How do you think Jesus would start a church in your city or town?
The first thing Christ would do is go on a weeping tour throughout your area. Scripture tells us, “When he was come near, he beheld [Jerusalem], and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes” (Luke 19:41-42).
What made Jesus weep? It began with a heartbreaking walk He took around the city. He was overcome with grief at the sight of so-called religious people who had no peace. These people had rejected the truth for fables and now they were following a dead form of religion. They were sheep without true shepherds.
Now, I’m not out to judge any minister. But I want to ask everyone reading this message: Can you imagine your pastor driving through your town and weeping over it? What a different image Jesus gives us from so many of the plotters and planners building churches today. These men go door to door, surveying people, asking what they want in a church: “How long would you like the sermon to be? Fifteen minutes? Ten?”
Jesus witnessed a form of this in His own day. As He walked through the temple, He saw tables of moneychangers, ministers who merchandised the things of God. There was no real prayer, no fear of the Lord. And Christ wept over it all, crying, “It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Luke 19:46).
I ask you: Would Jesus weep over what He sees in your church today? Would He find your pastor anguishing over lost souls? Would Christ find His people praying or would He find them occupied by busyness and programs, focusing on their own interests?
Once Jesus concludes His weeping tour of your city, would He commend His people? Or would He bring this warning: “You’re blind to the times. Judgment is at the door, but you look more like the world than ever. Why aren’t you praying, seeking Me for strength and wisdom to redeem the time?”
If you are in Jesus’ Church, then strong messages are going to come from the Holy Spirit. Why? Because the Spirit cries out in us against everything we think, say or do that is of the flesh. Jesus says, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19).
Yet, the sign of every true follower of Jesus is that he surrenders to Christ’s every word. This servant loves reproof because of what it produces in his heart. He sees the change it brings, and he knows it is life to him.
Deep down, that is also why a sinner comes to God’s house. It’s not just to be counted as one more number in a large congregation. It’s to be found by God, because in his heart he knows he’s lost. His soul isn’t at rest, and he’s had too many long, sleepless nights. He wants answers, truth, real change, because he senses he’s bound for hell.
We’ve all been taught that Christ is the cornerstone of His Church. Paul says this stone is a rock of offense: “As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Romans 9:33). Peter also calls Jesus a rock of offense: “The head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient” (1 Peter 2:7-8).
Peter could tell you firsthand what happens when you try to do away with the message of the cross. He was offended when Jesus foretold His death to the disciples. So, “Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee” (Matthew 16:22).
But Jesus answered him with these stinging words: “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (16:23).
Here is a clear example of how Satan can plant a deception in even a godly, Christ-loving shepherd. And you can bet Peter never forgot his Master’s words. Likewise today, every minister and believer is to heed Christ’s warning: “My cross and My blood may offend you. But if you’re ashamed of My message, or you try to soften it, then you’re an offense to Me. You don’t represent My Word or My Church.”
Every generation of Christians must check itself to discern whether its mission and actions are God-honoring. We continually have to ask ourselves, “Are we still serving the Lord and our neighbor faithfully and sacrificially? Or have we drifted into a ‘bless me’ mentality?”
Christ knew exactly where the masses’ hearts were when they began following Him. “You want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs” (John 6:26). Why does Jesus refer to “miraculous signs” here? Think about what a sign does. It points to something, it isn’t the thing itself. When a road sign reads, “Denver 60 Miles,” we know we’re not in Denver yet but we’re on the way. In the same way, Jesus was letting the disciples know that the loaves and fishes weren’t the point. They revealed the loving care of the heavenly Father. His miracles are signs of His care for us.
The crowd’s response revealed their hearts. “Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (John 6:31). They were playing Moses’ example against Jesus. It was arm-twisting, like a child who goes to each parent trying to get what he wants. Do we look for God in our midst or do we merely seek His provision? Let’s be honest, often when we pray we want an answer now, today, this hour. That’s an unfortunate trait of our world’s “have it all now” culture. In a spiritual sense, we lack a tremendous value that the Greatest Generation held dear: to know that by faith we’ll eventually see great blessings.
For the Christian, knowing God isn’t about being “blessed now.” The Lord won’t bend to our lusts to give us everything we want—when we want it. His desire is to have a relationship with us—an ongoing, long-term relationship that bears lasting fruit. So His blessings aren’t the end-all of the relationship; they’re signs of His faithfulness and compassion—traits that any of us would covet in a relationship. Christ’s miracles were evidence of those beautiful traits.
America is witnessing a “capitalistic Christianity.” The goal is no longer spiritual growth, but expansion in numbers, property, finances. Jesus’ judgment of the Laodicean church applies to many churches today: “You don’t realize what has happened to you. Your blindness has caused you to grow lukewarm and you don’t even see it. You still think you’re hot for Me” (see Revelation 3:15-17).
In Ephesus, the church’s sin was a loss of intimacy with Jesus. In Thyatira, it was a loss of discernment, and flirtation with spiritual fornication. Now, in Laodicea, we see the worst sin of all: a loss of all need for Christ.
It all ends up in nakedness. Jesus charged the Laodiceans with their naked condition: “The shame of thy nakedness [does] not appear” (3:18). The Greek word for naked here means “stripped of resources.” You see, God reserves His resources for those who are reliant upon Him, who depend on Him in their need. What are His resources? They’re true spiritual riches: His strength, His miracle-working power, His divine guidance, His manifest presence.
Picture a congregation that sits comfortably through a one-hour worship service. These Christians hear a short sermon on how to cope with life’s stresses, then they’re quickly out the door. They don’t sense any need to be broken or contrite before Jesus. They don’t feel the need to be stirred or convicted by a piercing message. There’s no cry of, “Lord, melt me, break me. You alone can fulfill my hunger.”
Where is the zeal they had before? These believers were once eager to get to church, to pore over God’s Word, to lay their hearts bare before the Spirit’s searchlight. But now they think they’ve outgrown all that. So they’ve restricted their Christianity to Sunday mornings—to a religion of lukewarmness.
Jesus so loved this Laodicean pastor and his congregation that He told them He would create a need in them for His resources: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (3:19). His loving hand was coming to chasten them and He would do it by creating a need in them to call on His power and help.
Christ is speaking to us with the same words today. He’s telling us, just as He told the Laodiceans: “This is all about supping with Me. It’s about answering the door when I knock. And I’m calling out to you now to come and commune. I have everything you need. Your fellowship with Me gives you what you need to continue in ministry. It all has to come from our time together.”
The problem with the church in Thyatira was a flirtation with seductive, devilish ministries. Imagine the pastor’s reaction when he read these words: “Unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire” (Revelation 2:18).
The letter continues with a commendation: “I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first” (2:19). Once again, Christ is saying, “I know your deeds. Your love, faith, service and perseverance are greater now than when you began.” Best of all, the Lord tells them, “I know you love Me.” He doesn’t reprimand them for a loss of intimacy with Him.
But then we read these piercing words: “Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols” (2:20).
Who, exactly, is the Jezebel mentioned here? Jesus is speaking of false shepherds. He’s reproving the pastor in Thyatira for tolerating covetous ministers who seduce His people. The Jezebel reference here indicates more than just ministers who are covetous. These false shepherds actually invent schemes to carry out and fulfill their lusts. Simply put, the name Jezebel is a byword for all that’s evil and detestable in the eyes of the Lord.
What a perplexing picture we’re given. These are people who love the Lord, devoted men and women of God. They’ve persevered, they’ve given faithfully, and they love Jesus. How could these believers be attracted to false prophets? How could they ever be seduced by wicked ministers whom God despises?
All through the gospels, Jesus warns of false shepherds who come seeking to devour, deceiving many. Yet I’m shocked by the lack of discernment in multitudes who abide their false gospels. Has this happened to you? Does your soul feed on some TV gospel that’s actually demonic? Do you drink in a message from prosperity preachers that appeals to your lusts and takes the last dimes of the elderly?
Jesus admonishes those who’ve faithfully stood against Jezebel ministers: “That which ye have already hold fast till I come” (2:25). He’s saying, “You’ve learned true discernment. You won’t let yourself be twisted by every wind and wave of doctrine. So, for now, just keep holding on. Don’t allow yourself to be deceived. That’s all I ask. I won’t put any other burden on you until I come back” (see 2:24)