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August 13, 2017 All or Nothing

[I. Introduction] When I was an Airman in the USAF a very long time ago, I became a Christian and immediately began sharing the gospel with others on my base. I was so excited about my new-found faith and the promise of heaven that I spoke to dozens of young men and saw many professions of faith and baptisms. When I spoke to some Airmen they would respond by saying they were already Christians. Yet, it seemed as if they were not by observing the life that they lived. Jesus said, “You shall know them by their fruits.”[1]

 

I also started passing out tracts and leaving them in conspicuous places. Even though printed gospel messages are not the main way the Holy Spirit uses to bring people to saving faith, still, many are brought to faith through them. George Whitfield, Hudson Taylor, and Greg Koukl were saved through finding and reading a gospel tract. Greg had gone grocery shopping and when he got home and emptied his grocery bag he found a tract in the bottom of it. Whether the cashier put it in or whether just another shopper, he didn’t know. But he read it and it was instrumental in his salvation.

 

One of my favorite tracts that I distributed forty-two years ago (!) was entitled All or Nothing. It addressed the problem of people thinking they were Christians when they were not. That tract has not been in print for a very long time and I cannot even remember the contents. I tried finding it online and it is nowhere to be found. Even though the contents have been lost the title reveals what the message was. It communicated that what God wants from you is all or nothing. Is that too radical? In my youthful enthusiasm, was I overly zealous in distributing a tract that was saying things too extreme? Maybe a better question is: Is it biblical? We shy away from radical things. We like things smooth. And, experience teaches us that radical, extreme frames of thought are most often not auspicious.

 

Simply put, do God and Christ accept our efforts, our very lives, if they are not given over completely and absolutely to Him? Is there something between all or nothing? If there is, can we live there? Put another way, is there something between complacency and extremity? Is there something between the way things are among so many Christians – what we might call herewith – and zenith (zenith is a great word; it means the highest point or highest state)? Is there something between commonness and fullness? Is there something between averageness and zealousness? In order to answer this question we must not be led or influenced by what fits our disposition. Rather, we must allow God to speak for Himself though His word and let the chips fall where they may.

 

Revelation 3:14-22:

 

“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

15 “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 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 the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 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. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ” [2]

 

[II.] We must give our all to the Lord because we will be rejected if we live in a lukewarm way.

 

This is the risen Lord Jesus who is speaking to the church in Laodicea. He is the Amen. The word amen means true. Everything about Jesus is true and there is no falsehood in him. When he speaks it is always truth. He is the “faithful and true witness.” This means that the testimony that he is about to pronounce about the church contradicts the church’s thinking about itself, yet it true while the church’s self-conception is false.

 

When he calls himself the beginning of creation, this does not mean that he was the first creature created. The Christ is uncreated. It means that he began the creation. This is clear in Colossians 1 and John 1:3.

 

Isn’t verse 15 interesting in the way it is worded? We, in the 21st century, are apt to measure our devotion and commitment to other people by our feelings. If we feel warmly towards someone that means we are looking out for them…so we think. If we were writing verse 15 we would tend to write, “I know your feelings, you are neither cold nor hot…” But that is not what Jesus said. He says, “I know your works…”

 

In God’s arrangement of life, he measures our faithfulness by our works conducted with love, not by our feelings. What we do reveals what we are. The heart is deceitful above all things and we can imagine all kinds of good things about ourselves that are not true. The whole church at Laodicea did.

 

Jesus says that they are neither cold nor hot. He wants them to be cold or hot. Because they are in-between he will spit them out of his mouth.  To be spit out of the Lord’s mouth is not to lose our salvation if we indeed have it, but it is to be excluded from Christ’s kingdom which is coming.

 

Here is the answer to our question if there is something between all or nothing. There is something between, but it is rejected by our Lord.

 

Many Christians are living in-between. Lukewarmness is their condition. That is their “herewith.” But neither is there anything between lukewarm and hot!  At least nothing that is pleasing to the Lord. The Lord wants hot or cold. The Lord wants your zenith! And, he desires your zealousness!

 

 We must give our all to the Lord because we will be rejected if we live in a lukewarm way. The Lord wants you zealous! He wants your zenith.

 

[III.] We must give our all to the Lord because we can. We must give our all to the Lord because we are able to do so.

 

What Jesus says in Revelation matches exactly what he teaches in regards to the commandments. Turn to Mark 12:28-34.

 

28             And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29             Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30             And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31             The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32             And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33             And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34             And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. [3]

 

When the scribes asked the Lord what the most important commandment was he answered by quoting what was known as the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4.  That is the statement by the Lord through Moses that He is one. The first thing that follows the Shema is the most important commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

 

Sometimes you will hear people say, “Nobody can do that. Everyone breaks this commandment.” This is an untrue statement. What do you think the results are for those who believe that no one can keep it? Surely, all doubters will think, “If no one can do it, neither can I. There is no sense in trying.” It leads to lukewarmness.

 

Besides the obvious problem that is raised if God and Jesus give commands that they know we cannot obey and then hold us accountable to them, the Scriptures reveal that we do have the ability, albeit by the power of His Spirit, to obey this commandment.

 

When the inspired author of 2 Kings relates the life of King Josiah we read:

 

24             Moreover, Josiah put away the mediums and the necromancers and the household gods and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might establish the words of the law that were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord. 25             Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him. [4]

 

If Josiah could do it, you also can do it. Not by your own power. But God changes hearts.

 

It was not just Josiah. When you read the biographies of great men and women of God you discover that there were many who loved the Lord with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind, and with all their strength.

 

We must give our all to the Lord because we can.

 

[IV.] How may we love Him fully? How may we give all? When the Lord Jesus addressed his church in Laodicia, he tells them how to be right with him once again. In verse 19 he says,

 

“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”

 

[A.] The first thing we must do is repent.

 

If the Lord loves us he reproves us. This simply means to correct us. He shows us that we have been wrong. If the Lord loves us he also disciplines us. This means that unpleasant (sometimes painful) things happen to us in order to teach us not to follow a sinful course of action.

 

What Jesus us saying here is that in order to avoid the discipline that is sure to come to the Laodiceans they can repent. Repentance circumvents discipline. Repentance saves us from being disciplined.

 

What is repentance? It is having a change of mind and heart about our living. We see that we have been in sin and we renounce it with our mind, emotion, and will. “Be zealous,” Jesus says. Engage your emotion! Get out of hum-drum and tune your eardrum to the Spirit’s speaking and moving.

 

Repentance is the doorway to a new beginning. This is true for both the unbeliever as well as the believer.  Think about how God made us and how he made the world. Almost all animals need sleep. There is only one animal in all the world that does not sleep. Do you know what it is? [Ans: the dolphin] So, God could have made us, if he wanted to, without having the need to sleep. Sleep is a blessing. (But, too much sleep is a curse, but that is another topic.) When we awaken, God gives us an opportunity to begin a new day and even a new life! He made the world this way, too. There is morning and there is evening. Each morning there is the opportunity to begin anew! Each morning is the opportunity for a fresh start towards not just the day, but our whole life!

 

Each morning is a time to put your old ways behind you forever! That is repentance.

 

So, if we have been lukewarm, the first thing we must do is to repent – change our thinking and resolve to begin anew with zealousness for Christ and his kingdom. Resolve to leave your herewith and give the Lord your zenith.

 

In verse 18 Jesus 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 the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.” [5]

 

Buying requires the paying of a price. The degraded, Laodiciean church must pay a price for gold, white garments, and eyesalve, which she desperately needs.

 

In the Bible gold typifies God’s divine nature.

 

[B.] We buy – pay the price – of knowing and believing the promises of God in order to partake of the divine nature. The divine nature was added to us if we have been born again, but it was just a seed. It must be watered by the word for us to partake of it in a daily way.

 

Ed Scott has a saying that is quite good. He mentions that we sing the song, Standing on the Promises. But, what promises are we standing on? Do we know them? We must know what the promises are in order for us to benefit from them.

 

If we know them and believe them then we partake of the divine nature.

 

2 Peter 1:3-4 is a good passage of Scripture that reveals this:

 

3             His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4             by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. [6]

 

See that it is God’s power, not our own, that grants us what we need for life and godliness – the gold. How does his power come to us? It is by his power that is through His Spirit. It is mediated. That means it doesn’t come by magic, pixie dust, it comes through knowledge. Knowledge of what? His precious and very great promises! These are found in his word!

 

We buy – pay the price – of knowing and believing the promises of God in order to partake of the divine nature.

 

[C.] We buy – pay the price – for white garments. In figure, garments signify conduct.[7] White garments here signify conduct that can be approved by the Lord. It is the living the Lord desires of his own. Nakedness means that the Laodicieans had no righteous acts and this was a shame to them.

 

[D.] We buy – we pay the price – for eyesalve. In our natural state we cannot see things as they really are. The Laodiceans saw themselves as needing nothing but their eyesight was askew. We are the same way. We see ourselves as OK much of the time and others in the church we see as having faults. We need eyesalve! Eyesalve is the anointing Spirit (1 John 2:27), who is the Lord Himself as the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45).

 

“O Lord Jesus! I need your eyesalve. Let me see things as they really are so I do not live in self-deception. Amen.”

 

[V. Conclusion] Is the demand, “All or Nothing,” too radical? No. It is the very appeal that comes to each one of us.

 

We must give our all to the Lord because we will be rejected if we live in a lukewarm way.

 

We must give our all to the Lord because we can.  We can love the Lord with all our might, all that we are.

 

  • We do this by repenting of our current condition and we recommit ourselves to the Lord and His work.
  • We pay the price to partake of the divine nature.
  • We pay the price to put on white garments.
  • We pay the price to see ourselves as we are. No need to be discouraged when we do, because our Lord will empower us to begin anew.

 

To both the lost and to the household of faith, it is the same message: All or nothing!

 

“Lord, deliver us from what we are and change our hearts. Bring us out of our commonness and into your fullness. Amen.”

 

[1] Matthew 7:16-20

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Re 3:14–22). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 12:28–34). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Ki 23:24–25). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Re 3:18). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Pe 1:3–4). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] Rev 19:8