THE “BALANCED” CHRISTIAN LIFE
Rev.3: 14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Most of us have heard a more mature Christian admonish someone to be more “balanced” especially when this other believer, many times young in the Lord, exhibits something that seems out of the ordinary among regular church people. If someone gets a little fanatical it is up to the older and wiser members to encourage balance.
I remember a young man who was born again after having been raised in the Roman Catholic Church in our area. Well this young man began to read his Bible and soon saw just how deceived he had been. He was overwhelmed with praise and his faith was with much passion. But the more clearly he understood the Scriptures the more he became burdened for his friends at the former church and the more angry he got with the leaders in that church. He was consumed with the things of Christ but he could not remain silent about what he knew about his former religious training.
So one Sunday morning he went to that Roman Catholic church and right before the priest got up to deliver a sermon that young man stood up and loudly told everyone he had been saved by Jesus’ blood and that this church was not telling them the truth. He began to speak the gospel and was summarily escorted out. He did not resist.
Well the older members of his church scolded him and instructed him to be more balanced in his Christian walk. Did I believe he should have done what he did? It certainly was unusual and even impolite, and I admit I have my reservations about doing something like that, but I cannot definitely state that he was wrong considering the eternal consequences of letting people die in their sins. But do you know what usually happens to a young believer like this young man? They either become disillusioned and stop witnessing at all, or they become more balanced and become like us. Yes, I said like us.
Even if you object to his method of witnessing in that instance you have to admire his bold witness and his concern for the souls of these people. But the church has become so polite and balanced that it never desires to step out of the ecclesiastical boat and walk on uncharted water. And any fire that seems outside the norm is quickly quenched with a water bucket of being balanced. That is one of the major problems with the evangelical church today. We are far too balanced.
Jesus rebukes the Laodicea church because they are not hot nor are they cold. They are lukewarm or in modern parlance they are balanced. They might read the Word sometimes; they might pray sometimes; they might witness sometimes; they might sing worship songs sometimes; but all these things are in a balanced perspective. And even brand new believers are placed upon an assembly line and taught how to be doctrinally orthodox and balanced in life. There is little patience for anyone who upsets the proverbial applecart.
But the teachings of Jesus are unbalanced if they are anything. They go against the norm both religious and secular. Forsake all? Deny self? The first shall be last? Die to self? Rejoice when men revile you? Bless your enemies? Give one of your two coats to whoever asks it of you? Forgive seventy times seven? Those are far from being balanced. In fact they are radical and if practiced literally would make people feel very uncomfortable to be around us. But in reality people are very comfortable to be around us. So what does that say about us?
I do not suggest we try to be mean or contentious or purposely say and do things which draw attention to ourselves. I do not suggest we try to be unbalanced and radical in our own strength. What I am saying is that if we truly lived like Jesus did and if we consciously lived in radical conformity to His teachings we would have people admonish us to be more balanced. Church people strongly desire to remain within the walls of ecclesiastical conformity and accepted church behavior. And those who must step out of these parameters are not only dismissed as unbalanced fanatics, but they rapidly become persona non grata in the local fellowship. And after many decades of such a scenario the Christian church loses its salt and light and settles into a nice family place for people who have made a profession for Christ. It is a club for the balanced.
What would have happened if the first century believers had become balanced? How would the gospel have spread if those believers pledged allegiance to Rome and built places of worship which were very balanced in their manifestation of their faith? And if they had become as balanced as we are, would there have been any martyrs at all? What if those churches had Caesar come and greet the folks once in a while? What if some of these believers enlisted in the Roman army? What if they joined hands with moral Jews and Gentiles who did not believe in Jesus but wanted to stop the violence within the culture? And what if those believers had become so balanced that the Roman government embraced them as a significant voting block and invited their leaders to government functions?
But that is not what happened. These early believers were so radical that even though they eschewed violence and posed no earthly threat to Rome they still were persecuted and many were butchered simply because they refused to be balanced. The gospel had changed their earthly lives in ways they could never have imagined. They were nonviolent and humble and went about doing good to all men and shared their faith in Jesus to their neighbors. And yet they were sought out and fed to lions or hung on gallows. You see fallen man cannot stand those who live in the Spirit. He will either give serious consideration to the claims of Jesus or he will persecute His followers, but he cannot remain neutral.
But when the church lives a balanced earthly life that has some doctrine as its witness but its living practice seems just like some moral unbeliever than the world accepts them. And when our eyes are as dry as our fallen neighbor’s, then we are very balanced. We own a house, pay our bills, borrow money, watch television, plan vacations, love sports, enjoy entertainment venues, complain about prices, save money for retirement, shop, listen to music, and are a benign member of our neighborhood and community. And given the fact that we believe we have eternal life, it is quite the earthly life of blessings.
But if we turn around and retrace the steps of the church for centuries we see a disturbing path. Little by little the church succumbed to the culture and eventually held onto its doctrines and some morals. Yes, we still divorced at secular rates, yes men still struggled with sexual sins, yes we still worried about money, yes we still sought financial security through secular means, yes we still went to war along side of unbelievers, yes we were entertained through worldly venues, but we still practiced a local church version of the faith and that became enough. And now there were churches on every corner, parking lots filled on Sunday, beautiful buildings, Bible study classes galore, wonderful music programs, many church activities, and generally an ecclesiastical network which even used the most up to date technology for teaching, in house information, and local advertisement. The western church construct had become an ingenious creation of the American religious mind,
As David Wilkerson once said, “Never before has the church made such inroads into the secular culture with so little effect.” And that is because we have become part of the culture and left being part of another kingdom which is completely at odds with any fallen culture in this world. So the world “balanced” in context means behavior that is culturally acceptable but spiritually lukewarm. It is an incredibly apt description of the western church. But it will sustain itself through all kinds of ways. And people will leave the building, return to their homes, and feel very good about their relationship with their church and other church members. But it’s like the electric company. It’s the only game in town so live with it. The boat is safer than the waves. But, sadly, Jesus walk on the waves and is calling us to Himself. So we can do one of two things. We can make Jesus fit into our church structure and practices with little sacrifice or denial of self.
Or we can get out of the boat where there is much uncertainty, much wind, much stormy weather, and oh yes, there is Jesus. If we truly caught a glimpse of Who He is and what He has done we would be completely unbalanced, and as the Apostle Paul said, a fool for Christ. And any who could call the cross "balanced" have never been there.