In Revelation 3:16-17, Jesus tells the church at Laodicea that they are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot. It’s a metaphor describing the condition of their spiritual walk, and it comes with consequences that are as vivid as they are dire: God will vomit them out of His mouth. But what does it mean to be a lukewarm Christian, and why is it so serious that it warrants rejection by God? It’s all about doing things man’s way versus God’s way. Here are three steps to leaving lukewarm and becoming red hot and right with God.
“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ –and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked–“Revelation 3:16-18
The Temperature Metaphor
If you have ever let a cup of coffee sit too long and then tried to take a sip, you know how gross it is. That lukewarm, sitting-there-too-long flavor is just not pleasing to the palate. It’s the same with letting an icy-cold drink get tepid. Yuck. And what you and I don’t like in a drink, God doesn’t like in a servant to Himself. God would rather someone be red hot, on fire for Him and His kingdom, like the disciples, or at least cold, like the publicans and harlots who had never yet come into contact with the power and grace of God (because in such there is always hope that when God shows up, they will respond).
The Pharisees, on the other hand, were lukewarm. They claimed to know God with their words yet denied Him with their actions. They thought they were serving God, but they were doing it man’s way instead of God’s way.
Lukewarm Christians Have Jesus as Just a Part of Their Lives
“‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.’”Matthew 15:8-9
For many who call themselves Christians today, Jesus is a side-dish to an already-full life. He’s just an afterthought or an also-ran. Maybe they go to church each week, putting in time on the pews. Or, maybe they just grew up with the label and only think of Him when someone is sick or in need. In any case, God is just one of many variables in lives that are jam-packed with other considerations. They are all about the job, all about their ego, all about their families or a love interest. It’s what they ponder in those quiet moments before bed and what they wake up thinking about in the morning. It’s the object of their devotion.
See, human beings are wired to worship. We throw our hearts and souls into our adoration of whatever holds the position of “god” in our hearts. Lukewarm Christians have a god or gods, but it is NOT the Lord God Almighty. But God will not share His throne. Matthew 4:10 says, “…‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” Exodus 34:14 says, “(for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God).” And Matthew 22:37 says, “…“‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’”
While our lives are meant to be full with families, jobs, hobbies, and interests, none of those things can come before our worship and devotion to God. Luke 14:23 says, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” God has to come first in our hearts every single time.
Step 1: Decide to Make God Your Everything
“But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”Deuteronomy 4:29
The first step in leaving lukewarm is to acknowledge that there is only ONE God and make a decision to serve Him alone. Romans 12:1 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” If we really believe that Jesus is God and that He came to die for our sins so that we can be reconciled to God, our “reasonable service” is our everything. We can’t hold anything back from Him but must actively seek His will for us. What does He want us to do with our time, our talents, and resources? How can we serve Him and His interests with our lives?
Seeking God involves spending time with Him in prayer and in the Bible every single day. God is a real Person, and we can have a real relationship with Him. It’s not just talking to the ceiling; He really listens. John 15:7 says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” He really speaks. John 10:27 says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” If you genuinely set your heart on knowing Him and serving Him, He will make His will known for you to follow.
Lukewarm Christians Live for This World
“For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”1 John 2:16
Lukewarm Christians are, in many cases, indistinguishable from those who don’t believe in God at all. They have the same aspirations, the same lifestyles, the same political beliefs, and the same priorities that all involve temporal things. Put them in a lineup, and you will never pick them out as followers of God. They look like the world, they talk like the world, and their morals and convictions match the society from which they come.
But Jesus says about His true followers that “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). Their priorities are different. The things that bring them joy and fulfillment have changed. Their focus is not on this world and the flesh but on the Spirit and the things of God. Romans 8:5-6 says, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”
Step 2: Walk in the Spirit, Not the Flesh
“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”John 4:24
The second step to leaving lukewarm is to be born again by the Spirit of God. So many people who call themselves Christians stop with a mental assent (“Yes, I believe in God”). Maybe they said the “sinner’s prayer” and asked Jesus into their hearts, but they never felt anything change. But you can’t have an encounter with the Living God and stay the same. Jesus says things HAVE to change. John 3:3 says, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” John 3:6 says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Ask God to give you His Holy Spirit. Luke 11:13 says, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Walking in the Spirit is then about living life by the Spirit of God within you. Galatians 5:16-18 says, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Set your mind on the things of the Spirit, and make your focus the things that please God.
Lukewarm Christians Do What Is Right in Their Own Eyes
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”Proverbs 14:12
Today we live in what has been dubbed a “post-Christian culture.” That just means that the dominant worldview is no longer that of biblical Christianity. Instead, secular humanism has taken over in terms of values, morals, and culture. Lukewarm Christians have been caught up in that current, swirling and spinning further and further away from the precepts God has set since the beginning of time. They redefine love as tolerance and the approval of God as the lining of their pockets. They make rules for themselves and others based on what feels right or good in the moment instead of aligning their beliefs with the Bible that will never change. These things seem right, but they are wrong in the eyes of God.
This is important because one day Jesus will judge the earth. John 5:29 says, “And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” Whose version of “good” and “evil” will Jesus use to make a determination? It will be His version. To build your life on ideas that do not line up with the Bible is folly. Matthew 7:26-27 says, “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” We have to know what God says is right and commit to ourselves to a biblical worldview.
Step 3: Submit to God and Conform Your Life to His Word
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”Romans 12:2
The third step to leaving lukewarm is to submit to God in every area and allow the Word of God to transform you. It has been said that salvation may come in a moment, but sanctification takes a lifetime. John 17:17 says we are sanctified by God’s truth. Reading the Bible and trying to live the way that pleases God instead of what society says is pleasing will transform you to be more like Christ. It “renews your mind.” Ephesians 5:26 says that the Word of God washes us, cleansing away the dust and debris that collects from living in the world. But we can’t just read the Word. We have to do what it says. James 1:22 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
Prayerfully commit yourself to both reading and living by the Word of God. Surrender your desires, your preferences, and your ideals to what God says is right in the Bible. It’s about dying to what we want and living for what God wants. The Bible calls this taking up our cross (the symbol of our willingness to die for Him).
Matthew 16:24-26 says, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?’” This life only lasts for a moment. Eternity is forever. Choose wisely.
Lukewarm Christians Are Deceiving Themselves
“the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”1 Samuel 16:7b
The Lukewarm Christians in Revelation 3:16-18 thought they were one thing, but they didn’t know that God saw them as something completely different. God doesn’t look at how many times we go to church, how much money we spend in the offering or on charitable causes, or what we say we believe. God looks at our hearts and the way we choose to live our lives in light of it. Have we made a commitment to live for Him alone as our God, making time for Him every day? Have we aligned ourselves with Him and His Word instead of what society says is right? Are we completely surrendered to Him and doing things His way as written in the one Book He gave us to go by?
Matthew 7:21 is probably one of the scariest verses in the whole Bible, and it really nails down this issue. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” It’s not about what we say or even think we believe. It’s about setting our hearts and minds to finding out the will of God and following it (and Him) with everything we have.
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