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Love in the End Times

Eugene Prewitt

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Love is an End-Time Salvational Issue

Presenter

Eugene Prewitt

Director, The Institute of East Asia Training (IEAT)

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Recorded

  • April 5, 2014
    2:00 PM

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I think some of you have read that verse about how dangerous our day will be: perilous times in the end. And when it describes the perils, it says that, "men will be lovers of themselves more than lovers of God," or "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God." Lovers of God, and what should you do if, though no one knows it, in your own heart you don't know how to love God? What if, when you think about loving God, you can't find any way to manufacture a love for God any more than you can a love for someone else you’ve never met? That's what we're aiming at, and I wanted to begin by telling you some stories you know. If you want to find these stories, in fact, I encourage you to turn to Numbers 14.

 

Numbers 14 right near the beginning of your Bible. It's almost page 100 in mine. Numbers 14 is the story of the 12 spies, and they're on their way back from exploring Canaan. They all have reports about how wonderful Canaan is, but ten of them say that, “We can’t take it.” They say, “The giants there will overcome us.” They say, “It's going to be difficult; we shouldn't have come this far.” And two, Joshua and Caleb, two of them, Joshua and Caleb say, "We can do it in the strength of the Lord." That's the part you remember about this story, but I bet there's a part you don't remember so well. You find that in verse 10.

 

Are you in Numbers 14? In verse 10, "But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel." “Them,” that is Joshua and Caleb. The church wanted to stone Joshua and Caleb. The two that gave the good report, what did the church want to do to them? Kill them, and when a mob wants to kill someone, they usually can do it. But what happens in the second half of verse 10? The glory of God appeared, and that's why they didn't do it. In verses 11 and 12, God speaks to Moses; He says, "How long is it going to be before these people believe Me? After all these miracles that I've done, how long are they going to be rebellious against Me?" He says, "I'm going to destroy them." And then He says to Moses, "I'm going to make of you, a greater and mightier nation than they."

 

Now that's the children's story you've never heard before. How God wiped out the Israelites and took Moses and made a new nation, better than the nation of the Israelites. And the reason you’ve never heard that story that's described there in verse 12 is because in verse 13 Moses begins to pray. He prays for the people. He uses a number of interesting arguments, and if you think about the story, you'll realize he had to use interesting arguments because he couldn't say, "They're such good people." Moses couldn't say, "Please forgive them, they're good folks." Although, people preach like that at funerals these days even when it's not true.

 

But Moses didn't say that. Moses...I'm going to summarize the arguments you find between verse 13 and 19 kind of like this. He says, "Father, please forgive them because Your glory is at stake. You're the One who took them out of Egypt, and if You destroy them now, it's going to look like You weren't able to finish what You started. For Your own reputation, please don't destroy them." He said, "Because You have forgiven them from that point until now, to be consistent, forgive them again." He said, "Because You made promises to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, please forgive them to keep Your promises."

 

Aren't those all interesting arguments to use: "Because You promised," "because of Your own reputation," "that is to help the heathen," "because of Your consistency"? And I'd like you to look at verse 20. Numbers 14, verse 20. "And the Lord said, ‘I have pardoned.'" If it stopped there, that would be interesting enough, wouldn't it? But notice what He says, "I have pardoned according to your word." Suppose that you wanted to know how to have powerful intercessory prayer, do you think you might want to study the prayer of Moses? A prayer that is used here and works so well?

 

Two chapters later in chapter 16, you have the story of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Do you know about that great rebellion, or maybe you have not heard about it, but these three leading men, one of them a Levite, the other two not Levites, try to have a coup, you know, take over the control of the nation of Israel. And God threatened to destroy the nation again. You just read that in chapter 14, he does that again in chapter 16. He threatens to destroy the nation; His glory appears. But Moses again prays, and this is Moses' prayer in chapter 16; it's a little bit different. He says, "God, are You going to destroy the whole nation for the rebellion of a few people?" So the prayer is different, and it leads to a different result. What God says is, “Separate from Korah, Dathan and Abiram, leave them by themselves in one group, and everyone else in the other.” And they did that, and then the earth swallowed up group A because Moses prayed that God would spare group B.

 

Now, in effect, the argument in Moses' prayer is quite a bit different than it is in chapter 14 because Moses' prayer nearly says that, “The people aren't so bad.” Do you hear that in the contrast? When he said, "Are You going to destroy everyone for the rebellion of a few?" doesn't that prayer nearly indicate that the larger part is better than the few? Well, I'll tell you, by the end of chapter 16, Moses finds out that it really wasn’t true, because when they go to bed that night, the people of Israel begin talking. And the next morning they come and they say, this is in the 40s of this chapter, chapter 16 in the 40s. They say, "You have killed the people of the Lord," almost as if Moses had power to open up the earth and do what happened. And then they're ready to kill Moses and Aaron. This time, it's all the people. You know, the people aren't any better in chapter 16 than they are in chapter 14, but again God appears, and a plague begins to destroy a whole bunch of them, just like God threatened to do.

 

This is where I hope that you will learn a lesson because Aaron is a very weak character in Exodus. You know Aaron; he's the one that makes the golden what? The calf. And then he says that he just put the gold in the fire, and the calf came out. I don't know if you've read that, but that's about what Aaron says there. Aaron is weak; he leads the whole nation in apostasy. And I know something about this church, even though I don't know much about it, but I know that as a church at least some of you are aware of apostasy among leading persons somewhere. That's why I want you to think about Aaron because Aaron was a leader in apostasy in Exodus. But God did not fire him.

 

And here in Numbers 16, you see that Aaron had gone through such a transformation that he takes the censer and runs into the people and stands between the living and the dead. That is, Aaron puts his own life on the line to bring an end to this judgment and proves that his character is different today than it was in the past. Do you let people change? Can you let someone like Aaron be a different man today than he was in the past? I hope you can because God can. God does that kind of thing.

 

By chapter 20, the people are upset again. They're complaining about water. And in chapter 20…Why don't you turn there because you're so close. Numbers, chapter 20, and we're going to look at verse 6, "And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the [congregation], and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto them." You know, that's what happens every time in these three chapters: The people rebel, God's glory appears, Moses and Aaron pray. That's the consistent theme in 14, 16 and 20.

 

The people rebel. Does that hide God's glory? No. God's glory shows up anyway. Where does it show up? It's in the tabernacle where it shows up. The people rebel, but you can see God's glory in the tabernacle, and what do God's faithful people do? They pray. But here in chapter 20, Moses does something more than pray. He prays plus he gets frustrated. And when he prays plus gets frustrated, he smites the rock, and that's why Moses doesn't get to go to Canaan.

 

I want you to turn with me to Titus, chapter 3 and verse 3. Titus is not a minor prophet nor a major prophet, but also I like to give you extra time for Titus. If you're a new Christian, or you've just been learning things, if you've been studying your Bible the last few years, it might help you to remember that all of the T's are together. If you find Thessalonians or Timothy you know you're close to Titus; it comes at the tail of that. Titus, chapter 3, and we're looking at verse 3. Some of you won’t admit it, but learning the books of the Bible is no easy thing if you get started at age 30. Would anyone admit that? At least some will. And so, those of you who teach Sabbath School, make the kids learn it when their eight and nine and ten. That's the only easy time.

 

Are you in Titus 3? Titus 3, verse 3, "For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another." Not everyone is willing to admit that verse 3 is true, but you ought to admit it, that “we ourselves,” that is, “you and I also.” If you know someone who is deceived…Do you know someone who is deceived? Do you know someone who lives in malice or is hateful and hateful of other people? Do you know some people like described in verse 3? Well, if you believe the Bible, you believe you were like that, too.

 

We also were sometimes deceived, living in malice, hateful and hating one another, foolish, it says in verse 3. If we were that way, and you know people who still are, it really is a good question, what made the difference for us? In other words, whatever made the difference for us, might it also make a difference for them? Do you follow the logic of that?

 

Look at verse 4, "But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared." Verse 4 doesn't say that God began to love us after that. Didn't He love us during the time we were foolish and deceived? He loved us the whole time. But what made the difference in verse 4? And what about the love of God, because it existed before. It appeared, right? Do you see that in verse 4? It's when the love of God appeared, that's what made the difference. In other words, the love of God is powerful, but its power comes into play when it appears. If it doesn't show up, it doesn't have the kind of power it needs. Because God loves that class, the ones you know, but they don't see it, and so it hasn't changed them yet.

 

I don't mean that where it does appear it changes everyone. But even if you said that, you wouldn't be way off because Jesus said that if He was lifted up, He would draw…You remember the next part of that? He would draw all men to Himself. It doesn't mean they all would come, but they all would be drawn, so that the love of God appearing is powerful.

 

Now turn back to our Scripture reading, that's Matthew 24. Matthew 24, and we're looking at verse 12. This is the danger sign in this context, Matthew 24 verse 12. It says, "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will wax cold." There are two ways that can happen. One, it's intuitive, and the other, that's only intuitive when you think about it long enough. But when iniquity is common, if you partake in it, you lose your grip on spirituality. When you go to the parties, you're not as spiritually interested as you were before you go to them. When you take part in the pleasure-seeking experiences where the worldlings are at, you begin to have less interest in spiritual things. If iniquity is abounding, and you participate in iniquity, what happens to your love? According to the verse? It grows cold. But that's not the only way it works.

 

The other way it works is when your children are being naughty it makes you angry.  When iniquity abounds, the love of many grows…? Cold. That is, you don't have to participate in iniquity to be affected by it. When you perceive iniquity, if you allow your heart to chafe under the ill treatment, if they want to stone you today, tomorrow and the next day, and you get frustrated, then you have experienced Matthew 24, verse 12. Because iniquity abounded, the love, your love, has grown cold. Your love can grow cold because you observe iniquity just the way it grows cold when you participate in iniquity. The watching it or the doing of it, they both can really mess up your love.

 

In Matthew 24 I want you to make a connection between verse 12 and verse 13, "He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." What is it that needs to endure unto the end? I'll tell you: It is our love. Our love needs to endure, and we're in danger of our love waxing cold because iniquity is abounding. Whether or not we participate, if we participate, it'll go that way; if we observe it, it could go that way. And what I want to present to you as a practical idea, a beginning idea for the message this morning, is that heartfelt prayer for faulty people is a way to preserve your love for them. That is, when you pray for them instead of talking about them, it has a different impact on how you relate to them. If you pray for Joe earnestly every night for two weeks and then you see him, you're not going to relate to him the same way as if for two weeks every day you talked about how foolish and deceived and lustful he is.

 

When you talk about his iniquity, it tends to wean your affection from him. Even if you try to hide it, I think when Joe sees you, he senses something is different. Have any of you ever sensed when someone was kind of becoming distant from you? It doesn't even require above-average intuition to know when people are kind of withdrawing their affection from you. Well, watch it, you can do that to others, too. It's especially important if you're standing up for what is right because in the history of the church, the people who stand up for what is right, like Joshua and Caleb, often get treated badly, and their spiritual life is in peril.

 

That's how Jones and Waggoner lost it. They were opposed for right doing, and eventually it began to get to them. They began to feel it and to think about it, and as they did, it weaned their affection from their brethren. But when you wean your affection from erring people, you're weaning your affection from the Lord Jesus Himself because He is trying to help those erring people. In Song of Solomon, when the lady wants to go find the Lord, I say the church there; I'm speaking in the metaphoric application there. She asks, "Where is He?" And the answer is, "Go where He feeds the lambs, and that's where you will find Him." That is, if you do what Jesus is doing, if you serve the ones that He's serving, if you care for the ones He's caring for, you're going to be as close to Him as you can get.

 

What I've said so far is that in the end of time, love is a salvational issue. It's salvational, and if it endures, the ones that endure are the ones that are saved. But not everyone endures because iniquity takes pot shots at love. It does it one of two ways, either by participation or by observation. You can't help but observe to some degree if you're the one being treated badly. So when you can't help but see it, that's when you have to find some other way to maintain your affection, and intercessory prayer is the means used by Moses in chapter 14 and 16 and 20. When God says, "Separate from the people," God doesn't want Moses to separate from the people. God is testing the love of Moses. And when Moses, if he did separate from the people, he would have been failing the love test. What God wants from him is that he will so care for the people, that he will plead for them. And when he does that, it works out rightly.

 

In Joel, chapter 2, I think you know, some of you, what's in that chapter. That's where you find the early and latter rain there in verse 23 and on to verse 30 and 31. But what you might not be aware, is that in verses 12 through 17 you have the cause that leads to the effect of the latter rain. That is, in verse 23 through 30, you have the experience that God poured out His Holy Spirit, but it's not just a random or unpredictable event. It follows on the heels of something. That something is in verses 12 through 17.

 

To save time I'm just going to tell you, but surely you'll look it up at some point. In verse 12, what God asks of the church is that we put away our sins. It’s that we humble ourselves. It's that we don't think that we're so much better than others. The idea that we also are sometimes foolish and deceived is a much better thought than the thought, “Lord, I'm not like these other men.” He's asking us to humble ourselves and to put away our sins and to make a difference. But then in verse 17 it says that the priests stand between the porch and the alter, and they say, “Spare Your people, O [God]." And then they begin to use the same arguments that Moses used in Numbers 14. They say, "Don't let the heathen rule over them, not because of the heathen, Father, because of Your own reputation.” Let me say this to you plainly, if God destroys the Seventh-day Adventist Church, that's going to be very confusing for the heathen. The Muslims in Java and the Hindus in India will conclude that the Adventists didn't have the truth. Does that make sense to you what I just said?

 

That's what God says in Ezekiel 20. He says it there three times. You use Ezekiel 20 in your Bible studies; you use verse 12 and verse 20 where it talks about the Sabbath as a sign of sanctification, but maybe you never wondered why is it there twice? It's because in Ezekiel 20 God says, "I would have destroyed them in Egypt, but that would have confused the heathen, so I spared them, but they rebelled." “I would have destroyed them then,” in that period around Moses' rebellion…It wasn't Moses' rebellion. I'm trying to find a way to specify Numbers 14 and 16 again.

 

God says, "I would have destroyed them there, but I didn't do it because of the heathen. But I told the children, ‘Don't do like your fathers.’” Then the next generation, they rebelled, too. And God says in Ezekiel 20, "I didn't destroy them because of the heathen, but I said to the children, ‘Don't do like your fathers.’” That's why you see verse 12 and verse 20, because He says to one generation (verse 12), "Keep the Sabbath," but then He says to the next generation in verse 20, "Keep the Sabbath." It's the same message but to different audiences. God spares His people in rebellion because of His own reputation not because the people are so good. I think you understand.

 

Turn your Bibles to 1 John, chapter 1, 1 John, chapter 1 and verse 7, "But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another." Do you see the means to church unity in verse 7? How do we end up getting along? If we walk in the light. And then it says something more than that, "and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin."  Do you know, I call this “Plan A.”

 

Suppose that there is sin in your life, and you want to be free from that sin. God's “Plan A” is that you walk in the light. And when you walk in the light, that is, when you choose to do what God says, when you live according to His words, when you practice what He says, when you walk in the light, He cleans up your life.

 

“Plan B” is verse 9, and that's much more famous. Suppose you don't walk in the light. Suppose you do the wrong thing then confess your sin. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin. Does He still clean us up? And He still cleans us up. He cleans us up when we walk in the light, but if we don't walk in the light, He cleans us up if we confess our sins and put them away.

 

That's “Plan A” and “Plan B.” In both cases, it's the blood of Jesus that cleans us up. In other words, when we walk in the light it's not that by doing the right thing my character has changed; I can't change myself. But the light I walk in is the light of God's love. It's the love of God that constrains us. It's His mercies that lead us to repentance. I'm thinking right now of Romans 2, verse 4, the goodness of God. The goodness in that context means His mercy; the way He relates to us when we're erring and faulty. We were erring and faulty, deceived and serving various lusts and pleasures, but after that what happened? The love and kindness of God toward man appeared.

 

Now, I know that I can't just preach forever because of the funeral coming up this afternoon, so I'm going to summarize the last two thirds of what I wanted to say today and tell you about this website AudioVerse.org (you ought to know that, AudioVerse.org) on your smartphones or your computers, you could find a much more elongated version of what I'm about to share with you there. But the summary is that in Isaiah 58, the Bible explains how to live in the Day of Atonement. You know, in the Day of Atonement back in the Old Testament, they had to afflict their souls, and we know that we live in the judgment today, and we ought to afflict our souls. But it's not a very simple-to-figure-out thing, what that means practically because it doesn't mean, for example, to whip ourselves, right? And suppose you wonder what exactly it does mean. Well, there is a chapter to explain it, and that is Isaiah, chapter 58.

 

In fact, God asked the question there, He says that, as a people, we are devotional. This is in the first few verses. He says that we seek Him daily as a nation that had not forsaken the ordinance of God. We delight to know His ways. And then we say, "Why is it that when we're practicing religion the best we know how in our self-denial, why is it, when we fast, as it were, that You don't give us that spiritual revival we're looking for?" And God says, "You didn't know what I was looking for. What I was looking for was service of needy people." In other words, God's plan, the divine economy, isn't that I pray and God serves me. The divine economy is like this: I serve you, and He serves me. I help you, and He blesses me.

 

It's when I go out of my way to help…I'm thinking right now of verses 6 through 9, if you're in that chapter. It's when I go out of my way to help needy people that He goes out of His way to help me. What does He promise to do in Isaiah 58? Why, [they’re] amazing promises. He says, "I will guide you continually." He says, "Your health will spring forth speedily." He says that, "Light will shine in the obscure areas of your life." He gives the most amazing promises. He says in the end of the chapter that, "You will delight yourself in the Lord. You will enjoy the inheritance that I promised to Jacob.” The promises in Isaiah 58 are the best type of promises, but you have to meet the conditions.

 

The conditions are in verses 6 through 9 and then also in verses 12 and 13. What are those conditions? One is that when you see a hungry person, you feed him. When you see a naked person that you give him food. When you see a cast out person that you end up taking him in. But unfortunately perhaps for you, you live in a nation that has a strong welfare system. So that here, people who are naked, it's probably not because they're too poor. Right? But don't despair, you can still claim the promises of Isaiah 58 because there are some other things you can do.

 

It says “to let the oppressed go free,” “break every yoke,” to "lift up those that are discouraged.” I'm going to speak now in our more simple way of talking. Do you know someone who has an addiction? Help him with it. Do you know someone who's depressed? Help her with it. And let me tell you, right here in our welfare system, there are plenty of depressed and addicted people so that Americans have access to Isaiah 58. And you need that verse here in America because when Jesus comes back and He’s diving the sheep and the goats, it's still going to be the same way it is in Matthew 25. It's those that were allowing the love of God to appear, "As much as you've done unto one of the least of these My brethren, you've done it unto Me."

 

Well, if you can't find a hungry or naked or cast out person, you had better start looking for a struggling, discouraged, or oppressed person. I think you can find one of those. Do you think you can find one of those? And when you apply the gospel remedy to them that God has made available to you, “As much as you’ve done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, you've done it unto Me.” You've let the love of God go through you. The love of God goes through you, and when the love of God goes through you, when it shows up, you know what it does to people who are foolish and deceived and serving various lusts and pleasures? It changes them. And what it does for you is it makes available to you those beautiful promises. And then your love can be growing, growing at a time when other people's love is shrinking.

 

So, what a disaster it would be…(I'm going to be done in five minutes, I promise.) But what a disaster it would be, if as Adventists we were critical, censorious and condemning, but we weren't visiting our neighbors and helping them with their real needs. I'm thinking of Christian Service, page 115; I'm about to paraphrase it. It says, "Visit your neighbors in a kind, friendly way. Those who will not do this, who will manifest the indifference that some have shown, will soon lose their first love and grow critical, condemning and censorious of their fellow brethren.” That's dangerous because he who's love endures unto the end, the same shall be saved. But don't think God didn't give you a warning. He's the one who told us that we ought to be serving others. It's the way you afflict your soul today, you deny yourself for the benefit of someone else. You put yourself out because someone else needs. And when you do that, that is the love that is like God's love.

 

If this was an audience full of atheists, and we showed on the screen a video with proper sentimental music and starving children and a low-voiced narrator who knew how to use the pathos of his voice, many of you would cry out of sympathy for the starving children. You would care about them. That sentimental love is never the kind of love that distinguishes Christians from non-Christians. Atheists have it, too. Jesus said, “Even the publicans love them that love….” I said it wrong, but you understood what I was trying to say.

 

God's love is the kind that goes after those who are serving the various lusts and pleasures, the ones who are hurtful and hurting and might even have malice aimed at you. It's the love that is kind to those that won't be kind in return. It's the kind of love that Moses showed when he prayed for those that wanted to kill him. It's that kind of love, it's the opposite of the mentality that puts distance between you and the offenders and begins to kind of surround yourself and think about their sinfulness because, in that case, your love grows cold, and it's a disaster. I know I'm saying the same thing over and over, but I think that we need to hear the same thing over and over again.

 

When Jesus comes to Laodicea, the Last-Day church, and He speaks to us as a people as a whole, and He says that we're naked, it's because we don't have the righteousness of Jesus. It's all classes that have this problem not just one class. We're all naked. And then when He offers us the gold, that gold is love and faith combined. It's the experience of serving others at your own expense that renews what's lacking, what you've been losing in your life. When we do the Isaiah 58 experience, we are buying the gold of Revelation; we're letting Jesus into our life. And if we do, He will come in and eat with us and we with Him. We will find ourselves to be overcomers. We'll sit down with Him on His throne, and that's what I want for you and for me. Amen.

 

Our Father in Heaven, please spare us from the growing lack of affection that exists today. Find a way to show us how we also were foolish and deceived and serving various lusts and pleasures. And if there are some here that still are serving various lusts and pleasures, would You please show to them Your love and allow it to appear in us. I thank You for these gifts, and I ask for them in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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