Biblical Pattern for Pastoral Ministry: Part 8 :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

1 Timothy 4:1-5: “Abandonment of the Truth”

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with Thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:1-5, NKJV).

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance since they crucify again the Son of God and put Him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:4-6, NKJV).

I keep a watchful eye on news and stories found on Christian websites that dedicate themselves to exposing the wave of bad teaching and beliefs that are invading the church today, and address the apparent abandonment of biblical truth and standards by ministers and denominations that had once stood firmly on the authority of God’s Word and their respective reputations for biblical truth in the face of progressive thought and teaching that has ruined a lot of mainline denominations and their claims of Christian belief and practice.

I read about a lot of really bad theology popping up, along with stories of renowned “Christian” authors, speakers, and mega-church “pastors” announcing to the world that they have decided to walk away from their faith and abandon any claims about the person and work of Jesus Christ, opting instead for a mindset of either atheism or indifference towards faith in general, regarding any kind of supernaturalism as bogus and unreal. This disturbing trend of what the Scriptures refer to as “apostasy” is widespread in young people, who abandon the so-called “faith” they had in their church youth groups and embrace the rampant atheism and radicalism thrown on them by professors who do not have their best interests as a priority.

Here’s the hard truth according to the Scriptures, and that is if you claim to be a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, and then walk away from it in disbelief altogether, I’ve got news for you – you were never a Christian in the first place, no matter how smooth or sincere you claimed to be at the time, and you are in danger of heading to an eternal hell where no one will care about you.

You were a false convert and typical of the shallow soil of Jesus’ parables (Mark 4:1-9, 13-20; Matthew 13:18-23; Luke 8:11-15). I can tell your kind from a mile off from the experience I’ve faced as both a growing believer and minister. You first heard the gospel message and, on the surface, received it as truth and got all excited and emotional about “praying the sinner’s prayer” or some such statement. All went well until you got ridiculed or picked on about what you did, and trouble started brewing, which shook you. Some misguided soul probably gave you the spiel that once you have Jesus, everything will be a blessing and so wonderful. A bit of hassle by friends and others, and you decide that Jesus just isn’t worth it, so you walk away, disgruntled, disillusioned, and angry, swearing you’ll never do something that crazy again.

Or, putting the verses that Paul discusses here in the beginning of Chapter 4 into context, someone may have told you about Jesus, but there was more to the story than just His work. You were told that you had to dress a certain way, or not eat certain foods, or shun “worldly” passions and events in order to achieve a state of “perfection” and “holiness,” or be baptized a certain way, or a number of additions that are unbiblical and contrary to the simple gospel message (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9). This was too much for you, and you decided that it was all a bunch of garbage; and now you won’t have anything to do with God or faith at all.

Whoever threw this “extra credit Christianity” at you was operating in clear violation of Galatians 1:8-9, where Paul curses anyone who preaches a contrary gospel that does not emphasize the exclusivity of Christ alone for salvation. Put anything with the Lord Jesus as a part of salvation, and you have no gospel, pure and simple.

Let me throw another hardball at you that might hurt, but it’s something that needs to be addressed. Maybe you’ve abandoned God due to a personal tragedy, like the death of a child or loved one who was taken too soon, or a particular prayer you said that didn’t come to pass as you expected, and so you decided that God wasn’t there, or didn’t care. Deep down in your inner being, you want to believe in something of value and meaning. Life surely can’t consist of just what is here and now without real meaning and purpose. Don’t sneer, curse, or turn off this post. You know I’m right, and I can speak from personal experience, so I get it. I had to bury my newborn daughter in the cold grounds of central Louisiana thirty years ago, and it still hurts at times. Yes, I got mad at God for a while, and I withdrew from everyone, along with my wife – that is, for a time.

What good would it do me if I kept a constant attitude of anger and rage over an event of which I had no control? How would anger and rage affect my relationships? What good would it have done me to abandon holding on to the only One to whom I could bare my soul? I needed God more at that time.

I talked to Him, I yelled, and got a lot of emotional baggage off of me. Cathy and I later helped to start a support group for couples who had lost their baby at birth or other situations, and used that time not just to heal, but to restart a relationship with both Cathy and the LORD, which led me into twenty years of hospital ministry and its times of sorrow and joy. God used a tragedy to give me a means of presenting God to people who would not think of entering a church except for a wedding or funeral. Again, I get it. Been there.

Maybe you’re reading this and the situations I’ve presented don’t apply to you. You’ve just made up your mind that nothing exists outside of time, space, and matter, and that religion in general is a waste of time, effort, thought, and rationality. You’re not going to believe no matter what is presented or explained, or evidence that might just challenge you to consider another mode of thought. No, it’s all a bunch of garbage to you, and what’s more, anyone who talks about it is automatically put on your list of deplorable individuals, or buffoons, or hayseeds, or of someone lacking in intellect according to your understanding of the term. Frankly speaking, it’s not worth my time or effort to explain the gospel to you. You’d rather argue points or make objections, or shout down anyone who dares to challenge your stand.

The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 7:6 that we are not to cast the pearls of the Gospel before a bunch of pigs who are satisfied to wallow in their dung and mud for all practical purposes. With all due respect, my narrow-minded friend, you’re a pig, and I’ve got better things to do than to hang around you. All I can say is that you’d better be right concerning the life you’re living. There is no second chance after your last breath. I will leave you instead in the hands of God (Hebrews 10:31).

Now, I hope that I’ve awakened some of you who have gone through some rough spots or got shafted by a bunch of zealots who had a messed-up set of beliefs that threw you off the right path. With that settled for now, let me make some things clear:

You don’t have to dress a certain way to be a Christian.

You don’t have to be baptized to be a Christian. (Look at the repentant thief on the cross.)

You don’t have to speak in unknown “tongues.”

You don’t have to abstain from certain foods unless you wish.

You don’t have to go without cosmetics or grooming supplies in order to look righteous.

You don’t have to read just one version alone of the Bible. (I use the NKJV.)

You don’t have to quit listening to good “pop” songs or other types of music unless they’re plain vulgar and make fun of God. Use the common sense He gave you to figure it out.

You need to attend a church where the Bible is taught as the inerrant, all sufficient, all powerful word of God, where Jesus Christ is taught and proclaimed as both God and man, that God is Three in One (the Trinity), and where sound doctrine and Scripture is preached from the pulpit, along with a group of believers who will help you to grow and mature in the faith.

Avoid churches that emphasize tongues, “revelations,” “new moves of the Spirit,” and an emphasis on emotions and experiences instead of the Bible. Avoid most “Christian” TV. Do not listen to preachers who emphasize wealth and health or tend to avoid the topics of sin, salvation, sacrifice, or total surrender to Christ in their sermons.

Salvation is the free gift of God and cannot be lost (John 4:10; Romans 5:15, 6:23, 8:12; John 10:28-30, 5:24; Romans 8:1, 34). God, in His graciousness, never takes away what He has given us freely. A person who is truly redeemed by Jesus Christ is secure in that fact.

Whom the Son sets free is free indeed (John 8:36). We are not meant to worry or fret over what we do or don’t do. If we are in Christ and obedient to His will, the Holy Spirit will either convict us or impress upon us what is to be done in terms of the Christian life. The key is to be sensitive to the leading of the LORD (Proverbs 3:5; John 16:5-15). Don’t let anyone do your thinking for you. God will give you the wisdom to know what to do (Romans 12:3; Philippians 4:8; Proverbs 12:5; Psalm 19:14, 119:59; James 1:5).

We’re not going to be truly righteous until the Lord Jesus comes back to establish His eternal kingdom. We will have new incorruptible bodies and minds and hearts free of sin for all time. We need to look at what awaits us in the glory of the new heaven and earth, and not get bogged down with petty, trivial, and irrelevant things that bring about arguments and disunity among us who make up the family of God.

We are living in the days discussed in the book of Revelation, and the issue really is whether you are truly right with God through Jesus Christ, or are bound by a bunch of religious rules and traditions that are of no real value. Please settle that issue today.