Responding to Apostasy
Last week I addressed the fact that not everything that seems to be “Christian” by title or by claim is true to the faith. The New Testament is full of warnings against apostasy. Jude, John, Peter, and Paul all addressed apostate Christian religious expressions in their day.
What is apostasy? It is defined as “turning from God as evidenced by abandonment and repudiation of former belief.” This refers to people who once held or seemed to hold sincere belief but have forsaken it by choice.
Now we also are warned against heresy which is a denial of part of the faith. But when heresy changes the nature of the gospel or the nature of God it often moves into apostasy.
If you study the history of our country and many in the western world, we have gone from being societies centered around true Christian principles and doctrines to being “post-Christian” societies and thus really apostate societies because our basic belief system no longer believes in basic right and wrong as determined by a personal Biblical God who is Sovereign Lord, Savior, and King.
So, living in a world that once embraced God and now rejects his existence or his right to rule … how do we respond in our lives and practice.
I have to say that sometimes the flesh gets discouraged in the face of popularized apostasy. In a world where it seems people don’t want the truth; it can get discouraging. Last week I shared with you from my heart, defending truth. Doing my job as a shepherd to warn you about the dangerous attempts to change the gospel, I told Lisa, on the way home, “the problem is that I spoke to a relatively small number of people, and this preacher who is teaching something contrary to scripture, spoke to 10,000 with another 50,000 listening to his podcosts. That is frustrating at least, and potentially discouraging.
But Jude speaks to me and to us across the millennia as one of the great cloud of witnesses, and after saying in verse 16 “these men are grumblers and fault finders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage”, in verse 17 says “but, dear friends … v19 these are the men who divide you”
So the 1st response to Apostasy is
1. Do Not Be Divided
Satan is a roaring lion prowling trying to separate weak or young in order to devour them (1 Peter 5:8) so we must
A. Remember the Warnings
The warnings came from the Apostles.
If we are to be united we must be united around the Word of God, first and foremost. I like books written by godly men and women that can help us understand the Word, but let’s make sure that we are united around the Truth.
We need to KNOW the word, then, to be united around it.
“Remember the Apostles” – apostolos = a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders
The Apostles ... that is the 11 minus Judas Iscariot, plus Paul. The apostles were qualified in that they were chosen by Christ himself and saw him in his resurrected form.
We are to contend for the faith given “once and for all”. So, we need to know it in order to remember it.
Remember also that Jude was referring to the fact that the Apostles had warned us of this apostasy
1 Timothy 4:1-2 - The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
2 Timothy 3:1-5 - But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
1 John 2:18 - Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.
1 John 4:1 - Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world
So here Jude seems to be directly quoting from 2 Peter 3:3 ff - First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? … Peter says they will mock the thought of a coming Heaven and Hell but we are not to be deceived that just because it has been a long time doesn’t mean he isn’t coming. He is waiting patiently giving more the chance to receive him but he is coming with reward and with deserved punishment
Listen, I am all for the need to minister in the NOW and meet the needs of people. It is Biblical and is evidence of God’s love in us. But do not be deceived, Jesus IS coming again and Heaven is real and Hell is too. Some would say that heaven and hell are just a frame of mine. But Jesus told the thief, “Today you will be WITH ME” … and he promised that one day some who have rejected him will be told “Depart from me because I never knew you.” We have to remember and we have to
B. Recognize the Lies
The best way to recognize a lie is to know the truth. Counterfeit bills are a big problem. The news bills have all these new features, holographic ink, embedded text and pictures etc. But they have this cool little pen. It is iodine solution that reacts with plain wood based paper to stain it black. But the fine linen paper used only for currency doesn’t discolor.
So, how can we tell the lies from the truth? You take the Word of God and you run it across the teachings. If the teaching is true, the Word of God will not change it but will confirm it. But a lie will be stained by the Word of God. If you compare a new teaching to the Word of God and it doesn’t measure up, well, the Word of God isn’t wrong, the teaching is.
The problem with apostates is that they are driven by “their ungodly desires” and “mere natural instincts.”
“desires” – epithymia (ep-ee-thoo-mi-a) – longing, lust, desire for what is hidden
Ungodly desires means that their teachings are driven by a desire for things apart from the desires of God, or a desire for the desires of God to be different from what they in fact are
Their teachings also are said here to come from “mere natural instincts”
The word is psychikos (psoo-khee-kos) having the nature of the breath, animal principles or life
They came from the natural animal instincts not “The Spirit” - pneuma = this word also means breath but also used to mean Spiritual Breath not natural or specifically the person of the Holy Spirit
What did Peter say about the true Scriptures?
2 Peter 2:20-21 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Truth doesn’t come by the natural breath but by that of the Spirit of God
When someone tries to reason with you that the Word as it is written “doesn’t make sense” and they want to reinterpret it to a more “natural and logical” sense, look out!
If we are going to make it in this post-christian culture, then we need to recommit to the Word of God given by the Spirit … commit to the Prophets and the Apostles, uniting around his Word, and reject the lie no matter how palatable or attractive
Then he continues in the Practical
2. Take Care of Your Spirit
How do we, followers of truth, keep on the right path?
It takes effort but it isn’t complicated
A. Build Your Spiritual Strength
“Build Up” – the word means to build upon or edify, which is building an edifice – it means to finish the structures upon the foundation that has been laid … which is
“In the faith” or “on the faith” The point being that we aren’t supposed to toss it aside and build something new, we are supposed to build on or WITH the truth that we already have given to us by the Spirit of God in the Word of God.
1 Peter 2:3-5 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good … you also … are being built into a spiritual house …
In other words, once you’ve tasted the goodness of God don’t throw that aside for spiritual candy. Keep feeding yourselves an increasingly good food, the stronger meat, of the Word. You have cut your teeth, now dig deeper
Study the truth and submit to faithful teaching. You know I have never developed anything of value without the assistance of training and trainers.
If you really want to develop physically you can get some weights but you will do better with an exercise plan and even better with a trainer. The same is true here. God has placed pastors and teachers in the body to help equip and build you up, until you reach your potential in Christ.
How many of you have exercise equipment in your house that you do not use?
I won’t ask you then to raise your hand about the Bibles, Books, Videos, or this Pastor’s teaching that also lays unused and unattended gathering dust in the corner …
Ephesians 4:11-16 -/ It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. /
So, We must be about building our Spiritual Strength, then you must
Why is prayer a key? It is because it is on our knees that we surrender to the revealed truth we have learned.
The greatest thing missing from Christian practice is NOT knowledge, it is submission to the truth we KNOW.
Once the truth is taught to us, we have to take the attitude of Christ in the garden, “not my will but thing be done”
Jesus taught us to pray “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done …”
Prayer is not about you changing God, but about God changing YOU!
Prayer is about communing with God. Since God is Spirit, we must seek him in prayer as OUR Spirit communes with His Spirit.
The Holy Spirit know the mind and heart of God and can lead us to pray, and pray for us when we don’t know what to pray. (Romans 8:26-27)
It is “In the Spirit” where prayer takes place.
So, from a place of submission with a desire for obedience, then we are prompted by the Spirit as we pray. We are also empowered by the Spirit AS we pray.
In order to get past “vain repetitions” and useless exercises, we have to be FILLED and CONTROLLED by the Spirit.
In order to be controlled I have to be surrendered, in order to be filled, I have to be emptied of myself, my sin, and plans, purposes, and ways.
When the Spirit leads my prayer it isn’t self-centered but God centered. My prayers then are less temporal and more eternal.
We pray BY Him, and Because of Him, and For Him, Through Him, and With Him, in full dependence ON Him.
Studied Up and Prayed up, then we will be Filled up as we are
C. Saturated By Love
Jude says “keep yourselves in love” – now certainly he told us in verse 1 that we are KEPT by God but we also have a responsibility in the working out of our faith to Keep ourselves
Tereo = "to guard, take care of; attend to carefully” … “in the love of God”
Again here this is talking of a “realm” or “sphere” of working. Like we pray in the realm or sphere of the Spirit we are to keep ourselves in the realm or sphere of God’s Love.
I will want to stay in the blessings of dwelling in the sphere of his love. I am not talking about salvation here but about relationship.
When I realize how much God loves me I won’t want to sin.
When I am conscious of his love, I will be confident of his love and forgiveness and I will repent.
When I dwell in his love, I will withstand the rejection of others.
When I dwell in his love I will be able to love others because I will realize how much HE loves them.
Dwelling in his love also puts me in a place where he can bless me as his love desires.
As we Build on the truth, Surrender in prayer, we Stay in the realm of the blessings of that love relationship …
Now certainly, God will never STOP loving us. But when we move outside truth and submission, we move outside the blessings afforded by being in the Rule of his Love
The more we know his truth, the more we submit to his will and fervently desire to surrender, the more we get a taste of Heaven on Earth as we dwell in his love. Then a powerful longing stirs in us and we lift our eyes as we
D. Anticipate His Coming
We will long for the day when Our faith becomes sight.
“as we wait” (NIV) “wait anxiously” (nasb)
Prosdechomai – welcome, wait for, look forward to
Peter taught us to watch out for the scoffers in 2 Peter 3:13 and it was because Jesus IS coming with a New Heaven and a New Earth and a literal Hell is reserved for those who refuse his cleansing and remain in their sin
So, unified around the truth and built up individually, what do we do with the casualties of the battle being waged by the apostates?
You see, what we know and who we are shouldn’t make us proud, no it should make us compassionate and urgent
3. Rescue the Wounded
While I am very serious about how we should respond to those TEACHING falsehood, that is we should shun their teaching, and rebuke them publically, it is different how we treat others. In particular here he talks about really three groups and levels of treatment toward them
A. Be Merciful to the Doubting
In 2 Peter 2:14, Peter described this type of person as being unstable ones who are easily seduced. This type of person hasn’t Built up their Strength through study and submission to faithful teachers. They have “weak knees” as Hebrews 12:12 says.
So they haven’t surrendered to the Spirit through prayer.
We are to “Be Merciful” – eleao = have pity, show mercy
Generally we aren’t going to be successful with this one by attacking them or putting them down. But in friendship and compassion seek to lead them back to truth.
Warren Wiersbe says “this ministry requires love and patience, we must keep in mind that immature believers are like little children who think they know right from wrong. If we say no to them, they will only rebel and become more stubborn.” He goes on to say that the best way to draw them away from false teaching is to magnify all that they have in Christ … Make their salvation so wonderful and the Word so exciting that they will lose interest in the teaching of the apostates
We need to point them to Jesus and remind them how much he loved them in providing salvation for them and make them realize that if Jesus loved them that much why would he have not explained it the way this new teacher is. Since Jesus loves us so much, if Hell were not real, and judgment were not certain for unbeliever why would He teach it?
We need to also be merciful to these doubters by watching over them against established believers who may be unkind or self-serving in their relating to them.
Believers if you are to be merciful, you need to be caring toward others.
That includes STOPPING GOSSIP at the SOURCE instead of passing it on
Reminding you that Paul called those who gossip in the church “little devils”
Treating others with love and care instead of selfishness
Satan is a DIVIDER as a roaring Lion so we must be Compassionate and merciful in hopes of winning then back to the truth
The Second group, Jude says
B. Snatch them from the Fire
Zechariah 3:2 and Amos 4:11 both talk about a burning stick snatched from the fire
Most likely Jude is transitioning from the doubters who are still in the body to those who have left the body to fully embrace the Apostates.
These are already in the fire and in danger of God’s judgment. We don’t have to worry about “running them off” because they are already gone. So in love and compassion we reach out and do our best to lead them out.
In Genesis 19 Lot had made the decision to live among the sinful in Sodom and God sent an angel to lead him out by the hand, along with is family.
You might need to do your homework to be able to reveal the lies behind the falsehood they have believed. In some cases you might need to reveal truth behind people who have misled them but have false motives or faulty teaching.
They are in danger of judgment. It could be temporal judgment. In Acts 5 Ananias and Sapphira lied to the church and God took their lives. It was temporal judgment though I believe they were believers. Perhaps some of these are true believers that in immaturity have been fully deceived. And they could be caught up in some form of God’s correction. If we can win them back we save them from that temporal judgment.
While still others have been deceived and pulled in and perhaps they have never been truly won by the truth of God’s Salvation and so they are in the danger of remaining darkness and the eternal fire of judgment.
That should MATTER to us shouldn’t it?
And then a final instruction, one other group, and that is, he tells us to
C. Show Cautious Mercy to Sinners
Now of course we are all sinners but I mean those who have fully embraced falsehood, they have been sucked in to sinning directly against God in one way or another.
This group has gone the furthest in their rejection of the truth of God. And we are to “show mercy mixed with fear”
There have been countless who attempted to save a drowning person, who have been drowned themselves … so we need to be careful. Some have gone too far to be reached and the danger is they might pull us down too
1 Corinthians 10:12 says “If you think you stand firm be careful lest you fall”
There comes a place where the person has so committed themselves to being against God that everything they touch is contaminated
Notice that we are still to be gracious and merciful toward them while beginning to separate ourselves from them as they may very well be too far gone.
Notice in each case the people have moved further from God and we have further separation from them
This may bring us to a downer … but what it needs to do for us is make us aware of how important truth is. We must see how serious the stakes are in this conflict
There are three primary things of importance …
1) is that satan is a liar hell bent on the destruction of human lives because of his jealousy toward what God has
2) is the human lives that are impacted and people who will believe lies because it is our NATURE to believe lies when we hear what our sinful heart wants
3) is the glory of God that is belittled by the lies of the evil one. But let me say this, we don’t have to necessarily defend God. Truth is its own defense. God is Lord, will be Lord and will be so forever. Let God by true and all else lies. So be careful in your desire to defend the God you love that you don’t unnecessarily take your eyes off the humans He loved and gave his son for.
On the golf course the other day I was playing with a man who was horribly using the name of Christ in vain. Now, I don’t like that because I love Jesus. And there might be a time and a place when I can say “hey I don’t appreciate that anymore than you would appreciate someone using your spouse’s name in vain.”
But if someone took my wife’s name in vain and said “Lisa” in a profane way, I would have to say “you must be talking about a different Lisa because if you knew my wife, you wouldn’t say that cause she is wonderful.” I would want to introduce them to my wife and have them come to know, love and appreciate her.
And that person taking my Lord’s name in vain, I knew wouldn’t be receptive to me getting angry or scolding him.
I just realize that he must be talking about a different Jesus, cause if he knew my Jesus, like I know Jesus he wouldn’t talk like that.
So, I need to introduce him to my Jesus. If he doesn’t want to meet my Jesus, I don’t have to get offensive, Jesus can take it, but the Jesus he’s talking about is a different Jesus anyway.
Oh people, apostates have changed who Jesus is and people have made up in their mind who they THINK Jesus is … we need to keep pointing them to the real Jesus, keep living out his life and love in front of them … that’s the only way we are going to change the lies into truth and enlarge the Kingdom because
HE IS COMING!!