In all relationships, the commitment can wane and the passion can cool off. Spouses for example can grow cold in their love for one another. And sadly, this can also happen in the Christian life. Followers of Jesus can lose their love for their Lord.
That believers can in fact lose their love for him is something Jesus himself predicted would happen. Consider one occasion where he mentioned this. When Jesus was at the Mount of Olives, his disciples came to him asking, “Tell us, when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
His lengthy answer is what we now call the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24-25). Here Jesus speaks about conditions which will appear just before he returns. He tells us what to expect in the last days. Verses 9-11 of chapter 24 is the section that I want to draw attention to here:
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
This is a remarkable word for many reasons, but I especially want to emphasise the warning about the love of most growing cold. Jesus speaks about this in other places of course. For example, he warns about a lukewarm church and his reaction to it in Revelation 3: 14-22. It is a very familiar passage, but worth recalling here:
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Very strong words indeed, and words that seem to me to be fully applicable to much of the church today. And I include our Bible-believing evangelical churches here as well. But let me explain the background to my thoughts here.
I recently found something quite alarming, and wrote an article about it. It had to do with the claim of a foolish celebrity that Jesus was a sodomite. But it was not that which bothered me so much. After all, you expect such idiotic remarks to come from over-pampered and over-paid rock stars.
But what did bother me – and grieved my spirit – was the response by some believers. Some of these folk suggested I was getting all excited about nothing, and that I should just calm down. ‘No big deal’ was their attitude, and they couldn’t see what all the fuss was about.
It is possible they are right. Maybe I should just chill out and not waste time being concerned about such matters. But it is also possible that they are wrong. Their response may suggest a possible lack of a pure and holy and devout love for our Lord. The truth is, a disciple of Jesus will seek to have the mind and heart of his Saviour. What hurts God should hurt us. What grieves God should grieve us.
And when we see our Lord denigrated, slandered and accused of all sorts of crap, that should concern us. The honour and glory of God should be our chief concern. Our love relationship with him should be so close that when he is insulted and attacked, we should feel assaulted and attacked.
And this is not so hard to understand. Indeed, it happens all the time in life. If a husband truly and deeply loves his wife, he will never regard an attack on her character or a denigration of her person to occur without feeling a righteous sense of indignation, and an overwhelming desire to come to the aid of his beloved.
The more a husband loves his wife, the more he will object to anyone seeking to damage her name, her reputation, her character, or her virtue. It is a clear sign of a lack of love, and a cold heart, when a spouse cannot be roused to righteous concern when the beloved is slammed and smeared by others.
Thus I cannot fathom the rather cavalier, flippant and careless attitude of some believers when their Lord who is the most precious and beautiful person of all is dragged in the mud by his critics. What sort of love is that?
One person actually suggested that I just ease up, and not get “all huffy about such things”. I have to wonder about such people. I would like to ask them if they take a similar approach to their spouse, or mother, or any other important loved one. If for example a wife was maliciously slandered and insulted, would the husband just shrug his shoulders and say it is nothing to get all huffy about?
If so, can I suggest that this marriage is already over? Anyone who would take such a cold and callous view toward his beloved can surely know little about genuine love. And if we should rightly have a passionate sense of wanting to defend the honour and dignity of our beloved, how much more so with the most wonderful, most pure and most holy being in the universe?
However there would be many other possible indications of a cooling love, or a fading devotion. I don’t mean to pick on just these folks. As I say, perhaps they are right to not be as concerned as I was about this matter. But the truth remains that it is a good thing to keep a close eye on our spiritual condition, however we might measure it.
Indeed, believers should engage in careful spiritual check-ups on a regular basis. We all should continuously be on our knees, asking God to search our hearts, and see if there be any wicked way in us, as David prayed (Psalm 139:24). We all need to ask God if our love has grown cold and our devotion old.
The warnings of Scripture are there for a reason, and they need to be taken very seriously indeed. The warnings found in Rev. 3: 14-22 are something every one of us must take to heart. They force us to ask, “How is our love life with our Lord?”
Are we hot in regard to our love for him? Or cold? Or lukewarm? That is a vitally important question which we must be asking ourselves on a regular basis. Indeed, if the matter of our love growing cold was not such a serious matter, and such a very real possibility, then why did Jesus speak so strongly and forcefully about it?
It is time we take some of these warnings seriously. But if we don’t, we certainly cannot say that we haven’t been warned about the dangers which can follow.