Revelation 3:14-22 Retaining a Passion for Christ
SLIDE 1 REVELATION 3:14-22
In nature, if water is hot, it has useful purposes. It can heal, and it can regenerate the body. If it is cold, it is refreshing. It soothes and it can help quench a thirst. But if it lukewarm, water can get stagnant. Stagnant water collects bacteria and serves no purpose.
VISUAL – Place a hot cup of coffee and a cold cup of water on a table. Remind people about the fact that a cup of coffee is hot and a cold cup of water is cold and refreshing.
SLIDE 2 DEFINITION OF “LUKEWARM”
It means “lacking conviction or enthusiasm”, or a form of indifference. Biologically, lukewarm means mildly warm and tepid. Being lukewarm is playing the middle ground. A cold drink of water can be refreshing. A hot tub of water can be soothing. But lukewarm serves no purpose. We have been going through the seven churches and what God has been teaching us as a congregation. In this final lesson, God teaches the church to retain a passion for Christ. This is the test of purpose. If I am going to be passionate for Christ, I need to show it by the way I live.1
But first, let’s look at the church Jesus addresses. In this case, it is the church is Laodicea. What kind of place and church was that?
SLIDE 3 HOT HIEROPOLIS, COLD COLOSSE, AND LUKEWARM LAODICEA
First off, we need to understand that Laodicea sat between two other cities: Hieropolis and Colosse. It was sandwiched between these two cities. The church of Laodicea received a letter from Paul earlier in its days. We know this because he told the church at Colosse to exchange letters with the church of Laodicea.
Being a city between these two other towns, it had to share the water resources. Hieropolis (known today as Pamukkale) was known for its hot springs. People came from all around to visit the hot springs, mostly for its medical value. In Colosse, those same springs turned into cold streams of water. But in Laodicea, the water had to be diverted and used.
SLIDE 4 AQUEDUCTS IN LAODICEA
So, you will find aqueducts that were built and used throughout the city to carry the water. Because the water was hot in Hieropolis, and cold in Colosse, the water that flowed through the aqueducts were lukewarm. In essence, the water was stagnant. The city was also known for its medical center. Two of the greatest practicing physicians in the Roman Empire had their offices in Laodicea. So this town was the Mayo Clinic of its day.
But most importantly, Laodicea was a very rich city. Because trade routes were established in the area, Laodicea was perfectly situated to take advantage financially. They had the main route east to west and north to south going through the town. So it was a center of commerce. As a result, the city was very rich. So rich in fact, that when it suffered an earthquake in 2 BC, they didn’t ask help from the Roman government to finance the restoration. Instead, they had enough money to repair the city.
But no matter how rich and prosperous and seemingly useful the city seemed, the church was indicted by Jesus as being “lukewarm” – or useless. Lukewarm stuff tastes horrible. No one likes lukewarm coffee, or lukewarm tea. Either the coffee needs to be hot, or the tea needs to be ice cold. Lukewarmness is a characteristic that serves no purpose.
I have always heard an interpretation of this verse by preachers that said this:
You need to be hot for Jesus. Your faith needs to be red-hot. Cold faith is just as useless as lukewarmness. Yet Jesus spoke about lukewarmness because many Christians in Laodicea became ineffective in reaching people for Christ. They were unable to share the Good News of Jesus. They stopped sharing the message of Jesus.
Lukewarm food also does another thing. When you place something lukewarm by your body, it causes your body to relax. Your body starts to relax and you won’t want to do anything. Hot objects and cold objects make us respond. Either we feel burned, or we feel a shiver. When something is lukewarm and it is placed near the body, it relaxes us. It soothes us and makes us tired. So it is the same with our witness to the world. When we are lukewarm, we become tired. We don’t want to let others know about Jesus, or about God has been doing in our lives. This is what Jesus was referring to when He warned us about being lukewarm.2
Some churches have become spiritually stagnant. Perhaps you have grown stagnant in your relationship with Christ. How do you and I overcome this condition? Jesus shares with us five ways in which we can overcome spiritual stagnation.
FIVE WAYS TO OVERCOME SPIRITUAL STAGNATION3
- See the truth about yourself. (3:14-16)
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: “The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Originator of God’s creation says: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth.
(Revelation 3:14-16 HCSB)
Jesus says that He wants you to see the truth about yourselves. But in order to do that, we have to first see the truth about Jesus. Jesus says three things about Himself in these verses. Each of these things show us how Jesus is able to help me see the truth about myself.
He is worthy of my time. He’s the amen. He is the last word. He’s everything. Jesus is the Amen to all the promises of God. He is the end result of history. Therefore, Jesus is worthy of my time.
“the faithful and true Witness”
He is worthy of my trust. Why? Because Jesus is faithful. He is true.
There are many people who will talk to you who are not faithful. There are many ideas about life that you can get, which are not true. The only one you can count on every time is Jesus Christ. He loves you more than anything or anybody, He even loves you more than yourself. He has a better plan for your life than you could ever dream up. He is faithful and true. He is worthy of my trust.
“the Originator of God’s creation”
He is worthy of my worship. Why? Because He made everything. He is the Creator, and I am the creature. Therefore, He is worthy of my praise and worship.
So as we read these words that Jesus is going to say to us, we need to remember: He made you. He knows everything about you. He understands you. Now listen to what Jesus says about you. In these verses, Jesus makes the clearest criticism about the condition of the church. He is going to say something about us, and then something that He can provide to help us. But realize that He is very clear about commitment in the church. He compares it to hot, cold, or lukewarm water.
SLIDE 6: THREE INDICATORS THAT I HAVE BECOME SPIRITUALLY STAGNATE
How do I know that I have become lukewarm? There are three indicators:
THREE INDICATORS THAT I HAVE BECOME SPIRITUALLY STAGNATE
1. You’re lukewarm when you can look at yourself and say, “I’ve cooled off.” Not “I’ve become wiser,” or “I’ve slowed down.” I’m not talking about changing your schedule. Don’t make the mistake thinking being on fire for God means you have to be at the church every night of the week. It’s about your heart, not your schedule. But if you can look at your heart and say you’ve cooled off, “I used to have a more passionate love for God than I do right now. Much more passionate if I was honest with myself.” It’s cooled. That’s what lukewarm is, a definition.
2. I’ve compromised. To become lukewarm is to become like the world around you. It means you’re a room temperature Christian. It means that whatever climate you find yourself in, whether it’s at the office, out playing golf, some of you even with your family and the struggles going on there, you just take on the temperature of everything that’s around you. It could be that you see a lot of compromises happening in your life.
3. I don’t care. A sense of spiritual apathy has started to overwhelm your life. That cup that started hot and has so quickly cooled off. That cold drink has warmed to room temperature. It has become stagnate. How do I overcome my own spiritual stagnation?SLIDE 7
- Admit your desperate need (3:17)
Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy, and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked,
(Revelation 3:17 HCSB)
Just like Laodicea, we try different strategies to meet our own desperate needs:
Riches: that’s what we acquire
Rules – what we require (I must be keeping the rules, so I must be spiritually alive.)
Knowledge – how we inquire
Relationships – who we desire
Achievement – how we aspire – try to make it to the top of something
The truth is, no matter how well we acquire and require and inquire and desire and aspire, the end of it is all of us are going to expire. The more we think it’s all built on us, (the more self-sufficient we become), the more we realize that it is not enough. So Jesus says I want you to see your desperate need.
- Go to Jesus alone to meet your deepest needs (3:18)
I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, and white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see.
(Revelation 3:18 HCSB)
Jesus says to them, “But from Me, gold that’s refined in the fire.” He said these things all throughout the gospels: “I’m the one who meets the needs.” And He always states it in terms of basic needs.
Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” He gives us rest.
John 7:37 “Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty let him come to Me and drink.’”
John 6:35 “Jesus replied, ‘I am the bread of life. No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry.’”
The rest you need, the water you need, the food you need. Jesus isn’t just talking about rest and water and food as He talks to the people at Laodicea or the people throughout the gospel. He’s saying when you see me as the one who meets the basic needs of life you also need to see Me as the one who meets the deepest needs of life. He talks to the people of Laodicea about gold, clothes, and about salve – ointment for the eyes. He talks to them about things they need. But why should Jesus ask this when they seem to think they have everything physically that they need?
Because we may have the most basic needs met – water, food, shelter, even luxuries; but there are deeper needs in our lives that only Jesus can meet.
- Respond as a deeply loved child (3:19)
As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent.
(Revelation 3:19 HCSB)
Some people grew up with punishment, and some with discipline. There is a big difference between punishment and discipline. Punishment makes me want to run and hide. How do you know that it’s not just things go wrong in life. How do you know it’s God’s discipline?
When it’s God’s discipline, I don’t feel guilty about it. I feel directed by it. I don’t feel like, “God doesn’t love me any more!” I feel God saying to me, “You’re ‘here’ but I want you over ‘there.’” When it’s discipline it’s not cloudy. The guilt that Satan tries to send in our lives is very cloudy and vague. You just feel bad about your day. Bad about your life. “I’m a rotten Christian!” That’s how he wants to make you feel.
Remember when you were a kid and your parents disciplined you (say, through a spanking or some privilege they took away from you) did you know you were being disciplined by your parents? Was it pretty clear to you? It was very clear.
The same thing is true of God’s discipline in our lives. It is crystal clear. There are sometimes we have problems just because we have problems. But there are other times when the crystal clear voice of God says, “You need to be over here. This is where you need to be. I’m moving you in your life.”
- Continually open the door to Jesus (3:20)
Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me.
(Revelation 3:20 HCSB)
We usually use this verse to talk to people who aren’t believers and how Christ will come into their lives. It’s a good verse to talk to those who aren’t believers. It tells the truth of what Jesus is doing in their lives and how He comes into their lives. But notice when this verse was first written it was not written to unbelievers. It was written to the church. It was written to believers and to believers Jesus says, “Look! I’m standing at the door of your heart and knocking. If you hear the knock I’ll come in.”
Jesus is talking to Christians here whose hearts have been closed and He’s still knocking. They may have closed their heart to Him a long time ago. It may have been recent. He is talking about making a commitment.
A dinner plate left out overnight will be hard to clean in the morning. An alternative to scrubbing is soaking the dish in hot water and dishwashing liquid. Letting a dish abide in the solution will allow a hard cleaning job to become a lot easier. This is what abiding does for Christians. We are much easier to clean up when we’ve been hanging out in the right environment.
Religion says “Scrape off the dirt.” It tells us to apply elbow grease to fix a problem. Relationship says “Soak.” Just sit in the hot water for a while. Abiding will set you free.4
Make the most of your Christian life today. Make your commitment to Him firm and stable. And make a commitment to Him in a local congregation and family here at Washburn First Baptist Church.
1Jim Erwin, “Seven Tests of a Healthy Church,” Revelation 2:1-3:22, sermon, posted at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2016/01/31/revelation-21-322-seven-tests-of-a-healthy-church/ on 31 January 2016, accessed on March 22, 2016.
2Jim Erwin, “Lukewarm Faith Is A Lazy Faith,” Revelation 3:15-17, Simple Thoughts Reflections 2005-2015, Logos Bible Software Notes, 7 February 2006, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2006/02/07/revelation-315-17-lukewarm-faith-is-a-lazy-faith/, accessed on 21 March 2016.
3Tom Holladay, “What Jesus Says to a Complacent Church – Revelation 3:14-22,” Seven Secrets to Growth and Change, sermon, 17 March 2006, found on http://store.pastors.com/products/what-jesus-says-to-a-complacent-church. Accessed on 17 May 2008.
4 Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 11.