Sunday, January 30, 2011

Revelation 3 - Lukewarm

Revelation 3:14-22

The word lukewarm is an adjective meaning – tepid, not very warm, unenthusiastic, or half-hearted.
It holds the idea of being indifferent to the task at hand. Now imagine an indifferent church.

We are introduced to the word in Revelation 3:16 as part of Jesus' address to the church at Laodicea. The Lord says to this indifferent church, "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.
I could wish that you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,
I will vomit you out of My mouth" (Rev. 3:15-16 NKJV).

This church, essentially, made Jesus sick.

What could cause such apathy and carelessness in a congregation that at one time was healthy (Col. 2:1; 4:13. 15-16)? What was it that cooled their zeal, and calmed their passion for the Lord?

The church at Laodicea was prosperous,; yet it was powerless. They, like many churches and believers alike, were self deluded by the appearance of success. By all outward appearances they looked: righteous, healthy, rich, and clothed with good works; but when the Jesus peeled back their external shell they were: wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.

No commendation was given by Christ, just condemnation, and a call to repent.

We can learn a lot from the Lord's sobering evaluation of the church at Laodicea as found in Revelation 3:14-22.

I. The Dynamic Christ (v.14)

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

"These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:". Ultimately, every one of us will stand before the Lord of the church (Jesus Christ) to give an account for our lives. He is the Supreme Judge of all creation and nothing will escape His attention. The Lord Jesus begins by reminding the lavish and lukewarm Laodiceans just Who was judging them. As this introduction seems more detailed than those to the other churches; I think it's a bad sign for a church that the Lord of salvation needs to explain exactly who he is.

A. He is Reliable (14a)

"These things says the Amen"

Amen is an interesting word, as it is not really translated from Hebrew. It is essentially just copied into Greek and finally into English. Translators do this when the word represents a novel concept that is really embodied by the original word, and not easily translated, or would lose some of its meaning in translation. We say "amen" to voice agreement with something that has been said, it is a witness to the firmness and reliability of the statement. In a similar figure of speech we might say "you better believe it". Here Jesus himself is called reliable, the One you had better believe.

B. The Genuine article (14b)

"the Faithful and True Witness"

Faithful means trustworthy, the one who will never let you down. True mean authentic, the implication is that this church had previously received some false witnesses, or false teachers. The best part is the word for witness gives us our word Martyr, one whose message was so crucial they would die to tell it.

C. The first cause (14c)

"the Beginning of the creation of God"

Some have tried to say "Beginning of the creation of God" means Jesus is not God and was himself created. But the word for Beginning tells of the cause or origin of creation, not the thing created. We can be sure of this since the author is John and he gave us a detailed view of Jesus as the creator in his gospel. John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by (or through) Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." Does that leave any doubt that Jesus is the fully divine creator?

II. The Deluded Church (vv.15-17)

15 "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 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—"

A. Its sickening compromise (vv.15-16)

I would call this the "comfortable church" or the "satisfied church". This church would be in a nice area, they would have really comfortable seats, pleasing music, and encouraging sermons. You would not really need your Bible because if they used a Bible verse it would only be for a moment and they would even put it up on the screen for you. They would tell everyone that "God just wants them to be successful and happy". The sermon might be about "How to be a better man or woman" and say things like "get up early, be on time, smile, call people by name when you speak to them". This church had the kind of religion that accepts everyone and changes no one.

In his book "Crazy Love", Francis Chan speaks about this compromising mentality, "We disgust God when we compare Him against the things of this world. It makes Him sick when we actually decide those things are better for us than God Himself. We believe we don't need anything Jesus offers, but we fail to realize that slowly, almost imperceptibly, we are drifting downstream. And in the process we are becoming blind, being stripped naked, and turning into impoverished wretches" (p.97).

Do we value this world and its goods as much as God and His promises? Has the "American Dream" replaced God's plan for your life? Are you living your life in such a way that it simply makes earth a better place to go to hell from? Compromise is a subtle decision that will lead us down the path to complacency.

B. Its sickening complacency (v.17)

"You say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'"

The more a church or an individual believer compromises; the cloudier their discernment gets. They don't recognize their true condition. Compromise and complacency dulls their sensitivity to God's Spirit. Laodicea had everything a worldly church could desire. Influential men probably sat on their board; they would have a large membership (but a much smaller attendance), and a well-oiled administration that boasted every ministry program you could think of BUT… they were powerless.

Their self assessment was fatally flawed because it didn't match the Savior's. In fact, it was just the opposite. They were busying themselves doing the "work of God", but did not know the God of the work!

Jesus warned His disciples, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'
And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV)!'"

The Bible is very clear that we are saved NOT because we try to live by a certain creed or code of conduct. We are NOT saved because we attend a particular church on a regular basis. The only way that a person is saved is by grace, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross.

1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Galatians 6:14 But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

This churched loved the things of the world, gloried in the things they owned, and had no idea that they were spiritually bankrupt.

III. The Definite Choice (vv.18-19)

18 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. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.

Will the church choose God's dealings in grace or His dealings in judgment?

A. Broke ("buy from me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich")

Luke 12:15 And He said to them, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses." 16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' 18 So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry."' 20 But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' 21 "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

B. Naked ("and white garments, that you may be clothed")

Laodicea was known for producing fine cloth and tapestries made of black wool. For Jesus to describe them as "naked" and offer them "white garments" was a stark contrast of their self assessed condition. Listen to how John describes the true church of Jesus as they enter heaven:

Revelation 7:13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?" 14 And I said to him, "Sir, you know." So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

The words of a great hymn come to mind, "When He shall come with trumpet sound, Oh may I then in Him be found. Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne" (The Solid Rock, by Edward Mote).

C. Blind ("and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see")

Blindness is a constant metaphor for the lost in Bible texts. Listen to Acts 26 as Paul retold his conversion story: 15 So I said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. 17 I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, 18 to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'

Jesus healed the physically blind, but to many more he gave spiritual sight to see the light of the gospel.

IV. The Dual Challenge (vv.20-22)

20 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. 21 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. 22 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

I have always heard verse 20 as an open invitation for salvation and it is. But in context we see Jesus is speaking to a church that bears his name. Inside are the church members who are supposed to belong to him, but Jesus is shut out, they have changed the locks on the door. So he is pounding on the door saying "Let me in!". For them, Jesus is too radical, too controversial; preaching repentance would make people uncomfortable; his message is too-hot-to-handle.

Christ makes these promises to those who would open the door of their heart to Him.

"I will come into him" – Christ will never leave the true convert. (Matthew 28:20)

"and dine with him and he with Me" – True converts are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9)

When Jesus says "be zealous and repent", zealous describes someone who burns with passion for God. When the Holy Spirit was given to the church in Acts 2 its described as "tongues, as of fire". Jeremiah said God's word was "in my heart like a burning fire". So with a burning passion for God, the fire of the Holy Spirit, and the fire of God's word burning in our heart; can a true Christian be lukewarm?

Characteristics of the "Luke Warm" by Francis Chan:

1. LUKEWARM PEOPLE attend church fairly regularly. It is what is expected of them, what they believe, "Good Christians" do, so they go (Isa. 29:13).

2. LUKEWARM PEOPLE give money to charity and to the church…as long as it doesn't impinge on their standard of living. If they have a little extra and it is easy and safe to give, they do so. After all, God loves a cheerful giver, right (1 Chron. 21:24; Luke 21:1-4)?

3. LUKEWARM PEOPLE tend to choose what is popular over what is right when they are in conflict. They desire to fit in both at church and outside of church; they care more about what people think of their actions (like church attendance and giving) than what God thinks of their hearts and lives.

4. LUKEWARD PEOPLE gauge their morality or "goodness" by comparing themselves to the secular world. They feel satisfied that while they aren't as hard-core for Jesus as so-and-so, they are nowhere as horrible as the guy down the street (Luke 18:11-12).

5. LUKEWARM PEOPLE say they love Jesus, and He is, indeed, a part of their lives; but only a part. They give Him a section of their time, their money, and their thoughts, but He isn't allowed to control their lives (Luke 9:57-62).

6. LUKEWARM PEOPLE love God, but they do not love Him with all their heart, soul, and strength. They would be quick to assure you that they try to love God that much, but that sort of devotion isn't really possible for the average person; it's only for pastors and missionaries and radicals (Matt. 22:37-38).

7. LUKEWARM PEOPLE love others but do not seek to love others as much as they love themselves. Their love for others is typically focused on those who love them in return, like family, friends, and other people who they know and connect with. There is little love left over for those who cannot love them back, much less for those who intentionally slight them, whose kids are better athletes than theirs, or with whom conversations are awkward or uncomfortable. Their love is highly conditional and very selective, and generally comes with strings attached (Matt. 5:43-47; Luke 14:12-14).

8. LUKEWARM PEOPLE will serve God and others, but there are limits to how far they will go or how much time, money, and energy they are willing to give (Luke 18:21-25).

9. LUKEWARM PEOPLE think about life on earth much more often than eternity in heaven. Daily life is mostly focused on today's to-do list, this week's schedule, and next month's vacation. Rarely, if ever, do they intently consider the life to come (Phil. 3:18-20; Col. 3:2).

10. LUKEWARM PEOPLE are thankful for their luxuries and comforts, and rarely consider trying to give as much as possible to the poor. They are quick to point out, "Jesus never said money is the root of all evil, only that the love of money is." Untold numbers of lukewarm people feel "called" to minister to the rich; very few feel "called" to minister to the poor (Matt. 25:34, 40; Is. 58:6-7).

11. LUKEWARM PEOPLE do whatever is necessary to keep themselves from feeling too guilty. They want to do the bare minimum, to be "good enough" without it requiring too much of them. They ask, "How far can I go before it's considered a sin?" Instead of "How can I keep myself pure as a temple of the Holy Spirit?" They ask, "How much do I have to give?" Instead of "How much can I give?" They ask, "How much time should I spend praying and reading my Bible?" Instead of "I wish I didn't have to go to work, so I could sit here and read longer" (1 Chron. 29:14; Matt. 13:44-46).

12. LUKEWARM PEOPLE are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the god of control. This focus on safe living keeps them from sacrificing and risking for God (1 Tim. 6:17-18; Matt. 10:28).

13. LUKEWARM PEOPLE feel secure because they attend church, made a profession of faith at age twelve, were baptized, come from a Christian family, vote Republican, or live in America. Just as the prophets in the Old Testament warned Israel that they were not safe just because they lived in the land of Israel, so we are not safe just because we wear the label Christian or because some people persist in calling us a "Christian nation" (Matt. 7:21; Amos 6:1).

14. LUKEWARM PEOPLE do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to. They don't have to trust God if something unexpected happens – they have their savings account. They don't need God to help them – they have their retirement plan in place. They don't genuinely seek out what life God would have them live – they have life figured and mapped out. They don't depend on God on a daily basis – their refrigerators are full and, for the most part, they are in good health. The truth is, their lives wouldn't look much different if they suddenly stopped believing in God (Luke 12:16-21; Hebrews 11).

15. LUKEWARM PEOPLE probably drink and swear less than average, but besides that, they really aren't very different from your typical unbeliever. They equate their partially sanitized lives with holiness, but they couldn't be more wrong (Matt. 23:25-28; 2 Cor. 13:5).



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