What It Means To Be Lukewarm
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see....”
- Revelations 3:14-18
Detaching The Identity
In the above picture, you’ll see a captivating glimpse of the Gulf of Alaska. It shows a natural phenomenon that occurs when sediment-laden water from glacial rivers empties out into the ocean. The two different types of water come together, but they don’t mix. Kind of like lions and hyenas. Cereal and water. Or me and early mornings. To put it simply, there’s a lot of examples out there where we could examine two different beings and come to the honest conclusion that there is just something about the structure or make up of the two that prevents them from being capable of working together.
These examples remind me of the clear picture that the Bible paints, when it discusses the difference between a believer and a non-believer. Between someone who is in Christ, and someone who feeds off of the pleasures of the world. In fact, the Bible says in Malachi 3:18
“And again you will see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”
So the other day, when I saw a post titled “Lukewarm Christians”, it brought back to my remembrance the Gulf of Alaska. The adjective- lukewarm and the identity- Christian, are two waters that just don’t mix. So before we discuss the actual meaning of spiritual lukewarmness, I think it’s important for us to take a pair of spiritual scissors and cut apart some of the worldly adjectives that have been attached to the “In-Christ” identity.
This might be a bit confusing for some, but I think many would agree that there are just too many worldly adjectives that have been attached to the Believer's identity. For example . . .
There is no such thing as an unforgiving Christian. (Matthew 6:14-15)
There is no such thing as a homosexual Christian. (1 Corinthians 6:9)
There is no such thing as a half-hearted Christian. (Hebrews 6:12)
There is no such thing as a perfect Christian. (Romans 3:23)
And when I look at scripture, particularly Revelations Chapter 3, I’m still not sure how the word lukewarm got attached to the word Christian. In this passage we find the word lukewarm, but nothing is attached to it. All we know is that The Lord is speaking to a group of people who attend a church in a prosperous city. In the rest of this blog I plan to answer a few of the top questions centered around this topic, and to show you why lukewarmness shouldn't be attached to biblical Christianity.
Who Is Jesus Talking To?
In Revelations chapter 3, we find Jesus speaking out to a church located in Laodicea. Laodicea was known to be the wealthiest of many cities, popular for its banking industry, and the production of wool. Located near a river, the city was known to have a regular source of water, but the system in which the water was acquired had been flawed for years. History shows that at one point an aqueduct was built to bring water into the city from hot springs, but by the time the water had reached the city it was often neither hot nor cool and refreshing. Just lukewarm.
What Is The Context Behind Jesus' Reference?
Laodicea was a wealthy city and the church was wealthy too. Back then, and even still today, many people acquire the misconception that wealth and material possessions are signs of God’s blessings. But here, what the church could see and buy became more valuable to them than what was unseen and eternal. The church had become just as bland as the water brought to them by their flawed system. Wealth, luxury, and ease can cause many to be complacent, overconfident, and double-minded in their belief system. In this scripture, Jesus describes it as wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, and says that anyone in the lukewarm lifestyle will be departed from Him, or “spat out of His mouth.”
Is There An In-Depth Description Of A Lukewarm Person?
Well, we find this all throughout scripture, and I’ll be glad to share a few. But before I do; I think one of the key things to understand about what the Bible is saying in regards to being lukewarm, is that it is impossible to be neutral about Christ. Or “on the fence” about your dedication to the faith. I once heard the story of a man who believed in many religions, including Christianity. It led to a life of confusion. The kind of confusion James refers to when he says, “a double-minded person is unstable in all that they do”. Ironically, one of the first things we see Jesus points out in His examination of the lukewarmness in Laodicea are the “deeds” of the people. In verse 15, He says, “I know your deeds”. If anything can be justified from this, it’s that a person’s heart is the source from which all of their actions flow. If a person’s heart is not in full alignment with their understanding of God, then there is just no way for them to be capable of living out God’s purpose for their life. And from that setting, we see the attributes of someone who is lukewarm, as the church in Laodicea was.
1. A lukewarm person acquires passion for the things of the world. Passion for God and passion for the world cannot coexist in the heart.
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world."
- 1 John 2:15-16
2. Anything that is not of God’s character is against Him. A lukewarm person is blind to this idea and lives a life full of actions that are in opposition to God’s standards.
"Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters."
3. What is spoken by a person, is a reflection of their heart. A lukewarm person feels no conviction in their heart when unfruitful words are released.
"From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and saltwater? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water."
4. A lukewarm person is comfortable operating on two different belief systems. Unsatisfied by the message of Christ, they desire unsound doctrines to fill voids only the Gospel can fulfill. When you say that you are a Christian, that means that you solidify only Jesus as Lord of your life, and that He alone has mastery over your decision-making, and the teachings that influence you.
"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,..."
-1 Timothy 4:3
5. A lukewarm person desires power and possessions more than they desire the fruits of being in Christ.
"For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?"
6. It is impossible for a true Christian to mix with the worldly crowd. God calls us to be set apart as examples of His light. A lukewarm mentality can be developed by complacency in the fellowship of those who deny Jesus.
"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God;..."
-2 Corinthians 6:14
7. To know right but to live wrong is a sign of spiritual emptiness. Too many people are mentally challenged by the Gospel, but not fully converted to Jesus. The fruits of salvation in Christ bring about real change. Change that is always clear and evident.
"So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin."
- James 4:17
8. Deception and hypocrisy are at the root of lukewarmness. Just because the scripture in Revelations was directed towards a church, does not mean that they were fully abiding in Christ. There is more to the meaning of Christianity than gathering in four walls and “claiming” Jesus. How much more is God concerned with the heart?
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Is A Lukewarm Person Saved?
I have a hard time seeing how Jesus would tell a saved person that He will “spit them out of His mouth”. We can’t fall to the misconception that God’s grace covers a soul that doesn’t fully belong to Him. Jesus tells us in Matthew that in order to be His disciples we have to first deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and only then can we follow Him towards salvation. Salvation is extended to all, but it has to be fully accepted. Jesus makes it clear that He is the ONLY way. Anyone who doesn’t fully believe that or is “on the fence”, is not fully accepting the free gift of salvation.
Can A Lukewarm Person Get Saved?
Absolutely! In fact, in the same paragraph of Jesus’ statement against lukewarmness, He later extends His Hands and urges the people to repent and turn away from that lifestyle. Jesus says, ‘I stand at the door and I knock. Whoever hears me and answers I will come in and sup with them, and they with Me.” (Revelations 3:20). Jesus will not force Himself on anyone, but salvation is a calling to all who seek spiritual redemption.
What Then Does It Mean To Be In Christ, But Struggling With Sin?
For more on this topic, I’d encourage you to read my next post “In Christ, But Struggling”, so that you might understand the hope true believers have in the face of failure and worldly temptations.
I pray that this post was a help to anyone who sought clarification in their understanding of lukewarmness. Also, know that this is a calling for self-examination. Are you fully for Jesus, or have you been on the fence about who He is and what He offers? Christianity is about a lifestyle of full surrenderance to God, and nothing else. I challenge you to walk in that everyday, so that you can reap the fruits of God’s amazing plan for you and the family of Believers all over the world, until He returns.
Please leave your questions below, and feel free to add any comments to help others who might still be unsure of their understanding.
Written By: Dylan Rucker