In reading the letters to the churches in Revelation, I’ve focused on marks of a living and thriving church. Here’s the first four:
Love: See the letter to Ephesus
Suffering: See the letter to Smyrna
Orthodoxy: See the letter to Pergamum.
Repentance: See the letter to Thyatira.
Holiness: See the letter to Sardis.
Perseverance: See the letter to Philadelphia
In this post we add another. Wholeheartedness: See the letter to Laodicea.
Jesus is calling the church in Laodicea to wholeheartedness. He is disgusted by a lack of zeal, passion, and commitment. He desires a church fully devoted to him.
He says, “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 hot nor cold ~ I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Jesus is using imagery that would have been extremely familiar to the people of Laodicea. Hierapolis to the north enjoyed hot springs useful for healing, while Colossae to the east had cold, refreshing drinking water. But Laodicea had no reliable water supply of its own. They received water from a spring miles away. If you visit the city today you can see many corroded water pipes. They were use to the taste of lukewarm water.
Jesus uses this image known very well by the people of Laodicea to describe his feeling about the church. The church in Laodicea’s half-heartedness makes Jesus want to spit, more graphically, vomit.
You can’t follow Jesus merely on the weekends. You can’t follow Jesus on half speed. It takes your full devotion. All of you are in a dangerous position. You are the ones at risk of being lukewarm. Don’t let it happen. Easter morning we celebrated the fact that Jesus died as Savior of the world and rose from the grave providing victory over sin and death. That’s a truth that should change every moment of your life.
The church in Laodicea confuses material prosperity and comfort with spiritual maturity and security. The church actually says, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” Yet, they are wrong. They see themselves as self-sufficient but Jesus sees them as wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. Good times (physical wealth and comfort) can foster a false sense of self-reliance and independence. Good times tempt us to forget God. We pour our energy into work, homes, kids, entertainment, social calendars. We can fall victims of the lie that we did it on our own. We only seem to need God when tragedy strikes. Yet, Jesus rebukes us in order to heal of us of this illusion.
Jesus offers wise counsel: “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.” To a church that claims to be rich, Jesus offers riches but you don’t get these riches from the world. Gold won’t help you. A nice wardrobe won’t help you. Medicine won’t help. Jesus is the only answer. Jesus tells the church: come to me.
Jesus pursues his people with rebuke and discipline. He desires his people to turn to the only reliable source for life. He says, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.”
Wholeheartedness begins with repentance.