Saturday, November 29, 2008
Neither Hot nor Cold...
Revelation 3:14-16 (King James Version)
14And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
15I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Very often this passage is thought of quite possibly in a different way than the writer intended. In my charismatic, black pentecostal, protestant background, we often would have testimony service where everybody had to get up and testify of what God had done for them, even if it was just being saved, sanctified, and filled with the holy ghost, that was a enough to stand up and praise God for it.
So almost always, eventually someone would stand up and say "I'M JUST ON FIRE FOR THE LORD!!!" and begin to dance. When they would do this, my mind often would go to this scripture. So in the tradition that I came from, this passage almost always meant, if you were "hot" or "on fire for the Lord", it meant you were running around, shouting, dancing in service, showing up every time the church doors opened, witnessing in your block and in your neighborhood, or in the mission field. Not that those things were not important, they are in that tradition. But it was upon my reading the ancient fathers and mothers of the church, and a closer study of scripture, that fire/heat/energia is almost always associated with ones proximity in relationship to God. Then I realized that this passage was not speaking in the charismatic, evangelical sense, but in the relational sense that, our God is a consuming fire, and my being "hot", or "on fire for God" is in direct relation to how close I am to Him, or if I am in Him. In other words in order to get on fire, one does not merely go out witnessing, one does not go out in the missionary field, these things are some after effects of being "hot" or "on fire" or consumed by God, never the cause of it. I am only on fire because I am consumed.
I look at the monastics and the hesychasts, and the great fathers of the church, they didnt all go out systematically witnessing, they all didnt or dont, for the most part, travel to the far corners of the Earth trying to "reach souls", many of them rarely venture otuside their monastery or or city, or country. Yet they are on fire for God, many times, mystically in ways those of us on the outside couldnt dream of. The reason they are on fire for God is because they spend time with Him, 24/7, working out their salvation "with fear and trembling". They spend time being engulfed and changed by His presence, consumed. So much so thay they literally lose themselves, their "ego personal self" (as my friend Monk John always says), and enter a state of being that "eyes have not seen neither ears heard", in other words it is a oneness with God that can only be expressed apophatically, never with words, which are inadequate, but with a holy life.
Many times something catches fire by being with or near something else that is already hot. This is why God instituted "the gathering of ourselves together" in the church, we many times can be ignited by the God in others, that inner spark, that light of the Christ that dwells in all believers, the icons of Christ. Even the great bishops knew this when they wrote of not having relationship with heretics in the canons and other writtings, not to be mean, but to keep the flame of "right belief" from being extenguished.
When something catches on fire, the very physical properties of that thing are chemically changed. Does the spark in us, cause others to change? Not so much by what we say in our witnessing, but by how we live? I can remember visiting a friend of mines parish, who feeds 100 people a day, usually with little or no help. Here I am a pentecostal minister, thinking I'm on fire for God simply because I'm going around preaching, giving people an emotional high, and me collecting offerings. I saw what this man does, and I was radically changed and now am starting a feeding youth ministry at my local church. I realized that I can do all this preaching and still be spewed out of Gods mouth, because I was cold. Not because I wasnt doing what I thought He wanted me to do, but because I preached about Him but didnt know Him, or was remotely close to Him.
And so I realized that if I want to get on fire, instead of merely doing His will, I must fullfill His will, which is to have relationship with Him. I must become oriented and close to that which is fire. In order to get on fire for God, one must get close to, touched by, ignited, and engulfed in, and dynamically changed by Him.
When reading this passage over the years, I often wondered why only lukewarm was spewed out and not "hot or cold". Well the answer came to me in the most unusual way. I recently had the opportunity to take a ServeSafe course on how to prepare food properly and at the right temperature (for our feeding program at the church), during this class it hit me. The instructor told us how bacterias behavior is in certain temperatures. When food is cold, bacteria is still there and alive, but dormant. There are many people who are not close to God. This is usually not the result of evil or what have you, but simply they dont know Him for whatever reason. Usually these are the ones that maybe their parents didnt raise them in the way they should go, or they were raped as a child and ceased to believe in anything, or they see the bad things done in the world and assume there's no God, or they grew up in a pagan society never having missionaries come to preach the gospel. Whatever the case, the adversary is in their lives in some way, but maybe not as active.
One would think that you would spew out hot food, not lukewarm, but lukewarm actually is the food most likely to make one sick, and when you are sick, the body automatically rejects that food which made it sick, and it "spews" it out. Lukewam, is the danger zone for food. Unlike the cold food, this is a temperature range where bacteria is not only activbe, but grows and multiplies, exponentially. If food is sat out in lukewarm conditions for 4 hours or more it must be thrown out or people will get sick. This reminds me of people, christians, who are aware of God, aware enough to know to get a little close to Him, but just enough to stay lukewarm, or straddling the fence as they say. (If you straddle a fence you will, sooner or later, hurt your ability to reproduce. Many of us straddle the fence as christians, one leg in the world and one in the Kingdom, and wonder why we cant produce any spriritual children, or witness to anyone). I think of those fighting priests in Jerusalem and even my own "worldiness", and I am not suprised by the results, a christianity who's growth today is mostly by the happenstance of natural birth to christian parents, rather than new birth through spritual fathers and mothers, who so typify Christ that others are sparked to change, and convert to Christianity.
I often say that its one thing to not have heard of Christ, or never had anyone introduce you to Him, but its another thing to know of Him, to know He's there, ready to embrace you in His energia but reject it. That my friends is evil, not the atheist, or the pagan, or the criminal, or those who simply never heard of Christ, but the lukewarm christian, and just like lukewarm food will make people sick, it makes God sick, and so he spews these types out of His mouth. It would be better to at least be hot or, God forbid, cold, than to make God sick.
Lukewarmness produces a sickness, so destructive worse than being cold, because it produces in the mind of those who are, a sense of over-confidence. We say, "well I can still feel the heat, so I'm okay", but we are not because we arent close enough to God to be changed by Him, so we remain stuck in their sad spiritual state, oblivious to thier spiritual apathy.
Hot food must reach a temperature of 160 degrees to kill any bacteria, and must remain at least no lower than 145 constantly when on display, to keep bacteria at bay. We as christians must get close to God to get hot, or on fire for Him, no preaching or teaching or evangelizing will get one close, only relationship. This is absolutely essential for the believer to kill the enemy and to keep him at bay. When we are displayed to the world as the image of Christ, we must maintain our relationship, our closeness with God, in order to keep the enemy away, and to be changed, and to ignite a spark in others to get close to God. Sadly many of us go to service and "feel the heat" in the worship, in the singing, the prayers, yet when we get out, like food taken out of the oven, we cool off. We must maintain our closeness with God and become changed by Him, and even one with Him. Even as we consume the body of Christ every sunday, God is consuming us, and we mystically co-exist with God in us and us in God. This changing and oneness is what creation has "groaned for, as the scriptures tell us. For ages, mankind has tried all kinds of ways to become one with something greater than itself, be it through the semi-eucharistic egyptian religions, the mystery religions of ancient babylon, or other ancient or modern pagan religions and rituals, idolatry etc.., most of these religions has some sort of rite or belief wherein which one becomes one with the god, whether by sexual acts, alchemy, prayer, sacrifice, meditation, asceticism ect..
We Christians are those to whom the mystery has been revealed, but we keep His warmth away just enough to stay warm, but far enough that He cant change us. May the Holy Spirit ever draw us closer to Him, and change us.
Blessed be the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever unto the ages of ages, Amen.
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