Book Of Hope Chapter 7 – The Lukewarm Church

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After a brief interval, we are  once again at  the  study of  the Book of  Revelation. In the last session, we were  discussing the  church in Philadelphia, the  perfect one among seven churches mentioned in Revelation. Today we are  coming to the seventh  and  last in the series, the  church in  Laodicea.  

Laodicea was a  city situated some  six miles from Philadelphia. At that time it was a prosperous  city with flourishing enterprises in banking and  entertainment. Laodicea was famous for the manufacture of  black shiny clothes. The city was  wealthy  to the  extent that   in the early years of the first century, they even refused the  financial  help offered by the emperor to rebuild their city which was  destroyed by the earthquake!  Laodicea  also finds a mention in Aristotle’s writings as a  place famous for treating diseases affecting the  eyes. It is  said that  they used a  particular kind of soothing salve in the treatment.  Though wealthy, Laodicea was  not  having a  regular   source of  water to cater to the  needs of its residents.  As a solution, they  decided  to bring water from the  nearby hot springs through  aqueducts. They did get the  water, but  unfortunately, by the time  the  hot water reached  Laodicea, it   had lost  its heat and became lukewarm! 

It is in this backdrop that   Jesus calls the church in  Laodicea lukewarm.  The water sourced from the hotspring was  hot indeed. But it lost its most  valuable attribute midway.  In a similar way, though the Laodiceans  started their  spiritual journey  with faith and  zeal,  by the time John was writing  to them, their Christian life  had turned  lukewarm; neither hot nor cold. 

As usual, Jesus starts with a self introduction, this time declaring that  he is the faithful and true  witness, the  origin of God’s creations, the  Amen.  Finding nothing deserving of appreciation   in  Laodicea, Jesus reserved the  harshest of words for their church.  Jesus warns them that if they fail to  mend  their  ways, he will be compelled to  spit them out  of his mouth! We can imagine how pathetic it would be for a  church, or for that matter for a person, to be   expelled from the  presence  of the   Lord. 

Now, we need to go a  little deeper.  How did the Laodiceans  become lukewarm in faith?  A few things will  help  explaining it.  First of all they were self sufficient. They were  so confident that they  never  thought of   asking  any help from others, be it the  emperor himself.  If a   false sense of self sufficiency and  trust in their  own wealth and   resources  prevented  them from  seeking the   help of their emperor, it is no wonder that the  Laodiceans  did not care much about  the help coming from God  as well. 

Self sufficiency  leads to  self deception.  Perhaps this is  one thing that brought the   Laodiceans  such a severe  admonition from  Jesus.  Let us  see what was  our Lord’s  complaint about  the church in Laodicea. ‘For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing’ (Rev 3:17). This is  a classic example of  self deception arising from a false sense of self sufficiency. Now see, how the Lord reacts: ‘You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked’ (Rev 3:17). Laodiceans  saw themselves as  perfect,  needing nothing from others, not  even from God. It was their  self assessment. Now turn the mirror  to us   and think. Are we also like  the Laodiceans, living under the  false  sense of  self assessed righteousness?

True perspective  will never  come from a self assessment, because it will be   biased in our favour at all times. True perspective is how the Lord  sees us.  In the  case of  Laodiceans, the Lord found them wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked! It is only when   we realize   our shortcomings that we will think of its remedies. For the  Laodiceans, it required  a blunt reprimand from the  Lord to wake them up from their slumber. What about us? 

Jesus is  not the kind of  person who leaves the  scene after  presenting  his complaints. He  always  suggests remedies as well. In the  case of  the church in Laodicea, Jesus’ prescription reads; ‘Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes  to clothe you and to keep the shame of  your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see’ (Rev.3: 18). Jesus has made it clear  that  the  riches that  Laodiceans  were proud of are not worth in his  eyes;  the  black shiny clothes  they made  would not  suffice to  keep the  shame of their nakedness before  God;  and that the  salve they made  would not  help them  see God. The only way to  become rich in the eyes of God is to  attain a  character  shining like  pure gold. And  pure gold is  made by  treating it with fire. Yes, those who are ready to go through fiery ordeals,  will earn true wealth. As for our robes, we should trade our black ones  stained by  sin  with the  fresh white robes of grace  that  God gives us free. Laodicea may be  famous for the salve  they make to  soothe the eyes, but Jesus is the  true doctor who  gives sight to the blind. Without mincing words, Jesus  tells them that  they needed a total conversion.

Refined gold, white clothes and salve; all stand  for  the need to  return to the Lord   and trust in him rather than  our own  strength. In a nutshell, it is a  call to repent.  Jesus is more forthright in suggesting  them the   path  of repentance, as we can see in these verses; ‘I reprove and discipline  those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent’ (Rev.3:19). 

Next comes one of the   most beautiful verses in the whole Bible; ‘Listen! I am standing at the  door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the  door, I will  come in to you and eat with you, and you with me’ (Rev 3:20). In spite of all  those negatives that  he  said about  the church  in Laodicea, Jesus is still there, standing at the  door, knocking.  But they never knew it.  Any person  from the church   could open the door to  Jesus. A priest, a pastor, a husband, a wife, a  father, a son, a mother, a daughter; anybody can open the  door to  Jesus. Once he  comes inside he will dine with us. Sharing the  food  is one of the  best ways to  express our intimacy  and love towards others.  Jesus knew it well. That is why  he  waited  by the Sea of Tiberias with a breakfast prepared  for  his dear disciples. “Come and have breakfast” (Jn 21:12).

Jesus’ table is  laid  for us.   His banquet is  ready. He is  waiting  at   our   door  to invite us for the  great banquet. He keeps on knocking. But  we fail to recognise that  somebody is standing  at our door and that it is  Jesus Christ himself knocking. If we  listen to his   call and open the  door he will  eat with us. If we  stop  deceiving ourselves and open our eyes to  see  what our Lord has prepared for us,  we will be blessed.  It is  Jesus’ promise that   the one who conquers  will  share  a place in  his throne just as he himself conquered and  sat  down  with his Father on his throne!

Let us  conclude  this session  with   a pledge  to open our  hearts to  Jesus so that he  may open heaven  to us.

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