by Steven Gledhill for FREEdom from MEdom Project
In church this morning, we were asked this question:
“Are you numb to the glory?”
Why would Pastor Fran Leeman* ask such a question? What does it mean?
Pastor Leeman’s sermon text was Revelation 3:15-22:
15 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!17 You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. 18 So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. 19 I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.
20 “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. 21 Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.
22 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”
These are two very famous verses here, and I’ll bet that most of you were not aware that they are part of the same discourse. “But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” And, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” Really? These verses go together? What is Jesus trying to convey in this passage?
He is asking us what we want… really want. The city of Laodicia is where the church was that Jesus referred to as having been lukewarm, which apparently caused the kind of reaction from Jesus like having swallowed something that disagreed with him, causing it to come back up and spit it back out; or tasted something so distasteful that he spit it out. What is he reacting to? Their deeds… their actions… their behavior, which apparently was a reflection of their indifference to a meaningful, reciprocal, spiritual relationship with Him, the risen Savior.
The city of Laodicia supplied a waterway where hot springs came together with cold springs of pure water, which as they came together produced merely lukewarm water as it came through the city. When Jesus said that he wished they were one or the other, hot or cold, he was not referring to hot or cold faith, so much as he was referring to their hearts: active, useful, affecting, pure.
In the bitter cold of winter when you get up in the morning and your body temperature is lower, how hot do you wait for the shower to get before you jump in or the bath before you climb in? How about that cup of hot chocolate or tea, or that bowl of soup? In the summertime in the scorching heat, how refreshing is it to jump into a pool of cold water, or a lake, or an ocean? How about the relief of a glass of ice water in a hot climate, anywhere you can think of that is uncomfortably warm? I work in a non-air-conditioned prison where inmates and staff hold ice cold water in highest regard. Imagine a lukewarm shower or bath on that bitter cold morning, or a lukewarm beverage when thirsty for a cold drink on a hot day. Where is the blessing in that? Where is the glory in that? You just might spit it out looking for what makes the most sense; unless you became so numb to what makes the most sense that you just don’t care.
Apparently, Jesus cannot stomach what doesn’t make sense—that which is meaningless—either. To Jesus, to ignore the glory that is in Him as God, to be indifferent to being in real relationship with Him, is to choose according to our selfish intentions, which are in the end evil. Pastor Leeman took us to the story in Luke when Jesus made this very point, as a man, doing what He was called to do.
6 On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. 7 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. 8 But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there. 9 Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” 10 He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. 11 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus. Luke 6:6-11 (NIV)
The Pharisees were very religious men of the highest esteem, perceived by most as men of faith; flaming hot faith. What Jesus knew was that without authentic relationship, these Pharisees really had empty lukewarm faith in the belly of their souls. Whenever these religious men attempted to test Jesus, he would invariably flip the script on them, revealing the truth of what they were. Their deeds on that Sabbath day reflected the evil of their lukewarm hearts as they rejected the good that Jesus did—something truly glorious; restoring life into the man’s hand.
When Jesus speaks of good versus evil in our motivations and behavior, he speaks of it as a matter of life and death; something essentially important. This happens only in the truth of real relationship with Him that allows us to indeed be free (John 8:32).
While making the point of what you and I were created to be, Pastor Leeman brought to life the following quote from one of the deepest thinking theologians of the 20th century:
‘The command “Be ye perfect” is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were “gods” and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him—for we can prevent Him, if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness.” —CS Lewis, Mere Christianity
Do you believe that? Can you believe that? CS Lewis is speaking of the dazzling, radiant, immortal glory of God transforming us into something that reflects his glory. God plans to do this for you and for me. Heaven is a glorious place. But right now, on this earth, God is a glorious God, and His glorious Spirit is alive and dwelling within us when we are in real relationship with Him. We will one day be perfected fully into the image of Himself as we were created to be from the beginning.
We were created to reflect the glory of God and to experience in the core of our being the expression of God’s glory upon the earth through the innocence of His intention for humanity in the human experience. Though we fell from glory, God’s intention and purpose is to restore us to innocence in the fullness of His glory.
16 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NLT)
Do you believe that? Can you believe that? Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of God’s Spirit is speaking of the dazzling, radiant, immortal glory of God transforming us into something that reflects his glory; making us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image.
There is witness of this happening on the earth in the Old Testament (Daniel 3:1-30) when Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were hurled into a flaming furnace for having trusted in God as their Lord and King, worshiping only Him. As soon as this occurred, they were seen walking around with a fourth person, the one we call Jesus who at that time was referred to as the Angel of the Lord.
20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. 21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which He will bring everything under His control. Philippians 3:20-21 (NLT)
Imagine that! Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego experienced the radiant, dazzling, immortal glory of God with Jesus in all His glory as they walked around embodying glory in a place of unimaginable horrific terror. I wonder if in their hearts they experienced an awful sort of disappointment as they came out from the flames. Or, had their spiritual lives been set ablaze—emboldened even more—in the glory of such a spiritual experiential encounter with the awesome glory of the One whom they willingly served to the point of dying for Him all along.
What about you? What about me? Are we numb to the glory? Have we become indifferent? Okay, maybe ‘indifferent’ sounds too harsh.
Are we lukewarm?
If not, then why such ambivalence in our hearts and minds about so many choices that involve pursuing a deeper journey in our relationship with Christ? If we say we are actively pursuing a deeper, spiritual relationship with Jesus, do our lifestyle actions reflect it with integrity (doing so when only God is looking)? Do we behave as though (not ‘if’) we are indeed citizens of heaven on earth eagerly anticipating the coming of our Savior to transform us into something glorious as He is glorious?
I will close this with Paul’s passage to the church at Philippi that Pastor Leeman pointed to so profoundly in church today. Paul had just written that all of his earthly gains he counted as loss for the sake of actively pursuing something much deeper and more intimate in his relationship with Christ; wanting to truly know Him in the most sensitive places of His suffering, along with the most glorious experience of His resurrection.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Philippians 3: 12-16 (NIV)
Are you numb to the glory, today? Are you numb to God’s best for you?
Do you want religion? Or, do you want it all through the best of relationship with Jesus?
Please meditate and pray on this before responding in your heart to these what might be most haunting questions, if not most exciting.
The Glory? He’s at the door knocking.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)
* Fran Leeman pastors the LifeSpring Community Church in Plainfield, IL and author of the book, “The Forgotten Way of Jesus”, which can be found under the Support Resources list at the bottom of this page. Pastor Leeman also heads up the ministry, New Life for Haiti.