GNB 2.47

February 24, 2023


Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of many will grow cold; be the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. This gospel of the Kingdom of God will be preached to the whole world as a testimony to all nations- and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24.12-14)


If you are not ready, why would you ask for the end to come? If you are not prepared for victory, then why do you make the decision to compete with incomplete effort? Of course, I remember the words my mother would say in those “decision-making” moments: “If you waited until you thought everything was in line, you would be waiting a long time.” Do you wonder what the tipping point is between being less prepared and being unprepared? Some would take my mother’s advice and press forward. The hope ought to be that we are as prepared as we can be in that given moment. We may lack the resources, the knowledge, the insight (which is different from knowledge; perhaps we could call that wisdom) and the stamina, but should we ever be lacking in the drive to accomplish what is before us? As I listen to Christian leaders and their followers plead for the end of the Age to come, I have to consider “Are you asking God for the end of the world because you are tired of this one or because you no longer feel capable of making a difference in this one and are surrendering to the inevitable demise?” But, what is the true inevitability we believe in?

I have been considering the first phrase in the passage of scripture that has been the basis of this week’s reflection. It says “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of many will grow cold.” As I consider it and listen to the cadence of the words, I have to ask not “who” but “what.” The human mind is quick to focus on the negative or the identification of what is against us. It is a matter of preservation and survival that it does this. Animals in the wild are created with an ability to camouflage themselves so they are not easy prey. From the top of the food chain to the bottom, the instinct to survive drives their decisions. The school of fish in the sea cluster together to reflect their predator, perhaps a shark, so as to deflect the predator’s intention. One small fish lacks the ability to defend itself where the whole community working together has a far better chance. The lion that roars from a small rise in his territory is not showing off. Rather, he is sounding ownership of the territory to any who may desire to take it from him. Mating with the lionesses is not a display of “because I can” but “because I must.” What must he do? Create a literal “pride” in his work and promote his own bloodline as territorial rulers. He has an innate sense that he will not live forever. Nature is a cruel teacher and as well as an undefeatable adversary. But, intentional or not, the lion lives on in his legacy of progeny. It is his “eternal life.” He does not become a vapor and dissipate into the clouds or become a star in some heavenly constellation. Those are stories created by people who are attempting to make sense of “what’s next in my life” as death is contemplated. It, too, is a survival instinct.

So, what is the negative focus that might be read into what Jesus said about the signs of the end of the Age? Could it be “the love of people will be redirected to a loathing and dispassionate concern for others”? The desire to no longer care about what happens to others is displaced with “I have to take care of myself because no one else will!” Do we hear the danger that is in that type of thinking? Is there a sense of boasting “I love myself so much because God loves me…more than others”? And in that thinking itself there are two focal points: the priority of me over others and the evaluation of God versus others. The truth is that God will always love us more than others can love us. The truth is also that we are to love God more than we love ourselves. The truth is further expanded to we are to love others as much as we love ourselves. The fear comes in daring to think, as Adam and Eve did in the Garden: no one loves us better than ourselves. This is the evidence of “love grown cold.” The negative thought is that the “unsaved” in the world only become more incapable of being transformed into true lovers of God as our ultimate reality. Go ahead and blame Satan. You can stand in line with Flip Wilson on that one (for those who know who Flip Wilson was and what the reference means!) But, the truth is that we have no one to blame but ourselves. It is our love that has grown cold. It is the community of faith in Jesus as the Christ whose love has grown cold because wickedness increases. We are enabled by the phrase “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Except, the thinking is not press into but run away from. The “tough,” the faithful of God in Christ, get going and are gone! Where is it they think they can go? It is not the time for blame. It is time to make our true claim!

When David espoused his belief that there was no where in all of life on the earth, under the earth, above the earth and in all the heavens that was void of God’s presence, He knew it had a distinct meaning. It was a level of accountability he alluded to. Not only was God present to bolster him, encourage him, resource him, protect him, save him, redeem him and love him anywhere anytime but something more. That same empowering knowledge of the presence of God also spoke to convicting him, convincing him, teaching him, repenting him and returning him to the place in his heart, mind, body and soul where he was intended to be. Was Jesus presenting a similar accountability and prophetic warning to the disciples whether it was the inner circle of twelve or the rippling circle of 120 or the growing community of believers that Jesus was indeed the Christ? Could He have been projecting that level of surrendering to the negative which the old covenant community was displaying in the face of wickedness on the increase as the current reality when He said “love has grown cold”? How did they decide “love” was in evident in tough times? Dare I say it wasn’t about being faith-filled but rather being faithful to perfectly living out the rules and regulations which gave boundaries to being “God’s people.” Their penchant for the nuances of the Law superseded the essence of the Law. Their love for “things” overwhelmed their love for “God and one another.” It became evidenced in their lack of love for “the other” unless the other became just like them. We even see that in the early Church as the Judaizers demanded all Christians act like Jews in those nuances of the Law. The problem was, as Dr. Phil asks, “How is that working for you?” This is where the disdain for religion rises up in the modern faith community. The adherence to the structure of being a Christian was seen as equal to or greater than the essence of being a Christian. The problem is that structure never can lead to the essence. Structure cannot satisfy the inner desire to live a filled full and fulfilling life. It doesn’t mean structure, i.e. religion, is bad, but that it is bad religion. So, what is “good” religion? If I take Jesus’ lead on this based on our scripture presented, then it is a “love grown hot” for God anywhere, everywhere, anytime, all the time.

The recent and ongoing revival experience at Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, has not waned or grown cold. The fanning of the flame of the Spirit by people coming together to seek God where He may be found is actually made hotter by the “breath of God” blown over them and into them. Just as we blow on a waning campfire to add life-giving oxygen to the flames and encourage the “hotter” burning, so is the breath of God being blown into and over that revival camp experience in Asbury. It is happening elsewhere, too, because the Spirit will blow wherever it desires. Nearly one hundred years ago in Cane Ridge, Kentucky, about an hour’s drive north of Wilmore, a similar revival and “Great Awakening” happened. There Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Anglicans, Christians, Catholics and others began to gather at a camp meeting to hear about God. Any stump, wagon bed, soapbox or large rock became a projection point from which the Word of God was preached. It must have had the feeling of that first Pentecost when the disciples, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, began to preach to all the people each in their own earthly language. It may well have been glossolalia, speaking in tongues, and the Spirit interpreted it to the people in their own language. It most likely was the Spirit enabling the eleven disciples to speak in languages which they had been gifted because of the presence of the Spirit. It was the first discipling of all nations as Jesus commanded in their commissioning. Now, people from around the world are coming to Asbury College to experience this renewed “fanning of the flame” for a “love grown hot.” And why? Well, if I venture an interpretation of the scripture presented, “when wickedness increased as a fiery passion for sin, the faithful of God who loved Him most, first and best would fight “fire with fire.” The fire of the Holy Spirit cannot be extinguished. It is akin to Isaiah’s prophetic understanding of “the people who have dwelt in darkness has seen a glimmer of hope and it is nothing less than a great light.” It is the apostle John’s “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God. In that Word was life and that life was the light for all humankind. That light burns brightly in the darkness so much that the darkness cannot overcome it nor consume it.” (John 1.1-5) Think of it in the terms of an eclipse of the sun or moon. How long does the eclipse last? In a total eclipse over any given point on earth it lasts minutes. In the whole course from partial to full to partial, it lasts a matter of hours. But, it does not last forever. Eventually the greater light will overcome the passing darkness. Isn’t that the message of resurrection? The eclipse spanned across three days: Passover Friday, Sabbath Saturday and Resurrection Sunday. In reality, it was less than forty-five hours from nine in the morning on Friday to six in the morning on Sunday. The light of the world called Jesus of Nazareth fell under the shadow of death and emerged as Jesus the Christ the light of the world.

Mighty ones of God, members of the community of faith in Jesus as the Christ of humanity and God, we are merely in an eclipse of the light of the world and not its consumption nor its defeat. Where there is no sunlight, the air grows cold and lifelessness becomes a reality. But, we do not depend on the celestial star to be the true warmth of our lives and the life giving essence for our existence. Our light and our warmth comes from God alone in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of man. He is fully one and the other just as we are meant to be fully loving One and One Another. We dare not assume a blame position that as wickedness increases so the love of the people for righteousness and the good life grows cold. It happens and of that there is no doubt. But, it cannot be that way for the believers in Christ. Our love for God, self, one another, others and even our enemies must not grow cold. It must be warmed not only in the hearing of the Word of God but, as Jesus declared, in the presenting of the gospel of light and life so that the true end of the Age of Unrighteousness will come. Let those with eyes to see perceive and with ears to hear listen for understanding and respond with “Here I AM, Lord send me!”


Father, revive us again and fan the flames of life with the true light of the Son and the lifegiving breath of Your Holy Spirit until we are a “love grown hot” for Your Glory, the opportunity for all nations to be saved and for Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Amen.

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