The Neglected Sign
©2013 Stan Hallett
One of signs of the Lord’s second coming, may be a neglected one that is vital to the point of being a spiritual life-and-death matter. “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many [literally, the many, the majority] shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12).
Spiritual coldness is one of the signs enumerated by Jesus. It is not a new thing, but this verse indicates it will be intensified and grow to such proportions near the end of the age that it will engulf all the professing Church except a faithful minority.
The cause of this fading love is “iniquity”, better translated lawlessness. It will not he confined to a few, but will abound until it literally floods the human race. This multiplied lawlessness will do two things to many Christians:
1. It will weigh them down with discouragement. They will reason, “The world is in such a mess that there’s no use even trying to do right.”
2. It will exert a strong spiritual pull away from God.
You may throw a ball high into the air, but eventually it will yield to the downward pull of gravity. The lawless atmosphere of the end time will have this kind of influence on many who have formerly served Christ.
This spiritual decline is described by Jesus by the expression to “wax cold“. The Greek implies a gradual cooling off. To resist this relentless evil tide will take faithful, and sustained countermeasures. It will be necessary to really work at our Christian walk. A passive spiritual attitude is not enough.
What are these countermeasures the overcomer must employ? They are very simple. It is only a matter of returning to old, tried-and-true fundamentals:
UNFAILING COMMUNION WlTH GOD
If you place a piece of iron in a fire, it will heat until it glows. But if you take it out of the fire, the glow will disappear; eventually the metal will cool to the temperature of the surrounding atmosphere. It must be left in the fire if it is to stay hot! So the Christian’s spiritual glow is maintained only by staying in very close contact with God.
When the Lord visited Joshua just before the battle of Jericho, He commanded him, “Loose thy shoe from off thy foot, for the place whereon thou standest is holy” (Joshua 5:15). Joshua’s shoes were the part of him closest to the earth. They had been soiled with the dust and dirt of the road. The removing of the shoes was symbolic of casting off worldly defilement in order to come into God’s presence.
The real defilement comes to us, not from our shoes, but through our hearts and our minds. As long as we are in this world the mind is almost certain to become soiled by wrong kinds of thoughts and suggestions. If we would stand on holy ground, these must be diligently removed and cast away from us.
There is no better cleansing agent than the Word of God and prayer. How vital the Word of God is to our communion with Him. Getting into His Word, praying in the Spirit, and with understanding is vital.
UNFAILING ASSEMBLING WlTH THE BODY
When the Ammonites and Syrians marched against David (2 Samuel 10:9-11), Joab divided his forces so that part of them were fighting the Syrians and the others the Ammonites. As he took command of the Syrian front, he reasoned this way to the officers on the other front. “If either of us is defeated, it will also be a defeat for the other. Therefore, if you’re having a hard time, I’ll come to your rescue; and if I run into trouble, you can send aid to me.”
This is a picture of the Church. Some are fighting different battles than others; but if one goes down, it is a loss to the rest. One of the beautiful advantages of Christian fellowship is the support we can give each other when the going is hard.
In Acts 14:22 Paul and Barnabas returned to several of the cities where they had preached for the purpose of “confirming the souls of the disciples.” These people had been saved, but the apostles came back to confirm them, “to give further support.” This is one of the benefits of the Church; to give further support, and to nurture those who have been born again.
Nothing can drain a Christian spiritually as quickly as the deliberate practice of absenting himself from the Church. But many are doing it, with the inevitable result of cooling off in their souls.
This is one of those unfortunate by-products of our affluent society. There are so many other places to go now, and we have the money to go, so the Church has immense competition. Those who surrender to this pull of the world are rapidly being numbered among “the many” whose love is waxing cold.
Jesus assured Peter, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” When faith breaks down and the heart becomes cynical and questioning, it is a dark day indeed. When the angel appeared to Gideon with the salutation, “The Lord is with thee,” Gideon’s disheartened reply was, “If the Lord is with us, why then is all this befallen?” (Judges 6:12,13).
How many times have God’s people asked the same question: “If the Lord is with us, why are things so bad?” What was God’s answer to Gideon? Actually there was none. He simply said; in so many words. “Your place is to go! Start marching in faith, and see what God will do for you.” In other words, Gideon was to stop questioning and commit to God the discouraging conditions around him. His place was not to ask, “Why?” but to fulfill his own God-ordained destiny.
The same is true of Christians in any age and under all circumstances. Outward appearances are not to regulate our faith. Our confidence and trust must be secured by the immutable promises of God and not by the turn of events. A shaken faith will soon produce a heart from which all of the spiritual fire has departed.
When all is said and done, the quality most needed in the Christian life is just a good stiff backbone. We all can do just about what we want to do. Many have grown cold simply because they have not been determined enough. They have been too weak in their resolution to serve the Lord. This is a problem in which God will help us, but the determination to serve Him must be our own.
Too many Christians have the character of Jacob’s oldest son, Reuben, whom his father described as “unstable as water” (Genesis 49:4). There is nothing more easily disturbed than water; the slightest breeze starts the ripples moving. Water always takes the path of least resistance. It travels downhill, not up–unless it is pumped. And it doesn’t take a very large obstacle to make some streams change their course. You have seen the water in a creek even detour around small sticks and stones. What a picture of weak-willed Christians!
When Gideon’s call went out for soldiers to fight the Midianites, it was answered by 32,000: but by the time the enemy was encountered there were only 300. It is easy to answer the call and join the ranks when the trumpet blows and there is a flurry of excitement. But it is quite another thing to be faithfully at the post of duty when the fight gets hot.
This is where determination comes in. There are times when we must simply stand fast, pray hard, and wait out the storm. Even the strongest grow weary. Paul had to warn the early Christians not to be weary in well-doing. We have to keep going in spite of our weariness. The spine must remain strong even when the legs are shaky!
Many are being overwhelmed by the relentless flood of godlessness, and are throwing down their weapons.
There is no doubt about God’s power to keep us in this hour, but the question is. “How willing are we to be kept?” It is distressing to see the evidence that some once-glowing hearts are now cold as stones.
This “cold love” is the often-neglected sign of the soon return of our Lord, but it does not have to spell spiritual ruin. Jesus had a word of hope for those who would recognize the danger in spiritual coldness: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (Revelation 3:19).
We need to be in the Word daily, we need to talk with the Lord daily, and we need to stay in fellowship with the Church, His body, to nurture and be nurtured to minister and to be ministered to.
But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Matthew 24:13)
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