Not the Best Place to Visit….
and You Wouldn’t Want to Live There!
When you think of Herod, the ruler that ordered John the Baptist be mercilessly beheaded, what category do you put him in? He naturally falls into the the villain category to me. Reading more, I was reminded that Herod actually tried to keep John safe at first. We read, Herod “feared and protected him [John the Baptist], knowing him to be a righteous and holy man” (vs. 20). Though Herod was “puzzled” when he heard John’s message of repentance, Herod “liked to listen to him.” The message must have stirred his heart somewhat, enough to keep him listening. When the request was made to have John beheaded, we read that Herod “was greatly distressed.” So, if he knew John was a holy man who had important things to say,
why did Herod still approve his execution?
Herod chose to remain in a very dangerous place – the lukewarm place of curiosity void of conviction. It’s a place we should only travel through, not remain. Truth can have a powerful pull, but the longer we ignore it, the more immune we become. Revelation 3:15 records Jesus saying to the church at Laodicea, “‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!’” That surprised me at first. Wouldn’t Jesus want people to be “hot” or warm at least? Obviously cold is bad. But no, it’s only “hot” he wants. Chose to be with me 100%, or admit you’re against me, but DON’T attempt to stay in the middle.
The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. When we half-heartedly do something, how often are we pleased with the outcome? Spray yourself partly with mosquito repellant. Cook a dinner for half your family. Study half your assignment for the test.
Can you celebrate getting 50%?
It’s still an “F,” just like not doing anything. Part-way is really still in the “not done” category, the “cold” category. Herod seemed to have good intentions, but in the end, they didn’t matter. John was killed by his order. Herod only delayed evil.
When we sense God nudging us toward belief or action, we must move as He prompts us, whole-heartedly, with complete obedience and abandon. The longer we delay, the more that initial conviction and passion to be obedient wanes. Then, most often, God does not end up getting the glory He should. We are full of regret eventually, too, as our heads clear of the foggy confusion.
One example that comes to mind for me personally is noticing someone in need but choosing not to help. Maybe it’s not convenient at the time, or I’m not really “feeling it.” It’s easy to rationalize it with “I’m sure someone else will help,” or excuses like “It would have made me late,” or “I only had a twenty, no one dollar bills.” When I remain hard-hearted, I completely miss out on the great things of which I may have been a part. That small action could have had a huge positive impact on the needy person and it would have been a blessing to me too, but I was too lukewarm to care at the time. That moment is gone and all I can do is learn to follow through with my convictions the next time.
We are all imperfect and aren’t always even capable of choosing the best way. God isn’t interested in plastering us with extra shame and guilt. He does use our failures and our successes to grow us to follow Him well. Take the recent time you dropped the ball in this area and think through how you could have made a different choice. If you are a Christian already, you know God wants you to be 100% obedient. So, decide that now, when you’re in a decisive, thoughtful place. When I have made that choice ahead of time to be obedient, I will stumble and fall much less often. I first came across this concept years ago in the very first entry in Oswald Chambers’ amazing “My Utmost for His Highest” book. He says, “To get there is a question of will, not of debate nor of reasoning, but a surrender of will, an absolute and irrevocable surrender on that point.”
If you don’t know Christ as your Savior yet, know He leads us at a heart level to follow HIm. He speaks to our minds, but also to our hearts and spirits. His still small voice is often more like a slight conviction, or a feeling of excitement to know more. So, ask that friend a question. Be open to investigate what is niggling at your mind. He never leads us into harm, because He is totally good. So be smart if the direction you are considering seems questionable! Check out the church service you’ve been wanting to go to. Best yet, pick up the Bible and meet God face to face. He desires your company and hears your prayers.
God makes Himself very approachable.
And the more you know Him, the more you will love Him and happily pursue Him. Take that first step…you will never regret it! I’m not saying it’s always easy, but He is the one that loves you most. Give Him a chance!
Let’s refuse to remain in that lukewarm place. With God’s help, that is completely possible. Remember the story of the frog that allowed itself to be boiled to death? No way, you think. It would hop out. But, the temperature was changed so gradually, that the frog was unaware until it was too late. There is an urgency to God’s offer of salvation. You won’t live forever and we all know not even tomorrow is guaranteed. You wouldn’t wait to claim your lottery winnings. You wouldn’t wait to get your chest pain checked out. Don’t wait to figure out your eternal destination. This world offers you a possible hundred years. But, there are millions and millions of years coming after that. We are beings with a soul that were created to enjoy God’s company forever. He has good plans for you. Think through what you believe. It’s better to admit to yourself, your friends, and God, “I don’t get this yet. I’m not sure I believe. Can we talk about it?” Pray to God for clarity and conviction to come to a decision. He hears you and will speak truth and hope to your very heart. The person you will become, under the tutelage of the Almighty God, is the person you were made to be, that you will love to be!