Lukewarm Christianity – When the Love of Believers Grows Cold

In all relationships, the commitment can wane and the passion can cool off. Spouses for example can grow cold in their love for one another. And sadly, this can also happen in the Christian life. Followers of Jesus can lose their love for their Lord.

That believers can in fact lose their love for him is something Jesus himself predicted would happen. Consider one occasion where he mentioned this. When Jesus was at the Mount of Olives, his disciples came to him asking, “Tell us, when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

His lengthy answer is what we now call the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24-25). Here Jesus speaks about conditions which will appear just before he returns. He tells us what to expect in the last days. Verses 9-11 of chapter 24 is the section that I want to draw attention to here:

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

This is a remarkable word for many reasons, but I especially want to emphasise the warning about the love of most growing cold. Jesus speaks about this in other places of course. For example, he warns about a lukewarm church and his reaction to it in Revelation 3: 14-22. It is a very familiar passage, but worth recalling here:

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Very strong words indeed, and words that seem to me to be fully applicable to much of the church today. And I include our Bible-believing evangelical churches here as well. But let me explain the background to my thoughts here.

I recently found something quite alarming, and wrote an article about it. It had to do with the claim of a foolish celebrity that Jesus was a sodomite. But it was not that which bothered me so much. After all, you expect such idiotic remarks to come from over-pampered and over-paid rock stars.

But what did bother me – and grieved my spirit – was the response by some believers. Some of these folk suggested I was getting all excited about nothing, and that I should just calm down. ‘No big deal’ was their attitude, and they couldn’t see what all the fuss was about.

It is possible they are right. Maybe I should just chill out and not waste time being concerned about such matters. But it is also possible that they are wrong. Their response may suggest a possible lack of a pure and holy and devout love for our Lord. The truth is, a disciple of Jesus will seek to have the mind and heart of his Saviour. What hurts God should hurt us. What grieves God should grieve us.

And when we see our Lord denigrated, slandered and accused of all sorts of crap, that should concern us. The honour and glory of God should be our chief concern. Our love relationship with him should be so close that when he is insulted and attacked, we should feel assaulted and attacked.

And this is not so hard to understand. Indeed, it happens all the time in life. If a husband truly and deeply loves his wife, he will never regard an attack on her character or a denigration of her person to occur without feeling a righteous sense of indignation, and an overwhelming desire to come to the aid of his beloved.

The more a husband loves his wife, the more he will object to anyone seeking to damage her name, her reputation, her character, or her virtue. It is a clear sign of a lack of love, and a cold heart, when a spouse cannot be roused to righteous concern when the beloved is slammed and smeared by others.

Thus I cannot fathom the rather cavalier, flippant and careless attitude of some believers when their Lord who is the most precious and beautiful person of all is dragged in the mud by his critics. What sort of love is that?

One person actually suggested that I just ease up, and not get “all huffy about such things”. I have to wonder about such people. I would like to ask them if they take a similar approach to their spouse, or mother, or any other important loved one. If for example a wife was maliciously slandered and insulted, would the husband just shrug his shoulders and say it is nothing to get all huffy about?

If so, can I suggest that this marriage is already over? Anyone who would take such a cold and callous view toward his beloved can surely know little about genuine love. And if we should rightly have a passionate sense of wanting to defend the honour and dignity of our beloved, how much more so with the most wonderful, most pure and most holy being in the universe?

However there would be many other possible indications of a cooling love, or a fading devotion. I don’t mean to pick on just these folks. As I say, perhaps they are right to not be as concerned as I was about this matter. But the truth remains that it is a good thing to keep a close eye on our spiritual condition, however we might measure it.

Indeed, believers should engage in careful spiritual check-ups on a regular basis. We all should continuously be on our knees, asking God to search our hearts, and see if there be any wicked way in us, as David prayed (Psalm 139:24). We all need to ask God if our love has grown cold and our devotion old.

The warnings of Scripture are there for a reason, and they need to be taken very seriously indeed. The warnings found in Rev. 3: 14-22 are something every one of us must take to heart. They force us to ask, “How is our love life with our Lord?”

Are we hot in regard to our love for him? Or cold? Or lukewarm? That is a vitally important question which we must be asking ourselves on a regular basis. Indeed, if the matter of our love growing cold was not such a serious matter, and such a very real possibility, then why did Jesus speak so strongly and forcefully about it?

It is time we take some of these warnings seriously. But if we don’t, we certainly cannot say that we haven’t been warned about the dangers which can follow.

[1350 words]

18 Replies to “Lukewarm Christianity – When the Love of Believers Grows Cold”

  1. Bill
    These are the sort of words we need to hear from the pulpit, when we go to worship our Beloved in church on the Sabbath. Instead we are met with socialist dogma and the need to embrace minority groups outside the faith, and the faith becomes the reason we attend church, but we hear of a humanistic approach to our faith that brings it very low. It is almost that we should apologize for loving Jesus to the exclusion of all others, as if that is in itself some kind of failing. There is a reason why Church and State should be separate.
    Reading your essay has refreshed my soul, and cleared a lot of clutter from my mind. My love hadn’t gone cold, or even lukewarm, I had just beeen listening to the wrong kind of words.
    I became extremely angry to hear Jesus called a sodomite, too, and I will never sit by and let such things be said in my presence, either. Jesus teaches us that we are defined by our love for him, and that that love can overcome profane sexuality; the world as it currently is affirms that our sexuality predominates, and that is one of the greatest misconceptions that is bandied about today; one which reduces us to the lowest common denominator.
    Kenya Lee Lowther

  2. Bill, you say yourself that these are just the words/ideas we should expect from people like that rock star. Of course it is inevitable/right that we find such things hurtful – but it would be very unwise for us to allow such things to throw us off balance, and lose the calm and peace the Lord has given us. I often feel the Enemy likes to use just such things to disquiet us and rattle us (hence, in blogs, I – unlike others – will never get involved in a futile, acrimonious “debate” with some person who’s not going to change their ideas in any case; one reply is all I’ll do); in his own good time the Lord will sort out, good and proper, the vile pampered rock stars. Refute them, yes, but don’t let them get to you.
    John Thomas, UK

  3. Bill I think it’s a bit of both.

    It is both outrageous and despicable. Indeed it’s a travesty that anyone can say such an obviously ridiculous thing and not be lampooned and verbally eviscerated by absolutely everybody. To be seriously reported indicates the depth and breadth of foolishness and perversion amongst our society and its gatekeepers.

    But it is also so outrageous, so far from the possible orbit of even semi-sound theories. It is so obviously derived from his own personal agenda that it is hard to take it seriously.

    If, on the other hand, you are right in that some professing Christians do not care what is said, or heaven forbid, think it a reasonable opinion, then some serious refining is needed.

    In any case, come Lord Jesus, come.

    Michael Hutton

  4. Bill,
    I am currently in the middle of a complicated accounting exercise so to clear my mind I logged onto here and just have to reply to your article. As Kenya stated, this is the sort of stuff we need to hear in the pulpits. I am blessed in that the minister who preaches at my service is the sort of person who preaches things like the ones in your article. I must admit, as a believer in the Lord I do get ruffled when I hear stuff like the comment from Elton John and you as well as any other Christian would be well right to express concern over such nonsense. I find as a Christian that everyday is a struggle as I am guilty of all manner of sins each day but when I sin, I repent, get up, take the Lord’s hand again and just keep going and not looking back. God has recently given me a wonderful spiritual victory over lustful thoughts which dominated my life for the last 30 years. While I knew that what I was doing was wrong and I used to repent each tme I got these thoughts, I still despaired in knowing that I would probably do it again and again, but it is only now that I have come to see not only how sinful it was but also how selfish it was as well. I must admit that since turning my back on this, my relationships with both my wife and the Lord are a lot clearer and enriched. I feel that God can now get into my heart and mind to really work now that he has some room to move after the cleanout. Thanks again for a great article Bill, perhaps you should consider being a minister – you seem like you could write an excellent sermon!
    Steve Davis

  5. I’m with you Bill, it hurts me and I feel sad. I get over it with prayer and asking the lord to forgive them but also makes me mad, to think of how Jesus was treated and someone or anyone can say Jesus was a interesting man or he was a prophet but thats all. If they really understood the fact that Jesus came for them they woudnt say these things.
    It’s like someone getting a heart transplant and then telling the doctor he’s a fool because i didn’t want to live anyway.
    Daniel Kempton

  6. Bill
    Your article on Lukewarm Christianity seems to indicate that as Christians we have to respond to every criticism of Jesus our Lord. However, if personally someone criticizes our Lord to me I am obliged to declare to him or her, the reality of my faith in Him. I think most committed Christians would agree that to call Jesus a sodomite shows a lack of respect and knowledge – perhaps more than that, probably hatred.
    As you say you may be wrong in accusing some Christians of a lack of first love and a sign of the last days. It is important though, to remember that the last days started after the first coming of our Lord and will end when He comes again. Having said this I do appreciate “Culture Watch” a lot.
    Wilfred Parmenter

  7. Thanks Wilfred

    Undoubtedly Jesus is maligned, vilified, abused and attacked millions of times every week the world over. Simply consider how often the Lord’s name is taken in vain when his name is used as a swear word. I am not suggesting that we respond to, or do something about, every one of these instances.

    I am suggesting that one possible way to determine just how much we really love our Lord is how we react when such activities take place. I would think that those with a deep love for their precious saviour would wince, if not hurt, even when his name is blasphemed.

    As I mentioned, this may not be too far-fetched. The marriage situation seems to offer a good analogy here. What loving spouse will not be concerned about an attack or smear on his beloved? But as I said at least twice, I could be totally out to lunch on all this. But I guess I would rather err on the side of wanting to love Jesus too much than too little.

    But I appreciate your remarks.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  8. I see that Eddie McGuire and Molloy are under significant attack and even legal investigation for making flippant remarks about the sexual orientation of male skaters at the Winter Olympics. No doubt it was foolish to do so, but the issue is the outcry it caused in the media.
    The King of Kings and Lord of Lords is tainted in a similar way by Elton John and practically passes without complaint.
    These indeed are the end days when the world’s (read western media’s) values are so warped.
    Stephen White

  9. And another thing. Tomorrow night in Sydney a public exhibition of degradation and debauchery will take place, and it will feature plenty of anti-Christian bigotry.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  10. It’s not that Christians are not outraged and angered by such remarks or even by other worse comments and cartoons that are just as blasphemous. It’s just that they respond differently, and no Christian groups will go on a wild street demonstration and threatened violence against unbelievers. I am quite sure many who were angered by Elton John responded by praying for his salvation. My own immediate thoughts was that he was a silly man, putting his own soul at risk and who will one day stand in judgement before the very one he has blasphemed. There are many more such characters and everyday you hear people swearing in God’s name. God is not mocked, they will receive their just recompense. But I do agree with you that any Christian that remains unaffected in some ways by such remarks. But the greatest threats to the church come not from people like Elton but from the numerous kinds of gospels that have already crept into the church while Christians remain unconcerned.
    Barry Koh

  11. Bill,
    I used to get really worked up when witnessing horrible sinful attitudes and deeds of the world, and all the ways the world dishonors the Lord. But I tend to focus on such things so hard that it makes me unable to function. I had to come to a point where I could just accept that this is simply the world being the world. We should not be surprised when we see the world continually attempt to drag the Lord through the mud. We know that God will not be mocked, and revenge is His. We also know that God is sovereign, and fully handling the situation. I don’t necessarily believe that when a Christian has a bridled response to wicked sin, that this person is “lukewarm” – sure that may be the case, but please consider too, that many of us, if we take in the full magnitude of the world’s sinful behaviors, would be so overwhelmed by grief, that we would not be able to handle it. The only way to cope with it is to put it at the Lord’s feet, and trust that He is handling it as His will dictates. The fact that he doesn’t instantly fry these wicked people is also evidence of the astounding grace that the Lord gives these undeserving people. I don’t like it any more than you do, but to be honest, I simply can’t spend a lot of time thinking about it for my own sanity’s sake. It does not mean I love the Lord any less, it just means I trust in His choice on how to handle it. I do not view the Lord as a helpless victim of the world’s cruelty, although from a certain perspective it can certainly look like He is. Every once in a while, I will focus on it and share in the Lord’s grief over the situation, although it is a brief moment.

    There is such a great multitude of sins in this world, its hard to know what to focus on when you do focus on it. I know for you Bill, that you put a very heavy focus on the sin of homosexuality. While this is indeed a significant problem, I don’t often see you talking about other highly relevant issues. This is fine, its your area of interest and each of us has something we focus on more than other things. I have a brother-in-law who seems to think its important to tell everybody that the people occupying Israel and calling themselves Jews aren’t actually descendants of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. I had to tell him “Whatever – the Lord has it figured out, I can’t spend time worrying about that.” I have had other friends and acquaintances who focus on different issues they consider important and that I *must* focus on it too, or I’m doing something wrong. For you, if someone isn’t as vocal as you are regarding the disgusting sin of homosexuality, I feel you may view them as having an out of balance faith in general. I hope you can understand that each of us, as members of the body of Christ, have different burdens placed on our hearts by the Lord. He has each of us working on a different task. And I don’t think we should judge one another when others don’t place the same emphasis as we do on what we consider our primary focus.

    Also, the bridal analogy you used brings up another interesting point. It is true, that there is a direct parallel between Christ and the church (us) and between a husband and a wife. You speak of defending Christ’s honor when He is insulted. But remember… Jesus is not our bride. We are His. We are supposed to love Him with all our heart, strength, soul and mind. But it is not our place to be our Bridegroom’s protector or defender. He is the glorious and powerful one and he protects his own honor. It is true that as a husband, if you see your wife’s name denigrated you should rise up and defend her honor. However, don’t you feel it would be a little awkward, or even somewhat emasculating if the reverse happened? Especially if it happened constantly. As men, we fall under various forms of attack quite often, but it just doesn’t seem right somehow for our wives to be constantly coming to our defense as if we couldn’t handle it ourselves. I’m not meaning to sound chauvinistic, but the roles between bride and bridegroom are not symmetrical, and I believe your analogy is flawed in this respect.

    Nathan Schellinger, USA

  12. Bill, you displayed the passion lacking in most Christians today, thank you.
    Could you imagine the response of Islam if the same was said of the one they venerate? Mr. John would be a little more concerned of the response, I am sure.

    I believe we’ve lost passion because we’ve lost truth, diluted truth is no truth at all. Christians have little idea what to believe anymore, but perhaps if it feels ok it must be true.

    Many have their feet firmly planted in the mid-air of relativism with the assistance of modern theologians pumping out thier annual version of what God said, and most Theological Colleges basically murdering the faith of the students who become our pastors.
    Wasn’t Eve deceived under the tree of knowledge?

    I’m not surprised that many who call themselves Christians are flippant about the denigration of their Saviour, being either unsaved or lacking the solid foundation needed to leap up in objection…but sink in the sands of popular opinion, unsure if their response is valid.

    We need to pray for the Gospel and for the Lord to raise up many more godly, unafraid, men to preach truth rather than platitudes.

    God bless your efforts.

    Edi Giudetti

  13. As someone who often takes on hard core anti-god and anti-creationists darwinians on leading science blog sites, I now nornally “expect” to encounter the compromising luke warm professing ‘christian’ who always sides with the opposition. In fact, I have yet to encounter any Christian on such blog sites who will openly support the creationist Biblical worldview. So, Biil, don’t be surprised if the someone from this ocean of luke warm Christians comes your way – the luke warm dogs bark, but the Biblical caravan goes on.
    John Heininger

  14. I note Bill that you spoke about “bible believing evangelicals” who are included in this commentary. I have a feeling that this is part of the problem as most evangelicals are not bible believing. I have identified at least 30 things that they do which is not sanctioned by scripture, but they do believe the bible they say. My response is “only if it suits them and it doesn’t interfere with their tradition.”

    The fact that we are prepared to believe what is not true is only a short step to losing our passion as we develop a mentality of anything second rate will do.

    Roger Marks

  15. Knowledge or the pursuit of it isn’t necessarily bad. I think the key lesson here is don’t comment on issues you don’t understand properly. Everyone should abide by this rule, famous or not.
    Ross McPhee

  16. Thank you for your article. These are difficult times as always to be a believer. Personally, my biggest challenge has been how to relate to non-believers, and do I always need to have Jesus’ back when his name is brought up in a derogatory manner. After losing my best friend to a war of words about well, basically every contensious point of the gospel, I was broken hearted. The worst part of the whole experience was that my friend would always encourage me to keep pursuing Jesus because of the incredible kindness he witnessed in me. Our wars were heartbreaking because I think near the end, my friend couldn’t see Jesus in my life anymore, all He heard were my increasingly hateful condemnatory words that I used to defend the Christian way of life. Needless to say, I love Jesus still, but am stinging because I felt the need to self-righteously defend all things Christian, ‘without realizing the God doesn’t need a defense or prosecuting lawyer; He’s soooooo on it in that person’s life, wooing them, loving them. I lost my priviledge to be used in my favorite friend’s life, but I know God still has His hand on them. The experience has also taught me though to ask the Holy Spirit to have His hand on my mouth. I don’t need to aggressively announce my allegiance to Christ to everyone who might make a off comment about Him. Also, I didn’t really relate to your wife analogy, because I have a very verbally abusive mother and a father who physically abused me if I ever told him that she was wounding me with her words. This is only to point out that this sort of almost blind passion that rises to the defense of its beloved can be very damaging if not tempered with self control and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
    Christi Kane

  17. hi bill,
    its a good word. God is not passive. His desire is that all would come to repentance and that they would turn from their ways. And he is not far off either. Just read Hosea to get a glimpse of Gods love for people. Even though we have been prostitutes, shunning Gods outstretched hand and choosing to give our heart to something or someone else God will not relent in his persuit of the lost. God is sovereign but he uses people to bring his ways upon the earth and to show his love. To decide that God is sovereign and all will come out well in the end and then seperate yourself from the cry of the lost for real love and grace is to distance yourself from the heart of God. Which one of you has somehow been received Gods love by earning it? It has been given freely. And thats the difference. You’ve received it freely, through grace. You therefore have no right to store it nicely in a secure little christian lifestyle distancing yourself, (in your heart), from the lost, as if somehow you were not as detestable and adulterous as they were.
    For sure i don’t make friends and hang out with people who hate God. My family hate God and so it is not always easy spending long periods of time with them. But i always, always need to be praying for them and keeping in check that i do not distance myself from them in my heart. Jesus never distanced himself from me and if it’s good enough for the King of kings and the Lord of lords, then it’s good enough for me.
    Distant from Gods heart=cold. Close to Gods heart=hot
    Rory Gibson

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