Tag Archives: lukewarmness

Editorial: “We Must Pay Much Closer Attention To What We Have Heard…” (July/August, 2015) – Jon Mitchell, Editor

A few years ago, during the Twilight craze that was sweeping the nation and the world and causing teen girls to violently debate the merits of “Team Jacob” versus “Team Whoever” (I can’t even remember the other guy’s name), I had the privilege to teach teens at Palmetto Bible Camp and later at a youth rally at a church in the Raleigh area. The lesson I gave at these events was probably very different from what the teens were expecting.

I started out each session by asking how many had seen Twilight (99% had), how many went to the midnight showing on opening night (again, 99%), and how many had read the books (99% of the girls had). From there I asked them to tell me the name of the female protagonist (immediately, 100% could), the name of the actress who played her (about 99% could), the names of both of her love interests (100% again), the actors who played them (99%), the name of the town and state in which the story was set (about 90% could answer this), the titles of each of the movies and books (100%), the name of the author of the books (95% could immediately answer this one), a summation of the plot of each book and movie (99% could do this off the top of their head), and how the books were different than the movies (about 90% could immediately answer this one.)

To give the long-suffering guys a chance to play, I asked them to name me their favorite professional athlete, his age, the position he played and the team for which he played, the stats concerning how well he played and the salary he earned, the stats about their favorite team’s standing in its particular league, their favorite video games, the plot of said game, their favorite movie, the star of that movie, the character he or she played, etc., etc. As with the girls, the overwhelming majority of the guys could answer these questions correctly off the tops of their heads.

I then asked how many of them were Christians. 99% raised their hands. I asked them if they loved Jesus (100%). I asked if Jesus was #1 in their lives (about 95% said yes to this; perhaps the remaining 5% could see where I was going with this by that point.)

I then asked them to quote for me John 3:16 and to tell me who said it and to whom he said it. About 40% could answer the first two questions, and none of them knew to whom Jesus was talking when he said that. I asked them to tell me what I must do to be saved. About 60% could tell me that I needed to hear God’s Word, believe in it, repent, confess my faith, and be baptized. However, when I then asked them to show me exactly where in the Bible I could find each of these commands, only 5% could show me right then and there. About another 5-10% could after a few minutes of searching.

I then asked them if they found worship services boring. About 80% raised their hands affirmatively. I asked them how many of them had jobs, and of those who did how many gave generously to the church every Sunday. Only about 1-2% raised their hands. I then asked them if they found Twilight or football boring, and if they would spend a generous amount of money to be a part of those events if given the chance. All of them raised their hands.  I then asked them if they thought God would want them in heaven with him for all eternity if they care more about a movie or a sport than about praising him and learning more about his Word. The point was made.

Adults who are reading this, perhaps you might be thinking something along the lines of These kids today… Well, may I pointedly but respectfully ask us this. How different are we from these teenagers, really? When I started the ministry in my early twenties, I thought I would be surrounded by brethren who was as excited and willing to discuss the Bible as I was. It didn’t take long for me to find out that starting a serious Bible discussion outside of the prescribed Bible class and worship times in the church building was as difficult as pulling teeth for quite a lot of Christians, most of them older than me. Yet, simply mention the name of a politician, sports team, or television show and I was guaranteed to have started a conversation that in many cases would last longer than the average Bible class or sermon! Fast forward 15 years, and not much has changed.

Parents, if we want our children and their children to grow to be faithful, active Christians and thereby go to heaven, it starts by following the prescription of Deuteronomy 6:6-7. However, in order to do that we ourselves must first have that same interest and habit.

It’s no accident that God told us that the righteous man who “is like a tree” and “who walks not in the counsel of the wicked” is one whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1-3), before very pointedly adding, “The wicked are not so” (v. 4). Brethren, our actions speak louder than our words. What consistently comes out of us in the form of our deeds speaks very loudly as to the true condition of our hearts (Mark 7:20-23). When we far more easily find delight and interest in topics other than the Bible and eagerly spend far more time focused on those things than on the Word, let’s not fool ourselves. We’re lying when we sing All to Jesus I Surrender and None of Self and All of Thee. We’re as lukewarm as the Laodiceans and as lacking of our first love as the Ephesians (Rev. 2-3). So let’s not be surprised if our kids feel the same way and are following in our footsteps.

Rather than sitting in judgment on them for sins we ourselves commit (Rom. 2:1, 17-24; Matt. 7:1-5), let’s humble confess our sins and repent (1 John 1:7-9; 2 Cor. 7:9-11) and then let God lead both us and our children in the right paths by spending more time studying his Word individually, as a family, as a church, and with the lost.

“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” (Heb. 2:1)

Jon

Lukewarmness – Ken Sewell

Excitement rippled through the exquisitely dressed congregation as the visiting speaker announced he would read a letter dictated by Jesus to John the apostle. Anticipation buzzed as he described Jesus’ dazzling appearance standing among seven golden lampstands dressed in a robe with a golden sash, and having hair whiter than wool above eyes that burned like fire. Feet glowing like brass in a furnace and a voice like rushing waters must mean divinity. They understood the sharp two edged sword coming out of his mouth emphasized he was speaking God’s words, but what did the seven stars mean? The buzz increased when he said that one of those lampstands represented their congregation and this letter was written directly to them.

A shock wave of accusation drowned the buzz as they reeled at Jesus’ categorizing them as “lukewarm” and threatening “to vomit them out of my mouth.” Then in spite of their expensive clothes, the Lord called them “wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked” (Rev. 3:16, 17 NKJV). How could he do that? Didn’t he know they were rich? Couldn’t he see the beautiful colors splashed throughout the crowd? Slowly, the fear that he was right began to spread. They looked reproachfully at their friends while hanging onto the thought that surely the Lord didn’t mean me.

The Lord sent seven letters to seven different churches which many believe are representative of the church as a whole, but Laodicea had the only condition that made him want to vomit his followers out of his mouth. It therefore behooves us to examine how the Laodiceans reached such a pitiful state, and, perhaps more importantly, to ask how we might avoid slipping into this nauseating condition.

Webster defines a lukewarm person as one having little passion, emotion, or conviction. At first glance, one might conclude that having a little passion is better than having none at all, but apparently this is wrong since Jesus said he would rather they be cold or hot. Is that because lukewarm Christians do more damage to the image of God’s kingdom than a person totally indifferent to the Lord? Do lukewarm Christians portray a dead, inactive, and unloving faith in the Supreme Creator which causes outsiders to not want to become a part of the royal family?

No Christian ever deliberately set out to become lukewarm, but perhaps we let the pressure of today’s urgency push aside our devotion and service to God. Jesus’ words imply that the Laodiceans fell into this condition because they were comfortable. From a worldly standpoint, they weren’t poor. They were rich, living was easy, and there is no indication of persecution from anyone. They were involved, but whatever they did was without passion. They were just going through the motions.

Think about their situation and consider if this comfortable lifestyle sounds like our present-day America. We live in the richest nation that has ever existed since the beginning of history. Life is not easy for everyone, but for the majority life is comfortable. Never have so many things competed for our attention, with many promising to make our life easier. Not becoming lukewarm may be American Christians’ greatest challenge.

Self-examination to determine if we are sliding towards lukewarmness or have already arrived is critical, but correctly recognizing our situation may be extremely difficult. Lukewarmness provides contentment that all is well, and we are doing everything we need to do. Since lukewarmness assures us that we are comfortable, we feel righteous, saved, and in need of nothing. The Laodiceans didn’t realize their condition; they thought they were rich and had everything they needed; yet they were found wanting.

To assist our personal examination of our spiritual temperature, the following suggestions are presented in the comedic form used and made popular by Jeff Foxworthy, but these are not meant to be funny. Nothing can be more serious than how we are viewed by Jesus.

You may be a lukewarm Christian if you don’t feel excitement as the time nears to gather and worship the Lord. We have the opportunity to meet with the royal family and worship the Supreme Being who created the universe and everything therein. Our family will recognize and respond to our passion whether we realize it or not, and family members are rarely fooled. Lukewarmness can be contagious to our friends and family. Someone must generate heat, and working together we can warm each other.

You may be a lukewarm Christian if reading the scriptures doesn’t move you to want to know more. These are the words of our God and they are written directly to each of us so we can live a more productive life for God, ourselves, our family, and everyone we meet. Although the Bible is an old book, nowhere can we find more appropriate words for today’s living and learning the criteria we need for valid self-examination. In the words of Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

You may be a lukewarm Christian if singing praises with the congregation doesn’t lift your heart and spirit. Read the words and make them your thoughts as you raise your voices in song. Don’t be a listener only, and don’t just mouth the words. As Paul said, “sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, making music to the Lord in your hearts” (Eph. 3:19).

You may be a lukewarm Christian if your possessions don’t make you want to give to further God’s kingdom on earth. We are the most affluent people who have ever lived and we can help others in our community and throughout the world learn about our savior so they can make him their savior. Giving our money can extend our reach to places and people we will never see in person. That is exciting.

You may be a lukewarm Christian if you leave worship feeling empty and unfulfilled. It is the responsibility of those who preach and lead the worship to edify, but worship is an individual act. No one can lift our voice in praise and honor God except ourselves. No one can listen and evaluate the sermon but us. Being with a group praising God for his love and blessings requires our wholehearted involvement, and wholehearted involvement keeps us from being lukewarm.

You may be a lukewarm Christian if you don’t have confidence that prayers, both those of the congregation and personal ones, can impact your life and the lives of those mentioned in the prayers. Our prayers must be with conviction and made with preparation. Peter warned that our family relations may prevent our prayers from being heard (1 Pet. 3:7).

You may be a lukewarm Christian if you don’t look forward to communing with your Lord each Sunday and remembering his death until he comes again. It’s a special time to join with our fellow Christians as we celebrate why we worship and to rejoice that our sins are forgiven and the Lord is coming back for us.

You may be a lukewarm Christian if you leave Jesus in the worship assembly and don’t demonstrate your passion to be an example to all you meet. Jesus told us to “do unto others as we would have them do to us” (Luke 6:31). If you hadn’t yet heard the gospel, wouldn’t you want someone to tell you the good news? Our lives are powerful teachers, but our example alone will not produce faith in anyone’s hearts because “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Our faith can open our lips to share with others.

You may be a lukewarm Christian if you think your life is pleasing to God based on the life of your father, mother, or grandparents. We aren’t God’s grandchildren. We are his children. John said, “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13). It doesn’t matter how many generations our families have been Christians. It only matters if we believe that Jesus is God’s Son and that we are saved by his grace through obedience to him, not by our works but through his blood.

We may drift toward lukewarmness, but we must pull ourselves back into the warmth of God’s love. Being lukewarm is like being in quicksand. The longer we stay there, the harder it is to get out. Fortunately, Jesus assured the Laodiceans and us that lukewarmness didn’t have to be permanent; they could buy gold refined in fire and white clothes from him. Repentance and prayer are still the answer today. Listen to Jesus’ encouraging words: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent” (Rev. 3:19).

ken_sewell@yahoo.com