Scripture Focus- Revelation 3:14-22
The Apostle John was in exile on the Isle of Patmos in the Mediterranean Sea. He had been banished by the Roman Government for his faithful testimony to the Word of God and Jesus Christ.
Vision is of – The glorified Jesus Christ, moving among His churches, clothed in a robe with a golden sash signifying His position as prophet, priest, and king. His head and hair were white representing His absolute and uncompromised purity. His eyes are like a flame of fire-searching, piercing, gazing, seeing all things. His feet were like polished bronze representing His role and authority as judge. He spoke with the voice of authority. Jesus walked among the golden lampstands, as the Great High Priest, pouring in the sacred oil, taking out impurities, trimming the wicks, and making the lights shine.
Jesus is the Amen (Authority)- Faithful and True Witness (Sees it all)- Beginning of the Creation of God (origin).
The Church at Ephesus left its first love.
The Church at Smyrna the persecuted church.
The Church at Pergamum compromised with the world.
The Church at Thyatira tolerated sin.
The Church at Sardis was spiritually dead.
The Church at Philadelphia that endured patiently.
These are characteristics of churches in every age. These are characteristic of the chronology of the history of the church.
Laodicea was founded in 3rd Century BC by Antiochus II, was the chief city of the Lycus Valley about 100 miles east of Ephesus fairly close to Colossae, located where three highways converged. Located on a high plateau they were secure from enemy attack. The city was a center of banking, and produced black wool, and a medicine school produced a tablet that could be mixed with water to produce an eye salve. The city also produced an eye salve with great medicinal value.
Jesus saw nothing pleasing, only problems, and he had a strong message– v16 You are lukewarm.
There is a message here to the church. There is a message here to the Christian. Possibly none of the seven letters is more applicable to 21st Century western churches than this. This is the description of the church in the last days, in the end times. Too many churches are nominal, shallow, and complacent. I want to show you how to avoid a lukewarm faith.
First, to avoid a lukewarm faith, run from spiritual indifference.
V15 I wish that you were cold or hot. v16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth.
Jesus made a simple and direct point:
Hot= zestos- boiling hot- zealous, fervent- Lk 24:32 They said to one another, Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while he opened the Scriptures to us.
Cold= uninterested- Matt 24:12 Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.
Lukewarm= tepid, spiritually comfortable and complacent, halfhearted
Jesus drew the illustration from where Laodicea got its water supply. The neighboring city of Hieropalis, about 6 miles away, had hot springs about 95 degrees, used for medicinal purposes and purified drinking water. Colossae had refreshing cold springs. Water at Laodicea was piped through an aqueduct, 4-5 miles away, and was lukewarm by the time it arrived.
Some are spiritually indifferent about their commitment to their faith.
Some are spiritually indifferent about their consistency in the faith.
Some are spiritually indifferent about their concern for others who are not in the faith.
In the When a Nation Forgets God, Erwin Lutzer retold a story of a Christian’s living in Hitler’s Germany. The man wrote:
I lived in Germany during the Nazi Holocaust. I considered myself a Christian. We heard stories of what was happening to the Jews, but we tried to distance ourselves from it, because what could anyone do to stop it? A railroad track ran behind our small church, and each Sunday morning we could hear the whistle in the distance and then the wheels coming over the tracks. We became disturbed when we heard the cries coming from the train as it passed by. We realized that it was carrying Jews like cattle in the cars!
Week after week the whistle would blow. We dreaded to hear the sound of those wheels because we knew that we would hear the cries of the Jews enroute to a death camp. Their screams tormented us. We knew the time the train was coming, and when we heard the whistle blow we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church, we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more.
Years have passed, and no one talks about it anymore. But I still hear that train whistle in my sleep. God forgive me; forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians yet did nothing to intervene.
Erwin W. Lutzer, When a Nation Forgets God (Moody Press, 2010), p. 22.
Second, to avoid a lukewarm faith, run from spiritual pride.
V17 For you say, I’m rich, I have become wealthy and need nothing.
Prosperity is not conducive to spiritual vitality, and causes pride. Prosperity causes people to trust in the wrong things. Prosperity causes us to trust in the blessing rather than the one who blesses. We have find big churches, great facilities, a multitude of ministries. If we are not careful, even in the faith humility can be concealed pride.
The New York Times observes how “humility is not what it used to be,” may be the exact opposite of what it used to mean:
Lately it’s pro forma—possibly even mandatory—for politicians, athletes, celebrities, and other public figures to be vocally and vigorously humbled by every honor awarded, prize won, job offered, record broken, pound lost, shout-out received. Comedians are humbled by big laughs, yoga practitioners are humbled by achieving difficult poses, athletes are humbled by good days on the field, Christmas volunteers are humbled by their own generosity and holiday spirit. And yet none of these people sound very “humbled” at all. On the contrary: They all seem exceedingly proud of themselves, hashtagging their humility to advertise their own status, success, sprightliness, generosity, moral superiority, and luck. When did humility get so cocky and vainglorious? Carina Chocano, “Calling Yourself ‘Humbled’ Doesn’t Sound as Humble as It Used To,” The New York Times (1-24-17)
God hates pride.
Third, to avoid a lukewarm faith, run from spiritual deception.
V17. . .You don’t realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.
They were deceived and didn’t know how bad the situation was.
They said we are wonderful! Jesus said they were wretched (hardened).
They said we are marvelous! Jesus said they were miserable (pitiable).
They said we are prosperous! Jesus said they were poor (beggarly).
They said we can see just fine! Jesus said they were blind (without insight).
They said we have fine clothes! Jesus said they were naked (uncovered).
In 1879 Lieutenant George De Long set out with a crew on the USS Jeannette in hopes of claiming the North Pole for the United States. Dr. August Heinrich Petermann believed there was an open polar ice-free sea, teeming with marine life “whose waters could be smoothly sailed, much as one might sail across the Caribbean or the Mediterranean.”
Every previous expedition that had sailed north in search of the sea had run into a problem—ice. Now you might think that running into ice every time would lead scientists to abandon the theory of an Open Polar Sea. Not so. Instead, Petermann modified the original theory by adding the idea of a “thermometric gateway.” Hampton Sides recounts in his book In the Kingdom of Ice, “If an explorer could just bust through this icy circle, preferably in a ship with a reinforced hull, he would eventually find open water and enjoy smooth sailing to the North Pole. The trick, then, was to find a gap in the ice… a natural portal of some kind.”
George De Long and his crew of 28 men wanted to find that portal. It didn’t take long for De Long to realize that all the cartographers, scientists, and geographers had been wrong. He wrote, “I pronounce a thermometric gateway to the North Pole a delusion and a snare.” Eventually, De Long began to doubt the existence of the Open Polar Sea. He and his men encountered ice that seemed to stretch out forever.
De Long and his crew came to grips with the fact that they had been duped. The team had to “replace [their wrongheaded ideas] with a reckoning of the way the Arctic truly is.” They were running up against the rocks or hardened ice of reality. In September 1879, the USS Jeannette got trapped in the ice pack and his crew escaped and tried to go toward Siberia. The crew got separated. Some made it to Siberia and survived; others continued their lonely trek through the ice. As for George Washington De Long, he died in late October 1881 of starvation. He was covered up by snow, except for one of his arms, which was raised as if to signal toward the sky.
Don’t be deceived! What we think of ourselves is not what really matters. What others think of us is not what really matters. What Jesus thinks of us is what matters.
Depend on the promises of God. V18
Jesus advises them to buy or acquire what they needed– He has everything the church needs.
We need (Gold refined by fire)-what is truly valuable.
We need (White clothes)- righteousness.
We need (Ointment)- to see things as they really are.
Be zealous- repent! Repent of a lukewarm faith.
We are promised:
Fellowship with God- v20 See! 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. This is Jesus standing at the door of the church.
Inheritance from God- v21 To the one who conquers I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.
A promise made is dependent on the integrity of the one making the promise. God has never made a promise He did not keep. God has never made a promise he will not keep.
V22 Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.
Avoid a lukewarm faith!