Jump Start # 2027
Revelation 3:15 “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish you were cold or hot.”
Temperature is a funny thing. In the summer, it’s too hot and in the winter, it’s too cold. Leave a Coke and a pizza sitting out on the counter over night. The next morning, both of them are room temperature, but we say the Coke is warm and the pizza is cold.
In this passage, Jesus is not talking about air temperature, nor the temp of food. He’s talking about the condition of hearts. Laodicea had a lukewarm heart. Just enough life to keep them from being dead, but not enough life to make a difference. It strikes us strange that Jesus would wish for anyone to be cold. He really doesn’t. He wishes for all to be saved. But the state of cold, is so much better than lukewarm. The cold knows he is not right. He knows that he doesn’t worship. He knows that he hasn’t touched the Bible in a long time. And, his life shows that. His choices, his language, who he hangs with, all reflects the absence of God in his life. However, the lukewarm has just enough temperature in him to fool him. He worships God, occasionally. It’s not very often and it’s never consistent. No one knows when they might show up. They pray once in a while, usually when there are great needs and at Thanksgiving. The lukewarm knows just the basics about Jesus. But the lukewarm still keeps one foot in the world. He struggles with sin often. He does the minimum and no more. Had he been cold, he just might realize that he needs God. As he is, he has fooled himself into thinking that he is doing right, but he really isn’t. His faith, as we find later in this section, sickens the Lord. He is inconsistent, often hypocritical, and adds nothing to the kingdom. His faith is convenient. When it’s not convenient, he won’t rely on it.
Now, what many are struggling with today is the wide swings between hot and cold. There are times that they are intense, attentive and engaged with the Lord. They are at worship. They are thinking spiritually. They seem to be hitting on all cylinders. But in just a short while, things swing the other direction. They are in the dumps, they have stopped reading the Bible, their worship is more hit and miss, and they feel miserable. I know folks like this. Back and forth. Several times within a year, their faith swings back and forth. Busy work schedules make it convenient to skip services and the temperature starts to drop. They get confused about sections in the Bible and find it hard to keep reading regularly, so the temperature drops. They hang around friends from work more than they do the families from church and the temperature drops. They feel it dropping. They don’t like it. For some, they are ashamed and embarrassed. For some, this is all they need to just give up. They tell themselves, “I can’t ever do what the others are doing.” Or, “I’ll never be a good Christian.”
Someone pays them some attention. A home Bible study. A meal in a Christian’s home. And the temperature starts rising. A guest speaker visits the church. He is really good. The temperature starts to soar. But time passes, and back we go again. And the temperature falls and once again their faith is cold.
Back and forth, up and down, excited and not interested. This seems to be the faith cycle of many. This makes kingdom work difficult. If you can catch some when they are in the up swing of faith, they may teach, help out, and be engaged. But if you find them when they are bottoming out, you can’t count on them. Up and down. In and out. If there is a class that interests them, they might be there. If there isn’t, they probably won’t.
Preachers and shepherds discuss what can be done. How do you keep faith hot in some? How do you keep it going? Preachers preach about it. Elders talk about it. Classes are built around having a strong faith. Opportunities are presented throughout the week to feed one’s faith and to be connected with one another. But, even with that, some continue to be up and down.
Here are some thoughts:
First, for folks who are strong spiritually, it is hard to understand those who are not. The answers seem so simple. Get to church and worship. Open your Bible and read. That’s obvious, because that’s the regular habits of strong Christians. They don’t think any other way. When out of town, they find a place to worship. When on the road, they have their Bibles with them. Never a day passes that they are not thinking about the Lord. That’s the strong. That’s the hot faith. Lukewarm and cold do not think that way. If told, they would probably do it, but on their own, they just don’t think that way. They are so into this world that they forget about the other world. So, patience and baby steps are essential. Giving someone a big chewing out, may make you feel like you have done your duty, but it won’t accomplish anything worthwhile.
Second, there isn’t just one thing that needs to change. It’s not a matter of just coming to church services. There’s more to it than that. The overall thinking needs to be adjusted. The house needs to be re-wired. Discipleship isn’t about what we want, how we feel, what we like. It’s about Jesus. Denying self. It’s like teaching a kid how to ride a bike. Pedal forward. Keep the wheel straight. Look up. Many, many little steps. And, most of us learned to ride that bike by ourselves because someone was running beside us with their hands on the seat and the handlebar. Finally, they let go and we may have crashed a few feet later, but the praise was poured upon us. Get up and do it again. And, we did. This time, we rode a bit farther. Then again. Before long, we didn’t need help at all. Is it any differently spiritually? More than just telling them, “come to worship,” have them sit with you. Let them see what you do in worship. Lead them, like that kid trying to ride the bike. It doesn’t do much good to tell the kid what to do unless you are willing to run along side of him. Come sit with me, and then let’s go out to eat. Praise. Encourage. Build up. Let’s do this again next week. Let’s do this again the following week. That’s a start.
Third, one-on-one discussions would be good to talk about losing temperature in their faith. What causes that? Do you recognize that? He’s some things that might help. Some TLC throughout the week. Some suggestions on what to read, then follow up.
Fourth, it finally comes down to personal responsibility. We own our faith. We make it strong or we make it weak. Fingers can be pointed to the church, the preaching, the classes, but Biblically, that doesn’t cut it. King David strengthened himself when he returned and found his family kidnapped. His own men were so discouraged that they wanted to stone David. He had no one. He strengthened himself. The church at Sardis, in Revelation, is classified as being dead. Yet, there were some who had not soiled their garments, and were walking in white. Don’t blame the church. Don’t point fingers to others. You own your faith. It will be what you make it. How you feed it. How you use it. How you care for it, will determine whether or not your faith becomes hot or cold. We can stand around the spiritual bus stop, waiting for someone to come along to pick us up and carry us, or we can just get serious about where we want to be in life and eternity. A cold or lukewarm faith is of no value. It won’t hold us up during the storms of life. It won’t carry us when we must walk through the dark valleys of life. It won’t get us through those moments of sadness and fear. Worry, doubt and discouragement accompany a lukewarm and cold faith. Misery follows. Guilt comes next.
You don’t have to live this way. You can make strides, even today, to be different. It’s a matter of choices. Mindless TV that puts my mind in the gutter or spiritual conversation with a godly couple? Reading trashy novels or reading God’s word? Laying in bed thinking about work, work, work or, laying in bed thanking God? Choices. Listening to the announcements at church and paying no attention as you gather things up to leave, or, jotting some notes so you can remember to send a few cards out this week? Choices.
Why are some so strong in the church? It’s not their background. Some have come from homes of drunks. Some have come from homes where the family never went to worship. Yet, today, they are so strong. How? Choices. They didn’t put their faith into the hands of someone else. They took ownership and cared for that faith. They chose to walk by faith. They chose to live by Christ’s words. They found joy in the spiritual side of things.
Hot and cold. Up and down. Strong and weak. On fire and indifferent. This is no way to live. You can do better and you can do what is right. It’s a matter of choices. There are people who will help, but you must pedal and steer yourself.
Isn’t it time…