A few years ago, I came across a list of the top ten hymns that are heard in lukewarm churches:
10. A Comfy Mattress is Our God
9. Joyful, Joyful, We Kind of Like Thee
8. Above Average is Thy Faithfulness
7. My Hope is Built on Nothing Much
6. My Faith Looks Around for Thee
5. Blest Be the Tie That Doesn't Cramp My Style
4. Oh, For a Couple of Tongues to Sing
3. Spirit of the Living God, Fall Somewhere Near Me
2. Take My Life and Let Me Be
1. Sit Up, Sit Up for Jesus
While I laughed at the intended humor of lukewarm hymns I also stopped to ask the question, "What defines a lukewarm church or a lukewarm life?" I decided to be lukewarm is to have a measured rather than a meaningful response to Jesus Christ.
For Christians, everything about our lives depends on our response to the words of Christ. The quality of our life, the stability and durability of our relationships, the accountability of our souls before God all depend more on our response to Jesus than they do our regard for Jesus.
Take for example the words of Jesus at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house upon the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell…. and great was its fall"(Matthew 7:24-27 NASV, emphasis mine). The people who heard Jesus words and built on the sand had a high regard for Jesus. They listened to what He had to say and they let His words sink in but in the end, they built where they pleased rather than where Jesus was pointing. They rejected Jesus words rather than responding with obedience.
The people who heard the words of Jesus and build on the rock responded to Jesus. They understood it wasn't enough to simply hear Jesus and agree that His words were wise. In order to escape the effects of the storm they had to allow the inward change the words of Jesus brought to their heart to be evidenced by their outward response. They realized to hold Jesus in high regard but to refuse to respond with obedience would lead to destruction, so they both listened and obeyed.
Imagine if you will that you work for a company whose president found it necessary to travel out of the country and spend an extended period of time abroad. As he is preparing to leave he tells you and the other employees, "While I am gone I want you to pay close attention to the business. You must manage things while I am away but I will write to you regularly. These letters will contain instructions for what you should do until I return from my trip."
Everyone agrees so the president leaves and stays gone for two years. During that time, he writes often, communicating his desires and concerns. Finally, one day quite unexpectedly, he returns. He walks up to the front door of the company and immediately discovers everything is in a mess. Weeds are flourishing in the flower beds, windows are broken across the front of the building, the receptionist is sound asleep at her desk, and there is loud music and the sound of horseplay coming from all the offices. Instead of continuing to be profitable the business has suffered great loss.
Without hesitation the president calls everyone together and ask, "What happened? Why didn't you follow my instructions? Didn't you receive my letters?" You answer, "Oh yeah, sure. We received and read all of your letters. We even bound them together into a book and some of us have memorized them. In fact, we have Letter Study every Sunday! Those letters had some incredible information!" The president asks, "But what did you do about my instructions?" The answer would be, "Do…well, nothing but we read every letter!"
The spirit of this present age seems to be a spirit of moderation when it comes to our response to the commands of Christ. But a moderate or lukewarm response to Christ will do nothing to fix our increasingly moral bankrupt culture. Building with the right materials in the right location requires listening to and obeying the words of the architect of the universe. Spiritually, physically, morally, politically, and culturally we must make sure we are building the best to survive the test.
Dr. Tony Beam is Vice-President for Student Services and Director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville University in Tigerville, South Carolina.