In previous blog essays, I have exhorted us to stay connected, stay salty, stay put, stay watchful, etc. This week, as I was reading in the Gospel of Matthew, I came across this prophecy by Jesus about the dramatic end of the age before his return, and it inspired me to consider our need to stay warm.
(I’m also writing this on one of the coldest days of winter so far, so that also might be part of my motivation to pursue this theme! 😊)
“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 the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matt. 24:10-13).
The implication of this part of Jesus’ prophecy is that we as his followers are not to allow our hearts to grow cold, no matter how frigid the environments that surround us. We are to stay warm. Warm toward the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, warm toward the people in our lives, and warm—I dare say even hot— in our passion for justice and mercy.
Allow me to clarify this: we must keep in mind Jesus’ warning to the churches in Revelation against lukewarmness:
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold (invigorating, refreshing) nor hot (healing, therapeutic); I wish that you were cold or hot” (Rev 3:15, AMP).
I’m not talking about lukewarm here. I’m talking about the maintaining the right temperature. Warm like the first cup of coffee or tea in the morning that goes down and fills our innards with comfort and readies us for the day. When my coffee sits too long and starts to cool, it’s gross. I won’t drink it until it is warmed up again. (I really appreciate my microwave.)
And I’m not talking about the refreshing, invigorating kind of cold either Jesus mentions in Revelation. I’m talking about the cold that gets into our bones and makes us stiff, frozen, and stuck.
When reading the exposition of prophesied events in Matthew 24, it is tempting to focus on the timing and not the communicative intent of the Savior. Any time Jesus’ disciples would try to get him to reveal the times and seasons for cataclysmic future events to occur, Jesus never took the bait. He always clarified that though the Father had given him all authority, this didn’t extend to the timing of things. Only the Father knows the timetable and holds the master plan, which Jesus will execute in his authority as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Therefore, even if we are convinced that the extended prophecy of end-time events in Matthew 24 (of which I’ve only quoted a small portion) corresponds with what we are seeing in the news or on social media, we can’t be sure.
Jesus says in various places that rather than being concerned with time, we need to be concerned with our hearts, our behaviors, and our actions. But especially our hearts, because out of the heart flow all of the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). Maybe we are the generation who will see the end of this present system of things, and maybe not. But either way, we will be held to account for the condition of our hearts and how we live accordingly.
We must not grow cold. What are signs of growing cold?
Lack of zeal for the word of God for an extended time. Wickedness. Unforgiveness. Injustice toward the poor, widows, and orphans all indicate hearts that are growing cold. Refusal to submit to authorities that God has ordained can freeze us out. Disconnection from his church and living in isolation have a chilling effect.
Like the charcoal briquette that is scattered too far from the center of the flame will quickly grow cold and useless, this happens to us if we move away from our spiritual family. We must stay close to our brothers and sisters, however challenging this may be at times. Our survival truly depends on it.
We are to extend warmth even to our enemies! Paul exhorts us in Romans not to seek vengeance upon our enemies:
On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head” (Rom. 12:20).
This Scripture implies that by staying warm toward those who are cold toward us, our warmth will transfer to them and convict their hearts. It is hard to stay mad at someone who insists on showing grace, love, and forgiveness from a warm heart.
This may be a challenging concept for us, especially if we are caught up in a millennial focus, that everything in the church and the world is just going to get worse and worse, and there’s little to be done about it. As Bill Johnson points out in his brilliant When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles, this belief system requires no faith, and no courage. And I would add, no warmth. This philosophy can cause the most noble of hearts to grow cold.
Instead, we can embrace our mission to serve Christ by serving others and keep the heat on in our own hearts each day. We do this through consistent time in Scripture, through fervent prayer, through steady fellowship, through ministering gifts of healing and deliverance, and through giving generously. By all of these means we keep ourselves close to the flame and have plenty of warmth to share with others.
Stay warm, very warm my friends!