Would you agree with me that the word “Christian” is glibly used, loosely defined, and bent to justify all sorts of behavior and worldviews?
We all (who call ourselves Christian) tend to supply our own meaning and apply that to our own lives. Can you identify with any of the following?
- I am Christian because I am American and maybe even Republican.
- I don’t drink much, don’t smoke, don’t swear, don’t overeat, only gamble occasionally, and don’t mess around. That pretty well defines being Christian.
- My parents went to church, so I’m probably a Christian.
- I help other people; doesn’t that make me Christian?
- I give to the building program. Bingo! I’m Christian!!
- I’m generally nice, generally tell the truth, generally do the right thing, and I’m sure that means I’m Christian.
- I wear a cross necklace, carry a rosary, and wear a necktie with sacred words on it. People can tell I’m a Christian because of that.
- I go to church when I can. God knows there are times I can’t go…. times like vacation, kids sports, family times, bad weather, don’t feel good, overslept, hung over, bored, want to just be outside doing something, …… If I at least go sometimes, I think that counts towards my Christian brownie points.
- I have a WWJD card in my wallet. That’s close enough.
- I belong to a church. And I’ve read some of the Bible. And that’s enough for me.
It seems that ideas like sacrifice, sin, Jesus, obedience, belief, forgiveness, repentance just don’t fit in with that list.
Now before you jump on me for being judgmental, let me assure you that I am completely incapable of judging someone’s heart. I may judge actions as right or wrong (and so does every court), but I honestly can’t fathom whether you are a Christian or not. God knows. I don’t. But I am fairly sure that the above 10 actions don’t make one a Christian. They just don’t speak to John 3:16.
So let’s suppose that you truly have been born again. You have come to the point of realizing that your sin is offensive to a holy God, and you have repented…. turned away…. from it. Yes, you may slip every now and then, but your heart grieves when you do, and you turn again to God. You believe that Jesus died to pay the price for your sin, and you believe that He rose again, and you believe that He is even now preparing your eternal home in Heaven, and you believe that He will come again, and take You home. You know that you have been forgiven. He is your Savior.
Excellent. But then why does your life feel sort of empty…. sort of half there…. sort of lukewarm? Where is that sense of victory, of overcoming, of joy? Where is that first love? Or….. even worse…. perhaps you have absolutely NO feeling that life is empty…. don’t even recognize the half-hearted situation?
Revelation 3: 15: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!
Francis Chan, in Crazy Love, lists 18 characteristics of lukewarm Christians. I encourage you to get and read the book. See if you fit into any of these statements:
- Lukewarm people attend church regularly because it is expected.
- Lukewarm people give money to charity and church… as long as it doesn’t impinge on their standard of living.
- Lukewarm people tend to choose what is popular over what is right.
- Lukewarm people don’t really want to be saved from their sin, but rather from the penalty of their sin.
- Lukewarm people are moved by stories about people who do radical things for Christ, but they themselves do not act.
- Lukewarm people rarely share their faith with their neighbors, coworkers, or friends.
- Lukewarm people gauge their morality or goodness by comparing themselves to the secular world.
- Lukewarm people say they love Jesus, and that He is a part of their lives. Only a part.
- Lukewarm people love God, but not with all their heart, soul, and strength.
- Lukewarm people love others but do not seek to love others as much as they love themselves.
- Lukewarm people will serve God and others, but there are limits to how far they will go, and how much time and money and energy they are willing to give.
- Lukewarm people think about life on earth much more than they think about eternity in Heaven.
- Lukewarm people are thankful for their luxuries and comforts, and rarely consider trying to give as much as possible to the poor.
- Lukewarm people do whatever is necessary to keep themselves from feeling too guilty.
- Lukewarm people are continually concerned with playing it safe.
- Lukewarm people feel secure because they attend church, made a profession of faith, were baptized, came from a Christian family, vote Republican, or live in America.
- Lukewarm people do not live by faith; their lives structured so they never have to.
- Lukewarm people probably drink and swear less than average, but besides that, they really aren’t very different from your typical unbeliever.
(Really…….. you need to get this book and read it!)
When I studied this list with our small group, I was convicted that I am lukewarm at times. I’ve played it safe…. straddled the fence. It’s not what I want for my life; I want to be sold out. I want to be hot! Not cold…. not lukewarm. HOT! I want to be on fire for Jesus. I want the boldness to declare Him to the people around me, to stand for the truth, and to finally kneel before my God and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Matthew 7: 21: Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father
O Father! Forgive me for being wishy-washy, for being timid and afraid, for not truly understanding what it means to be Christian. It’s not as if I have not been told. I am so sorry that I have wasted part of my life in just being lukewarm. I ask for Your boldness to live a victorious life for Your glory. That’s all that counts.
To God be the glory….