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Bible verses about Priorities
(From Forerunner Commentary)

The Laodicean is not indifferent to making money or making his way in the world. He is not indifferent to improving himself through education or experience. Spending huge amounts of his time and energy pursuing his own interests, his problem is that he chooses the wrong priorities in life. He spends most of his time and energy achieving the wrong goals.

This pursuit of wrong goals restates the actual sin the Laodicean commits: idolatry, placing something above God in one's life. How? He serves himself within the church as if he did it for God. Perhaps he is involved in the work of God but only halfheartedly. Though probably attending Sabbath services faithfully, he is not personally involved with God on a day-to-day basis. He may serve within the church to be recognized, respected, maybe even ordained, forgetting that God called him to be a faithful and true witness of Him. Because he pays attention to the wrong things, his witness suffers terribly. Expending so much energy and enthusiasm in pursuing his own interests, he shows little or no interest in God or His goals. He is indifferent and lukewarm toward his relationship with God.

Because he has had such great success in amassing wealth, the Laodicean judges himself to be self-sufficient, which reveals that his faith is in what he can see, whether his own abilities or his wealth. He is not living by faith, but by sight (II Corinthians 5:7). To put more money in his pocket, he can become energetic, hard-working, and fervent, but he cannot seem to arouse himself about the things of God, which he cannot see. Such an attitude will incur the wrath of God every time!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Satan, in a fanciful vignette, summoned three demons before him and gave them a project. "You are to go throughout the earth," he commanded, "and I want you to deceive as many people as you possibly can, causing them to be lost. But before you go, I want to hear how you plan to deceive them."

The first demon stepped forward and said, "I am going to tell all these people that there is no God." Satan shook his head, saying, "That would work on a few people, but most wouldn't buy it. There is too much evidence that a Creator God exists. I reject your plan because it wouldn't deceive many people."

The second demon came before him and said confidently, "I will teach everybody that there is no hell." Satan just laughed. "People know better than that! They know there is a place where unrepentant sinners will burn, never to live again. Your plan would never work either. It may deceive a few people, but eventually they would catch on to you."

The third demon rose and said, "I will tell them that there is no need to hurry." Satan said, "Go! You'll deceive everybody!"

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

One of this world's evangelists said, "It takes five percent effort to win a person to Christ and ninety-five percent effort to keep him in Christ and growing to maturity." There are two closely related reasons for this. First, the convert fails initially to count the cost so that he truly understands commitment to Christ (Luke 14:26-33). Second, once committed, he fails to think about events and attitudes in his life in relation to the Kingdom of God. Without this, a Christian never gets past the surface of the teachings.

This results in a person with so many interests in life that the most important one is crowded out. Or, conversely, he is consumed with a single interest other than seeking the Kingdom of God, and it is crowded out. If a Christian fails to prioritize properly, he neglects the most important one. That is a choice. Most of us tend to fall into the first category where everything is the same size and importance. We have no single great priority.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing for the Feast


 

Psalm 24:3-4

These two brief verses broadly cover conduct, motivation, attitude, and prioritizing one's life. To meet these qualifications requires "truth in the inward parts" (Psalm 51:6). A deceitful heart will never meet the standards because it does not operate from a foundation of godly integrity. David says in verse 5 that, humanly, he was shaped in iniquity. God, with our cooperation through faith, is ultimately the Creator of a pure heart in us, but it is a protracted process achieved by imparting a holy nature by His Spirit. This unites us with a holy Christ, with whom we fellowship, washing us in the blood of the Lamb so that with His aid we can mortify the flesh and live toward God, giving Him first priority in everything.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart


 

Psalm 90:12

The phrase "number our days" expresses the thought of putting in order, arranging the use of, or prioritizing time because the end of one's life is fast approaching. Moses wanted us to remember that our remaining number of days grows smaller each day.

He reminds us because we rarely make a conscious relationship between sin and our mortality. We are so busy living for the moment that we fail to see a connection between our conduct and our finite lifespan. Moses appeals for help that we might be wise and live by faith. Proverbs 4:5-6 urges us, "Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you." Because it bears so profoundly upon our accountability to God, using time properly may be the greatest of wisdom.

Romans 13:11-12 carries this thought down to our day, expressing the urgency of our situation:

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Simplify Your Life!


 

Proverbs 31:8-9

Basically, God says here, "Go to bat for the disadvantaged." However, He admonishes us to judge righteously.

We know that there are people in the world who, perhaps because they have too much time, money, or guilt on their hands, make it their duty to become advocates for various causes, often doing it without regard for the possible consequences. They may think they are supporting something that is good, but they sometimes never think through what their support might mean and what will result from it. If many of the causes out there were actually followed through to the end, we would be living in a socialist or communist state, and no one would like it. Nobody would be free.

Jesus says, "The poor you will always have with you." Because that is the case, the question then becomes, "How best can we help them?" Remember Martha and Mary and what Jesus had to say to Martha? "Martha, you are getting overwrought about all this. But Mary has chosen the better thing" (Luke 10:38-42 paraphrased). Jesus is teaching that there is a point at which service and good works become a distraction and a worry, crowding out the higher duties of listening to Him.

Thus, we need to remember that, even though we want to do good works, they will never save us. They are a fruit of righteousness. They are not the ultimate goal or the end. They just show that we have inculcated into us part of God's character, and the natural outgrowth of that is good works (see Ephesians 2:10).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
"If I Have Not Charity"


 

Ecclesiastes 5:1-3

At first glance, verse 3 appears to say that dreams are an echo of our daytime activities, that anxious days cause troubled sleep. While that is certainly true, the verse appears in the context of how to worship God. Thus Solomon advises, "Prioritize and keep your life simple!"

"Walk prudently" means "watch your moral conduct." Frequently, "hear" is used synonymously with "obey," and the "sacrifice of fools" is allowing fellowship to degenerate into mere socializing without serious regard toward walking prudently and hearing God.

Hastiness in prayer is speaking ill-considered words before God. Though we pour out a prayer to Him in anguish, we may not think about the possible effects of our words. We can also do this by praying carelessly, ignorant of the seriousness of our communication with God.

What causes hastiness in prayer? A multitude of business. The busy fool pours out a flood of useless words because his mind is crammed with all the details of his business. This evil excess misuses important time with God and obscures the effectiveness of simple, heartfelt, and thoughtful prayer. When our minds are so full of our own activities rather than with the purposes of God, we often pray to Him like fools who talk incessantly about things of no consequence, or we endlessly repeat ourselves.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Simplify Your Life!


 

Haggai 1:2-4

For those who are actively seeking God, now is always the time for the Lord's house to be built. The people of Haggai's day were saying, maybe not verbally, but their inaction spoke volumes, "Let's wait until a more favorable time to build the Temple." What made this particular time unfavorable? They wanted to take care of their own projects! They placed their own material comforts higher in priority than their spiritual obligation—God's work in their day—to rebuild the Temple. They spared no expense in doing well for themselves (e.g., their "paneled houses," verse 4), but to them the economy was not favorable for building the Temple.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Matthew 6:33

What was the first of the Seven Laws of Success? Set the right goal! Jesus clearly established the highest-priority goal for His disciples in this verse. He did this because He knows that the main goal, our highest priority, determines the preparations, efforts, and zeal for reaching it.

Suppose someone offered us a tremendous sum of money, perhaps billions of dollars, but the exact amount would be determined by how well we could learn to speak German in two month's time. We would embark on the most intense crash-course program of learning in our life! We would study from morning to night, burn the midnight oil, listen to language tapes, carry flash cards wherever we went, and seek out fluent German-speakers so we could practice with them.

During those two months, no one could drag us near a time-wasting television program. We would probably allow nothing to interfere other than necessary physical activities to sustain life itself. All for money!

Notice what Jesus says earlier in Matthew 6:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (verses 19-21)

Consider these scriptures in the context of what Jesus says in verse 33. Our hearts are in the things to which we devote ourselves, the things we spend our time pursuing. He is helping us prioritize by stating and illustrating principles that will help us make right choices in managing time.

Every day another 24 hours or 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds is credited to our account, and we have to spend them. Whether we are a billionaire or a dirt farmer, except for those who die that day, all have the same amount of time. Jesus says how we spend it shows where our heart is.

Of course, Bible Study and prayer are very high priority activities. But Satan also knows this! He also knows it would be very difficult to change our minds regarding their value if he confronted us directly. So he makes use of subtle, indirect approaches, and all too often he succeeds in diverting our attention from these high priority concerns.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Simplify Your Life!


 

Matthew 6:33

Here the term righteousness has the sense of seeking all of God's spiritual blessings, favor, image, and rewards. We see in this verse not only a broad New Testament application of the term but also, more importantly, its priority to life. This dovetails perfectly with the hunger-and-thirst metaphor in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:6). It is not enough to ambitiously yearn to accomplish. According to Jesus, God's Kingdom and His righteousness are the very top priorities in all of life. Seeking God's righteousness is that important.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Four: Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness


 

Matthew 13:7

Jesus is not saying that the cares of this life and riches are intrinsically evil; they are neutral. However, involvement in or pursuit of them may be easily overdone and cause great spiritual loss. He is warning people with too many interests. The most important interests, the spiritual ones, almost invariably get crowded out.

Even a person heavily involved in charitable works may be misusing time (Luke 10:40-42). Another may be so intent on his business that he is too tired to study or pray effectively, or for that matter, to think of anything else. Such a person—one who should heed Jesus' warning—has allowed other things to control his life.

In many cases, our worst enemies are not the obviously bad things, but the necessary and even the good things which we allow to be overdone. In athletics, is not the second best athlete always the strongest enemy of the first? So it is in prioritizing. Much of the time, our chief problem is a lack of commitment to the highest priority; we allow the secondary priorities to steal time from the primary one.

Consider the man in the parable of Luke 12:20-21:

But God said to him, "You fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?" So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

He was a fool because he did not have enough understanding and character to know when enough is enough. In his lust for more, he burned up his time on lower priority concerns and neglected building character.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Simplify Your Life!


 

Matthew 13:22-23

In Matthew 13:22-23, the only difference between the seed sown among weeds and the seed sown on good soil is in the action of the hearer. Both heard the Word, but only one acts on what he hears. Think about this. The seed sown on good soil could easily be overcome and choked out by weeds if action were to become inaction. What if spiritual laziness sets in?

What would happen if, say, a man has a vegetable garden and next to this garden is a small patch of kudzu? He cannot spray it with a herbicide because of the danger of it drifting onto his plants. What should he do? He must go out every day to monitor the situation and take whatever action is appropriate. Perhaps he needs to cut the kudzu back, or maybe it will be okay for another day.

The point is that the gardener must stir himself to be diligent. What happens if he tries to manage the kudzu from his bed or from the easy chair in front of his television? In a few weeks, he would go out to pick some red, ripe, juicy tomatoes and find that, not only does he not have any tomatoes, but he does not even have a garden!

The biblical term for someone who is spiritually inactive, or even asleep, is Laodicean! What Revelation 3:14-18 describes as a Laodicean is nothing more than a Christian choked by weeds. The Laodicean knows that kudzu is out there, but his attitude is lethargic. "I'll get to it later," he says. "My favorite show is coming on!" The Laodicean says in verse 17, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing." What did Christ say the weeds were? The cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the pleasures of this life!

Every day we have to "hoe" our spiritual garden. Prayer and Bible study we all understand about—we know how necessary they are to Christian growth. But we need to go even further and fight, root out, the weeds. Is that television show, novel, movie, or sportscast an entanglement? Are we spending too much time trying to "make it" or "get ahead" or "keep up with the Joneses"? Do we allow ourselves to become easily sidetracked by "little things"? While sleeping late instead of getting up early to pray, is kudzu creeping over our fruit?

Ask yourself, "Am I asleep?" If you know you are not asleep, ask, "Am I coasting?" You may find that you have allowed other pursuits to crowd out higher, spiritual priorities. If so, you need to wade into your overgrown garden and begin pulling out weeds by the fistful.

Mike Ford
Weeds!


 

Matthew 24:38-39

In these verses, Jesus describes people involved in normal activities of life: eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. None of these activities are evil—in fact, they are necessary. He implies, however, that in focusing upon the everyday activities of their lives, they miss the signs, the evidence, which prove the imminence of Christ's return. The sad result is that they do not become aware until it is too late.

Laodiceanism is not a matter of laziness, but of spiritual indifference caused by giving attention to the wrong things. A Laodicean commits a subtle form of idolatry, paying undue attention to self-centered interests rather than the interests of our Lord. Setting aside those responsibilities to which he has been called, he favors activities and interests that Jesus simply describes as eating and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage. He has chosen carnal priorities over spiritual ones.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Matthew 24:42-44

In essence, these verses are Christ's opening salvo on how to be prepared and how to use your time and energy when the evidence of His return begins to appear.

Although we definitely know that we are living in the time of the end, we do not know exactly when Christ will return. So we have to live in readiness every day. The theme of this brief parable is expectation. Knowing the general signs of His coming, we live expecting the unexpected.

He illustrates this by comparing His coming to that of a thief. We normally do not look for thieves. Understandably, thieves do not advertise their coming, but by taking precautions, we prepare against their coming. All of us lock our houses and hide our valuables in safe places. Some of us have installed security alarms and exterior lighting to discourage burglary.

In the same vein, Jesus urges His people to be vigilant, alert, wakeful, and constantly watchful because a thief's principal weapon is surprise. Even to those who are aware, His coming will occur with jarring suddenness—and more so to those who are distracted by ordinary occupations, "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage." The teaching in this parable is that to live without vigilance is to invite disaster.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Matthew 25:1-13

The Parable of the Ten Virgins pictures the church waiting for the Bridegroom's return. Because of an unexpectedly long delay, He finds half the virgins unprepared when He finally arrives.

In weddings of that time, the bridegroom traditionally led a procession of bridesmaids from where they waited to his home. Since the procession almost invariably took place at night, each bridesmaid was expected to supply her own torch or lamp. If the bridegroom came later than expected, the bridesmaid needed to be prepared with extra torches or oil for her lamp.

The difference between the wise and the foolish virgins in the parable is not that one group did not have oil, but that one group did not have enough for the unexpectedly long delay. When the cry went out, their lamps were still burning, but they were sputtering and going out. Oil, of course, represents God's Holy Spirit. The wise virgins, like the faithful and wise servant of Matthew 24:45-51, are prepared. They make sure that they remain in contact with the dispenser of oil, as is implied when they say to the foolish virgins, "No, . . . go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves" (verse 9). The wise had been in recent contact with the dispenser of oil, whereas the others apparently had dallied around. Going frequently to the dispenser, the wise, when the bridegroom arrived, had an adequate supply to trim their lamps and go into the marriage supper. The lesson is preparedness through vision and foresight.

Because it is an internal state, preparedness cannot be transferred. That is evident in the reaction of the virgins. It is a matter of the heart, an intangible that accrues by spending long periods of time under many circumstances with the Dispenser of the Holy Spirit. What cannot be transferred to those who are unprepared are matters of attitude, character, skill, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. They are personal attributes that are built and honed over months and years.

When one needs a skill immediately, how much time does it take to learn it? If a man suddenly needed the skill to repair an automobile, and he had never done any work on one, he may as well have no hands at all! It works the same way with spiritual attributes. Preparing for eventualities is the lesson of this parable. The wise virgins prepared for the eventuality that it might take longer for the bridegroom to come—they showed foresight and vision, and they entered the wedding feast. The others did not.

The oil cannot be borrowed either. In no way can it be passed from one person to another. We cannot borrow character or a relationship with God. The parable teaches us that opportunity comes, opportunity knocks, and then opportunity leaves. The foolish failed to face the possibility that the bridegroom would come later than expected, and when they were awakened, they had no time to fetch any oil and fill their lamps.

No one can deliver his brother. Each person determines his own destiny. No matter how close we are, even if we are one in flesh as in marriage, a husband cannot deliver his wife, and a wife cannot deliver her husband. Nor can we deliver our children. Everyone stands on his own in his relationship with God. God makes this clear in Ezekiel 14:14: "'Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,' says the Lord God." Though it is a hard lesson, it should motivate us to discipline ourselves, to exercise self-control, to be alert, and to give our attention to our spiritual priorities. Thus, each person determines his own destiny.

Equating the foolish virgins with their modern counterparts, the Laodiceans, their faith is perfunctory. Their church membership is routine, merely going through the motions. They have enough faith that they at least show up for church services. They have beliefs and character and motivation—but not enough!

The Bridegroom's refusal to admit the five foolish virgins (verse 12) must not be construed as a callous rejection of their lifelong desire to enter the Kingdom. Far from callous, Christ's rejection is entirely justified because these people never make preparations for their marriage to Him. In the analogy, though they realize they have met their future mate and admire Him, they never develop the relationship. In a sense, they have already rejected Him. Thus, an additional lesson in this parable is that our relationship with God must be worked on continually.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Galatians 6:9-10

In its broader context, Galatians 6:1-10 has spiritual matters more directly in mind than physical needs. This does not deny that there are times to help out physically, but the chapter begins with, "If one sees a brother in a fault. . . ." This the real foundation of the charge in verses 9 and 10. It is concerned primarily with spiritual matters, where the church's problems really lie. The church's problems are spiritual in nature.

In terms of the ministry, from the top of the administration on down, its emphasis must be on "feeding the flock." If there is a spiritual problem within the church, and we are charged first with taking care of the church, then it means that the administration of the church has to shift gears and take care of that spiritual problem first. It has first priority, not the preaching of the gospel to the world.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Ephesians 5:16

Redeem means "to buy up for oneself" or "buy up an opportunity." When connected to "time," it means "to buy or take advantage of an opportunity." Since we are dealing with time, and it inexorably passes on, we must make the most of each opportunity. If an opportunity is missed, it cannot be recalled.

Paul might as well be saying, "God's way is not just for a few hours on a Sabbath, but the will of the Lord applies in every situation in life." He is urging us to take advantage of every situation to imitate God. Every second of our lives is precious in the building of godly character.

This has nothing to do with literally gaining time. It may be illustrated, though, with the example of the savvy merchant who takes advantage of every opportunity to make a profit. Businessmen often say, "Strike while the iron is hot." Or, in our consumer culture, we watch the advertisements to take advantage of a sale.

How can we determine how to take advantage of time? In much the same way we take advantage of a sale. We decide what we want and then we watch carefully. If we want to buy a product, we will generally survey the market and then decide which particular brand and model we want to buy. Then we keep a careful watch until the sale of our choice occurs.

Likewise, we must survey what is controlling our time and we must decide what is important to us. Is it our relationship with God, family, job, socializing, recreation, or entertainments? In what order of priority would we put these and other interests? Next, we must survey each of the major categories more specifically and insert particular activities into them. This is very important because the "small" activities drain most of our time away almost unnoticed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Simplify Your Life!


 

Colossians 3:2

Paul is telling us where the focus of our attention needs to be. We can give our minds over to a lot of things, for instance, to our jobs - and there is a place for that. We can give our minds over to physical things - exercise, eating well, and so forth - and there is a place for these, too.

Indeed, humans need to set their minds on many things, but they need to be prioritized correctly - put into the right niche and position. Then each of these things has to be seen in relation to the Kingdom of God. Our priorities must be set according to this standard - the overriding goal of our Christian lives.

"Set your mind on things above" adjusts the focus of our attention so that we do not become distracted by things that are less important for any longer than needed, so that they occupy the right proportion and amount of time in our lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Titus 2:11-14


 

1 Thessalonians 5:1-4

Thieves send no warning messages ahead of them that they are coming, so break-ins are usually sudden and shocking events. We are assured that Christ's return will be equally surprising to most on the earth. The Bible's indications are that He will come when a majority of people least expect Him: when newscasts assure us of "Peace at last!" and the whole world is busy with the affairs of this life (Matthew 24:37-39). Then, everything will fall to pieces with a bang!

Yet, Christians should not be taken by surprise. We are supposed to be aware of the signs of the times, evaluating the course of events, and growing in the grace and knowledge of God, so that, no matter when He comes, we are prepared to meet Christ in the air. Because we are not in darkness, our eyes should be fixed on what is truly important during these troubled times: God's Kingdom and His righteousness.

Like his Master, Paul tells us to watch, and he adds, "Be sober" (verse 6). A sober person's mind is unadulterated by anything that would cause poor judgment, as a drunk's ability to make proper decisions is affected by the booze in his system. One who is sober is serious, thoughtful, cautious, calm, and not given to excesses of any kind. He weighs matters carefully and chooses the wisest course of action.

This should be our stance now, despite what people claim about the timing of Christ's return. The promise of His coming has not been delayed, and things are not as they always were. God's plan marches on; He is maneuvering events, circumstances, and individuals into place. We have been given front-row seats to witness the most astounding series of prophetic fulfillments in human history, and to keep them, we must watch, be sober, and prepare for the return of Jesus Christ.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Promise of His Coming?


 

1 Thessalonians 5:6

The advice given to the Christian is to watch. While asleep, one cannot watch. The Greek word for "watch" can be better translated "alert," and the word for "sober" is more correctly "self-controlled." So Paul advises, "Let us be alert and self-controlled." In other words, while all of the distractions of this world spin dizzyingly around us, we have to be alert to their appeal and controlled enough to discipline ourselves to prioritize in the right way.

Though such a task is not easy, we must forcibly set our wills to pay attention to those eternal things that are more important. If we fail in this task, we may begin conducting our lives in darkness, and living in darkness leads eventually to spiritual blindness. It is vital to our spiritual health to remain alert and self-controlled!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:15-16

Christ admits the truth about them. "I know your works [obedience and service], that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot" (Revelation 3:15). Why does He wish this? Because if they were either cold or hot, they would be useful to Him. Lukewarm Christians send confusing messages. In this state, being useless to Him, He spews them out of His mouth. All the messages to these seven churches highlight works because they are evidence of how Christians conduct their relationships with God. Works reveal the heart. They are a gauge of one's witness and spiritual state.

Metaphorically, what does lukewarmness signify here? To define it to this point, a rough definition might be "that which gives no refreshment, or that which has neither the cleansing properties of hot water nor the refreshing properties of cold." Modern synonyms of the word "lukewarm" give illuminating insights into its use in this letter: lacking ardor, enthusiasm or conviction; moderate; mild; unemotional; halfhearted; hesitant; indecisive; irresolute; uncertain; uncommitted; unresponsive; indifferent; impassive; languid; phlegmatic; apathetic; nonchalant; lackadaisical.

Recall the hallmarks of Babylon: pride, self-glorification, reliance on wealth, satiety, complacency, avoidance of suffering. Although he has the abilities and resources to be a great witness, the Laodicean is complacent, self-satisfied, bored with or indifferent to the real issues of life. For a Christian, the real issues are faith in Christ and our Christian responsibility. And to do the work Christ has called us to, our loyalty and devotion must be to Him, first and foremost!

A problem arises, however, in "spotting" a Laodicean—these qualities do not necessarily show on the outside. Why? Remember Christ describes a spiritual condition. This is a matter of the heart. What does He want to see in him? He wants the Laodicean to get off the fence—to be one way or the other, cold or hot. Conversely, the Laodicean judges that he is balanced, right in the middle. But his concept of balance is skewed. Why will he not move off the middle? He feels he has it good there! If he moves left or right, he fears that he will suffer! Thus, he has no desire to move.

Then what happens? The Laodicean must compromise. This is interesting in light of what the history books record. Ancient Laodicea's main line of defense was conciliation and compromise! Why? Again, the answer lies in the city's inadequate water supply, making it very susceptible to the siege of an invading army. By having its tenuous water supply cut off, the city was at the mercy of its attacker. With no water, it could hold out for only a short while. The Laodicean solution? They became masters of appeasement, accommodation, conciliation, and diplomacy. Peace at any cost! How did they appease? They bought their enemies off! Laodicea used its wealth to conciliate and compromise.

Christ uses the attitude of the surrounding environment to illustrate that those in the church of Laodicea are affected by the attitudes of the world. Without even realizing it, they behave exactly like their unconverted neighbors. They are worldly. Though they are not out on the streets robbing banks, raping, looting, murdering, mugging old grandmothers, or abusing children, in their hearts they have the same general approach to life as Babylon has. Theologically, spiritually, they hold the same values as Babylon, proved by their works. Spiritually, they become very adept in avoiding the sacrifices that might be necessary to overcome and grow in character, wisdom, and understanding. In other words, they are skilled in appeasing Satan and their own consciences.

Christ says He will spew, or vomit, the Laodicean from His mouth! That is how He views this attitude of compromise with principles, ideals, standards, and truth!

Some may expect Laodiceans to be lazy, but on the contrary they are often workaholics. Satan has foisted this false concept of Laodiceanism onto the church. One cannot become "rich and increased with goods" by being lazy! Their problem is a faulty setting of priorities. They are very vigorous people, but they are vigorous in areas that fail miserably to impress their Judge, Christ. Vigorous in conducting business and other carnal affairs, they are lackadaisical in pursuing the beauty of holiness, which is their calling. They are not vigorous or zealous in maintaining their prayer life with God or in studying. They are not energetic in making the sacrifices necessary to love their brethren or in developing their relationships with others. Nor are they enthusiastic about guarding the standards and principles of God. By erring in the setting of priorities, they victimize themselves.

Over the last fifteen years of his life, Herbert Armstrong expressed deep concern about the church becoming Laodicean. Because of the plethora of activities this world offers, he saw that ultimately they distract us, cause us to set wrong priorities, and keep us from putting our time, energy, and vigor into godly things. He often cited Daniel 12:4 as a telltale sign of the last days: "Seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." Are we busy in this age? Satan is a slick strategist, and he really deceives anyone who allows himself to believe that busyness and prosperity are signs of righteousness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:17

A Laodicean deals with wealth on a scale few people have seen in the history of the world. Wealth has a power that produces an intriguing result. In a section of scripture Moses wrote in the last month before Israel crossed into the Promised Land, God warns us of it: "When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you" (Deuteronomy 8:10). God is definitely not against His people prospering or even getting rich. Many of his servants, like Abraham and David, were wealthy beyond imagination (Genesis 13:2; I Chronicles 29:1-5).

Instead, He describes a general principle, a natural trend, which happens to most when they begin to accumulate wealth. Most people cannot handle prosperity, and though God wants us to have good things, He desires us to have them in a way that will not damage us spiritually. His concern for the Laodicean is that, as the world reaches a pinnacle of luxury and wealth, he will be distracted by the magnetic appeal of all those beautiful things. He says in effect, "Don't forget your first priority!"

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:17-19

The wealth of the Laodicean is not the problem. His problem derives from allowing his wealth to lead him into self-satisfaction, self-sufficiency, and complacency. His heart is lifted up. These attitudes lead him to avoid self-sacrifice by which he could grow spiritually. People normally use wealth to avoid the hardships of life, and although there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, a person not spiritually astute will allow the comforts of wealth to erode his relationship with God. In his physical wealth, the Laodicean is poor in the things that really count and blind to his need. He no longer overcomes and grows. His witness is no good - and useless to Christ.

God reveals His love for the Laodicean when, rather than giving up on him, He gives him a punishing trial. He allows him to go through the fire, the Great Tribulation, to chasten him for his idolatry, to remind him of his true priorities, and to give him the opportunity to repent.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:17

From the beginning to the end of its history, Israel's great sin was trying to get the best of both worlds. They professed that God was their god, but they proved their insincerity by not honoring Him with their attention, their time, their energy. He was low on their list of priorities. God was always on the back burner, so to speak. This is idolatry.

In regard to Laodiceanism, we have to be concerned about the same sin. Laodiceanism is the most subtle form of idolatry. A Laodicean is a Christian who has turned inward. Though he is a part of the church of God, his worship is self-centered. He worships himself and his interests in God's name, while going through the motions of worshipping God. Such is idolatry. What sin is the most distasteful to God? Undoubtedly, it is idolatry! And seeing that sin so skillfully embedded in the Laodicean, He spews them out of His mouth!

Laodiceanism is also the most refined form of worldliness. That worries God. Beginning with an attraction to the world, and building through self-concern that overpowers spiritual concerns, the Laodicean unwittingly worships himself in the place of God. The Laodicean has misjudged what is important in life, and therefore he prioritizes wrongly. He gives his attention to pursuits that are not intrinsically evil, things God desires to bless His people with, but because his priorities are wrong, he merits God's scathing condemnation.

Probably all of us have slumped into Laodiceanism somewhat. Because it is so prevalent in the world, it is almost impossible to avoid. But it can be resisted! We still have time for repentance. Each of us can make a greater effort to study, pray, fast, grow in love for each other, unselfishly help our neighbors, and follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit while we have the time and opportunity. We must not allow this opportunity to slip away.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:20

The illustration at the end of the letter to Laodicea is striking. Our Lord stands at the door knocking. Christ then says, "If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." But what does the passage indicate about the Laodicean at this point? Since he cannot hear His Savior's voice, his mind must be focused on something else!

This is a common occurrence in our lives today. Concentrating deeply on a job or a project, our minds can block out sounds and movement around us. Some people never seem to hear someone calling them when their noses are stuck between the pages of a book!

Just describing this ability another way, Jesus judges the Laodicean to be blind. Paul uses a different metaphor in I Thessalonians 5:4-8, saying that he is in the dark. Spiritually, blindness and living in darkness are much the same. How good is one's judgment when he cannot see? Living in darkness is the equivalent of being morally insensitive or unstable, that is, not knowing right from wrong.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

 




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