J.C. Thompson |

Join us in exploring Jesus' letter to the church of Laodicea and discussing how Jesus' strong confrontation should lead us to a renewed and effective faith.

Jesus at the Center of the Church
Lukewarm • Message 7
J.C. Thompson
September 24, 2023

A. Introduction (Revelation 3:14-16. C/R: Matthew 8:5-10; Mark 6:6)

This might be the most famous of the churches in modern culture today because of this particular verse speaks of Jesus’ response:

Revelation 3:15–16 (NLT)
“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth!”

This is graphic language. This probably was not represented in any Children’s Bible growing up. The idea that Jesus’ opinion on someone’s faith would make Him want to spit out of His mouth is not something we talk about often.

But Jesus does respond to our faith in this way, a negative way. But that is not the only type of response that Jesus has to faith.

Matthew 8:5–10 (NLT)
When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with Him, “Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.” Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.” But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have You come into my home. Just say the word from where You are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.” When Jesus heard this, He was amazed. Turning to those who were following Him, He said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!”

Jesus was amazed by this man’s faith.

What is the difference between these two types of faith?

What is about a faith that makes Jesus want to spit up versus a faith that amazes Him?

Bryan said this phrase last week and you might have missed it, but at Brookwood, we want you to have a faith that captures the attention of heaven. A faith that amazes Jesus.

How do we come by that faith and maybe more particular to our text today, how do we avoid a faith that makes Jesus sick?

Let’s look at how Jesus addresses the church of Laodicea.

First, it is important to note that Jesus commends nothing about this church. This is important for us to note, and I do not want to skim over this.

Jesus, who was described as Gentle and Lowly in heart, could not find anything to praise in this church? Yes!

Jesus’ gentleness is not opposed to His truthfulness. Culture might want to teach you that Jesus is only one or the other, but He is always completely both Gentle and Truthful. Full of Justice and Mercy.

B.  Confronts

1. Complacency  (Revelation 3:15-16. C/R: 2 Kings 19:28; Proverbs 13:4; Isaiah 5:4)

Laodicea is the church at the end of the Roman Road. Situated in between Hierapolis and Colossae.

This is a picture of one of the Laodicean aqueducts, they got hot water from Hierapolis and more than likely cold water from Colossae in a mountain spring.

Laodiceans They were known for 3 things: banking, black wool, and an eye salve from their medical school.

In addition, Laodicea had a few amphitheaters. Laodicea was an economic hub, a center of pleasure and entertainment, and was the most critical of all the letters from Jesus to the 7 churches.

I think often this passage of Scripture is interpreted in one of two ways.

1. That Jesus would rather you either be all in with your faith or rather you be full-on opposed to Him rather than on the fence.
2. The 2nd way of interpreting this is that Jesus is speaking directly to the church about their ineffectiveness.

While I think that there is some evidence for either of these interpretations, I strongly lean to the latter explanation here. Why? Because it does not make sense to me that Jesus would rather someone be opposed to Him. This is not consistent with Scripture that talks about Jesus patiently waiting for people to turn to Him or that He is willing that none should perish.

I think that Jesus is using the illustration of the two different types of waters in neighboring cities to drive His point home with the Laodiceans.

The Hot water of Hierapolis is useful for medicinal purposes. The cold water of Colossae was refreshing from a mountain stream and good for drinking.

So, what is Jesus illustrating? He is illustrating the complacency or uselessness of their faith.

In the Old Testament, there is a picture given through the prophet Isaiah of God preparing the soil, planting the best vines, loving the soil and the plants and the grapes. But the vines only produced bitter grapes. See this in Isaiah 5:4

Isaiah 5:4 (NLT)
“What more could I have done for My vineyard that I have not already done? When I expected sweet grapes, why did My vineyard give Me bitter grapes?”

God goes on to say in that passage, that He will let those vines get destroyed by animals, He would drop no rain on the vines, He will let them be overgrown, rotting, and useless.

It is dangerous to allow our faith to grow useless.

I think another aspect of this illustration is meant to stick out to the Laodiceans. They were known for their recreational activities. In fact, we have evidence that Laodiceans served Wine with Hot Water and certain drinks with Snow. Jesus might be directly challenging their parties as well! You know about serving these hot drinks and cold drinks, but you are neither of those, you are lukewarm.

Lukewarm water had a purpose in those days, to induce vomiting.

Jesus is explaining to the church that faith that is not being utilized or exercised grows useless. And that faith is disgusting to Jesus.

We must have a faith that grows, and the way to grow our faith is to exercise and develop it. Spending time with God and prayer, surrounding ourselves with people who are growing in their faith, and utilizing our gifts both finances and talents and time (all of these, not some of these) in service to the church.

While complacency kills your faith, courage cultivates your faith.

Is your faith useful to God? Are you benefiting the kingdom of God? This afternoon we will have a membership class designed specifically to get you connected and grow your faith.

2. Self-sufficiency  (Revelation 3:17-19. C/R: Ecclesiastes 5:1-3; 2 Corinthians 3:5)

Revelation 3:17–19 (NLT)
“You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from Me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from Me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.”

It wasn’t just that the Laodiceans’ faith was useless, it was also that they would have told you that they were just fine on their own. In fact, they did.

In AD 60, Laodicea was wrecked by an earthquake. Rome desired for Laodicea to rebuild the city so they offered to give to them financially, but Laodicea refused the help and support. Instead, they utilized their own wealth and rebuilt their own city.

In our culture, we praise self-sufficiency. In fact, we raise our children to be self-sufficient. But are we missing something in discipling out of them a reliance on Christ?

Jesus took the very thing that they had to be proud of in the world’s eyes and stripped them of that.

You think you’re rich? You’re not rich, buy gold from me, then you’ll be rich.

You think you’ve got sweet threads made from your unique black wool. You’re naked, buy white clothes from me.

You think you can see; you can’t see unless you get ointment from me.

Jesus shares this discipline that was meant to strike at the self-sufficient hearts of those in that church. Jesus will do the same to us.

When Bryan and I were getting to know one another, he shared with me that God has called Him to build people up. To encourage them. To pour liquid fire on people to live out the call that God has placed on their lives.

I remember leaving that meeting and I shared with my wife, I mean who in the world needs liquid fire poured on them. If you are in need of that, you have a problem!

But you know who needed that encouragement, that building up? Me. It has been a blessing to be serving alongside Bryan and receiving encouragement from Him and from those of you in the church. It’s also been a blessing watching him encourage our staff and our church.

Self-sufficiency produces selfishness, but dependency on God produces compassion.

When you reach out to God for everything, you realize how much God has to offer others. Rather than look down on others, you look up to God for others.

See the difference?

Can I encourage you for a moment? This church, Brookwood, is not useless, but some of you in this room might be riding on the coattails of the faithful in this church.

Sure, you might be successful in the eyes of the world, but Jesus says to the Laodiceans, and you that this world is passing away. If you are not relying on Him, you are in danger.

Remind yourself of this passage in 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 3:5 (NLT)
It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God.

You may come to this church and feel like everything is taken care of, but I dream of a day when we have a waiting list of volunteers, where there is an opportunity for every child, regardless of need, to receive faithful love and discipleship from an adult and a teenager.

I dream of the day when the community comes to us with a great need knowing that our church will do everything we can to fulfill it.

I dream of the day when there are no children in need of homes or parents to love them in the Upstate.

This will not come to fruition because of our great gifts, but instead because of our great reliance on God.

C. Offers… (Revelation 3:20-22)

1. Communion

If our faith has grown lukewarm and ineffective, what is there to do? Well, Jesus does not just end with rebuke, but with an offer.

Revelation 3:20–22 (NLT)
“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear My voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with Me on My throne, just as I was victorious and sat with My Father on His throne.” “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches.”

This picture is not a picture of evangelism. Jesus is standing at the door of the church. Waiting to see if the church will respond in repentance and let Him in. Jesus desires for the church to have a vibrant faith that is growing in depth in their relationship with Him and reaching their neighbors for Him.

But Laodicea has grown stale in their faith. Either through sinful complacency or possibly hurts or trials.

Some of you in this room might be in the same place today. Do you want a faith that is thriving, do you want a faith that amazes Jesus? I want our church to be filled with people who grab the attention of Jesus with their faith.

Now is the only time you have. Half-baked efforts, occasional good resolutions, are like the early cloud and the morning dew, soon gone. Unless there is a wholehearted effort to return to God, and real determination to stick at it until your soul has been truly revived, all efforts will come to nothing. Then you shall know the Lord, if you follow on to know him.
John Owen, Spiritual Mindedness

Jesus is making this plain. If your faith is ineffective. If your heart towards the things of God has become lukewarm and you are beginning to desire the things of the world more and more and the things of God less and less. There is a way out.

It is to turn from our indifference and turn towards Christ.

Christ is not only offering an opportunity to repent, but an opportunity to draw close to Him relationally.

1 Peter 4:17 (NLT)
For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household. And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God’s Good News?

Today, let’s open the door to our hearts and let Christ fill them again.

Read More