Drop out, cop out Christianity might be an accurate way to characterize the mainstream of professing Christendom in the early decades of this 21st century. From the pulpit to the pew there is evidence of a widespread defection from the ranks of those who were once counted as Soldiers of the Cross.
Men and women who for years have been on the front lines for the Lord have left their posts and have gone AWOL from the Lord’s army.
With the passing of every year, we can understand more clearly what Jesus said when he spoke those words: “When the Son of Man cometh, will he find faith on the earth?”
Though this widespread defection from the faith (which has been going on for forty years or more) is alarming to all of us, we ought not be caught unawares. God’s Word is full of warnings that such would be the case.
Men shall depart from the faith in the latter times, Paul told us in I Tim. 4:1.
The severest warnings in all of the Word of God are found in the book of Hebrews, especially chapters 3,4, and 10. The Hebrew believers to whom this epistle was originally penned, having suffered many afflictions for following Christ with the people of “the way,” were tempted, looking back over their shoulders, to return to their bondage under the law that they had been delivered from when trusting Christ as Lord. The author of the book of Hebrews pleaded with them to “go on to perfection (maturity)” warning that to turn back, as the Children of Israel wanted to when looking back to Egypt from their wilderness hardships, would only bring severe chastening from God.
God does not want us to drop out! He wants us to hold fast our profession. He wants us to keep on keeping on. He wants us to enter into REST.
No, not the rest that we look forward to when we get to heaven, but the rest realized NOW that comes when we are living victoriously by faith.
“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” (Hebs. 4:9)
That rest can come NOW, but with the greatest urgency the writer of Hebrews warns 1st century saints that if they are not careful, they will miss that rest. That which would rob them then and us today of this rest is an evil heart of unbelief. It robbed the saints in the wilderness—many of them; it has robbed many saints since; it is robbing many today, and if we are careless, it will rob us of our faith-rest.
One tell-tale sign that a person is in danger of not entering into faith-rest is that he or she has embraced “an evil heart of unbelief.” (Hebs. 3:12) Forefathers in faith, as they wandered 40 years in the wilderness leaving Egypt and traversing to Canaan, a journey that might have been completed in 11 days, discounted God’s works. (v.9) Their swift and almost unanimous departure is catalogued in Ps. 78:12ff. “Marvelous things did He in the sight of their fathers….” He divided the sea while they passed through, making the waters to stand as an heap; He led them by His presence by a cloud in the daytime and a pillar of fire at night; He brought water out of rocks to give them to drink in the wilderness; He rained down manna from heaven so that they ate “angels’ food”; He rained flesh of fowl upon them as the sand of the sea so they had meat to eat; He led them 40 years in the wilderness and neither their clothes nor their shoes waxed old upon them. “For all this they sinned still and believed not His wondrous works.” (Ps. 78:32)
They discounted His works and disregarded His Word (Hebs.4:2) They had a bad case of heart trouble. Their hearts were hardened (3:8); their hearts erred from the truth (3:10) and their hearts were unbelieving. (3:12)
These were not infidels or heathen people who had never been exposed to God’s person and power. They had witnessed the mighty hand of God as He did miracle upon miracle in demonstrating to a brazen Pharoah the answer to his question, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?” (Ex.5:2) 10 awesome plagues culminating in the death of every Egyptian first-born was God’s unmistakable answer. 2 million Israelites witnessed these mighty miracles first-hand yet 40 years later, because of unbelief, all of those who left Egypt on the night of redemption who were 20 years of age and older had died in the desert. No wonder in Hebrews 10:31 the writer exclaims “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” They discounted His works and they disregarded His Words. But why?
Hebrews 3:13 gives us the answer: “But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” The deceitfulness of sin says “Just this one time won’t matter;” “Everybody else is doing it;” and “God is a loving God therefore He will understand;” or “You owe it to yourself, if you don’t look out for # 1 who will?” It may whisper to you “I’m only hurting myself by doing this;” or quite possibly “This is just a little sin, it’s not any big deal.” The deceiver may try to get you by convincing you that “It’s not right, but look at the good that could come of this;” or “OK, just promise to do it this one time only and never again.” Then he may have lied by saying “It’s all right, nobody will ever know;” or “All you want to do is make yourself happy, so what’s wrong with that?” The one whom Jesus said was a liar from the beginning and the father of the lie has a bag full of tricks to pull on anyone who will give him the time of day. To those who yield to any of his deceitful lies the Word says “Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” (Gal.6:7)
(To be continued)