Where Does Real Courage Come From?

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Lukewarm Soul (Reflections on Revelation 3:17 - Part 3)

Can we be lukewarm and still be Christians?

We tend to use the word lukewarm to describe lack of commitment. We find ourselves aloof, indifferent, almost uncaring to the matter at hand.

The Laodiceans were anything but that. They were rich. They had money. They boasted they had everything they needed. No doubt, this is what gave them permission to live between two worlds. They could worship Jesus and be part of His Church. With equal passion, they could live like the world and party with the world around them.

Just like before.

When Moses went up Mt. Sinai to get the Ten Commandments, Israel gave themselves once again to the Golden Calf – it was everything to them. It was one of the many gods they worshipped in the days of their slavery in Egypt. But they were cunning. They knew God had said, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex 20:3). So they put the Golden Calf right in front of the Lord’s altar and called it “a feast to the Lord” (Ex 32:5).

It’s the perfect self-made religion: Worship God side by side with the Golden Calf. This way the people of God “sat down to eat and drink and then began to party. It turned into a wild party!” (Ex 32:6 MSG). There’s nothing lukewarm about that! They have passion for what they’re doing. They think they’re right with God.

They have no idea – none whatsoever – they’re wrong with God.

Jesus told the Laodiceans, “You brag…you need nothing” but you’re “oblivious that you are wretched and pitiable…” (Rev 3:17 MSG, ESV). No one is called “wretched” unless they’re outside the kingdom of God – having no relationship with Jesus (see Rom 7:24). Isn’t that the most “pitiable” state possible -- “wretched” and Christian at the same time? But is that even possible?

Are they really converted to Jesus?

Wretched. Pitiable. Poor. Blind. Naked. That’s what our Lord calls them.

Something happens to the lukewarm soul. We become daft, ignorant, oblivious. We have no idea we’re lukewarm. We’d never consider ourselves indifferent to God. We can’t imagine ourselves being poor to God, poor to the riches of His kingdom. And not just poor – blind. Not just blind – naked as if we’ve wrapped ourselves back into the fig leaves of Eden, no longer clothed with Christ (Gal 3:28).

Is this us?

We’ve witnessed it in our lifetime. Churches filled with people which have “the appearance of godliness, but denying” the power of God to save us (2 Tim 3:5)? Dead churches filled with dead Christians (or are they barely alive?) who confess Christ with their lips and party with passion like everybody else in the world. Is this us?

Have we become lukewarm and don’t even know it?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Between Two World (Reflections on Revelation 3:15-16 - Part 2)

Is it possible our attitude of “I need nothing” allows us to live a double life?

What are we like when we’re with Christians? Are we different when we’re with people who want nothing to do with Jesus? Have we convinced ourselves we can love the Lord and, at the same time, embrace the gods of our culture with equal passion?

How can we do both? Where is our integrity, our honesty?

Have we no fear of an Elijah moment? In his day, Israel worshipped the Lord and Baal – the demon god exalted among the nations. “How long,” the prophet thundered, “will you go limping between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kgs 18:21).

Make a decision. Stop living between two worlds.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said the same to the Laodiceans. It was an Elijah moment. In His resurrected glory, the Lord appeared to the Apostle John, imprisoned on the island of Patmos. He told John to write the Laodiceans and tell them He knew their heart.

They’d compromised. They’d broken allegiance with Him.

He illustrated it by pointing to their water. Their situation required they pipe in cool, fresh water for drinking. At the same time, they had access to mineral waters – hot and medicinal – where people could bathe for the healing of their bodies. Hot water. Cold water. Used for two very different purposes.

“You are neither cold nor hot,” spoke the Savior. “Would that you were either cold or hot!” Like Elijah before Him, He confronted them: Make a decision. Stop living between two worlds. If hot, be hot. If cold, be cold. But the Laodiceans were neither.

They were worse. They tried to be both. Hot mixed with cold. Cold mixed with hot. “You are lukewarm,” declared the Lord Jesus Christ to His church at Laodicea. The cool drinking water and the hot mineral water mixed into one.

Why do that? What good is it?

They can’t drink it. Not with the minerals. They can’t bathe in it. Not for washing. Not for healing. If anyone tried to drink it, they’d instantly get sick. The minerals – the salt, the sulfur alone would make them convulse, retch, and vomit.

“This is you!” said the Lord to the Laodiceans. It described both “your works” (vs 15) and you -- “you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot.” As a result, Jesus said – His reaction strong and physical, “I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Rev 3:16 NKJV).

He can’t – nor will He ever -- tolerate His people living between two worlds. No double life. No mixing. No following Jesus one minute and the modern day Baal the next. Make a decision. Be one. Be the other. But never caught between.

It makes Him retch.

Friday, September 9, 2016

I Need Nothing (Reflections on Revelation 3:17, Part 1)

Don’t we envy people who say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing”?

King David did. He said he “was envious” when he saw the prosperity of those “always at ease” and increasing “in riches” (Ps 73:3, 12). These are people who say to themselves, “you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” and “have the time of your life!” (Lk 12:19 ESV, MSG)

Self-sufficient. In need of nothing. No one. Not even God.

They feel safe, protected, invincible. Intoxicated with unending pleasure.

It’s a storybook life. It best describes our highest ambition. It has been with us since the first day the devil whispered, “and you will be like God” (Gen 3:5). God is the only One who is independent, self-sufficient, and in need of nothing. All the rest of us depend on Him to give us life and breath (Acts 17:25). Who can say, “I need nothing”?

But that’s just it. We get intoxicated when we have too much.

We become blind to common sense. All of us know abundance doesn’t satisfy. It doesn’t last. There are too many stories of rich and famous people who fall to scandal, divorce, addictions, depression, bankruptcy, suicide.

But “the deceitfulness of riches” (Mk 4:19) makes us feel God-like.

We convince ourselves we need nothing. No one’s help. No one’s opinion. No one telling us we’re blind to God; blind to His demands on us; blind to how many days He’s given us on earth; and blind to eternity. We forget one day we must stand before Him to give an account of our life (Heb 4:13).

We are fools, Jesus said (Lk 12:20).

For King David, the envy stopped the moment he put his eyes on God. He realized those who put their trust in riches will have a bitter end (Ps 73:16-20). He chose a different path. He knew his need for the Lord: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps 73:25-26).

This is the testimony of those “rich toward God” (Lk 12:20). It’s also the testimony of the Bible. The Lord knows our need. He knows our sin, our lusts for the intoxicating pleasures of this world, and our longing to be like Him – independent, self-sufficient, self-contained. This is why the Father sent His Son to us to rescue us.

No Christian can ever say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.”

But that’s the tragedy of it all. When our Lord spoke to the Christians at Laodicea, He found these words on their lips and in their hearts. As if they needed Him no longer.

As if they could handle life on their own.

John 15:1-11, the Vine and the branches. "Is He everything to you?