When I was in Russia on a mission trip one guide mentioned how people there loved to go to the sauna, especially in the middle of the winter. Going there is a very important part of Russian culture. One particular custom with many is – after soaking in the sweltering hot temperatures they then leap into tubs of bitterly cold water. They say the purpose for this is to get their blood moving. Personally, I’m in favor of finding other ways to do that.
Jesus made an interesting remark to the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:16: “So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of My mouth”. Somehow I don’t think He was too happy with them.
The city of Laodicea was built in an area of great seismic activity and had experienced many earthquakes. As often happens in such regions, vents came up from the depths of the earth, allowing boiling water to reach the surface. In the nearby city of Hierapolis, these hot springs were famous. People came from great distances to bathe in those waters, believing they had medicinal powers. An experience in those waters was viewed as therapeutic and effective in improving one’s health.
Another city named Colosse was not too far away and was known for its cold waters. People would travel great distances to vacation at Colosse, where they could invigorate themselves by taking frequent dips into the refreshing, cool-to-freezing waters of that city.
Laodicea may have been the biggest and richest city in the area, but it had neither hot or cold water.. Therefore the people had to leave their luxurious homes and go to Colosse for refreshing cold water and to Hierapolis for therapeutic hot water. Eventually, since they could afford it, they decided to pipe the hot water and the cold water in from both of their neighboring cities. The pipes/aqueduct effectively delivered the water – a real feat of construction at that time. Sadly, however, the water lost its heat and its coldness along the way. By the time it reached Laodicea, it was not only lukewarm, but it had developed a sickening, nauseating taste. The taste was so revolting that no one wanted to drink it.
So when Jesus told the Laodiceans, “…because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of My mouth”, this was a message that carried a strong punch. He was telling them, “Because you have become so dead, dull, sickening, and nauseating – because no spiritually refreshing waters flow from you and you have no healing properties left – I will spit you out of My mouth!”
The word “spit” means to vomit or to regurgitate. Now this doesn’t mean Jesus was rejecting them or disinheriting them. It just reveals how utterly distasteful a spiritually lukewarm condition is to Jesus. The fact that these believers were lukewarm means they weren’t good for anything; they were neither cool and refreshing, nor were they hot and healing. They were just stuck in the middle, like something that has lost both its flavor and its healthful temperature along the way.
With God there is no middle ground. Are you cold and refreshing to God and others? Are you hot toward God and inspiring and therapeutic to others? Or are you Blah – stuck – check his spiritual pulse – and just lukewarm? If the latter, God still loves you but your condition makes your Creator and Redeemer nauseated by your lack of spiritual vitality. If you’re hot or cold, you get God’s blood moving, so to speak, but if you are neither, then you get His stomach to churning and you make Him sick. How do you think God is reacting to you today?
Wanting to please my Lord – Pastor Steve