But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
- 1 Timothy 6:6-10
Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith.
- 1 Timothy 6:20-21
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
- James 5:19-20
“Apostasy – the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief.”
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Before we go any further, my mathematical brain overcomes my writing whimsy. Apostasy is an eight-letter word, not a four-letter word. Aaaah, now I feel better.
But there are so many four-letter words that you are not allowed to say in polite society. Some people may argue with that, but then is any of our society polite anymore? When I was growing up, I was threatened with washing my mouth out with soap on several occasions for saying something that polite society did not say. And my parents never gave idle threats. I know what soap tastes like. Even the perfumed soaps do not taste good, and the diarrhea that you get a few hours later is not that good either. Oh? I was not supposed to swallow? Sorry, my bad.
But when ever you go to a church meeting, even dinner with a church friend, people who have never been Catholic will start making the sign of the cross if you mention “apostasy.” You could say some of those four-letter words and they might groan, but say apostasy and they look around the room to see if large cracks are forming on the earth’s crust.
When we call a person “apostate,” we are essentially saying “You are going to Hell.” We are sitting in judgment, instead of God. Now the person can readily admit that they no longer believe in Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, or any sort of God, or god. That is fine, but when you clarify what they were saying by calling them “apostate,” you seem to have committed the greater sin. What they said, if true, sends them to Hell, unless they repent. You simply used a legitimate word from the dictionary to restate what they said … for clarification. But no, you were bad and they were confused.
And, to call a church apostate or a denomination, those are equally taboo subjects.
But now that I have used the word “apostasy” and the word “apostate” a few times, maybe you will not cringe by seeing it again, and then we can have an intelligent, adult conversation without all that superstition regarding one group of words in the English language – apostate, apostasy, etc.
As a Presbyterian, I have often said that once Jesus is in your heart, Jesus is not going to abandon us. We can slip into a state where we are not exhibiting a Spirit-filled life. We can kick Jesus off the throne in our hearts and harbor unrepented sin, but we still have Jesus there. We still have the Holy Spirit whispering. Our sin is just so loud, we do not hear the whispers. That defeats us, but it does not send us to Hell.
Some denominations believe that you can fall from Grace, but I believe, and many denominations agree, that those that “fall from Grace” had not fully accepted Jesus in the first place. They were among those that say “Lord, Lord” but do not get into Heaven. Thus, to illustrate these people as being people who toss their cross into a trash can is absurd. They never had a true cross to toss.
But how does a church become apostate? It is like the frog in a pot of water on the stove. How do you boil a live frog? Do it slowly. Bring up the heat unnoticeably. At first, the frog enjoys the heat, but then when it gets too hot, the frog’s muscles have atrophied, and the frog is incapable of jumping out of the pot. And the frog dies. A frog tossed into hot water would immediately jump out.
So, let us not look at a church, but a church group. Satan loves starting small and then growing. The church group meetings, in the beginning, start with prayer and a devotion. There is discussion about the devotion. After socializing, the meeting ends in prayer. But then, one day, someone had to leave early, before the prayer. The next meeting, half the room got up and left before the prayer. Eventually, there was no closing prayer at all. Why pray if the room is empty? Then someone forgot the prayer to start the meeting and in time, no one noticed that they were never praying. And along the same period of time, the devotion goes away, and the discussion of the devotion, since there was no devotion, becomes church gossip instead.
Has that church group become apostate? Hmmm. They might just have become apathetic or a mere bit sloppy. Let’s say that a new member joins from a different church, and they ask, “Why don’t we start this meeting with prayer?” What kind of responses would they get? 1. “Oh, that’s a marvelous idea.” 2. “oh, if we must… 3. “We will try out your idea and see if there is any backlash.” 4. “I am not sure. Some people might get offended.” (Note: This is a church group sponsored by the church and the meeting held within the church building.) 5. “You are not welcome here! Get out!”
Of these responses, which signifies that the group is indeed apostate?
And might I say that none of the responses above were invented from my imagination. No, they were heard in either mine or my wife’s presence, often to us personally.
And when the church knows that this is the attitude of this group and does nothing, do they then become apostate? Or do they become weak, unable to discipline those within the church?
Many years ago, I was asked to attend a Bible study during the week. After two sessions, there was a death in my family, and we missed a few meetings, and I thought that it might be disruptive to the chemistry of the group to start attending again, especially when the group was designed to only meet for about six weeks. That small group, however, still exists, going on to various other Bible studies.
But the first meeting was interesting. The leader asked everyone to give their personal testimony. Some people in the group gave the typical three-part testimony, 1. What I was like before Christ. 2. How did I meet Jesus. And 3. How meeting Jesus changed me. But the majority of the people had no idea what a “testimony” was about. They mumbled something about something that happened in their youth that they still do not understand. Were they not saved or were they just people who had never been around others who organized their thoughts in such a manner?
But there was one who gave no testimony at all. He talked about a promise keeper group that met twice each month. He mentioned that the group split into two groups. One group had prayer and Bible study while the other group engaged in church gossip and having a good time. He then went on to say that if this group would forget praying and Bible study, they might become a good group too. Praise the Lord, the others did not listen to him, and sadly, the one who did not want to pray left the group, unwilling to study God’s Word.
You must truly have Jesus in your heart and then lose Him to become apostate. And Jesus is not going to let you go. Thus, why is apostate or apostasy treated like a four-letter word? If it seems someone has become apostate, they never had Jesus in the first place and they never had anything in which to let go.
Thus, for true Christianity, apostasy simply does not exist. There can be those who stray, saved but gripped by sin, and like James says, someone must go reel them back in and they can repent, and their sins will be forgiven. We must try, as best we can, to maintain purity in our church group.
But as for apostasy in “religion,” in many ways, I might be guilty. I want a personal relationship with Jesus. I want to become more like Jesus. And the closer I get to Jesus, the more irritated I get with the “religious leaders” in my midst. No, we need not do it that way. No, we do not have to say those words. And no, those words do not “save” you.
I don’t know. Jesus had problems with the religious leaders also. Do we think that our church rules are any better than the church rules in Jesus’ time? Unassailable? Maybe not apostate, but the religiosity turns my stomach. It keeps adding things to the equation.
What equation? You plus Jesus Christ equals one Christian. Nothing more. Faith in Jesus Christ Alone. There is enough of Jesus to go around. Surrender to Jesus. Have Jesus come into your heart and Jesus will start cleaning house. And then you keep your eyes on Jesus.
To do that, we might need help from others. The Bible teaches us that we need to commune with other believers. Billy Graham encouraged everyone who came forward at his crusades to find a local church. But go into that church with eyes wide open. Seek other true believers and realize that the religiosity of that church may not be quite right. False ideas, as Paul says in 1 Timothy, will be passed along as “knowledge.” Trust what God teaches you from your own study of the Bible and seek that true mentor who can guide you along the way.
Apostasy is an eight-letter word, not a four-letter word. But when religion becomes the most important thing and God is not allowed in the building, I shall join the apostate and run from such a gathering. For I understand mathematics. Apostasy is not a four-letter word, but when religion eliminates God, the religion’s apostasy is twice as bad as a four-letter word.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.