By Francis Frangipane
Is your love growing and becoming softer, brighter, more daring and more visible? Or is it becoming more discriminating, more calculating, less vulnerable and less available? This is a very important issue, for your Christianity is only as real as your love is. A measurable decrease in your ability to love is evidence that a stronghold of cold love is developing within you.
Guard Against Unforgiveness!
"Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold" (Matt 24:12). A major area of spiritual warfare that has come against the church is the sphere of church relation- ships. Satan knows that a church divided against itself cannot stand. We may enjoy temporary blessings and seasonal breakthroughs, but to win a city-wide war, Jesus is raising up a united, city-wide church. An earmark of this corporate, overcoming church will be its commitment to love. Yet, because of the increasing iniquity in the end of this age, true Christian love will be severely assaulted.
There is no spiritual unity, and hence no lasting victory, without love. Love is a passion for oneness. Bitterness, on the other hand, is characterized by a noticeable lack of love. This cold love is a demonic stronghold. In our generation cold love is becoming increasingly more common. It shuts down the power of prayer and disables the flow of healing and outreach. In fact, where there is persistent and hardened unforgiveness in a person or church, the demonic world (known in Matt 18:34 as "torturers") has unhindered access.
The Scriptures warn that even a little root of bitterness in a person's life can spring up and defile many (Heb 12:15). Bitterness is unfulfilled revenge. Another's thoughtlessness or cruelty may have wounded us deeply. It is inevitable that, in a world of increasing harshness and cruelty, you will at some time be hurt. But if you fail to react with love and forgiveness, if you retain in your spirit the debt the offender owes you, that offense will rob your heart of its capacity to love. Imperceptibly, you will become a member of the majority of end-time Christians whose love is "growing cold."
Bitterness is a classic symptom of the stronghold of cold love. To deal with this, you must repent of this attitude and forgive the one who hurt you. This painful experience was allowed by God to teach you how to love your enemies. If you still have unforgiveness toward someone who hurt you, you have failed this test. Fortunately, this was just a test, not a final exam. You actually need to thank God for the opportunity to grow in divine love. Thank Him that your whole life is not being swallowed up in bitterness and resentment. Millions of souls are swept off into eternal judgment every day without any hope of escaping from embitterment, but you have been given God's answer for your pain. God gives you a way out: love!
As you embrace God's love and begin to walk in forgiveness, you are actually pulling down the stronghold of bitterness and its manifestation of cold love in your life. Because of this experience, you will eventually have more love than you ever did. You truly do need to thank God.
Love Without Commitment Is Not Love
"And at that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many. And because lawlessness is increased, the love of many will grow cold" (Matt 24:10-12).
I want to make it perfectly clear: there is no such thing as love without commitment. The measure of your love is found in the depth of your commitment. How often I have heard people tell me, "I loved once, but I was hurt." Or, "I was committed to Christian service, but they used me." People withdraw from being committed, never realizing that their love is growing cold! It may not seem like they have become cold---they still go to church, read the Bible, tithe, sing and look like Christians---but inside they have become distant and aloof from other people. They have withdrawn from the love of God.
Jesus said, "Stumbling blocks are inevitable..." (Matt 18:7). In your walk there will be times when even good people have bad days. As long as you live on earth, there will never be a time when "stumbling blocks" cease to be found upon your path. People do not stumble over boulders, but over stones, little things. To stumble is to stop walking and fall. Have you stumbled over someone's weakness or sin lately? Have you gotten back up and continued loving as you did before, or has that fall caused you to withdraw somewhat from walking after love? To preserve the quality of love in your heart, you must forgive those who have caused you to stumble.
Every time you refuse to forgive or fail to overlook a weakness in another, your heart not only hardens toward them, it hardens toward God. You cannot form a negative opinion of someone (even though they may deserve it!) and allow that opinion to crystalize into an attitude. For every time you do, an aspect of your heart will cool toward God. You may still think you are open to God, but the Scriptures are clear: "...the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen" (I Jn 4:20). You may not like what someone has done, but you do not have an option to stop loving them. Love is your only option.
What do I mean by love? First, I do not merely mean "tough love." I mean gentle, affectionate, sensitive, open, persistent love. God will be tough when He needs to be, and we will be firm when He tells us to be, but beneath our firmness must be an underground river of love waiting to spring into action. By "love" I mean a compassion that is empowered by faith and prayer to see God's best come forth in the one I love. When I have love for someone, I have predetermined that I am going to stand with them, regardless of what they are going through.
We each need people who are committed to us as individuals; people who know we are not perfect, but love us anyway. The manifestation of God's Kingdom will not come without people being committed to each other to reach God's fullness. We are not talking about salvation; we are talking about growing up in that salvation until we love and are committed to each other with Jesus' love.
Many people will stumble over little faults and human weaknesses. These minor things are quickly pumped up by the enemy into great big problems. Oh, how frail are the excuses people use to justify withdrawing from others! In reality, these problems, often with a church or pastor, are a smokescreen which mask the person's lack of love.
We need to overcome our hang-ups about commitment, for no one will attain the fullness of God's purposes on earth without being committed to imperfect people along the way.
"Well, as soon as I find a church that believes as I do, I will be committed." This is a dangerous excuse, because as soon as you decide you do not want to forgive, or God begins to deal with the quality of your love, you will blame your withdrawing on some minor doctrinal difference. The Kingdom of God is not based on mere doctrines, it is founded upon relationships---relationships with God and, because of God, with one another. Doctrines only help define those relationships. We are not "anti-doctrine," but we are against empty doctrines, which seem like virtues but are simply excuses that justify cold love.
The Greatest Commandments
An expert in the Law once asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment. His reply was wonderful. He said, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is like the first, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Mark 12:28-29). Jesus then said that "the second commandment is like the first." When you love God, your love for others will be like your love for God: the "second is like the first." The more you unconditionally love God, the more you will unconditionally love others.
To those whose attitude is "just Jesus and me" I say, it is wonderful you found Jesus. But you cannot truly have Jesus and simultaneously not do what He says. The outgrowth of love and faith in Christ is love and faith like Christ's, which means we are committed, even as He is, to His people.
You see, the Kingdom of God is not in you or in me. It is in us, corporately. We are being perfected into a unit (Jn 17). To have the Kingdom, we must be committed to one another as individuals and as churches. If Christ accepts us while we are still imperfect, we must also accept one another. The people who possess the Kingdom of God in its reality are people who overcome the obstacles of each other's faults. They help each other become what God has called them to be: the living body of Jesus Christ.
Remember, the goal of pulling down the stronghold of cold love is to see the oneness of Christ's body revealed. You will be challenged in this, but if you persist, you will discover the heights and depths, the length and breadth of Christ's love. You will become a body filled and flooded with God Himself.
Reprinted with permission from Ministries of Francis Frangipane (inchristsimage.org)
NOTE: I am working on a writing on this topic which will be posted here when completed.
© Todd Tyszka
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