The Road to Apostasy

Erik Raymond —  December 9, 2013

When someone walks away from the faith it sends seismic ripples throughout the church. Somewhere amid the shock and emotions, we realize that we saw alarming signs but didn’t think they would materialize. I personally have seen this happen far too many times. In each case however, the steps, the path is strikingly similar.

So, how does it happen? Let me walk you down the road to apostasy. This is intended to illuminate this dark and often camouflaged path.

First let me give you a bottom line proposition: The road to apostasy is paved by bricks of apathy towards Christ. If you want to persevere, then give attention to your affections. This is a summary. Let’s work it out.

1. Neglect. When someone is routinely neglecting the common means of grace you can be sure that there will be spiritual consequences. Just as an unhealthy diet will effect the body so too negligence of spiritual food will adversely effect the spiritual life. Here I mean the neglecting of the Word of God (personal Bible reading), Prayer, Meditation, Worship Gathering, and Community Life (discipleship). This withdrawal may seem simple and harmless but it is an active disconnect.

2. Indifference. Specifically this is indifference to glory of Christ and his word. Suddenly, Jesus isn’t so impressive. He becomes routine. His glory is no longer bedazzling, it becomes common. Instead of longing for heaven an indifferent heart becomes more content with this world. Sin is not wept over because of how it intersects with the glory of Christ; it may even be laughed at during movies. Negligence of the means of grace will grow an indifferent heart. Why? Because we see the glory of Christ through the Word of God by means of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18; Jn. 17.17). You fast from the Bible then you eyes will grow dim of Christ’s glory.

Pastors know this. We’ve seen it before. This is why we begin to earnestly reach out, exhort, admonish, and encourage hearts back to Christ. We know the materials that build the path of apostasy. When we see the bricks of apathy gathered, we react.

3. Frustration. Neglect fuels indifference and it gains momentum like an avalanche. Soon it grows into frustration. This is because it is very difficult to continually engage an indifferent mind with a cold heart. You have no mental recourse to refute a heart that does not prize Christ. The heart is cold and the arguments for Christ are not only absent, but the ones for self are preaching loudly.

Soon, this frustration of having to perform Christianly and keep up the pretense of loving and loyally following Jesus will be overwhelming. Frustration grows quickly into an uncontainable force. Like a shaken up bottle of soda it needs relief; they can no longer live with the dichotomy between head and heart. Soon, you give way to your heart and relieve your mind of the frustration of the contradiction and simply walk away.

This path has been walked many times. People who have watched it can see the danger of simple negligence. We must battle for delight in Christ even when our heart seems cold. We must continue to wear out a path to the cross to preach the reality of the gospel to our hearts. We need to have the beauty of Christ arrest our affections so that he makes all competition seem puny in comparison. This intentionality starts with an open Bible and a heart inclined to God in prayer. If you don’t think you need this then you show your vulnerability already. Do not neglect so great a salvation. If you do you will in fact drift away (Heb. 2:1-4). This is the repeated warning of Scripture. The wise man heeds and the fool reclines to himself.

Again: The road to apostasy is paved by bricks of apathy towards Christ. If you want to persevere, then give attention to your affections.

(This is portion of a sermon preached on December 8, 2013 at Emmaus Bible Church, full sermon here.)

Erik Raymond

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Erik has been writing at Ordinary Pastor since 2006. He lives in Omaha with his wife and kids while pastoring at Emmaus Bible Church. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/erikraymond

16 responses to The Road to Apostasy

  1. Great article! Though I wonder if one of the first problems is what’s happening in the church. There seems to be a facade in some churches of having to be “up” and excited and not allowing us to honestly deal with emotions, struggles and sins. We lock depression and struggles behind a thin veneer of do do more just serve and you’ll be OK. The fact may be a person may not be a Believer and have not had the true gospel explained to him. This is just my opinion. Again great article and many blessings!

  2. Brother, as one who in my past walked away from CHRIST and the people of GOD for many years–erring exceedingly and playing the fool–I can affirm that your insight into the phenomenon of apostasy is accurate indeed! The church I was a member of disciplined me and through that the Lord Jesus rescued me from my high handed rebellion…..but not without reaping major consequences for my years of loving this present evil world (I can’t put into words how merciful the LORD has been to me in not giving me what I have deserved though). But, GOD……

  3. Just my honest reaction: about half of what you said was obscure religious-speak to me. Makes me wonder if what you’re always seeing is apostasy and not alienation from an uber-religious church culture.

    It was something I needed to get away from in order to stop having a relationship with a church and its rules, rituals and culture and start having an authentic relationship with God.

    • If you have an authentic relationship with God, then do you not understand the value of prayer, fellowship, worship, time in the word? Is there anything better than Jesus? You may, indeed, be frustrated with your particular local church, but can you not see the glory of Christ in his church?

  4. You speak truth. God bless you. Keep up and good work.

  5. Thanks Erik for the loving pastoral reminder/warning. I have felt the tug sometimes of apathy when discouraged. I also have horror stories of friends once passionate about their new knowledge of Jesus just over the years walk away.

  6. 2 Thesalonians 2:1 ¶ Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and [by] our gathering together unto him,

    2 Thesalonians 2:2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

    2 Thesalonians 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away (g646 ἀποστασία apostasia) first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

    Apostasy means to forsake or a defection.

    Apostasy

    Apostasy (from Greek αποστασία, meaning a defection or revolt, from απο, apo, “away, apart”, στασις, stasis, “standing”) is a term generally employed to describe the formal abandonment or renunciation of one’s religion, especially if the motive is deemed unworthy.

    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:Glossary_of_Jewish_terms

  7. thanks for the great article!
    I need to remind myself of these things often and a verse that help me stay on track is

    and 2 Cor 13:5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?

    I need to daily examine myself and my motives, even in my devotions, I need to test myself. that I am not neglectful of God, or apathetic to his word.

  8. Great read. Just what I needed to hear. Thanks for the sermon also!

  9. Concerned_Citizen December 11, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    This post lays out three important events in arriving at apostasy. Ironically, however, it is written by a pastor who all but sets believers’ feet on that path. By their order of presentation, the pastor appears to suggest that there is a direction of causality among these events; neglect leads to indifference which then leads to frustration and finally to apostasy. But he doesn’t note that there are other possible progressions. One likely unappreciated by the pastor is Frustration –> Neglect –> Indifference –> Apostasy. Note that this progression starts with frustration, a trait that is strikingly characteristic of many believers in his congregation. Erik preaches a gospel of “grace through faith that is evidenced by works,” but his actions betray a theology closer to “grace through faith that is nullified by lapses in good behavior or good works.” He responds to sin with closed ears and mean spirited words (sometimes including suggestions of violence [this is not hyperbole]). His theology infuses doubt into Christians as they struggle to maintain assurance of salvation in the face of their sin. After a period of time, this leads to frustration, of which Erik adeptly notes the consequences. He claims to have “personally […] seen this happen far too many times.” Perhaps a correlation may be drawn between his tactics and the attrition of faith in his spheres of influence.

    This post makes it appear as though apostasy is the result of not reading one’s bible or praying, suggesting it is one’s own lack of gumption that is to blame. While this is true to an extent, it makes keeping the faith look deceptively linear and internal. Yet many external factors can lead to apostasy, not the least of which is overzealous or self-righteous Christians.
    There is a robust roadblock in the path to apostasy, notably, hope in Jesus Christ. This hope is uniquely neutralized by Erik’s theology, as anyone displaying sin in their lives is told there is reason to doubt his faith. Included in several of his sermons are statements such as “If you do ‘x,’ you are not saved.” The question is apparent though; who came to Christ without sin, and who remained in him while weaning himself from grace? The answer is “no one.”

    Erik began this post with these words…”Let me walk you down the road to apostasy.” While he was not intending to actually lead us into a state of apostasy in his blog, he unwittingly penned a darkly ironic window into his theology. Certainly this post will be met with heavy opposition from Erik’s devoted blog followers, as most detracting comments here do. He will likely ignore or rationalize my points as well. But my goal here is help people (particularly those who have been burned by the scorn of the self-righteous) to realize that the temptation to leave the faith often comes because fellow believers have damaged their hope in Jesus Christ. Remember, while Erik and others like him are telling you that your sin should cause doubt and that your lack of effort has lead to your spiritual decay, remember that Christ promised to never snap a broken reed or extinguish a smoldering wick. Take comfort that God moves towards you infinitely more that you do to him. In the event that you find yourself frustrated by his and others’ theology, God will sustain you while you recover from your blows.

    • Thankful believer December 16, 2013 at 4:23 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to address this simplistic thaand “darkly ironic” roadmap to apostasy. I have been deeply frustrated by the “do this” “don’t do that” religion of my own church.
      My deep need is to be delighted in the person of Jesus rather than the symbol of Christ. When I am enthralled with Jesus (the Christ), I see him, and he makes me like himself.
      But my church, with its militant emphasis on obedience, makes Jesus irrelevant to righteousness. And without Jesus, the church is a travesty.

      And Erik neglected step zero which is attending a church that neglects Jesus as the source of grace in favor of the Scriptures which testify about him.

      • Concerned_Citizen December 16, 2013 at 9:25 pm

        I couldn’t agree more. Best wishes as you are sanctified by Christ’s beauty rather than by the the law (since the later doesn’t sanctify, no matter how hard you hit people with it).

  10. Um, thanks for the faux concern. Adventures in missing the point.

    Have never visited this blog before, but this was a needed, Biblical challenge to my life.

  11. Concerned_Citizen December 14, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    Certainly as someone who hasn’t experienced the kind of situations I’ve described, you won’t have an appreciation for the issue. That’s why I specified that the comment was not for your benefit. I hope you never come to appreciate my point through experience. Best wishes to you.

  12. Our pastor recently announced he had been having an affair with a lady in the congregation, after being caught Iin the act. This had been going on for 20 years.

    He still goes to a church and has done from the beginning of the news breaking out, he is under discipline, the Church has tried to do whats right – is he apostate ?
    Or because he has not walked away visibly, does this rule him out of apostasy ?
    Thanks for any advice.
    God bless

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