Sometimes, we have to start over.
To the Church in Laodicea
14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 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. 18 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.19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 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 that person, and they with me.
21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
In the mountains surrounding the region of Laodicea are springs. Hot and cold.
These springs flow continuously, either from a source deep in the ground and from off the mountain.
And, there are spots where the water has found places to simply sit and not go anywhere at all.
It is here that Jesus is showing the Apostle John some interesting issues with a church he loves.
In fact, as the book of Revelation opens Jesus has something to say to seven churches that seems to have lost their focus and direction. All seven churches seem to have started out well. And, all seven need to do something to regain their focus and direction.
It is the church at Laodicea that seems to garner the most attention. Maybe it is because of this all important verse at 3.20
20 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 that person, and they with me.These are familiar tones if you have spent any time in church at all. You've probably been here at this very scripture listening to a message about hot and cold and lukewarm. Maybe you thought you understood what was being said here. I know I did. That was until I heard a little more about the background on this place and realized I had been looking at the whole situation from the wrong angle.
A few years ago I took part in a study put on by Focus on the Family called "That The World May Know". In the early 90's FotF sent a group of people on a tour of Israel with a guide named Ray Van der Laan. They didn't sight see the normal places around Jerusalem and some of the major tourist attractions. They went to out of the way places. Places where actual biblical events would have happened. After they had covered Old & New Testament events and places, they continued on. The book of Acts and then the letter the apostles had written carried them north of Israel into the world of Turkey & Greece. One of the stops they made was in the hill country near what was known at the time of the Apostle John as Laodicea.
The Laodicean Church was a Christian community established in the ancient city of Laodicea (on the river Lycus, in the Roman province of Asia, and one of the early centers of Christianity). On their trip to this area, Van der Laan showed the group that there were places where hot water flowed freely as well as cold water flowing. And, there were stagnate pool of stench filled water that had gather junk from just sitting. There was no in or out for any of these pools. They had gathered water from run off on the mountain and now the water simply lay there with no where to go.
It is an interesting and yet often misunderstood illustration that Jesus puts to the Laodicean Church.
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!The way many of us have learned to look at this message is to think that the "hot" represents something good that the Lord wants the Laodiceans to be while the cold is something bad the Lord does not want the Laodicean to be. Sounds legitimate. Except upon further examination of the message here it is really the lukewarm that Jesus has an issue with. SO, do we equate the cold with the lukewarm them or are they separate things?
Van der Laan showed his group that the hot and the cold both had useful purposes. There were many things one could do with hot water - cooking, cleaning, bathing. The cold water also had many uses - washing, cleansing, drinking. It is the stagnate water, the water that's just sitting, that Jesus seems to equate with the life of the Laodicean Church. The hot water is good for something. Makes for a delicious hot beverage. Yummay!! The cold water is refreshing. Makes for a nice chiller or a hot day. Imagine taking a swig of this stench filled water that has just been sitting and collecting filth. What would you do with it if it entered your mouth? That's right! Pitooey!!! "I will spew you out"
And, the illustration for the Laodicean church doesn't end there.
Jesus goes on the say that they have thought of themselves as "rich" and not needing anything.
Can you imagine being so confident in oneself that you don't need anybody else? You can take care of yourself. You don't need anybody else's help or assistance. Independence can be a good thing and it can also lead to a demoralizing way of life. This Christian life is one of dependence upon God. We need him. We need him to support us and guide us. The Laodiceans seem to have gone to a place in their hearts and minds where they don't need anybody else, even God. They seem to believe in Him. They are the church. But, there is some distance there as far as relationship is concerned. At times, human beings seem to get to a self-sufficient place where we seem to have all we need and we want. SO, we kick our feet up, lean our chair back and rest in the 'easy place'. We're doing good.
All the sudden we find ourselves on our backs looking up.
But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
What a wake-up call! What a slap in the face! To be told that you're not doing something right.
To be shown our faults and our short comings. The Laodiceans have to be reeling as they see themselves mentioned in this letter that John is penning. More shocking for themselves is the revelation that Jesus has issue with them and how they are conducting their lives. Nobody likes to be singled out. Nobody lies to be shown where they need to improve, to be better. It's uncomfortable.
You've heard me say it more than once in my time here.
"You have to go through the uncomfortable to get to the comfortable."
In the Gospels, Jesus would say words like - "Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest." Then he turns around and says - "Deny yourself, pick up your crossand follow me." More disturbingly, he says - "I came not to bring peace, but a sword."
What does he mean? What does he want us to do? Do we come to him to find comfort? If we do, then why does he ask us to do so many uncomfortable things? And, why is he threatening us with a sword?
The answer is right here in this Revelation passage.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.
Jesus wants to alleviate our pain and suffering. He wants to bring us peace. But, it only happens when we forget about ourselves, turn our lives over to him and let Him lead the way. The Laodiceans must be dumbfounded. "But...we believe in you. We have all we need here. What are we doing wrong?" Jesus could not be more emphatic. They were trusting in themselves. Can you see it?
When human beings trust in themselves, they begin to think they know it all, they have it all. The Laodiceans were thinking of themselves as "rich". Maybe they thought they were better than everybody else. They became self-sufficient, not relying on anybody. Jesus says, "You guys could not be farther from the truth." He shows them their true state. He does so because he loves them. He does so because he's in the saving business. It's uncomfortable, yes. But, heeding Jesus' words can bring us the long awaited peace we have been searching for.
Now, lets pause for a moment to contemplate something...
Do we read the scriptures devotionally? Meaning, we read it out of habit, because we're supposed to.
Or, do we read it exegetically? Ooo, what's that mean? That means we read it to break it down, study it, apply it, use it. As we are reading this passage from Revelation, is it speaking to us, beckoning us? Is there something we could apply to ourselves? Some way we could respond to what we have read and learned?
Jesus has an answer for the Laodiceans. Open the door.
20 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 that person, and they with me.
He is pleading with them! Open your eyes. See your true state. I can help. You're missing the mark.
I LOVE YOU! Open the door! There is nothing hurts us inward more deeply than to be pleading with someone to make the right decision. Parents have done it with their children. Teachers do it with their students. And, God does it with human beings. He wants to come into our lives. He wants to sit down with us, eat with us, share in some fellowship. There's no better place to do that than around a meal. "If anyone hears my voice" Do you hear his voice today? Is he talking to you? Have you ever opened the door and allowed Jesus to come into your life?
Listen to these closing words...
21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.
Being 'victorious' imply that we have defeated something. It is quite a thing to rise above ourselves. To admit that we don't have all the answers. To admit that we are poor, blind, pitiful, naked. We need clothing. Jesus offers it. The clothing of his forgiveness. We are hungry. Jesus offers to eat with us. We are poor. Jesus offers to meet our needs.
It starts when we open the door.