“Because of the increasing of lawlessness, the love of the greater number will grow cold.”—MATTHEW 24:12.
1, 2. (a) To whom did Jesus’ words at Matthew 24:12 first apply? (b) How does the book of Acts show that most early Christians kept their love strong? (See opening picture.)
WHEN Jesus was on earth, he explained how people would identify “the conclusion of the system of things.” Among other things, he foretold: “The love of the greater number will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:3, 12) The Jews in the first century claimed to be God’s people but had allowed their love for God to grow cold.
2 However, most Christians at that time had a different attitude. They were zealously preaching “the good news about the Christ” and showing love for God, for fellow believers, and even for those who did not yet know the truth. These Christians kept their love for God strong. (Acts 2:44-47; 5:42) Sadly, though, there were some early Christians whose love did grow cold. How do we know this?
3. What may have caused the love of some Christians to grow cold?
3 Jesus told the early Christians who lived in Ephesus: “You have left the love you had at first.” (Revelation 2:4) It could be that the Ephesian Christians were being influenced by people around them who mainly wanted to please themselves. (Ephesians 2:2, 3) Ephesus was a wealthy city where people cared more about comforts and luxuries than anything else. Many in Ephesus were also very immoral and showed no respect for God’s laws. They cared more about enjoying themselves than showing unselfish love for God and others.
4. (a) How has love grown cold in our day? (b) In what three areas must we keep our love strong?
4 Jesus’ words about love growing cold also apply to our day. People today have less and less love for God. Instead of looking to God to solve the problems in the world, millions of people look to human organizations. Their love continues to grow cold. Even the love of Jehovah’s servants could grow cold, as it did in the congregation in ancient Ephesus. So let us discuss three areas in which we must keep our love strong: (1) love for Jehovah, (2) love for Bible truth, and (3) love for our brothers.
LOVE FOR JEHOVAH
5. Why must we love God?
5 Whom should we love the most? Jesus said: “‘You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.” (Matthew 22:37, 38) Our love for God helps us to obey his commandments, to endure, and to hate what is bad. (Read Psalm 97:10.) But Satan and his world try to weaken and destroy our love for God.
6. What happens when people lose their love for God?
6 The world has a distorted view of love. Rather than loving God, many people are “lovers of themselves.” (2 Timothy 3:2) They focus on “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life.” (1 John 2:16) The apostle Paul warned about what can happen if we please ourselves first. He said: “Setting the mind on the flesh means death.” Why? Because those who do this actually become God’s enemies. (Romans 8:6, 7) People who spend their lives focusing on making money or satisfying sexual desires end up very disappointed.—1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Timothy 6:9, 10.
7. What dangerous ideas could affect Christians today?
7 Many atheists, agnostics, and evolutionists try to convince others not to love God or even believe that he exists. They make it seem as if only a person who is foolish or uneducated would believe in a Creator. In addition, many people have more respect for human scientists than for the Creator. (Romans 1:25) Even a Christian could be affected by these ideas. Our relationship with Jehovah could weaken, and our love could grow cold.—Hebrews 3:12.
8. (a) What circumstances could discourage Jehovah’s people? (b) How can Psalm 136 comfort us?
8 Since we are living in Satan’s wicked system, there are many reasons we could feel discouraged at times. (1 John 5:19) But if we allow ourselves to become too discouraged, our faith could weaken and our love for God could grow cold. For example, we may face problems because we are getting older, have bad health, or have financial problems. Or we may feel sad because we are not able to do some things as well as we wish we could. We might be disappointed that certain things in life have not turned out as we hoped. No matter what challenges we face, we should never feel that Jehovah has left us. Think about these comforting words found at Psalm 136:23: “He remembered us when we were low, for his loyal love endures forever.” We can be sure that Jehovah listens to our “pleas for help” and will answer them.—Psalm 116:1; 136:24-26.
9. What gave Paul the strength to keep his love for God strong?
9 The apostle Paul was a servant of God who thought deeply about how Jehovah supported him, and this helped him remain strong. He wrote: “Jehovah is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6) Paul’s confidence in Jehovah helped him to deal with life’s challenges. When Paul had difficult circumstances, he did not lose his confidence in Jehovah. Even when he was in prison, he helped fellow Christians by writing encouraging letters to the congregations. (Ephesians 4:1; Philippians 1:7; Philemon 1) No matter what problems Paul faced, he kept his love for Jehovah strong. He relied on “the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our trials.” (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4) How can we imitate Paul?
10. How can we keep our love for Jehovah strong?
10 Paul explained one way we can keep our love for God strong when he wrote: “Pray constantly.” Later he also wrote: “Persevere in prayer.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Romans 12:12) Why does prayer bring us closer to God? When we pray, we communicate with Jehovah. This makes it possible for us to have a good relationship with him. (Psalm 86:3) When we tell our heavenly Father about our deepest thoughts and feelings, we draw closer to him. (Psalm 65:2) Also, our love for Jehovah grows as we see how he answers our prayers. We are confident that “Jehovah is near to all those calling on him.” (Psalm 145:18) Our confidence in Jehovah’s love and support will help us handle any problems we may face now and in the future.
LOVE FOR BIBLE TRUTH
11, 12. How can we increase our love for Bible truth?
11 As Christians, we love truth. God’s Word is where we find truth. Jesus told his Father: “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) To love Bible truth, we must know what is in the Bible. (Colossians 1:10) But there is more. Notice how the writer of Psalm 119 helps us understand what we need to do. (Read Psalm 119:97-100.) Throughout the day, we need to ponder, or think deeply about, what we read in the Bible. As we meditate on how we benefit from applying Bible truth in our own lives, we will love it more and more.
12 The psalmist also said: “How sweet your sayings are to my palate, more so than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103) The Bible-based publications that God’s organization prepares are like delicious food. When we eat food we like, we want to take our time enjoying it. In a similar way, we want to take our time studying. Then we will really enjoy the “delightful words” of truth, and it will be easier to remember what we read and use it to help others.—Ecclesiastes 12:10.
13. What helped Jeremiah to love God’s words? How did it affect him?
13 The prophet Jeremiah loved God’s words. He said: “Your words were found, and I ate them; and your word became to me the exultation and the rejoicing of my heart, for your name has been called on me, O Jehovah God of armies.” (Jeremiah 15:16) Jeremiah thought deeply about God’s precious words, and he loved them. He appreciated being able to represent Jehovah and proclaim his message. If we love Bible truth, we will realize what a special privilege we have to be Witnesses of Jehovah and to preach about the Kingdom in these last days.
14. What else can we do to increase our love for Bible truth?
14 What else will help us to deepen our love for Bible truth? We need to be regular at our congregation meetings, where we are taught by Jehovah. The weekly study of the Bible using The Watchtower is one of the main ways we are taught. If we want to benefit fully from this meeting, we need to prepare ahead of time. For example, we can look up each of the cited Bible texts. Today, many can easily read or download The Watchtower electronically because it is available in many languages on the jw.org website and in the JW Library app. Some electronic formats let us find the cited scriptures quickly. However we choose to study each article, when we read the scriptures carefully and think deeply about them, our love for Bible truth will grow.—Read Psalm 1:2.
LOVE FOR OUR BROTHERS
15, 16. (a) According to John 13:34, 35, what command did Jesus give us? (b) How is our love for God and the Bible connected to our love for our brothers?
15 On his last night on earth, Jesus said to his disciples: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.”—John 13:34, 35.
16 Loving our brothers and sisters is connected to loving Jehovah. If we do not love God, we cannot love our brothers. And if we do not love our brothers, we cannot love God. The apostle John wrote: “The one who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20) Our love for Jehovah and our brothers is also connected to our love for the Bible. Why? Because if we love what we learn from the Bible, we will want to obey the commandments we find there to love God and our brothers.—1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 4:21.
17. What are some ways in which we can show love?
17 Read 1 Thessalonians 4:9, 10. What are some practical ways that we can show love to those in our congregation? An elderly brother or sister might need help traveling to and from the congregation meetings. A widow might need help repairing something in her home. (James 1:27) Brothers and sisters who are discouraged, depressed, or facing other problems need our attention, encouragement, and comfort. (Proverbs 12:25; Colossians 4:11) We show that we love “those related to us in the faith” by what we say and do.—Galatians 6:10.
18. What will help us to solve disagreements with our brothers?
18 The Bible said that in “the last days” of this wicked system, many people would be selfish and greedy. (2 Timothy 3:1, 2) As Christians, we need to work hard to keep growing in our love for Jehovah, his Word, and one another. Since we are imperfect, we might at times have small disagreements with our brothers. But because we love one another, we will try to settle any differences as kindly and quickly as possible. (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:14) Let us never allow our love to grow cold! Instead, let us continue to have intense love for Jehovah, his Word, and our brothers.