A Sermon Manuscript by Robert L. Cobb
Editor, NewsForChristians Dot Com
"Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold!"
The evidence is all around us of the increasing cruelty and heartlessness of society and culture today. The news stories are numerous of how onlookers pass by as people are beaten and robbed, not intervening or calling police. City subways are famous for people averting their eyes from robberies and beatings. Last November, shoppers lined up outside a South Carolina Wal-Mart at midnight. HD-TVs were reduced for the big Black Friday sale. The doors opened at the appointed time and four people were trampled in the rush to get the great deal. No one stopped to help those who had fallen. The crowd just parted around them and kept going.
Elementary children are victimized by bullies in their class at alarming rates. This behavior is many times learned at home as the bully children themselves are bullied by one or both parents. Stories of residents in nursing homes being abused are rampant all over the country. Recently, we have seen reports of special education teachers abusing and bullying their autistic and down syndrome students. Babysitters, coaches, neighbors, and ministers have been charged with sexual or physical abuse of children in their care.
These problems have always been with us, but I'm sure you'll agree that the occurrences are multiplied today many times over. What can we learn from the Bible about the chilling cruelty prevailing our culture? Our text is relevant to this topic. "Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." Cold hearts can be found throughout the whole of society; but it is most out of place in the church. Christians have no excuses for cold hearts, yet we find ourselves like the proverbial bystanders witnessing horrific crimes take place right before our eyes. A lack of love for souls, a lack of concern for missions and charity work, a carelessness toward our neighbors and our fellowman -- all these things characterize many church members today.
We first must realize that this verse is primarily a future prophecy. As bad as it is now, this is only the beginning. Matthew 24 is part of the Olivet Discourse, which points to the second coming of Christ. So the verse is telling us that the coming tribulation will be highlighted by much of the attitude and behavior that we have seen increasing over the past few years. A quick word study reveals the word "iniquity" is translated from the Greek word anomia, meaning "lawlessness." This word is used four times in the book of Matthew and is used as legal terminology. Only Matthew and the Apostle Paul uses this word in their writings. In Matthew, Jesus says to the false believers, "...depart from me, ye that work iniquity." And Jesus says to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:28, "Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." This word points us toward the law of God, and reveals our coming short of it. Another interesting word in this verse is the word translated "abound." It is plethuno, meaning "to multiply," and is used only in this instance. The other words of interest are "wax cold." This means to "breathe cold," or to "blow cold."
There is a Bible principle revealed in this verse. It is ironclad and unyielding. The principle states that the more iniquity abounds, the more love lessens and weakens. Perhaps this principle is a key to our nation's troubles, our families troubles, and our church troubles. The lack of love in a nation can be measured by the degree of iniquity in that nation. The lack of love in a home can be measured by the degree of iniquity in that home. The lack of love in a church can be measured by the iniquity in that church. The lack of love in the heart of a Christian is directly in proportion to the measure of iniquity in his life.
I. THE PRINCIPLE AT WORK IN THE NATION. In our introduction, we discussed the cruelty and hatred that abounds in society today. There are those who will argue that the USA has never been a "Christian nation," and I understand their point of view. America was founded on religious liberty, the freedom to worship and believe as each individual sees fit. There have always been those who do not believe and partake of the Christian religion. And their rights should be protected and respected. But there is no doubt that the Christian ethic that permeates the Church has been at the forefront of our national consciousness. There has been a constant wrecking ball of destruction from Hollywood and other cultural elites to tear down that Christian ethic that our nation has favored. Lawlessness against God has abounded in our society, in our pastimes, in our laws, and in our national heroes. Gradually, as a nation, we have allowed sin to prevail. Now homosexuality is accepted and applauded. Pornography is an accepted form of entertainment. Cursing and swearing are commonplace. Lies are routinely told in the halls of legislature, the boardrooms of business, and the news desks of television anchors. These lies are expected and go unchallenged.
Iniquity destroys the love of country. Patriotism is for the unlearned; the anti-patriots remind us of the country's past failures, past indignities, past sins. There is no honor and respect in their hearts for our nation, only disdain. Our place in the world should not be as a leader and a beacon of freedom, they say. The USA is the problemIniquity destroys the love of truth. The Christian message is mocked and ridiculed in our nation. Science has been hijacked by political opportunists and set on a pedestal for the nation to worship. Any who complain are immediately labeled ignorant and religious nuts. Christians are marginalized by our culture and our government. The freedom to practice our religion is trumped by so-called "rights" of the few. One man sued the government over "In God We Trust" and was heard by the highest of courts as if his lawsuit was meritorious. Christians who have a bed-and-breakfast business in their homes must allow homosexual couples to spend the night. Christians are expected to recognize the marriages of homsexuals and fund medical coverage for contraception and abortion inducing drugs. Iniquity is abounding in our nation! Do you see the resuts? Are you registered to vote? What more do you need to see to realize Christians must let their voice be heard in the public arena?
Psalm 43:1 says, "Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man." And in Psalm 33:12, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whome he has chosedn for his own inheritance."
II. THE PRINCIPLE AT WORK IN THE HOME. My children are grown and have children of their own. As I watch them struggle to raise their children biblically, I am struck by how much more difficult it is now compared to just 20 years ago. The culture is so much more debased now. Things once hidden in the dark are now paraded for all to see. Prescription drugs belonging to the parents are used by their kids as recreation. Alcohol, despite a ban for those under 21 years, is an accepted lifestyle choice by many kids. Pornography is available on the kids' electronic devices so that sexual knowledge is received by kids before puberty. Video games, hundreds of TV channels, cell phones, personal computers are all a part of kids' lives today. The members of the family are so mobile that everyone eats at different times. Families seemingly communicate more by electronics than by face-to-face communication.
As iniquity increases, love for family decreases. Parents have less patience with their kids, less love for thier spouse. Problems seem bigger as sin takes hold. As iniquity increases, time for God decreases. Bible study, prayer, and family devotions grow cold as iniquity abounds! Church attendance suffers because families are so busy and preoccupied with other things. Many parents feel as though their homes have spun out of their control, that they are powerless to take back the initiative. The quiet time of reflection and prayer for the whole family must be restarted. We must find a way to shoehorn God back into the consciousness of the family unit. In Deuteronomy 6, God tells the Israelites of their duty to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart..." but He also tells them of their duty to pass this great love on to their children: "Thou shalt teach them diligently to thy children..."
III. THE PRINCIPLE AT WORK IN THE CHURCH. There was a time when the church was the highlight of the family's week. Generations ago, church was the only excursion of the week. Horse and buggies brought families to the House of God. Going to church was an exciting experience! Hearing the preacher expound the word of God was an entertainment almost as much as it was educational and edifying. Singing the songs of Zion was a participatory act that was not reproduced anywhere else in one's life. Fellowshipping with other families of like mind was a huge blessing to adults and children alike. Now we would rather stay home and be entertained by our electronics or partake in one of may available hobbies. We are not people-oriented anymore. We are self-oriented! We take care of ourselves. We are inward looking -- not outward looking.
Christians are not looking for a ministry to do a work for God. They are looking to be ministered-to. They do not see a need outside the church -- they see a need inside their hearts. And they try to fill it with everything but the things of God. The church is an appendage to the daily lives of many Christians. It is just another demand to people who are already stretched too thin in thier lives. The uniqueness of the church experience has been compromised by culture. We don't respect those who "preach" to us; the preacher is like the TV commercial making demands and vying for our attention. We judge church singing by those on American Idol or The Voice. 'Do these people really thnk they can sing?" we say. "And fellowship -- who needs it? I have over 150 friends on Facebook!"
IV. THE PRINCIPLE AT WORK IN THE CHRISTIAN'S HEART. This is the most important part of the message. All the other points of the message end here. The nation, the church and the home are made up of individuals. And each individual has a responsibility to his God. Your heart and mine is the battleground of a war of the ages! The forces of God and the forces of Satan are arrayed for battle right at your heart's door. As iniquity increases in our hearts, our love for God, His People, His Word and His Church wax cold. Literally, it is a breath of coldness! Iniquity increases -- love decreases! Iniquity increases -- faith decreases! Unbelief overflows in our hearts like a deluge. One sin brings another. Faith withers and dies out like a flower in a desert.
Remember at the beginning of the message, we said that the word iniquity carries a legal connotation. We serve God out of love, not from a sense of legal duty. But as we lay aside those godly legalities, those Christian principles, we double the damage done to our hearts as our love wains! How can we obey Him if we don't love Him? How can we love Him if we don't obey Him? It becomes a never-ending downward spiral.
CONCLUSION: What is the prescription? How can we escape the downward spiral? In Revelation Chapter 3, the church at Ephesus had the same problem. They had "left their first love." Literally, they had "walked away" from their love for their God. In verse 5, He tells them, "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works..." The prescription can be easily remembered by this: REMEMBER--REPENT--RENEW. As in a fractured relationship, remember the good times; remember the past blessings of serving God. Repent of the iniquity in your heart and realize that it has separated you from God. Then renew your commitment to Him. Renew a commitment to pray, study God's word, attend a godly church, and live out the truths of Christianity in your life.
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