Rev. Janet Doyle
Elmer Presbyterian Church
Sunday, February 20, 2022
Scripture: Revelation 3: 14-22
Sermon: Beyond Comfort
If you have ever noticed, most of the older faucets for sinks and bathtubs have a cold faucet and a hot faucet for the water to come out. It is impossible to get warm water because the two never mix. We encountered this when traveling and living in other countries. I had never seen that before. No lukewarm water to wash your face. You would have to fill a bowl with hot and cold to get the lukewarm.
Have you ever wanted a nice hot cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate and when you finally get to drink it you are disappointed because it is now just lukewarm? Have you ever been so thirsty on a hot summer’s day that you really wanted a nice ice-cold drink to quench your thirst? Most of the time lukewarm is not very satisfying.
Our scripture lesson today focuses on the church at Laodicea, that was known as a “Lukewarm Church,” but within the Book of Revelation, the author John the Apostle writes to seven churches located in seven cities of the Roman province of Asia, an area now known as Turkey.
The cities were situated in a circular pattern. The central focus of this book is the return of Jesus Christ, but the book also reveals the things of the past, the resurrected Christ, the things which are; this is the description of the seven churches, and then the things which will take place after this or a prophetic unfolding of future events.
The Book of Revelation is optimistic in the struggle between good and evil. John writes being confident that a decisive victory was at hand and God’s Messiah, Jesus, had already come, had already conquered, and would come again to complete His work. John was looking to the future and the return of Christ as we do as well.
John received his revelation about the victory of God in the face of terror and evil during a period of great persecution for the church.
In the Book of Revelation, God’s impending judgment of the wicked Roman Empire is a prelude to His judgment at the end of time. John’s message is that God has already triumphed over evil and that He will destroy all evil at the end of time. John wanted the Christians in these seven churches of Asia to let the knowledge of God’s ultimate victory encourage them to perseverance and faith in the midst of persecution.
The Book of Revelation looks at the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. The first six churches, except Laodicea, were given commendations of rejecting evil, being patient, persevering, serving, loving, faithfulness, faithfulness to martyrdom, enduring suffering, and poverty and the dislike of false doctrine.
While the other churches received some encouragement or commendation from the Lord, Laodicea, like Sardis, had an abundance of resources but held an indifferent spirit, described as lukewarm. They all had areas they needed to grow in, but the Church in Laodicea was in big trouble. This church made God feel sick. The church in Laodicea had people who were claiming to follow Jesus, but their actions make Jesus ill. The Christians in that church practiced “Lukewarm Christianity.”
The same message to Laodicea is relevant even today. We have so many opportunities in our country to meet Jesus and grow in our faith, but our society has a lukewarm faith or none at all. We have an abundance of churches on each corner of town, yet people don’t think church is important for them or their children’s upbringing.
Laodicea had a high opinion of itself. “I have become wealthy and have need of nothing,” Revelation 3:17. Sounds like our society, doesn’t it? The Lord doesn’t accept that kind of attitude. It says he will spit you from his mouth if you are lukewarm in your faith. Lukewarm isn’t a good taste.
Wealthy and having no need of anyone or anything is another way of saying, “I’m on my own and I don’t need anybody telling me what to do?”
The closer we get to the second coming of Jesus the same spiritual illnesses that afflicted the Laodicean church can afflict today’s churches. Have you noticed that?
To understand why the scripture is talking about being lukewarm you need to understand the City of Laodicea. The City of Hieropolis, seven miles to the north, was known for its hot springs. The City of Colosse, less than 10 miles to the south was known for its cold waters that were pure and drinkable.
Laodicea had the unfortunate circumstance of having neither. When trying to pipe in the hot waters from the north, the water was lukewarm after the seven-mile distance. The water was also dirty and impure once the water got to Laodicea. The imagery Jesus is using is that they are useless and valueless. Hot water and cold water have use but not dirty lukewarm water. This statement reveals the current useless state of these Christians, just like their water supply.
The Laodicean Church thinks they are rich because of their physical possessions that they have. However, they are not rich toward God. They are wretched, poor, blind, and naked. They are lukewarm Christians because they have not invested in their relationship with God, but in this world. Their focus is not on the spiritual, but on the physical and material.
There are a number of ways that our churches and all of us as individuals can fall into the same state of uselessness, like the lukewarm Christians in Laodicea.
Lukewarm Christians do not really want to change their ways and confess their sins and have a new life committed to Jesus.
Lukewarm Christians love God, but they do not love him with all their heart, soul and strength.
Lukewarm Christians think about the comforts of life on earth rather than on eternity.
Lukewarm Christians rarely share their faith story with others.
Lukewarm Christians gauge their “goodness” by comparing themselves to the world.
Lukewarm Christians tend to choose what is popular over what is right. They care more about what people think about their actions than what God thinks about their heart.
Lukewarm Christians tend to walk by sight, not by faith. They don’t trust their lives to God, but to themselves.
What can we do personally to change our hot and coldness? The Book of Revelation gives instructions to the church. The first instruction is to buy the things you need from Christ. We must see as individuals and as a church universal that we are wretched, and naked. Only then will we come to Jesus and think about our spiritual wealth.
Only in Christ can we have true riches of clothing and insight. We are spiritually naked, and we need the clothing only Christ can supply. We are spiritually poor, and we need the gold that Christ offers. We are spiritually blind. We need the healing for our sight that only Christ can give.
We are striving for the things of this world rather than striving for Christ and his Kingdom. Seek God and the things of his Kingdom.
Last Sunday we talked about God’s unending love for us, and today we need to think about our devotion, love, obedience and loyalty to Christ and his Kingdom.
Finally, Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me.”
When I was little, I had a card with a picture of Jesus standing at a door and knocking but there was no door handle on the outside of the door. I thought that to be strange since every door has an outside handle. The reason for no door handle is that Jesus doesn’t just open the door and walk in uninvited. It is up to us to decide if we want a relationship with Jesus. He wants to be invited into your heart and into your life, into your house. He wants to be invited into the church. He wants to have fellowship with us. Jesus has done everything on his end so that we can have a relationship with him. He died and rose again from the dead so that we could not just be lukewarm but be excited about our faith and want to be running “HOT” for the Lord and bubbling with excitement.
God doesn’t want us to just be comfortable in our faith but to be zealous in our walk with Jesus, to open the door and sit and fellowship with our Savior.
One of the consistent images to the seven churches of Asia is that those who devote their lives to Christ will be victorious when they repent and turn away from the world and toward Christ.
We should study the example of these churches and we should strive to live in obedience with the Great Commission and to follow God’s leading as we look forward to the return of Christ. Amen.