Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. ~ Matthew 24:3-13
Guard your heart. I’ve often heard this phrase in the context of dating: “Don’t get emotionally entangled. Your heart belongs to God and it’s possible to give it away.” But I don’t think guarding one’s heart has anything to do with dating. It’s far more important than that.
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it. ~ Proverbs 4:23
What is the heart? It is the seat of our identity. It is the place we yield to Jesus. It is where His Spirit resides. It is where we keep his commands and the words of Scripture.
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. ~ Luke 6:45
My son, keep my words
and store up my commands within you.
Keep my commands and you will live;
guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.
Bind them on your fingers;
write them on the tablet of your heart. ~ Proverbs 7:1-3
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you. ~ Psalm 119:11
In order for the gospel to take root in our lives, our hearts must be soft and yielding. That is how we love. That is how we remain humble. That is how we demonstrate our faithfulness.
Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown. ~ Mark 4:20
I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. ~ Ezekiel 11:19-20
But, man, it’s tough, isn’t it? Especially these days. I can’t go anywhere, online or offline, where there isn’t contention, anger and bad news. Horrible things are happening in our country and in our world. I’ve watched people whom I’ve called friends–who I thought were decent and reasonable–turn bitter toward me and others. And there are days–many, many days–when I want to be bitter right back.
But I can’t let that happen.
No matter how bad it gets.
There’s too much at stake. The gospel is at stake. My Christian identity is at stake.
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. ~ Philippians 4:5
Yes, I speak out often about the excesses and failures of American Evangelicalism. I’m deeply disappointed at how the American Church has responded to the challenges of our time, choosing to draw their power from political authoritarianism instead of the Holy Spirit. About this, I will never be silent. But that means I have to be on constant guard–against hate, against cynicism, against apathy. I have to remind myself daily that God has not appointed me judge of anyone’s final destination. I can only point them toward the narrow path and hold the lantern.
In fact, the darker the night becomes, the brighter my light must shine. The more evident my compassion and gentleness must be. The deeper I must love. So that hope does not disappear.
This does not mean that I go along just to get along. In fact, if one’s light is shining properly, people will complain about the glare. “Why do you care? Why do you waste your time and money?” they will say. “Why be nice to that person? Why keep speaking out?”
Because. I have a policy of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. 🙂
As these days grow darker (and they will), it will become more important than ever to reach out to others with empathy and love, because it will be needed. As lawlessness and hypocrisy increase, we will be tempted–sorely tempted–to let cynicism creep in and chill our love. This is what has happened to many whom I speak against in the Church today. We will need courage and resolve to remain yielded to the Spirit, to keep our hearts soft so that Jesus can continue to write His precepts there. It’s already the hardest fight I’ve ever fought, and we’re just getting started.
Stay strong. Guard your heart. Everything depends on it.