of our planet, compromising Christians in complacent churches continue to preach a feel-good "gospel" that has nothing to do with the authentic good news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Once it was unheard of that Christians would suggest that the killing of unborn babies should be condoned, or that practicing homosexuals should be ordained to the ministry or married in religious ceremonies. Yet these things are taking place today at an accelerating rate.

The Lord concludes His letter to the Laodicean church with an urgent appeal. This appeal can be divided into three parts. First, verse 18:
3:18 "I counsel you to buy from me 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."
The key to this verse is in those three little words: "buy from me." This is a profound truth that the Lord wants us to grasp: He has everything we need to live, to thrive, and to function. He is completely sufficient to supply all our needs, both in the church and as individual believers.

There's nothing wrong with a church having a large building, a great choir, and beautiful music. Nor is there anything intrinsically wrong with a Christian having a big home, a new car, a stereo, a TV, and a VCR. But these are not the things that churches and Christians need.
The Lord knows what our truest, deepest needs are: "gold," "white clothing," and "eye salve." These things, of course, are symbols for spiritual realities realities that we desperately need in our lives. The Lord alone is the source of these spiritual possessions, and He makes them available to us whether we are materially rich and socially respected, or whether we are poor, persecuted, hunted, oppressed, and being put to death.

The first of these spiritual possessions is "gold refined in the fire." Peter tells us that our faith is "of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire." Faith comes from the Lord Jesus. As we look to Him, our faith is awakened and stirred. We then see how true the Scriptures are and how clearly they fit with and explain our daily experience. The Laodiceans were secure and self-sufficient in their own prosperity, and they had ceased to live by the "refined gold" of faith in Jesus Christ alone.

The second of these spiritual possessions is "white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness." Everyone is morally naked before God. We all have secrets deep within us that no one else knows, that would virtually destroy us if anyone else discovered them. But God knows! He sees us in our nakedness and shame and He makes us a gracious, compassionate offer: He offers to clothe us in the righteousness of His Son Jesus Christ!

Throughout these letters we have seen that white clothes stand for redemption, for righteousness imparted by Jesus Christ. As Isaiah tells us, our own righteousness is nothing but filthy rags in the sight of God, but the righteousness of Christ is perfect and acceptable to God. When we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ Himself, all our shame and sinfulness is removed. As in the words of the hymn,

White clothes stand for the changed character and new position we have received in Christ. They symbolize how God sees the believer who has washed his robes in the blood of the Lamb, which we shall learn more about in Revelation 7.

The third spiritual possession is "eye salve." Notice, first of all, that the Lord used an analogy from the everyday experience of the people He addressed. Speaking to His hungry disciples, He used the analogy of "the bread of life." To the woman at the well, He talked about "living water." In His parables He used everyday analogies from the marketplace, farming, and domestic life to translate deep spiritual truths in terms anyone could understand. In this letter He uses a medical analogy in addressing a community of believers that doubtless contained many physicians on its rolls. Laodicea was a center of medical learning, and it was noted for producing such pharmaceutical products as eye ointment. So He was borrowing from the everyday experience of the Laodiceans to make a spiritual point.

The Lord said that the Laodiceans needed eye salve to enable them to see. We find this same image elsewhere in Scripture the image of a salve or ointment which opens blind eyes. This symbol refers to the anointing of the Spirit which opens our eyes to understand God's truth. In 1 John 2:27, the apostle says, "The anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit just as it has taught you, remain in him." This does not do away with the need for teaching and preaching, but it does mean that unless the Spirit in you is opening your ears to the meaning of truth, all teaching will fall on deaf ears. When the anointing Spirit of Christ lives within us our eyes are opened to understand the Word of God and we see the Bible in a new, fresh, and penetrating way.

Are you having trouble understanding the Bible? Then ask yourself, "Do I have the Spirit of truth in my life? Or have I not yet come to Jesus and received that anointing salve which will open my eyes to see?" That, truly, is the most momentous and fateful question each of us must answer within our own hearts. And that question brings us to the second part of the Lord's three-part appeal. For in the next few verses, we will encounter one of the most vivid and poignant images in the Bible the image of Jesus standing at the door of our hearts, knocking, waiting, earnestly desiring to come in and have fellowship with us.

The second division of the Lord's appeal is given in verses 19 to 20, where He tells us how to obtain these spiritual possessions the "gold," the "white clothes," and the "eye salve."
3:19-20 "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."
What a kind and gentle expression of God's love! The Lord approaches this church, with its nauseating smugness, complacency, and failure, and He says, in effect, "I love you! The reason I rebuke you and discipline you is that I care for you!"

If you had loving, nurturing parents, or if you are a loving, nurturing parent, you probably have a deep understanding of the Lord's heart when He says, "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline." You know that parenting isn't just hugs and bedtime stories and a pat on the head. Sometimes the parent-child love relationship involves pain and tears.

You may remember times when, by your wayward actions, you forced your parents to love you in such a way that "the board of education" was applied to "the seat of knowledge." You went away rubbing your smarting posterior and thinking, "I wish they didn't love me so much!" But in your heart you knew that your parents' rebuke and discipline was a sign of their love for you, and there was a great sense of security in that love.

Jesus wanted the Laodicean Christians to have that same sense of security, knowing that even with all the bluntness of this confrontational message, He loved the church. He loved the Laodicean Christians too much to allow them to go their lukewarm way. He would not let them go.

Verse 20 is, to my mind, the most moving and powerful explanation in the Bible of how to become a Christian. I have used this passage many times in my own witnessing to non-Christians. I have seen hearts melted and lives changed by this beautiful description of Christ standing outside our lives, patiently knocking at the door of our hearts.

Step one: We sense that Jesus stands outside, wanting to come in. This sense often comes upon us when we feel that our lives are empty or meaningless, when we are hurting over the direction our lives have taken, or we feel a sense of guilt and remorse over our sins. At this low point in our lives we hear good news: Jesus loves us, He died for us, He has power to forgive our sins and change our lives! Something within us responds. We want Jesus to come in. We long for it. We have awakened to our need and to the Lord's offer to meet our need.

Step two: We must open the door. He will not open it. He will not force His way in. He never forces salvation on anyone. There is a famous painting which depicts the Lord standing before the door and knocking. The artist was very spiritually perceptive, for he painted the door without a handle or knob on the outside. This door of the heart can only be opened from the inside, by the occupant himself or herself. Jesus goes only where He is invited.

Read through the Gospels, and you will see several instances where the Lord offered Himself to men and women, then grieved over the fact that they would not receive Him. Remember how Jesus lamented over Jerusalem: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" In every case, Jesus offers Himself to others but He does not impose Himself on others. When rejected, He is not angry. He is sorrowful.
We must invite Jesus in, saying, "Come, Lord Jesus. Enter my life. Be my Lord. Be my Savior. Deliver me from my sins, and deliver me from my self."

Step three: Jesus enters! He promises that when we invite Him, He comes into our lives. We do not have to have a special feeling, a mystical sensation, an emotional experience (though occasionally people do). We can simply rely on His promise: "If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."

It is a beautiful picture of our relationship with Jesus. He comes in, we have fellowship together, we have communion together, we dwell together in the same place.