Mike Warren is the senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Gold Country in Grass Valley, CA. He is a featured speaker in the apologetics documentary Wide Is the Gate 3. As one with a shepherd's calling, Mike's passion is to encourage believers in the love of Jesus and the truth of His Word.
Again, I want to thank T. A. McMahon and the staff there at The Berean Call for honoring me with the great privilege once again of being one of your speakers. And, again, I don’t consider myself a specialist—you’re going to hear from a lot of those guys that will just be speaking on very specific topics and concerns of false teaching coming into the church.
My job is more of a general practitioner, as it were. I’m your family doctor. I’m your “Pastor’s Perspective” for this conference.
So, let’s just open in a word of prayer, and we’ll dive in. The message I felt like the Lord gave to me for you, if I were to put a title to it, I would call it “A Tale of Two Churches.”
So, let’s pray: Father, we thank you again for this opportunity, Lord, again, to gather together as the body of Christ, to be strengthened, to be warned, to be encouraged, and to be comforted. Again, we would pray that the Holy Spirit would take these words and plant them—not just into our heads but deep into our hearts. And we ask these things in the mighty name of Jesus. And, again, all God’s sons and daughters say “Amen”!
“A Tale of Two Churches.” You know, as I survey the condition of the church today, as a pastor it’s very simple for me to see there are two things that exist in the world today that are called “the Church.” And they are diametrically opposed to each other, and I think it’s extremely important at this time that we make that distinction. And so, this message is going to make that distinction the best I can between what is called the church and what truly is the Church in these last days.
Now, Paul told us in 2 Thessalonians:2:3, that in the last days there would be a falling away—an apostasy—from the biblical faith. And I think we’re living in that time. I can certainly see it around me in other churches. The most important thing for us as the true body of Christ and the true followers of Christ is to stay the course.
So, let me just lay it out like this: There are two things. One is an organism. Now, listen carefully, because we are the body of Christ, what an organism looks like. The organism, which is the body of Christ, is born again by the Spirit of God. It is empowered and led by the Spirit of God. It is built upon that sure foundation and that solid foundation of God’s Word—God’s inspired Word, His authoritative Word, His inerrant Word. It’s like it tells us in Ephesians 2—you know, we’re built upon that foundation of the apostles and the prophets, and Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone at which He is the head and we are the members of His body, and it’s a living relationship.
You know, two years ago, I had the wonderful privilege of traveling to Asia Minor and visiting the seven churches that are recorded there in the Book of Revelation. And it was very interesting when we came to Antioch, Syria, and we were in that little cave church where it was reported that the Holy Spirit, as we read in Acts, the Holy Spirit said to those elders gathered as they were ministering to the Lord and as they praying, the Holy Spirit said, “Separate Barnabas and Paul unto the work that I’ve called them to. And they laid hands on them and prayed for them and sent them out under the power of the Holy Spirit.”
And when you read through the Book of Acts, the church, the early church, the first church, the true church, was completely led and directed of the Holy Spirit. In fact, I also got to visit Antioch Pisidia, up there in the mountains, where, when Paul arrived, he was seeking to move on in his ministry—you know, he was seeking to go up into Bithynia, to go north, and the Holy Spirit said no. He then sought to go south toward Ephesus. The Holy Spirit again said, “No, just keep going in the direction you’re going and further instructions will come, as it were.” And there he had that vision of the Macedonian man, and for the first time, the Gospel leaves Asia Minor and moves over into Europe. All of that led and directed of the Holy Spirit!
A.W. Tozer tells us that if you would have taken the work of the Holy Spirit out of the First Century Church, out of the Book of Acts, as it were, 90 percent of what we read would have never happened. But then he goes on to say, “But if you took the work of the Holy Spirit—that leading and guiding, that directing, as we followed Jesus—out of the modern church, 90 percent of what goes on go on unaffected. And that’s tragic.
So, what is an organism? And, again, let me just say, it’s the body of Christ, born of the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit, led of the Spirit, directed by the Holy Spirit, built upon the solid foundation of God’s inerrant, inspired, authoritative Word in which Christ is the Head, and we are members of His body, and it is a living relationship.
The other thing that exists in the world today that’s called the church is an organization, with its religious system—driven and controlled by men, built upon the foundation of man’s philosophy, his methodology, his ideology, in which man is the head, and the people’s opinions are the rule. And it is just a dead system of religion.
These two things exist today, and both of them, by the way, are being called “the church.” Now, the best way I could find to illustrate this difference between and organism and an organization is found in Revelation 3 as Jesus writes to the last two churches of those seven churches that He sent those epistles to. And it’s interesting—as we come to these last two churches, the first being the Church of Philadelphia, and the second being the Church of Laodicea, let the meaning of their names alone speak volumes. The Church of Philadelphia—Philadelphia means “brotherly love.” Love is a fruit of the Spirit— love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, kindness, meekness, self-control—against such there is no law, and they that are Christ’s have crucified, as it were, these affections, these lusts, these inordinate desires, and they served and followed Jesus Christ.
And what’s interesting is, as we look at this church in detail in a few moments, we’re going to see that this church was birthed of the Spirit, it was led of the Spirit, it was controlled of the Holy Spirit, it bore the fruits of the Spirit out in its ministry.
And so, you have the Church of Philadelphia, but right alongside that, as we’re moving into these last two churches, is the Church of Laodicea. And it’s interesting—the very title means “People Rule.” It is a work of the flesh. Again, it’s not an organism. It’s not that body of Christ, born of the Spirit—it’s that work of the flesh led by man and by man’s efforts.
So, it’s interesting as we come now to this, as Jesus is dealing with these seven churches, He follows somewhat of a pattern that I think it’s important for us to make note of during this time in this teaching—the first thing is that He mentions, from chapter 1, where we have that description of the risen Christ in all of His glory and all of His majesty, He borrows some of that description as He introduces Himself and what He needs to say to each one of these churches.
Secondly, He gives to them a commendation for what they’re doing right, if something can be found that is noteworthy.
The third thing He does is He corrects those things that need to be corrected. If there is something going on in that church that is wrong, that’s incorrect, He gives a correction to that.
And then, the fourth thing, He gives a cure. He never corrects without giving a cure. He gives a cure to those things that need to be corrected, and then He offers a reward or a blessing for the obedience in correcting those things.
So, let’s take a look at the Church of Philadelphia first, and we’ll start our reading in Revelation:3:7: “And to the angel of the church of Philadelphia, write these things, saith He that is holy, He that is true, He that has the key of David, He that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth. I know thy works. Behold I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it, for thou hast a little strength and hath kept My word, hath not denied my name. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan which say they are Jews and are not, but they do lie—behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, also I will keep thee from the hour of tribulation that shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth.
“Behold, I come quickly. Hold fast that which thou hast, and let no man take thy crown, to end and overcometh will I make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out no more, and I will write upon him the name of My God, the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which cometh down from heaven from God, and I will write upon him a new name. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying unto the churches.”
Jesus, as John is listening to those very words and putting pen to paper under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as literally these things are being dictated, as it were, from the very mouth of Christ through the heart of Paul, right out of his hand onto a pen and paper for us to read these many centuries later, He introduces himself to this particular church, the Church of Philippi, the Church of Brotherly Love—that church that is controlled of the Spirit that’s bearing forth the fruits of the Spirit. He introduces Himself to this church as the One who is holy, the One who is true.
And those two particular descriptions have the sense of being altogether righteous and pure—altogether genuine, sincere, and authentic. This church was an authentic church. And what Christ wants from us today is to be authentic. It’s interesting that in the Greek, the word for “sincere” means “without wax.” You know, those days when people made their living making sculptures, sometimes you could work for months with a piece of marble, and you’re chipping away, you know, making whatever imagery that your client hired you to do, and as you get to the very end, and you’re kind of working on the final details, a lot of times, sometimes, as they chipped away, a part or a piece would fall off. Sometimes a nose, an ear, part of a lip. And so, what they would do, is that they would mix wax with some of the marble dust, and then they would re-form that piece and stick it on, and they would sell that particular product in the wintertime when the wax would remain hard. And then when the summer came, and it began to heat up, then that particular statue, or whatever they chiseled out for you, that wax would begin to soften, and it would begin to lose its form.
And that came to be known as something that wasn’t sincere. Wasn’t sincere. Here, Jesus presents Himself as He introduces Himself to this church, by being holy and true—genuine. Authentic. Sincere.
Then, He says something very interesting, because He doesn’t borrow this from chapter one. This is something that’s inserted in the introduction of Himself to this particular church, which I think is very interesting. It’s that He is the One who “opens and no man shuts.” We’re going to see, as we move through this message, that this is the Church of the open door. But that He opens, and no man shuts. And this phrase comes from Isaiah:22:15-23, and listen to the context of it, and listen to the scenario around it, and what is being said in it. It says this, starting in Isaiah:22:15: “Thus saith the Lord God of hosts, Go, get thee unto the treasurer, even unto Shebna, that is over the house [of David], and bring this message to him....”
We’re going to see in a few moments that corruption came into the treasurer, Shebna, of the house of David. And the job of the treasurer was to take out from the supply house and deliver it to the people, and minister to their needs. And Shebna became corrupt, as we’re going to see, and so He sends this messenger (the Lord does) to Shebna, and He asks several questions. Listen to what He says, “What hast thou here? [What are you doing here? and who do you have here? What is going on, and who have you invited into this place?] Thou hast hewn out, as it were a sepulcher here. [There’s something dead; there’s something that stinks here.] And thou hast hewed out for themselves a sepulcher on the high places, you’ve graven an habitation in the rocks.” And then He says, “Behold, the Lord will carry thee away with a mighty captivity and will surely cover thee. He will surely violently turn and toss thee like a ball into a large country.” And, of course, we know this as when Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem, and those under... because they didn’t listen to the warnings of the prophets, they were led into captivity into Babylon.
Here’s the warning of God to this particular person, Shebna: “Thou shalt die there, there in thy chariots and thy glory shall be the shame of the house of Israel. I will drive thee from thy station [I’m going to remove you from that position] and from thy state shall He pull thee down.” I.e., “from that position, from that state that you once were placed in, because you have not been faithful; because you have allowed false things and idolatry to creep in, God says, ‘I’m going to remove you from that position, or from that place. And it shall come to pass in that day that I will call my servant Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with a robe.” That’s one of the things we’re promised when we get to heaven is that we’re going to be given a robe—the robe of righteousness. Then He says, “And I will strengthen him with thy girdle [i.e., he’ll be girded with truth], I will strengthen him with truth, and I will commit thy government [the authority] into his hand: and he shall be a father [he shall be like a shepherd] to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and even unto the house of Judah.” I.e., “He will be My representative,” because it’s relational, as a father to their children, as the heavenly Father to us, His sons and daughters, this Eliakim will take up that position of shepherding and ministering to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.
“And” (listen, here goes) “and the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulders.” He’s the one who will go into the storehouse and bring out the things that are necessary, the things that are right. “So shall he open, and no man shall shut; and he shall shut and no man shall open. And I will fasten him [get this!], I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place, and he shall be for a glorious throne to his Father’s house.” So, as Jesus introduces Himself to this church of Philadelphia, He borrows from an Old Testament scenario—part of that situation, some of the verbiage there, to remind us if we are the church of the Living God, born of the Spirit, led of the Spirit, controlled of the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit—if we are that church that is standing firm on the authoritative Word of God, not compromising; if we truly are those that are in relationship with Christ, then God will give to you and me an open door.
And there’s three things that I want to look at in this message about that open door: Number 1: Hebrews:4:16, and this is my favorite—this is my absolute favorite open door in all of God’s Word. I spend a lot of time accessing this particular door. I have a kind of a policy, and kind of a thing that I do—and I do it a lot, I do it often—where I just go up into the mountains, and I’ll spend a day and night and a part of the next day just in prayer and fasting. And I’ll do it at least a couple times a month, because I know that my walk with the Lord is relational, and to develop that relationship, to cultivate that relationship, to keep that relationship current and intimate, it takes time and it takes effort. And I know that I just have to get away from all of the busy-ness. I have to get away from all of the noise, as it were—all of those things clamoring for my attention, and I have to get into a place (for me, it’s up in the mountains—you can find your own place), I have to get away so I can just spend time with the Lord, because He’s given to us an open door. It’s an invitation, as it were.
Listen to what it says in Hebrews:4:16: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace.” And all those times when I’m just sitting alone and I’m praying, it just feels like His presence envelopes me. I hear His voice. And often I’ve told our congregation (and I’ll laugh a little bit), it’s not like I’m insane and I’m hearing voices. The voice I hear is much louder than any visible voice, although it resides in my heart. So the Holy Spirit has taken up residency, and He invites me—He says, “You can come boldly into the very throne room of grace that you might obtain mercy and find grace and help in a time of need.”
“They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount on the wings of eagles. They will run, and they don’t grow weary; they will walk and they won’t pass out or faint.” Listen, this open door we have as the true church is a door open right into His very throne room. It’s that place where we receive our strength and our encouragement—as it were, our marching orders where we get direction. It’s those places where we are comforted, we’re encouraged, and sometimes corrected. Many times I’m up in the mountains and, you know, my procedure is to always start praying for our church and for the needs of our church, but it’s not long—just of few minutes, and it comes right back off on me, on my heart. Because as go the pastors, so go the churches. And so, we have an open door to our Father.
And, number 2, we have an open door of ministry. In Colossians:4:3, Paul says, “Pray for us that God would open unto us a door of utterance that we should speak the mysteries of Christ for which I am in bonds,” [“who I’m a prisoner of]. And we know that the Lord answered this prayer, because when Paul arrived in Ephesus, he says, “An effectual and fervent door of ministry was opened unto me here in Ephesus, and one of the ways I knew that was because of the resistance [my adversaries are many].” Listen, just because God opens a door for the true church of ministry in this world, it does not mean there’s not going to be resistance. In fact, you can count on it. In fact, the way Paul knew there was an open door of ministry for him there in Ephesus is because his adversaries were many.
Again—I got the wonderful privilege of being in that theater a couple years ago in Ephesus. I walked down the pathway that led to the theater, and I couldn’t but think of Paul standing out there—you know, the whole city of Ephesus came out to cry with a loud voice, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians,” trying to oppose the Gospel that was coming into that city. But they couldn’t stop it, because we know that they burned all their books of witchcraft (I got to be in that marketplace as well), just as they were coming to faith in Christ.
So, not only do we have an open door and access to our heavenly Father that we might cultivate that intimate relationship—and, by the way, Jesus modeled this. How often do we read in the gospels where He sent His disciples away? He sent the multitude and the crowds away, and He would just go up to a high place or to a mountain to spend time with His Father. If Jesus thought it necessary to do that, how much more do we need that? So you have an open door of access to the Father—you have an open door of ministry. It doesn’t mean there won’t be difficulty, but we have an open door of ministry.
And, again, the last one I want to mention as we’re going through this study, is Revelation:4:1. We have an open door to heaven. In fact, it says in Revelation 4, and I believe here John is speaking of the Rapture. It’s the promise that God gave us in John 14, when He said, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Look around today, man! Do not let your heart be troubled! You know, we’re getting closer and closer to the coming of Christ for His bride. “Let not your heart be troubled. In my Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you.” Now, listen: “I go away to prepare a place for you, that where I am you might be also. And if I go away, this is promise, that I will come again to receive you unto myself that where I am, you might be also.”
And so, one of these days, we’re going to hear, as it were, the shout of the trumpet as the archangel sounds that time for us to come home, I think we’re going to hear those words, “Come up hither, and I’m going to show you the things that are going to take place after this,” but John says, “and after this, I looked, and behold, there was a door opened into heaven.” This church of Philadelphia is relational. This church of Philadelphia has a promise from the Father that they are citizens of heaven, and not of this earth. They are just passing through. This church needs to be effective when it’s passing through. It needs to be led of the Spirit, directed of the Spirit. It needs to bring as many people to faith as it possibly can, but it’s empowered by the Spirit. This church is relational, this church has been given by the power of the Holy Spirit a ministry, and it’s been given a promise one day we’re going to leave this life and make heaven our home.
Now, when it comes to the commendation for this church, listen to what He says, “I know thy works [and this is a very interesting statement, because it’s not ‘I know thy works experientially—it’s not that I’m just watching’]...I know your works [from a very interesting word in Greek, Oida, which means ‘I know not only what you do, not just what I see you doing, but I know the heart and the motivation behind it.’” And so, as the Lord addresses this particular church, He says, “I know. I know what it’s cost you to stand. I know the difficulty of friends and family members that have left because you’ve stood. I know what it’s cost you to stand. I know your works. And I know that you have but a little strength.”
You know, I’m glad He says that, because days when I feel I have no strength. But we know the source of our strength. In fact, 2 Corinthians:12:9, here’s what Paul said (You remember that because of the great revelation God gave him, and the ministry that was committed to him, you know that God allowed Satan, or a messenger of Satan, to buffet him. And, you know, of course, we can surmise what that buffeting was, but here’s what Paul says about it. He prays, as we know, on three separate occasions that the Lord would remove that from him—and this is the answer that he gets. Listen carefully: “My grace is sufficient for thee. Paul, listen, what I have given you is sufficient. I know that you don’t like the buffeting; I know that you don’t like this tent stake driven through you. I know that you don’t like—whatever it is—it could have been his eyes, some say it was it eyes; some say it was all the beatings he had taken in his body. Others think it was just the constant reminder of his past—that painful past, where he persecuted Christians, and literally caused some to deny the faith that he now pursues at the edge of a sword. And he sent some off to prison and some off to death.
Some believe that every time Paul would put his head on a pillow that those images would come back. Satan would buffet him with his past—his painful past. It could have been that. But whatever it was, here the Lord says to Paul, “My grace is sufficient, for My strength is made perfect [it comes to maturity, to completion] in your weakness.” Now, I tell our congregation often that because...sometimes they look at me and think, “Yeah, but, you know, you’re strong, and I’m weak....” No, no, no. I’m as weak as any person in this church. I’m as weak as any person listening to this message. I just know where the source of strength is at. And because I am weak, and I know that I’m weak, that I have to rely on that work of the Spirit—that strengthening and enabling of the Spirit. We just need to know that we have a source, and we have to tap into that source. That’s why this thing is relational. He says, “In your weakness, as you cry out to Me, as you seek Me, as you get away in the mountains,” and I hear him say, “Mike,” and I can say, “Father.” And He says, “What do you need?”
“Well, you already know what I need. I need You. I need Your strength, especially as a pastor in these last days with everything that’s going on—I’ve never had to face this stuff before. I need wisdom. I need to know what to do. I need to know what to say. I’m just your representative. I’m an under-shepherd, and you’re the shepherd. I need orders. I need direction. I need power. I need peace. I need wisdom. I need understanding.”
And because I’m weak, I get to tap into the source of all of that. “My grace is sufficient for thee. For my strength is made perfect in weakness.” You know, the Bible says, “if you lack wisdom, you can ask of the Father and He’ll give it to you liberally, and He won’t even chide you.” And I tell my congregation often, “Listen, I’m just smart enough to know…I’m just smart enough to know that I don’t know. Thus, I rely on His wisdom and His strength. And that’s a good place to be.”
“Most gladly…” Paul didn’t respond—this thorn in the flesh is not taken from him. He said, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities. Lord, I thank you for those things that you allow to come into my life that break me, that force me to my knees, that tell me that I’m not strong in myself, but there is a source of strength that I can go to that will uphold me and uplift me, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
And so, as He gives a commendation to this church of Philadelphia, Jesus says, “Listen, I know your works. I know what it costs you to serve me. I know the pain. I know the sense of rejection by so many. Listen, I know your works, and I know that you only have a little strength, but you understand the source of all strength.”
The second thing that He commends them on is that “You have not denied my Word.” Boy, you do not see that going on in the churches today? There are churches even in our town that say, “We don’t study doctrine.” We did a nine-months doctrine class here. They said, “We don’t study doctrine because doctrine is divisive.”
I had one pastor send that message to me from one of his parishioners who started coming here. “We don’t study doctrine because it’s divisive.” Well, it is divisive. I’ll agree to that. It’s so divisive it separates sheep from goats and wheat from tares, and the saved from the unsaved. It is divisive. But it is necessary! You can’t even know who God is or who Christ is or how you’re saved or what the church is about, where the church is going, or the power of the Holy Spirit without doctrine.
But here, He’s saying, “You have not denied my Word. You have built your lives—you have built the life of the church—on this sure and solid foundation of God’s Word.” Listen to what we read there in Acts:4:29-30 as the church is being challenged in the first century. It’s being challenged to stop teaching and preaching God’s Word under threat of the authorities of the day, the Sanhedrin. And here’s what these guys said. Listen to this! Peter and John are being called up for preaching the Word. They said this, “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings!”
Are we not being threatened? Have we not seen pastors being arrested? Hogtied and dragged from the pulpit in Canada? I think it’s up to three, now. Haven’t we been fined and sued and been threatened that we cannot meet? Listen. When this order came down here in California, where I live, from our Governor Newsome, that the churches were to shut down, I went and looked at what his constitutional powers were concerning the state of California. And I found, as I studied those things, he did have the authority for two weeks under the Emergency Powers Act to shut down California if there was a pandemic.
So, we, wanting to be lawful, we submitted to that. We shut the church down for two weeks. But we also read in the Constitution that on the third week it had to reach epidemic proportions, which means to have overwhelmed the medical communities (and we have a number of nurses who attend our church), and they said not only has it not overwhelmed us, we have three cases in our county, which is 100,000-plus, and they’re laying people off at the hospital. So, it didn’t meet the requirement. And on the third week, he had to go to the state congress and get approval to keep the order in place, and he didn’t. So, on the third week, we just opened back up—business as usual. Posted on the front door the Declaration of Independence and part of the Constitution, we put a sign up there thanking the police officers for their support for our church. They park in our parking lot, they know what we’re doing, and they never shut us down, because we’re under a stronger mandate than the governors or even the president, or any power or authority of man.
Those words were haunting me as we shut the church down, because I knew the danger of it. I know that as Paul was writing to the Hebrews in a similar time of stress, as persecution had come and they were being scattered. He said, “Listen, do not neglect the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some have. But do it all the more as you see the day of the Lord approaching.” I think it’s very important that we do not deny His Word. His Word becomes the final authority for our life. And anytime the laws of this land come in contradiction to the Word of God, we stand on the Word of God.
Listen to what these guys said, “Now, Lord, check this out. Listen to their threatenings!” Verse 31: “But grant unto Thy servants that with all boldness, that we make speak thy word. And when they had prayed, the praise that they were in was shaken, and all those that were assembled there, they witnessed this. They felt this. And then “they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they spake the Word of God with boldness.” That needs to be us, man. That needs to be us!
Well, the next thing He commends them on is that “you haven’t denied My name.” And the word for “name” there is “Onoma,” and it means everything that it represents, because “name” represents position and authority. And He says, “You have not denied my name.”
In Acts chapter 4, just previous to this situation, in verse 9-12 we read these things, you know, because they healed the man at the Gate Beautiful there, and so he goes leaping, as you know, into the precincts, and the thing was reported, and they were arrested. So now, as they’re standing before the Sanhedrin, and they’re giving answer for what this thing is, here is what they say. Listen carefully. “If we this day…” (I love the sense of humor of these guys.) “If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man….” That’s what they’re being accused of? The crime of doing good? Isn’t that silly today that the crime for the churches for being open is doing good, ministering to the mental, emotional, and spiritual needs of people? Have you noticed that suicide has exponentially gone off the scale? People need to be ministered to. And so, they’re saying, “Listen, are we being tried this day for doing good, especially to this impotent man, by what he is made whole? Be it known unto you all, and all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who you crucified, who God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand before you whole. This is the stone which was set anought by the builders, which became the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby you must be saved.”
I think that’s pretty bold. And I think we need that same kind of boldness. So, the commendation is “you haven’t denied My Word, and you haven’t denied My name.” In fact, it’s interesting, as He moves through this commendation, He comes to the next one, and He says, “and I know you have kept the Word of my patience.” What in the world—the Word? Well, it literally means “the testimony of My suffering.” “You have kept, you have guarded, you have promoted and proclaimed the testimony of My suffering.”
Now, what does this mean? Because this under attack today by the Emergent Church and some of these false teachers that are saying that what Jesus did on the cross did not pay for sins because God doesn’t punish sin, you see. Oh, they’ll sat that Jesus was crucified; they’ll say that He was crucified by the Romans under Jewish Law, and all of those things. But it had no effect on us spiritually. You see, they’ve rejected the substitutionary atoning work of Christ on Calvary’s cross for the remission of sins.
We—listen—we of this church believe that it is Christ and Christ alone that saves us. It’s the blood of Christ that washes us of all our sins. And by one sacrifice, as it says in Hebrews 10: “By one sacrifice, He made us holy in our sins, and our iniquities He remembers no more.” That is the work of Christ on the Cross, and we keep that message ever before us. In fact, we have communion—we had it last Sunday, and listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians:11:25 concerning communion: It’s that place where we remember. In fact, did not Jesus say, as we’re going to read in a few moments, “as often as you do this, do it in remembrance of Me.”
Remembrance of what? Of His death, of His suffering. Of His sacrifice. Of His love. That He was beaten and bruised for our iniquities. That He shed His blood for the remission of our sins, and that’s why it says in 1 Corinthians:11:25, “This is the New Testament in my blood. This cup is the New Testament in my blood; this do ye. (We’re commanded to do it.) And as often as we drink it, we are to remember Him.”
So, we remember that it’s not by works; it’s not by being good; it’s not by humanitarian things. It’s not by anything—no effort of our own! You know, I tell our congregation here often, there is no meritorious action whatsoever that you have committed that would garner you God’s love, that would save you. You are saved by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift from God. When you bowed your hearts to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and you invited Him into your heart, and you confessed that you were a sinner in need of a Savior, you were born again of the Spirit. And as you were born again of the Spirit, God gave you a very special gift. He gave you the gift of eternal life. And that gift came to you by faith through grace. So it’s relational.
And then He gives to them the promises—after the commendation that…there is no correction in this church—that’s interesting, but He does give them the promise of reward. Listen to several of them (I put four down here): “I’m going to keep you from the hour of tribulation.” That’s why we are pre-trib here. Not “pre-trouble.” We think trouble may be coming, but we are pre-trib. We believe Jesus is going to come for His Bride before this tribulation begins—this time of absolute judgment of God, when His wrath is being poured out for that seven years after the rapture of the church. But we’re going to be kept from the hour of Tribulation.
And number two, we’re to “hold fast to that which we have and let no man take your crown.” We’re going to be given the Stefanos, the Victor’s Crown. You know, Paul said at the end of his life, when he writes to Timothy in his second letter, he said, “Listen, I fought a good fight. I finished the course. I never gave up. I defended the faith, and now is laid up for me the Stefanos.” The Victor’s crown. We’re going to get that Victor’s crown.
You know, the thing about wearing the Victor’s crown? Every time Jesus comes in you’ve got to cast if off your head. And it would seem through the scripture that it magically reappears so you’ve got this motion going on all the time, you know, casting your crown before His feet. Somebody ought to write a song or name a band—Casting Crowns, that would be a good one, because that’s what we’re going to be doing when we get to heaven.
Thirdly, “I will make you a pillar [this is interesting] in the temple of My God.” This is not a pillar that holds something up. This is more of a monument. And your name will be written on a monument in the temple of our God that you remained faithful. That you didn’t deny His name, nor His Word. No matter what it cost you, you willingly paid the price to walk through there because you were born from above, filled with the Spirit, and you settled your life upon the authoritative Word of God.
And then He warns them—listen… “Behold, I come quickly.” I’m coming back, and I’m coming back soon. And that’s a promise, man! How many can’t wait for the Lord to return? And so, there’s no correction for this church, and there’s no need of repentance. It’s what God wants the church to look like. He wants it to be an organism, not an organization. He wants it to be born from above, that work of the Spirit. He wants it to be empowered by the Spirit. He wants it to be led and guided by the Spirit. He wants it to be built upon the firm foundation of God’s Word—uncompromisingly so. We’re an organism, not an organization.
Now we come to the church of Laodicea, and again, I just want to remind you, the very name means “People rule.” It’s not the Holy Spirit in control, it’s people. It’s not an organism. It’s an organization. You know, Jesus said that “My sheep hear My voice and they follow no other.” This church is, at worst, not hearing the voice of Christ. That’s why all the false teaching can come into the church. They’ve set aside the Word of God. They’ve set aside solid biblical doctrine, and they’ve substituted it with men’s opinions—their ideologies, their philosophies, their methodologies.
And so as Jesus introduces Himself to this particular church of Laodicea, where the people are in control, and the people rule, the first thing He brings to the floor is that He is the Amen. And I like that. There’s been some controversy lately—Amen. Remember the guy in congress prayed “amen” and “awoman.” That’s not at all what it means. “Amen” simply means “verily,” or “so be it, which speaks of His immutability. What God said will always be what God said. He doesn’t have to change His mind. There is no shadow of turning in Him. And if I hear one more time…that, listen, “the Bible is not culturally relevant…. You see, it was written for times long ago, and it doesn’t fit our society.”
Are you kidding me?? If there ever was a society that the Word of God fits, it’s this one. And it needs to listen to it. “So He introduces Himself to this particular church that has cast away, as it were, all of their tithes to God, like Psalm 2 says, “I am the verily and the so be it. I am the immutable one. I am the one who is the same yesterday, today, and will be forever. And listen, My word is the final authority, and not one jot or tittle will pass away until it’s all fulfilled.” Psalms 139: Listen: “I honor my Word above my name. And you’ve set it aside, the faithful, the absolute trustworthy One.
I’ve heard people say, “Well, you just can’t trust God, so we have to trust our own thinking and our own philosophy.” Listen, He’s the faithful One. He’s the true witness. He’s authentic, and He is accurate, and “you’d better pay attention,” is the idea.
“The Beginning”—and that idea is preeminence. He has the preeminence in everything. I love that prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Look what He’s modeling for us—that God’s will is preeminent. It trumps everything else. Jesus, saying to His Father—(and I think it wasn’t because of the beatings or the crucifixion that lay ahead of Him. It was that separation. He said, “If there’s any other way—if there is any other way….” Is there a Plan B? But “nevertheless, not My will, but Thine be done.”
You see, Christ needs to hold that place of pre-eminence in the church. I have a saying around here, and people will quote it often, that you don’t have a sin problem. Sometimes I do marriage counseling, and people come in and they’re fighting with each other and doing all of that kind of stuff, and you know, I look at them, and they say, “Well, how can you help us?”
And I say, “Well, you don’t have marriage problems.”
“We don’t? It sure looks like we do!”
“Well, no, no, no, you don’t have marriage problems; you have Lordship problems. Because are you loving your wife like Christ loved the church? Are you respecting and submitting to your husband as the church is to Christ?”
You see, everything that we get involved with that is not of the Lord is a Lordship problem. And here, they have a Lordship problem, because He is the Beginning. He is the pre-eminent One. The first in rank and order. That’s why we call Him Lord. That’s why we call Him Master.
You know, that’s why Jesus said, in Luke’s gospel chapter 6, verse 46, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord’ and don’t do the things that I say? And this church had a form of religion, and it was saying that they were Christian. And there are a lot of churches running around taking on the Christian title, but listen, Jesus is not their Lord. And Jesus would ask that question of them: “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord’? Why do you put Christian veneer and vernacular on your doors when you’re not willing to give yourself totally into my absolute control? Again, “My sheep hear my voice, and they won’t follow any other.”
Now, it’s interesting, when we come to Laodicea, He’s going to mention some things, and we’re going to read it here in a few moments. In fact, let’s read it right now, and then we’ll come back and tell you what this church was known for—what this city was known for. Known for four very prominent things. But let’s pick up our reading there in verse 14 of chapter 3 of Revelation: “And unto the angel, or the messenger, of the church of Laodiceans, write: These things sayeth the Amen, the faithful, the true Witness; the beginning of creation of God: I know thy works [and, again, this is the word Oida, He knows the motivation, He knows everything behind what they’re doing]….He said, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot. I would that thou were cold or hot. So then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth, because thou sayest, ‘I am rich, and I increase with goods, and have need of nothing.’ And knowest not that thou are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.
“I counsel thee, buy from Me gold tried in the fire that thou mightest be rich, and a white raiment that thou mightiest be clothed and that the shame of thy nakedness should not appear. And anoint thine eyes with eye salve that thou mayest see, for as many as I love I rebuke, and chasten. Be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold I stand at the door and knock. And if any man hear my voice and open the door, I would come in to him, and I would sup with him and fellowship with him, and he with me. To him that overcomes, I will grant him to sit in My throne, as also I overcame and am seated in My Father’s throne.” He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying unto the churches.
There’s some knowledge He’s used here, as He is dealing with this particular church of Laodicea where people are under control, that I think are noteworthy to bring to the fore. The first thing that this particular city that this church was planted in were known for was their wealth. Now, get this: they were so wealthy that in 60 AD, when that city was leveled to the ground [I had the wonderful opportunity of being in that city; I got to visit it two years ago when I was up in Asia Minor, and they’re just now unearthing a lot of the ruins; the Turkish government has employed some other governments to help with the expense, and they’re doing a really neat archaeological dig there, and they’re bringing everything to the fore. It’s a beautiful city.
But they were known for their wealth because in 60 AD a major earthquake struck that area and leveled the city. And they, being a free city of Rome, which meant that they were entitled to Roman Imperial aid that was offered to them (listen carefully) they refused and replied with these words: “We have need of nothing.” And so that city’s nickname became “The city…” (listen, in this time), it became “the city that had need of nothing.”
The second thing that’s noteworthy about this city is the fine black wool that it produced, like no other region in the Roman Empire. In fact, they manufactured three kinds of garments, but the outer garment was the most sought after by the whole Roman Empire, and it was called the Trimata, and it was this beautiful black kind of a robe thing that you wore over…you know, in those cold winter days, that you wore over there at that time. So they were known for this soft black wool.
The third thing, interestingly, they were known for was an eye salve. There was a pharmaceutical university there in Laodicea, and there was a particular physician named Gillian who had discovered and produced—actually perfected—this particular eye salve taken from a plague that was in that region. It was Tephron Phrygia, was the name of it, or “Phrygian powder.” You would take this particular clay and dry it, grind it up like a dust, add oil or water to it, apply it to the eyes, and, interestingly enough, it had some success. And so they were known for this eye salve.
But fourthly, they were known for aqua ducts and water. As I stood there in Laodicea and I could look across the Lycus River Valley, you could see Hierapolis. We had just come from Hierapolis. As a matter of fact, we had just waded in the hot springs of Hierapolis, the mineral springs over there, and just spent some of the day over there on our tour in Hierapolis. But as we got to Laodicea, we did get to visit Colossae, but Colossae was over against the mountains, and you could see the snowcaps, and there was a river we were told that came down, and some springs that were ice cold. And because Laodicea was a growing city and lacking water, they build an aqua duct over to Hierapolis to bring in that hot water from Hierapolis, and they built an aqua duct over to Colossae to bring in the cold water from that area.
But the problem was, when it arrived, the hot water had turned tepid, or lukewarm, and the cold water had turned tepid, or lukewarm. And listen to what Jesus said, because there was no commendation for this church—only correction. He said, “You’re lukewarm.”
I’ve often heard it said that, you know, “You’re lukewarm. You should be hot.” But God would rather have you be cold so that He can deal with you. That’s not at all what they’re saying here. What He’s saying is, “I wish you were hot, because then you would have a therapeutic effect on people around you. You would be healing, and a healing balm to them, that when you interacted with this world because you are walking in the Spirit, and you’re a representative of God’s Word and of God’s healing power and of God’s grace and God’s mercy and God’s kindness and God’s forgiveness, you should be hot and you should be therapeutic as you interact with the world—but you’re not.
Secondly, “I wish you were cold.” What does that mean? Refreshing. On a very hot day—we had one just the other day—I’m out working in the yard, and my wife brings me a tall, ice cold glass of water with a little lemon in it. (That’s how I like it.) And every once in a while, she’ll get me some of these mint leaves and stick in there, too. And, man, I’m hot, and I’m tired. You take a nice cool sip of that water, how refreshing it is! How reviving, as it were, it is! And when we come into contact with people, we should have that reviving effect, that refreshing effect, that “bringing alive again” effect. And Jesus said of this church, “You are neither.” You are neither therapeutic or refreshing.
And because you are neither therapeutic or refreshing, I’m going to spew you out of my mouth. Now, when I taught at this at our church, I got a little graphic. I’ll get a little graphic with you guys too. We’re family. “If I blow chunks.” “If I hurl.” Not just regurgitate. When my wife gets sick, she regurgitates. She’ll say, “I’m sick. I’ve got to go to the bathroom.” And I’ll hear this, “whtttt.” And it’s over! Are you kidding me? I sound like a cow dying in the bathroom, because I’m hurling when I get sick! This is what Jesus said He’s going to do: If you’re not hot and cold, if you’re not therapeutic and healing, and if you’re not refreshing and reviving, Jesus said, “I will spew you out of my mouth.”
Listen to the next correction; this false confession. And I think there’s a lot of false confessions going on today in a lot of different churches. You know, we hear a lot today about the love of God, and that is one of His attributes, and I’m glad it is. It’s a great attribute: God is love. But some churches are preaching that because God is so loving, it doesn’t matter how you live. It’s not true.
Or you hear a lot about sovereignty, you know. “God is so sovereign, He can choose some to be saved and some to be damned—listen, if you buy into that false teaching of Calvinism, that’s an assault to the character of God. Our God would never choose somebody to spend eternity in hell who wasn’t part of the cause of that, or never had a way out. That’s preposterous. And they’re preach “sovereign.” God is holy! That’s what we should preach, and the reason we know that that’s the attribute we should use is because there are preachers that stand before His throne day and night and cry nothing but “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God almighty, who was, who is, who is to come.” You are holy and you are the same. You are immutable. There’s no shadow of turning.
And I think a lot of these churches that preach love or sovereignly, some believe that they preach sovereignty if you’re one of the chosen ones, you can never unchoose it, you’ll always be chosen. And the same with love! But listen, we want to serve the Lord. Yes, “we are saved by grace through faith, that not of ourselves; it is a gift from God.” I thank Him for that. But “We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which He foreordained that we should walk in them.” You cannot separate justification from sanctification, because if you are born of the Spirit, you have a new heart. You’ve put on the new man. You walk in newness of life as the Spirit leads.
Their false confession is “I’m rich! I’m increased in goods. I have need of nothing.” But in reality, as the Lord looks at them, it’s a whole different, isn’t it? When He looks at them, He says to them, “You are wretched! You are miserable. You are poor, blind, and naked. You have a problem. But I have the cure for your problem.”
You see, His diagnosis is vastly different than theirs. As they looked around, they said, “Look what we’ve got going on! Look what we’ve got cooking here! All the things we’re involved in, and all the humanitarian things we’re involved in! Listen, we are rich, and we are increasing in goods. Look at the buildings we’re in. Look at the things we’re doing! And we don’t need of anything! We don’t need the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us; we don’t God’s truth—just look at what we’re doing!”
So their opinion of themselves is vastly different than the reality and how God sees them. He says, “You are wretched, you are miserable, you are poor, blind, and naked.” And here’s the cure—listen again, Revelation:3:18-19: “I counsel thee…” Jesus is saying, “I’m asking you to buy of Me gold, tried in the fire, refined by refiner’s fire that you may be rich, everlasting gold. Not the stuff that perishes here, where rust and moth corrupt, but that which goes on into the kingdom of heaven. And a white raiment, not the black one from the black wool, although it’s soft and comfortable. You need to have a while raiment that thou mayest be clothes, and that the shame of your nakedness does not appear. There’s a garment piece that I’m offering you, that if you wear it, listen, it covers all your shame and guilt; washed in the blood of Jesus Christ that you can wear it. And anoint thine eyes with eye salve that thou may seek the real eye salve.”
You know, it’s like Paul, there on the Damascus road when his eyes were opened. And he saw, and he asked, “Who are You?” And He said, “I’m Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
And his response was beautiful: “What do you want me to do, Lord?”
“Buy from Me eye salve.” And then He said this, and listen carefully: “As many as I love [this is interesting—this isn’t agapeo, this is philo.” What He’s saying is “As many as I love—…” This is interesting. This isn’t agapeo. This is philo. What He is saying is, “As many as I like…” This is the thing that just breaks my heart about so many people caught up in religion. They know that the Lord, because He is love, will love them. But God likes us! I tell people around here, “Man, you know, it’s not that God loves me, because I know He’s love, and He has to love me, because He is love. But He likes me. He likes being around me.” And Jesus said, “As many as I like I rebuke and I chasten.”
Maybe you’re being rebuked and chastened as we’re going through this message. Maybe you’re far too religious. Maybe you’re going through the motions without any emotion. Maybe you’ve gotten so busy with the work of the Lord that you have forgotten the Lord of the Work, and you’re about works and not about relationships. I would caution you—I’d put a pause on my life, and I’d do some self-examination, because He says, “I rebuke and chasten those whom I like.” He likes you. Even if you’re messing up, He still likes you. He just wants you to come to repentance. He says this: “Be zealous therefore and repent.” Listen, the cure for our messed-up-ness is always repentance.
Now, let me tie a knot in this message—very simple for me. As a pastor looking at the world today, I understand there are two things in existence today, both are being called the church, but they are diametrically opposed to one another. One is an organism in relationship with Christ; the other is an organization in relationship with men and their works. Their works. One is born of the Spirit; one is initiated by the flesh.
And so, as we come to this, there’s a Tale of Two Churches, but in the Tale of Two Churches, listen, there are two doors. To the Church at Philadelphia He said, “I give unto you an open door. First, an open door of access to me personally to receive help, mercy, forgiveness—whatever you have need of. That door is open to you because you are the true church.
Secondly, there’s a door of ministry open to you. Doesn’t mean it won’t be difficult, but I’ve opened a door that no man can shut of ministry as you preach My name and hold true to My Word—it’s an open door.
And then, one day, there will be an open door in heaven, and you’ll be caught away. It’s the church of the open door. It’s a church that has a relationship, intimately so, with Christ, where He is our Father, and we are His sons and daughters.
And thirdly, listen, at the end of this thing, so it’s the church of two doors, the church of two churches, as we’re going to see, and the church of two destinations. Because at the end of our life, the true church, we’re going to hear some very remarkable words. I think first of all is “Welcome Home.” Because this isn’t our home.
But after He welcomes us home, He’s going to say, “Now enter into your rest. Well done, thou good and faithful servant!”
I’m glad He didn’t say, “Thou perfect and faithful servant, because I probably wouldn’t qualify. But good? “Thou good and faithful servant.” Two doors. First the church of the open door. Two churches, the church of the open door and the church of the closed door. Two different destinations. Listen, to Laodicea, the church of the closed door, they have Jesus on the outside, knocking, trying to get in. Isn’t that interesting? The church of the closed door. Jesus on the outside. He’s still banging away. He’s trying to get in, but they’ve got the door shut.
Secondly—or, thirdly, when they get to heaven or stand before the Great White Throne, they’re all going to be called up and resurrected. At that second resurrection, they’re going to hear these words: “Depart from Me, you worker of iniquity. I never knew you.”
Open door/Shut door. Intimate relationship with Christ/Him standing on the outside trying to get in. To hear those words on the final day when we take our last breath and are caught away into heaven, “Welcome home! Enter into your rest. Well done, good and faithful servant.” Or, “Depart from Me, you worker of iniquity. I never knew you.
Let me end with one final verse from 1 Kings, Isaiah is challenging the people, and he says, “How long will you be between two opinions?” You see, there’s two opinions before us. Either we’re the church of the Living God, or we’re just a church of religion. How long will you be between two opinions? If the Lord be God, then serve Him. If not, then go serve the idols of this world. But you need to choose. We need to choose. I need to choose. I need to choose every day what church I’m going to belong to. The church of Philadelphia? Walking in the Spirit, born of the Spirit, led of the Spirit? Or the church of Laodicea, where man is in charge. God’s Word being the final authority or man? We have to choose! And I pray that you choose rightly. I pray that you would never deny His name nor His word, and you would always hold to the fore that testimony of His suffering. That you would remain faithful to the end.
These are trying times we’re living in. I don’t think it’s going to get any easier. Again, our position, when we go through eschatology, is that we are pre-trib, but not pre-trouble. And I think there are some things coming down the road for us that are going to be challenging to our faith. Will you stand? Will you hear those commendations given to you that were given to the church at Philadelphia?
“I know your works. I know what it cost you to stand. I know that you only have a little strength, but you’ve tapped into Mine. I know you have not denied My Word, and you have not denied My Name, and you have not denied the testimony of my work on Calvary’s cross. And He’s going to say to us one of these days, “Well done.” —Amen
Prayer: Father, we thank you again for this opportunity to speak to the church, not a specialist, just a general practitioner, just a country pastor, but, Lord, as I survey the world around us, I see two things that are becoming very, very clear. And the line of demarcation is becoming very defined. One is an organism, one is an organization. One is the true church of Jesus Christ, and one is the fake. One is the church of Philadelphia, and the other of Laodicea. May, Lord, we always choose you. We pray these things in Jesus’s name. Amen.