To Laodicea: You Are Lukewarm

TEXT: Revelation 3:14-22

This is one of the most stern rebukes from Jesus to the seven churches of Revelation. Laodicea had become spiritually lukewarm. And Jesus addresses them with three central messages:

I. A Rebuke for the Self-Satisfied (Rev. 3:14-16)
Laodicea was centrally located between two cities – the one to the north known for its hot springs that had medicinal value, and the city to the south had cold, refreshing water. On the contrary, Laodicea had terrible, mineral-filled lukewarm water not fit to drink. This was the backdrop of Jesus’ illustration. In its most basic meaning, to be “lukewarm” as a Christian means to lack zeal, to lack enthusiasm or passion, to take something as amazing and miraculous as the gospel, as God’s grace shown to us in Christ, and look at it with indifference, ingratitude and boredom. But being lukewarm is more than that. After all, Jesus says, “I know your works”. Their actions, their works of ministry, their lives have become empty and ineffective. So Jesus is not just dealing with a lack of enthusiasm. He’s dealing with Christians who have become fruitless in their ministry to one another and to the lost, and not even realizing it. In response, Jesus says, “I will spit you out of my mouth,” literally to vomit. This church’s condition nauseates the Lord.

II. A Remedy for the Self-Deceived (Rev. 3:17-19)
The city was wealthy, and so was the church. There was a smug self-reliance in the church. A mentality of “look what we have built, look what we have done, look at all we have accomplished with our own strength.” Self-reliance. Pride. To depend on me means I won’t depend on God. I won’t pray and ask God for help. And I will never give God the glory for anything. What’s the remedy? Humility. To be humbled before the Lord, and repent. Confess your sin of self-reliance and call out on Him for help. That’s what Jesus is telling them in v. 18, addressing each one of the sources of the city’s wealth (banking, textiles and a medical school), by telling the church they need not to depend on themselves but on Christ alone.

III. A Reward for the Repentant (Rev. 3:20-22)
The picture of Jesus standing at the door and knocking is not a picture for the unbeliever to “let him in”. This is a message to the church, for those who claim to belong to Jesus but have in essence locked Him out, pretending they don’t need Him. He is calling His church to repentance. And with that, the promise of reward: 1) Jesus will come in a re-establish covenant, and 2) Jesus will give a place of honor, sharing in the authority of His throne. What an amazing act of love and kindness. Jesus could have written them off. He could have given up on them all. But He didn’t. His mercy and grace were made available to those who deserved it the least. And this picture of mercy and grace is intentional in the text. For those who have become lukewarm, those who are complacent and bored and indifferent to the gospel, the way that changes is for us to be reminded of just how amazing God’s grace is, just how deep His love is for us, just how powerful and complete His forgiveness is.


In light of these reminders, ask yourself:

  • Have I grown unimpressed with the gospel? When I hear the gospel sung, or preached, or I read it in the pages of Scripture, is my heart moved? If not, why not?
  • When I do feel numb or unmoved, what do I do about it? Do I take that to the Lord and receive refreshment and joy from Him?
  • If I am excited and zealous about Jesus and about His gospel, does it show in how I share the gospel with others, and how I make disciples of others?
  • Do I serve the Lord in my own strength, out of obligation, OR out of a joyful dependence in Christ, and for the glory of Christ?

If you see signs of a lukewarm heart, Jesus stands at the door knocking, ready to bring real change. May our prayer echo the psalmist David, “Lord, Return to me the joy of your salvation”. And Jesus is faithful to do just that.

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