For example, the church of Laodicea thought they were all that, but Jesus informs them they were really "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked"! He's not pulling any punches! To Sardis, which had a name or reputation they were alive and thriving, Jesus says simply, "You are dead". While Smyrna, a church stricken with poverty, is praised and encouraged by Jesus, "You are rich"!
Remember when Samuel was reviewing Jesse's sons, and assumed he knew which God had chosen to be king? The Holy Spirit told him, "Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:6-7) In Isaiah 55:9, God reminds us all, "...My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." And to the self-righteous wicked, God says, "...thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes." (Psalm 50:21) How presumptuous we are, to suppose the Most High God has the same ethical standards we do!
This problem affects not only individuals, but cities, nations, --and churches. Why? What I call Isaiah's curse, this phenomenon that we see without really seeing, and hear without understanding (Isaiah 6:9-10, Matthew 13:14-15, Mark 4:11-12, Luke 8:16, John 12:39-40, and Acts 28:25-27) The authors of the epistle to the Hebrews lament they cannot teach us all they'd like to "seeing ye are dull of hearing" (He 5:11) And Paul grieves over the veil untaken away from peoples' hearts when they read or hear the Scriptures (2 Cor 3:14-15).
The Pharisees asked Jesus, "Are we blind also?" (John 9:39-40) And Jesus counsels the Laodiceans to "anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see." (Rev 3:18) This is something we need to keep in mind, lest we make the same mistake of thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to, both as individuals, and as churches. No matter how good we may look on the outside, Jesus searches the hearts and reins: our innermost, true selves.
I'd hate to go around thinking I'm God's gift to the world when really Jesus says I suck. Open the eyes of my heart, Lord! May we see You as You truly are, and ouselves as You see us!
Next: Good Church, Bad Choice