Monday, May 23, 2016

The Apostasy IV – The Present Day

The last day’s apostate church is characterized by calling what God calls good 'evil', and calling what God calls evil 'good'. As with every dispensation, man fails.  The end time's apostasy of the church considers the Word of God of little value.  Because it is not viewed as sufficient, it is suppressed, replaced with man’s philosophical ideals, boastful words, and a 'need based' physiological approach to teaching/preaching. 

The Apostle Paul exhorted pastor Timothy to teach the Word and be a watchman, because the latter days apostasy was certain to happen.  Some, “will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1-11).  Paul wrote, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving 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” (1Tim 4:1-3).  So awful and universal would the church be saturated in apostasy that it would serve as a sign for the rapture - taking the true Church out before the judgment of the Tribulation.

The apostle Peter and Jude also speak of the end time’s apostasy. In second Peter chapter 2, Peter provides a detailed description of these doctrines of demons that come directly from church leadership - Peter relates the teachers in the church to the “false prophets” of old. The major theological heresy they teach involves, “denying the Lord who bought them” (2 Pet. 2:1). That is to say, they deny salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, and hence, the sufficiency of our Lord and His Word. They deny the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross that paid the full price for their justification, they, in some way, deny Jesus was the Christ and in so doing they deny His gift of salvation – Christ is not enough, His Word is not enough! The character of the apostate and his church is self-glory, who “secretly [Gr. Future tense of pareisago, “will bring in craftily, will bring in alongside”] bring in destructive heresies [Gr. hairesis, “a sect, a body of men who follow their own tenets”].”

Jude describes them this way: “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our Lord God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). 

Jude identifies their method of apostasy by providing three examples: “Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah” (Jude 11).  

The first example is, “gone in the way of Cain.” What did Cain do? Cain’s great sin was to bring the Lord the wrong offering – a bloodless offering! Since the fall, man is required to approach God with a proper covering, a proper blood sacrifice. Cain did not bring an animal sacrifice, rather he brought “of the fruit of the ground.” 

Cain approached God on his own terms not God’s. Cain went his own way not God’s way. The proper way to approach a holy God after the fall was to bring a blood sacrifice to remind one of one’s own sin problem. That protocol changed with the Mosaic law, in that one approached God through a mediator, the priest, whom approached God for you, however, the priest approached God with a blood sacrifice. That protocol changed again when Christ came and died on the cross.

One approaches God today based on the blood of Christ - our last mediator and great high priest. We no longer bring the blood of bulls as we approach a holy and just God; we approach God on the bases of the shed blood of Christ. The apostate seeks to approach God on his own merit, in his own way, which seems right in his own eyes! Christ’s death on the cross and His cleansing blood, which brings redemption and reconciliation, is minimized and one’s own personal struggle in life and good works is amplified. The result of going the way of Cain, is a fallen countenance, a life that is self-seeking, self-reliant, self-righteous and full of envy and strife (Gen. 4:6; Heb. 11:4; 1 John 3:12).  

The error of Balaam is Jude’s next example. Balaam was a pagan prophet for hire. He could be hired to curse or bless. When asked to curse Israel, Balaam heard the voice of God tell him not to curse Israel because they are blessed of God (Num. 22:12).  Yet, Balaam went back three more times at the command of Balak king of Moab, to curse Israel. Though he did not curse Israel, he is declared guilty of seducing the Israelites to commit fornication (Num. 31:16). Jude identifies his error and motivation as being performed for personal gain (Jude 11; 2 Peter 2:15). Indeed, the book of Revelation reveals that churches can teach the doctrine of Balaam - prophets for hire; false prophets claiming to speak for God yet teach worldly pagan things - intermarrying with the adulterous world (Rev. 2:14). The Church is in the world yet separate from the world. Israel was separate from the world yet they intermarried with Moabite women (most likely temple prostitutes) which served to destroy their separation from the world and participation in pagan worship.

The end time’s apostate church is characterized by those who claim to speak the words of God, but their words are their own. This church teaches more of man’s words and less of God’s words. The message serves to tickle the ears.  The high point of Israel’s apostasy was elevation of the false prophet and the removal of the true prophet. The apostate prophet is found today in the gross abuses of the charismatic church who profess to receive a word from God, and God says, “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My counsel, and had caused My people to hear My words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings” (Jer. 23:21-22; cf. Ezek. 13; 22:28).          

Jude includes “the rebellion of Korah” in his description of the apostate. What is the rebellion of Korah? Korah, a Levite, along with 250 top leaders challenged Moses and Aaron’s authority as the only mediators and spokesmen for God. The Levites had a preferred place in God’s tabernacle service, Korah was not satisfied with that preferred position and wanting more led this group of leaders to question why it was that only Moses and Aaron could speak with God and serve as mediators between men and God. As a result, Moses told Korah and his company that in the morning the Lord himself will show who is able to approach Him. In the morning, God split apart the ground under them swallowing them alive into the pit of the earth.

Apostates that possess the character of Korah are characterized by those who desire to be first in rank. These are self-seeking, self-promoters that cause division and self-exaltation by claiming God speaks to them and they have some special knowledge that no one else has. They challenge the word of God, the authority of God, and those that truly speak for God. They split churches, seek power, serving only themselves (Jude 12). They are “clouds without water,” appearing as genuine but they are not. 

Jude describes the apostate as, “These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves” (Jude 12). The apostate looks and seems to participate in the inner working of the church, but only outwardly as they are spots (Gr. spilas, “of men who by their conduct damage others morally”) in the “love feast,” denying the Lord (v. 4).

Apostates are grumblers (Gr. goggustes, “one who discontentedly complains against God and God’s own” ), complainers (Gr. mempsimoiros, “complaining of one’s lot, querulous, discontented”), walking after their own lusts (Gr. epithumia, “desire for what is forbidden”), their mouth speaks great swelling [words] (Gr. huperogkos, “overswollen, extravagant”), flattering people to gain advantage (Jude 16). 

Jude recalls the warning given them by the apostles, “But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ:  how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.  But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,  keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 1:17-21).

Apostates are mockers (Gr. empaizo,”jokingly deceive”) as they follow after their own ungodly desires (Gr. epithumia, “desire for the forbidden”). Apostates, since they are not indwelt with the Holy Spirit are described as sensual, or as the Greek renders, “natural,” as opposed to spiritually minded.  These are those that Paul describes as a natural man in Romans chapter 1 and 2, except the apostate moves the world into the church as they are actors, not genuine. The proverb applies here: “A dog returns to his own vomit, and a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in mire” (2 Peter 2:22b).  This person is a natural man playing the part in the church causing spiritual destruction as a wolf prays upon the flock.

One cannot reflect upon the modern church and see just how far the apostasy has moved in our churches. The major church movements today are mostly destructive in the sense of apostasy away from the Word of God, away from the cross of Christ, away from identification of sin and calling sin - sin! Though some movements seek to turn the church back (e.g. church music from mindless praise to theologically sound hymns), most modern movements are destructive, like leaven, they receive far more traction, get promoted by Christendom, and like every wind of heretical doctrine, these movements move into our churches causing confusion.

The emergent church says don’t be offensive, don’t concentrate on personal sin and a personal Savior. Instead, the emergent mindset promotes modern inclusiveness and diversity. They promote encouragement at the expense of truth and what is right. They seek to be positive, and experience God on one’s own level without being offensive. The gospel of Christ is offensive - it is foolishness to the lost! The church is to proclaim the truth of man’s sin problem and the good news that those that believe Jesus Christ paid the price for their sin on the cross will not perish but have everlasting life.   

The growth of the mystical church, like the Gnostic of the early church, is growing today in the voice of the charismatic churches. Where a word from God is receive at man’s will, and the Word of God is preached, but only, as it applies to satisfy the self-seeking desire of the speaker. Expository teaching is looked down upon as it is described as “unspiritual.” Instead, what is taught today from pulpits and seminaries is to take one verse, maybe even a part of a verse then “build on that.”

Is that what goes forth from your churches’ pulpit? Does your church turn the gospel of Christ, His death, burial, and resurrection, into a prosperity message where God wants you to be rich and healthy?

The apostate church, like a trip to the candy store, comes in many flavors today. Old main line denominations have long since gone liberal, no longer appropriating God’s Word and power, in favor of a feel good, self-sufficient life, characterized by denying the word, looking religious outwardly, but internally they are dead.  These old line liberal churches are dying and will themselves self-destruct, but what of the growing modern new church? The buildings are large, their members flock to them every Sunday.

Some of these mega churches are orthodox in their teaching, as they attempt to “meet the needs” of their flock. Instead of Sunday school, they have small groups that come together according to some demographic division in order to communicate and engage everyone. What is the problem with this modern model? The small group leader is often not theologically trained, and heresy moves through these groups like a storm. What is promoted and studied is the latest physiological book by “experts” in Christian living. While many in this category of churches are not apostate many are and many more are moving toward apostasy. Whenever the Word of God is moved to a secondary position, error is soon to follow. That was the story of Israel and continues to be the pattern.

If one can walk into a church and hear no exhortation to remove oneself from the desires of the world and its hatred of the things of God, then that church is in apostasy.  Does you church teach Jesus was not virgin born? Does your church teach evolution like the atheist? Does your church teach hell is not eternal punishment, but annihilation like the pagan? Does your church have a yoga class and justifies its value by saying the pagan religious elements are not practiced? These things in and of themselves do not mean your church is apostate. However, these things are a sign of the times, they represent a movement away from God-centered worship to Man-centered worship. They represent an integration of the world with the church. The very thing Israel of Old did as they defiled the Temple of the Lord with Baal worship. The very thing God calls apostasy - a falling away from God to the culture! 

While these things may not mean your church is in apostasy there are many churches that have clearly moved away from the truth to apostasy. If your church has a female pastor, like Korah, it is in apostasy. If your church has a homosexual pastor or accepts the homosexual lifestyle as just another acceptable lifestyle, your church, like Sodom and Gomorrah has turning away from God to follow their own lustful natures and in apostasy. If you never hear the word “sin” in your church, your church is in apostasy. Finally, if your church teaches the Scriptures are not the inspired, inerrant, sufficient Word of God, your church is in apostasy. To the apostate dead church, God says,”I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Rev 3:1). 

The good news for the apostate church is that it can turn from its own way. God exhorts, "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say,`I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' - and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked - I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (Rev 3:15-22)