Sunday, July 24, 2011

Drifting Away

Apostasy (a-POS’-te-see) means an abandonment of what one has professed; a total desertion, or departure from one's faith or religion. It’s a turning away or going away from the truth. Can a true Christian become apostate?

Let’s see what the Scriptures have to say on this matter. There are many Scriptures about apostasy, especially in the book of Hebrews. In the following passages, I’ve marked the key words with bold letters. I've also provided footnotes (in parentheses) to all biblical words pertaining to apostasy, so that you can refer to the definitions of the original Greek words used, which I've listed at the bottom in the section called Greek word definition footnotes.

Drifting Away
The writer of Hebrews wrote: “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away(c) from it.” (Heb 2:1). It is possible to drift or slip away from the Lord like a boat gradually drifts from shore, when it’s not anchored. That’s why we must pay much closer attention to the message of Christ that we have heard than the Jews paid to the Law and the Prophets.

Salvation can be Neglected
“How will we escape if we neglect(j) so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard.” (Heb 2:3). It is possible to neglect your salvation, which means to reject, deny, or refuse it. And since the Jews were punished for their disobedience, how shall we escape if we do so?
Conditional promise based on holding fast our confidence

These promises are conditional ones, based on our holding fast our confidence. Notice the word “if” in these passages:

“but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house--whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.” (Heb 3:6)

For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, (Heb 3:14)

Our confidence, our assurance, and our hope are all connected with the trust we had in Jesus at the beginning of our walk with Him. We must maintain these until the very end.

Falling, Straying or Turning Away from the Living God
It is possible to fall away or turn away from the living God.

“Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away(b) from the living God.” (Heb 3:12)

“For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away(a), it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.” (Heb 6:4-6)

“See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away(d) from Him who warns from heaven.” (Heb 12:25)

“But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way.” (Heb 6:9)

“Some (younger widows) have in fact turned away(e) to follow Satan.” (1 Tim 5:15)

“But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away(b) from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.” (1Tim 4:1-3)

“Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray(f) from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.” (2Tim 2:17-18)

“O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called "knowledge"-- which some have professed and thus gone astray(f) from the faith. Grace be with you.” (1Tim 6:20-21)

“For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away(h) from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1Tim 6:10)

“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside(e) to fruitless discussion,” (1Tim 1:5-6)

My brethren, if any among you strays(o) from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.  (Jam 5:19-20)

In these last two verses of James, he is writing to believers, whom he calls “brothers.” And he indicates that it is possible for his fellow brethren in Christ to stray or wander from the truth into error. He then indicates that such a person’s soul is in danger of death, even using the term "sinner."  When this happens, the only way such a sinner’s soul can be saved is if he turns from the error of his way.  That’s why James indicates that the brothers should seek to turn such a person back, in other words “convert” him. 

Some may say that no true believer would ever fall away. However, the Scripture indicates it is indeed possible.  The only way a person can fall away, turn aside, wander away, or go astray, is if they were once in a personal relationship with the Lord.  You cannot wander away from someone you were never following or turn aside from a path you were never on.

Falling Away 
Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself said, regarding these last days, "At that time many will fall away (s) and will betray one another and hate one another." (Mat 24:10). We are now living in the days He once spoke about, when it has become common for people to "fall away."  Just as the Lord predicted, such people betray one another and hate one another.  Do you suppose that a person who calls himself a Christian and lives like that will inherit the kingdom of heaven?  Certainly not! "The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes." (1Jn 2:9-11)

The Lord used this expression "fall away" many times, and He made it clear that those who "fall away" without repentance before they die will be thrown into hell.

He said, "If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble (s), cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. "If your eye causes you to stumble (s), pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell." (Mat 18:8-9; cf., 5:29-30; Mk 9:43,45,47)

He also said that when people hear and receive the Word in their hearts, one possible outcome that does happen to some of them is that they "fall away" in time of temptation, such as when affliction and persecution arises because of the Word.

He said, "The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away (s)." (Mat 13:20-21)

These words of Jesus were recorded a bit differently by Luke, yet with the same meaning: "Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away(b).” (Luk 8:13).  In fact, Luke used a different and even stronger Greek word for "fall away" (see footnote b) than the one Matthew and Mark used (see footnote s).  Since these inspired gospel writers used these two different words (footnotes b and s) in quoting the same sentence spoken by our Lord about "falling away", we know that they are essentially synonymous terms.

Furthermore, it is important to note that Jesus said this about the man who hears the word and receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself. In other words, he was speaking about those who initially receive the gospel with joy.  As I have already mentioned, it is certainly impossible to fall away from something you have never experienced.  Many people, after having been born again, have lost value.  According to our Lord, if during their lifetime on earth they do not repent for doing so, they will perish in hell.

Falling through disobedience or pride
Many scholars believe that the devil and one-third of the angels fell through disobedience. Whether one-third or some other number of angels fells with him, we know they were holy at one time and fell through disobedience.

“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;” (2Pe 2:4)

“Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. And his tail *swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.” (Rev 12:3-4)

“And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” (Rev 12:7-9)

Likewise, an overseer or elder can become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.

Paul warned Timothy about recent converts who may otherwise qualify to be elders. “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.” (1 Tim 3:6)

The Jews who fell through disobedience are an example for us. They did not enter the rest that God promised. “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall(g), through following the same example of disobedience.” (Heb 4:11)

Becoming hardened by sin's deceitfulness
It’s possible for your tender heart to become hardened by sin, which is so deceitful. A person who is deceived does not know he is deceived or he would not remain that way. This is a very real danger. That’s why we need to encourage one another. “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened(n) by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb 3:13)

The reason so many Jews were not able to enter the Promised Land was because of their unbelief. They did not combine the message they heard with faith. “So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.” (Heb 3:19). Likewise, Jesus said we must be doers and not only hearers of His Word.

Coming short of entering His rest
It is possible to come short of entering His rest. The writer of Hebrews was addressing true believers in Christ. He wrote, “Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short (l) of it.” (Heb 4:1). He indicated that even though there remains for us a promise of entering His rest, we should fear the possibility that any one of us may fall short of it.

Coming short of the grace of God
Just as we can come short of entering His rest, we can come short of God’s grace. “See to it that no one comes short( l) of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.” (Heb 12:15-17)

As I mentioned earlier, the danger is that when you come short of God’s grace by abusing it, you may not be able to find a place for repentance ever again. This is what happened to Esau. Therefore, see to it that no one comes short of God’s grace.

Going on sinning willfully
It is possible to go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the Truth. “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.” (Heb 10:26-27).

Sadly, many people do this. They receive the knowledge of the Truth. But afterward, they continue in a lifestyle of willful sin, in which they choose to remain.

Before I knew Christ, one of my favorite songs was Carry on My Wayward Son, by Kansas. In this song, a son is encouraged to continue in his wayward lifestyle. He is assured that there will be peace when he is done, at the end of his life. That’s a recipe for sure disaster. There’s only one acceptable sacrifice for sins, and if a wayward son carries on in sin, after receiving the Truth, no other sacrifice remains. The only thing remaining is not peace, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and fiery fury from God.

Regarding the blood of Jesus as unclean
Anyone who set aside the Law of Moses died without mercy under the Old Covenant, as long as there were two or three witnesses. Under the New Covenant, it is possible to regard as unclean the blood by which you are sanctified. “How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb 10:29).

In order to do this, you first have to be sanctified, which means to be made holy. The only way to be sanctified is through the blood of Jesus. Yet some people trample the Son of God under foot after they’ve been sanctified, and this insults the Holy Spirit. According to the Scripture, such people deserve a more severe punishment that those who died without mercy in the Old Covenant.

Shrinking back to destruction
It is possible to withdraw from your faith in Jesus Christ. But the Lord will have no pleasure in the one who does this. “For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But my righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back(m), my soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back(m) to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. (Heb 10:37-39).

The Lord’s righteous one must live by faith. However, if he cowers, pulls back, or shuns the Lord, he will ultimately be destroyed. I hope that everyone reading this is of those who has the kind of enduring faith that preserves the soul.

Being cut off and thrown into the fire
As long as you remain in Christ, you’re safe. But for those who do not, they cannot bear any good fruit, and they will be cut off.

"If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. (Joh 15:6)

"Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (Luk 3:9; Mat 3:10)

"Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Mat 7:19)

The Lord’s remedy for such people is to cut them off and throw them into the fire. It’s impossible to be cut off from Christ the Vine, unless you were at one time connected to Him. The key to avoid this terrible fate is to continue to abide in Him, bearing good fruit.

Being cut off, if we do not continue in His kindness
Paul wrote to the Romans about the Jews, who were a natural part of God’s original tree. Those who fell were cut off, demonstrating the severity of God. And we who believe in Christ were like wild branches grafted into God’s tree, demonstrating the kindness of God.

“Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell(g), severity, but to you, God's kindness, IF you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.” (Rom 11:22). God’s kindness remains toward us as long as we continue in His kindness. Those who fall will be cut off, according to God’s Word. If He did so to the natural branches, why should He spare the wild branches that were grafted in?

Denying or rejecting the faith
It’s possible to deny the faith. Paul wrote to Timothy, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied(i) the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim 5:8)

Paul warned Timothy about the need to struggle against sin, keep the faith and a good conscience. He wrote, “This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected(k) and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme.” (1Tim 1:18-20) These people, like Hymenaeus and Alexander, once had faith and a good conscience. But they have rejected these, rather than keeping them. In doing so they blaspheme and will be handed over to Satan.

Leaving the straight way and wandering off
Peter wrote about people who were walking on the straight way of Jesus, but then wandered off of that way. “They have left(t) the straight way and wandered off(o) to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness.” (2 Pet 2:15) You cannot leave the straight way unless you were once on it. They left the straight way and wandered off for one purpose, which was to follow the wicked way of Balaam. They forsook the straight and narrow path and went astray.  These are the people Peter is writing about throughout the entire chapter of 2 Peter 2. Read verse 15 first. Then go back and read the entire chapter with the understanding that this is whom he is referring to beginning in verse 1. He gives many examples of how God did not spare others and will not spare them, even though they once knew the way of righteousness. This passage teaches us that it is possible to be on the straight way following Jesus Christ, and then leave the straight way.

“The Lord knows how to…hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.” (2 Pet 2:9). What is the fate of such people? Peter declares, “Like beasts, they too will perish.” (2 Pet 2:12).

Being entangled in the world and overcome by it
Just like a bird can become entangled in a net and be trapped in it, it is possible for a sincere believer to become entangled in the world and overcome by it.

Peter wrote, “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled(p) in it and overcome(q), they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” (2 Pet 2:20). These people once escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! When you know Jesus Christ, you are saved. Yet they again became entangled in corruption and overcome by the world.

As I already mentioned, these are the people Peter is writing about throughout the entire chapter 2 Peter 2. Read verse 20 first. Then go back and read the entire chapter with the understanding that this is who he is referring to beginning in verse 1. He gives many examples of how God did not spare others and will not spare them, even though they once knew the way of righteousness. He said they are "Bringing swift destruction upon themselves" (2 Pet 2:1b) and “Their destruction has not been sleeping.” (2 Pet 2:3)

Being carried away by the error of unprincipled men
The apostle Peter forewarned us to be on our guard, so that we would not be carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from our secure position. He wrote:

"You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away(u) by the error of unprincipled men and fall from(v) your own steadfastness..." (2Pe 3:17)

Therefore, although you may be steadfast in your faith now, it is possible to passively yield to the error of unprincipled men, or be carried away by their error, and thus fall from your steadfastness. He had just spoken about these unprincipled men in the previous verse as ignorant and unstable men who distort the Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Pet 3;16). Since they will be destroyed, so will those who are carried away together with them.

Turning your back on the sacred commandment
It is possible to turn your back on the sacred commandment. And that is what the people whom Peter wrote about did. “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs(r) on the sacred commandment passed on to them.” (2 Pet 2:21).

These people knew the way of righteousness and later turned their backs on the sacred commandment. These are the people Peter is writing about in 2 Peter 2 throughout the entire chapter. Read this verse first and then go back and read the entire chapter with the understanding that this is who he is referring to beginning in verse 1. He gives many examples of how God did not spare others and will not spare them, even though they once knew the way of righteousness.

Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.” (2 Pet 2:22). It is possible for a person who has been washed to go back to wallowing in the mud, and their end is clearly described in verses 3-10, and verse 13, as well as verse 17. “They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done.” (2 Pet 2:13) Finally, “Blackest darkness is reserved for them.” (2 Pet 2:17).

My friend, these are harsh words, but they serve as a warning for us. I’m not writing to you self-righteously, as one who has never fallen, but as one who has fallen away before and returned to the Lord.

The prodigal son
Twenty-nine years ago, I was serving in the US Army, and had recently committed my life to Christ (Read my testimony here). As a young, nineteen year-old infantryman, I had been delivered from alcohol and substance abuse, as well as the sinful lifestyle that goes with all of that.

He radically saved me. I was on fire for Jesus in the beginning, sharing the Lord with the people in my life. I had a genuine personal relationship with the Lord. Day and night, I read the Word of God, prayed, had fellowship with other believers, and shared the gospel.

But about three months later, I was transferred for temporary duty overseas. I soon found myself serving in Berlin, Germany. I had brought my Bible and my Christian music, sincerely intending to stay close to the Lord.

However, when I went to the military chapel, I did not like the way they conducted the services. Since I knew of no other place where I could worship with fellow believers, I decided that I would just follow the Lord on my own, without being connected with the Body of Christ. It’s not that I didn’t want fellowship. I prayed for God to provide Christian friends, and I tried to be a witness to those around me. I really thought I could do it alone, but this was a foolish mistake.

I was lonely and wanted to find a wife. So I began going to places where single women could be found, such as the nightclub on post. At first, I just drank cola. It seemed innocent. I knew the Lord was with me, even in that place. But then I began to allow myself one beer or hard drink. Soon it was two, then three, and eventually six in one evening. I slowly slipped right back into my old lifestyle and found myself one night at 2:00 AM, laying in a gutter along the side of the street.

This pattern of falling away from the Lord continued for about six months. But on New Years Eve, I went back to the Protestant military chapel that I had rejected when I first arrived in Germany. They were having a “watch night service,” bringing in the New Year with prayer, worship, and fellowship. I felt so unworthy to be there, so dirty and ashamed of the way I had been living. I sat in the back, away from others.

They happened to be showing a video of a Vietnam veteran named David Roevers, who was awarded the Purple Heart. He gave a testimony about how the Lord saved him from an accidental explosion of a phosphorus grenade. About eighty five percent of his body had been severely burned, but he continued to serve the Lord. At the end of the video, the chaplain gave an invitation for anyone who wanted to commit his or her life to Jesus. I went forward, responding to his invitation with repentance, asking God to forgive me. The Lord’s mercy was so great. He forgave me completely and took me back.

It was like the story of the prodigal son. Like him, I had squandered what the Lord gave me. I spent everything on my own selfish desires until I hit rock bottom. But I came to my senses just like him.

He said, “I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.'” So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.” And they began to celebrate. (Luk 15:18-24)

If you have fallen away from the Lord, or are beginning to do so, then return to Him with all your heart. Just as the father ran to meet his prodigal son, our Heavenly Father will run to you as soon as you repent and set your heart to return to Him.

Safeguards to keep you
Not everyone who falls away returns to the Lord. The saying is true that sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. It’s very dangerous to play with sin. Once you harden your heart to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, it will become very difficult to sense it at all again. So you will no longer hear the warning indicator inside of you.

There are some safeguards that you should implement in your life to ensure you don’t fall away like that.

First of all, seek the Lord. The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.” (Isa 55:6-7)

Aim to love with a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (1 Tim 1:4).

And just as many of the Scriptures about falling away come from the book of Hebrews, many of the safeguards are also found in the same book. Keep on loving each other (Heb 13:1). Do not forsake the assembling of yourself with other true believers (Heb 10:25). In other words, stay in fellowship with the Body of Christ, where you can worship, pray, serve, and be accountable. Encourage one another daily (Heb 3:13). Hold firmly to the faith we profess (Heb 4:14). Draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith (Heb 10:22). Hold fast our confidence (Heb 10:35). Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles (Heb 12:1). Run the race with perseverance (Heb 12:1). Fix our eyes on Jesus (Heb 12:2). Keep striving against sin (Heb 12:4). Strive to enter the kingdom (Luk 13:24). Do not make light of the Lord’s discipline or grow weary from it (Heb 12:5). Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy (Heb 12:14). Avoid sexual immorality (Heb 12:16). Let your hearts be strengthened by grace (Heb 13:9). Continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise through Jesus (Heb 13:15). Obey your leaders and submit to their authority (Heb 13:17).

Lastly, you should bear good fruit for the Lord’s glory (John 15:6; Luke 3:9; Mat 7:19), and continue in God’s kindness (Rom 11:22)

Greek word definition footnotes
As you review all of these Greek words used in the New Testament for the various aspects of apostasy, please bear in mind that the Holy Spirit inspired the authors to use these words. This is not an isolated topic, but one that is thoroughly treated in Scripture. Those who deny that it is possible for a true believer to fall away must reckon with all of these words. And those who falsely teach on this topic must one day give an account to God.

a. parapito – to fall aside, that is, (figuratively) to apostatize: - fall away.

b. aphistemi - to desist, desert, etc.: - depart, draw (fall) away, refrain, withdraw self.

c. pararrhueo - to flow by, that is, (figuratively) carelessly pass (miss): - let slip; to flow beside; to glide aside from; to fall off from profession, decline from steadfastness, make forfeit of faith.

d. apostrepho - to turn away or back (lit. or fig.): - bring again, pervert, turn away (from).

e. ektrepo – to deflect, that is, turn away (lit. or fig.): - avoid, turn (aside, out of the way).

f. astocheo - to miss the mark, that is, (figuratively) deviate from truth: - err, swerve.

g. pipto, peto - to fall (literally of figuratively): - fail, fall (down)

h. apoplanao - to lead astray (figuratively); passively to stray (from truth): - err, seduce.

i. arneomai - to contradict, that is, disavow, reject, abnegate: - deny, refuse.

j. ameleo - to be careless of: - make light of, neglect, be negligent, not regard.

k. apotheomai, apothomai - (to shove); to push off, (fig.) to reject: - cast away, put away (from), thrust way (from)

l. hustereo - to be later, to be inferior; to fall short; be destitute, fall, lack, suffer need

m. hupostello - to withhold under, to cower or shrink, to draw back, shun, withdraw.

n. skleruno - to indurate, that is, (figuratively) render stubborn: - harden.

o. planao - to (properly cause to) roam (from safety, truth, or virtue): - go astray, deceive, err, seduce, wander, be out of the way.

p. empleko - to entwine, that is, (figuratively) involve with: - entangle (in, self with).

q. hettao - to make worse, that is, vanquish (literally or figuratively); be inferior, overcome.

r. hupostrepho - to turn under (behind), come again, return (again, back again), turn back (again).

s. skandalizo - to "scandalize"; from the word skandalon, which means to entrap, that is, trip up (figuratively stumble [transitively] or entice to sin, apostasy or displeasure): - (make to) offend.

t. kataleipo - to leave down, that is, behind; by implication to abandon, have remaining: - forsake, leave, reserve.

u. sunapagō - to take off together, that is, transport with (seduce, passively yield): - carry (lead) away with, condescend.  

v. ekpiptō - to drop away; specifically be driven out of one’s course; figuratively to lose, become inefficient: - be cast, fail, fall (away, off, from), to fall from, to fall to the ground, be fruitless, ineffectual, forfeit, take none effect, come to an end.

Putting it All Together
It’s clear from God’s Word that there is such a thing as abandoning one’s faith, drifting away, turning aside from the truth, forsaking the straight way, straying, wandering, and falling away from the Lord. It doesn't happen overnight. You don't go from being "on fire" for Jesus one day, and then wake up the next morning as an apostate. It happens gradually and almost imperceptibly, like a boat drifting out to sea. Knowing that this is in fact possible serves as a warning to every true believer.

When a brother or sister strays from the truth, they once again become a sinner.  Such a person's soul is in danger of death, and the only way to be saved is to turn back (i.e., convert) to Christ once again.

If you have fallen away from the Lord, or are beginning to do so, you need to hear the Lord's voice calling out to you tenderly, "Come on home." Then return to Him with all your heart. Just as the father ran to meet his prodigal son, our Heavenly Father will run to you as soon as you repent and set your heart to return to Him.

If you have not fallen away from the Lord, I’d like to admonish you from Scripture to stay close to the Lord Jesus. There are some safeguards you need to put in place in your life to ensure that you don’t fall away from the Lord. Be sure those are in place in your own life, and encourage others to do the same.

Whether your life comes to an end or the Lord returns, you’ve got to be prepared to meet Him. I pray the Lord will enable you to stand before Him in that day.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB copyright Lockman Foundation, all rights reserved, used by permission.

Author's note I realize this post is a very severe word. I am simply saying what Scripture says. In fact, the The Apostasy Parables also carry the same message.  Don't miss my other related articles:  If -- A Picture Paints a Thousand WordsAvoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian, No Turning Back, Eternal Security, and Holding Fast the Faithful Word. I also recommend The Origin of Sin, Satan, and Secular Music and The Rise and Fall of Lucifer the Musician. Let me encourage you to read my blogs about Election and Predestination and the Keeping Power of God. You can access the Main Directory for Seeking the Lord, or my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

I also encourage you to read the articles I have written on the need for obedience:

Is Obedience Optional?
The Law of Christ 
Faith Works!
The Law Fulfilled in Us
The Law Established Through Faith
The Cost of Discipleship
The New Covenant
Costly Grace
Deleted Scriptures in the Bible?
Did Jesus Nail the Law to the Cross?
The Obedience of Faith
Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God
Aim for Perfection
Righteous Deeds and White Robes
Doing What is Right
Your Rewards Are Based on Your Practice
Partaking of the Divine Nature
Walking in the Perfect Will of God
Pressing on Toward the Goal
Obedience by the Spirit

Now I'd like to ask a very important question.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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