Seeds of Apostasy?

Most all of us are familiar with the wise adage, “Feed a man a fish and feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.” The barebones issue behind this proverb is that, if you really care for another and his welfare as a person, you will invest in his life in ways that have less temporary, more far-reaching and eternal effects and benefits.

I got to thinking about that verse recently and how it might be viewed or perceived in our contemporary society almost anywhere in the world. Many people are concerned about compassion, humanitarian need and world hunger including politicians, celebrities and philanthropic foundations—at least superficially. And we should be. We should be willing to give of “our” time, “our” talents and “our” resources. Not to downplay these good deeds, but there’s a reason that Almighty G-d looks at the heart and not the outward appearance; the motive that drives the deed or work nowadays. It is much easier to write a check or toss some money towards a problem or cause (and that is not bad), but we know—especially from governmental efforts—this isn’t enough.

If I were to start a new job, many people would naturally begin to tell me what to do or they might even be willing to show me by way of demonstration. I might retain some of it, especially if it was instinctive, but what about something more difficult or more sophisticated? Though it takes more time and patience (two things in short supply these days), if you instruct me verbally while allowing me to actually do it myself, it will last and make a deeper impression. I would be able, from that point on, to perform it with little or no supervision. So with the way that “love” is wrongly perceived, expressed and expected in many people’s hearts, is it more compassionate to give a man a fish, allowing him to eat for only one meal? Or is it truly more nurturing to teach him how to do it for himself (investing time, talents and resources—oneself) and ensuring he is now able to be fed indefinitely (building a foundation)? Which one involves (more) sacrifice, and genuinely portrays love as the Bible defines it?

For the true, and not just professing, Christian (me and many of you), this means to put to death the lie we may sometimes believe about trying to reach and save the many with the Gospel—as if it is largely OUR responsibility alone– because so many are perishing, and invest in and concentrate on the ones the Lord has placed right in front of us and around us now. Making disciples takes time. Our Lord took three whole years, day-in and day-out, with His followers. In our loving quest to be obedient to the Great Commission and to baptize, let’s not lose sight of the foundation which MUST be built, and not to overlook the need for them to get used to being fed milk before moving on to the ingestion and digestion of too much or any meat too soon. In the secular and biological sense, eating milk and meat together or within a certain time frame of one another is very hard on the digestive system. Additionally, the dietary laws of both Judaism and Islam prohibit partaking of the two together. I mention this by way of emphasis to point out something I have observed in at least two churches I have either been a member of or have visited in the last few years, and I strongly suspect it is a much larger and widespread issue than I am aware of personally. The practice and probably unintentional habit of what are many times referred to as “altar calls”, as well as baptisms, are being performed without intentional, necessary and proper foundation-building.

I am fully aware of and so thankful for the work of Holy Spirit to convict a person’s heart and lead him or her to repentance. This can, and often does, occur during church services where we are free, unencumbered and encouraged to respond to the Lord’s prompting and urging for acknowledgment and confession of sins (Matthew 3:6), as well as gladly entering into forgiveness, salvation and the promise of eternal life! Hallelujah! But this is just the beginning of the true Christian life. It is only the first step with our Creator, Lord and Savior.

If we as brothers–male and female– or shepherds focus on the conversion (or the experience) and forget, downplay or sidestep the milk our “siblings” need as newborn babies in the faith—the discipleship process—we do them great harm, potentially setting them up for failure. This can, and quite possibly will, lead them to question what they committed themselves to, become frustrated and discouraged when trials and afflictions come, and can ultimately lead to apostasy. What does that term we sometimes hear, relate to the end times, and instinctively know isn’t good, mean? Simply, it means “a falling away.” Consider these words and verses, and how they relate to, teach about, warn, and apply to falling away and the foundation-building process:

1) “All scripture is breathed out by G-d and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
2) “Older women likewise are to…teach what is good, and so train the younger women…” (Titus 2:3-5)
3) “For by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of G-d. You need milk, not solid food…” (Hebrews 5:12)
4) “…so that we no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Ephesians 4:14)
5) “But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15)
6) “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15)
7) “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And then the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27)
8) *** “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the Word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the Word, immediately he falls away.” (Matthew 13:20-21) ***
9) “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.” (Hosea 10:12)
10) “So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.’” (Acts 8:30-31)
11) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
12) {Research the difference between “Lordship Salvation” vs. “Easy-Believism.”} – the latter is a cheapening of grace.
13) “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:17-20)
14) “And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let them both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:27-30)
15) {Check out an excellent video called, “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman on Youtube or DVD.}

“Apostasy” in the Old Testament can be found in Jeremiah 2:19 as well as Hosea 14:4. The Hebrew word is “meshubah” and means “turning back, faithless, turning, waywardness.” The same word in the New Testament can be found in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. It is the Greek word that is directly derived from “apostosia” and means “defection, revolt, forsake.” It is essentially the exact opposite of repentance. One must be unsaved, an enemy of G-d (see James 4:4, even if you don’t see yourself that way), still in his or her sins. He then turns to or towards G-d. While one must have “tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the Word of G-d and the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:4-5) at one time in order to possibly fall away. In other words, you can’t fall out of a tree that you have never truly climbed up into first.

How does this term “apostasy” apply in terms of not having a proper foundation in the “elementary principles” of the Christian life—the milk we must feed upon, ingest and allow to nourish us before moving on to the meat of this wonderful life of faith? Looking back to the earlier-mentioned and asterisked scripture found in Matthew 13:20-21, it is perhaps the best illustration of this point. If a proper, biblical, Spirit-and-Truth-infused foundation is not laid and tended, the necessary deep roots will not have been established and may— and possibly will—lead to a falling away.

Apostasy is many times thought of as a rebellious, defiant, willful decision, but it need not be. It can result from a weak, shallow and shaky base. This substructure can be improperly laid for many reasons. The Great Commission is hard enough. The laborers are few. The enemy is deceitful. There are false prophets and teachers. The world and its desires and lusts are around us on all sides. Wolves can enter the Church from without or from within, already being among us. Let us not lose the ones we have gained, due to our negligence. Let us not lose them to the false notion of ecumenism. Let us not lose them because the “foundation” was nothing more than experience, feelings and other nuances of sensuality. Let’s offer them substance. Let’s teach them, as the Lord Jesus did, to count the cost. Let them come to Christ in response to a conviction of sin. Let us as brothers and sisters walk alongside and encourage and reprove them. Let our pastors be shepherds, rather than just hired hands.

Help us, Lord Jesus. As the hymn says, “every hour we need thee.” Heavenly Father, lead, bless, guide and watch over us all. Holy Spirit, give us wisdom, revelation, insight and discernment. Thank You. Amen.

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