I’m pretty sure I used to be cool. I talked cool (aka I cussed), I acted cool (aka I drank), I even dated someone cool and had cool friends (aka I was pretty much living the life). I was open-minded about everything because I cared, more than anything, that people thought of me as someone cool, accepting, and easy going.
By the worlds standards, I was pretty cool. I had a cool Instagram and on a good day would get an above average amount of likes (for me that meant like 130 likes heyooo). I would go out on the weekends with my friends, make appearances at house parties, and bar hop around town.
And then on Sundays, I would go to church. I always loved going and was usually pretty moved by the worship and fairly challenged by the message.
But Monday would come, and I went on living my cool life.
Even if I didn’t realize it, I viewed God as a nice thing to have in my back pocket for when I felt like praying or needed to feel good. Calling myself a Christian was like filling in the “occupation” line on a health care form—it was just something I did.
In my heart of hearts, I wanted to be closer to God, but I really wasn't compelled enough to do anything about it. I was indifferent, bland, and lukewarm.
I wasn't always that way. In fact, in a previous season of my life, I was pretty keen on loving God and getting to know Him more. But something happened that caused me to slowly veer from the closeness I had found: sin.
Sin stepped in to my life, like it had many times before (and has many times since). But this time it was different: sin left a foul odor of shame on me, it filled me with guilt and then screwed the cap on tight and secure. I let guilt and shame eat away at me, bit by bit, until the closeness I once had with my Father was like a distant taste in my mouth…something I savored once but had long forgotten the taste of.
Last year I read the book Good or God? by John Bevere. In the book, John challenges readers to know the difference between what seems good, and what is really God. He details the person of God in a way I had never quite grasped before: showing him as a Holy God who is worthy of our worship and adoration, and even, our righteous fear. He explained what the Biblical fear of God really is—“To fear God is to love Him so much we are afraid to be away from Him. We love Him and value His presence above all. Out of reverence for Him, we choose to love what He loves and hate what He hates. In the end, the fear of the Lord can be identified by one simple thing: obedience.”
That book changed me and challenged me.
By this time, I had learned to let go of the guilt and shame I let fester for so long. I had cried out to God in my darkest, and he rescued me. It was as I slowly regained my footing with God as my source that I came across this book.
I realized what a dishonor I had been doing to my Heavenly Father by not treating him with the utmost fear he rightly deserved. Saying I was a Christian yet not picking a definitive side and living as though he were a toy I could pull out of my purse when I was bored was a disgrace to what Jesus did on the cross for me.
The Lord allowed me to see that I was not put on this earth to be “cool.” Jesus didn’t die on the cross so I would look cool to others on the outside, yet suffer silently and rebelliously on the inside. I realized how wrapped up I was with how people saw me and what they thought of me.
I was faced with this truth: our call as Christians is to live in the righteousness Christ died for us to have, to live in truth, to pick a side.
“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” Revelation 3:16 (NKJV)
Jesus said those words. That is serious language and strong imagery. He’s not messing around.
“The lukewarm are those who claim to know God but live as though He doesn’t exist. They may go to church and practice a form of religion, but their inner state is one of self-righteous complacency. They claim to be Christians, but their hearts are unchanged, and their hypocrisy is sickening to God.”*
It grieves me to admit that this was really me. I was born in a Christian home, raised on the mission field, Pastors for parents, served in church my entire life, knew every Bible story like the back of my hand…and yet, this was me.
Here's how my man Matt Henry breaks it down in his commentary (by the way, can you have a crush on a dead Bible commentator? Asking for a friend):
“Lukewarmness or indifference in religion is the worst temper in the world. If religion is a real thing, it is the most excellent thing, and therefore we should be in good earnest in it; if it is not a real thing, it is the vilest imposture, and we should be earnest against it. If religion is worth anything, it is worth everything; an indifference here is inexcusable…Christ expects that men should declare themselves in earnest either for him or against him.”
And then he said this, as though he were saying: “Here Tiffany, feast on this!”
“…they may call their lukewarmness charity, meekness, moderation, and a largeness of soul [or as we would call it nowadays: open-mindedness and acceptance]; it is nauseous to Christ, and makes those so that allow themselves in it. They shall be rejected, and finally rejected; for far be it from the holy Jesus to return to that which has been thus rejected.”
My inner dialogue went something like this: “Um, excuse me, what?! Jesus, you’re supposed to be loving and kind and accepting of everything and everyone! How can you say you will reject me?”
But when we take a closer look at how Jesus walked on the earth, we see that this is true. Jesus was not open-minded towards the money changers who were corrupting the temple. He was not open-minded towards the rich young ruler who wanted to keep all his possessions, yet say he was a follower of Christ. He wasn’t open-minded towards the strict law of the religious people of his day. He was not, and is not, open-minded towards anyone who would rather yield to themselves over yielding to him.
Do you believe that God is who he says he is? Do you believe that God will do what he has said he will do? Do you fear him, with a righteous fear, with a fear that recognizes his majesty and kingship and holiness as the one true God?
It’s cool to be open-minded about everything, and it’s cool to say you love and support and think everything is okay. But do you stand with cool, or do you stand with truth?
This is a very polarizing viewpoint because in the mainstream and in culture it is seen as just the opposite. It is seen as close-minded, narrow, exclusive, and in one word: wrong. Trust me, I know, because I didn’t want to be that way! I told myself it was better to be open-minded towards everything than small-minded about anything.
But the fact of the matter is: that’s not how Jesus was when he walked the earth, and it’s not how he is now. Jesus wasn’t cool by the worlds standards. He was polarizing, he was absurd, he was outlandish.
We have a responsibility as Christians to not only hear the Word of God, but to know it. We have to do the work it takes intellectually and spiritually to understand the Word of God. Do you know what God has to say about certain topics and issues we would like to brush over? Do you find yourself picking and choosing the things you want to believe about God without facing the truth in His word? I know I did.
But I have found that we are called to be deeply rooted, well-watered doers of the Word (Matthew 13, James 1:22). We were created to know God, to love Him, and to have communion with Him. We are called to obey Him out of our love for Him.
My challenge to you is this: find out who God is; who the real Jesus is. Do so by seeking him in his Word, by praying, by surrounding yourself with a community of believers. Ask yourself: do I want to be cool, or do I want to be obedient?
Since leaving the “cool” life, I have lost much. I have lost friends, relationships, and status. I have also lost my pride, my plans, and my selfish desires. And what have I gained? Ah,
“To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Phil 1:21 (NKJV)
“Part with sin and self-sufficiency, and come to Christ with a sense of your poverty and emptiness, that you may be filled with his hidden treasure.” —Matthew Henry