Family pictures – NONE IN 10 YRS of marriage – stress of picking out outfits. It will be another ten years before we do it again. Getting slapped in the face for pictures. Sometimes it takes a bit of pain to get the results you want out of life.
Let’s be honest – this sermon series has been a little painful, but hopefully, you’ve seen the pain as an act of God’s grace. He’s been calling us to confront some deep sin issues and repent. We’ve seen that word in almost every letter.
In this final letter Jesus is calling us to address a sin issue that we all experience: complacency. Or, as Jesus puts it – lukewarm Christianity. Lukewarm = apathy or a take it or leave it kind of attitude. Not opposed to Jesus at all. In fact, profess faith and believe, but just not very excited about living for Jesus. Not much passion. Jesus is going to act as a skilled surgeon this morning and show us the symptoms and the cure for lukewarm Christianity.
1. What are the symptoms of a lukewarm Christian?
· Laodicea a prosperous city. Nearly destroyed in 60 A.D. by a massive earthquake and refused help from the Roman emperor. (They didn’t need the emperor’s money.)
· Three things going for the city:
o A large banking system. Elite of Rome would come to Laodicea to do their banking.
o Produced a very high quality black wool that was in high demand – made into expensive garments. Known for their clothing.
o School of medicine that developed an eye salve that cured many common eye defects.
· Laodicea was the New York or Los Angeles of its day – affluent city with affluent people.
· However, one thing that wasn’t so good in the city was its water. No natural water source – so water piped in from other cities miles away. By the time the water arrived, it was lukewarm, dirty, and useless. Limestone deposits on the pipes clogged the system. Archaeological evidence shows that calcium carbonate content of the water actually induced vomiting.
· Water piped in from two cities known for its water – Hieropolis – hot springs – medicinal affects. Colossae – cold, refreshing water from snow that melted on the mountaintop and bled into the rivers. People traveled to Hieropolis and Colossae specifically for their water, but no one traveled to Laodicea for its water.
· The church is like its water – because of complacency it serves no purpose. They don’t provide healing for the community like the water of Hieropolis, nor does the church provide refreshment for the community like Colossae. They’re existing but doing nothing.
· How do you know if you are lukewarm? What are the symptoms?
o You’re lukewarm when you don’t see your desperate need for Jesus. (Vs. 17) Self-sufficiency (I can do all things through my own strength and wisdom.) This was the biggest problem for the believers at Laodicea. They thought they had it all – good jobs, wealth and prosperity, etc. They weren’t opposed to Jesus, they just didn’t see how they needed Him. (Laser level – down to the last choice – whatever I want – huge mug of Hershey kisses which I needed - didn’t need it – Not opposed, just not useful – Now, I hear about it every Christmas) They could solve their problems by throwing money at them… Don’t we do the same? There’s not a problem we can’t solve – not a mountain we can’t overcome if we just work hard. And if we can’t overcome on our own, we can pay someone to help us.
o You’re lukewarm when you make little progress in discipleship and much progress in selfishness. “I am rich. I have prospered. I need nothing.” For the lukewarm Christian there’s a lot of “I.” Your life increasingly centers round you and not the God who saved you. The reality is that you are always progressing – always growing – you are either progressing in selfishness – becoming more and more selfish – or you are progressing in discipleship. Learning to crucify self and become more like Jesus. Which is it for you? Be honest.
o You’re lukewarm if you’re an expert in everything but the Gospel. Laodicea a city full of experts. Experts in banking, clothing, and medicine. Members of the Church at Laodicea experts in their given field, but not experts in the Gospel. Maybe that’s you – you’re an expert. No one knows your job like you do – your hobby like you do – but are you an expert in what matters? Do you study and immerse yourself in the only message that can change lives? You want to know everything else but Jesus.
2. What is the cure for a lukewarm Christian?
· Jesus gives the cure for our lukewarm Christianity. Simple but profound: zeal. “Be zealous and repent.” Zeal is synonymous with passion, enthusiasm, and commitment. Zeal is the opposite of complacency. (Joey – I just don’t like football – no zeal – you’re zealous for what you love…) Some of you are sitting here like Joey – you’re here but no zeal…
· Where does zeal come from? That zeal for your family? Your job? Zeal comes from love. Zeal follows affections. Whatever you place your heart on is what you are most zealous for. You are only going to be zealous for Christ as you place your affections on Christ – as you grow in love for Christ. How do you grow to love someone? How do you grow to love Jesus?
How do you grow in your affections for Jesus so that you are zealous for Him and not lukewarm?
a. Know what He’s done. You are not as dependent and self-sufficient as you think you are. You’re naked (interesting to a people who lived in a city where clothing was a major industry) nakedness – shame and guilt (Adam and Eve) you are bare before God – He sees you for who you really are. You can’t hide. You’re poor (banks). You think you have everything, but nothing you have earns you a place in eternity. You’re blind (eye doctors). You can’t even see how bad you have it apart from Christ. But, because of His love – He opens your eyes to show you your nakedness. (He’s the real eye doctor.) He removes your sin and guilt by covering you with His perfect life. He gives you the riches of the Kingdom. He completely saves you from yourself. You can’t lose sight of what Jesus has done – the minute you forget is the minute your love wanes. The Good News for you is just as good today as it was the day you trusted Christ. It’s the Good News that continues to grow our love for Jesus and gives us zeal.
b. Know what He desires. – He desires intimacy with His people. GRACE – These words seem so harsh, but they are actually gracious. Like a good Father, our Savior disciplines those He loves. (Hebrews 12) Imagery – He’s standing at the door of the church knocking. He’s at the door – GRACE – He hasn’t forsaken us even though we have set our affections on things other than Him. We have put the one who is the head of the church outside the church. He wants in this church and in your life. He wants fellowship with us, intimacy with His bride. How do we know if we’ve let Him in? We want Him more than a program, a style of music, a type of preaching, or any other tradition. Are you refusing fellowship with Jesus? Are we refusing fellowship with Jesus? Is He at the center?
c. Know what He is going to do. - You haven’t simply gained access to heaven – you have gained the right to rule and reign with Him. You are coheirs of the Kingdom of God. This is grace! You didn’t earn anything, but you have been given everything!
Cure for a lukewarm Christian – Make a choice to love the Lord. Love is a choice you make – As you consider what Jesus has done for you, choose love. Grow in zeal by doing what you know – what God has told us to do over and over again in His Word. There’s no substitute for spending time with Him, reminding yourself of the Gospel and disciplining yourself to go deeper and deeper in His Word. If you move away from the basics, you will become lukewarm. For our church this morning, a decision to return to the basics.
Maybe your problem isn’t lukewarm Christianity. Maybe your problem is spiritual death. You’re lost. This morning you can have a white robe because He was stripped naked and beaten on your behalf, taking the punishment you were due by suffering the wrath of the Father. You can have eternal riches because He gave up His riches of heaven to come to a sin stricken earth to rescue you. You get eternal life because He willingly gave up His life and then rose three days later in victory preparing for you eternal life. Jesus is zealous for you. How can we not completely give ourselves for the One who completely gave Himself for us? How can we not passionately live for the mission when He lived and died for us? We don’t need new methods but renewed love.
Believer. Do what the Bible says. Repent. We’ve seen it over and over. It’s time for a change. Stay lukewarm and you are useless to the Kingdom and disgusting to Jesus. Change. See what Christ has done, is doing, and is going to do in your life and let the zeal of Christ for you drive you to be zealous for Him.