Lukewarm lessons

Revelation 3:14-22
Every opportunity I have, I listen to Ray Vander Laan (RVL). He teaches biblical discipleship. After all the years I’ve listened to him, I can’t help but notice things in the Bible through the lens he offers. His study approach considers the cultural, geographical and pedagogical aspects of Jewish life. Learning to read scripture this way broadens your understanding of the Bible. So many biblical stories and concepts come alive in ways you couldn’t see before.

Some of us have thought of how culture influences stories. But what about geography? I think of RVL every time I read about Laodicea in Revelation 3. He offered a lesson once based on the geography of the city.

Jesus has a message for the church there. It’s one you might be familiar with. The body of believers are neither cold nor hot. How the Lord wishes they were either. Instead, they are lukewarm. I’ve heard many preachers use this text in sermons. When they do, it’s always a call to be “on fire” for the Lord. The assumption is we should choose to be hot not cold. But that doesn’t take into consideration Jesus’ desire. The text says he wishes we were hot or cold. Either one would be a worthy choice.

This is where we look at geography. Laodicea was between two other towns, both known for their springs. One was a cold spring. The other a hot spring. Cold springs offer refreshment and coolness. Hot springs can alleviate pain. Both represent some form of healing.

Water was piped in to Laodicea. By the time it made it’s way to the city, it was lukewarm. It offered no healing. It was not something you wanted to drink. You would spit it out of your mouth.

And so was the faith of the church there. They said they had everything they needed. They were self-sufficient. The text indicates they said they were “rich” and had “prospered.” We can make the connection between their prosperity and their self-centeredness. These were people who trusted in their own understandings. Trust in the Lord wasn’t necessary.

Why? Because they had provided everything themselves for themselves.

They were not a healing presence to anyone else. Their town’s water which they despised was an illustration of their faith. And so the Lord considered them “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked (Revelation 3:17).

We can hear their conceit again from Jesus. Our Lord says, “I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me” (Revelation 3:20). Jesus wouldn’t be standing at the door if they would have already let him in.

Let’s chew on that a bit.

Is it possible for a church to do all its church stuff and be without Jesus? In what ways do we need to open the door to the risen Lord? What do we do with God’s desire for us to be a healing presence to the world around us?

Look at your church’s location. What lukewarm lesson might God be trying to teach you?

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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