This is part three in a series…
Losing our first love is another way of saying we have lost our passion. And the way the church at large — or any local church like yours or mine — loses its passion is by individual Christians becoming passive about devotion to Christ. A passionate life is not about doing great things for God apart from knowing and loving God intimately. You can serve tirelessly on every committee and ministry team, and faithfully attend every function of the church. But without the fire of passion for Jesus burning within you, you won’t accomplish much more than the space shuttle under butane power. We must say with St. John of the Cross:
Forever at this door
I gave my heart and soul.
My fortune too.
I’ve no flock anymore,
No other words in view.
My occupation: love. It’s all I do.
Let me state the problem with the church in Laodicea up-front: When God finds apostasy in the church. He is unhappy. But when God finds passivity in the church, He is angry. Passivity is unacceptable.
Laodicea was perhaps the wealthiest city in the Roman province of Asia Minor in the first century. The money had gone to their head and dampened their heart. The church had once been soulful, passionate, and wide open. Paul mentioned the Laodicean believers several times in his letter to the church at Colossae, encouraging the Colossians to share his letter with the church at Laodicea (see Colossians 4:12-16).
Despite Laodicea’s material prosperity, the city lacked one important thing: an adequate water supply. They had to run a pipeline from nearby Hierapolis to obtain hot water from the mineral hot springs, and they piped in cold water from the springs in neighbouring Colossae. But since the pipelines were built above ground and not insulated, the water the Laodiceans received was neither fully hot nor fully cold, but lukewarm.
Hot mineral water is good for bathing and gargling. Cool spring water is good for quenching a blazing thirst. But lukewarm water is neither refreshing nor therapeutic. The lukewarm water of Laodicea became a picture of the passive faith of the church there. Jesus said, “You’re not cold, you’re not hot — far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit” (Revelation 3:16 MSG).
Jesus had three problems with the church at Laodicea, all of which grew out of its lack of passion for Christ.
1> The Laodicean Church had compromised its faith (see Revelation 3:15-16)
The Christian life is supposed to be hot, passionate, and fervent — not tepid. Apollos taught the Scriptures in Ephesus with great energy and excitement (see Acts 18:25). The word used in that verse is fervent, defined as “showing passionate enthusiasm” or “glowing hot.” Paul urged us to be “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11). James called us to “effective, fervent prayer” (James 5:16). And Peter states that we are to have “fervent love for one another (1 Peter 4:8).
Does your faith have passionate enthusiasm? Is it glowingly hot?
2> The Laodicean church was conceited.
This church boasted “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing” (Revelation 3:17). Jesus disagreed, stating that the church was oblivious to being “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Verse 17).
Conceit can’t see the faults in its own character, but Jesus can see them. Laodicea was wealthy, but the church was spiritually destitute. The city boasted of its textile business, but the church was spiritually naked. And though Laodicea was famous for its eye medicine, the church was blind.
More next time…