Tepid Tea

I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand tepid tea! It needs to be either nice and hot, or if it’s a summers day then iced tea with sugar and a slice of lemon is lovely! But lukewarm – well, it’s neither here nor there.

Jesus used temperature as a metaphor for people’s devotion to Him; He can’t stand half-hearted, lukewarm-ness either! But we all go through seasons of life where we feel closer to, or further from God. Isn’t it a good idea, then, to regularly reflect and take stock of how our relationship with our Maker is faring? To put it another way, to take our spiritual temperature.

A thermometer is an essential item in accurately measuring temperature. A hand on the forehead isn’t a precise gauge of how hot or cold someone is because our own hot or coldness can affect our judgment. And just as we can inaccurately read bodily temperature, so too can we be oblivious to the true health of our faith. We are all too often more concerned with judging the condition of other people’s hearts than our own, and when we do look within the temptation is to compare ourselves to those around us rather than to Christ and what He has called us to in His Word.

I recently read through the book of Revelation and was greatly challenged by Jesus’ comments to the seven churches, especially to the one at Laodicea. I found it interesting that He addressed them as local churches – rather than as one united church or as individual believers. And it made me wonder – what would Jesus say about Sutton Coldfield Baptist Church? I don’t know – I’m not God! But it’s an interesting and challenging thought, nonetheless.

At the end of the Day though, we will all have to appear before the judgment seat of Christ alone, to give an account for our lives. I am not answerable for you, nor you for me.

Ironically, the Laodiceans believed that they were doing great, but their temperature reading according to Jesus was very different:

You say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked (Revelation 3:17).

How wrong the Laodiceans were. Is there any sense in which we can relate to their self-satisfied thinking? We live in a relatively affluent part of the world. Do we consider a lack of earthly problems as the sign of God’s blessing? But no matter how prosperous or comfortable our temporary existence on earth may seem, there is a sense in which Jesus’ words to the Laodicean’s are for everyone – we are all wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:22-23).
However long we have walked with Christ, or however good a Christian we think we may be, our true, eternal condition is one of absolute need for Him.

The Laodiceans acknowledged Jesus with their lips – they were, after all, a church bearing His name – but in their hearts they didn’t think they needed Him. Christ later on used the analogy of being left outside the house of their lives.

I know your works, Jesus said, you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth (Revelation 3:15-16).
Reading through the Gospels, if there is one thing that Jesus hates above all else, it’s hypocrisy; to have the air of following God without the desire for Him. In some ways that is worse than openly rejecting Him – at least there is an honesty in that.

Are we in any way like the Laodiceans – lukewarm, happy to associate ourselves with Christ, but unwilling to let Him into our lives? Jesus was ready to spit them out of His mouth, because evidently, they had no taste for Him.

The danger of any Christian practise, like, for example, church attendance (or rather, tuning in to livestreams), or prayer, or time in God’s Word, is that they can become empty shows of faith without real substance – boxes of duty to be ticked. But going through the Christian motions makes you no more a believer than sitting in a garage makes you a car.

It’s not just what we do that matters, but why we do what we do. Is the love of God our foundation? Do we have a hunger and a thirst to know Jesus? Or do we shut the door in His face while claiming to follow Him?
Coronavirus has shaken the whole world, and it has shaken each one of us. Everybody has been affected in one way or another. For many Christians it has served as a wake-up call to renew our commitment to Christ and to reorder our priorities in strengthening our relationship with God and people. And that’s great. But the opposite may also be true.

Statistics aren’t everything, but I wonder if more people would watch a video of me with chopsticks up my nose singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star than the number of those who will watch this devotional? That would be an interesting experiment!

I recently watched a movie called Silence. Set in Japan in the late 16th century, Christians were martyred for their allegiance to Jesus. And the premise of the end of the film is that some of those who publicly denounced their faith in Christ to save their lives secretly continued to believe.

And this poses two interesting questions – can true faith exist without outward demonstration? And equally, on the flip-side, can true faith exist without inward conviction?

My understanding is no, for both. For faith without deeds is dead faith. And deeds without faith are dead deeds! The book of James is a great read if you’d like to think more about this conundrum.

To some extent we can all feel like frauds, in that we all struggle with sin, and all sin is selfishness. But are we consistently self-centred and self-reliant? Is that our identity? Do our hearts, and do our works, honour and depend upon Christ at all?

When I worked as an English Teacher in Japan I had to have annual health checks to monitor my physical condition. The Apostle Paul said that we should examine ourselves, to see whether we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

The mark of a Christian is not perfect obedience, but progressive obedience. Our struggle with sin is lifelong. We are all therefore in absolute and continual need of grace, and that is humbling, for it removes all grounds for pride. But it’s also comforting, because it means that wherever we are at today in relation to Christ, there is hope. None of us is beyond redemption.

Though Jesus was damning in his indictment of the Laodiceans, He gave them opportunity to change.

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent (Revelation 3:19), Christ said.

Be zealous! This word zealous is also translated earnest or fervent, and it means to boil with intensity. If we want to be boiling hot for Jesus, repentance is the key, for it pushes us to the One who promises to forgive, but who also has the power to melt and transform cold hearts of stone with His love, that we may know God’s heart, beating within us.

This is the Jesus who baptises – who immerses us – with His Holy Spirit and with fire! A fire that both purifies and enflames our passion for God and for people.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into them and eat with them, and they with me (Revelation 3:20).

Today, Jesus is knocking on the door of our hearts, but do we hear Him? If anyone – ANYONE! – opens the door, He will come in, that we may know and enjoy His Presence. Or are we content to leave Christ outside and to be lukewarm, having a form of godliness but denying it’s power?

On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’ (Matthew 7:21-22).

Do we want Jesus? Or do we simply want His benefits? May we, as Paul did, count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord (Philippians 3:8).

I will leave you with some words from the classic 80’s anthem, Shine Jesus Shine:

Blaze, Spirit blaze, set our hearts on fire!