Why Practicing, Not Just Professing?

It can be easy to slip into lukewarm faith

Faith in God was not meant to be easy. Throughout the Bible, throughout history, those of faith have faced challenges externally and internally. Yet, I found myself slipping into a lukewarm faith, and no one even noticing it much.

Culturally, my faith has it pretty easy. Yes, there are things that make me countercultural and those may be growing by the day. However, I am not prohibited from practicing my faith. I am not hunted down for being a Christian. I do not live in fear as many in the world do.

Faking my faith when it was floundering wasn’t a challenge. Because we are living, especially here in the Bible Belt, in a culture that allows my faith to exist and even applauds its existence if it doesn’t rock the boat. I’m not a boat rocker, so it was easy to fit into that mold.

I glided along, not living in the simple obedience that God calls us to in the Bible, because who does live that out? Who is making disciples? Who is taking care of the orphan and the widow? Who is forgiving an enemy?

Christianity can be boiled down to looking good, acting good, and calling for others to act that way too. A bit of church attendance, moral policing, and even anger at those who don’t agree with us. Easy peasy Christianity.

At least, that’s what I had boiled it down to.

God calls us to life

Part of my problem came in anger I felt towards Christian leadership who had hurt me deeply. God calls us to forgive and I struggled to do that. I felt angry at God for allowing the pain, allowing them into leadership, even making me feel that there had been a bit of bait and switch when it came to joining them. So, I died a bit inside and so did my faith.

I didn’t stop going to church. I didn’t stop reading my Bible on occasion (rarely daily). I didn’t stop a few seconds of prayer here and there. I kept up appearances. Honestly, isn’t that what we are looking for here?

Those who are actually out there sharing their faith, making disciples, taking care of the downtrodden, they are a bit radical for most of our tastes.

But have we thought about God’s tastes?

He spits out the lukewarm. And, what is lukewarm?

Lukewarm is someone who says, “I have money. I’m doing ok. I don’t really have any needs.” Jesus speaks of the lukewarm church in Revelations 3 as he rebukes the church of Laodicea. They were not bringing about anything healing or refreshing to their neighbors. They lacked works and witness because they were simply comfortable and satisfied in themselves.

This sounds too familiar to me. Sure, I have needs but not compared to the rest of the world. I am actually rich. I’m doing ok.

And in doing ok, I’m not doing ok at all. I can complete the report card for Bible Belt Christianity with my gold stars and stickers of church attendance and memory verses. There’s not actually a requirement to sacrifice, to put myself out there (unless I want to be mad at someone for their lack of morals), or to love like Jesus did.

When I woke up to how lukewarm I was, I realized I need to live my faith for real or dump it. I needed to come to God and repent. I needed to forgive those who had trampled upon me. I needed to make disciples, reach out to the poor, and serve.

Practicing what you profess

This isn’t to make us feel guilty but to wake us up. I’d rather feel bad here than in front of God. I want to hear well done my good and faithful servant, not wow you really missed the boat.

How do we know what to do though? Well, we could read the Bible like God meant for us to actually do what He says. Francis Chan tells of how ridiculous it would be if he told his daughter, “Rach, go clean your room,” if she then came back an hour later and told him, she had memorized what he said and was having a few friends over to study what it would be like to clean her room, yet she never cleaned it.

When a verse says, love your enemies. Stop and pray. Who are your enemies? What does it look like to love them? Not just say I love you, but do something for them. Love is also action. I want my husband to say he loves me, but if he never does anything to show that love, then I won’t believe him. Guess what? The world doesn’t believe us too.

We should take God at His Word. He says, “Don’t be anxious.” Then we have no excuse to cling to our anxiety and announce it at every turn as if God is not in control, even in an election year. 

They will know we are God’s not by our morals but by our love. So, let’s begin with love.

Yes, it can be overwhelming. We are busy. We have families, jobs, people depending on us. So, let’s make it simple and just pick one thing and make it a goal.

  • I will invite the neighbor to dinner this month.
  • I will volunteer at a kitchen.
  • I will call the pregnancy crisis center and ask if they need something.
  • I will clean out things and either donate them to a thrift store that supports something I believe in or sell them and donate the money to a cause I believe in.
  • I will put extra goods on my grocery shopping list and donate them to a food pantry.
  • I will stop spending more on luxuries (yes, coffee included) than I do on others.
  • I will sponsor a child in another country.
  • I will let someone who needs a place sleep in the “guest” room. Maybe this means fostering, adopting, or just helping someone in need.

If we each did just one thing, made one disciple over the next year, had one family in each church adopt or foster a child, can you imagine what we would do? There may be sacrifices involved, but it will be small in comparison to Christ’s sacrifice. This Christian life wasn’t meant to be easy, so let’s stop trying to make it so.