In the beginning of the Book of Revelation, we see Jesus sending letters to seven churches. The Laodicean Church often seems the most relatable to where we find ourselves today. The key verses should conclude the matter for us as to how Jesus Himself feels about trying to find middle ground with teachings that are opposed to Him. The first truth we see is that the Church at Laodicea was neither hot nor cold. This lukewarm-ness is exactly where we stand when it comes to accepting what we know we should not. I have heard very well intended Christians excuse prosperity hucksters, word faith heretics, and any other form of leaven with the most carnal of reasons. "Well, Joel Osteen helps some people." Does he? And for how many people he might help are there a hundred others going to hell who think they are saved? "Well, you can't judge his heart." You're right! I do not have to judge his heart -- just his fruit:
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. -- Matthew 7: 15-20 (NIV)
The words of Jesus again warning us! Joel Osteen is already on record as saying it is not his gift to weigh people down with doctrine! He has denied Christ at least twice on national television! "Well, I know people who were able to straighten their lives out because of him." -- That is a carnal answer. "Well, you know he doesn't take a salary from his church." -- That is a carnal answer. Beloved, you must understand. I believe that Joel Osteen is sincere. I believe that he sincerely believes that he helps people and you know what? He does. He helps them carnally. He helps them try to make their best life now. But that has nothing to do with God or the kingdom. As my pastor says, you can be sincere and sincerely wrong. And just what does Jesus say he is going to do with the lukewarm? He will spew them out of His mouth! He actually says that he wishes we would pick a side! Think about that for a second. The spirit of lukewarm-ness is covering the seeker friendly church today. There is no spiritual zeal anymore. There is no real discussion of holiness and sin. There is plenty of religiosity. Plenty of lukewarm-ness. Every week we see another mega church pastor fall from grace because we do not preach brokenness anymore. We teach lukewarm-ness. When we are lukewarm about the things of God we invite the devil to have a field day with us in this world. Three pastors from Orlando alone have had to step down in the last six months because of extramarital affairs. The latest one, David Loveless, admitted to this affair lasting for several years! How can you spiritually lead people when you are so spiritually compromised? If this is the level of lukewarm-ness in the pulpit -- what do you think it is like in the pews? We are so busy looking at the sins of a world that thinks the things of God are foolishness so that we do not have to clean our own house. What is Jesus really saying here when He says to pick a side? Hot or cold? What He is really saying is He cannot stand the hypocrisy. He cannot stand the lukewarm-ness. Do not sell yourself as hot when inside you are really cold. Do not sell yourself as salt when you preserve nothing. Do not sell yourself as light when you surround yourself with the darkness of the world and excuse it away.
Continuing on in the key verses we see how we are so able to dupe ourselves. Jesus is telling us here that how we view ourselves is simply not accurate. What we say is not matching reality. We say -- "I am rich -- I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing." How terribly accurate for the religious spirit in the church today! Because we have followed carnal leadership principles and worldly theories of church growth, we now measure spiritual success with carnal metrics. Pastors are conditioned in the purpose driven model to use attendance and tithing as indicators of their success. So what we have now are carnally built mega churches that think they do not need anything. If anyone dares to criticize they simply point to their "success." Joel Osteen packs in 45,000 people per week but that doesn't mean God is sending them. Remember the warning from Jesus:
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. -- Matthew 7: 13-14 (NIV)
Just because there are a lot of people embracing something does not mean it is from God. Attendance is not a fruit of the Spirit. I have heard the defense -- "so many people can't be wrong." Oh yes they can! Narrow is the road that leads to life and few find it. The true state of many of these churches is that they wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked! These are not my words! This is Jesus speaking! Yet we cannot even see it. That is the truly scary part. Because we play the part. Playing church has become so much the norm that we do not see our own nakedness. We have the best singers and musicians. We have gifted speakers and opulent temples. It is not that these things in and of themselves are bad -- it is like Simon the Sorcerer -- where is our heart? Not our mouth; our heart. I know we say all the right things. It is all about Jesus! But where is the heart? Where is the fruit? Are we cold pretending to be hot? Are we lukewarm?
If so today, the key verses conclude with Jesus telling us what we ought to do. He is counseling us to buy gold from Him, refined in the fire, so that we might become rich. Not rich in money you see -- rich in the Spirit. The question for us today is where are our churches buying their gold from? When we want to train leaders do we turn to the Bible or to the experts of this world? Do we envision church growth horizontally or vertically? The seeker friendly and purposed driven models expand the church horizontally; which is to mean more people sitting in the pews. Growth as per Jesus however is vertical; as we grow deeper in our relationship with God.
The second admonition for Jesus here is that we need to buy white clothes from Him to cover our nakedness. The second question for us today is -- where are we buying our clothes from? What is the modern church clothing itself with? When the church takes on the garment of compromise, we end up naked. When the church puts on the garment of carnality, we end up naked. The truth is that we are so busy fighting over how shiny our crown of glory is that we never consider wearing the crown of thorns. We must partake in the sufferings of Christ -- not shun them because we think it makes for poor marketing. The lukewarm church today needs some serious covering from God. We need to put on the things of Jesus -- not find ways around them!
Lastly, we need to buy salve for our eyes, so we can see again. The church has turned a blind eye for far too long. Jesus is coming back soon. There is work to be done. The harvest is ready and the very people who claim to be the laborers are laboring for the wrong kingdom far too often. Selling prosperity in this life. Selling blessings in this life. Selling the temporal over the eternal. Somewhere deep down we know it too but we do very little about it. We accept it. We continue to attend churches that refuse to turn back to the narrow path. We hold hands and sing kumbya thinking we are doing the Lord's will while people on the outside of salvation looking in upon us see the hypocrisy. They see the lukewarm-ness. Strip the personalities out of it. Strip the intentions out of it. The only thing that matters is the Gospel of Jesus Christ -- all of it. Only the Gospel has the power to save. Only the Gospel has eternal prosperity. The answer is obvious. There is no middle ground when it comes to teachings that are contrary to the Gospel. Because middle ground teaching leads to middle ground Christians. Middle ground Christians like their lukewarm-ness. But like lukewarm water we become tepid and apathetic. We become stagnant and polluted. It is time we pick a side.
Reverend Anthony Wade -- May 11, 2013