[The following is an
excerpt from Crazy
Love by Francis Chan. Used by permission.]
Of all the chapters in this book, this
one was the hardest for me to write. I do not wish for my words to come across
as controversial or difficult to swallow. But I had to write this chapter,
because I believe what I’m about to talk about is important. And true.
In the last chapter we discussed various
inappropriate responses to God’s love. Now we are going to look at scriptural
examples of poor responses to God’s gift of love. Before you discount or ignore what I am about to say, read these
passages objectively, without preconceived opinions staunchly in place.
My examination of lukewarm Christians in
chapter 4 was by no means exhaustive. However, it did serve as a call to
examine your heart in light of the points I listed. As I see it, a lukewarm
Christian is an oxymoron; there’s no such thing. To put it plainly, churchgoers
who are—lukewarm—are not Christians. We will not see them in heaven.
In Revelation 3:15–18, Jesus says:
I know your
deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the
other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you
out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a
thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and
naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become
rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and
salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
This passage is
where our modern understanding of lukewarm
comes from. Jesus is saying to the church that because they are lukewarm,
He is going to spit them out of His mouth.
There is no gentle
rendering of the word spit in the
Greek. This is the only time it is used in the New Testament, and it connotes
gagging, hurling, retching. Many people read this passage and assume Jesus is
speaking to saved people. My question is, Why?
When you read this
passage, do you naturally conclude that to be “spit” out of Jesus’ mouth means
you’re a part of His kingdom? When you read the words wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, do you think that He’s describing saints? When He counsels
them to “buy white clothes to wear” in order to cover their shameful nakedness,
does it sound like advice for those already saved?
I thought people
who were saved were already made white and clothed by Christ’s blood.
In an earlier draft of this chapter, I
quoted several commentators who agreed with my point of view. But we all know
that you can find quotes to support any view you want to take. You can even tweak
word studies to help you in your effort. I’m not against scholarship, but I do
believe there are times when we come to more accurate conclusions through
And so I’ve spent the past few days
reading the Gospels. Rather than examining a verse and dissecting it, I chose
to peruse one Gospel in each sitting. Furthermore, I attempted to do so from
the perspective of a twelve-year-old who knew nothing about Jesus. I wanted to
rediscover what reasonable conclusions a person would come to while objectively
reading the Gospels for the first time. In other words, I read the Bible as if
I’d never read it before.
My conclusion? Jesus’ call to commitment
is clear: He wants all or nothing. The thought of a person calling himself a
“Christian” without being a devoted follower of Christ is absurd.
But please don’t take my word for it.
Read it yourself.
For years I struggled with the parable of
the soils. I wanted to know if the person representing the rocky soil is saved,
even though he has no root. I then wondered about the thorny soil; is this
person saved since he does have a root?
I doubt if people even considered these
questions back in Jesus’ day! Is this idea of the non-fruit-bearing Christian
something that we have concocted in order to make Christianity “easier”? So we
can follow our own course while still calling ourselves followers of Christ? So
we can “join the Marines,” so to speak, without having to do all the work?
Jesus’ intention in this parable was to
compare the only good soil to the ones that were not legitimate alternatives.
To Him, there was one option for a true believer.
Let’s face it. We’re willing to make
changes in our lives only if we think it affects our salvation. This is why I
have so many people ask me questions like, Can
I divorce my wife and still go to heaven? Do I have to be baptized to be saved?
Am I a Christian even though I’m having sex with my girlfriend? If I commit
suicide, can I still go to heaven? If I’m ashamed to talk about Christ, is He
really going to deny knowing me?
To me, these questions are tragic because
they reveal much about the state of our hearts. They demonstrate that our
concern is more about going to heaven than loving the King. Jesus said, “If you
love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). And our question quickly
becomes even more unthinkable: Can I go
to Heaven without truly and faithfully loving Jesus?
I don’t see anywhere in Scripture how the
answer to that question could be yes.
James 2:19 says, “You believe there is
one God. Good! Even the demons believe that “and shudder.” God doesn’t just
want us to have good theology; He wants us to know and love Him. First John
2:3–4 tells us, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.
The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and
the truth is not in him.”
Call me crazy, but I think those verses
mean that the person who claims to know God but doesn’t obey His commands is a
liar and that the truth really isn’t in him.
In Matthew 16:24–26,
Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up
his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but
whoever loses his life for me will find it.” And in Luke 14:33, He says,
“Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
Some people claim that we can be
Christians without necessarily becoming disciples. I wonder, then, why the last
thing Jesus told us was to go into the world, making disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that He commanded? You’ll notice that He didn’t add, “But hey, if that’s too much
to ask, tell them to just become Christians—you know, the people who get to go
to heaven without having to commit to anything.”
Pray. Then read the Gospels for yourself.
Put this book down and pick up your Bible. My prayer for you is that you’ll
understand the Scriptures not as I see them, but as God intends them.
Obedience and Surrender
I do not want true believers to doubt
their salvation as they read this book. In the midst of our failed attempts at
loving Jesus, His grace still covers
Each of us has lukewarm elements and
practices in our life; therein lies the senseless, extravagant grace of it all.
The Scriptures demonstrate clearly that there is room for our failure and sin
in our pursuit of God. His mercies are new
every morning (Lamentations 3). His grace is
sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). I’m not
saying that when you mess up, it means you were never really a genuine
Christian in the first place. If that were true, there would be no one who
The distinction is
perfection (which none will attain on this earth) and a posture of obedience
and surrender, where a person perpetually moves toward Christ. To call someone
a Christian simply because he does some Christian-y things is giving false
comfort to the unsaved. But to declare anyone who sins “unsaved” is to deny the
reality and truth of God’s grace.
references in Scripture (Colossians 2:1; 4:13, 15–16), the church at
Laodicea appears to have been a healthy and legitimate church. But something
happened. By the time Revelation was written, about twenty-five years after the
letter to the Colossians, the Laodiceans’ hearts apparently didn’t belong to
God—despite the fact that they were still active as a church. Their church was
prospering, and they didn’t seem to be experiencing any persecution.
They were comfortable and proud. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Poor Rich People
There is a blind boy named Ronnie who
lives in eastern Uganda. Ronnie is unique not because of his circumstances or
the fact that he is blind, but because of his love for Jesus. If you were to
meet Ronnie, one of the first things you would hear him say is, “I love Jesus
so much, and I sing praises to Him every day!”
One of Ronnie’s closest friends is a girl
who is deaf. What stands out about these two isn’t that they are handicapped or
very poor, but that they are totally content and obviously in love with Jesus.
They possess very little of what “counts” in our society, yet they have what
matters most. They came to God in their great need, and they have found true
Because we don’t usually have to depend
on God for food, money to buy our next meal, or shelter, we don’t feel needy.
In fact, we generally think of ourselves as fairly independent and capable.
Even if we aren’t rich, we are “doing just fine.”
If one hundred people represented the
world’s population, fifty-three of those would live on less than $2 a day. Do
you realize that if you make $4,000 a month, you automatically make one hundred times the average person on
this planet? Simply by purchasing this book, you spent what a majority of
people in the world will make in a week’s time.
Which is more messed up—that we have so
much compared to everyone else, or that we don’t think we are rich? That on any
given day we might flippantly call ourselves “broke” or “poor”? We are neither
of those things. We are rich. Filthy rich.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne was a Scottish
pastor who died at the age of twenty-nine. Although he lived in the early part
of the nineteenth century, his words are astoundingly appropriate for today:
I am concerned for
the poor but more for you. I know not what Christ will say to you in the great
day. I fear there are many hearing me who may know well that they are not Christians because they do not
love to give. To give largely and liberally, not grudgingly at all,
requires a new heart; an old heart would rather part with its life-blood than
its money. Oh my friends! Enjoy your money; make the most of it; give none
away; enjoy it quickly for I can tell you, you will be beggars throughout
The reality is that, whether we
acknowledge our wealth or not, being rich is a serious disadvantage
spiritually. As William Wilberforce once said, “Prosperity hardens the
When talking to a wealthy person who
wanted to go to heaven (and doesn’t that describe most of us?), Jesus said,
“‘Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in
heaven. Then come, follow me.’ When he [the rich man] heard this, he became
very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said,
‘How hard it is for the rich to enter
the kingdom of God!’” (Luke 18:22–24). He says it’s as hard as a camel to go
through the eye of a needle—in other words, impossible. But then Jesus offers
hopeful words: “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (v. 27).
In the very next chapter, as Jesus enters
Jericho, we see exactly how the impossible becomes possible with God. There, the
wealthy tax collector Zacchaeus gives half of his money to the poor and pays
everyone back four times what he has defrauded them. And Jesus declares, “Today
salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:9).
The impossible happened that day—a rich
man received salvation!
God wants our best, deserves our best,
and demands our best. From the beginning of time, He has been clear that some
offerings are acceptable to Him and others are not. Just ask Cain, upon whose
offering God did not look with favor (Genesis 4:5).
For years I gave God leftovers and felt
no shame. I simply took my eyes off Scripture and instead compared myself to
others. The bones I threw at God had more meat on them than the bones others
threw, so I figured I was doing fine.
It’s easy to fill ourselves up with other
things and then give God whatever is left. Hosea 13:6 says, “When I fed them,
they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they
forgot me.” God gets a scrap or two only because we feel guilty for giving Him
nothing. A mumbled three-minute prayer at the end of the day, when we are
already half asleep. Two crumpled-up dollar bills thrown as an afterthought
into the church’s fund for the poor. Fetch, God!
“But when you present the blind for
sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not
evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would
he receive you kindly?” says the Lord.
The priests of Malachi’s day thought
their sacrifices were sufficient. They had spotless animals, but chose to keep
those for themselves and give their less desirable animals to God. They assumed
God was pleased because they had sacrificed something.
God described this practice as evil.
Leftovers are not merely inadequate; from
God’s point of view (and lest we forget, His is the only one that matters),
they’re evil. Let’s stop calling it
“a busy schedule” or “bills” or “forgetfulness.” It’s called evil.
God is holy. In heaven exists a Being who
decides whether or not I take another breath. This holy God deserves
excellence, the very best I have. “But something is better than nothing!” some
protest. Really, is it? Does anyone enjoy
token praise? I sure don’t. I’d rather you not say anything than compliment me
out of obligation or guilt. Why would we think God is any different?
Two verses further on in Malachi, God
says, “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you
might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you—nor will
I accept an offering from you.” God wanted the temple gates shut. The weak sacrifices of the laid-back
priests were an insult to Him. He was saying that no worship is better than
apathetic worship. I wonder how many church doors God wants to shut today.
Jesus’ instruction to the people of the
church at Laodicea was to buy from Him the things that really matter, the
things they didn’t even realize they needed. They were wealthy, but Jesus asks
them to exchange their wealth for His gold that is refined through fire; they
had clothing, but Jesus counsels them to buy clothes that were truly white and
would cover their nakedness; they did not desire anything, but Jesus says they
needed salve for their eyes that would cure their blindness. He asks them to
give up what they thought was so necessary and valuable, in exchange for what
Mark Buchanan writes,
“Physical sickness we usually defy. Soul sickness we often resign ourselves
to.”8 The people in Laodicea did not realize or acknowledge that
their souls were sick, that they were desperately in need of what Christ
offered. As Tim Kizziar said, “Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church
should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really
Recently I saw a bag of potato chips with
a bold declaration splashed across the front: “Zero grams of trans fat.” I was
glad to know that I wouldn’t be consuming any trans fat, which research has
shown is detrimental to my health. But then I flipped the bag over and read the
ingredients list, which included things like “yellow #6” and other artificial
colors, and partially hydrogenated oil (which is trans fat, just a small enough
amount that they can legally call it “0 grams”). I thought it was incredibly ironic
that these chips were being advertised in a way that makes me think they are
not harmful, yet were really full of empty calories, weird chemicals, and,
ironically, trans fat.
It struck me that many Christians flash
around their “no trans fat” label, trying to convince everyone they are healthy
and good. Yet they have no substantive or healthful elements to their faith.
It’s like the Laodiceans, who thought they had everything until Christ told
them they were poor and wretched. They were all about declaring, “Look, we have
no trans fat. We are wealthy, or we have good families, or we go to church
every week.” Obviously, it’s not what you advertise that counts; it’s what you
are really made of.
God’s definition of what matters is
pretty straightforward. He measures our lives by how we love. In our culture,
even if a pastor doesn’t actually love people, he can still be considered
successful as long as he is a gifted speaker, makes his congregation laugh, or
prays for “all those poor, suffering people in the world” every Sunday.
But Paul writes that even if “I have all
faith, so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my
body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians
13:2–3). Wow. Those are strong and unmistakable words. According to God, we are
here to love. Not much else really matters.
So God assesses our lives based on how we
love. But the word love is so
overused and worn out. What does God mean by love? He tells us:
Love is patient and kind; love does not
envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but
rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all
things, endures all things. Love never ends—faith, hope, and love abide, these
three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13
But even those words have grown tired and
overly familiar, haven’t they?
I was challenged to do a little exercise
with these verses, one that was profoundly convicting. Take the phrase Love is patient and substitute your name
for the word love. (For me, “Francis
is patient.”) Do it for every phrase in the passage.
By the end, don’t
you feel like a liar? If I am meant to represent what love is, then I often
fail to love people well.
Following Christ isn’t something that can
be done halfheartedly or on the side. It is not a label we can display when it
is useful. It must be central to everything we do and are.
If life is a river, then pursuing Christ
requires swimming upstream. When we stop swimming, or actively following Him,
we automatically begin to be swept downstream.
Or, to use another metaphor more familiar
to city people, we are on a neverending downward escalator. In order to grow,
we have to turn around and sprint up the escalator, putting up with perturbed
looks from everyone else who is gradually moving downward.
I believe that much
of the American churchgoing population, while not specifically swimming
downstream, is slowly floating away from Christ. It isn’t a conscious choice,
but it is nonetheless happening because little in their lives propels them
Perhaps it sounds
as though I believe you have to work your way to Jesus. I don’t. I fully
believe that we are saved by grace, through faith, by the gift of God, and that
true faith manifests itself through our actions. As James writes, “Faith by
itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17). The lives of
many people who call themselves Christians in America lack manifestations of a
vital and active faith.
And this, to be perfectly honest, scares
me. It keeps me up at night. It causes me to pray desperately and fervently for
my congregation, for the groups of people I speak to, and for the church as a
Henri Nouwen writes about this in his
book With Open Hands: “It is hard to bear
that people stand still along the way, lose heart, and seek their happiness in
little pleasures which they cling to—you feel sad about all that
self-indulgence and self-satisfaction, for you know with an indestructible
certainty that something greater is coming.”9 Or, as Luke 9:25 says,
“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his
How many of us would really leave our
families, our jobs, our education, our friends, our connections, our familiar
surroundings, and our homes if Jesus asked us to? If He just showed up and
said, “Follow me”? No explanation. No directions.
You could follow Him straight up a hill
to be crucified. Maybe He would lead you to another country and you would never
see your family again. Or perhaps you would stay put, but He would ask you to
spend your time helping people who will never love you back, never show
gratitude for what you gave up.
Consider this carefully—have you ever
done so? Or was your decision to follow Christ flippant, based solely on
feelings and emotion, made without counting the cost?
What scares me most
is the people who are lukewarm and just don’t care. I think that if I did a
poll of the readers of this book, many of you would say, “Yeah, I am definitely
lukewarm at times, but I’m not really at a place to give more to God.” Many of
us believe we have as much of God as we want right now, a reasonable portion of
God amongst all the other things in our lives. Most of our thoughts are
centered on the money we want to make, the school we want to attend, the body
we aspire to have, the spouse we want to marry, the kind of person we want to become.
But the fact is that nothing should
concern us more than our relationship with God; it’s about eternity, and
nothing compares with that. God is not someone who can be tacked on to our
Remember the visions of John and Isaiah
of the throne room of God? Remember the pictures of the galaxies and how tiny
we are in comparison? Remember the diversity of God, seen in the thousands of
species of trees in the rainforest? We say to the Creator of all this magnitude
and majesty, “Well, I’m not sure you are worth it. You see, I really like my
car, or my little sin habit, or my money, and I’m really not sure I want to
give them up, even if it means I get You.”
When we put it plainly like this—as a
direct choice between God and our stuff—most of us hope we would choose God.
But we need to realize that how we spend our time, what our money goes toward,
and where we will invest our energy is equivalent to choosing God or rejecting
Him. How could we think for even a second that something on this puny little earth
compares to the Creator and Sustainer and Savior of it all?
We disgust God when we weigh and compare
Him against the things of this world. It makes Him sick when we actually decide
those things are better for us than God Himself. We believe we don’t need
anything Jesus offers, but we fail to realize that slowly, almost
imperceptibly, we are drifting downstream. And in the process we are becoming
blind, being stripped naked, and turning into impoverished wretches.
No wonder Jesus says He will spit lukewarm
people out of His mouth!
Hear me clearly in this, because it is
vital—in fact, there is nothing more important or eternal: Are you willing to say to God that He can have whatever He wants? Do
you believe that wholehearted commitment to Him is more important than any
other thing or person in your life? Do you know that nothing you do in this
life will ever matter, unless it is about loving God and loving the people He
If the answer to those questions is yes,
then let your bet match your talk. True faith means holding nothing back; it
bets everything on the hope of eternity.
I know that this whole swimming-upstream,
pursuing-Christ, taking-up-your-cross, counting-the-cost thing isn’t easy. It’s
so hard, in fact, that Jesus said the road is narrow and few will actually find
it—and fewer still among those who are rich. Like the parable of the sower,
don’t assume you are the good soil; don’t assume you are one of the few on the
Copyright © 2008 Francis
Chan from the book Crazy Love: Overwhelmed By a Relentless God published
by David C. Cook; May 2008; $13.99 US; 978-1-4347-6851-3. Used by permission. Read more...