“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”
Revelation 3:15-16 NLT
This is a verse that sometimes makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. An internal “Oh dear!” and a heavy sigh starts a few minutes of self reflection that usually ends up with me mentally on my knees before Jesus. Asking once again for forgiveness. And His love and grace floods over me once again.
Jesus used the analogy of water and its temperature and it would have been a significant metaphor in that culture. Lukewarm water in 1st Century Laodicea would have been a bit suspect. It brings to mind the picture of glass of water that has been sitting out in the sun, and consequently didn’t taste very nice. And, as well, it may have become polluted by whatever was flying around near it. One mouthful, and perhaps a response would be to spit it out. On the other hand, cold water was refreshing and wholesome, probably sourced from an underground spring. Hot water would have been used for cooking or for washing, with the benefit of knowing that it felt good through cooked food or through the refreshment washing brings.
So to translate that into spiritual terms, what do we get? What is the optimum temperature for a follower of Jesus? Obviously, being lukewarm is not an option – Jesus made very clear that His palate rejects it. Perhaps, a lukewarm “Christian” is someone who goes through the motions of church life, failing to engage with the spiritual aspects, but putting up with them so that they can enjoy the benefits of the fellowship and any secular activities that take place on their church premises. A lukewarm person is someone who knows all about the liturgy and even Bible passages, but tends to ignore them, being more interested in the display of flowers, how the chairs are laid out, the length of the sermon, or what they should wear to church. They see no reason to engage with our wonderful and amazing Heavenly Father in an abundance of praise and worship, in thankfulness and reverence. These people may also be resistant to responding to the Gospel, having hearts that are hardened against Biblical truth, or prayer and worship. Jesus doesn’t want them in His church – He will eject them forcibly.
A person who is cold is someone who has no desire to get involved with anything to do with God. They probably won’t darken any church with their presence, unless the service is a wedding, funeral, or christening/baptism. They may confess atheism or be an agnostic. I was one myself until God, through His Spirit, connected with me. He brought me into a situation where I had to decide and one night, in response to an anguished prayer, He graciously allowed me to know His reality and love. So a cold person can be reached by the Gospel, and warmed by the power of God. God’s grace extends to them – they only need to reach out and accept Him. Salvation is all by His grace and it’s a free gift, costing us nothing, though it cost Jesus His life.
A person who is hot, is someone who has fully and totally embraced the Gospel. And through faith he or she fervently pursues God, reading the Bible, praying, evangelising and serving God in the way He wants them to. When times are troubled their faith carries them through. And their pilgrimage through life bears fruit, both in their own lives and the lives of others.
Jesus said He knew everything the Laodiceans do. Of course He did. And unlike the other 6 churches He had no praise or encouragement for them. At least the church at Sardis had a few dying embers that were possible to revive, but the Laodiceans had absolutely nothing – they had reached a spiritual entropy.
A sensible pilgrim will occasionally do a spiritual check up, just to make sure they’re still “hot” and not heading for being lukewarm. As water cools to room temperature and becomes lukewarm, they too will do the same unless they put in place the spiritual safeguards necessary to maintain temperature. But we must never forget our relationship with God. He is our loving Heavenly Father. Through Jesus He has welcomed us into His family. He has made it possible for us to live with Him for eternity. So how can we ever grow cold in our faith? And neither must we forget that he has given us the special task of sharing His grace and love with the lukewarm and cold people around us. While there is still time.
Dear Lord God. How can we ever forget You, the One who has graciously done so much for us. For our salvation and our adoption into Your family we are so grateful. We pray that You will never allow our hearts to grow cold. In Jesus’ name. Amen.