Lukewarmness

Lukewarmness

“Lukewarmness”

May the Lord perfect that which He already started in you in Jesus Name, Amen.

Today, it is what I call the lukewarm attitude of the Children of God. Most of us are used to the typical greeting, “How are you doing?” We automatically answer “Fine, and how are you too?” … pretty much without thinking. A brother once said of another brother that could catch you off guard. Instead of the quick “How are you doing?” He would stop, look straight into your eyes and ask, “How is it with your soul, brother?” Now that’s a question to make you stop and think.

That’s the kind of question I want to ask you today. How is it with your heart? If nothing else, the experience of King Amaziah (2Chronicles. 25) teaches us that a lukewarm heart is a dangerous thing. If left unattended, it will ultimately grow stone cold.
When we talk about the heart, we usually just think of our feelings. But when the Old Testament talks about the heart it includes not just our feelings, but our mind, our will, our entire spiritual nature. It embodies the whole life of a person. Jesus said this was the greatest commandment: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind…” Matthew 22:37, Deuteronomy 6:5

So let me ask you again: How is it with your heart? When I hear that question, I think about those who work hard, seeking to serve God in their church, jobs, and with their families. They are diligent and devoted in their obedience to God. But maybe you need to ask yourself, how is my heart? Do I remember the ONE I’m working for who is my enabler? Or am I doing this based on what “I think” is good or just because the local assembly demands it not based on faith in the directions of my Lord and Savior? If so, no sir! You cannot please Him that way. You do not qualify (Hebrews. 11:6)
Remember, God doesn’t need all your personal, self driven hard work. (See the write-up on ‘Devotions or Devotion?)

Please note: “Lukewarm Christianity” has nothing to do with just being or not being zealous with church activities!  The letter to the Laodicean church is the best known of the seven Revelation letters. But it is also the most troubling letter for many of us Christians. We are in that Laodicean church age today, being the last of them. The difficulty stems from the rebuke spoken by Jesus:

“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Revelation 3:14-19)

 

What does it mean to say a church is lukewarm? What does it mean to be spit out of Jesus’ mouth? What does it mean to be wretched and miserable, blind and naked? Let us look at each of these questions in turn.

What does it mean to be lukewarm? Many would define “lukewarmness” in terms of apathy or lack of zeal. They say it’s better to be on fire for God or coldly opposed to him than be halfhearted in the middle. This interpretation has become so widely known that even among non Christians the term lukewarm has become synonymous with apathy and complacency. But there are at least three problems in this context with interpreting this scripture in terms of zeal.

Problem 1: Zeal is a subjective term
What is hot to you could be lukewarm to someone else
. You might think that you are “on fire” for God. You may say, “I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I have.” Then you meet someone who is fasting four times a week and giving 20% away. Compared to them you look like a casual believer. After all, you’re only doing half as much as them. You begin to wonder, “Am I doing enough? Will Jesus spit me out?”

I’ve heard preachers use Revelations 3:16 to condemn Christians who have become, in their eyes, complacent and lackadaisical. It’s funny, but when preachers say this, they usually define “hot” in terms of whatever level of zeal they happen to be living at. It’s an amazing coincidence.

No matter how zealous or enthusiastic you may be, there will always be someone more zealous who makes you look lukewarm by comparison. The only appropriate response is one of competitive insecurity. And that leads to the second problem with this interpretation.

Problem 2: Zeal implies God’s acceptance of us is based on our performance                     

The lukewarmness of the Laodicean church had put them in danger of being “spit out” or rejected by the Lord. This begs the question, what makes us acceptable to God? Is it our zeal?

Usually when people preach on this text, zeal is defined in terms of things we should do, or rather things we aren’t doing enough of. And we sit there and nod our heads because, yes, we could be doing a lot more of all those good things.

But think about this for a second. Since when did we buy into the idea that our performance makes us acceptable to God? Where in the world is Grace? This is nothing but self-righteousness in disguise. You can tell that by looking at the fruit. What if you did fast twice a week and give 10% away and then you met a believer who didn’t fast or tithe at all? You may not display a sanctimonious facade of piety but being man, pride would well up inside. Then you would think, “Well, I’m not Pastor Adeboye of the Redeemed Church or Dr. Olukoya of the Mountain of Fire Ministries, but compared to this person “I try small” it may not come out of you like that but I believe you know what I mean?

Religion is dogmatic, deals in relatives and leads people to say, “I’m basically a good person,” or, “I may not be perfect, but I’m above average.” But God deals in absolutes, not in averages. You are either in the kingdom or you’re not. You are either a sheep or a goat, wheat or weeds, a sinner or a saint. Defining lukewarmness in terms of our performance gets people thinking that there is some middle ground when it comes to our acceptance. But there is no middle ground.

Problem 3: Jesus says we’re better off cold

Most people agree that it’s better to be hot than lukewarm, but Jesus said it’s also better to be cold. Either hot or cold is good. But if Jesus was referring to enthusiasm, why would he say it’s better to have none than some? If Jesus was referring to the things we do for him, why would he say it’s better to do nothing than something? This doesn’t make any sense.

Lukewarmness is not about human zeal

People who preach zeal are essentially saying, “Be good for Jesus.” True, it is good to be good but our goodness never makes us acceptable to a holy and perfect God. (Isaiah 64:6) tells us… “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” Apart from Him we are all tarnished by sin, we are all unworthy. Most believers accept that God’s Grace makes the sinner righteous, yet they don’t believe that the same Grace also makes the Christian righteous! It’s as if God helps the sinner all the way to the cross and then leaves the new Christian to make it the rest of the way on his own. This dumb idea has been floating around since the time of the Galatians:

“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Galatians 3:1-3)

The Message Bible translates the last verse this way:

“Only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God.” (Galatians 3:3)
The Contemporary English Version puts it like this, “How can you be so stupid?” while Darby’s translation wonders, “Are ye so senseless?”

So there you have it. The Bible says those who preach human effort are crazy, foolish, stupid and senseless. Whether we are saved or unsaved, our self-righteous acts can never make us acceptable to God.

You might say, “It’s not about works, it’s about attitude. God looks at the heart.” But Jesus did not say to the Laodiceans, “I know your heart.” He said, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot” There was clearly something they were doing that made them lukewarm and unacceptable. So what was it?

Lukewarmness is about mixing stuff

When Jesus says he would prefer that we are hot or cold rather than lukewarm, most people automatically think of a thermometer: cold and hot temperatures are good, but being stuck in the middle is bad. As we have seen this is a poor metaphor because there is no middle ground with God. But lukewarmness can also refer to mixing things. When you mix cold with hot you get lukewarm.

Now what are the two good things in the Bible that, if you mix them together, you end up with something bad? Here’s a hint – what were the Galatians mixing together? Answer: law and grace.

We all know that the grace of God is good, but what about the law?

“The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.” (Romans 7:12)

Why is the law good? It is because it leads us to Christ that we might be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24). The law was written on tablets of cold stone. The law has no power to make you righteous and good, but if you are honest, it will reveal your need for a Savior:

“Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” (Romans 7:13)

The law – which is good – brings despair, condemnation and guilt, and leads us to Christ. God’s grace – which is very good – brings hope, justification and freedom through Jesus Christ. But these two good things cannot be mixed together. If you try to mix law with grace you’ll end up with the benefits of neither.

How do you dilute the power of the law? Simple, by lowering God’s holy standards to attainable levels of human performance.

How do you negate the unmerited favor of God? It is when you try to earn it through observing the commandments and other acts self-righteousness.

The Laodicean problem was not that they were mainly complacent, but that they were trying to attain through human effort that which ONLY GOD can do. Their problem was far more serious than a poor attitude. They were trying to make themselves righteous by themselves.

Good and bad zeal

It is good to be enthusiastic for Jesus. But there is good zeal and bad zeal. Look at what Paul said of the Jews: “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”  (Romans 10:2-4)

Bad zeal is what you get when you try to establish your own righteousness instead of submitting to God’s righteousness. Good zeal is what you get when you know that Christ has set you free from the demands of the law and given you his righteousness. When you apprehend what Jesus has done for you, you will be as enthusiastic as a freed prisoner! You will run like a cripple with new legs, like a blind man with new eyes!

Jesus did not suffer and die on the cross to give us a chance to compete for God’s approval. He died to make us righteous. If there is apathy in Christians today it’s probably because we are tired of trying to stir up carnal zeal. We are weary of being told we are not praying enough, reading enough, witnessing enough, giving enough. No matter how much we do, it will never be enough anyway. The unfinished work of the law always demands for more.

What will set Christians free is the revelation that Jesus has done it all. His was a one-time sacrifice for all the sins of the world. Not only did Jesus die for us but He lives for us, He keeps us, and He intercedes for us. As you begin to understand the significance of this, it will set you free like never before.

As you sincerely ask yourself this question, “how is my heart towards God?” Bear in mind that He really wants to help you strengthen, fortify and consolidate your stand with Him, the source of Life. Quickly repent of the lukewarmness and ask for His help. A loving Father lets his little child “help” him at work even though he could do the job better and faster himself. It is just for the child to have some practical life experience. God allows us to work with Him for our own good. If your heart is LUKEWARM, tend to it now. Have a heart discussion with God. Pour out everything to Him. Your strength, weakness(s), bias, confusion etc. Place your heart back in His hands. Don’t let your heart go lukewarm. The Father of lights will definitely come to your rescue because He is Faithfulness epitomized. Have a great life in Jesus.

Amen.

 

 

 

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