Have you ever tried to cool down on a scorching summer day by drinking a glass of room-temperature lemonade? Or warm up after playing in the snow all day with a tepid cup of hot chocolate? Neither experience is very satisfying. In fact, your first instinct may be to spit it out. There is definitely no refreshment or warmth enjoyed in either moment. By its very nature, lukewarm commits to neither the boldness of freezing nor the burning of heat. Lukewarm is safe.
Jesus Isn’t Safe
When it comes to Jesus, you cannot ride the fence of “maybe” –a noncommittal no man’s land of lukewarmth. In Revelation 3:16, Jesus tells the church at Laodicea that he would rather they be hot or cold—anything but lukewarm.
In short Jesus is calling people to take a clear stance about his identity: in your life, is he God or not?
If yes, you have a new heart and your life will look radically different than it has. With a new heart, new desires and a new way of thinking, you are filled with a new love for God that is fueled by his outpouring of love for you on the cross. You are safe from the wrath of God being poured out upon you because the blood of Christ on the cross shields you.
If not, then you are cold. Dead to him and to his ways, fully accepting and embracing the wrath of a holy and righteous God who will punish sin. When you actively choose to be your own god and live life apart from him, you are not safe. But, at least, you are bold about it.
Here, Jesus is saying he would actually rather you acknowledge that you are lord of your own life instead of just paying lip service to him by pretending he is. With a cold heart, there is at least honesty, and maybe the possibility that it will be warmed and renewed by grace. With a lukewarm heart, there is a deceptive appearance of godliness but without gospel transformation—an altogether dangerous and unrepentant place to be.
7 Signs You May Be Lukewarm
1. The Gospel Is Old News
You may be tempted to think you’ve heard it all before. You accepted Jesus into your life at summer camp for crying out loud, what more do you need? If you believe you’ve outgrown the gospel, you may be lukewarm. The good news of Jesus rescuing us from our sin becomes increasingly dear and daily called upon by those who clearly recognize Jesus as Lord and Savior.
2. Works Justify You
More so than relying upon the grace of God through Christ for justification, you keep a lengthy record of what you’ve done to impress God. Your riches, your generosity, or your independence have blinded you from your spiritual poverty, neediness, and desperation for grace.
3. The Bible Is Not Your Highest Authority
You may turn to it in time of need or even open it regularly to check the “quiet time” box, but you do not submit yourself to its authority in your life. God’s Word carries both the power and the right to define and dictate your life.
4. Prayer Is a Last Resort
Prayer is the means by which we grow in intimacy and connection with God. It involves both listening and sharing, honesty and frequency. If you find yourself only calling out to God when you’ve exhausted all other options, ask yourself how well you know God. We don’t tend to talk much to strangers.
5. You Have No Hot Friends
And no, I don’t mean good-looking. The people you surround yourself with say much about what you are. If you avoid people who are on fire for Jesus because they challenge you or make you feel uncomfortable, you may be lukewarm. Ask God to bring devoted lovers of him into your life.
6. You Love the Safety of Rules
Grace is radical and risky—it leaves too many opportunities for the unknown to occur. Following or breaking rules at least lets you know where you stack up against the others. Keeping the rules does not save us, nor does breaking the rules eliminate our possibility for salvation. Grace is what frees us from looking to ourselves at all and invites us to a freedom in Christ that is neither earned nor deserved.
7. Sin Is Tolerated and Managed but Not Killed
Sin cannot be kept in a cage and only brought out occasionally. It cannot be compartmentalized. It doesn’t hurt only you. At its core, sin leads to death and its existence must be fought against valiantly. Kill sin or it will kill you. Apathy and passivity toward our sin reveal our lukewarm love and gratitude for Christ sacrificing himself on the cross for us.
Spit It Out
The good news of the gospel is that lukewarmth can be spit out and the true repentance and reconciliation of living water can be ingested. Jesus invites us to drink at the fountain of grace and experience a life transformed by his power and righteousness.
“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’” Revelation 21:5
Jen Smidt is a deacon at the Ballard church and one of the church’s original core group members.