What do you feel strongly about? Are you concerned about the environment, abortion, Covid, your country’s politics, or cultural re-definitions of gender and marriage? What do you feel indifferent about? Maybe some of these same things, or possibly what is happening in the world in foreign nations, that doesn’t directly affect you? Most terms for indifference, including apathy, nonchalance, disregard, unconcern, obliviousness, or dismissiveness have a negative connotation. But we might be unconcerned with something wisely and biblically. Not being overly concerned about how many gifts we give at Christmas or having the perfect meal on Christmas Day is probably a good thing. Being oblivious to particular musical or clothing fads will likely serve us well since they come and go so quickly and have no eternal value. However, as Christians, we are called to care about the world and the people of the world in a particular way. At Christmas time, we ought to be demonstrating Christ’s love for people more than love for the world’s latest shiny things. In his letter to the Laodicean church, through the apostle John, Christ firmly asserts his offense at and will not tolerate the indifference in his people who consider themselves independent, wealthy, and successful when they are spiritually poor, blind, and naked. As we delve into the Laodiceans’ apathy, let us heed Christ’s warning to repent of our indifference toward him when we think of ourselves as independent, successful, and wealthy and instead be zealous for Christ this Christmas.
Better to Be Hot or Cold
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 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. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.'” (Revelation 3:15-19) “Some commentators are distressed that Jesus would prefer coldness to a lukewarm faith. The reason, however, is not hard to fathom. It is perhaps most offensive of all for people to affirm the glories of Christ but then to live as though they meant little. Stott writes: ‘If he is the Son of God who became a human being, died for our sins, and was raised from death; if Christmas Day, Good Friday, and Easter Day are more than meaningless anniversaries, then nothing less than our wholehearted commitment to Christ will do.'” (1)
The Problem of Independence
“The church of Laodicea evidently took [its] character from the city as a whole, which was renowned for its wealth. When it was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 60, the citizens declined assistance from Rome and rebuilt their city from their own resources. But, however admirable this independence might be in material things, in the spiritual realm self-sufficiency means destitution; a church’s true sufficiency must come from God, who alone supplies spiritual riches, clothing and health. (2) And we are his church. ”Contenting herself with these external things: true believers, as considered in Christ, stand in need of nothing indeed, they are complete in him, and have everything in him; but, as considered in themselves, they are daily in need of daily food for their souls, as for their bodies, of fresh light and life, strength and comfort, and of new supplies of grace…true believers account themselves wretched, as the Apostle Paul did, on account of indwelling sin, and the plague of their own hearts, which the members of this church, the greater part of them, were ignorant of.” (3) After we look to Christ for his grace and mercy, we then look back at ourselves with new eyes to see our need. The believers in Laodicea turned their eyes to eternals for gratification.
The Problem of Cultural Conformity
“How did the Laodiceans become so lukewarm? Jesus answers that they had come to a false estimation of themselves on the basis of their outward blessings…The Laodiceans looked on their favorable circumstances and considered their riches as true wealth…The problem was not their wealth but what riches had done to them…[Also] notice that the Laodiceans drew their attitude from the secular culture around them. This happens frequently to Christians. In a sophisticated culture, Christians take on airs of superiority. In a patriotic setting, we become preoccupied with earthly kingdoms…Christians should therefore be on guard against adopting the spirit of the age and of the place where we live, instead cultivating a biblical ethos and the agenda of Jesus Christ.” (4) “Cold and hot water represent something positive, for cold water refreshes in the heat, and hot water is a tonic when one is chilly. (5) Christ, who provides these resources, is offended by and will not tolerate our apathy toward him. At Christmas, we should be exceedingly zealous in our faith, more than captured by the world’s pressures to buy and party, so that others may be drawn to true, everlasting joy in Christ. Repenting of our shortcomings now will lead to greater joy as we approach the celebration of Christ’s incarnation to redeem his people. “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.” (Rev. 3:18) “The truly repentant cannot say that they have need of nothing., for they know absolutely that they are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. In true repentance and faith they have bought the refiner’s gold, they are made rich by the God of heaven, the shame of their nakedness is covered with the white robe of Christ’s righteousness, and their eyes are so anointed that they see and blush over every sin.” (6)
Zeal to Repent
“Zeal was what was wanting in this church; which is nothing else than hot, fervent, and ardent love, love in a flame; whereas she was neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm, Christ would have her be ‘zealous’ for God; for his cause and interest, for his Gospel, ordinances, and the discipline of his house, and against everything that is evil; against all false worship, all errors in doctrine, all sin and iniquity; and to be zealous of good works, and in the worship of God, both private and public: and ‘repent’; in an evangelical way, of her lukewarmness, remissness, and supineness; of her pride, arrogance, and vain boastings of herself; and of her self-sufficiency, self-dependence, and self-confidence.” (7) “Repentance is a settled determination to leave sin. Not a faint velleity, but a resolved vow…There must be no hesitation, no consulting with flesh and blood, Had I best leave my sin or no?…this resolution must be built upon the strength of Christ more than our own. It must be humble resolution. As David, when he went against Goliath put off his presumptuous confidence as well as his armour—‘I come to thee in the name of the Lord.’ (1 Samuel 17:45)—so we must go against our Goliath [like]-lusts in the strength of Christ…So, being conscious of our own inability to leave sin, let us get Christ to be bound with us and engage his strength for the mortifying of corruption. “ (8) Christ is offended by and will not tolerate indifference in his people who consider themselves independent, wealthy, and successful when they are poor, blind, and naked. He is worthy of our enthusiastic, fervent worship at Christmas.
“Wealth, luxury, and ease can make people feel confident, satisfied, and complacent. But no matter how much you possess or how much money you make, you have nothing if you don’t have a vital relationship with Christ. How does your current level of wealth affect your spiritual desire? Instead of centering your life primarily on comfort and luxury, find your true riches in Christ.” (9) Can you, will you focus on Christ more this Christmas season rather than spending most of your time trying to find the right gifts? We don’t have to give up all the delights of the season but should feed on God’s Word, in addition to enjoying ham, eggnog, and cookies. Let’s repent of indifference toward God when we think of ourselves as independent, successful, and wealthy, and instead be zealous for Christ this Christmas. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)
Related Scripture: Proverbs 3:12; 2 Corinthians 3:5; Hebrews 12:6; Revelation 2:5, 16, 21; 3:3; 16:15.
- Phillips, Richard D., “Revelation—Reformed Expository Commentary,” p. 154-6, P & R Publishing, 2017.
- Zondervan Bible Commentary, F. F. Bruce General Editor, Revelation 3, One-Volume Illustrated Digital Edition.
- Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Revelation 3:17, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/revelation-3.html
- Phillips, Ibid.
- English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Revelation 3:15-16, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
- Roberts, Richard Owen, “Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel,” p. 191, Crossway, 2002.
- Gill ibid.
- Watson, Thomas, “The Doctrine of Repentance,” p. 120, Banner of Truth Trust, 2016 (1668).
- “Life Application Bible, New International Version,” Revelation 3:17, Tyndale House Publishers, 1991.
December 16, 2021