There is nothing more refreshing than a frosty glass of ice tea on a hot day, with extra lemon please. Or nothing as soothing as a strong hot cup of tea with honey when you are feeling the effects of a cold. But take a drink of tea that is supposed to be glacial and find it's only tepid and that is not at all satisfying. Or expect a steaming sip of hot tea and it's weak and lukewarm and you will want to spit it out. I remember my husband's grandmother Connie, she used to use her tea bags two or three times to try to make a box last longer. That third cup of tea was almost clear and tasteless. Hot or cold, but lukewarm, well no, that just won't do. The bible has something to say about that..."I know your deeds; you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were one or the other. So because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am about to spit you out of my mouth, " Revelation 3:15-16 (NIV).
That seems awfully harsh, doesn't it? Gee, after all it was a loving God that gave us that free gift of salvation. It says free...right? So what in the world does He expect? Hmmm, let's see. He gave His Son. A Son that died a horrendous death on the cross. A death that took the sins of all mankind and once and for all time forgave them. His life freely given for ours. It says in Ephesians 2:8, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (KJV). That word gift in the Greek is doron, meaning a gift or a present, something given without repayment in mind. I don't know about you, but when someone gives me a gift, it's not so much that I want to repay them, but I certainly think kindly of them and would go out of my way to do something in return for them to show my appreciation. That is how we are to live our lives in response to that great gift of salvation. Live our lives in a way that expresses our love and gratitude for something so beyond our reach that was given to us without thought of recompense.
We have been studying a book called "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan. It is about loving God with the same radical, unconditional love that He loves us with. Pastor Chan has a chapter on being lukewarm. One of the scriptures he mentions is the one in Luke 14:34-35, "Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Pastor Chan is talking about those who are not willing to give everything for Jesus, those who won't follow Him all the way. He explains that in that scripture it is saying that that kind of 'salt' is not even fit for the manure pile. He goes on to say, "Wow. How would you like to hear the Son of God say, 'You would ruin manure'."
We all want to think that we love God with our whole hearts. That He is the center and focus of our love and our thoughts all day every day. That no time spent with Him is too much time. That He is our all and all. To be honest, I remember being like that. When I first got saved. That newness, that gratitude and excitement to know more about Him - to know Him. And then again after having walked away from Him, after being backslidden, returning with a new love and zeal. The Lord showed me something about being backslidden. I always thought that that state of backsliding was something like being on a hill when it is wet and raining, muddy and a mess. You are trying to trudge as hard as you can up that mountain but you just can't make it up. One step upward, two sliding steps back down. No, that is not what it is. Being backslidden is like that donkey that the master is trying to pull forward by it's reins. It digs it's feet in and will not move forward. The more it is coaxed, the more it digs in, the more obstinate it becomes. That is what being backslidden means. And I truly believe that it is not a long walk from being lukewarm to being backslidden.
Oh to love the Lord with that crazy love. To feel joy at just being His. To have that childlike zeal to share Him with others. I hate that I have become like that seed thrown into the thorns, that becomes choked out by the cares of the world. That I have lost my first love and that unrelenting drive that causes me to want more of Him.
I don't know if you know the ministry of Teen Challenge. It is a ministry that is not just aimed at young people, but people of all ages that are caught in that trap of addiction. We have been going to fundraising dinners for this ministry for years and have been paying for tables at the dinners for quite a few of those years to bring in funds to benefit them. Dinner is served and they share testimonies and they have members who are going through the program sing in the choir. I hate to say it, but that old adage, 'familiarity breeds contempt' came into play here. We have gone so many years. It was a Friday night. I was worn out after a hard week and just wanted to go home after work and relax. But no, we had committed to a table so we had to go. Oh how I dreaded sitting there for almost 3 hours. And how bad I felt for feeling that way. And I felt much worse about it by the end of the evening. All these men and women, one of them a close friend who we had taken down to go through the program; all of them so happy, so joyful. The smiles on their faces. The thankfulness they had for the change that Jesus had brought into their lives. The freedom from the addictions that had ruined their lives and the lives of those they loved. It was palpable. It was so clearly evident, they had a new joy in life and living. Whereas here I was feeling worn out from sitting behind a desk all week. Feeling too tired to rejoice in the Lord and all He has done. Feeling like a tepid, tasteless glass of tea.
I went home that night asking the Lord to forgive me. How easy it is to get caught up in the crud of life and forget that He is the Life. How effortlessly we fall into the trap of ingratitude and coveting what others have rather than feeling blessed by all that God has gifted us with. How readily we forget all that God has brought us out of; for me it was drugs and alcohol and promiscuity. How quickly we blame God for all the trials in our life, forgetting that He is with us in all we go through and will never leave us nor forsake us. How conveniently we forget the great sacrifice He made for us. Oh Lord, I don't want to be salt that ruins even the manure.
So how do we get out of that place of lukewarmness. I fear it is a bit like asking God for patience...be careful what you pray for. I know that when I am living a life where the Lord is first and foremost it is both a bit scary and totally exhilarating. I don't like roller coasters, but I can somewhat equate it to that. You have signed on for this ride, and you can see the first few yards of the ride. Some ups and downs, some hills and valleys. But I don't think you are ever prepared for what is to come. Just look at some of those candid shots they get of people on a roller coaster. Not for me. I don't know if that ride is safe. I don't know if it has been properly maintained. I don't know if the owner is a reputable person or a shyster. But I do know that God loves me, yes with a crazy love. I do know that He knew me before the foundations of the world. I know that He has plans for my good and not my harm. I know that in Him I am safe, no matter what I encounter in this life.
And in this life more than anything, I want to love and honor Him. I want to not only love Him, but love those He puts in my path. I want to live this life with passion and gusto rather than with apathy and indifference. I want to be ready in season and out. I want to be more than I am, more than I even think I can be and do it all for the glory of the One who made me. I want to walk in faith and not fear. I want to believe for enormous things through Christ and see them come to pass. I want to walk boldly into the enemy's camp and take back all he has stolen. I want to see the kingdom of God here on this earth and when my time is done I want to enter into the gates of heaven and hear, "Well done good and faithful servant."
I want to be that refreshing, healing cup of hot tea when sickness is rampant. But to make a proper cup of tea there are steps to follow...
Start with fresh, cold water. ...
Place a tea bag in your favorite cup or mug.
Bring water to a rolling boil and immediately pour over your tea bag.
Steep for a good 3 to 5 minutes. ...
Remove the tea bag, relax and enjoy!
So Lord, bring me up to a boil and do your work in me!
Excerpt from Crazy Love, Revised and Updated edition by Francis Chan, page 82
How to make tea, www.tetleyusa.com/about-tea/tea-tips
For more information on Teen Challenge or to donate go to www.teenchallengeusa.com