In Revelation 3:15-16, Jesus said, “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” (NLT).
The church of Laodicea had been weakened by the prevailing attitudes of the city. Jesus was calling the Laodicean believers back to their reason for existing and to the covenant He had given them. He wanted them to be either hot or cold; but not lukewarm.
What Jesus meant by this idea of being either hot or cold has largely been lost over the centuries. Typically this verse has been interpreted to mean that God wants His people hot—completely sold out to Him, but that He’d rather they be cold than somewhere in between—lukewarm in their commitment to Him. But there is a problem with that interpretation. After all, being a little warm seemed better than being completely cold (at least that’s true in the shower!).
Jesus was actually giving that church a much more powerful message.
Directly to the north and across the Lycos Valley from Laodicea is the city of Hierapolis, famous for its hot mineral pools. For centuries these hot springs attracted people to come and soak away various ailments. In ancient times, many aqueducts were built to carry those hot, healing waters six miles across the valley to the city of Laodicea. However, by the time the water reached Laodicea, it had become lukewarm instead of hot. And instead of possessing healing properties, the water carried a bad taste that made those who drank it feel nauseous.
Not far to the south on the other side of Laodicea are beautiful snowcapped mountains. Even in the late spring and summer, these majestic mountains provided streams of cold water that flowed into the valley and nourished the nearby city of Colossae.
By traveling only a few miles, the Laodicean residents had access both to healing hot waters in one direction and to refreshing cold waters in another direction. However, Laodiceans could also choose to partake only of the waters that flowed into their city. In that case, they drank lukewarm water that smelled bad and made them feel sick.
The picture Jesus paints for us is that He wants both His healing waters and refreshing streams to flow into and through every believer.
We are created in Christ to receive all the healing, restoration, and refreshing He has provided. We are also created in Christ to be His hands of healing and His voice of hope and refreshing.
This is the heart of Jesus’ message to the church in this ancient city: “You’re not looking to the waters I have provided for you, neither to the healing in My covenant nor to the refreshing of My Spirit. Instead, you’re looking only to yourself, to your own ‘local’ waters that nauseate both you and Me.”
We cannot be like the Laodicean believers who had slipped back into the error of relying on their own ability and becoming their own source. We cannot stop living in expectation of receiving the supernatural flow of God’s Spirit.