Unfortunately, there is no denying that not only are many people in general lukewarm in regard to the things of God…so is much of the “church” in America. We are obsessed with comfort and convenience and blinded by our pride to our true spiritual condition before the only one whose judgment matters: the Lord Jesus Christ who we will all stand before one day to give an account of our lives (2 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 14:10). Nothing is hidden from His sight or will be pulled over on Him (Hebrews 4:13). We can fool ourselves and others; but not the One whose eyes are like fire (Revelation 1:14). It’s not enough to be partially “religious”…God is looking for wholehearted, fervent, faithfulness to Him. As Jesus told the church in Laodicea He’d rather us be “hot or cold” but being “lukewarm” churns His stomach and makes Him sick to the point of us being in danger of Him “vomiting” us out of His mouth! (Revelation 3:16). This ought to cause us great concern and to consider carefully our ways (see Haggai 1).
Instead, we often to try to cover up our complacency and apathy, and ease our guilty conscience with “fig leaves” creating our own “righteousness” (see Genesis 3:7, Romans 10:3). We have in many ways created our own versions of God (dumbing down the glory of who He is) and compromised (settled for) what we find comfortable and convenient. It’s like when King Rehoboam set up golden calves in Dan and Beersheba to keep people from going to the temple in Jerusalem to worship the One true and Living God in the place and way He directed. In 1 Kings 12:28 we find king Rehoboam (for motives really benefiting himself) placating to the people and telling them what they wanted to hear even though it wasn’t true or right: “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” The people bought it hook, line and sinker.
To the church of Laodicea in Revelation chapter 3 verses 14-22 Jesus not only rebukes them for being lukewarm and warns them regarding what is about to happen to them because of being lukewarm; He also offers them a cure for being lukewarm.
That is my purpose in this blog: for those, as Jesus would say, who “have ears to hear”…what is the cure for being lukewarm?
Revelation 3:17: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
The first thing we need to realize…is that our outward wealth and comfortableness is not indicative of our spiritual wealth or status. (By the way…avoid the temptation to think of those “richer” than you or to “let yourself off the hook” of this applying to you by saying you are not “rich.” Most likely, the majority of those who will read this are richer than many in most of the world). A lot of people wrongly equate outward prosperity with spiritual maturity or vitality. That is not automatically true. Many people are externally rich but internally and spiritually bankrupt.
We also need to beware of the ever-present danger for the rich of being lulled to sleep in regard to our need for God, simply because outwardly we are well-off. This pride of thinking we are “fine” and that we “have need of nothing” is misplaced dependency and false security. It robs of dependency on God and humility before God which robs of true spiritual power and blessing. We cling to wealth rather than clinging to God. This is why Jesus said: “It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23). Can you part with your wealth and the “comfort” of it if Jesus called you too?
Wealth can be a powerful drug. It can cause us to forget our constant need of God for true spiritual life and vitality. That’s one reason there is a prayer found in Proverbs 30:8-9 where someone once prayed this: “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”
It is not wrong to have wealth; but wealth comes with great responsibility to use it rightly (not selfishly) and comes with a great and grave temptation to become proud. That’s why Paul writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 to: “Command those who are rich in this 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. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
Notice wealth is to be used to help others, not indulge ourselves. Our surplus is not to splurge on ourselves, but to help others in their suffering and need. Amos 6:1-7 speaks too and warns of coming judgment for those who remain selfish instead of selfless; complacent instead of caring for the suffering of others: “Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come! Go to Calneh and look at it; go from there to great Hamath, and then go down to Gath in Philistia. Are they better off than your two kingdoms? Is their land larger than yours? 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 and improvise on musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and 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.”
Becoming rich can also be a distraction from the pursuit of God, which results in true riches. Jesus talked about those who because of the “deceitfulness of wealth” have the Word of God choked from bearing the fruit it should have in their lives (Mark 4:19). Paul talked about those who view godliness as only a means to financial gain; rather than the true gain being contentment with godliness. He warned that when we make financial riches our primary motivation and desire we “…fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
The first cure for being lukewarm is to stop measuring our spiritual life by our outward possessions, positions, riches or wealth. It’s to see our true spiritual condition according to God’s perspective. It’s to come to Him in humility and brokenness and daily recognize regardless of our social status or bank account, our constant need for Him and dependence on Him for spiritual life and vitality. It is to seek Him wholeheartedly in all circumstances, whether rich or poor.
Secondly, Jesus said this to the lukewarm: “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.”
The city of Laodicea was well-known for their wealth (gold), their fine black wool (which notice Jesus symbolically calls them to buy from Him white clothes to wear), and their eye medicine. These were the three things Jesus says they lacked spiritually! What they possessed outwardly and externally, they lacked inwardly and spiritually!
Notice Jesus said to “buy from Him” these things. We must come to Him for what we lack. But how do we “buy” these things from God? What payment does He accept? God can’t be bribed, so you can’t use your master-card or visa or cash! “Buying” here means in the sense of obtaining. And you know how you “buy” or “obtain” anything from God? You simply recognize your need, desire it, and ask for it! As James 4:2 says: “You have not because you ask not!” This asking though is a word that means to earnestly desire. There is a passion in this. You have to really want it and see your need for it. The good news is, God gives “freely” to those who come to Him with humility and desire! (See Isaiah 55:1-3). The cost is only the laying down of your pride and self-sufficiency! It’s becoming restless instead of complacent and apathetic. It’s going after true spiritual riches; rather than physical pleasures.
Lastly, Jesus said this: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 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. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.”
To the worst of the all the churches in Revelation, I believe Jesus makes here the greatest and sweetest promise of all: “I am offering you…myself…my fellowship and friendship.” What greater riches are there than Christ Himself?!
But notice Jesus said: “be earnest and repent.” There has to be a response to Him calling and knocking. In other words you have to really want Him and let Him in. You have to turn from your ways and turn to Him. More than anything, Jesus is looking for those who will depend on Him, desire Him and are desperate for Him, who will respond to His calling and knocking instead of resting in a false comfort and security.
The antidote to being lukewarm is “earnest zeal.” It is passion for Him and true spiritual riches. The antidote to pride is humility; dependence on Him rather than self-sufficiency which breeds self-deception.
The church today is in desperate need of a passion for Jesus Christ, His glory, His Name, His Gospel and true spiritual riches above all else. But the church is made up of individuals like you and I. It begins with my heart and your heart. And like an older but favorite chorus of mine used to put it: “It only takes a spark to get the fire burning.” You and I need to be that spark. It’s bound to catch somewhere at sometime with someone. And then we need as Romans 12:11 puts it, to: “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.