To the Church at Laodicea

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, February 16, 2018 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

[This blog post is part of a series. The previous post is here.]

This is the final post on my series on the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. This seventh and final letter is to the church at Laodicea, and here Jesus does not have one praise about them. What a frightful thing to behold: the day Jesus writes you a letter and does not have one thing to be pleased with.

Jesus opens by describing himself as “the Amen,” “the Faithful and True Witness,” “the Beginning of the Creation of God.” Those are worthy studies in and among themselves, however I believe Jesus makes a point about this because this is what Laodicea is not. Jesus knows their works, and specifically that they are neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. Let me make this clear: Jesus is not like Goldilocks who doesn’t like it too hot, nor too cold, but just right. He wants you on fire, or turned off, but not this halfway mindset with one foot towards God and another foot in the world.

There are many who say this warm and cold comparison has nothing to do with heart but rather references the fact that two rivers flowed through Laodicea and met in the city. One river came from a glacier and was cold. The other came from a much warmer origin and was hot. Both rivers were used for medicinal purposes, however after the rivers met, those uses were no longer any good. While this geographical point is true, Jesus is clearly talking about something much deeper.

There are very few dishes which can be enjoyed at a lukewarm temperature. Most need to be hot (cooked or microwaved) or cold (refrigerated). Many foods spoil fast at a lukewarm temperature. A number of years ago when I was living on a missions base, we had a weekly food box drive and at one point we averaged 60-80 families on a given week. One Thanksgiving week, we housed a mission team and they wanted to feed every family who came for that food box drive. We were anticipating 1000 people, so we cooked a caldillo soup for 1000 people. It took two weeks to do that. On the day of the event, we had 12 people show up. My mom, the lead cook, was just fine, but the team leaders were very confused. So instead of feeding 1000 people there, we ended up feeding over 1000 people in Mexico by giving it away. However, we stuck 3-4 gallon ice-cream buckets of this soup into a cooler and put it into our walk-in fridge. We failed to let it cool first. The cooler retained the lukewarm temps of the soup and it grew green EVERYWHERE in that cooler. Just opening that cooler nearly made us sick, let alone tossing out the soup and then cleaning that cooler. We never made that mistake again. The food had to be stored hot or stored cold, but not lukewarm. That’s what Jesus wants: hot or cold.

How was Laodicea lukewarm? They boasted about having wealth and not needing anything, yet Jesus saw their hearts as wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. They thought they had it all together but Jesus revealed that they really had nothing. It is really easy for a wealthy church to be lukewarm. I have found that when God needs someone to learn how to trust him, it is almost always with finances that God uses as the tool of instruction. It is so easy to do things for God out of surplus, but when things get tight, how much of a tighter grip do we have of our money? As I learned from Rees Howell’s biography, it is still one thing to submit all finances for ministry purposes and it is something else entirely to depend wholly on God on how to spend a single penny, even in the case of a thank-you card.

What is Jesus’ response? How does he want Laodicea to deal with this problem? He asks them to buy gold from him which has already been tested. Everything the Laodiceans had built was with wood, hay, and stubble, which will burn in the day of judgment. Jesus wants them to build with gold, silver, and precious metals, objects which have already been through the heat and proven their value through fire. He’s not talking about buying your way into heaven but to use your resources for the Kingdom’s purposes, not your own. Jesus said to build your treasure in heaven, not here on earth.

Jesus also told Laodicea to get some clothes on, but not ordinary clothes. His clothes. He had already told a parable about a wedding banquet where a man without the right clothes was found and was cast out. Laodicea was clothed with their own wealth and resources, but not with God’s clothing, the covering of Christ’s blood which washes whiter than snow. And Jesus said to get some salve so they could see. It’s hard enough to see what is going on around us, but spiritual pride provides for excellent blinders. Laodicea was a proud church and Jesus needed to take them down a few notches.

Jesus reminds Laodicea that he disciplines and chastises his children. If you have been under the discipline of God and you know you have not fully settled the situation yet and suddenly God pulls his finger off you… let me tell you, that should absolutely terrify you. As I have been going through this journey, I have been begging God to keep the pressure on to keep reminding me to stay focused, and a while back I realized I had not felt God’s pressure. I haven’t completed the phase of the journey I know I am to be on and the day I realized I had not felt God’s pressure and his discipline for about a week, it scared me. And I’m the kind that doesn’t feel fear. Please pray for me that I be able to carry through in obedience what I need to do in this journey. I must get zealous for God. Not for his truth, but for him, and I must repent of what has kept me from it.

Jesus stands at the door and knocks. Many theologians have long misquoted this passage as being the door of a person’s heart and Jesus as a gentleman will only come in if we let him. That is not true. Jesus didn’t kindly wait at the door for Saul to respond to him. He kicked the door in and turned his world upside down, even changing his name to Paul. This is the door of a church, a church that thought they had it all and lacked nothing. Will the church open the door, or shut him out?

Despite hearing multiple sermons on these seven churches, writing these posts about them has gotten my attention. I already know how much my life the last few years has resembled the Ephesian church. I would love to be able to hear what Jesus told Philadelphia. What I do know is that I know what I need to do and I need to do it. Laziness has been my enemy the last few months so in a way I feel like Sardis. I need to get up and follow through. I pray this series has been a blessing for you.

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