"Modern Day Iniquity"
Matthew 24:12, "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold."
This morning, every day seems to bring a dampening coldness and darkening mist. As the Bible informs us, times get worse and worse with manifestations on every hand. (II Timothy 3:1-13) One thing that appears to be a common denominator these days is what churches are seeing across the land. Though churches have experienced ebbs and flows with fervor and coldness, today's climate seems to be cold and carnal across the board. Over the past few years, I have heard ministers in conversation speak of the growing creep that culture has invaded in our people's hearts and minds. To a man, pastors are seeing the same things all deriving from the concept brought forth in our study verse. So, let us do some self-examination to properly ward off the world's attacks and return more fully and committed to the Lord.
Our study verse is set in the midst of a larger concept and lesson that Christ is declaring in answer to three questions. Rather, than focus on that aspect, let us confine our thoughts to the general principles within the verse. Though the disciples would live to see this and other things come to pass (Verse 34), these manifestations have continued. At the present hour, they burn tremendously and show no signs of recourse. To combat this growing and quickening slide, first in ourselves and also in the lives of those we care about, there are at least two avenues that we need to pursue with our study verse.
When iniquity rises, Christ said that love grows colder. In today's world, the average passerby might be inclined to say that love today is more pure and fair across the board than it ever has been. Such has been the destruction that culture has undermined in the minds of people. What the Bible describes as love never includes abomination, confusion, or is marked by gushy emotion. True love - real, Biblical love - is action marked by sacrifice and true compassion. This type of love is that which suffers when iniquity rises. This type of love - that can truly change people and those close to them - languishes during times of heightened wickedness. Why?
The first avenue to consider is what many people today will do when seeing the problems of the world: throw up their hands in a "what's the point?" kind of way. Many of my conversations with colleagues at work have borne out this mindset. They feel powerless as one person to affect any change in government or to get morals going in a more positive direction. In other words, their desire for sacrificial action suffers because there seems to be no point behind it. No matter the season or situation, we need not fall guilty to this mindset. Prayer is still as powerful and effective today as it ever has been. (James 5:16) Though culture will declare that prayer is an antiquated idea that plays no influence in our lives, I declare freely that prayer has seen me through a lot of dire situations in life as I know it has for many others.
Friends, the world does look bleak at times - that is undeniable. Does that change the truth of an absolute, righteous, sovereign, and merciful Ruler of this universe? Is the Lord still in the heavens doing whatsoever He hath pleased? (Psalm 115:3) Since He does not change, the answer is yes, and He still sees, knows, cares, and will one day settle it all through righteous judgment. Now is not the time for growing cold in our love with thoughts of impotence in ourselves. God has given us mighty weapons to pull down strongholds with (II Corinthians 10:4), and we should not think that today's world makes us any less equipped. God has given us what we need, and we need to be vigilant to use it to His glory out of love for Him.
The second avenue of thought this brings up is that transgression and iniquity running rampant emboldens others to do it as well. More recent conversations with colleagues shows that many of them talk about "getting theirs" since everybody else is getting what they want. This mindset dulls the love we show as real love and charity do not follow such selfish motives and attitudes. When I consider what used to be a fascination with entertainment, one could not properly frame it as a fascination anymore. Entertainment in today's world has become an obsession. Though people's entertainment may be different, the obsession is rampant across the board. Maybe someone's obsession is one of the various sports (either playing or watching), recreation (fishing, hunting, vacationing, etc.), or cinema. People are no longer just acquainted with these things as passing fancies. They are consumed with them to the crowding out of other things.
This type of coldness will keep people from the house of God, reading their Bible, or praying without ceasing. Sometimes it is terrifying to ministers to see how unknowledgeable people are about the Bible anymore, how few go to church, and sometimes those that go do so very infrequently. These are legitimate concerns as nothing helps a sheep of God's heritage any more than knowledge of His word, fellowship with His saints, communion with His Spirit, and communication with heaven itself. As a sidebar, I am still young enough to remember what life was like while on a college campus. One of the things that I was not prepared for upon my arrival has remained with me to this day. Most of the Christians on campus (especially the College Crusaders) were hands-down beaten in Scriptural discussion by the avowed atheist and agnostic students on campus. People who professed to be enemies of the Book and the God of the Book knew it better than those who professed to be followers. If I had given thought before to letting my study and dedication to the Book slide, that experience jolted me even to this day.
Putting these two avenues of thought together, we see that real love in the world wanes because heightened sin can lead to selfishness or hopelessness. How do we combat this? How do we keep ourselves and those we love from falling prey to these things? As a father of 4 small children, one of my chief concerns while raising them is to ensure that no matter the situation, they see what I love. When it comes to Bible study, church attendance, prayer, singing the songs of Zion, and trying to live quiet and honest lives, my desire is that my children pick up on the fact that these are things that I love not that they are just my duty. I want them to see that my love for the household of faith transcends all relationships of this earth. As the songwriter said about the church, "There my best friends, my kindred dwell. There God my Saviour reigns."
For those just outside that sphere of influence, I want to live in such a way that I do not appear hopeless or selfish. The best way for those around us to ask us a reason of the hope that is within us is to appear different from what they are seeing all around them. If everyone else is acting either selfish or hopeless due to iniquity's rise, a warm, loving, and hopeful life will appear much different and worthy of a question, "Why are you this way?" In the last few years, I have told many fellow ministers and church members that for those of us in my generation, we will have opportunities that our fathers and previous generations never did. Those opportunities will be moments of trial and being able to stand in the face of intense persecution unknown to our fathers of this country. None of my fathers in the ministry ever faced real persecution like the Bible and church history talks about, but I believe men of my generation will. During these times, it might be tempting to "save our skin" or throw up our hands about it all. However, may those times show more brilliantly the light of the cause that we are attempting to uphold. May our lamps not go out due to the wickedness of others.
Friends, I may not have all the answers about how to affect the best change in every situation, but I do know a few things both from Scripture and experience. One: prayer works, so do not neglect it. Second: church attendance is special, so do not skip it. Third: knowledge is part of our equipment for warfare, so get after it. Fourth: fellowship with fellow lights is like embers burning together in a fire, so do not dwell alone. If we hold our lamps properly, the growing darkness of the world will serve to make the light look brighter. Let us not fall into the consumption of darkness or willingly snuff out the light in an effort to join the rat race of the world. God has given us great gifts, a lively hope, and promise of peace and rest one sweet day. Let us press forward in the bonds of love laying aside all iniquity and uncleanness.