Has the Great Falling Away from the Faith Begun? – Part 2

Stephan Beitze

There have always been passionate preachers who warned of the approaching apocalypse and denounced the corruption of society. What is different today?

The Apostle Paul continues on with “heady” or rash (2 Timothy 3:4). Many are risking their lives more recklessly. We can see this in the various videos uploaded to YouTube. The actions are increasingly risky. Bungee jumping is child’s play by comparison.

The next evil feature that Paul covers is “highminded.” These people don’t accept anyone or anything except themselves and their own opinions. This can be seen on the political level, but unfortunately also among those who call themselves Christians.

And now Paul comes to a quality that is well-known to all of us: “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” We live in a world where pleasure, hobbies, fun, and leisure have become the highest priorities of many. I once asked a woman where her husband was, since I didn’t see him in the congregation. She answered, “He stayed home to watch a Superman movie.”

For many, the pursuit of pleasure comes before everything else. People do what they like, what’s fun, or what they just feel like doing. Everything else simply gets left behind. This thinking is unfortunately also seen among Christians. If motivation is lacking, then Bibles go unread, prayers neglected, church services unattended, or the Lord’s work undone. Our wishes even take precedence over clear biblical mandates. If we’re not in the mood, we feel we have the right to disobey God. 

One of the biggest industries of our time is entertainment, which unfortunately steals a lot of time from the Christian as well. This doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy something beautiful. But it must not conflict with God, His Word, our ministry, and our priorities.

In their craving for pleasure, many often develop a frivolous attitude toward immorality. Some try to live for God a little, and also give way to worldly desires; God and His work lose out. When we let the apostle James have his say, it becomes even more serious: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). When man follows the prince of this world, the natural consequence is the destruction of values, family, and most of all obedience to God. 

In verse 5, Paul then names the quality that summarizes all of the previous ones: “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” The aforementioned qualities of end-times humanity can be found in Christendom and in the church. That’s the terrible thing! The apostasy increases more and more, right up to the words of Jesus about the time of the Antichrist: “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Matt 24:24). This reaches a high-water mark, about which Jesus asks in Luke 18:8, “…when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”

It will be a society marked by religious hypocrisy. Outwardly, these people act like Christians, but inwardly they are far from Christ. How many call themselves Christians today, but don’t live according to His will? How many have a religious life, but no true inner relationship with Him? Because of this, they open themselves to all kinds of dark influences. The apostle had already warned in 1 Timothy 4:1, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”

The seduction reaches into our churches. In 2 Timothy 4:3-4, the apostle lists one more feature of a society marked by apostasy: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” A dangerous tendency can be seen in evangelical circles. We hear the argument again and again: “We have to give the believers what they like or what makes them feel good.”

Such an attitude will influence the depth and seriousness of Scripture and the understanding of sin. The churches become Christian clubs, where you participate in what is fun or pleasurable. Christians who resist it are branded legalistic, conservative, or fanatical, and are despised. The Bible is being pushed further and further to the sidelines by many Christians and churches. New fashions, trends or teachings are in demand. It is more interesting to follow a man than the Word of God. The floodgates are enthusiastically opened for every new Internet craze, without measuring it against the Bible. Since lots of people are doing it, it must be good. In any case, it is “in.”

Unfortunately, such false brothers can also be found in the churches. Therefore, Timothy cried, “…from such turn away” (2 Tim 3:5). That means turning away from them in horror. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Cor 6:17).

All of this will not continue without just punishment: “For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith” (2 Tim 3:6-8).

The penalty falls on the apostates. They will fall victim to their own lusts and run after each new religious trend, without ever being really satisfied. When their lives or doctrines are tested by God, they turn out to be useless: “But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was” (v. 9). Their apostasy becomes more and more destructive: “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (v. 13). Eventually, they believe their own lies. We should not be surprised if our society gets more and more spiritually and mentally ill. Worst of all is that this will produce God’s judgment. It’s already just around the corner.

In four of the churches that the apostle John wrote to in Revelation by order of the Lord, we find this accusation of the Lord. He reproaches the church at Pergamos for accepting the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans, who approve of a life of mingling with worldly lusts (Rev 2:14-15). We find similarities in the church of Thyatira. A woman named Jezebel tries to seduce members into immorality and is tolerated (Rev 2:20-21). There are only a few left in the community of Sardis who have not polluted their clothes; that is, their lives (Rev 3:4). And in Laodicea we find lukewarmness, complacency, materialism, and the missing presence of the Lord. The only thing that would stop the judgment of God is deep and sincere repentance (Rev 2:16, 21-22; 3:19).

On the one hand, when these attributes are evident in all of society (which calls itself Christian) and leak into the churches, this is a sign that the coming of the Lord Jesus is just around the corner. And we can comfort ourselves and rejoice over it. On the other hand, this also serves as a serious warning to us. For if we discover such qualities in our lives, it is high time that we repent and turn to God again.

Thank God, He has given us many things which can save us from fraud, counterfeiting, and the dangerous influences of apostasy. The apostle Paul lists himself, along with the mother and grandmother of Timothy, as a model: “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions…But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them” (2 Tim 3:10-11, 14).

Certainly, we also know such examples around us, besides those mentioned in the Bible: brothers in the Lord, who consistently walk with Him and whom the Lord can use in a wonderful way. Do you know someone who is a role model through his testimony, his family, and his ministry? Imitate him! Only the faithful dare to swim against the tide. There are only a few, but they still exist. In 3 John 11 we are admonished: “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.”

The author of the book of Hebrews introduces us to the gallery of the heroes of the faith, with the following warning: “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Heb 10:39). After the author lists the fidelity of the heroes of the faith, in spite of their struggles, privations, or even their martyrdom, he gives the following instruction: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:1-2).

None of these heroes of the faith found it easy to remain faithful, not even the Lord Jesus. It cost Him severe struggling, tears, and blood-soaked sweat in Gethsemane, and His suffering and death at Calvary. But this steadfastness brought the fullness of blessings. It’s worth it to follow these examples!

Even in 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul encourages Timothy, and us as well, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” And in chapter 3, after listing evil qualities, he emphasizes, “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (vv. 15-17).

Why should we pay attention to dubious sources, if we find in the Bible safety, blessings, and all we need for healthy maturity? It seems to me that God must say the same about our generation as He did about His people in those days: “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer 2:13).

We need to renew our minds, align with God and His Word, and not allow ourselves to be filled with worldly principles. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col 3:1-2).

What do we use or waste our free time on? “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” (Prov 23:7). If there is much worldliness in our thoughts, then we will act like the world. But when our thoughts are full of Christ, His Word, and His presence, then we will become more and more like Him. Therefore, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” (Col 3:16).

In 2 Timothy chapter 4, the apostle gives another form of protection from apostasy: “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine…But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” (vv. 1-2, 5).

This apostolic exhortation to Timothy shows us how important it is to carry out the mission that God has given us and for which He has prepared us (Eph 2:10). Instead of squandering time, investing in the world, or opening our ears to its seduction, let us serve the Lord faithfully in the place He has set us, and do the works He has prepared for us. If we do this, then we will not have time to waste any resources in these “evil” days (Eph 5:16).

Given the increasing apostasy and the words of the apostle Paul, we might ask ourselves whether it really pays to be faithful to the Lord and His Word. Therefore, Paul closes this sad letter with a few words of joy, comfort, hope and encouragement in light of the future. 

One of the Christian’s greatest joys is knowing that he has fulfilled his duty. The apostle Paul bears witness to his life: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7). Is there anything greater, at the end of our lives here on earth, than being able to witness that we have been faithful and carried out the works for which God has created and enabled us? If the Lord were to call us home today, could we give the same testimony as the apostle?

And if that alone seems little, the apostle, through the Spirit of God, gives us a glimpse of the moment after the rapture of the church, at the Judgment of Christ: “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim 4:8). The Lord will examine our ministry and our lives and reward accordingly. If we keep that in mind, it really is worth fighting, investing in eternity, and faithfully doing our ministry! And this reward is related to the constant expectation of the coming of the Lord.

We don’t know how much time is left until the Lord comes. The opposition is big, the fight is brutal, and the influence is powerful. Sometimes, like the apostle, we think that there is no one on our side (2 Tim 4:16a). But in the same breath, he confidently says a truth that could also be valid for us today: “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear…And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (vv. 17-18).

Therefore, may we courageously and confidently run the course laid out for us, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” (Heb 12:2). 

Midnight Call - 08/2018

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