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  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

The Love of Most Will Grow Cold

It might not seem like only the second Sunday of 2021, but it is. Between meeting last week and this week, the country has been paused again, as we’ve gone into Lockdown 3.0. Virus cases are inflated far above those previously witnessed. Tragically, hospitals are overwhelmed, and death rates are continuing to rise at alarming rates. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, civic insurrection has been witnessed within the heart of American democracy - where the incumbent president refuses to accept defeat gracefully. And yet, this is only the second Sunday in January.

With all that world turmoil, and much besides, occupying our attention at the start of this new year, I think we still need to give thought to the year ahead. With that in mind, I’ve chosen a text that is seriously thought provoking, and candid. And for those attributes it holds particular relevance for our eternal futures.

The text is Matthew 24, verse 12, where Jesus says, Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,’.

Before he spoke those words, his disciples had come to him, as he was walking through the temple courts, and Mark tells us, they were impressed with the size of the stones and the beauty of the buildings.

But in typical, challenging style, Jesus responds by saying, truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down’. To the disciples the magnificence of the temple buildings and the size of the stones used to build them, indicated permanence and longevity. But Jesus knows that within the life-time of the disciples the temple will be destroyed. And so, the disciples are keen to know when the destruction will happen and what will be the signs that these things will take place (v.3). And what’s amazing is that Jesus seamlessly moves from the fate of the temple, to the fate of the people. The rest of the church age until his second coming stretches out before them in the words that Jesus speaks to the disciples. It’s very sobering. And, it carries at least one significant warning.

Now, as we gather like this this morning, the year stretches out before us, a bit like the church age stretches out before Jesus in his mind’s eye. Everything Jesus says between verse 4 and 14 applies to the year ahead of us and that includes the warning. So, I’m suggesting we read Jesus’ words into the context of our year - 2021, and take the applications he makes for the whole church age and apply them to the year ahead of us. So here goes.

Temple stones to people’s hearts First of all, I think the Lord Jesus transitions from the destruction of the temple to the destruction of people’s love for God, using the means by which both those destructions occur as the common factor. In verse 2, each stone of the temple mount is going to be ‘thrown down’. That verse refers to the emperor Nero, who in AD70, did exactly what Jesus described, and threw down the temple. Then in verse 11, false prophets appear and deceive many people and because of their wickedness, verse 12 says, ‘the love of most will grow cold’.

So, we’ve got the temple thrown down by evil opposition and we’ve got the love of people for God thrown down by evil opposition. Jesus is using the less significant thing which the disciples are most concerned with at that moment in time, to point to the more significant throwing down, which in Jesus’ mind the disciples need to be wary of. And we know that this is a warning to them because Jesus adds these words to the disciples in verse 4: ‘watch out that no one deceives you’.

And notice, it’s the false prophet’s accomplishment to deceive people to the point that their love grows cold in verse 11. In fact, because of persecution against the followers of Jesus, ‘many [followers] will turn away from the faith’ (v.10).

Eternal security Now, even though we believe wholeheartedly in the rock-solid biblical truth that Romans 8:30 teaches us, namely that, ‘those [God] predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified’. - All the ‘those’ mentioned in that verse are the same people. There’s not one less or one more glorified than were predestined, called and justified. Not one! All those, are all those, to the very person; no exceptions. - Whilst we believe that’s what Romans 8:30 and other passages teach, we must not let that truth nullify the warning that Jesus is giving to his disciples here about their love for him growing cold and their turning away from the faith. We have to develop a biblical category in our minds that allows the truth of Romans 8:30 and the warning of Matthew 24:12 to sit side by side without a shred of contradiction.

We have to have a category in our theology that allows the warning of Hebrews 4:1 ‘be careful that you don’t fall short of entering God’s rest' to stand.

We have to have a category that allows for the statement of Hebrews 6:4-6 namely, that it’s impossible for those who have tasted the goodness of the word and the powers of the coming age – those are spiritual realities – and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.

We have to have a category that allows the conditionality of Hebrews 3:14 to stand, when it says, ‘we have come to share in Christ, if we hold our confidence firmly to the very end’.

That’s just three passages from Hebrews, there are others in the bible. The point is, the bible repeatedly warns people in the terms that Jesus is warning his disciples – his blood bought followers – and therefore us also.

It is not a reasonable conclusion to think that because Romans 8:30 exists – a profound truth rooted in the all-powerful Godness of God – that God can’t simultaneously warn us against falling away. But it is reasonable to conclude that, since God is true and all his words are true, that he might use warnings against falling away as the means of ensuring that we do not fall away. And, that if we ignore those warnings and finally be found to have not remained firm to the end, that that will be the evidence that we were not predestined, called, or justified in the first place, but that we only had to the outward appearance of being so.

If that’s true, then Jesus’ words are a warning for us this morning at the gateway to a new year. Will our love have grown cold by the end of the year?’ is the question I’m asking.

Love God with your all Now notice that, for Jesus, ‘turning away from the faith’ (v.10) and lovelessness towards God (v.11) are the same thing. I want to focus on the love text because of what Jesus said 2 chapters earlier in Matthew 22, verse 37 when he was answering the question of the greatest commandment.

In his answer, he didn’t say obeying God was the greatest commandment; he said loving God was the greatest. The greatest responsibility – we might say duty – of all human beings is to love the Lord your God will all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind. Which is another way of saying with all your being. Which, if you know your bible – in fact, if you know yourself – is an impossible commandment to keep. The inclination of every heart is away from God not toward him, and therefore to love him with all of your being is impossible, without a miracle.

If we are to love him with lava-hot love, we need the miracle of new birth. We need not only the forgiveness of sins, but a new heart also. Which is exactly what the new covenant promises. Jesus bought for us with his blood of the covenant, a new heart. A heart inclined towards God.

Jesus prayed in John 17, ‘Father...I have made you known to them (people like us) in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them’. So, God the father loved Jesus, and Jesus’ desire was that that love of God for Jesus might also be in us, for Jesus. And, that’s why he came and gave up his life, so that we might love God as were made to love him. In other words, we love him, because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). Not the other way around. If you think your love for God originated with you, you’re an idolator. God imparts love for God to his people, so that in all things the creator gets the glory, not the creature.

Keep yourself in God’s love Now, in the book of Jude there is a curious and important verse which ties in closely with what Jesus is saying to his disciples.

Jude 1:21, ‘keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life’. That is a command to you about love for God, where it is clearly not assumed that you will automatically remain red-hot in love with God. Jude is saying to the people he’s writing to, don’t assume that your love for God will remain steady without you doing something’. Jesus puts it like this in verse 13 of our text, ‘but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved’. Standing firm is the opposite of cooling love.

Think of it like lava. At the source of the lava, the temperatures can melt rock. That’s what it’s like when we start out with Jesus. You can’t imagine anything supplanting that intense love kindled in your heart for him. But as time goes by; as the lava flows away from the volcano, it starts to cool. The more it cools the less it flows. The more it cools the crustier it gets. The more it cools the less progress it makes. Jesus is saying, folks you need to flow all the way to the end. You need to progress, not stagnate.

You need to advance, not vegetate, if you’re going to be finally saved.

Love as desire

So, I want to say a few things about love and what we can do to stoke its fires. Love can be demonstrated by doing but in its essence, it is not doing. It is desiring as John Piper is fond of pointing out – and I agree with him. Love is when something takes up such a place in our affections that it makes us happy.

If I say I love my wife, I mean: of all women, the unique happiness I experience with her, causes me to desire her more. If I say I love Manchester united, I’m telling you that the happiness I get when I watch them, gives me cause to desire watching them more. We have lots of loves. And what we love over and against something else is very important. Here’s what I mean: If Deb has organised for us to go out for a meal together one evening – no kids, no friends, no interruptions, just me and her – and I get offered a ticket to go and watch Manchester united live on the same date, at the same time I should be with her having our meal... If I choose Manchester united over my wife, I’m saying I prefer Manchester united to you – my darling. In that case nobody would doubt which love burns hotter in my heart.

And, I hope, you would say, that’s not good! I hope you would say, there’s something corrupt about that preference. The reason why I hope you would say that, is because in reality, she is supremely more valuable than Manchester united. For starters, she’s a human being. She has intrinsic worth of greater value than a football team. But moreover, she’s my wife. She is bound to me with the strongest of human chords.

Now, God is the greatest, the most perfect, the most valuable reality in existence. So, when our hearts prefer anything supremely over and above him, it represents the greatest devaluing of anything that there possibly could be. And that’s called idolatry. And it deserves an infinite punishment.

Competing interests What Jesus is saying is that there are demonic deceptions coming against us this year that will present themselves as more meaningful, more desirable, more precious to our hearts than God. And if we go with them and diminish God in our affections, we can actually turn away from the faith and be lost forever.

When I was first married to my wife, every day was a lava hot day. But as time goes on, all kinds of things present themselves with competing value. Children come on the scene and they compete for your heart. You become better at your job and it demands more hours from you. You derive new interests and they take up your attention. All of which is interesting because, Jesus said this about love in Matthew 10:37, Anyone who loves father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me. And, anyone who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me’.

That’s really striking.

He’s saying, children can become so valuable in your affections, so as to make you unworthy of spending eternity with Jesus. In Luke 11:43 the pharisees ‘loved’ the most important seats. In Matthew 23:6&7 the pharisees ‘love’ the place of honour and ‘love’ to be greeted with respect. In Matthew 6:5 the pharisees ‘love’ to be seen by others. And remember Judas, he was a disciple who ‘helped himself from the money bag’ and who sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver because he failed to ‘keep his life free from the love of money’ (Hebrews 13:5).

Look what things can compete for the affection of our hearts: money, respect, prestige, honour.


If I coast in my marriage – if I allow other interests to take precedence in my heart over her – be it work, or hobby or children – then my love for her will grow crusty-cold. For a marriage to remain loving it needs constant attention – coasting won’t cut it. A marriage needs hard choices making in its favour. It’s the same with love for God. Love for God has to be cultivated. The deceptive weeds of other loves – loves that present themselves as wholesome, but deep down are subtle, pernicious loves – those love-weeds need rooting out this year folks. They need pulling up – root and all, and burning. And love for God, needs fertilising and cultivating.


The way I cultivate love for my wife is by spending time with her. Getting to know her better. Reminding myself of her qualities. Enjoying her company. Now, all kinds of things are vying for that time too. Work eats a chunk of it. Kids demand it constantly. Eating, sleeping, exercising all take up time. But into this year’s daily, weekly and monthly routines I’ll have to make time to enjoy her. By doing that, my love for her will be refreshed in those natural cycles of life.

I think it’s the same with love for God. The psalmist says, ‘delight yourself in God and he will give you the desires of your heart’ (Psa 37:4). The Apostle says in Philippians 3, ‘I consider everything loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord’. Knowing God is the route to loving God.

His qualities are of surpassing worth. His attributes are all glorious. When the psalmist says in Psalm 18, ‘I love you Lord my strength’, he can then follow that statement up with a whole list of attributes that are the basis of his love for God. In other words, his love is fed by God’s glory. It’s as we return to God’s revelation about himself, and seek to know him more intimately, that love is fanned into flame in our hearts for Jesus.

So, to sum up. It’s perseverance not profession that finally saves a person. Perseverance in love for God. So, let’s go and fan that love into flame through the living and abiding Word of God. That Word is able to judge the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12).

May the Lord bless his word to us for the coming year. Amen.


Photo by Sergio Cima on Unsplash


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