April 14, 2020
I wanted to share a few thoughts from Scripture. In my devotions this morning, I read from Revelation 3, which includes the letter to the church in Sardis.
If you aren’t familiar with this section of Revelation, it contains 7 letters that Jesus tells the apostle John to write to 7 different churches in Asia Minor. But more than that, they are intended for all churches through the ages, to describe common struggles that churches have.
And in writing to the church in Sardis, Jesus rebukes them for being lukewarm in their faith: “I 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.”(Rev. 3:15-16)
Jesus is saying that an apathetic Christian is about as appealing to him as a room-temperature bowl of soup. But he goes on to explain why these Christians are so complacent and indifferent in their faith – they think they have everything they need and that they don’t need to depend on God! Jesus says:
“For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” (Rev. 3:17-19)
As I read these words this morning, my first thought was, “Man, this sounds just like much of the American church!” But then as I thought about it a little more, I realized that it also sounds a lot like me. Far too often, I think that I have life under control and that I have everything I need. And when I buy in to that lie, it always leads to spiritual apathy: I pray less, I read my Bible less, and when I pray and read I’m usually more distracted and simply “going through the motions.”
Does this passage describe you as well? I believe that while we are blessed to live in a prosperous nation, that this can feed into our temptation to see ourselves as self-sufficient and not in daily need of Jesus.
And the good news is that, out of his great love for us, Jesus refuses to leave us there. He loves us, so he will “reprove and discipline” us. I think that is one of his purposes through this pandemic. The coronavirus, and the associated social-distancing and quarantining that we are all going through has once again reminded us that we really do live every day in daily dependence upon Christ. He has temporarily taken away so much from our daily lives, in part, because he wants to remind us that we are to love him above all else. He has confined us to our homes, either alone or with our families, so that he can graciously expose the cracks in our lives (and the limits of our patience!), humble us, and force us to deal with some of our persistent struggles with sin.
None of this is fun, and yet it is a blessing and it is a sign of God’s love for us. But Jesus does promise that if we come to him, he will freely give us all we need. And he gives us the promise that we are all more than conquerors through him who loves us (Rm. 8:37), and that to whoever conquers, “I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Rev. 3:21).
My prayer for you is the same as my prayer for myself: that you would humble yourself under the Lord’s discipline during this time, responding like the wax that is softened by the flame rather than the clay that is hardened by it, and that when we come out on the other side of this pandemic, that you would do so loving Jesus even more than you do today.