So you've realised your relationship with God is lukewarm at best. How do you start bringing it to the best temperature for you?
Last weekend, Pastor Joe talked about lukewarm Christianity, using the example of the church of Laodicea, which was called out by Jesus through John in the book of Revelation. "I know your deeds," Jesus says through John, "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."
Jesus used the example of lukewarm water, which the Laodiceans were familiar with, because their city's water was infamous for its odour and tepid temperature, to illustrate this. For context, cities around Laodicea were known for the temperature of their water: the hot springs of Hierapolis were healing and therapeutic; the cold waters of Colossae were cool and refreshing. Laodicea, being in the middle, had standing and unsanitary water, the kind that you want to spit out.
The thing about heat, or the absence of it, is that its effects are immediate and obvious if you know the temperature that an object is supposed to have. If you brew yourself a cup of coffee and forget about it for a good half hour, when you finally take a sip, you realise it's not a very palatable drink. If you leave a can of soda on the counter overnight, the next morning, it's flat and room temperature and gross.
Pastor Joe pointed out out that there are benefits to being hot or cold, and that being "cold" doesn't necessarily mean being disconnected from Christ; what's important is to be aware of whether we've become lukewarm in our spiritual walk. What does being lukewarm look like? The Laodicean church may have illustrated this for us. Jesus says through John, "(the Laodicean church is) rich; (they have) acquired wealth and do not need a thing." One of the indications of being lukewarm is that we may have lost sight of our need for God. Living in a country like Australia, and in a quiet, laidback city like Canberra, it can be very easy for us to not rely on God because it appears that our needs are more easily met without much effort.
The wealth and status of our church isn't important to Jesus–what's important is the state of our hearts as we walk with and serve Him. If we don't feel pleasure or joy in spending time with Him, that could be a problem. If our service feels like work and we don't find it appealing, that could also be an issue. If our behaviour reflects that we're finding more satisfaction or joy in other distractions, including relationships, career, or social media, it could be an indication that there is something else sitting on the throne of our hearts.
So how do we begin to get our spiritual temperature back to what's best?
1. Connect to the source. Sometimes, it can feel like we have to earn time with God, and that's a wrong mindset. We can approach God anytime we need to, and if we're feeling particularly disconnected, that's an even more urgent time to find time to pray and spend time with God. No one can warm and refresh like God can–if your spiritual life is in need of some temperature tweaking, no one does it better than God.
2. Connect to others. When hot coal is in contact with other hot coal, it continues to stay hot and burn bright; remove the coal and it becomes a cold lump over time. If you're feeling disconnected or are in need of some temperature restoration, connect to others in the church, and they can help you rediscover the joy, benefits and pleasure of being in a compassionate church family.
3. Serve in the right place. Ask yourself: am I a warm person or a refreshing person? If you're experiencing anxiety or discomfort serving in church, maybe you're just not in the right seat on the bus. Connect to the right people so you can serve in a capacity that brings you joy.
4. Trust God and trust others. God often sends people our way to help us recalibrate and realign with Him and His purpose for us. If you find things getting a little out of control, trust God that He will sort things out and send people your way. But as you approach people who will speak life and truth to you, trust as well that your mind and heart will be renewed, and you will be refreshed.
At the end of the day, being lukewarm is an analogy for our Christian walk. When we serve God wholeheartedly, with a clear understanding of His grace, that speaks volumes to other people, and we end up warming and refreshing each other. Remember: the work of our hands in church is not out of a desire to earn His favour; it is out of a joyful thankfulness for His faithfulness, provision and love.