“For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” Revelation 3:17-19
If you are anything like me, right before my dental checkup and cleaning I run through a mental checklist. Have I been brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash? Are my teeth white? Is my breath fresh?
When all of my answers are yes, I go into my appointment with confidence. Somehow, every single time, without fail, my dentist lets me know that I have some sort of issue. Whether it be a cavity or some other invisible problem, I am always left confused. How is it that no matter how hard I work to keep my mouth clean and healthy, I always end up with a similar, disappointing result? My dentist proceeds to tell me that just because outward appearances point to a healthy mouth, it does not mean that there is not something unhealthy going on underneath the surface.
This same concept is addressed by the Lord in His message to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:17-19. The church sees itself as rich, increased with goods, and having a need for nothing. When we break this down, we see that they truly believe they are in a deep relationship with Christ, have understood and accepted the abounding grace of Jesus, and to their knowledge, follow the guidelines that Jesus has given us for how we ought to live our lives. However, the Lord sees the church’s true state. One commentator describes the reality of the church “as deeply marked, and… completely eaten up with pride and wrapped up in delusion.” A lack of self-awareness and spiritual discernment, in combination with honest ignorance results in a distorted reality of our spiritual state.
We, as Christians, can live our lives attempting to be “good” people but will still fail to be seen as righteous before the Lord. We can go to church each week, study the Scriptures, and go through all of the “godly” motions, but head knowledge and behavior out of obligation do not result in a refined heart. Our Heavenly Father can see through our masks, paper-thin walls, and dangerously realistic facades straight to our broken and prideful hearts.
How do we ensure that we can know our diagnosis before our appointment? It is through honest self-reflection, time spent meditating on Scripture, and seeing how actions relate to those who have been deemed righteous and faithful by our Lord. It all starts with humility. At our core, we are sinners and it is in our nature to try and justify our less than godly actions. True humility before the Lord will allow space for Him to begin to refine you. He will have the room to fill your heart with the overwhelming love that will result in true obedience, not the kind that flows from obligation and leads to bitterness or resentment.
If we are not careful we can misdiagnose ourselves like the people of Laodicea. We can say on all accounts, “I have been careful to follow all of the rules and look like the perfect Christian from the outside,” but upon an honest examination of the heart, we can see how God sees us. When we recognize those things in ourselves it opens up a whole new door of growth and opportunity for the right relationship with Christ. That is a beautiful thing.
Just like our teeth, we need regular checkups and cleanings. The cavities in our hearts, those being pride or sinful motivations, can only be removed by God Himself. Let Him in so He can begin to fix what needs fixing underneath the surface so that what is on the outside is truly representative of what is underneath.