Mark started last night’s sermon by asking us to define ‘cool’: is it defined by the way you dress, by the things you own (big house, swimming pool, fast car etc.), by the gadgets you possess? The problem with defining ‘cool’ is that it is very subjective: young people may think it’s cool to dress one way (low-slung jeans, for example, which apparently make it difficult to walk normally and which reveal all manner of underwear and bare flesh…!) whilst others think that’s just plain daft! Hairstyles are one area where there’s great experimentation, but it’s a fine line between looking stylish and foolish.
Coolness in the Bible is not always something to be admired, however. The church at Laodicea (Rev 3:14-22) thought they were successful and pleasing God. Laodicea was famous for producing black wool (which was used to make rugs and carpets), for being a rich banking city and for eye ointment: all things which made it stand out from its neighbours. But God’s opinion of the church there was far from complimentary: He described them as ‘wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.’
The reason for this judgment was that they were neither hot nor cold; they were lukewarm – a state which God says prompts Him to ‘spit you out of my mouth’ (Rev 3:17). Other versions talk about vomiting or spewing – strong words indeed.
It was not that the Laodicean church was not doing things, but their motivation and attitude towards God were clearly not right. They were no longer on fire for God and were not serving Him whole-heartedly. In some ways, it is very easy to just ‘go through the motions’ with regard to our Christian walk, but God sees our hearts and knows what we are really like on the inside. Being lukewarm is like trying to drink tepid tea: the instinct is to spit it out because it is not what it should be!
God’s solution for this church was counsel ‘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.’ (Rev 3:18) They needed spiritual gold (not the ‘stuff’ that the world considers necessary to be cool); robes of righteousness (not the fashion items the world deems cool) and spiritual vision (not the eye ointment for which the city was famous). God disciplines His children (see Hebrews 12:5-6) out of love. Our primary task must be to love God with all we are and have and to hear what He is saying to the churches: “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev 3:22) That way, we avoid the peril of thinking we’re cool when all we really are are fools.