by Annabelle Ng
As believers living in fast-paced modern Singapore, we often get so caught up in many activities — at work, with our friends and families, in church — that we end up shutting Jesus out of our hearts and lives. We rarely pause to take stock of where our hearts are at with regard to the vibrant relationship that the Lord calls us to with Him.
The reality is that many of us in the western church fall into the category of “lukewarm” believers. (I say this putting myself in this category as well.) If we’d just take a good, honest look at ourselves and a good, hard look at what the Bible says, we’d find that we possess many of the same characteristics as believers that the Bible classifies as “lukewarm”.
With the disruption brought about by COVID-19 this past year, the Lord wanted to awaken us to this reality of where are hearts are truly at. (This is not the only thing He is awakening us to, but will be the one this post is addressing.)
Thankfully, He doesn’t just want to diagnose this issue, but also provides the very remedy for it in His Word. Revelation 3:20 is the kairos word for this time.
Lulled into needing nothing…
With the material wealth that many of us enjoy, we can be easily lulled into enjoying the comforts of life and end up with the attitude that “life is good” on the whole and that we are “doing fine” in our faith and relationship with God. We can be so caught up in the rat-race and climbing the career ladder that God is low on the list of our priorities. We can also be filling our schedules with church activities and outreach programmes that drive us towards a busy life.
In all these cases, we’re usually quite content with how much of God we have and with our service to Him.
This was the attitude the church in Laodicea had in Revelation 3:14–22. In their minds and based on their own evaluation, they were “rich”, had become “wealthy”, and “had need of nothing”. However, the Lord saw the exact opposite. To Him, they were “wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17). He was so repulsed by their lukewarmness that it nauseated Him to the point where He felt like “vomiting” them out of His mouth.
As we are faced with this rather graphic and dramatic reaction on Jesus’ part and the rebuke that He gave to the Laodicean church, we need to understand that His chastening of them is neither harsh nor without love (Rev. 3:19, Heb. 12:5–6). In fact, He so earnestly desires their fullness that their lukewarmness nauseated Him.
The same applies to us. His disruption of our daily routines and stripping away of many “outward” things that occupy our time and attention are meant to awaken us to the true condition of our hearts. At the end of the day, His desire is for us to turn back to Him, away from lukewarmness, and cultivate a heart that is alive and “on fire” for Him.
His disruption of our daily routines and stripping away of many “outward” things that occupy our time and attention are meant to awaken us to the true condition of our hearts.
… when “fullness” means not being satisfied
The fullness that God has for our hearts is to have hearts that are lovesick for Jesus, always hungering and thirsting for more of Him and His righteousness. We are meant to be spiritually violent, never settling with how much of Him we have, but always contending for more. We are meant to have hearts that are “boiling hot” (“zestos” in Greek, Rev 3:15,16) with a holy passion and a desire for Jesus all our lives (Ps. 63:1,8; SoS. 5:8, Matt. 11:12).
This is so counter-cultural to what the world tells us — to do all we can to make ourselves “comfortable” so that we will not be in want or need of anything. “Self-sufficiency and comfort is the way to go.” And self-sufficiency and comfort are what will keep Jesus at a distance and our hearts dull and lukewarm.
So how do I diagnose if I have become lukewarm?
The Attitude and Approach
We’ll need to be honest with God and also with ourselves regarding the true state of our hearts. This includes removing any false pretenses or “fronts” we may put up before the Lord when we come before Him. It may be highly uncomfortable to see the reality of how dull or shallow our hearts are, but we can have confidence that God sees and knows already anyway, and is beckoning us to turn back to Him. Psalm 139:23–24 is a prayer that we can use to ask the Holy Spirit to help us see the true condition of our hearts.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
We need to recognise that none of us are immune to lukewarmness. Including full-time ministers in His Church. Jesus always warns us to “take heed to ourselves” as our hearts tend to be deceitful (Jer. 17:9). It is easy to deceive ourselves into thinking we are “ok”. If we think and believe we are “beyond” lukewarmness, we are already walking in pride and deception.
Take a Hammer to our Hearts
Not a literal hammer, but the Word of God which is like a hammer (Jer. 23:29) that can shatter our incorrect paradigms and views that are not aligned with Him. Let God’s word define what “lukewarmness” is and also let it prescribe the remedy. This is not the time to use our own definitions and evaluate based on what others say or where the church-at-large is at, but to submit ourselves to the authority of Scripture.
Just as physical symptoms point us to various underlying conditions in our physical bodies, there are symptoms in our lives that provide clues to the state of our spiritual health and condition. While this list is not exhaustive, these symptoms and questions provide a good starting point to assess where our hearts are at when it comes to our “hotness level” for Jesus:
- Half-heartedness towards God — Am I reaching to live out the First and Great commandment (Matt. 22:37)?
- A lack of hunger, zeal, fervour and desire for God, and for the things of God — Do I desire Jesus above all else? Am I concerned about what He desires or am I more focused on meeting my desires and wants?
- A spiritual lethargy and dullness within our hearts — Am I passive about seeking Jesus? Do I drag my feet to the place of prayer or to reading His Word? Is my heart alive when I pray?
- Compartmentalisation of our faith — Am I only a Christian when I do “Christian things”? Do I submit every area of my life (career, relationships, family, money) to the lordship of Jesus?
- Measuring ourselves primarily based on outward activities and meeting requirements — When all outward activity and fellowship is taken away, am I lost? Is my heart still on fire for Jesus and am I still pursuing Him?
The above symptoms are but a reflection of the inward condition of a lukewarm heart.
In Revelation 3:17, Jesus minced no words in providing more details of this lukewarm spiritual condition that the Laodicean church was in. These are predominantly spiritual, not physical; and inward, not outward.
- Wretched — their faith was superficial, they were passive, dull in spirit and had no vibrancy in their hearts;
- Miserable (pitiful) — their hearts were oppressed, angry, bitter, depressed, on edge, fearful, paranoid and had no peace;
- Poor — they were deficient in the things of God, and lacked joy and the reality of His Presence in their hearts and lives;
- Blind — they lacked spiritual insight and wisdom as to what the Lord was saying in that season and hour;
- Naked — they lacked walking in devotion and obedience and had little to no righteous decisions and acts which are meant to be an overflow of their faith (Rev. 19:8).
In the midst of this disruption, how many of us find ourselves in the same shoes as the Laodiceans? How many of us found ourselves dull, fearful, and unable to understand what God is saying and doing? COVID-19 did not cause our hearts to be in this state, but the disruption simply surfaced what was already inside. And it is mercy that He is showing us what is truly in our hearts.
Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t just leave us where we are, but provides His solution as well. The remedy, broadly put, is Jesus Himself.
Specifically, through His letter to the Laodicean church (Rev. 3:18), He counsels His people to “do” these three things:
- Buy from Him gold refined in the fire
- Buy from Him white garments
- Anoint our eyes with eye salve
Gold refers to godly character and values, white garments to our righteous decisions before Him, and eye salve to knowledge of God and understanding the things of God.
However, if we are poor, blind, and naked, how would we be able to acquire these things? We would not be able to afford, let alone venture out to buy them. (Indeed, who would want to venture out naked? Who would be able to find their way if they were blind?)
This simply adds to our helpless and wretched state.
Buying Gold With No Money
Mercifully, Jesus knows exactly where we are at. In His graciousness, knowing that we are unable to acquire these things outside of His help, He instead comes to us in His love:
Behold! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.
Jesus stands today at the door of the hearts of His Church and knocks, asking us to open the door of our hearts to let Him in. He is coming in His deep love and exhorting us to “be zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:19). If we don’t repent and take that step to open the door, He will forever be kept outside, and we will forever be left in our wretched state.
Ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve, we would rather hide from the Lord (Gen. 3:10). We are more comfortable keeping Jesus at a distance, for various reasons, than letting Him get “up close and personal” in all our business and our issues. However, oftentimes what we don’t realise is that we will only truly find life, satisfaction, and a vibrant heart when we stop keeping Him outside of our hearts and lives.
Dining with Jesus
What happens when we repent and answer His knock on our hearts?
He says He will come in to us, dine with us, and us with Him. He will bring the food that we need and set a table for us to eat with Him (SoS 2:4–6). In Jewish culture, sitting down and eating with someone only occurs between people who are considered part of their community, and whom they will fellowship with. Jewish people never ate with Gentiles, who are considered “unclean” in their eyes.
What Jesus is promising is a deep fellowship, communion, and acceptance of us as we allow Him into our hearts.
He will bring the gold, the white garments, and the eye salve that we desperately need, but are unable to acquire on our own. He will give us His grace to cultivate godly character, choose righteously and grant us spiritual understanding of Him and His heart.
Our hearts and souls will be flooded with His life and light.
The Season for Revelation 3:20
Knowing that this is what the Lord has for us on the other side of the closed door, how can we not open our hearts to Him? How can we still keep Him outside? He has been intensely knocking on the doors of our hearts since He paused the world with COVID-19. And He is still knocking right now.
It is time for His people to fling wide the doors of our hearts to Him and let Him in. And not just for one moment or a day, but especially for this time and for the rest of our days?
Let us set aside that consistent time everyday to come before Him. Let us dial down the noise of the world to tune in to the voice of the one standing on the other side of the door. Let us be honest and open the doors our of hearts to let Jesus walk in.
And as we do, may He set our hearts ablaze once again for Him. May He remove everything that causes our hearts to be dull. And may our hearts be passionate, alive and vibrant with zeal and desire for Jesus always!
An earlier version of this article was posted here at this blog.