Monday, July 18, 2011

Being What Jesus Desires

Water is one of life’s essentials. As scientists look for life on other planets one of the things they look for is the presence of water, because without water life cannot exist. We need water to survive.

I know that when it is hot out, like it is right now in mid-July, there is nothing better than something cold to drink. Sometimes you will hear someone respond when asked what they would like to drink, “I don’t care as long as it is cold.” When it is hot outside being able to drink a glass of cold water is a very good thing.

When the weather is cooler there is little better to help keep you warm than hot water. I love taking hot showers in the winter time along with drinking a large mug of hot chocolate. Many people turn to hot water for therapeutic reasons, to relax stiff muscles and release tension. Having hot water is a very good thing.

I remember going out to fix fence with my brother on a hot summer day while growing up on the farm. We were driving the loader tractor with bucket full of what we would need. On the tractor was a jug of water left over from when we baled hay a couple of weeks before, and being thirsty I took a big gulp of that water and immediately spit it out. It was terrible! The water in that jug was good for nothing.

There is a passage in Revelation that we misinterpret so often. Christ Jesus has the apostle John write these words to the church in Laodicea:
“‘ 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” (Revelation 3:15-16; ESV).

The way we normally hear this passage interpreted is that Jesus wants us to either be on fire for Him or totally cold towards Him rather than trying to ride the fence between the two. Such an interpretation misses out on a very important point of what Jesus was saying: cold water is good to drink. Cold water isn’t bad, but it is a very good a useful thing, just as hot water is useful and good.

The point Jesus is making is that the Laodiceans thought they were so self-sufficient, that they had things so together, that they were not useful to Him. Because of their wealth, their medicine, and their education they thought they had everything they needed, but Jesus reminds them that they didn’t. Not only did their city lack a good source of fresh water, but they lacked the humility and the faith to experience God’s transforming power in their lives.

Craig Keener in Revelation: The NIV Application Commentary wrote:
“Laodicea boasted great resources, but while the Laodicean Christians likely shared their Laodicean neighbor’s pride over their self-sufficiency in many respects, they presumably also shared a common dislike for their water supply...In contrast to its claims of self-sufficiency (3:17), it had to pipe in its water; though much of the aqueduct from the south was underground nearer the city it came through stone barrel pipes, thus remaining vulnerable to any intended besiegers who wished to cut off the city’s water supply. More important, this water had grown lukewarm by the time of its arrival. 
“The point of the lukewarm water is simply that it is disgusting, in contrast to the more directly useful ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ water; all the churches would plainly understand this warning...Jesus thus finds the church in Laodicea to be other than what he desires (cf. Isa. 5:2-6). In today’s English, he is telling the self-satisfied church in Laodicea: ‘I want water that will refresh me, but you remind me instead of the water you always complain about. You make me want to puke” (pp. 158-159).

Jesus desires that His followers be a certain type of people. We are to be poor in spirit, meek, merciful, and peacemakers just to name a few characteristics. When we are proud and live our lives on our own terms rather than by God’s will we become something that is disgusting Jesus. We are unfit to be called His disciples, and He will get rid of us if we don’t comply to His desires. It is then that we can be used for His purposes.

Yes, it is good not to sit on the fence and to have our passion run hot for Jesus, but that was not the problem Jesus was addressing with the Church in Laodicea. Their problem was a refusal to rely on the grace of God for life as they insisted that they could find life on their own. Jesus wanted to remind them that they weren’t as self-reliant as they thought. We must heed this warning, not to try to muster up our passion for Jesus, but rather to humbly surrender our lives to Him. That is when we will be the most useful to Him.

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