By Edwin Crayton
Unlike global warming, global lukewarming does not involve greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide or pollution. What I am referring to is a spreading epidemic of half-hearted devotion to God and lack of respect for his authority. The concept of a lukewarm attitude towards God most famously appeared first in The Book of Revelations, chapter 3, verses 15-16. Apostle John was giving a wealthy church at Laodicea a stern warning from Jesus himself. In that warning, Jesus criticized the church for its lack of passion saying, “I know your deeds; you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were one or the other! So because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to vomit you out of my mouth!” Would he say the same thing about many who claim to be Christians in the 21st Century?”
Today, you do not have to go far to find those who say they are Christian, and yet seem to live in ways that seem to reveal little respect or passion for Christ. In one of his later books Storm Warning (2010), the late, legendary Evangelist Billy Graham warned, “Poll after poll reveals that the majority of U.S. population claims some kind of moral and ethical value system based on a belief in God, yet those values apparently have little or no influence on their lives.”
Graham’s biting comments echo a complaint Jesus himself made. In Luke 6:46, he asked, “But why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? The key word in that statement is “lord”. Jesus was saying that when God is in charge of a believer’s life, it shows in that person’s actions. However, we cannot allow God to be in charge of our lives if we do not love him with passion. In fact in chapter 22 of the Book of Matthew, Jesus made it clear that God should in fact be our number one priority. He said the two greatest commandments are that people should 1) Love God with all their heart soul and mind and 2) Love their neighbor as they love themselves. A pastor, Arron McGuffie of Trinity Baptist said, that means we should put ourselves third. But in reality, too many of us have flipped that formula to the point where we are number one, others are number two and God comes in a distant third on the priority list.
In Storm Warning, Graham called it the “Cult of self”. The Bible says God commanded his people in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other God except God.” This command was aimed at steering Israel away from the idol worshipping of the surrounding people. Today perhaps the idol we worship most is ourselves. In such a self-centered culture, God’s Holy Words often fall on deaf ears. The alarming truth is to experience this, you do not have to look outside the church. If you doubt this, consider the following disturbing recent events: Isaiah 5:20, says, “Woe to those who call evil good.” Sin is evil. The Bible makes it clear that Christians should neither participate in nor accept sin. The German broadcaster DW has reported that in a documentary, Pope Francis supported gay civil unions. DW reported, “In the film the pontiff urged a “civil union law” that would allow LGBT people to “be in family.” DW previously reported that when he was an archbishop, Francis also campaigned for gay civil unions. Yet the Bible says in Leviticus 18:22 that homosexuality is a sin. Would Francis have also endorsed adultery or another sin? In 2003, The Episcopal Church hired a gay bishop, Gene Robinson. The Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church and the United Church of Christ all allow gay marriages. None seem concerned about God’s clear biblical prohibition against same sex unions (Romans, chapter 1, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). This lukewarming can be seen on other issues as well. For instance, the Bible preaches that sex before marriage is a sin that can lead to damnation (1 Corinthians, Chapter 6). But a summary of a 2016 study by Barna Research warns, ”Religious leaders will be wise to notice that a growing number of their constituents—particularly in younger demographics—are accepting cohabitation (living together before marriage) as the norm.” It seems, many of us Christians are not passing biblical values on to our children as the Bible advises (Proverbs 22:6). Those who support abortion say it is a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body. But can a Christian really be prochoice? The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, that our bodies belong to Jesus Christ. Still, the church is split on whether abortion is a sin or a right. Liberal churches tend to support it. Conservative ones tend to oppose it. Even though the Bible says bluntly and clearly in Exodus 20:13 “You shall not kill.” Actually, you do not have to go to the controversial issues to sense lukewarming towards God. For example, in Matthew 28:19-20, perhaps Jesus’ greatest commission to believers was that we should evangelize (spread the gospel). Yet, although a 2016 poll by Barna revealed that 73% of Americans say they are Christians, only 26% agree with the statement “I have a strong responsibility to evangelize to others”. You only have to check most church activity pamphlets to realize, few have evangelism activities. This is a key point. Because a main goal of the faith is to reach nonbelievers. Christians are supposed to love humanity and that love should compel us to tell people why faith in Jesus is the only pathway to heaven (John 14:6). In fact, Jesus said he would not return again until the gospel has been spread to the entire world.
Love matters. But as the Bible teaches, love isn’t all hugs and kisses. Love requires obedience and sacrificing the self (Luke 6:46, 1 John 2:4-6). In the Book of Genesis, Abraham loved God so much, he was willing to sacrifice his only son to please the Lord. blessed Israel because of Abraham’s faithfulness. At some point, all of us have to choose between God’s will and our own. If we choose ours, we may gain the world but we will lose our souls. We will also lose God, his salvation, his peace and his protection. And do so in a darkening time when we have rarely needed all of those more.
“If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” –Jesus Christ, Luke 9:23
(To be continued)
By Edwin Crayton