“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 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. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”
We are living in the last days of earth’s history and it would be beneficial to study carefully the topic of the Laodicean church. Ellen White gave the church this warning: “A living church will be a working church. Practical Christianity will develop earnest workers for the advancement of the cause of truth. There is a great lack of this practical religion among us as a people. Worldliness and pride, love of dress and display, are steadily increasing among those who profess to be keeping God’s commandments, and to be waiting for their Lord.
“The great sin of ancient Israel was in turning from God to idols. This is also the great sin of modern Israel.” The Review and Herald, June 3, 1889.
What does it means to turn from God to idols? What is an idol? Is it something made of gold, silver, stone, wood, or something that sits in a place of prominence in the home and is worshipped? Satan is far too subtle and deceptive for that.
The reality is, anything that separates us from God is an idol. In the book, Patriarchs and Prophets, 305, we are told: “Whatever we cherish that tends to lessen our love for God or to interfere with the service due Him, of that do we make a god.” Even our thoughts and ideas concerning religion and spirituality can become an idol.
The following thought is from Manuscript Releases, vol. 9, 183: “The same spirit of resistance is to be found even among those who claim to believe the truth for this time. The gospel of Christ, His lessons, His teachings, have had but very little place in the experience and the discourses of those who claim to believe the truth. Any pet theory, any human idea, becomes of the gravest importance and as sacred as an idol to which everything must bow.”
“The central theme of the Bible, the theme about which every other in the whole book clusters, is the redemption plan, the restoration in the human soul of the image of God.” Education, 125.
This sin of idolatry is rampant in the church, even amongst those who consider themselves more enlightened. As we continue reading this statement, it becomes abundantly clear that unless all is surrendered, unless God has first place in our entire lives, we cannot be a true follower of Christ, and when weighed in the balances will be found wanting.
“The people of God should awaken to a keen perception of the grievous character of transgression. Sin is disguised, and many are deceived in regard to its nature. Satan has planned it thus, that the understanding may be clouded, the spiritual vision obscured, the perceptive faculties of the soul blunted. But God would not have one of us to be ensnared, therefore the nature of sin is faithfully portrayed in the inspired pages—its offensive character before God, its corruption, its shame, and its results. Everything has been done that God could do to save man from the power of sin, which defaces the divine image, frustrates God’s purpose in man’s existence, degrades his God-given powers, narrows his capacity, leads to unholy imaginations, and gives loose rein to unsanctified passions. Sin! how hateful in the sight of God! Holy angels look upon it with abhorrence.” The Review and Herald, June 3, 1880.
This is serious. We should awaken, indicating that we are asleep! Does that remind you of a parable Jesus once told as recorded in Matthew 25? Were not the virgins, the church, sleeping? We need to awaken, to what? To the grievous character of sin! Satan wants to cloud and obscure our spiritual vision! What about the message to Laodicea? Does not Jesus advise Laodicea to buy eye salve that they might see? That means to wake up to spiritual realities!
But God has given us all we need to be spared from the effects of sin. What are the effects of sin? It is offensive, it brings corruption, shame, and it defaces the divine image, frustrates God’s purpose in man’s existence, degrades God-given powers, narrows our capacity, leads to unholy imaginations and allows unsanctified passions! Oh, my friends, how we should hate and shun sin.
Is sin abhorrent in your eyes? Do you loathe sin and the stain that it leaves on your soul? Do you ardently avoid that which would bring suffering to your Lord and Saviour? Would you do anything necessary to abstain from partaking of sin and reaping the deadly curse which follows? This is what God requires.
“What is sin? The transgression of God’s law. God wants all connected with Him to loathe sin, to hate anything that approaches to it. Transgression is a serpent with a deadly sting. Grant it no indulgence, for it will imperil the soul. Rather choose privation, suffering, hunger, reproach, imprisonment, and death, than the indulgence of sin.
“Will the professed followers of Christ cleanse the soul-temple of its defilement? Will those who profess to be His representatives sacrifice anything and everything rather than offend God? A deep-settled conviction is needed in every soul to strengthen the abhorrence of sin. Meditation should be encouraged. We should view ourselves as ever in the presence of God, whose eye searches the soul and reads the most secret thoughts. Since we know this to be true, why is there such a careless disregard of God’s claims? Why such thoughtlessness in regard to the solemn realities of life?
“I call upon you, my dear brethren and sisters, to cultivate spirituality, to put away your idols, and in the fear of God, to work for time and for eternity. Again and again have our sisters been warned against indulging pride of dress, which is idolatry; yet they pass on, making no change, and their example is leading others away from Christ, instead of leading to Him.” Ibid.
Jesus said the consequences of leading others astray is that it would be better if that one had a millstone around their neck and thrown into the sea.
“Why is it so hard to arouse the conscience upon this subject, when the inspired apostle has spoken so explicitly upon this point? Will my sisters dress plainly for Christ’s sake? for the love of souls for whom He died? Will they remember that they must meet their life-record at the bar of God, and must answer for the money and the time squandered in needless adornment?” Ibid.
And men you are not exempt. God calls you to sacrifice for Him. Are your eyes and heart in heaven, or are they maybe on the clothes you wear, the car you drive, the position you have in life, your theories or ideas, your house, your education, the game or show on TV, that extra serving of food, or any number of other things? Is your life a fit representative of the meek and lowly Jesus who, though owning the universe had not where to lay His head, and was often footsore and weary from His travels by foot on His missions of mercy and love, or who often went hungry to provide for another? Or, and this is for all of us, adults and children, what about the forms of “recreation” that we choose? Do we study to show ourselves approved in every moment of our day? Are you willing to change your lifestyle for a life of consecration to Jesus?
“Those who seek by earnest study of God’s word and fervent prayer the guidance of his Spirit, will be led by Him. The pillar of cloud will guide them by day, the pillar of fire by night; and with an abiding sense of God’s presence it will not be possible to disregard His holy law. The reason why there is so much transgression is that little time is devoted to meditation and prayer. Dress and display and sinful gratification put God out of the thoughts, and sin does not appear exceeding sinful. Satan’s angels are at hand to gloss it over with a semblance of righteousness. If the light from the burning glory of the throne of God should shine forth upon the sinful practices of professors of religion, how terrible would sin appear, how perilous would seem its indulgence. Oh, how soon the desire for sinful gratifications would perish in the withering light of the glory from the Divine Presence!” Ibid.
And now we go even deeper than the outward manifestations of our lives. Now we go to the core of our being.
“We are in great danger of looking upon sin as a small matter, unworthy of notice. Sins of unkindness, of impatience, of fault-finding, of unthankfulness, of pride in imitating the fashions of a doomed world, should not be lightly regarded. The channels of thought and action are worn deep and broad by repetition. The longer one pursues a given course of conduct, the greater is the probability that he will continue the same course during life. Evil habits are like chains, to hold one to a wrong course. Then how earnestly should we begin the work of reformation.
“Let the habits be formed in a safe line of conduct. And for the very reason that religious habits are not so easily established as are those of an opposite character, the more earnest efforts should be put forth to form habits of devotion, of studying the Scriptures, of strict integrity. This will require deliberate purpose, and persistent effort; for the natural heart is opposed to such an education. These habits must be acquired by performing Christian duties with faithfulness and regularity. Make it a habit to attend the prayer-meeting, to be willing and earnest in doing good to others. Let it become a habit to engage in profitable conversation, instead of indulging in idle talk upon temporal concerns, upon dress, or upon the faults of others. ‘Our conversation is in Heaven,’ says the apostle, ‘from whence also we look for the Saviour.’ God has given us our talents, and requires that they be used to glorify Him and not ourselves.
“What grief to the Saviour who bought us with His own blood, that multitudes who profess His name have formed habits which bring them directly under the control of the Prince of darkness!” Ibid.
Oh, if we, even almost unconsciously hold on to those things which separate us from God in the slightest degree, see the results. We will be brought “directly under the control of the Prince of darkness!” There is no halfway. We either belong 100 percent to Jesus, or we are under the control of Satan. Frightful thought! And these habits that chain us to Satan are not suddenly formed, but rather almost invisibly.
“These habits are formed gradually, and almost imperceptibly. Little duties have been neglected. The professed followers of Christ have shunned his cross. Worldly influences have corrupted their purity of soul. … Selfish indulgence has hardened the heart and weakened the moral faculties. …
“I lift my warning voice against such a life, and beseech my brethren and sisters to diligently search their own hearts, and see if they have a living faith, which works, yes, works by love, and purifies the soul. … True conversion of soul is essential; theoretical religion will not take the place of heart-work. We all need to connect more closely with God, and then we may teach others the art of believing. The true, humble, earnest Christian will be receiving the mold of a perfect character, and his heart will ever be conforming to the image of Christ. His life will flow out in channels of beneficence and love. Such will be established in God. The work which grace began, if combined with earnest effort to press close to Jesus, glory shall finish in the kingdom of God.
“How can I impress upon our dear people, whom God has made the depositaries of His law, a sense of how much is at stake with them. If they sin in words or deportment, they bring dishonor upon the cause they profess to love, and by their example many will be encouraged to turn away from the mirror which discovers the defects of their moral character. What an account will the professed followers of Christ have to render in the day when the Lord will make inquiry for the souls lost in consequence of their unrighteous course. Let us, as the peculiar people of God, elevate the standard of Christian character, lest we come short of the reward that will be given to the good and the faithful. Our probation will soon be ended. We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. It is those who hold fast the beginning of their confidence steadfast unto the end, that will receive the crown of immortal glory. Those who make so exalted a profession of truth must answer for the intrusted capital. Simplicity, purity, forbearance, benevolence, and love should characterize our Christian experience. We must labor continually, by study of the Scriptures and earnest prayer, to keep ourselves unspotted from the world.
“Jesus has gone to prepare mansions for those who are waiting and watching for his appearing. There they will meet the pure angels and the redeemed host, and will join their songs of praise and triumph. There the Saviour’s love surrounds His people, and the city of God is irradiated with the light of His countenance—a city whose walls, great and high, are garnished with all manner of precious stones, whose gates are pearls, and whose streets are pure gold, as it were transparent glass. ‘There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie; but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life’ (Revelation 21:27). The shadows of night never fall on that city; it has no need of the sun, neither of the moon; its inhabitants rejoice in the undimmed glory of the Lamb of God.” Ibid.
Can you hear the plaintive pleadings of our Lord and Saviour in the message to Laodicea? He loves you. He wants to save you. He said to His people, “Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel (Ezekiel 33:11)?” And on the crest of Olivet, days before His own incomprehensible suffering He wept in uncontrollable agony over His favored people, refusing His message of love and mercy. “Jesus gazes upon the scene, and the vast multitude hush their shouts, spellbound by the sudden vision of beauty. All eyes turn upon the Saviour, expecting to see in His countenance the admiration they themselves feel. But instead of this they behold a cloud of sorrow. They are surprised and disappointed to see His eyes fill with tears, and His body rock to and fro like a tree before the tempest, while a wail of anguish bursts from His quivering lips, as if from the depths of a broken heart. …
“The tears of Jesus were not in anticipation of His own suffering. Just before Him was Gethsemane, where soon the horror of a great darkness would overshadow Him. The sheep gate also was in sight, through which for centuries the beasts for sacrificial offerings had been led. This gate was soon to open for Him, the great Antitype, toward whose sacrifice for the sins of the world all these offerings had pointed. Near by was Calvary, the scene of His approaching agony. Yet it was not because of these reminders of His cruel death that the Redeemer wept and groaned in anguish of spirit. His was no selfish sorrow. The thought of His own agony did not intimidate that noble, self-sacrificing soul. It was the sight of Jerusalem that pierced the heart of Jesus—Jerusalem that had rejected the Son of God and scorned His love, that refused to be convinced by His mighty miracles, and was about to take His life. He saw what she was in her guilt of rejecting her Redeemer, and what she might have been had she accepted Him who alone could heal her wound. He had come to save her; how could He give her up? …
“Jesus raised His hand—that had so often blessed the sick and suffering—and waving it toward the doomed city, in broken utterances of grief exclaimed: ‘If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace’ (Luke 19:42)!— Here the Saviour paused, and left unsaid what might have been the condition of Jerusalem had she accepted the help that God desired to give her—the gift of His beloved Son. If Jerusalem had known what it was her privilege to know, and had heeded the light which Heaven had sent her, she might have stood forth in the pride of prosperity, the queen of kingdoms, free in the strength of her God-given power.” The Desire of Ages, 575–577.
Do you hear, in the message to Laodicea the same pathos, the same longing in the message? It is the same compassionate, long-suffering, merciful Saviour who is speaking through His servant. His heart of love is still asking, “How can I give thee up? How can I see thee devoted to destruction? Must I let thee go to fill up the cup of thine iniquity?” Ibid.
Oh, let us awake. Let us not again cause our Jesus the anguish of soul He endured that day on the crest of Olivet, and throughout His life on account of His wayward, self-centered, prideful people. Let us go to work with a zeal and an energy to cleanse our soul temples such that we are fit representatives of our lovely, loving, pure and holy Jesus, Who gave all that we might have all.
Brenda Douay is a staff member at Steps to Life. She may be contacted by email at: email@example.com.