To the girl with lukewarm faith,
Knowing that I had to write a blog about Laodicea and their lukewarm faith for our blog series “Letters to the Church Girl”, I have spent the last few weeks pondering two questions: No. 1) What does it mean to have a lukewarm faith? And No. 2) Why do we as Christians experience lukewarm faith?
Neither Hot Nor Cold
Revelations 3:14 -16 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
Growing up in 21st century America, I’m sure my encounter with “lukewarm faith” looks centuries different from the Laodiceans in Revelation Chapter 4. Living in the Midwest, I’ve seen how lukewarm faith comes from an attitude of self-reliance, meaning we do not allow our need for Jesus and what He has done for us change the way we live. We don’t take our faith seriously.
The Sin of Self-Reliance
Revelations 3:17-18 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.”
Although this may not be true for everyone, I don’t experience a tangible need for Christ in my daily life. I have food. I have a shelter. I have parents who help me pay for an awesome college. (go Knights). I have great friends that encourage and love me. I live in a place where I am not persecuted for any reason. So why do I need God? If I do not remind myself daily how much I need God, I become self-reliant and begin to believe that I do not need the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
If I do not remind myself daily how much I need God, I become self-reliant and begin to believe that I do not need the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
The writer of Revelation recognizes that the church of Laodicea is lukewarm and is not motivated to live their lives in the way that God has called them to live. They have not been radically transformed by the love and grace of God in their daily lives.
What is Lukewarm Faith?
In answering my questions, what is lukewarm faith? I believe it is claiming to know God without letting that knowledge or relationship with Him change who you are on the inside. What might that look like tangibly?
Forgetting to look at people as the child of God that they are. Not extending patience to a cashier who is slow. Having a bad attitude towards other people. Gossiping. Blowing up at someone because they said something you didn’t agree with. Living in a way that communicates to others that their needs and emotions don’t matter. Following the ways of the world instead of the ways God has laid out for us. Choosing hatred over love.
What Causes Lukewarm Faith?
What causes this? That will look different based on your culture and context. Any time in my life that I realize I am lukewarm, it is because of one of three reasons:
- My priorities are out of whack. I decide that I am too stressed and out of control to spend time with God. I focus on the things that I can control to feel more in control, causing me to spend less time with God, causing my relationship with Him to grow stale and cold. In order to feel more in control, I believe and communicate to others that my checklist is more important than knowing the heart of God.
- I am scared. God tells me to do something or talk to someone or nudges me in a direction that I do not want to go. The more I squash the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the quieter His voice becomes, and the louder mine becomes. This reflects the selfish inner belief I have that my own choices are more beneficial for myself and others than what God has for me.
- I am spending too much time with people who do not value the same things I do. You become who you spend time with (the age-old quote from my middle school youth pastor). When I spend time with people who value sleeping in, partying, studying, gossiping, above pursuing God, I operate under the belief that the activities that I choose to spend time doing are more important than living a life for God. (Just to clarify, I do not believe that sleeping in is sinful. The point is that holding anything as an idol above Christ, is.)
How Can We Be on Fire?
What might it look like to break the cycle of lukewarm faith? I have some ideas…
- Prayer. As the midwestern church we need to wake up our prayer life. Pray that the Holy Spirit would be a part of our everyday lives. Pray that God would give us the opportunity to be His hands and feet in simple tasks. Pray that God would give us His heart for people – that we would see them the way He sees them. Pray to simply listen to and spend time with God and in doing so become more like Christ.
- Serve. I spent the first three years of college convincing myself that my studying was more important than getting plugged in at my church. Friends, I regret it. Join the welcoming committee, join the prayer team, become a youth group leader, hold babies in the nursery. Not only are you serving Christ and the people around you, but you are growing closer to the heart of God.
- Love. This word seems to be overused in our culture right now, but not in the way that I believe God intended it. Love those who are rude to you. Love your friends who talk about you behind your back (put up healthy boundaries, but love.) Love your sibling that always leaves their clothes on the floor. Love your coworker that slacks off. Love your neighbor who never mows their lawn. Love your neighbors who throw loud parties on the weekend. Love the nursery kids who always seem to get in a fight. Love the students who can’t seem to behave themselves during the lesson at church or at school. Love your family members when they push you away. Love those who disagree with you. Pursue love for others in the same way that while you were still sinners, Christ loved and died for you.
A Call to Revival
Revelation 3:19-22, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ”
I don’t love using the word revival to describe the opposite of having lukewarm faith, but I pray that God would awaken us from the sleep that we have fallen into. I pray that we would be alert to the ways that Satan is trying to get us to turn away from God’s radical love and grace. And most of all, I pray that we would help each other feed the fires of our souls to live as Christ’s hands and feet together. May you be encouraged that you are not the only one who needs to be awakened, and may we burn bright together.
Sincerely striving to be on fire,