The Lord is … not willing that any should perish , but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pe 3:9).
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (Joh 3:16-17).
As a new year begins it is customary to look back over the year that was just completed, analyzing the successes and failures that we enjoyed or endured. The purpose of such an analysis is to determine whether or not one has made progress. While the process may be effective in many disciplines, this article is limited to Christianity; at least annually one should take the time to complete a complete Christian update. Failure to progress is a cause for concern. What can a stagnant saint do to revive their first love and rekindle their early zeal?
There are seven churches addressed in chapters two and three of the Revelation. Each is evaluated by the Lord Jesus; positive characteristics are recognized and negative qualities are identified for correction. The church of Laodicea was the final congregation addressed; it was also the most backslidden of the seven. No good characteristic was noted; several negative things were addressed The advice that was given to the lukewarm church at Laodicea is still appropriate today.
New Christians are naturally ‘on fire for God.’ When they do not grow, becoming mature in Christ, they eventually ‘cool off,’ becoming first lukewarm and then cold. Colloquially, they are said to be backslidden; they have moved away from their once close relationship with Jesus Christ.
Jesus used temperature to describe the state of the Laodicean congregation; according to his teaching, the church is cold, lukewarm or hot (Rev 3:15-16). Jesus clearly expressed his abhorrence of those in Laodicea who failed to remain close to Him: “Because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Rev 3:16). However, interspersed with his criticism of Laodicea were several bits of advice for the one who has drifted from a close relationship with God. This person is often referred to as a backslider.
The first principle that Jesus proposed to these lukewarm individuals is basic to improvement: acknowledge your need (Rev 3:17). Do not mistake natural acquisitions for spiritual approval. Do not confuse popularity with spirituality. Rather, acknowledge your total dependence on the Lord Jesus. Clearly express your realization that it is Jesus and not you who accomplishes all good (Psa 51:1-6).
Secondly, Jesus exhorted: “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire” (Rev 3:18. The next principle is purity. Purity is developed in the fire; when one is ‘on fire’ for God the impure things of this world are automatically removed. When one becomes lukewarm or cold, the impurities of life slowly find a resting place in the heart. Purity is sacrificed for popularity. The lukewarm one must allow the fire of the Holy Ghost to consume the impurities; as they are placed on the altar the fire consumes the sacrifice and only the valuable is left behind (Psa 51:8).
The third principle promulgated in this passage is righteousness: “I counsel thee to buy … white raiment , that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear.” (Rev 3:18). The white raiment is the righteousness of the saints (Rev 19:8). The backslider must repent, thus placing his/her shortcomings at he feet of Jesus. Confession brings forgiveness and cleanliness (1 Joh 1:9; Psa 51:7,10). From that time forward the backslider is to consider himself/herself a forgiven child of the king and is to walk in the light, having fellowship with the other children of God (I Jo 1:7).
The next principle involved perception: “anoint thy eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see” (Rev 3:18). If the spiritual battle is to be won, the servants of the King must see the potential of God’s power. Elijah’s servant cried, “Alas, master,” when he saw the forces of the enemy. After the prophet prayed, “Lord, open his eyes,” the servant understood that there were more with them than against them. The backslider needs a clear vision of the strength of the Lord and the weakness of the world.
A further principle reveals that all will not always be well: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten” (Rev 3:19). Problems do not signal a Christian that is time to quit. Instead, they remind us of the Lord’s love and power. He will never put on his children more than they can bear. Tough love prepares the children of God to face the wiles of the devil. “Count it all joy” must be the motto of the church in the difficult moments of the Christian life.
Jesus counseled the members of this backslidden congregation , “Be zealous therefore, and repent” (Rev 3:19). In his concluding remarks to Laodicea, Jesus challenges the congregation to move from their neutral state into a motivated one. Instead of marking time in the status quo, the lukewarm were to be concerned and actively seek the face of God. The backsliders were to turn from their worldly ways back to Godly ways. Sincere, earnest repentance was in order!
The final principle given to this lukewarm congregation revealed the heart of God toward the ‘backslider:’ “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me!” (Rev 3:20). Jesus did not come to condemn but to save. To the lukewarm he says, “I stand at the door and knock.” It is significant that the door is closed! Someone must act if he is to come inside. Lukewarm individuals chose to relinquish the intimacy with Jesus which they once enjoyed; they must now choose to hear his knock and allow him to come in if they are to return to that pleasant, fulfilling state they once enjoyed. But if he/she will open the door, the Master will create a clean heart and renew a right Spirit. He will restore the joy of their salvation (Psa 51:10-12).
There is a new beginning for the backslider!