“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.” Revelation 3:15–17
Jesus shared these words through John to the church in Laodicea 2,000 years ago. What’s interesting about Laodicea is that it was a very important trade route in its day, making it a very affluent city. And that’s very key to understanding Jesus’ words to Laodicea.
Some of the homes archeologists are excavating today in Laodicea are a few thousand square feet with centralized water systems and indoor plumbing. As you visit these sites, you realize that the engineering and the architecture were quite complicated and amazing.
Additionally, because Laodicea was on a high plain, they had to figure out how get water to city. It had to be piped in, which also required complicated engineering that took a lot of money. And so this was a very rich, very affluent city.
As further evidence of the city’s wealth, on at least two occasions, earthquakes destroyed the city. Rather than accepting money from the government, because they were a very proud people and rich people, they instead rebuilt their own city with their own money.
It was a place where business was transacted, commerce was common, and rich people lived. As a result the people of Laodicea were haughty and proud.
They were comfortable people who had grown lukewarm, exchanging comfort for Christ. Comfort became a functional savior for Laodicea.
The Idol of Comfort
The real issue here is one where they worshiped comfort instead of Christ. Because Christ calls them to do that which is, for them, uncomfortable, they would rather have comfort than Christ.
Today, it can be easy for us to look at them and judge them. We could say, “Yes, that’s how the haughty, proud, rich people of the world are.” But the reality is that for most of us, these words should hit home.
For those of us who are Americans or live in the Western world, we tend to be the haughty, pride-filled, rich people. We live in affluence and have a lifestyle that is unparalleled in the history of the world.
Most of the homes in Laodicea were gigantic. Most of our homes are similarly sized. Their homes had indoor plumbing, which was innovative, and we take it for granted. Most of us have innovative things like Internet, computers, and appliances. Like the people of Laodicea, we live in luxury and comfort every day and we assume that our affluence will continue.
And like the church in Laodicea, our luxury and comfort can lead us into a place of lethargy, where heaven doesn’t feel like home, where this life a good-enough paradise for us, where Christ is not whom we live for, but comfort is what we live for. And Jesus comes and says, “Though everything is going well physically and materially, I’m very concerned for you spiritually because you’ve chosen comfort over Christ.”
Moving beyond Comfort to Christ
In Revelation 3:19, Jesus gives three steps to the church in Laodicea to overcome being lukewarm, to move from comfort to Christ. These three steps are important for us, too.
1. Accept Loving Discipline
Some of us are in positions where nobody ever gets to discipline us. We’re the parents, not the children. We’re the bosses, not the employees. We’re the ones who have organized our life outside of community, where nobody really ever has a right to put their finger in our chest and say, “You know, I love you, but I really need to talk to you about that because I think that’s a problem.” And so Jesus says if somebody really loves you, they’re going to discipline you. They’re going to correct you. They’re going to point out flaws in your life, and they’re going to do so in a way to invite you to change. And Jesus says, “I’m doing that for you.”
2. Be Zealous
Jesus goes on to say, “Be zealous.” God wants you to be zealous for him, and he can enable you to be zealous through the Holy Spirit. And if you’re willing, God can ignite passion and zeal. If you’re lacking zealousness, say, “OK, Lord Jesus, you want me to be hot and not lukewarm? Holy Spirit, ignite and continually reignite a passion for Jesus in me.”
When Martin Luther nailed the Ninety-five Theses to the Wittenberg door, the opening line essentially read, “All of a Christian’s life is one of repentance.” If you stop repenting, you’ll start to grow lukewarm. That’s the big idea. And it’s what Jesus calls us to.
To repent is to have a change of mind that leads to a change of direction and a change of life. The Bible repeatedly talks about repentance. Repentance is not something we just do to become Christians, but it’s an ongoing, humble series of moments where we acknowledge that what we believe or how we behave is wrong. And so we have a change of mind that leads to a change of heart that leads to a change of direction and a changed life.
What’s Your Temperature?
How are you doing in our walk with Jesus? Individually, as a family, and corporately as a church, what’s your temperature? Are you lukewarm, indifferent? Is the light of the gospel starting to dim? Or is it growing brighter and brighter and brighter as you repent of sin and come to Jesus?
Ask God today to please give you a holy unsettledness, a disturbance in your soul, whereby lukewarm is not enough, is not acceptable, and is not something that you’re willing to accommodate in your life. Ask him to help you repent of sin, to remove whatever would keep you from living a life on fire for Christ.
This post is adapted from this week’s sermon, “Lukewarm in Laodicea: Comfort and Convenience before Christ,” the ninth and final part in the Seven sermon series. Join us this Sunday for the beginning of Mars Hill’s summer series, Jesus Loves His Church.