Sunday, August 5, 2018

Neither cold nor hot

In Revelation chapters 2 and 3, Jesus instructs John to write letters to seven specific churches. These were by no means the only churches that Jesus could have chosen to give a report card too. I believe Jesus selected these seven because they represent the spiritual condition of the church as a whole at different points in world history.

When we use the term "the Church" in this context, we're talking about a group of people who have come together to worship together, to learn God's Word together, and to strengthen one another in the faith.

These seven churches also represent the spiritual condition of the church in these last days, which explains why these letters are part of the book of Revelation. When you read the messages or letters to the seven Churches, I hope you'll realize that even though they were addressed to actual churches that existed about two thousand years ago, these letters are just as relevant today. You should be able to identify with some of the things that Jesus said to these churches. A study of the 7 letters can help you to identify areas of your life that need change. For this message, I'm going to focus on the letter to the Church at Laodicea.

Jesus' message to the church of Laodicea, stands out from the letters to the other six churches because this letter had absolutely no words of affirmation for that church. This is because, spiritually speaking, not a single person in the church at Laodicea had any redeeming qualities. It was a lukewarm church and it made Jesus sick.

Here are the words that Jesus instructed John to write to the Laodiceans:
To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:
‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Revelation 3:14-22
Jesus addresses this letter to “the angel of the church in Laodicea”. The word “angel” literally means “messenger”, which in this case was probably referring to the pastor of the church. Even though the word can refer to an angelic being, it can’t mean that here because angels are never leaders of a church.

Notice that Jesus begins His message by reminding them who He is. Jesus refers to Himself as "The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God". We use the word "Amen" at the end of our prayers. We also use it to acknowledge agreement with something that someone has said. But in this case, the word translated as amen in this passage literally means "The True One".

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot
Jesus asserts that their deeds are proof of their spiritual condition. Jesus wishes that they were either cold or hot but because they were lukewarm he's about to spit them out of His mouth. Some translations use the word "vomit" instead of "spit" which describes just how repulsive they were to Him. This was the strongest statement that Jesus made to any of the churches. He was literally saying "you make Me sick"!

The Laodiceans would have understood that Jesus was using cold, hot, and lukewarm to describe their spiritual condition.

Some have taught that hot refers to someone who has a zeal for the Lord. People say "he’s on fire for the Lord" to refer to such a person. Since the opposite of hot is cold, then the opposite of zeal must describe someone who’s against the Lord. So some people have reasoned that Jesus was saying He wished that the Laodicean church was either for Him or against Him. I don't think that's what Jesus meant because God wishes for everyone to be saved. But those who are against His son Jesus are destined for destruction as long as they remain in that condition. So, I believe Jesus was using cold and hot as a metaphor for something pleasant and acceptable to Him.

Jesus often used metaphors that His hearers could understand and relate to, and that's what He did here. You see, Laodicea was known for its sparse and poor quality water supply. But, because they were rich, they were able to pipe in water from miles away. They piped in cold water from the city of Colossae and hot water from the hot springs at Hierapolis. The problem is that because the water had to travel for miles through stone pipes, by the time it arrived at Laodicea, it was lukewarm.

Like the water, the church at Laodicea was neither refreshing (like cold water)
nor healing (like hot spring water).

Miserable, poor, blind and naked
Laodicea was a wealthy city, known for their banks, medical school, and the textile industry. They were also famous for a salve that eased eye irritations. The trust that the Laodiceans had placed in their wealth had made them self-deluded about their spiritual condition.

The Faithlife Study Bible described the condition of this Church this way: "In their self-sufficiency, the church in Laodicea had locked Christ out. He wanted them to repent and let Him back into the Church".

You are poor
It must have been surprising for this Church to hear the Lord call them poor. Because the church had much material wealth, it assumed it was in need of nothing, when in fact it was spiritually bankrupt. Like the city, the church at Laodicea had convinced itself that it was self-sufficient—but they were deceived about their true spiritual state.

You are blind
What an eye-opener it must have been to be called blind. The doctors at the medical school in Laodicea had invented an eye salve that solves all kinds of issues with the eye. But Jesus was saying that they were blind to their spiritual condition.

You are naked
Because of the fine wool they produced, the Laodiceans had fine clothes to wear. But Jesus said they were spiritually naked because they had nothing that could cover their sin. They needed the white garments that only Jesus could give them to cover their shame and He was offering to sell them what they needed.

In His love and grace, Jesus offers them a way out of the darkness. He doesn’t want to vomit them out of His mouth which is why Jesus gave them a stern warning. Jesus told them how to correct the problem when He said “buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see”.

But how to do you buy anything from the one who created and already owns everything? Later in the book of Revelation, we see the answer:
Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
Revelation 19:7-8
Gold refined by fire is a metaphor for removing sin. Jesus wasn’t telling them that they had to earn their salvation but rather that He wanted them to repent of their sin and let Him back into their church.

Everyone who repents of their sin and turns to Christ will do good works (righteous acts) out of their love for God. When you love God with all your heart you naturally want to express that love by extending that love to other people, which results in good works.

Until Jesus returns, stay strong in the faith and do works worthy of repentance!

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