Self-diagnosis is always a mistake when it comes to our physical bodies. We've all met people, perhaps you might be the kind of person, who reads the latest magazine and you're convinced that you have that problem. You have that disease. And you read the next magazine and think, that's exactly the disease that I have. I remember with my medical training, the first couple years as I was discovering different diseases that were around I wondered if maybe I didn't have those. Then the opposite can also be a problem. The kind of a person who has a problem, has a disease, has a malady, but won't admit it, would say don't worry about me, I'm fine. Yet that person all the while has a severe medical problem. My father was sort of like this. He had some things that would creep up in his life but he would never admit it. Perhaps that was just his generation. But I remember when he'd cut the top of one of his fingers off in the fan of a running car and he was going to the hospital. As he's bandaging up that bloody stump, he's shaving and thinking, nothing is really that wrong. I'll be the doctor and it'll be no big deal. I'm thinking, no big deal? You've just lost have of your blood in the bathroom. When we do this spiritually, that is we have a need and we don't admit our need, it becomes very, very serious. And there was a church like that. The church of Laodicea. A church that thought they were better off than they really were. They had an elevated sense of esteem.
There was a lion that once had a problem like this. He was enamored with the fact that lions were called the king of the jungle and he wanted to make sure all of the other animals knew he was the king of the jungle. So he went up first to the bear and said, who's the king of the jungle? And the bear said, you are. And the lion let out a huge roar of approval. Then he went to the tiger and said, who's the king of jungle? The tiger said, everyone knows you are, lion. Satisfied, he went to the elephant and said, who's the king of the jungle? The elephant took his trunk, picked up the lion, whirled him around five or six times in the air, slammed him up against a tree, sat on him, pushed him up and down on the ground several times, threw him in the lake and then slapped him into the mud flats. The lion's struggling to get up and regain his composure and said, look, just because you don't know the answer, you don't need to get mean!
Jesus is the King and yet Laodicea thought they needed nothing. They have misdiagnosed their condition. Jesus approaches them with the truth. Beginning in verse 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: "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 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--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. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore 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 dine with him, and he with Me. 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 who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
The church of Laodicea was founded by a guy named Antiochus the Second who named it after his wife, Laodicea. It took her name. It became a very wealthy, prosperous, and active city. Yet the people within the city who were Christians had a spiritual disease. They had a spiritual temperature that wasn't quite right. Jesus describes it here by the word 'lukewarm,' that is, they were complacent, they were apathetic, they were half-hearted in their commitment. What a contrast this final and seventh letter to the church of Laodicea is to the church at Philadelphia, the church with the open doors, the church that was growing and stayed true to the Word of God. And I think that the church of Philadelphia and the church of Laodicea describe the two main spiritual elements in the church of the last days. Some will see revival and they will grow, they will hold fast to the Word and proclaim it. Others, like the church of Laodicea, will be very, very nominal. They will be lukewarm; they will not walk through doors of opportunity. And Jesus will say to them, 'As many as I love I rebuke,' as He does here in this letter.
Now as we go through these truths today, we want to think in terms of our nation, our churches, and ourselves who are a part of those churches and this nation. Harold Bosley said, "America is today running on the momentum of a godly ancestry. When the momentum runs down, God help America." We have had a wonderful heritage spiritually. Some people, I think, over embellish the past. But nonetheless we've had a great spiritual heritage. A momentum in which the Bible, at one time, was one of the textbooks in the classroom. But when that momentum stops, God help America. And I can't help but wonder, has that momentum run out? Has it stopped? And would we say today, God help America? Well, as we look at this study this morning, I'm going to put it in medical terms. In fact, I've given it the title "Taking Your Spiritual Temperature". So with that in mind, we want to look at a description of the physician--how Jesus introduces Himself. Secondly, a diagnosis of the patient, the church of Laodicea in this case. Then finally a declaration of the prescription, how they can be bettered.
Let's first of all look at Jesus Himself, the description of the physician. In verse 14: "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.' These are the titles that He uses as He comes to this church. 'I am the Amen; I'm the Faithful and True Witness; I'm the Beginning of the creation of God.' The word 'amen' is used about 77 times in your Bible. A few times in the Old Testament; more times in the New Testament. It is a transliteration of a Hebrew word. I remember the first time I spoke in a church where many people said 'amen' after almost everything I said. And at first it was a little distracting and then after awhile I sort of liked it because it showed an approval of what you were saying. In the Old Testament, the word 'amen' was given by God's people, interestingly enough, when God would utter a divine curse. That is, He would say, if you do this great, if you don't here's the curse. And the people responded by saying amen. If God would show divine favor toward His people and give a positive statement, that people would also respond by an 'amen'. In the worship setting, when something was said or prayed that had truth to it, it was verified, the people would respond by saying 'amen'. Now in the New Testament, Jesus uses the term Himself as He stands behind His own words. What's interesting is that Jesus never says 'amen' at the end of a statement, always at the beginning of a statement. As if to say, 'What I am about to say has absolute truth.'
Some translations will say, 'verily, verily, I say unto thee.' Other translations will have Jesus saying, 'I tell you the truth.' In the original language it's 'amen, amen, I declare unto you.' Jesus speaks the truth. In Isaiah 65, God is called the God of the Amen. The God of all truth. Now what's odd is that we don't think of 'amen' as a proper name. It's used that way here. 'I am the Amen.' We think of 'amen' as something you say at the end of a statement: 'I agree with that. Amen!' but Jesus is called the Amen. He speaks the truth because He is the truth and to fortify that statement He's described as, notice, the Faithful and the True Witness. Now I think this is very important because Jesus comes to His patient. His patient is sick. His patient has misdiagnosed himself. His patient thinks he's fine--but he's not. He's very, very sick and Jesus comes after a thorough work-up with the accurate diagnosis. And His diagnosis is absolutely reliable. He tells them the truth. It's the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, and I'm about to tell you the truth about your condition. You know one of the marks of a good doctor is he tells the patient the truth. A doctor who's worth his salt won't come in if the patient is about to die and say, 'Listen, we've done tests. You're perfectly fine. Don't worry about a thing.' A doctor who's worth his salt or her salt wouldn't say to the patient, 'Listen, it doesn't matter which of these pills you take as long as you're sincere.' A doctor will say, 'This is the condition. This is what you need--otherwise you're toast.' They'll tell the truth.
There's a comic strip called Mama by Mel Lazarus in which Mama, who's sort of the star of this, Mrs. Hobbs, is talking to her perpetual suitor whose name is Mr. K. Frankly. Now he's not much of a catch, but he's always persistent, always chasing her. And in the first frame it shows them sitting on the couch and Mr. K. Frankly says, 'Mrs. Hobbs, I'm at a low-ebb psychologically. My ego is flattened.' Mrs. Hobbs responds in the next frame, 'Oh, Mr. K. Let me hasten to state that you're a fine, interesting, and attractive man.' The next frame shows Mr. K perking up and he says, 'Oh, Mrs. Hobbs, is that the truth?' And in the final frame she says, 'No, there'll be plenty of time for the truth when you're emotionally stronger.' Well Jesus doesn't do that. He knows their condition and He comes as the Faithful and the reliable, or True, Witness. He's going to tell them the truth.
Notice also that He is called here, "the Beginning of the creation of God." Now this has bothered some people and it has caused confusion in the minds of other people who would misread it as if to say that Jesus is part of God's creation. And the Jehovah Witnesses will say God created Jesus and then Jesus created all other things because He's the beginning of the creation of God. But that's not the meaning of the text is He is the most important. He is the chief over all of God's creation. Or He is the source of God's creation. It's the Greek word archae. Like you have archangel, the chief of the angels. He is the arch of creation; He is over all creation--He's the source. Now what's implied here is this: 'Not only do I know everything about you, not only is my evaluation about your condition perfectly accurate, but being the source of God's creation I can do something about it.' Now that's the kind of a doctor you want. You want a doctor who not only knows everything and would make a thorough, comprehensive workup. But would be able to say, 'I know your condition. I can fix you.' How would you like to go into a very delicate brain surgery and your doctor would come in very meekly, very nicely, and say, 'You know, I've never done this operation in my whole life but I'm a nice guy and I'll try my best.' You'd say, 'No thanks. I would not only like a second opinion but a second physician. I want somebody who's very capable.' Jesus comes as One who is very capable.
He says, 'I know your works.' He says that to all of these churches in all of these letters. But Jesus introduces Himself as One who is completely knowledgeable of their condition. I know your works. And to show that He is, He uses phrases in this short, little letter that reveal His complete and thorough knowledge of their city and their condition. In fact, the entire letter is a play on words of what's going on in Laodicea. Let me describe the city of Laodicea and you'll see what I mean. Laodicea was forty miles east and inland of the church of Ephesus. It lay in the great Lycus Valley. It was on the main trade route from east to west that brought together the two major empires of the world. So because it was on the main drag, the Route 66 of the ancient world, it was a great commercial city, a great banking city. It had great wealth. It was so wealthy that in 60 AD, when the city was destroyed by an earthquake, the citizens of Laodicea rebuilt the entire city with their own funds. They refused federal subsidy from the Roman government. They built it on their own and they boasted of their wealth. And so Jesus, notice in verse 17, says, 'Because you say I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.' There's another play on words when He says, 'I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire.' That's a play on words.
The city was also famous for two products: black, shiny wool used as garments and also there was a school of medicine in that town, a school of ophthalmology. And they boasted in having a cure for eye problems, it was clay that you would make a salve and rub it in your patient's eyes and supposedly it had healing properties. With that in mind, Jesus in verse 18, says "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." You see what Jesus is doing? He's revealing His total knowledge of them by using these phrases. There was one disadvantage to being a citizen of Laodicea. They had a very poor water supply. Nearby the city were two other cities and they tried to use their water supply. Colosse was close by and Colosse was located at the foot of these huge mountains that have a nice run-off of snow melt and the water in Colosse is cold and refreshing. Also nearby was a city called Heropolis, Heropolis boasted of hot springs. They had their own Jacuzzis that came out of the ground--steaming hot water for baths. Those who lived in Laodicea sought to capitalize on that and build an aqueduct from Colosse and Heropolis to Laodicea. Well the water that came from Colosse was ice cold when it left but by the time it got to Laodicea, what was its temperature? Lukewarm. It was tepid. It wasn't refreshing. It's like, what a drag, we have no ice cubes, it's fresh there but it's not fresh here. They also tried to bring in the steamy water from Heropolis and it was the same problem. By the time it reached Laodicea it was lukewarm. So Jesus plays off that image. Just like the water that you expect to be hot or cold but is lukewarm, you have become spiritually lukewarm. The doctor knows His patient.
Now let's look at the diagnosis of this patient and consider what it means to be lukewarm. Verse 15: "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth." In our physical bodies, the normal temperature is 98.6. if you're too hot, you're febrile, your body doesn't operate very well. If you're too cold, you're hypothermic, your body is in trouble. So you want to maintain the right temperature. Well spiritually, there are three temperatures: hot, cold, and lukewarm. Those are the three possible spiritual temperatures. The best is hot and all three are mentioned here. It's the word zesty, boiling hot. The two who were coming to Emmaus when Jesus came by and spoke to them, after Jesus spoke with them and then left, they said to one another, 'Did not our hearts burn within us as He spoke to us along the way?'
Then there's the condition of being cold. The word that is used here in Greek means frozen or icy cold. Just like the water over in Colosse. This is a spiritual condition where the person is dull to the things of the Spirit--dead, insensate. Doesn't even register. The Scripture in Matthew 24, Jesus says, 'Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.' But then there's a third condition. It's the worst condition of all. It is the condition of being lukewarm, also mentioned there. This is being complacent, half-hearted, and unable to recognize the depth of your spiritual need. That is lukewarm. There is nothing worse than this and you can relate in terms of beverages. Just like they could in terms of hot and cold water. I love hot coffee. I love it hot, I love it black, and I like it as soon as I get up in the morning. And so I will get up in the morning and I'll brew the java. And I'll get a nice hot cup of coffee and I'll put it on my desk and turn on my computer and I'm starting to work and pray and study and what often happens is I become preoccupied and absorbed in my work and time passes more quickly than I had thought and so I grab that cup of coffee not realizing it's been a long time. And what has happened? The second law of thermodynamics has happened. There's been an energy loss and that which was hot is now tepid, lukewarm. And so I'll put it up to my mouth, considering a thought that I'm studying, put it in my mouth, and my reaction is to spit it right out. Let me get a new cup!
We like our coffee hot; we like our tea hot. Or cold--iced tea. That's why when you go to a restaurant the waiter or waitress will say, 'Would you like me to freshen up your coffee?' Add some to it. Add some more energy from the outside; give it that hot fuel so that it's drinkable. Or freshen up your iced tea so that it's drinkable. But when it's lukewarm it's not pleasant. Well there were people in the city of Laodicea, as there are people today, who come to churches, who are lukewarm in their walks with Jesus Christ. The lukewarm person is the person who is a straddler--a fence sitter--a half-hearted person when it comes to spiritual things. Being lukewarm is the condition in which conviction never affects the conscious level. The conscience of the person is never really touched. Let me describe a lukewarm person. I think it would be accurate to say a lukewarm person doesn't take Jesus seriously. A lukewarm person doesn't take the Bible seriously. A lukewarm person doesn't take sin seriously but would wink at it. Doesn't take the lost world seriously. A lukewarm person is very erratic and sporadic at their fellowship--it's not a priority. A lukewarm person doesn't let the Bible serve as the guide for their life. It's just a book that they open maybe once a week or whenever. They don't take it seriously. A lukewarm person is one whose witness is non-existent. He has really nothing to share. The question that might seem puzzling is Jesus says, 'I wish you were cold or hot.' Now why would He say that? If hot is the best, zesty, passionate after God and cold is dead, or insensate, or you know, it's a worse condition it would seem than somebody who's at least partially warm. Why would Jesus say I want you to either be cold or hot? Well for this reason. People who are cold know it. And people who are cold go, 'Not only am I cold, I don't want to continue in this condition of being cold. I want a coat. Or I want to go inside where it's warm.' They're driven to a new condition. A person who is spiritually cold would at least be recognizing the fact that they're not right before God and would be driven to the warmth and the refuge and the fellowship that is in Jesus Christ. They would do something about their condition.
G. Campbell Morgan wrote, "There is more hope for the man outside the church in all of his coldness than for the man within the church who is near enough its warmth to appreciate it and yet far from its burning heat to be useless to God and man." There is a greater chance for the non-believer who has not heard the gospel than the man who has become an evangelized non-believer. In fact, G. Campbell Morgan said, "Lukewarmness is the worst form of all blasphemy." Now I thought about that. I thought that's a pretty potent statement to say lukewarmness is the worst form of all blasphemy. Sometimes we would picture a person raising his fist to heaven and maybe swearing at God and think that's horrible, that's blasphemy. But lukewarmness is worse than a person who would openly defy God because at least a person who openly defies God would be honest about his condition. Yep, I don't believe in God. I want nothing to do with Him. But a lukewarm person will name the name of Christ but live life as though God doesn't exist. They'll name Him. He's convenient. Oh yes, I'm a Christian. But they will never on a daily basis acknowledge God. He's not really a part of the fiber of their being and thus they live as though God doesn't exist. This kind of a person has been inoculated with a mild form of Christianity and is now immune from the real thing. That is what a lukewarm person is.
Now there's another part to Jesus' diagnosis in verse 17 and that is their spiritual temperament. Not only their spiritual temperature, but their temperament. That is, they're prideful. They've got a bad condition but they keep exalting themselves as if they don't need anything. They are prideful. Verse 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." Have you ever met a person like that spiritually? You witness to them and they will say something like, you don't have to preach to me, alright? Don't worry about me. I'm fine, alright. Worry about other people, but you don't have to worry about me and God. I'm spiritual enough. Leave me alone.' Unaware of their severe condition. Do you notice the difference, the contrast, here in these verses, between what they think they are and what Jesus says they are? They say, we're fine, we don't need anything. Jesus says, you are lost, you are miserable, you are poor, you are blind, you are naked. You remember the church of Sardis a few letters back? The same thing happens but in reverse. They said, we are poor. Jesus said, you are rich. You've got what really matters. You have spiritual wealth. Here Jesus, in their response that they're rich and don't need anything, Jesus says, you're poor. That is always a problem, isn't it, when we start looking at ourselves and diagnosing our condition, evaluating ourselves apart from God's revelation. You can always find somebody worse than you. You can find all of the ten worst people that you know and go, I'm better than all of those. But Paul the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians and he said, 'There are those who are measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves among themselves and are not wise.' They are not wise.
The Albuquerque Journal had an article that I thought was very interesting in light of this. Because folks, there has been a push in the last ten years, twenty years, but ten years principally, of the greatest malady in the world is low self-esteem. And so if you can just raise a person's self-esteem and be confident about yourself, it will solve all of your ills. And that thinking has permeated the church and so, you know, God forbid you would get anybody's self-esteem lowered to any degree because that's just the worst. But that was the problem with the church of Laodicea--they had too high of self-esteem. Anyway, this article is entitled "Jerks Have Too Much Self-Esteem Study Says," that was the name of the article in the Albuquerque Journal. Let me read part of it to you: "common wisdom has it recently that lack of self-esteem is the biggest problem facing young people, criminals, the depressed, the abused, abusers, and everyone else who doesn't go around with a smiley face pinned to his lapel. But now comes Health Magazine which reports on studies showing that there is such a thing as too much self-esteem. At the University of California at Riverside, students who gave themselves ratings above those of their observers on cheerfulness, warmth, and intelligence who perceived to be hostile, deceitful, and condescending. The conclusion of psychologist David Funder eerily echoes the kitchen wisdom of mothers long before psychologists were conducting such tests. He says, "When you raise yourself higher than the view others have of you, you think you're wonderful and the other people think you're a creep." The church at Laodicea exalted themselves above reality. Oh, they had great self-esteem but it was that push of self-esteem that really blinded them to their true condition. 'I'm fine, I'm wealthy, I have need of nothing.' Look at their true condition in that verse. Jesus says, 'You are wretched.' They are wretched because they're still in their sin. He next says, 'You are miserable.' That is, to be pitied because they're unacceptable to God. As the Bible says, 'Our own righteousness is,' what? Filthy rags before God. 'They are poor.' It means dirt poor. But they don't realize their condition because they are blind. They don't see it. Finally, He says, 'You are naked.' Because the garment that they have around them is their own goodness, their own righteousness. 'I'm as good as the next.' I, I, I. and they compare themselves with themselves and they're like that king in the Hans Christian Andersen story "The Emperor's New Clothes," who was totally naked and was convinced that he had the most beautiful suit of clothes on. He was naked.
Now maybe some of you are thinking, as you would look at your life this morning, I think I have God's blessing on my life. I have a good family, I have a good job, I have a great income. There's nothing wrong. I don't need to change. I don't need to repent. But maybe the true condition, the inner condition where it really counts, is that of being blind, miserable, poor, naked: a state of destitution. I've got to say I lived that way for many, many years. I was raised in a church. I went to church every Sunday. I believed in the God thing. It's ok to have God as long as He's kind of in His place--just don't get too much into it. And I was so naked and blind spiritually. I rested on the laurels of a religious upbringing. It wasn't real. I wasn't hot; I wasn't cold. But I was certainly lukewarm at best.
Jesus finally delivers the prescription. Like a good doctor, I know your condition, here's the X-Ray, I know everything about you and I have the power to fix it. Here is now the prescription. The question is will they listen to the doctor? And that's always the problem, isn't it? Let's say you have the best doctor that money can buy. He's world-renowned. But what good is he if you don't follow the orders of the doctor? I was reading this week that doctors have a frustration with patients. Their first frustration is the patient won't pay the bill, this article said. The second frustration is that the patient won't follow directions. That the doctor will prescribe a pattern of change that needs to take place and certain medications, but they won't follow through. In fact, one study shows that up to 90% of patients leave half-empty pill bottles, cheat on diets, continue to smoke, or never return for check-ups, despite careful prescriptions and cautious advice. Well, Jesus will give them advice. Notice He says first of all, "I counsel you to buy from Me," and He mentions gold and He mentions garments and He mentions eye salve. I counsel that you buy something from Me. I think that's sort of odd that Jesus would say, 'Buy something from Me.' But I think again the reason He's doing that is they thought they were so wealthy and they could buy themselves out of any difficulty, they never needed a thing. No, I'm fine, I don't need anything, and Jesus is saying, Yes, you need something and I have it. And you can't get along without it. And because I know you so well and you need it so much, My counsel is that you have what I have--what I am able to give.
He mentions three spiritual items and it all corresponds with their condition. He says, 'I counsel you to buy from Me gold,' because He said they were poor. I counsel you to buy garments that are white, because they were clothed in the garment of their own self-righteousness, being naked. And then He says, I counsel you buy of Me eye salve, because Jesus said they were blind. Now this is good news if you're a blind beggar. For Jesus to come and say, I have eye salve, because you're blind. You're naked, but I have clothes. You're poor, but I've got gold. The real treasure that counts is good news. I have what you need. Are you satisfied this morning with your spiritual life? Now think carefully before you answer that in the halls of your own brain and heart. Are you satisfied? Because if you can say, I am satisfied with where I'm at, that could be a very bad indication. Are you in neutral? I'm not saying, are you in reverse, I'm not saying are you going backward and shunning the things of God, but if you're not going forward, maybe you're just in neutral and it's that condition of being lukewarm. It was Augustine who said, "God, Thou hast made us for Thyself and we are restless until we find our rest in Thee." There's no other medicine that will work. There's no other solution to your life except for the goods that Jesus Christ has for you. You are a restless humanoid until you rest in Him.
Do you remember the first beatitude? Blessed are the poor in spirit. Oh how happy are those who recognize they are spiritually poverty-stricken. That's the first step: when you realize your condition, you want to do something about it. There's nobody in the kingdom of heaven this morning that's not first of all poor in spirit. Then He gives three spiritual statements and we'll go through these as we conclude. Number one, there is an explanation. Look at verse 19: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten." Isn't that great? They're lukewarm; He rebukes them. But He says, I still love you and to prove that I love you I have told you the truth. To prove that I love you I am willing to go to the extent of spanking you, of chastening you. You're saying, that shows love? Ask any dad or mom. The writer of Hebrews talks about God being our Heavenly Father. It says here rebuke and chasten but the same thing is mentioned in Hebrews where a loving father will discipline his son. As a proof that he's my son or she's my daughter and I'll discipline. The writer of Hebrews says, 'No chastening for the present seems joyful but rather painful. Nevertheless, afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness.' If you're getting spanked by God--rejoice. It proves that you're His child. But if you're getting by with sin it's dangerous because you don't know who your father is. You don't know who your father is. If you're going through all sorts of sin but you claim to be a Christian and you're just skating, it could be that you're not of your Father in heaven, but of your father the devil. Because everyone who is God's child is rebuked and is disciplined. And anybody who loves you will express that love honestly. Oscar Wilde said, "A friend is always one who stabs you in the front." An enemy will stab you in the front; a friend will tell you the truth to your face.
Secondly, there's an exhortation. He says in verse 19: "Therefore be zealous and repent." The word zealous means 'be on fire, be hot'. Ok, you're not cold, you're not hot, you're lukewarm. Solution? Be hot. Now the Greek rendering of this text is very telling. There's a change in the tenses and it would render it like this: 'Stop once in for all this action and turn around once and for all.' So it's a finished action. "But be zealous," is a continuous action. Now continually, progressively, be on fire and be hot, fervent in spirit for your Lord Jesus Christ. That's a radical solution. It would be as radical as, 'I as your doctor have to inform you today, you can never again eat green chile.' No, please, anything! No, you have to quit today because this is causing a condition. You'll have to just stop and from now on, every day, you have to perpetually eat wheat germ. That's all you can eat. You would say, you know, that's sort of a radical solution, doc. But if your condition is that radical of a condition, it needs a radical prescription. They needed a radical prescription. You're lukewarm; it's dangerous--it's damning. Therefore, stop it. Be zealous is the solution. If you haven't read a book, I suggest you buy The Screwtape Letters written by C.S. Lewis. In some colleges, it's required reading and it's examined. The premise of Screwtape Letters is you've got the devil, supposedly discipling, if I can use that word in the context, on how to tempt people, how to be a good demon. And he's telling him all the tricks of the trade. And he tells him that the goal is not wickedness but indifference. And he says to his young nephew; keep the prospect, the patient, comfortable at all costs. If he should become concerned about anything of importance, encourage him to think about his luncheon plans, not to worry, it could induce indigestion. Then at one point in the book, the devil gives the definitive job description of the devil. He says, I the devil will always see to it that there are bad people, but your job, my dear Wormwood, is to provide me with people who do not care. I can get a lot of bad people. you just keep working on these people and give me lots of people who do not care--they are indifferent. There will be no hypocrites in heaven. I'm not saying everybody has to be perfect. Listen, we're all hypocrites. We come to Christ and we get saved, but we get changed, we repent. We aren't perfect but we change our direction, as meager as that might be, as falling and faulty as that might be. And whatever things are in our lives that shouldn't be there spit them out unless you're one that God spits out. It's a horrible thing to here. He's saying, in effect, you nauseate Me. I'll spit you out of My mouth. Those who are lukewarm. That is the meaning of the text.
Finally, there is an invitation in verse 20. One of the most famous of all in Scripture: "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." Isn't that a great promise? The background that colors that promise comes from the Middle East. In the Middle East, eating is sacred. That's why I like the Middle East so much. I would agree with that; I love to eat. Jesus loved to eat as well. In fact, He got in trouble with that one time, remember? They said, 'He eats with sinners.' But the idea of dining together was sacred for this reason: if you and I are at the table together and I'm eating something and you're eating the same thing I'm eating, that which I eat dissolves in my body, in my stomach, in the duodenum, distributed in the blood stream throughout all the body. It essentially becomes a part of me. The food that you eat does the same to you so we're nourished by the same common element and we become one with each other. So when Jesus says, I will come in and dine with Him and he with Me, I want to enjoy intimate fellowship with you, I want to become tight with you, I want to become friendly with you. I don't want to be distant, shoved off, once a week where you used My name. I will come in and share My secrets with that person. But Jesus said, I stand at the door and knock. We have to open that door. Here is Jesus Christ standing outside His church, knocking to get in. But He will come in. If those who are overcomers would open the door.
There was an English artist named Holman Hunt years ago who painted verse 20 on canvas. He painted Jesus standing and a nice little glen and a roadway and Jesus knocking on a door of a cottage. He invited his other artist buddies to come and critique the painting. And so he displayed and they all looked around it, noticing its detail, and one of them said, 'Holman, there is a problem with the door itself. There's no doorknob on the outside.' Holman said, 'I did that on purpose because the door is the opening to the heart and it can only open from the inside.' Jesus will never force Himself. He only gently knocks. He won't impose. The person will respond to the invitation and the control is on the inside. Beautiful story and it's true. Jesus says, 'Behold, I stand at the door and I knock.' And today, if you'll hear His voice, He'll come in. The human heart is pictured as a room or a house. Jesus wants to come in and take control. He's knocking on the door of your heart and I'll tell you what He wants. He wants you to say, 'Lord, come in. And besides that, here are the keys to the house. You're in control; you're in charge.' And He'd like you to hand over every key to every closet, to your garage, to your shed, and give them to Him. You might say, Lord, I'll make a deal with You. You can have the living room, dining room, kitchen, all three bedrooms, hallway--You can have the garage. But I have one little key to one little closet in my life that's mine. Hand's off of it, alright? You can everything else but let's negotiate. Don't be so picky here. I like my little closet and I've neatly categorized and organized all my fun little sins that I like to get away and do when nobody's around and nobody's looking. Leave it alone. And He'll say, uh-uh. I want it all. But I won't push the door down--I'm knocking. And that's a message for every believer here this morning. Because this is a message to the church at Laodicea. He's outside at the door of the church knocking to come in. and maybe there are certain things in your life that you've sort of kept and say, this is mine. And Jesus is knocking. Lord, leave me alone, I'm tired. Knocking. Lord, come back tomorrow! Knocking. But maybe this morning you're an unbeliever. You were a true Laodicean. You've named the name of Christ all of your life, being raised in some church, some denomination, but you have never turned your life to Jesus Christ and have a personal relationship with Him. It could be that you would say, just get this message over with. I want to go home. Leave me alone! I'm fine.
You could be blind and naked and miserable. And you need the right prescription. Maybe Jesus has been knocking since you were a child and a teenager and you've heard the voice of God, you've felt compelled to come and yet you've sort of said, I'll wait. And then it happened again at another time in your life. Maybe today you experienced that knocking. You know what the danger is? The danger is every time you say no, the door gets thicker and harder to hear the knock. The heart becomes calloused. The Bible calls it a hard heart. And so at first it might be a loud knock. Later on after you've said no, it's just a faint little knock and you're thinking, maybe it's my imagination, maybe I'm just making this whole thing up, it's not really a knock. If you have any inkling this morning of God trying to reach out and save you, touch your life, let Him in.