Last week I promised mud
The large medical center focused on natural cures and attracted people from all over the region and beyond. The hot springs provided aching joints with a natural hot tub while the volcanically heated mud slathered all over the body did everything from make the skin feel soft to drying out skin related diseases. The rich and famous went for spa treatments, the afflicted went for relief and remedy.
But it was the eye clinic that was the main claim to fame. People with diseases of the eye came from all over to have a salve made of that water and mud applied to the eyes, pulling impurities, drainage, and disease so the patients could see clearly once again.
The water piped to town from the hot springs cooled down a little over the distance, but was still too hot to drink, yet too cool to be directly used in cooking. So both the cook and the thirsty found the water unsatisfactory for immediate use, but it could be used to induce vomiting.
This was the first century city of Laodicea, which explains why Jesus used expressions like “because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth”, and: “anoint your eyes with eye salve that you may see”. (Revelation 3:14-22)
Keep in mind Jesus said this to the apostle John somewhere either side of 100 AD. Paul and Peter have been dead some 35 years. The New Testament has been written with John’s writings added around this time.
Gnosticism was a genuine threat to the true and balanced faith. Gnosticism believed in a sloppy grace without accountability. They believed the body to be of the earth, therefore temporary, and essentially evil. They taught a Christian could live however they wanted as long as they believed, they would still go to heaven.
The hard core proponents believed Jesus wasn’t literally raised from the dead, but only spiritually so, therefore all had ‘Christ in us’ and as long as you were ‘a spiritual person’ you would still go to heaven no matter how you lived on earth.
Yet in the midst of this Jesus appears to John and tells the church at Sardis some were in danger of their names being erased out of the Book of the Living, and tells those in Laodecia they were in danger of being vomited out of the Lord’s mouth – with the same promise to both if they repent: Sitting down with Jesus and the Father in heaven.
What was the sin of Laodecia? “Because you say ‘I am rich and increased with possessions, and say you have need of nothing….” Yet the Lord continues: “…and you don’t know that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white clothing that the shame of your nakedness not be exposed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve that you may see…as many as I love I rebuke; be zealous therefore and repent…”
Spiritually, they were naked
Notice they did not have white garments – they weren’t righteous before Him. They were so caught up in themselves they thought they knew what being a believer was all about. But they weren’t willing to be challenged in life – they were rich, had many possessions – and thought that was what being a Christian was about. Yet they were in danger of having their nakedness exposed to the world to see.
They were no longer righteous before the Lord, and spiritually blind. The gold tried in fire according to Paul’s instructions in I Corinthians 3:1-11, have to do with growing in character to be more Christ-like; laying aside envy, strife, divisions, and in more detail in Galatians 5:17-25, have to do with developing the fruit of the spirit by the Spirit.
To Jesus, believers who are caught up in themselves and focused on physical possessions are lukewarm and are in danger of being vomited out His mouth unless they repent, and focus on what is truly important; growing as a person to be more Christ-like, which flows from a desire to sit down with Jesus and the Father in the kingdom.
Matthew 22:1-14 is the parable of the marriage feast
You’ll recall many were invited, but few called to the marriage feast came – most ignored the invitation. So the Father of the Groom invited everyone, bad and good, each being given a wedding garment as a symbol of righteousness. But there was a man there who did not have his wedding garment, and asked about it: “And he was speechless”. He was thrown out to “outer darkness where there is crying and gnashing of teeth.” (v12-14)
Notice the man was speechless. Psalm 107:2 and Romans 10:9-10 say ‘let the redeemed of the Lord say so’ and that it is with the mouth confession is made to salvation. Yet this man was speechless because he wasn’t saved. He was invited and he thought he could slip in without righteousness as the Father of the Groom defined being properly clothed for the wedding feast.
He had been invited, but wasn’t righteous by his own decision. He had responded to the invitation, and tried to go to the wedding feast of his own efforts, but wasn’t clothed in the white clothing of the wedding feast.
Over the past 7 weeks I’ve examined the question of “Once saved always saved?“, seeing how all creation is accountable for its actions; from Lucifer starting a war in heaven and being held accountable, to the physical universe where every action gets an equal and opposite reaction, to people reaping what they’ve sown, to every person at some point standing before the Lord to give account of their lives.
I’ve covered the decision a mature believer may make if they decide to reject the Lord that once saved them, to the last 2 weeks talking about small decisions a person makes that add up to the rejection of the Lord.
In the end, each person’s walk with the Lord is between them and Jesus. Only they know where they stand. While it is right and proper that we judge the fruit of a person’s life, we cannot judge where their heart is with the Lord. That said, we seem to live in an age similar to Laodecia and Sardis. Some believer’s “fruit” is their focus on self and being surrounded with material things thinking that is God, while to Jesus they are unrighteous, blind, naked, and miserable.
Some seem to be like Sardis that I covered last week, spiritually asleep and the things of God and perhaps Jesus Himself, will come to them as a thief in the night. I didn’t share last week an historical note about Sardis. When threatened the residents ran to the high cliffs the city was built against. There was only a narrow path up the cliff that could not be seen from the ground, and the city was only conquered twice in it’s history, centuries apart.
Both times the residents were sound asleep, the enemy having found the secret path up the cliff by observing once a man throwing the garbage out from it, and another time a soldier dropping his helmet and going down the path to retrieve it – both times centuries apart witnessed by sentries in opposing armies. But the residents never knew they were no longer safe and secure because they were asleep in their pride and arrogance.
I wonder though separated by centuries from our brothers and sisters in Sardis and Laodecia, if there aren’t some in our time in the same spiritual condition as they; asleep in the Light, or focused on self and material things. Since Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and always, it seems apparent some are probably in the same danger of losing their salvation. But that’s their story, and only they and Jesus know the answer.
Next week a new subject; some thoughts on the abuse of grace, and related to what the Lord told the Laodecian’s, that the shame of their nakedness is on the verge of being exposed. What does that mean?