Thursday, 1 May 2008

Lukewarm Christianity

As I mentioned in my blog yesterday, we had Lindsay Brown speaking at CU last night. I was very challenged and encouraged by the talk, so I thought I would share some of my notes for those of you readers who weren't there!

Revelation 3:14 - 22

"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. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'"


Revelation was written in 95AD by John who was imprisoned on the island of Patmos. The letters in revelation 2 and 3 are to the seven churches in the province of Asia (modern day Turkey), which were just over the water from where John was imprisoned.

The key theme of revelation is that Christ is the redeemer of the world, the conqueror of evil. Revelation is written to a persecuted church, to ensure them that all hell hasn't in fact broken loose (and that it will in fact get worse!), but Christ is in control. It should be an encouragement today too therefore, for anyone in persecution.

The book centres around 4 visions, each of which are introduced with the phrase 'I was in the Spirit':

- 1:10 - After this vision of Jesus, Jesus gives his teaching for the seven churches
- 4:2 - about judgement
- (reference? 17:3?) - about the end of time
- (reference? 21:10?) - about heaven

For each of the letters to the seven churches, there are 4 things said: a commendation, a criticism, a warning and a promise.


Laodicea however is an exception the above rule. In their case, the commendation is missing.

The laodiceans are criticised for their complacency, or lukewarmness.

In John's letter to the Laodiceans he picks up on some physical features of the landscape to drive home his point
1. Running down from the hills and through the town is a river. The water in the river is neither cool nor hot - it's sickly lukewarm. This would immediately come to mind when Jesus describes the Laodiceans as lukewarm - there were acutley aware of what it means.
2. The Laodiceans were famous throughout the region for an eye salve that they produced. So Jesus' warning to them to anoint their eyes with eye salve, that they may see, would have been a telling rebuke - those famous for their eye salve were suffering from spiritual blindness.

The Laodiceans thought that they were fine. They thought they were wealthy and well off (v17), but Jesus, through John, tells them they're missing the point. Why is that? They make 2 mistakes:
1. They are guilty of arrogance, which fuels complacency. They had failed to understand that all that they have is a gift from God. Lindsay drew on how this can often be a danger for church leaders. As they are succesful, it is all to easy for them to take the glory themselves. But they, and we all, need to be careful to watch that our lives are focussed on bringing glory to Jesus, and him alone.
2. The Laodiceans had lost their sense of wonder at the the fact that all they have and are is because of Christ, and the gifts that he has given.

We all need to retain a softness of heart and a sense of wonder at who Christ is and what he has done. People today often say that Christianity is boring - why is that? It is because we have lost our wonder at what Christ has done - it's one of the outstanding characteristics of this generation of Christians.

Lindsay then went on to outline 3 things that we should wonder at as Christians. He used these three as they were suggested to him by a lady who was living as a Christian in a country where Christianity was definitely the minority. In answer to the question 'Why are you a Christian in this place?', she outlined three things:

- Because we are adopted as Gods children. The moment that we become Christians we are adopted as the children of God! We join God's family, with the same rights that a birth child would have. We are servants of Christ, but we're not just that - we are sons and daughters of the living God! When you truly begin to appreciate this, you are filled with a sense of wonder at just what it means.

- Because only forgiveness of sins is possible through Jesus Christ. It is fantastic that this is held so strongly in some circles. But the fact is, we hear it so often that our senses become dulled. God unconditionally loves us in grace through Jesus' death. Wow! Just think what that means! Many Christians are crippled by their belief that God couldn't possibly forgive them for that secret sin. But God forgives our sins, and remembers them no more! We need to have a sense of wonder at the cross.

- Because we have the hope of eternal life. And that life begins now! Christ is with, and will be with his p[eople at all times. Philosophers seem to have answers to everything, but they cannot answer the big question of death. We have an answer - we have a hope of being with God.

It is so easy for us to lose our sense of wonder and therefore why we lose focus in life. It could be exams (a very real problem for me at the moment!), 'unanswered' prater, secularism, doubts that the gospel is true... Whatever happens, whether leaders we look up to fail, whether it seems that God isn't answering, God is sovereign, he will never let us down. We need to keep focussed on what God has done for us in Jesus.

What is the solution to the Laodicean problem?

v19 - Repent. Come back and say I've messed up
v19 - Be zealous. Live for him wholeheartedly with your eyes fixed on the wonder of what he has done.
v20 - "I stand at the door..." is not evangelistic in context. Jesus is waiting for us - we need to unreservedly reestablish the preeminence of Christ in our lives in all things. This is the only cure to lukewarmness.

In essence, the warning from this letter is to be careful about complacency.

Arrogance is a massive problem. God raises up and has chosen to use humble people.

Loss of wonder is a massive problem. We need to refocus on the person and work of Jesus Christ.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.


Rachel said...

Thanks for this Scott! V.sad I couldn't make it to CU last night. Do you know if anyone recorded it?

Scott Thomson said...

It's not usually recorded, so probably not, but it may have been? If I find it has, I'll let you know.