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The Great Falling Away: Is It Happening Now?

falling away

I’ve spent many years studying the end times, and interestingly enough, it has made me less likely to jump at conclusions about what is and isn’t a sign of the end times. Every volcano, earthquake and rumor of war doesn’t cause me to retreat into my prayer bunker stocked with a three year supply of nasty food.

No, one of the things that I am certain of is that when the “signs of the times” come, we will have data to back it up. In Matthew 24:5-14, Jesus tells us of the “beginning of birth pangs.” These are the signs that things are progressing toward His return, but just as Jesus says, not every war or earthquake is a sign. No, when we begin to see an “other than” set of events, like has never before happened in history, that is when we know the times are coming soon. One of those signs is the “great falling away.”

Cold

This will probably be the saddest hour in human history. Many will turn away from the faith. Satan will raise up false prophets to condone their turning away and the love of “most” will grow cold because of their increase in sin (Matthew 24:12). But how will this happen? What will cause many to turn away from faith in Jesus? That, I can’t answer, but I do know the mechanics of what it looks like. We are seeing it now.

I don’t know if we are at the beginning of the “great falling away,” but I do know that we are seeing the early stages of at least a “big falling away.” How do I know? I hear it more and more every day.

For the past year or two, I have heard an increasing number of people casually reject “sound doctrine” in favor of things that “tickle their ears.” Read what Paul told Timothy:

3For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

2 Timothy 4:3-4

Foundational

What Paul isn’t talking about are secondary matters—things like when to pass the collection plate or what denomination is the right one. No, Paul is speaking about rejecting the sound doctrine of Jesus. What is that? Anything other than the gospel that Paul preached, according to him.

That gospel, that not only Paul preached, but every other apostle in scripture, is this: you are sinful and your sins separate you from God. You deserve punishment for your sin and rebellion against God, but Jesus has offered you reconciliation to God through the blood He shed on the cross. He has atoned for your sins, if you choose to accept Him. If you acknowledge Him, He will acknowledge you before God.

That’s my brief paraphrase, but let’s break it down. Here are the necessary parts of the equation: 1)You are sinful, 2) you deserve punishment, 3) Jesus shed His blood to atone for you, 4) accept and acknowledge Him and have eternal life with Him.

Turning Away from the Faith

If you take away any one of those pieces, you do not have faith in Jesus. You may have faith in something, but it is not faith in the One who has redeemed you to God (Revelation 5:9). But listen carefully today. Listen to the voices out there. There are a growing number of voices that are carefully removing one or more parts of this every day. Many are offended at the idea of sin, so they tell people that they aren’t all that bad.

Or maybe they are offended by punishment. They don’t like the idea that God would truly punish someone. After all, how bad could they be? Others still persist that Jesus’ blood isn’t to atone for your sins, but it was a simply a show of His affection for you. And others insist that one doesn’t need to acknowledge Jesus or the Christian God to inherit eternal life.

Some form of these rejections have always been around. The thing that is causing me great concern is for the overwhelming number of pastors, teachers and leaders within the church today who are becoming quite vocal about dismissing one or more of these aspects of our faith.

The Great Offense

The problem many have is that it is offensive to tell people that what they do is sin. Or offensive to say if they don’t serve the right God, they will spend eternity in hell. It is just too offensive to say that we deserve punishment. But if we don’t say and affirm those things, we are not in danger of falling down a slippery slope towards apostasy—no, we have already abandoned the faith when we do so.

That sounds very serious because it is. Right now, the cause celebre is to pronounce that homosexuality isn’t sin. Not only do we deny what God has already called sin, but we also deny those steeped in that sin the opportunity to come face to face with it and be reconciled to God. Remember, without an acknowledgment of sin, we cannot accept Jesus. If we choose for Him not to save us FROM anything, there is nothing for Him to save us TO.

Right now we are seeing a falling away. People every day are deciding who they think Jesus is and what He would think about things devoid of any ration or reason. They are justifying themselves by saying that “surely Jesus woudn’t do ____.” That isn’t a slippery slope, that’s a cliff.

Our Rock of Offense

That makes the stand we must take all the more difficult. It is offensive. It is hard. It will cost us, maybe dearly. But Jesus told us that those of us who “stand firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13).

We must stand confident in Jesus, the “rock of offense,” (Isaiah 8:14, Romans 9:33 & 1 Peter 2:8) because His offense is the foundation of our faith. Unless we are offended by His assertion over our lives, we cannot then see our own sin and need for Him.

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God is Good Podcasts

Episode #6: Believing God Is Good When Our Lives Are Not

Darren Podcast

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Does God want to bless us? Absolutely! But does that mean that if we follow God, our lives will be blessed? That depends on how you define “blessed.”

God blessed Job, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob materially. David and Solomon were two of the richest and most powerful rulers in world history. They understood that their wealth and power came from God and they thanked Him for it.

So when we focus on one kind of person in the Bible, we can grow accustomed to thinking that God blesses those He loves with material things. That’s actually most often how we defined blessed, by how much stuff we have.

Blessed while not “Blessed”

But what about Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jesus and the apostles? They were all martyred. Most of them had nothing to their name. Were they blessed? Absolutely

The apostles were all martyred with the exception of John. They never had money. They were abused by those in power. But Revelation 21:14 tells us that God named each of the beautifully adorned foundations of the eternal Jerusalem after the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

God loves to materially bless us, but it is not always in this life. That will never change His goodness, though.

Are you blessed? Give God the glory. Are you struggling? Thank God for His salvation for you and ask Him to speak to you in the midst of your struggle.

Is this you?

  • Money
  • Fame
  • Power

Or is this you?

  • Divorce
  • Problems with kids
  • Financial troubles

Ask God to teach you to rely on His goodness whether your life is going great of if the great got going a long time ago.

He is good. He loves you, and you will forever be in His presence if you follow His Son, Jesus. There is no greater blessing for all eternity than that.

 

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God is Good Written Word

Keeping The Simple, Simple…

Rube

…and letting the difficult remain difficult.

It is the challenge of mankind. We long to simplify the difficult and complicate the simple. It is how we make money, how we create margin so that we stand out in society and how we control. And most of the time we do it without any nefarious intentions.

There definitely are charlatans out there who do such things intentionally, but most people are very innocent when they believe that the government can spend in ways that individuals can’t, and that is somehow okay. But I’m not here to pontificate about our government spending.

A Paradox of Human Proportions

Human nature seems to dictate that we are lazy and suspicious all at the same time. We tend, as a whole, to shy away from difficult things. This results in having to place full trust in experts who tell us what to think. Then, when someone comes along and tells us that what the experts have done is to complicate a simple matter, we look at them with contempt. We are a funny lot, humans.

I have been thinking about the relationship between justification and sanctification lately. The Lord has done a funny thing for us. He has offered to us a salvation, free of charge. We cannot buy it, we do not deserve it and we can never work to earn it. But that is actually a fairly easy concept for most people. We are born into this world in the same condition. We are completely helpless and at the mercy of our parents’ affections.

We were not born because we deserved to be. We were not born because we could afford it. When we are born, we are expensive, lazy moochers who do nothing but eat, sleep and poop. And we are universally adored for it. If you take away the photos and videos of cats, babies make up about 99.8% of what Facebook is used for.

So, we get justification. God loved us so much that He redeemed us and we must simply accept Him. But justification (salvation through grace), in all of its simplicity, is something we will ponder for the rest of our natural lives and on into eternity. We will never come to an end of the wonder, glory and sheer weight of what God has done for us. He, God Himself, placed upon Himself the full punishment of our sin to redeem us while we were still in sin. As simple as the concept is, for all its human relatability, we will never, ever, for all eternity, come to an end of its exploration.

A Paradox of Godly Proportions

Sanctification, on the other hand, is a very difficult concept. It is our part of growing in godliness. It is our “work” after salvation to be more Christlike. But what makes it difficult is that we still have no hand in it. We can’t make ourselves more like Christ any more than we can make ourselves more like a bird. I can buy a hang glider and think I have made myself into a bird, but as soon as one comes pecking at its fabric that keeps me alive, I’ll get very nervous.

But scripture makes it clear that it is our job to earnestly seek to be more like Christ. So that’s an obvious paradox. And as opposed to justification, when we enter into eternity, we will forever lay aside sanctification. We will be made perfect and whole. It will be but a passing thought forever. It is as difficult a topic as the Bible puts forth.

And that’s okay.

But what have we done? We have tried to simplify sanctification and complicate salvation. We, as humans, have done it throughout history, and we are doing it again in a big way in our culture today.

Here We Go Again

There is a serious move right now to confuse the two issues. It is going on in several different circles simultaneously. On one hand you have what some are calling the “hypergrace” message–that we are saved, sanctified and perfect right out of the gate. (I’m actually oversimplifying the topic to save space–so there you go). On the other hand you have an increasingly liberal gospel, where there is not so much emphasis on accepting Jesus as there is in doing the right things. Social justice, an ever-evolving moral code and a belief that everyone is inherently good are its mantra.

But what if, instead of trying to make complex the simple and simple the complex, why don’t we let both of them rest on their own merits?

Salvation is an easy concept on purpose. It is easy because God requires that unregenerate people accept Him. Before we accept God, we do not have the Holy Spirit living on the inside of us. We must be able to use this fallen mind and heart to choose to follow Him. He made that part easy for us.

But sanctification isn’t just complicated. It’s impossible. After we are saved, we begin down a road of purification that will be made complete upon our death. We can’t become perfect before we die. It’s a process that God leads us on that He doesn’t intend for us to complete. In fact, we can’t become more like Him at all. But that is why He has reserved sanctification for the saved. He fills us with the Holy Spirit at salvation–that supernatural presence of God Himself–so that we can now do the impossible. And it is Him doing it inside us, not ourselves. We must simply surrender our fleshly will to His perfect, supernatural will.

Our Need To Control

But all that requires that I completely trust God. I don’t completely understand where I fit into the equation, and I like things simple.

And that’s uncomfortable.

So we’ll invent ways of explaining the unexplainable and we will complicate the simple things. And then we’ll go for another spin on this ferris wheel.

Or maybe its time to get off and just let the simple be simple and the complex be complicated.

But until we do, enjoy a little of what we humans do best:

[youtube id=”qybUFnY7Y8w” width=”600″ height=”350″]

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God is Good

Can God Offend You?

offense

The gospel has morphed over the years in America from the “hell-fire and brimstone” message lodged in so many people’s minds from a generation or two ago to the feel-good, Stuart Smalley “you’re good enough just the way you are” message we see today. There is truth in both messages, but by themselves, neither is good news.

As a reaction to that horribly inconsiderate message of a generation or two ago, we have all but removed the concept of hell, sin, shame and bondage from our collective gospel message in America. Today, God wants to save you from being less than you could be. He wants to make you fulfill all your dreams as opposed to being awash in a sea of meaninglessness. The current American Gospel is that God wants you to be happy.

A little smidgen of truth can be the biggest enemy of the whole truth. In an effort to simplify the gospel, America has cut out those parts that are less than appealing. As a means to franchise salvation, America has streamlined a palatable message. What has that smidgen of truth done to the whole truth? What has it left us with?

A lie.

A Rock of Offense

We cannot feel the freedom to parse out of the gospel message those things we don’t really like. Is it true that God wants us happy? Absolutely. Is it true that God wants us living up to our full potential? You bet. Is it true that Jesus was the “rock of offense?” That is less clear nowadays, but I’ll go ahead and give you the answer.

Yes.

Peter and Paul both took the time to quote Isaiah 8:14 in their exposition of the gospel message. 1 Peter 2:8 (you really need to read 1 Peter 1:3-2:10 for the full context) and Romans 9:33 both quote Isaiah 8:14, “He will be a holy place; for both Israel and Judah he will be a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare.”

Over and over again Jesus would say peculiar things that do not line up with our neat and clean gospel message of today. Because Jesus explained that receiving the love and forgiveness of God was not about actions but about the heart, He made it much more difficult to make categorical promises based on a person’s actions. That means that our “easy” gospel message today falls short of the message of scripture.

Contradictions?

John records Jesus saying two seemingly contradictory things very close together in His Gospel.

Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

John 9:39

Then just a few chapters later…

If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.

John 12:47

Why would Jesus say at one time that His purpose was to judge, and then another that it wasn’t? Was He confused? Did He forget what He had said? Not hardly.

He was making one of the most basic points about God’s nature: that He resists the proud but is close to the humble (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, etc.). In His time on earth, Jesus lived that mantra out. He routinely tongue-lashed the Pharisees and showed desperate sinners love, mercy and grace.

Gospel of Grace

The gospel of grace, according to Jesus, the New Testament epistles and the Old Testament are all in agreement with one another: we must come to God in humility and brokenness. If we come any other way, we will be rejected.

If we come to God for help, we will be rejected. If we come to God for pointers on how to do better, we will be rejected. If we come to God to learn how to fulfill our dreams, we will be rejected. If we come to God for salvation, we will be saved.

We must come to God in full recognition of our bondage to sin, brokenness, shame and despair. If we come to Him still holding on to the concept that we are somehow a little good inside and that we just need His help to be better, He will openly reject us. Our only means to salvation is through a humility that acknowledges our complete need for Him. For anything less, He will reject us.

Offense

And that is horribly offensive. Not just to us today, but to all people throughout all history. No man who has ever walked the earth has wanted to admit that he was broken. We all want to hold on to our pride. We want to save face.

Our generation is not alone in being offended at the true message of the gospel, but it is unique in its almost ubiquitous redefinition of it. The question we must ask ourselves today is, will we be willing to give a gospel message that is offensive?

And even more importantly, are we ourselves willing to be offended by God?

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God is Good Year of the Lord's Favor

Judgment and the Goodness of God

o-EL-RENO-TORNADO-570

One of the hardest things for people in our day and age to stomach seems to be the idea of the judgment of God. So many hear about abortion, human trafficking and abuse and barely bat an eye, but if someone brings up the judgment of God they are immediately a hate-filled bigot.

Things are not always quite that dramatic, but it is easy to see the clear disconnect our culture has with right and wrong. People don’t like to think about God judging. It sounds so…judgmental. The concept that God has the right to judge His creation is a very unpopular idea these days, even among Christians. Why?

People are so very tired of hearing that everything under the sun is God’s judgment. To be fair, there really are a very small number of people standing up and claiming that this or that is the judgment of God, but their noisy voices have irritated the senses of our culture. So what is the solution? How can we reset and look at things with a clean slate?