Revelation 3v15-17: “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich, I don’t need a thing!’ and you don’t realise that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”
My name is Tierna, and I was once lukewarm. I was comfortable in my half-hearted faith, attending church on a Sunday and singing songs without truly worshiping. My life did not look that different to the unbelievers’, and I was ok with it. In fact, I loved being safe, living in my Christian bubble surrounded only by people who looked, talked, and thought like me… sound familiar?
Then, after years of church going, I met Jesus. In the face of His glory, majesty, and beauty, I had no other response but to lay down my life in sacrifice; no other option seemed to make sense. I began to look around at the church and couldn’t grasp how we have a God who loves us so intensely, so fully, so steadfastly, and yet we respond by going to a building once a week- instead of being the church on earth. I couldn’t grasp how our God made each person in His image, yet we respond with greed and selfishness to the people who don’t fit in to our ‘good Christian’ mold. But most of all, I couldn’t grasp how we, as the church, seemed to be ok with this.
A ‘lukewarm Christian’ does not exist. Francis Chan, in his book ‘Crazy Love’ (amazing read!) writes, “As I see it, a lukewarm Christian is an oxymoron; there is no such thing. To put it plainly, churchgoers who are ‘lukewarm’ are not Christians. We will not see them in heaven.”
I understand that this is not cosy or comfortable, but we need to pay attention. This is biblical.
2 Corinthians 13:5 commands us to “examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine; test yourselves”. I invite you to examine your hearts and your lives as I try to dig deeper into what being “lukewarm” looks like.
1) Lukewarm people are like chameleons. A chameleon changes its appearance when placed in different surroundings. When in church, the lukewarm sing, smile, and shake hands with their neighbours because that’s what unity is, right? But when among gossips, they gossip; among drinkers, they drink; among those who stare at minorities in disgust and disdain, they do too. Pastor and author Brennan Manning writes, “the greatest cause of atheism is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny him with their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable”. We are the body of Christ, the hands and feet of Jesus on earth, called and equipped to walk as Jesus did. When people look at your life, can they see, not you, but Jesus? Can they see someone who spends time with the outcasts, loves radically and sacrificially, and speaks the truth in love?
2) Lukewarm people believe that this ‘radical’ gospel is only for the ‘extreme’ Christians. They assume that a completely sacrificial lifestyle is only for those who have been specifically called into it, and that commands such as “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and “give up your own way, take up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24) are not for every day, ordinary people like themselves. Please hear this: these are not callings, they are commands. They are not limited to specific Christians; they are for all who profess to know Jesus as their Lord. Are you going to believe Jesus? Then, are you going to obey Jesus? In Matthew 7:21-23, when Jesus is speaking about true disciples he warns, “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ I don’t hear these verses preached on as much as “God loves you!” “Lay down your burdens!”. Have we forgotten about the God who commands us to pick up our cross? The God who commands us to die to ourselves? We cannot simply choose to highlight certain verses in the bible that sound nice and fuzzy to us, but skim past the ones that feel uncomfortable. This is not Christianity; this is not what we are called to do.
3) Lukewarm people will give of their time, energy, and money, but only if it doesn’t impact on the way they live. Often, I find we ask the question of ‘how much should I give?’ and not ‘how much should I keep?’ It breaks my heart that so many members of the church seem to be okay with spending their money on upgrading cars, houses, clothes, gadgets etc – pretty much like the rest of the rich unbelievers - while children under the age of 18 make up 60% of those who labour in the global fashion industry; more than 1 billion people live and die in poverty; more than 26,000 children today will die due to starvation or preventable diseases.
These are the people who are made in God’s image. These are the people who we are called to love. If we can look at our lives, how we spend our time, energy, and money, and they do not reflect a radial compassion for the poor, then how can Christ be in us? In David Platt’s book ‘Radical’ (please read!) he writes, “I dare you to look across the landscape of starving millions through the eyes of Christ… I challenge you to let the gospel radically transform the way you understand and use your possessions in our American culture”. I dare you to pray, “break my heart for what breaks yours, Father”.
4) Lukewarm people love God, but there are conditions to this. Our Father demands and deserves our all. You cannot squeeze Him into your routine and think that this is sufficient. We need to turn to Scripture to truly follow and imitate the Jesus who walked on this earth, not the Jesus we have created to make us feel comfortable. Lukewarm people will say that they love God, but only when they are pleased by Him. When they face a trial or persecution, the love and adoration they had suddenly disappears. When they don’t get the promotion, when the relationship ends, when they don’t get the university offer, suddenly God takes a backseat, and their feelings and opinions take the wheel.
5) Lukewarm people focus more on their life on earth than in heaven. CS Lewis writes, “if you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other worlds that they have become so ineffective in this”. Our citizenship is in heaven; we are not of this world. Does this truth influence every aspect of you live now? PLEASE HEAR THIS: Our lives should not and cannot look the same as non-Christians.
I pray that you would know that I do not say this from a prideful heart, for “we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23), including myself. However, Chan writes “there is a difference between a life that is characterised by these sorts of mentalities and habits and a life that is in the process of being radically transformed”.
I also pray that you would know that conviction is not a bad thing- it helps us become more in the likeness of Christ. I pray that you would turn to the Father for forgiveness and renewal, instead of away from Him because of guilt. When speaking to Moses, God declares, “…Yahweh! The LORD! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6). Through the work of Jesus on the cross, there is now, “no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Run to Him, He will transform your heart and mind to align with His character.
Brothers and Sisters…it’s time to pick up your cross.
Radical- David Platt
The Irresistible Revolution- Shane Claiborne
The 77 Habits of Highly Ineffective Christians- Chris Fabry
Crazy Love- Francis Chan
Proverbs 3:27; 19:17
Matthew 5:42; 7:21-23; 16:24; 19:21; 23:12; 25:45-46; 28:19
Luke 6:46; 14:27; 15:12; 16:13
John 3:30; 14:15
Romans 3:23; 8:1; 12:13
2 Corinthians 5:15; 13:3
1 John 2:15