Thursday, June 30, 2011

For a Christian, It's Normal to be Radical

The word "radical" and "fundamental" have taken on a negative image these days.  This started with radical or fundamental Islam and in some misguided desire to be politically correct, it has been expanded to other areas.  Many believe that radical or fundamental anything is bad, including Christianity.  Sadly, many Christians also take this view and in so doing give up the idea of the absolute nonnegotiable truth of Christianity.  Even worse, this idea is expressed by default in the lives of many Christians who believe that our walk with God is purely spiritual or positional and any concern for righteous living is hogwash.  To me, that may very well be the worst kind of Christian.  They make some prayer to receive Jesus and beyond that they do not care about the rest of their lives.  Some even teach that doctrine.  Some teach that we are not to worry about the sin in our lives and that the ideas of obedience to God and righteous living are just ways to keep us in some legalistic bondage.  This is certainly a very convenient doctrine because it allows one to enjoy their sin without any of those nasty things called conviction or accountability.  They live their lives just like they are in the world without even caring to change all the while thinking they are just fine with God.  There is a word for that kind of Christian.  That word is "lukewarm" and God says something very specific about lukewarm Christians.
I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.  Revelation 3:15-16 NKJV
Essentially, God is calling this type of Christian unpalatable.  Think of something so putrid that you know that if you even tried to eat it, you would vomit.  That is what God is calling this kind of Christian.  So what is a lukewarm Christian?  This is the Christian who is not hot, that is not on fire for the Lord.  Nor is this the Christian who is in willful rebellion against God.  No, this Christian is a mixture.  A mix of hot in that they probably go to church, sing the songs, and they may even be involved in ministry.  They are cold in that their lives have nothing to do with God.  Just as much as they will sing praises to the Lord on Sunday morning, they will be out getting drunk on Saturday night.  Just as much as they will use their mouths to pray to God before meals, they will use those mouths to spew profanity, insults, and crude jokes any other time.  Just as much as they may raise their hands to God, they will use those same hands to show profane gestures.  What makes them unpalatable is that they do not even care.  They think they are right with God because they have "faith."  Sometimes I wonder what that faith is in, because they sure do not act like it is to the Lord they claim to love.  Here is what God says about how right with God they think they are.

Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'--and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked--  Revelation 3:17 NKJV

Perhaps it is not material worth they claim to have a wealth of, but it is at the very least spiritual wealth.  They claim how favored of God they are. They claim that they are somehow the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ when their lives reflect nothing about righteousness.  They claim grace of God but they never acknowledge his Lordship over their lives.  They claim they have every spiritual blessing, but God says they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.  They are wretched because they are drenched in their sin.  They are miserable because they do not experience the joy that is in the Lord.  They do not understand their own paradox where righteousness is only a positional concept to be taken in faith, but the joy of the Lord is experiential.  In other words, they create a doctrine where everything they construe as negative is only concept to be taken in faith but but actually experienced, but everything positive is something to be experienced.  It's convenient, but untrue.  The are poor because they are spiritually bankrupt laying up for themselves empty coffers in heaven.  They are blind in that they do not even care.  They are naked because they live in their shame, not only their own, but the shame they bring to the church.  They think they have it all, but they really have nothing. 

I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, [that] the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.  Revelation 3:18 NKJV

Jesus is now reaching out to help those in the lukewarm state work to heal their relationship with God.  Jesus tell us to buy gold refined in the fire, that is to purify their church and their beliefs.  What Jesus means here is to give up their false doctrines and seek a true and living faith in Jesus Christ.  He is telling them to give up the bankrupt belief of salvation without repentance or faith with no resultant works and enter into a real relationship with your Lord.  This means taking yourself off the throne and subjecting yourself under Christ's authority over your life.  He them tells them to buy white garments.  White garments signify purity or righteousness.  Jesus is telling them to live righteously.  Finally, Jesus tells them to anoint their eyes with salve.  Salve signifies the Holy Spirit and what He is saying is to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work.  His work is to convict you of the sin in your life and to lead you in ways of righteousness.  This is what we must do if we ever find ourselves in that lukewarm state.  We need God to change our wrong beliefs, we need put away the sin in our lives, and we need the Holy Spirit instead of our own desires to guide us in our walk with God. 

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.  "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 3:19-20 NKJV

What is amazing about God is that regardless of how lukewarm and unpalatable you are, God still loves you.  God still loves you enough to reach out to you with the hopes that you will repent.  It is Jesus who stands at the door and knocking for us to let Him in.  It is Him that is asking us to put him in His right place on the throne of our hearts.  He still seeks after us even when we are not seeking after Him.  All God has been saying here regarding the lukewarm Christians is not to beat them down, but to bring them back into a right relationship with Him.  He rebukes and He chastens, but only out of love and only to lead us back into a better relationship than anything the world can provide. 

I will end with these words from Jesus "Therefore be zealous and repent."  That is what we are called to do.  We are all called to be radical, zealous Christians.  We are called to be the complete opposite of lukewarm.  This is why lukewarm is so detestable to God.  It is the complete opposite of what we are supposed to be.  Lukewarm is lazy, zealous is driven.  Lukewarm is indifferent, zealous is passionate.  Lukewarm is stagnant, zealous is always moving ahead.  Lukewarm is comfortable where it is, zealous cries out for the Lord to give him more and more.   As my pastor said last weekend (and my wife poked me and said I should post on something like that) "Radical should be the default position for the Christian."  We are not called to be moderates.  We are not called to compromise our position.  We are not called to conform ourselves to the world to make us more palatable to the world but to reject the ways of the world so as not to become unpalatable to God.  It is not for us to change to satisfy the world, but for us to be world changers.  What the world calls radical fundamental Christians should be what we call normal believers in Christ.  That is our example not only from our Lord but for most of the church who came before us.  They were radical enough to give up all that they had, including treasures, families, comforts, homes, and even their lives for the sake of the Gospel.  They were willing to endure unimaginable torture, rejection from their communities, harassment, mockery, and prisons never renouncing the name of the Lord who saved them. We are called to be radical, zealous, on fire, and totally sold out for the Lord.  Are you ready for the life God has for you or are you content to just sit where you are and watch it pass you by? 

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5 NKJV

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