Mixture Makes "Lukewarm"
In Indianapolis, we started with a dozen people. We were all babies and nobody knew their right hand from their left. We were very similar to how the Assyrians were when Jonah showed up. Jonah wanted to be angry at them, but God said, “These people don’t know their left hand from their right. Give them a chance.” We were like that. We didn’t know what we were doing, but God gave us a chance. I had a seminary degree and I had been a pastor, but I realized I didn’t know anything about the quality of Life that you read about in the Scriptures. We knew some truths from God and He gave us a chance.
A few years before that, we were in a place where we had conversions sometimes every day. The church tripled in size in eighteen months, mostly from new converts. People traveled from hundreds of kilometers away to see the revival where we were and hear the preaching, but we all knew there was something very wrong there.
Meanwhile, many wonderful things were happening. There were many, many conversions. People were selling their possessions to give to the poor. Night after night we would rent an arena and fill it with people off the street to tell them about Jesus. People came from hundreds of kilometers away, driving and flying into the city to see all these things.
Most people would say, “What a glorious church!” Yet as the house was going up and getting bigger and more beautiful, we knew that something was wrong with it. There was mixture. There were things about it that we knew were not God’s way. We were building on a foundation of sand.
The more we read the Scriptures and about things like we’ve been talking about today, we knew it was nothing like the life in Acts 2:42-47 where everyone was devoted to Jesus. There was mixture because there were many people attending who didn’t really love Jesus and wouldn’t really obey Jesus. Mixture and compromise were in their lives. There was lukewarmness. On the one hand, glorious things were happening, but there was also a mixture that was not very good at all. So, what happens when you mix hot and cold together? What do you get?
Right, lukewarm. Our hearts were broken. There was one time when we had brought to Jesus and baptized three different people in one day. We kept gathering the whole church back together three different times in one day. “Come on back. There’s another conversion.” All baptisms in the Bible were immediate. Every single time in the Bible when someone came to Jesus, immediately they were baptized. There were no exceptions in the Bible. If you want an exception, you’ll have to make up your own.
For example, the Ethiopian Eunuch said, “Here’s water. What hinders me?” They were talking about Isaiah—what does that have to do with baptism? There is something about conversion where they just knew they needed to be clothed with Christ and immersed into His death, burial, and resurrection. They weren’t afraid of that or ashamed of that.
From Acts 2 and forward, you cannot find one single person in the New Testament who came to Jesus and gave their life to Him and wasn’t immediately baptized. No one ever waited for “Baptism Sunday” or until some future date when they felt like doing it. Baptism was immediate every single time. That’s what the Bible says, and I had to learn that I have to obey the Bible.
So, we had all these things going on. Three times in one day the whole church came back together from the nooks and crannies all over the city. They all piled back together again to watch yet another person who had given their life to Jesus be baptized. We just kept coming back and coming back.
I remember one lady came up and stood alongside of me during the third of these conversions and she said, “I bet you’re really happy with yourself, aren’t you?” And it just pierced my soul, because I knew she was one who really didn’t love Jesus with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength.
I looked at her and said, “You know, I don’t think I’m any happier than you ought to be. This doesn’t have anything to do with me. Aren’t you rejoicing like the angels are, that a person has given their life to Jesus and been transfigured from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of the Beloved Son? Doesn’t that thrill your heart? You should be dancing a jig over the Glory of God and the Blood of Jesus washing away the sins of a person who’s called on His Name. Why are you saying to me, ‘I bet you’re happy with yourself’? This has nothing to do with me! You should be every bit as happy as I am.”
That was probably one of those moments that contributed to this thought I was having: “Here I am standing in front of a crowd of people and preaching great sermons…blah, blah, blah. And people like this woman who doesn’t really love Jesus are sitting there, and I can’t do anything about it. There is no sermon I could ever preach that would be good enough to get rid of all this mixture.”
We had overwhelmed the mixture with new converts that were gloriously brought out of prisons of darkness and drugs and homosexuality. They were freed from those things and twenty years later they are still free from those things. They didn’t just say a little prayer and then go back to their lives or back into the world. They became a part of our lives and are still a part of our lives every day, twenty years later. So it broke my heart that there was so much mixture. A lot of hot and a little cold still makes lukewarm.
“Get the leaven out of the batch” is actually a command. How do you do that in an organization? You can’t because you can’t have enough programs or enough small groups. You can’t preach good enough sermons or have enough Bible studies to get the leaven out of the batch. And legalism will usually get the wrong person out of the batch. Legalism will get weak people out of the batch and those are the ones you’re supposed to help and treat with special modesty.
That’s the beginning of the story. We had this glorious revival in this mission field of New England where everyone is basically an atheist. There was even a communist governor in the state there. It’s just a strange place, and it was considered a mission field, yet God’s Word was radically changing lives. It was a glorious revival from anybody’s perception. It wasn’t anything like, “Oh, I’m so beat-up. I’m such a failure so I think I’ll try house church.” We’re talking about glorious success and yet it broke my heart and the hearts of those around me because there was so much mixture. There was leaven in the batch, and the best sermons would never change that.
Some say Matthew 13 says, “Let the wheat and the tares grow up together in the church.” But that’s not what the Bible says. Look it up. It says the field is the world. It does not say the field is the church. For the church, the Bible says to get the leaven out of the batch. In regard to the world, we are trying to seek and save that which is lost and aren’t trying to just live in utopia. We’re not trying to live in paradise and never see any unbelievers. We’re not trying to be separate from the world but be the Light of the world.
So yes, the wheat and the weeds (tares), they do grow up together in the world. Look it up and you’ll see that’s what Jesus said. The field is the world. He did not say the field is the church. Referring to the church He said, “Get the leaven out of the batch.”
The Bible says, “You are to judge those in the church.” If anyone calls himself a brother, but lives in wretched sins and won’t repent, we need to deal with that. God will judge those outside the church so you let God worry about the tares. Our job is to do our best to try to share Jesus’ love with them. But the wheat in the church, you are to judge those or discern those (that’s actually the Greek word) and resolve the issues of leaven by those that call themselves brothers. So we’re in the world, but not of the world. We’re not trying to hide from the world, we’re trying to save the world.
Meanwhile, in the church there should not be lukewarmness. What does God do to lukewarm churches? He vomits them. So let’s not be lukewarm. But the problem is that you are going to be lukewarm if you’re attendance-based. You just will be, because there’s no program, no Bible study, no sermon series, no knowledge of Greek or Hebrew or any other language that will ever resolve a problem of leaven in the batch in an organization. However, if you’re building relationships with others every day, you can love people into greatness.
Several people: AMEN!!
You can love people into greatness, but only if you’re with them—called alongside daily (Hebrews 3:13). The Greek word is parakaleo which means called alongside daily so that none are hardened and deceived by sin.