Departure From the Faith
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” 
In his 1934 book, The Kingdom of God in America, H. Richard Niebuhr depicted the creed of liberal Protestant theology, which was called “modernism” in those days, in these famous words: “A God without wrath brought man without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” Niebuhr was no fundamentalist, but he did know what he was talking about. Similarly, Dietrich Bonhoeffer realised the transformation that was taking place within the mainline religion he encountered in America in the 1930s; he named that aberration, Protestantismus ohne Reformation, “Protestantism without the Reformation.”
Sin, judgement, the cross and even Christ have all proven to be problematic terms in much of contemporary theology. However, it seems that nothing so irritates the progressive mindset as the idea of divine wrath. Perhaps you are aware, if only in a passing manner, of the controversy that flared this past summer over the decision of the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song to exclude from its new hymnal the greatly loved song, “In Christ Alone.” The Committee wanted to include this song because it was being sung in many churches. However, they could not accept a line from the third stanza of the song:
“Till on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied.”
The Committee wanted to change the wording to say:
“Till on that cross as Jesus died/the love of God was magnified.”
The authors of the hymn, Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend, were unwilling to agree to the change proposed by the Presbyterian committee; they insisted on the original wording. Consequently, the Committee voted nine to six that “In Christ Alone” would not be among the eight hundred or so items in their new hymnal. Perhaps the fact that Stuart Townsend had written a song in 1995 that exalted the Father’s love  figured in this decision; but divine love was already addressed in “In Christ Alone.”
“In Christ alone, who took on flesh/fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness/scorned by the ones He came to save.”
Obviously, the song writers did clearly state that Christ is God’s gift of love to the world. However, it was apparent that the Committee’s objection to the hymn grew out of opposition to the biblical doctrine of divine wrath rather than any desire to exalt the love of God. Theirs was what has become the standard liberal emphasis on the love of God at the expense of wrath. Nevertheless, without God’s wrath, His love is meaningless!
According to Timothy George, modifying hymns to suit popular taste is nothing new; he provides numerous examples such the following instances of such modification.  Nestorians in the early days of the churches altered their Marian liturgy to suit their own preference. More recently, the Universalist leader, Kenneth L. Patton, kept the tune of “Ein Feste Burg” by Martin Luther, even though he replaced “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” with “Man is the earth Upright and Proud.” The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings the Reginald Heber hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” to the tune of “Nicaea,” but rather than singing in the first and last stanza, “God in three persons, blessed Trinity,” they sing “God in thy glory through eternity.”
Those who consign the wrath of God to the realm of the verboten, whether in sermons or hymns, stand in a long lineage extending back to the earliest days of the Faith. According to Tertullian, an unnamed revisionist in the second century, a follower of the heretic Marcion, wrote, “A better god has been discovered, who never takes offence, is never angry, never inflicts punishment, who has prepared no fire in hell, no gnashing of teeth in the outer darkness! He is purely and simply good.”  The lure of such a gospel is exhilarating, explaining the reason that neo-Marcionism (exalting God’s wrath in the Old Testament and exalting his love in the New) is still flourishing today not only in popular piety but also among many religious scholars.
Doctor George cites R.P.C. Hanson as writing that “many preachers today deal with God's wrath the way the Victorians handled sex, treating it as something a bit shameful, embarrassing and best left in the closet.”  The result of contemporary disdain for teaching the wrath of God is a less than fully biblical construal of who God is and what he has done, especially in the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ. Clearly the work of Christ on the cross means that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself” [see 2 CORINTHIANS 5:19]. His work reminds us that God “gave Him up for us all” [see ROMANS 8:32]; it means that Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” [see ACTS 2:23]. Undoubtedly, on the cross, the Son of God provided both expiation and propitiation, averting divine judgement. Indeed, the wrath of God was poured out on the Son of God so that we need not stand in fear of that wrath.
This excursus focused on one area of departure from the Faith, howbeit a major area of deviation. In the text, Paul appears to focus on two issues of turning away that were then beginning to be witnessed among the Faithful. With the passage of time, deviation from the Faith would become ever more pronounced, until at last professing Christendom will be utterly apostatised. One must wonder whether we are now approximating that critical state from which there is no return. The condition becomes at last so pronounced that even the Master would ask, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth” [LUKE 18:8b]?
ATROPHY OF THE AGE — “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith.” In contradistinction to the fanciful imaginations of sinful man, the picture painted by the Apostle is exceptionally dark. The history of the churches during the past several centuries is a history best described by self-deception and deep disappointment. There arose at the dawn of the last century an idealised eschatology known as post-millennialism.
Post-millennialism envisioned that the world would be progressively “Christianised” as the Faith spread throughout the earth. Concomitant with the progressive Christianisation would be the advent of new civility, new decency and universal righteousness as the Faith became omnipresent and increasingly powerful. Proponents envisioned a time when the world would become so “good” that Christ would return to take what the churches had produced. In effect, post-millennialism postulated that the churches would bring in the millennial reign of Christ through their efforts. Essentially, post-millennialism as presented throughout the early decades of the Twentieth Century was jettisoned as a viable eschatological school after the two great world wars that were fought during the first half of that century. The Second World War, especially, destroyed the idea that the world was getting better.
Think about the disappointment advocates of this eschatology faced in the past century. In the first half of the Twentieth Century the world was subjected to the First World War, the Russian Civil War, the Finnish Civil War, the Cristero War in Mexico, the Spanish Civil War, the Irish Civil War, World War Two and the Korean War. The second half of that century of conflict witnessed Vietnam, the invasion of Grenada and Panama, the Falklands conflict and multiple sustained conflicts throughout Asia, Africa and South America. The idea that the Faith would somehow win the hearts of all mankind was a fantasy unworthy of the Word; the history of the last century was testament to the darkened heart of fallen mankind.
How true are the words of the Master: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” [MATTHEW 10:34-37].
And though the words pointedly address the conditions that will prevail as the end of the age nears, Christians do well to heed the caution of the Master when He said, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” [MATTHEW 24:6-8].
Despite the failure of this aberrant eschatology, post-millennialism enjoys new life in new forms today. Variously identified today as Dominion Theology, Theonomy or Christian Reconstructionism, the view popularised in some circles envisions a world that is brought under the Law of God through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Great Commission. The philosophy sees human government throughout the earth conforming to the Law of God. The movement may be more dangerous than some have imagined, combining as it does elements of Calvinism and Charismatic theology and thus appealing broadly among the Faithful.
I am not a prophet, nor was I a prophet’s son; however, I do believe that we have not witnessed the last of novel theologies arising to draw away believers from pursuing the Lord. Jesus Himself cautioned, “See that no one leads you astray” [MATTHEW 24:4]. His warning is invalid if there is no danger; but it is precisely because there is danger that He spoke as He did.
Addressing the elders of Ephesus, the Apostle warned, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” [ACTS 20:29, 30]. Of this we may be certain, as has been true throughout this Age of Grace and as shall continue until the Master calls out His people, novel theologies shall appear continually. Charismatic charlatans shall continually rise up, drawing a bewildering number of professed Christians after themselves. These new theologies will initially appear attractive until adherents are enmeshed in the deceitful web each produces. What the child of God must always keep in mind is the source of these novel teachings—they are the teachings of demons, having their genesis in deceitful spirits. Let the people of God be wary, heeding the apostolic warning.
Whilst the Great Apostasy that will sweep over the churches awaits some future date, there will be a continual atrophy of the Faith throughout the course of this age. We cannot say at what point the churches will utterly reject the Faith, embracing their own cunning ideals, but we are assured that such a date is coming and it may be very soon. What we can say with certainty is that churches and denominations will always be tempted to become squishy on doctrine; and the threat that these religious institutions will reject truth in favour of what feels good always hangs like the sword of Damocles over the assemblies of our Lord.
The threat of departure from the Faith—the possibility that professing Christendom will cease standing firm—is a constant theme throughout Paul’s writings. Ponder a few instances that have been written. Early in his ministry of writing, Paul warned the saints in Thessalonica, “You yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him” [1 THESSALONIANS 5:2-10].
Paul also warned them, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” [2 THESSALONIANS 2:1-12].
Nearing the end of his ministry, knowing that he would soon be executed, the aged saint wrote to the young theologue, “Understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith” [2 TIMOTHY 3:1-8].
Paul also cautioned Timothy, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” [2 TIMOTHY 4:1-5].
Was Paul the only writer of Scripture to echo the words of the Master, it would serve as a sufficient warning. However, the identical caution is provided by other writers of the Word. Peter warns, “Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation’” [2 PETER 3:3, 4]. Did you catch that? Scoffers, many occupying pulpits in the churches of our Lord, will ridicule the thought of Christ’s coming; they will cast doubt on the thought of divine judgement and espouse evolutionary dogma as though it was biblical.
John warns, “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” [1 JOHN 2:18, 19]. He cautions that the progress of the age will be marked by a spirit of restlessness and a constant seeking for some new teaching as people look for the latest theory of “niceness.”
Permit me to cite one final portion of the Word that cautions the people of God. Jude, a half-brother of our Lord Jesus, has written, “You must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.’ It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit” [JUDE 17-19]. The spiritual interlopers leave division and confusion in their wake. They will be increasingly evident among the churches as the Age draws to a conclusion.
CHALLENGE TO THE CHURCHES — “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.”
The positioning of Paul’s warning is astounding if we think about it. He has just exulted in the great “mystery of godliness.” Recall his words: “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
‘He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.’”
[1 TIMOTHY 3:16]
Precipitously, the Apostle places in juxtaposition to “the mystery of godliness” the threat that ever casts a dark shadow over the churches—the falling away of many from among the churches. What is important is not the actual heresies, but rather the response of the professed people of God to the heresies. I recall a younger colleague saying on multiple occasions as he struggled to move a lethargic congregation toward viability, “It is not without reason that the people of God are called sheep.” His statement may seem insulting to some; but his observation is astute.
Those seduced by the siren allure of errant doctrine are legion; undoubtedly, the fact that these who once worshipped with us have embraced slavery and death leaves us grieved. Throughout the days of my service among the churches of our Lord, I have met scores of people whose testimony is, “I used to be a Christian.” Or, should such benighted souls now be enmeshed in the bondage of a cult, they will frequently testify, “I used to be a Baptist.”
I admit that I am not particular sympathetic to the sect of “used to be”; usually, I respond somewhat pointedly, “You never were a Christian,” or “You never were a Baptist.” Had the individuals been Christians, they would still be walking with the Master. We’ve already witnessed John’s assessment of such individuals, “It is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge” [1 JOHN 2:18-20].
Those who used to be Baptists are usually dismissed with the affirmation, “You never were a Baptist.” Perhaps they wore the label, but they were at best untaught and at worst they had rejected the freedom that is found in Christ the Lord. Our principles impel us to esteem freedom; and to people who have forsaken that freedom to wear the chains of slavery, we can only marvel with the Apostle who asked the Galatians, “Now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more” [GALATIANS 4:9]?
This is an appropriate time to introduce a comforting truth of the Word. Those who are redeemed cannot be unredeemed; those who have been born from above cannot be unborn. Children of the Living God do not turn from God without consequences. God does not surrender His children to the wicked one; neither does God spank the devil’s children. When His children disobey, God will correct them. Hence, they cannot be eternally lost. There are multiplied statements in the Word of God’s faithfulness to His own. One such statement was spoken by Jesus on one occasion when He was challenged by the religious leaders of that day. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” [JOHN 10:27-30].
Another soft pillow on which to lay a weary head is the statement that Jesus delivered on another occasion in the presence of self-satisfied religious people. “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” [JOHN 6:37-40].
Similarly, when the child of God disobeys, unlike modern parents who imagine they are to be a friend to their children rather than a parent, God will discipline His child. Recall the words of the unknown author of the Letter to Hebrew Christians. “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.’
“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” [HEBREWS 12:3-11].
Should an individual walk away from the Faith without consequence, it is because she never possessed the Faith. Anyone who knows God, rather who is known by God, will not—indeed, cannot—be ignored by God. When Paul writes that “some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,” it should be evident that those of whom he speaks have either occupied the fringes of the Faith, or they will shortly be disciplined by the hand of God who is too good to needlessly hurt His child and who is too wise to make a mistake. I do not say that the child of God will never be enticed by the attractiveness of strange teachings, nor do I say that some of these teachings cannot be seductive; I do say, however, that the child of God cannot embrace such error without consequence.
When people wonder from the Faith, they present a dilemma to the elders of the congregation. How much time should be invested in trying to accommodate disgruntled congregants? How aggressively should the elders pursue those who wonder away? The questions raise difficult issues. James warns, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” [JAMES 5:19, 20]. James’ words anticipate John’s teaching: “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death” [1 JOHN 5:16, 17].
However, this teaching that we must endeavour to turn those who stray from the certainty of death which inevitably follows disobedience must be set against the words presented in the following verse. “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him” [1 JOHN 5:16-18].
We are to seek those who wander away. However, we are not to pander to obstreperous saints who are determined to have their own way regardless of the cost. We are instructed, “Reject a divisive person after one or two warnings. You know that such a person is twisted by sin and is conscious of it himself” [TITUS 3:10, 11 NET BIBLE]. We are not to make concessions to people determined to force their will on the assembly, even at the expense of the assembly. Overseers bear responsibility to protect the flock, and that includes refusal to permit divisive people from injuring the flock of God. We must warn divisive people against the consequences outlined in the sayings of the Wise Man:
“He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck,
will suddenly be broken beyond healing.”
Those who deliberately wander away must be cautioned there is a price for their perfidy. A child fleeing the safety of his yard and rushing into the street may feel a momentary exhilaration that she mistakes for freedom; however, she is in danger from the traffic in the street. A child running from his mother in a crowded mall may imagine that he is free from her confining grip, until he realises that he is lost and those who love him are not to be seen. Just so, the true child of God may mistake the transient exhilaration of fleeing the security of the church for freedom; however, the peril will shortly become evident.
Thus, the challenge to the churches is to plead with those who wander away, all the while making it evident that the pleas of God’s holy people are not open-ended. When it becomes evident that an individual, or even a group of individuals, are determined to have their own way, we must let them go. In doing this, God’s people will recognise the truth of the Apostle’s word, “The Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared” [1 TIMOTHY 4:1, 2].
FOCUS OF THE FAITHFUL — “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” The focus of the Faithful is God and His goodness. James teaches us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” [JAMES 1:17]. We are confident that, as the Psalmist has testified, “The LORD will give what is good” [PSALM 85:12a].
Because God is good, we are to receive what He has given as good. I trust you pray with thanksgiving for the food you receive at each meal. So many are like the little lad who was invited to remain at a friend’s house for supper. The little tyke’s parents gave thanks before each meal, and when the food was brought to the table at his friend’s home, the little lad bowed his head, waiting for the father to return thanks. The mother noticed that he wasn’t eating and asked whether something was wrong. He said he was waiting for grace. She replied that they didn’t offer thanks at the dinner table. At that, the lad spoke up, “Huh! Just like my dog; just grab it and eat.”
I suspect that we don’t often notice the breadth of the Apostle’s statement. He says “everything created by God is good.” He also says that “nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” When God completed His creative work, He reviewed His handiwork. This is what is written, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” [GENESIS 1:31]. The reality of God’s goodness in giving to man all that He created is found repeatedly throughout Scripture. The Psalmist has written:
“The LORD owns the earth and all it contains,
the world and all who live in it.”
[PSALM 24:1 NET BIBLE]
Because of the context, we read Paul’s words and we stop at saying grace before meals. You do return grace, do you not? Giving thanks before we eat does set our food in perspective as God’s good and gracious gift; however, there is so much more for which we should return grace. G. K. Chesterton challenges us when he writes:
You say grace before meals.
But I say grace before the concert and the opera,
and grace before the play and pantomime,
and grace before I open a book,
and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking,
and grace before I dip the pen in the ink. 
There is a time for self-denial and for self-discipline. There are acts we cannot condone because we are Christians. However, we must recognise that all that God has created is good; to fail to realise His goodness as displayed in creation is sinful in the extreme. It is when we cease to be thankful that we begin a slide into oblivion, turning from God’s pure doctrine. Do you recall the dark words with which Paul opens the Letter to Roman Christians? “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him” [ROMANS 1:18-21].
To fail to recognise God’s goodness and to refuse to give Him thanks begins an inevitable descend into grossest sin. Because of the lack of gratitude, societies and cultures become futile in their ability to think even as their hearts are darkened. Soon, that culture will worship what was created rather than the Creator. Sexual gratification replaces God’s good gift of marriage; soon, people begin to pursue every form of immorality as God surrenders them to the lusts of their hearts. After this, they are surrendered to dishonourable passions, receiving in themselves the due penalty of their sinful ways. Refusing to acknowledge God, mankind slides into every imaginable form of sinful behaviour [see ROMANS 1:18-32].
However, I am convinced of better things of you. I am calling you to approach life with a heart of thanksgiving. Rather than drifting away, I call on you to live positively and in confidence of God’s goodness.
But what if you have never known the goodness and grace of God? Isn’t it time that you discovered His grace and began to revel in His goodness? That joyful life of thanksgiving begins with the knowledge of the gift that He has already provided for you through giving His Son as a sacrifice because of your sin. Christ Jesus, the Lord of Glory, gave His life as a sacrifice because of your sin. He was crucified and buried; but the Good News is that He conquered death, rising from the dead on the third day. The Word of God now calls you to receive the gift of life through faith in the Risen Son of God. The message of life that we bring is that if you agree with God that Jesus is Master over your life, believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be set free. It is with the heart that one believes and is made right with the Father, and by openly agreeing with God that Jesus is Master one is set free.  Paul concludes the call to faith by citing the Prophet Joel, “Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved” [ROMANS 10:13]. I pray that includes you. Amen.
 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers, 2001. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Stuart Townsend, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us (Kingsway’s Thankyou Music, 1995)
 Timothy George, “No Squishy Love,” The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, http://www.colsoncenter.org/voices/entry/43/22970?spMailingID=6697312&spUserID=OTQ0MjI2MTM0S0&spJobID=82490448&spReportId=ODI0OTA0NDgS1, accessed 7 August 2013
 Tertullian, “The Five Books Against Marcion,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian, vol. 3, Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson and A. Cleveland Coxe (ed.), Peter Holmes (trans.), (Christian Literature Company, Buffalo, NY 1885) 292
 Timothy George, op. cit.
 G. K. Chesterton, “A Grace,” http://gkchestertonquote.com/post/1684967038/you-say-grace-before-meals-all-right-but-i-say, accessed 18 October 2013
 See ROMANS 10:9-13