No Room in the Middle :: by Howard Green

Self-preservation is a trait every person seems to have. Everyone knows there is safety in numbers. We are told early on to blend and fit in. Sometimes the stakes are high and getting noticed will cost us. We are told to fly under the radar. Everyone knows this saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” It makes me think of Sgt. Shultz on Hogan’s Heroes…he wanted desperately to be liked by the POWs and by Colonel Klink. His famous line was, “I know nothing!”

Christians who are living sold-out lives for Jesus will not blend in, that is certain. If we are living every day to the glory of God we will get noticed. On the other hand, there are people who claim to follow Jesus and they blend in very well, they may even attend church regularly. They aren’t overly carnal, worldly, or in blatant rebellion. Their daily walk, actions, or speech do not identify them as a Christian. Jesus gives a stark warning regarding the person whose spiritual temperature is lukewarm:

Revelation 3:15:  “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.’ So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”

The Christian life is no place for spiritual cruise control. Doing the Christian life on autopilot just won’t work. You can’t straddle the fence of Christianity for long;  you will either be on one side or the other. Yet there are many who claim to be Christians and are playing it safe. Here’s what I mean:  Some are content with church membership, good grades, being neighborly, and being an all around “good” person. There is nothing wrong with those things and Christians should be the example of what a solid citizen and good neighbor is like.

But we are called to be so much more than a righteous chamber of commerce member.

Lukewarm, apathetic, secure in the four walls Christianity doesn’t win souls. Plenty of people in the world attend church on occasion and are comfortable in “feeling good” when they devote an hour of their time on Sunday. They have one foot in and one foot out because while church is good for the kids, they are content with little to no fellowship. They may attend youth group to meet other teens, and show up at the best parties to make sure they are “in.”

On the other hand, being a Christian does not equal being harsh, belligerent, social or political activists, trouble makers, or modern day Pharisees. The world doesn’t need zealots fighting for a political side or people trying to “take America back for Jesus.” Society won’t change its course until individuals change.

What the world desperately needs to see is people who truly follow the Lord. This is reflected in the daily fruit of a regenerated heart. We have the opportunity to bring the presence of Jesus into our sphere of influence…and see hearts transformed. Not all, but some in the world will observe the life of a sinner saved by grace—a mind renewed by the Spirit, and want what we have.  Not everyone will approve of your walk with Jesus. You may be ridiculed at work, teased on campus, and perhaps even “religious people” will tell you or imply that you need to tone it down.

In the wide world of all inclusive ecumenical “feel good” religion….it’s okay to say: God, Lord, in His name, and the Almighty. It’s fine to mention Buddha, Mohammed, or simply express your own version of spirituality. Mention Jesus and you will raise eyebrows. Say that He is the only way and you will be maligned or worse. Say the name of Jesus, it will cost you. As a follower of Jesus…there is no room in the middle.

1 Peter 3:16: “And keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.”

So what does the “hot” Christian life look like (Revelation 3:15)?

Followers of Jesus are seeking to make much of Him. They are growing in their faith each day. They are people of prayer and seeking God’s will. They spend time reading the Bible. It is the Word of God hidden in their hearts, so they know to stay away from sin. The Christian is marked with a sincere love for fellow believers…a very telling trait. Christians are marked by a love for the lost sinner.

Instead of a hard legalistic heart, they look at the sinner with compassion knowing that if it weren’t for God’s grace, they would also be lost and on the way to hell. Christians go out into the world, marketplace, campus, homes and share the gospel with lost people. God help us to never settle for stale, status quo “churchianity.” It’s time to be what the Lord wants us to be: Good and faithful servants.

There’s a cost associated with following Jesus. Throughout history generations of believers have been marginalized, used, abused, jailed, and even martyred for their faith. That is a sobering thought because nothing has changed in 2,000 years. We have simply been insulated from the worst of that here in the Western world.

Before I continue, please allow me to make one thing clear. I’m not on a high horse saying that I don’t understand wanting to fit in, or not wanting to ruffle feathers. Because I get it…I don’t like to stand out either. What I am saying is this: If we are truly living a sold out life for the Lord the fact is…we will stand out. The Bible is full of people on the periphery of faith. Then they encounter the awesome life altering presence of the Lord, then they are all in.

Abraham, Joseph, Peter, Paul encountered the presence of the Lord, and were never the same again. Jesus never minced words when He asked people to follow Him. He used saying like:   Take up your cross. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you on my account; they persecuted the prophets who were before you. I’m sending you out as sheep among wolves. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. Do not fear those who can kill the body but not the soul. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. If they called the master Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household? Look at what the apostle Peter wrote:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4:12).

It is not unusual for Christians to suffer for their faith.

What’s unusual is a believer not being persecuted in some way.

True, here in the west we aren’t being martyred for our faith. But you can be certain of this: If you are walking with Jesus you will have trouble. If you aren’t ashamed of His name, and say no when everyone is saying yes, call evil what it is when most others call it good, and live for Him instead of yourself…you will hear about it.

True, there isn’t martyrdom here…yet, but you can be certain you will suffer. Take a stand in the workplace and be honest at all costs: it will cost you. Be the one in your class not to cheat on the exam: it will cost you. Be loyal to your spouse, friend, business partner, or other confidant: it will cost you because our generation seems to live by the worldly mantra, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

When your friends joke about porn at work, see what happens when you don’t join in: It will cost you. The Bible makes it clear some folks will not endure sound doctrine in the last days. Your bold stand for Jesus may not sit well with some who are “pseudo Christians.”

I believe we are in the last days. I don’t know the day or hour of His return, but I believe it is at the door. Don’t be lulled to sleep by the popular notion that things are just going to get better until we usher in the Kingdom. Unfortunately, this apathetic mindset has even entered more and more evangelical churches. Friends, if we are boldly living out our faith in every aspect of our public and private life, it won’t be business as usual.

The world is going to grow darker and lawlessness will increase just prior to His return. I know it’s not a feel good topic and it isn’t preached in many pulpits today. Matthew 24 is the reality of the situation and the lines are drawn. Each day I want to be out from under the bushel, knowing the Lord will give me the strength to stand for Him, even when it’s hard, unpopular and costly.

If you are a Christian who is just going through the religious motions, ask the Lord to forgive your complacency. He will give you the ability to stand for Him and finish well.

If your spirit is lukewarm, please repent and go all in for the Lord. Jesus will Rapture the church soon and God’s righteous judgment will follow. Don’t let an apathetic heart cause you to miss the Rapture.

All for Him,