I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.
I wish you were either one or the other!
So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—
I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
You say, ‘I am rich;
I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’
But you do not realize that you are wretched,
pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire,
so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear,
so you can cover your shameful nakedness;
and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
I just finished leading a year-and-a-half long study of the Book of the Revelation, and nothing seared my soul as much as this warning from our Lord to the Church at Laodicea. I felt as if He was speaking directly to our generation. I want to make sure that you understand that I am not condemning all churches with a broad brush, but I am becoming increasingly disenchanted with pastors who are "lukewarm".
They do a fantastic job of telling their flock about the grace and mercy of God. Many of them are mission-minded and earnest in taking the Word to foreign lands. They are phenomenal at "entertaining" their audiences and bringing in the "unchurched", but are they truly discipling them? Are they teaching them God's commandments and reminding them that not only does God love them, but He disciplines them, too?
I had the good fortune to stumble across a blog by Chuck Baldwin. In one of his posts, he tackled the challenge of understanding Romans 13 (that's a post for another day). But within that outstanding commentary, I found a parallel viewpoint to understanding this scripture from Revelation.
Baldwin quotes John Adams, our second President: “It is the duty of the clergy to accommodate their discourses to the times, to preach against such sins as are most prevalent, and recommend such virtues as are most wanted. For example, if exorbitant ambition and venality are predominate, ought they not to warn their hearers against those vices? If public spirit is much wanted, should they not inculcate this great virtue? If the rights and duties of Christian magistrates and subjects are disputed, should they not explain them, show their nature, ends, limitations, and restrictions ...."
John Adams, in essence, is calling out the clergy just as Jesus called out the Church, and it is a message that our pastors need to hear today. Jesus warns the Laodiceans that they have wandered from the true spirit of His teachings; they have watered down His message and are neither cold with obvious false teaching, nor on fire with the passion of His Word. He cautions them that they have become wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. They do not see clearly. He counsels them to buy what He has to offer, not what the world is selling. And if they take Him up on His offer, they will need to be refined in the fire. More pointedly .... they need to be fine-tuned and improved, and it's going to take fire to do it!
Adams dictates that it is the responsibility of the Church and its clergy to preach against the sins and vices that are prevalent in the society and to point out the un-Christian administration of the nation's authorities. They are to make Christ alive and meaningful to the populace. Their actions on behalf of Christ should be faithful to His commands. If only our modern pastorate would heed this advice!
Just as Jesus admonished the Church at Laodicea, our modern Church has also become rich, but in the wrong manner. They have been intimidated by their 50l(c)3 status, and in effect, "neutered", as Chuck Baldwin proclaims. They are not bold for Christ, because that doesn't endear them to the arbiters of their tax status. If that isn't wretched and pitiful, I don't know what is.
Jesus doesn't exclude the Church at Laodicea from future approval. They can gain His acceptance and esteem if they agree to abandon the "easy road" of accommodating the world, and follow His path.... His narrow, exacting and demanding path. That doesn't lessen His grace or His mercy. Rather, it intensifies our relationship with Him and enhances the experience of His redeeming love. And above all else, it is faithful to His teachings!