When the believer becomes born-again, he/she is filled with an indescribable joy. Freedom from darkness and from the power of sin has come; the person has gained a new life – ‘the old has gone, the new has come!’ (2 Cor. 5:17). Because of this freshness of the Lord in their lives, some born again Christians might consider a revival programme or a retreat as not so important. “With this kind of experience, I will never become cold”, they would say. They are so sure of themselves that they would never think of becoming lukewarm. They are always behind their Bibles, in prayer, interceding for the saints, the church and the world, and desiring to share the word of God. But in the course of their spiritual journey, many times due to complacency, they become lukewarm and if care is not taken, they eventually backslide. It is not surprising that the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” In this article, I offer some of the things to look out for as signs of lukewarmness. But first, what is lukewarmness?
What is Lukewarmness?
“‘To the angel of the church of Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 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” (Rev. 3:14-17).
From the above Scripture, lukewarm persons are neither cold nor hot. Their love for Christ and His cause neither shows a coldness of heart nor a hotness of heart. They are not totally with the Lord and not totally with the world and its pleasures. They are characterized by a divided allegiance and a superficial heart (Jer. 3:10, Mt. 6:24); this division of heart would not help him live for Christ.
In a thematic address delivered at the 40th Anniversary Convention of the Bible Study and Prayer Group of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Rt. Rev. Dr. Yaw Frimpong–Manso defined lukewarmness as ‘a sickly state that winks at sin while accommodating righteousness. It neither rebukes sin nor does it uphold truth. It is marked by a divided allegiance or wavering faith … It is crying ‘Lord, Lord’ but refusing to do the things which He commands (Mt. 7:21)’. The lukewarm state is a compromised position.
Signs of Lukewarmness
1. Lukewarm persons are complacent
“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing’ …” (Rev. 3:17)
That is the lukewarm person– always content with the spiritual height he/she has attained or maintained. Gradually, this person’s love for the truth diminishes and he/she grows content with the knowledge that he/she has already obtained. The result is that he ends up not having a hunger and thirsting for the Word of God. Because of their complacency, when it comes to issues concerning acting upon God’s commands, they would procrastinate– always pushing repentance, consecration and the things of God aside (Acts 24:24, 25).
Lot and his family were content with their spiritual state. Even when God had visited them and warned them of His judgement upon Sodom and Gomorrah, they lingered (Gen. 19:16). But God showed them mercy and led them safely out of Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet, Lot’s wife looked back and she became a pillar of salt (v. 26). That is the state of the Christian who does not want to move ahead in his/her spiritual life– he/she looks back to the world by holding on to pieces of his old life.
2. Lukewarm persons have a wrong evaluation of themselves
“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” (Rev. 3:17).
Lukewarmness could be more dangerous than backsliding because many times, lukewarm persons do not realize their state (v. 17). Backsliders on the other hand know it when they have gone far from the Lord (Lk. 15:17). No wonder God had to draw the attention of the Laodicean church to their state; they did not know they had become lukewarm and this was dangerous to their walk with God.
3. Lukewarm persons belittle the things of God
When you see in your life that you make light of the things of God, it shows a mark of lukewarmness in your life. In Matthew 22:1–5, a king prepared a wedding banquet for his son and sent his servants to those who had been invited to come to the wedding. What was the response of the invitees? ‘But they paid no attention and went off– one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them’ (vv. 5, 6). These people belittled the invitation. It showed in their language, their attitude, their gestures, their actions, and probably their emotions. The slightest excuse was sufficient to keep them from their spiritual duties and finding spiritual opportunities.
Formerly, you were a force to reckon with in the things of God but now you have become a discouragement to God’s work. Witnessing might have been your top priority but you have become a stumbling block to both sinners and new believers. You do not encourage those who are zealous and instead of keeping quiet, you pass contemptible remarks about those who are ready to do the Lord’s work (Ps. 123:4 KJV).
4. Lukewarm persons give in to worldly pleasure and live carelessly
They are now more interested in the things that would appeal to the flesh– pornography, riotous living, unwholesome comments and jokes, etc. The physical conveniences that they would gain for giving in to the flesh are more important to them than the spiritual blessings God has for them. Sports, recreation and entertainment are now a large part of their thinking at the expense of their spiritual growth. Acquiring money or goods is now more important than their personal relationship with God. They now watch morally–degrading movies and television programmes, read morally–debilitating materials, view morally corrupt and unprofitable websites, play morally–deprived video games, and yet do not feel the Holy Ghost condemn them. They now adapt contently to the world’s lifestyle and fashions. Their language now becomes ‘oh, it is normal’. In fact, they have given in to the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:19–21).
Not only that; they live careless lives. Their carelessness shows in their manner of speech, in their way of dressing, in the study of the word, in their prayer life and in their attendance to church meetings.
5. Decline in ‘spiritual fervour’
Failure to do the ‘spiritual things’ you did at first is also a sign of lukewarmness. Bible–study, midweek service, sub–group meetings, morning devotions, prayer meetings and quiet time are no longer important as they once were in the lives of lukewarm persons. Prayer ceases to become a vital part of their lives. The reason these occur is that they devote themselves more to what they do and increasingly ignore their personal relationship with God. Such people regard serving God as working for God rather than walking with God. Many a times, they are seen very active in the work of the Lord and then in the course of their work, when they encounter some emotional, physical or spiritual challenges, they quit. Beloved, ‘Repent and do the things you did at first’ (Rev. 2:2–5).
6. Doing what is right but not with a perfect heart (2 Chron. 25:2)
Why do you do the good things you do for God? Why do you go for evangelism? Why do you sing in church? What motivates you: love or duty?
Beloved, it is possible to be obeying God and serving Him diligently, yet God might still identity you as lukewarm. The Ephesian Church is an example. This church had steadfastly refused to tolerate sin among its members. In such a city (Ephesus) noted for immoral sexual practices associated with the worship of the goddess Artemis, it was a challenge to live for Christ. The worship of the goddess was not taken lightly by its worshippers as the manufacturing of images of this goddess became a major industry (Acts 19:21–41). Despite this, the Ephesian Church persevered in the Christian faith. God testified of them, ‘I know your deeds, your hardwork and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary’ (Rev. 2:2, 3). But God found this against them–they forsook their first love (v. 4). They became a busy church– their devotion to God’s work now came out of duty and not love.
Beloved, you may be on fire for God, yet God says you are lukewarm. Why? Because you are not doing His work with love– you are not doing it with a perfect heart. Your motive for doing God’s work is selfish. You should evangelize not because you want a ten percent increase in your church membership. The motivating factor for evangelism should be your love for Christ and what He has done to save mankind. In his book "The Purpose Driven Life", Rick Warren said, ‘God wants our worship to be motivated by love, thanksgiving, and delight, not duty’ (2002: 55). It is this same motivating factor that should prevent you from misusing the grace of God (Rom. 6).
In doing the Lord’s work, there comes a point in time when we are filled with envy, jealousy and pride (Num. 12:1–9). This is what makes our hearts imperfect, even though the things we do may be right in the sight of God (2 Chron. 25:2 KJV). We become envious of our colleagues who are more gifted than we are. Other times, we pride ourselves in our gifting, forgetting that we received them freely. We tend get enough spiritual power, we begin to show disrespect and aggressiveness, and refuse to take instruction from authority. The results– God opposes the proud (Jas. 4:6) and disgrace goes before pride (Prov. 11:2). Beloved, a meek and a teachable spirit provides great opportunities for mentoring and coaching.
There may be other signs of lukewarmness that have not been covered in this article. Nevertheless, I trust that this article would encourage someone to beware of lukewarmness or to return unto his/her first love if he/she has already become lukewarm. God bless you.
Note to readers: Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION.
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