Carrie & I were on a walk yesterday and we crossed paths with our neighbor (and ECPC regular attender) Jacob. We stopped to chat with Jacob and his buddies for a few minutes, and Jacob asked, “How do I avoid being a lukewarm Christian?” How should we answer Jacob’s question?
Let’s start by rejecting any answer that promotes a legalistic course of action. We know from Jesus’ many discussions with ‘religious experts’ of His day that we cannot overcome lukewarmness with a self-righteous regiment of rule-keeping, and/or seeking validation via performances of piety. Think of it like this… prior to the arrival of Mary Poppins, the Banks children were lukewarm about the cleanliness of their room. Had Mary Poppins established herself as task-master the Banks children would perhaps develop proficiency for cleaning, but their motivation would simply be fear of punishment. Had Mary Poppins established a system of merit, the children would be driven by vanity, and the work would invariably be sanctimonious and superficial (bottom line, the remedy for lukewarmness cannot be the rigorous external exercises and Pharisaical points of etiquette condemned in Matthew 23).
So how does Mary Poppins cure the Banks children of their lukewarm attitude toward cleaning their room? She shows them the joy of the work! The opportunities for collaboration, creativity, and fellowship amidst the work. The pleasures of problem solving and perseverance discovered throughout the process of the work. She introduces them to the secret world of imagination and insatiable curiosity embedded in the work! The work is still inescapably rigorous and demanding, but there is delight to be discovered and enjoyed amidst the toil. Simply put, the antidote for lukewarmness is love. When you truly love something, you don’t pursue it or participate in it with a spirit of drudgery; you chase it and choose it as the delight of your soul! When you sincerely delight in something, your self-admiration fades away because your fixation is on something greater and more riveting than your own personal image and status.
The ultimate example and embodiment of this phenomenon is Jesus of Nazareth. His work was exceedingly arduous, but He was not in the least lukewarm about it! Jesus regarded His work as His food (John 4:34). Jesus is the perfect picture of what it looks like to live a life free of lukewarmness. Even at the most excruciating moment of His labor, when He was enduring the wrath of God, and bearing the despicable shame of our curse (2 Corinthians 5:21); He was nevertheless carrying out this work as the joy set before Him! (Hebrews 12:2). So, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God!