The Laodicean Message
by E.H. ‘Jack’ Sequeira
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
I want to remind that you that, in the last two studies, which covered verse 19 of chapter 3, we saw that the greatest need for Laodicea is repentance, to have this change of mind, a change of direction. And, in the context of the Laodicean message, it means two things. First of all, we need to have a change of mind from our opinion to Christs opinion.
Remember in verse 17 what Jesus says about us? We say that we are rich and increased in goods but Christ says that we do not know that we are what? Revelation 3:17:
You say, I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
We need to repent over this, we need, like Peter to confess, God, You are right. We need to confess like Job did at the end of the book, God you are right, I am vile, I repent in sackcloth and ashes.
The second thing that we need to repent of is in Revelation 3:18: from self-righteousness, which is works of the law, to Christs righteousness, which is works of faith.
This is one of the hardest things to do. To repent from sins is not too hard. Ninevah had no problem in repenting from sin. But to repent of self-righteousness is extremely hard, because self-righteousness does not look bad outwardly. That is why the Jewish leaders refused to repent; they saw nothing wrong with their self-righteousness. That is why it was such a difficult experience that God had to take Job through before he could confess that there was nothing good in him.
Now some of you may ask the question, How can we tell, what is Christs righteousness and what is self-righteousness? Well, its very hard, you cant tell easily. But the thing is you must always have the attitude in your mind that there is nothing good in me, that God deserves all the praise, all the glory, there is to be no boasting, inwardly or outwardly.
But now the question is, How is the repentance to be realized? What does God expect from us? And that is what we will cover today, verse 20. So look at Revelation 3:20:
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
Now, this expression of knocking on the door and wanting to come in is taken from the book written by Solomon, Song of Songs. Most Christians have great difficulty with the Song of Songs, some even think its pornography, Biblical pornography. I would recommend to you a book that to me is the finest book Ive ever read concerning the Song of Songs; it gives us a tremendous spiritual application. It is by a Chinese author, some of you are familiar with him, by the name of Watchman Nee. He has written a book on the Song of Songs, and just go to a Christian book store and ask them to get the book for you if you dont have it. Its an excellent book on the Song of Songs. Because the Song of Songs is written really for the spiritually minded people, it is Gods concern to have a close fellowship with His believers. And that is what Christ is pleading for.
Now the first thing I want you to take note of is the first expression or word, Here I am! (Behold in some translations). Its a very interesting expression. It means, Please become aware of or take notice. Take notice of what?
If you look at the next statement, I stand at the door and knock, it sounds as if Christ is outside of you, and if Hes outside of you, it means that youre unconverted. So the question is, Is Christ talking here to unconverted people? And the answer is no, because He already identifies with Laodicea as His people. What He means is, I am outside of your works, because thats the issue. I know your works, I am not the Source of your works, its your self-righteousness that youre doing. And I want to be inside. I want to be the Source of your works, I want to be part of your works. In other words, Im knocking to be the Source of your works. Please let Me be your righteousness. Not only in terms of your standing before God, but in terms of your Christian living.
Now to understand this we need to realize that the New Testament divides Christians into two camps. And I want to give you a passage. Turn to 1 Corinthians. This is a problem that we need to come to grips with. I want you to notice what Paul does here, he divides Christians into two camps, 1 Corinthians 3:1-3:
Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly...
So there are two kinds of Christians: spiritual and carnal. Now I want you to notice how he defines the carnal Christian. He doesnt say, the unconverted, he says:
...mere infants in Christ....
Theyre babies in Christ. Do babies walk perfectly, or do they fall down? Why do they fall down? Because theyre babies, theyre weak, you see? Okay, infants in Christ....
...I gave you milk...
This is number two, there are two problems with babies. Number one you cant give them heavy stuff, you cant give them linkettes, you know. When we were in the mission field we used to take Loma Linda stuff as a treat. Once in a blue moon we would open a can, and I remember the first time we opened a can of sliced chicken, you know this Loma Linda [meatless] chicken. And we gave a little bit to our daughter who was just learning to eat solid foods. And she chewed, and she chewed, and she chewed and she couldnt swallow the thing. And she said, This is terrible stuff!
And I said, Well, yes ... its plastic you know, and there is difficulty swallowing it. Now they have improved it since then, it was very fibery, it was stringy. She couldnt disintegrate the stuff and swallow it. Finally she had to throw it on the floor and the cat enjoyed it. So it was pretty good, at least the cat thought so. And Paul is saying:
...I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly.
Now Paul wrote Corinthians, this letter, approximately 10 years after the Corinthian church was established. In other words, You have not grown spiritually, you are still wordly. And the evidence is this:
For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?
In other words, your behaviour is not like a Christian. Your behaviour is like the worldly people. He doesnt say that they are lost; in fact, in verse 16:
Dont you know that you yourselves are Gods temple and that Gods Spirit lives in you?
So they are converted. Now please dont tell me, that when Paul wrote the first three verses they were unconverted like one person told me, but when he came to verse 16 they were converted. That is a terrible exegesis, because Ill take you to chapter 4 and chapter 5 and chapter 6 and there hes rebuking them for their behaviour.
But let me give you the spiritual Christian. The spiritual Christian is not only one that is converted, but who is walking in the Spirit. Now what is the distinction between a carnal Christian and a spiritual Christian? The issue is not conversion here. The issue is that a carnal Christian is primarily walking in the flesh. And the result is this, because hes dominated by self, that is what the flesh is, there are two problems with him:
When people look at him they say, Boy, if this is Christianity, I want nothing to do with it. Hes a very poor representative of Christ. And Ill be frank with you, it is because of poor witnessing that the Eastern European block went Marxist. They were all Christian countries, why did they turn Marxist? Because the Christian church failed to reveal the life of Christ. And it failed because the believers were worldly Christians, on the whole. But there is a third point I need to bring up about worldly Christians. Worldly Christians are in a very dangerous condition. It is very easy for the Devil to pull them out of Christ, because they are already walking in the flesh. Now when you look at a worldly Christian, and when you look at the people of the world, there is very little difference in behaviour. And that is why we must not judge. It is hard to judge whether a worldly Christian is converted or unconverted, because in behaviour he is no different from the people of the world.
Okay, I want to give you two examples of what happens when you are a Christian that is spiritual. A spiritual Christian is not only converted, but he is walking in the Spirit. Such a believer can be described as the light of the world, because hes reflecting Jesus Christ. And when this happens two things will take place:
I want to give you two examples, turn to Galatians 5, and I want you to notice what Paul says in verses 16-18. This is admonishment that Paul is giving to believers:
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
In other words, the only way to conquer the flesh is not by willpower, or by trying, but by walking in the Spirit. Youll have another statement made by Paul in Romans 13:14 where he says:
Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.[
So one of the evidences of a spiritual Christian is that through the power of the indwelling Spirit the flesh is subdued. And by the way, you have to read Galatians 5:17-18 only in the context of verse 16 because verses 17 and 18 are explanations of that statement he makes in verse 16. But I want to go to Galatians 5:22-23 and there Paul tells us that when we walk in the Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
In other words, this is in harmony with the law.
Now, in order to appreciate this, what we need to understand is that imparted righteousness takes place only when we have lost all confidence in the flesh and we can say in our hearts, Not I, but Christ.
So Im going to take you through four stages, because there is a lot of confusion in this area, and Im going to use Adam as a type or example. Im going to look at Adam before the fall, Im going to look at Adam after the fall, Im going to look at Adam after his conversion, and Im going to look at Adam when Christ comes the second time. There are four stages. Please turn to 1 Thessalonians. chapter 5. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Paul is praying concerning the believers in Thessalonica, and he says:
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He breaks up man into three elements. Now the first thing I would like to say is that none of these three elements are capable of independent existence. Thats the heresy of the immortal soul. All these three elements together make up the human being, but when you die, all three come to an end, folks; nothing exists beyond that. I can give you many texts where the Bible teaches the body, soul, and spirit.
If you think of these three elements as one inside the other, the spirit is the inmost circle. That is the dwelling place of God. In fact, if you read Desire of Ages, page 161, you will find that there Ellen G. White says that,
...from eternal ages it was Gods purpose that every created being, from the bright and holy angels, the seraphs, to men, should be a temple for the indwelling of the Creator.
In other words, God created man that He may indwell in man. When God created Adam, Adam was indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
By the way, the essence of our spirit is the conscience. It is through the conscience that God directs you. The soul is the human mind, of course, the center being the will. So it is in the soul that we make decisions. And the body, of course, is the outward, physical body. By the way, you will notice these three elements are very closely related to the sanctuary. Remember, the sanctuary is a type not only of Christ but of the believer. The Most Holy Place, which represents the Spirit, is where God dwells. The Holy Place is where God functions, the priest functioned in the Holy Place. And of course the courtyard, which is the body is where the sacrifice took place. Please remember what Paul says in Romans 12:1:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of Gods mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God this is your spiritual act of worship.
There are three things that I want to say about Adam at creation:
That is Adam before the fall. What happened to Adam when he sinned? We need to know number two because that is how you and I were born.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins....
Now, this is Adam at the fall; this is how you and I are born. We are born carnal (or worldly); we are born dominated by self; we are born slaves to sin. And there is nothing that you and I can do to save ourselves, because it is impossible. It is like a farmer trying to produce apples from orange trees: impossible. The Bible is very clear (Jeremiah 13:23):
Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.
They try, they put a little makeup, you know. Its very interesting. In Africa, the women are always trying to straighten their hair. In America, the women are always trying to curl their hair. Mankind is never satisfied. But you cant do it, you can do it for a season, but you have to go to the hairdresser over and over again and it becomes a very expensive procedure. Am I correct? The poor husbands have to pay it sometimes, unless the wife is working.
What happens when a person is converted? What change takes place in the person?
Now where does the conflict take place? Now heres the problem, the Spirit that dwells in you cannot produce any righteousness (Im now talking about imparted righteousness) the Spirit that dwells in you cannot impart righteousness to you through your works, without the consent off the will. The Holy Spirit will never do work by compulsion. He can do it, but He will not because God has created us as free moral agents.
The body cannot fulfill its desires for sin without the consent of the will. So the battle ground in the Christian is the human mind. Its in your mind, in your thoughts, your desires that there is a constant battle. Am I talking about something that you are all familiar with? Yes. The mind is always struggling. And by the way, I believe Romans 7 is describing that struggle. With the mind, you want to do the law of God. The flesh wants to do the law of sin. And this struggle is constant.
Now when does this struggle stop? Well, I have bad news, it does not stop until the second coming of Christ, or until this body dies. Then the mind dies with it and there is no more struggle. So there is no way that you can say, I have graduated from the struggle. Now Im not talking about getting victory, Im talking about the struggle.
Now the question: Can the mind conquer the flesh? And the answer is no. It can defy the flesh, but can never conquer it. What do I mean by defy? Well, lets say you have attended a week of prayer, you have been stirred up and you make resolutions: From now onwards, I am not going to have any dessert after meals. Have you ever made that resolution? No more desserts for me! Well, you succeed the first day, the second day, the third day, and then the fourth day you have been working extremely hard and you are tired, and then your wife has brought some wonderful cookies made for you, and you look at it and your mouth waters, and you say, Boy, just one. And before you know it, its all gone.
I once received a card in the mail from the Holts family Russel Holts and his wife. We had given these friends a cookie jar as a gift. And the wife says, I dont know whats wrong. Every time I put cookies in there, presto! They disappear. Thats the flesh, folks; you cant avoid it. I have the same problem, so my wife has to hide the cookies.
Of course, some of you will say, But I have overcome the cookies. Yes, you may have overcome the cookies, but theres something else that you havent overcome that I have overcome, too. So please, before you point your finger at me, I can point my finger at you. We all have our own problems. To some its cookies, to others its something else. I dont know what your problem is. Some people have no problem getting up in the morning. But for some people, boy, its the greatest problem to get up in the morning. Some people have no problem in going to bed at night. Other people, they cant, they have to wait and wait because they cant sleep. So we all have our problems.
But the thing is, the human mind cannot conquer the flesh. Romans 7 makes it clear. [This topic is covered in Elder Sequeiras series on Romans.] Can the Spirit conquer the flesh? I want to give you a text, Romans 8, look at verse 2:
...Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
Now the word law appears twice here. And it is used in terms of a force. Just like we have the law of gravity; the law of gravity is a force. The first thing I would like to say about Romans 8:2 is that Paul is not talking about the Christian experience, he is talking about a truth that took place in Christ. He says that there were two forces that met in Christ:
Now where is the law of sin residing? Well, he has explained it in Romans 7. Look at verses 22 and 23:
For in my inner being I delight in Gods law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
In my converted mind and spirit, I want to keep the law of God. But my members...!
What does he mean by members? He doesnt mean church members. He means, My body, my hands and feet and so on or in my human nature, in my flesh.
...But I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
Now please remember that hes explaining what he says in verse 18. What does he say in verse 18?
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good [I can choose in my mind to obey God], but I cannot carry it out.
And then he explains that the reason that he cannot do the will of his mind is because there is a flesh that is opposing him, the law of sin. This law of sin and the law of the Spirit met together in Jesus Christ. And Who won, the Spirit or the flesh? Now please remember the word, law not only means a force, but a constant force. You see, the will is not a constant force. It is a force, but not constant. Sometimes my will is strong, sometimes it is weak. That is not true with the law of sin; it is constant all the time. And so is the law of the spirit: constant. But they are opposite forces. One is towards sin, one is towards righteousness. In Christ these two laws met and Who won? Well, in Romans 8:3 I read that Jesus Christ condemned sin. Where? In the flesh. He condemned the law of sin in the flesh, because thats the context. Romans 8:3:
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man,...
Now He did it for two reasons. Number one, He did it to justify us. Because Ill tell you, folks, it is not only your acts that condemn you, your very sinful nature condemns you. This flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. So Christ did not only deal with my acts, he dealt with what I am. And on the cross, He executed not only my sins, but the law of sin in my flesh.
But there was another reason. Christ condemned sin in the flesh not only to justify me, but look at verse 4:
...in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
In other words, if you walk after the Spirit, that same Spirit, the law of the Spirit, will set you free in experience from the law of sin, but please remember, not to save you but to give evidence. In other words, what Christ is saying to Laodicea is, I want to be the source of your Christian living. Stop trying to be good, you will never make it. I want to come in and dwell in you, and walk in you. In other words, the Laodicean plea that Christ is making to the church is found in the new covenant promise, and so please turn to 2 Corinthians 6:16:
What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.
And by the way, He dwells in every believer, every converted Christian has the Holy Spirit dwelling within, both the carnal and the spiritual Christian have God dwelling in them. But God wants to do two things:
Is God walking in the carnal Christian? The answer is no. Therefore, the carnal Christian is a misrepresentation of Christ. And God wants Laodicea to be spiritual. The only way we can become spiritual and allow God to walk in us is by saying, Not I, but Christ. And that is painful for the self-righteous.
Now having said this, I want now to look at the two choices that are left with us. In other words, when a person is unconverted, this is the unconverted man: he has only one life to control him, the life of the flesh. In other words, the unbeliever can only walk in the flesh, because thats all he has, and thats all he is. The believer has two things: (1) He is flesh he still has the carnal flesh, but he also has (2) the Spirit. So there are two possibilities with the believer: he can either walk in the flesh or he can walk in the spirit. If you turn to Romans 8, you will notice that after he has explained the truth as it is in Christ, hes admonishing the believers in Rome not to walk in the flesh. For example, look at Romans 8:12. First of all, he reminds them, in verse 9a:
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.
And then he goes on to prove that if he doesnt dwell in you, youre unconverted. But now look at verse 11:
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
In other words, it is only the Spirit that can produce righteousness. It is only the Spirit that can conquer the flesh. You cant! You cannot.
Now why does Paul use the idea of resurrection? Because, please remember, the ultimate power of sin is to put you in the grave. Have you conquered the grave? If you have, then you can conquer the flesh. But if you havent conquered the grave, you cant conquer the flesh.
Has Christ conquered the grave? Yes. That was the greatest evidence. How did He conquer the grave? By His power, or by the power of the Spirit? And Paul says here, Just like the Spirit proved His power by raising Christ from the dead, so also if you are walking in the Spirit He will be able to mortify or subdue the flesh and produce righteousness in you. Romans 8:12-13:
Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live....
Now what is Paul saying here? Paul is saying that if you allow the flesh to control you, ultimately the flesh will pull you out of Christ and you will die. Because Ill tell you, when you walk in the flesh, you are doing something to the Spirit. Do you know what youre doing? Let me give you the text: Ephesians 4:30. And by the way, Ephesians 4:30 is talking in the context of Christian living. Let me read a few verses before and after. Okay, lets start with verse 25 of Ephesians 4, through verse 30:
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.[Verse 30]: And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Now please, what Paul is saying here, is that as long as the Spirit of God dwells in you, you are sealed in terms of your eternal salvation. But dont grieve Him, because there is a possibility for you to say to the Holy Spirit, I dont want You any more. It is possible to grieve the Holy Spirit to the point where He will leave you. And when that happens, folks, you are now no longer under the umbrella of justification by faith. You have said good-bye to it.
As a Christian, you have two possibilities: (1) you can walk in the Spirit, because the Spirit dwells in you, or (2) you can walk in the flesh, which is your natural life. And there is always a conflict between these two. Both want your mind. Because the flesh cannot fulfil sin without the mind and the Spirit cannot fulfil His desires without the mind. And so this constant struggle makes life quite miserable for us sometimes. What does this do? It begins to make you groan. Are you groaning because of the flesh? Well I have some good news for you. Turn to Romans 8, where Paul is discussing this. And he says in verses 22-23, after explaining about creation, he says:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Is this groaning going to go on forever? The answer is no. We will have to groan until when? Verses 24-25:
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Folks, the groaning will take place until the second coming of Christ. There will never come a time when your flesh will say, I give up. I will not give you any more trouble. I hate to say this, the flesh will not give up. And so, there is this constant struggle. Can the flesh be conquered? Yes. Not by you, not by your will, but by the Spirit. And it will only do it as you walk in the Spirit. And Christ is saying, Let me come, to not only dwell with you, but let Me sup with you, and you with Me. Let me totally identify Myself with you. Thats the meaning of sup with you, and you with Me.
God wants to take over, He wants to control your body, He wants to control your mind. But He will never do it by compulsion. That is why Sister White says that there is a very important part for us to do, our wills must be submitted to the will of God. And that, folks, is the cross. You remember Gesthemane? The flesh of cross did not want to die. What did Jesus say to His father? Luke 22:42:
Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.
And this is the thing that you have to say constantly.
So what is Jesus crying, what is He pleading with Laodicea? Hes saying, I want to come, not only to dwell with you, because Im already doing that, but I want to walk in you. Would you please allow Me to walk in You? What you are doing may appear very nice to you, but it is polluted with self. Its only when Im walking in you that the righteousness that is produced in you is really true righteousness.
And so, folks, there is this great concern. There is, number one, when you walk in the flesh, there is a danger that the devil will pull you out of Christ. And number two, when you walk in the flesh, we can never fully represent Christ. We are a bad witness to the world. And the crying need, folks, is for the Christian church to reveal to the world the power of the gospel in their lives. We are saved, we are sealed unto the day of redemption, but are we being a witness for Christ, or are we walking like men? Thats the question. And it is my prayer folks, that we will be willing to repent of our self-righteousness, and let Christ come in and walk in us, and let the world see, not me, But Him. And so we can say with Paul (Galatians 2:20):
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
When this happens, folks, the earth will be lightened with His glory, and we will have overcome, which is verse 21: To him who overcomes.... And so our next study will be Revelation 3:21:
To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.