Lukewarm Christian???

Just thinking……

Would you agree with me that the word “Christian” is glibly used, loosely defined, and bent to justify all sorts of behavior and worldviews?

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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?

  1.  I am Christian because I am American and maybe even Republican.
  2.   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.
  3.   My parents went to church, so I’m probably a Christian.
  4.   I help other people; doesn’t that make me Christian?
  5.   I give to the building program. Bingo! I’m Christian!!
  6.   I’m generally nice, generally tell the truth, generally do the right thing, and I’m sure that means I’m Christian.
  7.   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.
  8.   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.
  9.   I have a WWJD card in my wallet. That’s close enough.
  10.   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!

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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:

  1.  Lukewarm people attend church regularly because it is expected.
  2.  Lukewarm people give money to charity and church… as long as it doesn’t impinge on their standard of living.
  3.  Lukewarm people tend to choose what is popular over what is right.
  4.  Lukewarm people don’t really want to be saved from their sin, but rather from the penalty of their sin.
  5.  Lukewarm people are moved by stories about people who do radical things for Christ, but they themselves do not act.
  6.  Lukewarm people rarely share their faith with their neighbors, coworkers, or friends.
  7.  Lukewarm people gauge their morality or goodness by comparing themselves to the secular world.
  8.  Lukewarm people say they love Jesus, and that He is a part of their lives. Only a part.
  9.  Lukewarm people love God, but not with all their heart, soul, and strength.
  10.  Lukewarm people love others but do not seek to love others as much as they love themselves.
  11.  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.
  12.  Lukewarm people think about life on earth much more than they think about eternity in Heaven.
  13.  Lukewarm people are thankful for their luxuries and comforts, and rarely consider trying to give as much as possible to the poor.
  14.  Lukewarm people do whatever is necessary to keep themselves from feeling too guilty.
  15.  Lukewarm people are continually concerned with playing it safe.
  16.  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.
  17.  Lukewarm people do not live by faith; their lives structured so they never have to.
  18.  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!)

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Ouch.

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….
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The Least of These…… Who are They?

Just Thinking…… th-4 They walk among us.  They are here…. and now…..  They make us uneasy.  They are a problem.   Sometimes they are invisible.  Sometimes they are seen too much.  Sometimes they make no sounds. Sometimes they are horribly noisy.  They don’t fit in.  They make messes.  They are awkward.  We want them to go away.  They are…….. The Least of These.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  (Matthew 25:40)

And that got me thinking about church: a place where my brothers and sisters in Christ come together.  Who is the least of these in church?

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Although being Christian, being a born again believer in Jesus is the glue that binds us into the concept of “church,” we are made up of many different minorities.  For example, we have both men and women.  We have the elderly, the boomers, the young parents, the teens, the kids, the babies.  We have white, black, hispanic, middle eastern, and oriental.  We have the bright and the  unintellectual.  We have those who are wealthy, those who are of average wealth, and the poor.  We have those with healthy emotional and mental states, and those who do not have these.  We have the educated and the uneducated.   We have the computer literate and those who don’t own a computer.  We have those who can sing on key, and those who make a joyful noise.  We have some who can cook, and some who can’t. Some are in wheelchairs or use walkers or canes or crutches, and many who walk with no problem.  We have those who can see well, and those with a sight handicap.  Same with hearing.  We have rural folks and town folks.  We have the shy and the life of the party. This list could go on for many more pages, but you probably get the picture. Everyone fits into one minority or another.  (And  you probably understand by this point that I am not talking about one particular congregation; this describes churches everywhere.  You may see yourself in this list.)

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So with all this in mind, here’s the question:

Which of these shall we leave out of church?  

  • Shall we lower the lights for dramatic effect….. and leave out those with poor vision?
  • Shall we have steps into the church…. and leave out those who can’t climb steps?
  • Shall we send out all announcements and prayer requests via email….. and leave out those who don’t have computers?
  • Shall we sing only higher pitched classical music….. and leave out those who can’t stretch to the higher notes?
  • Shall we sing only the latest  tunes….. and leave out those who yearn for hymns?
  • Shall we only have church in one building….. and leave out the homebound and the ones in nursing homes?
  • Shall we only have church at one time….. and leave out those who must work at their job during that time?
  • Shall we read all Scripture from the King James…. and leave out those who struggle with this older language?
  • Shall we read all Scripture from a contemporary version…. and leave out those who love the beauty and cadence of the older version?
  • Shall we back up prayers with a musical backdrop….. and leave out those with a hearing handicap?
  • Shall we place only the  young mothers in the nursery…..  or only the older women……and leave them out of worship?
  • Shall we not even have a nursery…… and discourage all the young parents and leave the babies out of their first church experiences?
  • Shall we put those who speak a different language…. or no language…. or a peculiar language of their own in the back out of sight….. or sit with them and leave our comfort zones?
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I don’t know the answers to these questions.  I’d like to give a formula for perfection, but I can’t.  All I know is that I need to actively search for the answers.  I do wonder about preconceived notions.  I ponder a seeming selfishness in wanting things to be “my way” without regard to the needs of others.  I worry about those who seem to be invisible and silent, so no one sees them or pays attention to their needs.  I worry about the church being blind and deaf. In an ideal, perfect world, what would the church look like?  How would it function?  Would the least of these be cared for?  Would somehow each one fit into the church?  Is there a place for every believer?

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’  “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  (Matt. 25:41-45)

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The least of these are among us.  They may not be the hungry or thirsty or naked or sick or in prison, but they are the overlooked and ignored in our churches.  What shall we do to include them and nurture them?

Father….. Forgive me for the times that I did not pay attention to the least of these.  Open my eyes to how I need to help others be fully within the church body.  Give me direction and boldness and courage and wisdom to do Your will. Forgive us for overlooking the needs of others….. the least of these.

To God Be The Glory…..

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My Spiritual Resume

Just thinking…….

1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. 2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, 4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

The above, from Phil. 3: 1-11, was our text this morning. The pastor brought out several good points, but the one that I kept mulling over was Paul’s resume. I had never looked at verses 5 and 6 like this before. Yet it made perfect sense. These two verses contain Paul’s spiritual resume.

The pastor showed how the list is broken into two parts: first, what Paul had no choice over, and second, what Paul chose.

Here’s the list of what Paul had no choice over:
1. Circumcised on the 8th day
2. An Israelite
3. Of the tribe of Benjamin
4. A full blooded Hebrew, born to two full blooded Hebrews

Paul took pride in this religious heritage and lineage. But of course he later says that it counts for nothing.

Here’s the list of what Paul did choose:
1. He chose to memorize the law (first 5 OT books) and be a Pharisee.
2. He chose to be zealous and persecute the church.
3. He chose to live his life with legal righteousness (which meant keeping over 600 OT laws), and says that he never broke one of them.

Paul also had a great deal of pride from his choices. And again, he came to the point of realizing that it was nothing. So it didn’t matter how he was born, what he inherited, or what he did. He had to learn that all he needed was Christ. Christ alone. Not Christ plus circumcision. Not Christ plus his Hebrew upbringing and blood. Not Christ plus zeal and passion and deeds. Just Christ alone.

This started me thinking about my own spiritual resume. I was born to Christian parents and had Christian grandparents, but that did not make me Christian. I was taken to church on a regular basis, but that did not make me a Christian. I went to VBS and Sunday School and youth group, but that did not make me a Christian. I memorized John 3:16, but that did not make me a Christian. I sang in the choir, but that did not make me a Christian. It wasn’t until I reached the point of seeing that I needed Christ alone that I turned solely to Him.

Now I have to be careful of not adding to Christ. It’s not Christ plus dressing in a certain style. It’s not Christ plus so many days in Church. It’s not Christ plus giving so much money. James cautions us that we show our faith through our works, but my faith does not come about because of my works. It’s Christ alone and first.

I remember as a child thinking that I wished my dad was a preacher. I thought, “If only he was a preacher, then I would automatically go to heaven!” Of course, I had it all mixed up, but that really wasn’t so different from Paul, was it? Paul was relying on his heritage and his accomplishments to save him before his eyes were opened.

Imagine: I die and go to Heaven. God asks to see my resume. I hand Him my list: Christian parents, went to church, memorized Bible verses, blahblahblah……. God sorrowfully hands it back to me and says that I am not qualified.

Imagine: I die and go to Heaven. God asks to see my resume. I hand Him my list: Jesus Christ. And God welcomes me to Heaven. It’s a short resume, but filled with power, the power of everlasting life.

Father, let me not forget my spiritual heritage and let me continue to give thanks for my Christian family. Let me not stop doing my ministries. But let me never rely on those as my salvation. Thank You for the gift of Jesus who alone died, alone rose, alone forgave me, alone saved me. Amen.

To God be the glory……….
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