In the last post, we looked at Revelation 3:14-22 and how Jesus was not satisfied with the ministry that He was receiving from the people in the church at Laodicea. When He took a drink of them, they were neither refreshingly hot nor cold, so He spit them out. Why? The Laodiceans were very satisfied with their wealth. Those riches had made them complacent. They didn’t think they needed anything. However, Jesus told them that in reality they were “wretched, poor, pitiable, blind and naked.”1

If I may paraphrase, the Lord was saying, “You think you’re rich, but you’re not. You’re not rich at all, at least not in a way that has any real value. You’re like blind people, living in the muck, in tumbledown houses, who don’t even have clothing to cover themselves. You’re worthy of pity, not praise. Somehow, even though you are like this, you think you’re living like kings. You should take this to heart, because the One who is saying this is God. You’re thinking of yourselves one way, but I, the One who knows the truth, am telling you that your way of thinking about yourselves is totally, completely, tragically wrong. It’s so wrong, in fact, that the way you perceive yourselves is 180 degrees from the way that I perceive you.”

This is a reality check from Jesus.

This admonition is a bit startling, isn’t it? It’s startling because just when you’re doing well with the regular paycheck that enables you to buy that new car, new tech, and new house, you’re being told by the Lord that you’re in danger of thinking everything is hokey dokey when it’s not. This scares me, because I live in a wealthy nation. It scares me to think that, while I live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, that the Lord may view me as someone who is really living in the worst of favelas.

The remedy for their predicament, Jesus tells them, is to “…buy from me gold refined by fire.” What does that mean? Being refined by fire doesn’t sound very pleasant, does it? This should give us a clue that what Jesus is telling them to do won’t be easy. When the Lord was getting after Israel through the prophet Zechariah, He said, “And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God’” (Zechariah 13:9). Fire, to state the obvious, is hot. However, according to this passage, the refining that fire brings will cause God’s people to call upon His name. Testing and trial, as difficult as they may be at the time, end up strengthening us, if we stay with Jesus through them, or come back to Him when and if we eventually come to our spiritual senses. We will become closer to Him, because trials drive us to Him. Remember the parable of the Prodigal Son?

As difficult as it may be, refining is the antidote to feeling self-satisfyingly prosperous or status-quo passive, according to Jesus. As artist David Wilcox sang, “All the roots grow deeper when it’s dry.” However, being tested by the Lord is different from us willingly “buying of Him gold refined by fire.” It seems that the Lord is telling the Laodiceans that this is something they must purposefully enter into. So, back to the question: How does a Christian buy from Jesus gold refined by fire?

I can see only one answer. These Laodiceans would have to prayerfully start making decisions that were sacrificial. These verses come to mind: “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Timothy 2:3–4). Living as a soldier is a little different from living in the high rent district, if you know what I mean. Living as a soldier, according to Paul, means that Christians don’t become entangled—like a sheep whose wool is caught in thorns, according to the BDAG Greek-English lexicon—in those things that will not please the one who enlisted him. Do you want some practical applications about how to live as a spiritual soldier? I cannot offer that. Jesus didn’t do it, and neither will I, past saying that it surely must have something to do with possessions, since soldiers travel relatively light. How light that is, is something that each one of us must work out before the Lord. There are no legalistic guidelines. Please know that this releasing of all we possess doesn’t happen just once. One could release all that he possesses and then, ten years on, be distressingly and harmfully attached to an accumulation of things. This is an ongoing, releasing-from-the-heart process. All this buying-from-Him-gold-refined-by-fire finds its genesis in loving Him more than this world, not in making a list of things one can possess and cannot.

Here’s another passage we should look at as we consider how we can buy of Him gold refined by fire.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45–46). So, a question. Were the Laodiceans willing to sell all that they possessed and “buy” Jesus? Are we? We must be willing. He really is the most valuable possession possible. He is the Lord and Creator of all that exists, and He wanted the Laodiceans and wants us to be with Him for eternity. He is steadfast in His love. He is merciful and forgiving. He is kind. Humble and lowly in heart. Perfectly just. Perfectly pure. Perfectly holy—all attributes we will never be able to wrap our minds around until we see Him. He is all of these things, and He wanted the Laodiceans to wake up to the fact that their wealth was causing them to become complacent in their lives with the great, almighty, loving God. He was not at all satisfied with their ministry to Him.2

Tragic. And I see myself right there in church with them.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

2This article is an edited version of a previously published post entitled, Jesus Speaks to the Church in Laodicea.