The Lukewarm Christian – Revelation 3:14-22
There is no form of Casual Christianity that we want to be.
1st – the Christian Atheist – Christians who live as if there is no God
2nd – the Cultural Christian – Christians whose faith is guided by what the world thinks
3rd – the Lukewarm Christian! Some call this the Comfortable Christian
The book of Revelation gives us seven letters to seven churches located in Asia Minor. These cities are in the middle of the first century world. The churches in these seven cities were suffering persecution and tribulation from the Roman government, or soon would be. There would be pressure to conform to times. To worship just like everyone else. To set Christianity aside, at lease for a moment or two to fit in with the rest of society!
Laodicea is the last church addressed by the Lord. Just like the other churches, Jesus knows all about what they are experiencing. His vision is not blinded to the struggles the church goes through. He knows how the church is reacting to the pressures they are feeling. Jesus is with the churches and gives them solutions to their problems. And with Laodicea we find the solution to the problem of being lukewarm Christians – Christians without zeal for the Lord, who have become “uncommitted” to him and committed to themselves.
Jesus who is the Amen and the Faithful and True Witness writes to a church that he has nothing positive to say about them. He has words of discipline. They are not as they should be. His words, his promises, his judgments are certain. They are God’s values, God’s judgments, but of course that is who Jesus is.
He is also the “firstborn of creations” or the “originator” of it all. Implying that he rules, he is the ruler of all.
So we’ve got a church that is lukewarm! They are neither cold like the water in Colossae about 10 miles away, nor are they hot like the springs in Hierapolis about 6 miles away. The water from these two spots were piped into Laodicea because it did not have a water supply of its own. So once you got the cold water from Colossae to Laodicea, it wasn’t cold, it was warm. Not the most pleasant taste. And once you got the water from the hot springs to town, it was warm. In fact, the water that came into Laodicea wasn’t very good. It was disgusting.
The hot water was good for medicinal purposes and the cold water was refreshing to drink. But lukewarm water was blah.
The point of describing lukewarm water is that it is disgusting. Jesus finds the lukewarm church to be other than what HE desires.
The reason for their self-satisfied, uncommitted manner is that they think that since they are rich, they were wealthy people that really didn’t need anything.
Laodicea was a banking center. Because of the wealth, there were leisure and cultural aspects, gladiatorial games and theatre; comfort, entertainment, diversions, etc. It was an important city because it also had a major textile industry. Clothing was made there and they had a unique product, black wool. Oh, and, there was a medical school there and the city was famous for its eye salve among other medical breakthroughs.
Jesus is telling the self-satisfied church, “I want water that will refresh me, but you remind me instead of the water you are always complaining about. You’re lack of zeal makes me want to vomit.”
Their wealth was a problem. It had made them too comfortable and blinded them to what their faith was about.
What are the dangers of Physical wealth which can lead us to Spiritual poverty?
- Self-sufficiency, trusting in what I have acquired, it is enough, etc.
- Pride, look at what I have done
- Not needing nor wanting any outside help including from the Lord
- Prosperity blinds us.
Craig Keene says “I fear that the problems of Laodicean Christians are most like our own.”
Richard Sterns of World Vision (formerly CEO of Lenox Inc. makers of fine China), “If the book of Revelation were written today and there was a letter to the church in America, I think it would decry the fact that our materialism and wealth have deafened our ears and blinded our eyes to the cause of the poor.”
Every American is rich. Even those that are considered poor by our standards are wealthy compared to a majority of the rest of the world and even the wealthiest of kings up until the last 400-500 years or so.
And many Christians cannot see their spiritual need, how poor and blind they are because they have. They are comfortable and settled and trust in what they have and ignore what God says about things and the needs of others.
What is “true religion” as James tells us? It is to look after widows and orphans, those who are poor, helpless, and oppressed and to keep yourself unstained by the world, to be pure in heart, to be holy, to be free from sin (James 1:27).
What Richard Sterns was getting at is that we can hear about suffering elsewhere and often we will find theological or even sociological reasons that it won’t happen to us, and even to avoid actually spending our wealth, even in the church on those needs. Our walk . . . can make us spiritually poor.
There is a church I know of, that a friend of mine used to preach for. He was their minister for many years, but resigned after challenging them. They had accumulated an excessive amount of savings, in the tens of thousands of dollars and wouldn’t touch it for anything. There were missions in need, the camp they supported could have used extra funds, people struggling with rent and utilities, but they would not touch this money that they had been saving for decades. And as far as I know, they still haven’t touched it to this day. They are rich in wealth, but where is their spiritual sense of purpose and action.
The lukewarm church, lukewarm Christians are people who possess the name Christian, but do so without the power of God.
Jesus has a solution to lukewarmness
1st – Though you possess what makes you feel comfortable, Jesus advises that we buy true wealth from him. Trust in him not our physical riches. Physical riches are not for making us comfortable, they are for us to help spread the good news and provide for the needy.
2nd – Though we think we are clothed, we are naked before God, so buy clothes from Jesus that will cover our nakedness. The true clothing of Christianity, not self-sufficiency but trust in Christ.
3rd – Repent and become totally committed to me. Let me build a fire of zeal for true faith and true religion in your belly and free you from what makes you taste horrible to me. Then you will be like refreshing water.
4th – Open the door and let Jesus come in and eat with you. The last meal of the day is the meal of intimate fellowship. That is where the relationship grows and bonds and becomes alive. Let Jesus come in and let him develop the relationship of faith and hope and trust and joy with him. He wants to be a part of your life.
John is helping the church see their behavior as Jesus sees it. Their vision has been cut off due to their complacency. They have relied upon themselves and not God. By their own self-sufficiency they have shut Jesus out.
Jesus is calling them on it. He loves them, so he will discipline them inviting them to repent and become committed again. He promises them that if they will come alive, they will rule with him. That does not mean we will be kings like Christ is king, but that as his people, we are the ruler’s people, we are his people.
You trusted in your riches and wealth and thought you were good. But you are actually wretched and poor, blind and naked. You are not as you think you are. You have not examined and evaluated your life. Because it is distasteful to me, if you remain this way, if you do not change, you do not let me in, then your eternity that you once trusted in is at stake.