A New Year’s Prayer
Recently my wife and I were reading the scripture which quotes Jesus as saying to the church in Laodicea: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20-22, New King James Version)
This verse is often used in evangelistic situations—in other words to invite someone to invite Jesus Christ into their life. And the truth is that Jesus DOES want us to invite Him into our lives. However, if you look at Revelation 3 where this verse occurs, you will see that Jesus is apparently talking to people who were already Christians at the Church in Laodicea in Asia Minor (present day Turkey) in the first century, AD.
Jesus is telling those church members that because they are “luke-warm,” (neither hot nor cold) he is about to spit them out of his mouth. He says: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. “(Revelation 3:15-16)
Jesus is saying that the people in the Church are tepid (not hot, not cold) in their enthusiasm for him. He would rather that they were either very enthusiastic (hot) or completely unenthusiastic (cold). What He hates is in-between.
Back then people did not know about bacteria growing in food. But I think they had learned though generations of experience that the food that generally makes you sick is not hot food (we know today that the bacteria are killed by the heat.) Also they knew that very cold food usually does not usually make you sick (today we know that it is too cold for the bacteria to grow). In their experience the food that usually made you sick was the food which had for a long time been kept at the right temperature for bacteria to grow---somewhat warm. So even though they didn’t know about bacteria, I think people back then knew to spit out somewhat warm food because it often could make you very sick.
But in Revelation 3:15-16 Jesus says that just as warm food was more likely to make people sick, so a church with moderate (somewhat warm) enthusiasm made Him—the Son of God—sick.
Six hundred years earlier, in Jeremiah 29:13 God had said that when we seek Him with our whole hearts, we will find Him! (He doesn’t promise anything for those who seek Him half-heartedly.) Similarly when Jesus gave the two Great Commandments (based on two different parts of the Old Testament) He said we should love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, souls, minds and strength! (He didn’t say anything about loving God half-heartedly.)
But why could it possibly be better to love God not at all than to love Him half-heartedly? Why too would it be better to seek Him not at all than to seek Him halfway? The reason is that if we are half-hearted seekers and lovers of God--who only go through the motions--we will deceive others and possibly ourselves. Others who are seeking Truth will mistake our faint love of God for the Real Thing, and they may be turned away from Him. (After all the True God is so awesome as to deserve our complete praise and worship.) Also, when we seek God half-heartedly, we may deceive ourselves into wondering why we do not find Him, and in our sin, we may conclude that the problem is with Him and not with us.
So far, so good…. but I have a major problem with what I have just written. If I am honest, often I only love God half-heartedly, and if I am honest, I often only seek him half-heartedly. So this column I just wrote brings me up short. In the New Year please pray for me (and for yourself if this applies) that we may be totally victorious in embracing the new hearts of total love and devotion to Him which God has already given us from the cross. In Revelation 3:20-21, He says that if (filled with his Life) we persist and overcome in being “hot” in our dedication to Him, far from being spit out of His mouth, we will enjoy close fellowship and intimate communion with him forever, and we shall sit with Him on His throne. (Read next week for a continuation of these thoughts.)
Winfield Casey Jones is a retired pastor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.