Good morning.  We are on the last Sunday of an eight-week series, where we’ve been studying the letters that Jesus writes, through the Apostle John, to the churches in the book of Revelation (chapters 2 and 3).  This final letter is written to the church at Laodicea.  Open your Bible to Revelation 3:14.   As we’ve done in each letter, we’ve given the church that Jesus is writing to a title.  I’ve tried to summarize who they are, their ethos, their DNA as a church.  This letter I’m entitling as the letter to “Independent People.”  Some form of independence is really good.  When my kids move out of my house, my hope is that they’re independent, which means they don’t come back and live with me again.  If they do, they’ll be welcomed back with open arms and rent to pay.  But some forms of independence aren’t that healthy.  Some forms of independence actually prevent us from getting where we want to go.  I saw a Pepsi commercial a while back that I think summarized it well with a little phrase that you’ll hear repeated throughout the commercial — I’m good!  {Commercial shows accidents and injuries to someone, but they’re “good.”}  Have you ever been there:  Your arms are full of grocery bags and someone says, “Hey, can I help you take those to the car?” and you respond with, “I’m good.”  Or maybe, if you’re married, and men you may be able to relate to this, and you’re sharing with your spouse the ailment you’re trying to walk through.  She says, “You should probably get that checked out.  There’s a whole branch of professionals that deal with sickness.”  Most guys respond with. . . . .”I’m good.”   {My wife says, “Then don’t complain about it anymore, if you’re not willing to go and get it checked out.”}  Or. . . .”Do you need help with that problem in school that you’re wrestling with?”  “I’m good, I’m good.”  The marriage is sorta getting on the rocks, but. . . . .”We’re good.”  I think all of us have something in us that we rely on and in moments of trepidation, in moments of fear, we resort to that and we go, “I’m good.”  I’m a hard worker. . . . .I’m good.  I know how to make money. . . . .I’m good.  I’ve got this web of relationships; we’ve got a strong family; I’ve got people that care about me. . . . .I’m good.

In 1875, the British poet, William Ernest Henley, wrote a famous poem.  At the end of it, he wrote this stanza: “I am the master of my fate / I am the captain of my soul.”  Essentially he goes, “I’m good.  I’m good.”  If you’re familiar at all with the Biblical narrative, the story that as followers of Jesus we would say that we find ourselves in, in the very beginning of the Scriptures, you have this incident between Adam and Eve, who God creates perfectly and places in a garden, naked, in order to be in relationship with Him.  There’s a serpent that comes in and says listen, I know God said you can’t eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but you should eat from that so that you can become like God, knowing good and evil.  The relationship that Adam and Eve are designed to have with God is one of dependence.  One where they run to Him, one where they go to Him.  This movement towards this tree is a movement of independence.  God, we don’t need you.  God, we can figure this out on our own.  God, we’re good, thank you very much.

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Weight lifting can help guys muscle up and tone up, and helps women tone up. The extra muscle will burn calories from all those hard to reach areas of fat that you can’t target and that just won’t otherwise go away. Weight lifting is a great way to help get into shape, look better, and feel better. If something seems to be missing from your daily regiment, add in some weight lifting and in only a few weeks you’ll be amazed at the results.

This attitude is nothing new.  It’s the very attitude that the church at Laodicea had.  It’s the attitude Adam and Eve had.  It’s the attitude that many of us have.  And it infiltrates even the best of intentions.  Let me show you from Revelation 3.  It’s a letter to the church at Laodicea, and here’s what Jesus says to them:  To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:  These are the words of the Amen, {The So-Be-It. The God of gods.  It’s Jesus claiming he’s on the same footing as God.} the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold not 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.  

Now, look up at me for a moment.  How many of you have heard this verse before?  It’s one that sort of sticks with us.  Even if we haven’t been around the Scriptures a lot, we go that picture is one that sort of burrows its way into our soul.  That picture of Jesus vomiting us out of his mouth.  Maybe you’ve heard it preached. . . .well, Jesus doesn’t want you to be lukewarm.  Jesus would rather you be cold than lukewarm.  We’ve gone, “What in the world does that mean?”  You’ve heard somebody try to explain it and you’re not exactly sure that that works. Here’s the situation that the church in Laodicea finds itself in.  Laodicea was built on a plateau.  It was distant from the shore and they had absolutely no water source of its own.  But it was strategically located (6 miles) from Hierapolis, which was the home to one of the sort of primitive hot springs in this region of Turkey.  The remains of it can still be seen today.  Water came out of the ground at 95º.  You would have kings, rulers, and wealthy people go and ‘take themself a soak.’   And, Laodicea had a primitive piping system.  They would pipe that water into town, since they had no water of their own.  About ten miles away you had the city of Colossae.  Colossae was known because it had an ice cold spring and snow melt that combined created great drinking water in Colossae.  It was like the Evian of our day.  So Laodicea built a piping system and piped THAT water into the city as well.  But something happened to that water as it came into the city.  The hot water that was good for soaking in, and potentially even drinking at times, got lukewarm, tepid.  The ice cold water that was great for drinking got lukewarm.  Both of these water sources came into the town.  They started off one way, but then they were just evened out to the air temperature in the world around them.

Jesus says to his church, “That’s what’s happened to you too.”  You may have started out hot, you may have started out cold, but you’ve been evened out, you’ve been adjusted to the world around us.  Jesus’s message to the church is that its works or its deeds reflect the accommodation to its environment.  He’s not saying, “I wish you were cold and don’t want anything to do wtih me.”  He’s saying, “I wish you were useful!”  Like, if you were cold, we could drink you; if you were hot, we could sit in you, but you’re lukewarm!  People would get literally, physically sick from drinking water in Laodicea.  So Jesus looks at his church and goes, You’re passionless, you’re purposeless, and you look just like the world around you.  I want to use you for good, but you’re not distinct.  And you make me a little bit sick to my stomach.  Let that sit on you for a second.  That’s what he’s saying.  So we come in here and we’re like, “You’re a good, good Father / That’s who You are…”  There’s no songs like, “I’m going to vomit you out of my mouth / That’s what I’ll do…..”  We didn’t sing that one today.  What do we do with this?  Which is it?  Is he a good Father, or does he look at us and go, oh, I’m going to spit you out of my mouth?  Here’s the answer. . . . .YES!  Because he’s good, he’s going to speak truth to us.  The letter he writes to the Laodiceans is the only letter of the seven where there’s not some sort of commendation.  Nothing saying you guys nailed it!  You’re doing this so well.  You really stuck the dismount.  There’s nothing there that says that.  So the Amen, the true ruler, is going to speak truth into them, and it’s truth that’s a little bit hard to hear.

So what does Jesus mean by lukewarm, and how did that happen to this church? Here’s what he says in verse 17:  You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.”  {I’m good.}  But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.    Here’s what’s going on.  Last week we talked about the letter to the church in Philadelphia.  In AD 17, Philadelphia was ravaged by an earthquake.  Rome came in and, with the resources of the empire, rebuilt this city of Philadelphia.  They were so grateful that they renamed the city “Tiberius” in order to say thank you to Rome.  In AD 60, an earthquake absolutely decimated Laodicea, wiped it out.  Rome came to Laodicea and said, “Would you like subsidies in order to rebuild your city?”  Can we come alongside of you and give you money from the empire, in order to rebuild the things that you lost?  And how did they respond?   We’re good.   And they were.  With wealthy citizens of Laodicea, they rebuilt this city with their own bare hands and with their own resources.  One Roman historian named Tacitus said this:  “Laodicea rose from the ruins by the strength of her own resources and with no help from us.”  If you were to look at a coin from Laodicea, the inscription on the coin that the Laodiceans minted themselves said this:  Laodicea the Sacred Autonomous.  After a while, they decided to drop the ‘sacred’ portion of this — Laodicea the Autonomous.  Somewhere along the way, ‘Rome, we don’t need you’ turned for the church into ‘Jesus, we don’t need you.’  We’re good!  We’ve got this covered on our own.

Lukewarmness, that the church in Laodicea is wrestling with, is a deceptive sense of self-security.  It’s pride.  Jesus would say that a posture of self-sufficiency eventually, once it gets into our bloodstream, once it becomes the air that we breath, eventually it gets into our bones and leads to a God deficiency.  {Slide:  A posture of self-sufficiency eventually leads to God deficiency.}  We eventually say, “I’m good,” and God says, “Wonderful, good luck.”

If you’ve been with us throughout this study of the seven letters, you may start to realize that there’s two threats to, not only the church, but to the life of the follower of Christ.  One of them is external.  They are wrestling with persecution.  They are walking through the fire.  Many of them are being martyred for their faith, and that’s a threat.  Maybe the greater threat that they’re wrestling with that they don’t even realize is a mindset.  Persecution is the external threat, but the value system is the mindset.  I’m good, that’s the mindset.  The ‘I’m good’ mindset can just as easily take down the church as Domitian can ruling on the throne of Rome.  So, here’s the principle — What happened in their physical, material world, impacted their spiritual life.  What happened in their physical, material world, impacted what happened in their spiritual life.

We’ve got to step back and go, okay, maybe there’s some things we’re self-sufficient in.  Maybe there’s some narratives, some cultural narratives, that we’ve been around for so long, just like the church at Laodicea had, that they’re just the air that we breath and we don’t even know that we’re breathing it.  Let me give you an example.  Our great nation was formed July 4, 1776, when thirteen colonies signed the Declaration of Independence.  We said to Mother Britain, “We’re good.  We don’t need you.”  Listen, I blow up stuff every 4th of July, just like you do, to remember that that is a great day.  And it was!  And it is!  But, inception drives formation.  The way that something begins is often the DNA that gets inside of it and its part of what it becomes.  So we are a nation, whether we realize it or not, that’s built on this ferocious love for independence.  Robert Bellah, in his great book Habits of the Heart, will say that we are now in a season, post-World War II, of what we call ‘expressive individualism.’  We define ourselves, not by looking outside of ourselves, like every generation previous to us has and the relationships that we have and the roles that we have, but we define ourselves now by looking inside.  This is the air that we breathe, so much so that we don’t even recognize that we’re breathing it.

Which got me thinking about what is the air that we breathe as Coloradans?  What are the things that are important to us?  What would you say is the air that we breathe as Coloradans?  Recreation.  Yes and amen.  We live in the mountains, or near them, we pay a lot to live near the mountains, so we love going up, we love going skiing, we love going hiking, we love taking in God’s beautiful creation, right?  That’s one of our values.  What else?  Fitness.  Those go hand-in-hand.  Man, you cannot count the number of yoga studios, cross-fit studios, 24-hr. Fitnesses, and for this the use of supplements as andarine really help with this.  We are the great ‘I’m good!’  Just look at us!  What else?  Bicycling.  So we have this love for enjoying the outdoors from a distance AND being in them and taking them in.  I think you combine that with. . . . .well, let me give you an example.  How many microbreweries are there in Colorado?  We love good things in Colorado, don’t we?  We don’t just want the commodity, you can get that anywhere.  We want to take it to the next level, and we’re willing to pay in order to do that.

Here’s what Jesus does. . . .Jesus jumps into the situation the Laodiceans are in and he starts to speak from within their culture, truth, and he goes, listen, there’s some things that are really good about your culture, there’s some things that you value, but let me take them to the next level.  Let me take that hiking path you’re on to the next level.  Let me tell you about the path of true life.  Let me tell you what genuine, true health for your soul really looks like.  Let me give you a taste of what actual pleasure. . . .not just craft coffee or craft beer, but let me tell you about a craft life.  Let me tell you what that looks like.  He takes all these things in Laodicea and he takes them to the next level.  He starts to redefine for them what it looks like to be fulfilled.  Their current state?  You’re wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  Okay, take a deep breath.  In many ways that’s us too.  He says let me speak truth into that situation that can lead you out to something better, something deeper, and something more.  Jesus is saying this is how you’re saying “I’m good,” and let me tell you how I can deepen that, because self-sufficiency is never enough for the human soul.  You were designed for more.  You were designed for God dependency.  There’s so many ways, subtly, that we reject that and say “I’m good.”  Jesus is going to speak into that lie, for that church, and lead them to his truth.

Here’s what it looks like:  I counsel you to buy from me…  [I get this picture of Jesus as a traveling salesman. You’re all buying life somewhere.  You’re all investing your heart, investing your values, investing your motives. . . .in SOMETHING.  Jesus is coming door-to-door and going, “How’s that working out for you?”  How’s that going for you?  Here’s what He says.}  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich…  The Laodiceans would have taken a step back and gone, listen, Jesus, the great Amen, maybe you’re not aware of this, but we are rich.  They were extremely rich.  The excavations going on, even now, have identified that Laodicea was an extremely wealthy place in what’s now modern-day Turkey.  They had one of the very first banks ever created, in Laodicea.  People would have physical gold, and Laodicea created a way to house gold for the people who were wealthy.  If you were a traveling businessman or sales person, you could take a certificate from the bank in Laodicea that says I have this much gold on file in Laodicea, I’m good for it!  Laodicea said they’d keep it safe for me, and just take a little percentage off the top and call it good.  When people would sign that certificate over, they knew it was redeemable in Laodicea.  It was like the first checking account.

Jesus looks at them and goes, I know that you have a lot of money, but you’re NOT rich.  There’s something else that makes for a wealthy life than just what you have in your bank account.  There’s more that’s designed to fuel and fill the human soul than what you can actually touch and actually handle and put in an account and say I’ve got this much.  That does not create a wealthy or rich life.  Jesus says only that comes from me.  In a story that Jesus tells about two brothers coming to him to try to decide who gets the inheritance, Jesus responds by saying this:  Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. (Luke 12:15)  To quote Albert Einstein, we’ll say it like this this morning:  What truly counts can’t always be counted.   What Jesus is saying in this little parable he tells in Luke 12 is that greed can actually block us from embracing that which would make us truly rich.  Settling for the shadow, instead of going towards the real, the ultimate, can actually block us from being truly rich.  I think Mother Teresa said it poignantly and well:  “The spiritual poverty of the Western World is much greater than the physical poverty of our people.  You, in the West, have millions of people who suffer such terrible loneliness and emptiness.  They feel unloved and unwanted.  These people are not hungry in the physical sense, but they are in another way.  They know they need something more than money, yet they don’t know what it is.  What they are missing, really, is a living relationship with God.”  That’s poignant, is it not?  That cuts to the soul of the air that we breathe.  We go, if I just had this, if I had shinier, if I had better, if I had just a little bit more, than I would be satisfied.  What Jesus and Mother Teresa said is that even though we believe that we know it’s not true.  We’ve opened up the brand new iPhone and it was shiny and new.  And in a few days, it was just a phone.  We’ve done this with cars—-We’ve driven off the lot and then a week later there’s Goldfish smashed in the backseat of that car, just like there were in the one we turned in!

Jesus is saying what really counts, the life you really long for, is not a material thing.  It’s not adding one more thing, it’s not adding one more zero.  It’s nothing you can beat your chest at and go, “I’m good!”  In fact, Jesus echoes the prophet Isaiah.  The prophet Isaiah writes this: Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!   {In fact, what Jesus would say, what Isaiah would say is that it’s almost a prerequisite that we throw our hands up in the air and go, we can’t buy this on our own, for us to come and receive what he’s giving.  It’s nothing in us that we go, “I’m good.”  It’s. . .I need!}  Come, buy wine {Transformative joy} and milk {This nutrient-rich sustenance} without money and without cost.  Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the riches of fare.  Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.  {That’s his invitation to you and me.}  I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.  (Isaiah 55:1-3)   Jesus is saying, Isaiah is saying, you want a rich life?  You want to be satisfied?  Here’s what you know, here’s what I know, that what makes for a rich life can’t be counted, it can’t be stored in a bank.  Jesus is saying the only you get that is that you come to the one who is the Author of Life, who you were designed to be connected to, in order to be fulfilled, sustained, and satisfied.

Here’s the way Peter says it:   These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith {Or your relationship with God, or your connection to Yahweh, the one True God}—of greater worth than gold….(1 Peter 1:7)    He goes, THAT’S the thing that really matters, and when you live in faith you turn into generous people.  So instead of hoarding your stuff, you invest your stuff in what really matters.  When you live by faith, you start to see the things that matter to God, and what matters to God is people.  When you live by faith you start to take HIS value system, HIS DNA, and what he says is then. . . . then. . . .{Look up at me for a second} then you become RICH!  God wants you to be rich.  Richer than you could ever possibly imagine.  In a way that you probably don’t imagine.  So the Laodiceans are beating their chest and saying we’re wealthy, and he goes let me reframe wealth for you.  Come to me.

Here’s the second thing he says:  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness. (Rev. 3:18)    I mean, Jesus is just throwing DOWN, is he not?  Don’t you just read this and bite your hand a little bit and go, oh man, that stings a little bit?  He goes, Laodicea, you’re sort of like the emperor who’s wearing no clothes.  You’re prancing around naked and nobody’s telling you.  He goes, I’ll tell you, you’re naked!  What was going on in Laodicea?  They were one of the textile capitals of the world at that time.  They had a number of black sheep that had shiny black wool that they would use in order to turn into a primitive raincoat.  The Romans absolutely loved this clothing.  They would come from miles around in order to buy in Laodicea.  Jesus says let me step into your culture. . . .you’re clothing everyone else but you’re naked.  Your soul is exposed.  The things that are deepest within in, the things that you need met in your life, in order to keep moving forward, you’re running from those things, you’re covering those things, but I would love to be a covering for you.  I would love to cover your nakedness.

All throughout the Scriptures, nakedness is like a humiliation, a guilt, a shame.  In the book of Nahum (3:5), God is speaking to the city of Ninevah:  “I am against you,” declares the Lord Almighty.  I will lift your skirts over your face.  I will show the nations your nakedness and the kingdoms your shame.   Wow!  What Jesus is saying to this church is you don’t recognize that’s how you’re walking around.  Like, I would love to cover you.  I would love to be a love that sustains you on your darkest day.  Here’s what Jesus is pointing out to them—You’re beating your chest. . . .here’s what we can all do, here’s what we’ve got, I’m good, God.  Jesus points out that no amount of external success can cover internal shame.  That’s why you read pieces in the newspaper or online, about people like Bruce Springsteen, like Ben Affleck, like Tom Brady, like Michael Jordan, who are at the top of their game and when they lie in bed at night, the narrative that they think about is I’ll need just a little bit more to be okay, or I wish so-and-so (dad or mom) loved me.  Because we’re all trying to do something with that piece in our soul that says we’re just not quite good enough.  According to social worker and social researcher, Brené Brown — “Shame is the most powerful, master emotion.  It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.”

Every single one of us in this room can pretend like we don’t, but every one of us struggles with shame to some degree.  Because of this disconnection from God, we struggle with God, there’s more that I was created for.  Some of us in a weightier way than others.  We can do one of two things with that narrative that goes on in our heart.  We can do what the Laodiceans did, and they tried to work their way out of it.  They tried to achieve all sort of external successes, and bank accounts, and textile industry, and fashion, and. . . .we’re good.  Ours might look like — I’ve been successful.  Or, ours might look like — At least I didn’t turn into fill-in-the-blank.  Or, ours might look like — What more could I want?  On some level, we’re trying to outrun this giant that lurks in the shadows, where we recognize that in and of ourselves we’re wretched, poor, blind, and naked.

The other option is that we can come to the King.  We can bring ourselves before him, with all of our failings, and all of our shame, and all of our guilt, and all of our ‘I wish I would have, I’m sorry I didn’t, I can’t believe I did’. . . .all of those things we carry around, and we can bring them to Him and He says, “I’ll be your covering.”  I can love even that.  I can, with my perfection, cover all of those deficiencies.  I love the way that Jesus paints this picture of a love that covers, of a love that clothes, and of a love that claims.  If you’re here today and you’re a follower of Jesus, can I just tell you that that’s true of you!  Sometimes ‘I’m good’ prevents us from saying ‘I need.’   When we refuse to say ‘I need,’ we’re unable to take the gift that God wants to give us.  So we just keep running on that treadmill of life thinking if it could just get a little bit better, brighter, newer, shinier, if I could just get him or her, then I’d be okay.  Jesus says, “STOP! And just admit that you’re a person in need.”   I love the way that Fleming Rutledge, the great theologian, says it when she writes:  “Participation in Christ means abandoning our pretenses, openly acknowledging our identities as sinners in bondage, and in the same moment realizing with a stab of piercing joy that the victory is already ours in Christ, won by him who died to save us.”  AMEN!  That’s wonderful, because we have to wrestle with I’m wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked on one hand, and on the other hand, this invitation from God where he says come to me, be showered in my grace, be drenched in my goodness, allow me to be your sufficiency, I’m enough.  That’s the Christian life, friends.  It’s not ‘I’m good,’ it’s I’m loved.  I don’t get it, because I know me, but I’m loved.  He’s a good Father.  That’s who He is, and you’re loved by Him, that’s who you are.  Friends, there will be a day when you and I will sit at the wedding supper of the Lamb, according to Revelation 19:6-8, clothed in his righteousness alone. Not running from our shame anymore, but clothed….  But, hey, you don’t have to wait for that day, you can know that’s true TODAY.  It just takes stop beating your chest and open your hands to the one who wants to fill you.

Here’s the way Jesus ends (Rev. 3:18) — I counsel you come buy from me, come receive clothing from me; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.  Laodicea was known in this region for having “Phrygian Powder.”  It was a medicinal mixture that they would put on people’s eyes, and supposedly it actually really helped restore sight.  People would come from everywhere to Laodicea to be treated for poor eyesight.  Jesus says, ironically, you’re helping everybody see physically, but you’re blind spiritually.  Here’s his point—to this church in Laodicea, maybe to us too—physical sight can’t overcome spiritual blindness.  You’re beating your chest about this, but you’re missing the thing that could actually help you to see what God would have you see in his world.

What does it look like to see spiritually?  Let me give you two things.  First, it means that we see Jesus in the world.  We refuse to get beaten down by the narrative of pessimism that is all around us, driven by fear, and intended to try to sell you something.  When we see Jesus in the world, we refuse to be pessimistic about what’s going on.  We SEE that in China there are over 160 million followers of Jesus.  Most researchers say that there will be more Christians in China in 2030 than any other country on the face of the planet.  Amongst Muslims in the last 12 years, there have been more movements of Muslims to Christ than there have in the previous 1000 years to when Muhammed started preaching.  That’s amazing!  God is on the move and God is up to something, and when we have spiritual sight we see Jesus in the world.

Here’s the other thing we do.  We see Jesus in the world and we see the world that Jesus sees.  Spiritual sight gives us the ability to engage the world in the same way that Jesus did.  We said this prayer (The Lord’s Prayer) this morning, but I don’t think there’s any better way to develop a lens for ‘Jesus, what world do you see?’ than this prayer that he taught his disciples to pray.  You get this sort of inner picture of here’s the world that Jesus sees.  He sees a world where his Father, sovereignly and in a holy nature, rules and reigns over it, and where THAT nature and THAT kingdom is coming.  Do you see it?  He sees a world where every single need that we need met, the very bread that we eat and the breath that we take, is given by God.  That’s the world that Jesus sees.  He sees a world in which we need to be forgiven, and a world where we need to forgive.  Is that the world you see?  That’s the world Jesus sees.  He sees a world in which there’s a very real enemy and there is a real protector and his prayer—Father, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the one who’s evil—is a recognition of the cosmology that Jesus would have—that this world is a world at war.  Do you see that world?

Look up at me for just a moment.  One of the greatest lenses we have, of not only spiritual sight but spiritual vitality, is prayer.  When our prayer lives dry up, it’s probably not intentional, but it should be a sign to us that in some way we’re beating our chest going God, I’m good.  We may not say it with our lips, but we’re speaking volumes with our heart.  So maybe this week you carve out some time to just get quiet and get alone and just ask God, “What would you say to me?”

I think that’s the deficiency in the Laodicean church.  They’re good, but Jesus comes to them and here’s how he finishes this letter:  Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.  So be earnest and repent. {I’m coming at you as one who’s good, as one who loves you, as one who’s for you, and knows that this declaration ‘I’m good and I’m okay’ pales in comparison to I’m in need, but I am loved.  So change, he says, change!  He follows that up with this verse you’ve probably heard before.}  Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.   What door is Jesus knocking on?  He’s knocking on the door of the church of Laodicea.  Church, what counts really can’t be counted!  Church, no amount of external success can cover an inward shame.  Church, you’ve got spiritual sight but you’re physically blind.  Church, wake up!  Are you saying, Ryan, that Jesus is saying that you can go to church, be a follower of Jesus for years and years and years, and miss the fact that Jesus is knocking at your door?  {Look up at me for a second.}  YES!  That’s exactly what I’m saying.  So this should be a harrowing letter in some ways for us, and it should be an eye-opening letter in others for us to say that just because we’re IN church, just because we’re AROUND the story, just because we’ve become a member or have been a follower of Christ for ‘X’ amount of decades doesn’t mean diddly-squat.  Jesus might still be knocking at our door saying, “Will you please let me in?”  Because I want to be intimate with you, and I want you to know me, and I want my love to cover you.

Laodicea was this place that was like this bridge in between one world and another.  Cilicia was right on the other side, so the Roman soldiers would encamp at Laodicea.  They had this tradition, this requirement, where if a Roman soldier knocked on your door, it was forced hospitality.  You had to invite him in.  You had to make him dinner.  If they needed a place to stay, you had to open your house.  Jesus says I’m not going to force myself in, but I’m here and I’m knocking.  What are you going to do with me?

There’s this picture a number of years ago that was painted by this man named William Holman Hunt.  It’s a depiction of Revelation 3:20.  It’s Jesus standing at the door of the church at Laodicea, but look at some of the details in it.  There’s weeds growing up over the door.  Like they’ve had this self-sufficiency for so long that they never embraced a God dependency and they missed out.  Notice, also, that there is no doorknob on the outside.  The only doorknob is on the inside.  It’s this picture of Jesus saying I’m not going to force my way in, but I’m here and I’m knocking, and what are you going to do with me?  I’m wondering in what ways we have embraced our cultural narrative of ‘I’m good’ and missed out on the God who says ‘I’m here.’  I wonder how many ways we’ve said ‘I’m good’ instead of ‘I need’ and missed out.

Can we take a few moments, because my conviction is that Jesus is here and that Jesus is knocking.  Just because you’re here doesn’t mean you’ve let him in.  We’re going to sing one last song together, but as we sing, would you pray and ask God, what are you saying to me?  What things am I holding on to?  What rope am I clinging to that’s just one of my own making?  I’ve got my intellect, I’ve got my work ethic, I’ve got my relationships, I’ve got my bank account. . . .I’m holding on to those things.  In what ways am I saying back to you, Jesus, I don’t need you?  Will you ask that as we sing this, and then however he invites you to respond. . . .it may be in kneeling in prayer up here, it may be in raising your hands and saying, “I need,” it may be just silently surrendering some things to him, some situations to him. . . . .but let’s take this last song and ask that God would minister.  Would you stand with me as we sing?

Lord, we thank you for being the God who’s here right now and who knocks.  We admit that there’s some things that we’re holding onto and we want you to point those out to us.  Our intention is that when you show them to us we want to let go.  Thanks for being a good God that we can trust.  Thanks for being a God whose motive is always love.  So we trust you.  Would you speak to us in these moments?  We pray in Jesus’s name.  Amen.