by Mike Ratliff
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 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. (1 John 2:15-19 ESV)
It is not very costly to profess Christ. Anyone can do that. Christianity becomes costly when the professing Christian stands and does not fall away in the face of persecution or pressure to conform to some position or stance that is clearly opposed in some way to God’s clear commands found in His Word. For the Christian to commit this sin will be either to disobey God in an act of commission or omission. In any case, when the professing Christian takes each step in disobedience a layer of scar tissue is burned into their conscience with the searing hot iron of deliberate sin. Over time those professing Christians will each have an inoperable conscience and the processes which caused this will have proven that these compromisers have become victims of the deceitfulness of sin and, therefore, they will become what the Bible refers to as apostate. Some of these will still believe they are Christians, but others will refer to themselves as ‘former Christians.’ The Word tells us though that they “went out” from “us” because they were never in Christ to begin with. All genuine believers “continue” in faithfulness to the end.
I did not watch Barack Obama’s inauguration, but I have heard from several others who did. These shared with me about Rick Warren’s prayer. I don’t have the text of that prayer, but there is part of me that is not surprised that Warren would take this step of identifying with the administration of a President with a homosexual agenda coupled with an attitude towards genuine Christianity that borders on hostility. I do understand that non-Christians are not regenerate and have no concept of the Holiness of God and the sinfulness of Man. I understand that and I do not expect the US Government to become conformed to Christian values. However, since this country was founded there has been conformity to Biblical moral standards in the laws and their enforcement. The Obama administration is set to do away with all of that. This would include a reversal of all restrictions on abortion and euthanasia. In other words, the focus is on conforming this country to the ways that seem right to man.
I am not for an instant confusing this country with the Church. No, what I am attempting to do here is make sure that all reading this understand that things have changed. As Christians, we are to stand for justice and truth. We are obligated to obey God, not man. Yes, we must obey the government God has placed over us, but only as far as it does not attempt to force us to disobey God. When we refuse to compromise when we are told that we cannot preach the whole truth from God’s Word that homosexuality is a sin or that abortion and euthanasia is murder then we must understand that we are in great danger of being persecuted for this. Time will tell my brethren. In any case, let us look at the process that takes place when a professing Christian falls away.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12-13 ESV)
Those who fall way have an evil, unbelieving heart. However, genuine Christians all have a regenerate heart and are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). God makes the Christian’s faith alive and He preserves each of His children so that they do not fall away. However, we cannot just look at a professing Christian and instantly know if they are genuine or not. As I said earlier, anyone can profess that they are Christian. Proof of authenticity is endurance to the end. Therefore, when we witness professing Christians making compromise after compromise with this wicked world to the point that they are unwilling to repent then we are probably witnessing apostate Christians who are convinced that their religiosity makes them genuine, but they are just as lost as the apostates who make a clean break and become enemies of Christianity.
The word “heart” in this passage is the Greek word καρδία or kardia. This is what Sacred Scripture refers to as the thoughts, reasonings, understanding, will, judgment, designs, affections, love, hatred, fear, joy, sorrow, and anger that is the sentient makeup of a person. The persons being described here by the writer of Hebrews have hearts that are “evil” and “unbelieving.” The Greek word used here for “evil” is πονηρός or ponēros. This word describes one who is evil in a moral or spiritual sense. He or she will be wicked and malicious to the point that there is a very real malevolence towards God and His people. The Greek word used here that is translated as “unbelieving” is ἀπιστία or apistia. This word describes individuals who, through their faithlessness, have a total lack of trust in the God of promise. This is the condition of an unregenerate person. On the other hand, he or she may very well be religious and a professing Christian. However, they are motivated in this by religiosity that has deceived them into believing that they are good Christians because of it even though they are not genuine. If they were then their heart would not be evil and unbelieving.
The evil, unbelieving heart leads the diengenuious Christians to fall away from the living God in some form. The Greek word used here for “fall away” is ἀφίστημι or aphistēmi. This word describes a revolt that draws one or more away. It removes the one revolting and those who follow him or her in an act of desertion. In this case, these apostates revolt and desert from the living God. Never forget my brethren, these apostates may very well look like Christians to the world. However, they are either leading or participating in a revolution away from genuine Christianity. In our time, this could be represented by Christian Liberalism, which takes many forms.
What are we to do my brethren? We have our answer in v13, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” In other words, we are being exhorted to always, every day, to examine ourselves for attitudes and bents of the heart that are opposed to the ways and words of God. We must fight the good fight against all of the lies that we encounter that are intended to deceive us into compromise. I am convinced that God does preserve His people and that He uses this struggle in our hearts to strengthen and cleanse us. The battle to keep the conscience healthy is a tough one. God uses it to convict us. It also is what He uses to give us an inner sense of justification and fulfillment in Christ. So, if we do things that violate the conscience then we are actually damaging it. If we do not repent of this and experience the healing forgiveness of God in this then over time we will lose all sense of God either convicting us or giving us fulfillment. This is dangerous ground.
I was one who had seared my conscience very badly. God allowed me to survive the Oklahoma City Federal Center bombing in 1995. I spiraled down into a pit of anger, depression, and fleshly pursuits. I had short periods of repentance over the next 9 years, but the rest of that time I was an extremely fleshly Christian. I often wondered if I was even saved at all. However, I kept going back to my religiosity prior to all of that. I was relying on that as the validation of my salvation. By the end of 2003, I was a walking contradiction. I served in many areas in church, but was a fleshly mess the rest of the time. I thank God that He had not given up on me.
From the end of December 2003 through the beginning of August 2004, I underwent a personal revival. It started small, but over those 7+ months, I was drawn closer and closer to God. I prayed more and more. I worshipped continually. I was in God’s Word more during that time than in all of my previous years as a “Christian.” By August, I was communing with God all day everyday. I was more amazed than anyone I assure you. I am convinced that over that period God cleansed my conscience. He taught me how to walk in repentance. He taught me how to be spirit-filled. Since that time I have never regressed. I am not perfect, but my walk with my Lord has only deepened. I also learned that I was a Christian by the grace of God not because of my religiosity. I also learned that God expects His people to live for His glory alone in obedience to Him in all things. We are to deny self, take up our crosses, and follow Christ. We are not our own. No, we have been bought with a price. Also, there are many professing Christians out there that look good to the masses, but who would best be described by Hebrews 3:12.
I heard the testimony today of a woman who, before God saved her, had had 3 abortions. She had been married several times, but had fallen into a terrible, promiscuous, self-destructive lifestyle. All of this started after her first abortion. She had seared her conscience and this started her spiral down into the mess from where God rescued and saved her. Yes, God is merciful. He saves sinners. He changes them eternally. This woman is now used by God to minister to those women and girls who have succumbed to the deceitfulness of sin and are either seeking an abortion or are suffering the consequences of having sacrificed their baby on the altar of convenience.
To all reading this, God is Holy, Righteous, and Just. He will judge all sin. However, when our Lord Jesus Christ went to the Cross, God the Father placed the sin of all whom He is going to save on our Lord. He became sin for their behalf. He paid the price. He suffered the wrath of God against my sin and your sin. Therefore, no matter what you or I have done, the eternal penalty for those sins has been paid. All who trust in Christ alone to save them from the coming wrath of God by surrendering to His Lordship are saved. He is their Saviour. Those who believe and repent do so because God regenerates the heart. He takes a heart that is totally unable to believe or pursue God and changes it so that is no longer dead in trespasses and sins. It can now believe and repent and does so. Genuine Christians are regenerate. They have a faith, a gift from God that is alive. This faith believes God and will pursue Him forever. God will preserve these forever. They will not revolt and fall away.
On the other hand, many believe that they are Christians, like I did, because they did some religious thing and they are very religious. However, their life is led according to their own wants and desires. They may believe that they are Christian and may even profess that they are, but they are only religious. They are easily led astray into aberrant forms of man-focused religiosity that say they are Christian, but are not. Since the Holy Spirit is not in them and they are flesh driven in all they do, they will either continue in their pursuit of ever more flesh-satisfying religiosity or completely fall away becoming apostates who hate Christianity.
Have you been rescued from the deceitfulness of sin or does it now “own” you? Rejoice if you are of the former. However, if you are of the latter then now is the time for you to fall on your face before the living God to plead for your Soul. Confess that you are a sinner and cannot save yourself unless He does it. Pray for forgiveness and ask God to save you. Do not stop praying for this until He does it. Surrender to Christ’s Lordship. Die to self and plead with God for mercy. God’s Word says that all who come to Him this way will be saved.