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- CW 621 Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven
- CW 698 Seek Where You May to Find a Way
- CW 607 Ten Thousand Reasons
If you were in the market for a job, at some point you’d probably go online to Indeed, LinkedIn, Monster or CareerBuilder to search what’s available. As you flip through the different websites your eye catches this: Seeking an executive professional to learn my business; better if not experienced; must be lazy and indifferent; undependable; untruthful; must show no ambition, no work ethic or morals; send resume to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Do you think it would be possible to find an actual job ad similar to that? Of course not! No employer wants lazy, indifferent, neutral—blah employees working for them.
Neither does Jesus! Jesus does not want lazy, indifferent, neutral—blah Christians in his church. In fact, there is a rather famous section of the Bible where Jesus strongly confronts believers who were being indifferent and blah about the Bible. It’s found in the first chapters of the book of Revelation as the Lord directed the pen of John the disciple to write to different Christian churches in Asia Minor, which is today modern day Turkey. Specifically, it was Jesus letter written by John to the church of Laodicea. Jesus makes it clear; indifference will not be tolerated by God.
Let’s learn about Laodicea and the people there to understand what happened and how God made this letter to them so personal and powerful.
The city of Laodicea was at the junction of two important valleys and at the intersection of three busy trade routes. Because of this outstanding location, Laodicea was one of the richest commercial centers of its time, the ancient world’s equivalent of New York, Toronto or London. In fact, it was so wealthy that when it was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 60, its citizens rebuilt it without any help from the Roman government. That wealth came from three different industries. First, Laodicea was a well-known banking center and home to a government mint. Secondly, it had a thriving wool industry. Its soft, glossy black wool dyed bright white was famous throughout the entire Roman world. Thirdly, it held a world-renowned medical school and was even more famous for an eye-salve invented there that was prescribed by doctors around the world.
Despite all of its tremendous industries, the city of Laodicea had one major weakness. It didn’t have a convenient water supply. Its water was transported from hot-springs six miles to the south through an ingenious system of stone pipes. This water arrived at the city lukewarm. By way of contrast, just a few miles to the north laid the sister city of Hierapolis known for its medicinal baths because of the hot springs nearby. To the east was the city of Colossae with her snow-capped mountains and clear, cold streams of water coming from the snow melt-off. But Laodicea’s water was neither hot nor cold; rather, it was a gross, disgusting lukewarm temperature.
As we examine the letter to the church in Laodicea today, each of these four characteristics—wealth, black wool, miracle eye-salve and lukewarm water—will be seen in Jesus’ rebuke of this city.
This is the only letter of the seven that Jesus offers in the beginning of Revelation that has no praise to the congregation. Laodicea looked good to the world but it looked like sin to Jesus. Christ could find no good aspects of their Christianity. How sad! Even in Sardis, the church Jesus told to “Wake up!” there were a few who had not soiled their robes—but not in Laodicea. There was no persecution in Laodicea, no false teaching, no failure to discipline. This congregation certainly wasn’t poverty stricken—materially. They were fairly well-to-do, had good paying jobs, and were respected in society; but they were poor—spiritually. That is why Jesus reprimands them, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16)
These words would have brought a bitter taste to the mouths of the people of Laodicea. I’m certain they had tasted the cool refreshing mountain waters of Colossae. I’m certain they had bathed in the medicinal hot springs of Hierapolis. But I am also certain they detested the lukewarm water they were constantly forced to drink.
Lukewarm Christianity is the kind of Christianity that makes Jesus sick. He even says, “Because you are lukewarm – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Those words don’t tell the whole story. The word used in the Greek here is “emeo.” If you’ve ever heard the word “emetic,” you’re beginning to see just how strongly Jesus feels about the congregation at Laodicea. An “emetic” is a drug that forces people to vomit. Jesus is vividly warning the congregation at Laodicea he is going to violently vomit them out of his mouth if they continue to be indifferent about their faith.
Their casual Christianity is revolting to Jesus. They are neither “on fire” for Christ, nor do they “hate” Christ. They are ingloriously indifferent. You can understand why Jesus wants them to be “on fire” for him. But isn’t it strange that Jesus would want anyone to be “cold”? Jesus’ concern is this. A lukewarm Christian silently walks the path to hell and no one easily notices because they appear spiritually okay but are, instead, spiritually dying.
That same danger surrounds us today. That same “lukewarmness” has become fashionable in our world. The world doesn’t want you “cold”; then you’re rude and unloving. But the world doesn’t want you “hot” either; then you’re overbearing and arrogant. The world wants you to be lukewarm. The world says, “You do your thing. I do my thing. Don’t tell me I’m wrong and I won’t tell you you’re wrong.”
Has the world’s lukewarmness become acceptable, maybe even desirable, in our eyes? Are we guilty of a Christianity that makes Jesus sick? Are we indifferent? Let’s take a look.
How do you feel about church members who are “hot” about their faith? How do you feel about that fellow church member who talks about the greatness of God all the time—not just in Power Hour of worship but is just so godly all the time? Does their hotness for Jesus make you uncomfortable, almost inadequate in your faith? How do you feel about a church member who boldly opens his or her mouth to warn you that you are sinning and walking a dangerous pathway? Does their hotness make you uncomfortable? Do you avoid them? Do you even make fun of them? “I’m Christian too but seriously he/she is way to goody-goody!”
Would you rather they be lukewarm so Jesus is forced to violently vomit them from his mouth? Thank the Lord for believers who are bold in their faith and visual in their faithfulness! Are you? Or are you increasingly becoming indifferent, neutral—a bit blah in your Christianity?
God cannot stand indifference. He hated it when the Laodiceans had that sort of attitude and he hates it when we do as well. The people of Laodicea said, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” In other words, “I’m happy with my level of religion, I don’t need a stronger relationship with Jesus.” Jesus replied, “I am going to vomit you.”
You have a soul—like a gas tank—that wants and needs to be filled up with the fuel of Jesus’ love. When you are lukewarm about your church attendance, when you are lukewarm about your service to Jesus, when you are lukewarm in following the laws of Jesus, you’re saying to God, “No need to fill up the gas tank of my soul. Nope, just a couple of gallons worth of your grace is good enough.” Jesus replies to when-it’s-convenient-for-me worship attendance, to lackluster service and less-than-exemplary following of his laws, “With that attitude, I am going to vomit you out.” Do you know what can happen to people who drive cars with just a bit of gas in them? The car eventually runs dry often in the bad part of town or the middle of nowhere and you are helpless, left completely vulnerable. Being lukewarm in the faith puts you in danger of your soul hitting empty. You do not want to spiritually run out of gas—especially not with the devil on the prowl looking to massacre your soul!
What does God want from us? The same thing he did from the Laodiceans! He wants our focus to be on him and him alone! The Laodiceans became lukewarm in the faith because their focus was on their wealth, their wool that clothed them and their eye-salve that made people see. I LOVE what Jesus says in response to their lukewarm convenient Christianity. “You do not realize that you are poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” Jesus showed them that all three of their strengths (gold, white clothes and eye salve) were turned into weakness against their faith by the devil. Jesus knew exactly where their focus was because he could feel when their eyes left him and focused on another. With Jesus they would truly be rich. With Jesus they would truly be dressed in splendor. With Jesus they would truly see.
Jesus wanted them to see their sins. Jesus wants us to see our sins! Have you ever noticed that when you are regular in our worship, love and service to Jesus, life is just better? It doesn’t mean there aren’t ever any problems but life simply is happier. That’s God! Have you ever noticed that when you slip into whenever-it-is-convenient-for-me Christianity (aka lukewarm Christianity), life gets difficult? Have you noticed it? That’s God rebuking you and disciplining you to get you to see the error of your ways, to repent and become faithful again. “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.”
Christ is standing at the door of your soul. He is inviting himself back fully into your life. He holds in his nail scarred hands the bounty of his forgiveness, the joy of his guidance and the peace of his eternity. He comes bearing gifts that will last, gifts for eternity. Repent and receive Jesus’ love. Repent of being any lukewarmness and become HOT—on fire for Christ!
You have forgiven hearts. You have souls filled full again of God’s grace. Do you know what that means? You people are hot! Smokin’ hot! On fire for Jesus hot! The Holy Spirit has rekindled in you the fire of God’s love. You are hot! Amen.