A Warning to a Lukewarm Church
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
There is a crisis in the Church today. There is an emergency. It is not the dwindling number of people filling the pews. It is not the ineffectiveness of ministries. It is not the lack of effective communicators in the pulpit. It is not the result of irrelevant music or buildings.
There is a crisis. It cannot be fixed by a better vision. It cannot be fixed by more relativism. It cannot be averted by a contemporary music selection or a comfortable building. It will not be fixed by the greatest minds or longest discussions of men.
The crisis is obvious. The results are apparent. But the crisis must not be confused with the results.
The crisis has been caused by many things. This letter could go on to explain every one of the causes, but that is not necessary. There are a few major areas of significance that root the many causes.
First of all, the loss of focus on the cross of Christ. The cross is central to everything about New Testament Christianity, which should be known as simply Christianity. Unfortunately the demise of the Church without the acknowledgement of its people has led us to refer to our religion as Christianity. This is an abominable lie. The cross demands and requires a sacrifice, not a covering over. We have taken the cross and put it on top of our pathetic beliefs and disciplines and called it 'Christianity'. The only way it ought to be called that is if it were written 'c'hristianity with a lower case 'c'. Because there is a christ to what we have, but he is not the Christ. He is our creation, the result of mans imagination. He is created in our image and we are not made in his. This christ tells us that we can have him and the world too. He tells us that we can compromise, that holiness is for legalists and that relativism is for the real "christians". However, this is a false Christianity and a false Christ and a false cross.
The True Christ bids, "Come to me and die, bear your cross, walk behind me and know my suffering and my shame, struggle down a hard and narrow road with few others beside you." He commands us to forsake not only the world, although we have already stopped our obedience before this, but also to forsake our very own lives. The cross that he commands us to come and bear, if we would follow him, demands all that we are. This is not a cross that we can simply come to and adore, we must get on it. The true Christ will frustrate and anger the flesh, because the true Christ is the light of the world, and fleshly men hate light and all that is good. When they view his holiness they will cringe and scorn and despise.
In our cheap attempt at Christianity we simply have a jesus that makes us feel good and that we do "our best" to follow. This jesus we have created does not manifest in us a righteousness and holy life that fleshly, unregenerate men hate, but rather we find that we can get along quite nicely with the world and still come to church on Sunday and praise the god we have created. The real Jesus doesn't call men to feel good; he calls them to sacrifice, self-denial and suffering. He demands not our best, but everything. We sin by holding anything back from him. This real Jesus, if we let him, will create in us a righteousness and holiness that men will hate, scorn and despise. Those who have the true nature of Christ do not get along well with the world because their very lives reveal the condemnation that is coming to those who live in sin. They find that they cannot get along well with those who follow this false christ that man has created. These false christians are usually the first to attack the true follower of Christ. They despise the man because the light of the Master shines through him and burns the eyes of those still in the dark, even those claiming to be in the light.
The cross of Christ is a call to everything the flesh opposes and so it has been rejected and in favour of it a fun and easy version has been created. The cross of Christ was once the most important and central part of the life of Christians, now it can be removed from our buildings without a qualm. It can even be left out of our preaching and our living. We have no burden to preach and share the Gospel any longer and when we do out of our "religious duty" we preach it falsely.
This is the second point, the false gospel of a false church. We have made the Gospel cheap, convenient and comfortable. The True Gospel is condemning, costly and challenging. The false requests intellectual agreement, the true demands total self-denial. The false considers the rewards; the true abandons all personal desire for the sake of Christ's glory. The false can be obtained in a few minutes, the true demands a lifetime of seeking, struggling and suffering. The false may make a person feel good for a time, the true purifies a person to find joy in God alone at all times. The false says, "Come and join everyone in the fun," the true says, "Come and follow on the road alone." The false calls us to be contagious; the true calls us to the cross to be contemptible.
This Gospel cannot be attractive to the unsaved soul. It is an offence to them. It tells them of a holy God that reveals their own wretchedness. It tells them that they have hated this good God and therefore deserve eternal hell. It tells them that the God who is holy hates them because they are evildoers (1). It is an offence. It must be denied by the natural man. It is only accepted by the power of the Spirit moving among the man. Only the work of the Spirit can soften him to choose repentance. And only can the man be saved by the work of the Spirit. There is no prayer, no method, no action that the man may do to be saved. He must be miraculously changed from one who loves and desires only evil into one who loves and desires a good God.
The true Gospel does not neglect the goodness of salvation and that this is the way to life. It acknowledges and rejoices in the gracious work of God and his love for those who are lost. However, it refuses to compromise any part of the truth, it will not leave out anything in the favour of being attractive. It desires truth. It understands that anything omitted means a lie. Those who preach and share it desire, not another sinner to be saved by themselves, but rather that God might be glorified in the speaking of truth and his own work of salvation. The speaker of the true Gospel will never separate Gods glory and truth from the Gospel and they remember that Gods power is everything.
The continuation of this Gospel into the life of the believer and the Church will be a continual desire for God and trust in his sovereign power. It never considers the work of man worth anything. It longs and strives for God to work. Those who live in this Gospel desire their lives to be controlled by God and therefore to allow him to work through them. They never take things into their own hands. They never go ahead without divine leading. They pray to God that he will work in whatever he has led them to do. They will not trust in their abilities, not even the abilities God has blessed them with. They understand that God is the only strength they have.
The Church today in North America has chosen an easy, comfortable gospel that is sending more people to hell than any drug, bar or brothel (2). Those who receive this false gospel believe that they have been saved because they followed the formula. However, God demands true repentance and gives salvation that only comes by him and through him. There is no other way. This false gospel has worked its way into our orthodoxy and has now become the foundation of our churches. It leads us to attempt to live in communion with the world and the Spirit. The Israelites never stayed on the border of the land of Canaan, they were either in the desert or in the Promised Land. Churches today would rather sit on the border, afraid of hell so they stay in the desert, but also afraid of holiness so they never enter the Promised Land completely. One foot in the world and one in the church. God desires those who will live in communion with him alone and will refuse to commune with the world, for what communion hath light and darkness?
There will be no reward for those who refuse to enter the land of the holiness and desire of God. For those who live by this false gospel and false christ. This is those of the lukewarm faith that Christ will spew out of his mouth. He has no use or desire for this group. They are those many people who at the Judgment Seat will call out to him Lord, Lord and he will answer, Depart from me, ye that work iniquity. This is a warning to those people. You fill our pews but your spirits drain our life. You shall not escape the coming judgment. You are the Pharisees of old and you are living in the same hypocrisy, which the Lord Jesus hated so purely. May the Lord so change your hearts that you shall hear the truth of these words and return to the Lord. There is one way to be saved, and that is by true repentance, a forsaking of all that you are and inviting the power of God to invade you and purge any evil or selfish desire. His cleansing power of grace is all that can save you. Let yourself be changed by him so that you may deny yourself and bear the cross beside Christ and live not for yourself, but for the glory of the One who is holy.
(1) Now many disagree here and say that He hates their sin, but not them. That is not Biblical. Psalm 5:5b says thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Also see Psalm 7:11 and 11:5. Do not try and make these verses fit into your theology. Instead change your theology so it is Biblical.
(2) I have to give credit to Paul Washer, director of HeartCry Missionary Society and preacher, who said a similar statement to this in his sermon Regeneration and Self-Denial. This sermon is available online at sermonindex.net . He says, We have that silly superstitious prayer at the end of a Roman Road that sends more people to hell than any brothel in this country (USA).
Written by a Briercrest Bible College student.