Hot, Cold, or …
Usually when we go into the Bible to talk about prayers, we tend to focus on a certain type of prayer. We like to focus on the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6, or there was the whole Prayer of Jabez craze from 1 Chronicles 4 back in 2000. And while I believe there is a lot that we can learn from these prayers, we tend to focus on them because they have a certain feeling associated with them. These prayers carry a sense of comfort and protection that draws us to them.
But those aren’t the only types of prayers found in the pages of your Bible. There is a very different type of prayer found in the book of Proverbs. This is not a comfortable or a safe prayer, or even a nice prayer; actually I would imagine that you have never heard anyone pray a prayer like this. But Solomon saw the value in the prayer and added it to his book of wisdom. Look on the screens behind me as we read the prayer found in Proverbs 30:7-9.
O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die. First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.
As I read the words of that prayer I wonder if anyone living in America in 2019 would ever pray a prayer like that? Solomon asks God for two things, and only two things. For most of us, only getting to ask for two things makes this an impossible prayer. We approach God’s throne with a laundry lists. I mean even the genie gives you three wishes. Yet Solomon says I’m not going to ask for a job, or a raise, or promotion. I don’t want You to heal me, or heal someone I love. I am not approaching Your throne because I want You to give me a wife or husband. And even though they need it, I am not asking for you to intervene in the life of my kids so they will be protected, or behave. Lord I am approaching Your throne with only two requests that I truly believe you can answer.
First, help me never to tell a lie. God I don’t want to speak a dishonest thing, I don’t want to tell a little white lie or a big whopper. Father please keep me from shading the truth and keep me from insinuating things that are not true. Father help every word I say be honest and truthful.
That’s an outright bold prayer. I know that we would all say we don’t want to lie. None of us want to be known as a dishonest person, yet there are a hundred different ways that we mislead people every day. Sometimes we lie through exaggerations. Sometimes we lie in outright deceptions. But usually most of us tell subtle lies, usually we leave little details out. We say things in way that always put us in the best light. We don’t want to lie, but sometimes we do.
And as difficult as it is for us to speak the truth, that’s not the hard part of the prayer. The complicated part comes next. God the second thing I ask you for, God the second thing I want is Do not make me poor or rich.
Let’s just throw it out there and admit we are pretty comfortable with God please don’t make me poor part. God please don’t put me in a situation where I have to steal to feed my family, or pay my light bill or pay for medicine. Father God if you love me then please don’t make me poor.
But that’s only half the request. It’s the other part, the part where we pray God please don’t make me rich that makes us uncomfortable. Am I really supposed to pray don’t make me rich? I thought that God wanted to bless me beyond my wildest dreams so that I can give more money to the church, so the church can do more work. I heard that guy on MY68 say that if you are living a life that is pleasing to God then He will make you rich.
But that’s not what Solomon is teaching his sons to pray. In his wisdom Solomon is going to explain why this is so important: if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” God don’t put me in a position where I will deny you with the way that I am living my life. God don’t make me rich so I start to look at this stuff and forget about you. God I know that you can give me an abundance of stuff, but please don’t because I know me. I know that if you give me a big house, great clothes, long vacations then I’ll forget about you. Instead give me enough, just enough that I don’t have to worry about my needs and just enough that I can remember and depend on you.
In my pocket I have $2. Does anyone want this? Just come up here and get it. (Wait)
It’s a bit shocking that there was not a rush of folks to come up here and take this money? Most of you didn’t even flinch because it’s just $2 dollars. Yet $2 is the amount of money the average person makes in a day. The average person works 6 or 7 days a week for less money that we spend for dinner at McDonalds. There is not a person in this room, or watching on video that would blink an eye walking into coffee shop or even a gas station and paying $2 for a cup of coffee. And we have no idea that across the majority of the world that coffee costs a whole day’s wage.
You see this is a prayer we will never be able to pray. Not that we can’t say the words, but because we are already rich and we don’t know it. That might shock you, and you might protest, I’m not rich I have bills I can’t pay, obligations I can’t meet. I drive a truck that is 18 years old, and I have clothes in my closet that are so old they have gone out of style and come back in style only to go back out of style again. You might not think that you are rich, but you are. Compared to the worlds average you are ridiculously wealthy. And while wealth can be a blessing, all too often it’s a curse.
In Luke 18 we see the story of the Rich ruler who comes to Jesus. Look with me at the story starting in verse 18. (Read verse 18-27)
One day a wealthy Jewish nobleman of high standing posed this question to Jesus: “Wonderful Teacher, what must I do to be saved and receive eternal life?” Jesus answered, … You already know what is right and what the commandments teach: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not lie, and respectfully honor your father and your mother.’” The wealthy leader replied, “These are the very things I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember.”
“Ah,” Jesus said. “But there’s still one thing you’re missing in your life.” “What is that?” asked the man. “You must go and sell everything you own and give all the proceeds to the poor so you will have eternal treasures. Then come and follow me.” When the rich leader heard these words, he was devastated, for he was extremely wealthy.
Here you have a man who comes to Jesus and wants to know what do I have to do to get to heaven. Jesus says keep the commandments, and you can see the rulers heart fill with a little pride. I’ve done that, Jesus I have kept all the commandments. I’m good, thanks. How many of us have the same check list mentality? God what do I need to do in order to get to heaven? Get baptized, check. Go to church. Check. Read my bible, half a check. Pray, the other half of the check. So we pat ourselves on the back and think that we have got it all under control.
But Jesus doesn’t leave it there; He says you’ve done a pretty good job But there’s still one thing you’re missing … You must go and sell everything you own and give all the proceeds to the poor … Then come and follow me. I am sure Jesus is glad you are here today, He’s glad that you read your bible, He’s excited that you have accepted His offer of grace, but you still lack something. You don’t trust Him. You don’t believe He is all you need, and as long as you have your riches you never will.
The rich man could keep the law, but he could not turn loose of his security. He refused to let go of the trash this world offers to have Jesus. As long as we are looking at our stuff, as long as our views are obstructed by all of our possessions, we tend to convince ourselves that we can handle it. The truth is that we can’t. In the very next chapter we get a glimpse of a rich man who figured it out. In Luke 19, we see that Zacchaeus wants to see Jesus so bad that he climbs up in a tree to just get a glimpse of Christ.
When Jesus got to that place, he looked up into the tree and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry on down, for I am appointed to stay at your house today!” So he scurried down the tree and came face-to-face with Jesus. As Jesus left to go with Zacchaeus, many in the crowd complained, “Look at this! Of all the people to have dinner with, he’s going to eat in the house of a crook.” Zacchaeus joyously welcomed Jesus and was amazed over his gracious visit to his home. He stood in front of the Lord and said, “Half of all that I own I will give to the poor. And Lord, if I have cheated anyone, I promise to pay back four times as much as I stole.” Jesus said to him, “This shows that today life has come to you and your household, for you are a true son of Abraham. The Son of Man has come to seek out and to give life to those who are lost.”
This is Jesus and the rich man part 2. Zacchaeus was a rich man, who up to this point has trusted his wealth. He thought that he had it all under control. Yet, when he finally understands that God can meet his needs if he will just trust Him Zacchaeus considers everything else garbage. Trusting Jesus means we actually live our lives in faith that God is greater than money, greater than my house, or clothes, or food. Zacchaeus didn’t just say God I trust you, his faith caused him to say if I have cheated anyone then I am not going to give it back, I am going to give it back with interest of four times of what I stole. Now that he has Jesus he realizes that none of this other stuff matters. Take my money, take my stuff, take it all because compared to what I have just been given it’s all garbage.
You know money does weird things to people. We have heard the story 100 times that someone wins the lottery and now they are a billionaire and they go crazy. We all know that money does weird things to people. But you know something that I have never heard? I have never heard someone say money does weird things to me. It’s always someone else, but we have to admit that money does very weird things to us.
Jesus says money gives us a false sense of security, and the safer you feel the less you need God. The more you have the less you believe that you are truly needy. John records a series of letters Jesus wrote to the seven churches of Asia in the book of Revelation. One of those churches was pretty wealthy. They had lots of stuff, a beautiful place to worship that was warm and dry. They had all of these nice things, but they were in trouble and they didn’t even know it. When I read the letter I am struck with the fact that it could very well be written to the church in America, or the Model City.
It’s the letter to the Church in Laodicea found in Revelation 3. And it’s pretty frightening because it’s not a nice letter. Jesus doesn’t pat them on the back and tell them they are doing a great job. As a matter of fact He tells them that they make Him sick. Look at the text with me. Write down My words, and send them to the messenger of the church in Laodicea. “These are the words of the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of God’s creation: “I know your works. You are neither cold with apathy nor hot with passion. It would be better if you were one or the other, but you are neither. So because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.
I think that often times we get so deep into the weeds that we miss the point of the passage. In Greek or English Jesus is making Himself pretty clear; You are not cold with apathy nor hot with passion and you make me want to puke, you make me want to gag or vomit. That’s what Jesus thinks about this rich church. They are rich and don’t realize how deeply they need God. They forgot what it was like to depend on Him. Don’t believe me? Keep reading. You claim, ‘I am rich, I have accumulated riches, and I need nothing’; but you do not realize that you are miserable, pathetic, poor, blind, and naked.
This church wasn’t depending on God. They would never pray, Give me this day my daily bread, and neither would we because we don’t depend on God for our food. We don’t really need God for our food. We don’t really need God for our homes, and we don’t really need God to give us money to make it day after day, that’s why we have a retirement plan and a 401K. And sure it’s not what it once was, but it’s still there and we still find our security in what we have.
Eventually we don’t need God for anything. I mean I know that we have had hard times, and we have been laid off, or behind in our bills, but no one says that we are needy people. No one says those folks in the Model City are needy folks. But God says that we are really the needy ones. We are really the ones that are poor, wretched, blind, and naked. Not because of what we have, but because we would rather have all of this garbage than God. We are wretched because we are not on fire for God. We worry more about the things in this world than we do about our relationship with Him. And we are all guilty we all put things in front of God on a regular basis.
Let me get a little transparent with you for a moment. The night before Rylan went to Kindergarten, he jumped off the top bunk bed and broke both bones in his right arm. We rushed him to the ER and they were having difficulty setting his arm. So the Doctor told us that they were going to have to put him to sleep so they could set his bones and put him in a cast. And even though there was a slight chance he needed to warn us that he could die. I didn’t take that very well. I still remember walking into an empty room in that hospital to cry a little and fuss with God a lot. I reminded God that I had given up an awful lot of money and prestige to work in a church, I reminded Him that He already took one of my kids and He better not take another one. Why would I do that?
Well I mean I’m a good dad and I love Rylan and I don’t want to lose him. I was just being concerned for the child that God gave to me. And that’s true, and I feel a lot better making those excuses. But it is also true that at that moment I put Rylan in front of my relationship with God. You might want to make excuses for me, but Jesus said we are to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, minds, souls, bodies, and strength. Jesus said we must seek God first.
All too often we justify and defend what we have. We rationalize that there are people who have more than we do and we are not really rich, but in fact we are not only rich, we are blind to the fact that we are rich. Jesus says that we are luke-warm, and the fact that we would choose anything here on this little ball of dust over Him makes Him want to puke.
I am not up here judging you this morning, I am asking you to do a little honest judging of yourselves. Can you stand before God and say that you are on fire for Him? Can you honestly say that you have given God first priority in your life and you depend on Him every hour of every day to sustain you?
If we are going to be honest, a lot of us here would have to admit that we are luke-warm at best. We have a little religion that makes us feel good and makes our children behave, but there is really nothing different about our lives than the lives of those who don’t have faith in God. But what really concerns me, what frightens me, is that most of you will say, yeah, Jeremy I’m luke-warm and then you will walk out of this building and head to CisCis for pizza and never do anything about it.
Or even worse some of you will say, yes I’m lukewarm and that’s how I like it. You don’t want to be on fire for God. You have no desire to turn to God to sustain you. You are comfortable how things are, and you have no intention of making any changes. And it’s not just us, when I look at a majority of American churches we preach a safe gospel and need stress that Jesus called us to come and die. We never stress that every Christian was called to make disciples. We never rock the boat, we prefer a little of God, a little morals, and that’s enough.
We would never say we have enough money, we don’t have enough stuff, but we have enough God. And some of you are fuming mad at me because I have the audacity to challenging you on it. Don’t you understand what Jesus is saying in this passage? If we are luke-warm and love it then we make God want to vomit. God says that you are wretched, poor, and blind.
There are a very few who are willing to trade this world and its securities in for a life of trusting God. We would prefer to endure an eternity in hell and enjoy the garbage this world offers, that to throw away every piddly thing this world has to offer and cling to God. We cannot leave this world being luke-warm. We have got to get this fixed. Don’t leave this building, don’t eat, don’t go to sleep, don’t go to work until you come to Christ and ask Him to reignite your fire for God.
Listen to how Jesus ends this letter, So I counsel you to purchase gold perfected by fire, so that you can be truly rich. Purchase a white garment to cover and clothe your shameful nakedness. Purchase eye salve to be placed over your eyes so that you can truly see. All those I dearly love I unmask and train. So repent and be eager to pursue what is right. Behold, I’m standing at the door, knocking. If your heart is open to hear my voice and you open the door within, I will come in to you and feast with you, and you will feast with me.
We don’t have to be luke-warm. We can repent, and learn to trust in God. We can go to God and ask Him to show us if we are luke-warm and what we need to do to get on fire for Him. We can learn how to give every worthless thing this world has to offer away and learn how to fully rely on God. But that is a decision that you have to make, for yourself. Jesus is standing at the door knocking, this morning will you open the door to your life, deny yourself and spend the rest of your life trusting Him.
God is long suffering, but He will not wait for ever. There will come a day when He will return and take His children home with Him. Today is the day that you make the decision to stay luke warm, or to fully give your life to God. Today it’s time to make a decision, Jesus will not wait forever.