Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: A lot of you remember the name Keith Green who was a songwriter and a singer in the '70s.

(Keith Green singing)

Make my life a prayer to You;
I want to do what You want me to . . .

Nancy: He went home to be with the Lord as a result of an airplane crash in the early '80s.

There is a Redeemer;
Jesus, God’s own Son . . .

Nancy: Keith was a young man who had an intense burden for the church, and he had a very direct way of saying it. Many of his songs reflect that. One of his best-known songs is called “Asleep in the Light.”

Do you see, do you see
All the people sinking down?
Don’t you care, don’t you care
Are you gonna let them drown?

How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come?
You close your eyes

And pretend the job’s done.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for Thursday, November 1, 2017.

"Oh bless me Lord, bless me Lord."
It’s all I ever hear.
No one aches no one hurts;
No one even sheds one tear.

But He cries; He weeps; He bleeds,

And He cares for your needs.
And you just lay back
And keep soaking it in.
Oh, can’t you see it’s such a sin.

Because He brings people to your door,
And you turn them away
As you smile and say,
“God bless you, be at peace.”
And all heaven just weeps
Because Jesus came to your door.
You’ve left Him out on the streets.

The world is sleeping in the dark

That the church just can’t fight
Because it’s asleep in the light.
How can you be so dead
When you’ve been so well fed?
Jesus rose from the grave
And you can’t even get out of bed.

How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come?
You close your eyes
And pretend the job’s done.

Leslie: Jesus dictated seven letters that open the book of Revelation. Nancy has been teaching through those letters this year in several helpful teaching series. Yesterday she began one of those series. This one is called "Letters to the Churches in Revelation, Part 8: The Cure for a Lukewarm Faith."

You close your eyes
And pretend the job’s done.
You close your eyes
And pretend the job’s done.
Don’t close your eyes.
Don’t pretend the job’s done.1

Nancy: You may be thinking, “That’s a heavy way to start a program.” Keith Green had that way of addressing issues that concerned him in the Church. As I think about the words to that song, I imagine the impact when the church in Laodicea first heard the letter from Jesus to their church that we read in Revelation chapter 3. It must have been that same kind of frontal confrontation.

“Whoa! Did you hear what He just said about our church?”

Jesus does not mince words in this letter. There’s no commendation. Not one word of commendation; just this direct, straightforward confrontation from Jesus who says, “I am the Amen; I am the faithful and true witness” (see Rev. 3:14).

He goes on to say in verse 15: "I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.” This is just like right out of the box here.

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 (vv. 15–16).

You say, “Jesus, that’s not nice. That’s not refined talk. That’s not gentle Jesus, meek and mild.”

But that’s Jesus, the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the one who knows exactly what His people need to hear, who knows exactly what the Church needs to hear today.

This whole thing of hot and cold and lukewarm, we can understand that better if we understand something about the background of the city of Laodicea. We referenced this in the last session. We said that Laodicea was one of three cities that was in close proximity to each other.

Near Laodicea was a town called Hierapolis that is modern day Pamukkale in the country of Turkey. You can go and visit there today. It’s still today known for its hot springs as it was back in the first century. Those hot springs were considered to have medicinal qualities.

So there was nearby Hierapolis that had these wonderful hot springs, and then there was nearby Colossae that was known for its terrific drinking water that came from cold, refreshing mountain streams. Then you had Laodicea that was near the river Lycus, as we said, but the water from that river was undrinkable, and it dried up in the summer.

So the city had an inadequate water supply, and they had to pipe in water through a six-mile aqueduct from the south. It was an underground aqueduct, and the water that started out cold from the mountain snow six miles away was great water, but by the time it got to Laodicea, having run through those six miles of underground aqueduct, the water was lukewarm. It was tepid. And not only was it lukewarm, but it was full of sediment and impurities.

Sometimes the water was foul. It wasn’t hot enough to provide relaxation and healing for anyone, and it wasn’t cold enough to be refreshing or good to drink.

So the water supply that came into Laodicea was useless. It made people sick. In fact, visitors who would come to the city who were not used to this water would take a chug of this water and just pfffft—spit it out. It was awful, awful water.

So Jesus, knowing that the people in Laodicea know about this contaminated water supply, this lukewarm, tepid, yucky water; He likened the spiritual condition of the church in Laodicea to their water supply. He said, “The effect that this water has on people who drink it, that’s the effect this church has on Me. It’s repulsive. It’s disgusting. It’s sickening. So,” He says, “I will spit you out of My mouth.”

The word there is not a very refined word. It’s literally vomit. Pfffft—“I spit you out. I can’t stand it.”

It’s a picture of judgment, and He’s saying, “This church is going to lose its effectiveness and its witness in the world.”

The only way to avert this outcome of judgment, being spit out of Christ’s mouth, is if they heed Christ’s call to repent.

Jesus says, “I would that you were either cold or hot.”

When we think of hot as it relates to spiritual matters, we think of someone with a zealous, burning, hot heart. That’s what we read in Romans 12, verse 11, where the apostle Paul says, “Don’t be slothful in zeal, but be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” Be hot-hearted.

He talks in Colossians 4 about being fervent in prayer. He says,

Epaphrus, who was one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.

He says, “Epaphrus is a hot-hearted servant of the Lord. He labors in prayer. He’s fervent in prayer for the churches.” Hot—zealous—burning heart.

Then there’s the cold heart at the other extreme. This is a heart that has never been warm. It’s never been hot. These are people who openly reject Christ. They’re unmoved by the gospel. They’re unresponsive to the truth. They have no interest in spiritual things. They don’t even pretend to be Christians.

Coldness of heart—these are people who either have no knowledge of the gospel at all, or they’ve heard the gospel, but they have no interest in it. They don’t make any profession to be Christians, no pretense. There’s no claim to faith. They don’t claim to have a relationship with Christ. They’re cold spiritually.

So at one end we have those who are spiritually hot-hearted; they are zealous in spirit. At the other end we have those who are cold; they have no interest in spiritual things and make no pretense about it.

Then in the middle we have this group who are what Jesus called lukewarm.

  • They don’t deny the faith or reject the claims of Christ outright, but they don’t have a vigorous faith.
  • They don’t have spiritual zeal.
  • They don’t have an intense love and passion for Christ.
  • They’re complacent.
  • They’re half-hearted.
  • They’re comfortable.
  • They’re indifferent, and they are useless.

What a common condition this is. These are people who don’t want to be cold-hearted sinners, and they don’t want to be whole-hearted believers.

  • They want to live in both worlds.
  • They want to serve two masters.
  • They want to be in the middle of the road.

One of the things I’ve asked myself many times as I’ve been studying this passage is: Are these lukewarm people, are they true believers who are simply in a backslidden condition, or are they religious hypocrites who profess to know Christ but don’t really know Him at all?

I’ve read I don’t know how many commentaries on this subject, and I’ve concluded they’re split down the middle on what they think about the answer to that question. I think the reason is that it’s hard to know for sure where these people are spiritually. Only God knows whether they really belong to Him or not.

Let me say this: I’ve come to this conclusion after hours spent meditating on this text: If you are lukewarm spiritually, you have no basis to have assurance that you are a child of God. You cannot say with assurance, “I belong to Christ,” if you do not have a hot, zealous heart for Christ.

The lukewarm water in Laodicea was useless. It was distasteful. It made you want to throw it up, and the lukewarm church in Laodicea was equally useless. It was an ineffective witness. Unbelievers who lived in Laodicea were not receiving living water because the church was not actively fulfilling its role of witnessing to the gospel of Christ.

A lukewarm church does not have the heart, the motivation, or the capacity to reach its world for Christ.

Not long ago I was copied on an email that a friend had sent to a couple of leaders in his church. I want to read an extended excerpt from that email because I think it describes the uselessness, the ineffectiveness, the fruitlessness of a lukewarm church. This man said,

It is of grave concern to me that the church (including our local church) seems to be "asleep in the light" in the words of a Keith Green song. The church in America is lukewarm—like the church in Revelation. We are looking for peace and prosperity. We don’t go into all the world and make disciples. Rather, we are preaching to the choir week in and week out.

I am in a bowling league. It’s another world there. Profanity, pornography, and godlessness reign there. I pray weekly for divine appointments; to look into people’s eyes and tell them I am praying for their families. I tried to get a team of believers to minister in this setting; to reach out with grace to this under culture that may never see the inside of a church.

I’ve tried to get people from our church involved with our African-American neighbor church up the street and to take an interest in Uganda, Senegal, and so forth [countries where this man has had some extended ministry]. Not much interest. You know what we’re busy doing? Meetings and more meetings. Small groups, Friday, Saturday, Tuesday. Words. Talk. "Sharing.”

Please don’t take offense [he said to those leaders in his church], but this reminds me of 1 Corinthians 13. Without love for the lost and for our fellow Christians in poor countries, we are "clanging cymbals.”

I am baffled at all the meetings and forever discussions over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Who cares?!!

Can you imagine never being able to attend one class your whole life? To never have a pair of shoes so your feet are swollen like elephants’ feet? At best, those I speak to here in America will chip in $50 to "help" out. And they spend $12,000 per year on interest on houses, cars, and swimming pools!

I rarely share my thoughts like this. I don’t want to lay a guilt trip on the Christian community. The Lord laid this on my heart, and I am at peace with this "calling" for my life. I personally believe I will die on the field. I’m not sure if it will be disease (I’ve had malaria twelve times and Ebola is near where I’m going in Uganda next month). I’m not sure if it will be by a radical Muslim, or maybe when I’m going door to door in the troubled area near our church here, or by gun point. I’ve had numerous situations in Africa with my doors kicked down and forced to lie in the dirt. I don’t want to die in any of these ways, but I know my Redeemer lives, and I am ready and willing.

I remember in the early days of our church, we had some real soldiers. Soldiers ready to do street preaching at Broad and Olney. Ready to go to porn shops to share the gospel. Ready to go to war torn countries like Uganda. What has happened in recent years? Where are those who are ready to put themselves and their relationship with the Savior of the world on the line?

When I was in Uganda on this last trip alone in my room, I wept so hard my chest hurt. It was painful. I try to have hope, but in my heart of hearts I know the need. And I know we don’t have enough people who either care or are in a position to help. We are living like there is no urgency.

Asleep in the light—lukewarm—complacent—indifferent—living like there is no urgency. People like my friend Steve who wrote that email, well, today they’re just considered fanatics, extreme, radicals.

I remember my dad saying about another believer who had that same kind of heart, “I wish I was a fanatic like that.”

It’s interesting that out of the seven churches that Jesus addresses in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, there are two churches, the ones in Smyrna and Philadelphia about which He had no criticism. Both of those churches were facing intense opposition and persecution.

In contrast to that, the two churches that were in the worst condition, the church in Sardis and the church in Laodicea, in those letters, there is no reference to opposition. No reference to opposition from outside the church, from the pagan culture, from the Roman government. There’s no reference to heresies within the church. No struggle going on that is recorded.

I think that’s a reminder that God uses adversity and opposition and struggle to purify His Church and to quicken believers, to awaken the Church, to clarify our vision, to give us a sense of urgency. When you have opposition, when you have struggle going on, even if it’s a struggle for right doctrine, to define the faith; if you have heresies that you’re battling, that you’re dealing with—not that you want heresies within the church—but when you have doctrinal struggle and opposition from within and without, you have to exert some effort in contending for the faith. But when there are no challenges to deal with, it’s easy to become spiritually stagnant, to lose a sense of urgency.

One commentator said, “Active opposition may well be a less deadly evil that careless ease.”

The church in Laodicea didn’t have any active opposition that we know of, but what it did have was careless ease, and that’s dangerous.

Jesus said, “I wish you were hot or cold.” He’s not saying He wants them cold, but I think He’s saying there’s more hope of warming the cold than of warming the lukewarm. People are less likely to see their need for Christ and repent when they’re somewhere between hot and cold than if they’re in blatant, overt rebellion against Christ. Because a lukewarm person has made a profession of faith, he thinks he’s okay, and he drifts into complacency.

Lukewarm “Christians” do more damage to the cause of Christ than those who are outright cold. They cause more damage in our world today than the Christopher Hitchens, the Richard Dawkins, the new atheists. More damage is done by lukewarm people in our churches who claim to be children of God. They’re dangerous in the church. They cool down new converts. They pull down the whole church.

Where are you? Hot? Cold? Or lukewarm?

Have you ever had saving faith?

Maybe your heart for God was hot at one time, but now it’s drifted into lukewarmness. How does that happen?

  • It happens from having the trappings in the form of religion but not having Christ.
  • It can happen from having an inherited faith—one you got from your parents or from the previous generation, but you’ve never made it your own.
  • It can happen from too much prosperity and ease, of lack of pressure to grow, a lack of adversity.
  • It happens by accommodating to the world.
  • It happens by accommodating to the lukewarm, Christian subculture around us.

A friend and I were talking this past week. She was telling me about a season of her life when she was a young mother and her husband was traveling a great deal at the time. During that season, looking for a diversion, she got into training horses, and she became passionate about this. Her family had some horses, and she got really into this. She had two little children at the time, and she developed this love, this passion for training horses.

She said, “I started doing it every waking hour and moment of the day.”

Here’s a woman who in her earlier years had a hot heart for Christ. She knew what it was to love her devotional time, to love getting with the Lord. But she said,

In this season, I’d wake up, and first thing in the morning I’d want to get out, and I’d want to be with those horses all day.

Those horses became an idol in my life. Before I knew it, I’d dropped out of Sunday evening church; I’d dropped out of Wednesday church. I’d lost heart. I’d lost interest in the things of God.

During that season I remember thinking, I wish someone would get in my face and say, "What are you doing?" But, no one did.

It wasn’t until some time later when God ultimately created circumstances that brought her to the end of herself that she repented of her lukewarmness and was restored to a place of being spiritually hot.

What I want to do today, and what I want to do in this series is to do what she wished someone would have done for her in those years.

If you are lukewarm, I want to get in your face. If you’ve drifted into lukewarmness, I want to get in your face, and I want to say, “What are you doing? What are you doing?”

Elijah said to the children of Israel in his day, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21).

There’s no room for neutrality.

The call of Christ is to declare ourselves in earnest to be for Him or against Him, but don’t straddle the fence.

Oh God, how I pray that as we look at Your words to the church in Laodicea, You would speak to our hearts, and that You would expose the church today that is asleep in the light, that You would wake us up, that You would quicken us, that You would call us out of our lukewarmness and give us the grace to repent and to be hot-hearted soldiers for Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray it, amen.

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Do you see, do you see
All the people sinking down?
Don’t you care, don’t you care
Are you gonna let them drown?

How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come?
You close your eyes
And pretend the job’s done.

Leslie: For a long time, I’ve been familiar with the verse in Revelation that talks about the lukewarm church, but today’s message was very fresh to my ears. I appreciate the background material about the water supply to Laodicea. More importantly, I need to be challenged to make sure I’m not drifting toward a lukewarm faith.

When you study the letters from Jesus to His Church in Revelation, they will challenge you. And we’d like to help you study these passages in a deeper way by sending you a Bible study booklet called Ears to Hear. For each of these churches, you’ll read a devotional and then answer some questions to help you dig into the text and apply it to your life. For instance questions that go along with the letter we’ve studied today will help you evaluate your heart? Is it lukewarm? Or is it continually getting hotter by God’s grace?

We’d like to help you think through practical questions like that by sending you the booklet Ears to Hear when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. You can make your donation at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1–800–569–5959 and ask for the booklet.

We live in a time of constant change and upheaval. In that environment, institutions we might think are solid can crumble all of a sudden. That can happen with churches too. Nancy will explain how, tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to see your faith grow hotter and hotter. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

1Keith Green. "Asleep in the Light." No Compromise. 1978, used with permission.

 

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