Lukewarmness. Take a moment and think about what comes to mind there. Maybe you come in from a hot day working in the yard, and you're just waiting for that cold lemonade or ice water. Imagine substituting that cold drink for a lukewarm, room temperature glass of water.
Let's change the image for a moment. Let's imagine you come in from outside on a cold wintery day, and you have been looking forward to that hot chocolate, warm coffee, or hot tea since you left the house! You come inside and all that's left is the hot chocolate that's been off the stove for two hours.
It's not a terribly appetizing picture, is it? Frankly, there are times cold drinks sound good, times warm drinks sound good, but basically no time lukewarm drinks sound good. No one longs for that drawn out sip of warm hose water, do they?
In Revelation 3, we see a rebuke offered to the church at Laodicea, a rebuke included in holy Scripture for our benefit. V. 14-22 reads, "14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:
15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 21 He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
I still remember when I heard these verses mentioned in a sermon for the first time. I was stunned, and as a little kid, honestly, I was scared. These were not soft, pat-you-on-the-head words. These were convicting, sword-in-the-heart words. This message is one meant to open up that cut, not to bind it up.
V. 15 is really where the shock begins. Go back and read it again so you can catch what is said there if you missed it the first time. Jesus is saying here that He would rather the church be hot or cold rather than lukewarm. What does that mean?
He would rather a church or a Christian be either completely sold out for Him or completely in rebellion against Him than outwardly conforming yet inwardly rebelling. This is a radical concept, so stick with me here. He would rather you be totally for Him OR totally against Him rather than me a mediocre, half-hearted follower. Humanistic atheism is more tolerable in His sight than hypocrisy.
In case you hadn't gotten it when you read His words in v. 16, where He says that because of their lukewarmness He will spew them from His mouth, lukewarmness is a serious concept to God. Outwardly claiming His name while not inwardly following His commands is to Him more serious than atheism or Islam or any other system of thought that would be categorized under "coldness" to His cause. Sorta following Jesus or half-way committal to His name and His cause is not an option.
I realize this isn't a fun article to read; it's not particularly fun to write. The first reason we began this blog is, in fact, a negative one, to counter the spirit of lukewarmness that is laying hold of our teens, our leaders, and our churches.
For those wishing to follow Jesus, lukewarmness is the easiest option. Rather than completely abandoning all ties to religion when the going gets tough, lukewarmness adjusts faith to fit our particular desires and conveniences. Lukewarmness makes us convince ourselves we can fit faith into small, compartmentalized aspects of our Christianity while ignoring the more difficult or all-consuming aspects.
Lukewarmness desires the benefits of salvation without taking up a cross and following. Lukewarmness is the trait that desires to walk an easy road after Jesus. And the inevitable conclusion from Scripture is that if you want to follow Jesus, there is no easy road to walk, because He walked no easy roads. If we truly want to follow Jesus Christ, than walking a path of easy nonchalance while claiming His name is not an option.
I'm not arguing that you must live a perfect, blemishless Christian life. I'm simply saying that a holy God is never satisfied with, to borrow from Francis Chan, our leftovers. God is a jealous God, one who demands preeminence, not leftovers. Lukewarmness is the side of us that wants to give God simply a footnote on the page of our life, or a 5 second moment in the closing credits of our life film rather than writing the whole book about Him or making Him the entire point of the film.
But even here, in a convicting topic such as this, there is good news from a Savior who stands offering grace to all who desire it. V. 20 offers the good news that v. 16 seems to forever cast from our memory. It is never too late to turn from a religion of hypocrisy and apathy and embrace the calling of God for your whole heart with your whole heart. Because there, knocking, is Jesus Christ, offering life, real life, in place of cold, dead heart that embraces the spiritual apathy of this age.
We encourage you to join with us in standing against the spiritual lukewarmness that is such a temptation. Believe me, I know. I fall to it. I am not immune to the temptations, by any means! The last thing I want you to do as you read this is to look at us as the perfect models. We're not. Take my word for it, I'm a mess quite a bit of the time. I don't have it all together.
Yet, in Christ, there is victory! Lukewarmness is not an unavoidable state of our spiritual life or of our relationship with Christ. The answer to this lukewarmness is not just to try harder or to push a little more; it's to throw yourself on the mercy of a loving, holy God and to actively allow Him to change you more and more into His likeness. Victory over sin, this sin included, is not found in ourselves and our effort, but only in Christ and His past, present, and future victory for us.