SBTS chapel live blog: R. Albert Mohler Jr. – Rev. 3:14-22

Communications Staff — October 13, 2009

Preacher: R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Text/title: Revelation 3:14-22; The Deadly Predicament of the Lukewarm Church – The Letter to the Church at Laodicea.

The letter to the church at Laodicea is a devastating letter. It is a call to repentance. The Lord Jesus Christ writes of the deadly predicament of the lukewarm church.

Laodicea

All you have to say is Laodicea and no one is thinking of the history or culture of a city. We immediately think of a temperature: lukewarm. Neither cold, nor hot.

Of the seven cities to the churches in Revelation, this city was the most self-confident. We know now that the city was also characterized by tremendous self-sufficiency. And we can see that in all of these cities, there was a temptation for the church to match the culture. This should be instructive to us. We must realize that there is always a temptation to look just like the culture around us. The church at Laodicea appears to have taken on the very temptations that characterized the city.

There is a connection between Laodicea and Colossae. The cities were only 10 miles apart. Revelation 3:14 identifies Christ as the beginning of the Creation of God. This is a direct connection with Colossians (1:15-20).

Lukewarm

In the letters to the churches at Revelation, after He identifies Himself, Jesus begins with a commendation. We expect this at the beginning of each letter. But when he speaks of the deeds of the church at Laodicea, He does not begin with a commendation. He begins with the church’s temperature. And He says the church is lukewarm.

Near Laodicea, in Hierapolis, were hot springs. These hot springs were greatly desired. Laodicea was a city that was not known for its water. Also nearby was Colossae, which was known for its water. It had cold water. It had abundant cold water, as cold as the water of Hierapolis was hot. In between these two cities was Laodicea. Once you brought the hot or cold water to Laodicea it was just water. Lukewarm water. Water that someone might spit out of his mouth.

We know that the water is not really about water. It is about the state of the heart. We don’t really need any commentary to reveal this to us.

This church had taken on the characteristic of the water of its city of being lukewarm. Detestable. Not useful.

Considering some of the other things the Lord Jesus Christ has said the critique of being lukewarm sounds more mundane than the issues in the other churches. They don’t hate what God hates or what God loves: they are simply lukewarm.

The sad thing is, they have no clue about this reality. The church surely thought itself healthy. We see this in 3:17, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy and have need of nothing’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”

The Lord appears to be making a very clear statement that its theological problem is rooted in the fact that it is wealthy. The church that says it is rich, that is has become wealthy, seems to have the luxury of adopting heresy. It is theological disaster for a church, a congregation, that says, “We have need of nothing.” We have need of everything and woe to the church that says it is self-sufficient.

The church at Laodicea was wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked … and it did not even know it. That is perhaps the most chilling reality in this passage. We can give our annual report and say “Everything is fine.” We can have our baptism report, and Monday morning prayer meetings, and youth mission trips and say “Everything is fine.” We can go our annual meeting and say “Everything is fine.” But is it really fine? Things were not fine at the church in Laodicea.

Zeal and Repentance

Jesus says that He reproves those He loves. Brothers and sisters, we must take heed of this. We should see and realize that the Lord Jesus Christ disciplines those He loves. We should respond to His reproof.

To the church at Laodicea Jesus says, be zealous and repent. Our churches can be marked by zeal for all the wrong things, but of far greater peril is that it will be marked by not having any zeal at all.

We claim 40,000 churches in the Southern Baptist Convention. This world would not be what it is, if we had 40,000 churches with zeal. What will your zeal first produce? Repentance. Repentance doesn’t come without zeal. If we truly understand the nature of our sin and we are truly brought by the Lord to detest it, there will be zeal in our repentance.

Revelation 3:20, where Jesus says He stands at the door and knocks, is addressed to a church that thought itself rich, but was poor, that thought itself self-sufficient, but was wretched and miserable. To church that repents; Jesus said He would dine with them. The knocking is a knock of judgment. It is the knock of Lord Jesus Christ who has come in judgment. But if anyone will invite Him in, He will dine with them, and they with Him.

It is tempting to give in to the Laodicean temptation. It is tempting to normalize the experience at Laodicea. We are tempted to be Laodicean churches, a Laodicean institution and a Laodicean denomination. You can chase all the heretics away and be left with a lukewarm church.

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