I am a non-denominational believer who attends the Church of God Ministry Jesus Christ International. Recently, I listened to a sermon given by my pastor about characteristics of lukewarm believers. After searching this topic out more on the internet, I found one website that was titled “7 surefire signs to know you’re a lukewarm Christian” but besides the copious number of advertisements on the page, I found minimal doctrine within. While it offers good points here and there, I decided to write this blog post regurgitating a bunch of the notes I had taken down from the sermon.
First, let’s start with some doctrine. In Chapter 3 of the book of revelations in the Bible, it mentions a rather awful depiction of lukewarm believers. It states:
In this blog post, I want to discuss the qualities of lukewarm believers and why we must strive to, in our spiritual life, not be like them.
3 Types of Believers
Before we discuss this, though, I want to back up a step and comment on part of what Jesus says. He wishes for us to be either cold or hot, but not lukewarm. Doesn’t this seem strange that he would rather we be cold than even lukewarm? Let me explain to you why this is though.
Cold here doesn’t mean cold literally. It doesn’t mean that we are freezing. It means that these individuals just don’t know of God. Maybe they haven’t had any experiences with him. He hasn’t manifested in their lives yet. They are ignorant of His power, and thus, are cold. God wishes that they could at least be cold, so that he could have mercy on them. As well as patience.
Hot believers are those individuals who have had multiple experiences with God. They love God with all their hearts. They follow the path of the Lord and they take care of their spiritual life. Moreover, they are continually investing in their spiritual bank, a topic I talked about in the last post.
Lukewarm believers are those individuals who have had experiences with God. They do know about the Lord. They have seen his miracles, yet they turn away from him or do not embrace him fully for whatever reason.
Hopefully, it is clear now why it is better to be cold than lukewarm? For God, when it is our salvation on the line, there is only eternity or damnation. There isn’t a limbo after we die. We either go to Heaven or we go to the other place. For the rest of this blog post, I want to discuss three characteristics of lukewarm believers.
3 Characteristics of Lukewarm Believers
(1) They haven't seriously repented from their errors or trespasses.
One of the characteristics of lukewarm believers is this lack of sincere repentance. In prayer, we need to explain in detail our mistakes before the Lord. We can’t pray something like “Lord, I am sorry that I took your name in vain, but that driver came out of nowhere and he wasn’t watching where he was going.” While explaining in detail his sin—taking the Lord’s name in vain—this lukewarm believer is making excuses. He is trying to justify his action by placing the blame on another individual (this person who was driving recklessly). I am sure that this—displacement of blame—is something that many are familiar within their lives, but we cannot let our sins fall upon other people. Being a hot believer means taking responsibility for our actions.
In fact, blame displacement is so common that it is the first two sins in the Bible. Adam and Eve blame the Serpent for tricking them into eating the fruit in Genesis 3: 12-13 and Cain not taking responsibility for killing his brother Abel in Genesis 4:8-10. In both scenarios, God already knew what had happened. He knew that Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit; he knew that Cain had killed his brother, so what he asked them was a rhetorical question. What he wanted them to do was to repent, sincerely repent, and admit their mistakes. The real sin here is not taking responsibility for our actions. Needless to say, God cast all of these individuals from his sight.
(2) Lukewarm believers are described as being double-minded.
Another of the characteristics of lukewarm believers is that they have a double-tongue. They are not firm. They vacillate. Yes, is never a yes. It is really only a maybe. These individuals do not understand that it is God who brought them to the church in the first place. They receive prophecy from God; they have experiences with him; he manifests in their life, but they still do not see his Power.
Paul explains this quality in his letter to Timothy in chapter 3 verses 1-8. Specifically, verses 7-8 are wise to remember: “7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. 8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money,”
James comments on this virtue as well, stating in chapter 1 of his epistle in verses 6-8: “6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
Is is clear how these double-sided individuals are unstable, compared to a sea in the storm. They doubt and do not have complete faith in the Lord, and that is what the Lord wants more than anything else from us. He wants us not to rely on our own strength, but to rely on His strength. We need to put aside our human minds and let Him fight our battles for us.
Later on, James talks about the first two characteristics of these lukewarm individuals in one of my favorite bible verses.
James here is very clearly talking about the first two types of lukewarm individuals—those who haven’t cleansed their hands yet, or fully repented, and those who haven’t purified their hearts and are double-minded. It also gives us an important order “draw near to God”. Get close to Him. Rely on Him. Because, if you learn to put your faith in the Lord, then He will draw near to you.
2nd Kings chapter 17: 33-34 offers a great depiction of these individuals who are from Assyria. “33 They feared the Lord, yet served their own gods—according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away. 34 To this day they continue practicing the former rituals; they do not fear the Lord, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances, or the law and commandment which the Lord had commanded the children of Jacob, whom He named Israel,”
What is interesting to note is that, at one point, they did fear the Lord, but now, after continuing on in the way of the world and not serving as good testimony—after being lukewarm—they no longer fear Him. They no longer give Him that authority and respect that He deserves. This is a clear warning that we can all take away as Christians if we, too, continue on in our ways of trying to please both the world and God. For we live in a valley of decision, and we must decide if we want to live life according to our standards or God’s standards.
(3) They Only Do the Easy Things of God
The last of the characteristics of lukewarm believers is that they do not follow God 100%. A perfect example of this is found in Matthew when Jesus Counsels the Rich Young Ruler.
Many individuals misinterpret this story, saying that it is a sin to be rich, or that we all must give up our earthly possessions. That isn’t the point. This commandment by Jesus, to sell what the man has and give to the poor, is specific to this individual who is asking about what he (the young ruler) needs to do to have eternal life. While he obeyed God in many things, he could not let go of his earthly possessions. He could not sacrifice that part of Him to have eternity with God. When his storm came (that storm of giving up the earthly possessions), he couldn’t weather it.
Whether it is sacrificing our earthly possessions like this man, or quitting alcohol, or no longer fornicating with others, we, too, must sacrifice our bodies for Jesus’s sake. We must not only give up what is easy for us to give, like one hour every Sunday. But can you, for example, give up an hour every day to spend with Him (or at least thirty minutes)? Do you tithe and give 10% of all of your earnings? Do you refrain from swearing or using his name in vain? What I mean to say is, how well do you take care of your testimony? How good of an example are you to others? These are questions that you can meditate on and explore in your own spiritual journey.
These individuals are explained in the Parable of the Sower, which is found in Chapter 13 of Matthew. The lukewarm people are those individuals who have received seed on the stony places and, as explained in 20-21 of the same chapter, “…hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.”
To bring this all home, I want to examine one final bible verse found in 1st Corinthians.
As with the Parable of the Sower, it is clear that we need to build our foundation with gold, silver and precious stones, for, when fires come, they will not burn up like wood, hay, or straw. Here, fires refer to the tribulations in our life, and through these tribulations, we are refined. The fires save us. God gives us these trials to test us, and to see if we are lukewarm or hot for him. These verses connect back to what I started with earlier in Revelations 3:18. In that verse, Jesus counsels us to buy Gold from him refined in fire, so that we can become rich. Here, the gold is the doctrine—or putting into practice what God speaks. It is doing all the things of the lord, not just the easy things.
When we have that gold as our foundation, and when it is refined through the individual fires that the Lord gives us, we are saved. Depending on our strength in him, that work might be saved or burned, but when we take care to build our lives around Jesus, we are saved. That is why it starts off in verse 11 by saying that there is no other foundation than the other with Jesus Christ. We cannot serve two masters. There is no lukewarm with Jesus. It’s all in. Or all out.
What type of believer will you be?