Even if you’ve never been that kind of Christian (or any kind of Christian), you’ll at least know of someone who can pretty much be classified as a ‘lukewarm’ Christian.
(Before you read anything else, please understand that I’m saying these things out of love. If any of this hits a nerve, it’s because I care more about your soul than your feelings. That may be hard to convey, but I really mean that.)
I know I’m not even 24, but I’ve already got some things that I regret in life. One of the biggest things is that I neglected my personal relationship with God for a long time. Not just weeks or months, but I feel like I’ve lost out on some years that I can’t get back.
Because during that time, I’ve been a lukewarm Christian. Sure, there were times when I was completely ‘on fire’ for God, but it was the exception, not the norm.
What is a ‘lukewarm Christian’?
Before we get into this though, it would be good to have a definition for a ‘lukewarm Christian’. I’m sure there are a lot of variations, but for now, we’ll go with something like this:
A lukewarm Christian is a Christian who once accepted Jesus into their life, but then ‘shelved’ their faith somewhere like a get-out-of-hell free card.
They might even know a lot of their Bible, but living it out is someone else’s story. Now and then they’ll pull out their faith at their convenience, or enjoy being Christian for all the ‘benefits’.
They might even go to church, religiously every Sunday. They might also have a ministry, and do some great things in the name of Jesus.
But, like me, they neglected their relationship with their heavenly Father.
Well for the most part, the basics: reading their Bible and praying. Not just when it’s convenient, but regularly. Daily.
At this point, if you’re not a Christian, that’s cool. I know that maybe this feels like a good jab at those ‘hypocritical Christians’. I’m not going to try defend any hypocritical people and say that it’s ok, but I also know that, like Brene Brown once explained, unless people are in the arena with you, their criticisms aren’t the ones that count. (Don’t really know what it’s really like until you’re in it, right?)
So back to it. Regular reading and studying of the Bible, and prayer.
It sounds so basic right? But actually, it’s kind of the whole point. Your relationship with God that is.
And I missed that. I got it wrong. I used to put my identity in what ministry I was serving, even what ministry I felt I was being led to do, instead of what God says I am. I was left empty, spiritually burnt out. One of my mentors once said that ministry doesn’t move you towards God, but comes out of a personal relationship with Him.
Just read Matthew 7v21-23. That should get some Christians worried, like it did me.
There are no substitutes for it either. It might be insightful or even inspiring to read a book by an author or pastor or speaker, revealing some truth in the Bible in greater detail or explaining something in a certain way, or telling stories filled with miracles and signs, but all that is only available from an ultimate source – God, and His Word.
And just because it has a Christian label, doesn’t mean that it’s correct and true. That’s kind of how false teaching works.
It’s also not something you outgrow. If anything, it’s something you grow into. The mark of maturity is someone who does devote themselves to reading their Bible and prayer.
Devotion. Not feelings. Now that’s maturity.
Not being lukewarm is not about going on a missionary trip in a foreign country either. Radical Christians don’t only live in rural parts of Africa, some of them are your neighbours. Shocking, I know.
What makes them radical is that they go against the grain. They shake up the status quo. They don’t conform to what’s popular and mainstream.
And it’s not about being radical for the sake of being radical. It’s about sticking to your beliefs, values and commitments no matter what.
Integrity, for example, is not necessarily a radical thing. But in a culture where that is rare, it definitely is.
And who says that missionaries are only the ones who go to hard to live places? If you’re a Christian, everywhere is a mission field.
And at every place, in every moment, we’re to be His sons and daughters.
That’s not automatic for a lot of us. We’ll live out our ‘Christian lives’ on Sundays, Easter and Christmas. Lukewarm.
We won’t take drugs but we won’t love others either. Lukewarm.
We’ll quote famous celebrities all the time, but won’t even quote Jesus once. Lukewarm.
It’s not really about those specific things, but I’m trying to paint a picture here.
And I know, it’s difficult. And I’m talking to myself here too. I did say that I’m a recovering lukewarm Christian.
As difficult as it is, it’s completely worth it. People will misunderstand you, call you names and labels, criticize, ridicule, and think that you’re living a lesser life.
But what’s the price of a personal relationship with God?
When we stand before our Maker, what will we say about how we lived our life?
Even today, I saw this tattooed on someone’s arm, which is a quote from a Radiohead song:
When I’m at the pearly gates, this’ll be on my videotape.
What will be on yours?