Lukewarm Christianity – Don’t get spit out!

28 04 2010

“If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15)

Fear. For many folks, this is what spurred their “decision for Christ” – a fear of being condemned to the lake of fire for all eternity, rather than spending eternity with God and loved ones in heaven. Many Christian denominations have used this fear to “tilt the table” for those who are wavering either in making an initial decision to follow Christ, or to keep them in the fold.

Now fear has its place. We are told in Psalms 111:10(NIV) :

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.”

This is not a cowering, panic-striven type of fear – this is a reverential fear; one in which, in the presence of the Creator, we, His created beings, bow in reverence, worship and awe before His majesty, might and power. We acknowledge His Supremacy: His Omnipotency, Omniscience and Omnipresence. We are His to do with as He wills, for His own pleasure, for His glory. This kind of fear keeps us from exalting ourselves above where we created to be, and keeps us humble in face of the fact that we are not “little gods”, but created beings, owing our very existence to He Who created us from the dust of the earth, gave the breath of life and, should we decide to accept it, given the gift of eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ’s, sacrificial death in our place, to atone for our sins, on the cross on Calvary. What awe and reverence that thought entails! Mere widgets made of mud that are raised from the very dust and made co-heirs with God’s own Son! How wonderfully gracious and merciful is our God!

Yes, this is the frame of mind of the new Christian; grateful, in a state of awe and wonder, buzzing with exuberance and willing to run right out and throw themselves under the wheels of apostasy to earn even one convert for the Kingdom! Oh, to have that thrill again!

Where are many Christians, though? Where are their hearts of service, their enthusiasm for the work of God?

How many simply trod off to church on Sunday morning, follow along with the service, maybe stay for a class, slurp some juice or coffee, then head home to “relax and enjoy the day off”? What do these people do on Monday? Tuesday, Wednesday (maybe a prayer meeting on Wednesday night?),Thursday? What about the weekend? Friday night and Saturday – the great times of leisure, entertainment and community with family and friends? Where is our relationship with God on those days, at those times? Does God even come to mind at those times?

Do you read your Bible? When? How often? Do you use a daily devotional? Do you actually go to your Bible to read the passage highlighted, or do you simply take the authors’ word for it?

What about giving of your substance back to the Lord’s work? Do you tithe? Give a set amount? Give to other charities outside of your church? Buy a tin of popcorn from a youth group member even if it isn’t a child of yours or of your family/friends?

Do you visit a sick friend or fellow church member? Do you spend time at a local nursing home? Ever visit the county jail? Have you contacted your local hospice group and volunteered to stay with a terminally ill person for a few hours to give their family or other caretakers a break for a short while from the intensity of being at the side of someone dying from an illness?

Do you sell your old clothes at a rummage sale? What do you do with the money? Do you donate it? Do you donate the “leftovers” from your garage sale to a local charity? How often do you go through your pantry and cupboards, boxing up non-perishable items that are well within their expiration dates and donating them to your local food pantry? Do you spend an extra $10 or $15 at the grocery to buy such items and deposit them in the donation barrel as you leave the supermarket?

All of these questions point toward a central idea: we cannot call ourselves Christians if we don’t “walk the walk” as well as “talking the talk”. Being a Christian isn’t just something one does now and again, on certain days, or times. Following Christ is the “whole hog”, an all-or-nothing deal. Those who think they can ease their way through life by slapping a Christian fish bumper sticker on their car are sadly misguided.

What are the characteristics of lukewarm Christians?

They are independent from God
They are insensitive to the needs of others.
They are insubstantial and frequently doubt God
They are inconsistent in their Christian life.
They are ineffective in witnessing.

(above courtesy “Overcoming Lukewarm Christianity

Christianity, at least in the Westernized world today, has become a religion of compromise, accommodation, concession, half-measures and a fuzzy “feel-good” theology that neither convicts nor reforms. In effect, it’s lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. It certainly isn’t the vibrant, growing and thriving faith-built community it was in the early days of Paul, Silas and Barnabas. Oh, it HAS become big business! Mega-churches are seemingly taking over from all of the “mainstream” denominations, where one sees congregation after congregation is drying up and blowing away while their former parishioners flock to where the music, fun and thrills are to be had. Preachers tell their flocks that they can have all of the things that they want, if only they will sow in faith and believe in the power of positive thinking and expect their abundant God will shower them with fortune and ease as a reward for their “faithfulness”.

Of these, this is what Christ, as the “…Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation” said to the church at Laodicea:

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:14b-17 NIV)

Wretched? Pitiful? Poor, blind and naked? What on earth is He talking about? We have a good life, with loving family and friends, we eat fairly well, have decent clothes, see pretty well (even if with glasses/contacts)… this isn’t about me!?!?!

Isn’t it?

Passage after passage in both the Old and New Testaments speaks of the bankruptcy of every human being due to sin. As it says in Romans,

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23 NIV)

A simple question someone could ask you is “Do you know Jesus?”. But the answer to this question is useless. The underlying truth cannot be determined with this question. Maybe, the question that we really need to be able to answer is “Does Jesus know you?
(from Fight against Lukewarm Christianity – )

Jesus said that he doesn’t want us to be lukewarm, he would rather we were hot or cold. An old remedy for swallowing a poison was to give lukewarm water mixed with salt – it induces vomiting. In other words, “lukewarm Christianity” is, in fact, a poison! It seeps into the church and eats away at it from the inside, poisoning and killing off everything it touches. This, then, makes way for all of the things we are now seeing happening in our churches and amongst ourselves. Most people in this world who call themselves Christians are lukewarm. Yes, we might go to church on Sundays, make an appearance at prayer meetings or special events with a little volunteering thrown in now and again, and think to ourselves, “…Hey, I don’t sell or do drugs, I haven’t killed anybody – I’m basically a good person who tries to live right.” That isn’t the problem, though.

If you know –way down deep inside – that the pursuit of your money/lifestyle takes up most of your time, if you never have the time to pray, if partying, playing with all your toys, or just sitting in front of the television or computer for hours, comes before Christ – then you are a “lukewarm Christian,” and it’s time to make a turnaround, before Christ spits you out!

Now, I am not putting my own self on any pedestals here. Please, God, no! I am just as guilty of these things as anyone else. Maybe that’s why it’s a topic that is so heavy on me right now – there certainly seems to be a whittling-away process going on in my life. Material things don’t seem to matter as much, or they matter too much. It’s become an “either or” thing. I used to be somewhat indifferent to this, but now? Every time I buy something that isn’t strictly something I or someone in my family needs, I question it and why I am buying it?

My husband and I have now found ourselves often in the position of giving more to our church & charities when we actually have less money than we ever have before. We used to be a two-income family – now it’s only him, and I stay home. But, even with less than we’ve ever had, we seem to have even more to give, and more opportunities to do so.

As my body has become more disabled with pain and my ability to physically do things has diminished, I find I have more to offer than when I had an able body.

As we reduce the things we’ve thought for so long that we needed to have, we find ourselves more bountifully blessed than we could ever have imagined.

We don’t “go through the motions”. We live each day in the knowledge and desire that our purpose is to serve God, in whatever way He desires for us to do so. We seek His will, His strength and wisdom. We often fail in this, too. We have many days where we get caught up in worldly cares and leave God out of it – and, as things begin to tumble into a morass of “things going wrong”, we realize where we have fallen short and, back on our figurative knees, we beg forgiveness and try anew and this with God’s help.

I have a saying printed on a sheet of paper, tacked to the corkboard beside our door. It says:

“When it’s all about God
I’m on top of things
When it’s all about me,
Things are on top of me!”

A good reminder, for me especially, as I am one of those “strong-willed” people who likes to have my finger in every pie and make sure I know where all the pitfalls are before I take a single step. How foolish my antics must seem to God! But, He loves me, and His grace is yet sufficient for me, even when I fall flat on my face.

Being a Christian isn’t about dressing like, talking or playing a role as a Christian. It’s about the relationship we have with God, our Savior. It’s about living each day in the expectation of His imminent coming and seeking His will and doing His work as we so wait. Simply going through the motions isn’t Christianity – it’s enough to make you want to vomit. Guess I can understand why Christ said what he did to the church in Laodicea!!

How do we overcome being lukewarm? First of all, we need to rely on God in all things, keeping our focus on God, and then – realizing the gifts and ministry God has given to each of us – to go about our Father’s work. Daily read the Bible. Pray with praise and gratitude, seeking His will first.

“…Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.’ “ (Mark 12:28b-31 NIV)

I believe that Christians all over the world are tired of half-hearted Christianity. I know that I was & am and it was that half-baked version of religion I rejected more than twenty years ago, living a pagan life for most of those intervening years, until returning to God and a real relationship with Him. I wish that I could sit down with every person who calls themselves a Christian and ask them if they believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Redeemer and Savior – and if they say “Yes”, then I would ask them to respond to what Jesus commanded:

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.” Matthew 16:24-27 NIV)

Years back, Amy Grant did a song that has always stayed with me, “My Father’s Eyes”. (album –“My Father’s Eyes”, 1979 – Myrrh/Word Records):

And on that day when we will pay for all the deeds we have done,
Good and bad they’ll all be had to see by everyone.
And when you’re called to stand and tell just what you saw in me,
More than anything I know, I want your words to be,

She had her father’s eyes,
Her Father’s eyes;
Eyes that found the good in things,
When good was not around;
Eyes that found the source of help,
When help would not be found;
Eyes full of compassion,
Seeing every pain;
Knowing what you’re going through,
And feeling it the same.
Just like my Father’s eyes

And this is my prayer for you, today, that you may be found seeking the Source of all help, showing the compassion of the One Who died for you, Who bore the pain of the penalty of your sin in His body, dying your death so you might have eternal life in Him. May the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, in His Name, as we serve Him with humble and grateful hearts, not lukewarm, but vibrantly, on fire for His Kingdom!



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