Obstacles to Intimacy
The foundation for a relationship of passion is a heart of purity. Sin kills intimacy.
It follows, therefore, that perhaps the greatest obstacle to a vibrant and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ is the failure or refusal to repent.
Read Revelation 3:14-22.
Why was Jesus calling the Laodiceans to repentance? What was their failure? The problem was two-fold:
1. They were lukewarm(v. 16)
What is the meaning of hot and cold?
(a) Some say "hot" = spiritually active/zealous Christian and "cold" = the apathetic pagan. But: if so, Jesus would be saying he prefers a pagan to a half-hearted believer!
(b) The imagery is of water: "hot" = a reference to the hot springs in the city of Hierapolis, 6 miles north of Laodicea; "cold" = a reference to the cool, refreshing waters of Colossae. Thus, Jesus is saying: "I wish that you were one or the other. I wish that you were either like the hot waters of Hierapolis that bring healing to the sick, or like the cool refreshing waters of Colossae that renew the weary. But you are neither. Instead, you are lukewarm, you are tepid, you are of no good to anyone.'
To make matters worse, they thought they were in great shape! They fancied themselves the most blessed and mature of Christians. This brings us to their second problem.
2. They were proud and self-sufficient(v. 17)
Laodicea: a city known for its incredible wealth, its linen and wool industry, and its medical school (esp. their production of an eye salve, an ointment made from powder found in Phrygia).
Thus, to a church proud of its wealth, Jesus says: 'You are in poverty! Come to me for gold.' To a church proud of its textile industry, Jesus says: 'You are naked! Come to me for clothes of righteousness to cover your shame.' And to a church proud of its ophthalmic medicine, Jesus says: 'Come to me for eye salve so that the eyes of your heart may truly see.'
What does Jesus say to such people (what does he say to us)? Three things: (1) "I love you" (v. 19a)! (2) "Because I love you, I can't permit you to persist in your sin. So repent!" (3) "If you don't repent, I will discipline you.'
"Here is welcome news for naked, blind beggars! . . . They are poor; but Christ has gold. They are naked; but Christ has clothes. They are blind; but Christ has eye salve. Let them no longer trust in their banks, their Phrygian eyepowders and their clothing factories. Let them come to Him! He can enrich their poverty, clothe their nakedness and heal their blindness. He can open their eyes to perceive a spiritual world of which they have never dreamed. He can cover their sin and shame and make them fit to partake of the inheritance of the saints in light. He can enrich them with life and life abundant" (J. Stott).
What is repentance?
I.e., an awareness of having defied God by embracing what He despises and despising what He adores. Repentance involves confessing from the heart:
"I have sinned."
"This is wrong."
"God is grieved."
The antithesis of Recognition is Rationalization.
"True repentance only begins when one passes out of what the Bible sees as self-deception (cf. Js. 1:22,26; 1 Jn. 1:8) and modern counselors call denial, into what the Bible calls conviction of sin (cf. Jn. 16:8)" (J. I. Packer, Rediscovering Holiness, 123-24).
"Confession by itself is not repentance. Confession moves the lips; repentance moves the heart. Naming an act as evil before God is not the same as leaving it. Though your confession may be honest and emotional, it is not enough unless it expresses a true change of heart. There are those who confess only for the show of it, whose so-called repentance may be theatrical but not actual" (Jim Elliff).
Repentance is never a pleasure. It always entails pain. It demands brokenness of heart (Ps. 51:17; Isa. 57:15). But remember: repentance is more than a feeling. Emotion can be fleeting, whereas true repentance bears fruit.
N.B. The difference between "attrition" and "contrition". The former = regret for sin prompted by a fear for oneself: "Oh, no. I got caught. What will happen to me?" The latter is regret for the offence against God's love; pain for having grieved the Holy Spirit. In other words, it is possible to "repent" out of fear of reprisal, rather than from a hatred of sin.
This distinction is described in 2 Cor. 7:6-11
Due to the insidious influence of a group of false teachers who were undermining Paul's apostolic authority in Corinth, as well as for other reasons, the apostle was forced to write what he calls a sorrowful letter to the church in that city. Paul initially regretted causing them grief by this letter, but later rejoiced when he saw the fruit in their lives that the letter produced. Paul speaks of godly sorrow in v. 9 and the godly repentance it produces in v. 10.
Godly sorrow (v. 9) - Lit., "according to God", i.e., sorrow that is agreeable to the mind and will of God; sorrow prompted by recognition that one's sin has offended God. Worldly sorrow (v. 10) is born of self-pity and anger for being exposed. The test that distinguishes the two is simple: Does your sorrow lead to repentance?
Godly repentance (vv. 10-11) - note its fruit:
earnestness (to do what was right)
vindication (of themselves, not in denying they had done wrong [cf. vv. 9-10], but in being roused to a concern for their reputation lest they bring reproach on Christ and the gospel)
indignation (with themselves, for having allowed the situation to develop as it did)
fear (of God and of Paul [see 1 Cor. 4:21])
longing (as in v. 7, to be reunited)
zeal (for Paul; cf. v. 7)
avenging of wrong (their desire to see that justice is done by bringing the guilty person(s) to discipline)
Paul's statement that such repentance is to salvation (v. 10) points to the fact that "the nature of their response to Paul's letter was in itself a sure indication that they were, as they professed to be, genuine Christians, and not dissemblers [i.e., hypocritical pretenders]" (Hughes, 272).
Remorse, regret, sorrow, and the pain provoked by sin will only increase and intensify the longer we are Christians. Maturity in the faith does not lead to less sorrow over sin, but more. The pain does not diminish; it deepens. Says Packer:
"It is, in fact, a law of the spiritual life that the further you go, the more you are aware of the distance still to be covered. Your growing desire for God makes you increasingly conscious, not so much of where you are in your relationship with him as of where as yet you are not" (138).
We must ask God for forgiveness and for strength. In Psalm 51, vv. 7-9 = his request for forgiveness, vv. 10-12 = his request for strength.
We must repudiate all sins in question and take active, practical steps to avoid anything that might provoke stumbling (cf. Acts 19:18-19). I.e., there must be a deliberate resolve to turn around and away from all hint or scent of sin (Ps. 139:23).
Paul writes: "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts" (Rom. 13:14). If, in our so-called "repentance", we do not abandon the environment in which our sin first emerged and in which, in all likelihood, it will continue to flourish, our repentance is suspect.
There must be an overt determination to pursue purity, to do what pleases God (1 Thess. 1:9).
Q: "And what if we refuse to repent?" (a) Continuing distance from God (v. 20; Jesus remains on the outside). (b) Painful discipline (v. 19).
Q: "And what if we choose to repent?" (a) Reconciliation: 1) with God (v. 20); 2) with those from whom we have been alienated. (b) Reward (v. 21). (c) Rejoicing.
"Search me, O God, my actions try,
And let my life appear
As seen by thine all-searching eye;
To mine my ways make clear.
Search all my sense and know my heart,
Who only canst make known,
And let the deep, the hidden part
To me be fully shown.
Throw light into the darkened cells
Where passion reigns within;
Quicken my conscience till it feels
The loathsomeness of sin.
Search all my thoughts, the secret springs,
The motives that control,
The chambers where polluted things
Hold empire o'er the soul."