14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. 15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
British evangelist Henry Varley once famously said the following to D.L. Moody: “Moody, the world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to him.” Those words set Moody’s heart on fire. He would later tell Varley:
“Ah, those were the words sent to my soul, through you, from the Living God. As I crossed the wide Atlantic, the boards of the deck of the vessel were engraved with them, and when I reached Chicago, the very paving stones seemed marked with ‘Moody, the world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to him.’
It is an astonishing thought: “Moody, the world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to him.”
I ask you just as I ask myself: what would our lives look like if we were “fully consecrated to Him”?
Wholly on board.
Recklessly abandoned to Jesus.
The great tragedy of the church of Laodicea is that they had not determined to be this. It was not on their radar. Why? Because they were rich and comfortable and complacent. The word that Jesus used was “lukewarm.” Verses 15-16 are two of the most famous verses in all of scripture:
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
There are two general schools of thought about what Jesus means by His references to “hot,” “cold,” and “lukewarm.”
- Proposal #1: “Hot” is a positive statement and “cold” is a negative statement. The terms refer to the church’s degree of commitment and the quality of their walk with Jesus. In this proposal, “hot” means “truly committed,” “cold” means “not committed at all,” and “lukewarm” means “somewhere in the murky middle: neither committed nor uncommitted.” Therefore, Jesus is saying that believing wholeheartedly or not believing at all is preferable to trying to straddle the fence. We are to declare ourselves and be all in or all out.
- Proposal #2: “Hot” and “cold” are both positive statements (as opposed to Proposal #1 in which “hot” is a positive term and “cold” is negative) referring to hot water that is useful for various things and cold water that is refreshing to drink. In this proposal, in the words of Rudwick and Green, Laodicea “was providing neither refreshment for the spiritually weary, nor healing for the spiritually sick. It was totally ineffective, and thus distasteful to the Lord.”
While I lean toward the first proposal, the second cannot be ruled out. Regardless, there is agreement on this point in both proposals: either spiritual or missional lukewarmness is noxious and unacceptable for the church of the living God. The church was not what they were supposed to be: fruitful, faithful, and Christ-honoring. They were lukewarm.
We should be wholly committed to the Christ! There can be no half-hearted carrying of a cross. Discipleship does not lend itself to partial measures. Leon Morris writes that “to profess Christianity while remaining untouched by its fire is a disaster. There is more hope for the openly antagonistic than for the coolly indifferent.”
So I would like to ask two questions: (1) What is a “lukewarm” Christian? (2) How does one cease to be “lukewarm”?