The lukewarm Christian may not be what you think…

Throughout the day, I drink quite a bit of coffee. It is because of me that we had to move away from k-cups in the office. We bought those little single-cup filters that fit into a Keurig. Sometimes my coffee sits in one place too long and I am not pleased when I take a sip and it is no longer hot. I find myself getting up and going to the microwave more often than I’d like to. Lukewarm coffee is not good! Here’s the thing about coffee, though. It takes me getting up and placing it in the microwave to keep it hot for an extended amount of time.

In my life, there are times when I feel drained physically and emotionally; there are times when my faith is lacking; there are times when I don’t love my wife like I should; there are times when I am way too focused on myself and there are many times when I am way too overcommitted. There are times when I lack passion and excitement and there are times when I am literally no good for the kingdom of God. Just like my daily cup of coffee, I find it impossible to stay warm without God working in my life.

What exactly does it mean to be a lukewarm Christian, and how can we stay either hot or cold?

“Write to the angel of the church in Laodicea:

“The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Originator of God’s creation says: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent. Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me. The victor: I will give him the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I also won the victory and sat down with My Father on His throne.

Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.”[1]

Christ sees through me

            Before we dive into this story, we need to remember chapter 1. John describes Christ as the one who will judge the entire world, including the churches (which He holds in His right hand). Christ is presented throughout this letter as the righteous judge, especially so just before John addresses the seven churches specifically. When John addresses the specific churches, he gives them a message that is universally applicable. We know this because 1) it is in scripture that was revealed by God and 2) John ends each address with a phrase like, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”[2]

Today we read part of the letter that was addressed specifically to the angel (messenger or pastor) of the church in Laodicea concerning the church.

John writes on behalf of the Amen (who is Christ, the beginning of God’s creation who bears witness to all things). Christ’s very first words in this address are “I know your works.”

There are no secrets before God. He knows all and has the power and the authority to judge. As human beings living in a fallen world, we are treasure troves of secrets. We access websites that we should not. We hate and pretend like everything is fine. We covet, and steal, and cheat, and murder and God knows. Here He plainly accuses the church of being lukewarm. They are in need of revival.

If God sees through me, I have no reason to try and hide. Confession should be easy. I should be honest with God. Why is that so difficult for us?

  What it means to be lukewarm

Lack of confession, though, is only part of what it means to be lukewarm. In fact, it is only a symptom of lukewarmness. Here are some other symptoms:

    • You attend church because it is what’s expected.

 

  • You’re sure only to tithe 10% when you could be more generous or more sacrificial.

 

 

  • Your idea of worship is limited to singing in church.

 

 

  • You are doing nothing to reach your friends and family with the Gospel.

 

 

  • You’re not irritated with sinfulness.

 

 

  • You do not genuinely love those around you.

 

 

 

These are only symptoms. What does it mean to be neither hot nor cold? I once heard it said that hot water was good for cooking and cold water was good for drinking, but lukewarm water was good for nothing. This is just a bad treatment of the text. Because of our fallen nature, no human being is good. I do not think this text is about challenging the church to get up and do something useful, so as to not become stagnant.

Verse 17 reveals exactly what God meant when He called the church lukewarm:

“For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (ESV).

To be lukewarm is not to be stagnant in our actions, it is to confuse worldly prosperity with heavenly prosperity. It is to be stagnant in our relationship with God. I can work in a church office and do so much for the kingdom, yet be lukewarm. We can do outreach project after outreach project, yet be lukewarm. We can build the numbers of the church congregation, do well in our music and preaching, and yet still be lukewarm; because as a fallen human being, I am not good.

When I do not live in relationship with Christ, I lose my warmth. I am neither hot nor cold. I become useless no matter how much work I try and do. A relationship with Christ is the only valuable pursuit and all other pursuits depend directly on that relationship.

Even though God can work despite my lukewarmness, there is a way that I can keep from becoming lukewarm and remain useful.

 

God provides usefulness

            In the passage, Christ claims to reprove and discipline those He loves. It is Christ who judges us and calls us to repentance. He stands at the door and knocks, and if anyone opens the door, Christ will come in and eat with him (even granting him to sit with Christ on the throne).

            There are so many times when I hear someone speaking about Christ coming and knocking on the door of an unbeliever’s heart. If only the unbeliever would open the door and invite Christ into his heart, he would be saved. Salvation is not about inviting Christ into our hearts anyway! It is about giving our whole self over to Christ because Christ died for us! I am very confident that this is a bad application of the text, for the text is about revival in the Church! Christ’s knocking on the door is His conviction in our lives. Our letting Him in is our willingness to listen to that conviction and to allow Christ to change us. Christ coming in and eating with us is a renewal of communion with Him, a communion that enables us to change according to Christ’s convictions. Our lukewarmness, then, is represented by our lack of change. When we are not maturing, we are not following the convictions of Christ. We are good for nothing because, even if we think we do much, we have not acted according to Christ’s convictions, but our own.

Think back on your recent walk with Christ. Has there been any maturing at all? Have you listened to Christ’s conviction? Are you willing to change according to those convictions?

Or…

Are you intent on staying the way you are?[3] Do you look for excuses not to read scripture or pray? Are you constantly justifying your own actions?[4] Are you afraid of being too religious? If any of the later are true, you may be guilty of lukewarmness. You may be in need of revival.

I personally do not like “recommitment” decisions. They are usually only words. Know that even after reading this, you will have the same struggles, the same temptations, the same afflictions and the same circumstances surrounding you. So, do not recommit your life to Christ, simply begin living for Him again. Revival is experienced every day and it only comes from Christ, because Christ is the righteous judge.

[1] Revelation 3:14-22

[2] v. 22

[3] Churches that are unwilling to change even when change is necessary are lukewarm churches.

[4] Cussing, drinking and homosexual practice comes to mind. People are always justifying their own actions without asking whether or not it actually pleases Christ with a willingness to change. Self-justification is never okay for the Christian.

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