The New Testament contains many warnings about false teachers and deception sneaking into the Church. Many scholars and preachers have debated what this means and how the Gospel will be polluted. Every theological camp tries to paint others as wrong or possibly even a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The Apostle Paul warned of a great falling away. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament we see a pattern of people seeking religious voices and prophets that told them what they wanted to hear.Some believe the apostasy has already begun. Bible thumpers like to point to the influence of cultural values into the Church where it can be hard to tell the difference between Christians and everybody else in the world. Others talk about people who spend all their time seeking the next spiritual high by going for supernatural wonders and signs. Some point to the megachurches and seeker services as attempts to please the congregation like a car company would consumers.
A popular whipping boy of late is the emerging church conversation. Fundamentalist tag these guys as liberal activists looking to re-write the Bible to placate today’s cultural norms. Others believe the fundamentalist have become legalists and have made institutional Christianity into an idol.
You can find Protestants who have tagged Catholicism as the great Satan. I am sure you can find some Catholics who believe that Protestants misunderstand the beauty of orthodox disciplines, rituals and traditions. They may feel that they have the best path to the ancient faith.
Christians in poor areas could point to exploitation by the West and say that American believers are bound by consumerism. I could go on and on.
Hopefully, you get the point. We can easily see how other people miss the mark. But it can be difficult to see our own mistakes and sins.
Here are some ways that I believe apostasy is creeping into the Gospel. I know that I have dealt with these deceptions in my life.
- Focus inward not upward and outward: Many “Christians” live as is the most important thing is what they want. Living to honor God and serve others is the highest life. Many give lip service to this truth while failing to really believe it. They don’t see the beauty in the Gospel as Jesus modeled it. Christ lived among the people as a man held captive to God’s will. Where is this attitude in my life? Where is this reality in the modern Church? Good examples of this apostasy is the consumerism and selfish attitudes that
- Calling good evil and evil good: We don’t like to talk about sin these days. Nobody wants to call sinners to repentance. That might offend somebody. I got news for you. The Gospel is offensive. Wherever the Apostle Paul preached, his message either caused revival or protests. Many times people wanted to kill him. A soft Gospel produces weak Christians.
- Overlooking the Spirit: Many Christians don’t realize it is the Spirit that gives us the power to live as God intends and to know His will. People try to live in the soul with their mind, will and emotions calling the shots. This leads to powerless Christians and works that do not please God.
- Localization & Division: God meant for the Gospel to impact how we look at the whole world. Many Christians do not stop to pray for needs in other parts of the world or encourage those outside of their immediate church fellowship. Churches throughout the world are not working together or attempting to find Oneness. Greater sense of love and unity among Christians would go a long way in helping the world see why they should become part of Christ’s body.
- Forgetting the Kingdom: Becoming a Christian is about a lot more than just getting a ticket to heaven. Many people stop there. Jesus preached a lot about theKingdom of
God. He called His disciples to become like Him in character and to help reclaim all creation for God’s glory. Becoming a Christian is about living the best life possible here and now so that we overcome evil and have a lasting reward. A kingdom life will impact the world for positive change. This comes as we follow Jesus’ example and live according to the Spirit.
- Abandoning Grace: It can be easy to slowly focus on our works, our theological knowledge or our passion as what saves us. This impacts our worldview influencing where we spend our time and money. When we abandon grace, we tend to become judgmental and prideful. This can lead to the adoption of legalist attitudes. Or we become so aware of our sin that we become ineffective as God’s ambassadors on earth.
- Reshaping Truth: Today everyone wants to do what is right in his own eyes. This is hailed as progress, but it is nothing new. The “postmodern” viewpoint has been around for thousands of years. The fundamentalist viewpoint can be just as damaging as people interpret Scripture based on man-made traditions and not the Spirit. Scholars have attempted to strip Jesus of His deity. Many are questioning the accuracy of the Bible and foundational Christian principles. Many people increasingly are taking liberties with God’s Word to serve their own ends. While the search for better historical understanding of Scripture is important, it can also be misused. Christians should want to understand Scripture in its cultural and historical context. The search for the historic Jesus is the quest to really understand what it means to be like Christ. Increasingly, people need to test all teachings. We should cling to what is true and disregard those things that are false.
- Idolatry: This last trap can take many different forms. Many idols are good things that get polluted because we make them more important than they really are. All idolatry is rooted in pride, selfishness and discontentment. Idolatry causes us to look to something or someone other than God as the key to life.
Apostasy is something the Church is guilty of not non-Christians. Revival preacher, David Wilkerson, defined apostasy as “God’s people abandoning the truth that saved them.”
Have you strayed from God’s truth in any of the above areas? The Good News is that it is never too late to repent. As long as you have breath in your body, you can say a prayer and refuse to fall away from the truth.