Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name be glory, because of Your love and faithfulness. We trust in You, Lord, the maker of heaven and earth, our help and our shield. Give us now ears to hear. Some in the hearing of this room no doubt need to be awakened to eternal things. Some, no doubt, have been deceived. Some need Your word of comfort and some are too comfortable. So give us just what we need to hear from Your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Revelation chapter 3. Revelation chapter 3, verses 14 through 22. We come to the end of this series on the seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation, in Asia Minor, and I hope you’ve found, as I have, just how helpful, how relevant, how wise, how very penetrating each of these have been. Every letter has something to say to the Church at large and something to say to our church. We don’t fit everything in every church. We may not have all of the good things we want to have and I hope we don’t have all of the bad things that these churches have, but yet these temptations, these strengths, and these potential weaknesses are certainly relevant and at play in most every church, and sometimes even at play in every human heart, and in particular we’ll find with this last letter in this last church just how much we need to hear, and perhaps there’s a reason why this issue in this church comes last of the seven letters.
Beginning at verse 14:
““And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so 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 eat with him, and he with Me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with Me on My throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’””
Of all seven churches in Revelation, you could make a good case that Laodicea is the worst. Ephesus was in danger of being snuffed out as a church if they didn’t recover their first love, but they still had many good things about them. Sardis had no good deeds to speak of, it was incomplete, but at least Jesus says there was a remnant there who had not soiled their garments, a remnant that had remained faithful. Thyatira and Pergamum were facing possible judgment, but still they were getting some things right. Laodicea, on the other hand, not to put it too strongly, this is how Jesus puts it, this church is so bad it makes Jesus want to puke.
That is the word, look at verse 16, “I will spit you out of My mouth.” The Greek word “emeo.” Some of you, if you’re doctors or nurses, know what an emetic is. E-m-e-t-i-c. An emetic is a medicine to produce nausea and vomiting. Comes from this Greek word meaning to spit out, to vomit.
It’s the same word used in the Greek translation of Isaiah 19:14, “the Lord has poured into them a spirit of dizziness, they make Egypt stagger in all that she does as a drunkard staggers around in his vomit.” This is a graphic word. Laodicea is a stale, sickening, distasteful church and Jesus is ready to get it out of His mouth.
Which leads to ask the hard question of us, whether anyone here is stale, sickening, distasteful, in the mouth of Christ? That is an uncomfortable possibility to consider. It is somewhat more comfortable to look at some of the other churches and think, well, those are problems and they’re probably problems to be aware of and be on the lookout for and they plague other churches. What if this speaks to some of us?
The question riven throughout these seven letter is, “Is Jesus speaking to Christians or to non-Christians?” Well, He’s certainly speaking to churches. He’s speaking to those who consider themselves to be Christians. They are those who are visibly in the fold of God, whether or not everyone in these churches is truly regenerate we don’t know, but it’s really the same counsel, whether they are Christians who you might say have fallen asleep or backslidden, or they are in the church and they’re not truly born again. It’s the same sort of counsel – pay attention, repent.
We’d all like to think of ourselves in the mouth of Jesus as a delicious meal. A sweet wine, a wonderful dessert, a delicious gulp of Mountain Dew. Not some smelly, stinky chunks and bile coming up. Yes, it’s a grotesque scene because this is a grotesque word. It’s not easy to think about. None of us wants to think of ourselves as Jesus’ puke. But Jesus says there’s some of you, this church, I cannot get you out of My mouth quick enough. It’s a distasteful thought. And it would not have been a pleasant thought for the Laodiceans to consider.
This morning’s outline is simple. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.
One statement about Jesus, two criticisms of the church, and three steps to take in the right direction. 1, 2, 3.
First then, notice this one overarching statement about Jesus that we have in verse 14. No church is perhaps worse off in Revelation than Laodicea and no church had a higher opinion of itself than Laodicea. Those two things sadly often go together. Those who have the highest opinion of themselves are often in the worst spot. Those who often can see their sin most visibly are actually in a better spot. It’s one of the paradoxes of growing in Christian grace. The more you grow as a Christian, the more holiness you see of God, the more you see of His glory, the more you see of your sin, so even though if you’re really becoming more and more like Christ, you actually see more and more of Christ’s glory and more and more of your sin, and so it seems like you’re worse than you’ve ever been. That’s possible, but often that’s just because you’re seeing yourself better and you’re seeing Christ better.
When you think, and you dare to say as the Laodiceans do, “I’m rich, I’m prosperous, I need nothing,” well, that is just about the worst spiritual condition one can be in. And it’s because of this self-assessment that we have the statement we do about Jesus. He describes Himself as the “Amen,” that is, as the verily, the truly, the faithful and true witness. Because no one has a higher opinion of themselves than the Laodiceans and no one is more mistaken about themselves than the Laodiceans.
I’m sure you’ve seen the internet meme passed around where it just says, under the picture, “Nailed it.” You know, they have somebody’s beautiful Pinterest creation of the child’s birthday cake with all of the wonderful, it looks just like a dragon or a dinosaur in the Pinterest, and then there’s yours, it’s just a heaping mess of green crumbs, “Nailed it.”
That’s Laodicea. As we’ll see in a moment they think they’re crushing it. They’ve nailed it. But that’s not what Jesus thinks. What Laodicea could not see about themselves, Jesus can see, and so He is going to give time their real report card. That’s why He introduces Himself as the “Amen,” the true and faithful witness. He is going to tell them who they really are. Their assessment is not faithful. Their self-assessment is not true, but His will be.
We all have blind spots. We don’t know ourselves as well as we think we do. Which is why we need our hearts always open to the Word of God. I hope you come Sunday after Sunday, I hope you come daily to God’s Word. Yes, there’s no Bible verse that says you have to have a daily devotion, a daily quiet time, but we see the pattern in Scripture and very practically one of the reasons is because we are so prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, as the hymn writer says. We’re so easily self-deceived. You need the faithful and true witness to speak to you every day.
That’s why we need accountability partners, or a small group, or you need to be willing to hear hard things from a friend or a spouse. It’s God’s grace to us when He says hard things to us.
Are you the sort of person who makes it easy for people to tell you hard things? Or do they know, see, this is the paradox, this is the unfortunate circumstance that happens, the people that often most need to hear hard things have created such an atmosphere around them, they always push people back, always return with other accusations, that people just learn, “I’m not going to tell anybody, that person, something they don’t want to hear,” and they’re the people that most need to hear something hard.
Do you invite helpful, constructive criticism? You don’t have to always agree with it. You need to weigh it and sift it. But are you the sort of person that if something was going off in your life, there would be people who know you well enough, who would be courageous enough, and would understand you have humility of heart enough to at least consider it, receive it? Because if you don’t have friends like that, if you don’t have people like that in your life, if you’re always putting a stiff arm on anyone who has to say something you don’t like, then you’re going to be in the spot of the Laodiceans.
God, look at verse 19, He disciplines those He loves. Those whom I love, I reprove.
When God brings a hard word into our life, what do you think? Well, our human nature’s think, “God’s left me,” or “Shoot the messenger,” or “He’s forgotten,” “I don’t like this,” “He doesn’t love me anymore,” “Why would He be saying something that I don’t like to hear?”
It is possible that people can say things to us in a way that is harsh, mean, abusive. It is also possible that we can hear things and conclude that the person speaking them has been harsh, mean, and abusive, when in fact they love us. He disciplines those He loves. A church that never corrects is a church that doesn’t love. A parent that never disciplines a child is a parent who does not love that child. And if you are a Christian and God never gets up in your face with anything hard to say, then maybe you’re in heaven already, or you’re hard of hearing.
This statement, this one statement in verse 14, sets the stage for a more accurate diagnosis, because the Christians in Laodicea think they’ve nailed it, but they haven’t. They think they’re faithful; they aren’t. They think they have a good testimony about themselves; they don’t.
Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the beginning and the end. He knows a thing or two because He’s seen a thing or two. He’s going to speak the truth that they don’t want to hear.
That’s why, not every single Sunday but most Sundays, you hear me pray something like, before the sermon, give us ears to hear. If we’re faithful to God’s Word, He’s always saying something but we don’t always have ears to hear it. And it will just bounce off the pavement of our hearts, it will be choked out, if we don’t have ears to receive it. God loves you, if you belong to Christ, and He loves you enough to tell you some hard things, to tell me some hard things.
I’ve said before, just experientially, the one prayer that God always answers for me is, “God,” and now I almost say it very mmm, eehhh, “God, would You show me my sin?” He’ll answer that. Do you come with a humble heart? You may even say, “God, I’m going to pray it. I don’t mean it, but I’m praying it. Would You show me my sin? Give me ears to hear what You have to say.”
He’s the faithful and true witness.
Second category. So one statement, two criticisms. Two criticisms about this church.
The first criticism is found in verses 15 and 16, very simply, Laodicea is lukewarm. Verse 16, “because you are lukewarm.” They’re apathetic. He says, “I know your works, you’re not cold, you’re not hot, I wish you were cold or hot.”
This does not mean, people often misunderstand this, this does not mean Jesus wishes you to be either really spiritual or really unspiritual. He is not saying, “I wish you would be on fire for Jesus or I wish you would be implacably opposed to Jesus.” That’s not what it means by “hot or cold.”
Now it’s true God doesn’t want us to hesitate between two opinions, but He isn’t wishing for people to be more positively wicked. That’s not what “hot and cold.” What He means is, “I wish you were good for something.” He’s criticizing the ineffectiveness and possibly the inauthenticity of their faith. We can understand cold water, hot water, does not mean righteous and wicked. He’s not saying, “I wish you were righteous or I wish you were wicked.” He’s saying, “I wish you were good for something.” Because cold water’s good for something, it’s refreshing, it’s satisfying.
If I had a wish and I could wish for a million wishes after that and I could get all the important stuff taken care of, I would wish that the water in the hotel bathroom’s would be cold already so I don’t have to go traipsing up and down getting buckets of ice everywhere. Just make the water cold. I don’t want lukewarm water. Cold water – refreshing.
Hot water. Well, hot water is good. You can use to cook, to sterilize. You can soothe your aches and pains.
Lukewarm water. Blah.
Many scholars think there’s also a specific reference to Laodicea’s geography. We always have to be cautious in drawing these parallels, but this one seems to fit. There were three towns along the same trade route and Laodicea was in the middle, and just to the north was Hierapolis, which had hot springs used for medicinal purposes, and the water bubbled over in Hierapolis and flowed down to Laodicea and by the time this water from these springs came down to Laodicea it was just stagnant and lukewarm.
By contrast, the water just south of Laodicea in Colossae was cool, pure drinking water from a nearby stream.
So many scholars think this was something Laodicea was known for. You’ve got to go up north where the hot springs are in Hierapolis or you go down south to Colossae where they have cool spring water, but here in Laodicea you have tepid water. It’s neither cold nor hot. It’s good for nothing.
We understand. A cold glass of water tastes good. A hot tub is good. You relax, you hang out, you loosen your joints. Now today people take ice baths to invigorate healing and recovery. But nobody says, “Hey, you want to come over to my tepid tub?” Selling hot tubs is hard, selling tepid tubs is really hard. We’ll just sort of soak in our own juices, everybody.
You don’t want tepid. You want hot, you want cold. We understand. The metaphor, in other words, speaks to Laodicea’s apathy.
It’s one of the hardest things to address in the Church, or perhaps in your family, or in your life. Sadly, we all know people like this. Maybe it’s some of us here. Grow up in the church, maybe still in the church, they don’t outwardly hate Jesus, they aren’t anti-Christianity, they haven’t professed to reject the faith. They’re fine, they’re fine with you going to church, they don’t have a beef against the church. But there’s just nothing going on. The spiritual pulse doesn’t seem to be beating. They’re not growing. They’re not involved. They’re not reading their Bibles. They’re not fighting sin. They’re not pursuing Christ. And that is extremely dangerous.
We all know the language of coasting, but you think of when a car is coasting, it coasts either because it’s going downhill or because you’ve applied the engine and it’s got the car going and you can let up, you don’t put the brake on but you just let up and you do coast for a while, especially if there’s a little decline, but eventually you don’t coast anymore because you’re just living off of the previous exertion, the previous energy. This happens to people all the time. Grow up in the church, on fire it seems, in youth group, or maybe for a time you were really involved and you came every Sunday, then it seemed like every other Sunday was good, and then once a month is fine, and then just a few holidays or wherever all of the stars align and the weather’s perfect and there’s no football too late or no football too early, and everything just works perfectly.
You never set out to, you don’t wake up one day and you say, “You know what? I’m toggling off the Christianity switch. I’ve been a Christian, on, time to turn the lights out.” No, you just go neither hot, neither cold. You become leftover macaroni and cheese. Leftover macaroni. Left out on the counter all night. Yeah, I know, some of you are going, “Great, there goes lunch. That’s what I had planned, Pastor Kevin.” And you didn’t put it in the fridge, you don’t zap it in the microwave, it’s just there. Kids, day old macaroni and cheese. No one gets excited about day-old macaroni and cheese left out. You don’t want to eat it. And Jesus doesn’t want to eat it, either.
Are some of you, stale, left out, room temperature macaroni and cheese?
It’s easy to think of the big sins – adultery, fornication, addiction, greed, theft, violence, anger – those are big problems. But notice what makes Jesus want to throw up – apathy, lukewarmness. If that’s your spiritual temperature, you are in a dangerous place and other people may be swallowing, but Jesus says isn’t. Not swallowing on this lukewarm apathy.
That’s the first criticism of the church. And it leads to the second criticism at Laodicea. So apathy, or lukewarmness, and that’s tied to the second criticism, which is they are self-deceived. Those two criticisms almost always go hand in hand. People who are coasting spiritually don’t think they are coasting. They still look back and they can look back, some of you do, and you’re still looking back to those glory years 25 years ago when you were so involved in your campus ministry and wasn’t that exciting? You’re looking back to when you were a teenager or when you were just married and you’re still living in those glory days, not realizing, oh, that was five years ago, or maybe that was 50 years ago.
You’ve gotten the way you are because you’ve lost track of your real spiritual condition. No one sets out to provide a feast of stale macaroni and cheese, it just happens, almost by accident, left out on the counter.
The Laodiceans thought they were hot stuff. Look at what they’re saying, verse 17: “For you say,” now whether they are verbalizing it or Jesus just knows what they’re saying in their hearts, here’s what they’re saying, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.”
Almost none of us here would be so bold as to say that. If you’re joining the church and you go to your elder interview, probably not what’s going to come out. “Tell me about your faith in Christ.” “Well, I’m rich, I’m prosperous, I need nothing.” Okay, that’s pretty easy to spot.
Harder to spot is what’s going on in our heart. This is a trust issue, a sincerity issue, a dependence issue. They thought they had arrived – “No, thanks, God. I’ve got it covered. Bills paid. Job’s good. Life is good. I’m pursuing the Laodicean dream. I’ll show up at church once in a while. After all, I don’t want my kids to go off the rails. I’d like them to be good moral people. I have some friends here. It’s what I grew up with. I’m not against it, but don’t expect this to be my whole life. I’m rich, I’m prosperous, and I don’t need a lot from you, God. Maybe I’ll come back when somebody has cancer.”
Jesus thinks this dream is a nightmare. Because He knows the truth about them and He knows the truth about each of us. And the truth He knows about Laodicea is not pleasant. They say, “I’m rich, I’ve prospered, I need nothing” not realizing here’s their true spiritual condition – wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
Many scholars see another parallel here between Laodicea’s spiritual condition and their material and societal condition. It seems that Laodicea was well-known for three industries – finance, clothing, medicine. There’s some sources that say in particular they had developed a special eye ointment that originated in Laodicea. And if all of that’s true, then the irony is very thick. Laodicea handled people’s money, but they were spiritually impoverished. Laodicea manufactured clothes, but they were naked. Laodicea produced a famous eye ointment, but they were blind. The heart of the problem, and indeed the definition of lukewarmness, is found in their self-description in verse 17, in those three haunting words – “I need nothing.”
Spiritual apathy is living your life as if you didn’t really need anything from God.
Sure, maybe, I get it, justification, I need that. I’m not perfect, forgive me, I want to go to heaven. Got it. Day to day, however, I’m kind of all set, God. If You could, you know, help once in a while, I’ve got some tests, I would like some things to go well, maybe get a promotion, but basically I’m all right, God, and I won’t ask You for much if You don’t ask me for much.
We would all admit to needing something. And yet, when it comes to the practicalities of life, we often betray what we confess. We say, “Oh, I need Thee every hour,” and we live lives of total self-sufficiency. That’s why wealth is such a danger. It isn’t that wealth is by itself evil. Job was greatly blessed, Abraham, the patriarchs we saw through Genesis were very wealthy. But there are grave dangers with wealth.
1 Timothy 6:17 – Command those who are rich in the present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
Laodicea had stuff. They had money. They were doing well. In south Charlotte, working for the banks. But some of them had thought, well, that’s my real security, that’s my real safety. That’s how I’m really going to provide for my kids. That’s how I can be certain about my future.
And the Bible tells us over and over again, do not trust in riches. You’re not wrong to want safety. You’re not wrong to want security. You’re not wrong to want protection and provision. The Bible doesn’t tell us to stop having desires and motivations and want those good things. The Bible tells us don’t trust your money for those things. It’s a leaky bucket compared to God.
Matthew 13:22 – The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the Word but the worries of life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it out, making it unfruitful.
They choke out the Word of God. That seed that falls among the thorns is different than the one that springs up and falls by persecution. It’s choked out by the worries of life. It’s just all of the time and energy it takes to just keep all of the stuff going, to keep the pursuit of wealth going.
Amos 6 – Woe to you who are at ease in Zion. To you who feel secure on Mount Samaria. You notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come. You put off the evil day and bring near a reign of terror. You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. You strum away on your harps like David, improvise on your musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful, use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile, your feasting and lounging will end.
That was the message Amos give to the people in his day who were at ease in Zion.
It’s one of the harder things to root out of the Church because it’s so easy for all of us to fall into this temptation. “I’m not a bad person,” you say to yourself, “I’m not anti-religion. I like the Church. I got nothing against Jesus. I’m happy to believe in Jesus.” But you don’t want to get too carried away with Jesus. You don’t want Jesus to change too much about your life. If He can fill in the gaps, nice. If He can come and help you get a few things together, if He’s available when you do have those problems once in a while, wonderful. But you don’t need a lot. You’re kind of doing fine.
Now most of us would rather be doing fine this morning than doing terrible. I can almost be certain, if I ask any of my teenage sons how they are doing, that they are doing “fine.” Really? How are you doing? Fine.
Some of you come here this morning, you’re just fine. Good. All right. Is this sermon almost over?
Be very, very concerned if you find in your heart the spirit of the Laodiceans – I need nothing.
The problem is they are lukewarm and they’re self-deceived and it makes Jesus sick. But they’re still a church and there’s still hope for them and there’s still hope for us. Notice here the last category. Three things Jesus gives them to do, three steps they can take.
One statement, two criticisms, three steps.
Here’s the first step. It’s in verse 18, the first piece of counsel – “I counsel you to buy for Me gold, refined by fire, so you may be rich, get white garments so you may clothe yourself and no longer be ashamed and naked.”
I think what Jesus means is, “Stop your all-consuming pursuit of wealth and enjoy spiritual riches. Stop your shameful impurities and be clothed in the deeds of righteousness and mercy. Stop walking around in blindness and listen to My words and heed My rebuke that you may truly see. That’s the first counsel. Would you open your eyes? You’re strutting around and the emperor has no clothes. You think that you’re a spectacle of great beauty and I’m telling you, you ought to be ashamed as you walk around in your nakedness. So get from Me what you really need. See that you are not rich, that you are not prosperous, that you’re not finely clothed, and come to me to receive what only I can give you.” That’s the first step.
Step two. Verse 19 – “Be zealous and repent.” What He means is, “Here’s the way to repent. I want you to be zealous. I don’t want just words. I don’t want a perfunctory ritual. I’m not simply asking that you show up at church more often. That may be a good start. What I want is some energy, earnestness, vitality. Show Me that you’re not spiritually dead. Show Me a spiritual pulse.”
The worst place a church can be, the worst place a church can go, nowhere. To not be in the church is not a blessing, but there is a profound danger to be in the church Sunday after Sunday and be self-deceived, to have an inoculation, just enough of the Jesus virus to keep you from catching the real disease, just enough to give a salve to your conscious, I got a little Jesus, I did the church thing, I’m on my way, and you never really are zealous.
It’s easy to think, well, that Jesus thing is something I do when I’m older. I’m just a kid right now. I’m just 10 years old. What do you want me to do? I’m 18, I’m supposed to be having fun. I’ll do this Jesus thing later.
Or you think, well, this is what people do once they get married and they have kids. And then you’re busy and you think, well, this is something that I’ll really get serious about once I get through this busy season with the kids. And then this is something that I do, I’m so much into my job, once I get to retirement I’m going to turn around and I’m really going to be involved in my church, really going to think about Jesus.
Then you’re in retirement, you’ve got things you want to do. You want to see the grandkids, places you want to go… You know what? I’m sure when I get to the end of my days and my deathbed, then I’ll really be certain to give Jesus a closer look. Will you? Chances are you won’t.
God is not asking you to be a different personality. “Be zealous” doesn’t mean you have to be unrelentingly intense. He’s not saying, “Introverts, you have to all be extroverts.” He’s not telling you to put pressure, to be like your pastor, like a missionary. He’s telling you to be you but to care.
This happens. We see it sometimes with our own earthly children. They get withdrawn, detached, perhaps uninterested in family or school. They don’t clean their room. They don’t make an impact on anyone. They’re just off doing their own thing. They don’t want to try at school. They don’t want to be responsible. They’re happy to get free room and board and spend money. They don’t want rules. They don’t want a curfew. They don’t have anything that they say against you, but they just want to do their thing on their terms.
And earthly parents would say to those earthly children, “I want to see some life, some earnestness. I want to see that you care. Look alive, son. The apathy isn’t cool. The disinterest is wearing thin. I want you to work at something. Work at anything. Try, strive, make an effort, make a difference, put away self-preoccupation, self-absorbed life.”
If that’s what we would say to apathetic children, it’s the same thing God says to His apathetic children – “I want to see you living as a breathing, functioning, purposeful child of God.”
That’s the command. Be zealous, be earnest. Look alive. Strive. Fight. Battle. Snap out of the comfy, narcissistic experience. Live life like life matters, like Jesus matters.
Then there’s the final step. First step is counsel – buy gold, clothes; second is a command; and the third is an invitation. Very simply, open the door. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” The invitation is for fellowship with Jesus.
Verse 20 is often used as an evangelistic text, and it certainly could be appropriate as such, but I don’t think that’s how the verse is used here. This is not a mass really for pagans. This is an invitation for those who are in the church. It’s not saying invite Jesus into your heart, it’s saying He is ready to have fellowship with you again. Would you open the door?
It’s possible there’s something here of an end-time invitation, like Jesus’ parables where the master of the house returns and asks his servant to open the door because the master is home. But even if there’s a forward-looking gaze, it has present application. It’s an invitation from Jesus for lukewarm Christians to dine with Him, to talk with Him, to love Him, to serve Him, to care.
Don’t you love, you can’t put Jesus in a box. You can’t make a cartoon Jesus because just assume that you say, well, Jesus is bleh, He’s spitting everybody out of His mouth, and you got that Jesus very hard, but then you have this Jesus. Here’s the other picture. [sound effect] I’m at the door, would you like to eat? Because I’m ready and I’ve spread a feast.
What does it mean to hear the invitation, hear His voice, “Open the door. I will come in to him and eat with him and he with Me.” Well, just think in everyday life. What does it mean to eat with someone? It means you spend time with him. It means you have communion with that person. You give and receive. Verse 20 is Jesus’ way of saying, “I’m still here. I’m still here and I would love to dine with you again. I know you’ve sort of forgotten. I know you’ve considered you don’t need anything, but if you’d like to spend some time, if you’d like to have a meal, I’m here.”
And the promise, as we’ve seen throughout these seven letters, is a promise to overcome, to reign with Jesus on the throne. Don’t miss the paradox. Laodicea thought they’re rich and prosperous. They were strong. And Jesus says, “You want to be strong? I’ll give you real strength. You can sit on the throne with Me but you have to overcome your apathy. You have to recognize your weakness. You have to know that you need help.”
It’s been said before, and there’s truth to it, that the opposite of love is not always hate, it’s often indifference. Just indifference.
Maybe this is the last church because Jesus means for it to be the closing word, and maybe it’s the closing word because perhaps it deals with the most common danger in the church. We’ve seen lots of dangers – Ephesus, love; Smyrna, stand; Pergamum, discern; Thyatira, think; Sardis, wake up; Philadelphia, be strong. All of those are words we need to hear, but perhaps this is the most common for church people, week after week, in the church – are you alive? Do you care? Can you admit that you need something from God?
And I don’t mean, yeah, sure, everyone would like more money, I’d like more time, I’d like more vacation. No, you need forgiveness. You need hope. You need eternal life. You need to be set free from your own sin, your own self-deception. Do you know you cannot truly have Jesus of the Bible until you know that you really need the Jesus of the Bible?
Let me end with this verse from Zephaniah 1:12 – “At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish the men who are complacent…”
It’s an English translation of a Hebrew idiom. The Hebrew says “thickening on the dregs,” that is, the bottom of your coffee or your tea where the dregs just congeal and they settle after a time. That’s the word translated here “complacent.”
“I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good and neither will He do ill.’”
It’s one of my favorite verses, Zephaniah 1:12, one of my favorite tucked-away verses because it gives the very definition of complacency. Did you hear it? The definition of complacency is to think the Lord will not do good, neither will He do ill.
Spiritual complacency is thinking it does not matter. The Lord doesn’t punish, the Lord doesn’t bless. The Lord isn’t looking.
See, when we are indifferent to God, it speaks to a heart that believes God is indifferent to us. He doesn’t give a rip, so I don’t. He’s not looking to help those who are His people, He won’t judge or punish those who are wayward, it doesn’t matter, the Lord won’t do anything good, the Lord won’t do anything bad. That’s spiritual complacency.
So I want to ask at the end of these seven letters, do you believe that God is not indifferent to your spiritual condition? And that if He sees your sin and your wickedness, He will judge it now, and if not now certainly in the future.
But do you also know that God is not through with you yet? And even if you are here this morning and you are complacent and you have been lukewarm and you are bored, God can give you new life. God can give you new purpose. And if you are zealous, and live in the truth and love the Lord Jesus and love His people and love the lost, then God is so eager to come and to eat with you, so eager to dine and to sip with you, so eager to have fellowship with you, and maybe even with you and among you and with us and among us, to do more than we would ask or imagine.
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, would You warn, rebuke, and love any here who are apathetic and deceived. May we hear Your voice. May we hear Your tapping and rapping at the door and open up, that You may eat with us and we may dine with You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.