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KEEPING LOVE ALIVE IN THE CHURCH

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, May 11, 2014

“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12).


Some time ago I was speaking with a pastor’s wife. She told me of one horrible experience after another that she and her husband had gone through in churches he pastored. At the end of the conversation she told me she should not have worked so hard in those churches, that she should have put all her prayers and work into her family. I didn’t say anything. I just listened and sympathized with her. But her complaint reminded me of our text,

“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12).

Christ had spoken to His Disciples of earthquakes, famines, and pestilences. But these were only the beginning of sorrows. Things like that are common enough today, yet they do not cause the anger and hurt that pastor’s wife felt. Even when Christ told them about the lost world hating them, and false prophets cursing, the Disciples were already used to such things. So was the poor pastor’s wife. But then the Disciples were warned about something far more terrible to the Christian,

“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12).

That is worse than any other problems. The Greek word translated “love” is a word in the New Testament that only applies to love in the church. Spurgeon said of this verse,

As the water outside a [ship] can do no harm until it enters the [ship] itself, so outward persecutions cannot really injure the Church of God; but when the mischief oozes into the Church, and the love of God’s people waxes [grows] cold – ah, then the [ship] is in sore distress. I fear that we are much in this condition at the present hour. May the Holy Spirit bless the alarming prophecy now before us... (C. H. Spurgeon, “A Prophetic Warning”).

“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12).

I will now give several points from the sad prophecy Christ gave in our text.

I. First, the time Christ spoke of is now.

Spurgeon said, “I fear that we are much in this condition at the present hour.” He was right. We have been in a time of growing apostasy ever since he said that in the late nineteenth century. There has been no major revival in the Western world since 1859. For over 150 years our churches have sunk deeper and deeper into apostasy and decay.

I am dismayed by a commentary I have which says that the lack of Christian love in our churches speaks only of those living in the future, in the Tribulation. Dr. J. Vernon McGee gave a better explanation when he said “this can apply to our own day” (Thru the Bible; note on Matthew 24:12). My friend, it does apply to our “own day” because we are living in the end-times, and have been in “the last days” at least since the time of Spurgeon!

The Apostasy in the churches of “the last days” is described in detail in II Timothy 3:1-5, which describes church members in these days as “lovers of their own selves,” “trucebreakers,” “false accusers,” “fierce,” “despisers of those that are good,” “traitors,” “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” That describes many church members I have known! And that kind of church members have, at times, driven me to the edge of despair!

“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12).

II. Second, the cause of this coldness in our churches.

My long-time pastor, Dr. Timothy Lin, said,

The inability to distinguish the spiritual from the carnal, and acceptance of all applications for church membership have always been the mortal wound of the Chinese Church...many in [the congregation] claimed to be Christians but had no eternal life; they fought for privileges but retreated from responsibilities...[churches] filled with people dead in trespasses and sins (Timothy Lin, Ph.D., The Secret of Church Growth, FCBC, 1992, pp. 38, 39).

This is not only true of our Chinese churches. I have seen this repeatedly in Caucasian (white) churches as well. Everyone who “comes forward” or says a “sinner’s prayer” is immediately taken in as a member of the church – thus filling the church with unsaved lost people, who commit one iniquity after the other because they have never been converted in the first place! As Dr. Lin put it they “had no eternal life.” Thus, “decisionism” is the root cause of the coldness in our churches!

“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12).

The other day I received an article from a missionary who ministers in a country where Christians are persecuted. But, in spite of persecution, the churches in that country are full of real Christians who live for Christ. He said,

I’ve been working in places where Christians have been persecuted for decades. I’ve also seen a slumbering Church in [America and] in the West move deeper and deeper into sleep. One of the most telling signs that Jesus will soon return to the world is this great sign of apostasy in our Church today, of people who claim to be Christians and yet have [no desire and no power] to live out the Christian life the way our brothers and sisters in the persecuted church do...We as a church are at the point of death (article from an anonymous missionary).

The cause of this apostasy lies in the fact that so many church members have never experienced the new birth and real conversion.

One of the terrible things that has happened as a result is that those who are zealous are looked upon as strange people. They are seen by the lost in their churches as fanatics. Spurgeon said that lost people in a church will say, “He is a terribly fanatical young man!” Then Spurgeon said, “Active people are looked upon as rather troublesome when the love of the many waxes cold.” Then he said, “Colder and colder churches become, till at last the great God, who breaks up icebergs in due season, destroys such a church, and its place knows no more” (ibid., p. 222).

“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12).

III. Third, the cure for coldness in our churches.

First, we must preach the Gospel continually. Very few churches do that today. Most pastors are teaching the Bible to great numbers in their congregations who have never been saved. They are trying to teach “goats” to be “sheep.” But no amount of Bible teaching can turn an unconverted church member into a real Christian!

Several years ago I went on a vacation with my wife and our boys. We were in the Deep South. That Sunday was Mother’s Day, and a Baptist pastor wanted me to preach on mothers. I prayed and prayed, asking God to show me what I should preach. At last God seemed to tell me to simply give my own mother’s experience of becoming a Christian. I thought the ladies in that church would find her conversion sweet and charming. I wrote out Mother’s testimony and timed it to be only 12 minutes long. I wouldn't give any application - I would just tell my mother's story. I decided that I would not apply it directly to any of the women sitting in the church that day, because I was deliberately trying to please them. I left out anything that might upset them on purpose. I sat on the platform while the pastor honored one woman after the other, giving them presents and flowers, one by one, for about an hour, which was fine. Finally it was my turn to speak. The pastor whispered to me, “Don’t take too long.” I said, “Don’t worry, I will speak less than 15 minutes.” So, I went to the pulpit and told the people how much I loved my mother, who had died only a few months earlier. Then I told them that my mother came to hear me preach every Sunday morning for 20 years before she trusted Christ and was saved. She kept coming to church because she loved me, but she was not saved. I told them how I prayed for her until I felt sure one day that she would be saved, what Dr. John R. Rice called “praying through.” I told them how my associate, Dr. Cagan, went to see my mother and quite easily led her to Christ. I told them how I baptized Mother. I told them how her life completely changed – how she started reading the Bible every day – how she started coming to church several nights a week instead of Sunday morning only. I told them how she paid for a new house for us, and moved in with us, and how we had wonderful times with her after she was saved. Then I turned the service over to the pastor. I thought he would give an invitation, but instead he gave a very short prayer, walked down from the pulpit and literally ran out of the church, without even shaking hands with me! The people in that church stood around looking at me with big eyes, like they were startled. Finally one woman came up to me and thanked me. She said she really appreciated me preaching the Gospel. She said, “We haven’t heard anything like that for a long time. That’s the way I was saved. Thank you for preaching such a wonderful Gospel sermon!”

My family and I left the church and drove away. I never even received a note of thanks from the pastor, not even a handshake! I thought, “What went wrong?” Then I realized that the little woman who spoke to me gave the reason when she said, “We haven’t heard anything like that for a long time.”

That did not happen in a liberal church. It happened in an independent Fundamental Baptist church in the Deep South! My mother’s life-changing salvation at the age of 80 was too much for them. Then I realized once again that so many of the people in our churches haven’t heard the Gospel, or if they have, they didn’t hear that Christ completely changes a person’s life, even if they become Christians at the age of 80, like my own dear mother. How sad! No wonder our churches are so cold. No wonder Jesus said,

“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12).

Great Spurgeon, preaching on that text, said that the only way to cure this coldness in a local church is for the real converts in the church to spend more time in prayer. He said, “We must at once grow warmer. We must live nearer to Christ. We must be more enthusiastic...May each one of us be filled with the Spirit!” Oh, I do hope that you young people will hear that and do it! And may our older members do it too! Come together in our prayer meetings. Spend time alone in secret prayer. Pray until God melts cold hearts and sends down the Holy Spirit in revival fire!

Then, too, Spurgeon said, “When I hear of one minister after another giving up the old-fashioned gospel, do you know what I say to myself? I resolve to stick close to [the old Gospel]. If men become more worldly, we will become more puritanical. If professing Christians do not exhibit the spirit of Christ, we will ask our Lord to give us sevenfold of the spirit, that we may maintain the truth...go to your Master [Christ] and ask Him to fan the fire within you to a great heat, that if there should be cold anywhere else, there may be warmth in your [heart]. May the Lord help you do this, dear friends, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.” (ibid., p. 223). And may God help us to love one another in our church with deep Christian love. And may God help us love every soul who comes into our church each Sunday! Amen.

Dear people, if there is someone here this morning who has never been saved from sin by Jesus, I must tell you that Jesus loves you. Jesus loves you so much that He shed His Blood on the Cross to cleanse you from all sin and make you a happy Christian! He rose physically from the dead to give you eternal life! “Only trust Him, only trust Him, only trust Him now. He will save you, He will save you, He will save you now.” He saved my dear, sweet mother at the age of eighty, and He will save you too, if you repent and trust Him. May you do so is our prayer, in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Matthew 24:3-12.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“The Wonder of It All” (by George Beverly Shea, 1909-2013).


THE OUTLINE OF

KEEPING LOVE ALIVE IN THE CHURCH

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12).

I.   First, the time Christ spoke of is now, II Timothy 3:1-5.

II.  Second, the cause of this coldness in our churches.

III. Third, the cure for coldness in our churches.