It was 4 a.m. and I sat on the ground with my back to the wall of the church that I once led as its pastor. It had been a long night of distress and crying out to the Lord as I thought about the turmoil and betrayal I had endured during the past year.
I wanted to run far away from the Lord, His church, and all that I believed. However, I soon discovered I could not do that.
Despite my bitter experiences, I knew in my heart I had nowhere to go. I knew with absolute certainty that Jesus had risen from dead, which proved beyond doubt that He is who He claimed to be. His words are true; He alone has the words of life.
It was not me, but the Lord who held me close despite my anger and desire to run. The Holy Spirit never stopped bearing witness to my heart to the truths of Jesus’ claims and the validity of Scripture.
As for the recent high-profile departures from the true biblical faith, questions keep coming to my mind: How can a person walk with the Lord and worship Him without the inner confirmation of the Holy Spirit regarding the truth of the Gospel and the claims of Jesus? What do they do with the historical fact of the empty tomb?
How do we understand what is happening?
This is Not New
People stopped following Jesus during His ministry; this happened in the early church. It’s nothing new!
We read this in John 6:66, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”
A day earlier, these followers of Christ watched Him feed a multitude with just two fish and five loaves. After hearing Him teach on this day, however, they stopped following the Savior. They walked away.
When Jesus asked the Twelve if they desired to abandon Him as well, Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
His words sum up why I knew I could not run away from my faith so many years ago. Jesus is the only path to life; do not all those who truly know Him realize this?
In 1 John 2:19, the apostle addresses the subject of false teachers who had once been a part of the church: “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.”
People walked away from the true faith in churches that John oversaw. The forsaking of the Gospel by those who once claimed to be followers of Jesus is not new.
Such Departures from Biblical Faith Should Not Surprise Us
In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus gave us what I refer to as the “parable of the wheat and tares.” In this parable, Jesus describes the work of the enemy sowing weeds among the good seed previously sown in the field. When the plants came up, those attending to the field could not distinguish the weeds from the good wheat. They looked too much alike. I believe this refers to the church and to how Satan plants “lookalike” believers in it as a way to both attack and discredit the Gospel message.
Does this not help us understand what we see today? What better way for our enemy to attack the Gospel than to plant his people in churches to cause division, promote heresies, and make a public splash when they deny the faith to which they never belonged?
Listen to what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 about phony Christian leaders: “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”
Satan used men who claimed to be apostles of Christ to disrupt the early church.
Jesus warned such departures would happen with His parable in Matthew 13 as well as through the apostle Paul. These departures should not surprise us.
It’s a Sign of the Last Days
Paul said this 1 in Timothy 4:1: “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.”
I believe we should expect more departures because this is a sign of the last days.
How can this be true of the earliest days of the church and also indicate the lateness of the hour? I believe this is the case because of the wide scope of the departures from the faith today as well as the combining of this with a great number of other signs that point to the soon arrival of the tribulation.
While many do not publicly boast about abandoning Jesus, they nevertheless deceive hundreds of thousands through their false teaching. The devil attacks the Gospel message today with high-level departures from the faith as well as through those who mislead multitudes astray with their erroneous teaching that dilutes the Gospel and points others to another Jesus rather than the one revealed in the Bible.
Having said all this, the recent high-profile departures from the faith still puzzle me to some extent. Do they not sense the inner witness of the Holy Spirit? Is it possible they rejected the voice of God’s Spirit long ago and only now made that rejection public?
I do not give myself any credit for not running away from the Lord years ago in the midst of terrible circumstances. It was not me who held me close but God’s power that “guarded” me and still keeps me in Him for the final unveiling of my salvation (1 Pet. 1:4-5).
More than ever, we need to immerse ourselves in Scripture. God’s Word remains our defense against those who dilute the pure Gospel of Christ. The Bible is our ultimate source of truth in an age of deception and fake news.
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