Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day Sermon: Be Hot or Cold

As most of you know, I played football in High School and in College. I went to two colleges actually, one in Illinois and the other in Kansas. No matter where I played in the country, no matter what the culture was in that area, no matter the offensive and defensive philosophy, there were certain truisms and statements that I heard whether I was in Oregon or Alaska, Illinois or Kansas. One of those statements we heard over and over again as players was, “Football is not a contact sport. Basketball is a contact sport. Football is a COLLISION SPORT.”

Football was a collision sport. You just didn’t touch each other, you HIT each other. That was part of what was so fun about football. It was violent. It is part of what I loved about playing football. It is part of what I still love about watching football. There is nothing like watching a pancake block or a slobber-knocking tackle when you are watching people play the sport of football. It is part of why we all come.

Another thing they taught us, which is much more applicable to the Scripture we are looking at right now, is that the surest way to get hurt was to give a half-hearted effort. You want to be hurt when someone tackles you? You start jogging a long and just goofing off and have some guy come at you full speed and knock you down. That is the surest way to sustain and injury. You go full speed and the guy comes at you full speed at you, you have a chance of hopping right up from that collision. You sit on the sidelines and nobody will come close to hurting you. But give a half-hearted effort on the field of play in a collision sport and you will find yourself with an ice bag around your knee and you will be asking everyone what day of the week it is.

This lesson from football can teach us a lot. Half-hearted faith is toxic to the church, and toxic to your soul. Half-hearted faith is condemned in this passage.

Jesus makes it very clear to the people in Laodecia. Be hot, be on fire for God if you will, and stand for everything that is true and right, and stand strong for Jesus. Or, be cold. Be uninvolved. Don’t care and don’t say you care. But do not be half-hearted about the gospel of Christ! Do not just float along. Don’t think you will be pleasing God by giving him just enough of your time, just enough of your energy, just enough of your heart. Give him your whole heart, or
give him nothing at all!
These are pretty stern words. This is pretty hard to hear really. I mean who can be on fire for Jesus all the time really? Who can really be THAT passionate?

It is always telling in these letters to the churches how Jesus defines himself to the churches. In this particular passage he calls himself the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, and the Beginning in the Creation of God. Each speaks to his faithful intent to humanity. He is one whose word can be trusted. Who is the beginning and the End. The one who speaks the first word and who has the last word. He is worthy of our praise. He is worthy of our trust. He is worthy to base our life upon. ALL OF OUR LIFE UPON.

Jesus goes on to tell us that this church is rather comfortable. They are rather cozy in their lifestyle. They tell everyone they are wealthy. They have it all together. But from God’s perspective they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.

This is a very confident and self-assured church, this church in Laodacea. A church that has a congregation. A church that gathers regularly and gives generously. But the church in Laodecia is a church that seems to have outgrown its need for Jesus. At least in their own mind. Because of their security and their material well-being. Jesus is an add-on to the life of the lukewarm church, not at the center of their lives.

Certainly this warning of half-heartedness is not exclusive to this church and this time. Jesus said something similar when he said, “You cannot serve two masters, for either you will love one and hate the other, or hate one and love the other, you cannot serve both God and mammon.” Jesus’ brother James said something similar when he talked about people who were “double-minded”.

Believers in Jesus have always been tempted to be half-hearted, double-minded, lukewarm Christians that serve two masters. We have always preferred comfort over faithfulness, popularity over piety. We have always preferred to make Jesus a part of our life, but not let him be Lord over all over our life. We have always preferred to offer our prayers when all of our life is out of our control, instead of praying for the Lord to take control of our life. And then we wonder why our faith seems so powerless and why the church seems to have so little impact on our nation and our culture in the present day.

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