Lukewarm and irrelevant or fiery, zealous and world-changing
“Catch on fire and people will come for miles to watch you burn." - John Wesley
"Courage is fire and bullying is smoke." - Benjamin Disraeli
"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” Jesus
Every Christian carries the candle of the Holy Spirit in the temple that is their body. Each candle burns in two ways – a lukewarm flicker or a hot blaze. Luke warm means I taste like the flavour of the room I’m in at the time. I have become a chameleon, a people pleaser, I have no integrity, I am bound. The greatest danger to this earth right now is not murderous Islam, nor the godless, gender-bending, family-destroying rainbow zeitgeist - it's saltless, lukewarm Christianity.
To be radical (radix - “at the root") is simply to have integrity, to be true. I burn from the inside out, whatever goes on in my environment. I'm not a thermometer, I'm a thermostat. I'm not a man-pleaser, I'm a God-pleaser. I have made Holy Spirit Lord and I am tethered to His presence by my delight in the fear of the Lord. Sure, the world will hiss and spit but that has become irrelevant to me. My love is maturing, it has depth. Heaven is my point of reference. Self is dead, to live is Christ, departure is promotion.
The attribute of ‘godly zeal’ only has a bad press in religious circles, those hell-bent on preserving tradition, dignity and the pomp of ecclesiastical ceremony apart from power. The romance, passion and devotion of zeal offends the self-righteous ritualists, particularly the affluent, those who like to confine worship to a Sunday morning meeting, spiritual confession to a cozy home group – those with a more exciting life outside of the kingdom of God.
Zeal means “great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective." Here are some synonyms - passion, ardor, love, fervor, fire, avidity, devotion, enthusiasm, eagerness, keenness, appetite, relish, gusto, vigor, energy, intensity. Zeal for the things of the kingdom is deeply attractive to heaven. But zeal for Jesus will be despised by the world. Its opposites, apathy and indifference, are revolting to Jesus – beware.
“Zeal for Your house will eat Me up. I will be consumed with jealousy for the honor of Your house.” John 2:17
These are not the words of some unhinged guru, but the very words of God. God is zealous and there is a very special place in His heart for zealots. Phinehas is my personal favorite, with Elijah (who hasn’t tasted death), John the Baptist (called the greatest prophet born of a woman by the Lord Himself), the Apostles Peter and Paul in shared second place. Phinehas (Aaron the priest's grandson) threw a javelin at two rebellious Israelites killing them on the spot and God said that Phinehas' "zeal " turned away His wrath and judgement and ended the plague on Israel which had killed twenty-four thousand people. That's pretty intense. The zeal of Phinehas, which God actually describes as 'My zeal', the zeal of the Lord, actually 'made atonement' for Israel (Numbers 25:7-13).
Of course in the New Testament our passion, violence and zeal is not physical but spiritual. But what this does tell us is that our God, who changes not, is far less manicured, mild, politically correct and far more fiery, passionate and zealous than most of our quaint religious ways would suggest.
Reigniting the Roar
The church needs her boldness, her courage, her roar and her radical zeal back. I hear many people say that their faith is "personal", that it's something they "keep to themselves", that they have "a quiet" Christian faith. Often the above are said in a tone suggesting that this is somehow noble or humble. Many of us have bought into a religious lie and we are strangled by tradition. We need to own the fact that many of us have simply left our first love and called it reverence. Much of the western church has lost her vision of eternity, heaven and hell. We are no longer consumed by an appetite for winning the lost, the very heart of Jesus, but have chosen the cowardly idolatry of self, reputation, unbelief and comfort.
There’s very little keeping things personal and quiet in the New Testament expression of ecclesia. The Book of Acts tells of prayer meetings, pentecosts, persecutions and prisons. It’s revival and riot the whole way through.
“But you know if God should stamp eternity or even judgment on our eyeballs, or if you’d like on the fleshy table of our hearts I am quite convinced we’d be a very, very different tribe of people, God’s people, in the world today. We live too much in time, we’re too earth bound. We see as other men see, we think as other men think. We invest our time as the world invests it. We're supposed to be a different breed of people. I believe that the church of Jesus Christ needs a new revelation of the majesty of God. We’re all going to stand one day, can you imagine it- at the judgment seat of Christ to give an account for the deeds done in the body. This is what- this is the King of kings, and He’s the Judge of judges, and it’s the Tribunal of tribunals, and there’s no court of appeal after it. The verdict is final." - Leonard Ravenhill
Jesus commands us to preach His gospel. Many times. Preaching, the Greek word "kerusso" (which appears over 60 times in the NT) means to make a public, formal announcement in the manner of a herald. Either your faith saved you or it didn't. And if it saved you, your love for your perishing neighbour and faithfulness to God will announce it loud, from a rooftop if necessary. Trusting that His word never returns void and that the Holy Spirit is following up with conviction (John 16:8).
This is how Jesus commands it in Matthew 10 and what the apostles were like in the early church. Do you imagine their lives of quiet dignity got them beaten, locked up and killed? They were constantly out there in the market places, in front of the authorities - they were bold, uncompromising and in people's faces with this message of reconciliation, redemption and resurrection. All because of love, eyes fixed on things eternal, unimpressed by the vain and passing things of this world, the early church were ceaseless in their pursuit of Jesus' reward, compelling people to come home to the Father.
The story of a Warlock and the fire of God
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A Call to Repentance
Shutting up the gospel, the keeping of my faith personal to preserve my dignity and safety the apostle Paul says will render me with the blood of the lost on my hands. Jesus even warns that cowards will be thrown in the lake of fire. That's in the bible (Acts 20:26-27, Rev 21:8). And I believe it's because in those moments of witness we are actually choosing our god or God.
We need to repent and call this idolatry for what it is: treading on egg shells, frightened of offending everyone but God, obsessed that everyone speaks well of us, enslaved "ball and chain" to the political spirit. The golden calf of religious tradition needs to be thrown in the fire. We have become the tail instead of the head and have chosen timidity and called it humility. These are strong words I know. There is no condemnation for those in Christ, but there is conviction, repentance and then realignment to divine destiny, if we'll have soft hearts and receive the word with meekness.
Importantly, bold and loud doesn't mean arrogant or unkind. Let us run with both zeal and wisdom. Our expression must be strong, accountable, and confident in the supreme salvation of Christ - it's a love that lays down its life for others for the sake of truth. Millions are perishing. Let us pray like the early apostles for boldness. The room where they were standing was literally shaken as the Holy Spirit fell on them and baptized them in fire and power (Acts 4) and the first fruit of that endowment was that they spoke the word of God boldly (v 31). The Holy Spirit always brings bold proclamation – period. That grace is available today and imperative today. The harvest is packed and ready.
The disgrace of parts of the church in the twenty-first century is that more zeal is evident among Communists, gay rights activists and cultists than among Holy Spirit filled Christians.
Are you a lukewarm, chameleon Christian or a burning one? The world is sickened by fiery believers but Jesus vomits the lukewarm church from His mouth, as we read above. It all boils down to your preferred audience, your gods or God. You must make your choice. We all need fresh fire. "Repent and be zealous" are the Lord's words. Repent of idolatry and simply cry out for a fresh baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16). You'll never want to look back again and salvation, healing and deliverance will invade your slipstream. I leave you with the words of JC Ryle, a nation in dire need of a Saviour and your prayer closet.
“A zealous man in religion is pre-eminently a man of one thing. It is not enough to say that he is earnest, hearty, uncompromising, thorough-going, whole-hearted, fervent in spirit. He sees one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed-up in one thing — and that one thing is to please God. Whether he lives — or whether he dies; whether he has health — or whether he has sickness; whether he is rich — or whether he is poor; whether he pleases man — or whether he gives offence; whether he is thought wise — or whether he is thought foolish; whether he gets blame — or whether he gets praise; whether he gets honor, or whether he gets shame — for all this the zealous man cares nothing at all. He burns for one thing — and that one thing is to please God, and to advance God's glory. If he is consumed in the very burning — he is content. He feels that, like a lamp, he is made to burn, and if consumed in burning — he has but done the work for which God appointed him. Such a one will always find a sphere for his zeal. If he cannot preach, and work, and give money — he will cry, and sigh, and pray. Yes, if he is only a pauper, on a perpetual bed of sickness — he will make the wheels of sin around him drive heavily, by continually interceding against it. If he cannot fight in the valley with Joshua — then he will do the prayer-work of Moses, Aaron, and Hur, on the hill. (Exod. 17:9-13.) If he is cut off from working himself — he will give the Lord no rest until help is raised up from another quarter, and the work is done. This is what I mean when I speak of "zeal" in religion.” - JC Ryle