Neither Hot Not Cold Revelation 3:14-22

The city of Laodicea was prominent and wealthy, famed for its banks and its merchants, and for the manufacture of linen and the production of healing eye ointments. And the church in Laodicea was similarly prosperous, wealthy and successful – on the outside.
Revelation 3 14 ‘To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.
We do well to remember who it is who is speaking to the Seven Churches. It is the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, the ruler of all creation, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
15 I know your deeds,
The Lord Jesus knows everything there is to know about every church and every individual. And his message to the church in Laodicea is this.
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
Straight to the point. No words of praise. Not even a glimmer of encouragement. Just straight down to business. You are neither hot not cold. You are lukewarm. In other words – you are just playing at following Jesus. You are just pussyfooting around. You are half-hearted. Following Jesus is just a hobby for you – not the whole of your life. Neither hot nor cold.
Many people are wholehearted in many areas of life. Totally committed to their families, or to their careers. Some are totally committed to playing their sport and other just to watching sport or following their team. Others are totally committed to their hobbies or their favourite entertainments. The Laodicean Christians should have been on fire for God. But they weren’t. They were just lukewarm.
And because they were half-hearted in their faith, judgment was coming on the church at Laodicea.
16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
This is a very serious warning. I want to say two things about it. The first is that it is addressed to the church at Laodicea. It is not obvious what it means when Christ says he will spit them out of His mouth. But it is clear that these words are to the church as a whole. So it may mean that God was going to withdraw His blessing from this church, so that the church would shrivel and die. I guess we all know of churches where this has happened. Churches which once were thriving but may not even exist any more. That can be the result when a church becomes lukewarm and half-hearted and apathetic.
However we need to be clear that this verse does not tell us anything about how the Living Christ will treat individual Christians who are lukewarm. It is not legitimate to read this as a warning that Christ could “spit an individual Christian from his mouth”, whatever that would mean. And it does not tell us anything about whether an individual Christian can lose or choose to reject his or her salvation. This verse does not answer that question. The warning is addressed to the whole Church of Laodicea.
But the second thing I want to emphasise about this warning is just how serious it is. Because on the face of it what the church at Laodicea were doing wrong does not seem so serious. They weren’t worshipping idols. They weren’t compromising with pagan religions. They weren’t distorting the gospel with lies. They weren’t indulging in immoral acts. They are not accused of committing any of the terrible sins some of the other churches were. But they were still singled out for judgment. Why? Because they were neither hot nor cold. They were just pussyfooting around. They were half-hearted. They were complacent and resting on their laurels.
This is why it seems to me that in some ways this warning is more serious than any given to the other churches in Revelation. Because it reminds us a church does not have to fall into dreadful sins to come under the judgment of God. Judgment can come just because we are lukewarm. God loves us so much and Jesus is so wonderful that we should be on fire for God – anything less is inadequate. Lukewarm and half-hearted just isn’t good enough! A hot drink is warming. A cold drink is refreshing. But a lukewarm drink is neither one nor the other. It is just insipid. A hot shower is stimulating. A cold shower wakes us up. But a lukewarm shower is just unpleasant. Lukewarm just isn’t good enough.
Some scholars think that the Risen Christ is alluding here to two famous springs near Laodicea. Hot mineral springs at Hierapolis were thought to give healing. On the other hand, the cold water springs in Colossae provided refreshment. But the Christians in the church at Laodicea were not bringing healing to the spiritually ill. Nor were they offering refreshment to the weary. They were neither hot nor cold and that was no use to anybody.
So, just to be clear, what might a lukewarm church look like? A lukewarm church is not cold and dead. But neither is it on fire for God as it should be! It may prefer to call its lukewarmness charity, or meekness, or moderation, or tolerance. But the Bible says that such lukewarmness literally makes God sick! A lukewarm church is a comfortable Christian club built on shallow relationships. Shallow relationships with each other because their relationship with God is shallow. A lukewarm church doesn’t care about neighbours who are doomed to a lost eternity without Christ. It is satisfied and comfortable, thank you very much. But it just lacks enthusiasm. It is half-hearted, apathetic and indifferent, especially towards the things of God like prayer and worship.
Some sentences from Vernon McGee sum up what a lukewarm church looks like. “I wonder what God would say to us today as He sees all of our so-called Christian organizations in ceaseless activity but no action—motion but no movement. We are not standing on the promises; we are just sitting on the premises! We are not stalwart soldiers of the faith. We are seeking entertainment, not instruction or inspiration. We are paper dolls playing church.” Lukewarm and half-hearted. Just playing at church.
The story is told of a competition among the demons to find the best way of keeping people from being saved. Third prize went for the suggestion, “Tell people there’s no heaven.” Second prize was for the masterplan, “Tell people there’s no hell.” But the first prize went to the strategy which the powers of evil are using to this day. “Tell people it doesn’t really matter.”
C.S. Lewis wrote that “The devil will always see to it that there are bad people. The job of the demons is to produce people who don’t care, who just can’t be bothered!” A lukewarm church is simply a church full of people who just can’t be bothered.
The Laodiceans were neither hot nor cold. And they were putting their trust in the wrong things.
17 You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
Like everybody else in their prosperous city, the Laodiceans were putting their trust in material possessions, in wealth and success. They thought they were rich – but in fact they were poor. In God’s eyes they were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. They were chasing after treasures on earth instead of treasures in heaven. They were serving the false god of Money. Remember what Jesus said to the Rich Young Ruler.
Luke 18 22 …. ‘You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’

The Laodiceans would have failed that same test as the Rich Young Ruler did. They were putting their trust in wealth instead of in God. God was not their master – Money was! They thought they were so rich and that they didn’t need a thing, but the reality was that they were spiritually bankrupt. Oswald Chambers wrote “Complacency and spiritual pride are always the beginning of degeneration. When I begin to be satisfied with where I am spiritually, I begin to degenerate.”
But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see.
Here is God’s prescription for this lukewarm church. Refined gold for the bankers – treasures in heaven not treasures on earth. White clothes to wear for the manufacturers of fine linen – the white robes which the redeemed of the Lord will wear in glory, described in a number of places in the Book of Revelation. And ointment for your eyes for those who sold that ointment. They were spiritually blind to their desperate situation. Only God could open their eyes so they could see the spiritual mess they were in. They needed things which only God could give them – gold, white clothes and ointment for their blindness.
They thought they were rich and that they didn’t need anything. Instead of trusting in the wrong things, the church of Laodicea needed to put their trust in God. They have to come to repentance.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.
There is the good news! God doesn’t give up on people and God doesn’t give up on churches. Not even on churches like Laodicea. The warning is deadly serious – but so is the offer of a second chance. Be earnest. Be zealous. Take God seriously. And repent! Have a change of mind. See things as God sees them. Stop going your own way. Turn round and go God’s way. Repent.
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 that person, and they with me.

The church at Laodicea had shut God out. And Jesus was knocking to get back in. We obviously think of the painting “Light of the world” by Holman Hunt. I have written an article about this in the Summer issue of Haven News. The painting of the Risen Christ knocking on the door which only has a handle on the inside. This is often taken as an invitation to individuals who have been shutting God out of their lives – an invitation to open the door and receive the mercy and grace of God by letting Christ into their lives to be their Saviour. And that invitation is there. But in context, this is actually an invitation to churches that have shut God out – an invitation to open the door and invite God in again, to return to God and recommit themselves to Him. To put their trust in God instead of in human wealth. To repent of being lukewarm and become red hot for God again.
As Paul wrote to Timothy Fan into flame the gift of God (2 Timothy 1:6). Or to the Romans,
Romans 12:11 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.

Message translation: Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame.

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 that person, and they with me.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. Of course, some people just don’t hear Jesus knocking! They are too busy, their lives are too full of noise, they are distracted by the world, just caught up in being entertained. There are even some Christians who have become deaf to the Lord.
Other people do hear Jesus knocking on the door of their lives, and won’t open the door. Some are houseproud! They aren’t willing to let Jesus into their lives because they know “the house isn’t clean”. But that’s silly! We cannot wait until our lives are spotless before we let Jesus in. That day will never come. Jesus is the only one who can clean up our mess! We can’t do it for ourselves. We need to let Jesus in so that HE can do what needs doing!
Then there are many people who do not open the door and let Jesus into their lives because they are simply too scared. Maybe scared because Jesus is a stranger and we should never open our door to strangers. Such people just don’t know Jesus. It is our job as Christians to reveal Jesus to our neighbours and friends, and to tell them about Jesus, so they can come to trust him for themselves. Then they won’t be scared to open the door and let Him in and get to know Him!
Some people won’t open the door because they are only prepared for Jesus to visit them for a while and then leave them alone, but they know He will wants to come in to stay and move in and make his home in their lives. Perhaps they are afraid he will want to make changes in our lives which they don’t want to make.
Some people are scared of what they might stand to lose. But Jesus is not some kind of thief who forces his way in to TAKE from us! The only things that Jesus wants to take from us are our sin, our worry, our hopelessness, our disappointments, our failures, our wasted years, our weakness and our pain!
Jesus isn’t knocking on the door of our lives to TAKE from us – but to GIVE to us! To give us eternal life, life in all its fullness. To give us love and joy and peace. So He can “eat with us and us with him” He doesn’t want to come in to rob us of our food and drink, but to feed us with the bread of life and the new wine of the Kingdom. Jesus longs for us to open the door of our lives so he can come in to be with us, to give us the pleasure of His company and the immense privilege of his presence. Jesus is knocking because He simply wants to give Himself to us.
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 that person, and they with me.

If we will only open the door – He WILL come in! That’s a promise! And there are so many wonderful blessings waiting for any person and any church who open the door of their lives and welcome Jesus in to eat with them.
21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.
22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

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