Apart from Him we can do nothing

5 Tragic Signs of a Lukewarm Christian

A man looking pensively at himself in a broken mirror. It is difficult to examine the 5 tragic signs of a lukewarm Christian in our own hearts.

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As professing Christ followers, we must be willing to examine ourselves for the signs of a lukewarm Christian. Eternity hangs in the balance.

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.” (Revelation 3:15-19)

This is both the least enjoyable and the most necessary article I have ever written, or perhaps will ever write.

As someone who has had to contend with the question “am I a lukewarm Christian,” and learn some devastating truths about my life and walk with Christ, I am convinced this is one of the most important questions a professing Christian will ever consider.

I believe the biblical evidence is that lukewarm Christianity isn’t jut a hurdle. It’s having one foot in the grave – the “second death” mentioned in the Bible (Revelation 20:14).

I don’t want to appear to be trying at cleverness, but I do mean it when I say that “lukewarm Christianity” is most likely an oxymoron. Today’s passage shows the extent to which Jesus Christ is reviled by it.

I believe that one of the consequences of being lukewarm is to actually miss out on eternal life with Jesus Christ in Heaven. And therefore, inherit the consequences I was born with, and that’s eternal separation from God in Hell. And it would be for this reason; that my actions do not equal my words. Declaring faith in Christ yet living a life of indifference and cowardice towards my own sin proves that I have not embraced the faith I profess, because the light would expose me for a fraud (John 3:18-20).

This truth was a complete surprise to me, such was the depths of my self-deception, yet I couldn’t deny it after having been confronted with it.

So please take this article as a warning. We all need to be ready to check for the signs of a lukewarm Christian in our faith walks. We do not want to get to the end of time, proclaiming faith in Christ, for Him to tell us He doesn’t know us as we are cast into Hell (Matthew 7:21-23).

What Does Being Lukewarm Mean in the Bible?

As we examine our faith for the signs of a lukewarm Christian, we need to understand exactly what is meant by that term. If we want to know what does being lukewarm mean in the Bible, we have to go to the one place the word is used, and it’s only found in Revelation 3:16 in today’s passage.

Today’s passage comes from the letters to the 7 Churches in the Book of Revelation. Each letter comes with a description of Christ, and for all but one, either a commendation, complaint, or both. Then each letter goes on to either explain how they should respond, and for some, what happens if they don’t follow this command. And finally, an exhortation to any believer who finds themselves victorious—presumably for heeding Christ’s command to them.

The last letter, to the Church at Laodicea contains no commendation. It also contains no warning; the warning is actually woven into to Christ’s complaint as a consequence, which we see in today’s passage – that the members of this Church are neither hot nor cold. And therefore Christ is about to spit them out of His mouth.

As described at the end of this passage, lukewarm Christians are indifferent. Indifferent to the lost, indifferent to sin, indifferent to the labors Christ calls us to, and more. There could have been any number of reasons, some we might even consider tragic, that would cause a Christian to walk down the path of lukewarmness. Some could even have been because this person was failed by a fellow believer or body of believers. Yet the same free will that allows us to choose or not choose Christ will be held into account for how a person chooses to live, given the gift of salvation that Christ offers.

Lukewarm Christianity can be so hidden in the shadows that even the believer who is guilty of it may not fully comprehend it until they have been forced to accept this as their true self. But again, that does not relieve us of the responsibility for living the way we live.

Would Christ rather that we live cold? He says so. I have read the idea that the metaphor is that either hot or cold water is preferable to tepid. Some read this as hot = good and cold = bad, and Jesus would prefer a “bad” or non-Christian to a lukewarm one. But what we likely have here is not a 3-way comparison, but a 2-way comparison. Hot or cold are both preferable temperatures of water, but not lukewarm. And this has some historical context from the region around Laodicea.

Am I a Lukewarm Christian?

If we are looking for the signs of a lukewarm Christian, it would behoove us to look within ourselves rather than seek out who the lukewarm Christians are, for two reasons.

First, it’s going to be difficult for us to determine who the lukewarm Christians are. A lukewarm Christian is unlikely to openly display the traits that make them lukewarm. Lukewarm Christians are masters at disguise, whether intentionally deceitful, fearfully hiding their sin, or simply walking in an erroneous understanding of authentic faith in Christ.

Second, it’s frankly more important for us to determine if we are a lukewarm Christian or not. Because lukewarm Christians are walking on a dangerous ledge. And they don’t understand how dangerous it really is—how close they are to tipping over and succumbing to a false faith that will fail them when it comes time to stand before Jesus Christ at the end.

Let’s also consider that lukewarmness is a condition that is across time. It is the ongoing acceptance of the condition that is a key indicator. Some branches of Christianity talk about “backsliding”, which could be seen as a temporary, unique lapse into sin. Lukewarmness is consistent in pattern and practice.

One observation that should be apparent is a lack of true fruits of the spirit in the life of a lukewarm Christian. The fruits of the spirit can be imitated for a short time, but their lack in a person’s life cannot be hidden forever.

Having said all that, let’s take a brutally honest look at our faith and ask ourselves “am I a lukewarm Christian?”. It will not be easy, but so necessary for our eternal destiny. And we will hold onto that word we focused on earlier, that being “indifference”.

Signs of a Lukewarm Christian – Indifference to Sin

Sin is the insurmountable wall that exists between God and ourselves. It is the problem that Jesus Christ came to resolve on our behalf through His substitutional death on the cross, shedding His blood for our sins. It was through this sacrifice and His resurrection proving His power over death that we have any hope of having fellowship with God now and in eternity. Sin is serious, deadly business—God allowing His only Son to take on a human body and put it to death should be a grave sign to us how serious it is to Him and needs to be to us.

One of the signs of a lukewarm Christian is that sin is still a normal mode of living. There may be an occasional moment of taking sin seriously, but they will be interspersed with an everyday acceptance of sinful behaviors and attitudes, with no real concern for their consequences.

There are other signs, but this is the common denominator. The lukewarm Christian will have a sin problem.

If you are looking at another professing Christian looking for this indifference toward sin, you likely won’t see it, unless you are mature and applying the wisdom and discernment necessary.

However, if you are a lukewarm Christian, you will see this in yourself. It’s the second life you are living, the one that only a few people see, and you certainly aren’t revealing to your circle of believing friends. At least, not any mature believers. Your hidden life may be shared with a select few if they are in agreement with you, and you may even use that as a self-deceiving defense.

You may feel guilt over your hidden sins, but for whatever reason, you are allowing them full reign in your life, out of view of others.

Authentic Christians know that sin is an already defeated enemy. But the inauthentic, lukewarm Christian is powerless over sin in their lives. Partly because they choose to give in to it.

Indifference to sin is the attribution of your sinful behavior to the devil, to others in your life, to misunderstandings, to “I’ll never do it again” pledges, only to continue to choose to participate in repeated sins over a period of time. Perhaps you have “defeated” certain sins, only to fall back under them years later. No matter the reason, you create justification for your sin.

You may even wrestle with contrition and confess these sins to God from time to time, in prayer, but it is unlikely that you take the Biblical guidance to confess your sins one to another seriously (James 5:16). That is a sign that you do not take God’s judgement seriously. Perhaps you have been lulled into thinking that your behavior is of no consequence to your eternal destiny, and so it is something you’ll get corrected someday – if you even allow yourself to see the sin for what it is in the first place. So why go through the uncomfortable process of admitting your sin to another human being?

The lukewarm Christian is a person with “divided loyalty” between God and the world, unstable in everything they do (James 1:5-8).

Signs of a Lukewarm Christian – Indifference to the Lost

Jesus Christ’s last instructions He left upon ascending to Heaven was to go and make disciples. This was a command not just to the apostles in His presence, but to His church down through time.

Another one of the signs of a lukewarm Christian is that there is no fervor to sharing the gospel. Although this could also be the indicator of someone who may not be a Christian, neither will the lukewarm Christian answer the call to the Great Commission. They will not risk the comfort of close friends and family members, even though their fate may rest on that person sharing the gospel.

The lukewarm Christian will not risk the embarrassing awkwardness of sharing the gospel. This could be partly due to the lack of power behind their witness, fear, or they just may have convinced themselves “it’s not my ministry”.

Signs of a Lukewarm Christian – Indifference to Loving our Neighbor

An authentic follower of Christ will seek to follow Christ’s command to love their neighbor. Jesus telling of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46) lists some kinds of people true followers of Christ should be caring for: the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, and those in prison.

Another one of the signs of a lukewarm Christian is a general avoidance to go out of their way to help people in Christ’s name. They will be selfish with their time, talent, and resources, or possibly just too lazy to give the proper effort.

Sure, there may be times when the lukewarm Christian will do something charitable, but it is most likely motivated by guilt or a personal satisfaction, and almost never because it is what Christ calls His followers to do.

Signs of a Lukewarm Christian – Indifference to Loving God

Following the abiding disciplines of bible study, prayer, and fellowshipping with other believers is how we are empowered to walk in faith with Christ. It is the means by which we grow in maturity, enjoy the fruits of the spirit, and are empowered to good works and growing in further obedience to Christ.

Another one of the signs of a lukewarm Christian is an indifference to growing closer to Jesus Christ. Perhaps we came to believe that when we made a decision for Jesus Christ, that settled everything, and we made assumptions about how to practice our faith.

A lukewarm Christian may believe that church attendance is enough to show God that “we’re good”, but there will not be the desire, the thrill that comes with growing in faith and relationship with Jesus Christ.

Any of the 3 abiding disciplines will be de-prioritized in the life of a lukewarm Christian, or they will be approached in a “me first” or superficial way. There will be a “just enough” approach, as this person has learned that the more we do draw closer to Christ, the more uncomfortable it gets, because things start getting exposed that the lukewarm Christian has compartmentalized. Speaking of compartmentalizing…

Signs of a Lukewarm Christian – Indifference to Authenticity

One of the most intricately twisted signs of a lukewarm Christian is that they will find it impossible to live authentically, even if they really desire to do so.

All lukewarm Christians will have one thing in common; they compartmentalize their lives. They will have a different persona in different areas of their lives.

In this day and age, most people engage in some sort of compartmentalization. It’s necessary to set some boundaries between different priorities – home, work, faith, leisure, etc. An authentic person will know where boundaries are needed and where and when they can appropriately overlap. An authentic person will also be the same core person in each area.

But the lukewarm Christian compartmentalizes for a different reason: sin. A lukewarm Christian will actively seek to separate their sinful life from other areas of life. As we’ve said before, there could be any number of reasons for this: fear, trauma, immaturity, manipulation, etc. But the lukewarm Christian has the knowledge that sin is not to be flaunted amongst fellow believers.

So, the lukewarm Christian has no choice but to compartmentalize their sin. They wind up living a secret life, with relationships that do not cross over into other areas that would expose shameful behaviors. Again, this may start out from a place of intense fear or shame. But nevertheless, it makes walking in sin much easier.

Black and White photo of a woman looking into a mirror but covering her face with the back of her hand. Lukewarm Christians build their lives on a lie; the lie that everything is ok.The lukewarm Christian may even comfort themselves by admitting to his “sin—world” relationships that he goes to church or may even say that he believes in Jesus. But the conversation will never go beyond that unless it is brought up by one of their relationships.

What makes this tragic is that the other person may have a time when they genuinely have an earnest desire to learn about the Christian faith, because they are in a personal place where they are seeking. But the lukewarm Christian will not have the authenticity to genuinely witness to this person. Because they have trampled their witness to the point that the other person may not be able to accept what they need to do differently.

A lukewarm Christian is an inauthentic Christian because they have built their life around a lie. The lie that everything is ok. Many people may see a lukewarm Christian as a nice person and may even be held up as a positive example. Some lukewarm Christians may be so good at compartmentalizing that they appear to be “successful Christians” because they take a place of prominence at church. Unfortunately, some lukewarm Christians are so used to pretending that they can pretend to be an authentic Christian. But there will be times when the veneer will fade and a small glimpse of the life they are hiding will come through.

Consequences of Being Lukewarm

If after reading this article, you recognize in yourself the signs of a lukewarm Christian (and while I’m sorry for the pain it may bring, if this is you, I’m happy this article has brought you to a place to confront it), you may be dealing with a sudden wave of anger, fear, sorrow, or any number of emotions. Or maybe if you’re wrestling with this for the first time, you’re numb or need more time to absorb this.

If we look at the Bible to give us specific consequences of being lukewarm, we’re really only going to get one answer, because the Bible only makes one reference to it, in today’s passage. And that consequence is that Jesus “will spit you out” of his mouth.

I know that eternal security is a big topic in faith circles today, as it has been for centuries. I do not know how to reconcile “once saved always saved” with a statement like this. It seems that it would take more mental gymnastics to interpret this statement in such a way that Christ will welcome a portion of the church into heaven that disgusts him to this extent.

I have talked often about the idea that our free will gives us the ability to reject Christ’s salvation after we have once accepted it. But this is different. Are we saying that Jesus will actively disallow a lukewarm Christian from entering Heaven?

We would have to look to the Bible for the answer. And it appears that people can be erased from the Book of Life just as easily as they can be entered into it. There are multiple references to the Book of Life (sometimes named other things, but the implication is that it’s the same book) and several of those make reference to the possibility of being “blotted out” (Revelation 3:5, Psalm 69:28, Exodus 32:32-33, Deuteronomy 9:14). Are those who are blotted out because of God’s choices, or ours? And if ours, is that works, or is that the exercise of our free will?

Going back and looking at Matthew 7:21-23 which I referenced earlier, there will be many who are self-deceived, thinking they have “done enough” for Christ to get into Heaven. Which of course is the point; we can’t earn the right to enter Heaven through what we do. But in reference to the lukewarm Christian, claiming to have accomplished things in Jesus’ name probably wouldn’t even occur to them. It is not their lack of works that keeps a lukewarm Christian from Heaven. It is the deeply-seated underlying belief that their actions don’t matter as long as they declare for the right side. Works don’t complete faith; they confirm authentic faith.

This should be a chilling revelation to anyone who sees the signs of a lukewarm Christian in their walk.

This all begs the question “are lukewarm Christians saved”?

Are Lukewarm Christians Saved?

So, going back to the idea that lukewarm Christian is an oxymoron, I don’t know that a lukewarm Christian, in their current state, can expect to enter the kingdom of heaven. But to be a lukewarm Christian, one would have had to have had some experience of following Christ previously, however brief or unfruitful.

It could be that a lukewarm Christian is described in the Parable of the seeds and the 4 fields, when it speaks of what happens to the seeds in the various grounds (Matthew 13:1-23). It seems only the good soil describes an authentic Christian, which is the opposite of a lukewarm Christian.

Another parable, the one speaking of the talents, talks about the wicked servant who did nothing with His master’s money because He was afraid. And that one had his money taken from him and he was thrown into the “outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:14-30).

These parables are just more reasons for lukewarm Christians to deal with their lukewarmness seriously and swiftly.

Is There Any Hope for the Lukewarm Christian?

Fortunately, Jesus Christ did give hope for the lukewarm Christian. Yes, Jesus said he would spit a lukewarm Christian out of His mouth. But He also told such a person how to avoid this fate. Jesus says at the end of this passage to “be diligent and turn from your indifference”.

Where else do we find the concept of turning in the Bible, that has relevance here? It is the concept of repentance.

As difficult as it may be for you to absorb this right now if you are dealing with the idea that you may be a lukewarm Christian, Jesus Christ leaves open the door to repentance. But repentance is more than admitting your sin and asking for forgiveness. It means to turn from your sin.

In turning from your sin, you must cast off your lukewarmness and “get understanding” through learning the commandments of God (Psalm 119:104). Do not give in to your fear, sloth, pride, or lust. Live the disciplined and obedient life of a follower of Christ. Build on the right foundation for your faith, which is obedience (Luke 6:47-49).

The Difference Between a Lukewarm Christian and a Prodigal

If you have seen in yourself the signs of a lukewarm Christian, maybe you are starting to feel the pangs of conviction. However, that last section seems almost unbelievable to you. After all that you have done (or not done), wasting the gift God has given you, why would God still be willing to give you another chance?

Listen carefully to what I am about to say. God does not change. And He promises to offer forgiveness to a truly repentant heart. The problem is not going to be His promises, but your willingness to confront the pattern of your life.

For a lukewarm Christian, it probably isn’t going to be the same as the path of a prodigal. Here’s the key difference between a lukewarm Christian and a prodigal: the prodigal’s disobedience was probably rather public, whereas the lukewarm Christian’s disobedience was more likely hidden. A prodigal is going to be more embarrassed at choosing wrongly; a lukewarm Christian is going to be more embarrassed by exposing their hidden life.

Both the lukewarm Christian and the prodigal will to some degree wrestle internally with the wrong path they previously chose before being willing to repent and turn from their sin. But where the prodigal might be ready to return to Christ, I think the lukewarm Christian has a harder time of it, because, as we said earlier, they are starting from a place of indifference, where the prodigal comes to a place of acknowledging their error.

The lukewarm Christian must shake off the temptation to tell themselves it will all be alright, or to slip back in old habits. But that must start with true repentance. If today’s article describes you, do not delay in following your conviction into heartfelt repentance. For the lukewarm Christian, it may take a more grievous path through admitting how their sins have hurt and affected people—especially those who aren’t even aware. For the lukewarm Christian, repentance may require them to face their worst fears headlong. It may mean that they endure the real consequences that they have delayed through their secretiveness.

But the reward for being willing to walk through that valley is a restored life in Jesus Christ.

Then immerse yourself in the abiding disciplines of Bible study, prayer, and fellowship with other believers and commit yourself fully to Christ’s desires for you. Find trusted, mature believers who you can confess your sins to and who can keep you accountable. Cast aside anything that is standing in your way of this end, because your eternal destiny is far more important than your temporary avoidance of pain.

More Bible verses about signs of a lukewarm Christian:

Joshua 24:15; Isaiah 29:13-14; Matthew 12:33-37; Luke 6:46; 2 Corinthians 13:1-5; James 3:13-18; 1 John 2:15-16

All Biblical reference links courtesy of Bible Gateway, a searchable online Bible tool hosting more than 200 versions of the Bible in over 70 languages.

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