************ Sermon on Revelation 3:15-16 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 20, 2005
"Blessed are the Lukewarm"
Youth Group Retreat
I want to start off with a children's sermon. All the kids who are 40 years and older are asked to come to the front.
-cup of hot coffee and cup of lukewarm coffee
-bowl of hot oatmeal and bowl of lukewarm oatmeal
-buttered toast fresh out of the toaster and cold buttered toast
-hot fried egg and cold egg
-glass of iced water and glass of lukewarm water
Pass the items around and ask them to take a bite or a sip. Ask them if everything is okay. Ask them to describe what they are eating and its characteristics. Get those with the lukewarm items to admit the lukewarm items left something to be desired.
I Blessed are the Lukewarm?
"Blessed are the Lukewarm." That is the title of an article I read this past week.
"Blessed are the Lukewarm." That is the approach the world takes to religion and faith and God and the love we are talking about this weekend.
Let me give some examples.
In March, 2004 the California Supreme Court ruled that Catholic Charities – a social service organization affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church – needs to pay for employees' artificial birth control because it receives state money. Now, you need to realize that the Roman Catholic Church opposes artificial birth control. You can have your faith and religion, said the California Supremes, but don't actually practice it; don't actually believe it. "Blessed are the Lukewarm."
In New York the Salvation Army is being sued by the New York Civil Liberties Union for practicing religious discrimination. The Salvation Army now requires employees to divulge religious affiliation and affirm support for the Army's mission. The ACLU claims "The Salvation Army has improperly infused religion into the workplace." What does the ACLU expect? The Salvation Army is a Christian church. The Salvation Army can have faith and religion but they shouldn't actually practice it. "Blessed are the Lukewarm."
In San Diego the Boy Scouts of America have had their longtime lease of public parkland revoked because of their belief in God and their policy against gay scoutmasters. Presumably, the Boy Scouts would not have gotten into trouble if they did not practice their beliefs. "Blessed are the Lukewarm."
In the State of Washington, students can receive scholarships to attend the college of their choice – even Christian colleges. They may even study religion and theology. There is just one catch: don't major in religion and theology at a school that teaches it "to induce religious faith." Do you realize what this comes down to? You won't get a scholarship if you attend a religious school that actually believes what is taught. "Blessed are the Lukewarm."
A recent article in Christianity Today exposed the sex that goes on in our public colleges and universities. Did you know, many college-aged young people no longer date as a form of courtship? Instead they engage in something called "hooking up." "Hooking up" is dating without courtship or expectations or a future relationship or commitment. It is strictly about user sex. I use you and you use me for mutual pleasure. And liquor is usually the lubricant that makes things go. Christian kids, of course, can attend these colleges but the peer pressure and the coed dorms makes it almost impossible to save yourself for marriage. "Blessed are the Lukewarm." By the way, if ever there was an argument against attending a public college and living in its dorms, this is it.
"Blessed are the Lukewarm." That's what the world says about religion and faith and God and love.
B "Blessed are the Lukewarm." That's not what Jesus says. That's not what our "grown up kids" say. Listen to what Jesus says:
(Rev 3:16) So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.According to Jesus it is not blessed to be lukewarm in religion and faith and God and love.
C Are you lukewarm when it comes to religion and faith and God and love? I dare say that most of us here are raised in the faith and surrounded by the faith. We have Christian parents who believe in family devotions. Most of our homes have 3 or 4 or even more Bibles. We attend church on Sunday. We are in Catechism class. We attend youth group. Most of us attend Christian school. All of this can be a sign of real commitment and devotion. But all this religion can also make us lukewarm – there is so much that it doesn't stir us and excite us and move us. It is just something that is there like acne or breakfast in the morning.
D Our Scripture reading is a letter written to the church in Laodicea. They city of Laodicea lacked a local, adequate, convenient water supply. So her water was transported from hot-springs six miles to the south through a system of stone pipes. This water arrived at the city lukewarm. By way of contrast, just a few miles to the north laid the sister city of Hierapolis – above this city was a constant cloud of vapor rising from her bubbling hot springs; and to the east was the city of Colosse with her snow-capped mountains and clear, cold streams of water. But Laodicea's water was neither cold nor hot; rather, it was lukewarm.
Our Scripture reading charges that the church of Laodicea is exactly like the city's water supply – neither hot nor cold but lukewarm.
II A Lukewarm Church
A Jesus, the "Amen" says, "I know your deeds" (vs 15). To know what a church (or a Christian) is really like, to see what is in her heart, to take her pulse, Christ looks at her deeds or works. We know that He also does this with us! What Christ is interested in is faith that comes to expression in works. Christ wants to see salvation that is being worked out. He wants to see faith displayed.
B Christ is not at all impressed with Laodicea as He looks at her deeds. What does her deeds or works show? The works of the church are not even described. But whatever the works were, they showed Christ the true nature of this church: "that you are neither cold nor hot" (vs 15). Notice, Christ does not condemn the church of Laodicea for heresy or false teaching or immoral behavior. But He does condemn her for being neither cold nor hot.
In their spiritual life, their religion, their faith, their devotion to God, and their love, the Laodicean Christians were neither cold nor hot. The church was not cold or hostile to the Gospel; she did not reject the faith. But neither was the church hot and enthused about the Gospel; she was not excited and on fire about the faith. She was simply indifferent to the Gospel. She was indifferent about her devotion and commitment. She was indifferent in her love. Yes, the members of that church claimed to be Christian, yet it made no difference in what they did or how they lived. The church of Laodicea was like the water of Laodicea – neither cold nor hot but lukewarm.
C When it came to God, the Gospel, the Christian faith, and love, the church of Laodicea was lukewarm. And nothing is worse than lukewarm – as we saw in the children's sermon. A meal that is neither hot nor cold leaves something to be desired. Or, think of a glass of lukewarm water. Has this ever happened to you: you are hot, sweaty, and thirsty; you take a deep swallow of what you think is ice-cold water; instead you end up with a mouthful of lukewarm water? When that happens to me, I spit it out.
Christ warns Laodicea that He will do the exact same thing to her:
(Rev 3:15-16) 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.This seems a little startling, to say the least. Christ is saying He prefers rejection of the faith to the kind of faith the Laodiceans have. Christ is saying He wants total commitment or no commitment at all. You see, featureless lukewarmness is worse, and more difficult to overcome, than complete alienation from or hostility to Christ. Ask any missionary or minister: it is easier to get a heathen to change his or her whole life overnight than to get a lukewarm, indifferent Christian to make even a minor change in life. Hostility is always easier to overcome than lethargy.
There is a young man in the church I serve. He rarely comes to church. He can't be bothered with Bible reading and prayer. He claims to be a Christian but, if so, he is definitely lukewarm in his faith and religion and devotion.
I have a lady who recently started coming to church. Her husband is an atheist. I pray for him. I witness to him. He knows the Bible better than most Christians – just so he can argue with them. He came to a recent church event just to prove to himself what uptight, holier than thou, hypocrites we all are. His wife told me we proved him wrong – whether or not he can admit that, I don't know.
As a minister of the Gospel do you know what I prefer? I prefer the atheist. Right now I see more hope for him than for the young man.
So Christ warns the church and He warns us, "I am about to spit you out of my mouth" (vs 16). Christ doesn't say this because He hates the church of Laodicea. Rather, He says this because he cares for and loves the church. "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline," He says (vs 19). Parents who love their children, rebuke and discipline them when they do wrong. Not only that, but those parents also point their children in the right direction. Out of love and concern Christ does that for the church of Laodicea. He rebukes her and then He points her in the right direction: "be earnest," He says, "and repent" (vs 19). In other words, "Repent of your spiritual apathy, be excited about your faith, be committed to your Lord."
D What does Christ say when He looks at our deeds? Does He admonish or praise us? Our deeds, our works, do they show us to be lukewarm in our faith or do they show us to be on fire for the Lord and the things of the Lord? Our deeds, our works, do they show us to be indifferent and uncommitted or do they show us to be excited and enthusiastic in our faith life?
One of the worst things that can happen to us, young people, is that we get so used to the treasures of salvation that they no longer mean anything to us; that they no longer get us all excited, enthusiastic, and fired up. That's a real danger isn't it?! With two worship services on Sunday, Catechism, Youth Group, family and personal devotions, the Christian School with religion in every class and at chapels – with all of this it is too easy to become matter-of-fact about your faith and love and religion. I pray that we will all see this as a blessing instead of as curse. I pray that we will all get excited and stay excited about our faith and our Lord. I pray that Christ will never say to any of us what He said to Laodicea:
(Rev 3:15-16) 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.
IV Cure For Lukewarmness
A How can Laodicea become excited about and committed in her faith again? Very simple, really. She has to come to Jesus.
(Rev 3:18) 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."Buy from me ..." says Jesus. The cure is Jesus. The solution is Jesus. The answer is Jesus. Notice, the church – and the Christian – has to come to Jesus. That's the cure for being lukewarm.
B What is true for Laodicea is true for every church and any believer. It is only by coming to Jesus that any lukewarmness on our part can be overcome. Throw yourself at His feet. Worship Him. Enthrone Him in your heart. Make Him the King of your life. Make Him your all-in-all. Make Him your heart's desire. Crave the presence and person of Christ like the deer pants for streams of water.
Do you find yourself lukewarm in the faith? Do you find you are not excited at all about the Gospel? Does talk of grace and salvation no longer reach a responsive chord within you? Do you yearn for the days when your faith was so real and meaningful, when your walk and talk with the Lord meant so much more to you? The only cure, as with Laodicea, is to come to the Lord. Actually, it is not really a case of us coming to the Lord but of Him coming to us. All that we have to do is to see and hear that the Lord is there and that we need Him. Jesus says,
(Rev 3:20) 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.Usually, we think that Christ knocks only at the door of unbelievers. But we see otherwise in our Bible reading.
Is Christ knocking at your door? He is, you know, if you are uncommitted, lukewarm, complacent about your faith. Is Christ knocking at your door? He wants you, He wants me, He wants all of us to be absolutely committed to Him. He wants us all to be earnest and zealous in the faith. Is Christ knocking at your door? To regain the blessedness you once knew, or to get it for the first time, open the door and let Christ in. Then, and only then, will you find prayer to be meaningful. Then, and only then, will the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith become real to you. Then, and only then, will you glory in God rather than in yourself. Then and only then will your faith and your religion and your God and your love become real to you. Open the door when Christ knocks. Then and only then will you realized the blessed are not the lukewarm.
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