I know your works.
“You brag, ‘I’m rich, I’ve got it made, I need nothing from anyone,’ oblivious that in fact you’re a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless..” – Vs 17 MSG
Jesus confronts three different churches in this one chapter and He begins with a single phrase each time: “I know your works.” He is speaking to churches, not individuals. He is addressing the community of professing believers at a specific geographic location. He’s talking to a local body of believers. Not to me as a single, solitary Christian. Why is this important? Because we tend to take so many of these passages and make them personal, and when we do we miss the whole point. While there are applications we can glean from these verses that we can apply to ourselves as individuals, the real message is for the church. And He is telling these churches that He is watching them. As a result, He says He knows their works. He knows what they have produced. The Greek word means “any product whatever, any thing accomplished by hand, art, industry, or mind.” These churches are not lazy. They have been busy. And their efforts have been producing fruit. The problem is, Christ is not pleased with their fruit. In each case, He has found something wrong. The church in Sardis is in a spiritual coma. They have a reputation for being alive, but in reality they are dead. They may have those around them fooled, but Christ knows the truth.
The church in Philadelphia is a slightly different story. They actually get a commendation from the Lord. He tells them, “Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world” (Vs 10 NLT). This church is under persecution, yet in spite of its difficult circumstances it has remained faithful to the Word of God and has not denied His name. He encourages them to hold fast and to remember that He is coming again soon.
The message to the church in Laodicea is the most striking one to me. And it is probably the most familiar one. He tells them, “You’re not cold, you’re not hot–far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit” (Vs 15 MSG). This church was spiritually flat-lined. They were addicted to the status quo. It was business-as-usual all the time for these people. They were indifferent and complacent. They were stuck in the middle. They weren’t cold. This probably has nothing to do with spiritual coldness or carnality. Being Christ says, “I will spit you out of my mouth” (NASB), He is probably making a reference to water. Cold water refreshes and quenches thirst. Hot water warms the body when cold. Both are positive attributes, not negative. Yet this church is neither. They are tepid when it comes to their spirituality. And they literally make Christ sick.
Their problem? They are self-sufficient, overly confident, and spiritually prideful. Listen to Christ’s description: “You brag, ‘I’m rich, I’ve got it made, I need nothing from anyone,’ oblivious that in fact you’re a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless” (Vs 18 MSG). They were blind to their true spiritual condition. They looked at themselves and saw success. They were oblivious to their true spiritual condition. They had come to a point as a church where they didn’t really need Christ any more. They could accomplish everything they needed to do in their own strength. But Christ reminds them that they were really pitiful. From His perspective they were like a blind beggar, a homeless person totally dependent on the goodwill of others to survive. So Christ calls them to return to Him as the source of all their needs. But first they have to admit and confess their condition. That’s where it always begins. Then He says that He will meet their needs. He will restore their spiritual vitality and usefulness. He will restore the fellowship and intimacy with Him that is missing in their church. That is why He pleads, “Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends” (Vs 20 NLT). This is one of the most misquoted passages in the Bible. It has little to do with salvation, but has everything to do with the kind of relationship Christ wants to have with His church. He wants to dine with us. He wants to spend time with us. He wants to have intimate, close fellowship with us. But He is standing outside a closed door waiting to be let into our midst. It is as if Christ is saying to the church today, “Please let Me be a part of what You are doing! Let Me in. I want to contribute!” Do we hear Him? Do we need Him? Or like the church at Laodicea, have we become so self-sufficient that we don’t need Him anymore?
Father, we need Your Son more than ever. The church needs to open the door and let in the One who can help us survive and make a difference in this world. We can not be the salt and light You have called us to be apart from the influence of Your Son. Forgive us for thinking we are need of nothing. Open our eyes and let us see our true condition if we attempt to do Your work without Your Son. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men