Being a lukewarm Christian is bad, but do we understand it correctly?
“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.” Revelation 3:15-16NIV
Jesus is full of grace and love. However, this lukewarm thing really seems to try His patience.
I used to think that I knew what being “neither hot nor cold” meant, but recently I’ve come to see it in a different light.
The Way I Used to View Being Lukewarm
Given the seriousness of Jesus’ statement above, it is very important that we understand clearly what He’s talking about.
What does it mean to be a lukewarm Christian?
Thanks to Eric and his article, The Myth of the Lukewarm Christian, I think I have a better understanding.
Eric tells how lukewarm Christians are often thought of:
[T]hey say they believe, but they’re not that committed. They show up in church to warm the pews, but they still do worldly things. You should see the way they dress and those movies and music they listen to! If only they knew all the right things to do so they could be on fire like us.
The lukewarm Christian is often thought to be someone that does not passionately work for the Lord.
This is really how I’ve always understood it, but is this right?
How My Understanding Has Changed
After studying this a bit, I’m not so sure that this explanation is as accurate as I once considered it to be.
Remember the story of Mary and Martha?
As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 NLT
Jesus didn’t reprimand Mary for her lack of burning desire to work for Him. In fact, He said that Mary had discovered the one thing worth being concerned about.
Mary sat intently listening to Jesus. She understood her need for Him.
Jesus commended this. He didn’t say Mary was lukewarm because she failed to DO stuff for Him.
Let’s flip back to Revelation for a moment. Right after Jesus said He’d spit out the lukewarm, He said why:
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Revelation 3:17 ESV
Jesus isn’t talking about worldly wealth here. He’s referring to your spiritual condition.
Jesus concludes you are lukewarm “For you say” you have it all together when you really don’t.
In other words, you are self-righteous.
The self-righteous believe they are rich (hot) in their self-sufficiency, but in fact, they are poor (cold) in their distance from Him. The combination leaves them lukewarm.
Recall how Jesus chastised the Pharisees? They were hot and cold. They were red-hot on the outside in their commitment to the Law, but they were ice-cold on the inside in their hearts toward Him. Here’s what He had to say about them:
You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.”
Matthew 15:7-9 NIV
Do you see the combination of hot and cold again?
Referring back to The Myth of the Lukewarm Christian, here’s how Eric puts it:
Lukewarm Christians are satisfied in themselves. Lukewarm Christians are proud of their spiritual commitment and pleased with all that they do for the Lord. Lukewarm Christians believe that they are living the right way, with all the right values, and all the right methods, and all the right works.
The one fatal condition is to be needy while depending on your own righteousness.
My old view of the lukewarm Christian is actually very legalistic and judgmental. It assumes that I’m right and they’re wrong. It puts me smack dab where Martha and the Pharisees were – thinking that their contribution was the most important thing going on when, in fact, it was not.
I do not want to be a lukewarm, self-righteous, self-centered Christian.
Time to Stop Being Lukewarm
It is so easy to start feeling good about yourself because of how mightily you are serving the Lord when in reality, you are poor, blind and naked in your own righteousness.
It is better to humble yourself at His feet in awe of His grace.
Serving Him isn’t bad, but first and foremost, you have to see yourself in the proper light and put Jesus at the center of all you do.
I’ll close with one last quote from Eric’s article:
The answer is to look to Jesus. It’s to see your need and see that only Jesus can fill it. It’s to ask Him to give you whatever it takes to fill it, and to give up anything it takes to get it. It’s to let Jesus enrich you, cover you, heal you.
Has this challenged your view of what it means to be lukewarm like it did mine? Please share your thoughts in the comments.