Imagine Jesus stepping out of heaven: He leaves all that glory and holiness, puts on human flesh, and comes down here to save the world that He loves – and He’ll do anything to save it. He’ll do anything to save you.
So what did He get for His effort? He gets the punishment and torture, you get the forgiveness and freedom. He dies an excruciating death, you get a whole new life filled with grace and peace. Then, in resurrection power, He gives you His Word. He gives you His Spirit. He gives you eternity. He gives you purpose in your life that extends beyond the tip of your own nose.
And you say, “Meh!”
Too many of us treat Jesus as an afterthought. Faith is a couple bucks in our wallet or a piece of gum after hot wings. Nice to have, but it doesn’t amount to much.
People like Simeon understood. Simeon knew. Simeon believed. So when someone put Jesus in his arms he knew his life was complete, the purpose God had for him now fulfilled in the Christ child he was holding: “Lord, now you can take me home. For my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)
Jesus produces that kind of reaction. Jesus has that effect. He makes that kind of difference to those who truly get it, who truly believe. But He’s going to cut through all the excuses and excrement we put in His way. He’s going to confront the real you, not the one you pretend to be when there’s people around. Jesus gets in your face. Then He gets in your heart.
Revelation 3:15-16 (Letter to the church in Laodicea):
“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.”
You are spiritually stale, depressingly detached. It doesn’t just break my heart, it turns my stomach. You make me want to puke. I will spit you out…
We don’t like that kind of in your face Jesus, do we? We don’t want to hear about our faults and failures because it hurts our feelings, it offends our delicate sensibilities, it damages our self esteem. We much prefer our Jesus to be happy and smiley and never mind our sinfulness and selfishness. We’ll keep Him at a distance until we really need Him.
Yeah, we want the good stuff. We want all the presents without the price. We want Him on our terms, on our timetable, meeting our needs. We don’t want a Savior, we want a Slavior. We prefer our Jesus to be a stupid ass, and we treat Him like one.
We find all sorts of ways to go lukewarm, but there are two main causes of spiritual indifference. The first is the illusion of self-sufficiency. Jesus gets at this in the next line of His letter: “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:17)
Too often I’m content with the pretend me. I’m good: got my Starbucks, my iPhone, my Prime and Netflix. I got my two bucks and a stick of gum, but I’m spiritually bankrupt. We have lives full of stuff but empty of meaning.
The other main cause of our indifference is the distractions of this world. Jesus hit us with this in the Parable of the Sower: “But the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the Word, making it unfruitful.” (Mark 4:19). We’re running all over the place and getting nowhere; filling out calendars and getting nothing done. We’ve got a little bit of Jesus, but just enough to make us feel better. But that doesn’t work. We fall right back in step with a world going the wrong way:
How do we change? How do we reignite the spiritual fire? The answer is: we don’t. Stop looking for the solution from the same dolts who caused all this.
The reality is, it takes Jesus. A lot of Jesus. In v.18 of the letter, He says: “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 salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.” Jesus is the real deal. He’s got the goods. He’s the one who washes your past away. He’s the one who feeds your starving soul. He’s the one who keeps coming to you, talking to you, changing you and your life and everything in it. He wants so much more for you than you even want for yourself. The author of your faith is the igniter of your fire.
That means it also takes faith. A lot of faith. Jesus tells us, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:19-20). Faith takes you where Jesus is, like Simeon. Faith redefines who you are and what you live for. Faith gives you purpose: God’s purpose.
That kind of faith makes you care about more than yourself, and caring is messy. It takes you into other peoples’ lives, into their struggles, into their hurts. So much so that you start to hurt for them, and with them. But that’s OK. That’s why Jesus put you here. That’s why He put Himself here.
From Him we learn that it is so much better to hurt with a purpose than to exist without one. That’s why He gets in your face. And in your heart.