by Muriel LarsonLiving in Laodicea:
A big topic today is "the New Age." Many people have gotten involved in various facets of the New Age: eastern religions; astral portation; spiritualism; meditation; reincarnation; healing and holistic health movements; astrology.
Some New Age adherents, like Shirley MacLaine, are as enthusiastic proponents of this quasi-religious movement as the early Christians were about their Lord and the gospel. But how enthusiastic are we Christians today, even those of us who lead and teach in our churches? And what is happening today in churches where God's work is being done in a slipshod, ho-hum manner?
Running in Neutral
A mailman left his jeep running in neutral while he delivered mail. While he was gone, a big black dog jumped into his vehicle, knocked it into reverse-and hit a parked car. Alarmed, the dog knocked the jeep into forward-and it rammed another parked car. Grand total: $500 damage to the three vehicles.
The problem came about because the mailman left his jeep running in neutral. Unfortunately, "running in neutral" is also a wide-spread habit among Christians, even those who teach and influence many others. I have seen God's work done in such a slipshod manner! Lukewarm teachers come in late and unprepared to Sunday School or don't show up at all.
Pastors shrug their shoulders about it. Others also let the Lord down in various ways. And many are just seat-warmers. No wonder so many Sunday schools and churches are going downhill! And no wonder that the New Age movement is gaining momentum and adherents! What is wrong?
First Love Lost
According to the Lord Jesus, the Ephesians had shifted from the high gear of ardent love for Christ and devotion to His headship, to more of a neutral position. "Yet I have this against you," Jesus said to them, "you have forsaken your first love" (Rev. 2:4).
Then Jesus warned them that in their neutral condition, they were in great danger of irreparable damage: "Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place" (v. 5).
The loss of their first love for the Lord was evidently the first step on the road to backsliding for the Ephesians. Matthew Henry says that Jesus warned them here of judgment: that He would unchurch them, take away His gospel, His ministers, and His ordinances from them. And this is what ultimately happened to the Church of the Ephesians.
The Church of Pergamos had also slipped into neutral. Although they had been faithful, they tolerated those among them who were leading Christians into impure practices. So they became partakers of their evil deeds (2 John 11). Jesus warned them to repent or He would come and fight against them (Rev. 2:16).
The Church of Thyatira had slipped into a similar neutral position, allowing "Jezebel" to lead Christians into false doctrine and practices. Such laxness eventually led into the inclusion of all kinds of heathenish traditions, practices, and beliefs in the church.
Jezebel represents sexual sin. Shockingly, many churches today think nothing is wrong with ordaining practicing homosexuals and lesbians as their pastors.
To Sardis Jesus said, "I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead" (Rev. 3:1b). So they were in neutral, too. Since their motor was running, everyone thought they were going some place-but the gears were shot! Christ said, "Wake up! Remember what you learned and repent!"
Laodicea took the prize for running in neutral, and many theologians believe that Laodicea is typical of the church existing in the last days before the tribulation and Christ's return. "Because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold," Jesus said, "I am about to spit you out of my mouth!" (vs. 16).
I have been active in gospel-preaching churches across the nation, and have noticed that the majority of Christians today fall into the Laodicean category: lukewarm. Just a precious few are hot, truly loving and serving the Lord and doing His work decently and in order. And most "lukewarmers" give their weekly ho-hum tribute to God on Sunday morning. Period.
Neutrality Means Trouble
It's easy for us Christians to lose our first love and slip into neutral. But if we travel through this life in neutral, we do not enjoy the wonderful peace, joy, and abundant life Jesus promised those who would keep His commandments and follow Him (John 15:10,11; 16:33). Also, many of those around us can get badly damaged spiritually, especially our loved ones.
When we see how much new Christians love and praise the Lord for their salvation, however, it might remind us of how we used to be like that. Not all of us lose that first love. But all too many of us do! It is our loss, Christ's loss, and the church's loss.
If we would regularly read through and meditate on Psalm 51, as well as the rest of God's Word, the Scriptures can periodically stir up that first love and rightness with the Lord again. "Create in me a clean heart, O God," David cried in repentance, "and renew a steadfast spirit within me....Restore to me the joy of Your salvation....Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You" (Ps. 51:10, 12-13, NKJV).