Revelation 3: 14-22
‘To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see.
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Over the past few days we've seen how the enemy seeks to destroy the church of Jesus Christ through persecution from the outside, but also through false teaching and self-appointed leadership from the inside. However, perhaps the most pervasive way churches lose their influence and mission are through what we are looking at today: lukewarmness.
The last letter to the seven churches, to Laodicea, is probably the best known of all the letters. Wiithout going into every verse, basically this church is so full of itself that it has no room for Jesus. Look at verse 20, the famous verse we usually quote in evangelism to non-Christians:
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
This verse sounds lovely, except for the fact that - if you are standing at my door and knocking – where are you? You are outside my house.
This was supposed to be Jesus’ church – His bride, His body – and it seems they’ve got pretty much everything they could want, except they don’t have Jesus.
Laodicea was a very wealthy city with a booming economy. It was a thriving, prosperous place. In fact they were so rich that in AD61 when the city was damaged badly in an earthquake and the Roman Emperor offered money to help rebuild it, they proudly refused it. Their attitude was: 'We don’t need anyone’s money, we can look after ourselves, thank you very much.' This attitude of self-sufficient, prideful, arrogance had also crept into the church.
I love how Jesus tailors his message specifically for them. He wants them to know that He really does know all about them.
“You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (v 17)
Laodicea was also famous for the dark wool they manufactured into fine clothing. Look at what Jesus says to them: 'You think you’re so self-sufficient from your clothing business but to me you look naked.'
The city also had a school of medicine and they were famous for eye powder medication they produced.
Jesus says: 'You think you’re so clever for making this eye ointment. From what I see you’re blind. You think you’re so great but I think you’re absolutely pitiful.'
What is at the heart of their problem? Verses 15 and 16:
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
The city of Laodicea, for all its wealth and prosperity, didn’t have a good source of fresh water. So they had built huge aqueducts, long pipes to transport hot water from one place 5 miles away where there were therapeutic hot springs and cold water from another place a few miles further away where there was fresh cold water.
The problem was that these pipes were above the ground, and because they were so far away, by the time both the hot water reached Laodicea, it had cooled down. And by the time the cold water had reached the city, it had warmed up. So both ended up being exactly the same temperature: lukewarm.
Jesus says: 'You think your water is lukewarm. It’s not the only thing. You, my people, are lukewarm in their love for me. You have grown so comfortable with all your money and wealth, you’ve become so proud of all your achievements and accomplishments – that you don’t realise just how sad and pitiful and blind and naked you really are. You have way too high an estimation of yourself.'
Then look at what He says: 'You are neither hot nor cold, I wish you were one or the other.'
I used to think that meant he’d almost rather they weren’t Christians at all, than be luke-warm. At least then they wouldn’t be deceived. And that might be what He means.
But actually, what I think He’s saying is this: 'Being lukewarm makes you good for nothing.' At least cold water is refreshing and quenches thirst. And hot mineral water is good for healing the body. But lukewarm water is good for very little. It’s too warm to drink and it’s too cold to bathe in to heal the body.
And that’s what a lukewarm Christian is like. Pretty much good for nothing. They neither bring healing or refreshment to anyone. They’re bland and wishy-washy. They don’t impact or influence anything. And Jesus says, that sort of Christianity makes him want to throw up, it makes him want to puke.
Imagine Jesus saying that to you - You make me sick.
Pretty convicting stuff. Jesus loves us too much to pander to us or patronise us. He tells us the truth every time.
I think many Christians spend our lives being lukewarm. We might start with dreams of great things we want to accomplish, great exploits we want to do for God, but then we settle into a life more ordinary. We play it safe, we become bland, if our lives could be described by one colour it would be beige.
We get into routine. We get up, have breakfast, go to college or work, come home, have dinner, watch TV, go to bed, and wake up the next day and do the same again.
God has so much more than that for us. Jesus died for more than that. Jesus didn’t hang on the cross and rise from the dead just to save us from hell when we die. He came to give us life in all its fullness, life abundant, while we live.
His desire is not to free us not just from badness and sin but from blandness and slumber. He came to pour into us His life and fullness and joy and power and passion.
I love this quote from Mike Yaconelli :
"What happened to radical Christianity, the un-nice brand of Christianity that turned the world upside-down ? What happened to the category smashing, life threatening, anti-institutional gospel that spread through the first century like wildfire and was considered (by those in power) dangerous ? What happened to the kind of Christians whose hearts were on fire, who had no fear, who spoke the truth no matter what the consequences, who made the world uncomfortable, who were willing to follow Jesus wherever he went ? What happened to the kind of Christians who were filled with passion and gratitude, and who every day were unable to get over the grace of God?"
Imagine today Jesus wrote a letter to you personally – I wonder what it would say?
What would he say you’re doing well, what would He encourage you about in your life?
And what would He challenge you about? What would He say – that needs to change – you need to repent of that?