Friday, February 27, 2009

Fire and Ice

We're all familiar with Revelation 3:15-16, in which God states "I wish you were either hot or cold! But because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spit you out of my mouth!" And of course, we've all been force-fed the common interpretation of this passage: that God wants us to be "totally for Him," or "totally against Him." In fact, He'd rather us be "totally against Him" than lukewarm. There is just one problem with this idea: Which of us can claim we are "totally for God?"
The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one. (Psalm 14:2-3, 53:2-3)
I think we have our answer! None of us are "totally for God". In fact, the doctrine of depravity would support this idea one step further and illustrate that everyone of us is "totally against God." So what does God mean in Revelation 3:15-16 when He says He wishes that we were hot or cold? Simply put, He wants us to be intense! Intensity is the antidote for the lukewarm church. Consider this:
Laodicea was situated between two other important cities, Colossae and Hieropolis. Colossae, wedged into a narrow valley in the shadow of towering mountains, was watered by icy streams which tumbled down from the heights. Hieropolis, on the other hand, was famous for its hot mineral springs. These springs flowed out of the city and across a high plain until they cascaded down a cliff which faced Laodicea. By the time the water reached the valley floor, it was lukewarm, putrid, and nauseating. At Colossae, therefore, one could be refreshed with clear, cold, invigorating drinking water; at Hieropolis, one could be healed by bathing in its hot, mineral-laden pools. But at Laodicea, the waters were neither hot (for health) nor cold (for drinking). . . [Christ] is not saying that outright apostasy is preferable to mediocrity; rather, He is wishing that the Laodicean Christians would have an influence upon their society.(Source)

Cold is just as useful as heat. When you sprain your ankle, do you want a cold compress or a lukewarm compress? When you've been out in the sun on a hot day, would you prefer a lukewarm glass of lemonade to a cold one? Let's face it, sometimes hot just isn't appropriate. When my brother visits me in Florida, he usually asks me to turn up the air conditioning, not double his misery by turning on the heat!

We all seem to understand that being "on fire" for God means that we are to be passionate and intense in our love for Him. But being passionate and intense is not limited to being "on fire." Have you ever had someone slip an ice cube down your back when you least expected it? What was your reaction? Did you pause for a moment of reflection and say, "What was that? I thought I felt something. Hrm. Must have been my imagination." Of course not. You jumped from your seat as soon as you felt that ice sliding down your back, and chances are you screamed! That's because the feeling of having an ice cube slipped down your back is intense!

So what does this intensity look like? What does it mean to be "on ice" for God? I personally believe that being "hot" involves having a love for truth while being "cold" involves having a love for mercy. In other words, being "cold" for Christ means that we show abundant displays of kindness, compassion, and mercy toward others. As women, this should come easy to us. We are always dubbed "the emotional ones", so why not use that to show our love for the Lord? Here are some examples from Scripture:

"A gentle answer turns away wrath" (Proverbs 15:1). Don't fuel the flames of someone's hot temper. Put out those fires with a gentle word.

"As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country" (Proverbs 25:25). When your husband comes come from a long day on the spiritual battlefield, don't barrage him with problems, complaints, or a to-do list. Instead, give him a glass of cold water in the form of soothing words of comfort and praise.

"Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding" (Proverbs 17:27). Don't be quick to argue. Hold your tongue and your composure until you have all the facts.

"For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink" (Matthew 25:35). Give to those in need. In doing so, you will quench someone's thirst for food, shelter, clothing, or even a friend.

"And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.'" (Luke 16:24). Share your faith with people who are lost and hurting. Right now, there are people who are perishing, and those who have gone before them are wishing someone would go to their loved ones with the message of the gospel. Why not you?

God can use you if you are hot. God can use you if you are cold. But He can't use you if you are lukewarm. What are some ways you can be a "cold" Christian who is "on ice" for God?

~Photos of the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival, Harbin, China~

1 comment:

Betsy Markman said...

A refreshingly different perspective!