by Brent Kercheville
Do you make our Lord Jesus want to vomit? The church at Laodicea is the last church that Jesus writes to in his letters to the seven churches of Asia. This is the church that made God sick. This is a terrible thought. Here are people who are claiming to follow Jesus but their actions make Jesus sick. The problem is that these Christians practiced lukewarm Christianity. Let’s look into the letter and see why they are lukewarm and what we can learn from their sins.
Jesus’ Self-Description (3:14)
Jesus calls himself, “The Amen.” This seems to be an unusual description for our Lord. The word, “Amen,” means, “a strong affirmation of what is stated” (BDAG). Jesus used this word many times at the beginning of his teachings when he said, “Truly, truly I say unto you.” The words, “Truly, truly” are the same Greek word repeated, “Amen, amen.” The saying is faithful, trustworthy, and will assuredly happen. The apostle Paul spoke of Christ as the Amen. For every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in Him.
Therefore, the “Amen” is also spoken through Him by us for God’s glory. (2 Corinthians 1:20 HCSB) Christ is the fulfilment of God’s promises. He is the “yes” to God’s promises. Jesus also calls himself, “The faithful and true witness.” This description amplifies the truthful and fulfilling nature of Jesus in the title, Amen. Not only is Jesus the truth, but everything he speaks is faithful and true. What he says will happen. Finally, Jesus calls himself, “The beginning of God’s creation.” This does not mean that Jesus was the first created. That is not what we are being told. Rather, Christ was at the beginning of creation. One Greek lexicon (BDAG) uses the word, “Commencement” to communicate the point. The idea is that Jesus is first in rank and power over God’s creation.
Therefore, some translations render these words to communicate better this idea. Some translations read, “The Originator of God’s creation” (HCSB, NET), “the origin of God’s creation” (NRSV), “the ruler of God’s creation” (NIV, TNIV) and “the source of God’s creation (God’s Word). It is the same Greek word used in John 1:1 where we read that the Word was in the beginning with God. To sum up what Jesus is calling himself, he is saying that he is faithful and trustworthy in accomplishing all things. What he says will happen because he is the ruler and authority over all creation.
Their Works (3:15-17)
Jesus knows their works. I hope we have noticed that he knows the works of everyone. They are not hot or cold, but lukewarm. Often a mistake is made in thinking that Jesus is saying that he would rather a person be fully devoted to God (hot) or not devoted at all to God (cold) rather than lukewarm. However, there is not a spiritual advantage before God to be a completely rebellious sinner. To understand the imagery we need to understand a little bit about the city of Laodicea. The city of Hieropolis, seven miles to the north, was known for its hot springs. The city of Colosse, less than 10 miles to the south, was known for its cold waters that were pure and drinkable. Laodicea had the unfortunate circumstance of having neither. When trying to pipe in the hot waters from Hieropolis, the water was lukewarm after the seven mile distance. The water was also dirty and impure once the water got to Laodicea. The picture Jesus is giving is that they are useless and valueless. Hot water has use and value. Cold water has use and value. But you, O Laodicean church, are lukewarm. You are not fit for healing or for drinking. Jesus is not saying, “Be saved or be lost.” Rather, Jesus is revealing the current useless state of these Christians just like their water supply.
Why are these Christians useless? What has happened that the Lord says that he wants to vomit them out of his mouth? They think they are rich because of their physical possessions that they have. However, they are not rich toward God. They are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. They are lukewarm Christians because they have not invested in God, but in this world. Their focus is not on the spiritual but on the physical and material.
There are a number of ways that we can fall into the same state of uselessness like these Christians in Laodicea. I read a book that has a listing of characteristics of lukewarm Christians that I will share with you.
1. Lukewarm people attend worship fairly regularly because they think that is what they have to do, not what they want to do. The heart of this is revealed when we wonder if we have to come to church on Sunday night or Wednesday night. Lukewarm people have to come to worship. Christians want to worship.
2. Lukewarm people tend to choose what is popular over what is right when they are in conflict. They desire to fit in both in the church and outside the church. They care more about what people think about their actions than what God thinks of their hearts.
3. Lukewarm people do not really want to be saved from their sins. They want only to be saved from the penalty of their sins. They do not hate sin and are not sorry for committing it. They are only sorry because God is going to punish them.
4. Lukewarm people do not believe that the new life in Christ is better than the old sinful life.
5. Lukewarm people rarely share their faith with their neighbours, co-workers, and friends. They do not want to be rejected, nor do they want to make people uncomfortable by talking about private issues like religion.
6. Lukewarm people gauge their “goodness” by comparing themselves to the world. They are satisfied as long as they aren’t as “bad” as the world. They are not concerned that they are not fully devoted to Jesus like others.
7. Lukewarm people say they love Jesus and Jesus is 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.
8. Lukewarm people love God, but they do not love him with all their heart, soul, and strength. They assure themselves by thinking that this sort of total devotion is not really possible for the average person. It’s only preachers and radicals.
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 or what God would have them do.
10. 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.
11. Lukewarm people walk by sight, not by faith. They do not trust their lives to God, but trust in themselves.
We can have the same problem as these in Laodicea. Look at verse 17. They do not realize that they are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. They think they are rich. They are fooling themselves.
Breaking Free (3:18-20)
What can we do to end this lukewarm disposition that Christ wants to vomit out of his mouth? Jesus gives a number of instructions to the church. The first instruction is to buy the things you need from Christ. We must see that we are wretched, naked, and pitiable. Only then will we come to Jesus and purchase the spiritual wealth that we need to avoid judgment. Stop thinking about your material wealth and start thinking about your spiritual wealth. Only in Christ can we have true riches, clothing, and insight. If you were naked, poor, and unable to see you would quickly take care of the problem. You would go and buy clothing so that you would be decent in public. You would do what you could to accumulate money so that you could pay your bills. You would go and get your eyes looked at so that you could see. These would be obvious things that we recognize we would need to take care of immediately. Jesus uses the same imagery to help us recognize we have a problem that must be fixed immediately. You are spiritually naked. You need the clothing Christ supplies. You are spiritually poor. You need the gold that Christ offers. You are spiritually blind. You need the healing that only Christ can give. Don’t we see that we are putting our efforts in the wrong places? We are striving for the things of this world rather than striving for Christ and his kingdom. Seek God. Seek the things of God.
Second, Christ tells them that he reproves and disciplines those he loves. Sometimes we can get very defensive about lessons and teachings that tell us we are falling short of God’s requirements. We can sometimes ignore difficult teachings that step on our toes. Christ says that we need to hear these things. This church needed to hear that he was vomiting them out of his mouth because they are so disgusting to him. He speaks these hard words because he loves us. Notice what he is asking us to do. Be zealous and repent. Our theme for the seven churches of Asia has been ‘ignite’. Christ is calling on us to ignite our lives for him. Be zealous for him. Devote ourselves to him and love him like we ought and know we can. Rekindle your loyalty to Christ.
Finally, Christ pictures himself as standing at the door and knocking. It is up to you to decide if you want a relationship with Christ. He wants to have fellowship with you. Verse 20 tells us that he will come in and eat with those that choose him. Jesus is asking for a relationship with you. He has done everything on his end so that we can have a relationship with him. He has died and risen from the dead so that we can have a relationship and be in fellowship with him despite our sinfulness. He will not forcefully take over your life. You must choose to seek him.
To The Conquerors (3:21-22)
To those who choose to seek him there is a great reward that must not be forgotten. Those who choose Jesus will be granted to sit with Christ on his throne. One of the consistent images to the seven churches of Asia is that those how devote their lives to Christ will be victorious. Christ says that he will share the honour of his exalted position with us. It is like a king picking out a few of his subjects and saying that they can sit on the throne and rule with him. It is an unbelievable picture. No king would co-rule with his subjects. But Christ says he will share the honour and rule with us. We are the subjects. We have no right to rule. We do not deserve to rule. Christ says that you will devote your life to him that we will share in his rule. Friends, he rules over everything. He rules over all creation. Recall how the lesson started in verse 14. He is the commencement of all creation and he will share that power and rule with us.