“The Lukewarm Church, continued….”

“The Lukewarm Church, continued….”

Last week I wrote about Jesus‘s words to the church at Laodicea in Asia minor. These words are contained in Revelation, chapter 3, verses 14 through 22. In these verses Jesus tells the Laodicean church that they are neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, and that he is about to spit them out of his mouth. Usually whenever I read this passage I am concerned because I think it is a fairly accurate description of much of the Christian Church in America, and that it is also sometimes a just description of me as an American church pastor and leader (albeit retired.)

I ended what I wrote last week by asking people to pray for me to be more committed to the Lord, and also to pray for themselves if they felt that the passage also addressed them. I remember I felt a little uneasy with that ending and so I ended the article with a sentence saying that I would continue talking about it again this week. As I revisit this passage, I want to stress that it is not so much addressed to individuals, but to a whole church in a culture.

Perhaps, therefore, it would be helpful to pay a bit more attention to some other things Jesus says about the Laodicean church in verses 17 through 19 of Revelation, chapter 3. (These verses may help us discover why he calls them lukewarm.) First of all Jesus points out that the church is wealthy and rich and therefore it thinks it does not need anything else. Elsewhere in scripture Jesus points out that wealth makes it harder to follow him: “It is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God than for a camel to enter the eye of a needle.”(Repeated twice at Matthew 29:23 and 24, but see also verse 26 where Jesus goes on to say that “all things are possible with God” meaning even a rich community like that at Laodicea can be saved.)

Jesus goes on in the second part of verse 17 to tell the church that while they think they are rich, spiritually, from God’s perspective, they are “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.”

Jesus then tells them they should obtain from him “gold refined in fire,” white clothes to wear to cover their nakedness and salve to put on their eyes so they can see. He tells them he is rebuking and disciplining them because he loves them, so that they can be earnest and repent.

“Gold refined by fire” probably means that the treasure of faith and obedience often comes through hard times and persecution. Likewise the righteousness of God (spoken of as white clothes) which covers our sins, and the spiritual insight which pierces our blindness, are both gifts of the Holy Spirit of which we are in desperate need until we receive them.

So the Laodicean Church is a church which needs to be rebuked and disciplined by God so that it sees its true situation and seeks Him desperately. I still think the American church for the most part resembles the Laodicean church, and I am part of the American church. We are a part of what is probably the richest nation in history. We have goods and services which previous generations could not even dream of. In many ways, all the “things” which we have are not just our possessions, but, often subtly, they “possess” us. In a real way, our possessions make us poorer spiritually. Therefore Christianity in America may be “poorer” than Christianity in many other places.

Probably, we as the American church desperately need to be rebuked and disciplined. What would that look like? God knows, but we should be conscious that sometimes things the world calls bad can draw us closer to Him. They may be what He calls “gold refined by fire.”

To those who heed him, who heed these words of warning and motivation, Jesus promises close communion with Him and to sit with Him on His throne. He says it is definitely possible to overcome as He lives in us!   

Winfield Casey Jones is a retired pastor and can be reached at wrjones2002@gmail.com. A version of this first appeared in the Pearland and Friendswood Reporter News. Earlier columns are available at awordfromcasey.com.  


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