Don’t let our love grow cold…we’re calling out, light the fire again!
Whilst many of us in the northern hemisphere are anticipating the end of wintry weather, no doubt those in the southern hemisphere are still enjoying either a fire pit or barbie (or a braai) on the beach – obviously, I’m not envious in any way whatsoever!
Whether it’s coals on a fire to keep warm in the winter or coals on a BBQ to enjoy cooked food in the summer, these coals provide a valuable lesson to all of us about not becoming lukewarm in our relationship with God or in our love for others.
If you’ve been in the church long enough you will have heard the story about the proverbial coal that fell out from the fire and became cold very quickly. Many preachers around the world have helpfully used this analogy to encourage us to be part of a body of believers rather than falling out from a fellowship and losing our ‘glow’.
The Problem with Coals
However, it strikes me that all the coals suffer from the same problem. At some stage, left to their own devices, all the coals will eventually grow cold. Granted, some coals will grow cold quicker than others, but without any external influences, all the coals are destined to lose their heat.
Before considering how coals can effectively retain their heat (thereby ensuring that collectively they continue to fulfill their purpose in providing warmth to the frozen traveller or a sizzling steak to the starving surfer) let’s remind ourselves of Jesus’ unambiguous words of warning to His followers.
Three warnings Jesus gave about growing cold
In Matthew 24 Jesus describes at length some of the signs of the ‘End Times’. In verse 12 He warns, ‘Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold’. I find this staggering each time I read it that Jesus didn’t say this about a few, or of some, of even of many… but the love of MOST will grow cold. I, for one, do not want to be part of this group!
In Jesus’ revelation to John in the last book of the Bible, Jesus chides the Church of Ephesus because even though they do many things well they have woefully ‘forsaken their first love’. (Revelation 2:4)
His words to the Church of Laodicea are quite sobering… ‘because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.’ These believers had not even gone past the stage of being lukewarm but in loving discipline Jesus warned them in the hope that they repent and relationship be restored.
Three ways for the church to stay on fire
In order for coals to retain their effectiveness by remaining hot, they must receive help from an external source, just as we need help to stay ‘on fire’ for God:
Coals can be prodded, agitated and disturbed in order to stoke a fire. Similarly, in loving discipline, Jesus sometimes comes to shake us up and wake us up to the reality of our situation. Just as heat is gradually lost from a coal fire, so the church has a natural tendency to slumber and sleep. No-one likes being disturbed from their sleep but we should be thankful when God comes to shake us out of any apathy and wake up the Body of Christ from its drowsiness. We may not appreciate being prodded and agitated but the truth is that the church needs reviving on a continual basis to be effective in its mission.
Have you ever blown on coals to make them glow once again? Oh that the Holy Spirit would blow on the church once again in this generation so that we may ‘shine like stars in the sky as we hold firmly to the Word of Life’ (Philippians 2:15). Have you ever poured a flammable liquid on a dying coal fire? Oh that the Holy Spirit be poured upon us to make us more effective in reaching out to those who have not yet heard about the transforming message of the Gospel.
The third way to keep a coal fire burning for longer is to add more coals to the fire! How desperately do we need to see the contagious enthusiasm and passion of new believers in our work places, neighbourhoods and churches as a witness of the life-giving joy Jesus can bring. Let’s cry out to the ‘Lord of the Harvest’ to see multitudes of people come to know our Lord and Saviour in this generation before it is too late.
Three ways for individuals to prevent their love from growing cold
Firstly we need to recognise that ‘we love Him because He first loved us’ (1 John 4:19). For God so loved the world that He gave His One and only Son. Just as the Israelites so often forgot about what God had done for them in setting them free from slavery, we too can often forget what He has done for us. Let’s take time to repent of our forgetfulness, remember His steadfast love, receive His mercy and be restored in our relationship with Him.
The greatest commandment is this: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Matthew 22:37). It has been said that love is spelt ‘T-I-M-E’. Indeed, in this busy world with numerous demands on our time, let’s prioritise time with our Heavenly Father in prayer and study of the Bible, taking time to renew and refresh our relationship with Him.
The second commandment is simply: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Elsewhere in John 13:35, Jesus says, ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ Perhaps even more challenging (leading by example) Jesus goes on to say, ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ (John 15:13) Again, love is spelt T-I-M-E…let’s make time for people and consider how we can bless others. Just as Jesus allowed Himself to be interrupted by people with desperate needs, let’s allow ourselves to be interrupted by work colleagues, by neighbours, by family members who have a need, and in so doing let’s show the love described in that most famous of passages from 1 Corinthians 13.
Revive us, Lord!
For coals to achieve their purpose of effectively providing heat, it’s vital that they must retain as much heat as possible. Let’s take time to consider ways to stop our loving from growing cold and so heed the warnings of Jesus. Perhaps even now, you may like to take just 5/10 minutes to listen to this wonderful song written by Brian Doerksen entitled, ‘Light the fire again’.
And may the cry of our heart echo that of the psalmist in Psalm 85:6, so that we don’t just experience personal renewal but that we might see a truly glorious revival in our generation: