Jesus’ commission to the disciples and by extension to the church universal is, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Matthew 28:19-20.
After the ascension of Jesus and the descension of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, this commission became the obsession of the young church – everyone was involved. Some preached; some taught; some prayed; some served others but all witnessed.
Even when the church was heavily persecuted, it stayed on course the mission. Many endured torture, suffering and pain and many lost their lives for they believed that what they were suffering was nothing when compared with the glory that God would reveal to them, Romans 8:18; 1 Peter 4:12 & 13.
Staying on course the mission, even amidst persecution and suffering, was not seen as something to shy away from or anything to be feared, hence the Apostles James and Paul inform us, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance and perseverance produces character. Character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame….”, James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3-5.
Towards the end of the first century and thereafter, the second coming of Jesus and the rapture of the saints seemed to have lost their urgency and not only has the church lapsed in primitive godliness, it seems to have developed an appetite for compromise and a spirit of lethargy.
Writing to the Seven Churches in Asia Minor, God sent a rebuke to all but a couple of them. Ephesus left its first love (Revelation 2:4); Pergamos compromised the faith, tolerating idolatry, sexual immorality and promoting imperial cultism (Revelation 2:14; Thyatira was equally compromising, watering down the doctrine to accommodate idolatry, pagan traditions and sexual sins (Revelation 2:20); Sardis was dead. It thought it was alive but spiritually, it was as dead as a doornail (Revelation 3:3); and Laodicea was lukewarm. It was the church that God threatened to spew out of His mouth (Revelation 3:15).
The commission to the church still stands, God has never retracted it and for such reason, we need to stay on course. We need to return to our first love for God because it is the axis on which the world turns allowing us to see, feel and address the needs of others especially the hopeless, the voiceless and the helpless, Isaiah 58:6-8. We cannot fall asleep when our duty is to be watchmen for the house of Israel, Ezekiel 33:7.
To be a watchman in Ezekiel’s day was to guard the fields of ripening crops from predators and thieves as harvest time approached. Another duty of the watchman was to stand on the city walls or its tower and to look out for invading armies that would enter and plunder the city. When invading enemies were seen, the watchman would sound an alarm alerting the protectors of the city to prepare for war or to take the appropriate action.
As members of the church, we are all God’s watchmen who know His Word and are aware of the prophecies of the bible and the impending doom of the world. We must sound the alarm and warn Non-Christians and the ungodly that redemption and reconciliation with God can only be experienced by accepting by faith the finished work of Jesus on the cross of Calvary and that there is a limited time to do so. We must also warn them that if they refuse to accept God’s provision of salvation, they will perish.
We must also urge those who profess to know Him and are in His employ to be vigilant and faithful, for it is only as we endure and are faithful that we shall be saved, Matthew 24:13.
To stay on course the mission, believers in Christ must remain true to God’s Word. It is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path as Psalm 119:105 testifies and if we make it our guide, we’ll never go astray. God’s Word is not only true; it can be trusted. We can’t trust everything we read or hear, even from the conventional “reputable sources”, but we can trust the Word of God for it has stood the test of time.
Dr. Kevin DeYoung puts it this way, “We can’t trust everything we read on the Internet. We can’t trust everything we hear from our professors. We certainly can’t trust all the facts given by our politicians. We can’t even trust the fact-checkers who check those facts! Statistics can be manipulated. Photographs can be faked. Magazine covers can be airbrushed. Our teachers, our friends, our science, our studies, even our eyes can deceive us. But the word of God is entirely true and always true.”
The church today is surrounded by an increasing Godless culture, but it cannot compromise the principles of God’s word in order to be friendly with the world, to gain popularity or to maintain membership. There has to be a clear line of demarcation. In John 17:14-16, Jesus’ prayer was that His followers should be in the world, but they should not be of the world. In Romans 12:2, Paul counsels the church not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds.
By upholding the teaching of the Nicolaitans, Balaam and Jezebel, the churches of Ephesus, Pergamos and Thyatira were flagged for compromise but the church of God, as salt and light, should be influencing the world with high morals, values and virtues and not the other way around.
To stay on course the mission, believers must be lively stones for Christ, 1 Peter 2:5. We must not lose our enthusiasm for Him, neither the passion for winning souls for His kingdom. In the letter to the Seven Churches, Laodicea was described as a lukewarm church. Someone defines “lukewarm-ness” as a spirit of self-sufficiency that pushes God out of our life and activities. If this definition holds true, when Jesus describes the church of Laodicea as lukewarm, it means that the members did not regard him as an integral part of their life. Can this be possible?
Francis Chan wrote a book called “Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God”. In the book, he identifies 21 characteristics of lukewarm people. I’ll share a few of these with you, then ask that you answer the question that follows.
- Lukewarm people have time to read the newspaper every day but not the Bible and they spend more time with the sports page than they do in prayer.
- They rarely share their faith with their neighbors, coworkers, or friends. They do not want to be rejected, nor do they want to make people uncomfortable by talking about private issues like religion.
- They gauge their morality or "goodness" by comparing themselves to the secular world. They feel satisfied that while they aren't as hard-core for Jesus as so-and-so, they are nowhere as horrible as the guy down the street.
- They love God, but they do not love Him with all their heart, soul, and strength.
- They think about life on earth much more often than eternity in heaven. Daily life is mostly focused on today's to-do list, this week's schedule, and next month's vacation. Rarely, if ever, do they intently consider the life to come. In fact, they are prone to say when asked "How are you doing?" "Not well, but better than the alternative," as though the alternative of spending eternity with Jesus is worse than life on this planet.
Now here is the question: Do you resonate with any of the five traits above and if “yes” what are you going to do about your lukewarm-ness? Be informed that staying on course the mission has no accommodation for lukewarm people or complacency for the lives of many for whom Christ died are at stake.
Let me remind you of the song that Daniel March wrote over a century ago. It says,
Hark, the voice of Jesus calling,
Who will go and work today?
Fields are ripe and harvests waiting, Who will bear the sheaves away?
Long and loud the Master calls us, Rich reward He offers free;
Who will answer, gladly saying, Here am I, Oh Lord, send me? Will you?
Chan, F., Tomlin, C., & Yankoski, D. (2013). Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God. David C Cook.
DeYoung, K. (2016). Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me. Crossway.