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In Jesus’ letter to the Laodicean church, He told them, first, that the answer to their miserable spiritual condition was to buy of Him gold tried with fire. This wealthy church’s initial step was to move toward a life of sacrificial discipleship. This truth is not new in the teaching of Jesus. He told us in Luke 14 that we could not be His disciples unless we gave up everything, including our own lives. As these well-to-do Laodicean Christians moved in this direction, they would do so prayerfully, while obeying Jesus’s second command in this letter: buy of Him white garments. Understanding the true nature of their righteousness—that they had the righteousness of Jesus, through grace and faith, since they had none of our own—would keep them from becoming self-righteously legalistic in living lives of sacrifice and self-denial.

So, now we come to Jesus’s third command: The Laodiceans should buy eye salve from Jesus so that they could see.

Wasn’t embarking upon a life of sacrifice and understanding one’s need for the righteousness of Jesus seeing clearly enough?

Apparently not.

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In the last post, we looked at how Jesus gave the Christians at Laodicea the first remedy for their blind, miserable, and pitiable condition: Buy of Him gold tried by fire. It seems to be apparent that the way we do that is by prayerfully pursuing a life of sacrifice, living as soldiers, as Paul wrote to Timothy. After entering into that pursuit, Jesus next tells the Laodiceans to buy “white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen” (Revelation 3:18).1

This statement shouldn’t surprise us, since He has already told these believers that they’re naked—they just don’t know it. They should be ashamed of that nakedness, but they’re oblivious to it. Before we discuss how we Christians could be so clueless, let’s talk briefly about white clothing.

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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

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P1030504In this series about Christian giving, two New Testament passages have been offered to prove that riches deceive believers and are detrimental to our spiritual growth:

  1. “And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God’” (Matthew 19:23–24).1
  2. “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22).

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In the article posted here two weeks ago, entitled I Have Been Misled About Christian Giving–and It Is My Fault, As Well, I expressed my concern about the dangerous effect of money and power in the Church. This distress is based upon Jesus’ explanation of the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:18-23. These conclusions seem obvious regarding His teaching about the third seed:

  1. Riches are deceitful. Corollary one: Wealth can be a spiritual enemy. Corollary two: I am a fool if I don’t think I have been deceived by riches.
  2. The cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches cause the seeds that Jesus disperses, not to die, but to be unfruitful.

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P1030504As a Christian, I have been misled about giving money. I hurl no accusations here. All the people I have known throughout the years who have taught me either formally or informally have been, as far as I know, good Christian folks. Therefore, I am going to chalk up this misinformation to ignorance—mine included. After all, I believed it all and didn’t bother to check what I’d heard against Scripture. For that, I have asked the Lord’s forgiveness. My ignorance was stunning. It’s embarrassing.

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The inhabitants of this earth, throughout recorded history, have placed the accumulation of material goods as one of the ultimate goals of life. We have convinced ourselves that the acquisition of resources, properties, belongings, and money are the endgame of the pursuit of happiness. I cannot speak for every culture, but I think I’m on safe ground when I maintain that this is true of the majority of people on the planet. It is undeniably true in the West. And having lived in both China and India, the two most populous nations, I can attest to the fact that it is true there, as well.

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I’d like to take a brief break from the series, The God Who Is Low and Humble in Heart, and investigate a passage of Scripture that caught my attention the other day.

“On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands. And I said to them, ‘Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the LORD your God. But they rebelled against me and were not willing to listen to me. None of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt” (Ezekiel 20:6–8).

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We have come to the final part of the Lord’s Prayer: “For Yours is the kingdom and the glory and the power forever.” This last sentence is no longer found in most modern translations because it isn’t in the best and oldest manuscripts. Nevertheless, I’m going to include it, since this is the way most of us in this contemporary culture have learned it, and I don’t find it to be anti-biblical in any way.

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Let’s revisit the requirements for discipleship from Luke 14:25-35.

To be Jesus’ disciple you must love Him more than anything else in your world. You must love Him more than you love your family, including your spouse and children, as well as loving Him more than your own life (vs. 26). You must be willing to make the decision to suffer and die for Him, when and if that is necessary (vs. 27). You must give up, from your heart, everything for Him, including your possessions (vs. 33). Jesus clearly tells us in verses 34 and 35 that unless we do these things, we are like flavorless salt that really isn’t good for much, not good for the soil, not even good for the manure pile; it’s just thrown away. Think about this—not good enough for the manure pile. It sounds like Jesus wasn’t that concerned about our earthly self-esteem when He was teaching us the importance of following Him in discipleship.

Jesus expects these commitments from us because He made them Himself—He chose to make them.

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