The Apostasy of the Last Days (Hope Baptist Church)
Reading: 2 Timothy 4:1-8
2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
The issue of apostasy is close to my heart.
For those of you who are unfamiliar:
Apostasy might briefly be described as a “falling away”…and in particular a falling away from the TRUTH of God’s word and what it teaches.
I’ve been a believer for 28 years and was saved in a Pentecostal Church and was immediately immersed in apostate churches and teachings from the very beginning of my Christian walk.
I was thrust into the false anointing of Rodney Howard Brown and the Toronto blessing.
I drank of the contaminated water of false teachers like Joyce Meyer.
I was indoctrinated by the poison of Hillsong conferences and was definitely seduced by their music.
I sat under the teaching of clowns who were only interested in entertaining goats.
And…I’ve seen the damage that such an environment causes both to myself and others.
But…I have also seen God’s faithfulness in continuing to complete the work that he began in 1995.
One of the greatest things that I did for myself as I came out of my spiritual slumber, was to commit myself to reading my bible from cover to cover.
In coming back to the word of God, I was fully awake to the apostasy of these last days. Despite the depressing realization regarding the state of the church, the Lord gave me a very precious promise:
“Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:14-15)
As I placed one foot in front of the other and began moving in the right direction, the Lord directed my paths to where I am now.
In RECOGNIZING the days that we are living in…
I’ve come to hate every false way and pray that as you listen to today’s message you will likewise develop a love for the truth and a hatred for error. This will only be possible through your OWN commitment to reading the scriptures daily…DAILY
4 points today:
The Foretelling of Apostasy
The Form of Apostasy
The Following of Apostasy
The Forsaking of Truth
The Foretelling of Apostasy:
“For the time will come….”
The bible foretells of many things, in fact a third of the bible is prophecy. And at times, in foretelling certain events, it also warns us…
The bible ALSO warns us about:
The imminency of death
The certainty of judgement
The consequence for sin
In the case of today’s message we are warned of an end-times apostasy or falling away from truth.
The FIRST challenge is this:
ARE YOU GOING TO BE A PART OF THE APOSTASY or ARE YOU GOING TO BE A PART OF A FAITHFUL REMNANT.
It’s always good to know something in advance:
It helps us to prepare. The word of God not only helps us to prepare but also enables us to make sense of this world…to discern good from evil.
We NEED to discern the times that we are living in:
LEST WE FALL INTO OUR OWN PERSONAL APOSTASY AND TO THE APOSTASY AT LARGE
The Lord often exhorts us to take heed with words to this effect…”He that hath an ear, let him hear”
But it’s very possible for a warning to be held at arms length…held there long enough to ignore it.
A HARDENED HEART CAN LEAD TO UNBELIEF
This immediately places the individual in a dangerous position.
Unbelief doesn’t change reality or the consequences.
Ignoring the alarm in the morning doesn’t prevent you from being late for work. Ignorance is never bliss…
Warnings aren’t pleasant… Or at least the CONSEQUENCES of not heeding the warning aren’t pleasant. The reality of hell is the perfect example.
Sometimes in warning us, the bible asks us to do things that we wouldn’t naturally do. That’s what it means to walk by faith.
A warning is always a blessing to those who heed it.
The bible ALWAYS presents things as a certainty:
In this case we read: “For the time WILL come..” not MIGHT come…
Looking at the state of the church, you’d have to say that if the time hasn’t already come, then it must be awfully close.
Despite this, we’ve had this warning in our bibles for close to 2,000 years. And in that time, the church has had TIME TO PREPARE
Knowing what I know, I would have to say that this scripture is becoming more and more a REALITY as individual churches embrace things that are contrary to what the word of God teaches.
But this passage isn’t an isolated one. There are many more indications within the scriptures of an end-times apostasy…1 & 2 Timothy, 2 Peter, and Jude
They all point towards the end times Laodicean church age mentioned by Jesus in the book of Revelation chapter 3.
Here are 2 examples:
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;” (1Timothy 4:1)
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (2Timothy 3:1-5)
Please note: this is a picture of the CHURCH in the last days and not the world. The world has always been like this. Sadly if we look at the description, it is not dissimilar to the description of godlessness in Romans chapter one.
UNLESS we want these verses fulfilled in our own lives and our own congregations we need to take them to heart.
*We need to walk circumspectly; as wise and not as fools.
“A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.” (Proverbs 27:12)
The prudent man HIDES himself; or in other words HE TAKES REFUGE.
The best place for us to take refuge during these times, is in the word of God.
But if you’re a SKEPTIC, you wouldn’t be the first. During their own times of apostasy, Israel received her own warnings and responded in disbelief. There are many many examples. Here is just one.
[Turn to Ezekiel 12:21-28]
“And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, what is that proverb that ye have in the land of Israel, saying, The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth? Tell them therefore, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will make this proverb to cease, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel; but say unto them, The days are at hand, and the effect of every vision. For there shall be no more any vain vision nor flattering divination within the house of Israel. For I am the LORD: I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged: for in your days, O rebellious house, will I say the word, and will perform it, saith the Lord GOD. Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off. Therefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; There shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the word which I have spoken shall be done, saith the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 12:21-28)
What we do know about Israel is that they often fell into apostasy and IDOLATRY.
And consequently, the JUDGEMENT of God was upon them.
Rather than REPENT they would rather deceive themselves and believe that the judgement of God was a long time in the future.
The IMPORTANT thing to remember. The Lord holds us ACCOUNTABLE to obey the truth. Yet it’s because of his great mercy that he warns us.
DON’T THINK THAT YOU’RE IMMUNE TO A STATE OF APOSTASY
Twice in the book of Galatians we SEE the command to obey the truth:
IT IS IN OBEYING THE TRUTH THAT WE AVOID APOSTASY
“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” (Galatians 3:1)
“Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” (Galatians 5:7-9)
Again: Truth is something to be OBEYED, yet in our final point we see that people turn from it.
It’s interesting that Paul concludes this 2nd rebuke by saying that a little leaven, leaveneth the whole lump.
Apostasy happens gradually and subtly ….by accepting one error at a time
DISCERNMENT and the ability to sense perilous times only comes from reading the word of God. And unless you are reading your bibles, you will be oblivious to most things…
AND VULNERABLE TO THE LIES WHICH LEAD TO APOSTASY
The Form of Apostasy:
“…when they will not endure sound doctrine…”
We’ve seen the warning or foretelling of an apostasy…now we are given a description of the warning.
What shape does this apostasy take?
What is it that characterizes this falling away?
More specifically: our text says that “they will not endure sound doctrine”
We’ll see that apostasy take a variety of forms:
The acceptance of false doctrines
The acceptance of corrupt bible versions which cause the believer to question the word of God.
The failure to endure sound doctrine is a symptom of several things:
Firstly it is a symptom of NOT reading your bible and submitting to it. *note WILL NOT and not CAN NOT
Obviously our doctrines come directly from the bible.
The scriptures are profitable for doctrine [2 Timothy 3:16] and are taught line upon line and precept upon precept. Here a little, there a little [Isaiah 28:9-10]
Most importantly: It’s through the word of God that our minds are RENEWED and our lives TRANSFORMED
Secondly it is a symptom of reading a CORRUPT bible.
Corrupt bibles contain SUBTLE yet false doctrine.
Thirdly it is a symptom of POOR TEACHING …it can be very hard to unlearn false teaching, particularly if the other two are present. The man behind the pulpit becomes your authority and not the word of God.
Obviously the opposite of sound doctrine is false doctrine or heresy.
THIS IS CERTAINLY EVIDENT TODAY
SADLY the word “doctrine” has become a dirty word, because in people’s minds DOCTRINE DIVIDES [and it does] and people naturally avoid conflict.
BELIEVERS NEED TO REALIZE THAT DOCTRINE MATTERS
WHEN IT COMES TO DOCTRINE:
The idea of contending for the faith is foreign to most believers
Yet at the same time they will aggressively defend their heresy when challenged.
The crazy thing about division:
It’s ironic because when we understand false doctrine. It’s actually the heretic who is being divisive. It is the heretic that has separated himself and MOVED away from the truth. The Greek word [I’m not encouraging the learning of original languages here] from which we get the word divisions is the same word from which we also get the word heresy.
One thing that we do know is this:
“For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” (1Corinthians 11:19)
There’s a benefit from staying true to God’s word: The Lord is able to vindicate those who hold to his word.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2Timothy 2:15)
ULTIMATELY WE CAN EITHER BE A PART OF THE PROBLEM OR A PART OF THE SOLUTION
When we speak of doctrine and specifically sound doctrine, we’re dealing with “ABSOLUTES” aka “OBJECTIVE TRUTH”
Isn’t the church is supposed to be the pillar and ground of the truth?
Sadly we live in a post post modern world.
In a post modern world, all truth was relative.
Now in a post post modern world, I can have my truth and you can have your truth…
And somehow two things which are different can be the same and co-exist together…I hate to tell you but reality doesn’t work like that.
We can apply this principle [of two things which are different being the same] to the Christian faith. Remember I spoke briefly about corrupt bible versions which not only contain false doctrines but also cause the believer to question or doubt the word of God.
Many if not most Christians will tell you that all bibles are the same…despite being significantly different [25% at the very least and in order to secure copyright].
Surely the idea of 450+ versions of the English bible should be abhorrent.
Unfortunately most Christians have lost the ability to think critically and haven fallen into trap of accepting this lie… that all bibles are the same.
Ironically, the unbeliever is more in touch with reality here and is astounded that there is more than one version of the bible.
Adherents of the Authorized [King James] Version of the bible uphold the doctrine of preservation. I believe that God promised to preserve his words [plural] and that they can be found in the KJV.
IF ALL BIBLES ARE THE SAME THEN LET’S DO A COMPARISON
“The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” (Psalm 12:6-7)
The words of the Lord are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.You, O Lord, will keep them;
you will guard us from this generation forever. [ESV]
LET’S LOOK AT SOME OTHER THINGS WHICH SHAPE OF CHARACTERIZE THIS APOSTASY
I mentioned false doctrine:
There are many false doctrines which apostate churches follow. Here are a couple of common examples that are held to today.
The bible forbids women preachers and pastors:
“But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” (1Timothy 2:12)
Yet the modern church is more than happy for women to grace the pulpit and lead churches.
The consequence of this is twofold. Firstly the woman pastor/preacher is prone to deceit and thus to deceive her listeners. Secondly in usurping authority she dishonours her husband [if married]
The bible also teaches that the sign gifts of tongues and prophecy have ceased [1 Corinthians 13:8-10] and yet the modern church is happy to follow the bogus manifestation of Azusa Street in 1906.
The continuing belief in the gift of prophecy tends towards extra-biblical revelation as the operator of this false gift “prophesies from his own heart”…which scripture says is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.
These are very basic principles and yet somehow the modern church has chosen to despise God’s word and rebel against it.
There’s a list of doctrines in Hebrews chapter 6 which are considered basic Christianity 101. It would be worthwhile to test yourself on these.
The benefit of sound doctrine is that it does a work in a person’s heart that the flesh doesn’t like. Hence the inability to endure it. Ultimately false doctrine is an idol which needs to be torn from a person’s heart and this can be painful.
On the other hand, sound doctrine is a reflection of the NATURE and CHARACTER of God and his holiness. False doctrine is blasphemous and an affront to his character.
The Following of Apostasy:
“…but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears”
We’ve looked at the warning of apostasy and consequences of not heeding the warnings.
We’ve also looked at some of the causes and ways apostasy manifests.
We’ll look at some of the things which motivate people in falling into apostasy.
In the gospels, Jesus warns of the blind leading the blind…they both fall into the ditch. It highlights the relationship between the false teacher and his “disciple.” The false teacher is happy to lead and the follower is happy to be led…despite the potential danger.
We’re told that both fall into the ditch.
Therefore both are accountable…
ACCOUNTABLE TO KNOW THE TRUTH AND TO OBEY IT
Both the Old Testament and the New Testament abound with warnings and examples of false teachers. In the Old Testament the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel are particularly concerned with false teachers. We also have this key verse in Isaiah
It’s clear to see that people like to be lied to
[We’ll see how this works in our final point]:
“That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:” (Isaiah 30:9-10)
Again in the days of Jeremiah:
“The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?”
Despite the numerous warnings and accounts of false teachers in the bible:
We’re told in our text today why people are happy to follow false teachers; even accumulating multiple teachers.
They’re attracted to these teachers because they appeal to their own lusts or fleshly desires.
They like what they hear and they like having their ears scratched.
In following after our own lusts it’s profitable to understand that these worldly lusts take different forms…
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 1 John 2:16
These LUSTS are…
THE LUST OF THE FLESH
THE LUST OF THE EYES
THE PRIDE OF LIFE
So it’s “after their own lusts” that they heap teachers unto themselves:
An obvious example of this is prosperity preaching.
Prosperity preaching is a particular false doctrine which teaches that we give in order to get.
Prosperity preaching clearly appeals to the COVETOUS and those who are greedy of gain. Materialism is definitely “the lust of the eyes”
If you recall, we spoke about the dangers of corrupt bible versions being a manifestation of apostasy because it puts doubt in the word of God:
You could also argue that an accumulation of bible versions is akin to heaping up teachers for ourselves, since we know the scriptures were written for our learning [Romans 15:4]
REMEMBER NOT ALL BIBLES ARE THE SAME
Clearly those who do accumulate various bible versions:
Like the idea of intellectualism and in this self-aggrandisement…
and ultimately CONTRADICT the word of God in so many places
Thus becoming their own AUTHORITY.
This is a clear indication of “the pride of life”
Another example of succumbing to false doctrine through our own lusts is:
Extra-biblical revelation [prophecy and private interpretation of the scriptures]…which I like to call esoteric, mystical nonsense.
Esoteric…because the listener is led to believe he has been given special privileges to know such information.
Mystical…because the listener is led to believe that it is deeply spiritual.
Nonsense because that’s just what it is…completely unfounded on the word of God and with no biblical relevance.
It is tragic that the modern church encourages the practice of heaping up teachers.
It refutes the notion that God has given us the Holy Spirit who is more than capable of teaching us from the scriptures HE INSPIRED
“These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” (1John 2:26-27)
This verse seems pretty clear to me…
As long as the believer does continues to allow himself to be seduced by false teachers, he is going to stunt his growth.
It is the sincere milk of God’s word that should be desired. The word sincere means UNADULTERATED. Not contaminated by false teachers and false teachings.
Unfortunately the modern believer is convinced that he can fast track his spiritual development by cramming his brain with COMMENTARIES and teaching tapes.
I hate to tell you that knowledge [even true knowledge] only puffs up BUT IT IS LOVE THAT EDIFIES
It’s only after spending time consuming milk that you are able to proceed to solids…which is otherwise called “strong meat”
Of course there is place for sound biblical teachers…and I have been blessed to sit under pastor Edi. Especially considering the level of biblical ignorance that exists in the modern church.
The false teacher would take this verse to heart:
“My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” (James 3:1)
And the believer take this to heart:
“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:14)
The word of God gives us the formula for spiritual growth and the ability to teach…and it is the word of God itself.
“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:12-14)
We know that the qualifications of a pastor and therefore the aptitude to teach, are more about character than intellectual scholarship. The Lord looks on the heart and not at the contents of the head.
Thus far we have been:
EXHORTED TO HEED THE WARNING
ADMONISHED TO RECOGNIZE ERROR
INSTRUCTED TO CRUCIFY THE FLESH
The Forsaking of Truth:
“…And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
As was seen in the previous point…
In succumbing to his own lusts or desires, the apostate believer actively turns his ears away from the truth. Note that I say ACTIVELY. This is a deliberate action. The apostate believer consciously rejects the truth in favour of fables or LIES.
AS BELIEVERS WE ARE INSTRUCTED TO WALK IN TRUTH
Rather than turning our ears from the the truth.
We are to:
“But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” (2Timothy 2:16)
Ive seen the rejection of truth in real life. Particularly among the many people that I have associated with throughout my Christian walk. When I have attempted to engage these people in certain conversations regarding apostate teachings and false practices. At best they politely say, “Im not interested” At worst, they AGGRESSIVELY seek to defend their error.
Even in a simple conversation, it’s plain to see that many Christians have no knowledge or interest in the word of God.
These people have clearly been given over to a lie [God is no respecter of persons] and this is a frightening place to be in.
They’ve EMBRACED their error and are so infatuated with their opinion to the point of it being an idol…
There’s a similar process at work here. In Romans chapter 1 we see the downward spiral into godlessness.
When you reject the plain truth, the heart is darkened. And when you profess to be wise you become a fool.
Ironically this is what the scripture says about false teachers and by default those that follow them:
“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
NEVER ABLE…to come to the knowledge of the truth. This is pretty serious situation. As I indicated earlier, it’s very hard to unlearn false doctrines.
The first step in this process is HUMILITY. As I came out of apostasy, the Lord had done a humbling work in me:
WHICH ENABLED ME TO LAY MY HEART ON THE TABLE AND MY LIFE ON THE ALTAR.
It actually takes courage to renounce false teachings.
BECAUSE NOBODY WANTS TO ADMIT HE IS WRONG.
If we look at an even greater apostasy…THE ORIGINAL APOSTASY
[I’m referring to the fall of Adam and Eve] We see that Satan’s tactics in getting man to forsake truth, haven’t changed. His tactic is simple.
Let’s have a look at that:
“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (Genesis 3:1-6)
Step one is to create confusion and doubt by questioning the word of God: “yea hath God said?” Or in other words, did God really say that?
From this question, we see that Eve actually adds to God’s word saying that they were forbidden to eat AND to touch the fruit.
Step number 2 is to introduce a lie; “ye shall not surely die” and then present a more ATTRACTIVE alternative; “ye shall be as gods”
From there we see the lust of the eyes [pleasant to the eyes], the lust of the flesh [the fruit was good for food] and the pride of life take over [it was desired to make one wise].
And as a consequence of these we see the forsaking of truth…
We can avoid the sad consequences of forsaking truth and succumbing to a lie by:
KNOWING THE TRUTH
LOVING THE TRUTH
HOLDING TO THE TRUTH
This begins with reading your bible…
I doubt that we could take the warning in today’s text too seriously. Not only does it have CONSEQUENCES for our own lives but also the lives of those around us.
It has CONSEQUENCES for our family.
Apostate believers are immature believers
It has CONSEQUENCES for our local church.
Apostate churches are ineffective churches
Therefore, it has CONSEQUENCES for the wider community, which is our mission field.
It is Christians who are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Jesus said that if salt loses its savour it is good for NOTHING. These ought to be sobering words for us.
There is a SIMPLE mantra and one that we should have in the forefront of our minds…and that is to be FOREWARNED is to be FOREARMED.
And this is the thought that we ought to take into battle with us as we contend for the faith ONCE delivered to the saints…
Not to be re-invented or re-imagined by what Jude describes as filthy dreamers. The bible doesn’t mince words when it calls out false teachers and false teachings. And neither should we…
But not only do we call out false teaching…
WE MUST ALSO HAVE THE HUMILITY TO ADDRESS ERROR IN OUR OWN LIVES
Paul’s encouragement to Timothy should also be an encouragement to us:
“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” (2Timothy 1:13)
If you find that you are in a spiritual slumber then we have this exhortation which comes at the end of a warning about false teachers [and I’ll finish here]:
“But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,” (Ephesians 5:13-15)
WE NEED TO WAKE UP!!! AND STAY AWAKE!!!
IT IS THE LIGHT OF GOD’S WORD WHICH LIGHTS OUR PATH AND ENABLES US TO WALK CIRCUMSPECTLY