This guest post was written by Elaine Atchison, who works for Higher Call as a writer, editor and event planner. Elaine authored a three-part special edition of “21 Reflections from Lent to Pentecost” which is available on our website. This is an excerpt from Part I – Preparation.
A few years ago, I visited dear friends living in Kolkata, India, one of the poorest cities on the planet. That trip solidified the critical need for clean drinking water. I panicked the first time I swallowed a few drops when brushing my teeth, certain that I would be struck down by a parasite. Ancient Laodicea (in modern day Turkey) had water problems too. Its citizens were rich and well-dressed but didn’t possess the hot springs of nearby Hierapolis or the cold springs found in Colossae. Their water traveled for miles through a long aqueduct, so by the time it reached them it was filthy, foul and tasteless.
A Harsh Appraisal. The New Testament is full of water imagery, especially the living water which symbolizes abundant, everlasting life. Jesus used everyday images that were relevant to his audiences, so in Laodicea he compared the church to the water. “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either one or the other!” (Revelation 3:15 paraphrased) He jabbed at their pride by describing them as lukewarm and sickening. Jesus always told it like it was because he is “the faithful and true witness.”(3:14) The Laodiceans were deeply offended because their affluence made them self-sufficient, self-righteous and self-deceived. Evidently they had swallowed enough heresy to become spiritually ill.
Laodicea was a rich banking center.
Deception: I am rich. I have prospered. I need nothing.
Diagnosis: “You are despicable, pathetic, and destitute.”
Laodicea was famous for its medical school and eye salve.
Deception: I have hidden knowledge (gnosis). I need nothing.
Diagnosis: “You are spiritually blind.”
Laodicea was famous for soft black wool and dyed textiles.
Deception: I have the security of wealth and possessions. I need nothing.
Diagnosis: “Your spiritual nakedness is shamefully exposed.”
Am I poor? Nothing adequately prepared me for the weeks I spent in Kolkata among the materially poor. Everywhere we walked or drove, a mass of people constantly pressed in on us. They assumed, that as Westerners, we had what they needed. Every morning we engaged with neighbors who slept on the sidewalk, in their taxi or on the ironing board in their trade booth, and bathed and drank from street hydrants; but ultimately I returned to my life in America. Here our hearts craftily downplay our spiritual poverty with an over-attachment to appearances, possessions and achievements.
“Come to Me”. Many identify outwardly with Jesus but inwardly there is no spring or reservoir to draw from. Christians in this state can be harder to reach than those who are openly hostile to Christ. Jesus challenged Laodicean believers, not to shame them, but because love includes both instruction and correction. Full of compassion, the Lord is always inviting us to come. “Buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich.[Buy from me] white garments so that you can clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen.[Buy from me]salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.” (Revelation 3:18-19)
The intangible. Laodicea was the last stop on the postal route and the closest to falling away in unbelief . . . but Jesus still pursued them. Gerald May, a gifted psychiatrist in the field of addiction wrote “To be alive is to be addicted, and to be addicted is to be in need of grace.” After decades of research and recovery from personal addiction, he found that Jesus is the “intangible”, the only one who can restore a captive to sanity. Jesus wants a close relationship with us. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)
The promise. Just before John received the vision about Earth’s final days, Jesus challenged seven different churches with seven unique “overcoming” promises. It wasn’t accidental or arbitrary that the greatest promise was offered to this group of renegades who were unaware of their deep need. “The one who overcomes, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Revelation 3:21) We overcome by placing total faith in who Jesus is and all he has done. If you have fallen away from faith in Christ or have become lukewarm in it, be assured that no one is too far away to return. As you enter Holy Week, reaffirm that Jesus himself made this life possible for you. The cost fell upon him. Your part is to come and drink the living water he has provided.
Jesus, thank you for continuing to pursue lost souls, especially those of us who have been oblivious to our need for deliverance. Open my eyes so that I can take in the glory of all that happened the week before you suffered and died. Open my heart to respond to your resurrection with the awe and respect that that you deserve. Amen.
You can download a PDF with daily devotionals for Holy Week at https://www.highercallministries.org/resources/ (choose Part II “21 Reflections from Lent to Pentecost.” Part III, seven weekly reflections for the Sundays between Easter to Pentecost), will be posted later this week.