A Springboard for You

For a better life and a better eternity

How Not to Be a Lukewarm Christian

icefire

Introducing Laodicea

The church in Laodicea is famous, though I’m sure if they knew it, they would not be pleased with their legacy. We all know Laodicea was the lukewarm church and Jesus was ready to spit them out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16). But what exactly does this mean and how can we use their example as a springboard for our own spiritual lives?

For a long time, I read and preached this metaphor as I had heard it from others. Perhaps you have heard it presented this way. The temperatures represent a scale of spirituality. Hot was being on fire for the Lord with amazing zeal. Cold was being as absolutely uninterested and unconcerned about the Lord and spiritual things as possible. In fact, it was more than a lack of interest, it would represent a positive animosity to God and His things. Lukewarm, on the other hand was somewhere in the middle. It was not complete animosity or apathy. But, it wasn’t complete zeal for God either. It represented the person who cared enough to “go to church” perhaps but was just resting on their laurels and not working for the Lord at all.

With this reading, Jesus is saying He would rather the Laodiceans be His complete and utter enemies than act like they are His friends but not really serve Him.

Perhaps that is Jesus’ meaning with this metaphor, but more recently, I have read it differently.

The Tale of Two Drinks

This metaphor is a picture of useful drinks versus useless drinks. We have to ask what makes hot and cold drinks useful. Hot drinks are useful, especially on a cold day because they are comforting and warming. I drank a hot cup of coffee while driving in my cold, heaterless car this morning. It was most useful and I wish had more even now. The cold drink is useful on a hot day because it is refreshing and cooling.

But what happens if the useful drinks are left to sit on the counter for an hour or two? They lose their distinction. As we learned from high school science, the difference in temperature between the drink and its environment will begin to regulate each other. The energy from the hot drink will dissipate. The warmth from the air will heat the cold drink. They will both become tepid, lukewarm and useless.

Now, stop and think. What happened to these drinks?

They lost their distinction. I needed a hot drink on that cold day. I wanted a cold drink on that hot day. These drinks lost their usefulness because they had become just like their surroundings. Instead of having a great impact on their environment, their environment had an impact on them.

Do you see now what Jesus was telling Laodicea. His point was not that He would rather they be His clear enemies than just so-so. He was saying He wanted them to stand out and be different from their environment. He wanted them to impact those that surrounded them. Sadly, the reverse had been true and so they were to Jesus like the tepid cup of coffee–disgusting and useless.

The Springboard for Us

What’s the springboard for us? Stand out. Be different. Don’t try to blend in. Don’t try to make everyone like you spiritually. If that happens, you have probably become useless to the Lord. We are only useful to Him to the degree that we are different from our environment and therefore make an impact on it. Today, don’t worry about what everyone else thinks about your spirituality. Embrace it. No, don’t flaunt it Pharisaically as if you are special for your spirituality. But don’t hide it either, embarrassed that someone might find out you are a Christian. Let your light shine before men so that they might see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Advertisements

November 10, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Spiritual Life, Christian living, Discipleship | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Three Questions for a Real Disciple Learned from Someone Who Was Only Almost a Disciple

The Rich Young Ruler

We’ve all heard of him. The man presented himself as a great disciple who had kept God’s law from his youth. But in the end, we find out that really he was only almost a disciple. I don’t want to be in that boat. I want to be a really, truly, totally and all the way a disciple. How about you? 

When I examine his story in Luke 18:18-23, I find three questions that will force us out of the shallow end of discipleship and push us into the deep end of true discipleship.

Three Questions

Question #1: Do I live as though Jesus is merely good or truly God?

The Rich Young Ruler called Jesus “good teacher” and Jesus called him on it. Jesus wasn’t questioning His own deity. Rather, He was highlighting a problem the man had. He called Jesus good, but did he really believe Jesus was the ultimate good? Did he recognize that Jesus was actually more than a good teacher and that He was God in the flesh?

We listen to a good teacher when we want to. We listen to a good teacher when we like what he says. We listen to a good teacher as long as we still think he is good. We take a good teacher’s words as advice, something to do when we get around to it. That is not how we take God’s words. Jesus’ words are not just good advice, nice suggestions or possibilities. Jesus was more than a good teacher. He was and is God. Therefore His word is law. 

When we live as though Jesus is truly God, then we surrender to His word. When He says, “He that believes and is baptized will be saved,” we believe and get baptized. When He says “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger,” we don’t let the sun go down on our anger. When He says “Treat others as more important than yourself,” we treat others as more important than ourselves.

Why do we do this? Because we know Jesus is not just a good teacher. He is the Great God.

Question #2: Who is my God?

The Rich Young Ruler said he had followed all the 10 commandments since his youth. He had not committed theft, murder, false witness or adultery. He had honored his father and mother. What a great man he was. How could he not possibly be a great disciple and inherit eternal life?

As we study this text, we realize this poor man actually was lying to himself. One of those commandments said, “Do not have other gods before Me.” Yet the Rich Young Ruler clearly had a god before Jehovah. His God was his material goods. He couldn’t possibly sacrifice them to have the eternal life God offered. Through that, he demonstrated who his real god was.

So, who is your God? Learn the lesson of the Rich Young Ruler. We can easily lie to ourselves and tell ourselves that Jesus is our God and runs our lives. Instead of just trusting what we’ll say when put to the test, let’s examine our lives. Where do we spend our time? Where do we spend our money? Who are best friends? What would we not give up if God asked? These questions can help us cut to the chase.

Or ask a friend. Ask your spouse. If you have kids, ask them. “What do you see is most important in my life?” They’ll be able to tell you and that can help you determine who your God really is. Don’t be like the almost disciple and simply trust your intellectual answer to the question. Dig deep and examine with rigorous honesty.

Question #3: What do I value?

At first glance, the Rich Young Ruler appeared to value eternal life. He came asking about it. Further, he claimed to have scrupulously kept the law since his youth. Even more, he was willing to go beyond that asking what more he needed to do. 

However, as we see the story unfold, we find out that he did not truly value eternal life. Eternal life was not a driving core value. It was merely an aspiration. He would like eternal life if he could get it but not at the expense of his material goods. Through we find out what was his driving core value–Money. He valued money and material goods. That drove his decisions. He would be happy to keep God’s law until God’s law told him to give up his goods. 

What do you value? Again, don’t just accept whatever you say when asked this intellectual question. We all know the right answer and can give it whenever asked. Instead of looking at this intellectual answer, we need to examine our lives. What drives our choices? Is it the pursuit of God’s kingdom and righteousness or is it the pursuit of wealth, fame and influence? 

 

Be careful. As we can see in the Rich Young Ruler, these are tough questions because we can so easily deceive ourselves. Don’t just ask them once. Ask them repeatedly. Question yourself like this regularly. Question your choices with these questions, especially those big life decisions like where will you work, who will you marry, where will you live, with what church will you work. 

Don’t be only almost a disciple like the Rich Young Ruler. Be all the way a disciple.

ELC

October 27, 2008 Posted by | A Springboard for Your Spiritual Life, Christian living, Discipleship, Growth, Spiritual Growth | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment