Part 10 of a series through the book of Revelation
Text: Revelation 3:14-22
A LUKEWARM CHURCH
“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation’” (v. 14).
The city of Laodicea was famous for its financial wealth, its popular eye salve (there was a medical school in the city), and its textile industry (black wool). Its one weakness was its lack of an adequate water supply.
Sixteen kilometres to the north, Hierapolis was known for its hot springs. Ten kilometres to the east, Colosse was known for its cold drinking water. But Laodicea’s water was lukewarm. Laodicea had to pipe in its water from the hot springs of Denizila (ten kilometres to the south). By the time the water arrived in Laodicea, it was lukewarm.
Spiritually, the church in Laodicea was like its city’s water: lukewarm.
“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!” (v. 15).
The popular interpretation of verse 15 is that “hot” is good and “cold” is bad. But both hot and cold water is good. (Does Jesus really prefer people to be spiritually cold than spiritually lukewarm?)
If any of the seven churches of Asia could represent the North American church, it would be the church in Laodicea (wealthy but lukewarm, casual Christianity).
Jesus expects us to be devoted to Him.
We devote ourselves to many things (money, sports, shopping, a political party, television, a hobby). How is your devotion to Jesus?
RENEWING OUR DEVOTION
Three reasons why we should eliminate spiritual lukewarmness from our lives:
1. Lukewarmness makes Jesus sick.
"So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth" (v. 16).
Not only was Laodicea’s water lukewarm, it also contained bad-tasting min-erals.
The Greek word for “spit” could also be translated “vomit.” Jesus is saying, “Don’t you know that you make me sick? You make me feel like vomiting.”
"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" (vv. 17-18).
Laodicea was a wealthy and self-sufficient city. Following the devastating earthquake of A.D. 60, the Laodicea was rebuilt without financial aid from Rome. The Roman historian Tacitus said, “Laodicea arose from the ruins by the strength of her own resources, and with no help from us.”
Because the Laodiceans were materially rich, they assumed they were also spiritually rich.
"Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent."
Jesus is not an enabler of lukewarmness. He will discipline us if we don’t repent. This is tough love. (Illustration: We can enable a child’s/spouse’s/friend’s bad behaviour, or we can show tough love.)
2. Lukewarmness reveals a lack of desire for Christ’s presence.
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me" (v. 20).
Jesus is not knocking on the door of an unbeliever’s heart (thought there were probably several unbelievers in the church in Laodicea). He is knocking on the door of the church!
In Christ’s message to the church in Philadelphia, He tells them that He has set before them an “open door” (to heaven). But in Laodicea, the door of the church is closed, and Jesus is left outside. Is Jesus knocking on your heart’s door? Do you have any time for Him?
The Laodicean’s attitude of self-sufficiency led to complacency. They felt they were in need of nothing. But they were lacking a longing to be with Jesus.
In the Psalms, the writers often express their deep longing for the presence of God.
“As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1-2a).
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).
“For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84:10).
“One thing I have asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD, all the days of my life” (Psalm 27:4a).
“You have said, ‘Seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your face, LORD do I seek’” (Psalm 27:8).
Can you honestly say that you have the same desire for Christ’s presence?
3. Lukewarmness is an improper response to Christ’s promises.
"The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne" (v. 21).
The one who wants to spend time with us is the one who is coming to rule the world! And He promises that we will reign with Him! (This is the premillennial interpretation.) (Illustration: Imagine receiving a phone call that you’ve won a million dollars. What would your response be? Jesus has promised us something much more valuable than a million dollars.)