*Apostasy, apostate(s), apostatizing
Apostasy, a turning away from or a departing, falling away, renunciation of the Faith (litt. to posit, to position yourself away from the Faith), is as old as the Fall (the greatest act of apostasy). At different times and for different reasons, the visibly faithful have departed from the Faith, whether that be in the time of Judges or under persecution in the early Church. On a mass scale, it could be argued, that the greatest apostasy in history has been the Christian West’s turning from Christ to other gods. On a more individual level, there are many who reject some nominal form of Christianity and so—lamentably—turn from Christ as well. Others depart so as to “freely” be greedy or lovers of pleasure. I would say that the number one reason why people apostatize today is because it is easier to go with the anti-Christian flow of culture than to stand in Christ against it. With the norms fast changing against Christian beliefs (the exclusive claims of Jesus, Hell, etc) and practices (marriage and gender and other high ethics), it is simply easier and more advantageous to capitulate than to remained steadfast to Faith. Covid has certainly accelerated the departure of those only nominally adhering to the Faith (T. Rainer estimates this, in America, to be as high as 20%).
Many Bible verses speak to this subject, though they tend to be neglected because we like to emphasis choice today and underplay accountability. Two stand out:
· And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. (Mt 24:10)
· if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us. (2 Ti 2:12)
Let’s be frank; apostasy is a grave sin. We sugar coat it by giving it names such as “de-conversion” but it remains non-other than to turn one’s back, to shut yourself off from the truth of the Creator and Redeemer, the giver of life.
Coming soon…answering tough and pastoral questions apostasy raises.
(We really do more than plod, but sometimes he can be difficult to understand)
Recently we’ve been reading through Paul’s first letter in the New Testament, Galatians. This book is a treasure, but Paul’s penetrating logic is not always straightforward to follow. Sometimes his meaning is easy (Gal 6:10), but sometimes it is more difficult (Gal 5:1). It might come as a consolation that even the apostle Peter recognized this:
…our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand… (2 Peter 1:15b–16a).
Yet, Peter affirms that such words are still “Scripture” (v. 16b): inspired, meaningful and for our good (2 Tim 3:16).
It might be asked then, why did God choose to inspire Paul to write some words that were difficult (though not impossible) to understand?
One answer is that it keeps us humble, dependent upon Him. It reminds us that spiritual truths are spiritually discerned. It reminds us of our need for the Teacher—the Holy Spirit—to guide us into all truth, both the easy and the difficult to understand.
So the next time you come across a difficult passage of Scripture, don’t fret! Instead, humble yourself and trust the Lord will open His Word to you.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Gal 1:10)
What a timely word for the Christian in these days.
This verse is a profound statement of Paul’s at the beginning of his letter to the Galatians. What was at stake was the pure Gospel (faith in Jesus) threatened by the false Gospel of the circumcision party (faith + circumcision). He, like Peter had been (Gal 2:11), was no doubt tempted to accommodate, tempted to seek to please these powerful forces, rather than stand for God, Christ and the truth of the Gospel. What was at stake was not only the spiritual wellbeing of the Galatians, but the assurance of his own allegiance to Christ. Essentially he says, “If your desire is to be a people pleaser, if you persevere in this, you aren’t, cannot be a Christian”— I would NOT be a servant of Christ. Why, because Christ is Lord of the Christian, He is the object of their affections, the sum of all their gain, the One we desire to please, the One who demands our complete allegiance, the One who directs our steps.
There are many other Bible verses that pick up on this:
The pressure to conform is great (Ro 12:2). The warning of its cost is strong. Let us not cease to seek to please God over and above people.
PRAYER: Lord, I’m too often concern with what others think. Forgive me for being a people pleaser and help me to live for Jesus today and every day. In His name, Amen.
For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. (James 3:2)
Ah James! He has so many challenging words to share about our speech and how it flows from our hearts. While it would be worthwhile to consider major subjects such as gossip or slander from the wisdom of James, today I want to contemplate a minor subject in our speech, ‘white-blasphemies’ (and blasphemy, the 3rd of the 10 Commandments, which is not simply limited to reducing God’s name to a swearword, but more about not reverencing His character). I bring up the subject of what I’m calling white-blasphemies because I was asked to do so. Some may think this goes too far or is not worth the effort, but I’ve long been convicted of the importance of wholesomeness of speech and purity of heart in these—admittedly—minor areas.
Consider a whole host of common phrases we use in ordinary [even Christian] English and what they are actually short hand for (hence white-blasphemies):
The list could go on…
When one pauses to consider what the white-blasphemy is actually veiling, it is disconcerting to see what we’re indirectly saying, even if when we use them there is no mal-intent. Good intent doesn’t mean something we say is right. This also raises the question why we even speak white-blasphemies in the first place.
Consider a common swear word, B***h. This is not a bad word in itself, it is the name for a female dog that breeders and farmers with sheep, etc, use all of the time. This word became a swear word when used in anger and frustration at one’s dog and then applied to women and beyond. When we use language inappropriately or negatively we reveal something much more serious than the words themselves, the inward disposition of our hearts.
Jesus said, “21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander [literally blasphemy], pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mk 7:21–23).
When we, in our hearts, are angry, frustrated, and anxious or, more positively, surprised or over-joyed we can say things to underscore or express our emotions. This can lead us to utter white-blasphemies. I think Christians could certainly find more appropriate words/phrases, and the subject, while minor, raises the deeper call to evaluate and guard our hearts (Pr 4:23). What is going on in our hearts when we feel compelled to make positive or negative uses of these white-blasphemies? Scripture tells us that watching our speech is a sign that we’re controlling our hearts, and control over our hearts is a sign that the Holy Spirit is producing fruit in our lives. The presence of the Holy Spirit shows that we are saved and know Jesus. May the Lord continue to sanctify our hearts and make our speech savoury—even in white-blasphemies—and may our wholesome speech bring glory to Him.
Check out a whole number of Bible verses on the subject of speech here.
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.