Laodicea Must Overcome – Part 9
“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.” Revelation 3:21
In previous messages we saw that Christ’s messages to each of the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 contain certain common elements. For example, to each church, Christ says, “I know thy works”. These messages are Christ’s evaluation of His people throughout the history of the church. He also begins His closing remarks to each church by saying, “He that overcometh…” followed by a promise unique to that church. The ultimate purpose of these messages to the seven churches is that God’s people may be overcomers, victorious.
In what sense must Laodicea overcome? Christ tells us that He wants us to overcome, so we need to know what it is He wants us to be victorious over.
The heart of the Laodicean message, we have seen so far, is that we need to overcome self. Whether it is our law keeping or our good works, or whatever we take pride in, the heart of our problem as Laodicea is self-righteousness. Wherever there is self, there is sin. So the thing we need to overcome is self.
And what is Christ’s promise to those in Laodicea who overcome sin? “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.” Revelation 3:21
“I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps. And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts. And the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruit unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile for they are without fault before the throne of God.” (verses 2-5)
This group have not only been justified by faith, as have all believers, but they have experienced the full power of the gospel – that is, the imparted righteousness of Christ. “In their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God” (verse 5). Revelation, chapter 7 also pictures this same group in these words:
“These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them”(verses 14,15).
This is the privilege Christ wants to give each of us.
Christ’s closing words to the Laodicean church contain something that doesn’t appear in His closing words to the other six churches. To each of the six, Jesus says, “He that overcometh…” But He takes Laodicea one step further; He adds, “Even as I also overcame: (verse 21). He wants this last generation of Christians to overcome in the same way that He overcame. The True Witness is pointing to His own victory as the example for Laodicea.
What did Christ overcome?
First, He overcame the world. He told His disciples, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). What did He mean? The Bible defines the world as “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1John 2:16). All this Christ overcame.
Second, He also overcame the prince of this world – Satan (see John 14:30). Jesus totally overcame Satan, and He overcame him, giving us an example of how we also can overcome him.
Third, He also overcame sin in the flesh. “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3). He condemned or overcame the law of sin and death – the principle of sin, which is the principle of self that dwells in sinful flesh.
All this Christ overcame – the world, the devil, and the flesh, or self. He overcame so that “that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us” (verse 4).
Paul explains further what Christ has brought to us by His redemptive work. Christ “gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father” (Galatians 1:4). That is why we have hope. We are delivered from the evil that exists in this world.
The apostle John says, “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world even our faith” (1John 5:4). Never think that you will overcome the world and its sin by your own efforts or by your willpower alone. The world, the devil, and the flesh can be overcome only by faith, combined along with our efforts.
Paul is quite clear in Romans, chapter 7 that in and of ourselves, we cannot keep the law or do genuine good works. He ends the chapter with a summary describing what the Christian struggle with sin is like apart from the power of the Spirit. “With the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin” (verse 25). We can identify with Paul’s lament, because we have experienced it so many times ourselves. We contend against the flesh in battle and try to overcome with the power of our minds. And who wins? The flesh wins! Can your mind conquer your flesh? Paul’s answer in Romans, chapter 7 is No. And the answer of our experience, over and over again is likewise No. The unconverted mind can defy the flesh for a time, but it can never overcome it.
Yet Paul goes on to say in Romans, chapter 8 that Christ has condemned – which includes overcoming – this law of sin in the flesh. And He did so in order “that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (verse 4). The victory of Christ is not only to be applied to us for our benefit, but it is also for us to experience
If Laodicea finally repents, and turns from self-righteousness to the righteousness of Christ, if she walks by faith alone and no longer depends on self but on God, then all the victories described in Revelation 15 will be hers.
“I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (verses 2,3)
This is God’s purpose for Laodicea.
What is the secret of this victory?
John says, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them (the false prophets, the antichrist, the beast, his mark, and his image) because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” 1 John 4:4
John is speaking of two persons here: “he that is in you” and “he that is in the world”
He that is in the world is Satan. And he that is in you is Christ’s Spirit. How do we know?
Paul says, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). And Paul adds, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2). Christ dwells in you and I through the Holy Spirit. John is saying that the Holy Spirit who represents Christ dwelling in us, is greater than Satan who dwells in the world. That is the source of our victory over sin.
Paul presents a similar argument. He says:
“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds. Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10: 4,5).
Notice what you can do in the power of “Christ in you” The Bible says it is possible to bring every thought under control by the power of the indwelling Christ.
Now comes the big question. What is the cost? What does it cost to have Christ dwelling and walking in us?
I can sum up the cost in one word – brokenness. In order to buy the heavenly merchandise offered by the True Witness – the gold purified in the fire, the white clothing, and the eye salve – we must be willing to pay the price, and the price is brokenness.
Jesus illustrated the brokenness that has to take place by what happens when we plant grain. He said “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24). The shell of a kernel of wheat is very hard. The life is not in the shell; it is inside the germ. The shell has to be broken by water. It has to be softened and broken so that the life inside may spring out and produce fruit.
Paul uses the symbol of a vase or jar of expensive perfume. Now, when you buy expensive perfume, it often comes in a very beautiful bottle. The bottle is so pretty that you keep the bottle even after you have used all the perfume. Mary’s alabaster jar held a very expensive perfume, but it was sealed. No one knew what was in it until she broke it open. Then the smell of this expensive perfume filled the whole room.
Christ is dwelling in you and in every born-again believer. But no-one can see Christ in you until the outer shell is broken. But here is the problem. We are great admirers of the beautiful bottles! We think that the church cannot do without us. Some of us feel that the church could never get along without our expertise or our academic degrees. Some of us feel that the church would collapse without our administrative abilities. Some of us feel that this church would come to nothing without our gifts.
I have to give you some bad news. None of us is indispensable. The church can survive just fine without you or I. But it cannot survive without Christ. Don’t ever get the idea when Christ uses you mightily that the church cannot do without you. It is Christ in you who is the hope of glory.
For the inner Christ to shine outwardly, the shell must be broken.
Self must be put aside. This world needs to see not how good we are, which is self-righteousness, but how good Christ is. That will take place only when we are willing to be broken. Self must die in order that Christ may live in us and through us (see Philippians 3:10).
The ultimate purpose of the Laodicean message is to help us realize that God wants a people – not just individuals, but a people – through whom He can lighten the earth with His glory. When this happens, God will be able to demonstrate the power of the gospel to the world, and there will be no excuse for anyone to be lost. God will be able to say to the universe and to the disbelieving world, “Here are My people. Here are the ones who have the faith of Jesus and have overcome self as He overcame”.
The devil will respond as he did in Job’s case, “Let me see. Let me test them.” How severe will the test be? It will be a test that no other generation has ever experienced (see Daniel 12:1; Jeremiah 30:7). When that test arrives, will Laodicea be able to overcome? God has promised that there will be a people who will overcome in His strength.
The question is: Will we be willing to be broken? Will we be willing to say, “Not I, but Christ”?
The real issue is not whether we are going to heaven or not. The issue is that the world desperately needs to see Christ in us, the hope of glory. The world is waiting to see God’s goodness, not man’s goodness.
We have the light, but we must not have it under a bushel. Jesus says to us, “Ye are the light of the world….Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14).
It means that you’ll be willing to be hurt when people don’t appreciate you.
Are we willing to swallow our pride when that attitude occurs? Are we willing to be hurt even by a fellow church member and not give up? Ellen White says that we are to draw warmth from the coldness of others in these last days (see 5T: 136).
When someone says something that hurts you, please don’t say “I’ll quit coming to church” Jesus wasn’t appreciated either when He arrived in our world. “He came unto His own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). What would have happened to us if Jesus had said, “These people don’t appreciate the tremendous sacrifice I’m making for them. I’ll go back to heaven”?
Christ didn’t let ingratitude or abuse deter Him from His mission. They spat on Him and made fun of Him. Have you ever been spat on? And what was Jesus’ response? “Father, forgive them” In spite of the way the world treated Him, Jesus hung on and overcame. He overcame pride. He overcame self. He was obedient even to the death of the cross; He was willing to empty Himself and become nothing so that you and I might be in His kingdom!
When you and I are willing to surrender self and let the Holy Spirit take over, then we will overcome. Then the world will be lightened by God’s glory. We need to begin today in our neigbourhood, in our own church.
“This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1John 5:4).