Are You Hot or Cold? How Do You Know?

August 13, 2013

Thermometer_broken_Final_217161_7There are many scriptures that are routinely misused to make people feel guilty.  In religion, guilt can be an effective (albeit temporary) tool to motivate people to do something seemingly good.  Here is a scripture that I routinely used against people:

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.  So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.… (Rev. 3:15-16, NASB)

In the professional ministry world, I would regularly use this scripture to negatively motivate people to do whatever activity I wanted them to do.  During worship services, this scripture would also be used to help ‘motivate’ people to get out of their lethargic state and into a greater state of emotional fervor. Because nobody wanted to be ‘spit out of the mouth’ of Jesus, folks were eager to show that they were hot for the Lord.

If you are reading this and you recognize that I used this tactic against you in the past, please accept my apology.  I am deeply sorry.

Nevertheless, I would like to examine the Lord’s heart when it comes to being hot or cold.  What did he really mean when He said that he wished the believers in the church community at Laodicea would be either hot or cold?  What ‘deeds’ was He talking about?  Why would He spit them out of His mouth?  These questions have been on my mind a lot recently.

The more that I relationally know the Lord through His indwelling life with a group of brothers and sisters, the more I realize how important love is.  Love, and the deeds of love, are everything.  Because Christ is love personified, the indwelling life of Christ is the indwelling life of love.  We can memorize a set of encyclopedias, feed the poor, sing songs and shed a bucket of tears during moving worship services, but if we don’t have love, we have nothing.  In light of this, here is my next question:

How do you know if you are living by the indwelling life of love?

Since we were created in the likeness of a relational God, it may have something to do with relationships and the way we relate to one another.  As a matter of fact, I’m convinced it does!  Our Lord is obsessed with love and how love is expressed relationally with one another.

Jesus gave us a radically NEW commandment to love one another in the exact SAME way He loved us.  He gave us the ability to fulfill this new commandment by putting divine love (Himself) within our inner being.  He also said the world will know that we belong to Him by the way we express love toward one another in relational community.  In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he expresses his desire and prayer that the Lord would allow their love for one another to increase and thrive.  I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

If love had a temperature, it would be hot.

People naturally describe the way people relate to one another in a similar manner.  People are described as being either warm, or cold in their relational dealings.  When we’re living by indwelling love, we’re warm (hot) in the way we relate to one another.

Last Saturday, a couple in the church community that I am a part of got married.  Many of the brothers and sisters from the church were there, along with others who were extended friends and family of the bride and groom.  One of the extended friends / family were watching how the church community was interacting with one another.  The person made the comment that this community of people seemed to be strikingly warm in the way they interacted with one another.  When I heard this, it melted my heart.

Later that same day, I was having an unrelated conversation with one of the sisters from the church here.  During the conversation, she told me something that greatly blessed me.  She shared that she was often overwhelmed with a tremendous love in her heart for all the brothers and sisters that she has been built with in community over the last couple of years.

When she said this to me, I carefully noticed the look on her face.  It was a look of incredible satisfaction and also pain.  It was a new expression, one that I had not seen in her before.  She went on to say that the love she experiences for us all is so great that it literally hurts inside of her.  I knew exactly how she felt.  I have experienced that same love as well.

Her love for the saints is definitely hot in nature, not cold.

The way we love our brothers and sisters is the way we love Christ Himself.  The head and the body cannot be separated.  Our love is not always hot for one another, however.  Speaking from experience, things can often get in the way of our love for one another.  It’s a scary thing to fully give ourselves to love and be loved.

Fear is the opposite of love.  Many times fear keeps me saying the right things on the surface, while at the same time keeping me in my cold relational boxes.  The result is lukewarmness.  Every time I experience this, I want to be sick to my stomach.  I think this is what our Lord was experiencing when He was speaking to the church community at Laodicea.

When our fear erected walls fall, however, the way we relate with one another is truly a sight to behold.  Yesterday, a friend and brother in Christ named Jim Putney (thank you Jim) shared a stunning video from CBS news with me.  The story is about a photographer who has been working on a project for the last six years to capture moments of intimacy with complete strangers.  What he has discovered is incredible.

When these strangers get past their fear and awkwardness, what they experience is truly beautiful; even if it is only for a moment.  Because we live in Christ and the source of our life is from Him, this moment described in the video can be our way of life.  Please take a couple of minutes to watch this video, and may we experience the warmth of His love through one another today:

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Jamal Jivanjee

Jamal Jivanjee

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37 responses to Are You Hot or Cold? How Do You Know?

  1. I always felt fear when I read that part. How did I miss the deeds not being in love and just being busy with we think deeds ought to be? True love is scandalous and some would find it uncomfortable. That strong passionate love is overwhelming in a good way. 🙂 thank you so much for this Jamal. I needed it.

  2. Jamal,

    Thank you so much for sharing this splendid video. The photographer has a way of capturing a brief moment in time when two strangers actually see one another, and in that small space in time, they not only see one another but fully ccept one another. When we look at the face of a saint, we see the face of Christ, and from deep within us wells up the fullness of his Love in us. We are one in Him and with Him, this recognition of our one Body, one Heart, one Mind and one Spirit flows forth the Love of God in Christ that is in us. Passion burns.

  3. Whoa. Yes, thank you Jim Putney!

  4. I think I understand the meaning of “spew you out of my mouth” better now, when you said that you were saying the right words outwardly but fear kept you from having the real thing on the inside and this would cause a sickness to your stomach or a feeling of spewing out of the mouth. This inability to express this love relationship that Jesus has with us is so frustrating and upsetting and all we want is to be real. Yet, we lack the reality of the love of God in our own lives to bring true love to it’s depth and fullness as Jesus has done and is doing. As the photographer puts his subjects in the right position, the right emotions spring up to drive out the fear we feel. Oh God, help us to touch your life intimately that we may express You to others effectively and thereby be fully satisfied with the warm expressions of Your love for all people, in Jesus name. Thanks Jamal!!

  5. Really like the video 🙂

  6. Encouraging article. The verse referenced though, seems to me to mean something different than the way it is usually used. We usually think about hot vs lukewarm, and neglect trying to understand what is meant by “cold”. Cold is better than lukewarm? This is more complicated than it appears. Anyway, I appreciate the post.

    • Mary Ellen Robinson August 26, 2013 at 12:47 pm

      Perhaps cold is better than lukewarm in the sense that lukewarm-ness is describing a combination of hot & cold (right response on the outside, wrong motive in the heart, which could be described as hypocritical.) Jesus was hard on the hypocritical. Cold would not necessarily be good, but would signify honesty on the surface….

  7. Thank you Jamal and Jim! The video is oh so powerful! Brings a tear to my eye!

    ” Everyone came away with a good feeling… Lovely.. … (YES, even those of us watching feel that way!)

    “… He shows us humanity as it could be –
    As most of us wish it would be –
    and as it was – at least – for this one fleeting moment in time…

  8. Love… Ah yes. It’s the very core of who we are. How do we love one another without turning it into works? You said it best Jamal: God gives us divine love. We become love. If we find ourselves ‘choosing’ to love someone or trying to love them we know we haven’t become love. Love isn’t a choice, it is a byproduct of intimacy. It’s a way of being.
    Beloved, let us love one another. Those who love, know God.
    (From 1 John 4:7-8)
    Well done Jamal! Thanks for sharing Jim’s excellent video.

  9. well I went to you-tube but ended up listening to three-days grace.but anyway I understood what you meant because I just experienced the difference between hot and cold–I bad mouthed a couple of Christian friends here recently–and shortly thereafter the lord inside me brought me to tears and I recanted and spoke lovingly towards them.thanks for the beautiful post.

    • Kenneth,

      If you read the post from your email inbox, you won’t be able to see the video. You will need to go to the actual article on the blog. The video is posted directly there at the end of the article.

      Thx for sharing!

  10. Awesome post bro! It always boils down to love, doesn’t it. That was the purpose for creation to begin with…the trinity expanding the love capacity.

    I really enjoyed how you used the “lukewarm” scripture to show that the “hotness” that the Lord is looking for is love for one another. Never thought about it like that, but so true!

    I’ll add that since with all scripture there are 3 angles of interpretation in order to gain to more full understanding (practical/spiritual/prophetic), that there is a true, prophetic warning in the “lukewarm” scripture about the coming time of judgement; much like the “I never knew you” passage. But like the scripture says and you encourage here, if we’ll submit to the Spirit’s leading to die to (loving) ourselves first, and give our lives away (love others first), then that’s the plan for not being spewed or cast out.

  11. David Breakeronenine Carothers August 13, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    I’ll comment when I’m done weeping……love life and joy has a hold of me right now, a hot hold.

  12. When Jesus is revealed, my eyes always seem to leak. It’s like my tears are leaving to try & make more room for the LOVE to be seen. FatherGod must really enjoy when He sees His Son’s Body working in unison with the Head; gaining ground at lightning speed! Warms me all over. Jamal thank you for shedding light on scripture that many times has been received by me in the sense that I disappointed God. Doing OK for a bit, then the slow fade back into Wretched Me. Grace is the very thing we must pour out into this world. It’s a salve. He’s the Balm!

  13. Great sentiment. The Lord has been putting this theme on my heart lately. He truly desires a people who love one another. There are so many barriers that we as people and Christians put up but his love is able to overcome them and develop a place where his love can be manifested among his people.

    • Yes, His love is able to overcome all the obstacles. I’m anchoring into that truth right now. Thx for the reminder.

  14. Yes brother, love is the beginning and love is the end. ” Now abide hope, faith and love, the greatest of all is love”.
    Laodiceans had a pretty inflated opinion of themselves. They felt themselves to be rich, and made advances in gaining wealth, being self sufficient and having need of nothing. The wealth they were boasting were not gold and silver, but more of an intellectual sort. And the result is blotted arrogance which causes blindness as to the real state, because knowledge is the illusion of truth, a deception of the impractical.
    It is only love that build us up and edifies.
    May we abide in His love, which is extended to one another.

  15. Really beautiful, Jamal. Coldness sets in when our eyes drift from Christ who is love and expresses His life in love. Thank you for new perspective!

  16. Your heart to heart today was very helpful for me. I am naturally a very warm person. I have often made a lifelong friend the first time i sat down with a complete stranger. Isn’t this the nature of children?

    Children play once together and are lifelong friends. It is only adults, who are being “wise,” who treat one another coldly and hold others at bay. If only we had the openness and warmness and acceptance of little children amongst the Body! How marvelous and life transforming would that be? Incredulously so for Christ’s nature is much like a little child’s.

    Despite being naturally, Christ naturally, warm by nature my instant reaction to meeting people who are cold or reticent is to reply in kind. I blame it on my nature of being a responder, not an intiator. My prayer and hope is one day Christ will continue to be warm through me despite others’ coldness. For when I am anything but warm my stomach roils within me as well.

  17. I just wanted to share with you how this has not only encouraged me or my family, but our whole church group. My husband shared this during our last church gathering and we asked one of the sisters if she would bake heart shaped cookies for our group that read “You’re Hot.” It turned into a beautiful time of sharing, full of laughs and repentance, and we even took communion using the cookies as the bread. I forwarded this to my mother and that same morning her pastor preached this same scripture, unfortunately his interpretation greatly differed from this blog. Thank you for revealing the heart of our Jesus.

    • Katie,

      How beautiful. Your comment is very encouraging to me. I’m so glad this article helped unlock the love that is in you for one another in the community that you are a part of. That is music to my ears!

  18. I just read this post and am pretty sure most folks have moved on, but felt I needed to say what was on my heart to “whoever has ears to hear”. I can appreciate folks hearts, wanting to love more in the ways of Christ, however, I believe the scriptures are not being interpreted correctly here. “Cold” is not a bad thing here. Jesus said, “that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!” Lukewarm is outside of Christ. Cold and Hot is in Christ. Jesus is communicating to those in Laodicea and us that if we put our hope in salvation on anything other than knowing Jesus and his life, we are lost in our sins and worldly pursuits, and when we face the judgement, we will be spit out of his presence. His words give them and those who don’t know Him the option to “repent”. What a loving God, who would “rebuke and discipline” us in such a way. That is the love that takes away my fears. Truth from a heart of love.

    • Michael,

      Brother, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. I do hear what you are saying, and I am quite familiar with your line of thinking as it is the most common line of thinking about this passage. I held that view for many years as well. Obviously, I think the position you shared misses the heart of Lord that is the essense of the New Testament.

      Without rehashing the main argument in this article, God is love, and the manner in which we relate to one another is (in my opinion) at the heart of what it means to be ‘hot or cold’. Love is His main concern because He is the substance of love. As one who is made in the image and likeness of God, I personally can attest that I prefer to deal with folks who love in a ‘red-hot’ manner, or who are completely cold. At least I know where a person stands. When I encounter religious ‘luke-warm’ folks that appear to be loving, but are really cool in their dealings with one another, it makes me sick. I’m sure I’m not unique in this regard. We simply are made in His likeness.

      I would also take issue with your assessment that being ‘cold’ in love is a good thing. I’ll leave you with this scripture:

      “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12)

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