THE WRETCHEDNESS WE FAIL TO SEE
By Pastor Mark Lockett
The captured images tell the gruesome story. A couple struggles to wade through hazardous and contaminated waters up to their waist. A grandmother holds a little child in her arms while sitting amidst an enclave of fallen trees. A shirtless man looks incredulously at his roofless home while his picture frames cling to an unstable wall. Vehicles pile one on top of another forming a massive metal junk yard. The pictures tell the story.
As many of you, I’ve kept a watchful eye on the damaging effects of recent hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Many people are praying for those whose lives have been dramatically impacted by the violent storms. The pictures actually only tell part of the story. The kind of devastation a violent storm can leave in its wake can be downright demoralizing. Such experiences can pack enough force to break the human spirit. There are numerous accounts of a family or an individual returning to the site of a natural disaster only to find the state of their possessions in a much worst condition than they imagined it would be. Envision yourself standing in the place that just a few hours ago represented safety and security.
It was the place you loved, the place you nourished. The place you affectionately called home is now in utter ruins. You can scarcely make out the designated rooms and where the kitchen was situated or where the stairs that led to the second floor began. You look down and find something familiar—a book or a piece of silverware or a baby doll. At once you’re overwhelmed with emotion as it reminds you of what use to be. To see the untold damage and wreckage of something you deeply treasure absolutely breaks your heart.
The Pitiable Condition of the Church
The Lord Jesus’ address to the Laodicean church found in Revelation, chapter three (14-20) strikes me as one of the saddest passages in the Holy Scriptures. Jesus here is addressing an actual church that existed during that time—professing believers unlike the myriads of local churches that exist today. He is issuing forth His expert analysis of the spiritual health of that existing church—an evaluation that could not be disputed, as it is coming directly from the Lord Himself. So, imagine the enormous weight of His words when he describes this church with such words as “wretched”, “miserable”, “poor”, “blind” and “naked”. One could scarcely imagine a church in a more desperate and pitiable condition.
As the Lord Jesus looked upon this church, I wonder if He felt a similar grief and sadness as the kind experienced by victims of natural disasters. Jesus loves the church. It is His Bride. He gave His blood for her. She is deeply treasured in His heart. He absolutely loves the church. So, imagine the tremendous grief that had to be present in His tender heart as He addressed the Laodicean believers and diagnosed their spiritual condition. They were “lukewarm”. Somehow, they had lost their spiritual fervor. Perhaps their walk with Christ had degenerated into mere religious ritual and heartless formality. Perhaps there was no passion present in their prayers and no real appetite for the Word of God. Perhaps there was no sense of urgency in their witness to unbelievers. Perhaps the cares and the pleasures of the world had quenched the desire in their souls to grow in the knowledge of God and make Him known to a world desperately needing to know Him. Whatever it is, it is so serious and so distasteful that it is nauseating to Christ (v.16)!
It is challenging to consider the present Western Church and its prayerlessness– its objective to replace a hunger for the presence of God with entertainment and performance– its devaluing of the Scriptures and not conclude that it is in a spiritual state very similar to the Laodicean church. I wonder if the Lord Jesus looks at the condition of our congregations and parachurch organizations and wonders in His heart, “What happened to you?” “Look at you!” “Look what you’ve become”!”
Perhaps the only thing sadder than the pitiable state of the Laodicean church was the fact that she was completely oblivious to it. ‘Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing”.’ Their wealth apparently had blinded them to their real spiritual deficiencies. What might the size of our churches and the abundance of our resources and our wealth of great speakers be hiding from us? What might our churches desperately need in this present day? As with the Laodicean believers, the present condition of the church requires nothing less than a sovereign move of the Spirit of God.
THE NEED FOR TRUE BROKENNESS
Our leaders and congregations must begin to pray earnestly for a true spirit of brokenness. Biblical brokenness is a spiritual condition that cannot be manufactured. It is a divine act of grace. It comes to God’s people as a gift. The Apostle Paul referred to this grace as “godly grief” (2 Corinthians 7:8-11), a kind of sorrow that leads to genuine repentance. And it is what this present generation of believers desperately needs. It will take godly, fearless leaders like Paul who will confront and call out our individual and corporate sin and allow the Spirit of the Living God to bring the kind of conviction that rocks us at the very core of our being.
THE NEED FOR EARNEST, FERVANT PRAYER
Secondly, we need to long for a true spirit of prayer to be descend upon our local congregations. Let’s face it. Prayer meetings are probably the least popular activity in our churches. I suspect the great error (sin) of the Laodicean church was prayerlessness. If we are convinced that we “have need of nothing”, that we are self-sufficient, we will naturally spend less time on our faces before God. Leonard Ravenhill once commented that the greatest sin in the world is the belief that we can manage our lives without God. If there is to be spiritual revival, along with communication of the Word of God, prayer must be the main focus.
THE NEED FOR GOD HIMSELF
Finally, I believe that we desperately need to pray for the presence of God to come to us and to manifest Himself in power. One of the mistakes I think we tend to make is praying for our idea of revival. We pray for what we think revival will produce, which is not wrong. However, what God desires we pray for is Himself. The manifest presence of God is revival. The need for revival is the result of God’s people substituting their love relationship with God with lesser things. We must return to desiring nothing else, but God and God alone.
DO WE HEAR A FAMILIAR KNOCKING?
I love my family. There is no better feeling than when I return home from a long day to the place where my heart dwells. Nevertheless, there are occasions when the screen door is locked (I don’t have a key for it) and I’m left to knock until someone hears. Thankfully, my wife is looking for me. I’m usually not outside for very long.
Perhaps the saddest image in Scripture is that of the Lord Jesus standing on the outside of His church, knocking (verse 20). Inside there is much noise and activity—much busyness. And He’s knocking. Does anybody here Him? Is there anyone looking for Him?