Robert E. Surgenor
We have finally come, after 23 months to our last experience with the churches of Asia. Perhaps every emotion of our being has been experienced. Our journey commenced with a cold, orthodox and legal church and now we find ourselves ready to bid good-bye to Asia Minor from an affluent, democratic, and materialistic minded church. A church that felt that they had no need of prayer meetings, no need of Bible readings, no need of gospel meetings, no need of open-air meetings, no need of ministry meetings and certainly no need of missionary report meetings. They boasted, "we have need of nothing!" I wonder, did they even feel that they had no need of Christ? In spite of it all the faithful and true Witness loved them. His words are repeated to them. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent" (Rev. 3:19). The first five words find no solution as to cause. We were sinners and enemies, yet in spite of it all, He loved us! More wonderful is the fact "that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38,39).
In the U.S.A., the Child Protection Agency, through their idle threats against spanking our children (according to God) would have us to hate our children and have them grow up disobedient, self-willed, and non-respectful, refusing to bow to authority. However God says, "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (Prov. 13:24). For, "the rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame" (Prov. 29:15). According to law enforcement agencies, there are only three states in the U.S. that forbid spanking a child. Parents cannot improve on the mind of Christ - He rebukes and chastens. In His remark, the Lord is warning this church of a divine standard and the fact that soon, if there was no change, that they would be feeling the chastening rod of God. This statement in verse 19 has been paraphrased - "It is the people who are dearest to Me, on whom I exercise the most stern discipline." First comes His rebuke. The kind of a rebuke which compels a man to see the error of His ways. Nathan the prophet did this to King David when He opened Davids eyes to see his sin. The rebuke of the Lord is not so much punishment as illumination. Ministry given from the risen Head often contains rebuke, to thus awaken us to our sins. Strange to say, we seem to be sinning more than ever, yet, ministry that rebukes our sins is becoming more rare. Some saints have expressed their thoughts on this subject saying that they believe preachers are afraid to condemn things lest that lose two things - popularity, or, income. I would not like to think of Gods faithful servants after that fashion, nor could I, for a faithful man will never withhold the truth needed for any situation. He will take the exhortation of God to Ezekiel to himself. "And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear" (Eze. 2:6,7). We need positive ministry, but we also need negative ministry, as Paul exhorted Timothy. "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:2). If the rebuke is not heeded, then comes the chastening. "Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: For He maketh sore, and bindeth up: He woundeth, and His hands make whole" (Job 5:17,18). The Lord in His love causes pain. Remember His hand upon the Corinthian church because of their sin, the results being, "many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" (they prematurely died) (1 Cor. 11). Hebrews chapter 12 is very instructive along this point.
Christs Tender Appeal
"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me" (Rev. 3:20). The Lord is outside of this church altogether! He is now looking for individuals to open their hearts unto Himself that individual fellowship might be restored. The supper meal was the main meal of the day. According to Oriental fashion it was a significant occasion for having intimate fellowship with the closest of friends. His heart is longing for admittance. He has knocked by sending trials into their lives. His voice represents the Spirit making known to them the meaning of the trial. Will any of these saints open their hearts door to Him? What patience, what grace, what pleading, what provision, what promise on His part! In St. Pauls Cathedral in London Holman Hunts famous painting of Christ knocking on the door is on display. Before placing his painting for public viewing, Hunt invited close friends to inspect his painting to see if it appeared satisfactory. One friend exclaimed, "Why Holman, you forgot to paint a latch on the door!" To which the careful artist replied, "No my friend, the only latch on that door is on the inside. It cannot be opened from without." The responsibility for fellowship, for intimate communion with Christ, lies entirely upon the individual Laodicean saint. Will anyone open the door? If so, He promises a supper. I remember William Warke telling me that many years ago in England, a wealthy couple, after the breaking of bread, invited themselves to a poor couples house for the afternoon meal and mentioned the time they planned to arrive. The old and poor sister was distressed, for she had nothing but tea and a few crackers and cheese to set on the table. Her husband thought to console her by telling her that seeing that was all that they had to offer, that the rich brother and sister would certainly understand. The time came and a carriage drove up. The coachman opened the door for his lord. However, also stepping out of the carriage was a butler with a huge silver-domed tray in his hands. Walking into the modest cottage, he placed it on the table, then departed. The lord and his wife entered and much to the amazement of the old brother and his wife, the delicious hot meal was spread and the four of them had a feast together. Christ wanted to bring the opening saint a spiritual feast! What sweet fellowship, "He with Me"!
The Promise of Christ
"To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne" (3:21).
Presently our Lord is sitting with His Father in the Fathers throne, fashioned like a couch. However, the day is approaching when Christ shall occupy His own throne. Thus we have the promised association with Himself in the public display of glory in the kingdom, sharing His honors and triumphs with the overcomer. Christ promises the overcomer a place of high honor, special favor and authority, through the summons to sit with Him, the Sovereign on His throne. Brethren, do you realize that your life here is positioning you for the kingdom? You are weaving the garment now that you will be wearing for all eternity! Your path now will determine your position then. Now is your golden opportunity to secure for yourself a place of dignity, honor and authority for the kingdom. The promise to the overcomer in Laodicea is the only one which contains an reference to the Lords own pathway - "I also have overcome." Thus the scene closes. Every church had all seven letters read in their ears. What a revelation to the Laodiceans who thought themselves better than any of the other assemblies, only to find out that they were the most pitied of all by their Lord. Let me ask every reader kindly, is your condition producing pity in the heart of Christ? Then buy of Him.
We are now ready to leave the land in which we have learned so much. Are you affected? I am! As we remember Ephesus, we see more fully the danger of losing our first love, in spite of our maintaining the truth. Thinking upon Smyrna with tears, we see the danger of the fear of suffering. Our suffering is far less in degree, but do we fear reproach for His names sake? Thoughts of Pergamos remind us of the constant danger of doctrinal compromise and marriage with the world. Considering Thyatira we more fully realize the danger of moral compromise and the immoral consequences of unrestrained flesh. The morgue at Sardis breathes out warnings of the danger of spiritual deadness. Then our minds rest joyfully on dear Philadelphia, but even there we see the imminent danger of the possibility of not holding fast. Finally at Laodicea, we behold the danger of becoming lukewarm through materialism, instead of on fire for the Lord.
We bid them good-bye, but many are absent at our farewell, for there are tremendous sales today at the shopping centers, and even though their closets are full, yet here is seemingly room for more items, while their "treasure chest" in heaven is virtually empty. We shall meet the overcomers in the glory and some will shine brighter than others. What church shall have bestowed upon them the highest honors? What about ourselves? We bid them good-bye until we shall all meet on the heavenly shore. Thank you for traveling with me.