Friday, December 22, 2017

Revelation 3:14-22 Lukewarm Churches are in Peril


KEY TEXT: Revelation 3:14-22 "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.'"

KEY THOT: Material affluence can undermine a church's spiritual fervor. That was the heart of the spiritual problem with the church in Laodicea: it has become materially rich but spiritually it has become bankrupt. This is evidenced by its lukewarmness when it came to the things of God: "For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked" (3:17). This is the only church among the seven where Jesus has nothing good to say about them. He started off with a stinging rebuke: "'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" (3:15-16). Just like lukewarm coffee, we would want to spew it out of our mouth before it goes into our stomach. 

While God's Word surely teaches us that God will bless spiritually and materially those who keep His commands, nevertheless, it is possible to be materially rich and yet spiritually bankrupt. We know from experience that material prosperity is not a guaranteed indicator of divine favour. This was so with the church in Laodicea: the believers were consumed with pursuing material wealth and lost their spiritual fervour for God along the way.

In fact, Scripture has given us many warnings about wanting to be rich at all costs: "But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs" (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

As someone has well-said: "If God blesses us with more income, it should cause us to raise our standard of giving, not our standard of living." Giving is the only sure protection against making Money our god: "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money" (Matthew 6:24). As stewards of God's wealth, we must not think that having given 10% of our income, the 90% is ours to spend as we please. The 90% is still God's money and we are called to spend it as He pleases. While our Abba-Father will not deny us the pleasures of this life, He does not want us to become self-indulging but to be self-denying as disciples of Christ. 

Jesus' word of exhortation to the church in Laodicea is to "be zealous and repent" (v.19). And grace is always available when we do that: "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" (Revelation 3:20-21). Notice that Jesus is standing outside the church that has become self-complacent and lukewarm. But He will come into the church if our hearts are zealous for Him again. Love for Christ cannot be lukewarm: it's either hot and zealous, or it's nothing.

If we want to experience Christ's presence and power in our congregation, we cannot allow our affluence to cause us to become lukewarm. Once we sense we have become lukewarm, we need to repent. And that requires an honest evaluation of our spiritual state and confession of our lukewarmness. The forgiveness and cleansing will be immediate as we find ourselves back in the place of zeal for God.

Abba-Father, You deserve nothing less from us, for You gave Yourself totally to us in the sacrifice of Your Son. We surrender our wealth to You so that You may rule over how we give and how we spend. Amen.

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