31 July 2013

Some Random Thoughts as I Sermonize

I'm writing a sermon on Revelation 3:16 (where Jesus says to the church of Laodicea, "So, because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth.").  This is a challenging verse for many reasons, and I want to list out some random thoughts about it, why it's challenging, and some implications for us today.
  • Why is it better to be cold than lukewarm? (see verse 15, where Jesus wishes they were either hot or cold, but not lukewarm).
  • Their lukewarm status derived in part from their sense of self-sufficiency; "I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing" (v. 17).
  • It is apparent that the city's water supply itself was neither hot nor cold.  Nearby Hierabpolis was known for their hot springs, and Colossae for their cold water, each of which serves a purpose (hot for washing and healing/bathing, cold for drinking and gardening).  Laodicea brought their water in through aqueducts from several miles away, and the water lost much of its heat in the process.  And it is possible that the mineral content of the city's water made it barely drinkable.
  • Laodiceans were wealthy, which is attested through several facts: the city was famous for producing black wool; in AD 60 there was an earthquake which leveled the city.  Rather than accept imperial aid for rebuilding, the citizens rebuilt out of their own means; the city minted its own coins, the wealthy erected statues all over the city, and Laodicea was home to a well-known medical school.
  • What was the church there doing before it went lukewarm?  What does a "hot" church look like?  (Please read that question in the right context!)
  • Some great thoughts by Spurgeon on this text:
    • "[God] judges a church not merely by her external activities, but by her internal pieties; he searches the heart, and tries the reins of the children of men.  He is not deceived by glitter; he tests all things, and values only that gold which will endure the fire."
    • "To be slandered is a dire affliction, but it is, upon the whole, a less evil than to be thought better than we are; in the one case we have a promise to comfort us, in the second we are in danger of self-conceit."
    • On what the lukewarm Christian says: "We are not to be so greedy as to be called miserly, but we will give as little as we can to the cause.  We will not be altogether absent from the house of God, but we will go as seldom as we can.  We will not altogether forsake the poor people to whom we belong, but we will also go to the world's church, so as to get admission into better society, and find fashionable friends for our children!"

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