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“The Lukewarm Church” – Revelation 3:14-22

May 2, 2021

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Introduction

Christ has saved the worst for last; the church of Laodicea.

In comparison to the church in Philadelphia, "the faithful church," it might seem as if there is a problem in Laodicea.

But when compared to Sardis, "the dead church," Laodicea looks pretty good, right?  Better "lukewarm" than dead!

In the world's eyes, yes.  But not in Christ's.

"Lukewarm" might be better defined as indifferent.  The Laodiceans were self-deceived, they thought they were "rich" and, therefore, didn't need the only One Who is good and the source of all true riches, Christ Jesus. (Mk. 10:18)

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Indifference towards God is the same as denying God, the penalty is the same - eternal damnation.

"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

(Jn. 3:18)

The early church fathers taught that the letter to Laodicea was the picture of the final church age, immediately preceding Christ's return. (Matt. 24:29-31)

Does much of today's church seem indifferent to the Lord Jesus Christ?

Are we "rich," "wealthy" and "have need of nothing?"

Are our brothers and sisters around the world being persecuted and martyred for the name of Christ?

Yes, they are. Just as were the persecuted churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia.

Unfortunately, the church in America is much like the church in Laodicea; fat, dumb and happy!

Exposition

The Addressee Church

"And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,..."

Revelation 3:14a

"...church of the Laodiceans..."

     * Laodicea - Named after Antiochus II wife.

     * Situated at the crossroads of two major trade routes and the Maeander River.

     * The banking center for the area.

     * Famous for the production shiny black wool and "eye salve."

     * Known for its stinking, putrid water!

The church in Laodicea probably grew from the church at Colossae.  Three times in Paul's epistle to the Colossians, he mentions Laodicea and wants his letter read there as well. (Col. 4:15-16)

Christ's Calling Card

"'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:"

Revelation 3:14b

"...the Amen..."

     * An Old Testament title for God.

     * Truth is the Hebrew word "amen." (Isa. 65:16)

"Amen" means "So be it, that is the truth."

For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.

(2 Cor. 1:20)

Christ is "the Way, the Truth, the Life."

(Jn. 14:6)

"...the Faithful and True Witness..."

     * This is His declaration in light of His previous statement.

He is "the Faithful and True Witness" because He is "the Amen."

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.

(Rev. 19:11)

"...the Beginning of creation..."

     * This does not mean He is the first created being.  But, rather, that He is preeminent. That all things were made by Him, for Him and through Him.

"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End," says the Lord, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."

(Rev. 1:8)

Colossians 1:15-18

Christ's Commendation

Sadly, there is none. 

Neither Sardis (the dead church) and Laodicea (the lukewarm church) have one positive trait that our gracious God can identify.

Christ's Criticism

"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot."

Revelation 3:15

"I know your works..."

     * There is nothing hidden and unseen by our all-knowing God.

"...neither cold nor hot..."

     * Spiritual temperatures alert!

          1.  Hot/On fire for God. (Lk. 24:32)

          2. Cold/Dead (Matt. 24:12)

          3. Lukewarm/Indifferent (Vs. 16)

                   "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth."

                             Revelation 3:16

"...because you are lukewarm..."

     * Lukewarm - Room temperature, tepid.

     * Like the water they had piped in from Colossae and Hierapolis.

The "lukewarm" Christian is comfortable, complacent and does not realize his need.

If he were cold, at least he might realize it and seek the heat!

 "...I will vomit you out of My mouth."

     * Vomiting is the body removing something vile and poisonous.

 Do you want to be vomited out of Christ's mouth?

"Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'--and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked-- "

Revelation 3:17

"Because you say, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'--"

     * It is not wrong to be rich and wealthy, but to say you have "need of nothing" is pure pride and arrogance. Wealth if fleeting. (1 Tim. 6:17-19)

Surely He scorns the scornful, But gives grace to the humble.

(Prov. 3:34)

     * We all need the healing, salvation, wisdom and true riches that only Christ can provide.

Is it any wonder that Christ threatened to "vomit you out of My mouth?"

"...and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked--"

How could this have happened to the Laodiceans?

Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.

(Matt. 13:22)

They had lost their zeal (eagerness) for the Lord Who had saved them, had called them out of darkness (sin) and into the light of His righteousness. They forgot who they were:

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

(1 Pet. 2:9-10)

They had forgotten this wisdom:

"...give me neither poverty or riches, feed me with the food allotted to me,lest I be full and deny You, and say, "Who is the Lord?"

(Prov. 30:8-9)

Indifference and denial of Christ and His true power is a sin of a most serious nature.

When we run our lives in our own strength and claim Jesus is our savior, yet He is not Lord of our lives, we become indifferent, "lukewarm" to who He truly is.

Being "man" centered is always the opposite of what God desires; being "Christ" centered.

Christ's Counsel, His Admonition

"I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see."

Revelation 3:18

"I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire..."

     * Gold = Character and only comes from refining by fire.

"...and white garments..."

     * Always a picture of the righteous. (Rev. 6:11, 19:8, 14)

Revelation 7:9-15

"...the shame of your nakedness..."

     * Shame = Sin

"...may not be revealed..."

     * It is not hidden before Him:

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

(Heb. 4:13)

Their own black wool garments could not hide their sin and indifference!

"...anoint your eyes with eye salve that you may see."

     * Christ had told them they were "blind." (Vs. 17)

     * Now He counsels them to use "eye salve."  This is not the "eye salve" that they produced, but His "eye salve" that comes from "the Light of the world," and enables us to say:

"...though I was blind, now I see!"

(Jn. 9:1, 5-7, 25, 35-38)

And Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind." (Jn. 9:39) "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent."

Revelation 3:19

"As many as I love,..."

     * Even though they were indifferent towards Him, Christ still loved them, and was patient towards them:

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering (patient) toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

(2 Pet. 3:9)

AS HE IS WITH US.

"...I rebuke and chasten..."

     * Chasten = Discipline

You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you.

(Deut. 8:5)

Hebrews 12:5-11

"Therefore, be zealous and repent."

     * Zealous = Eager

     * Repent = A change of heart that leads to a change of direction.

Christ's Counsel: His Assurance

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me."

Revelation 3:20

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock."

     * Behold - To consider the present in light of the future.

Christ is outside the door of the church, looking in!  He stands at the door knocking, no light tap, rather pounding!

He is the head of the church, but the church can't hear Him because it's so preoccupied with:

      - Running the church by "man's tradition" and man's wisdom.

      - Serving when convenient.

      - Giving when it costs nothing.

      - Believing material wealth equals spiritual wealth.

      - Programs instead of prayer.

      - Depending on people rather than Christ.

Remember that "the church" is us as well; made up of its individual members.

The church at Laodicea, as well as today, had (have) redefined spiritual maturity, and tragically didn't (doesn't) even know it!

BUT

"If anyone hears My voice, and opens the door..."

     * "The door" - The door is the heart.

     * Christ is a "Gentleman," He never forces us.  He desires for us to believe in Him, follow Him, love Him of our own free will.

And in return, He will give us forgiveness of sin, healing, salvation, abundant life, peace, hope, comfort, compassion and so much more, and above all:

Eternal life!

           For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

(Jn. 3:16)

 "...and I will come in with him and dine with him."

     * In the Middle East dining with another is a covenant relationship.  Highly prized and sought after.

     * Christ is always looking for one person to fellowship with.

     * Change, revival and renewal always begins with one person, zealous for Christ, will to be used for His glory and kingdom.

     * When we as a church, and individually, invite Christ in, the "dining room" becomes a "throne room" where we commune with Him, and truly learn to be "overcomers."

"To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne."

Revelation 3:21

"...as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne."

     * Christ overcame death on the cross, His and ours, by His resurrection.  Then after His return to the Father, He sits at His right hand, ruling and reigning. (Mk. 16:19)

And He has invited us to sit with Him on His Father's throne, the same throne He sits on!

"To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne..." (Rev. 3:21a)

Doing the same, ruling and reigning!

So Jesus said to them, "Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

(Matt. 19:28)

This is His promise to those who "overcome."

 

Conclusion

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

Revelation 3:22

The letters to the seven churches are God's directives, given to us so that we would examine our own lives and churches.

His judgment will fall on this world, but it first begins at His house, the church:

For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?

(1 Pet. 4:17)

In these letters, we find both encouragement and rebuke.

I pray we will awake and live for Christ alone.  Not sleep like Sardis or Laodicea, surrounded by riches and worldly comfort.

But rather learn from the suffering churches: Smyrna and Philadelphia, as well as our brothers and sisters today in N. Korea, Nigeria and others who suffer for the name of Christ and are "overcomers."

The promise of His second coming was encouraging to the suffering churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia, and is for us today.

But I fear that the dire warnings of Christ to the churches of Sardis and Laodicea are true for the church today and that they are going unheeded.

 

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