Revelation 3:17 tells us, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” The true state of Laodicea, “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked,” but indeed, they believed they were “rich and in need of nothing.”
There are several aspects to this being “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” The specific aspect of Laodicea we are going to study has to do with what we might call “ new light.” As Adventists, do we have this attitude of “knowing the truth” of “having no need for new light ” of “having a satisfaction with what we already know spiritually”? In other words, claiming that we are “rich and increased with goods”?
Let’s see what God Himself has said about our spiritual condition. “It is a fact that we have the truth, and we must hold with tenacity to the positions that cannot be shaken; but we must not look with suspicion upon any new light which God may send, and say, Really, we cannot see that we need any more light than the old truth which we have hitherto received, and in which we are settled. While we hold to this position, the testimony of the True Witness applies to our cases its rebuke, ‘And knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked’ (Revelation 3:17). Those who feel rich and increased with goods and in need of nothing, are in a condition of blindness as to their true condition before God, and they know it not.” The Review and Herald, August 7, 1894.
What does this paragraph tell us? We must not look with suspicion upon any new light. We must hold with tenacity (stubbornness, obstinacy, insistence, resolve) to those things which cannot be shaken. In other words, according to inspiration, the very basis, the foundation of our faith cannot be changed or removed. But, does that mean we simply freeze frame where we are? Let’s read what God Himself says in answer to this.
“A spirit of Phariseeism has been coming in upon the people who claim to believe the truth for these last days. They are self-satisfied. They have said, ‘We have the truth. There is no more light for the people of God.’ But we are not safe when we take a position that we will not accept anything else than that upon which we have settled as truth. We should take the Bible, and investigate it closely for ourselves. We should dig in the mine of God’s word for truth. ‘Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart’ (Psalm 97:11). Some have asked me if I thought there was any more light for the people of God. Our minds have become so narrow that we do not seem to understand that the Lord has a mighty work to do for us. Increasing light is to shine upon us; for ‘the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day’ (Proverbs 4:18).” The Review and Herald, June 18, 1889.
What does God Himself tell us through these words? We must dig. Here are some synonyms for the word dig: excavate, burrow, break up earth, plow. Now, let’s put ourselves into the culture in which these words were written. We have no clue in these days as to the work involved. Digging meant backbreaking labor; labor that called into action every muscle fiber, the discipline of the mind to work through pain and fatigue. God says “we should dig in the mine of God’s word for truth.” It is going to take concerted effort. Truth will not come to the indolent, lazy, or neglectful. Further it says we have become “narrow that we do not seem to understand.” We must not let go of truth. Truth is so broad, so deep, so wonderful, but just like the Jews, we have constricted it.
“We must not think, ‘Well, we have all the truth, we understand the main pillars of our faith, and we may rest on this knowledge.’ The truth is an advancing truth, and we must walk in the increasing light.” [Emphasis added.] Counsels to Writers and Editors, 33. What is frightening is that we do not understand even the main pillars of our faith. “There was evidence and there was reasoning from the word that commended itself to the conscience; but the minds of men were fixed, sealed against the entrance of light, because they had decided it was a dangerous error removing the ‘old landmarks’ when it was not moving a peg of the old landmarks, but they had perverted ideas of what constituted the old landmarks.” Ibid., 30. This was written in 1889, and we could do a number of studies on the fact that this situation has never been rectified, but rather grown worse as time has passed.
Friends, what does God say about people who are in this position? Revelation 3:16 says, “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth,” or “I am about to spit you out of My mouth” NIV. The following is another description of how God views His people, and what He requires of us: “Our efforts are languid, and we run the Christian race slowly, and manifest indolence and sloth, because we so little value the heavenly prize. We are dwarfs in spiritual attainments. It is the privilege and duty of the Christian to be increasing in the knowledge of the Son of God, ‘unto a perfect man’ (Ephesians 4:13).” Our High Calling, 161.
If we have this truth in our hearts, if it is acted out, spoken out, lived out, it will draw people. The kindness, happiness, peace of those who are truly converted draws people to Jesus. We need that conversion in our lives.
But whether you are a converted one with the light of Jesus’ life in your heart, or whether you are one being drawn by Jesus’ love, we each have an ongoing decision to make; for those already converted to maintain that conversion; and for those just being drawn whether they will surrender or not.
I would like to look now at another class of people, those who only profess. This class is described in John 6. They are repeatedly called Jesus’ disciples. But when the testing time came, when they had the invitation to be converted themselves, they turned away, because they didn’t want the searching truths to change their hearts. John 6:60 says, “Many therefore of His disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?”
This scenario takes place the day after Jesus fed the five thousand. Instigated by Judas, the crowd planned to take Jesus by force to Jerusalem, to make Him the king of the Jews. Jesus, knowing what was underway, with a commanding air, sent His disciples down to the lake, and then dispersed the crowd. The next day, the crowd was seeking Him again. But Jesus, knowing their hearts, revealed that He knew their hearts and that they were seeking Him only for the temporal blessings that they received from Him. He then told them clearly that He came not to give them earthly greatness, but that what He had to offer was forgiveness of and separation from sin; Jesus was offering them salvation, eternal life of bliss! Yet, the Bible records this sad record, “On hearing it, many of His disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ ” NIV. What was this teaching? It was that Jesus is the living bread and water. They must eat of it and drink of it and through partaking of Him, become changed. John 6:66 tells us of the choice made by those who could not accept the close, searching truths that require a change of heart. It says, “From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him” NIV. It was so bad that we read, “ ‘He that is not with Me,’ said Christ, ‘is against Me’ (Matthew 12:30). It is wholehearted, thoroughly decided men and women who will stand now. Christ sifted His followers again and again, until at one time there remained only eleven and a few faithful women to lay the foundation of the Christian church.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 130.
This just wrings my heart. These people had walked with Jesus, followed Jesus, were attracted to His love, His mercy, His goodness, His kindness. Yet when it came right down to the core issue, a change in their own hearts, [that is, the acceptance of what was to them ‘ new light ’] so they could be like Him, they choose to cling to formal, dry doctrine so they wouldn’t have to root out sin in their lives. It is a close, trying, painful work, but one that is absolutely essential if salvation is truly the goal of the life. Oh, my friends, if you wish not to be in a condition of spiritual apathy, listen to these words of Inspiration found in The Review and Herald, April 1, 1890:
“Several have written to me [Ellen White], inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel’s message, and I have answered, ‘It is the third angel’s message in verity.’ The prophet declares, ‘And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory’ (Revelation 18:1). Brightness, glory, and power are to be connected with the third angel’s message, and conviction will follow wherever it is preached in demonstration of the Spirit. How will any of our brethren know when this light shall come to the people of God? As yet, we certainly have not seen the light that answers to this description. God has light for His people, and all who will accept it will see the sinfulness of remaining in a lukewarm condition; they will heed the counsel of the True Witness when He says, ‘Be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me’ (Revelation 3:19, 20).
“The Church is presented as standing in a self-satisfied, pleased, proud, independent position, ignorant of her destitution and wretchedness. By her attitude she says, ‘I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.’ How many who claim to be keeping the commandments of God are in this position today! The charge against the Church is, ‘Thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot’ (verse 16). But while many may be satisfied with their lukewarm condition, the Lord is far from pleased, and declares that unless you are zealous and repent, He will spue you out of His mouth. But He warns you, He entreats you. He says, ‘Thou knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see’ (verses 17, 18).
“The gold that Jesus would have us buy of Him is gold tried in the fire; it is the gold of faith and love, that has no defiling substance mingled with it. The white raiment is the righteousness of Christ, the wedding garment which Christ alone can give. The eye-salve is the true spiritual discernment that is so wanting among us, for spiritual things must be spiritually discerned.
“To our brethren who are standing in this self-confident, self-satisfied position, who talk and act as if there was no need of more light, we want to say that the Laodicean message is applicable to you. Many professed Christians are without Christ because they refuse to weave His principles of truth into their life. The word of God declares, ‘Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled’ (Matthew 5:6). We should pray earnestly and inquire with sincere hearts as to what the will of the Lord is, that we may be ready to receive the blessing we so much need.”
It is my plea and prayer for each one of us that we take this message personally. Do not grieve the heart of our precious Saviour by remaining one moment more in a Laodicean condition. Repent and be converted, truly converted. Buy from Jesus the 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.
Brenda Douay is a staff member at Steps to Life. She may be contacted by email at: email@example.com.