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.)