Thursday, January 08, 2004

Puke Warn?

I struggle with putting others first. I wound'nt call myself selffish but I wouldn't call myself sacrificial either. I guess you could say that I'm lukewarm. Which as I'm studing Revelation this week I found out why John used the term lukewarm to describe the church in Laodecia. Check this out:

An aqueduct brought some of their water 6 or 7 miles from Colossae. The water that came up in a spring in Colossae was icy cold. But by the time it had flowed down the 6 or 7 miles of the aqueduct it was lukewarm, and not nearly so refreshing to drink on a hot day.

The other source of water was from hot water springs in Hierapolis, water heated by volcanic activity. By the time this hot water was brought to Laodicea it had cooled off along the way and was lukewarm and no good for bathing in.

Now the same was spiritually true of the church. The Lord Jesus says of them "You are lukewarm". To be lukewarm means to be half and half. Half hot, half cold. Such a person is half-hearted towards Christ. A fence-straddler. One foot in the world, one foot in the church. Someone with no zeal, no fire, no passion and no heat.

Did you hear about the company that makes blank car stickers? They're for people who don't want to get involved. Well these would have gone down well in the church at Laodicea.

Someone with no zeal and enthusiasm is likely to be disappointed with their school report!

Well these LUKEWARM Laodicean Christians were about to get what they deserved.

So what does Jesus wish for these Christians?

"I wish you were one or the other"

Why does Christ say this? Because the negative effect of a lukewarm Christian upon unbelievers is devastating. A lukewarm Christian is the worst advertisement for Christianity. When a lost person sees a lukewarm Christian who is worldly he reasons "Why do I ever need to get saved? If this is what being a Christian is all about then I don’t need Christianity. He’s no different from me."

What is Jesus threatening to do?

So what does the risen Lord Jesus say about this respectable, nominal religiosity which is fairly widespread in Britain today. "You make me sick," says Jesus. I hate your lukewarmness. I want disciples who will go all the way with me. And he threatens to spit them out, to pull out their candlestick and close them down as a church, make them extinct.

You see God is not some boring accountant in heaven putting little ticks in a book when you do good things and crosses in a book when you do bad things. He’s not running this universe in some cold calculated way. He is someone with deep emotions; passionate zeal and a loving heart. The Lord wants to have a personal intimate relationship with us. But a lack of heart and enthusiasm for him by a so-called Christian is utterly repugnant to him.

We have seen many churches close down in this land in the last 50 years. Many have closed because the bulk of their members became lukewarm and lost their fire for God list the chief purpose of existence of their churches, so God has made them extinct.

What has caused this lukewarmness?

"You say I am rich, I have acquired wealth and don’t need a thing."

Remember this was the city that turned down offers of help after the earthquake of AD 60 almost destroyed the town. The Laodiceans were plagued with worldliness, materialism and a smug self-sufficiency. Here were people absorbed with climbing the social ladder, getting better and better homes, smart travelling gear, the 1st century equivalent to a zippy car. Advancing their career. Getting ahead in the world. The latest fashion styles, buying things.

But then Jesus goes on

"You do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked."

This city and church that thought themselves rich and in need of nothing is – says Jesus – Wretched pitiful and poor. Materially rich, spiritually poor. What a contrast to the church at Smyrna, materially poor, spiritually rich.
The city that prided themselves on their medical school and eye salve, were, according to the all seeing one Jesus spiritually blind.
The church in the city that prided themselves on their highly fashionable black woollen garments was in fact spiritually naked.
They were living in a fool’s paradise, proud of a church that was about to be sicked up by Jesus.

I came across something on the internet by someone called Bo Dunford about how to know if you are lukewarm. He gave three tests:

1) WHEN SIN DOESN'T BOTHER YOU! When you first got saved, sin bothered you!
IF it doesn't bother you to miss church services, pray, study your Bible, tithe of your income,etc. it's because you're lukewarm!

When you're lukewarm, Satan doesn't battle you!

There use to be a time you were concerned over people going to hell, now youre not! You've lost your burden for souls! You're lukewarm concerning the lostness of the lost.

For years Monterey in California was a wonderful place for Pelicans. The fishing grounds off California were rich with anchovita and other fish. The fishermen caught many and threw many away. Gradually the birds learned just to feed on the scraps the fishermen threw away. It was so much easier than fishing for themselves. But with the increasing effects of El Nino and the decline of the cold Humbolt current flowing northwards up the western coast of America the fish stocks became depleted and the canneries started shutting down. Then the Pelicans got into trouble and began to die off because they had forgotten how to work hard fishing for their food.

What could be done to rescue these Pelicans? Finally environmentalists figured out a way to keep them from becoming extinct. They imported pelicans from another area, ones that were used to hunting every day and mixed them with the local birds. It worked. The newcomers immediately started fishing for their own food and it wasn’t long before the starving pelicans followed their example and learned to fish for themselves.

4. Yet…

So what advice does Jesus have for the church that’s heading for extinction? Three things

1. Buy from me gold refined in the fire.

There is some irony in these words. You who are rich in things which will burned up on my day of judgement of your lives need to buy from me now things that will not be destroyed.

As William Shakespeare wrote

If thou art rich, thou art poor, for like an ass whose back with ingots bows, thou bearest thy heavy riches but a journey, and death unloads thee.

In 1 Peter 1:7 Peter describes the effect of trials on the Christian with these words

"These have come so that your faith, of greater worth than gold which perishes even though refined by fire may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed."

2. Buy from me white clothes to wear

The Laodiceans did not need the sleek black wool of the Jet set. Rather they needed to be clothed white clothes –the garments that would make them holy.

3. Buy from me eye salve so that you can see.

This church was spiritually blind; they could not see reality. They were living in a fool’s paradise, proud of a church that was about to be rejected. The Apostle Peter teaches that when a Christian believer is not growing in the Lord his vision is affected. This church was blind to the lost world all around them. They might have been enjoying the meetings, but it was having little impact on the remainder of their lives. They might have been enjoying the comfort and security of the building, nice seats, jolly worship times, interesting sermons and testimonies, but they really wern’t worried about those around them heading off to a lost eternity.

You think you are getting ahead in the world, but you’re spiritually broke.

You think you are well dressed, but you’re naked.

You think you’ve got 20/20 vision, but you’re wretchedly blind.

You think you’re happy, but behind your plastic smiles, you’re miserable.

A promise
"Those who I love I rebuke and discipline."

There are few more tender declarations of God’s love for wandering wayward humankind than this verse. They might have been drifting further and further from God, but still he loved them.

Proverbs 3:11, 12 says

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline

And do not resent his rebuke,

Because the Lord disciplines those he loves

As a father the son he delights in.

That verse is quoted in Hebrews 12 verse 6 where the greek verb for love is agape the verb for Christian love.

Here in Revelation 3: the verb used by Jesus for those who he disciplines is phileo. It is a softer, more tender more human than the verb used in the original proverb. It is only once used elsewhere in the New Testament in John 16:27 which says

"The Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God." This verse then is an unexpected declaration of love for those who least deserve such love. And it was because he loved them that he was going to rebuke and chasten them. Kindness and firmness were mingled. Repent. Turn round from lukewarmness to wholeheartedness. Repent of your preoccupation with your career, your house, your family your recreations or whatever else.

Get refocussed on Me, turn your life around, and get on fire for me again. Rekindle your heart toward me before I have to discipline you.
He who has ears, let him hear
To him who conquers I will…

I will give you the right to sit on my throne.

Wanna be a king? Wanna sit on the throne? Depend on Jesus. Serve like Jesus. Love like Jesus.

I am trying to put others first.

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