Mediocre Christianity

Swamp

The church in Laodicea was condemned for being “lukewarm” (Revelation 3:16). They thought they were in “need of nothing” (Revelation 3:17), but they were not healthy spiritually. Jesus told them they needed to “be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19).

At times, we may be like the Laodiceans – not what we should be as Christians, but not completely unfaithful either. We may not be zealously serving God, but are also not willfully rejecting Him either. Instead, we are in a state of spiritual mediocrity. What does this look like in our individual lives? When we find ourselves in such a state, how can we change it? That is what we will consider in this article.

Doing the Minimum

Some people just want to do the least that they can to get by. This happens in school, at the workplace, and even in people’s spiritual lives. They ponder questions about what is the minimum that is required of them.

  • How often do they have to assemble with the church?
  • How much do they have to give on the first day of the week?
  • How many people do they have to teach about the gospel?

This was the attitude of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-22). He asked Jesus, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” When Jesus told him to “keep the commandments,” he immediately asked, “Which ones?” When Jesus listed a few of them, he said, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” With every question, he was looking to establish the minimum requirement that would still lead to eternal life. Finally, Jesus said, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” This caused him to turn away. When he could focus on doing the minimum, he was interested. When he learned that there was no “minimum” – that he had to be willing to give up what he loved and give his life over to Jesus completely, he left.

If we are to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must do the will of the Father (Matthew 7:21). We are to be totally committed to following and obeying the Lord. Paul wrote, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1). It is with this attitude that we should answer the questions above.

  • Assemble habitually, not like those who have “the habit” of “forsaking our own assembling together” (Hebrews 10:25). If the local church is assembling, then by default we should plan to assemble as well.
  • Give liberally on the first day of the week (2 Corinthians 9:6, 13), rather than thinking of the minimum that our conscience will allow us to give.
  • Teach the gospel to others at every opportunity you have to do so. Peter said, “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

Mediocre Christianity seeks to do the minimum. We are to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Looking for Loopholes

Too often, people look for excuses to justify certain sins. They look for “loopholes” that will allow them to do what they want to do.

  • Some will say that as long as you do not get drunk, then it is alright to drink alcohol.
  • Others will say that if a couple is in love, it is fine for them to commit fornication.

This was the attitude of the lawyer who tested Jesus (Luke 10:25-29). His question was similar to the one asked by the rich young ruler – “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He was told that he needed to love his neighbor as himself. This man had apparently not been doing this because he tried “to justify himself” by asking, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered with the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). The lawyer was trying to find a loophole that would allow him to not show love for his neighbor.

Rather than trying to see what sin we can “justify,” we should seek to “glorify God in [our] body” (1 Corinthians 6:20). Our goal is to be like Christ. He left us “an example for [us] to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:21-22).

  • Instead of trying to justify the casual use of alcohol, we should “not look on the wine when it is red” (Proverbs 23:31). Not only is “drunkenness” to be avoided, but also “drinking parties” (1 Peter 4:3) – often referred to as “social drinking.”
  • Instead of using “love” as a justification for fornication, we should honor marriage. “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4).

Mediocre Christianity looks for loopholes to justify sin. We must strive to “be perfect, as [our] heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Remaining Static

It is easy for Christians to become content and confident in their current condition and fail to grow.

  • Some are (or feel like they are) unable to teach others and they remain unable.
  • Others will struggle with a certain temptation and continue to struggle perpetually.

This was the problem of the Hebrew Christians (Hebrews 5:11-14). Instead of growing over time to the point that they could teach others, they needed to be taught “the elementary principles of the oracles of God” again. They were in this condition because they had “become dull of hearing” and had not used the word of God to help them grow as they should.

Christians are expected to grow. Peter closed his second epistle with this admonition: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). We cannot remain in the same condition over time and expect to please the Lord. There is a time when we are “like newborn babies, [who] long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it [we] may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). But it is essential that we grow and “bear fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8:15).

  • If we are unable to teach others (or feel as though we are), we need to develop the ability to teach. After sufficient time, we “ought to be teachers” (Hebrews 5:12), at least in some capacity. The church is to develop teachers (2 Timothy 2:2), not rely on the same men to do all the teaching indefinitely.
  • If we struggle with a certain temptation, we need to learn to find “the way of escape” that God has promised (1 Corinthians 10:13) and “[put] to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). If it requires making changes in our lives to eliminate a certain temptation, we need to do that (Matthew 5:27-30).

Mediocre Christianity remains static. We are to “grow up in all aspects” in our service to God (Ephesians 4:15).

Seeking Questions, Not Answers

Even if we do not always grow as we should, we all recognize the need to grow in our spiritual understanding. But some seem to think that maturity is measured by questions, rather than answers. In other words, many believe that imagining questions for which there is no answer is an indicator of spiritual maturity.

However, Paul warned Timothy about those who were “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). These are ones who focus on matters of speculation, rather than divine truth that has been revealed to us. In his first letter to this young preacher, Paul said, “As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith” (1 Timothy 1:3-4).

We are commanded to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17), and we “can understand” it (Ephesians 3:4). In order to do this, we must study the Scriptures so that we might learn how to “accurately [handle] the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

As we grow in understanding, we should be ready to “give an answer” (1 Peter 3:15, KJV), rather than propose an unending number of questions that cannot be answered with certainty. It is good for us to dig deeper and deeper into the truth as we grow, but we must also “refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels” (2 Timothy 2:23).

Mediocre Christianity focuses on questions to which God did not reveal an answer. We are to recognize that “the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever” (Deuteronomy 29:29), so that we might be diligent to learn and obey the truth He has revealed.

Forgetting God

Finally, it is possible to do what God’s word teaches, but forget the fundamental reason why we are to do it.

  • We might sing spiritual songs simply for the enjoyment of it.
  • We might assemble with our brethren merely for the social interaction.
  • We might debate some religious topic just for the sake of debate.

This was what happened with the church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:2-6). They were commended for several things – toil, perseverance, intolerance of evil men, testing false apostles, and hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans. However, they had also “left [their] first love.” They did many things right, but not for the right reason – to please the Lord.

We must do those things which are commanded and authorized in the word of God. Paul wrote, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). As we do this, we need to remember why we are doing it. In Jesus’ prayer to the Father, He said, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4). We obey God in order to bring glory to God (Matthew 5:16).

  • It is good to enjoy singing spiritual songs, but we must remember that the purpose of this singing is to praise God (Hebrews 2:12).
  • It is good to enjoy the company of our brethren, but we must remember that we assemble in order to worship God (John 4:24).
  • Debates can be good as long as we are not being “quarrelsome” (2 Timothy 2:23), but instead are striving to stand “for the defense of the gospel” (Philippians 1:16).

Mediocre Christianity forgets God as the reason why we do the things we do. We must always remember that “it is the Lord Christ whom [we] serve” (Colossians 3:24) so that we will “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects” (Colossians 1:10).

Conclusion

If we find areas in our lives as Christians that need improvement, we need to be working to do so. We should not be content being “lukewarm” (Revelation 3:16) – in a state of spiritual mediocrity. Instead, we must strive to do the best we can in every area of our lives in service to God.


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Comments

  1. Larry DeVore says

    Another good article, Andy. Christians should strive to rise above the mediocre.