Monday, June 18, 2012

Are you hot, lukewarm, or cold? Your approach to the bible will reveal the answer

'I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so 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 eat with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:15-20).

Often forgotten in the prophecies are the warnings Jesus gives to the churches in Revelation. As with many prophecies, there is a near fulfillment and a far fulfillment. The 7 letters to 7 churches that opens Revelation were actual letters sent to actual churches and actually read as warnings, encouragements or indictments against them. The second reason the letters were sent was to reveal seven different types of individuals/churches throughout history from then to now, and instruct them/us in God's truth. Illustration: "To the Church in Laodicea", Stephanus Garsia Placidus (11th cenury).

The last verse is the one I want to point to. Jesus is not 'knocking at the door of your heart' in this verse. It is obvious He is knocking at the door of the church. The church had become (and will become, like it is now) so pale and non-Gospel oriented that Jesus is outside it! Just think of Joel Osteen's church at Lakewood and you have a perfect fulfillment of the kind of church Jesus is warning about here. Mr Osteen never preaches sin or wrath or judgment because he doesn't want to offend anyone, wanting to stay positive. But how can a person repent if they don't know they are sinning? He refuses to put a cross on his stage, because it might prove an "obstacle to anyone who might come." But if they are not coming to the cross, what are they coming to??? Jesus is standing outside Mr Osteen's church, knocking to get in.

That sad indictment is repeated over many parts of the body of Christ today. I pray you find a good church that has solid beliefs, and participate there. If your pastor stands on the foundational principles of the faith, and preaches them- support him. He is a rarity these days, and precious. Treat him like he is.

The decline of belief is symbiotic. If you attend a church like Lakewood for any length of time, even if you were hot for Jesus at first, you will fade into lukewarmness having remained unfed from the full counsel of God. A steady diet of corn flakes won't sustain your body, and a steady diet of prosperity optimism won't sustain your soul. You need meat! A well-rounded diet!

If the full counsel of God is preached, His perfect message of sin and wrath/mercy & redemption is held up and you will grow in Christ-likeness. Without the cross preached, who are the Lakewood/Laodicean congregants going to look like? Man, not God.

Therefore don't shy away from sermon messages that preach "hellfire and brimstone." Don't feel proud because your pastor avoids the difficult passages in the Old Testament. If he doesn't preach them, and you really cannot find a solid, well rounded church in your area, then the wonderful internet can bring any kind of solid, convicting sermon to you.

Above, unhinging a scripture verse
from its context leaves us ripe
for scripture-twisting interpretations
Look for a preacher who preaches the bible book-by-book. This is called expositional preaching. This simply means that the pastor is explaining the meaning of a passage in scripture verse by verse embedded in the historical and cultural background. Preaching that preaches a topic by choosing a subject and finding scripture texts that support it is all right, but there is a danger of getting weaker and weaker in the explanation of the topic. The worse case of topical preaching is Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer (who isn't even biblically qualified to be a preacher because she is a woman,) and Beth Moore (ditto). Once you release the scripture from its context, you risk twisting it to suit man-made interpretations. It is the difference between shaking out a tapestry in the wind and letting one ribbon flutter. The ribbon of scripture needs to be attached to something, i.e, the context of culture and history and the other text surrounding it.

Most pastors have a church website nowadays where audio of their sermons can be found, or the website Oneplace.com hosts literally thousands of sermons by preachers who preach expositorily. Hischannel.com also has many good preachers in video.

The warning by Jesus is a prophecy, also. Are you in a church where "you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing?" Or are you like the praised church of Philadelphia: "you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name... you have kept My command to persevere..." (Rev 3:3b-4a). The Church at Philadelphia was praised for staying true to Jesus, persevering patiently. How did they stay on course so well? How does any church stay on course today? They stayed in the full Word. (Ps 119:105). Stay on the path of the word, and His light will guide your way.

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