It is always an error in judgement to guess what a congregation is thinking. Even if they are giving verbal and non-verbal feedback, interpretation is a fool’s errand. When it comes to an audience, what you see is definitely not what you get. Swaying, or nodding or “that’s right” from enthusiasts does not mean they are dialed in. And the inert crowd who spend the sermon staring at their shoes may not be checked out. Just because someone seems asleep and another is saying “Amen!” does not mean you really know what is going on inside.
The deportment of a listener is often more about culture than comprehension. Feedback does not mean the hearer is really hearing: hearing with their ears, their minds, their hearts, or their souls. Especially if the word lands a punch. It is easy to zealously agree when a speaker brings hard truth for the guy in the next seat. But when it is our turn, will we listen? How loud is our “Amen” then?
How willing are you to say “Amen” when a hard word hits home? When it penetrates the pretense? And divides the deepest thoughts and intents of the heart? The message to the Church in Laodicea in Revelation 3 is familiar. They are the lukewarm church.
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
This church was lukewarm. Not frigid, nor on fire. They were middling, going through the motions, not getting too excited about Jesus, God, or the Bible. No fanatics here. No controversies either. Nothing but moderation. And while we say, “moderation in all things,” the lukewarmness of the Laodicean Church made Jesus sick to his stomach. He is sickened by their complacency and contentment with a “form of godliness” but with no pursuit of its power.
Jesus knows their works – but none are worth mentioning. Their only noteworthy work is that they are not what they should be. Not very impressive. The Church in Laodicea is the only one of the Seven Churches to receive no positive praise – only rebuke. Not because they are a Synagogue of Satan. Nor because they have failed to discipline heretics or silence false teachers. But because in Laodicea, “just enough is good enough” when it comes to following Christ.
There is no concern to grow in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus. They are content with what they have, who they have, and how they have always done things. Then top that off with a stunning lack of spiritual self-awareness. “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”
What if we made such a statement? “We are rich in our faith and need nothing. We don’t need anything or anyone else. We are content with our spiritual progress. We love our little group, just as it is. We are comfortable with things the way they are. We don’t see any point in stirring the pot by getting all hot and bothered about Jesus.” The Laodiceans think they have it all together. But Jesus offers a stinging rebuke. In a city famed in the ancient world for its ophthalmology, they could not have been more blind.
They have laid up treasure, but are not rich toward God. Spiritually they are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. But not just them. This is the assessment of all who are lukewarm toward Christ. Content that “just enough is good enough.” Who have no desire to pursue and follow Christ.
Are you content with your relationship to Christ? Is just enough, good enough for you? Are you hot? Or cold? Or lukewarm? The Lord speaks a hard word. He is “The Amen.” He is the faithful and genuine witness. He has a hard but faithful word for a soft and unfaithful church. Will we hear it? Or will we bow up or turn a deaf ear.
Jesus’ word is sharp, but something tender shines through his rebuke. Christ does not cut this church loose, take their lampstand, or cast them away. Instead, he calls them back. “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.” In the ancient language, he used a word for love that declares tender affection for those indifferent toward Him.
They have everything they need from church but have put Christ outside. He stands at his own door and knocks. What about us? Have we been so satisfied with our church, our programs, our fellowship, our spiritual pursuits, that we have pushed Jesus out of the center? And even out of the church? If we are pursuing something other than Christ, we too are growing lukewarm.
An account Scottish pastor, Ebenezer Erskine, illustrates this well.
A lady who was present at the observance of the Lord’s Supper, where Ebenezer Erskine was assisting, was much impressed by his discourse. Having been informed who he was, she went next Sabbath to his own place of worship to hear him. But she felt none of those strong impressions she experienced on the former occasion. Wondering at this, she called on Erskine, and stating the case, asked what might be the reason of such a difference in her feelings; he replied, ‘Madam, the reason is this—last Sabbath you went to hear Jesus Christ; but to-day, you have come to hear Ebenezer Erskine.’
Who do we come to church to see? What do we come to worship? Who will we follow? Whose love constrains and animates us? If the answer is not ‘Jesus’ you might want to take your temperature. Are you growing lukewarm? Join us this week as we consider Revelation 3:14-21 and consider the diagnosis and the remedy for lukewarm Christianity.
We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm at The Arkansas DreamCenter at 1116 Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive in Little Rock for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube. For the Order of Service, click here.
Photo by Kane Reinholdtsen on Unsplash