What is So Bad About Being Lukewarm? #155 #Revelation #LettersFromJesus
Hello friends – Another Monday, another podcast, or something like that. I hope your weekend was good and your Monday is a blessed one. In a season that is tough all around, look around and find some things to be thankful for, and then rejoice in those things. Even in a dark and difficult season, let us all walk in the wisdom of Habakkuk:
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there is no fruit on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though the flocks disappear from the pen
and there are no herds in the stalls,
18 yet I will celebrate in the Lord;
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!
19 The Lord my Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like those of a deer
and enables me to walk on mountain heights!
Today’s Bible readings include the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5, Psalms 88, Isaiah 33, and Revelation 3. Today’s Revelation passage has three letters from Jesus in it: to Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. I have often found it somewhat humorous and strange that there are many churches across the land named for Sardis, and almost zero churches named for Laodicea. Both churches are sent fairly scathing letters from Jesus in Revelation, and nobody in their right mind would name a church First Baptist Laodicea (I don’t think!) but there are many Sardis churches out there. Very strange. Our focus today is on the very famous letter to the Laodiceans where Jesus says that He is preparing to vomit/spit the church out of His mouth. WHY would Jesus say such a thing? Let’s read and find out!
So, wow. Jesus uses a very, very strong word in the Greek here ‘ἐμέω eméō, em-eh’-o’ It does indeed mean vomit, but maybe with an even stronger connotation than our word for vomit, as Thayer’s Greek lexicon notes that the word has the sense of, “to reject with extreme disgust.” Wow – why is it so bad to be lukewarm? What does that mean exactly? Well, the word Jesus uses here is the Greek word ‘χλιαρός chliarós, khlee-ar-os’ and it means warmish, tepid, or, as Thayer’s colorfully puts it, “the condition of a soul wretchedly fluctuating between a torpor and a fervor of love.” (torpor means to be in a stunned state, or a state of absolute lethargy/hibernation. So – this is a big deal to Jesus – better for us to be either COLD or HOT. Why? Let’s ask our friend Charles Spurgeon for some help on that question:
I SEE the Master at the table, and his servants place before him various meats, that he may eat and be satisfied. He tastes the cold meats, and he eats of the bread hot from the oven, but as for tepid drinks and half-baked cakes he puts them away with disgust. He will look on you who are cold, and are mourning your coldness, and he will give you heat; and he will look on you who are hot, and serve him with the best you have; but of the middle-man, the lukewarm, he saith, “I will spue thee out of my mouth.” Jesus cannot bear lukewarm religion; he is sick of it. The religion of this present time is much of it rather nauseating to the Saviour than acceptable to him. If Baal be God, serve him; but if God be God, serve him truly. Let there be no mockery, but be true to the core. Be thorough; throw your soul into your religion. I charge you, young man, stand back awhile and count the cost; for if you wish to give to Christ a little, and to Baal a little, ye shall be cast away and utterly rejected—the Lord of heaven will have nought to do with you. Bless the Lord, then, all that is within me, for only such sincere and undivided homage can be accepted of the Lord
C. H. Spurgeon, Flashes of Thought (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1874), 399–400.
The Lord Jesus here uses a plain, homely metaphor. As tepid water makes a man’s stomach heave, so lukewarm profession is nauseous to the Almighty. He could better endure either the coldness of apathy or the warmth of enthusiasm; but the man who is lukewarm in religion moves him to the deepest loathing. He vomits him forth from his mouth. His very name shall be dismissed from the lips of the Lord with an abhorrence the most sickening that fancy can paint. It is an utterance so strong that no sentence of the most vehement and impassioned orator could rival it. There is such a depth of disgust in this warning against lukewarmness that I know of no figure within the range of imagination, and no words in the whole vocabulary of language, which could have conveyed the meaning of “Jesus Christ, who is the faithful Witness,” so fully, or with such terrible force.
I am going to try to show you, from this text, first, some reasons why lukewarmness in religion is so distasteful to Christ, and then to point out to you some dissuasives against lukewarmness, urging you to be fervent in your Master’s cause.
I. First, then, I am to give you SOME REASONS WHY LUKEWARM RELIGION IS SO DISTASTEFUL TO THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.
And, first, let me say that it is so because it is a direct insult to the Lord Jesus Christ. If I boldly say that I do not believe what he teaches, I have given him the lie. But if I say to him, “I believe what thou teachest, but I do not think it of sufficient importance for me to disturb myself much about it,” I do, in fact, more wilfully resist his Word; I as much as say to him, “If it be true, yet is it a thing which I so despise, and consider so contemptible, that I will not give my heart to it.” Did Jesus Christ think salvation of such importance that he must needs come from heaven to earth to work it out? Did he think the gospel, which he preached, so worthy to be made known that he must needs spend his life in proclaiming it? Did he think the redemption, which he wrought out, to be so invaluable that he must needs shed his own precious blood in order to complete it? Then, surely, He was in earnest; so, if I profess to believe the truths that he taught, and yet am indifferent, do I not insult Christ by seeming to insinuate that there was no need for him to be in such dead earnest,—that, in fact, he laid these things too deeply to heart? His intense zeal was not on his own account, but on behalf of others; and, according to all reason, those who are the interested parties, for whom Christ’s solemn engagements were undertaken, should be even more earnest than he himself was, if that could be possible. Yet, instead of that being the case, here is Christ in earnest, and we—too many of us—are lukewarm, “neither cold nor hot.” This lukewarmness doth not merely seem to give God the lie, it doth not merely appear to censure Christ, but it doth, as it were, tell him that the things, which he thought were so valuable, are of no worth in our esteem, and so it doth insult him to his face.
C. H. Spurgeon, “Lukewarmness,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 48 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1902), 506.