Tuesday, February 11, 2020

End Times - Apostasy

At the moment of launch on May 5, 1961, Alan Shepherd said: The clock is running. It meant the mission was under way. All that was designed would be completed.

At the time of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., another clock started. It was the Second Coming Clock. No one knows what time is on that clock. All we know, it is set and running according to God’s schedule. And when it hits God’s predetermined day, the Lord will return. That places all the days leading up to that moment within the End Times.

God will not tell us when, but has given us general information as to what will lead up to that last day when the trumpet will sound and all Believers will be caught up to meet Jesus in the sky. Paul lays out the next phase.

2Thess 2:1-3 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first

According to Paul, preceding the Lord’s return, there will be a great falling away or apostasy. 

Apostasy is a word specific to a Christian or the Church. It is the state or condition of refusing to continue. No longer following, obeying, or living based upon a religious faith. Abandoning a previous loyalty. In other words: defection.

The clearest examples of defection were those soldiers from N. Korea, Russia and even China back during the Cold War who came across the battle line or flew onto an American base to switch sides. They were abandoning loyalty to a previous regime and embracing a different one. They are rejecting an allegiance or duty and pulling away from that to which he had been attached.

The apostasy, Paul says, will be a time when Christians and Churches give up allegiance to God, exchanging that allegiance for something else – typically self-interests and inferior beliefs not based on the Word of God. They will give up practices that honor God in order to embrace what is required to follow a different master: the world, the government or their own desires.

It is more often seen in rejecting the beliefs, dissolving interests or withdrawing from commitments typical within the Christian life. How will we recognize apostasy? It could be someone leaving the church. They are offended, become bored or indifferent and they go away mad, disillusioned or simply drop out. Or they stay in church but turn off their heart toward the Lord. Either way it will basically be from a choice to live and believe differently than what the Bible says is normal.

What’s considered normal for a Christian? 2Cor 5:14-15 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. 
He died for you. Will you life for Him?

Apostasy is rejecting the privilege and obligation to live for the Lord, letting His word be the foundation for our desires and choosing a lifestyle contrary to the one He has called us to live. It typically involves no longer believing things once held as true. How does this factor into End Times?

1Tim 4:1-2 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 

Not only will people follow after their own desires and impulses but they will be easily deceived by false teachers and false beliefs.

Paul said they will fall away from the faith. The faith is a specific reference to the mechanism by which God accomplishes His work in and through our lives. Paul explains faith’s role in salvation:

Eph 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 

Faith is not simply believing; it is acting on that belief. It is a demonstration of trust and surrender necessary in the process of receiving salvation and giving ourselves to it.

Paul also says: Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 

Paul made it very clear. We enter into the life by faith and live that life through faith.

Rom 1:17 For in the Gospel message the righteousness of God is revealed from faith [to receive the life] to faith [to live the life]; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH." 

1Tim 4:1-2 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 

They will embrace a different gospel message, one different than the one that explains God’s good news. By rejecting God’s message, they seek out a different message hoping for better answers: How do I experience a good life? How do I create a lifestyle that brings me greater joy? But they will be seeking answers outside of faith in God to accomplish that.

That pretty much defines America’s newest growing religion: Spirituality. I want some kind of a God-thing, something more in life, but on my own terms.

Jer 2:13 For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water. 

God’s people rejected what God had provided for life and chose instead to search for their own satisfaction apart from Him, hoping they could find answers by going away from Him. They couldn’t.
Paul asked the Galatians: Gal 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? By the Spirit means continuing to do life God’s way. By the flesh is overriding God’s way for our own way.

Paul ask: If what accomplished life in relationship to God was a divine work, how do I think I can accomplish the living out of that life apart from the same divine work. He then gets personal: Do you think you can create a better life on your own, apart from God? They were fighting the desire and capacity within us to be their own master.  

2Pet 1:3 His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness,

Those driven by their flesh reject God’s provisions in order to find their own way to what they think they need for life. To justify rejecting God’s provisions, they first must reject God from being God over their lives. They deny Him, His standard, His commands.

Rom 1:21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 

That’s the life prior to salvation. Eph 4:17-18 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God

Rom 1:28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 

God permits people to follow their fleshly desires if that’s what they choose. But the consequences of doing so are not going to be what they expect. They are returning to the disability of a depraved mind, a darkened heart. 

Apostasy is returning to the life of a darkened heart. A blue heart. Chuck Swindoll wrote in his book Salvation, “If depravity were blue, we’d be blue all over. Cut us anywhere and we’ll bleed blue. Cut into our minds and you’ll find blue thoughts. Cut into our vision and there are blue images full of greed and lust. Cut into our hearts and there are blue emotions of hatred, revenge, and blame. Cut into our wills and you’ll find deep blue decisions and responses.”

We all have the capacity to slip back into a depraved mindset. All it takes is a step away from God. What do apostates walk away from? The Lord, the Scriptures, the Church, the essential nature of faith. They will turn away from God and His principles as the foundation of life and give power to the impulses and desires of the flesh. 

Paul says to the Galatians: Gal 5:7-9 You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion [that hindered you] did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. 

The Galatians started well but allowed something to interfere with them staying faithful to the path upon which God placed them. Instead of living by faith, they went back to living by the desires of their own flesh. Instead of staying focused on His Word, obeying and applying its truths to their lives, they chose the leaven. In scripture, leaven is a code word for ungodly influence. As yeast affects dough, so this ungodly influence affects our faithfulness to God and our lifestyle choices as a Christian.

Then, instead of living consistent with who they were in Christ, they allowed themselves to be taken captive by their own impulses and become pressed into the form of the world.

He warned the Romans of the same thing: Rom 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
Conformed is taking the shape of a container. Remove Jell-O from a mold and it looks like the mold. He says: don’t conform to the world. That’s not who you are.

In both incidents Paul isn’t confronting unbelievers but believers. Believers who had given themselves to the truth of God and had been equipped with everything it took to live a godly life. But, instead of continuing in the process that transforms them into what blesses them and demonstrates they are Children of God, they fall back into a lifestyle as they were before Jesus came in. Rejecting God and the things of God, they now live as though none of that has happened. They walked out of the light and back into the darkness. They became apostatized. 

A.M. Hills wrote, "It is doubtful if a moral fall is ever abrupt. People decline in religion and backslide gradually. Like descending a stairway, they go down step by step."

Which means no one suddenly walks away from God. If it becomes obvious a person has walked away, they will have been walking in that direction for some time. You see, apostasy is a process not an event. They may have had an incident with God that disappointed them and never got over it. They may have become discouraged by their trials and decided God didn’t care. We may not recognize the cause. All we see is subtle decisions not to live by faith or to reject what God has said in His Word. You can see it in individual Christians. You can also see it in churches.

Jesus said: Matt 24:10-12 At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. 

Apostasy will be driven by false teaching and false believing. Knowing that,

  1. We who love the Lord must intensify our love for Him.
  2. We who believe in His word must solidify that belief.
  3. We who trust in His goodness must magnify His goodness in and through our lives.
  4. Though many walk away we must stand strong.

  1. Because of the power of our flesh and the tug of a depraved mind, we are all capable of apostasy.
  2. In the end times, even though many will give in to those forces and walk away from the faith, we must stand strong.
  3. A slippery slope can only be ascended if we maintain momentum; if we let up or stop, we’ll slide back down the hill.
  4. The greatest safeguard to remaining faithful is staying in God’s word.

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