What Does it Mean to Be a Lukewarm Christian?
- Kyle Blevins Crosswalk Contributor
- 2019 17 Apr
Beep. Beep. Beep. The microwave goes off three times (unless you are a ninja and challenge yourself to never allow it to beep more than half a time). You check your leftovers: “Nope, just barely lukewarm. You’re going back in there.”
When the topic “lukewarm Christian” comes up, I think our minds tend to jump to this understanding of lukewarm as we attempt to relate our connection with Jesus to visible signs: is there steam? Does it burn you?
If not, we tend to believe we need more time in His word and to be more committed. We need to be busier with good deeds—even holier. If we feel inspired by that, then we start telling other people that’s what they need as well.
But in the absence of literal steam, how can we gauge our spiritual temperature and avoid becoming lukewarm?
What Is a Lukewarm Christian?
The term “lukewarm” comes directly from Revelation 3:15-17. This is the spirit speaking through John to the church in Laodicea. He says, “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.”
It is important to note that to the north of Laodicea were the healthy hot springs of Hierapolis, and to the south, the cold springs of Colossae were clean and refreshing.
We typically view hot as connected to Jesus and cold as disconnected, but that wasn’t the intended context of this verse.
There are benefits to both hot and cold. Since Laodicea was in the middle, the water from the hot springs of Hierapolis was merely lukewarm by the time it reached Laodicea and it was neither sanitary nor refreshing.
Imagine a stagnant, room-temperature puddle in your sink. You know that drinking it could make you sick and would certainly bring you no benefit. You would spit it out and rid yourself of it somehow.
The point of this verse, according to Zach Hoag, is that Laodicea was caught up in the Roman culture of wealth and status. While the church may have presented itself as established, growing, and without need, the character of the members reflected that they were missing the heart of the gospel.
This heart of the gospel is evident through the fruits of the spirit. To be “lukewarm” can manifest as performing deeds without enthusiasm, or altogether losing sight of our need for God.
How Do You Know If You Are a Lukewarm Christian?
Be encouraged that if this is something you are concerned about, you are not as “far gone” as you might feel.
Here are a few signs that you need to reconnect with God:
Spending time in worship feels like work.
Give yourself some grace here. What I’m really referring to is not when we have to make time for connection and worship, but when we feel so distant that we feel like we have to “work” before we can approach God.
In my life I have had times where I let such distance come in; I felt like I had to get back to a specific place mentally or spiritually before I could even engage with God again.
Some of us feel like we shouldn’t have to “make time” for God, but that we should just be so inspired by Him that it naturally happens. But as with anything truly important in our lives, it is when we make time for it that we develop character.
Don’t let this lie of the enemy rob you of the opportunity to approach God right now, as you are. God’s strength and supply work best in our weakness and need of Him.
Service to others just doesn’t seem appealing.
If something doesn’t seem appealing, it is likely because we don’t see the benefit in it for ourselves. Ouch! A life of purpose is found in serving others because we have been served.
If our passion for serving flatlines, it is a sign that we have become disconnected from the vine (John 15:5). As we get more connected with the heart of God, which is made evident by the fruits of the spirit, we will find the energy to get connected with our families, communities, and churches again.
We are satisfied without God
If we are satisfied without God, it is evident in our behavior. We might fill our holes with retail therapy, food and drink, or maybe even lusts. We might find our hearts more motivated by status and the pride of building our own name than by coming under the leadership of the Father.
This may be difficult for us to accept in our hearts if we are, in fact, in this place. But I cannot stress enough the importance of honest self-reflection here. As Romans 12:2 states: “By testing, you may discern what is the will of God.”
We must examine ourselves honestly for true connection to occur. That goes for our relationships with other people, as well as with God.
Are Lukewarm Christians Saved?
It is important to be reminded of John 3:16: Jesus was given up God so that “whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
It is also important to remember that there is no amount of work we can do to save ourselves (Romans 3:23). It is a gift of grace and mercy from God, and that mercy is the very thing that brings the renewing fire or the refreshing cool that show the evidence of Him working in our lives.
Being “lukewarm” is often tied to the thought that we’ve not done enough, so these reminders are timely. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
A lukewarm heart is really just one that thinks it can stand apart from God and be full. So while it doesn’t impact God’s choice to provide us an avenue to be saved, it can impact your influence to share God and your true passions with the world.
How Can We Avoid Being Lukewarm?
Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
In the “signs” of being lukewarm, you can see a common thread: we aren’t certain of God’s love for us. As a result, we try to find our own way outside of him—something we can be sure of and feel. We work so hard!
I love the lyrics of this Sleeping At Last song:
"The list goes on forever of all the ways I could be better in my mind
As if I could earn God’s favor given time
I have learned my lesson
The cost of this so-called perfection is everything
I spent my whole life searching desperately
To find out that grace requires nothing of me."
James 4:8 urges us to “come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands and purify your hearts.” The reference to “wash your hands” is a call to lay down the mindset that you must work to satisfy God. It cannot be done. Let it go now. You are not made to satisfy God; He made you to be satisfied in him.
If you put in any effort, let it be in renewing your mind to the ways of faith. Call out to God with a desire for closeness and passion.
The most encouraging thing you can do for someone else is to remind them of this. Let them see in your life how to let go of control and make room for trust in God.
Any gap in closeness with God can be bridged by recognizing the distance. Surround yourself with people willing to speak truth to you. If you can see there is distance here, you are well on your way to remembering what your heart truly needs. Spend time with God whenever you can. Renew yourself and empty the perpetually replenishing doubt and negativity by speaking to him.
Kyle Blevins is the sole contributor to the blog, REDIRECTED, which focuses on rediscovering purpose through love. His broken life reached a turning point after being surrounded by positive people who believed he was capable of more. His passion is connecting with and encouraging those looking for a new beginning in life and in Christ. You can follow his blog at iamredirected.com.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Jeremy-Perkins