Christianity 201

May 1, 2019

Emerging as Solid Gold

NIV.1Peter.17 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

NIV.Rev.3.14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 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.”

One of the longest running sources for material we’ve used here at Christianity 201 has been John Fischer who writes at The Catch. Today’s blog post is actually by his wife Marti who has been experiencing some health challenges lately. I ask you to join with us in praying for her. (More details on the blog; click the link in this paragraph.) Otherwise click the title below to read this piece, with an introduction from John that’s not seen here.

Guaranteed Gold

by Marti Fischer

One of the more important messages for us today as believers can be found in the words of Jesus to the seven churches that take up the first few chapters of the book of Revelation. They are words of warning and instruction.

One of the churches, the one in Laodicea, Jesus describes as being “warm,” meaning comfortable — a comfortable state of mind with false securities. And Jesus warns that since these believers are neither hot nor cold, He will “spew” them out of His mouth. What a harsh description of rejection and abandonment.

Jesus goes on to explain why He says this. He is basically saying this body thinks it doesn’t need Him. They are doing just find on their own.  These people are lukewarm and very comfortable in their walk with the Lord. They have food to eat, places to stay, and clothes to wear. Life is good. And Jesus says that their thinking is a lie. He says the truth is that these people are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. They are people who think they are doing good in their own lives and for the Lord.  Jesus says they have it all backwards.

Jesus goes on to make a few recommendations for these Laodicean believers:  I counsel you to be gold tried in the fire.”  And then He offers them a new outfit. They will no longer be living in the shame of their nakedness … and then, He says, they will be able to see.

I thought to myself, “Hurray! At last. Jesus is encouraging prosperity thinking. I am going to be gold.  I always wanted to believe in prosperity. I love pretty things. Too bad for me — He is not talking about having the financial means to have what it takes to buy lots of gold. He is talking about gold as referenced in 1 Peter 1:7 — a faith being more precious than gold that is tried with fire. Jesus is telling us He wants to make our faith perfect – tried by the fire of trials – the faith that is far more precious than gold. For this reason, He warns us not to seek what makes us comfortable.  Rather He suggests that those He loves He corrects and causes suffering; anything to make us pursue Him and His desire to purify our faith. He will do just about anything to get us out of our comfort zone.

Jesus then tells us that He is at the door knocking (He’s been there all along), and if we open the door, he will come in and sit down to dinner with us. You might remember He did this with the disciples and at that dinner he also told the disciples that they, too, would indeed drink from His cup — the cup of suffering and death Jesus was ordained to drink from.  Soon thereafter, Jesus was begging the Father to take that very cup from Him, “but either way your will not mine be done.” This is a beautiful demonstration of Jesus relating to the most horrific moments in our lives, when we ask the Lord to remove us from a situation and deliver us from having to walk through troubles and pain, and instead, He asks to submit to His will and not the will we would prefer to hold so closely to our chest. His will is to follow Jesus Christ, which is the complete opposite of our comfort driven will.

He ends this message by delivering a promise to those in this church who “overcome” comfort to follow His will. The promise is knowing Him and believing with the kind of evidence that moves mountains in not only our lives but in the lives of many others … and there’s nothing comfortable about that.

So like the Laodiceans, Jesus wants us to wake up.  We are insisting on making ourselves comfortable and warm (the kind of warm that is like a dog peeing on your leg). We are not hot or even cold.

We have many Catch Citizens [Ed. note: readers of their blog] who are affected and suffering from very difficult circumstances that are causing their hearts to cry out to God.  They do not know why. Did they do something wrong? They are seeking His presence, wanting to receive His revelation and understand what on earth He is up to.

And for those of us Laodiceans who are stepping out of our places of comfort on a daily basis, they are asking us to pray with them as we both seek His strength, His  truth — the truth that can only be known when He opens our eyes and causes us to surrender to Him and all of His ways that our minds can’t grasp.  No longer warm, we are very hot indeed.


NIV.Rev.3.20 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 that person, and they with me.

 

 

March 30, 2019

Spiritually, Don’t Wander Off

Tomorrow is the last day of year nine here at Christianity 201. Monday begins our tenth year. This is also our ninth time featuring the writing of Ben Nelson at Another Red Letter Day. He’s currently working through the book of Hebrews. This article is part one of two, there’s a link to the second one at the end. Or…simply click the title below to arrive at the site.

Drifters

Hebrews teems with promises and encouragements, wonderful reminders and strong theology. But it also holds a number of stern warnings. With the promises, it delivers consequences that need to be reckoned with. When taken as a whole, the book disrupts any leanings we have toward universalism and even shines the spotlight on eternal security for our scrutiny.

Aside: Don’t hang up on me. I’m not saying I don’t believe in eternal security, but our study will uncover some weakness in our pray-a-prayer-and-forget-it gospel.

Warning #1

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1

First – notice the “for.” Again, this militates against chapter breaks, since clearly what follows belongs with chapter one.

But what part of chapter one are we “for”-ing back to? …pay attention to what we have heard. What have we heard? Let’s read a couple more verses and see if we get some more clues.

For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.Hebrews 2:2-4

The writer is taking us back to the first four verses of chapter one, in particular, verse two.

in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.Hebrews 1:2

Jesus, who is superior in every way to the angels and prophets spoke to us through His words and His life. He continues to speak to us through the testimony of those who walked with Him. Further, this testimony is confirmed to us by signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

These four verses actually hold two warnings.

1) Don’t drift.

I love that he uses such a visual word, drift. He’s not warning against a turn-and-run rejection of the gospel. He’s not warning about scoffers and skeptics. He’s warning about the kind of Christian that warms the pew every week but does not walk by faith.

He’s talking about dusty-Bible Christians.
He’s talking about when-it’s-convienient Christians.
He’s talking about Sunday-morning-only Christians.

They are drifters. They have not left the church or the basic belief system. But their life is not marked by faith. They live life with minds set on the things of the flesh. Every problem gets the natural solution, and prayer is the furthest thing from their mind until it’s the only thing left.

Paul talks about this in Romans 8.

For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.Romans 8:5-8

Don’t skip over that. Here Paul speaks some of the most sobering words in all of the Bible.

This carnal mind, mind set on the flesh, is not indifferent toward the things of God. This drifter is actively hostile toward God himself.

Paul makes it clear in Romans 8 that this one who fills his or her mind with the natural world and its thoughts and priorities CANNOT please God.

Later in Hebrews, we will learn that only the life lived by faith and not by sight can please God.

Have you been drifting? Have you been walking by sight and relying on natural solutions for your day to day needs?

Get out of those waves that wash to and fro. Step out of that sandy-bottomed trap and get on the Rock today.

You can please God. You can hear those wonderful words – “Well done.” But it’s not going to happen by itself. You’re going to have to put your faith in Jesus.

Walk in the light.


  • Looking to catch up? You can find all of Ben’s posts on Hebrews chapter 1 here.
  • The second part of this article — Warning # 2 — is called Neglectors.

October 20, 2015

When God Becomes Ill

“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” (Rev. 3:15-16)

Wild WaterfallTwo great commentaries on the same passage today. Neal Pollard is in pastoral ministry in Colorado. This is his first appearance here at Christianity 201 and he gives this immediate, practical application. Then, InterVarsity Press publisher Andy LePeau clarifies the background on the cold water in this passage; and how we are a lot like the Loadiceans.

Part One:

How to Make God Sick

When speaking of God’s attributions and actions, the Bible often resorts to a literary device called anthropomorphism (where human characteristics or behaviors are attributed to God—“the hand of God,” “the eyes of the Lord,” etc.).  But, there is one personification that’s absolutely terrifying.  Jesus utilizes it in describing the spiritual condition of Laodicea. He says, “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” (Rev. 3:15-16). Some translations, knowing “vomit” is felt to be too strong and graphic to the sensitivities of some readers, have gone the more antiseptic route by translating it “spit.”  But the Greeks had a word for the phrase “spit out” (you find that word translated in John 9:6, Mark 7:33, and Mark 8:23).

It has been said that what makes God sick often is what makes our culture tick. When you look at the Laodiceans, they were guilty of the following:

  • Indifferent to mission (Rev. 3:15-16).
  • Incorrect in self-analysis (Rev. 3:17).
  • Insensitive to need (Rev. 3:17).
  • Impenitent (Rev. 3:19).

Certainly, the world is blind to God’s purpose for their lives, is numb to its true spiritual condition, and is deaf to the biblical plea to repent and depend on God and His will. But these words are directed to Christians as a warning to us.  Our mission is to engage in the work He has us on earth to do, which is not to accumulate wealth, indulge in fleshly pleasures, and pursue the honor and praise of this world. Our need for God’s strength and help every step of the way must drive us to depend on Him and repent of a lack of zeal for and involvement in the work He has called us to do as Christians.

When we get so wrapped up in this world that we ignore His mission, when we get so conditioned to rely on our assets and attributes that we ignore His power, and when we get so hard-hearted that we ignore His grace and forgiveness, we make God sick.  No matter how you look at that, the very thought is just chilling! He loves us, pleads with us, and wants to reward us (Rev. 3:19-22). But that requires us to live differently from those ancient Laodiceans. We must let Scripture properly diagnose our spiritual condition or it will make God sick.

Part Two:

A Lukewarm Interpretation of Hot and Cold: Revelation 3:15-16

This verse from Revelation 3 certainly must rank as one of the most misused in the Bible. In the last month alone I have heard two speakers give it the same incorrect interpretation.

In the first three chapters of Revelation we find seven letters from Jesus to seven churches in late first-century Asia Minor (now western Turkey). In the letter to Laodicea, he says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!” As a result, he will spit out their tepidness.

Often this is misinterpreted to mean that Jesus is tired of namby-pamby middle of the roaders. He would rather people be passionately against him or for him. This is ridiculous on two counts. First, Jesus simply does not want people to turn resolutely against him. He wants all to come to him and be saved.

Second, when Jesus refers to hot and cold water, he is drawing an analogy from the fact that Laodicea did not have a good water source. Instead, using Roman aqueducts, it received hot water from the north, from the city of Hierapolis, famous for its soothing and healing hot springs. Refreshing cold water came from the south, from Colossae, eleven miles away, from snow melt on the mountains. Unfortunately, by the time the hot water and the cold water got to Laodicea, both were lukewarm. As Richards and O’Brien say in Misreading Scripture Through Western Eyes, Jesus “wished his people were hot (like the salubrious waters of Hierapolis) or cold (like the refreshing waters of Colossae). Instead, their discipleship was unremarkable.”

The problem was not that Laodicea lacked zeal. The problem was that the church was good for nothing.

So why describe the church as lukewarm? The answer found in the next verse. “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.”

Laodicea as a city had a reputation for its many banks, for its excellent medical school and for its clothing industry. But, Jesus says, actually it was not rich but poor, not healthy but blind, not well clothed but naked. Their resources led them to rely on themselves instead of on Jesus. Their problem was not lack of fervor but a sense of self-sufficiency. They relied on themselves instead of on God.

For a culture that prides itself on its massive economy, the best medicine in the world, and a fashion industry second to none–Revelation 3, correctly interpreted, becomes all too relevant.