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Three More Warnings from the Master
In these two chapters, the Lord Jesus Christ identifies six conditions which, if they are not resisted and overcome, will result in apostasy and eternal ruin. If these conditions are allowed to go unchecked in any local church, it will soon wither and die. It may continue to exist in name, but that is all. Christ will withdraw the light of the gospel from it. Instead of being a house of light, it will be a den of darkness. I showed you the first three in last week’s bulletin. Here are the last three.
4. The Tolerance of False Prophets (2. 20).
The church at Thyatira was charitable, diligent in service, patient in trial, and well established in the faith of the gospel. But it was tolerant of "that woman Jezebel." There was a woman in the church who claimed to be called of God and gifted as a preacher, a prophetess. Our Lord calls her "Jezebel" after Ahab's wife, because she was a deceiver. Though the Word of God clearly forbids the ordination of women and the tolerance of women as preachers and teachers in the house of God (1 Timothy 2:11-12), this church allowed this woman to teach and to seduce the people with her doctrine. The flesh says, "Don’t make a fuss about false prophets. It will only cause trouble." The world says, "Judge not! To condemn the actions of another is bigotry." Satan tempts us to be silent lest we create strife and division. But, the Word of God warns us constantly to "beware of false prophets" (Matthew 7:15). If they are not identified, exposed, and denounced, they will soon devour a congregation (Galatians 1:6-9; 2 Timothy 2:16-18).
5. Hypocrisy, Ritualism, and Lifeless Orthodoxy (3:1)
We are all prone to hypocrisy. We are all great pretenders by nature. Being natural born hypocrites, there is an innate tendency in man to substitute ritualism for worship, a creed for Christ, and orthodoxy for life. — "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees" (Luke 12:1). We must take care that we live in the pursuit of true godliness, not a mere form and show of godliness. We must carefully observe the ordinances of Christ (Believers’ Baptism and the Lord's Supper), but resist the mere outward practice of religious ceremonies. We must tenaciously adhere to the doctrine of Christ, but fear that form of doctrinal purity that has no heart. All who have, practice, and hold to a form of religion without Christ are like the church at Sardis. — "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead!"
6. Lukewarmness, Apathy, and Indifference (3:15-16)
The Laodiceans were lukewarm. Nothing is more disgusting to the palate than lukewarm coffee, lukewarm stew, lukewarm gravy, or lukewarm milk. And nothing is more disgusting to Christ than lukewarm, half-hearted, apathetic, indifferent men and women. Yet, we are ever prone to become lukewarm about the things of Christ. Every faithful pastor has seen many gradually sink into disgusting apathy. Once the gospel of the grace of God made the faces of men and women light up with joy, who now are unmoved by it. Once the story of redeeming love filled them with rapturous gratitude, and melted their hearts to tears; but now nothing moves them. They are lukewarm. Worse yet, we have all experienced this horror. What shall we do? The answer is “Return!” As often as our hearts become lukewarm, let us fly away again to Christ.