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Eugene Prewitt


Please see also the file attachment entitled, "Laodicea" from the presenter's SWYC 2006 Message to Laodicea talk.


Eugene Prewitt

Director, The Institute of East Asia Training (IEAT)



  • 2007-01-16T00:00:00-08:00u00to00
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Copyright ©2007 Ouachita Hills College.

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Our Father in heaven, I ask that You’ll bless the time we spend here in study of Revelation 3, the message for our time. We’re dependent on You to give us wisdom as we consider, and I ask for that gift in the name of Jesus. Amen.


Yesterday, we got started talking about Ephesus through Philadelphia, and we mentioned particularly that Smyrna and Philadelphia were two churches that had no rebuke delivered to them. Laodicea also differs from the other churches and is unique in this respect; it is the one church that has no commendation. If I could just draw that out in a simple way, would you expect from Revelation 2 and 3 that the final church age would be more spiritual, less spiritual, or about equally spiritual as the Christian church in other ages? You would have to expect it somehow from Revelation, chapter 3. The term Laodicea comes from the name of a lady, Laodice, but the word means literally “a people judged.” That’s interesting because, of course, the testimony of Revelation is that there is a judgment in the end of time. And Jesus introduces Himself to Laodicea as “the faithful and true Witness.” What is the role of Jesus in the judgment? Jesus is the One who confesses before the Father and the angels. He either says that “I claim them as Mine” or if he denies them, then their names are blotted out.


Turn in your Bibles to Revelation, chapter 3, and we’re looking at verse 14. It says here that Jesus is the beginning of the creation of God. You ought to know just for purposes of nonconformists you’ll meet, that the word “beginning” here, the Greek word “arché” can mean the first in time or the first in eminence or the first as in the origin. Does the rest of the New Testament indicate any one of those qualities to Jesus? That He was the first thing created, the most important thing created, or the origin of the creation? Are any of those tributes given to Him in other parts of scripture? Absolutely! He was the origin of the creation. For example, in John 1 and of course John wrote this same book. So, Jesus introduces Himself to Laodicea as the origin of creation. Is creation an issue in the time of the judgment? When did Darwin first publish his “Origin of Species?” 1844, at the beginning of the judgment was when it was first published. Jesus highlights the issues for the church in each of these messages, and one of the issues for the church in the time of Laodicea is the divinity of Jesus and the issue of creation.


Verse 15, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot.” I’d like you to understand what is being measured by this metaphor of heat. Keep your finger here, but turn in your Bibles to Matthew, chapter 24. We’re looking to see what spiritual quality is measured by the metaphor of heat. Matthew 24 and looking at verse 12, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax” (what does it say?) “cold.” It’s speaking about the same period of time as Laodicea, the end of the world. It indicates that there are going to be some that have love. Love is something you think of as being warm or hot, but here, what’s causing love to cool down? It’s abounding in iniquity.


And if I could speak to you in this respect, there are two ways that iniquity causes love to grow cooler. There is the way you typically think of, and that if you are in a worldly society, if you’re living, for example, in the big city or if you are living in a family full of unbelievers, that atmosphere around you or of your friends can cause your own devotion to grow cooler as you become like your friends and like the atmosphere in the city, but that is not the only way. Also, as you’re trying to reach out to your unconverted family and trying to reach out to your unconverted friends and trying to lift up an unconverted church, as they repulse your efforts and put you at arms’ length and speak ill of you, sometimes falsely, it is very easy for you to lose your affection for the lost, for the evil that is abounding around you, for your love for the lost to grow cooler.


You ought to know as part of the Laodicean period of time, that you should guard against both developments because the Bible says in the next verse in Matthew 24, “but he that endures unto the end,” in context, he whose love endures hot unto the end, “the same shall be saved.”


[Audience asks a question.]


Matthew 24, verses 12 and 13. Yes, simply, the two things that cause our spiritual love to decrease, one is partaking in evil and one is being offended by those who repulse our efforts to help them. In other words, either by assimilating to the evil or being critical of it, either way our love can grow dim. The reference is Matthew 24:12 and 13.


Moving to verse 16, “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of My mouth.” Jesus pictures the church as if they are part of Him. There is a metaphor here that, because of its vulgarity, is often preached to youth groups. I mean, speaking about Jesus spewing us out of His mouth as vomit. You should know at least this much from the metaphor, that if Jesus spews us out of His mouth, we are no longer part of Him. If you’re not part of the body of Christ, you have no part in Him. It’s apparent that this body is an organized body, because you can be in His mouth while you are still lukewarm. Verse 17, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing’—and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked…” We’re going to spend most of our period on this passage. We’ve talked about the nature of spiritual warmth, the metaphor of spiritual warmth, I want to talk about the metaphor of spiritual riches.


Turn with me in your Bibles to James, chapter 2 and looking at verse 5, “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He has promised to them that love Him?” So, God has chosen a certain class. What characteristics do they have in this verse? They’re rich in faith. They’re rich in faith, but they’re going to inherit a Kingdom that’s reserved for people that love God. So, if they’re going to get a Kingdom for those that love God, it must be that they love God. If I could say James 2:5 simply, “Those that are spiritually rich,” in James 2:5, “are those that have faith and love.” Or said another way, the metaphoric riches of James 2 are faith and love. I say faith and love, because if faith is not combined with love, faith is nothing like wealth.


How does faith work in the book of Galatians? Faith works by love. Then, what is faith without love like? It’s a useless opinion. Jesus says to Laodicea that she thinks that she is rich. Laodicea says, “I am rich.” Why would the church in this age say I am rich? Because they misunderstand the nature of faith and love. And quite in fact, the definitions of these words have changed over the ages, particularly the definition of the word faith. At AudioVerse, you’ll find two sermons titled “What is Faith?” You’ll find another one called “The Definition of Faith,” and at GYC, there was a sermon preached Saturday night about “What is Faith?” None of them gave the Catholic answer. The Catholic answer is, “Faith is a set of opinions.” In the Catholic answer, you can talk about defenders of the faith, meaning defenders of the orthodox doctrine, and those who have left the faith have left the orthodox doctrine. But if that was the definition of faith, you would have to say that devils were believers. Of course, in a sense, James says that. He says the devils also believe, but you’ll never find him saying the devils have faith and in fact, he’s quite contrasting the devils with those that have faith when he says it. He’s indicating that they have a set of opinions that doesn’t work. So, what is faith?


In the Bible you’ll find three statements that say that the just shall live by faith. You’ll find those in Habakkuk 2, in Romans 1, and in Hebrews 10. Then you’ll find the same idea in many other places. You’ll also find three texts that say that man shall live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. You’ll find that in Deuteronomy [8], in Matthew 4, and in Luke 4.


[Audience asks a question.]


Deuteronomy [8], Matthew 4, and Luke 4. The references don’t matter so much as this next point, that is, that either there are two ways to live or faith is the same thing as living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Certainly, the latter option is the truth. Faith is living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Whether or not you can see that God is right, whether or not you feel that God is right, whether or not your perspective is the same as His, if you live by His word, that is faith.


What does faith look like? I mean, how does it appear in the life? That depends on what part of the word of God faith is considering. If faith is considering a warning that there is going to be a flood, what is faith going to look like? It’s going to look like building an ark, preparation. If faith is considering Genesis where it says that God made the heaven, the earth, and sea, what is faith going to look like? It’s going to look like a scientific opinion. If faith is considering the word that says offer up thy son, what is faith going to look like? It’s going to look like attempted murder. It’s going to look like obedience. Faith, depending upon the part of the word of God that it’s dealing with, will look like repentance, humility, confession, love, obedience. These are outgrowths of living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.


What is love? First of all, you should know that there is a type of love that distinguishes Christians from non-Christians. Jesus said they will know they are Christians by their love. The love that you have one to another, that’s how they’re going to know you’re Christians. He said that to His apostles. But Jesus did not limit the word love to Christians. He indicated in Matthew 5 that publicans also love those that love them. He indicated that sinners love their children, and if you put here a wicked mother from the streets of Little Rock, I mean one that is a prostitute and uses drugs, and put her little boy beside her, if you watched long enough, you’d see evidence that she loves him.


What is the love that distinguishes Christians from non-Christians? According to Matthew 5, it is not the love you have for those that love you. It’s the love for those that love you not. It’s love for enemies, it’s love for strangers, it’s love for those that do you wrong, and for those who will never do you service. Made simple, love is selfless service for the unworthy. Why does Laodicea think that she has love? It’s because she has a great deal of the kind of love that doesn’t distinguish Christians from non-Christians, that is, sentimental affection. If Laodicea watches a sad movie about Africans starving, there will be tears in her eyes. Also, if you show that same video to an average group of secular humanists, there will be tears in their eyes. Sentimentalism is not limited to non-Christians.


You were going to ask a question?


[Audience: Is there a Bible verse for that definition of sentimental love…?]


You mean a definition of love?


[Audience: Yes, sentimental love versus Matthew 5 love.]


It’s in Matthew 5. You’re asking where I’m drawing this from; it’s from the last six verses of Matthew 5 where Jesus makes the same contrast between the love for those who are unworthy, God who sends the sun on the just and the unjust, and the love that belongs to sinners, for those that are family and kin and friends. I’m naming that kind of love as sentimentalism.


[Audience: Matthew 5?]


Matthew 5.


[Audience: The last six verses?]




So, Jesus says to Laodicea that though you say you are rich, you are poor. He also says that she is miserable and wretched. Wretched first. You ought to know that that word wretched, the Greek word is used only one other place in all of Scripture, and that is in Romans, chapter 7. Romans 7 is part of a sermon of Romans 6 through 8, and those who only look at Romans 7 get so confused in that respect. Romans 7 describes a man who is wanting to do right but is in bondage to his appetites and passions. He’s described as being captive to them.


That man, spoken of in the first person, says, “O wretched man that I am!” What does wretched mean in Romans 7? It means being captive to sin. It means wanting to do right but being unable to do right. It’s very apparent in Romans 7 that the wretched man needs deliverance, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me?” And Paul explains for those listening who might feel like this is the converted man, when he says, “I myself with the mind serve the law of God,” the Greek words there, ego autos, is an idiomatic expression that means “I myself” as opposed to this other description as a distinguishing. “I myself serve the law of God, but,” and this is back, the parenthesis, “if I was serving the flesh, I would serve the law of sin.”


Leaving that, so we’ll have time, although it deserves more attention, Romans 7 and 8 deserve more attention, the Greek word translated miserable is also used in one passage only aside from Revelation 3, that’s in 1 Corinthians, chapter 15, miserable, 1 Corinthians 15 verse 19, where Paul is discussing a hypothetical situation again. He’s discussing what it would be like if there was no resurrection. He says that if there is no resurrection, then Jesus isn’t resurrected. If Jesus isn’t resurrected, then you’re not going to be resurrected. If you’re not going to be resurrected, then the hope of being resurrected is vain. And then he says, verse 19, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” I’ve heard it preached recently and heard it said by good men that even if there was no God, they would live the Christian life because it’s the best life. I’ll tell you, it’s not the position of 1 Corinthians 15:19. If the Christian life was living out on a farm in a country setting with a loving family, it might be the best life. But if it is at a young age going into a dangerous land to preach the gospel to those who torture you and slaughter you for it, it’s not the best life, unless there’s a Heaven. Yes.


[Audience: Are you saying that’s the same word, or it’s the same meaning?]


It’s the same Greek word.


[Audience: Okay, not according to this, but it’s the same meaning.]


What number do you show there in Strong’s, 1 Corinthians [15]:19?


[Audience: 1652.]


What number do you show for “miserable” in Revelation 3?


[Audience: 1652.]


Yeah, it’s the same word. What number do you show?


[Audience: Strong’s 1656…]


You mean they’re different forms of the word, like one’s the noun and one’s the verb?


[Audience: Yeah, right, they’re both “miserable,” but one’s like “pitiable”…]


Okay, the adjective form and the noun form of the word. Okay, right. We do the same thing in English with adjective and noun.


[Audience: Inaudible]


In other words, we do it with the word, “good.” If I say, “That’s a good shoe,” and how do we use the word good as a noun?


[Audience: Inaudible]


No, but I mean…Maybe we don’t use the word “good” as a noun. Good is better than bad; that’s the noun.


[Audience: So how are you saying…?]


Okay, let me try to simplify what just got complex. The word “miserable” is used in an adjective form in [1 Corinthians 15], “We are of all men most miserable,” and as a noun form in Revelation 3; it’s the same Greek word, just the noun and adjective forms of it. And what does it mean in 1 Corinthians 15? It means you have hope that you’re going to heaven, but your hope is faulty. That describes Laodicea. Laodicea is expecting that she’s on her way to Heaven and she’s not.


Wretched, miserable, poor, blind, naked. We’ve discussed poor. What about blind? Blind is one of the most common spiritual metaphors in the New Testament. It’s also used in the Old. Look at Acts 26, the passage that we sang in the Scripture song, Acts 26 and verses 18 and 19. This is speaking of the call of Paul. He was called, “to open their eyes,” that is, to cause them to see, “to turn them from darkness to light (What does it mean?), “and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Those that are spiritually blind, what are they like in Acts 26? They aren’t going to inherit without a change. They aren’t sanctified. They aren’t forgiven. They are still under the control of the power of Satan.


Wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. Perhaps naked is the easiest of these words to explain or to understand. What kind of garment should the church be wearing? The righteousness of Jesus. If she’s not wearing them, is she on her way to Heaven? Jesus says to Laodicea in so many metaphors that we can’t miss the conclusion, that she is not converted. She doesn’t have a faith that works by love. She’s still captive to her sins. She has a hope in Heaven, but that hope is vain. She is still under the power of Satan. She is not sanctified by the faith that is in Jesus. She has not yet received forgiveness of sins. She doesn’t really have the faith and love that she needs.


Verse 18 is the offer of hope, Revelation, chapter 3, verse 18, Jesus says, “I counsel thee…” For those in biblical counseling that might be interesting to you, you can get an example of what godly counsel is like in the Laodicean message. Jesus gives very good advice. He says, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire.” Colporteurs, maybe you’ve never thought of yourselves as counselors, but when you encourage people to buy from you good stuff, you’re doing very much what Jesus does in Revelation, chapter 3.


Here’s a good question, how does a poverty-stricken Laodicea buy gold from Jesus? The answer to that is the basis of a metaphor that we use in English. Turn in your Bibles to Isaiah, chapter 55, Isaiah, chapter 55, and we’re looking at verse 1. In the King James Version, it begins with the word “Ho,” which basically means pay attention. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money” (Does this speak to Laodicea?); “come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? And why do you work for that which does not satisfy? hearken diligently unto me.” Verse 1 said “Ho” or listen. Verse 2 says, “Hearken diligently unto me and eat that which is good,” and it says, “and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” Verse 3, “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live.”


In Isaiah 55, verses 1 through 3, we’re told to listen, we’re told to hearken diligently, we’re told to incline our ear, we’re told to hear. Could the passage be more emphatic? How can poverty-stricken people buy the faith that they need? They can pay attention to what God has to say. What do we have to pay when we’re poor? We have attention to pay. Does that harmonize with the rest of the Bible? “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” That might be Romans 10:17.


So, in summary of what we’ve said so far about verse 18, what Laodicea needs is gold and eye salve and white raiment. How can she buy such commodities? She can pay special attention to what Jesus has to say to her. She can incline her ear. She can listen, and her soul will live.


We’ve already discussed the gold that Laodicea needs. What about the eye salve? We’re going to have an entire other lecture in this class about the reception of the Holy Spirit. So, for time’s sake today, I’m going to say that the eye salve is the Holy Spirit, that we need the Holy Spirit. Laodicea especially needs an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and that deserves more than a few minutes of attention; it will get a lecture later.


What about white raiment? Turn with me in your Bibles to Colossians, chapter 3, Colossians, chapter 3. There is a fair amount of confusion among Adventists, even amongst comparatively studious Adventists, regarding the white robe that is given to Christians, whether that robe is the imputed righteousness of Jesus or the imparted righteousness of Jesus. There’s a good reason why there’s confusion, and that is that the Word of God is creative, and when God imputes by His Word righteousness to a man, His Word goes on a mission to create righteousness in that man. So that, while we can define imputed and imparted righteousness, we cannot separate them in experience. If God says you are righteous, you are becoming that way. Do you understand what I’m saying? When God says that Esther Morris is righteous, we call that imputed righteousness, He’s calling you righteous. If I say you are righteous, I’m either right or I’m wrong. If God says you are righteous, He’s changing you by that very declaration, so that His imputing of righteousness, His declaration, is imparting righteousness by the power of His words.


[Audience: If it’s that simple, why is there such a debate?]


Because we don’t understand things very well. We’re not very studious.


Colossians 3 would have helped us. Colossians 3 and we’re looking at verse 10. It says, “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” That is, when you become a Christian, you’re putting on a new man. That’s what it’s describing. It sounds almost like a garment, putting on a new man. Are you putting off anything? Look up at verse [9], “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds.” What do you mean, what have you put off? Look up at verse 8, “But now also you have put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, evil speaking.”


I’d like to speak a minute about evil speaking. As Adventists, maybe because of its convenience in interpreting the book of Revelation, we have tended to define blasphemy quite narrowly, as if blasphemy were taking the prerogatives of God or blasphemy were claiming to forgive sins. I’d like you to know that the Greek word translated blasphemy in the New Testament is blasphemy. Blasphemy is a transliteration not a translation, and the word very simply means evil speaking, and sometimes it’s translated that way. If our question is what kind of evil speaking does the beast do? Well, we can look in Daniel to find out. We can look elsewhere to find out. But if we want to know what kind of evil speaking qualifies for blasphemy here, it could just be saying that your brother is stupid. Blasphemy is evil speaking.


What have we put off? We have “put off anger, wrath, malice, evil speaking, filthy communication out of your mouth.” Listen, can people see whether or not you’ve put these things off? You know, the world can see it if you’re still wearing these things. Look down to verse 12, “Put on therefore, as the chosen of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering.” Verse 14, “And above all these things put on charity.”


In the summary of what I want to communicate from Colossians 3 is that we have a garment to put on and a garment to put off, and in the metaphor of the investigative judgment, one man at the wedding is asked, “Why aren’t you wearing the wedding garment?” Jesus, when He says to Laodicea, “I counsel you to buy of me white raiment that you may be clothed,” indicates that the nakedness is visible to at least some entities. He says that the shame of your nakedness does not appear. Whether He means to angels in the judgment or to your neighbors on Earth, either way there are a class of beings that can see your nakedness. What they perceive is your unlovely traits of character, and Jesus is asking us to wear something.


Turn in your Bibles to Revelation, chapter 3 and verse 19, Revelation 3 and verse 19, Jesus says, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” This helps us understand the message to the Ephesians we talked about yesterday. What had Ephesus left? Her first love. And you should know that when Jesus is talking about love in Revelation, He’s talking about a confronting real love. I talked to you about the contrast between love and sentimentalism. The easiest place to see it outside of the Bible is the grocery store. When little Jeffy is begging for pop or a popsicle or candy, he begins to whine and to fuss, he cries, and then he begins to scream at the top of his little lungs, and the mother buys him the Kool-Aid. He puts it to his mouth and is immediately quiet and good. Does that mother know that Kool-Aid is not good for him? She probably knows it, maybe not very well. Was it love for the child that caused her to give him the Kool-Aid? You know, it was sentimentalism. She couldn’t bear to hear him cry, or she didn’t want the neighbors to see it; that’s just plumb selfishness. What kind of love did Jesus have? “As many as I love, I confront and punish,” I’m just saying it in other words. “I rebuke and chasten.” Yes.


[Audience: A simple way to say…A simple way for sentimentalism would be selfishness?]


Or unprincipled, inconsistent love.


[Audience: Inaudible]


Confronting and punishing, “As many as I love, I confront and punish.”


There’s a passage in the Old Testament, the reference I didn’t bring in my memory, where it says that, “Thou shalt not hate thy [brother]…thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him.” According to the Bible, it is a type of hate to allow someone to go on heedlessly in a way of sin that will destroy them. And can you see the truthfulness of it, just thinking about it?


[Audience: Leviticus 19:17.]


Could you read it for us, Matthew?


[Audience: “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him.”]


Leviticus 19:17 teaches the kind of love illustrated in Revelation, chapter 3, verse 19.


[Audience: 19:17?]


[Leviticus] 19:17 illustrates Revelation 3:19, and that is that true love will risk wounding a relationship to give someone a chance to know the truth that would save them. True love will risk the loss of a friendship to give someone a chance at eternal life. Don’t Bible workers do that every time they come to the difficult studies? Don’t they hate to lose the friendship? But why do they go heedlessly forward if they hate to lose friendships? Because the people need a chance. It’s the way we ought to relate to all kinds of people. The Bible indicates that the only friendships you lose are the ones you were going to lose in the judgment anyway, because if you rebuke a wise man, he will love you.


Revelation 3:19, the last half says, “Be zealous therefore, and repent.” Zealous is another word for hot. What kind of love does Christ show to us? It’s a love that rebukes and punishes. What kind of love should we show to Him? It’s the love that is ashamed and turns.


Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock.” I’d like you to catch a few thoughts here. One is that not everyone hears Christ knocking at their door. What’s the first condition of His entrance in verse 20? If anyone hears My voice. There’s no guarantee that you’re going to hear His voice. It’s because He speaks to you through His Word, and you might not read it. He wrote the Laodicean message to us long ago, but many of us have never heard it. He’s written a great deal to us in the Testimonies, and many of us have never heard it. He rebukes us in verse 19, but sometimes we never hear it. What I’m saying to you is that the testimony of Jesus is many times not heard because we don’t read it. How is it that He rebukes us? It’s by the prophets, and if we won’t read the Testimonies, and we don’t hear His voice, we certainly cannot open to Him the door.


How do we open the door to Him? We turn away from the sin of which He has rebuked us. What does Jesus promise to do when we turn away from the sin? He says, “I will come in and sup with him and he with Me.” There is a special fellowship between the believer and Jesus promised to those who will read the Testimonies, read the Bible and respond to the correction that Jesus sends in rebukes, a special closeness of fellowship not available anywhere else.


Verse 21 is the last of the promises to overcomers in Revelation 2 and 3. It differs a little from the others. Listen, “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.” The little difference is that in this verse Jesus compares the overcoming of Laodiceans to His own overcoming, and that is a comparison that makes more sense in light of what we’re going to learn when we study Revelation 10 about the mystery of God.


Let me summarize what we’ve said so far. Laodicea is an unconverted church. Jesus speaks to her the truth. He tells her what she needs. He tells her how to get it. He sends her rebukes and punishments. She feels the punishments, but she doesn’t always hear the rebukes. If she did hear the rebukes and then she would open the door by turning from her sins, she would have special fellowship with Him. That’s how she would overcome. And if she does that, she’ll reign with Him, and if she doesn’t, she’ll be lost.


Let’s bow our heads for a prayer. Our Father in Heaven, I ask that You will take the truth of Revelation 3 and use it to win the hearts of those that are here and those that will hear. As we are so inclined to think that the message of unconversion must apply to many others, I ask that You would find a way to penetrate our defenses and to show us how it applies to us. And I ask for this gift in the name of Jesus. Amen.


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