Garry spoke this morning from Matt 24:9, 12, verses which speak of the persecution and opposition to the Christian message which will happen before Jesus comes again. In Matt 24:12, we read that the love of many (or most) will grow cold because of the increase of wickedness; in the Message version, it’s even blunter: ‘the overwhelming spread of evil will do them in’ and the comment that there will nothing left of their love but a mound of ashes. We certainly need to accept that we will either grow up or grow cold; we need to run the race marked out for us with perseverance so that we do not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb 12:1-2)
External opposition may come as we stray away from God’s laws (often perceived in negative ways, but actually laws intended to teach, direct, guide and lead us into freedom.) Josh 1:7-8 reminds us of the need to meditate on God’s law and be careful to obey it. In our society, we see a moving away from God’s laws, with laws being changed which bear no resemblance to God’s law (on abortion and euthanasia for example.) In the face of such opposition, many will give up because it’s hard work to swim against the tide and we often find it easier to keep our heads down and say nothing.
Persecution is a deliberate attempt to stop Christians and thus the spread of Christianity, and in many countries of the world, it is highly dangerous to be a Christian (e.g. Vietnam, China and North Korea.) Even ordinary trials and difficulties (such as illnesses, job problems or relationship problems) can cause our love to grow cold, however. What we perceive as unanswered prayer (effectively when God does not answer in the way we want!) can also be a stumbling-block to our faith. We rejoice when we hear testimonies of people coming to faith in Christ (even in lockdown), but we must also acknowledge there are those who once professed to be Christians who have abandoned the faith and now do not identify with Christ.
Other factors which can lead to us growing cold in our devotion to God include personal sin and being spiritually unfit. When we dabble with sin, we lose our connection to God, and when we lose connection, we lose direction (see Col 2:18-19). Sometimes, we become spiritually flabby (not spending time with the Lord in prayer or in reading His word or in personal worship) and as a result grow cold and indifferent to Him.
If we are to grow up spiritually instead, we must:
learn to live as children of the light, encouraging each other daily (1 Thess 5:4-11). As we wait for Jesus to return, we must put on love, faith and the hope of salvation and learn that mutual support is needed.
live the truth (Eph 4:15). When we speak the truth in love, we will grow. In any war, the first casualty is truth. We must keep to the truth, for a half-truth can be deadly. When we seek and find God’s truth, we are set free.
know that growth comes because God supplies all we need. (1 Cor 3:4-6) God’s desire is for growth and He gives us different ministries to help build us up.
grow in knowledge (Col 1:10). This is not simply ‘book knowledge’ about God but a personal knowledge of Him. We will only tend to know people well if we take the time to get to know them, and this applies to our relationship with God as well.
grow in grace (2 Pet 3:18, 2 Thess 1:3). We must learn to receive God’s lavish, undeserved grace and must also learn to be gracious towards others, surprising them with kindness. This inevitably will stretch us as we rise to the challenges God puts before us. It’s tiring and stretching at times to live like this because we must push forward and not be complacent.
grow in love (2 Thess 1:3). Our love needs to be continually increasing. Humanly speaking, our love has limits, but God wants to take us beyond our limits to adopt His love which is immeasurable.