Monday, September 05, 2005

God’s Remedy for Apostasy

I am posting an article that I wrote a few years ago for a evening program at our church that was eventually published in our conference publication, "LIFE LINES." Apostasy is not a pleasant subject, but one that can overcome the believer due to certain conditions that develop within our lives. The New Testament is replete with warnings to all believers to stay focused on God's Word and its application in life. I acknowledge that there are many that do not believe that a believer can fail of the grace of God, but the Word plainly shows that this is a real possibility. Not to say that God fails, but we allow ourselves to fail in our lack of due diligence. Our Lord Jesus Christ spent many of His morning hours and late nights in communion with the Father, and since He is our example, we must also give heed to our prayer life and daily meditation on God's Word. I offer this considering myself and my own weaknesses of the flesh and I daily need the reminder to take up my cross and follow my Lord. May He receive all the glory.

God’s Remedy for Apostasy
“Surely it couldn’t happen to me. I’ll never turn away from God, never return to the world, never grow cold in my love for the Lord, and never leave the fellowship of the church.” That is most likely what most people who have fallen from grace have thought. God’s Word highlights the subtleness of apostasy when it says, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). It confirms the reality of apostasy in passages such as I Timothy 4:13; Matthew 24:11-12; II Timothy 3:1-5 and 4:3-4; and the Book of Jude.

The threat of apostasy is evidenced in the church when we see a lack of concern for using the Bible in decision making; using human logic as authority for making changes in our life and not the authority of God’s Word; the lack of desire on the part of professing Christians for fellowship with the saints, for the things of God, for study in His Word, and for outreach to the world of lost souls around us. Also evident is the carelessness on the part of leaders, both in families and in the church, in teaching doctrine and giving the living example to those around them that Christ demands.

Spiritual blindness produces apostasy that leads to living selfish, fleshly, lives and doing evil deeds with a carnal mentality in rejection of God’s commands in His Word. This leads to eventual rejection by God and loss of salvation.

Preventing Apostasy
Knowing these things, what can we do to prevent apostasy in our lives?

A believer must make the fundamental beginning to determine within his heart that he will seek and develop a deep love for God and His Word.

This love must include a strong desire to know the Scriptures. “Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it” (Psalm 119:140) “My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times” (Psalm 119:20). “I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments” (Psalm 119:131).

Do you long for an opportunity to spend time with God’s Word? Or are you engrossed in other pursuits or interests in life? Although there is nothing wrong with hobbies, jobs, or other aspects of family life, but our individual desires must be restrained in these areas so that we may learn to allow the Spirit to guide us into a greater love of God’s Word.

Along with this we must allow time daily to pursue our love of God’s Word. In Joshua 1:8 we read, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night.” Psalm 1:2 says, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”

Can we be any less diligent than Joshua or David? Joshua heeded God’s instruction in his life, and God was with him in the conquest of Canaan.

David suffered when he sinned, but found wonderful forgiveness from God when he returned to God’s Law. His failure brought much suffering to his family. Yet David was a “man after God’s own heart” (I Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22).

We are no stronger in our own strength than David. David sinned, even thought he loved God’s Word, when he let his lustful nature lead him astray. We can also allow our lives to be overcome by sin if we are not diligent in our study and practice of God’s Word.

Joseph is another example of one who honored his God even when he was a slave, a prisoner, and the ruler of Egypt.

Daniel expressed his love for God when he “purposed in his heart” to follow God’s Law. Daniel’s favor with God is shown in his position as a leading advisor to Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus; some of the world’s greatest kings.

As Paul admonished Timothy, so we must give attention to “study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (II Timothy 2:15).

Secondly, we must acknowledge the presence and purpose of Satan and his followers. “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful” (Psalm 1:1). “Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them” (Proverbs 24:1). “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers....” (II Corinthians 6:14). “Enter thou not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men” (Proverbs 4:14).

These verses stand as a warning to us about Satan’s servants. We need to be aware that Satan goes about as a lion to devour those he can, and that he is the very enemy of God. Satan’s desire is to crush as many souls as he can; especially those who profess to follow Christ.

To combat this we must put on the armor of God. “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand....having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness,...your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace,....taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked,...take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:11-17). Paul realized the importance of being prepared to resist the devil to prevent apostasy. The unprepared will be unable to cope with Satan and his followers.

Without truth, righteousness, a prepared Gospel of Peace, and a ready shield of faith, we are not ready to meet the enemy. Without Biblical understanding we cannot wield the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God!

Thirdly, we must readily confess our sins. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). Do we harbor sins in our lives? Making room in our lives for sinful living will lead us into apostasy. Sin exacts a horrible price. “For the wages of sin is death....” (Romans 6:23). This is apostasy in its final form.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). These verses answer our problem of sin with God. God has prepared everything for us; all we need to do is to confess and forsake our sins (Proverbs 28: 13).

Fourthly, we must willingly accept the help and direction of the brotherhood. Hebrews 3:13 says, “But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” “Obey them that have rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17) We are further encouraged, “And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation...” (Hebrews 13:22).

We cannot live unto ourselves. Each one of us is important to God and fills a valuable place as a member in Christ’s church. We ought to have our brother’s and sister’s best interest ahead of our own. We are a church of servants, serving Christ and one another.

Fifthly, we must “ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established” (Proverbs 4:26). Where are we going in life? What are our plans? Have we sought the counsel of God’s Word and of our brethren in Christ? Is our pattern the Lord, His Word, and His example of life?

To avoid apostasy, we must be established in Christ and His way before our way is right. This is an ongoing, life-long exercise that takes our constant awareness. We must seek, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to grow in grace daily. Our goal, then, is to be more and more like the Master.

Moses told the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 30:19-20, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days.....”

Let us say as the psalmist, Order my steps in thy word; and let not any iniquity have dominion over me. In doing this, we can prevent the error of apostasy from encroaching into our lives. Each individual is responsible in this, that our collective body may be the pure and spotless bride of Christ.

May the Father help us as we look unto Him for strength, through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

(This article was published in the “Life Lines” of the Southeastern Mennonite and South Atlantic Conferences at Christian Light Publishing, 1066 Chicago Ave. Harrisonburg, Va. 22810 in the Sept.-Oct. 1993 issue.)