"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, 'I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,' and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and [that] the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see."
Revelation 3:15-18 (NASB)
Hymn: "O Could I Speak the Matchless Worth" Samuel Medley, Lowell Mason
Oh, the myriad ways we've attempted to define a lukewarm Christian. It has become apparent that, in the modern western churches, we can apply the label to basically anyone who does not exhibit a passion for Christ in the way we expect or demand. But what did our Lord actually say of the lukewarm?
In Revelation, where we get the term, God explains what it is about the church of Laodicea that causes Him to call them lukewarm: a belief in self-reliance and their own resources that blinds them to their deeper spiritual poverty. Wealth appeared to be doing a good enough job of meeting their physical needs, so they lost sight of the fact that their reliance was actually on God and that the greatest wealth is not physical.
The insistence on self-reliance, the desire to provide for ourselves rather than rely on God, can take forms outside of wealth. The disciples struggled with questions of status, for instance:
They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He [began] to question them, "What were you discussing on the way?" But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which [of them was] the greatest. Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all."
Mark 9:33-35 (NASB)
Immediately after this, Jesus takes a child in His arms and tells them that those who receive a child in His name receives the Father, and I have generally heard this passage used to focus entirely on that point. But Jesus is primarily dealing with the disciples, and their desire for station, and their desire for control. They must become servants to be great in the Kingdom of God. There is authority in being a parent, but the job of taking on a child is primarily one in which you serve. Children rely on adults for everything, from food to shelter to basic knowledge of how the world works, and there is a certain degree to which these things must be provided in a way that it will be fruitfully received. I cannot force my kids to learn in a way they can't learn, no matter how much authority I have in their lives or how much I'd rather teach that way. To receive a child is to receive someone helpless, in need of constant service, and to perform a thankless task that will continue for many years into the future. Picking up a child was a vivid illustration of what He was just telling them: they cannot hope to gain standing before the throne of God by taking absolute control of their world and those around them.
This desire for control, for self-reliance, to be the source of our own resources rather than subject to the will and work of God, is a form of arrogant ambition. When we allow ourselves to fall into the trap of this desire, we lose sight of our need for Christ and the glory of His work in our lives. And the result is devastating, "for where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing" (James 3:16, NASB). But we must be more like David who, despite wealth and strength and military power, still saw God as the source of all His provision and protection and saw mankind's relation to God as one of a helpless subject enveloped in an amazing grace.
Blessed be the LORD, my rock,
Who trains my hands for war,
[And] my fingers for battle;
My lovingkindness and my fortress,
My stronghold and my deliverer,
My shield and He in whom I take refuge,
Who subdues my people under me.
O LORD, what is man, that You take knowledge of him?
Or the son of man, that You think of him?
Man is like a mere breath;
His days are like a passing shadow.
Psalm 144:1-4 (NASB)
David asks for blessings, for material wealth and prosperity and safety, but he never loses sight of the source of these things. In losing sight of God's provision, and thinking ourselves capable of meeting our own needs, we become like those James condemns in chapter 4 as asking with wrong motives and seeking to fill our own desires. Let us strive ever more to, like David, respond to God's provision with thankful hearts and a recognition of our own inability to do what He has done for us. May we never grow so focused on our own provision that we become lukewarm, but let it ever be said of us:
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation