Temperature Check, A Sermon Offered by Pastor Cheryl Schalm, Sunday, August 2, 2015, St. Paul United Church of Christ, Taylor, MI

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1 Temperature Check, A Sermon Offered by Pastor Cheryl Schalm, Sunday, August 2, 2015, St. Paul United Church of Christ, Taylor, MI While I love cowboys and the Wild West, I am glad to be back home and in the north again, figuratively speaking. I trust the same holds true for all those who volunteered their time to spend a rather hot week at Vacation Bible School sharing God s love with the children. As most of you are aware, Vacation Bible School wrapped up last Sunday with a special presentation offered by the children at the church picnic. What a fun and busy summer it has been thus far! Church events have taken us out west with VBS and the picnic, cruising down Telegraph with the Steak Fry, down south with the youth mission trip and grounded right here in the great north with a variety of family events and outings taking place. As a result of all these events, I repeatedly found myself checking the weather app on my I-phone or tuning into the weather channel to see what Mother Nature had in store. I began to check for weather conditions several weeks prior to the youth mission trip, then before my family s vacation to Tennessee, again before VBS and then prior to the church picnic. While I am fully aware that I have no authority over the weather and that there is nothing I can do to persuade it one way or another, I still have this need to know what to expect from it. Like most, I simply want to be prepared for what the weatherperson says is coming my way. However, like the ways of the world, the weather is forever changing, often times throwing us curve balls despite what the weatherperson has predicted or our weather apps have claimed. One day Mother Nature is beckoning her beauty and the next her fury at what seems at times, to be in spite of what has been forecasted. None-the-less, I continue to check. How curious it is, that so often we concern ourselves and give more attention to those things for which we have little or no control, rather than to those things for which we do. We cannot control the weather conditions outside. And there are no tools or resources available to accurately predict it 100% of the time more-or-less, give us the ability to manage it. However, we have been given the resource of truth; God s Word to use as a tool to help us accurately forecast or calculate the condition of our soul. It is a trustworthy and reliable source and when checked frequently and its instruction followed, it serves as a priceless tool enabling us to manage and control the weather condition within.

2 As Christians we must be careful not to become complacent (content) or stagnant (sluggish) when it comes to our internal temperature or state of spiritual being. As shared in scripture this morning, Jesus cautions against becoming a lukewarm Christian. By every indication Jesus anguished over and was grieved by the church of Laodicea because they failed to be either hot or cold. In no way do I make light of this scripture. However, I do have to chuckle to myself each time I read or hear it read as it always brings to mind my beloved Grandmother and great Aunt Mary. Both gone now, they were quite a pair. While there were many things they did not share in common, there were several things they did; their faith in God and His Son; their love of, and for family; their love for St. Paul, their church; and their love and enjoyment of food. They both enjoyed preparing meals for others and having meals prepared for them. However, they were insistent, relentless at times in their efforts and expectations to get their food just the way they wanted it. If food or drink was meant to be served hot, they wanted it hot. And if it was meant to be cold, you best get it to them cold. Neither would settle for anything less. And once their hot cup of coffee cooled down or their glass of ice tea got to warm you could count on being summons to heat it back up or to cool it back down. The temperature of their food and drink determined whether or not they found it favorable. In the same way, as demonstrated with the church in Laodicea, Christ will accept nothing less from us. As Christians we are called to check or to examine ourselves, to see whether or not we are walking in the faith and being true to what it is we proclaim to believe as followers of Christ (2 Corinthians 13:5). There are two main interpretations of the prophecy given in Revelation to the church in Laodicea in regards to the meaning of hot or cold verses being lukewarm. The first is that both, hot and cold water represent good. Cold water is refreshing to drink and so it is usable and good. And hot water is needed for bathing and getting clean and it warms us when we drink it on a cold day. So it too, is seen as being usable and good. Cold and hot water in this interpretation represents a good and faithful believer. One who seeks Christ s righteousness and is productive. He or she is a doer of the word versus just a listener. They are a faithful servant that is bearing much fruit.

3 Lukewarm water on the other hand in this interpretation is seen by Jesus as being stagnant (dull, dormant, inactive), so it is unusable and bad. It represents one who is unproductive, lazy in their faith & indifferent about Jesus and God s Word. The second interpretation which tends to be the more popular belief is that cold represents nonbelievers needing warmth. If someone is cold (far away from God and unaware of the salvation He offers) at least they have a need for warmth. There is hope in that once introduced to Christ, they may desire to enter into a relationship with Him. This is seen as being good in this interpretation. Hot represents a saved person, a Christian who is on fire for Jesus (so to speak). This is also seen as being good in this interpretation. Like with the first, lukewarm here represents being stagnant & bad. It represents someone who makes a profession of faith but later rejects or walks away from the truth when tested with the cares and enticements of this life. In either case, it is the condition of lukewarm that Jesus takes issue with. Throughout the Gospels which give an account of Jesus life on earth, He warns His followers about true and false conversion (change). He alerts us to the temptation and danger of straddling both sides of the fence; of living for self and seeking the pleasures of this world while proclaiming to live for Christ and the promise of His Kingdom to come There is a popular Christian movie out called, God is Not Dead that really drives this message home. The movie revolves around a proclaimed atheist, professor of philosophy. On the first day of class he requires his students to write on a sheet of paper, along with their signature, that God is Dead. He informs them that he doesn t care what they do after class in regards to their faith, but for the sake of their grade in his class they should consider his request. All but one student grants him his wish and turns in the paper. Regardless of what these other students may have proclaimed to believe in other circles, they chose not to acknowledge their faith in his class. They were not willing to jeopardize their grade for their faith. Rather, they choose to denounce it and to cash in on what the professor was offering. They found their grade to be of more value, of greater benefit than their faith. They sold out. I am often accused and guilty as charged of digging deeper than necessary into a message and sharing more of my thoughts on it than needs

4 or wants to be heard. Sorry! But I couldn t help but think during this scene of all the potential ways in which as Christians, our language, our conduct, our actions and deeds serve as evidence to the world of God s existence or lack of it. If we truly believe that God is Not Dead, then the world should see evidence of His existence living in us. In the words of Jesus, we are either to make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit (Matthew 12:33-37). We can t please God when attempting to dangle from both. Jesus is continually talking about true and false conversion (change) in His Parables, and in God s Word (Wheat vs Weeds, Matthew 13:36-43; Good Fish vs Bad Fish, Matthew 13:47-50; Narrow Gate vs Wide Gate, Matthew 7:13-14; Good Fruit vs Bad Fruit, Matthew 7:15-20; Good Servants vs Lazy Servants, Luke 19:11-48; Solid Rock vs Sinking Sand, Matthew 7:24-27; Good Soil vs Bad Soil, Matthew 13:18-23; True Christian vs False Christian, Matthew 7:21-23). In the Gospel of Luke (6:46) Jesus goes as far as to question some followers who call upon Him as Lord. He asks, Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and yet, do not DO the things I say? As Christians we are called to live and walk in the ways of Christ. We are to examine ourselves per the Apostle Paul to see whether or not our thoughts, words and conduct are in line with what it is we claim to believe. Using God s Word (the Bible) as our benchmark and Christ Jesus as our example we are to test ourselves to determine our true Christian condition. (2Corinthians 13:5), King David, often referred to as a man after God s own heart, sought and asked God Himself to search his heart and to test him. He wanted God to identify within him any offensive way that would keep him from the everlasting ways of God s love (139:23-24). Psalm 139 reveals an intimacy (affection) that existed between David and his God. Though David may sometimes have contemplated running from God, he concluded that no matter where he went or what he did, he could never escape God s presence. David made a conscious effort to subject (expose) his daily life to the reality of the spiritual world around and beyond him. He was utterly aware of God s presence and He wanted to please and honor God while living in the world. David s relationship with God demonstrates how closely a person can depend on God. There is a phrase often used by Christians, perhaps you have heard or even used it,

5 practicing the presence of God. By all indications, David experienced this. He intentionally involved God in every detail of his life. He was neither stagnant, nor lukewarm when it came to his faith and relationship with God. Rather, he was steadfast and deliberate. In researching and preparing for this morning s sermon, I ran across a Lukewarm Christian Test. Like the thermometer we have hanging here in the sanctuary used to monitor our progress in financing the room with a view, this test was designed to help gage and monitor our progress as Christians so to speak, our spiritual temperatures. It was created by SO4J- TV, a producer of Christian TV shows, videos, and Bible Studies. While I am against any form of test or questionnaire used to cast judgment or condemnation on others, I do find some personally thought provoking. The ten questions posed on this particular test caught my eye and gave me reason to pause and to really think about my answers. The first question raised was: 1) Do the cares and worries of this life dominate most of your thoughts and conversations? What do we focus on? 2) Do you practice sin as defined in the Bible on a regular basis? Not just the big sins but all sin to include greed, the telling and sharing of obscene stories, foolish talk and coarse jokes, jealousy, anger, stealing, and lying. A point they make here is the importance of being aware of the temptation to excuse and to partake in what most would consider these lesser sins. 3) Do you love the things of this world more than God s Word? Again, they follow this question up with another. I assume to really get you thinking. Do you love to look at and listen to what God Hates? 4) Are you too busy for Jesus? What are your priorities? They acknowledge that many things we do are not sinful in themselves yet they can keep us too busy for Jesus. 5) Do you use God s name in vain or are you bothered when other people use God s name in vain? (When they misuse his holy name) 6) Do you pray earnestly and do you really pray for others when you tell them you are praying for them? Are you in relationship with Christ?

6 7) Do you share the Gospel on a regular basis or do you hinder others from doing so? Are you embarrassed or ashamed to share God s message? Are you afraid of offending others as a result of your faith? 8) Are you indifferent about your sin? What is your attitude? Do you accept your sin as something you can t or are not willing to change and as something that God will just have to accept? They note here that lukewarmer s, based on their definition often approve of and wink at what God Hates. They minimize their sin and live by their feelings versus submitting to Christ. 9) Do you seek after worldly wealth, success and fame versus seeking first the kingdom of God? 10) Do you obey Jesus and God s Word consistently? They note here that all of God s Word should be taken seriously and obeyed not in a legalistic, self-righteous way, but rather in a way that pleases the Lord as a result of our Great Love for Him. Simply put, our obedience should be motivated by our love for God and not as a display of self-righteousness and holiness. These questions as well as both interpretations of Jesus letter to the church in Laodicea offer food for thought and consideration. In all cases, hot tends to represent a healthy, thriving, active, and committed church. A Church comprised of individual Christians committed to the teachings of Christ. While the interpretation of the meaning of Cold varies, it is not seen as bad in either interpretation. It is the condition of lukewarm that both call attention to. Thus, we must careful not to become stagnant or sluggish in our faith. We must fight the temptation to conform and to adapt to the ways of the world. We must not allow the concerns and pleasures of this world to choke out the promise of God s Kingdom to come. And we must never take God s grace for granted nor abuse it. Each and every day God bestows His grace and mercy upon us. He grants us unmerited and undeserving favor and forgiveness. We must careful however, not to use God s Grace as a license to sin. As Christians, we represent Christ. We make up the body of Christ; we are the church. The condition of our hearts towards God as well as our spiritual state of being whether hot, cold or lukewarm, contributes to the overall condition of both.

7 If you have ever stubbed your toe or jammed a finger, you are well aware of how the initial pain shoots through your entire body. The same holds true when we cause injury to the body of Christ, His Church. Our words, actions, deeds, and character regardless of where we are, who we re with, or what it is we may be doing contribute to the over-all building up or tearing down of the Body of Christ, The Church. As Christians we must never forget who it is we represent. As we look to build the future of Christ s church, it is imperative that we take time to examine ourselves; to remind ourselves that WE ARE THE CHURCH. We grow and build Christ church through active participation within it and through the building of our own faith and personal relationship with Christ. And we serve to ensure its future through the love, patience, and encouragement we extend one to another and through obedience to God s Word. As members of Christ body we are accountable to Him as well as to one another (Romans 14:12, 1Corinthians 12, Galatians 6:1-2). Maintaining a healthy internal, spiritual temperature is no easy matter. However, for the sake of our eternal well-being and Christ Church, it is vital that we do. Each day granted us is a gift from God, full of grace and opportunity. And just as a cooled-down cup of coffee can be heated up and made hot again or a warm glass of ice tea can be made cold and drinkable again, so too can the life of a Christian. May Christ always find us with suitable temperatures; working in His name to revive, strengthen, and grow His Church for which He promises to return one day. -AMEN

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