Vol. VIII — No. 48 December 3, 1967
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
In Christ Jesus, who would have us hot, not lukewarm, Fellow Redeemed:
Many of us like to start the day with a cup of hot coffee for breakfast. But how would a coffee drinker react to a cup of lukewarm coffee? He would probably go to the kitchen sink and spit it out. In the summertime in the heat of the day many like a glass of iced tea. But how would a hot and thirsty tea drinker react to a glass of lukewarm tea? He would probably spit it out. There is in man a certain natural revulsion to food and drink that is lukewarm.
This natural revulsion towards the lukewarm our Lord uses in the realm of the spiritual when He says, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” Those words were originally written to the pastor of the church of the Laodiceans. That pastor and congregation were to be warned, for they were in that perilous spiritual state of being lukewarm. This warning was recorded also for us, for it is easy for children of God to become lukewarm and so to invoke upon themselves the judgment of being spit out, ejected from the family of God and rejected by Him.
Let us heed both the exhortation and the warning of this text:
Let us be sure that we understand these temperature figures of speech. We can say that—
A motor doesn’t work well when it’s cold. The oil and grease have to reach a certain temperature, the motor has to be warmed up before it will function properly. So also with the human body. Athletes warm up first before the game starts. When the weather gets cold the efficiency of the quarterback and his receivers is reduced because cold fingers and hands do not make for efficiency in passing and receiving the football.
So also in the realm of the spiritual! Cold is a figure of speech denoting the unconverted, unregenerated, unquickened man. He’s a slave of sin in some form. He may be the victim of some sin that is considered a social vice—the drug addict, the alcoholic, the sex pervert. He may be a slave of self-righteousness—the person who sees his own “god” every time he looks in the mirror because he believes that he is saved by his own works, his own righteousness, his own piety, his own way of life. Whatever the nature of his slavery is, such a person is cold towards God. He doesn’t react to either threats of punishment or promises of mercy.
But the moment the weight of the law of God makes its impact upon that sinner so that he realizes the depth of his slavery and feels the wrath of God breathing down his back and the moment he becomes personally aware of and embraces God’s rescue operation in history for him—that moment he is changed from cold to hot. That moment he turns his back upon sin and turns his face towards the love of God in Christ which brings him forgiveness, peace, joy, comfort, hope. Scripture gives us examples of such blessed changes from cold to hot. Think of Saul, the persecutor of the Church of Jesus Christ. He was hot in his efforts against Christ, but cold, yea frozen, towards Christ. Then he was stopped dead in his tracks while on the road to Damascus. He was made aware of his slavery to sin. Three days later Ananias was sent to bring him the assurance of divine pardon and mercy from the same Christ that he had been persecuting in His members.
Each child of God goes through this same experience—though not in such a dramatic manner. By nature all of us are utterly and equally cold towards our God. By nature we love sin and hate righteousness. He can get so warmly wrapped up in ourselves, while remaining so cold towards the God of our salvation. When our God through the hammer of His law crushes our hearts and makes us to weep tears of repentance and then again when He soothes our troubled consciences with the assurance of full and complete pardon from all sin, then are we changed from cold to hot. Then gratitude for salvation received will find expression in love both towards God and man.
Being hot is being in the state of spiritual life, of living one’s life in faith in Christ—a faith that is daily evident by works of love. But such a life is not led unchallenged. By no means! Satan is always trying to cool off the child of God whose faith and love is hot towards God and his fellowman. What means does he use to achieve his purpose? Let us realize that—
What happens if you like a certain food and then are given and take the opportunity of eating that food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, day after day? Before long you may become satiated to such an extent that you just don’t like it anymore.
That so easily happens in the life of a child of God. The Bible was once a rare book, but now it is the most widely distributed book in the world. Anyone and everyone has or may have a copy. So common is the book that among many socalled Christians it has become too common to read. It can’t compete with the funnies and the sports page. Has this happened to you? Have you become satiated with the Word? If so, you are becoming lukewarm.
The Gospel of full and free salvation in Christ has been proclaimed for more than a century in our land without interference by anyone. Isn’t it quite evident that most Christian churches are now satiated with the Gospel? What other reason is there that the churches have turned their backs on the Gospel of Christ and converted themselves into social and political pressure groups intent upon solving society’s social and economic and political problems? How is it with you? Are you tired of hearing that you are a sinner lost and condemned, but rescued by the blood of Jesus Christ? Do you have itching ears for something new, something that is called more relevant to this modern age? If so, you are becoming lukewarm.
But you may say, “We left our former churches because we wanted the Bible and we wanted the Gospel preached to us.” Fine, but don’t for a moment think that Satan will leave us alone. He so likes to work the angle of spiritual pride. He would have us think that because we made the sacrifice of cutting old ties, because we made the effort of starting anew, because we have taken a confessional stand—we are the elite of God, we are the superior children of God. Such spiritual pride likes to rest its laurels on past performance as though what was done was done by one’s own strength rather than by the grace of God. Spiritual pride exalts self and despises God’s grace. It’s the path to lukewarmness. Has anyone of us taken that path?
Lukewarmness is also caused by spiritual indifference. I have heard again and again of the surge of activity when this church building was erected almost by the efforts of members and others who came to lend their assistance. But I also have heard how the work dragged on towards the end of the building project and how difficult it was to get anyone to come to finish those last jobs. This past week has brought another spurt of activity, as many members spent half the night clearing away the pine and others came to clean up the property. Let us realize that it is so natural for children of God to go in spurts and sputters. There is a flurry of activity and then all seems to die out. It is so difficult to maintain an even-dedicated interest and concern. Why is it this way? We should realize that Satan doesn’t want us to have dedicated, consecrated zeal for the work of the Lord. He is constantly trying to cool us off. He uses many stratagems. He tries to get us so wrapped up in our own business and social life that we just don’t have time for the Lord’s work. He tries to get us angry and dissatisfied because things just didn’t or don’t go the way we would like them to go. He tries to work personality against personality. If one method doesn’t work, he tries another—but always with the same purpose in mind: to cool us off, to make us indifferent, to get us wrapped up in our own little world. That is lukewarmness, the fatal condition that causes our Lord to want to spit us out of His mouth.
It is because of His mercy that we have not long ago been spit out and rejected. That same mercy tells us how to avert that judgment, for—
When we get up in the morning, the problems of the day face us. Some problems come and go. Some stay with us. One is always there. It is the problem of our sin. None of us lived yesterday as we should have lived. Our thoughts were not always holy thoughts. Our words did not all pass the test of love. Our actions fell short of what our God demands in His law. We have sinned. We deserve punishment. That is the daily problem—our sin and guilt.
What is the solution? It never varies, for there is only one solution—Jesus Christ. He took our sins and guilt upon Himself. He offers us His righteousness. He assures us that all is well because He has made it that way. He assures us that, sinners though we be, yet we can live under the shadow of the Almighty as His dear children.
This is the assurance, daily given us in the Gospel, that reheats faith and love. This should move us to ask, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” In the Church we are not to ask, “How can I rule, how can I influence others to do my bidding, how can I get my way?” No. The one question to be asked is “How can I best serve?”
Do you have a voice? Then join the junior or senior choir and sing to the glory of your God. Has your God given you insight into His word and understanding or willingness to learn? Has He given you patience with children and the talent of dealing with them? Then participate in the teaching and training of the youth. Has the Lord given you a special skill? Then use that skill or ability for His glory. Has the Lord given you strength? Then dedicate that strength to Him. Has He given you youth? Then consecrate your youth to His service. Has He given you age and judgment and experience? Then dedicate these to His service. Have you been negligent in reading the Word of the Lord? Then resolve to read and study His Word. Have you been careless about attending divine services? Then resolve to come regularly and sit at your Lord’s feet to hear His Word. Have you been a member of the church for years without ever taking the time to learn the Word and Will of your Lord? Then take the time to come to the instruction classes and the Sunday School so that you grow in grace and knowledge. Has the Lord blessed you with a position of influence? Then use that influence for His cause. Has the Lord blessed you with material things? Then return unto Him the firstfruits of that which He has given you.
O Lord, keep us from becoming lukewarm, lest we be spit out. Rekindle our hearts again and again with Thy love for us so that our faith may burn hot to Thy glory and the welfare of our fellowman. Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.