By Cindi McMenamin, Crosswalk.com
None of us sets out to be lukewarm in our faith. It just sort of happens. It’s a slow fade of the heart—a backing off of some of the essentials we practiced when we held a passionate, intense love for our Lord.
In Revelation 2:4-5, after commending the church in Ephesus for their works, toil, and patient endurance for Christ’s sake, Jesus let them know what really bothered Him: “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”
Jesus can tell when we’re lukewarm, going through the motions, in it with our heads, but not our hearts. Later, in Revelation 3:15-16, He rebuked the church of Laodicea for being neither cold (think of a refreshing iced tea!) nor hot (think of a warming, satisfying cup of coffee). “So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth,” Jesus declared.
Pretty severe, don’t you think? Yet Jesus followed it with this loving clarification in verse 19: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”
So that you can keep yourself from unknowingly losing your edge and passion, here are seven signs you’re falling into a lukewarm faith, and how to keep from getting there:
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1. You’re starting to sound critical.
Sometimes we don’t see it until someone else points out the cold hard truth about how negative, critical, and complaining we sound. When we are in a right relationship with God, reading His Word regularly, and surrounding ourselves with other believers, our faith can display mature characteristics such as gratitude—for life, the ability to push breath through our lungs, the sunshine, the ability to see the colors of a sunset, and even our not-so-great circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us God’s will for us is to be thankful in all things. When we start to lose sight of our blessings, we become full of criticism and complaint.
Listen for how many times you say something negative, criticize someone, or simply act entitled rather than grateful and repent of it immediately. Ask Jesus to give you a heart of gratitude and keep you from becoming complacent about who He is and all He’s given you.
2. You no longer recognize Him everywhere.
When you are in love with Jesus, you can’t help but see Him and His work everywhere—in that climactic rescue in the romance novel or movie, in the red rose that captures your eye at dawn, in the beautiful colors of a sunset, in the face of a newborn after a miracle delivery.
You know your faith is alive and well when you can see evidence of God everywhere. When you can recognize blessings even in the bitterness. When you can praise Him, even in the pain, because you see His redemptive work in process. If you’re not recognizing Him daily or seeing immediate reasons to thank Him and praise Him, ask Him to open the eyes of your heart to see Him anew.
3. You talk of Him less around others.
Do you remember how much you talked about Jesus when you first learned of the grace of God that was greater than all your sin? If it was a real transformation in your life, you couldn’t stop talking about it—and Him. Others saw the change in you and you may have even lost some friends or relationships on account of it. But if you’re starting to sound just like everyone else, including those who at one time didn’t want to be around the “Jesus freak” you were becoming, it may be a sure sign you’re slipping back into your old ways, or into a complacent faith.
Sometimes we start this slip by justifying our silence with the words “my faith is a personal matter.” But if that’s the case, you’ve lost sight of the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the desire to see others find salvation through Him. Pray that God will re-light the fire in you that Peter and John had when they boldly told their accusers (with possible penalty of death as a result!): “We cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20 NASB).
4. You start caring more about the world’s opinion, than God’s.
A sure way to get lukewarm in your faith is when you start blending in with our culture and adopting its opinions and convictions. When we are more about what the world thinks than what God thinks, we’re on a downhill slide. What does Scripture say about the value of human life—about when it begins and who has the right to take it? Does that dictate whether or not you speak out about injustices? What does God call sin and what does He think about sex outside of the sanctity of marriage, pornography, oppression of the poor, materialism, pride, the love of money, abuse in any form, and victimization of children?
If you fear others’ lack of acceptance, or you’d rather stay silent to please them than your heavenly Father, you’re on a downward slide into complacency. Ask God to give you a healthy fear of Him, not people—a holy trembling that is based on love and admiration for Him and a dread of disappointing Him.
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5. You’ve lost your interest or desire for God’s Word.
There are times in my life when I’ve started to skip time in God’s Word. And the more I did it, the easier it became. Pretty soon a habit is gone and if I’m not missing it, I’m in trouble. Sometimes you and I start going to God’s Word out of obligation (because we know that is where life is and that is the well of living water we need to return to). But eventually we return out of inspiration…we know His Word is what gives us life, strength, growth, truth, and wisdom.
If you’ve lost your hunger, desire, or even interest in God’s Word, ask God to make His Word come alive for you again. Scripture says the Word of God is “living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 NASB). It’s also God-breathed (think of it like a breath of fresh air from the Living God) and “useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT).
If the Word is not alive and speaking to you and me, it’s because our spiritual ears are no longer tuned to His voice, or we’re no longer taking the time to listen. Humbly ask God to speak to you once again through His Word and give you an insatiable hunger for it. You won’t realize what you’ve been missing until you get back to what the psalmists called their delight, encouragement, enlightenment, revival, treasure, truth, and wisdom.
6. You’re okay being without a community of believers.
It’s pretty common—yet deceiving—for Christians today to think they can grow and thrive spiritually without being connected to a local church. You and I need corporate worship (as well as individual worship). We need regular teaching in God’s Word from those mature in the faith and schooled in the Scriptures (instead of just doing our own reading and studying now and then), and we need accountability from other believers who can help sharpen us and keep us strong when we’re faced with temptation—especially the temptation to grow lukewarm in our faith. We discover and exercise our spiritual gifts when we are in community with other believers, not while living in isolation from the church.
If your church attendance is slacking, but you’re never missing a gathering with friends to watch sports, a movie night with the girls, or weekly drinks with your colleagues, examine the priorities of your heart. When you’re away from God’s people, your heart should long to return. We were made to live in community with other believers…it’s how God is glorified through us and it’s our witness to the world (John 13:34-35). So, if it feels natural—or just better—to be on your own, you’ve fallen further than you may want to admit. Get back to a place where you can grow weekly.
7. You’re less bothered by sin.
A right-standing relationship with God means you are sensitive to the things God is sensitive about. It means holiness is important to you, not an outdated topic. It means sin should still bother you–whether it’s in your life, in the lives of people you know, or depicted in the movies you watch or the songs you listen to. But the movie isn’t real, you may be thinking. But sin is real. That violent act depicted against another person started with a vengeful thought in one’s heart…the same kinds of thoughts that still pop into your heart and mine, especially when we let those thoughts run rampant or go unchecked. Bind those thoughts with the truth of God’s Word (2 Corinthians 10:5), and obey Romans 12:2 that commands us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (NASB).
Losing our sensitivity toward sin means we are getting further from the heart of God. Ask Him to break your heart with what breaks His and to thrill your heart with what thrills His. By doing so, you will safeguard your heart from allowing it to become complacent, lukewarm and off-target from where God wants you to be.
Here’s a prayer to get you back on track with the Lover of your soul.
Lord, relight the fire that once burned bright in my heart for You. Lord Jesus, You haven’t changed. You haven’t backed off. You haven’t left. I have. Forgive me for thinking I’m fine on my own. Remind me that I am dependent on You for the very air I breathe and I don’t let me waste one more day living for myself, rather than for You. Thank You that You are a forgiving, redeeming God who will draw me close as I draw close to You (James 4:8). Help me to put myself in the position where You can grow my hunger and passion for You. Give me a renewed love for Your Word, too, and keep me in it so I can cling to You. In the ever-powerful name of Jesus, I pray this. Amen.
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