Living life at the Boiling Point : Revelation 3:14-19

Water’s pretty amazing stuff. It’s rather plain in its natural state. But you know what happens when its cooled to 0 degrees centigrade it brings an entire country to a stand still. And when you heat water to boiling point it changes from a liquid to a gas. That’s when water becomes very, very powerful indeed. Thomas Savery an English military engineer was the first to patent a steam engine in 1679.
James Watt refined the engine and gave his name to the unit of power called a watt which 1/746th of a horse power. For the first half of the 20th century, our country’s entire transportation system was pretty much powered by steam.  I remember as a young boy collecting the names of steam trains that ran between Lowestoft and Liverpool Street taking fish to Market in London and Londoners to the sandy beaches of the North Suffolk coast. Steam is still used for example to catapult jet aircraft from aircraft carriers. The catapult hurls a jet from zero to 300 kph in a couple of a few seconds. Great power is realized when water is heated to high temperatures.  Even more power is released when Christians are on fire for Jesus.

In our reading from Revelation, the church in Laodicea has the unenviable distinction of being the only one about of which Jesus had nothing good to say. Lets examine her background to make sense of what Jesus says to her, and through her, to us, about raising our spiritual temperature.

1.       Laodicea the Independent Banking Centre (3:17)
Located about 100 miles east of
Ephesus, Laodicea sat in the fertile lap of the Lycus Valley. As an important center of trade and communication, Laodicea prospered. Long before Thomas Cook, early travelers like Cicero cashed their letters of credit at Laodicea from all parts of the Roman Empire. Her wealth was so great that in AD 17, when the city was devastated by an earthquake, the people refused imperial help in rebuilding the city, choosing rather to do it entirely by themselves.  Proud and independent. Jesus assessment is sobering. “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.’ Their pride led to arrogance.

2.        Laodicea the Designer Clothes Centre (3:18)

Laodicea’s wealth was also due to the fine quality of its black sheep. It was famous for its glossy soft violet black wool. The city produced large quantities of outer garments that were well known across the Roman empire. So they were wealthy because of their black sheep. Jesus assessment is very sobering. They were literally the black sheep. “I counsel you to buy from me… so that you can become rich, and white clothes to wear, to cover your shameful nakedness.” White for purity in contrast to their black reputation.

3.       Laodicea the Renowned Medical Centre (3:18)

Laodicea had a medical school that was world famous for the treatment of eye diseases. Laodicea produced an eye salve known right across the Roman empire. Yet Jesus assessment is stark. “You do not recognize you are blind… I counsel you to buy from me… salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see.”

4.       Laodicea the Popular Mineral Spa (3:15)

Laodicea's lacked a local water supply. It had neither the cool well water of nearby Colossae nor the healing, hot water springs of Hierapolis across the Lycus valley.  Water had to be piped in via an aqueduct from the Baspinar Spring five miles to the south. By the time the water arrived it was tepid--neither hot nor cold. The city's lukewarm, mineral-laden water was suitable only as a means to induce vomiting. Jesus uses this metaphor to describe the spiritual condition of the Church in Laodicea. Their apathy and complacency made Jesus sick. “Because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”  “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!

What do you associate with the word cold? distant – heartless – unfeeling – unfriendly – icey – frosty…  What do you associate with hot? fired up – passionate – intense – on fire.
Jesus longed that they be hot for this is the normal state for spirit-filled Christians. How do we get hot?

How can we raise the temperature of our spiritual lives? That is the theme for our Sunday services between now and Easter. In the next four weeks we are going to help each other figure out how we can raise our own and each other’s temperature until we live more consistently at boiling point. Through our Sunday services, our small groups, through giving and serving. Today our theme is: Raising the spiritual temperature through Sunday services. I’m going to give you five reasons why when we gather weekly as the local Church we help to raise our spiritual temperature, five reasons why we ought to meet together on Sundays.

1. We ought to gather at the church every week because God Commands us to (Deuteronomy
“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work… therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath.”


The fourth commandment is the longest. Note also that this is a command, not a piece of advice, not a request, not an option. Think about it. Before we get the instructions about “you shall not kill, commit adultery, steal, lie or covet,” number four is “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” Do you know what God was saying here? He was saying there is a rhythms to life built into the very heart of creation. God says, you need to consecrate, set apart one day out of seven. You need to treat it differently. If not you will wear yourself out, and you’ll put your soul at jeopardy. No work on one day of the week. A day to spend with me. A day for your family. A day to be with others attending to their souls as well.  Look up and worship, grow and be reminded that there is a place in heaven with your name on it. There’s a God who cares for you. He cares for you as a son or a daughter. He cares for you. Be reminded of that. “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.”

How many Sundays in a year? How many Sundays did you make it to Church last year? What did you miss? What impact did it have on your spiritual temperature?  What got in the way? How seriously do you take this command? A month ago I was invited at rather short notice to
Tehran to speak at a conference on the Middle East. I said ‘no’ because it would have involved being away over a weekend and I didn’t want to duck out of my responsibilities here at Christ Church. What competing priorities do you have for not being in church every seventh day? Every Sabbath? 52 weeks of the year? 

Is there any priority higher than obedience to the command of God? Is there any excuse that warrants disobedience of God? God promises a little later, “So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” (Deuteronomy 5:32-33)


What are the benefits of obedience? Long life and prosperity. What are the penalties for disobedience? A shorter life and poverty. That is what we might call a ‘no brainer  So where does Church fit into your Sundays?  An option among several choices? Depending on the relatives, depending on the weather, depending on work? Next time you feel the tension between pleasing the relatives and pleasing God, remember this command and promise and choose wisely. The next time you are torn between your employment and your Christian family, remember this command and promise and choose wisely.

2. We ought to gather at Church every week because of the example of Jesus (Luke 4:16)
Let’s read this together: “On the Sabbath Jesus went to the synagogue, as was his custom.” Read the last four words with me one more time, “As was his custom.” Why should we gather on Sundays? If for no other reason than the single passage we just read--because our leader made it a priority every seven days-so should we. If you bear his name, do what he did. Live as he lived. Establish the priorities he established. You will raise your spiritual temperature if you just emulate Jesus.

3. We ought to gather weekly because we are fired up through Fellowship (Hebrews
How close do you get to your brothers and sisters when we meet on Sundays? How distant do you feel if you miss a Sunday or two? Close enough to know what is hurting them? Are you close enough to encourage them?
Hebrews 10:25 reinforces this. ”Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”


You encourage and inspire other Christ followers by your presence.  Your presence is an encouragement to others. It is to me.  Together we are saying “I’m not in this alone.” There’s a whole nucleus of people who are dead serious about raising their spiritual temperature and letting God use them for his glory. So, go for it. Encouragement is energizing isn’t it. That is why the time before and after the formal services is so important. And that’s why its so tragic when Christians let Sunday attendance slide. Jesus choose to describe his followers like sheep. You will not find a wild sheep or a lone sheep - alive for long. Sheep need a flock to stay alive. They need a shepherd.  Jesus is our shepherd and we are part of his local flock. Changing the analogy - how do penguins stay warm? Friends, don’t ever get careless with this. When we get careless with our meeting together we cool down and become lukewarm.

4. We ought to meet because we are
Fired up through the Word and through Worship (Hebrews 12:29)

“Let us worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29) In worship we encounter the living God. Worship that truly glorifies God will ignite us. Worship will fire us up.

Fired up through the Word (
Luke 24:32)

What happened on the road to Emmaus as Jesus expounded the scriptures to the doubting disciples? How did they describe that sermon Jesus gave? ‘They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" Does your heart burn as you read or hear God’s word spoken? As it is read and explained, God speaks into our hearts. In worship and the word God sets our souls on fire.

5. We ought to meet together as an example (and for the sake of the children)

 I don’t know if you have been watching the TV series , ‘A Country Parish’? Cameras follow a young vicar Jamie Allen as he moves from a large urban parish in Nuneaton to tend to the spiritual needs of a small congregation in the heart of rural England. At 31, Jamie is an open-minded ex-DJ with a young family. This six-part series, shows Jamie trying to revive parish life in a staunchly traditional congregation. One of the saddest incidents occurs when he tries unsuccessfully to introduce Family Services to this country parish. Children are clearly unwelcome. I predict that if they were to take the TV cameras back in 20 years they’ll find an empty church. Why do 60% of 10 year olds typically leave church within 2 years? Lack of positive encouragement, lack of a positive example.

 “People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” … And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.” (Mark 10:13-16)

This is mainly for parents and grandparents. Another reason for gathering on Sundays is to establish a legacy for our children. Last summer we had a real holiday away and I spent a lot more time with my son Michael. It made me more observant of other parents with their children.

Especially fathers. I met several out early in the morning teaching their children to fish. It was noticeable how the children followed their parents example… That’s what little boys do. That’s what little girls do. They walk in their parent’s footsteps especially when it comes to church. One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me was the legacy of making our church a priority.  There were no choices involved. We went. It helped us, because later on when I left home and went to work in London I felt empty without church being a part of my weekend. Two years later I was ready to trust in Christ as my own personal Saviour. For many of us it goes right back to a legacy parents give us. Dads, I want to talk specifically to you. You know there is something about the responsibility of being a dad in a home. Often times, if Dad wavers, all bets are off on what the kid’s going to do. I wish all of us men would make a pact that we’re going to be the kind of men that set a standard for our children. I’m not taking anything away from women. It’s equally as important for you as mums, equally as important. But in our culture, what the dad does often affects the boys so much.

The leading reason why kids don’t come is, parents are too busy, which precludes them from coming. Parents too busy to make sure their kids spend one hour a week in a spiritual environment so they can be around other people helping us understand God and lay a foundation for their faith?” Parents, if you’re too busy to do that, you are just too busy. Children are treasures from God. I think kids will thank us parents for a lifetime if we hold the line on this and set the right course. Are we in agreement on this? We’ve considered five reasons why Sundays are important in raising and keeping our spiritual temperature hot. 

Please bow your heads with me for a moment, and just before we pray, let me ask you two questions. Here’s question one: When you came into the building today, at what temperature would you say you were spiritually? You don’t have to exaggerate or beat yourself up. Give yourself a number. Where are you? Were you at 100 degrees, 80, 60, 40, 20, 10, 0? Where were you at? Hot? Lukewarm? or Hypothermia? Here’s the second question. Where do you want to be? Where do you want to be? At what temperature do you want to live right now, for the rest of your life?

Maybe you identify with the Christians in Laodicea in some way? Then this is what Jesus is saying about you, for you, to you today. Remember Jesus is saying this with tears of love in his eyes.

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 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. 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."  (Revelation 3:19-21)


This sermon is inspired by a series given by
Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, Chicago.