"'First, we want you to understand that this is our church, not yours. We were here before you came, and we will be here after you leave. So don't get the idea you're going to make a lot of changes here.

"'Second, understand that we hired you, and we can fire you. If you don't like the way we do things, it's you that will be leaving, not us.'
"That's what they told me," he said. "I have to meet with them again next week. What would you tell them if you were in my shoes?"

I said, "Well, I would say, 'The next time we meet I'd like you all to bring your Bibles, because we're going to have a Bible study.' And when we all sat down together with our Bibles I would say to them, 'I understand that some of you feel this is your church. Now, I want you to show me where the Scriptures say that a church belongs to the people. I've looked and looked, and I can't find it. Instead, I find that Jesus says, "On this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." And when Paul speaks to the Ephesian elders, he says, "Tend the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof." I'm willing to stand corrected, but as near as I can tell, there are many passages which say that the church belongs to Christ, and not a single passage which says it belongs to the people.' "

About two weeks later I got a letter from this young man. "I did and said everything you suggested," he wrote, "and you know what? They fired me!"

I admit that I had hoped events would take a different course for this young pastor. But within a few more weeks, I got another letter from him. "Another church has just called me to be their pastor. Before starting a new ministry there, I sat down with the board and we settled all these issues. I think this church and I are going to have a very effective ministry together."

I have followed this young man's ministry in his new church for several years, and I am happy to report that both pastor and congregation love each other, and the work of God is flourishing. I am convinced that a lot of the reason this church is doing so well is that the people in this church remember what the Laodiceans forgot: every church belongs to the Lord, not to the people.

So the Laodiceans were comfortable. Even worse, they had become complacent and smug.
3:17 "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."
How tragic! Notice the big difference between "you say" and "you are." His message is, "You say you are rich, but you are poor." The faithful and true witness, Jesus Himself, has set the truth before the Laodicean church the whole truth, even though it hurts. To use a popular expression, the Laodicean church was "fat, dumb, and happy." It was smug, self-sufficient, and complacent. These poor believers had no idea how much trouble they were in!

The Laodicean economy was humming along splendidly. The people had plenty of money, nice homes, plenty to eat. Translated into a twentieth-century cultural context, we would say that they had a beautiful sanctuary with padded mahogany pews, a mighty pipe organ, a golden-throated choir, a dynamic preacher, the wealthiest and most prominent donors, and the respect of the entire community. The Laodicean believers thought they were doing extremely well.

But the Lord, in whose name they were gathered together, looked at their sumptuous, comfortable, complacent church and said, "You are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked." Why are the Laodiceans' self-appraisal and the Lord's appraisal so far apart? Because they are measuring by different standards.

If someone asked you the temperature outside, you might check a thermometer and say, "It's 32 above zero." I might check another thermometer and say, "No, you're wrong. It's actually zero." The truth is that we are both correct. You were looking at a Fahrenheit thermometer, while mine was marked off in centigrade degrees. Zero degrees centigrade equals 32 degrees Fahrenheit. If we measure by different standards, our evaluations will not agree.

Similarly, the Lord and the Laodiceans were measuring the Laodicean church by different standards. The Laodiceans were using the standards of the world. Their church was a pleasant, comfortable, respected body of believers. They thought they were doing splendidly. But Jesus used the standard of what He intended His church to be like.

The church is not a country club, operated for the benefit of its members. The church is not a performing arts center, where one is entertained with dramatic speeches and wonderful music. The church is not a political action group or a protest movement, taking sides on issues in the world's political arena. Elements of these roles may legitimately be expressed in the church from time to time: the church family may gather sometimes for fun and fellowship, or for a special concert, or to take action on important political issues that have strong moral and spiritual implications. But none of these roles constitutes the church's central purpose for existing.

Jesus has already told us what His church is to be like: salt. And not just plain salt it must be salty salt! He said, "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men." A church that is salt should be salty. Like salt which is sprinkled over food, the church should be dispersed throughout its community and its world, flavoring whatever it touches.

The church is to function not only when it gathers together on Sunday, but during the week, as its members go out into the marketplace, the business offices, the shops, the neighborhoods. There, in the outside world, is where the real work of the church is done! There is where believers are to take the good news of Jesus Christ! There is where the church is to be salt, demonstrating before a watching world that Christians respond to opposition, trials, temptations, and joys in a different way than the world does. There is where we demonstrate a special attitude toward life, and where we flavor life with a distinct flavor.

The church is also called to be light. "You are the light of the world," said Jesus. "A city on a hill cannot be hidden." Light is a symbol of truth. The church is to be a source of truth, literally enlightening the world with the gospel, enabling the world to clearly see spiritual reality by the light that it sheds. The church is charged with the task of enabling people to understand the program of God throughout history. The church interprets the events of the day so that men may see not what man intends to do, but what God is already doing and will do in human history. The church declares the truth about humanity's lost condition and the good news that a Savior has come to save us from our sin.

By this standard, the Laodicean church was wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. It thought itself rich, but it actually had nothing.

In this, as in all six previous letters, we must step back and take the long view of church history. Each of the seven churches of Revelation represents a time when the prevailing atmosphere of the worldwide Christian church matched the conditions described in the letter. Looking back across twenty centuries of church history, we can see how accurate each of these prophetic symbols has been.

Now we come to the seventh age of the church, the Laodicean period. It is clear, as both history and prophecy confirm, that Laodicea symbolizes the church of the twentieth century, the last age of the church
Our own age.

The Laodicean period is characterized by the phenomenon of people dictating what will be taught rather than submitting to the authority of the Word of God.

Laodicea is where the people tell the ministers what to preach. We see this happening around us today. The apostle Paul predicted in his second letter to Timothy that in the last days, "men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." Tragically, this is already taking place around us.

There used to be a time when the church taught that the natural self with which we were born needed to be crucified, denied, kept under careful control. Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Yet we live in a day when churches are openly, brazenly advancing the self, teaching that we should assert the self and discover the powers and possibilities of the self, all apart from the necessity of a new birth.

Once the inerrancy of Scripture formed the bedrock of all evangelical churches. You could depend on the fact that the Bible was fully accepted as the inspired Word of God. But now churches, colleges, and seminaries which call themselves evangelical are rethinking the nature of Scripture, denying its inerrancy, and claiming it cannot be fully trusted. Instead of people submitting themselves to the judgment of the Word of God, we have people submitting the Word to their own judgment!

This is the age of compromise within the church. The church of the twentieth century is fast becoming a drifting church, a lukewarm church, a nauseating church in the eyes of the Lord. Once the church exhibited a burning desire to evangelize the world, to save those who were lost. Today,
that desire has cooled in many churches, because pastors are telling their congregations that God is too loving to condemn anyone to an eternal separation from Himself. They say that good people who live good lives, even though they live apart from Jesus, will still be saved.

The church in the twentieth century is drifting away from the biblical truth that all have sinned and fall short of the standard of God's perfection, and that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus Christ. Even while the lostness of mankind is made unmistakably plain by the rise of crime, the plague of drug abuse, the failure of morality, the increasing pollution