Summary: Worship is declaring God’s sufficiency and denouncing our self-sufficiency.
I love coffee. That’s why I was so happy when I saw that there’s a medical study that confirms that coffee is a health drink. Now coffee is great either hot or cold. When it’s hot, I like to drink Café Americano. When it’s cold, I like to drink a Mocha Frap. But, imagine coffee when it’s lukewarm. Would you drink stale coffee? I won’t.
Now’s there’s a church that tastes like stale coffee. The Lord even threatened to vomit it. Let us open our Bible in Revelation 3:14-22. Let us ask ourselves, “Is our church stale?” Let us pray…
Remember our main point last week? Worship is WORTH-SHIP. How we worship shows how much WORTH we give God. You may be asking, “We are studying the worth of worship. How come I don’t even see the word ‘worship’ here in our passage?” I was attracted to this passage because of verse 20: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Here, we see the Lord outside the church. Remember that in Malachi 1:10, the Lord lamented, “‘Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will accept no offering from your hands.’” In Malachi, the Lord wants to keep them out of the temple. In Revelation, the Lord was actually kept outside the church. That’s the connection that I saw! Can you imagine being in a party where the birthday celebrant was absent or, worse, not invited? Can you imagine a worship service where the Lord is not present? This shows that this particular church had no intimate relationship with God. Their worship was worthless. What about our church? Where is the Lord now? Is He in our midst or outside?
Laodicea was a key city in Asia Minor at that time. Here in the context our passage the Lord spoke to seven cities in that region. Usually, He would give a revelation about Himself, a review of the state of the church with commendation and a condemnation and a recommendation with resulting reward or reprimand. Four of the churches have both commendation and condemnation. Two have commendation only and no condemnation. But Laodicea has condemnation only and no commendation at all!
The Lord started with this revelation about Himself in verse 14: “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.” The designation “Amen” means He is the truth. As such, He is “the faithful and true witness.” That means that His assessment of the state of the church in Laodicea “is perfectly trustworthy and faithful.” As “the ruler of God’s creation,” that means that the church is fully and ultimately accountable to Him.
And here’s His assessment of the state of the church in verse 15: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Note the adjectives “cold,” “hot” and “lukewarm.” When I was a young believer, I thought that “hot” was positive, as in, “hot” or “on fire” for the Lord, and “cold” was negative, as in, growing “cold” or “indifferent” of Him. But I wondered why Jesus said, “I wish you were either [hot] or [cold]!” Why would the Lord wish that we would be “cold” for Him? The Message version goes like this: “I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You’re not cold, you’re not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit.” It’s obvious in the text that He likes both. What he clearly dislikes was being “lukewarm” or “stale” and “stagnant.”
Here’s where a little background helps. According to the NIV Study Bible, Laodicea had no water supply of its own. Using aqueducts, it pipes “the hot, medicinal” water from the springs of Hierapolis. It also pipes cold, refreshing water from the springs of Colossae. So, both the adjectives “hot” and “cold” are positive. However, due to the distance, the water ends up lukewarm. As one commentary says, “The church in Laodicea supplied neither healing for the spiritually sick nor refreshment for the spiritually weary.”
Spiritually speaking, what made them “lukewarm?” Verse 17 gives the answer: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’” In a word, pride. The church there was declaring that they don’t need anyone or anything. Before John wrote the book of Revelation, an earthquake had hit Laodicea. But its arrogant citizens did not even accept any help from Rome in rebuilding the city. After all, it was in fact the wealthiest in that region. “It was widely known for its banking establishments, medical school and textile industry.” Just as the city rejected any help from the empire, so also the church did not want to receive anything from God. They felt so self-sufficient. I could imagine that its members were rich, well-respected. But the Lord declared their true state in verse 17, “But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”