14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
I wonder what God would write if he wrote your Church a letter?
I wonder too, what God would write, to us personally as individuals?
I sometime joke that my mum was such a bad cook that she used to use the smoke detector as an oven timer…
Smoke detectors are funny things, sometimes they are so over-sensitive that they go off when the toast turns just ever so slightly brown… others have flat batteries and the house can go up in flames before the thing makes a bleep…
In many ways the human conscience is a little like a smoke detector, sometimes over-sensitive, Christians bowed down with guilt and feelings of failure, needing to hear the Easter message of forgiveness, redemption and restoration, of our love and value before God.
Others, become so used to being Christians, so familiar with the gospel message, so comfortable with their lives, so content with their Churches that they do become a little like a smoke detector with a flat battery.
In many ways this is the picture of the people at the Church of Laodicea, this is a wake up call to an apathetic Church.
A challenge for the complacent.
Sobering thoughts for the smug.
Jesus says “I know your deeds” (v15) and “you say you are rich and don’t need a thing” (v17) -yet “but you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (v17).
It’s a bit like one of those great episodes of ‘come dine with me’ where someone thinks they are a fantastic chef, only to realise they have tested and found wanting.
One of the scariest verses in the entire bible is “because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (v16)… spit you out of my mouth, is a bit of a literal translation, for you make me sick!
Yet it is important to note that Jesus takes no pleasure in challenging the Laodiceans on their apathy listen to verse 19 “ Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent”
So, what is Jesus’ advice for sorting out their apathy?
1) ‘buy Gold from me, refined in the fire, so you’ll be rich’ (v18)
– Echoes of Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth (chapter three).
The idea of Gold being refined by the fire, is things that will last for eternity, rather than being hung up on tempory things that won’t last have no eternal value… wood, hay, straw will all be burned up, yet gold, silver costly stones will come through fire imperishable and undamaged.
In other words, live for eternity and what really matters rather than tempory insignificant whims that so easily distract us.
2) “Wear white clothes” (v18) the passage goes on about “covering shameful nakedness”. Normally nakedness in scripture has the idea of being exposed, I think this is saying about the people in Laodicea have been enjoying sinful behaviour, and have now been caught out, a bit like the teenagers in the yellow pages advert when the parents come home, caught out without excuse.
White is a symbol of purity, and the image in revelation is that we get white robes when we ‘wash our clothes in the blood of the lamb’ (Rev. 7:14), so together this has imagery of both confession and living a holy life.
In other words, confess your sins, and start living the lives you ought to be living as God’s Holy people, don’t tolerate and indulge in sin, take holiness and purity seriously, your lifestyle matters to God… God takes our sin serious (this week end shows just how seriously God takes our sin).
3) And lastly, “buy salve for your eyes so that you can see” the last thing is about vision for life, seeing our lives God’s way rather than being blinded by our own foolish ideas, our whims, our sin, our complacency, apathy and arrogance… When we come to Christ we see the world in a different way, Jesus is inviting the Laodicean Church, to get new vision, not their old vision that is making God feel queasy and turning his stomach, but rather seeing things God’s way, with right and healed eyes.
This is followed by an invitation, probably one of the greatest invitations in scripture, where Christ himself says “behold I stand at the door and knock” (20) -notice he doesn’t barge his way in, in fact the famous Holman Hunt picture features Jesus knocking on the door of our lives, where the handle is on the inside, leaving the choice up to us about whether we open the door, or whether we ignore the knocking…
If we accept Christ’s offer to open the door, he promises to come into our lives, and eat with us, this is a Jewish term for fellowship and intimate friendship.
Today, if we hear God knocking on the door of our lives, will we open the door and let him in? Do we want to have fellowship and a friendship with Christ.
Do we want to let him in to every area of our lives, giving him access all areas?
I remember someone saying after do the Alpha course, “I had only let Jesus into the conservatory of my life, now I’ve asked him into the whole house”.
So, to conclude: – change your lives and start living not simply for comfort but instead for eternity; confess your sins and change your lives, living holy and pure lives for God; look at the world through God’s eyes rather than through our own distorted vision…
When we see this, we see ourselves as sinners in need of a Saviour… yet here comes our Saviour knocking on the door, asking if we will accept him.
Maybe today you want to rededicate your life afresh to God, turning your life around going his way instead of your own.