Links Daily Devotional

Links Players COO Jeff Hopper talks with President Jeffrey Cranford about the dedication of those who call themselves Christians. (3:27 - Part 2 in a series)

Who is a Christian? Part 2: Hot, Cold, and Lukewarm

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. (Revelation 3:15-16, NIV)

Sometimes there is more than one way to attack a golf shot. Across a flat apron to a cup cut maybe 20 feet onto the green, some players will pitch a lofted wedge about halfway up the green and allow the ball to release to the hole. Others, less comfortable with the pitch, will pull out a flatter iron, a six or seven, and send the ball skirting across the apron on line to the hole, where it comes to rest slowly, like a putt. With practice either method can be performed effectively and both golfers can walk away pleased with their par.

Some passages in Scripture allow for the same methodology. For instance, planting the passage in its original cultural context gives us one layer of understanding, while reviewing it in light of where God has appointed us to live today brings another helpful insight.

Revelation 3:15-16 is a passage like this, so let’s give it two looks.

These words were first delivered to the apostle John while he was in exile on the island of Patmos. Christ himself was addressing seven churches. Today’s particular verses, about being hot or cold in our faith, rather than lukewarm, were “sent” to the church at Laodicea.

Laodicea had no significant reliable water source in its vicinity. Water was delivered over a distance, and by the time it arrived it was often silty and lukewarm. Even today, either hot water or cold water serve us well (in cleaning and drinking, for instance), but lukewarm water falls in the undesirable in-between. Jesus was sending the message to the Laodiceans that it was time for them to become “good for something.” They were fence-riders, uncommitted in their dedication to him.

This understanding of the passage could stand alone in helping us recognize what Jesus was saying when he wanted those hot or cold and not tepid in their faith. But you will commonly hear today’s preachers—and our own discussion in the midst of this series takes up this refrain—leaning toward the idea that we should be “hot, not cold” in our godly living. Is this wrong at worst and incomplete at best? Perhaps. But it is also doing what the original did in speaking to the minds of the intended listeners. In today’s culture, we recognize those who are hot—like a golfer on a winning streak—as those who are most focused, most earnest, most successful. This interpretation links the hot water of the Laodicean exhortation with the “on fire” idea of passion that has been current for some time now in our own culture.

Suffice it to say that the mistake in reading this passage is not so much in erring over whether hot is the only good, but rather the same mistake we make with any Scripture: hearing it but not applying it. The key question is whether we are strolling aimlessly in our faith or taking up our cross daily and following Christ with purpose. The latter is what Jesus desires, no matter how you read it.

Jeff Hopper
November 4, 2013
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