Most have probably heard the saying “if, insert name here, jumped off a bridge would you follow?” The context meaning just because someone else does it, be it popular, or not real smart, would you follow simply for that reason? The point being, a lot of people, do and believe a lot of, well let’s just say strange things. So what does this have to do with strengthening the believer? I am glad you ask!
In Dr. William Lane Craig’s book On Guard, he writes “the purpose of apologetics is to reach the lost, strengthen the believer and to change culture.” I spend, and know God has led me to this point, most of my time attempting to strengthen the believer. Unfortunately, apologetics receives some of its strongest opposition from this group of people. I find this very confusing and extremely frustrating. I mean, after all, apologetics is Biblical, part of the first and greatest commandment, and Jesus used it, as did Paul. But that is not the point. How can professing believers reach the lost, or change culture if they do not know what and why they believe? It has been written about many times before, they cannot. In fact, the majority of professing followers do not know what or why they believe. I was ask recently to back that statement up. Herein lies the point.
As an apologist I felt it to be pretty obvious, (the shallowness of professing believers). I mean, I do this for a living. And a simple conversation with many other professing believers seemed like sufficient evidence. So when ask to provide evidence of my claim I was, honestly, taken by surprise. After all, it has been written about extensively, statistics show the church is declining, as do they show our 18 to 20 something’s leaving in mass numbers, (50-80%). So I thought about what would seem to be a good indicator of, or considered acceptable evidence for, most believers not knowing what or why they believe. Are you ready? Brace yourself, or sit down if you are standing. This could be earth-shattering. But in reality, probably not. Remember when I stated God is using me, through apologetics, to strengthen the believer? Previous paragraph…well, that is a tough “row to hoe” as they say in southern West Virginia. Okay, okay, I will get to the point, or my evidence.
False teachers! Pretty simplistic huh? Why would one use false teachers as evidence for a shallow church? Are you serious? One of the fastest growing “denominations” is the Word of Faith movement. Joel Osteen packs in 45,000 every Sunday. Ken Hagin, Joyce Meyer, Beth Moore, TBN, GodTV, Creflo, TD Jakes are all the most popular people and most watched and listened to “Christians.” That is just to name a few. There was a recent Facebook post with Jessi Duplantis and one of his cohorts discussing why they needed private jets. The top selling “Christian” books continuously are written by these people. And one would question the shallowness of professing followers?
What about all of the misquoted scripture one is faced with on a daily basis? We have all heard it from Jeremiah 29:11 to Philippians 4:13. The teaching how to reach the lost by sharing our testimony. By thinking witnessing to someone is inviting them to church. I could go on and on. The evidence is strong. The church NEEDS apologetics. The church NEEDS sound doctrine. The church NEEDS to make disciples. All of which a Biblical commands. Sadly, it would appear the church is in denial!
Please, don’t get me wrong. There are many solid teachers/preachers out there. But if professing followers don’t know what they believe, or why they believe it, how can they possibly distinguish the false teachers from sound theology. Remember, people actually followed Jim Jones to the jungle and killed themselves. And he was extremely popular.
Boys and girls, Christianity is not relevant or popular in today’s society. In fact, it has never been popular. The gospel is offensive. The promise of trails and tribulation does not sound fun. Or happy, blessed, or favored as so often quoted.
I often tell my students that we need to get the majority of professing followers lost so that we can get them saved. Please consider the first and greatest commandment, Matthew 22:37, the next time you consider an apologist that is attempting to strengthen believers too harsh, or not speaking with gentleness and respect. Please read 2 Corinthians 10:5, Jude 3, Titus 1:9, and 1 Peter 3:15.
I pray for the maturity of every professing follower. I ask God that each of you to stop watching, reading and listening to false teaching. Would you at least admit the problem? Would you please commit to figure out what you believe and why?
This article appears at BibleStudyTools.com. To read it there and read the comments simply click the title below. Chris Russell is an Ohio pastor whose biography states, “He believes that ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is one of his ‘spiritual gifts.'” You can also read it on his blog Sensible Faith.
Several years ago a friend of mine took his wife and kids to the ocean for a week of R&R. While they were there, they purchased a small, inflatable boat for recreational use on the beach. One day the wife jumped in the boat and launched out into the water to just lie back and soak in some sunshine. After what seemed like a short span of time, she opened her eyes and realized that she was several hundred yards away from the shore. In a panic, she screamed for help.
Only one person on the shore seemed to hear her call, and that was her husband. When he realized her predicament, he immediately attempted to swim out to rescue her. That did not turn out well, because he was soon in need of being rescued as well!
Fortunately the lifeguard was doing his job well that day, and he was successful in rescuing the husband and the wife. By the time he was able to get to the wife in the raft, they were nearly a half mile from the shore.
As I have thought about that experience over the years, it has often made me think about how Christians often drift away from the Lord spiritually. It really doesn’t take much time at all to drift so far from the shore spiritually that one can scarcely even see the land anymore.
As a pastor for the past couple decades, I have noted several key things that tend to cause Christians to drift away from God. Here are five of them:
1) An Out-of-Control Schedule.
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
One of Satan’s greatest weapons against our generation seems to be his ability to make good people busier than ever before. We so often sacrifice the best things in life by spending time doing things that are just “pretty good.”
If you desire to walk closely with God, you will absolutely, necessarily have to begin by taking a close look at your calendar. It is likely that you are currently doing too much. And it is also likely that your overly hectic schedule is affecting your relationship with God. So take out your pruning shears and begin to cut out any activities you can that will allow you to focus more time on your relationship with your Creator.
2) Misplaced Affections
1 John 2:15
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.
Be careful not to set your heart on things that really don’t matter. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen good people lured away from church life because they have fallen in love with things or activities that have no eternal merit. For example, children’s sports can certainly be a thrilling activity for your kids to pursue. But if those sports begin to adversely affect the spiritual involvement and development of your family, then pull the plug immediately.
1 Peter 1:6,7 1
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
During the past couple decades that I have served as a pastor, I have often watched Satan using his weapon of discouragement to drag people away from spiritual activities. I have seen it many more times than I can number.
When the trials of life cause a person to become discouraged, he often begins focusing on those problems and takes his eyes off of Christ. It reminds me of when Peter walked on the water. He did great until he took his eyes off of Jesus and began looking at the waves beneath him and the clouds above him.
It is important for you to know that when life’s clouds grow dark and your trials become fierce, that is the time to run TO Jesus and not FROM Him.
1 Timothy 6:10
For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
We Americans are so fat with our own prosperity that we often make wealth our god and not the true King of heaven. This has also been a recurring theme throughout the entire Bible. People struggle, God blesses them, they become prosperous, and then they depart from God. Ironic, isn’t it?
The chances are great that you probably do not feel like you are prosperous. But the reality is that nearly all Americans are extremely blessed and have more abundance than the vast majority of the population of the planet. If you are an American, you are most likely already a “One-Percenter” (wealthier than 99% of the world’s population).
People of abundance often choose recreation over worship. Why go to church if you could be out golfing, boating, camping, or going to movies or sporting events?
Satan wants us to be prosperous, because our prosperity and abundance often lure us away from our Creator.
5) Parasitic Sins
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
Many people begin to drift away from God, because they have sins in their lives that cause them to feel guilt when they show up at church. And they feel reluctant to pray or read their Bible when they know they have these issues in their lives.
Recently, I stumbled upon the most revolting video I’ve ever seen (through my Facebook news feed). The video showed an eye surgeon removing a parasite from a human eye. I won’t go into detail. That brief description alone is enough to send chills down the spines of many. All I can say is that the video was even worse than what you’re thinking right now!
When I watched that video, it dawned on me that many people have sins in their lives that are damaging them just like parasites in one’s body. And those sins will almost certainly affect your spiritual vision.
The solution here is not to run/drift from God. The key is to confess your sin to God who will restore you and make you whole again (1 John 1:9)!
How have you done in your journey with God over the past year or the past few months? Have you drifted? Now is the time to return. Call out to God before you are so far from the shore than you lose all sense of spiritual direction.