Sun, Mar 05, 2000

The Lukewarm Church: Revelation 3:14-22

Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.

THE LUKEWARM CHURCH

REVELATION 3:14-22

I would like to buy $3.00 worth of God, please, Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of Him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3.00 worth of God, please.

Wilbur Reed, from When I Relax I feel Guilty by Tim Hansel

As we study the letter Jesus wrote to the church in Laodicea, that is the thought. A church that was lukewarm to the things of God and yet they were totally unaware of their condition. They had many outward things going for them, they were very rich, but inwardly, they only had $3.00 worth of God. Not enough to transform them, but just enough to make them comfortable. And as we have done with the previous letters we have read, lets read through this last letter Jesus wrote to the churches in the Roman province of Asia, to the church of Laodicea, beginning in Revelation chapter 3, and verse 14. (Read Revelation 3:14-22).

And once again, as with the six previous letters we have already looked at, we are going to see 7 key principles or elements found in this letter. We will look at the DESTINATION of this letter, the TITLE or DESCRIPTION OF JESUS, there is no COMMENDATION to this church, the REBUKE, the EXHORTATION, the WARNING, and finally the PROMISE to this church. And so, with that in mind, lets look at these verses a little closer and see what the Lord has for us this morning.

REVELATION 3

VERSE 14

The DESTINATION of this letter was Laodicea. This church was located some 40 miles southeast of Philadelphia and 100 miles due east of Ephesus. Laodicea was part of a triad of cities, along with Colosse and Hierapolis, located in the Lycus valley. It was founded by the Seleucid ruler Antiochus II and named after his first wife some time before 253 BC.

This city was one of the richest commercial centers in the world. This city was so wealthy and independent that after a devastating earthquake in 61 AD that leveled the city, they rejected help from Rome to rebuild their city, and they did it on their own. They relied on their own wealth, their own resources to rebuild their city. Because they were so self-sufficient they needed help from no one, not even God!

They had a university that was known world wide for its treatment of eye and ear diseases. They also raised black sheep and sold their wool for a good profit. And so their riches, their programs, their self-reliance was their downfall. It caused them to become lukewarm to the things of God.

Now, according to what Paul wrote in Colossians, the church in Laodicea was most likely planted by or at least ministered by Epaphras. And it is possible that Archippus, Philemon’s son, was the shepherd or pastor there. (Colossians 1:7, 4:12-13, 17). So it had a good start but by the time Jesus writes this letter, some 30 years after Paul wrote His letter to the Colosse church, the church had deteriorated to nothing more than a great structure with no true life inside.

Also, interestingly enough, the name Laodicea means "ruled by the people." (LAO = people, DIECE = rule). That was one of the problems. You see, the church is never to be run as a democracy but a shepherd or pastor is to lead the flock. You never see sheep leading the shepherd. The reason for God setting up the church in this manner is because in any given congregation you have 10% of the people on fire for the Lord, 30% just getting fired up and 60% are new believers or unbelievers. So then if you let the church be governed by democratic rule, you would have the church being lead by new believers and the unsaved!

Now prophetically speaking, both the church of Philadelphia and Laodicea came out of the Protestant Reformation. The Philadelphia branch was good, it was sweet, they were faithful unto the Lord. But, the Laodicea branch was bad, it was bitter, filled with intellectualism and emotionalism. They are not grounded in the Word nor do they even care to be. You might call this the social church or the apostate church of the last days. In fact, as we are going to see, Jesus is not even allowed inside this church, but is outside knocking to get in! So, like Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, the church of Laodicea is in existence in the last days!

Now to this church in Laodicea, the DESCRIPTION OF JESUS is important, and like the description given to the church in Philadelphia, it is not taken from Revelation chapter 1. Jesus begins by saying that He is the "Amen." It is a word that means "so be it." And it was used to punctuate a statement. He is the one who will have the final say in all things. As Paul said in II Corinthians 1:20, "For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us."

You see, all the promises of God are guaranteed through the work of Jesus. In the Old Testament we are told that God would forgive our sins to the point of not remembering them anymore. But that was not completed in the Old Testament. The blood of bulls or goats did not cleanse us from our sins. But in the New Testament it is accomplished only through Christ. John tells us regarding Jesus, "And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world." I John 2:2.

Also, Jesus is the faithful and true witness of God. Remember in the Gospel of John, Jesus said that if you have seen Me you have seen the Father. He represented the Father, for He is God. He also tells us that He is the only way to the Father, which was important for this church to hear for they had no burning zeal to know God’s Word nor for Him, it was all experience and no relationship. And Jesus is telling them He is the truth, His words are faithful.

Now that phrase "the Beginning of the creation of God" has caused many cults to come to the conclusion that Jesus was a created being, and thus, He is not God. That is poor Bible exegesis or interpretation. The word "beginning" is the Greek word ARCHE which speaks of origin. In other words, this verse is saying "I am the source, the originator of the creation." Jesus Christ was not a created being, He is God and He has always existed. That is what Micah 5:2 says,"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." That phrase "from everlasting" is speaking of His eternal existence, and can be translated "from beyond the vanishing point." It is as John 1:1-2 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God."

And if there is still any doubt, listen to what Paul says in Colossians 1:16-17. We read "For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist." Not only did Jesus create all things, but He holds everything together. He is not only the creator of life, but the sustainer of life!

Why was it so important to make these statements to the church of Laodicea? Because the church in Laodicea was being infected with the heresy that was being spread in Colosse, which was only some 10 miles away. Some believed the material universe was evil and thus Jesus was only spiritual, He had no flesh or bones. Others believed that Jesus was created by God. And thus, they were denying the deity of Jesus Christ. And so we see Jesus telling them as the God of truth and the faithful witness of God, that He is the originator of creation. The one who holds your existence in His hands is speaking to you!

Let me ask you this, are you a faithful and true witness of Jesus Christ? The saints in Antioch, in Acts 11:26 were called Christians, "Christ-like" as a put down by their enemies. What about you? If you were taken to court, would there be enough evidence to convict you of being a Christian? Paul tells us in II Corinthians 3:2-3, "You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart." Our lives are to be like open books for people to read. And you know what, they are! And they will either reflect the nature of Jesus or the nature of this world. People are reading you, what are they reading?

There is no COMMENDATION for this lukewarm church, this comfortable church. Why? Because they were too busy patting themselves on the back and Jesus wants to bring them back to reality, not to make them comfortable or encourage them in the way they were living!

VERSES 15-17

The REBUKE is like a rapid fire machine gun. Jesus tells them that they are lukewarm, wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked! And they were unaware of their condition, so Jesus is making them aware, and now they have no excuse.

Now the background here is that the city of Laodicea did not have an adequate amount of fresh water, for their water was limited and polluted. But Colosse, located 10 miles southeast of Laodicea, had icy cold water which flowed down from the mountains. Hierapolis to the north had hot springs that were therapeutic to the body. And so they built aqueducts to transport this water but by the time it reached the city, it was lukewarm, distasteful to drink or to use as a therapeutic bath. But the people from Laodicea had grown accustomed to this lukewarm water even though it was nor refreshing like icy cold water or a therapeutic hot bath.

And understand that Jesus is speaking about those who profess Christ, but it is not real. Jesus is saying that He wishes they were hot, on fire for Him, or at least cold so He would have something to work with. Now they have become comfortable in their condition, in need of nothing, not even God! Walvoord put it this way when he said "There is no one farther from the truth in Christ than he who makes an idle profession without real faith."

And, if you think Jesus accepts that, think again! He tells us this condition makes Him sick to His stomach. These people are false inwardly but have a sort of spiritual facade on the outside. And Jesus tells those that are playing these games, that are lukewarm, that He will spew them or vomit them out of His mouth. He doesn’t want anything to do with a false profession of faith.

And I think it is interesting to see how man views things compared to God. Remember the dream of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel chapter 2. He saw a beautiful multi-metallic image that represented the different succeeding world empires. It was awesome. But when God see’s these empires, He see’ them as they really are, wild beasts that are destructive and deadly!

As Christians, it is a constant battle we fight, to do things that are pleasing to God. The problem is our hearts, they are wicked. And we need to have God search them and reveal to us what is in them so we may get rid of that garbage. And folks, as much as you may not like it, it is an ongoing process. The Psalmist said "O LORD, You have searched me and known me.

You know my sitting down and my rising up; you understand my thought afar off. Youcomprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For thereis not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether...Search me, OGod, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wickedway in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:1-4, 23-24. Let God search your heart, expose those evil things, and then give it to Him, don’t hold on to it!

Remember when we looked at the persecuted church, the church of Smyrna, they were small, poor, persecuted to the point of death for many, but God saw them as rich, spiritually speaking!

Now this self-sufficient church of Laodicea, they saw themselves as rich and in need of nothing. This is the city that refused help from Rome to rebuild their city after it was destroyed by an earthquake. Let’s look at verse 18, and I think it will help explain where they were coming from and where Jesus wanted them to go.

VERSE 18

Here is the EXHORTATION. Jesus’ counsel to this church is related to their position. They were a proud and wealthy banking center and yet Jesus calls for them to buy gold from Him that will make them rich. Peter tells us "that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ." I Peter 1:7. In other words, Peter is telling us that our faith, like gold, is heated through trials and tested. Thus, this gold is not bought, but received by faith. True wealth is found in true faith in God. And thus, real faith is more precious than real gold!

Secondly, they manufactured a black wool from sheep in which they made expensive garments with. And yet Jesus see’s them as naked for they have been clothed with the things of this world, their own righteousness, instead of the white garments of righteousness which is given to us by faith in Christ. In Matthew chapter 22, we see the parable of the marriage feast. And lets pick up the story in verse 11. We read "But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen."Matthew 22:11-14.

You see, you can’t enter the kingdom of God in your own righteousness, which is like filthy rags. But you must put on Christ and receive His righteousness into your life. Then the Father will see you as perfect, clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

Thirdly, some 13 miles north of this city was a medical school with an allegiance to the serpent god Asclepius. It was here they made an eye salve that was used in the treatment of some eye problems. This eye salve was famous and was called Phrygian powder. But they were spiritually blind to the things of God. They needed their eyes open by the Holy Spirit so they could truly see. It is only when we come to Christ that our spiritual eyes are opened. Paul said in I Corinthians 2:14, "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spirituallydiscerned."

And yet, today we are seeing the push to grow a church. We have books, seminars, to make your church grow big and be popular. We are called to go out into the community to see what kind of church the people want. And I think that is a tragic way to go, even though it may sound good on the outside. You see, you are blind to the things of God, His leading, and you are looking to the world for your growth plan. And as you try to please people, you end up not helping them, you are driving them away from Christ instead of leading them to Christ. Yes, the church in Laodicea was big, things were happening, many self-help groups, and yet Jesus saw them as wretched, miserable, poor and blind. And don’t think I am exaggerating about this. A church that follows this format of seeker-friendly churches, has had Bibles studies that instead of bringing your Bible and studying the Word of God, they were reading the book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. An unsaved man talking about marriage and he has been divorced several times! How sad.

I truly believe the focus for us as a church and as individuals is given to us in Acts chapter 2. It says, "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles...And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved." Acts 2:42-43, 47b. As a church, God will add to it those being saved. Our focus is teaching the Word, fellowship, communion and prayer. As individuals, only God can add to our lives as we submit to Him. We too are to read the Word of God, be in fellowship with believers, share in communion, and be in prayer. The key to lukewarmness!

VERSE 19

Jesus continues to exhort them by telling them to be earnest and repent. Don’t remain in your lethargic condition, your non-committed condition. Do an about face and return to the Lord.

VERSE 20

Notice the position of Christ in relation to this church, He is on the outside knocking to get in. He is calling for anyone to open the door. But before that can happen a person must repent of his sins and then allow God to come into His heart. Also, note that God will not break that door down but patiently and lovingly He continues to knock, waiting for that person to open up the door of his heart.

Holman Hunt painted a picture of Jesus knocking on a door, and this painting hangs in St. Paul’s cathedral in London. As this painting was unveiled, a critic came up to Mr. Hunt and said, "You’ve made a mistake, Mr. Hunt, there’s no handle on the door!" "That was intentional," replied Hunt. "The door opens only from the inside!" You see, the only one preventing you from going to heaven is YOU! Jesus is telling you to open the door of your heart so He may come in and be not only Savior but Lord of your life! It is as Jesus said in John 14:23, "...‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him."

And for a church, all it takes is one person to open the door and that may be the spark that ignites the church for Christ! But it is always the Lord doing the knocking and pursuing, all we must do is respond to His call.

Now I like this about Jesus. Much of His ministry focused around eating. And our Christian fellowship today are many times focused around pot lucks and eating! Hey, it’s Scriptural! And the ultimate feast and fellowship is seen in heaven with the marriage supper of the Lamb which is found in Revelation chapter 19, beginning in verse 7 where we read "Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write: "Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!"’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God." Revelation 19:7-9.

VERSE 21

The PROMISE is this. For those that overcome the things of this world, and that is done only by faith in Christ, (I John 5:4-5), that we will share in Jesus’ victory and we will sit and rule and reign with Him in the kingdom age.

VERSE 22

This letter is a wake-up call to the apostate church of today. If they refuse to open the door of their heart and the door of the church, they will go through the tribulation period. They will not enter into the kingdom age of God. They are traveling down the road of self-righteous deception that is leading them to the gates of Hell!

As we close this seventh letter to the church in the Roman province of Asia, we close out church history. We have covered the apostolic church of the first century through the apostate church of the last days. And the next time you will see the church mentioned on the earth is in Revelation chapter 19 when we return with the Lord. And we will see that next time as we move into chapter 4.

As I bring this study to a close, let me give you this little self-test to see how you are doing in your relationship with the Lord. If you are on fire for Him or not. A friend of mine shared this test with me and I think it is great. Be honest and see where you stand. Now 1 will be on the lowest end of the scale and 10 the highest.

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