May 21, 2020 by John Maurice
“It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism, that in our day and in this land is likely to quench the light of the gospel. It is a proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church-going, hollow-hearted prosperity.” (Frederic D. Huntington, Forum magazine, 1890).
It is amazing to me that the quote above is from 1890. Indeed, the more things change the more they stay the same!
The New Testament epistles address various threats that the church faced in the first century, and I would contend that one of the most serious threats contemporary Christians face is that of being lukewarm, rather than being on fire for Jesus. The church in Laodicea was rich, well clothed, and in need of nothing (Revelation 3:17) – which is a fairly accurate description of American Christianity. But the angel condemned the church for being lukewarm. “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15, 16).
The word translated as spit literally means to vomit. In other words, the Christians in Laodicea were enjoying their status, their salvation, their congregational life, but the witness of their life to the power of the risen Christ was barren, producing no fruit. The church looked successful, most likely had no financial concerns, but they were so unaware of their spiritual condition that they were commanded to repent and become zealous (Revelation 3:19). The command to “be zealous” was actually an exhortation to come alive for Jesus! To be a devoted, soldout, 100% all-in follower of their Lord.
For the most part, American Christians and churches are rich, wealthy, and in need of nothing. The same indictment as was laid upon the believers in Laodicea. Jesus saw the church there much differently, and it makes me wonder if the same condemnation would befall us. Jesus said, “and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17). Neither hot, nor cold, but lukewarm – they were repulsive to Jesus, and he said that he was about to vomit them out of his mouth. One thing is clear - being lukewarm makes Jesus sick!
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his book The Cost of Discipleship some similar words about an easy faith in Jesus, which he called cheap grace: “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession . . . . Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
I would submit to you that cheap grace leads to lukewarmness. Francis Chan, in his book Crazy Love, asks his readers important questions: “Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live? Do you see evidence of God’s kingdom in your life? Or are you choking it out slowly by spending too much time, energy, money, and thought on the things of this world?”
Those are fair questions for us to ask ourselves. Or are we so comfortable that we are no longer committed to Christian discipleship, godliness, and good works that bring honor toChrist?
Is our goal of following Jesus to raise children that don’t swear, or to have a nice marriage, or be a regular church attender? Or is our goal in following Jesus to surrender all that we are to his Lordship as we “know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10, 11).
Cheap grace leads to lukewarmness; costly grace leads to purposeful Christian discipleship. Bonhoeffer defines it this way: “Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: 'Ye were bought at a price,' and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship).
Jesus asks us for everything. How can we offer him anything less than all that we are and all that we have? “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:31-33).
Get hot! Build a bridge to the world by which unbelievers can see the power of Christ in you.