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#16 Laodecia

September 3, 2008

“MANY, many years ago there lived an emperor, who thought so much of new clothes that he spent all his money in order to obtain them; his only ambition was to be always well dressed. He did not care for his soldiers, and the theatre did not amuse him; the only thing, in fact, he thought anything of was to drive out and show a new suit of clothes. He had a coat for every hour of the day; and as one would say of a king “He is in his cabinet,” so one could say of him, “The emperor is in his dressing-room.”

 

The great city where he resided was very happy; every day many strangers from all parts of the globe arrived. One day two swindlers came to this city; they made people believe that they were weavers, and declared they could manufacture the finest cloth to be imagined. Their colors and patterns, they said, were not only exceptionally beautiful, but the clothes made of their material possessed the wonderful quality of being invisible to any man who was unfit for his office or unpardonably stupid.

 

“That must be wonderful cloth,” thought the emperor. “If I were to be dressed in a suit made of this cloth I should be able to find out which men in my empire were unfit for their places, and I could distinguish the clever from the stupid. I must have this cloth woven for me without delay.” And he gave a large sum of money to the swindlers, in advance, that they should lose not time in getting to work. The men set up two looms, and pretended to be very hard at work, but they did nothing whatever on the looms. They asked for the finest silk and the most precious gold-cloth; all they got they hid, and worked at the empty looms till late at night.

 

“I should very much like to know how they are getting on with the cloth,” thought the emperor. But he felt rather uneasy when he remembered that he who was not fit for his office could not see it. Personally, he was of opinion that he had nothing to fear, yet he thought it advisable to send somebody else first to see how things wer progressing.

 

Everybody in the town knew what a remarkable quality the stuff possessed, and all were anxious to see how bad or stupid their neighbors were. “I shall send my honest old minister to the weavers,” thought the emperor. “He can judge best how the stuff looks, for he is intelligent, and nobody understands his office better than he.”

The good old minister went into the room where the swindlers sat before the empty looms. “Heaven preserve us!” he thought, and opened his eyes wide, “I cannot see anything at all,” but he did not say so. Both swindlers requested him to come near, and asked him if he did not admire the exquisite pattern and the beautiful colors, pointing to the empty looms.

 

The poor old minister tried his very best, but he could see nothing, for there was nothing to be seen. “Oh dear,” he thought, “Can I be so stupid? I should never have thought so, and nobody must know it! Is it possible that I am not fit for my office? No, no, I cannot say that I was unable to see the cloth.”

 

“Now, have you got nothing to say?” said one of the swindlers, while he pretended to be busily weaving. “Oh, it is very pretty, exceedingly beautiful,” replied the old minister looking through his glasses. “What a beautiful pattern, what brilliant colors! I shall tell the emperor that I like the cloth very much.” “We are pleased to hear that,” said the two weavers, and described to him the colors and explained the curious pattern.

 

The old minister listened attentively, that he might relate to the emperor what they said; and so he did. Now the swindlers asked for more money, silk and gold-cloth, which they required for weaving. Of course they stashed the stuff away and not a thread came near the loom, but they continued as before, to work at the empty looms. Soon afterwards the emperor sent another honest courtier to the weavers to see how they were getting on, and if the cloth was nearly finished. Like the old minister, he looked and looked but could see nothing, as there was nothing to be seen.

“Is it not a beautiful piece of cloth?” asked the two swindlers, showing and explaining the magnificent pattern, which, however, did not exist. “I am not stupid,” said the man. “It is therefore my good appointment for which I am not fit. It is very strange, but I must not let any one know it;” and he praised the cloth, which he did not see, and expressed his joy at the beautiful colors and the fine pattern. “It is very excellent,” he said to the emperor.

 

Everybody in the whole town talked about the precious cloth. At last the emperor wished to see it himself, while it was still on the loom. With a number of courtiers, including the two who had already been there, he went to the two clever swindlers, who now worked as hard as they could, but without using any thread. “Is it not magnificent?” said the two old statesmen who had been there before. “Your Majesty must admire the colors and the pattern.” And then they pointed to the empty looms, for they imagined the others could see the cloth. “What is this?” thought the emperor, “I do not see anything at all. That is terrible! Am I stupid? Am I unfit to be emperor? That would indeed be the most dreadful thing that could happen to me.” “Really,” he said, turning to the weavers, “your cloth has our most gracious approval;” and nodding contentedly he looked at the empty loom, for he was not going to say that he saw nothing.

 

All his attendants, who were with him, looked and looked, and although they could not see anything more than the others, they said, like the emperor, “It is very beautiful.” And all advised him to wear the new magnificent clothes at a great procession which was soon to take place. “It is magnificent, beautiful, excellent,” one heard them say; everybody seemed to be delighted, and the emperor appointed the two swindlers “Imperial Court weavers.”

 

The whole night previous to the day on which the procession was to take place, the swindlers pretended to work, and burned more than sixteen candles. People should see that they were busy to finish the emperor’s new suit. They pretended to take the cloth from the loom, and worked about in the air with big scissors, and sewed with needles without thread, and said at last: “The emperor’s new suit is ready now.”

 

The emperor and all his barons then came to the hall; the swindlers held their arms up as if they held something in their hands and said: “These are the trousers!” “This is the coat!” and “Here is the cloak!” and so on. “They are all as light as a cobweb, and one must feel as if one had nothing at all upon the body; but that is just the beauty of them.” “Indeed!” said all the courtiers; but they could not see anything, for there was nothing to be seen. “Does it please your Majesty now to graciously undress,” said the swindlers, “that we may assist your Majesty in putting on the new suit before the large looking-glass?”

 

The emperor undressed, and the swindlers pretended to put the new suit upon him, one piece after another; and the emperor looked at himself in the glass from every side. “How well they look! How well they fit!” said all. “What a beautiful pattern! What fine colours! That is a magnificent suit of clothes!” The master of the ceremonies announced that the bearers of the canopy, which was to be carried in the procession, were ready. “I am ready,” said the emperor. “Does not my suit fit me marvellously?” Then he turned once more to the looking-glass, that people should think he admired his garments.

 

The chamberlains, who were to carry the train, stretched their hands to the ground as if they lifted up a train, and pretended to hold something in their hands; they did not like people to know that they could not see anything. The emperor marched in the procession under the beautiful canopy, and all who saw him in the street and out of the windows exclaimed: “Indeed, the emperor’s new suit is incomparable! What a long train he has! How well it fits him!” Nobody wished to let others know he saw nothing, for then he would have been unfit for his office or too stupid. Never was an emperor’s clothes more admired.

 

“But he has nothing on at all,” said a little child at last. “Good heavens! listen to the voice of an innocent child,” said the father, and one whispered to the other what the child had said. “But he has nothing on at all,” cried at last the whole people. That made a deep impression upon the emperor, for it seemed to him that they were right; but he thought to himself, “Now I must bear up to the end.” And the chamberlains walked with still greater dignity, as if they carried the train which did not exist.”

 

(Heb 4:13)  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. No matter how much man deny their sinfulness, no matter how vehemently they proclaim their self-sufficiency they fail. The stain of their sinfulness is so permanent that no man-devised means can remove it. All of their denials, all of their own attempts to turn a blind eye will fail. NO ONE WILL BE ABLE TO SAY, “I DIDN’T KNOW! 

 

The scriptures are plain about the state of man and his sinful, suppressing mindset. Mankind knows the truth but suppresses it in unrighteousness. But tell me a thing: has anyone ever been able to hide from God?

Adam and Eve

  Cain

     Achan

         Gehazi

             Judas

                Simon the Sorcerer

All these people had their sins found out. Their attempts at cover ups were in vain before Him whose eyes are everywhere beholding the evil and the good. All of their denials and blame-shifting fell flat before the Holy One of the Universe!

 

The church of Laodicea suffered from delusions of grandeur. They supposed themselves to have arrived. They were perfect.

Like the Pharisees they thought they were so good they didn’t even need God. But like the Emperor, they were merely strolling about naked. And God saw right through their masquerade. They may have been able to fool men but God is not man. No one can deceive Him!

 

Remember when Aaron and Miriam were speaking against Moses? They were venting their spleens in (Nu 12:2) “and they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?” And the LORD heard it. The Laodiceans were venting their spleens in a “positive way.” They boasted of their perfection. AND THE LORD HEARD IT!

 

And so He dictated this letter to John to send to this “perfect” Church. Our text begins in (Rev 3:14-22) with these words: 14“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, To Him who has the last word, He Who is the faithful and true Witness, before whose Holy, blazing light all the sins of men are revealed, He who is the Beginning of the creation of God, the One who spoke life into existence and who recreates the souls of men to salvation or who leaves them to wallow in their sin says this: 15‘I know your deeds,

 

There is that awful statement again. God is the possessor of the all seeing eye and the all hearing ear. He is the all knowing One before whom darkness flees. There is no dark place you can go to hide from God.

 

Remember Elisha and the King of Syria. The king plotted and planned against the king of Israel and yet was thwarted at every turn. When he suspected one of his own cabinet members of selling off state secrets One of his servants said, “No, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” (2Ki 6:12)  

 

(Heb 4:13)  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

 

And what does our Lord see in these church members? He sees through the outward appearance of being “wonderful” to the heart of the matter and He says “that you are neither cold nor hot; You are neither on fire for Me, loving Me with all of your heart, soul mind and strength, nor are you cold, wanting nothing to do with Me. They were kind of in between. They were a people, a church which had one foot in the world “to enjoy its lusts” and one foot on the kings highway saying “We are going to the Celestial City.” Now what does Jesus say to such people. “Oh well, half way is better than nothing. At least you go to church.” Is Jesus Christ satisfied with so called “Christians” who are in “the middle of the road?” Is He pleased with “lukewarm discipleship?”

 

Let’s listen. “I wish that you were cold or hot. I wish you did something! I wish you were something! I wish you stood for something! But you stand for nothing at all. Instead you just drift along in your own little dream world where, according to you, the skies are not cloudy all day.” But you are self deceived. You think everything is alright but you are in grave danger.”

 

Jesus was disgusted with these straddlers as William Hendriksen called them. 16‘So (He says to them) because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit (The Greek word Emeo literally means to vomit) you out of My mouth.  Jesus is telling this “church” that they make Him sick to His stomach and “I am about to vomit you out of my mouth.”

 

Now what do you think about that? Quote this passage to many Christians and the reply would be, “That’s not the Jesus I know. My Jesus is kind and gentle and loving.” You see, the Jesus of the Bible doesn’t fit the mold of the Jesus that is preached in the majority of pulpits in the world today. The Jesus that is preached, who has been preached for many years now is a caricature, a figment of man’s fertile imagination.

 

One man described the modern man made version of Jesus in this way. “Instead of the Awesome majesty of Jehovah, today the Lord is presented viewed in the same light as an ice cream man or Santa Claus. And the Church is the ‘candy store’ where you can ‘get every goodie your heart desires. Jesus Himself is portrayed as “a sweetie pie, “so good, so loving, so forgiving and so gentle, that you can almost hear the preacher whisper, “aw He wouldn’t hurt a fly.” 

 

What has happened to truths like “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!”  Remember that this same God ended the world of Noah and He said He would do it again. He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.

                                              Jerusalem twice

                                                             Babylon

                                                       Assyria

                                                           Greece

                                                                Rome.

                                                                   And for what?

                                             

                                              THEIR SIN!

And this is just a partial list. We know that it is God who raises up kingdoms and causes them to fall. He visited these places in judgment and according to the scriptures this world is reserved for judgment by fire. Why. BECAUSE OF SIN!

 

Where does that leave people like those in Laodicea? Now there may have been a few true believers in this church who had been saved but had gotten off the path. But the context of the letter is a call to repentance and salvation in Jesus Christ. What a sad testimony for a church to have! They were a church of Jesus Christ who did not know Jesus Christ.

 

And though they were members of a ‘church’ they were in the same boat that all of mankind is in. Men are sinful, dead in trespasses and sins, enemies of God and they must repent or be sentenced to eternal fire by our Lord. They must turn from their wicked ways to God. They must beat their breast and cry out to God saying,  be merciful to me: the sinner.

And yet consider the mindset of the natural man as Jonathan Edwards so beautifully articulated it when he said, “You have no interest in any mediator an nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep the off the flames of wrath, nothing that you can do to induce God to spare you one moment!”

 

Our Lord levels an indictment against these ‘church members” of Laodicea and calls them to repentance, to faith in Him. What mercy we see here! Behold the goodness and severity of God. In verse 17 we see the severity of judgment as we read ‘Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” Oh the arrogance. To be able to say this, to be able to stand up and shake your fist at God and say I don’t need anything. I am perfect.

 

Think about this. The Laodiceans were proclaiming self sufficiency. In their pride they stood up in the face of God and declared their perfection when they said, “I have need of nothing.” What pride! Think back to the royal ministers of the Emperor. Though they could not see the material (for there was none) they would not allow any one to know this. They couldn’t loose their positions. The Laodiceans went even further. They seemed to have had the same mind-set that the Pharisees had. In their own eyes the Pharisees were perfect.

 

They didn’t even need God for their deeds had made them perfect already. They viewed themselves as an asset to the kingdom of God. They were necessary. They were important. They had become wealthy and needed nothing. In contrast to themselves they viewed common people as “cursed.” Like the Pharisees, the Laodiceans boasted of their perfection but Jesus showed them the truth. And what mercy this is to be told the truth by our Lord because when He visits you with the truth He is calling you to repentance. He pulls no punches letting them know exactly where they stand in His eyes. He says “you say that you are perfect and (yet) you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 

 

What is this but a description of lost sinners! Who but a lost sinner alone is too blind to see his own bankruptcy! Who but a dead sinner is unaware of the danger he faces, being dead to the things of God, deaf to the voice of truth. Who but a hater of God is so prideful that he will not admit his need of a Savior.

 

Unless God opens their eyes they will be ultimately damned. (Isa 1:9) tells us that “Unless the LORD of hosts had left us a few survivors, we would be like Sodom, we would be like Gomorrah.”  But remember that even in that horrid place there was a man named Lot who was delivered from the destruction that fell. Even in that place we see the mercy of God!

 

Even when declaring judgment our Lord is so merciful. Hear the call of the Savior of sinners. In verse 18 He tells them “you claim to be rich and yet you are poverty stricken spiritually speaking there I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich…Come to Me for riches that will not wear out.

 

You parade around like the naked emperor thinking that you are magnificently dressed but you are naked and so call  upon Me to clothe you in white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; Come to Me and be clothed in My robe of righteousness.

 

You claim to have knowledge of the truth and yet your lives prove otherwise. Therefore I call upon you to come to me and receive eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.” Come to Me and I will restore your sight. I will deliver you from your sins! Call upon Me and I will have mercy on you! This is a call of love, a call to repentance, the call of salvation from a loving, merciful Savior.

 

19‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Jesus doesn’t visit everyone in salvation. Many people go to church and hear the general call of the gospel. They hear the truth of God proclaimed and yet they leave unmoved. It is only when Jesus Christ visits sinners by the power of His Holy Spirit and drives His truth home into their hearts that they are even able to acknowledge their desperate need!

It is only when He unstops the ears of the deaf and opens the eyes of the blind that they see and hear the truth and receive it so as to be saved. And note this: when Jesus calls sinners, He reproves them for their sinfulness, disciplines them by His truth and delivers their souls from eternal hellfire. Listen to the Savior’s call. 20‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock…

 

Now I want you to understand something. Many people have turned this passage into a pathetic whine. They have turned the Omnipotent Lord of Creation into a helpless, hand wringing, weeping figure. “Poor Jesus is out in the cold. Won’t you please open the door and let Him in.”

 

Someone has even painted a portrait of Jesus standing outside what is supposed to be the door of a sinner’s heart. In this portrait there are no door knobs on the outside. Jesus cannot come in unless the sinner opens the door. The modern Jesus is a gentleman who will not force Himself on sinners. He has given them free will and He will not violate their free will.

 

But the truth of the matter is that His call is His command. His people are made willing in the day of His power and when He calls, they come, they open the door. They can do nothing else! When He knocks on the door, His call raises a sinner from the dead.

 

When He called Lazarus from the grave did Lazarus say, “I’m sorry Lord, I’ll have to think about it for a while.” No! Immediately Lazarus arose and came out of the tomb! It is the same way with sinners. When He calls, they respond!

 

Now consider the next part: if anyone hears My voice…Who can hear the Lord’s voice but His sheep. To the world, the words of Jesus to the Pharisees apply. “You cannot understand what I am saying BECAUSE YOU CANNOT HEAR MY WORDS!” In contrast to this, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice and the follow Me! When the Master calls, the sinner and opens the door, he responds in obedience to the voice of God.

 

And to this repentant sinner Jesus says, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. when Jesus saved us He took up residence in our lives, in our hearts. He lives in us, through us, our lives are His. He sustains us, satisfies us, and fills us with every good and perfect gift.

 

The believer has a blessed fellowship with His Savior and Lord. And He fits us for heaven, for our eternal home. He gave us rest for our souls and one day He will call us to enter our eternal rest. Listen to what He says. 21‘He who overcomes, he who overcomes this world, who overcomes the power of sin by the power of the Holy Spirit, he who has become a new creation in Christ Jesus and who proves this by his regenerate life, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. The fellowship that began in this life will be perfected when we sit with Christ

 

Heaven is in the future for all of Christ’s disciples. He who saved us will see us to the end of our lives and into the new, the eternal life in the Kingdom of God. Those who are merely masquerading as Christians but who, like the Emperor, are merely fooling themselves will not see life but the wrath of God abides upon them… unless they repent.

 

There is salvation to be found at the mercy seat. There is life to be found at the Throne of God. This has been clearly demonstrated in this lesson today. May we be those who are resting in Jesus!  

 

22‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

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