We’re about to conclude our look at the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, as we finish thinking about the letter to Laodicea. Over the past two days, we saw how the Laodicean church was useless because they were self-reliant. In applying this, the focus yesterday was on self-reliance in ministry. Today, we begin with self-reliance in life.
Self-reliance in life
The context of this letter was probably usefulness for ministry; for kingdom work. So that’s why we’ve spent some time yesterday thinking about that. How our self-reliance can make us useless for the kingdom. But I think it’s also legitimate to broaden it to other areas of life. Especially things like our finances and our families.
For example, a couple of years ago my wife and I finally became the proud owners of a mortgage. (It took us a while, but we finally got there.) And as we entered into that, it was right for us to count the cost; to work out what we could afford to repay. We’d have been foolish not to. But the challenge for me as a Christian is not to put my trust in my ability to repay – the fact that my job is pretty secure in the current climate, and the various “Plan B” options we might have if things go a little wrong. The challenge is to keep my trust firmly in God’s ability to provide. Not mine.
For those of you in or facing retirement. I’m sure the temptation is to put your trust in the size of your super fund (it may be a little shaky after the movements of recent weeks!) instead of trusting in God’s loving provision for his children.
For any of us concerned about our future health, particularly as we get older: I know it’s tempting to trust in our health system, and the promise of great medical advances in the near future – rather than trusting God’s ability to heal; and his ability to sustain in the midst of suffering.
When it comes to our family, we can focus on our ability to be good parents. And perhaps be confident, or perhaps not, depending on how you rate yourself. Because that’s the message our society sends us. As long as we’ve used folate supplements since we decided to try to conceive; played Mozart to them in the womb; breastfed as long as possible; read to them each night; not been workaholics so we can spend more than the alleged average of 11 minutes a day interacting with them but still worked hard enough to afford to send them to a private school – then they’ll turn out fine!
Whereas a truly Christian worldview would shift the focus of our trust off ourselves, and what we do. And onto God. Calling on him to perform the same miracle of salvation in our kids’ lives that he performed in ours.
That’s what Christian parenthood is all about. That’s what Christian ministry is all about. Being God-reliant, not self-reliant.
Behold I stand at the door and knock
Anyway, that was the “diagnosis” part of the letter to Laodicea. Jesus says that if you’re self-reliant, you’re useless to God and his kingdom. And the prognosis, if unchecked, is not good.3:16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
Yet as well as this rather frightening prognosis, there’s also a treatment Jesus recommends. A healthy dose of repentance.3:19-20 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
Remember last week, in the letter to the Philadelphians, there was a door there, too.3:8a See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.
This was an open door before the Philadelphians; they have been faithful to God, and will be let in to his presence; his temple. Do you see the contrast between this image, and the one here in the letter to the Laodiceans? Here, the door is closed – and it’s Jesus on the outside knocking, waiting to be let in. Through self-reliance, they’ve shut Jesus out of their church.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Jesus is still knocking. He wants to come in and eat with them. In the first century, even more so than today, sharing a meal was a sign of intimacy. Jesus again wants to be in their church; in their lives. Supplying their every need, as they place their trust in him.
And he ends with a promise to those who do repent, who do conquer the human tendency to self-reliance.3:21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.
To think about
As we contemplate the object of our faith – ourselves, or our God; as we think about whether we have become useless to God through self-reliance; let’s make some time today for reflection and repentance, if need be. Hearing the sound of Jesus knocking, asking to be let back in to the centre of our lives. As the source of our life. Our ministry. Our church. Reminding us that our focus is not to be on how far up the mountain we’ve managed to climb; but on the God who made the mountains in the first place.