Loving in a world of lawlessness

Loving in a world of lawlessness
Robert Wurtz II

But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (Jude 20, 21)

We have in view perhaps the most important thing Jude says in his short letter to the saints, Keep yourselves in the love of God. Hebrews tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God; Paul tells us that now faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest is love. We can deduce from these facts that if love is greater than faith then without love it is also impossible to please God. Satan challenges our faith and he challenges our love. Job is a case in point. Satan tried to destroy Job’s faith, so that he would curse God to His face. Likewise Satan seeks to set up circumstances that will destroy our love. Jude provides the solution, Keep yourselves in the love of God. 

When iniquity abounds

Jesus, telling of end time events, inserts a sobering prophesy;  And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold (Matthew 24:12). I have given this prophesy much thought over the years. Why would iniquity affect peoples love? The answer is simple. Iniquity means to be without moral law or the laws of God. The whole moral law can be summed up with one saying, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself (Galatians 5:14). When people live as if there is no moral law the result is offence on top of offense. The law was given, in one sense, to enforce an environment of love. The law created a society that whether people truly loved each other or not, they somewhat treated them like they did. There were laws against unloving behavior. It was not a matter of feeling, but a matter of institutional law. If someone broke the law there was a penalty. This greatly reduced the number of hard-core offenses that had the capacity to cause hatred. If you murder someone or stole something, the law brought justice. If you fornicated or wronged a person, there were laws that dealt with the behavior. In this way the law served as a deterrent to destructive offenses against ones neighbor. But what are we to do in a society that systematically removes the laws of God from the culture? Soon everything is ‘OK’ and the offenses pile up until everyone has offended everyone until people hate one another. The civil codes and its immoral culture allow for and promote behaviors that causes intense human suffering and bitterness.

Loving in a culture of lawlessness

Understand that when iniquity abounds then offenses abound. We are watching the world morally disintegrate. Things that used to be illegal are now promoted on television. Immoral sexual practice, extreme physical violence, flagrant disregard for common sense and justice, all come together to try and forge people into agents of bitterness and hate. Christians are not exempt. When we see our society, that our forefathers and mothers labored diligently to pass on as Godly and respectable, being flushed down the toilet as if it were nothing we are provoked. When injustice and gross immorality rule the day we are provoked at the sight. It was said of Lot when he loved in Sodom, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds (2 Peter 2:7, 8).  Here we have two Greek words for ‘vexed’, one meaning to wear down and the other to torment. The first word vexed is the root katapaneo (kataponou/menon) and is only here and Acts 7:24 where Moses killed the Egyptian that was oppressing the Israelite. The Rev. translates it “sorely distressed.” The second word for vexed is ebasanizen (ebä-sä-nē’-zen) from the root basanizo (bä-sä-nē’-zō) meaning to “test metals”. It is in the imperfect active (kept on vexing). Their nonsense and immorality kept putting him to the test. What are we to do when we are worn down and tormented by the iniquity (unlawful behavior) of our times? Lot left Sodom, but Paul said that in order for us to get away from the evil we would need to go out of the world itself (1 Corinthians 5:10). So we are here and that is that. What can we do?

Keeping yourselves in the love of God

Jude first tells us that we need to build up ourselves in our most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit. This means we are to pray no matter how our circumstances press against us. Lot didn’t seem to do a whole Lot of praying in Sodom, but we cannot afford to allow our love to wax cold under the deluge of madness and sin that is progressing in our times. When the enemy opens up a volley upon our soul we must take to God in Spirit-filled prayer. We need to pray until we touch God and He anoints us to pray. The old-timers use to speak of the Spirit of prayer coming upon a person. This is when God enables a person to pray in a way they could not ordinarily pray. Secondly Jude says, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. We have to keep our eyes focused on eternity. We have to look unto Jesus the author and the finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame. Jesus was full of love and compassion and He loved to the very end. This is our test. Can we love like that? Surely we can if we will allow God to love through us. The love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). We can allow that love to flow like a river from our bellies. The world is trying to dam up the flow with all manor of madness that we see and hear. 

Finally, sandwiched in the middle of these two admonitions we have this profound directive, Keep yourselves in the love of God. This is the objective. We have to do it. None can do it for us. We have to make that determination. God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. We have to remember from where God brought us and look upon sinners through eyes of compassion. When you don’t feel like loving, love anyway. Pray until you can love. Rebuke the thoughts that would come into your mind to challenge your love. Satan would like nothing more than to place our love in the freezer of offense and bitterness until we were as cold as ice. But Jesus didn’t say that the love of all people would wax cold, but the love of many. May we move in a determination in this crisis, evil hour, that we will be numbered among the few that stoked a fiery love. No one can do it for you, as Jude admonishes us, Keep yourselves in the love of God.       


Love Gone Cold

Love Gone Cold
Robert Wurtz II

And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. 
(Matthew 24:12-14)

If we are indeed living in the last of the last days then it stands to reason that this passage applies in our times more so than at any other time. We are told that as iniquity (lawlessness) shall abound the love of many will wax cold. Our word for aboundmeans to be multiplied. Our words for ‘wax cold’ means “to breathe cool by blowing, to grow cold, ‘spiritual energy blighted or chilled by a malign or poisonous wind’” (Vincent). The love of many, that is, the love of the brotherhood gives way to mutual hatred and suspicion.” (A.T. Robertson) I’m reminded how as a child my mother would blow on the food that was too warm for the small children before she fed it to them to prevent it burning their mouths. Jesus prophesies that iniquity is like the blowing of a poisonous wind having a chilling effect upon a people that once had love. This is a staggering thought. As the love that exists in this present evil world ‘chills’ the people of this world become less and less like our loving God. As the love in the Saints chills they become less and less like God. The same goes for the churches of God as an assembly. 

Some have suggested that the reason Ephesus had left its first love was because of the constant dealings with sin, false apostles and doctrines. This gave rise to the warning in Revelation 2:5 that they must repent and return to their first love. If that is true it would not be the first time. Jonah is an example of a man that did not rightly love because he apparently allowed the sin of Nineveh to cool his love and compassion for them as a people. He got a bad spirit when he took their sins personally. I think also of the Prodigal Son’s brother, that never left home. He had allowed his brothers sin to cool his love for him. What a horrendous thought! We have this said of the Ephesian condition, I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars. (Revelation 2:2) There is a thin line between hating iniquity as Jesus did and allowing iniquity to cause you to hate the person. Once that line is crossed then we that are called by the name of Christ are of no use to God. Jesus said that many will cross that line in the last days. It stands then to reason that in our times we are exceedingly at risk of leaving our first love as the Saints and churches of God. Iniquity abounds in our times. False prophets abound. How are we reacting to this? When our spiritual energy is  blighted and chilled by a malign (mean) and poisonous wind, what will we do? Will we return to the Lord for a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit that we might endure the contradiction of sinners against us or will we faint in our minds? (Hebrews 12:3) Will we adopt an attitude of returning evil for evil and railing for railing or will we be spiritual enough to continue blessing? This is the great question of our times. 

No matter how deep those that beat and crucified our Lord probed into His flesh and soul with their hate and violence, they still hit love. Jesus Christ could look at a sinner caught up in iniquity and still have compassion for them and love them. We need to ask ourselves, do we take a sinners sin personally and if we do, why? God is the primary offended party in any sin and He has chosen to forgive if the person is willing to acknowledge and repent. What about us? Do we forgive and forget or do we forget that we have been forgiven? Sin hardens the sinner and seeing sin can harden a saint. We must guard our hearts and go on loving in the grace and power of God.

Lampstand in Jeopardy

I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

This is not an idle threat. Jesus said, “I will remove your lampstand if you do not repent” of your having departed from the love you had at first for both God and man. If you do not turn back and be what you were in the beginning, men and women of God that were full of the love of Christ as living examples of His person- I will remove your lampstand. Why? What good is a lampstand with no Fire (love)? A dead lampstand is nothing more than a stumbling block in the darkness. Our Lord simply cannot condone with His presence the spiritual condition that the church at Ephesus had fallen into. Jesus is effectively saying, I will leave you to your own devices. 

How did they get here?

They had already left off consciously listening for the Word of His grace and as a result had missed many opportunities to remedy their condition long before it reached this crisis level. Is there any wonder we have the follow up commandment repeated over and over again, He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches (Revelation 3:22) They had chosen not to listen and were going through the motions because they had learned how to have a meeting without Jesus. If they had listened in the first place they would not be in this fix. What an insightful thing to consider! When you stop listening, it’s over for your lampstand. It is only a matter of time unless there is repentance and a return to the things that were done at first. There must be a return to first love. 

Life without the lampstand
Only God knows how many churches have lost their lampstand over the last 2000 years or so. All that is left to do is to bring in programs and religious exercise to prop up a dead carcass. The masses are good at ‘having church.’ Some are even very pious and holiness driven, but Christ is not in the midst in the book of Revelation sense. He is not the Head. Many have no concept of the Word of His grace. They act as if Jesus is a careless absentee landlord and on a far journey rather than the active Head of His Body the Church. Others just turn up the music and create a soulish atmosphere to fool the unsuspecting and corrupt the spiritual concepts of the young and ignorant. The consequence of a dead church is that they end up treating people exactly like the world treats them. They offend people by treating them in unChristlike ways at critical times and scar them to the true knowledge of Christ. Far too often the love that people have is no more than the world has; if they like you they will love you, but if they don’t like you (don’t like your looks) or if you cross them then you are shunned or put out. This is not how Christ loves. He loves all. This is what we must do. We are told to love our neighbor as ourselves and that is a tall order. Understand that we know how to love real good, so long as it is someone we like. What good is that love among people in desperate need of love and compassion? A lampstand with no Fire is but a stumbling block in this darkened world.

In our times a generation has changed the face of Christianity in such a way that only God can bring this thing back around. Like Ephesus of old, false apostles in the name of organized religion militate all too often against the local church and its lampstand with Christ in the midst. Self-serving pastors and leaders far too often power grab and act more like popes and cardinals than loving, compassionate servants such as Jesus, Paul and Stephen. They love their congregation like a hireling; so long as the money is flowing they love, but what about when jobs are lost? What happens when people fail to meet our expectations? What if they fall into sin? Do we act like the Prodigal’s brother? God forbid! A ‘church’ without a lampstand and its accompanying Fire is spreading death. We end up with a wholesale corruption of the concept of Christianity in our times. It is staggering how many things are being put forward as ‘Christian’ or ‘Evangelical’. We ought to weep when we reflect upon such deplorable acts and blasphemies of the name of Christ. These and a host of other iniquities seek to cool the love of even the very Elect. God forbid that as the love for Christ waxes cold along with our love for our neighbor we simply do not feel compassion anymore. We are at risk of being spiritually frostbitten by the cold winds of lawlessness on every hand in our times. The risk is that we would be no longer sensitive, void of compassion and love; we risk hating the sin and the sinner. 

Repent and do the First Works
The good news is that it does not have to be this way. For some they will grow cold, but it does not have to be so among you and I. We can get alone with God and get in our Bibles with a willingness to return to our first love and to the prescribed measures that God put in place and has not changed. We need to return to preaching genuine repentance and faith. We need to preach water baptism and Spirit baptism. If we will do what the church at Ephesus started out doing we will be met with the same success. When Ephesus got away from that it was all down hill from there. Historians tell us that Ephesus existed for a few centuries after the writing of the Revelation as an indicator that they did repent and return to Christ. But today it is a heap of ruins. There came a point when the conditions were such that Christ removed the lampstand and Ephesus was no more. Like Nineveh of old that repented for a while but then many years later was destroyed by God anyway, the reprieve will last as long as the repentance lasts. Christ does not give us instruction for a temporary change of behavior and practice, but that we would walk it out for the rest of our days. The key to a lasting, vibrant Christian life and spiritual church is to repent and do the first works and keep on walking in that way. If we refuse Him that speaks we will find ourselves upon the ash heap of history as bywords and solemn examples of those that failed to hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.   

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