The Problem of Being Lukewarm (part 1)
How easy it is to become lukewarm and to be unaware of it! We do not realize that we have become lukewarm any more than we are aware that our coffee has grown lukewarm until we taste it. And just as I want to do with lukewarm coffee (throw it out), Jesus says he wants to spit out lukewarm Christians. I think Francis Chan, in his book Crazy Love, writes words that would make Jesus proud, “Lukewarm living and claiming Christ’s name simultaneously is utterly disgusting to God. And when we are honest, we have to admit that it isn’t very fulfilling or joyful to us, either.” Chan goes on to say that he sees the term lukewarm Christian to be an oxymoron; “there’s no such thing.” But clearly Jesus identifies a church as lukewarm.
Jesus accused the church of Laodicea of being lukewarm, one of the harshest statements he makes to any group of people (except maybe his woe statements to the Pharisees about their hypocrisy in Matthew 23. They were neither psuchros (cold) nor zestos (hot) but chiliaros (lukewarm). These words (along with words from the root therm-), described the literal environment (cold water (Mtt 10:42; people warming themselves when it was cold outside (Jn 18:18, Acts 28:2, 2 Cor 11:27; Mark 14:54) and people needing to be warmed by food and clothing (James 2:16)
More interesting is when these words are used metaphorically. Jesus refers to a period of time when love (for God) would grow cold when lawlessness increases (Mtt 24:12). Apollos was known to be fervent in spirit (literally boiling in spirit) and using the same phrase, Paul exhorts all believers to be fervent in spirit and not slothful in zeal (Rom 12:11). So, it is not surprising that Jesus used the word lukewarm (likely a reference to the lukewarm waters being piped into Laodicea that caused people to throw up) to rebuke a people, a church that was ineffective, whose self-trust and wealth had blinded them to the desperate nature of their reality.
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Rev 3:15-17
The only solution for them was repentance and opening a metaphorical door to Jesus so that they would know the presence of Jesus in their lives and church.
“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Rev 3:19-20
Chan admits that it is the people who know they are lukewarm and don’t care that scare him the most. On the other hand, if being lukewarm is a condition that gradually creeps up on us, perhaps the following statements by Chan will shock some of us into realizing that action is required if we are to continue to follow our first love. If you see yourself in some of these statements, as I have, may God graciously lead us into repentance so that we may open wide the doors of our lives and know His freedom and vitality once again. The numbers following provide the kindle reference.
- LUKEWARM PEOPLE attend church fairly regularly. It is what is expected of them, what they believe “good Christians” do, so they go. 1318
- LUKEWARM PEOPLE give money to charity and to the church … as long as it doesn’t impinge on their standard of living. 1328
- LUKEWARM PEOPLE tend to choose what is popular over what is right when they are in conflict. 1345
- LUKEWARM PEOPLE don’t really want to be saved from their sin; they want only to be saved from the penalty of their sin. 1362
More of Chan’s statements in the part 2 post