“Love Waxing Cold”
After a speech, pro-life activist Penny Lea was approached by an old man. Weeping, he told her that he had lived in Germany during the Nazi holocaust. The entire town had heard the stories of what was happening to the Jews, but like most people today in this country, they tried to distance themselves from the reality of what was really taking place. What could anyone do to stop it? A railroad track ran behind their small church. One Sunday morning, they became disturbed when they noticed cries for help coming from the train as it passed by. They grimly realized that the train was carrying Jews. He then said, “It was so terribly disturbing! We could do nothing to help these poor miserable people, yet their screams tormented us. We knew exactly at what time that whistle would blow, and we decided the only way to keep from being so disturbed by the cries was to start singing our hymns. By the time that train came rumbling past the church yard, we were singing at the top of our voices. If some of the screams reached our ears, we'd just sing a little louder until we could hear them no more. Years have passed and no one talks about it much anymore, but I still hear that train whistle in my sleep. I can still hear them crying out for help. God forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians, yet did nothing to intervene."
The Bible has forewarned us with the knowledge that the last days will be difficult, dangerous, and violent. With each passing day, a new story emerges that reminds us of just how unsafe and unstable our world is as we stand in the shadows of the end of the age. In fact, we seem to have heard such stories so often that the shock value does not register as high as they once did. However, to think such stories no longer have an impact on our lives would be false. In Matthew 24:12, Jesus said concerning the last days, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” The word “iniquity” means lawlessness, rebellion, and wickedness. The implication is that the more the world runs wild, the greater the risk we face of becoming hard and calloused. I mean, when we hear of crime, conflicts, and violence, we have a tendency to close up and go into self-preservation mode. We are afraid to open the door to those who are strangers. We look the other way from hitchhikers on the side of the road. We stand at a distance to avoid making any eye contact with the homeless. We keep the doors of churches locked and bolted. The lines are slowly being blurred between shyness and coldness, silence and indifference, and being guarded and being uncaring. I like what A.W. Tozer wrote, “Keep me, Lord, from ever hardening down into the state of being just another average Christian.” Consider with me the ways in which we are growing cold.
The forming of selfish instincts. In 2 Timothy 3:2, Paul prophetically pointed to a sign of misplaced love in the last days, “For men shall be lovers of their own selves...” It is describing someone too intent on their own interest. The moment a child is born, a self-love is firmly enthroned in their hearts. They yell, “My ball!”, “My spoon!”, or “My doll!” If that child is not taught to share, take turns, or think of others, they will grow into adults who live for self and self alone. Such hearts become the breeding ground for aggressive, competitive spirits consumed with taking rather than giving. The mentality of pursuing pleasure, success, and material treasures at all cost has made idols of things and devalued human life. On the one end of life, the vast majority of abortions are being performed out of selfish convenience. On the other end of life, I fully expect to see in my lifetime when caring for the aged and feeble will so cramp the lifestyles of their children that the aged will be removed so the inheritance is not wasted. Ultimately, to live at the expense or exclusion of others can only produce a miserable existence. Charles H. Parkhurst wrote, “The man who lives by himself and for himself is apt to be corrupted by the company he keeps.” A man cannot help but grow cold when he has cut himself off from everything and everyone that could have provided warmth.
The fear of social injury. In 2 Timothy 3:3, Paul registered a second sign of deformed love in the last days noting they would be “without natural affection...” It is describing someone unsocial and unloving towards even those of ones own family; someone without a natural obligation of love. No matter whom we engage in life, involvement calls for investment and investment implies risk. Wherever love exists there is always the vulnerability of being hurt. We have all been used, conned, manipulated, and taken advantage of. Such experiences in life can leave us bitter and cynical. It then seems natural to begin seeking means to insulate ourselves from such hurt and disappointment. However, the greater the attempt to keep our hearts unbroken, the more we are becoming unbreakable. When we talk of the changes in the last thirty years of the church, we can easily identify the worship styles, leadership styles, and preaching methods. But, I wonder how many have noticed the dryness in our eyes? We no longer see tears born out of a sense of desperation. We are solemn at a time when there is so much which should cause us to weep. F.B. Meyer wrote, “I believe that if there is one thing which pierces the Master’s heart with unutterable grief it is not the world’s iniquity but the church’s indifference.” While the darkness may cast shadows and raise fears, it is not the night that brings death, but rather the chilling frost. Just because life can be hard does not mean we have to be.
The forsaking of spiritual intimacy. In 2 Timothy 3:4, Paul noted a final sign of declining love in the last days when he said they would be “...lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God...” This does not imply that God is against honest pleasure. The psalmist said, “...at Thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.” The idea is that a love for God is replaced with a burning desire for pleasure. In Revelation 2, Jesus said that the church in Ephesus was a working, disciplined, and persevering church. However, in spite of their activity, He said, “...thou hast left thy first love.” It was not that they stopped loving the Lord, but rather that they did not love Him as they once did. The busyness had produced barrenness and their passionate fire was gone. The moment our service becomes hollow and habitual is the moment we risk it becoming hypocritical. Ugandan minister Festo Kivengere said, “Spiritual indifference is always the result of losing God at the center and source of spiritual vitality.” After Moses received the 10 Commandments, he had to wear a veil because of the glow of God’s glory on his countenance. Over time, the glow would fade from his appearance. We seem to live in a world of veiled Christianity today. But, perhaps, the veil is only to cover the shameful fact that the glow is gone. When a man has been with the Lord, he cannot hide it nor deny it.
In Matthew 24:7, as Jesus spoke of the signs of the last days, He noted, “and earthquakes, in divers places.” I’ve wondered, of all the natural disasters Jesus could have mentioned, why did He single out earthquakes? Perhaps Jesus was signaling the fact that in the last days, men will be so hardened that there will be few things left to shake him. With all that is happening in our world today, could it be that the Lord is trying to stir us? The choice is ours to either respond, or strike up the band and sing the 30th round of a chorus just a little louder!
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2015 Alan Stewart
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