Falling Away from the Simplicity in Christ

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Falling Away from the Simplicity in Christ

By Larry R. Lasiter

1999

"I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:3)

There has always been false teachers preaching a different gospel and another Jesus whom the original Apostles did not preach. But the present age we live in presents dangers that may be more perilous than our Christian brethren who lived in earlier times.

Jesus said we would know false brethren and teachers by the fruits they would bear. For example, notice what fruits should follow those called by God and set as overseers or pastors of the congregations were to be. . ."husbands of one wife", "have children who believe", "manage their own households well", be "able to teach by rightly dividing the Word", "not be quick-tempered", and "in control of their emotions", not be "pugnacious (overly argumentative)", not "addicted to alcohol" be "hospitable", "gentle", "holding fast the faithful Word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and torefute those who contradict." (Titus 1 / 1 Timothy 3)

In times past one learned the Word through personal instruction from someone whose way of life they could observe. Just as it is easy to personally observe your local pastor and others who teach in the congregation today because you come to know them in a personal way. But today, there are so many avenues for learning. Literature from various "Christian" Ministries, an abundance of books covering a multitude of topics available off the bookshelves, to the tremendous amount of information on the Internet, -much of which is authored by teachers we may know little or nothing about personally.

Living in the INFORMATION AGE presents us with both benefits and problems. It gives the true followers of Jesus the ability to reach more people for the cause of Christ.But it also gives Satan the opportunity to not only reach the masses with his twisted brand of "churchianity", but do it under the cover of darkness with his false teachers unseen. The Biblical approach is to not only judge theteaching but also the teacher who brings the teaching. Notice that the Apostle Paul himself yielded to examination, -"Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is REQUIRED of stewards that one BE FOUND TRUSTWORTHY." (1 Corinthians 4:1-2) If an Apostle of Christ must be found trustworthy upon examination, then how much more any teacher today.

We must be very careful what we let into our minds. When it is not possible to examine a teacher personally, we should examine his message/writing very carefully. And not only on technical merits ensuring that it is in harmony with the spirit and intent of God's Word, but teaching that will help us grow in our relationship with God. And it should not be overly speculative in nature or divisive as Paul says.

Christians know how very difficult it is to accept Biblical instruction from someone they have come to believe is a hypocrite. As Jesus said, before one should attempt to remove a splinter from his neighbor's eye, he should first remove the plank from his own eye.

How devastating it must be for brethren who have trusted a pastor in leading them in the Holy Scriptures to find later that he himself was practicing immorality! Sadly, this is an all too familiar scenario, isn't it? The world is well aware of the scandals involving Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggert, Garner Ted Armstrong and countless others of lesser fame. And because of things such as these the holy name of God is blasphemed among unbelievers! But their supporters had once believed that God was leading them as they received spiritual guidance from them. Following the revealing of their wicked lifestyles however, most of their flock, although willing to forgive, understood that they could no longer trust them to lead them through the inspired Word of God.

Now notice what the Apostle John says, -"Little children, let no one deceive you; the one whoPRACTICES righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who PRACTICES sin isof the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. NO ONE who is BORN OF GOD PRACTICES SIN, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot (practice) sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious; any one who does not practice righteousness is not of God."(1 John 3)

This is why it is so important for pastors and teachers to exhibit conduct that is reasonably"above reproach" as the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus when sending them to appoint pastors in the gentile congregations. Simply put, any fleshly lust quenches the spirit of God. As Paul told the Corinthians, the "natural, fleshly man cannot understand the things of the spirit, and it is the spirit of God that understands the mind of God." A man may be trained in Bible Theology and have much experience and the ability to speak and deliver a message or produce a writing but if he is living a wayward lifestyle what you receive from him has noreal inspiration from God through the holy spirit. One whose life is filled by the deeds of the flesh(Gal.5) is quenching the inspiration of the spirit of God, if indeed the person possesses the gift.

The Holy Spirit of Truth Must Be Active

If the holy spirit is not active in the message or writing, then there is susceptibility for lying spirits. The principle is, anytime we push the holy spirit aside by unholy conduct, we open the door for evil spirits to work. This is why Peter instructed us to "resist the devil". The most effective worker for Satan is one who had been called by God, and who had diligently worked for the cause of Christ, but fell away later succumbing to false teachings introduced by lying spirits! Notice 1 Timothy 4:1-2, -"But the spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron."

Now, just how does this happen? By what means do "deceitful spirits" introduce "doctrines of demons?" Is it through false teachers who themselves have been deceived by these lying spirits. Notice 1 John 4:1, -"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but TEST the spirits to see whether they are from God; because MANY FALSE PROPHETS have gone out into the world." Notice also by what means, "by means of the HYPOCRISY of liars." "Hypocrite" simply means "actor" in Greek. When Jesus pronounced the seven woes to the Jewish religious hierarchy in Matt. 23, He continually labeled them as "hypocrites" meaning "actors." You see, they wanted to have pre-eminence over the people. They liked to pray in public in order to be seen by men. They liked to sit in the most prominent seats in the assembly. But Jesus said they were merely "dirty cups" clean on the outside but filthy on the inside.

"Hypocrite" means "Actor"

They knew how to "act" holy in order to gain respect and a following, but they did not live a holy lifestyle. They did not practice what they preached to others. So Paul was telling Timothy that the tactic Satan used through the Jewish Scribes and Pharisees, is the same he uses in the Church of Jesus Christ. That brethren would receive "doctrines of demons" through the means of the "hypocrisy" of those who deliver the teaching.

"Can One Gather Figs From A Thorn Bush?"

False teaching is almost always presented by would-be teachers whose own lives are in disarray. Somewhere along the way in their Christian walk, Jesus has tried to take them through some bitter places and they have refused to follow. Rather than repent and accept the will of God and the terms of salvation which is bearing their own cross, they redefine the terms of their salvation.

Link To God Changes

Soon, simple devotion to Christ and living by His Commandments is replaced by "Deeper knowledge." Notice 1 Corinthians 8:1-3, -". . .Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If any one supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if any one loves God, he is known by Him."Their relationship with God turns from child-like obedience to God as a child looks to a father for guidance, to how much "knowledge" they can learn and impart to others. This in turn opens the door for the spirits of vanity, self-exaltation, hypocrisy and the spirit of divisionfollows. Sadly, they become those prophesied of by Paul in 2 Timothy 3:7-10,-"ALWAYS LEARNING and never able to come to the KNOWLEDGE of the TRUTH. And just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so THESE MEN also OPPOSE THE TRUTH, men of depraved mind, rejected as regards the faith. But they will not make further progress; for THEIR FOLLY will be OBVIOUS to all, as also that of those two came to be. . . .But you followed MY TEACHING, CONDUCT, PURPOSE, FAITH PATIENCE, LOVE, PERSEVERANCE." Our life in Christ is much more about WHAT WE DO, than WHAT WE KNOW. Knowledge also brings accountability, so what we learn we must put to practice in our lives.

God Is Never Impressed With What We Know

But unlike men, God is never impressed with what we know, but what we do, nor will we be judged worthy of life based upon what we know, -but on what we do. (Rev.20:12) Therefore, it is necessary to examine what we study. Is it understanding that I can apply to my life? Will it help me grow spiritually, producing the fruits of "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control?" (Gal.5:22) Or does it produce deeds of the flesh such as "enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions.?"(Gal.5:20) In Verse 21 Paul delivers the warning that "those who practice such things shall not inherit the Kingdom."

Lying spirits can easily deceive us into believing we are "standing up for the TRUTH" or we are "Lifting high the Standard of God" when we turn to what really is "fruitless discussion."

Those that do this seem blind to the trail of casualties left along the way, who are hurt and confused and who had believed Christianity to be much less complicated. Many being the children raised in this environment who throw up their hands in frustration thinking "how can God's Way be so confusing?" This very approach is contrary to what Jesus called "the weightier matters of the Law", which are "JUDGMENT, MERCY and FAITHFULNESS."

Remember, Jesus constantly rebuked the Pharisees, and Scribes for making God's Commandments a burden to the people. Many of them fasted twice each week, prayed three times daily and were so carefully diligent in the giving of their tithes, they actually plucked every tenth leaf off their mint plants to give to God. They paid attention to details and felt righteous for doing so. But Jesus told them that by focusing their attention so intently on straining gnats, they were blindly swallowing camels. Gnats were the smallest unclean creatures in Israel, and camels were the largest of the unclean. Of course one could not accidently eat a camel, but could a gnat easily if it happened to get in their wine cup. Because of this, people regularly strained their wine before drinking. But one should ask, which would defile a man more, a gnat or a camel? And that was the essence of Jesus' rebuke. Their emphasis was unbalanced, and in so doing they were neglecting the weightier matters of the law. (Matt.23)

This unbalanced, self-righteous attitude and approach concerning the teachings of God led to a much more serious problem, -separation from the God they believed they were serving. Although Jesus told His disciples that these Jewish Religious leaders were sitting in Moses' seat, remarkably they had actually become agents of Satan the Devil! Notice John 8:44, -"You are of your father the DEVIL, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, anddoes not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies." Before Jesus called the Apostle Paul into His ministry, Paul (formerly Saul) was a devout member of the Pharisee Sect, and severely persecuted the Church, dragging men and women off to prison. And it was he that probably presided over the stoning of the first Christian martyr, Stephen.(Acts 7:58/Acts 8:1-3)

Paul's Problem in the Ephesus Church

While imprisoned at Rome, Paul wrote to Timothy instructing him to stay in Ephesus to combat false teachers in the Churches there. Years earlier, Paul himself departed from Ephesus where he had lived and taught for three years. At his tearful departure, he warned the elders there that some of them would become wolves, enemies of the Flock, and begin to speak perverse things causing some to leave the true faith. (Acts 20) Sadly, Paul's words came to past and was still occurring when he wrote to Timothy.

Notice 1 Timothy 1:3-6, -"As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus, in order that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. . . .But THE GOAL of OUR INSTRUCTIONis love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, STRAYING FROM THESE THINGS, have turned aside to FRUITLESS DISCUSSION." Notice that Paul saidstrange doctrines leading to speculation did not further the administration of God which is by faith. Not only did it not further the Work of God, but actually hampered it, standing in opposition to it. I am convinced that these men in Ephesus did not believe that they were paying attention to lying spirits which gave rise to speculation, which in turn hampered the truth of the Work God had called them to. They believed that they were right and felt duty-bound to spread these "truths." But in reality they had already or were soon to fall away from the true faith in the simplicity of Christ.

Test Those who Come in Jesus' Name

It is necessary to test those coming in the Name of Christ, and it is your responsibility and mine to weigh their teaching against their conduct and the mighty sword of God, the Holy Bible. Apparently, the Church at Ephesus did finally put those "savage wolves" to the test, and judged them as false teachers.(Rev.2) But by this time, so much damage had been done, the Church had been robbed of its first love of the truth. Many years later in about 96 AD, Jesus sent a letter to the Church through the Apostle John. In it the Lord calls for them to recapture their first love, but also commends them for testing those who had come in His Name, finding them to be false.

Tares Among the Wheat

In Jesus' parable of the tares among the wheat (Matt.13) He says that Satan the enemy sows seeds in God's harvest which come up not as wheat but as tares. And says that at the Lord's return in glory His angels will gather them from among the wheat and burn them. At that time many will say, -"but I did miracles in Your Name", -"I cast out demons in Your Name, Lord." But Jesus will rely, -"Depart from Me, I never knew you, you workers of iniquity."(lawlessness) (Matthew 7:21-23)

Could it be that they had come to neglect the weightier matters of the law and the practice of pure religion? Notice James 1:26-17, -"If any one thinks himself to be religious, and yet does notbridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world."

Tares Resemble Wheat

The "tare", also known as a "darnel", is a weed that so closely resembles wheat, that it is virtually impossible to distinguish until the ear is developed. The difference? Like true Christians who remain steadfast in the faith, wheat bears FRUIT, and like false brethren tares do not. Notice also, that Jesus said these tares were sown in the Lord's Field while the servants slept. As Jude warned, false teachers can go unnoticed, -"For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." (Verse 4) This is why it is so important to be on guard as Paul warned the Ephesians, and to examine the fruits of those we are receiving teaching from. Do they exhibit the fruits of the spirit in their lives as defined in Galatians 5? And it's equally important to carefully examine ourselves regularly, making sure we stand in the faith, by measuring our attitude, motives and conduct. Remember, "wolves" don't usually know they are wolves, and "tares" don't usually know they are tares.

Biblical Examples of Fallen Brethren

Some fall away from the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits, who through the agency of men bring doctrines of demons. (1 Tim.4:1)

Some fall away by embracing foolish controversies or disputes about the Law. (Titus 3:9)

Some become factious, being bent on causing division in the Church. The Bible says to reject such a person after a second warning, knowing that they are perverted, sinning and self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11)

As Demas left Paul, some leave the faith because they love this present world.( 2 Tim. 4:10) James says that friendship with the world makes one an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

Hymenaeus fell away by believing the false teaching that the resurrection had already taken place. He was seduced by lying spirits. (2 Tim. 2:17)

Alexander fell away by opposing the authority and teachings of the Apostle Paul. (2 Tim. 4:14-15)

NOTE: Paul, in his first letter to Timothy made mention of both Hymenaeus and Alexander and said that they had rejected the true faith and good conscience, suffering "shipwreck" in regards to their faith. Paul goes on to say that he has turned them over to Satan, probably meaning he put them out of the Church of God. (1 Tim. 1:18-20)

Diotrephes fell away from the faith, but managed to gain control over brethren in the Church. He desiredpre-eminence over the brethren and not only rejected the teachings of the Apostle John but put out of the assemblies any one who accepted the aged Apostle.

Some fall away from the faith because of their pursuit of riches. (1 Tim. 9-10)

As in the Church at Ephesus, some fall away because of losing their "first love" of the truth. Jesus warns those to return to the DEEDS they did when they first learned the truth. (Rev. 2:4-5)

As in the Church at Thyatira, some fall away because of immorality or tolerating immoral brethren in the Church. (Rev. 2:20)

As in the Church at Pergamum, some fall away because they embrace the teaching of Balaam. That is, like Balaam, they entice brethren to sin by teaching them to compromise the will of God, knowing that in so-doing God will reject them. (Rev. 2:14) Those who do this are tearing down what God is trying to build.

Some fall away from the faith by holding to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. "Nicolaitan" means "conquer the "laity" or "common people." In the Church it is the doctrine of a hierarchy which separatesthe brethren into two distinct classes, the "Clergy" and the"Laity", with the Clergy ruling over the Laity. This is the problem Paul was addressing in the Corinthian Church in 1 Cor. Chapters 1-4. The Apostles and Pastors are "overseers" of the Lord's flock but are told to serve as examples and ordered not to lord over the heritage of God. Sadly, some fall away by desiring to replace Christ with a human head and master, just as Israel rejected God by desiring a human king. (Rev. 2:15)

As in the Sardis Church, some fall away from the faith because they don't practice what they know. Their "deeds" are not complete, therefore Jesus says that although they profess the living name of Jesus, they are almost completely dead. Jesus warns those to return their focus to practicing what they know. ("strengthening what is left") (Rev. 3:1-3)

As in the Laodicean Church, some fall away because they neglect to carefully examine themselvestherefore becoming "poor, blind and naked" without even knowing it. They blindly think they are in fine spiritual condition, probably because their righteousness is based on things other than the deeds of pure religion.(Rev.3:17)

Some fall away succumbing to the lying spirits of gossip and slander. Notice "These are grumblers, finding fault, following their own lusts." (Jude vs 16)

Some fall away due to persecution or worries of the world. (Parable of the Sower -(Matt. 13)

Some fall away because of the company they keep. Notice, -"Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals." (1 Cor. 15:33)

Some fall away because they will not receive sound doctrine from God-appointed teachers, desiring instead to accumulate for themselves teachers that will tell them what is pleasing to them. (2 Tim 4:3)

Some fall away because they don't have a deep love for the truth, thus are easily deceived. (2 Thes. 2:10-15)

Some fall away because they allow a "root of bitterness" to develop in them. (Hebrews 12:15)

Some fall because they are seduced into straying from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

Some DO's and DON'T's

"Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness." (1 Tim.6:11)

"Shun foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law; for they areunprofitable and worthless." (Titus 3:9)

"Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thes. 5:16-18)

"Refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels." (2 Tim. 2:23)

"And the Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all , able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition." (2 Tim. 2:24-25)

"See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather thanaccording to Christ.(Col.2:8)

"Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things." (Philippians 4:8)

"I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ." (Gal. 1:6-7)

"So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father." (Ephesians 5:17-20)

"And from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. . .Therefore be. . .alert." (Acts 20:29-31)

"Therefore gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus." (1 Pet.1:13)

"False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves." (2 Peter 2:1)

"Applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence,knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance,godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, Christian love. For if these qualitiesare yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble." (2 Peter 1:5-10)

The Apostle Paul said that there must be factions or divisions in the Church in order that those who are approved may be made manifest. Some will remain steadfast in the Apostolic teachings butmany will fall away from the simplicity of being a Christian.

Jesus said, "there must be offences" that cause His little ones to stumble, but then added -"but woe to him who causes the offence, for it would be better had that man never been born." Jesus knew that those whom the Father called into His Church must be tested. And He knew that a part of that testing would come from those who had once pledged their allegiance and devotion to Christ. And Jesus knew they would come in His name preaching another Jesus and a perverted gospel.

These false teachers come in the name of Jesus with doctrines of demons, deceiving and being deceived themselves. My friends, earnestly contend for the faith, once and for all delivered. Keep the Ten Commandments and hold the testimony of Christ. 

 

 

 

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