Keeping the Strength of Christ Near Unto Our Heart

So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

— Revelation 3:16

The letter our Savior wrote to the people of Laodicea is probably the one that we know the best of the seven. The picture of Christ spewing out members of a local body is quite arresting, yet it’s why He does it which makes all the difference, and that will be the subject of our prayer and worship help today.

I said in the sermon Sunday that I’d much rather someone hate me than not recognize my existence. At least when someone frets about your existence they recognize that you matter to them, even if it is in a negative way. Apathy has a way of causing more trouble than disagreement. But what is it that causes that kind of thing, especially as is the case with the people of Laodicea, when it comes to the Lord of Glory Himself? It’s a question that may or may not hit too close to home, because it is a matter of a heart which is alive or at least thinks it is. Everything seems to be going well in their church. It’s a time of prosperity, as v. 17 says, “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing . . .”.

A common sin that the prophets condemn Israel for is that in the times of plenty they forget and forsake the God who had not only enabled their blessing, but had chosen them out of all the nations of the world to represent His covenantal mercies.

At the end of the story of Gideon Judges 8:33-35 reports:

So it was, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals, and made Baal-Berith their god. Thus the children of Israel did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side; nor did they show kindness to the house of Jerubbaal (Gideon) in accordance with the good he had done for Israel.

Gideon of course had been selected by God to deliver His people from the scourge of the Midianites, and the Lord had sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to bring that message to the father of Gideon, Joash the Abiezrite. As He appeared (Judges 6:11) under the Terebrinth tree of Ophrah Gideon’s response to His presence is instructive. First, He doubts God’s goodness in allowing the evil that had come upon the Israelites, which to be sure is an inauspicious start. However, the Second Person of the Trinity is not undaunted in His encouragement of the future savior himself. As Christ witnesses in His forbearing grace to the questions that Gideon asks we see something of the nature of the mercy of God in the calling of His children. He brings them along with gentleness, even when they ask for a sign after recognizing the face of God in the Angel of the LORD. The rest of the story is one of triumph and victory as Jesus brings the Midianites to destruction and once more grants peace to His people. But as we noted above that is not enough for Israel. They quickly grow cold to the love of the Father, and the reason why they do is because they did not remember the LORD, and that is the key to understanding how it is a church like Laodicea (or yours) could get into the kind of position where they are neither hot, nor cold and are in the midst of being spit out of Christ’s mouth.

Remembrance is the heart of faith. It is the oil that greases the wheel of obedience and maintains our relationship with the holy. We easily become a forgetful people, which is part of the reason why we find ourselves atrophying flesh and bone when we forsake not just the worship of God, but the Lord’s Day itself. However, this is not going to be another advocacy essay for the Sabbath, even if we may need to hear that once more. It is more about the need for us as Christians to keep always in the forefront of our soul the majestic and incomparable grace witnessed to us in the gift of eternal life available only in the sacrifice of the Lamb at the Cross. The appearance of the Angel to Gideon in its own way prefigures the kind of joyous celebration that we see when a different spiritual being comes to a young lady betrothed. As Mary sings of the bountiful blessing she has received she lisps, “And His mercy is on those who fear Him, from generation to generation.”.

That language of fear is not often how we hear the goodness of God proclaimed, but as you might remember that is how Solomon closes out his Ecclesiastes. “Fear God and keep His commandments for this is man’s all.” A right and fit appreciation for the otherness of the Lord is key to learning from Mary and the son of David. The reason why people become apathetic to the Creator of Heaven and Earth is not so much because they hate God and wish Him destroyed, it is because they think they have flown with the arms of their own making only to be burned by the heat of the light of the sun and then fall to their own destruction. The hubris of lukewarmness is actually the greatest danger any Christian can face. It is through this passiveness to faith that we then end in apostasy.

When Paul is warning the Jews about such in Hebrews 10 he remarks:

Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?

Let’s return to the second half of Revelation 3:17. In the children’s song, Jesus Loves Me, there is a lyric which perfectly illustrates what we are talking about this morning. “When I am weak, you are strong . . .”, or as the verse negatively exclaims, “. . . not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked”. It is not until we are humbled by the reality of what the Gospel teaches, that Christ has died for the ungodly, and we give up our feeble claims to might and self-identity that we can come and take on the yoke of Jesus our Lord. Yet, in some sense that only gets at the beginning of the solution. It is that need not only to know, but remember this in the use of the means of grace, our reliance upon the love of God for sinners, the gift of the Holy Spirit who as we read the word convicts us, opens our eyes, and gives us a power that is not own. The children who sing know better, as should we.

In closing, this is where we are very much lukewarm today, we have a tendency to forsake the blessings of daily prayer, pietism of the right kind, where we meet with God in His book, and rely on His grace alone to stay on the narrow path. Let us maintain the ordinary ways of the Lord as we grow in weakness, that we might be strong in the spirit of faith.

Here’s a word:

Blessings in Christ,

Rev. Benjamin Glaser

Pastor, Bethany ARP Church

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