If you talk to most unsaved people about Jesus and the gospel they will usually say something like this “I don’t need to be saved, I’m alright, what’s wrong with me?” Or you can hear them say“I’m not afraid…..I’m an honest person, I don’t hurt anyone.” By our human nature [depravity] we tend to think the problem is outside of us when in reality the problem is in us. We think that we’re ok, but such a pre-mature opinion of oneself is adolescent and smug at best. The person may be far from pure when the Lord weighs the motives. Albert Barnes said “We are blind to our own faults; we do not see ourselves as others see us.” Remember the words of Jeremiah “the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked...” Jer 17:9. You talk to most religious people they will say “I’m alright, we just fine”
- Ask a Mormon?
- Ask a Jehovah’s Witness?
- Ask a Jewish person?
- Ask a Muslim?
- Ask an Atheist?
- Ask an Agnostic?
- Ask an libertarian?
They’re no different than the unsaved man, deceived by their own understanding. There are even good intentional Christians who think their walk is perfect before God. But as the Proverb goes “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Prov 14:12. There is a question before this morning!
How easily can we be deceived? Though that this is a fictitious story the point still hits home to body of Christ. “A story of a pastor who transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000 member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning. He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service....only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food....NO ONE in the church gave him change. He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit n the back. He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him. As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation........"We would like to introduce to you our new Pastor"....The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation.....The homeless man sitting in the back stood up.....and started walking down the aisle.....the clapping stopped with ALL eyes on him....he walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment....then he recited “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ After he recited the passage, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning...many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame.... he then said....Today I see a gathering of people......not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples...when will YOU decide to become disciples? He then dismissed service until next week.”
The church in general is full of stories like this! It’s sad, but there is some truth to this tale. The question is! What are we going to do about this? Is this story talking about me? The church for the greater part has come to a point where we’re satisfied with the status-quo in the Christian life. We know enough, saved enough and what we see as a standard may not be what God holds a standard. We need to hold up the mirror of the word of God to our lives and it will reveal that things are not quite right. That they may not measure up to God’s standards. Chuck Swindoll had a very provocative post this week that sort of ties in to what then Proverb is trying to tell us this morning. It’s one of those posts that make you say as Voddie Baucham says “you better say ouch, before you say amen! Amen” In his post he says in Larry Crabb's book titled “The Pressure's Off” speaks volumes to the church. Larry Crabb said “As a culture, present-day Christianity has redefined spiritual maturity. The reformers knew we were saved to glorify God. We moderns live to be blessed. The mature among us are now thought to be the successful, the happy, the effective people on top of things and doing well…We're more attracted to sermons, books, and conferences that reveal the secrets to fulfillment…than to spiritual direction that leads us through affliction into the presence of the Father.”
We come to a Proverb that speaks not only to the conscience but also to the heart! That’s why the word of God is so powerful to correct, admonish, and comfort those in His truth through the work and ministry of the Spirit. Prov 16:2 “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit”. See, we can easily deceive ourselves into thinking everything is ok. The Lord alone can evaluate or behaviour because He knows our heart and our motives. And God by His Spirit and His word provides the penetrating evaluation. We have seen this deception throughout history….Beginning in the Garden with Adam and Eve, deceived to think they could be like God. After the flood the people were deceived by their own idea thinking that they knew better than God when they built a tower for themselves. Abraham thinking that if I say my wife Sarah is my sister then we will be ok. His Son Isaac did the same with his wife. Samson being deceived by Delilah and her girlish charm. The Israelites denying that they were in bondage, when they answered Jesus. We see a man who loved the Lord dearly, but was easily deceived by his own pride and arrogance. “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you...” Matt 26:35, but we all know what happened a few hours later! Many people today are being deceived, trying to get to Heaven by their own religious efforts. A good church attendance record so people can see your faithfulness. Always serving to look good; but not really caring about the people you’re serving. Going through the motions to appease your conscience. A person that says “amen” to the gospel message, but has never shared their faith with anyone or cares less too.
I want us to look at church this morning that was deceived thinking that “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes…” A church that can represent a church of any age or generation; whether it’s past, present or future. A church that desperately needed to be shaken up in their deception and complacency, otherwise they were going to meet their demise very soon. Turn to Revelation chapter three! THE CHURCH OF LAODICEA! This church was so deceived and ignorant that the bible says “it sickens the Lord!” (v16). The Laodiceans were famous for 3 things! Wool, Wealth and Medical treatment of blindness. That’s why we see read the gentle rebuke from the Lord “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve [cream, or ointment], that you may see.” (v18). We need to understand.
- This is a church that has people attending regularly because this is what good Christians do.
- This is a church that gives there money to the church and charities as long as it doesn't infringe on their lifestyle or standard of living.
- This is a church that chooses what is popular over what is right when they’re in conflict, they desire to fit in both at church and outside the church.
- This is a church that rarely shares it faith with their neighbors, co-workers or friends.
- This is a church that is moved by stories of people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not act on it.
- This is a church that gauges their morality or goodness by comparing themselves to the secular world or their neighbor.
- This is a church that claims to have Jesus as a part of their lives, but only a part.
But, Isaiah wrote “And the Lord said: "Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,” Isa 29:13. I want us to look at the language John uses to describe their deception and complacency and how easily the North American church has bought into this philosophy! This scares me to death by the way! Not for me, but for so many who think they are in right standing, when in reality they are not. My wife and I know tons of people like this [I wish I didn’t have to say tons] and we pray for them daily.
Wretched in this passage means “miserable or despicable” They were so deceived by their ignorance they couldn't see their own wretchedness. They couldn't see the sentence of Judgment that awaited them if they continue down this road. This gives the implication that the people in this church were so blinded by their riches and status in life………. they missed what Christ truly came to do. “to save sinners". Thinking I’m not as bad as this guy “he’s wretched, I’m good” but in reality they were the ones who were wretched as well. They were so deceived to think that this what God wants for His church and for your life, but in reality they were the ones who were lost and desperately needed Him. I know I’m radically depraved and wretched! That’s what makes His grace seem more beautiful than ever, that a holy God would save a wretch like me! But as the Apostle Paul said “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Rom 7:24-25
Miserable means “pitiable or disgraceful” See, a miserable person is one that neither knows their misery, nor their need of mercy. It’s that person that says “I’m alright” “or “I have need of nothing!” But we do need something! Christ Jesus………….it doesn't matter where you are in life! Whether you’re rich or poor, whether you live in a mansion or live in a cardboard box. Jesus came to save the lost, the pitiable from their bondage of sin. These people were so pitiable they didn't think they needed to be saved.
Poor which means “beggar” they were deceived that in their physical wealth they had security in eternal life. But what John is saying is that "they were poor in the law of God" What did Jesus say to rich young ruler? "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." Matt 19:21. Our riches are in Christ, not in earthly possessions. My worth is found in Christ, not in what I’ve accumulated over my 43 years of life. As Don Moen said in his song “Give Thanks” “And now let the weak say, "I am strong" Let the poor say, "I am rich. Because of what the Lord has done for us"
Blind means “to inflate with self-conceit, pomposity or proud” They were so proud it made them blind to their spiritual state, it made them blind to needs of others! “Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit." Matt 15:14. The natural man is blind to the saving knowledge of God in Christ, as to the way of salvation by Christ, as to the blindness of their own hearts. So, in reality, if you are not a genuine child of God then you’re nothing more than a hater of God who desperately needs His saving grace as Paul said in the first chapter of Romans.
Naked means figuratively “they were nude” Sin has stripped man of his moral clothing; man’s own righteousness will never cover his nakedness; and whoever is destitute of the righteousness of Christ is a naked person. The church of Laodicea is like the story of the Emperor’s new clothes! “A couple of conniving men pretended to be tailors. Knowing the king’s vanity about his clothes, they began a scheme to weave invisible garments. And the king bought into it! He took off all his clothes and put on the invisible suit. He walked in a royal possession down the streets to show everyone his magnificent clothes. At first everyone exclaimed praises over what he was “wearing”. Then a little boy had the audacity to say “Look at the king. He is altogether as naked as the day he was born!” Just as God provided a sacrifice for Adam’s sin. Just as God provided a sacrifice for Abraham's sin. Just as God provided a sacrifice for our sin. Those who are in Christ Jesus are clothed with His righteousness, sealed by the Holy Spirit. See they were a people who were trying to attain eternal life through their own effort or goodness because they were blind to the fact they were wretched to begin with. And sadly in the end it leads to Judgement and eternal damnation.
A PERSON CAN BE SO EASILY DECEIVED TO THINKING THAT THEY'RE “alright, good enough, or ok” but John begs to differ! This is the dangers of deception, they look good on the outside, but inside its full of dead men bones. You’re not alright and you desperately need to come to alter and confess. (v20-v22). THE SUNDAY QUESTION! Are we [you] satisfied being “godly enough”, to get yourself to Heaven, or to look good in comparison to others? Or do you want to say with the Apostle Paul “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” Phil 3:10. I found this Proverb to very convicting and challenging this week! Are we ok or are we just kidding ourselves in the church? It caused me to really exam my heart and motives when it comes to Christian life. This is my prayer for me and I hope you will pray this with me today! Lord, reveal to me where I’m lukewarm? Lord, please give me the strength in the areas that cause me to be lukewarm? Lord, do whatever it takes to get me on fire for you? If that means something has to go! Lord please, reveal that to me? You know my heart and I want my heart to say with Paul “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” Phil 3:10