Revelation 3:14-22 "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm-- neither hot nor cold-- I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. 21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
Jesus told us to take up our cross to follow Him. He taught that we would suffer in His name. He explained that the enemies of the Gospel are always on the prowl looking to devour us.
Brothers and sisters in Christ – and especially you confirmands - it costs something if you are going to attach that title of “Christian” to your name. Don’t ever forget that. Jesus despises lukewarm Christianity. He is nauseated by a tepid faith. He is disgusted when we are indifferent to our Savior and His will for our lives.
Jesus told the Christians in the church in Laodicea: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
It costs something to be a Christian. We hear Christ’s voice calling us away from the fun and frivolity of our sin. We follow Christ into the scary dark valley of death. We give up our sins. We let go of our worldliness. We move away from a life of ease and comfort into a life of carrying crosses in Christ’s name. We become targets for the devil, the atheists, the pagans, and everyone who hates the name of Christ and everything He stands for. Being a strong, confident, competent Christian is hard work.
On the other hand, being a tepid, indifferent, apathetic Christian is cheap and easy work.
Are you willing to admit that you are one of those lukewarm Christians that Jesus despises so much?
Personally, I may go for a 50 mile ride on my bike, but I have a King Size Snickers bar and an A&W Root Beer in my backpack. I want to do better. Be better. But there is always something holding me back.
Do you feel the same way about your Christianity? You may hit the holy treadmill for a while working hard at being a more disciplined Christian … but your mind keeps wandering to the sugar high that is waiting for you in your gym bag. You want to try harder. Do more. Be better.
You make a commitment to come to church. You sit in the pews for 2 to 3 weeks in a row … and then you disappear to the comfort of your couch again. You promise yourself that you are going to start reading your Bible daily. But then you get bogged down in Leviticus and allow the dust to settle on God’s Word once again. You make a pledge to be regular in your prayer life. But then at the end of the day you realize that not only did you forget to talk to Jesus … but you didn’t even think about Him once all day. You make a vow to give up the sins that are dragging you down into Satan’s slime. But then you realize that it is just too hard and you dive headfirst back into the filth and grime. You start the worship service and your prayers at home with a sincere attempt to concentrate. But then you quickly realize that though your lips are moving, your heart is mumbling half the words.
Like the Christians at the church at Laodicea, who are neither hot nor cold. You are always afraid that God is ready to spit you out of His mouth.
Admit it, you just are not a very good Christian.
It isn’t OK to be it. But it is OK to admit it. Just like any addict, the first step to recovery is admitting our addiction.
And our addiction is our sin. It is our apathy. It is our indifference.
The worship service should be filled every single Sunday … in every single church. But it isn’t. That’s because we are apathetic toward worshiping our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.
The offering plates should be overflowing with gifts to support God’s ministries here at Epiphany and WLS and beyond. But they aren’t. That’s because we are stingy with the gifts God has given to support our lives.
The Bible should be opened and read every evening at the family dinner table as we raise our children in the training and instruction of the Lord. But the Bibles remain on the shelves. That’s because we have made sports and work and entertainment more of a priority than the living and enduring Word of God.
The lives we live as Christians should be getting all the unbelievers around us upset as we speak out against all the evil and insanity that consumes our culture. But the unbelievers don’t notice us. That’s because we have been successful in keeping our faith silent and hidden.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, this should not be!
But the sad reality is … that’s the way we are. New confirmands. Long-time members. Life-long Christians. Even pastors.
We can so easily become lazy, indifferent and self-satisfied as Christians. We may be tempted to say like the Laodicean Christians: “I’m rich; I have acquired wealth and don’t need a thing.” But Jesus warns that “you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” He speaks such harsh language because He rebukes and disciplines the ones He loves.
He says to the Christians in both Laodicea and in Racine, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” This is one of the great paintings of 19th century of Jesus standing outside and knocking on the door. By all rights, lukewarm Christians like us should be standing at Christ’s door, begging for forgiveness for our half-heartedness and our apathy. But look at the picture Jesus paints here. No other love is like Christ’s love! The nail-scarred hands of Jesus are knocking on the door of a calloused Christian, whose heart should be warm with worship and Word night and day … but it’s not. So a searching Jesus patiently knocks on the door of the lukewarm Christian, calling, “I’m seeking you out. I’m taking the initiative. I’m the offended and wronged party, but I’m extending myself and my gifts to you.”
And what gifts does Jesus have for you? Jesus, the Amen, Jesus, the faithful and true witness, Jesus, the ruler of God’s creation, has come to meet your needs with real treasure. He says, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. … To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.”
We have gotten our white baptismal gowns filthy with our sin, but Jesus offers us the white clothes purchased for us through His blood spilled at Calvary, so we may cover our shameful nakedness. He places the salve of His healing Gospel on our eyes, taking away the blindness of our soul, enabling us to see His glory, glory that makes all else pale in comparison. Through His victory over Satan, Jesus has won for you the golden streets of heaven. He promises to allow us to sit with Him on His throne at His heavenly Father’s right hand. Because He has overcome sin, death and the devil, He promises that we will overcome this unholy trinity as well.
That is what you call amazing grace. Jesus, what a friend for sinners. What a Savior! What a picture of hope for us lukewarm Christians. This is a call for you to leave the ranks of the half-hearted and become fully devoted. It is an invitation to dust off your Bible, to get down on your knees in prayer, to open up your wallets in thanksgiving, and to sit in these pews every week. Lukewarm Christians, you know who you are. This promise is for you. The Christ you claim to love is standing at your heart’s door and He’s patiently knocking. He’s patiently offering you the hope of forgiveness, renewal, and passion.
Whether you are being confirmed today or you were confirmed years ago, there is a very real danger for all of us. The danger is to take Jesus and His grace and forgiveness for granted. To remain spiritually apathetic. To return to our neglect of worship. To be lethargic about receiving the Sacrament often. To be indifferent in our absence at the altar for prayer.
The danger is that this lukewarmness will lead to judgment. Neutrality is not an option for us. Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30).
This is a daily struggle for all of us – no matter our age or length of time within the church.
Apathy, complacency, and indifference have no place in the kingdom of God. Lukewarm Christianity is easy. Having a faith that is boiling hot is much more difficult. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes commitment. It takes being in church.
Here in church Christ provides you with everything you need to feed the fire of your faith and keep it burning brightly – God’s Word read from the lectern, His Law and Gospel applied to you from the pulpit, His baptismal waters washing over you at the font, Christ’s body and blood fed to you at the communion rail, God’s presence at His altar where He hears your confessions, your creeds and your hymns of praise and He responds with His voice of absolution, peace and blessing.
Truly, such blessings are worth cherishing, using and pursuing. For they will help you to protect and shield the fire of your faith every week as you go out into the winds and rains of the world.
Confirmands of all ages, are you one of those lukewarm Christians? Remember that it costs something to be a Christian. It costs your sins. It costs your lifestyle choices. It costs your independence and indifference. It cost Christ His life.
Yes, the life of a Christian is not easy. It is often difficult and dangerous, tiring and terrifying. You have to let go of a lot of things – your old sins, self-adoration, fence-straddling and lukewarm discipleship. But all the hard work, the cost, the time, and the sacrifice is worth it. You can’t heat yourself up … but Jesus can – and does! Through His holy Word. Through His precious Sacraments. Through confession, repentance, and forgiveness. Christ’s passion for you is reflected in your passion for Him. Then the fire of your faith will still be burning – for years, for decades, and for an eternity. Amen.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen. (Revelation 22:21)