Our world is in a lot of trouble. I know this for two reasons. First and foremost, is the word of Christ, recorded in Matthew 24, and second is a brief brush with a family at a local store last night.
Jesus gazed down the corridor of time towards the end and warned us that, “because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold…[but] he who endures to the end shall be saved” (NKJV, Matthew 24:12).
IT’S PROBABLY THE ONE THING WE ALL AGREE ON
Love. We all love it. Everybody needs it. It is probably the one thing that the world and the church agree on (other than that fast food is quick, and that governments tend to be corrupt). The Bible says, "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love." The world says, "That's right, except for the God part,” and "All you need is love, man!” But what kind of love are we talking about here? There are different kinds, no? Come with me to Rome, A.D. 67.
Life was winding down for Paul. Though on death row, he had time for writing. In his follow-up letter to his Christian friend Timothy—after speaking encouraging words—Paul tells us that one of his traveling associates had fallen in love (2 Timothy 4:10). "Mr. Wagoner, that is soooooo romantic!" Hold on. What kind of love was it, and who or what is being loved?
"Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world." Translation "I'm outta here dudes." Just as there are different types of love (agape, storge, phileo, and eros) there are different objects for it, and some of them are diametrically opposed to God. In fact, the more we love God, the more we hate the things He hates and the more we love this "present world" the less able we are to care about the one to come.
MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE
So we stopped at a local store last night to uhh . . . refuel. As my wife and I walked towards the store, a woman and a cute little girl got out of a vehicle parked by the sidewalk. A man (a male anyway) rolled down the driver's window and screamed at the woman and the little girl. Get your *#@&*%!! in there, you #$@&%*! The woman flinched—she glanced at us, dropped her eyes and entered the store. After making our selections inside, we approached the woman. As we talked with her the daughter came over and sat next to us. They both responded to respect and kindness. My wife affirmed the woman as a mother, and her countenance lit up; the little girl broke into a beautiful smile. Everybody needs love, friend. As we left, I told the mother & daughter "May this be the best year of your life." She teared up slightly as she thanked us. But our kindness didn’t solve all her problems.
On the ride home, Nancy and I discussed this family, how anger damages people, and how true love brings hope and healing. We prayed for the mother, the daughter, and the live-in "lover" (some lover, huh?). Had I an opportunity to speak with the angry chap, I would have asked him "Has your life turned out the way you hoped it would?" Such questions—spoken kindly—go to the heart of a person, unearthing rocks of regret and the pain of loneliness. It can make us aware that something authentic is missing. And something is missing for a growing number of people on earth. "The love of many shall grow cold. . ." I ask myself, “Gerry, has anybody seen your love?” Praying for people can help keep your love alive—perhaps theirs too.
TWO KINDS OF LOVE DESCRIBED IN THE BIBLE
So the next time you hear these idioms: "For the love of Mike!" (Or Pete), "Love makes the world go round", "Misery loves company", "All you need is love" and its churchy counterpart "Just preach love not doctrine, man!" ask this critical question. "What kind of love are they talking about?" Is it biblical? Surprisingly, it actually is.
Though this kind of love is found in the Bible, it's described as the wrong kind of love. There are those who "love darkness" in John 3:19. The Bible excludes from heaven those who "make and love a lie" (Revelation 22:15). The "love of money is the root of many evils" (1 Timothy 6:10), and of course, we have the potluck posse in Matthew 23:6 "They love the best seats at feasts." Available in many flavors, false love is almost worse than true hatred.
Real love--that walked among us
Now let's turn our attention to real love--the power of creation, the pulse of harmony that runs the universe. It walked among us (John 1:14). And we still can't get over it.
A new concept of agape came into a Roman world filled with cruelty and despair. This love embodied in the life, death, and resurrection of a lone Galilean man named Jesus. He brought to view in His life a love that overturned all human values because it revealed dimensions of God's character that no one had thought possible. Jesus was God's Son and He died as a cosmic outcast nailed to a Roman cross! People couldn't get over the idea. We still can’t!
Jesus had revealed a love that went as far as hell and out the other side, redeeming lost humanity. God Himself was seeking man—not vice versa—and the price He was willing to pay was infinitely individualized. That is, each human being was individually the object of that divine love.
END OF TIME MARKED BY LOSS OF TWO ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS
And Jesus predicted that the end of time would be marked by the loss of two essential ingredients: faith and love. He foresaw our time as a predominantly post-Christian culture when He said, "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love (agape) of most will grow cold" (Matthew 24: 12). Christ's word for wickedness (anomia in Greek) literally means lawlessness in the sense of rebellion against the holy Law of God. It is a lighthearted irreverence for God's will, an open avowal of selfishness, an arrogant flaunting of ultimate judgment. As lawlessness rises above our ankles, a haunting cry echoes around the earth "Has anybody seen my love?"
As the end nears, we rise to discover that life is distilled down to two choices. We can drift towards the finish, bobbing on a river of lawlessness disguised as love. Or, we can open our hearts to the richness and purity of true love--a stream flowing from God to humanity. As true love is exalted, counterfeit love is exposed for what it is. That which lures Demas away from Paul stands condemned alongside the clamor of public wrath at a convenient store. Yet, there is still hope. For now.
"He that endures till the end shall be saved." Each of us is created with the unique ability to give and receive love. The enemy knows this, and he is working to deadbolt our hearts in order to block our ability to give and receive true love. Thus blocked, we cannot fulfill the purpose for which we are created. Locked to love, a heart grows cold, impenetrable and irredeemable.
So, how do we unlock a padlocked heart to receive God’s love, so we can love again? Simple—we repent of spiritual or emotional issues that we have allowed to enchain our hearts. To the Demas’ among us, we repent of our temporal desires. For example, the angry abusive person repents of bitterness and forgives people who have wounded them. We need help for this. Jesus is the great heavenly Counselor, able to both reveal the padlocks and break them apart. If you sense that something is holding you back, use that awareness to call to God. "God, what is there in my life that you would like me to resolve? What is it that You would like to heal?” The Spirit of God will then put His finger on unresolved issues in our hearts (1 John 3:20). Sometimes we are hanging on to bitterness, fear, envy, pain or lust. We wrongly believe that these sins define us, not realizing these sins are lies waiting to be confronted with Truth. Truth plus humility leads us to repentance. “Except you become as little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
HOW TO BE FOUND BY THE GENUINE THING
Repentance? That's about as popular as trimming ear hair with a cheese grater! Yet repentance is absolutely essential. Said Jesus “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” and “Unless you repent, you will all perish” (Matthew 4:17; Luke 13:5). In the past, God overlooked much of our ignorance, but now commands all of us to repent (Acts 17:30).
Our lawless culture responds with "But Jesus hung out with sinners, man!" Take heed, friend. Jesus hung out with sinners who wanted out--not with those who wanted to lead Him into evil. Has anybody seen my love? Repentance and humility will bring it back in power.
Just as surely as we repent of our counterfeits, we shall be found by the genuine. Found by a love that brings joy and obedience into our hearts.