Tuesday 2 October 2018

Crazy Rich Asians (Revelation 3:14-22)

There is a scene from the movie Crazy Rich Asians where the girlfriend has no idea how rich her boyfriend is until they get on a plane to Singapore and the stewardess welcomes them with champagne to First Class, showing them to their comfy, leather seats.

“So, you’re rich?” Rachel says to her boyfriend.

“We’re comfortable,” Nick replies.

She snaps, “That is exactly what a super rich person would say.”

Crazy Rich Asians is the theme today from Revelation Chapter 3, looking at a church that is rich, looking at a church that’s Asian, well, Central Asian. The thing to notice is not that they are super rich but that they are super comfortable. This church is complacent. They say in verse 17, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and I do not need a thing,” and that is insane. I do not need a thing is an insane thing to say to Jesus and yet it is what a comfortable church would say to Jesus Christ. It’s what a complacent church would say to Jesus Christ.

Three points from today’s passage: (1) Crazy, (2) Rich, and (3) Asian - all from Revelation Chapter 3 beginning verse 14.

1. Crazy

To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.
Revelation 3:14

This is Jesus speaking. Every word is from Jesus and every word is true. The reason he says, “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness,” is because he is about to kick their backsides up and down Chinatown. He is going to speak some hard words to them and he wants them to know every word is true.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
Revelation 3:15-16

For some reason, being lukewarm is really, really bad because Jesus says he is going to puuiiii-bleaggghh-qquuaaaccchhh-spuhhttt you out of his mouth. Literally, he is going to, erm, vomit them out of his mouth.

What is going on? Experts tell us Laodicea was an in-between town, between Hierapolis, famous for its hot springs and Colossae, famous for its cool springs, and in between? Lukewarm Laodicea where the hot water cooled to produce this slimy, scaly, yucky water like you get here in Cambridge after boiling water too long in your kettle then letting it cool down till it is lukewarm. You are yucky like your water is what Jesus saying. That is possible but it still does not tell us what lukewarm means.

You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
Revelation 3:17

The lukewarm church is the rich enough church. Notice, it is not the rich church nor even crazy rich church where the pastors drive Rolls-Royces and wear Rolexes but rather, it is the rich enough church that says, “I do not need a thing.” What do you call that? Contentment. We have enough money, enough leaders and enough people. That is contentment, right? No, that is comfort. That is complacency, not Christ speaking.

“You do not realise, that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” A poor person who doesn’t realise they are poor. Where do you find such a person? Jesus says right here in Cambridge, right here in the Chinese Church. It is the person who says, “No, thank you, Jesus. I’m good.”

Try telling a Cambridge student, “You are poor,” and they will reply, “That’s true.” But then tell them, “You are wretched, pitiful, blind and naked,” and they will reply, “You are crazy!” Tell that to an uncle or auntie here in the Chinese Church and they will reply, “Lei Chee Sin!” But it is the right thing to tell to a lukewarm Christian. It is the loving thing to tell to a lukewarm Christian they are lukewarm.

Who is the lukewarm Christian? It is the believer who has lost their desperate need for Jesus. More to the point, what is the lukewarm church? It is a whole group of believers who have found a way to live life comfortably without Christ, who play it safe, who play it cool but have lost their passion for Christ.

The truth is: It is never our church, it is always that bigger church down the road, so we think. But all of us no matter rich or poor are headed down this road of lukewarmness because we all start out hot, we all start out a little crazy but then we cool down and we slow down and we get comfortable without Christ. When that happens, not only are we blind to our blindness, Jesus says, we are blind to his judgement. I am about to puuuiiiihhhh you out of my mouth.

So, point one: Jesus is crazy. Telling a rich church they’re poor. Telling a lukewarm Christian they are going to hell because that’s what being spit out of Jesus’ mouth means. Judgement. You don’t do that in Cambridge but there you go: Jesus is crazy. But point two, Jesus is rich.

2. Rich

I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see.
Revelation 3:18

The solution is not: Try harder, notice that, but Come to me. Buy from me, Jesus says. Because lukewarmness is the cooling of a relationship. It is a cooling of a heartfelt, desperate need for Jesus.

Jesus says, “Buy from me,” three things are which are expensive, exclusive and extreme - gold, white clothes and medicine. You cannot buy them anywhere else but from Jesus Christ. He does not say, “Buy from me Char Koay Tiau,” or “Char Siu Pao,” he says, “Buy from me gold refined in fire!” Again, experts tell us Laodicea was famous for its gold, its textiles and its eye medicine. These are premium items.

But I think the thing what makes them special is that they are extreme. Super refined gold. Clothes for a naked person. Medicine for a blind person that miraculously causes them to see. These are not casual things you pick up at Sainsburys (“One gold refined by fire and two bananas please”) but the kind of things that turn your life upside down. You were poor but now you have gold. You were naked but now your shame is taken away. You were blind but now you see. In other words, your life is turned upside down.

Friends, what does it mean for us to be rich? Not worrying about money. Living the Lo Sai, Tai Tai life. In a word, it is retirement. No more work and no more worries.

But notice: What does it mean for Jesus Christ to be rich? Concern for the poor. Zealousness for the lukewarm. We want to be rich so we don’t have to worry, so we don’t have to care, so we don’t have to do anything except play golf everyday but the unimaginable wealth of the Son of God makes him zealous, makes him hot with concern, makes him speak truth in love to his people. I will not do nothing.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.
Revelation 3:19

Sounds like my mum. I’m scolding you because I love you. Like any good Tiger Mum. But there is a change in tone from I’m going to spit you out to I counsel you; from You are blind to I love you. The worst thing God can do is to leave you alone. To let you remain in your state of lukewarmness.

Jesus says Be zealous. The word means to boil (zeluo comes from the sound of boiling water) Be hot, in other words. How do we do that? By copying his zeal. Jesus is the ultimate Rich man who cannot sit still. For us it means getting up, turning back and saying, “I need you. I love you, Jesus, more than gold, more than comfort, more than this life.” I dare say it involves having that same dissatisfaction as Jesus when you see people taking it easy in church, taking it easy in their relationship with Christ. They will call you extreme (“Why are you making a fuss?”). They will call you crazy (“Who are you to call me lukewarm?”). But that is what zealousness looks like because that is what Jesus looks like in his zealousness. He is the ultimate Rich man who cannot sit still.

Finally, point three, Jesus is the ultimate Asian.

3. Asian

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
Revelation 3:20

Right after this, we are going to do something very Asian, that is, eat ourselves silly. That is what we do here at the Chinese Church on Mid-Autumn Festival. It is an Asian thing but it is also a biblical thing. Eating together means sharing life together. Quantity time that leads to quality time together. Jesus says, “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” It is not an offer of food but an offer of relationship. Quality time with Jesus but also quantity time with Jesus. You have to eat every day. Jesus says, “Eat with me.”

It is interesting how Jesus says to the other churches in Revelation, “I am coming soon.” Christians believe Jesus who came and died on the cross, rose from the dead and is now seated at God’s right hand. He is King. But one day, Jesus will return as Judge. And to all the other churches, Jesus says, “I am coming… I am coming... I will come soon” (Revelation 2:5, Revelation 2:16, Revelation 2:25 and Revelation 3:11). Except to this church, Jesus says, “I am already here.”

And the sad thing is they do not realise Jesus is here, standing outside the door, knocking. Some of us are waiting for God to do something, then we will change; for God to do that amazing thing, then we will believe. Jesus says I am here, I am speaking, I am knocking and question is not whether God will do that one thing, that amazing thing before we believe or we change but whether we are listening now, whether we are paying attention now and whether we realise that Jesus is already here now. Essentially, Jesus is saying to us, “What are you waiting for?”

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Revelation 3:21-22

I have been trying to figure out why people are crazy over Crazy Rich Asians and the one word I keep hearing is: Representation. It is the first movie in 25 years with an all-Asian cast in a Hollywood production since Joy Luck Club. Representation means seeing someone like me becoming someone I would like to be. When I see someone like me on the big screen - someone who looks like me, sounds like me, or eats rice everyday like me - standing upfront here in church leading songs, playing the keyboard or preaching a sermon, that can be a very powerful thing. It makes me think: If they can do it, maybe I can, too.

Except, Jesus Christ is not like us and what he offers us is something better than representation. Here is someone completely unlike us become like us so that we can be with him. What he offers us is relationship with him.

Jesus is God, we are not. He is completely holy, completely loving, completely sinless and we are not. But Jesus became a man and became like us - not in our sin but in our weakness, in our dependence, even in our temptations. And in becoming a man he humbled himself to the cross and died and our place, taking our sin, taking our judgment and becoming our substitute for us. But God raised him on the third day back to life and exalted his Son as Christ and Lord and seated him in the heavenly realms as King.

Jesus is completely unlike us, become like us and now he calls us to be with him. “I will come in and eat with him and he with me,” (verse 20). “I will give the right to sit with me on my throne,” (verse 21).

And right after this, when we eat with one another and have fellowship with one another, while that might be a good thing and an enjoyable thing and maybe that is why you came to the Chinese Church today, the question to ask is: Are we eating with Jesus? Do we have a relationship with Jesus? Maybe that is why God brought you to the Chinese Church today because Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Crazy Rich Asians. Jesus is crazy - telling them they are lukewarm and telling them to repent but he is speaking the truth and he is speaking in love. Jesus is rich - not the kind of rich who want to keep it all to themselves; Jesus is the rich man become poor, the One who became sin for us so that in him we might be rich, we might be righteous, we might be saved. But finally Jesus is the ultimate Asian, who doesn’t just want quality time with us but quantity. He wants to come in, to eat with us, to be with us and us with him.

Let’s pray.

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