“I am a church” is my declaration. Mortar and clay isn’t the church I am, I see myself as the fingers and hands being used by God to proclaim the gospel. I hope we all become what God sees us as “His bridegroom” the living church.
When I was a kid growing up I would spend the summer with my grand parents in North Carolina on their farm, one of the annual jobs I always looked forward to was the “chicken harvest.” I guess I should apologize in advance for the somewhat graphic nature of this illustration; however, it best illustrates my point. Nonetheless, I looked forward to the chicken harvest. No, I wasn’t some deranged youngster, there was something I considered out of the ordinary that would always happen and it amazed me. Now, for those who have never experienced this, well, let me say it’s not for anyone with a weak stomach. You see, on our farm, the chicken harvest was woman’s work, but being a young boy, I was allowed to participate. The chickens would be caught early in the morning and brought to my grandmother. She would then methodically remove their heads. Here’s where the amazing part happened. With their heads gone, these chickens would run around the yard like crazy. I just couldn’t believe it. It just amazed me. Once, I asked why the chickens did this? The answer – “they don’t know they are dead yet!”
Laodicea was a very, very wealthy city, founded by Antiochus II and named after his wife Laodice. The city was strategically located where three highways converged, thus it was highly commercial. It was well known for its banking industry, its manufacture of black wool and a medical school that produced eye ointment. The wealth in the city had been used to build theaters, a huge stadium, lavish public baths and fabulous shopping centers. Sound familiar? Sounds like any typical American city. So wealthy was this city that when an earthquake almost entirely destroyed it in 60 AD, its wealthy citizens refused help from Rome in rebuilding the city. If you were a real estate agent at the time it wouldn’t be hard to sell Laodicea. It was a great place to live. The land of opportunity. Sound familiar? The only real negative about the place was its lack of an adequate water supply (we will deal with the details regarding this shortly).
The church here in Laodicea was most likely founded by Paul. He actually wrote a letter to them that was lost (cf. Col. 4:16). It will be quite apparent when we “get into” the text that the Christians here had become victims of their environment. Indeed, a valuable lesson for us all today! Vs. 14 To the angel of the church in Laodicea write…
For those of you who were not in our class, there is no commendation here! In writing to the other six churches, Jesus found something good to say, he recognized something positive about the congregation. Not here!
The Amen… says this – In the Greek, this phrase means firm, stable, sure, established and trustworthy. What point is Jesus trying to get across? He’s saying, “Don’t kid yourselves, what I’m about to say may shock you, but you can take it to the bank!”
The faithful and true Witness… says this – Who is on trial? This church! Who is the key witness? Jesus Christ. Thus, there can be no excuses, it’s time for an honest examination followed by honest repentance and a genuine desire for a change of life.
The Beginning of the creation of God, says this – Jesus is the origin, the cause, the Creator of all things (cf. Col 1:16-17). He is the Creator of this earth and the things in it. Unfortunately, the Christians at Laodicea had grown to love and put their faith in the “things” of world, not their creator!
Vs. 15: I know your deeds…
What a powerful and sobering truth! Jesus knows our deeds, both individually and as a church. Jesus knew all about the church at Laodicea, the details of which we will get to momentarily. What about us? Does Jesus know our deeds? This is not one of the key issues I want to focus upon in this lesson; however, when I ponder this truth… well, it stands as a sobering reminder for us all to examine ourselves from time-to-time. A couple of passages come to mind here: Mark 4:22: For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it should come to light. Col. 3:17: And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…
Jesus, the true and faithful Witness, indeed, He knows our deeds! Now, back to the text before us. What were the deeds of the church at Laodicea? Look again at verse 15. Jesus says they are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot. What is Jesus saying here? We all know the answer, He’s saying they are lukewarm!
This is perhaps the most familiar passage in the book of Revelation. Many, many lessons and sermons have been given from this text. Lukewarmness is a characteristic which is most despised among Christ’s churches, even today! So popular is this verse, we often fail to recognize that the Laodiceans were guilty of another serious sin which is often overshadowed by their lukewarmness. We will deal with that momentarily. But first, what is lukewarness? According to the dictionary, it means lacking warmth of feeling or enthusiasm. To a Christian, it describes a state of indifference, complacency, or apathy. Perhaps because they are self-satisfied, or feel self-sufficient. In reality, they are like a chicken with its head cut off – dead, but don’t know it yet!
How would you describe a lukewarm church today? If I were to take your definitions, what would be included? How about a church that just goes through the motions. They gather to worship and mindlessly go through the motions. There is no heart, no zeal, no focus in their worship. When they sing, it’s just blah! When they pray, study, and remember our Savior at the Lord’s Table, their minds simply wander. They don’t worry about spreading the gospel, visiting the sick, carrying for the those in need – they don’t do anything for Christ! Would that be a lukewarm church?
Wait a minute, let’s look at verse 15 again, Jesus knew their deeds, in particular they were lukewarm. But what about Jesus’ desire for them? He said, I would (I wish) that you were cold or hot. Now I understand His desire for them to be hot. Have you ever wondered why He would prefer them to be cold?
He is using a local, well known problem relating to their water supply to allegorize a spiritual meaning. I told you we would eventually get to this. This is a sort of parable, if you will!
Laodicea, as rich as it was, had a serious water problem. The city’s water was “piped in” from six miles out. It came to them along an aqueduct. By the time it arrived it was lukewarm. The city of Hierapolis, just seven miles north of Laodicea, was famous for its hot springs. Colosee, less than ten miles away, was known for its cool water. What was Jesus saying to them in His desire that they be cold or hot? He’s saying their spiritual condition is of no benefit. He would rather they be spiritually beneficial like a refreshing drink of cold water or like the soothing warmth of the hot springs! What’s the message? If we are simply going through the motions, if our heart is not in it, if we are not living and working for Christ everyday of our lives, we are of no benefit to Him! I don’t know about you, but that thought scares me!
How does this condition of lukewarmness really make Jesus feel? Let’s look at the next verse in our text. Vs. 16: … I will spit you out of My mouth.
Again, did my chicken harvest illustration make you sick at your stomach? If so, it accomplished the desired effect for a church’s lukewarmness makes Jesus sick at His stomach! Jesus says that because of their lukewarmness, because they are of no spiritual benefit, He will spit them out. The Greek word here means “to vomit.” John could have used another Greek phrase that means simply “to spit.” If a church of our Lord has become so passionless, so indifferent… if a church of Christ has become of no spiritual benefit, if we as individuals have become of no spiritual benefit, it makes Jesus so sick, that He wants to vomit! Folks, this should make us all examine our walk with Him. Jesus knows our deeds. There are no secrets. Where do we stand with Him today?
Lukewarmness, being of no spiritual benefit is a serious issue; however, as stated earlier, because we have given this topic so much attention, another serious sin at Laodicea is often overlooked. Let’s continue reading our text. Vs. 17: Because you say, “I am rich,
Here we find the second spiritual problem with the church at Laodicea. They had become infected with the love of material things. Perhaps the most dangerous point made here is the fact that they are so “caught-up” in their wealth, they were unaware of their sinful state – they were dead and didn’t know it!
We could approach this from many different angles. We as American’s are so blessed. Compared to most of the world, we are a modern day Laodicea. There is a very, very important lesson here for us today! Our time is running short and there are so many points one could make here. When I read and contemplate the message here as it relates to me, here’s what I consider:
Giving – I’ve often listed things that my family spend money on during any given week – we eat out, costing a family of four anywhere from $20 to $50; we go to the movies, another $20; we buy toys, toys, and more toys for the kids; we take vacations, we collect things… well, you get the point. I find myself comparing our discretionary spending (spending on things that I could do with out) to what we give the Lord each week.
Self-dependence – Can we get to the point in our lives that we have so much and are doing so well that we think we don’t need God?
Thanksgiving – Can we get to the point where we have so much and are doing so well that we fail to realize and be thankful for the source of all our blessings?
Priorities – Can we get to the point where we have so much and are doing so well that we become slaves to our things? Can our priorities change such that we put having things, doing things, more and more things in front of God?
Jesus knew the condition of the church at Laodicea. Not only were they wretched and miserable (dead and didn’t know it), notice again what Jesus says about their condition in the later part of verse 17: they are poor blind and naked.
Jesus, in pointing out their areas of misery, contrasts all the riches of the city.
Poor – there was plenty of money here, but they were spiritually poor.
Blind – known for it’s eye salve, yet all of the salve in the world wouldn’t cure their spiritual blindness.
Naked – known for the finest wool in the world, all of which couldn’t cloth their spiritual nakedness.
Is there a cure? Let’s continue to read our text.
Vs. 18: I advise you…
If Jesus were to give us advise today, do you think it prudent to follow it? The truth is, He is giving us advise today, we are all reading it together. What was His advise to them and any today who are “dead and don’t know it?” To buy from Him! Jesus provides the only true cure for spiritual sickness. It can’t be found in banks, goods, medicine or in any worldly treasure. A true cure can only be found in Christ! How do we do that? Let’s continue with our text.
Vs. 19-20: Those whom I love… repent.
Though blinded by their wealth, love of material things and lukewarmness, Jesus still loved them and provided an opportunity for repentance. The same is true for us today. He stands at the door and knocks. We have to make the next move, it’s our responsibility to open it!