CHURCH AUTOPSY – NAUSEOUS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: It’s been hot lately! According to some news sources, July 2023 will break records for being the world’s hottest month on record. In Death Valley, California, the temperature reached 128° F, and, in Phoenix, Arizona, it was 119° F. Where I grew up, 110°F in the summer was not unsusal. Of course, we’re all aware of the Canadian Wildfires. Now, there are wildfires on the Greek island of Rhodes. Antarctic sea ice is at a record low. Someone asked, “if this is the hottest it’s ever been in world history?” We don’t know the answer because it’s only been since the 1880s that we have recorded the climate data. You hear a lot of cries of “climate change,” and I agree. Yes, there is climate change, and, yes, humans are responsible. But it’s not because of burning fossil fuel. It’s because of sin. The Bible warns us in 2 Peter 3:10 that, “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” I believe that these are the warm-up acts (pun intended) to the Great Tribulation. Today’s message has to do with temperatures. On a hot day like we’ve had, a cool glass of water can really quench our thirst. So also, a hot cup of tea or coffee can warm us up or heal our throat. The only temperature that is useless is lukewarm. It’ll only make you nauseous. We come to the final message in our series called CHURCH AUTOPSY in which we are learning why churches die. The answer is found in the 7 letters of Jesus to the 7 churches of Asia Minor in the Book of Revelation. This is the final letter to the church in Laodicea. Main point: Christ wants us to be either cool and refreshing or hot and healing. It’s the lukewarm that nauseates him, and he spits them out. He is standing at the door of your heart and knocking. If you let him in, he will not only dine with you, but he will also grant you to sit on his throne with him.
Revelation 3 15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”
Context: One of my favorite sites to visit in Turkey was Laodicea on the Lycus. It is situated on the southwest side of the river Lycus. Because of its location on the southern Anatolian highway, Laodicea really prospered. It had a banking center. Cicero, the Roman orator, philosopher, and statesman, cashed his treasury bills of exchange (government check) there. It had a medical school, specializing in ophthalmology. One of the graduates of the medical school was a man by the name of Demosthenes Philalethes who actually wrote the textbook on the eye, which was used up until medieval times! It also had a thriving textile industry. Laodicea was known for its wool and tunics. Even though it was hit by earthquakes a number of times, they were able to rebuild. In fact, after the earthquake of AD60, when the Rome offered assistance, the people of Laodicea refused and rebuilt their city on their own expense. After all, Laodicea comes from the name Laodice = “people’s justice.” There were two theaters in Laodicea, one was the west theater that could seat 8,000 people. To accommodate the growing need of the city, they built another theater on the north side in the second century AD that could seat 12,000 people. On their coins, they repeatedly used the symbol of cornucopia or the ears of corn to signify abundance of food. The Jewish community of Laodicea was also very wealthy, sending in as much as 20 pounds of gold for the half shekel temple tax. We know this because it was confiscated by one of the Roman proconsuls. I say all that to say this – the people of Laodicea, even the church, were prosperous and well satisfied people. Here’s my point: Prosperity is a wonderful thing but sometimes it can work against us when we make a god out of it.
Application: Is prosperity a god for you? Do you trust in riches more than in God? Is God a priority in your life?
Just like the 6 churches (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia) so far, Jesus had to send a letter of warning to the church in Laodicea as well. There were things going on there that were not right, and Jesus warned them to “change or else.” As I’ve mentioned throughout this series, all 7 letters have the same format. To keep in line with the medical imagery of the autopsy, we have made each point a medical reference in this series:
Revelation 3:14 “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.’”
There are 3 titles here:
A. Amen: it is Hebrew word that is found about 130 times in the New Testament. It means “let it be so” or “that’s true.” It is a reference to Isaiah 65:16 “So that he who blesses himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth (Amen); and he who swears in the earth shall swear by the God of truth (Amen); because the former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hidden from My eyes.”
Jesus is not only claiming that he is God, but he is also promising to guarantee his word.
B. Faithful and True: it goes along with the previous title.
C. the Beginning of the creation of God: This can mean beginning, but also creator and ruler. In other words, he is the one in charge for God the Father.
Jesus wanted the church in Laodicea to know that no matter how prosperous and self-sufficient they were, they were not above him. He had the right to call them out.
Application: Do you sometimes think that you are above Jesus calling you out?
Revelation 3:15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.”
Commentators have looked for answers in the water systems around Laodicea, Colossae, and Hierapolis to find some kind of meaning here. When we were in Turkey couple of months ago, we had the opportunity to meet Mark Wilson, a premier scholar in the field. Although, we spent only an hour with him talking about many things in Turkey, he made a comment about this passage – “By the way, the whole thing about the water systems when it comes to the Laodicean letter are not true.” I couldn’t agree more! It is really quite simple: Either we can be a church that is cool and refreshing or we can be hot and soothing. We can bring truth and joy in people’s lives with the gospel of Jesus Christ, or we can be soothing and healing with the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Which one are we?
Revelation 3:16 “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” The only type of Christians/church that Jesus cannot stand is the type of ho-hum, no true purpose, no passion for the gospel, business as usual, same-old same-old.
Revelation 3:17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—” It is a reference to Hosea 12:8 And Ephraim said, “Surely I have become rich, I have found wealth for myself; In all my labors they shall find in me no iniquity that is sin.’
Application: Are you so self-sufficient that you don’t think you need God? Are your works lukewarm?
Revelation 3:18 “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.”
A. Gold refined in the fire = a clean moral life
B. White garments = purity and faithfulness
C. Eye salve = ignorance and indiscretion (Galen, the medical doctor from Pergamum mentions the Phrygian stone of which the dry powder would be applied to the eyes)
Revelation 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” This is coming from Proverbs 3 11 “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest His correction; 12 For whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.” A church has to be both authoritative and nurturing. We can’t be just one or the other.
Application: What do you need to purchase from Christ today? Are your refusing his correction?
Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” When you sit down for a meal with someone, it is the most disarming and non-judgmental time. 21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He even brings us up to sit with him. This is no superficial friendship. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Invitation: Is he knocking on the door of our church? Is Jesus knocking on the door of your heart? What are you afraid of? Are you saved?