Revelation 3:15-22 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. 21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Today’s message is about evaluating our spiritual temperature. It is clear from these verses that God desires our relationship with Him to not be an on-again off-again relationship, not a casual, sometimes relationship, but a white-hot continual relationship that characterizes that He has come into our lives and made His home in us. Verse 15 tells us our temperature is evaluated by what we do, by how we live.
Verse 17 tells us that you can be rich in the ways of the world and things of the world, but your success doesn’t mean you are rich in the things of God. You can even be saturated in religious activities, but not be truly hot in your relationship with God. It isn’t about riches and religion, but it is about seeking the measure of the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).
In the video clip from the movie the War Room that you are about to see, the younger lady, a realtor, has gone to a client’s home to do the paper work needed to list her home for sale. The older lady, a white-hot Christian, wanted to do more than sell her house. She wanted to do God’s work and communicate a message from God to the realtor and help her check her spiritual temperature. Watch this:
If you had to rate your relationship with God, your commitment with God, your walk with Christ on a scale of 1-10 with ten being hot where would you put yourself? Hold on to that question, and I will ask it again at the end of the message.
The Apostle Paul was passionate, white hot, always pursuing more and more of Christ in hopes of becoming more and more like Him. He was obsessed with all-things Jesus! In Philippians 3:10 he said, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection.” That sounds good, right? We all want to be like Christ in the power department. We all want to get out of here and be raised to life in heaven when these bodies wear out. We all want Resurrection Power in order to live life well. What a great way to identify with Christ! Yes, sign me up! I want to share in His resurrection power. Who wouldn’t want that?
But that wasn’t the only thing that Paul was passionate about. He said more than verse 10a. He added part b to the verse. Here it is: “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection AND the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…” Paul was just as passionate about suffering for Christ and like Christ and because of Christ as He was about the resurrection power that he was eager to experience. Paul didn’t just want a Christ-like ending for his life, but he also sought a Christ-like experience during his life.
Christ suffered because suffering was part of the Father’s plan. Through His suffering, the price for the sins of all people was paid for. Countless people have benefitted because of what He willingly went through, because of what He endured. What He accomplished for us couldn’t have been accomplished any other way. Everything Christ said and did, including His suffering, becomes a model for us as His followers regarding how we should go about dealing with the difficult parts of lives ourselves.
Christ suffered also because suffering is a part of life. When sin entered the world, so did suffering, trouble, hardship, disease, and pain. If you are breathing you are either coming out of a time of suffering or are headed into one soon. Obviously, there are degrees of suffering. A flat tire or a broken acrylic nail aren’t really something I would call suffering, but years of medical treatment for a disease, losing everything you own because of a job loss or disability, and the loss of a loved one would surely count.
And then there is suffering that comes because we choose to live Christ’s way instead of the world’s way. We take a stand that isn’t popular. We share the Gospel and it isn’t received well. We are shunned, ridiculed or ostracized because of what we believe at work and school. Being shut out by family and friends surely count as suffering.
Whether the suffering we endure serves God’s plans somehow or whether it comes to us as part of the human experience or whether it is because of our witness for Christ, do we want to suffer LIKE Jesus did? He suffered willingly. He suffered humbly. As He suffered He stayed completely connected, never disconnecting, from the Heavenly Father. He asked questions at times, good and practical ones like “Is this really necessary?” but He never said, “If this is what it means to honor and glorify You, Father, count me out.” There was always an unbroken trust in the midst of persecution and suffering.
If suffering because we are Christ followers is a deal breaker, we will never finish our journey with Him. But as I said, the reality is that we will all suffer whether we follow Christ or not. Do we want to know that we are experiencing suffering for a good reason rather than as the result of our bad choices? Do we want to know that suffering can produce something spiritual, something lasting, something character-building in us that we can’t attain any other way? Do we want to know God’s power and presence in the midst of the suffering so that as we deal with suffering we aren’t pulverized by it? Then we need to embrace the attitude of Christ and hold onto Christ even tighter in times of suffering. We cannot play it safe and truly follow Christ. There will be moments of testing.
The question is: How hot is your relationship with Christ when you are suffering? People who are lukewarm will throw their relationship with Jesus under the bus when they fall on hard times.
I don’t think that wanting to suffer makes us spiritually hot or shows that we are deeply in love with God, but our willingness to suffer as Jesus did, humbly and with great trust in the Heavenly Father, reveals how hot our relationship with God truly is. Maybe the way we endure suffering shows us and others the true temperature of our relationship with God. I do believe this, the hotter our relationship with God before the difficulty comes into our lives, the better we are going to walk through it and come through it.
Many people have watered down what it means to be passionate about following Christ. There is a sense that if we come to church pretty regularly, raise kids that don’t swear, avoid R-rated movies, and pay our taxes, you know, keep our noses clean, that those kinds of activities prove our love for Christ. Following Jesus isn’t just about being a responsible citizen or a nice person. We can do right things and still have cold hearts. God said in Isaiah 29:13, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.
When we follow rules taught by men we are easily tempted to do just enough to get by, just enough to meet our obligation, just enough to say we have done our duty. For example, we may give to support the work of the church. We may even tithe the ten percent, but does our giving ever have an element of sacrifice to it? Is our giving contingent upon how it might impact our standard of living? Do we give up to a point, but once our giving could infringe upon our fun money, our eating out money, our slush fund and shopping fund, do we cut our giving off? I mean, when we have extra to give and do so, we can give cheerfully as the Bible says delights God’s heart, but we wouldn’t want to give extra and have to reduce the number of times we eat out that week because that wouldn’t leave us feeling as cheerful, right?
If we are stingy with our resources whether it be our money or our material possessions we have to question how hot our relationship is with Christ. He didn’t even personally own anything. He even had to borrow a donkey to ride in His own parade! Yet, He was always finding a way to bless other people, to bring resources to other people. The Man who had nothing spent His life helping people acquire what they needed. I’m not suggesting we all need to sell everything we have and live in tents in a commune on Teays Valley Acres together to prove that we love Jesus. I’m just asking, “Is there an element of sacrifice to the way you do life that shows you are Jesus-focused rather than self-focused?”
It’s not just money and material goods that we can hoard, but our time and talents too. How much of our week this past week was invested in showing Jesus to someone else? We could make it to church 52 weeks a year, but if we never do the ministry of Jesus the fact that we have met with Him and God’s people 52 times really isn’t what He is seeking from us. James 1:22 tells us we aren’t merely to be hearers of the Word, but we are to be doers, but doing calls for sacrifice. If we pencil ministering to people into our calendars it means something else will have to be shifted or eliminated from our schedules.
God understands that we have to work to earn a living in order to take care of our obligations. He understands that our families are the second priority in life after our relationship with Him, but if we get to the end of each day, every day, and day after day can’t think of one person or one instance or one encounter where we shared the love of Jesus with someone we need to question how hot our relationship truly is. It isn’t that hard to work a God-conversation into your day. It isn’t that hard to reach out and let one person each day know that you are praying for their need. It isn’t that hard to say to someone, “You’ve been on my mind. Is everything ok with you?” Those conversations, if you start them with the goal of sharing Christ, will just start to become natural and you will be amazed how thirsty people are to hear what you have to say.
If you are in an earthly love relationship with someone think about when that started and how often you talked about them. It’s a good thing there was no Facebook when I fell in love with my husband because I would have annoyed everyone with my constant posts about this man of my dreams. I had to try to talk about him with lots of different people just so I didn’t wear any one person out.
I even sang about the man. I used to have to drive across the bridge in downtown Cincinnati to get to his house, and I wrote this cooky song: “I’m in love with a man named Thom. I’m in love with a man named Thom. I cross over the bridge, beyond the ridge, is the man I love named Thom.” And I didn’t just sing that song to myself in my head or out loud when I was alone in the car on the way to see him. I sang it for other people as well (as if they cared at all)!
When the Apostle Paul says, “Speak to one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” that doesn’t seem so far-fetched to me when your relationship with Jesus is white-hot. Now I probably wouldn’t advise you to go up to people and ask if you can share a song about the Lord, but I’m just sayin’ when you are white-hot in love with someone you do tend to talk about them, a lot.
Lukewarm people may share an inspiring post or picture on Facebook about how someone risked something or sacrificed something for the sake of the Gospel, but they would never personally want to be the main character in that story. It’s okay for other people to sacrifice something or risk something for the sake of Christ, but not the person who is lukewarm. They will stay in the safety zone of praying for those other people who are willing to walk by faith. No, people who are lukewarm will abandon dedication to Christ whenever it calls for sacrifice.
Suffering. Sacrifice. What about Sin? How do we view that? Do we look at it the same way God does? Could it be that lukewarm people just want fire insurance? They just want to escape hell, but as for living life the way they want to even if it is sinful, well, certainly God understands we need to have a little “fun”. After all, they are just keeping it on the “down-low.” It isn’t bothering anyone else. Forgiveness is easy to obtain, right? People who are lukewarm may just view sin as an optional or bad decision, a choice to regret, but no big deal. That isn’t how God views it.
I think those who have a high spiritual fervor, a high spiritual temperature try to see sin the way God does. There is nothing they hate more and nothing more that they try to avoid. How does God see sin? Think of the most disgusting, vile thing you can think of. It needs to be foul and gross. It needs to turn your stomach, make you light-headed and make you want to vomit. It needs to be overbearing, overwhelming, uncomfortable and sickening. Then add that to the worst possible thing anyone could do to you that would offend and hurt you. Multiply that by infinity, and that is what God has to deal with when we sin or at least that is the picture the Holy Spirit gave me as I thought about it.
The Bible presents God’s attitude toward sin with strong feelings of hostility, disgust, and utter dislike. For example, sin is described as putrefying sores (Isaiah 1:6, NKJV), a heavy burden (Psalm 38:4), defiling filth (Titus 1:15; 2 Corinthians 7:1), a binding debt (Matthew 6:12-15), darkness (1 John 1:6) and a scarlet stain (Isaiah 1:18).
When we choose sin we aren’t just doing something sneaky. We are choosing the disease that produces putrefying sores. We are signing on the dotted line to obtain the heavy burden that comes with the deception of sin. We are acquiring a defiling filth and a binding debt. We are choosing to walk in darkness, and we are receiving a scarlet stain.
I’m not talking about the occasional sin putting us in this condition, but a lukewarm attitude about sin, where we don’t take it seriously, will absolutely compromise our relationship with the Lord, and choosing a life of sin as our pattern for life means we reject the pattern God desires for our lives. Revelation tells us we are either hot or we are cold. Lukewarm temperature means we get spit out of God’s mouth. We can’t have it both ways.
And we can’t compare ourselves to other people and think that because we are sinning “less than they are” that we are good with God. Sin is very personal with God. It is a matter between us and God. Our sin may mess with our earthly relationships and earthly circumstances, but you better believe it is 100% between God and each one of us individually. No one is more hurt by our sin than God.
You see, lukewarm Christians are looking for an easy path, really two paths. They want to dabble in the world and dabble in the ways of the Lord. God wants us to understand that we can’t straddle the fence, not intentionally anyway. That can’t be our motivation. That can’t be our goal.
We are to love the Lord our God with ALL our heart, soul, mind and strength. He wants all of us. And here is the beautiful thing . . . for those of you who have been listening to this message and are thinking, “Suffering, sacrifice, and saying “no” to sin, I’m out. That is too much work. It is too hard. It doesn’t sound like fun. Take my name off the roster.” Here is the beautiful thing for anyone tempted to think that. If you give Him all of you, you get all of Him in return.
Imagine having the measure of the fullness of God at work in your life. Imagine having His full insight, His full power, His full authority, His full creativity, the fullness, the contentment and satisfaction that would come from that. If you haven’t seen the beauty yet of this whole deal, it is this: If you give Him all of you, He will do all of the work in you to enable you to stay white hot for Him and will help you successfully deal with the stresses of suffering, the risk of sacrifice, and the detachment from sin. God doesn’t expect you to pull all of that off by yourself. If you could, you wouldn’t need Him. What He does expect, however, is that it is the desire of your heart to be on fire for Him. The Bible calls God a “consuming-fire.” If we are consumed with having Him consume us, we are always going to be on fire for Him. Hello? Does that make sense to anyone else besides me?
Let me leave you with one last vivid idea. It comes from Frances Chan’s book, “Crazy Love.” Using Luke 14:34-35 Chan talks about salt losing its saltiness like a Christian losing his or her spiritual hot temperature. Luke 14:34-35 says, “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. It is thrown out.” Chan says:
Jesus isn’t just making a cute little analogy here. He is addressing those who aren’t willing to give everything, who won’t follow Him all the way. He is saying that lukewarm, halfhearted following is useless, that it sickens our souls. He is saying that this kind of salt is not even fit for the manure pile. Wow. How would you like to hear the Son of God say, “You would ruin manure?” When salt is salty, it helps manure become good fertilizer . . . but lukewarm and uncommitted faith is completely useless. It can’t even benefit manure.
That is a lot to process, right? Yes, Christianity is a “Come as you are” invitation. But it has never been a “Stay as you are” invitation. I asked you at the beginning of the message if you had to rate your relationship with God on a scale of 1-10 with ten being hot where would you put yourself? In light of these focused ideas on suffering, sacrifice, and sin where would you put yourself? As we get ready to respond, ask God where He would put you. If you scored yourself a 4, what would it take to move you to a 5?
Revelation 3:20 says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” We often use this verse to talk about salvation, and rightly so. But perhaps we could view it today as Jesus, the Great Physician, knocking on the door of our hearts to ask to come in and talk about our spiritual temperature. If He is knocking on the door of your heart for any reason, will you let Him in?