To say that Western society is in upheaval would be the understatement of the decade. Whether it is identity politics, invasions threatening global stability, economic uncertainty, mistrust of leaders and institutions, an upsurge in violence on our streets and in our schools, or the massive upending of cultural norms with regard to sexual identity, it is enough to make a grown man cry!
Fear, anxiety, confusion, disillusionment and hopelessness seem to rule the hearts and minds of both old and young.
As a local church leader, I have come to see that Christians are not immune. Christian hearts can indeed become cold, calloused and disappointed as a result of the increase of anti-God, anti-Christian agendas in the Western world. Where is God in all this? Why isn’t he doing anything about it?! Don’t you have the power to do something about all this evil? Where is the promise of your coming to put all things right?
Are you experiencing some of those feelings and thoughts? The truth is I have as well. I have especially struggled to know how to respond rightly to all the upheaval around me. I believe I have discovered a few truths that could help us maintain a sound mind and a stable heart in the midst of the calamity.
Recently, I was studying Matthew 24. It’s the beginning of the final of Matthew’s five discourses that Jesus had with his disciples.1 This is referred to as the “End of the Age discourse” precipitated by the disciples’ question, “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”2 Jesus gives a catalogue of calamities that will strike the earth including spiritual deception, wars, natural disasters and persecution of the saints. At the same time, he promised that the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world before the end comes. The whole passage makes for fascinating reading (you might want to do so), but the statement that really grabbed my attention on this occasion was the little verse:
“And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”3
Ultimately, “lawlessness” emerges when a society determines that either there is no Law-giver, or that He is irrelevant. They disregard his laws, which were designed for human flourishing, and they become a law unto themselves. They create laws that are in contradiction to his perfect will. Everyone does what is right in their own eyes.4 As a result, chaos and confusion rule the day and the calamities that Jesus outlined in Matthew 24 begin to manifest themselves.
Can we prevent our hearts from growing cold?
Interestingly, Jesus says, it is because of this lawlessness that the love of many Christians will grow cold.5 So, the question to ask would be, “What can we do to prevent our hearts from growing cold?”
I believe that for ardent followers of Jesus there are some real answers. I want to suggest some of those to you in this article.
The Lord is forever faithful and he never highlights a problem without offering a solution. He has been raising up his own antidote to the plague of cold-heartedness. I want to suggest that he is providing two kinds of love that, as we experience them, will mitigate the danger of our love growing cold. I refer to them as the two End Time Loves.
God has been spotlighting these two Loves
It is interesting to note that Holy Spirit has been calling attention to both these loves since the mid 1990’s. To be sure these truths were always there; they are an integral part of the gospel. However, the Lord has placed a global spotlight on these two loves as a result of the Toronto Blessing (Father) and the International House of Prayer in Kansas City (Bridegroom).
The First End Time Love
The first End Time love is the revelation of God as a Loving Father. I believe that Holy Spirit has been helping us to receive the love of the Father in an experiential way. Fruit of living our lives based on this revealed truth includes being more secure in who we are in the Beloved. We become more comfortable in our own skin. Our sense of identity as beloved sons or daughters of our Father in Heaven becomes real to us. We understand in the core of our being that we are fully accepted in the eyes of our Father. He sees us as holy, without blame and free from accusation – now. Not ten years from now when we become nicer people; not when we die and go to heaven to be with Jesus. But right now.6
When we learn to receive our sense of identity and worth primarily from our relationship with God the Father then the dissenting voices, within and without, will fade in their impact on our self-esteem. We will not be pushed around by the clamour of voices telling us that we are valued and valuable as a result of what we do, what we have and what others say about us. This is profoundly liberating and gives us the power to see ourselves and others with a grace-filled gaze. Fear of what other humans think of us, fear of failure, fear of rejection, and a multitude of other fears fall by the wayside as we emerge from the prison of our false self-image.
Here is a representative passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that helps us see who we are in Christ:
In love He [Father] predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.7
Simply put, Father God determined that he wanted you and me in his family as favoured sons or daughters, just like Jesus is. Therefore, when we believe in Jesus, he (Father) lavished on us this glorious gift of adoption into his family. He did this not because we deserved it but because he wanted to do so! His motivation was pure, self-giving, unconditional, limitless, unreserved love.
When I began to receive the message of the Father’s love I realized that although I had a theology of God’s love I had no real experience of his affection and affirmation of me. In other words, there was no fruit of living as though I knew I was a Son of my Father. I actually lived as a spiritual orphan. However, because of his immense kindness he has been helping me to receive and to live in his fatherly affection for me and it has been so freeing!
Father, please help us to continuously receive your love and affection for us. Help us live our lives based on your loving kindness towards us. We want to experience the full measure of healing and freedom that you offer us in Jesus! Lord, we want to grow into the whole and powerful people that you have always designed for us to be.
The Second End Time Love
The second End Time love that Holy Spirit has been awakening in the Church is a burning passion for our Bridegroom King. A fiery hot, heartfelt passion for Jesus! This is when we are regularly stunned and overwhelmed by the immensity of Jesus’ love that compelled him to make this extreme sacrifice for us, his bride!
On that cross, Jesus like a super strong magnet sucked all the ugly black iron filings of the sins of the world onto himself, including yours and mine. The Scriptures tell us that he became sin for us.8 What does that mean? Jesus always and forever is the spotless Lamb of God without stain or blemish. But God determined to treat Jesus as though he were treating you and me. He gave him what we deserved. The converse is also true. The Father could now treat us as though he were treating Jesus. We can now receive what Jesus deserves!
When the magnitude of that truth touches my heart and mind I fall on my face in absolute astonishment and gratitude at the oceanic immensity of his love that would drive him to do this for me.
What have I done to deserve love like this?
I cannot earn what you so freely give.9
Here’s a representative passage that Holy Spirit brought to my attention as I was meditating on this truth. This is from Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth:
For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.10
Ever since I became a believer at the tender age of fourteen I’ve always had a deep love for Jesus. (My lifestyle might not have always reflected this but that’s another story!) The love that he demonstrated on that cross for me has only inspired me to gratitude and a desire to serve him with my whole heart and life. Despite the relentless attack of daily living, this has been the core desire of my life. This is why I regularly reassess the motives of my heart to make sure that Jesus is Priority One. I confess and repent when I become aware that I have allowed competing affections to take precedence.
Holy Spirit, I ask that you would graciously awaken our hearts to an uncompromising love affair with Jesus! Lord, we want our desire for you to lead beyond “warm fuzzies” and “goosebumps”. We want to have the strength of will and heart to live with absolute abandonment to Jesus and his cause. Lead us beyond living for our ourselves to live – and to die daily – for the one who sacrificed it all for the sake of love!
My Experience of These Two Loves
The way that I experience the Father’s healing and securing love is in a passive posture of heart. I receive his love. I have had a few big e-moments and several smaller e-moments when I am moved by his affection, affirmation and acceptance of me. The deeper this goes the more centred I become. I am less pushed around by the swirl of voices trying to dictate to me who I am.
The love of Jesus as my bridegroom, however, galvanizes me into action. I am overcome by his self-sacrificial love for me therefore I want to lay my life down at his feet in adoration and service! I want the world to know about this out-of-this world love!
I would say that these two loves feed each other in my soul. What I mean by that is as the Father’s love centres and makes me whole I have more capacity to love Jesus and to live in devotion to him. The more I am overwhelmed by the love of Jesus, the more I am stunned by the Father’s desire to include me in his eternal family as his favoured son in Jesus!
Five ways to avoid our love growing cold
So, how do we experience these two End Time loves in the midst of an increasingly chaotic culture? Let me offer you five practical tips to avoid the real possibility of our love growing cold as the day of Jesus’ return nears.
- Practice His Presence – If you have a healthy relationship with a spouse or someone else close, you want to spend time in their presence.
- Practice including Jesus in every aspect of your day – at work, at the gym, in the subway, at the grocery store. Carve out time to adore Jesus in the privacy of your own space. Don’t be discouraged when you miss the mark. Stop, confess, repent, start again. God sees and he rewards those who diligently seek him.11 Work on your love affair with Jesus.
- Is Jesus your priority? Do an honest-with-yourself heart check. One way to evaluate how important Jesus is to you is by assessing how you spend your time, thoughts and treasures. Is Jesus more important than your image and reputation, your job and career, your spouse and family? This isn’t coming from me. This is coming from Jesus himself.12
- Keep short accounts with God – The Lord is calling for holiness across his body as he prepares for his second coming.
- Be quick to confess your sins, to repent of them and ask for his forgiveness. Find someone mature and trustworthy to whom you can confess your sins. If you are stuck in an area where you can’t seem to get victory, find Holy Spirit prayer ministers and counsellors who can walk you through getting your heart healed and free. You don’t have to be stuck in a prison of defeat and shame.
- Also … learn to confess, not only the bad stuff, but declare who God says you are!
- Personal reading of the Word of God – Don’t make the teachings of others on the internet your only, or primary, source of nutrition. This will not change you.
- Jesus said, “My words are spirit and they are life.” It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand everything you read. There is much in the Scriptures that is complicated and difficult to understand. But just read it. You don’t need to know all the ingredients of a healthy gourmet burger in order to enjoy it and know that it is good for you. It will change you in ways you might not realize until someone else remarks about it.
- Study a book of the Bible. Pick one of the gospels. Pick one or two of Paul’s letters – Romans for heavy theological truths, Philippians for personal relational material. Read 1 John – all about love but super challenging! There are so many resources at your disposal on the internet.
- Hang around like-minded ones – there is no substitute for being in accountable, regular relationship with people who are pursuing God. Do not forsake the assembly, rather spur on another on to love and good deeds.13
- “Choose your friends, choose your destiny!”14
- God told our Founding Pastors, John and Carol Arnott, to hang around the people whose anointing they valued. It is foolish to prioritize other things, even good things, more than gathering with fellow believers who are pursuing Jesus!
- Start taking risks with God – Listen to his voice, journal and then act in obedience to what you feel he is saying to you. Build your own personal history with God.
- Pray for people to be healed, give a prophetic word or a word of knowledge.
- “When we didn’t pray for people we didn’t see anyone healed. But when we began to pray for everyone, we began to see some healed” – John Wimber.
- There’s nothing better to spark your relationship with God than seeing him use little old you!
I am confident that as we implement these five tips in our pursuit of God, even if the hearts of many around us grow cold, ours will not! As we continually receive the Father’s love, and love Jesus with laid down lives, our hearts will stay red hot with a fiery passionate love for our Bridegroom King! We will be the powerful, whole and humble world changers that we were always destined to be!
1 Matthew 5-7 (Discipleship Discourse), 10 (Missionary Discourse) 13 (Kingdom Discourse), 18 (Church Discourse) 24-25 (End of the Age Discourse). Four of these five begin with, “The disciples came to him …”
2 See Matthew 24:3.
3 Matthew 24:12 (ESV).
4 This is not new to our day in the West. See Judges 21:25.
5 Here I am interpreting “the many” as Christians, people who already have a love for God and others.
6 This revelation from Colossians 3:21-23 has personally been revolutionizing my self-perception in life-altering ways!
7 Ephesians 1:5-6 (NASB).
8 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB) “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Think through the implications of this glorious gospel message and let it blow your socks off!
9 Love Like This, Lauren Daigle.
10 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NASB).
11 See Hebrews 11:6.
12 See Luke 14:25-33.
13 See Hebrews 10:24.
14 That’s another way to say what Proverbs 12:26 (NIV) is saying: “The righteous choose their friends carefully,
but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”