It was Jesus who told us that the love of most would grow cold. It was Jesus who told the church at Ephesus that they had lost their first love. It was Jesus who told the church at Laodicea that they were neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, and so He would spit them out of His mouth.
The virus appears in every age. Ours too. We grieve over the symptoms when we see them – in ourselves – in others too. The symptoms are not so much about those who throw away the gift of the gospel and go to hell honestly. The symptoms are more about those who wrap the gospel and faith in a nice hanky and bury it in a hole as a little insurance policy. The symptoms are seen in those who want to hang onto heaven with one hand and a few grubby souvenirs of hell in the other. You know, hang on to your official membership, just don’t show up for word and sacrament. Sing some Christmas carols but politely tell Jesus where to get off when it comes to your cussing, boozing, and fornicating.
But the symptoms are seen not only in the extremes. We sense it in ourselves. Our walk with God is weak. Our prayer life gets intense only when we need a fire extinguisher. Our appetite for God’s word fades. Jesus becomes an hors d’oeuvre, an appetizer, not the main course.
We sense something is dreadfully wrong, something that cannot be fixed with gimmicks, more church programs or loud synodical “rah-rah.” We sense we are wandering from home. We wonder about the road back to our Father, a road to spiritual renewal. Lots of voices offer directions. These other voices portray salvation as a minor repair job rather than a rescue story. They pay lip service to the cross and empty tomb, but trade away its transforming power for a litany of laws, steps, and principles prescribing structured plans to overcome sinful habits – leading souls to either self-righteous pharisaism or hopeless despair. These other voices serenade us with a tune of self-help and self-interest, garnished with a few Bible passages. These “other gospels” are appealing to our human nature, for they make you and me the center instead of Christ. These “other gospels” are impostors.
The road to renewal is in Him who had no sin, but became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. The answer is in Him who did for us what we could not, died for us that we might not, and rose again to give us heaven itself. Listen to what Jesus says: “I am the Way. Any other way will get you lost. I am the Truth, no matter how you feel on any given morning when you get up to face a world of lies. I am the Life even when you go to bed feeling defeated by the day’s events.” As the poet said: “I cling to what my Savior taught, and trust it whether felt or not.”