What is lukewarmness? And what barometer would we use to gauge whether or not we are lukewarm? Pastor John offered a clear definition (and a gauge for us to use) in his sermon on Revelation 3:14–22, a text that includes Jesus’s words to the church in Laodicea, where he says they are “lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold,” and then threatens to therefore spit them from his mouth (Revelation 3:16). It’s a haunting text. So, what is lukewarmness? Here’s Pastor John to explain in a sermon preached back in 1983.
The essence of lukewarmness is saying, “I don’t need it. I need nothing. I have enough of Jesus. I walked the aisle one day, and he came into my heart, and I have him. I don’t need anything.” The lukewarm are spiritually self-satisfied.
Barometer of Self-Satisfaction
To find out whether you are among that number now, don’t look in your head and ask whether you think that you’re a sinner. Because you all do. You’ve been well taught. The way to tell whether you are among the number of the spiritually self-satisfied is to look at your prayer life. There’s the barometer. To tell whether we are in the bondage to spiritual self-satisfaction, the question is, How frequently, how earnestly, how expectantly, how extendedly do you strive with God to have a deeper knowledge of Christ, greater earnestness in prayer, more boldness in witness, sweeter joy in the Holy Spirit? Do you long for deeper sorrow for sin, warmer compassion for the lost, more divine power to love? Are you going after God in your prayer life hard every day, often, long?
“To have Jesus is to have everything.”
And if not, that’s the barometer of whether you’re spiritually self-satisfied — not what you think about yourself in your head. Does the coolness and the perfunctoriness of your prayer life stack up to exhibit A that you are spiritually satisfied, and therefore lukewarm, and therefore on the verge of being spit out of his mouth?
Poor and Pitiable
Now, Jesus has a word to you and to me if we think we need nothing at the beginning of 1983, if there’s no sense of desperation in our hearts for change. People may think that it’s a bit melodramatic, overdoing it a little bit to have an all-night prayer meeting on Friday, as though there were some volcano about to come down upon us. Well, there is, in Revelation 3:14–22, a volcano about to come down on lukewarm people. Here’s Jesus’s word of assessment: “You are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).
Remember: that’s Jesus talking. I didn’t choose those words for sermonic effect; those are the words of Jesus. That’s the way he looks down through that ceiling upon churchgoers who don’t have any passion for change in your life, who are quite content to go on, day in and day out, with two minutes with the Lord. And such churchgoers, if they don’t begin to do something, to change, will eventually be spit out of his mouth. Now, that’s the threat and that’s the indictment.
Counsel from Christ
Here comes, in verse 18, the counsel. Counseling is big business today, and many of you are involved in it with me. And I just want to say in passing: don’t just read books about counseling; study the master counselor. Do you see that word counsel there in verse 18? This is counsel at its best. We’re going to see the sweetest promise you’ve ever heard before we’re done. But before he gets there, there’s an awful threat. Here comes the counsel, the word in between. What are they to do?
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. (Revelation 3:18)
Christ’s will for the church is not to spit it out. His will for the church is that our poverty be replaced with wealth, that our nakedness and shame be clothed with robes of righteousness and obedience, and that our blindness be healed so that we see like God sees and assess everything the way he does.
There’s only one place where we can get that gold, those garments, and that medicine — and that’s Jesus himself. And that’s why he says, “Buy from me gold.” Now, how do you buy gold when you’re broke? He just said you are poor, blind, naked, miserable, wretched. Not only poor, not only broke, but blind. You can’t do any work; you can’t earn any money when you’re blind. And not only blind, but naked. You can’t even go out of your closet.
Open Your Doors
How do you get the wealth of Christ — robes of righteousness and obedience, and power to love, salve to make us wise with the wisdom of God — when you can’t even go out of your closet? The answer is in verse 20: You don’t go out of your closet. You open the door and let Jesus in.
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. (Revelation 3:20)
Now, that verse can be applied with legitimacy to unbelievers, but that’s not its meaning here. I want to drive that home. That verse is addressed to lukewarm Christians who think they have Christ sufficiently. And he’s just out there knocking on the door of the Christian’s heart. It’s addressed to lukewarm Christians who think they don’t need any more of Christ. “We’ve got his riches; we’ve got his garments; we’ve got his medicine.”
“The essence of lukewarmness is saying, ‘I don’t need it. I need nothing. I have enough of Jesus.’”
And he says, “You don’t. You’re poor, blind, miserable, naked, and pitiable.” This is for people who keep the door shut on the most inner room of their lives, people who want to keep the Lord on the porch and deal with him like a salesman: you might want to buy the thing, but you don’t want him to come in and get mixed up in the deep places of your life. Christ did not die to purify a bride who would keep him on the porch while she watches TV in the den. His will for the church is that we open the door, all the doors of our lives.
This is that sweet promise: he wants to join you in the dining room of your life, light a candle, spread the table, sit down with you, and talk for an hour. Just try to imagine the favorite meal you’ve ever enjoyed with the nearest and dearest friend you’ve ever had. That’s the experience Jesus wants with everybody in this room. And he’s knocking right now and asking for it. “Wouldn’t you take the time for me, please — an hour — so that I can eat with you and you with me?”
And when Jesus Christ comes into the room, he brings with him all the gold, all the garments, and all the medicine in the world. To have Jesus is to have everything. So, how do you buy gold when you’re broke? You pray. You start opening all the doors of the deep recesses of your life. And you appeal to him to come into every single sphere and be at home and sup with you, and you with him.
Power for More
I just confess very personally: there is an intimate communion and fellowship with Jesus I crave in 1983. This sermon is a sermon for me. I’m not damning you. I preach the way I do because I want so bad to have the fullness of Jesus Christ more than I’ve known him before. And I want us to share it as a congregation.
And when he comes and dwells in the innermost of our affections, there’s going to be power — power to love. That’s what we all want more than anything, I said on New Year’s Eve: power to overcome all the crummy desires that pull us around by the nose and lord it over us. When Jesus comes in and has dinner with you by candlelight, you’ve got power to overcome all the allurements of the world.