Revelation 3:19

Sermon preached on March 25, 2012 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Love. One of the greatest things we are to do is love. Jesus told us that we are to love others as He has loved us. But what is love? How does love behave? Is it just a feeling, an emotion? Who is the object of love? Does it just accept the behavior of others without trying to correct bad behavior?

The world today is confused about love. It doesn't know what it is or how it behaves. Ted Kaczynsik, the Unabomber, is in prison in Colorado because his brother, David, suspected he was the Unabomber and went to the authorities with his suspicions. David says he loves his brother. But Ted disagrees. He feels betrayed by his brother and refuses to answer his brother's letters or have any contact with him.

Today, many fathers (or mothers) will sit down with their young children and tell them that they love them, and then promptly leave the family to live with some younger woman. Do they really love their children? They will profess that they do but they really don't. They may have something of an emotional feeling for them, but they don't really love their children. If they did, they would act very differently.

In a university counseling course we were taught that a good counselor should do is be nothing more than a sounding board. You basically listen and help them understand how they're feeling by reflecting back to them what they're telling you. You be a sounding board so that the person you're counseling will come to a better understanding of their situation. Then it's up to them to decide how to proceed. They told us that the very worst thing that a counselor could do would be to actually give the person advice.

That idea has slowly infiltrated our society. You'll have parents now who profess to love their older children who just accept their sinful behavior. If their child finds a girlfriend and they want to move in together, some parents won't even tell them that it's wrong. Sometimes they'll even assist them in their sin by giving them money for rent, or even worse, letting them both move into their house. Is that really love?

Of course the parents will say, "But I'll lose them if I say anything to them." And that may be true. People in our society don't want to be admonished or rebuked. A good way to lose a friend today is to go to them and tell them that they're doing something wrong. People in our society today don't like being corrected.

This has even permeated the Christian church. Craig S. Keener writes, (Revelation)

"In the therapeutic mode of modern Western Christianity, we do not want to hear from a God who will speak harshly to us. Many Christians feel victimized… and regard as insensitive any criticism of their own or anyone else's values."

It's true. Part of my job is sometimes admonishing or rebuking professing Christians who are involved in some sin. I can tell you from experience that most often it doesn't go well. Even professing Christians don't want to hear that they're doing something wrong.

In a grocery store you'll see a two year old start crying for some candy. The mother will try to exercise some sort of control but she does it without disciplining him. Soon he is worse than ever and she relents and gives him the candy. Is that love? Proverbs 13:24 says,

"He who spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him
is careful to discipline him."

Jesus' love for the church is very important for us. It shows us what love is like. It shows us how love acts and how love works itself out. Love has different elements to it and today we're going to focus on some of them of them.

The first thing I want you to see here is that

Jesus loved the church at Laodicea.

This was a church that was a great disappointment to Jesus. He didn't have one word commendation for them. They were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. And they didn't even realize it. They thought that they were rich!

Yet Jesus loved them. Not only that, but, next week, Lord willing, we're going to see that He gave them some of the greatest promises to all of the seven churches. If they repented they were going to share a place with Him on His throne.

This is incredible. Jesus loved the unlovely. He loved those who had been given an opportunity to do great things for Him in Laodicea and they had failed miserably. Yet He continues to love them.

There is a great lesson for us here.

If you've messed up, if you've sinned, if you really disappointed Jesus—be absolutely assured of this, Jesus still loves you.

Jesus loved the church at Laodicea. He didn't have one good thing to say about it. Yet He still loved it. Grant Osborne writes that these words were written, (Revelation, p. 211)

"to show the divine love for the defeated as well as for the victorious church."

God loves sinners. He loves those who have messed up.

When Jesus first rose from the dead, on that first Easter morning—Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. When they saw the stone had been rolled away, they entered the tomb and saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side. He told them that Jesus was risen. He then said, (Mark 16:7)

"But go, tell his disciples and Peter,
'He is going ahead of you into Galilee.
There you will see him, just as he told you.'"

Now Peter had just denied the Lord three times. Before it he had bragged that even if everyone else deserted Jesus, he never would.

Or think of the story of the prodigal son. He had been such a disappointment to his father. He had taken his inheritance and wasted it on good times. He had ruined himself. He was foolish, self-centered and lazy. When he returned home, said to his father, (Luke 15:21)

"Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I am no longer worthy to be called your son."

He deserved to be treated the way his older brother wanted to treat him—by giving him either next to nothing or totally rejecting him. But that's not the way the father treated his lost son. We read, (Luke 15:20–24)

"But while the son was still a long way off,
his father saw him and was filled with compassion.
He ran, threw his arms around his neck,
and kissed him… the father told his slaves,
'Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it,
and let's celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead
and is alive again; he was lost and is found!'"

Christians, you need to love those who have failed, who have sinned. Don't give up on them. Jesus loves sinners.

If you're not a Christian, this should encourage you to go to Jesus for forgiveness of your sins.

God's love is amazing. He loves the unworthy. He loves sinners. Go to Jesus and He will accept you.

The second great lesson for us here is that

in any interaction that we have with Christians who are failing in their duty to the Lord—our motive must be love.

This is easy to say and I'm sure that all of you totally agree with it. Yet it is much harder to put into practice. If we're not careful we can easily become self-righteous and look down on sinners. By nature we're like the prodigal son's older brother. We can easily be like James and John when the Samaritan village refused to welcome Jesus. They said to Him, (Luke 9:54)

"Lord, do you want us to call
fire down from heaven to destroy them?"

Jesus said to them,

"You do not know what kind of spirit you are of…"

Love. What is it like? It is long suffering. It doesn't just love those who are worthy, who are beautiful. When Jesus began His public ministry He began it with these words from Isaiah, (Luke 4:18–19)

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim
freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Christians, who do you love? Are you loving those who have failed, who have messed up, who had not done their duty?

The second thing we see in our text is that

love works for the spiritual good of the person who is loved.

Jesus loved the church at Laodicea. He said to them,

"Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline."

He loves and He rebukes and disciplines.

True love for other human beings has an active sanctifying component to it.

When we love another human being one of the essential and necessary components to that love is a desire to improve that other person—to help them grow in holiness and become closer to God.

Not all love has that component. For example, when we love God, there is no desire for us to improve God. He is perfect. As the Westminster Larger Catechism says, (Answer 7)

"God is a spirit, in and of himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, everywhere present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth."

God cannot be improved. He is perfect and all glorious. Our love for Him has elements of wanting His glory to be known, of honoring and praising Him.

But with love for other human beings, it's different. There should be an active sanctifying component to it our love. We're all sinners. We all need to walk closer with God. We all need improving. To truly love another human being is to seek to be a blessing to them by helping them draw closer to God. If the person doesn't know Jesus, then more than anything else we want them to know Jesus. They need to have their sins forgiven and washed away. They need to experience the new life that comes with knowing Jesus. If the one who is loved already knows Jesus, then true love desires to help them grow in holiness. Sin is displeasing to God and if we love them we seek to help them overcome sin and turn from it.

We also see this in the purpose of marriage.

In Ephesians 5:25–28 Paul instructed husbands on how to love their wives and he told us that one of the primary goals of such love is sanctification. He wrote,

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church
and gave himself up for her to make her holy,
cleansing her by the washing
with water through the word, and to present her to himself
as a radiant church, without stain
or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless."

Husbands are to love their wives so that their wives grow spiritually, so that they grow in holiness, so that they walk closer to Jesus.

Note as well that Jesus
acted on His love for the church at Laodicea.

Love rebukes when necessary.

If you truly love someone, you won't just pray for the person. You won't just wish that he would change. You'll be active in working to actually help the other person change.

There was a song from the 60's that actually expresses this idea. It was called, "Wishin' and Hopin'". It's about someone giving advice to a girl about how to get a boy she's fond of. There's part of the song I don't like because it seems to put down prayer. But I suppose it could be taken as saying that sometimes there needs to be action that goes along with praying. The song begins,

"Wishin, and hopin' and thinkin' and prayin', and plannin' and dreamin' each night of his charms, that won't get you into his arms…"

With some things you need to do more than merely wish for them. With some things you need to do more than merely pray about them. I don't mean to denigrate prayer like I think that song does. Prayer is essential to the Christian life. All of our actions will amount to nothing unless we ask God's blessing and rely on His power.

Nevertheless, it is true our duty to fellow Christians consists of more than just praying for them.

Take the example of the apostle Paul. Paul loved the Christians in the churches that he founded. They were his pride and joy. Yet how did that love express itself. John Piper writes, (The Future of Justification, p. 30)

"it is remarkable how many of Paul's letters were written to correct fellow Christians."

Paul letters were full of admonitions, corrections, rebukes. He not only had love in his heart for them, but that love led him to be like Jesus, in that, those he loved, he rebuked and disciplined.

This is also how
the apostle Paul told us to behave toward one another. In Colossians 3:16 Paul wrote,

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach
and admonish one another with all wisdom,
and as you sing psalms,
hymns and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God."

Paul told Timothy, (2 Timothy 4:2)

"Preach the Word; be prepared in season
and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—
with great patience and careful instruction."

If you love others you will help them spiritually.

But of course, we have to exercise great caution here.

What you seek to correct must be sin.

Jesus introduced himself to the church at Laodicea as,

"the faithful and true witness…"

He criticized them for their sin. He got it right.

The Pharisees often admonished and rebuked Jesus on the basis of their man-made rules. Job's four friends criticized him and they were totally wrong.

Some Christians today are like the Pharisees. They have all sorts of man-made rules and they will admonish and rebuke others, not on the basis of God's Word, but on the basis of their traditions.

Don't do that. Before you open your mouth to criticize someone, make sure what you are about to say is biblical.

Not only that, you also have to prepare yourself. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus warned us not to criticize others for the speck in their eye without first taking the log out of our own. We must not be like those Christians who go around all concerned about other's sins while they neglect their own.

The other lesson here is about

when you're on the receiving end of an admonishment or rebuke, learn from them.

Most people don't learn from them. They reject them. They continue in their downward spiral. Psalm 32:9 warns us and says,

"Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding…"

Rather we are to be wise. Proverbs 9:8 says,

"rebuke a wise man and he will love you."

The third thing we see in our text is that

Love often involves discipline.

Those in authority, if they love, will follow Jesus' example and not only admonish and rebuke sin, but if that fails, discipline those who sin.

In ancient Israel Eli judged Israel. His sons sinned greatly. They defiled the sacrifices that were offered and slept with the women who served at the entrance of the tent of meeting. Eli rebuked his sons. He said to them, (1 Samuel 2:23–25)

"Why do you do such things?
I hear from all the people about
these wicked deeds of yours.
No, my sons; it is not a good report that I hear
spreading among the LORD'S people.
If a man sins against another man,
God may mediate for him;
but if a man sins against the LORD,
who will intercede for him?"

But Eli had authority over his sons. He should have disciplined them. He should have removed them from their positions. But he didn't. God soon put them to death.

This illustrates a common problem today. Those in authority don't discipline those who are going astray. It's a recipe for disaster. Proverbs 3:12 says,

"the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in."

I ask you,

are you learning from God's discipline?

If you're a Christian God is disciplining you. Hebrews 12 tells us all about that. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and some of His providences show His discipline. Are you learning from them? Are you using the experiences you are going through to draw closer to Jesus. Are they teaching you to hate sin and love God more? They should be. May God's grace enable us to learn from them.