Avoiding a Lukewarm Path

WID

The following is an excerpt from Ralph Martin’s newly re-released booklet, “What Happens When I Die?”


This may come as something of a surprise, but Scripture indicates that lukewarm Christians have a chance of being damned. I was surprised, even shocked, when I studied what God’s Word said about this. Jesus’ general attitude toward lukewarmness is vividly expressed in the following excerpt from Revelation:

I know your deeds: I know you are neither hot nor cold. How I wish you were one or the other—hot or cold! But because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spew you out of my mouth! (Rv 3:15)

Scripture makes clear that saving faith is not just an intellectual assent to certain truths, or even an emotional “born again” experience, but a commitment of the heart and will to act on and live in accordance with the words that our Savior and Lord speaks to us, in the power of the Holy Spirit. “Be assured, then, that faith without works is as dead as a body without breath” (Jas 2:26).

To profess faith in Christ without the corresponding actions is counted by Jesus as worthy of condemnation:

Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. You can tell a tree by its fruit. None who cry out, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of God but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.When that day comes, many will plead with me, “Lord, Lord” . . . Then I will declare to them solemnly, “I never knew you. Out of my sight, you evildoers!” (Mt 7:19-22, 23)

Not to be fruitful for the Lord, not to use well what He gives us, is to run the risk of condemnation. Material possessions, gifts and abilities, time and resources, insights and faith—an unprofitable use of any of these could result in their being taken away and their owners being declared unfaithful servants. This is what is indicated in the parable of the silver pieces or talents (Mt 25:14-30). The servant who has not made a profit with the master’s money is stripped of the talents he was given and thrown into the outer darkness.

Scripture also points out the dangers of becoming so involved in our ordinary, day-to-day lives that we do not remain alert to God, eager to do Christ’s will, and ready for Christ’s second coming. To be nominal Christians, but not to be clothed in righteous deeds, makes one unfit for the kingdom of God. Being invited into the kingdom is one thing; responding properly is another:
 

When the king came in to meet the guests, however, he caught sight of a man not properly dressed for a wedding feast. “My friend,” he said, “how is it you came in here not properly dressed?” The man had nothing to say. The king then said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the night to wail and grind his teeth.” The invited are many, the elect are few. (Mt 22:11-14)

We also become liable for judgment if we fail to persevere in faith and obedience until the end of our lives or until the Lord’s return. Short-lived enthusiasm followed by a drifting back into lukewarmness is just as dangerous. Christians who do not persevere, who return to serious sin or end up denying the faith, will be dealt with severely.

If we sin willfully after receiving the truth, there remains for us no further sacrifice for sin—only a fearful expectation of judgment and a flaming fire to consume the adversaries of God. Anyone who rejects the law of Moses is put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Do you not suppose that a much worse punishment is due the man who disdains the Son of God, thinks the covenant-blood by which he was sanctified to be ordinary, and insults the Spirit of grace? We know who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay” and “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb 10:26-31)

There is only one way for Christians to meet the criteria required for eternal life: we must allow the Lord to transform us and make us holy—not just in external actions, but in our hearts and minds and wills.


 

Ralph Martin

Ralph Martin is president of Renewal Ministries. He also hosts The Choices We Face, a widely viewed weekly Catholic television and radio program distributed throughout the world. Ralph holds a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (Angelicum) in Rome and is a professor and the director of Graduate Theology Programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in the Archdiocese of Detroit. He was named by Pope Benedict XVI as a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization and was also appointed as a “peritus” to the Synod on the New Evangelization. Ralph is the author of a number of books, the most recent of which are The Urgency of the New Evangelization, The Fulfillment of All Desire, and Will Many Be Saved? He and his wife Anne have six children and sixteen grandchildren and reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.