Sermon Transcript for October 20, 2019
Christ the King, Palm Coast, FL ~ Pastor Jay Zahn ~ Revelation 3:14-22 ~ Sunday, October 20, 2019
A man made an appointment with his pastor. When he sat down in his pastor’s office, the man hesitatingly began, “Pastor, I need to tell you some things, but I am worried that you’ll think less of me when I tell you what I’m struggling with.” Without even the slightest pause the pastor responded, “I’m so glad you’re here and trust me enough to share your struggles with me. I truly appreciate that. Thank you for your being courageous enough to be honest with me about what you’re struggling with. The people who come to worship week after week yet don’t feel like they really have any real sins or struggles in their hearts or lives that need to be confessed or addressed, honestly, it’s their spiritual condition that weighs heaviest on my heart.”
Why would the pastor say that? For the same reasons Jesus himself is deeply concerned about the congregation at Laodicea. What is it that weighs so heavy on Jesus’ heart? Just listen: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” By describing the congregation as “lukewarm” Jesus seems to be alluding to the hot springs of Hierapolis, located just 6 miles north of Laodicea. As the hot, mineral-laden waters from Hierapolis traveled across the plateau towards Laodicea, they gradually cooled off and were only lukewarm by the time they reached toward Laodicea. The Laodiceans could hardly forget this lukewarm water which, if anyone would drink it straight up, would make a person sick to their stomach. “That is what you are like to Me,” Jesus says of this congregation. The imagery is graphic! Cold water is refreshing on the tongue. Hot springs were reputed to have healing qualities. But lukewarm, sediment-filled water neither refreshes nor heals.
I think lukewarm liquid is rather nauseating. When I got home the other night, there was sitting out on the little table in our entry way a bottle of mandarin-orange flavored water, at least that’s what the packaging said. I was thirsty so I grabbed it, took a big gulp, expecting cool, fizzy refreshment. But the contents of the bottle was just warm water, that, when I tasted it, I nearly spit out. Not exactly the most pleasant image to call to mind during worship, but it’s exactly what the Lord Jesus Christ is saying when it comes to the spiritual condition of the people at Laodicea. He could not stomach their Sunday-only Christianity that did not affect their lives every day of the week. They were indifferent; they lacked faith-filled zeal, without genuine spiritual passion. It is triggering Jesus’ gag reflex. The words "spit out" in verse 16 literally mean "vomit." Jesus said, "I'm going to vomit you out of My mouth."
How does Jesus feel when he thinks of us? When he looks at you? Where are you at spiritually? What is the temperature of your passion for the Lord? The late psychologist Rollo May is credited with saying, “The opposite of love is not hate, but apathy.” Is there an apathy, a lukewarmness in your soul? I am inspired by the commitment of the people of Christ the King to Christian education. It takes real commitment on the part of both families and a congregation to run a ministry that serves infants through 8th grade with God’s Word, Monday through Friday, August through May. At the same time I’m confused when I hear from people who are so committed to Christian education for our kids tell me that getting up and getting ready by 9AM on Sunday to make it to bible class for themselves is just too early. Or that the format just isn’t their style, or the topic up for study just isn’t all that interesting or appealing to them. How can this be? Could it be that there is passion for all things Christian when it comes to providing it for our kids, but when it comes to making the commitment to participate ourselves, is your response just lukewarm? Are you making an effort or making excuses? It’s either one or the other. Remember, the opposite of love isn’t hate, but apathy!
Like the pastor who responded to his penitent parishioner, what concerns me most aren’t the people who realize they have issues, the people who acknowledge and attend to where there are inconsistencies between what they say they believe and how they actually live, who are open and honest about their struggle in their fight against sin. It’s those who are unmotivated to make changes in their lives because they are unconvinced that anything needs changing! Jesus points out that very problem in Laodicea: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing’” (Revelation 3:17). Jesus isn’t criticizing wealth. He’s calling the Laodiceans to examine their hearts, to see how foolish it is to equate economic prosperity with spiritual health and vitality. Having a lot of wealth isn’t the same as having a heart that is rich toward God. In fact, a key indicator of our heart’s temperature toward God is found in the way think about what we have and what we want to give back to God. Are you passionate about honoring God with your wealth, giving sacrificially of your time and talent too in order to help support and expand Gospel ministry? Or do you give back to God of your time, talent, and treasure, but only from what’s left after you’ve taken care of fueling the lifestyle you desire? Excuses only get in the way of effort. Excuses never make things better. They are just foolish attempts to evade the real issues of sin and selfishness.
Rather than excuse apathetic, lukewarmness in our hearts or life, far better to acknowledge it, turn away from it and turn toward the source of spiritual passion! That’s what Jesus is passionately pleading for! He wants to fan the flames of our faith so that we heed his heartfelt invitation and respond with energetic enthusiasm to his instruction: “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.”
Yes, take to heart the passionate pleading of your Savior by doing what he says: “So be earnest, and repent” (Revelation 3:19). Repent, that means turn back to him, sincerely, earnestly, honestly, openly because he desires to be merciful to you. Repent, trusting him to forgive you and you will find that he offers to you all the treasures of heaven. “Buy them from me,” Jesus says. “Buy” here means to acquire or gain. No one can actually purchase these things from Christ. We can’t afford them. But the prophet Isaiah invites us to acquire or gain these things from the storehouse of heaven freely, through faith in Christ, who has purchased and won them for us: “You who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isaiah 55:1). From the bounty of his grace, Jesus offers us “gold refined in the fire” which is faith produced by God’s own Word that connects you personally to the family of God and all the amazing blessings that come with being a dearly loved child of God. Acquire “white clothes to wear” the spotless robe of Jesus’ pure and perfect life that covers over all of the shame of your sins, so you can stand unafraid in the presence of God. Be sure to acquire “salve to put on your eyes” which is the healing presence of his own Spirit who strengthens the eyes of your faith to see your Savior’s gracious help in every circumstance and to see more clearly what it means to live out the will of God in every situation.
That’s inviting and encouraging imagery. So why is Jesus threatening to spit or vomit anyone out? Because He doesn’t really want to. That’s why He issues a THREAT. If he didn’t care about us, he would just be done with us. But his words and actions come from the overflow of his heart for us: “those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.” After all, he died for us. But he didn’t give himself so completely for us to provide us excuses to go on living half-heartedly with lukewarm devotion to him! Hardly! Rather, Jesus says: “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Dear Christian, Jesus knocks at the door of your heart, asking you to open the door to a deeper relationship with him. He urges you to be “earnest” about answering it. Don’t ignore it. Don’t make the excuse that you’ll answer at a later date. Don’t stay on the couch. Get up and answer! Jesus loves you and wants so much more for you in your relationship with him. He wants you to let him in to all the places of your heart and every part of your life. He’s asking for this kind of access, not because he is going to steal from you, but because he wants to spread out the banquet of his blessings into every nook and cranny of your life!
Carey Nieuwhof, a Christian pastor and author talks about what he has discovered about how this happens in real life in his book, Didn’t See It Coming: “When I was in my late thirties, I went on my first personal retreat. It was just going to be me, disconnected from the world for three days. I reasoned that by being alone for three days, I could do soul surgery, boosting my character [faith] so much that I’d basically be done for years.
I expected the retreat to be spiritual growth on steroids. Mostly it was just me sitting by myself, alone, with nothing to do. Much to my disappointment, nothing profound happened during those three days. No big revelation. There was nothing particularly character [faith] building or life changing.
But what I’ve come to realize is that character [faith] development for the most part doesn’t happen in some monastery with stone walls and dank cellars. It happens in the grind of everyday life. It has to because that’s where your character [faith] gets challenged the most: in parking lots, during meetings, amid marital conflict, and at home when you’re exhausted and the garbage needs to be taken out and you trip over the kids’ shoes.
I’m all for retreats and will surely do more, but if you don’t have a day-to-day strategy, you’ll never win the battle for your soul.”
That strategy begins by taking Jesus with you into your everyday life as you leave this house of worship. Take him with you to your homes, to your neighborhoods, to your schools, to your places of employment and recreation. Invite him to guide every moment of your life. Because so much is at stake. Jesus alludes to it when he says, “To the one who is victorious.” In other words there is a war underway. The decision between growing in devotion to the Lord, His Word, and His people or chasing after everything else that vies for your time, energy and attention is a daily battle. In a world of busyness and distraction apathy toward the Lord tends to grow out of the assumption that at some undetermined time in the future supposedly everything will slow down and the demands of life will presumably and voluntarily let up to give you space to get back on track in your relationship with the Lord. But life doesn’t work like that and Satan won’t take his grubby paws off you like that either. This is why apathy is so dangerous. The war for our souls may be subtle, but it is real, and it is daily, and it is fight. But it is a fight worth waging. For the call of Christ, is the invitation to sit as eternal victors on his heavenly throne. The way we come out as winners in this war is by inviting Jesus’ help, by honestly and openly confessing to him our weaknesses, our struggles, and our vulnerabilities, looking to him, leaning on him and learning from him our whole lives through! The antidote to apathy is a deeply devoted spiritual living driven by hearts that burn red hot and glowing bright with Christ’s love for us, hearts that respond with devoted, passionate love for him! Amen.