Summary: God’s fanatic love for us makes us fanatics for him.
If you’ve ever been to Texas, you know how much the people there love ice tea. Many restaurants in Texas even serve ice tea like they serve ice water here. If you’ve been to England, you know how most people there would prefer to drink their tea hot. While Texans and the English may argue whether tea is best served cold or hot, they would agree that lukewarm tea is never good. Have you ever had lukewarm tea before? Doesn’t just the thought of it make you shudder? If so, you can understand how Jesus felt about the lukewarm faith of the Laodiceans. Because they were neither hot nor cold for him, Jesus was ready to spit, literally vomit these Christians out of his mouth. Since lukewarm Christianity makes Jesus nauseous, we would do well to turn up the heat on our faith. Let’s find out how we can do that.
The last of Jesus’ seven letters in Revelation was addressed to Christians living in the city of Laodicea. This was the only congregation that didn’t receive a single word of praise from Jesus. What happened to this vibrant congregation that had at one time even received a personal letter from the Apostle Paul (that letter has since been lost)? It seems as if the Christians in Laodicea had been infected by their surroundings. Laodicea was a wealthy city. It was the banking center of the area with a government mint. It produced a special kind of wool for which people paid good money. And it had developed an eye salve that was prescribed by doctors from all over the Roman Empire. The city was so rich that when it was destroyed by an earthquake in 60 A.D., the citizens refused financial help from Rome and rebuilt the city on their own.
This “we don’t need anybody’s help” attitude had infiltrated the church, for Jesus said to them: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17). Their affluence had made the Christians in Laodicea complacent. Sure, their money may have built a beautiful church and provided Christmas hampers for the less-fortunate in their city, but this didn’t mean that the members themselves were hot for the Lord. With money in their pockets to fix up their homes, take their kids to ballet lessons, and head out of town for a weekend get-away every now and then, attending church and Bible class became just another item on their to do list and it must not have been a priority. If they could make it to church, great. If not, well they knew who Jesus was and what he had done for them. There was no need to be a fanatic about faith.
The thing is, Jesus wants fanatics. He wants us to be zealous for his Word and his work. When there are opportunities to worship him and study his Word, he wants us to make time for that. When we hear of opportunities to serve the Lord, whether through the building committee or evangelism committee, Jesus wants us to find out what we can do to help. He certainly doesn’t want us to criticize how the work is being done while we remain unwilling to roll up our sleeves to do it. Such indifference makes Jesus sick.
Have we become like the Laodiceans? Are we in danger of being spat out of Jesus’ mouth? How can we be? We’re in church this morning aren’t we? We volunteer for various church activities. We even rearrange our work schedule to do these things. We’re not like the straying member who says that Jesus is important but doesn’t make time for him, either here or at home.
While it’s certainly wonderful that we are in God’s house this morning, our presence alone doesn’t mean that we are on fire for the Lord. Those who are hot for the Lord are happy to come to worship and study his Word because they genuinely see their need for him and are thankful for what he has done to save them. Therefore before I preach this sermon to you, I better preach it myself. I better see how undeserving I am of going to heaven because, even though I may be a pastor, I often treat my ministry more like a career than a calling. As you listen to this sermon, or any sermon, apply it first to yourself. When Jesus urges patience, when he says, “Don’t grumble against each other”, don’t look to see if others are paying attention, just make sure that you are repenting of those sins!
If nothing Jesus says this morning makes us uncomfortable, it means we’re totally on fire for the Lord, or we are totally indifferent to him and could care less about our sins. Jesus’ words to the Laodiceans should cut to the heart because we are often lukewarm to his Word and to his work. Jesus rebukes us because he loves us (Rev. 3:19). He points out these sins because he has a solution for them. Jesus said: “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see” (Rev. 3:18). The gold and white robe Jesus offers is a picture of forgiveness and the riches of heaven. When we feel ashamed for not being fired up for the Lord, we don’t have to hang our heads because Jesus has covered us with his forgiveness. When we wonder about God’s love for us, Jesus gives us the eye salve of his Word so that we can see what he has done and continues to do for us.