I remember some of the water fountains at my elementary school. I’d come in from recess, sweat streaking my face and matting my hair, the goal of a long drink of cold water—only to find that a broken compressor had left the water tepid. Few moments are more unsatisfying than slurping from a lukewarm water supply.
In Revelation 3:14-16, Jesus uses this vivid word picture to describe the lack of passion and effectiveness of saints who are fence-sitters. Remember, he is writing to the church in Laodicea. They want both Jesus and the world—but it doesn’t work that way.
Quit pretending, Christ says—this gap between what you say and how you live makes me want to spit you out.
Nobody leaves church wanting to fail. Nobody wants to compromise. We trip and fall because life is hard. The believer without a meaningful and practiced walk with Jesus and without a deep-rooted support system is a believer susceptible to the world’s sway. The slow fade takes that believer far away from her anchor and leaves her somewhere in the middle.
Paul understood this. He told the Philippians, “Let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (3:16-17).
He implores us to live what we know to be true in God’s Word. If you’re like me, you equate spiritual depth with learning something new and profound. But God equates spiritual depth with obedience. Paul tells us to live what we’ve already attained, adhering to the elementary principles of the faith. Keep adhering and keep growing. Such a life demonstrates that it is transformed and, because of that, is transformative.
I’ve learned a sobering fact: my problem is me. I get in God’s way. The difference between where I am with the Lord and where I should be is the difference between the God I want and the God who is.
When we’re caught in the middle, we focus on ourselves. We grow callus to the things of God. We live for Numero Uno. Perhaps we cast an occasional glance toward God, but we dare not hold our stare for the discomfort it brings. Only the god we wantgives us the kind of comfort we want.
The God who is? He’s different. He’s terribly inconvenient.
The God we want fills our belly. He who is fills us with the Holy Spirit. The God we want is happy in the middle. He who is reigns from on high. The God we want looks a lot like us. He who is wants us to be a reflection of him.
The God we want shows up in comfortable non-verses that we assume are in the Bible, even though they aren’t. God helps those who help themselves, blesses the rich so they can bless others, and won’t give you anything you can’t handle.These “verses” describe the god we want rather than the God who is.
What will the real God do? He’ll put us out in the middle of a sea and tell us to walk on it, he’ll stand us before a giant with a rock and a sling. He’ll allow a tornado or cancer or a heart attack or a foreclosure or a job loss or a death to come our way. He will give us more than we can handle just to show us that only He can handle things.
The goal is to be so intimate with Jesus that we know without hesitation the truth of who he is, what he’s done, and what lengths he will go to for his children. Our goal is to allow the God who is to reign over every part of our lives, and not just where we already feel comfortable. The goal is not even to be content or happy.
The goal is Jesus himself.