Hot or Cold? – Letter to Laodicea

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On Sunday we explored the letter to Laodicea in Revelation. The letter begins by Jesus saying, “I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”

His point here isn’t connected with passion or enthusiasm (as is often thought in our “feeling” orientated culture) but with usefulness. The two major towns nearby Laodicea were each known for their unique water properties. One town had naturally occurring hot springs that was thought to be a source of healing. The other town had natural cold springs from the mountains, which is incredibly useful in the hot middle east. And what would happen is the water that would travel to Laodicea would become lukewarm by the time it got there, and because it picked up many of the minerals along the way in the aqueducts it would become undrinkable. You’d have to spit out the lukewarm water.

So what is Jesus’ point? It’s simple, he would rather the church be useful like hot water, or useful like coldwater, but right now they are like the water in Laodicea lukewarm and useless. Jesus continues that because of their wealth, their style, and their dreams of grandeur they have become indifferent towards him. And Jesus says “I stand at the door and knock” asking to be invited in. Their indifference and lack of action has actually expelled Jesus from the church. He stands at the door, on the outside, asking to be let in. So he says repent, start following me and not wealth, start focusing on my kingdom and not your standing, stop focusing on your style and focus on being faithful. This is the message of the letter to Laodicea. It’s not about passion for Jesus per say, it’s really about being useful for Christ. This is a letter that encourages action. Jesus encourages us to buy gold from him, to buy ointment, and to buy white cloths. These are all things connected to action.

So on Sunday we landed on the main idea of what is Jesus asking us to do? How can we be active in spreading his grace and revealing his Kingdom? How can we be either hot water or cold water actively demonstrating his gospel rather than being listless and lazy lukewarm water?

And I think these are questions worth asking during Lent because they reveal a remarkabel truth. God wants to use you to spread his grace. God wants to partner with you in his Kingdom. God wants to reveal himself through you. That is an amazing calling. So this week focus on revealing God in all things, focus on being hot or cold, focus on actively following and watch what God might do in and through you.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Be useful for Jesus

Take Aways…

  • The Jesus Test: if a passage doesn’t look, sound, or love like Jesus…dig deeper
  • Jesus is always more concerned with action than passion
  • Jesus is saying…be useful
  • Jesus isn’t judging their enthusiasm but their usefulness
  • They have focused on what they have, rather than what they are called to do
  • Long-term indifference can push Jesus aside and out of the church
  • Jesus wants to partner and use you
  • You might not be called to change the world for everyone, but you are called to change the world of someone around you

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What made you laugh? What did you take away? What would Jesus see if he examined your actions? How are you being useful for God’s kingdom? What gifts has he given you? What abilities? What talents? How does it feel to have Jesus actually want to partner and use you in his Kingdom?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Talk with your kids about how not only does Jesus love us, but he wants to use us to make the world a better place. Ask them if they have any ideas how to make the world a better place…and no matter how out there or amazing, act on their ideas and try them out!

Challenge for this Week

Let Jesus use you to grow his Kingdom

Does Jesus Really Spit Out “Lukewarm Believers”?

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On Sunday we are looking at a passage of text that as a teenager was quite terrifying to me. The passage is found in Revelation 3 with the letter to the church of Laodicea. This is what it says:

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!

Here is why this passage scared me, because I always thought that Jesus was talking about my level of passion for him. As a teenager my passion for Jesus was rather low. I’m a thinker, and I’m slow to build trust and to engage in general. This meant that for my faith there were a lot of questions, thoughts, and decisions that took place over a long period before my passion grew. The problem was that I saw all these youth around me singing, dancing, and crying with passion for Jesus. These are not bad things at all, these are actually  often very beautiful things. But when I came to that verse my worry was that I was lukewarm, that I wasn’t as passionate as those around me. I wasn’t really committed. I wasn’t really sure. I wasn’t very enthusiastic.  I went to church but wasn’t completely in. My fear was that Jesus would spit me out because I wasn’t that “in love” with him.

Maybe you’ve had this fear too. Maybe you’ve sensed this at one point of another. Maybe you’ve even heard this verse taught this way. In fact, I have as well. The question is, does this interpretation of this verse make sense in light of who Jesus is? In the gospels does Jesus spit out those people who are lukewarm, questioning, struggling or unsure? Does Jesus really want us to be completely turned off to him rather than semi-interested? Is Jesus really that concerned with our emotional connection?

This is an important question because for many years I was concerned with amping up my passion, with generating deeper emotional enthusiasm for Jesus, to become hot rather than lukewarm. But as I’ve grown, and matured and dug into this verse I’ve discovered something startling that I believe is true. Jesus cares much more about our actions than our passion. Jesus cares much more about how we live than our emotional enthusiasm. And on Sunday we are going to unpack that idea and how once we dig into this verse we realize Jesus isn’t talking just about passion, enthusiasm and connection. Jesus is really talking about being useful, being active, and partnering with him.

And on Sunday we are going to ask a really important question that is reflecting on even today. Rather than asking “how passionate are you for Jesus?”, we are going to be asking, “how active are you in following Jesus?”. So come Sunday we are going to be unpacking this whole passage realizing that it’s not just our passions Jesus is interested in but our actions.

Duty is Dying Love

1407388_63124442On Sunday we started walking through the book of Revelation. We began with the first letter written to Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7. In it Jesus speaks highly about the orthodoxy and the beliefs of the church. Yet he holds one complaint against them, “you don’t love me or each other as you did”.

Love in Ephesus has cooled. Love is slowing, and their hearts are turning harder. While Jesus praises them for their right actions, he isn’t just looking for right actions he wants their heart.

Because the truth is that when love cools in any relationship doing our duty doesn’t last. Duty is depleted love. Duty is drowned love. Duty is dying love. And once the love dies there won’t be enough left to sustain the relationship.

So Jesus says to the church, and to us in any relationship where love is dying – start again! Start again! Go back to the things you did at first. Remember why you started this relationship in the first place. Stop doing things just out of duty, and start doing them out of gratitude, grace, and a desire to care in the relationship.

And as Lent starts on Wednesday I think this is a good time to reflect on our relationship with Jesus. Are there areas that have cooled? Are there areas of duty where love should abound? If so, how can you go back to the beginning and regain love? What actions can you start and what new attitudes can you bring to old actions?

Because one thing is clear: duty isn’t the same as love. And just as we all want deep love in our relationships so does Jesus…

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Go back to the things you did at first…

Take Aways…

  • “Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches”
  • We are learning about dying.
  • Its easy for love to slide from a passion, to a duty, to being absent totally.
  • Our connection to Jesus Christ isn’t just based on having right beliefs, but having a right heart.
  • “Our orthodoxy will not save us, our traditions will not save us, our soup kitchens and social programs will not save us; what will save the church is Christ” Joseph Magina
  • Duty is depleted love. Duty is drowned love. Duty is dying love.
  • Go back to the things you did a first
  • “Lord, I don’t love you. I don’t even want to love you. But I do want to want to love you” – Mother Teresa

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: How have you ever experienced the “cooling” of love? What is it that keeps love strong and going? How is your relationship with Jesus? Is it cooling? What are some things you might be able to do to bring life back to the love? Who might be able to help in this?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Talk about how important it is to put effort into things that matter. Talk about how if your family matters that means putting effort into it too – that if you love someone you show them. Ask them who matters to them and how they can show them love. Help them to carry it out!

Challenge for this Week

Focus on building up your love for Christ