"To the angel (pastor) of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit (vomit) you out of my mouth.”
Laodicea was a wealthy city with thriving banks, a textile industry, and a medical school. Because the church was wealthy it was spiritually self-deluded and assumed that it had need of nothing, when in actuality it was spiritually bankrupt. The city was known for producing wool and especially a kind of black garment and yet it did not realize it was spiritually naked and needed to be clothed in Christ’s white robes of righteousness. It produced an eye salve that cured physical sight but the people were spiritually blind.
The city was also known for its sparse water supply. It received ice-cold water from the mountains around it but by the time it flowed through the long aqueduct it was – lukewarm. It also got some of its water from an area with hot springs but by the time the hot water reached the city it was – lukewarm. Jesus’ words of rebuke really hit the mark for they knew how unsatisfying lukewarm water was. It can make you sick to your stomach.
Lukewarmness implies indifference, middle of the road, no real passion for the Lord. As one writer said, being indifferent to Jesus, the Lord of glory, would be like a medical doctor being indifferent to leukemia. “Well, everyone has to die some way.” Listen to how the Shulammite bride describes her lover/husband (which many commentators say is a picture of Jesus and us, His bride). “My lover is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand. He is altogether lovely. This is my lover, this my friend.” (Song of Songs 5:10, 16) How can we not have passion for “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation” and the One who has so much passion for us that He died in our place.
“You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” People think that mankind is basically good (“I do not need a thing”) even good enough to be right with God and go to heaven on their own merit; i.e., self-righteous people are deluded. But we need to tell them what Jesus knows about all people (“you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked”) and the only answer to our problem: “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.” This sounds like the passage in Isaiah 55:1-3: "Come, all you who are thirsty, (realizing our need –the Laodiceans said they had no need) come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, (material things do not satisfy our deepest needs) and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.” Man’s “currency” with God is conscious need. “I am a helpless sinner and I need a Savior. Save me, Lord Jesus.” This is what the Laodiceans did not realize and thus they would be rejected by the Lord – spit out of His mouth. Jesus knows a lukewarm Christian is a bad advertisement for Christianity (1 Cor. 3:1-3). If the church at Philadelphia represents the true church that would be raptured in the end times (see Rev. 3:10) then Laodicea represents the apostate church that would be left behind –that is, all those people in that church that were Christians in name only.
The world promotes and teaches man to find self-esteem but God through Scripture teaches us to find Christ-esteem – not just for salvation but for every need and every ability to serve others to glory of God. God uses trials, disappointments, defeat and even Satan to show us our inadequacies to live for His glory in our natural strength. Many Scriptures say this but 2 Cor. 12: 7-10 says it very succinctly: “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”(Also see 2 Cor. 4:7-11) We must always keep our eyes, heart, and mind fixed on Jesus and not on ourselves. (Heb. 12:1-4; Col. 3:1-4) He is everything and we are nothing apart from Him continually living His life through us. (John 15:5; Gal. 2:20) (See the book Christ-Esteem by Don Matzat – Harvest Books.)
“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest (zealous) and repent.” “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Rom. 12:11) (Zealous means to be fervent, have ardor, and the root of the word means, to be hot.) It seems that the pastor and the church as a whole consisted mainly of professing Christians versus true born-again believers. But Scripture is clear that the Lord loves and rebukes His true children: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." (Heb. 12:5-6) There must have been some true believers in this dead church and Jesus is chastening them to get them to repent from their lukewarmness. It would certainly be difficult to be a growing, passionate Christian in the midst of a dead church.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Here is the Lord Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords, asking permission to have fellowship with us. What a picture of condescension we see in our Lord as He patiently waits to be wanted. “Every man is lord of the house of his own heart; it is his fortress; he must open the gates of it. He has the mournful prerogative and privilege of refusing to open. But if he refuses, he is blindly at strife with his own blessedness, a miserable conqueror. ”(Richard Chevenix Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia)
Jesus rebuked Martha for trying to get her sister Mary away from sitting at His feet (a picture of worship and intimacy) to help her serve Him and said this to her: “Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42) The Laodiceans said “we do not need a thing” and yet Jesus says that there is ultimately “only one thing needed”– intimacy with Him, which leads to adoration of Him and then radical love and service for Him. Listen to the rest of the story: “Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. It was worth a year's wages.” (John 12:3-5) “She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." (Mark 14:8-9) Mary’s story of love for Jesus is still being told today as these verses are read in churches all over the world. And it all began with her simply realizing her need to be intimate with her Lord.
Jack Deere in his book, Surprised by the Spirit, discovered a prayer we can pray to help us increase our love and passion for Jesus. It is based on John 17:26 as Jesus prays to the Father: “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." Here is Deere’s paraphrase: “Father, grant me the power from the Holy Spirit to love (Jesus) the Son of God, like You love Him.” He prays it all the time from morning til night and God is empowering him to love the Lord Jesus more and more. Deere goes on to say: “Your passion for Jesus, as it begins to occupy your heart, will conquer a thousand sins in you life. You will begin to love what He loves and hate what He hates.”
What does this passage and teaching say to you?
Before coming to Christ did you think that people (including yourself) were basically good? How can we tell others the truth (“But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”) without sounding judgmental?
As a believer do you still struggle with self-esteem? What does Paul’s plea in 2 Cor.12: 7-10 say to you?
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” What are some of the reasons you don’t invite Jesus in to fellowship with you? Is there anything you can do to be more available when He knocks? What should we do when He comes in? (See Luke 10:38-42)
In the book The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman the author notes the qualities that Jesus looked for in the 12 men He would pour His life into. An acrostic to describe these men and their qualities could be H.O.T.F.A.T. men.
H = Hungry; O = Open; T = Transparent; F = Faithful; A = Available; and T = Teachable.
On a scale of 1 to 10- 1 being low and 10 high – discuss these questions at your table. How hungry are you for God? (How much are you aware of your great need for Him?) How open (tuned in and responsive) are you to His Spirit? How transparent are you with Him and others? How faithful are you in keeping His Word? How available are you to environments of growth? How teachable are you – moldable like wet clay in the Potter’s hand or set in your ways?
Scripture memory verse: “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Rom. 12:11)