Lukewarm is simply not acceptable. It does not work for coffee, for tea, nor for Christians. It is on par with mediocre or a .500 win/loss percentage. It is like living a life of quiet desperation. You are the tree that falls in the wilderness that nobody notices. Jesus warned the church at Laodicea about this status (Rev 3:16), and it really is the history of both Israel and the church. There are the Liberals and their social activism, and there are the Pentecostals with their rowdy worship services. There are people in the middle that prefer the term, “Evangelical,” but even that term has never really stuck to one identifiable group, doing something particularly noteworthy.
Evangelical is latent term, even a lame term. We need a word to describe a Christian with the Word of God burning in his bones (Jer 20:9). “Earnest” was the preferred word to describe the ideal Christian in the past. Today, “earnest” sounds like the name of an old, lukewarm, Christian in the back pew of a liberal church. We need to turn up the heat on lukewarm, and it needs to be at the level of the term “fervent.” Can one be fervent and kind, gentle, and tender-hearted? “She is a gentle warrior,” or “He is a tender-heart soldier,” both demonstrate the trouble with remedying “lukewarm warrior.” Worse than trying to find apt descriptive words is avoiding what some of them describe in actual practice.
The range of biblical images describing Christians is very broad. Sheep, ambassadors, and warriors are just a few of the terms to choose from for inspiration. Most Christians seem to lean toward the “pilgrim on a journey” motif. A lukewarm journey could be captured with the image of one who is sauntering, like a Jehovah’s Witness, with a less than compelling Jesus. Paul insisted we redeem the time (Eph 5:16), but are we redeeming our milquetoast or misguided activities.
Paul ran the race to win, while Jonah sat and sulked. Most Christians are somewhere in between. We may know a few Peter-like Christians, but they are usually off on some erratic end-times conspiracy rant. There is lots of zeal with these folks, but their concerns remind us of Al Gore’s prediction that there would be no ice at the North Pole by 2014 (which turned out to be one of the coldest winters on record). There is still ice there, and the world has not yet come to an end.
Liberal pacifists seem to rule our Christian institutions of higher learning, and this eradicates any talk of “battle” or “war.” God has become a plashy transgender lover for everyone and anyone who would have Him/Her. Even raging Islamic jihad against Christians and the West has been met with a rather phlegmatic response. The lone wolf Muslim refugee/terrorist slaughtering an American woman on a Caribbean beach or a Swedish woman in broad daylight on the city street is just a blip on the daily news. Dull is the order of the day. We are all “holding on for a hero.”
The greatest gun salesman in United States history, Barack H. Obama, did more for the National Rifle Association, in terms of membership increase, purchases, and zeal, and many seemed baffled by his backfiring agenda. New, more progressive regimes will suffer even greater recoil from policy endeavors. Obama simply used the age-old technique of threatening the enemy. When one is threatened, there is going to be a response. This is true for Christians, too.
Christian history is the story of the blood of the martyrs becoming the seed of the Gospel. In other words, the church is stronger when it is threatened. It is to our advantage when high school coaches are suspended for praying with and for their players. It is a stimulus when cake bakers are fined exorbitantly by state governments for not catering to the immorality of homosexuality. When the state of Florida prohibits two Christian schools from praying before a playoff football game, and they do it anyway, it is like rub on a good barbecue. The story of a Christian pastor in prison in Iran being released, or a missionary in Burkina Faso being shot to death by Muslims is provocative. Who will replace them? How many more will go now, after sitting for so long on the fence?
We need to recapture the warrior motif, not in the pugnacious spirit of right-wing nationalists or racists carrying crosses, but in the spirit of the apostles in Acts. With nicknames like “the rock,” “son of encouragement,” and “sons of thunder,” you realize the apostles were not hipsters trying to impress the culture around them with mutual assimilation techniques.
It would be to our advantage to have the zealous spirit of a warrior, without having to wait for further persecution by the government or Islam. The enemy provoking us will have some effect, but the gates of hell should be on the defensive, not us. Here are a few things we need, today, in order to overcome our irresolution.
First, we need some Christians who are willing to sacrifice their lucrative careers or jobs to fight the good fight of faith without fear. Too many Christians are afraid of losing their jobs or their reputations in seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Mt 6:33).
In reality, most American Christians are genuinely willing to become something more than cold toward kingdom work. This brings them to a more tepid temperature. They do this by engaging in the social gospel. Under a Christian umbrella, they will feed the poor or advocate for those trafficked for sex. The problem is that bleeding heart, do-gooder, atheists are doing the same thing. Social gospel and social activism are simply not discernible, and this leaves Christians lukewarm unless they do something different. If it does not cost us something, it is simply lukewarm.
Second, in order to raise the temperature to hot, we must actually preach Christ to people. Now that is different! Give them a bottle of water, but give them living water, too. This is what the great majority of Christians never do. They sit through sermons, read their Bibles, and learn about the supreme activity of proclaiming Christ to the lost, but they will do just about anything else except win souls.
Having felt the intensification of blood pressure, while witnessing to someone, most people never venture to that exhilarating level of spiritual conflict again. They simply do not enjoy what is sure to be a battle. This demotes Christians to mere lukewarm do-gooders. Blah! No wonder Jesus wants to spit us out of His mouth. Lukewarm do-gooder Christians are embarrassed by those who actually engage the lost with apologetics, or even confrontation, in the quest to persuade them of Christ and salvation.
Rationalizations and excuses abound. Moses was not a good speaker, nor was the apostle Paul. Isaiah was a man of unclean lips. We would never consider any of them lukewarm. They overcame their natural impediments because they all had a transcendent view to God. How much more accountable are we, today, than any of these men of God? We have the full counsel of God to man, on the pages of the closed canon of Scripture. We also have the Holy Spirit indwelling and empowering us to do the good works prepared for us by God, from before the foundation of the world (Acts 1:8; Rom 8:9; Eph 2:10).
Third, there is nothing that produces half-hearted Christianity like doublemindedness (Ps 119:113; Jas 4:8). We want our piece of the world and peace with heaven, too. Like Peter, man’s interests have their place on our agendas (Mt 16:23). We want to love the world and the things of the world and also love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mt 22:37). This is simply untenable (1 Jn 2:15–17). If we persist in setting some of our affections on the world, we will be sure to secure our place in the hesitant hall of fame.
Fourth, there is nothing more evident in exposing a wavering faith problem than a lukewarm Christian spirit. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God (Gal 2:20c). Faith is living in accordance with the Word of God, that is, God’s Word of promise. God makes promises, and then tests our faith. He shows us our shortcomings through the exercise. We must diligently seek God (Heb 11:6), seeking His kingdom first (Mt 6:33), and then demonstrate our commitment to our King, by preaching His kingdom in the midst of the kingdom of this world. How will they hear without a preacher? How can they have faith without hearing? How will they have faith if yours is wavering? If we fail to proclaim Christ, the stoneware in our soup kitchens will have to do it.
The lukewarm warrior is legion in the church. We need to spur one another on to more love, good works, and speaking truth to our neighbors. May God, who raised Jesus from the dead, and who made us alive in the Spirit move upon us. May the bold preacher and witness, for the fame and name of our Lord Jesus Christ, arise in this generation. We need better examples than the hipsters, the liberals, the conspiracy conjurers, the pacifists, the psychologists, corporate creeps, and melancholy moralists are giving us.
May God grant us the impetus to search the Scriptures to find the profile of a fervent, fearless, yet wholly winsome warrior. We, of course, will look first to Jesus Christ; but then we must look at His imperfect, yet Spirit-filled disciples, who turned the world upside down. Believing in His Word, praying in the Spirit, sacrificing ourselves by His example, with single-minded focus, may it be said of us in retrospect, “He was a bold witness, a true warrior with the Word of God, always fervent in Spirit, in declaring the excellencies of Jesus Christ.”
Spokane Valley, Washington
February 13, 2021