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Uh oh! Dear Jesus, help me not to be lukewarm. Help me to be on fire for you.

  • I will be held to account for what I do knowing that Jesus is in control.
  • This is not some game.
  • Jesus challenges me to be serious, to get on fire, to be passionate.

God knows me inside and out.

Dear Jesus, help me not to be lukewarm!

“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 [vomit] 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.’

ESV (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Revelation 3:14–22.

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Jesus is clear. Jesus is not messing around. Jesus wants us to be on fire for Him and the good news of the reign of God.

Jesus says he’s about to vomit the church out of his mouth—an alarmingly graphic figure of speech for pronouncing eternal doom at the Last Judgment. He does not want to have to do so: “O that you were cold or hot!” But “in this way” points forward to such a possibility, and “I’m about to” stresses its nearness and certainty should no change in temperature occur. For as it is, the Laodiceans turn his stomach.

The city of Laodicea had plenty of wealth. An earthquake destroyed Laodicea in A.D. 60, but the city rebuilt itself without imperial financial help such as Philadelphia received.

  • The church too could honestly say, “I’m wealthy.”
  • The addition of “I’ve become wealthy” pridefully highlights wealth as something attained as well as possessed.
  • “And in respect to nothing do I have a need” betrays the fallacy of thinking that material prosperity supplies everything needed. The resultant complacency defines the tepid water that nauseates Jesus.

Jesus tries to shatter this complacency by portraying the church in terms that describe a beggar rather than a tycoon:

  • “hard-pressed” to gain the barest necessities rather than needing nothing more.
  • “pitiable” while sitting streetside rather than lounging in a mansion.
  • “poor” to be reduced to begging rather than raking in profits from investments.
  • “blind” and therefore unable to work for a living rather than earning one; and
  • “naked” because of clothing so ragged as to expose lots of skin rather than being covered with finery (compare the blind beggar in John 9).

All the foregoing come not only despite the city’s wealth but also despite the ready availability of salve for curing eye diseases and despite the local manufacture of garments noted for their soft black wool. Of course, Jesus is talking figuratively about a condition that physical prosperity can’t correct but can in fact foster. “You don’t know” points up the church’s ignorance of their sorry religious condition. The church thinks it’s Christian, but it isn’t.

Jesus might have commanded the church. Instead, he advises it kindly, or perhaps sardonically. In place of its present wealth the church needs to buy from Jesus’s gold refined by fire, the pure gold like transparent glass that will characterize the New Jerusalem.

This purified gold represents the wealth of eternal life that’s entirely devoid of avarice and other evils. The church also needs to buy from Jesus white garments, being righteous deeds, to cover the present shame of their not doing such deeds. The figurative white garments contrast with the actual black wool garments manufactured in the region.

And the church needs to buy from Jesus a mental salve that will cure its introspective blindness. But what can a destitute beggar use to buy the required kind of gold, garments, and eye salve? He has no moral money!

Ah, but there’s one currency that Jesus will accept in payment: serious repentance. That, in fact, is the only currency he will accept. And despite the nausea the church causes Jesus, he loves the people of the Laodicean church and therefore scolds and disciplines them to bring them round as does a father his child. Advising an adult has turned into scolding a child, a verbal form of discipline. True love is never cruel, but it sometimes needs to be severe. So is Jesus’ love here.

Source: Robert H. Gundry, Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010), 1009.