Summary: A motivational message to move ’Lukewarm Christians’ (if there were such a thing) into a passionate relationship with God.
Lukewarm & Almost Christian
Here is a passage that you have all heard before – many times. I don’t mean to stand before you this morning and try to pretend that this is brand new material for you. I have preached on this passage twice before, this makes the third time. I have little doubt that Jim preached this passage before I came, and Preston preached it before him. As a matter of fact, if we could talk to some of your mothers and fathers and Grandmothers and Grandfathers, I believe we would find out that every preacher that has ever preached here for any period of time has preach Revelation 3:14-21 – each one more than once.
So pastor, why are you doing this to us this morning? A few here have never heard with their ears, many have never heard with their hearts. And for the few that have heard it and it changed your life and deep down inside, maybe somewhere unseen, you are on fire for the Lord, you’re almost jumping out of your skin excited about Jesus – you’re almost compelled to shout halleluiah over what Jesus has done for you – almost compelled to give a testimony about how good God has been to you –––
for the sake of those other sinners sitting around you today, just bare with me, but don’t tune me out – I think that God is actually speaking to everyone one of us in this room this morning.
In the second and third chapters of Revelation, Jesus, through the words of the Apostle John, addresses the strengths and weaknesses of what we have come to call the “seven churches of Asia Minor”. Some of these churches were doing better than others.
Smyrna and Philadelphia, for example, were for the most part doing quite well. Jesus has nothing negative to say about either of these congregations, and in fact He encourages and affirms them for their faithfulness to him.
Ephesus, Thyatira and Pergamum, on the other hand, elicit what we might call “mixed reviews” from Jesus. Though he has some positive things to say about these churches, he also has a strong critique of the things they are doing wrong.
A sixth church, the church at Sardis, is in much sadder shape. Despite the presence of a few righteous people in the congregation, the church there is said by Christ to be “dead”. They have a reputation of being alive, but that reputation (Jesus says) is more fantasy than reality. Those words that Jesus uses to describe Sardis are the same words used by some in this denomination to describe our own dearly beloved congregation. I submit to you that those folks may not know us very well. We have a reputation for being alive, but I believe that deep down in our heart of hearts we are alive. That may be our problem, we keep it hidden too deep down.
We might be able to take characteristics from the descriptions of each of these churches and say we are more like this combination of characteristics –
maybe some times more like Philadelphia, the church of brother love; and, yet at other times more like another church who doesn’t measure up so well –
maybe even sometimes like the church at Laodicea.
That’s the seventh and the final church that Jesus addresses – it is certainly a church that is different from the rest.
We might begin by noting that Laodicea was an important city in the ancient world. But the only reason to mention it is to say that the people were comfortable – like us for the most part – they had stuff – they were satisfied; and yet Jesus is pointing out there is something important missing in this church.
Let’s look at verse 14 together:
Just that first praise: “To the Angel of the church…” This is important. In all seven cases it was the “Angle of the church” to whom the letter was written. The word angel comes from the Greek word angelos. Angelos simply translated means “messenger.” It could mean a heavenly messenger such as those who announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds on the hillside, (you remember how the glory of the Lord shown round about them and they were sore afraid), or it could mean an earthly messenger, the one whom God has called to take His message to His people.
Most theologians believe that in this case the Bible refers to the earthly messenger – the pastor of the church. I agree. God did not order St. John to write a letter to a celestial being. The God’s Word translation reads, “To the messenger of the church in Laodicea.” That’s the pastor. The living Bible paraphrases this nicely… “Write this letter to the leader of the church in Laodicea…”