Table of Contents
2. The Seven Churches of the Revelation
– Jesus’ messages to the churches
3. Heart of the Church Today
– A compromising and bitter heart
– A heart of religion
4. The Apathetic Heart
– Today’s major problem
– How does one become lukewarm?
5. Reignite Your Fire for God
– Be the salt of the earth
Watch & Listen
Through all of May and June, I took a look at this world being a place of preparation to get our hearts ready for the kingdom of God. Over the past couple of weeks I have focused on how we should be sincere in our hearts and live honorably. Yet, it seems no matter how much one is encouraged to live sincerely, many of us shrug our shoulders at the thought of improving and being on fire for God.
The Seven Churches of the Revelation
The thought of us shrugging our shoulders at this encouragement reminds me of how those in Zechariah’s day did the same at God’s encouragement. In Zechariah’s day, the Lord encouraged the people to execute true justice and not to oppress those in need; they were encouraged to not to plan evil in their hearts (Zech. 7:8-10). Seems reasonable, right?
Yet, scripture tells us that the people “shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear (Zech. 7:11).” What would lead people to stopping up their ears to heeding God’s encouragement? What was in their heart to make them shrug their shoulders like they couldn’t care less about treating others honorably?
Jesus’ messages to the churches
My thoughts on those questions led me to the book of Revelation where John recorded Christ’s message to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. The seven churches were in separate cities like Ephesus, Smyrna, and Philadelphia. We should also understand that these seven churches are a representation of the Church today. When I say “the Church” I want you to understand that I am speaking about the entire congregation of true believers in God.
When we look at both of these chapters, we will see that Jesus had compliments for six out of the seven churches as He complimented their works. For example, the church in Smyrna, though it was poor and in poverty, the Lord complemented its faith in enduring persecution and tribulation (Rev. 2:8-9). To the church in Thyatira, the Lord complimented their works, love, service, and their faith (Rev. 2:18-19).
You see, most of these churches had their hearts in the right place and the Lord was pleased with that. Now, even though their hearts were in the right place, we will see that the Lord would follow up His compliments with advice and encouragement to improve. So, while their hearts were on fire for God, the encouragement was shared to make sure that the fire did not go out!
So, for example, to the Church in Ephesus, though they went about laboring for the Lord, Jesus advised them to remember their first love and to do the first works (Rev. 2:1-5). So, to be clear, this church was laboring for the Lord but they were not laboring out of sincerity. This meant their fire for God was not burning as hot as it could have been.
In another example, to the Church in Pergamos, the Lord complimented the faithful for keeping to the faith even though they lived in a very wicked city (Rev. 2:12-13). While this compliment showed that their hearts were on fire for God, they were advised not to compromise as others had done in that city. The Lord desired for their hearts to continue to burn hot for Him rather than see the fire dim and burn out.
Heart of the Church Today
So, today we should understand that the Lord looks at the collective Church to see whether or not the flame is still burning for Him. Since we are all individual members of the body of Christ, this thought leads me to asking you whether or not your heart is on fire for God?
As you consider that question, you have to ask yourself how passionate you are for the Lord? Are you truly living in fellowship with the Lord? Are you diligent in your prayer life? Are you diligent in your studies? Are you truly walking by faith by loving the Lord and loving your neighbor?
A compromising and bitter heart
As much as many of us would love to say our heart is still on fire for God, the harsh truth is that it can be a struggle to live so passionately for the Lord. You see, we live in a world that is filled with selfishness which has made the hearts of others grow cold and downright bitter. The coldness and bitterness of others, as I said last week, can have a great effect on our hearts.
So, what effect can the bitter heart have on our soul? Like the church of Ephesus, many of us can begin to labor not out of love because of the bitterness shown to us. So, from the bitterness of the world, some of us become cold in our heart in our labor for the Lord. Have you become cold in your labor for the Lord?
If we don’t become cold in our heart there is something else that seems to be happening. Let me ask this, if you don’t enjoy the cold, what do you do when it is bitterly cold outside? You would put something on to keep yourself warm, right?
Well, like the church of Pergamos, many of us compromise in our hearts to stay warm to sin as sin is normalized in our society. Compromising in our heart to sin and accepting our sin is like pouring water on a fire. As Paul said in his letter to the church in Rome, we are encouraged not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed in our hearts by the renewing of our mind (Rom. 12:2).
We can’t pour water on our flame by accepting our sin! Just as the Lord desired for the seven churches in the book of Revelation, He desires for the collective Church – He doesn’t want our fire to go out in our hearts!
A heart of religion
With this in mind, I want to take a look at the church of Sardis and especially the church of the Laodiceans in Revelation 3.
To the church of Sardis, Jesus compliments that it had a name. However, within the same breath, Jesus stated that though its name was alive the church was dead (Rev. 3:1). For that church to have a name but it be dead speaks a lot to Christianity as a religion rather than Christianity as true faith. What do I mean by this?
As I have said in the past, the Lord desires true sincere faith in our hearts rather than religion. A heart of religion has a flame but that flame is so dim it barely gives off any heat, whereas the sincere heart of faith has fire for God that burns incredibly hot. My thought about the sincere heart of faith goes back to what Paul said in his letter to the church in Rome, our spirit is quickened (revived) and made alive through Christ (Rom. 8:11).
God’s Spirit – the Holy Spirit – only dwells in those who are of sincere faith in the only begotten Son. There are many who go out to church each Sunday because it’s routine for them, but their heart isn’t truly in the worship and praise of God. Many go through the routine of prayer and reading scripture, but it does nothing for their soul because their soul isn’t truly in it.
Christianity, in name, is very well known but where is the fire for God? We must understand that God calls on His Church to lead souls to Him but how can a heart with a dim flame lead anybody out of darkness? A heart with a dim flame barely has any light for itself! You see, our heart must be on fire for God in order to lead us and to help lead those who are in darkness.
To this church, Jesus advised them to strengthen what was dying (Rev. 3:2). If your faith which was once sincere has turned into religion, Jesus’ advice is to remember, repent, and to hold fast. Those of religion should remember when they first believed and hold on to that joy of salvation. When you remember the joy of salvation it will reignite your heart.
The Apathetic Heart
Now, of the seven churches, the worst was the church of the Laodiceans as Jesus had no compliments for this church. In our key verse, Christ said that this church was neither cold nor hot – it was just lukewarm (Rev. 3:15). In other words, this church was suffering from a complacent heart; its flame wasn’t dim nor burning hot — its flame was out!
Today’s major problem
The church today suffers from religion and sadly, the collective Church also suffers from a great deal of complacency. Frankly, the Church has become so complacent that it has become apathetic in our hearts.
To be apathetic is to lack feeling or emotion; it is a lack of interest or concern. The apathetic heart is often in a ‘whatever’ type of mindset; it couldn’t care less about anything. For the Church to be uncaring is a very big problem as it stands against God’s great command. Just remember that the great commandment of God is to love Him and all of those around you.
Something that I have come to realize is the fact that the world is training more and more hearts to be apathetic – uncaring – and such a way is making its way into the Church. To me, this is very concerning when we consider the bitterness that continues to grow and cover our world. The true believer should stand for what is just on behalf of all people but especially the oppressed and those in need.
True believers are to be lights in the world (Matt. 5:14-16), but there is no light in the apathetic soul. When we are apathetic towards others, we must understand that we are also being apathetic towards Christ. To those who refused to help others during the Great Tribulation, Christ will separate from the sheep (Matt. 25:41-46). This same judgment awaits all of those who don’t care to love and help those around them!
Again, Jesus said that He wishes for one to either be cold or hot, not lukewarm. Notice that Jesus said that He will vomit out of His mouth what is lukewarm because of its poor taste! The Church is to taste good rather than have a vomit inducing taste!
God, we must understand, wants His Church to be there to help others out of love rather than be uninterested! God wants us to sincerely help others rather than merely going through the motions. Let us remember that the Lord loves a cheerful giver and not one that gives with regret in their heart (2 Cor. 9:7)!
How does one become lukewarm?
So, the question I believe we should be asking and answering is how does one that says they believe in the Lord become apathetic – lukewarm? How does the fire for God in the heart of the believer simply go out?
With the church of Ephesus, we could see that flame starting to go out as they labored without sincerity. With the church of Thyatira, we could see that the flame was in trouble because its members were under the threat of being seduced by false doctrine (Rev. 2:18-24). With the church of the Laodiceans, the flame was completely out because this church lived by its wealth and believed they had no need of anything (Rev. 3:18). To be clear: these churches were feeling the effects of worldly influence.
Quite frankly, all the symptoms of those churches are present today in the Church. As I mentioned a few months ago, these symptoms are the results of Satan’s warfare with the Church and the Lord. For me, it has been troubling to see the flame of the church grow dimmer and dimmer from the time I was just a boy to what it is today.
I tell you, it is troubling when our hearts are growing cold in bitterness. It is troubling to see our hearts being swept away by false doctrine. It is incredibly troubling to see the Church begin to not care anymore and lose its flame; part of this is certainly on me as well as I play a role within the body of Christ.
Reignite Your Fire for God
This must change! I must change! Our hearts need to be reignited for the Lord! Our hearts need to be set on fire for God! So, how do we reignite our hearts so that our hearts are set on fire for God?
Be the salt of the earth
Jesus said to the church of the Laodiceans, “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich (Rev. 3:18).” Jesus then advised the Laodiceans, just as He advised the church of Ephesus, to be zealous and repent – to remember the Lord (Rev. 3:19)!
We, the Church, need to remember when we first believed and how genuine our love was for the Lord – we need to get back there! The world has stripped the love of God and the joy of our salvation from some of us and we must fight to take it back! You and I must be willing to fight to reignite that love and joy by going to our Father so that we can do right by all of those around us!
Some of us are afraid to let our hearts be on fire for God because we don’t want to cause a stir. Let me ask all of you this question: Do you think Jesus cared about whether or not He caused trouble? Think hard about this for a moment: Do you think Jesus feared causing trouble when He went into the temple and turned over tables (Matt. 22:12-17)?
In His sermon on the mount, Jesus said to the disciples, “you are the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13).” As the salt of the earth, Jesus told the disciples not to lose their flavor. Let me keep it real with all of you: it bothers me with how watered down our hearts have become today in the faith! I see a church that has lost its flavor trying to please the masses rather than a church moving to please the Lord!
I tell you, it bothers me how many of us will sit by quietly with no care in the world as the devil moves about. We are like those servants that slept at night as the devil sowed seed in the field (Matt. 13:24-30). We cannot sit by quietly as this world becomes more bitter and cold! The Lord calls for us to be zealous – burn hot for Him – and we should certainly do so!
You and I must not be a member of the Laodicean church! This means that we must do a health check and take a look at the condition of our heart. Spiritually, the end results of the apathetic and lukewarm heart is that it does not find others to be worthy to move for. Guess what? When we don’t believe others are worthy to move for, we don’t believe God’s command of love is worthy to move for.
Is God’s command of love worthy to move for? Absolutely so. The reason why is because His love benefits us and all of those around us as there is a heavenly reward. So, we should never be ashamed of being happy for the Lord, praising Him, and let our fire for God burn hot. When our soul is on fire for God it will be a light – a beacon of hope – for all of those in the dark to see. This is what God desires of us!