Confession: Yesterday’s message at Mosaic was a hard one for me to deliver. It really was. Challenging. Uncomfortable. And for some, probably about as “feel good” as a kick in the throat. There were a lot of tears. Some were undoubtedly angry with me. Some probably won’t come back. But because I care so much about the people I pastor, I can’t avoid the hard stuff. There are times when I think speaking the truth about who God is and what He calls us to should probably hurt a little. Because lets be honest, sometimes the truth is downright painful.
Yesterday I taught out of a passage in Revelation 3 where Jesus addresses the believers in Laodicea. In it, he tells them that their complacent spirituality, their lukewarm faith, so disgusts him that it makes him want to vomit. (Very strong, explicit language from the “God of love.”) In the message, I shared 10 characteristics of a Lukewarm Christianity that I want to share with you. (FYI, some of these were taken from Francis Chan, others I stole from Craig Groeschel, and the rest are mine.) Warning: this might hurt a little.
Ten Characteristics of a Lukewarm Christian:
1. The lukewarm Christian craves acceptance from people more than acceptance from God. When it comes to their friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors, what is most important is that they don’t lose face. They want to fit in and be liked. They don’t want to be one of those ‘religious fanatics’ that can make other people uncomfortable at times. So rather than doing what God wants, they compromise, they conform.
2. The lukewarm Christian gauges their morality by comparing themselves to others. Rather than open up the scriptures and seek what God desires for them, they look around and think, “Man, I’m no Mother Theresa, but at least I’m not nearly as bad as so-and-so. I know I’m a sinner, but I could be a lot worse.” That becomes the gauge for where they are at. They become like the Pharisee who looks at the man beating his chest in prayer and repentance, saying, “Thank you, God, that I’m not like that person. They’re messed up. Compared to them, I’m a saint.”
4. The lukewarm Christian will do just enough to alleviate their guilt. For them, this really becomes an art form where they can justify doing all types of things they know are wrong. They’ll do just enough of what they know is right to make themselves feel better. So if they feel guilty, they’ll do just enough to alleviate that guilt. That might include coming to church fairly regularly, but they’ll certainly come in late when they do, sit in the back, leave early, and never engage. If they sin, they might even pray and ask for God’s forgiveness of that sin, but they never really intend to turn from their sin. They just pray a little prayer because it makes them feel better.
5. The lukewarm Christian rarely, if ever, shares their faith. They have a hard time reconciling what they believe with how they live. They know if someone were to follow them around and watch the way that they lived, that even those who don’t believe could look at their life and know that this can’t possibly be what God had in mind. And so it puts a lot of pressure on the presentation, because they’re not smoking what they’re selling. Unlike Paul, they can’t say, “Hey, let’s make this easy. I’m not going to try to persuade you or sell you on a bag of religious goods. You want to know if God is real? Watch the way that I live. Spend time with me. See it for yourself.” As he says, in 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Lukewarm Christians can’t say that because they are not following the example or teachings of Christ.
6. The prayer life of the lukewarm Christian is almost non-existent. When they do manage to pray, it typically has far more to do with what they want from God, rather than seeking what God desires from them. When they pray, it is always, “God help me,” “God give me,” “God provide me with,” “Me, me, me.” For them, God is little more than “The Great Piñata” in the sky and prayer is their stick. They figure if they swing away enough that eventually spiritual goodies will fall from heaven.
7. The lukewarm Christian only turns to God when they are in a bind. Like the church in Laodicea, they feel pretty self-sufficient most of the time. But the moment they need something, or their life feels out of their control, all of a sudden they become very spiritual. Their trust is really in themselves, in their own success, in their job, their career, their financial portfolio, but all of a sudden a deal falls through, the economy tanks, and they turn God, wanting His help but not wanting the life He has to offer.
8. The hopes, dreams and ambitions of the lukewarm Christian have little to do with the good of other people. It’s all about them. They want the bigger house, the nicer car, the better job, the promotion, but their ambition is driven by selfishness. If their dreams came true, it would not help others or meet the world’s need, it would only improve the condition of their small little self. (And then they wonder why God doesn’t seem all that interested in helping make it a reality.)
9. The lukewarm Christian is okay with being just okay. They know that God isn’t getting their best. They know that they could probably give more, love better, dream bigger, serve others, live less selfishly, but they kind of like where they are at. They tend to surround themselves with people who don’t challenge them, who would never suggest that they are wrong, call them out, or encourage them to change. This largely motivates both how they choose their friends and how they choose their church. They have strategically structured their life in such away to never have to change. Because when it comes down to it, they don’t want to. Yea, God’s not getting their best, but so what? They are okay with being just okay.
10. To sum it all up, lukewarm Christians want all of the benefits of what Christ did without conforming to who He is. They want all of the benefits of what Jesus did on the cross without opening themselves up to what He wants to do in and through them. That’s it. That’s the heart of it. Give me all the good stuff, but I don’t want to become like Him.
So, what do you think? Do you see yourself in any of these? Are there areas in your life that you have become lukewarm in? Areas that you need to surrender and begin to obey God in?