In the book of Revelation, you know that in the first part of that letter Jesus moves among his churches and tells them what he Sees. The thing that each church is measured by is, “How much of an affect they are having on the culture?” It seems as the Lord moves among his churches that either the church is being affected by the culture or else is affecting the culture. The scariest thing is that each church might think they are doing fine, but then learn that that is not the Lord’s verdict. One of the reasons for this self-deception is the church might be measuring itself by the wrong standard.
“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation… ‘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.'” Revelation 3:14-16
While we are not saved by our good works, we are saved for good works. He tells them that when it comes to their works, they are lukewarm. Traditionally, we have been taught that being lukewarm is a description of their personal spiritual state, the state of their hearts. It is not; it is a description of their usefulness or effectiveness. Jesus, in using this description of being lukewarm, is definitely referring to something Laodicea would immediately recognize.
About six miles north of Laodicea was the town of Hierapolis. This city was famous for its hot springs that were used for medicinal purposes. South of them was the city of Colosse which was known for its cool waters that attracted many in the summer. Laodicea had to import their water because the water there was tepid and lukewarm, good for nothing. The waters of Hierapolis and Colosse were used medicinally for healing, restoration, and recovery.
Laodicea’s waters were good for nothing. They were not serviceable, had no healing virtue. Jesus now speaks to them and says that the condition of your water is the condition of your church. Just as lukewarm water is useless because it can’t bring healing or refreshing, so they are useless when it comes to their ministry to the world.
The saddest thing about this is they didn’t even know it! They thought they were fine! You know why? They were looking at their church from the standpoint of how much money they had, how many people were coming, how much possessions they obtained. “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17).
What a statement that is unfortunately so true about many American churches that are enamored by buildings, bank accounts, and their own glory. No matter what people tell you, Jesus isn’t impressed with how big a church gets or how much money it has. You know why? Jesus judges the church not by whether they are consumers, but whether they are missionaries.
Listen further to hear the remedy that Jesus presents to the church and to Laodicea and to each of us if we find ourselves in the same condition.