Posts Tagged ‘The Great Falling Away’

“Lord, hear my prayer!  Listen to my plea! Don’t turn away from me in my time of distress.  Bend down to listen, and answer me quickly when I call to you.  For my days disappear like smoke, and my bones burn like red-hot coals.  My heart is sick, withered like grass, and I have lost my appetite. Because of my groaning, I am reduced to skin and bones.  I am like an owl in the desert, like a little owl in a far-off wilderness.  I like awake, lonely as a solitary bird on the roof.” (Psalm 102:1-7)

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16)

“But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem.  He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.” (Daniel 6:10)

But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private.  Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”  (Matthew 6:6)

Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.” (Mark 6:31-32)

The Holy Scriptures share with us a valuable habit of our Lord Jesus Christ: He often withdrew into solitude.

The importance of the fact that He “often withdrew” into solitude should not be lost on the Christian; we should take note that in order to withdraw into solitude, Christ did not live in solitude.  He lived an engaged life with others, interacting with them, socializing with them.  He placed an importance on His time with people and spent the majority of His time serving them, teaching them, healing them, speaking with them, eating and drinking with them and surrounding Himself with them.  Because of this, He needed to rest and re-energize and did so by retreating to “lonely places”, “the wilderness”, “to solitary places”, to be alone with God.

Scripture greatly encourages time alone with God, giving example after example of righteous people deliberately and purposefully withdrawing into “places” of isolation for their time alone with God.  In those places, they are able to rest, relax their soul, their mind and their body.  It is in these places, in private, that they find their spiritual oasis they dip into for renewal.

Solitude is a place of reflection.  Reflection cannot successfully happen apart from solitude.

Scripture shows us that Jesus withdrew into solitary places to be alone when He received news about the death of John the Baptist and after performing the miracle of feeding 5,000 people (Matthew 14), when He was in distress just before His crucifixion (Luke 22), and before making the major decision of which disciples He would choose as His apostles.  Jesus was often even “alone” with his disciples, so we see that group solitude also has its benefits.

So the Christian is called to be a social creature.  We are not to live our lives in isolation, for what fruit do we bear there?  How can we fulfill our calling to spread the Good News of Christ Jesus if we are not interacting with others?  Our very lives should be as lamps set up to light the darkness; we should not put our lit lamps under baskets, as Jesus illustrated so eloquently in His parable: “No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket.  Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house.” (Luke 11:33)

Discernment is required here to achieve balance. The calling to be social is not a calling to be a busybody.  We are not called to fill our days with so much activity and toiling that we lose our focus and become distracted and fatigued.  Some of us are extroverts; some are introverts or ambiverts.  We are not all called to approach the mission of spreading the Gospel the same way. But we ARE all called to approach the mission with deliberate purpose and thought.

If any of us are living our lives in a state of isolation, void of human contact, we should take heed.  Technology advances are actively making it so easy to get through a day without any real human contact.  Posting and scrolling through social media and “liking” and commenting on posts is no replacement for looking into someone’s eyes or hearing their voice as you communicate with them.  Sadly, studies are showing that, with the advances of social media and other technologies that eliminate the need to have real contact with others, people are feeling more isolated and lonely than ever before has been recorded.

Depression rates are skyrocketing and apathy is rampant.  Technology is perpetuating desensitization on a global scale and the human being, while able to instantly connect with any information about anything we want to know, is left more humanly disconnected than ever.

Contrary to solitude, which is healthy in moderate doses, loneliness is an emotion, a state of mind and feeling of isolation that is destructive.  Loneliness is not of God; is the result of being away from His loving Presence. Throughout the Psalms, we see time and again how David pleaded with God to be near to him and to never remove His Presence from him.  How lonely and desperate are the Psalms David wrote while anguishing and begging for God to close the distance between them.  That is loneliness.  Fellowship with God, hearing, reading, thinking on His Holy Word in a solitary place is the remedy to a lonely, anguishing, exhausted soul.

God promises that He is always with us, so if we are in fellowship with Him, we do not experience prolonged bouts of loneliness.  He is the ultimate company and friend.  He is the antithesis of loneliness.  He may send us into the wilderness for refinement or discipline, but He is always with us.

People are hurting and lost; many are losing their sensitivity to the preciousness of life, goodness and righteousness.  The burden is on the Christian to be the light in the darkness and the way we do that is to interact in a real way with others; make time for them and be purposeful in the time we spend with them.  Then we can withdraw as needed for our alone time in solitude, just as Jesus did.  There we will always find refreshment from the living waters of God’s Word and His Presence.  Find the balance.  Leverage the benefits of solitude in our lives.  “Come out” of the world and take refuge in the rest that is found in solitude.  Then we are able to shine the light of the Lamp that is inside of us so we can illuminate the darkness around.

Solitude is not necessarily a “weapon of warfare” in the great spiritual battle, but it is a private room in the fortress and stronghold we withdraw into to rest and be renewed.  If we are not properly rested, if we are not regularly renewed, we run a high risk of being too fatigued and exhausted to stand firm in our daily battles.  Be social, spread the Good News of Christ with wisdom and discernment as opportunities present themselves.  Then slip away ‘to a quiet place and rest awhile.’

 

 

“Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, ‘It has come at last–salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.  For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth–the one who accuses them before our God day and night.  And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony.  And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.  Therefore, rejoice, O heavens!  And you who live in the heavens, rejoice!  But terror will come on the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you in great anger, knowing that he has little time.'” (Revelation 12:10-12)

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

‘You are the salt of the earth.  But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again?  It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.  You are the light of the world–like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket.  Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.'” (Matthew 5:13-16)

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy–a place where my name will be honored forever.  I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart.” (2 Chronicles 7:14-16)

“Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:14)

“I have the same hope in God that these men have, that he will raise both the righteous and the unrighteous.  Because of this, I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and all people.” (Acts 24:15-16)

The Holy Scriptures tell us that in the last days there will be a “great falling away” and that people’s hearts will “wax cold”.  These are Scriptures about so-called “Christians” who are morally and spiritually indifferent. We are wise to take note and take stock of our own lives if we call ourselves Christians.

David prayed to God to search his heart, all the nooks and crannies, and hidden places inside him and bring forth anything that offended Him so that David could address his shortcomings with God and walk in righteousness.  David was eager to repent of anything that grieved the Lord and to live in right standing with God.

When God says “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways”, this is directed at His people, not the world-at-large. He is expectantly waiting for us to turn to Him and repent of our sins and live righteous lives.

This may be a terrifying expectation for many of us. There may be frightful consequences awaiting us if we repent of sinful things we are doing and instead choose the path of righteousness.  We may be in over our heads in sin, making one poor judgment decision after another, having followed our hearts and “what seemed right” into messes we cannot fathom being free from without paying such a price in consequences that our knees buckle at the thought.

Yet our conscience convicts us no matter where we run and hide.  We may lie to the people in our lives and we may lie to ourselves in an attempt to justify what we do, but our conscience haunts us.  Yes, we are grieving the Holy Spirit of God who lives within us and He is trying to get our attention so that we can address this thing before it is too late.

Immediately upon being convicted of our sins, we have a decision to make.  The longer we postpone doing the right thing, the harder it becomes to do the right thing.  But living in denial does not make the consequences of our sins go away.  Sooner or later, we will face them.

Below are 5 unfortunate realities of the unrepentant “Christian”:

1) What is done in the dark will be brought to light.  Try as we might to keep our sins hidden, all the heavens see what we are doing.  Even if God and the host of the heavens wanted to avert their eyes and ears to our sins, Scripture tells us the devil accuses us before God day and night. Satan is actively before the throne of God, airing all of our “dirty laundry”.  We are in the spotlight, whether we know it or not.  In the spiritual battles of our lives, when we are unrepentant, we lose; even worse, we dishonor God, for our enemy proudly points out the fact that we choose to continue our life of sin over our Lord who gave His life to buy our freedom.

2) Sin is what separates us from God.  Christ Jesus conquered sin and death once and for all for the very purpose of reconciling us, reuniting us, with God.  Confessing and repenting of our sins is our testimony that Christ Jesus is the Lord of our lives and that we live freely in Christ, not in slavery to sin and death.   If we are “saved” from the power of sin and death, our lives bear the proof of this. Our very lives are the evidence.  Living unrepentant, sinful lives is the evidence that we are separated from God, not united to Him.

3) The prayers of an unrepentant “Christian” are not effective.  Part of our daily prayers must be that we ask God to forgive us of our sins.  We have this amazing privilege through the power of the blood that Christ Jesus shed for us; the power through which God forgives us so that we can approach Him without shame.  Yet, a condition for receiving forgiveness is that we do not continue doing that which we are asking forgiveness for.  And if we do not have forgiveness from God, how do we have His ear when we pray?  We do not.  Deep down we know this and it keeps us from praying anyway because we cannot boldly approach the throne of God while we choose sin over righteousness.

4) The unrepentant “Christian” is the salt that lost its flavor; the lamp put under a basket.  If Christians are called to be “the salt of the earth” (being the preserving presence in the earth) by our righteous lives and our prayers, what does it mean if we are not living righteously or praying?  If the Christian is called to light the darkness of the world, what does it mean if we are instead living in the spiritual shadows?  It means there is no evidence that we are even saved.  For a saved soul is a repentant soul; a saved soul is one that actively seeks right standing with God, that walks toward the light and in the light, not in darkness.  There is no such thing as an unrepentant Christian.

5) There are always consequences for our sins.  For every action, there is a reaction.  If the fear of the consequences of our sins is keeping us from repenting and doing the right thing, we are living in denial; we are hoping that if we can somehow stay hidden, we will not have to pay the consequences for our actions.  However, delaying the inevitable most often just makes the situation worse. David was wise when it was time for him to face major consequences for his sins.  He said, “I am in a desperate situation!  But let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great.  Do not let me fall into human hands.” (1 Chronicles 21:13)  Yes, no matter what our sins are or the consequences we face, when we repent, God is on our side and He is merciful.  The world is not merciful. Do we want to face the consequences doled out by God or do we want to face the consequences doled out by the world?  Either way, there are always consequences.

May we fear the Lord more than we would ever fear any earthly consequences of our sins.  May we approach Him in humility, confess our sins and REPENT while there is still time. May our lives be the lives of overcomers, servants of the Most High God, representing His Holy Kingdom in every way.  May we be faithful to the end and may it never be said of us that our hearts waxed cold or that we were part of the “great falling away”.  May it never be said that we were lukewarm, following our hearts wherever the wind blew us. May we never hear the words, “I never knew you” from the Lord Jesus Christ.