My verse is Matthew 24:12. Read it and think about it. There are two important truths I want to bring out from this verse.
The first truth is learned not directly from verse itself, but its context. Matthew 24:9-14 speaks of the Christian going through intense tribulation. What is needed is endurance. But isn’t it interesting that in the midst of speaking of falling away, being misled, and the need for endurance, the Lord mentions love. The fact is this, enduring is not merely a matter of holding fast in duty or in principle, it is a matter of love in the heart. Only one who truly remains hot in their love for the Lord (and their brothers in the Lord) is actually enduring. In our bible study on Sunday nights Charles has been teaching on the law of Christ, that is, to “love.” It seems like there is no area that is untouched by this law, even the area of endurance and not falling away. To let your love grow cold is to fall away.
So then, if you want to endure, you must be renewed and stirred up in your love for God and love for your brothers. The temperature must stay hot. We must stoke the coals of our heart. (The greatest way to do this, of which I know, is to dwell on the gospel… 1 John 4:19.)
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The second truth is stated in right in the verse, and deserves thought. “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.” The word “because” shows a linking with the increase of sin and the decrease of the temperature of love. The two occurrences are linked. There is logic behind this statement. What is it? Simply put, the sin of others has a negative influence upon our own personal walk with the Lord. This is true in many ways. I offer a few.
One way we are negatively influenced to wane cold (and this is the most obvious) is in overt temptation. As men break God’s laws over and over there is a temptation to think that you too can get away with sin, and that it might be pleasurable. You see other people running in sin, and they plead with you to join them. They stare at with bewilderment when you decline. But temptation comes back again and again. Why is it that saints I know have testified over and over that to merely be physically present in their old sinful stomping grounds puts a tempting strain on their soul? It is because the increase of the sin of others means the increase of temptation. I think we usually tend to think of temptation as stemming from the Devil (which it does), but let us not forget that men are often the tempters as well.
Another influence is when others set bad examples which slowly degrade and misshape your soul. Their lack of love and purity fills our own mind not with goodness and purity but defiling sinful thoughts. Sadly, we tend to pick up on the behavior we see. I know people that seem to think they are impervious to the sinful taintings and trappings of the world, but this is folly. If the Scriptures say that bad company corrupts good morals they mean it. Don’t spend your time with an angry man or you will be like him. It’s not the same as temptation. You can feel above the temptation and under no real notable strain and yet all the while pick up others’ sinful ways.
Another negative influence is that of retaliation. The context speaks of men betraying one another. When you are sinned against, the fleshly tendency is to retaliate and pay the person back. This is a particular temptation, to sin right back, to fight fire with fire. Joseph knew better than to repay his brothers from the evil he suffered at their hands. His heart was toward God and full of love. We need that kind of mindset, to let others hurt us and sin against us without being stirred up to sin ourselves.
Also, yet another influence, is that of being ostracized. This tends to make you want to throw in the towel. When you are hated by men, you have to preach to yourself if you are to keep going. The thought will come, ‘Is it really worth it to follow God and be hated and be rejected? I mean come on! I’m walking alone here.’ At these times we need love and truth to constrain us to press on. You may feel like your shadow is your only faithful friend, but yet the invisible presence of the Lord is all around you. Only a true Christian can make it through something like that and come out on the other side. “Foes may hate and friends disown me… show Thy face and all is bright.”
Another negative influence, particular to the setting of chapter 24, is that of false Christianity. The increase of lawlessness, is even seen in the religious sphere. False christs and false prophets abound. If there was ever a discouraging environment for a Christian, surely this is it. Not only is there the danger of being led astray to love a “christ” that is not really Christ, but especially hard to cope with can be the seeming success of false ministries. You begin to see everyone around buying into what you detect as lies. You may even start to get the feeling that God isn’t on his throne anymore and no one really worships God rightly. I have personally seen Christians hurt by bad church situations and false teaching. People get disillusioned and begin to lose hope that there aren’t even are any true churches around anymore. This is part of the devil’s snare. We can shrivel up because we think all is a losing battle and we only see hypocrisy and falsehood (when really there are 7000 men not bowing down to Baal).
(Not to mention, in all these things, we also have less positive influences when men fall away and when sin begins to increase.)
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What a deadly world we live in. We need God to warm our hearts so that our love stays hot even as we walk through this tundra wilderness of the world. The world is not your friend and it will not help you on to God. Cling to Christians. Encourage one another. Help one another. And by all means, don’t let your love grow cold.