"God wants you on fire for him or not for him at all...just don't be lukewarm!"
You may have heard this phrase or something similar to it at some point in your faith journey, but is it Biblical? Is it true?
In Revelations 3, we see the last of the seven letters from Jesus to certain churches in Asia Minor. In this final message, we see Jesus telling the church in the city of Laodicea, "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16). When you read this passage (or hear someone teach on it), you often hear that God's wants you hot for Him or cold for Him, just don't be in the middle. However, this is actually a BAD understanding of the text.
Why? Because we need to understand this message in the same way that these Christians would have understood it.
You see, the city of Laodicea was positioned in a unique spot. You see, Laodicea was 6 miles south from natural mineral hot springs and 11 miles west from the city of Colosse which had pure, cold water. This being the case, hot and cold water had to travel a long ways before it reached the city. In order to get the water to the city from both of these places, the nation of Rome had to use aqueducts, and by the time the water reached the city, it was neither hot nor cold anymore. But in fact, it was nasty, lukewarm water.
For a moment, think of coffee. Some people like it hot; some people like it cold (iced). No one likes coffee after it's been sitting in the car all day. Hot coffee is good and useful—it's warm, soothing, and caffeine! Cold/Iced coffee is good and useful as well! But nasty coffee, well, you'll do a spit-take if you aren't ready for it. It's not good for anything
So what is Jesus most likely trying to communicate to this church? Be useful or else. If they're "lukewarm," meaning "not good/not useful," Jesus would vomit them out (i.e., get rid of them).
Seems pretty harsh, doesn't it? That if you're lukewarm, Jesus will "vomit you out of [his] mouth"? Well, we also need to see what Jesus meant by lukewarm.
You may be thinking that a lukewarm Christian is someone who is just a "Sunday Christian." You know, the person that shows up on Sunday, but then on Monday, you'd never know that they "loved" Jesus. Or on Sunday they praise God in song, but on Saturday, they’re at the party down the street. But what does the text say?
"For you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked" (Revelation 3:17).
When we read this passage, we see that Jesus' idea of lukewarm may be different than what we think. Jesus seems to say that a lukewarm Christian is one who believes that they don't need God for anything, and they can do life all on their own. They don't believe that they are bad people who need God's grace every day, but rather, people who believe that they are monetarily rich and okay in life...but still have Jesus as their Savior. Not someone who is striving to follow Jesus even though they fall quite a bit. Rather, it's someone just the opposite—someone who believes that they can do life without the help of God.
So, are you a lukewarm Christian? Francis Chan has a few "test" to see if you are a lukewarm Christian, and J.D. Grearer summarizes it very well. We’ll post a link to that list at the end of this post.
If you are a lukewarm Christian, what do you do? First, if you realize that you need to change some things in your life, you're already on the right path. Next, Jesus tells us to come to Him and turn from our sin. In other words, repent. Check this out: "As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be zealous and repent. See! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:19-20). In other words, all you have to do is go back to Jesus—go back to your first love. Get back to the place where you say, "God, I need you today. Please help me live the way you call me to live. I can't do it without your love, guidance, and grace."
Click here to read J.D. Grearer’s article, “Eight Signs You’re a Lukewarm Christian.”
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