* December 7 - 13
Too Rich to Hope?
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Rev. 3:14-22.
MEMORY TEXT: You say, jam 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 (Revelation 3:17, NIV).
KEY THOUGHTS: Remember the first weeks lesson, which looked at Adam and Eve in Eden, before the Fall? They didnt have hope, because they did not need it. In contrast, this weeks lesson will look at those who really need hope but are so self-satisfied they dont even realize their need. Talk about a dangerous position!
OUR PROPHETIC VIEW places us in the time of the church of Laodicea. This is nothing to be proud of, for the church is portrayed as saying it is rich and doesnt need a thing! Sadly, this characterization of the church today reveals an attitude of self-sufficiency, a confidence in what it has achieved. The church of Laodicea thinks it has arrived! But Gods analysis is that it is pitiful, not recognizing its spiritual poverty, blindness, and nakedness.
Yet, the good news of the gospel is that, thanks to the blood shed on the cross, theres hope even for Laodicea; through God, whatever they lack can be more than provided for. And that is their great (if not their only) hope.
*Please study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, Dec. 14.
Sunday December 8
Look at the words of the Lord to His church. "I know your deeds." Not surprising, not for a God who promises to "bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil" (Eccles. 12:14) and who "will render to every man according to his deeds" (Rom. 2:6). After all, in order to bring every work into judgment, He would have to know our every move.
What is surprising, instead, is what comes after, when He says that He would rather we be cold as opposed to lukewarm in those deeds. It is understandable that He would rather us be hot than lukewarmbut cold over lukewarm? Why?
Is not even a little energy, a little zeal, a little enthusiasm for our faith, better than none at all? What is it about being lukewarm that would cause God to say what He does here? Read the following comment and then, from your own understanding, write down your answer to the above questions.
|The tepid spiritual condition of the Laodicean church was more dangerous than if the church had been cold. Lukewarm Christianity preserves enough of the form, and even of the content of the gospel, to dull the perceptive powers of the spirit and renders men oblivious to the earnest effort necessary to the attainment of the high ideal of a victorious life in Christ. The typical Laodicean Christian is content with things as they are and proud of the little progress he has made. It is almost impossible to convince him of his great need and of how far he is from the goal of perfection. "The SDA Bible Commentary, vol 7, p. 761.|
The modern curse is usually neither mistaken theological views of one extreme or another nor misguided programs or interpretations or positions. Rather, it is that so few really seem to care at all. Apathy is the spiritual nerve gas that paralyzes the church and prevents its achieving God's goals. That is why it offends Him so much, and He would prefer any other temperature than lukewarmness!
|Look at your own life. Hot? Cold? Lukewarm? Write down a few examples of how lukewarmness, as opposed to outright coldness, has negatively influenced your own local church.|
"'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' "(Rev. 3:17, NIV).
Look up each of these verses: Isaiah 65:5, Matthew 7:21-23, 19:24, Luke 12:16-21, 18:10-14. In what ways do the principles taught in these texts help us understand the principle behind what the Lord is saying in Revelation 3:17?
What kind of "riches" may we think we have in the church but are of no true value? Could such things include positions of authority, doing good works, having read many books about the Bible, paying tithe regularly, being part of a witnessing team? No one is denying that all these things have their roles, but they are not an end in themselves. Having a wonderful library of religious books does not of itself make you a spiritual person. Being a spiritual person does not make you a righteous person. Sure, paying tithe is essential, but it is not a way of achieving salvation.
Perhaps the scariest part of this warning is that the Laodiceans think they "do not need a thing." What Christian, who understands the fallen state of humanity, who understands the ravages of sin, and who has been given a glimpse of the righteousness of Christ and the high standard of God's law, could ever think that he or she does not "need a thing"? How can anyone who claims faith in Jesus ever think like that? God can work with those whohowever depraved, fallen, and steeped in sinfeel their need and want help to escape it. But what can He do for those who feel they need nothing?
What must we keep before us in our minds that will guarantee us protection from this, the most dangerous of spiritual deceptions? (See Phil. 2:5-7.)
|The Lord said that they are really wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. Look specifically at the aspect of their nakedness, because in many ways that captures the essence of Laodicea's problem. What does it mean that they are naked? What are they missing that is the cause of all their problems? What do they need to be clothed with? (See Zech. 3:3-5; Matt. 22:11.) In short, what is Laodicea's essential problem?|
Fortunately, as long as there is breath and life, there is hope. The Lord, who shed His blood for humanity, who bore the world's sins in His own human flesh and then took that flesh back with Him to heaven (where He will keep His humanity forever [see Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 25; Steps to Christ, p. 74]), this Lord is not going to give such a dire warning without also giving hope (After all, why bother with a warning if there is no remedy?). He suffered too much in our behalf just to let the people in His church (or anyone, for that matter) perish without an opportunity to be saved (2 Pet. 3:9). Even to the pathetic Laodiceans, He offers hope.
Notice, they should get gold in order to become rich, because they are poor (Rev. 3:17, 18); clothes because they are naked (vss. 17, 18); and "eyesalve," because they are blind (vss. 17, 18). He will provide all they need in order to be rescued from their wretched and pitiful state. Ellen White says that the gold tried in the fire is "faith that works by love."Christ's Object Lessons, p. 158. What about the "white clothes" (vs. 18, NIV) to cover their nakedness? What nakedness does that cover? (Matt. 22:1-14; Gal. 3:27). What about the "eyesalve"? What could that do for them? (John 16:8-11; 2 Cor. 4:4).
The Lord tells them to "buy" these things. How can they be purchased? Isaiah gives a bit of insight: " 'Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare' "(Isa. 55:1, 2, NIV, italics supplied).
There is a mixture of "conflicting" imagery here: You, who have no money, come and buy? Come and buy "without money and without cost"? Why spend money (that you do not have) for what can't satisfy? In the same way, God tells the Laodiceans to buy what can't be purchased, at least by anything humans can pay. What they need was already acquired for them by the Lord Himself, through Jesus, who paid, in a sense, the bill for their salvation. Perhaps the Lord used this language to stress the idea that these things they need are, indeed, not without great cost and price, a cost and price greater than they could, of themselves, ever pay. Perhaps He wanted to make them realize that salvation, though free for them, came with a great price.
"'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' "(Rev. 3:20, NIV).
Talk about words filled with hope! Here is this miserable, proud, blind, and naked church; yet, nevertheless, the Lord stands before the door of their hearts and says I'm knocking; I want to come in; I want to be with you.
Writers often explore such themes as "Man in Search of God" and so forth. Yet, in reality, that is all backward. From the fall of Adam and Eve in Eden, when God came in search for them (Gen. 3:9), up through the advent of Christ, who came to rescue fallen humanity (John 3:16; Gal. 1:4; 2:20), through the message to Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-21), and finally to the Second Coming, when God again comes to humanity (John 14:3; Acts 1:11), the Bible theme is that of the Lord seeking out humanity. We do not come to Him; we, of ourselves, would flee from Him, just as surely as did Adam and Eve. Instead, because of a love that we can only barely glimpse, the great Creator of the universe, the One who uttered into existence infinity, eternity, and matter and wrapped them together and draped the result across nothingnessHe has been seeking us, even knocking at our own doors. Amazing!
What other examples from the Bible can you find that show this theme, that of God coming down and seeking out human beings? What do they tell us about His love for humanity and the hope that we should have because of God and His love toward us? (See, for example, Gen. 18:1; Exod. 3:5; Job 38:1.)
Look again at the text for today. His offer is not to come in and rearrange the furniture or to evict us but to sit down and eat with us. In the same way as we share over a meal, God wants to come in and talk with us, to be our truest Friend. What an incredible offer from the God of hope!
|The question is: What are the things in our lives that cause us not to open the door or to be afraid to open the door? Doubt? Love of sin? Fear of having to give up certain things? A lack of a sense of need? Examine yourself in the faith and ask yourself, Have I opened the door to Christall the wayor is He still outside knocking? Or, looking at it from another angle, In what sense is He always knocking at our doors?|
"'To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne' "(Rev. 3:21, NIV).
As He spoke to the other churches, ending his different messages to each of them with words about overcoming (see Rev. 2:7, 17; 26; 3:5, 12), the Lord speaks the same to Laodicea, as well.
"To him who overcomes." This isn't just a command; it contains a promise. God is not going to ask people to do what is not possible. He is not going to present to them a goal or objective they cannot, through Him and His power, reach.
What promises are implicit or explicit in these texts?
Judg. 1:24 ____________________________________________________
Ps. 55:22 _____________________________________________________
Rom. 8:38, 39 _________________________________________________
1 Cor. 10:13 __________________________________________________
Rev. 12:11 ___________________________________________________
No questionwhatever trials, whatever temptations, whatever struggles we face, God promises us power to overcome. A great theme of the book of Revelation deals with enduring oppression and persecution through the ages and staying faithful unto the end. In other words, overcoming means staying loyal, faithful, and obedient to the Lord despite trial, temptations, and persecution. This is God's message to His church in every age. And the great hope contained therein is that, through Him, we can all be "overcomers," even those in Laodicea who, heeding the Lord's words, accept rebuke and discipline and who (as commanded) "repent" (Rev. 3:19).
Of course, not all Christians are facing overt persecution. Satan has other means at his disposal. His ultimate goal is to separate us from Christ, to keep us from salvation. He will always throw things in our way to try to trip us up. In what ways, other than persecution, does he try to trip us up, to get us to separate ourselves from Christ? In short, what are some of the things we need to overcome?
FURTHER STUDY: "The 'blessed hope' of the second coming of Christ is not a fringe doctrine. It is the very fabric that holds the Christian faith together. Hope is the warp and woof of human experience. The hope of the second coming of Christ is an experience that keeps Christians looking up. The apostle Peter calls it a 'lively hope.' It gives vitality to the Christian experience. The life of those having this hope is shaped and governed by it.
"Those who have a firm hope of heaven, who believe that Christ is coming again, will be better citizens here and now. Those who have a genuine hope for a new earth will seek to live its principles here on the old earth. Those who sing about the 'fair and happy land by and by' and the 'evergreen shores over there' will do their part to keep the shores green over here. Those who talk about the streets of gold 'over there' will also pay their taxes over here so that the streets can be kept in good repair. Parents who believe in the new earth where all will be 'bliss and joy' will also build a little heaven here on earth by loving each other and their children. . . . The Second Advent is not a theory, but should touch every facet of our life's experience here and now."R. R. Bietz, Review and Herald, centenary issue, June 8, 1961.
SUMMARY: Too rich to hope? How can people be so blind? Yet to even the arrogant and proud Laodicean church, the Lord offers hope hope of victory, hope of security, hope of salvation.
My partner and I had just begun our year of teaching in the village of Log Deck 5. One night I was awakened by loud snoring. At first I thought that it was my partner, but the sound seemed to be coming from a different location. The snoring was so loud that I found it difficult to go back to sleep.
The next morning I forgot about the midnight noise, but that night the snoring awoke me again. I knew it was not my partner, so I looked around, but I could see nothing in the darkness and the fog that covered the mountainside. I was puzzled, but soon I fell asleep again. Early the next morning, I looked around but saw nothing that could be the source of the sound. I'll see you tonight, I silently said to the unseen noise.
I told Darren about the offending noise, and that night we stayed up late to investigate. We talked, sang, and studied God's word until quite late. Suddenly we felt something bump the side of our little house. Instantly we became quiet. We could hear something moving under the house. It stopped right under my bed. Soon we heard the snoring sound that had awakened me the previous two nights. We peeked through a hole in the floor of our house and burst into laughter. There under the floor under my bed lay a huge pregnant pig belonging to our neighbor!
The people in the mountains of Mindanao raise pigs. The children play with the pigs and take baths with the pigs in the mud. We cannot blame them, for they do not know any better. But as we get to know our new neighbors in the village of Log Deck 5, after we win their confidence, then we can begin to tell them of God's better way. We will tell them about Jesus, who left the glories of heaven to come to this dark world and show us how to live better lives. We pray that one day, not too long from now, the 62 families living in Log Deck 5 will no longer raise pigs in their village.
Salleh Suli and his partner are students at Mountain View College in southern Philippines. They served for one year as student missionaries in the village of Log Deck 5, where they taught in the new mission school.
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