This is the last sermon in the series SEVEN KINDS OF CHURCHES and was preached at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Cherry Log, Georgia on Sunday, June 22, 2014 by Pastor Paul Mims. You can hear this sermon at www.csbccl.org
Revelation 3:14-22A handicapped girl with leg braces became discouraged with her condition and wanted to quit her physical therapy. One day when her father insisted that she continue, she fell into his arms and asked, “Daddy, don’t you love me just the way I am?” Knowing how she felt he hugged her and replied, “Yes honey, I love you just the way you are. But I love you too much to let you stay that way.”
The Lord could say that to us. “I love you too much to let you stay that way. Grow in grace. Read your Bible. Get alone with me every day in prayer and meditation. See what I can do in your life. Live in my strength.”
I looked up “lukewarm” in the dictionary. This is the definition: mildly warm, tepid, lacking in enthusiasm, indifferent.” When you drink tea you either want “hot tea” or “Iced tea.” You do not ask for “tepid tea.”
Hierapolis, nearby to Laodicea, had hot springs and Colossae had a cold mountain stream. But Laodicea had an underground aqueduct that flowed for miles with dirty, tepid water. Visitors who drank from it would spew it out of their mouths. The church at Laodicea was neither cold in rejecting Christ, or hot in their desire to serve him with zeal and passion.
We have now studied six of the seven churches of Revelation. The Lord found something good to say about each one. But when we come to this letter to the church at Laodicea, there is not one good thing he can say about them. However, throughout this letter you feel his love reaching out to them. He wants them to be in the right relationship with him. He wants to restore their passion for the Kingdom that they once had.
The church at Laodicea was known to the Apostle Paul. He mentions them twice in his letter to the Colossians: In 2:1 “I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all those who have not met me personally.” In 4:16 “After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.” In this last statement Paul was likely referring to the circular letter we know as Ephesians, for the oldest manuscripts do not have “to the Ephesians.”
Jesus begins the letter with: “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.” He presents himself to them as the source of all truth and spiritual life. You can sense the pathos in his approach to them. He wants them alive and useful to the Kingdom, but in their present state that are ineffective as a congregation. Jesus gives several reasons their witness of him is ineffective.
I. SPIRITUAL APATHY HAS NO INFLUENCE.
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither cold or hot – I am about to spew you out of my mouth.” (vv.15-16) A church that is alive has a distinctive influence in the community. In his great manifesto of the faith, the Sermon on The Mount, Jesus said to his followers: “I want you to be as salt in the earth. Your presence is going to keep the whole society from decaying. You are to be as light in the world for people live in spiritual darkness.”
Their society was decaying around them and they had no influence to change it. Jesus wants his church to have influence over the hearts and minds of the people in the congregation and in the community. They need to have the decay resistant power of the gospel.
Here is a humorous example of influence: A mother took her young son shopping. After several hours in the stores, a clerk handed the little boy a lollipop. “What do you say?” the mother said to the boy, to which he replied, “Charge it!”
Someone has written: “My life shall touch a dozen lives before this day is done;
Leave countless marks for good or ill, ere sets the evening sun.
This is the wish I always wish, the prayer I always pray:
Lord, may my life help other lives it touches by the way.”
When Dave Thomas died in early 2002, he left behind more than just thousands of Wendy’s restaurants. He also left a legacy of being a practical, hard-working man who was respected for his down-to-earth values.
Among the pieces of good advice that have outlived the smiling entrepreneur is his view of what Christians should be doing with their lives. Thomas, who as a youngster was influenced for Christ by his grandmother, said that believers should be “roll-up-your-shirt sleeves” Christians.
In his book Well Done, Thomas said, “Roll-up-your-shirtsleeves Christians see Christianity as faith and action. They still make the time to talk with God through prayer, study Scripture with devotion, be super-active in their church and take their ministry to others to spread the Good Word.” He went onto say they who are “anonymous people who are doing good for Christ may be doing even more good than all the well-known Christians in the world.”
That statement has more meat in it than a Wendy’s triple burger. Thomas knew about hard work in the restaurant business; and he knew it is vital in the spiritual world also.” (Dave Branon)
II. SPIRITUAL APATHY HAS NO URGENCY.
“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.”
Laodicea was a wealthy church with great financial strength but with spiritual poverty. In essence, Jesus is saying to them: “You give me the impression that you need nothing. I sense no dependence upon me. I hear no prayers for my blessings. I do not feel you drawing strength from me. You give me the impression that you don’t need me. I want you to sense the urgency that I feel for those around you hearing the gospel, but you are not telling them.”
Our Southern Baptist Convention held the annual meeting recently in Baltimore. I watched it streaming online. The main emphasis was a call to urgency in presenting the gospel to our world. Pastors were urged to train their people in how to win others to Christ. Also, it was acknowledged that many of our churches are apathetic and doing nothing for the kingdom. The condition of the churches of all denominations in America was addressed. 6,000 churches close their doors and cease to exist every year. Only one in ten pastors remains a pastor all of his active life.
We need to have the urgency that believes that people outside of Christ are afflicted in their souls with a disease that will kill them. It is called sin. The answer to this disease is the glorious gospel of the Son of God, coming, crucified, buried, risen, and coming again.
By the very nature of the gospel it is radical. It is also urgent if we really believe that Christ is the only hope of mankind. How then can we be so mum about it? Apathy closes the lips to personal witness for it closes the heart to winning people to Christ. An atheist said to William Booth, “If I believed what you Christians say you believe, I would devote all of my energies to telling people about it.” And Booth said, “That sparked my soul.” As you know he then founded the ministry of the Salvation Army.
Pastor Randy Ally gave this account: Pastor Bruce D. Weaver and his wife drove in their car to pick up their son from Vacation Bible School. The sky was growing dark and there was a storm watch in effect, but no rain was falling yet. The theme for their upcoming Vacation Bible School had to do with Noah’s ark and the flood, so he joked with some of the adult leaders about going to great lengths this year with special effects. By the time he arrived home with his wife and son, the wind was blowing fiercely and lightning bolts were coming down all around them. They hurried inside the house and began to shut windows. Within a few moments they were without electrical power. They tucked their son into bed, trying not to betray their concern regarding the severe weather conditions outside. Suddenly the telephone rang. It was their neighbor informing them that a “tornado warning” had been issued for their area. That meant a funnel cloud actually had been sighted somewhere near. Weaver asked him why the siren in their small town was not sounding. The neighbor said that the siren could not be sounded because of a power outage. He further explained that he had heard on his police scanner instructions for everyone who could hear the scanner to call their neighbors to inform them of the “tornado warning.” Weaver was thankful for his concern and he was also thankful that the funnel cloud sighted damaged neither his family nor anyone else in their area.
Later that evening, Pastor Weaver thought about his neighbor’s concern for his safety and he reflected upon his own concern, or lack thereof, for his neighbors. But it is all the more important to inform neighbors that a “code red” has been issued by God, because in due time Jesus Christ will return.” Do you have neighbors you have never invited to church or spoken to them of Christ? There is an eternal tornado coming in their lives. Can you be silent about it?
III. SPIRITUAL APATHY HAS NO VITAL WORSHIP
“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.” (v.18) Jesus is using local color in mentioning the products of Laodicea that made some of them rich – gold, clothes, and medicine. He is saying to them, “I will refine you like pure gold, give you pure white clothes to wear, and heal your eyes wounded by sin so that you will be able to see your condition and the transformation that I can bring to your life.”
They were meeting on the Lord’s Day, but their worship made no difference in their lives. They never connected with God and therefore worship never happened.
It is a mistake for you to feel that your worship depends on the pastor and his sermon. It is his responsibility to instruct you in the faith, but it is your responsibility to open your heart and mind and connect with God yourself. Do not wait for some emotional stirring from a song or a sermon. Go right to God for yourself and present yourself to him in worship and he will respond to you in making the service meaningful to you. Learning to worship in all moods and circumstances is an achievement of the soul.
Gene Mims in Kingdom Principles for Church Growth said, “The purpose of worship is to come before the Lord in obedience to praise Him, to hear from Him, to confess to Him, and to commit our lives to Him. Every worship service is to be an encounter with the Lord, transcending our feelings, desires, and even our abilities to perform.”
It happened in Baltimore. The pastor went to this church to begin his ministry. And for a long time nobody was converted. Then, one Sunday morning, five people walked the aisle and professed faith in Christ. The next Sunday, it happened again – and the next, and the next. The pastor asked, “Why after such deadness, after such a drought of conversions, why is this happening?
The janitor heard him ask the question and said to him, “Pastor, meet me at such and such a time and I will show you.” He went and he saw five men on their knees. They prayed for people they knew and then went out to tell them of Christ and how they could be saved. The pastor then asked them, “What prompted you to do this?” They said, “The Holy Spirit began to work in our hearts and we realized that we were leaving all the work of evangelism to you and that isn’t right. We decided to take our God-given responsibility and do it.”
The letter to Laodicea closes with these beautiful words of Jesus: “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.” (vv.19-20)
The artist, Holman Hunt, painted a picture of Christ knocking at the door. He is wearing a crown of thorns, standing outside the closed human heart patiently waiting for admittance. This painting now hangs in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. When it was first displayed, critics said, “Mr. Hunt, you have made one critical mistake. You have painted a door without a door knob.” He replied, “That is no mistake. The way to open the door is on the inside.”
Jesus makes the promise: “If you open the door to your heart and life – I will come in and bless your life by forgiving your sin and giving you life abundant and everlasting.”
PRAISE BE TO HIS NAME!