and affairs made public.
When these things become public knowledge in the body of Christ it is the Lord Jesus exposing the nakedness - unrighteousness - of people who refused to judge themselves from perhaps even years earlier, so He had to step in as the Great Shepherd and give them the opportunity to repent and 'buy gold tried in the fire that you may be clothed' ('with fine linen clean and white which is righteousness...').
On a family level, this can include things like a credit card company being allowed to cut off credit to a person - because they would not earlier deal with their lust of buying things and control themselves, so the shame of their nakedness in this part of their lives was allowed to be exposed.
Often we hear of unfaithfulness in marriage and wonder how it could happen to 'that couple' that seemed so solid in the faith - but there were private issues between the Lord and one spouse or the other's heart (or both) that the Lord tried to get them to deal with while still private in the heart, probably for years.
Did He cause the affair?
Of course not. Did He try to get them to deal with it before a fantasy of lust became a reality that destroyed the family? Yes! If a person insists on continuing in sin the Lord will allow them to go to that next level of sin - they are free willed people after all - but He will use that as a means of judgement, allowing their unrighteousness in that area to become public, to their shame and embarassment.
Over the years I've seen fraud exposed many times. This ranges from the person getting a government pension because they claim an injury, only to have an investigator discover them doing all sorts of physical activity they said they can't do, to people under reporting income so they can take advantage of the system that underwrites their support or housing, to the various Christian get-rich-quick schemes that either collapse or investors eventually discover to be a scam.
When they get exposed for what they are, the Lord allowed it to provide an opportunity for the people to judge themselves and grow in Him - He had to allow it because they would not deal with it privately.
Peter told the Roman household of Cornelius that God is the judge of the living and the dead. It isn't just that we die and are then judged, He is the judge of the living too. He is active today doing what He threatened the Laodecian believers with: Exposing their sin to others and/or the public if they won't deal with it privately. Some people teach all is grace, there is no sin, there is no accountability. But this and elsewhere says He judges the living and the dead - and I think all reading this are still alive...
In Acts 8:9-23 a (former) sorcerer named Simon believes in Jesus and is baptized in water. When Simon sees the apostles laying hands on the new believers and them receiving the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues, he tries to give Peter and John money so he too can give the Holy Spirit.
This linking of giving money to get the Holy Spirit, thinking the anointing or things of the Spirit may be secured by an offering, is abominable before God, and Peter and John. Yet it is common practice today.
The Holy Spirit actually withdraws from such practice, leaving the leaders and people having to substitute emotion for the Presence, which leads to twisting scripture into their own interpretation, and the remaking of God into their own image that He might serve them and their lusts, rather than them seeking to be made into His image as His servants.
In fact, the Holy Spirit that Simon thinks he can purchase, is denied: "You have no part in this matter* for your heart is not right before God." Peter then had a manifestation of the discerning of spirits, telling Simon in v23 he was actually bound in bitterness and sin. (*matter is the Greek word 'logos', or word. "You have no part in this word", ie tongues)
Out of space here...but...
This subject is much larger than what I can write here, so in September mid-month I'm doing a cd/MP3 series on how and why the Lord judges His people - But I've run out of room for today, so must close. Next week I'll start a related subject - how do we know when to cut off fellowship with someone? The answers may surprise you...until then, blessings!
(NOTE: I will be out of the office September 4-18. I will return emails and calls after the 18th)
www.cwowi.org and email me at cwowi AT aol.com