Goldilocks would not please God very much. God does not want us seeking what is comfortable and “just right.”
“I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16) Some translations have a stronger, “vomit you out of my mouth.”
God wants extremes, for us to choose hot or cold. He wants us to either encounter him or reject him. He doesn’t want us to just go through the motions of a fruitless faith.
In our culture, such an encounter can be uncomfortable- but in truth, it will be spiritually “just right” in its orientation to God’s will.
Being lukewarm in your faith and works is not pleasing to God. Yet, this is where millions of Christians stand – in their comfort zone. There are many reasons: poor catechesis, fear of being labeled a “holy roller,” lack of trust, fear of being alienated from friends or co-workers, fear of making life changes, or just apathy.
That thing that the lukewarm Christians lack in their lives is the very same thing that those who are cold lack – an encounter with the Risen Christ.
Yes, lukewarm Christians are believers. They may go to Church (regularly or not) as a requirement or to keep a spouse or parent happy, but not to seek an encounter with Christ there. They may only pray in times of extreme fear or crisis.
Do they know Christ any better than those who are cold to him? They may know Christ intellectually, but that is something quite different from having an encounter and coming to know him intimately as Lord, Savior, Redeemer and King in a way that he transforms your very life.
Having that type of encounter seems unsettling if you are caught up in the world because it is certain to change your priorities, your habits, and perhaps even your friends.
Examples of encounters from Scripture show us the profound power of encounter of the Risen Christ.
The Road to Emmaus
Two disciples of Jesus are walking on the road to Emmaus on the morning of the Resurrection. Why are they going to Emmaus? They are walking away from Jerusalem.
Are they fleeing in fear of being labelled as followers of Christ?
Are they spreading the word about the death of Jesus? Jesus may have been a powerful teacher to them, but who did they say he was? The Messiah, the Son of the living God? No, they called him “a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.” (Luke 24:19) They thought him a man, and likely viewed his death as a failure, the end of the movement.
We’ll never know the reason for travelling to Emmaus that morning. What we do know is that they had an encounter. Whatever reason they had for going to Emmaus was meaningless in the light of their encounter and was forgotten.
They never made it to Emmaus.
The Risen Christ they encountered that morning brought them something new, something they didn’t have before. He gave them eyes to see and ears to hear.
“With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?’”(Luke 24:31-32)
He gave them a fire of faith burning within. They recognized him, not a prophet from Galilee, but the Risen Christ, the Son of God. That fire of the Spirit within then took them on another path. No longer were they on the road talking about the death of Jesus. They rose and travelled back to Jerusalem to evangelize the Good News.
They were no longer lukewarm believers.
The Road to Damascus
Transformation of a heart that is cold appears even more astounding.
The conversion of Saul of Tarsus stands out as one of the most remarkable in Scripture. Saul is hot in his zeal for persecution and his hatred of the followers of Christ. But Saul is cold to Jesus. He doesn’t know Christ.
“Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the church; entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment.” (Acts 8:3) Cold hearted.
Saul departs for Damascus, “still uttering threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” so he can bring believers back in chains. Yet something amazing happens on the road that so utterly transforms Saul that he becomes a new man with a new name and a new mission.
Saul has his encounter with the Risen Christ.
“…a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’” (Acts 9:3-4)
Saul is blinded, his vision of the world is burned away by the light of Christ. Truly, Saul can never see the world the same way again. Christ gave him a new vision.
Saul’s original mission to Damascus was forgotten in the light of the encounter. When he regains his sight, Saul sees a different mission, a different road to follow.
“He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus, and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:19-20).
Saul of Tarsus died and Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles was born.
This new mission, evangelization of the Gospel, put Paul’s life in danger many times. He suffered much and eventually gave his life for the name of Jesus Christ.
Roads to Christ
Where are you on your road to Emmaus or Damascus?
Some people don’t want their world shaken up, or to be bothered with making life changes to see the world in a different way. Sometimes we sense a dissatisfaction with life, but have trouble pinpointing the source or identifying the solution. Instead we may focus more on that worldly road to Emmaus or Damascus, not letting Christ break into our routine, our habit, and not letting him disrupt our own vision of the road we have placed ourselves on.
The power of encounter is the power of the Risen Christ, and it is a burning fire, a dazzling bright light. It is a renewal.
This life is but a mere breath compared to eternity. And Jesus has told us, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” And why not? “…I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’” (Matthew 7:21, 23)
Maybe you aren’t sure what road to travel, or what your mission on the road should be. Consider these words of Jesus, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you,” (Matthew 7:7) and “But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33)
Wherever you are on your road, the Risen Christ can meet you there.