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Iniquity’s Influence

Scripture: Matthew 24:1-14; Text: Matthew 24:14

"And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold" (Matthew 24:14).

The events which are listed in the verses of our scripture reading, have troubled many hearts through the ages that have passed, since our Lord spoke those words. He foretold the destruction of the temple and the disciples responded to that alarming news by asking two questions which are recorded in verse three.

Apparently the disciples had two things which concerned them: (1) the certain destruction of the temple and (2) the end of the world. The temple was the heart of Jewish worship. It was supposedly constructed of huge stones and therefore was considered to be a rather durable structure. Apparently, the disciples concluded that if the temple was so completely destroyed that not one stone would be left upon another, the greatest likelihood would be that the end of the world had come. It would be the end of the Jewish world as they had known it.

The prophetic words of our Saviour did come true. A notable Jewish historian tells of the time when both the temple and the city of Jerusalem were leveled to the ground. Though that event took place many years ago, the world in which we live continues to go on. In spite of the fact that words of this passage have already been fulfilled, there are those who are convinced that they have a dual application. Evidently, they did apply to the ending of the ancient order of worship and the then known "Jewish world," but very possibly also refer to a time in the future when this physical world will end. If this is true, then we can safely assume that the prophetic words of Jesus are even now being fulfilled a second time. Regardless of what your position might be with regard to the fulfillment of those words, it does not in any measure alter the truth of our scripture text. Therefore, I want to spend the remainder of this message directing your attention to the text. As we focus upon it, we shall endeavor to understand the truths which Jesus set before us, making an application of them to our lives.

The first subject which Jesus addresses in the text is that of iniquity. This Scripture not only acknowledges the existence of iniquity, but declares the devastating effects of it. We know that since mankind was plunged into sin by our father Adam, iniquity has been present in the world. Not only is it in our world but it can also be found in all mankind (except Jesus), for it is a basic part of our depraved nature. This was admitted by David, when he said, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Psalm 51:5). Every one of us was born with a sinful nature and inhabited by iniquity. It is because of this depraved and despicable nature of mankind, that Jesus could declare so emphatically the presence of iniquity.

He not only made known its presence but also declared prophetically that it would "abound." This fact should be evident to every generation. Iniquity is abounding today! It is like a massive swarm of bees that are everywhere, inflicting the population of the earth with the painful consequences of their presence. In order for us to more fully understand the problem that Jesus described, we must know something about the meaning of iniquity. It is not to be viewed as some vague abstract of evil that cannot be understood or its presence seen and felt. Rather, there are some definite ideas, which are biblically set forth by the use of the word "iniquity." In the Old Testament, there are two basic ideas which are set forth. The first is the idea of vanity. In Job 11:14, it says, "If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles.” We are told that vain actions are not to be retained but dispelled, lest we dwell in wickedness. The other definition we should consider is perversity. Isaiah wrote, "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear" (Isaiah 59:2). Evidently, they had lost fellowship with God and He no longer responded to their prayers. Why? Because of their iniquities, which they committed as they perverted the holy laws and ways of God.

In the New Testament there are also two definitions which we need to consider. The first tells us that iniquity means, that which is wrong or unrighteous. Peter said to a man who offered to purchase the gift of the Holy Ghost, "Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity" (Acts 8:22-23). Peter considered Simon to be a man bound by that which was wrong or unrighteous in God's sight. All those definitions help us to understand the problem addressed by our Lord, yet they do not fully identify it. Therefore, in our text, we consider the second New Testament meaning, which is lawlessness. Remember, Jesus said, “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12). So, those who intentionally disregard and break the laws of men and more importantly, the laws of God; are guilty of iniquity. Many today, as in every generation, are endeavoring to break free of God's laws and treat His commandments as though they were fetters and chains. Such lawlessness is seen in a general disregard for the moral teachings of the Bible. Those who live in such iniquity do not have any idea of the far reaching effects of their action, nor do many of them even care. Unfortunately, many Christians have not yet recognized the full impact of the words of our Saviour.

Jesus said that iniquity would abound and as it does it will have an eroding effect upon the love which exists in the world. It cannot affect God's love for His people, but it most certainly does affect the power and presence of love in this world. Love is a great power to bless and bring good, iniquity is also a great power to curse and bring evil. The two co-exist in the world, but there is a delicate balance between the two. When one side of the scales goes down, the other side goes up. So when iniquity is abounding, love is growing weaker. Love is soft and tender, iniquity is hard and abrasive. So like a hard grinding stone, iniquity is grinding away at the love that is in the world. Just look at what is happening today.

There is a general disregard for the laws of God in our society. Lawlessness is abounding throughout our nation today. People no longer care what God says about abortion, homosexuality, fornication, adultery or many other matters of moral concern. Much of what we hear is about the rights of women to abort an unwanted pregnancy, but little is said in defense of the baby that will be murdered. Sex sins are regarded as acceptable, even though the Bible plainly denounces them. People rights, not moral regulation; is the outcry of our society. There is always the tendency to perceive our age as more evil than others, simply because we are better informed about our times than any other. Yet in my lifetime I believe that things are gradually worsening. Evil men and seducers are waxing worse and worse (2 Timothy 3:13). Iniquity is abounding and lawlessness is rampant in the land. It is so prevalent that increasing numbers of people in our own community are afraid to go out at night. Crime is so alarmingly high that there are not enough correctional facilities to house all the offenders. The laws of our land are broken and so are the laws of God. Rampant immorality is spreading like a horrible disease in our society. Our nation has over indulged its appetite for iniquity and is sick with sins.

While this is happening, we must also face the fact that love is on the decline. Like the embers on the hearth, many have darkened as they grow colder and go out. Divorce has reached disastrous proportions because too many people build a relationship on lust rather than love. Even those who do profess love often find that it does not seem as strong a bond now as it did years ago. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find people whose hearts are inseparably bound by the cords of love. This is exactly what satan desires and his designs are working. He knows this truth which our Lord taught. Even if we have not recognized it, Satan has already used this truth to his advantage. He has a great many devices which work for him. At times satan uses persecutions to discourage people from serving God. In the early church it was not easy to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. It cost Jesus His life and those who spoke His most excellent name were often threatened or beaten. Satan knew that many would be turned away from following Christ, because the cost was too great. It worked well on some people, but others manifested such love and devotion to Christ, that their martyrdom challenged and encouraged those who were weak in the faith. So satan gradually tried another approach.

As reformation came and the progress of man improved his living conditions, Satan chose to use those advancements as distractions. If he could not drive people away from Jesus, he would try to entice them away. He had already used this principle in tempting Jesus. Satan said, "... All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me" (Matthew 4:9). Jesus immediately refused but that did not stop satan from trying it on us and multitudes of others. Today many people turn away from the worship of Jesus Christ, because their attention has been captured by some other activity. Such distractions as sporting events, family activities, and recreational travels, are not in themselves wrong; but when they interfere or take precedence to our obligations to God, they become successful instruments of distraction. Satan will go to any length or do anything he can to keep us from living a life that will glorify God. So he often employs the principle which Jesus described in our text. If people can be driven or drawn away from Christian endeavors through persecution or distractions, they become more vulnerable to temptation and sin. The more the masses of people become involved in the practice of sin, the more acceptable to society the sin becomes. This has been proven through the sexual revolution of recent years. Now even the worst sexual perversions have gained widespread acceptance. Jesus said it and satan loves it; the more that iniquity abounds, the more love disappears. Lawlessness is like water that is poured on the flames of a fire. The more water, the less flame until the water extinguishes the flames and leaves only smoldering coals. Thank God that love has not yet been quenched and by His grace, hopefully, it never shall; but keep in mind this fact, the aim of satan is to extinguish love from the world in which we live and especially our love for God.

Sadly, we must admit that the words of Jesus in second part of the text, is now in the process of fulfillment. Jesus said "the love of many shall wax cold." Just as there are varying degrees of hot, so there are different levels of cold. We may say it is cool, cold or freezing. If something is not hot, it may be described as cold, such as food that has lost its warmth. At different geographical locations on the earth, different temperatures may be considered cold. For us fourteen degrees is cold, but in the Amazon jungles forty degrees might be considered cold. So God described temperatures of the climates simply as "cold and heat" in Genesis 8:22. There is one scripture which speaks of the cold of snow (Proverbs 25:13), while another describes the coolness of drinking water as cold (Proverbs 25:25). We should be able to recognize that when the Bible uses the word "cold" it may describe a wide range of temperatures. In the text from Matthew, the word cold means to breathe or blow cool. If something is too hot to handle, a simple solution is to blow on it to cool it down. Iniquity is blowing upon love to cool it down.

We need to recognize just here that the idea of love waxing cold is not intended to describe only those who have gone into apostasy as in Revelation 2:4. Jesus said, "Nevertheless I have some what against thee, because thou hast left thy first love." There Jesus was describing the situation where a person abandons God, in apostasy leaving their faith and going in another direction. But when love waxes cold, apostasy might not have occurred; it may be manifested only as a lessening of interest and devotion. The person is not as involved as they once were, they do not enjoy church as much as they did; so they have suffered a cooling down of the love that previously motivated them in zealous service. Jesus commanded us to love God with all our heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37). When love cools down, the person simply does not feel that way about God any more.

Because there are varying degrees of love, the Bible declares the fact. Love at its highest level is seen by God's love for us and it is the model for our love toward one another. Jesus said, "This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you" (John 15:12). There is also the love of a friend and various other kinds of love. Yet all kinds of love is affected by the iniquity which surrounds us. Whatever the level of love that may be felt, that level is lowered by the bombardment of iniquity. When multitudes are involved in iniquity, it lowers the level of the moral standard which influences us all. Some Christians have become distracted, discouraged and even disillusioned by the widespread acceptance of iniquity. With many of them, their love is waxing colder and colder.

Many do not love Jesus with the fervor and devotion they once felt. Few today feel such a strong and consuming love for Christ and His kingdom, that they would die as a martyr, rather than relinquish their faith. Because the general level of love for Jesus is not as intense as it should be, neither do people love the Bible as they should. The Psalmist said, "The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver" (Psalm 119:72). He also declared that his love for God's word motivated him to meditate on it frequently (Psalm 119:97). How many today love the Bible more than making money or pursuing some special interests? How many do you know who spend much of their precious time, pondering its sacred teachings? If we love the Bible enough, we will learn its teaching and live them daily. Because there is a diminished love for the Bible as God's inspired word, there is much apathy toward the church. Fewer and fewer people manifest a strong sense of loyalty to the church. When people truly love the church, they will support it by their attendance and contributions. Love for the church has lessened, as many members have transferred their affections to things of the world. With such preoccupation with things, people have become less important in our society. Family ties and love have weakened and we seldom see families that prefer the company of each other, to that of the places and possessions of this world.

Perhaps I am focusing too much on the negative to please some of you, but hiding our heads in the sand will not cause the problem to go away. Hopefully, we will all take an honest look at the world around us in the light of what Jesus said. If we can agree that His prediction is presently being fulfilled, possibly we will begin to look for some solutions to the problems we have considered. Maybe together we can slow the tide of iniquity in its erosion of love. There are some very positive steps which can be taken, and like sand bags help in the flood, they will help hold back the influence of iniquity. For love to strengthen, iniquity must be weakened. We must endeavor to reverse what is taking place. To do so will require that more professed Christians study the word of God and learn God's will. Once we know His will, that which deviates is iniquity and so the enemy has been identified. Then we must make a personal committment to live by the teachings of Jesus Christ, even if we are ridiculed by the world. This will not be easy, but through prayer and with God's help, we can make a difference. When we have decided to follow Christian principles, we must then teach them to our family. We should guide our children in God's way, both by our personal example and Bible teaching. While our involvement can easily influence our family, that is not adequate. Our families needs to be involved with the Lord’s church, so that united we can make a difference in our communities. In our community, we need to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13-16).

The love of many (not all) has grown cold. May God give us grace to do all we can to reduce the influence of iniquity and untiringly fan the coals of love into flames of fire that burn brightly, illuminating the glory of God and shining to the praise of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Remember His words, for they are true and were given to warn us of the disastrous effect of iniquity and also to challenge us to enlarge the capacity of our hearts to love.

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This page last updated on June 7, 2014