Basic Bible #2: CONTEMPORARY SOUNDS OF FALLING AWAY SIGNS.

Sound #1-2: CONTEMPORARY SOUNDS OF FALLING AWAY SIGNS.

Even as the “falling away” is given in the Word of God, II Thessalonians 2:3, as a sign of the imminence of the Second Coming of Christ, so there are certain signs given by Christ and the Apostles of the Falling Away itself. Christ said in Matthew 24 that because “sin would abound, the love of many would wax cold.” Jesus also said that there would be many “false prophets” {teachers} that would deceive many. The Apostle Paul wrote in I Timothy of the explicit prediction by the Holy Spirit of a departure from faith. (I Timothy 4:1-5) Then in II Timothy Paul elaborated on this falling away first in terms of “perilous times” where church members will have a “form of godliness that denies the power thereof”, and then secondly near the end as church members will no longer endure sound doctrine, but out of their own desires heap up teachers {the false prophets Christ spoke about} with itching ears, turn away from the truth, and be turned into fables.  

Are we in the Falling Away now? Is this a time that churches, church leaders, and church members will no longer endure sound doctrine? Do we have some signs where Bible teachings have turned into fiction-like fables? Do we see many indications that churches seek and find pastors and other leaders who will teach in a manner to soothe and comfort their itching ears? Do we see in our time the “heaping up of teachers”, extensive and popular movements on new Bible teachings? In short, can we find signs that this present age in 2004 and 2005 is a time that church members will “no longer endure sound doctrine”?

The answer is “YES”! There are obvious signs in the churches and denominations of America that these very same churches are in the Falling Away. Here are six apparent signs of the Falling Away of today?s American churches, just to get us started on the subject before we look at the details of the Falling away from Hebrews and other books of the Bible: (1) The apparent gap in all churches and denominations between Christ and the Teachings of Christ is a sign that we are presently in the Falling Away, and it is apparent also to most that the gap is widening to the extent that shortly, if not presently, church members will be going in the opposite direction from Christ; (2) The anarchy in church government where groups in a church run off the pastor so prevalent in Southern Baptist churches is another sign that we are in the Falling Away; (3) Another sign that we are presently in the Falling Away is the popularity in churches of non-biblical concepts of marriage and divorce which allow, condone, and promote divorces and gay marriages as well as distort the Bible requirements for deacons and pastors; (4) The taking of the name of God in vain among active church members is another sign that all is not right in Camelot, a sign of the Falling Away; (5) the popularity today in churches and related church activities of itching-ear teachings such as Warren?s “Purpose” books, LeHaye’s eschatology books of fiction based on fiction, and books on the faith of George Bush which promote the American Democratic Faith more than the faith of the Bible; and (6) The popularity and prevalence of the seducing spirit of “fighting” as personified by the fundamentalists takeover and control of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the world.

Of course, each of these six need some preliminary explanation in the introduction, before we get into the exegesis of Hebrews and other books which will prove that they are so! What you are going to find in this conservative Bible commentary on the subject of THE FALLING AWAY is that the book of Hebrews is about the falling away. It tells of the first falling away by the children of Israel in the wilderness after they saw and turned away from the works of God for 40 years. And the book of Hebrews describes in details the warning signs for church members to see if they themselves are in danger of falling away from God, Christ, and the sound doctrine of the Bible. Let it be said right now and up front, that the Falling Away is not from churches. Church attendance in some cases may actually go up as church members heap up the kind of preachers and teachers which their desires dictate, generally it will be to put the American Democratic Faith before the faith of Christ and the Bible and it will be to preach and teach on minors while ignoring the majors of the Bible. {sort of a departure from the faith by default} Also Paul and the Spirit of God and Christ give straightforward an outright warnings to avoid the Falling Away such as “beware brothers, lest there by in any of you an evil heart of belief in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12-14)

Also faithfulness to the preaching of the Word of God on the Falling Away is not as many would like to believe the next verse of the same tune that the present generation is going to the dogs. If the Falling Away of our generation is like the ?rst Falling Away of the children of Israel in the wilder- ness then all the young people 20 years of age or younger are safe! It was only the adults of 21 and older who after seeing the works of God on their behalf for 40 years were not allowed because of their unbelief to either enter the promised land of Palestine or not to enter the eternal rest of God in heaven.

{There were a few exceptions of men of faith like Caleb and Joshua who were allowed in the Promised Land, and there is in the churches today also no doubt a “remnant” of believers that have not succumbed to the Fall- ing Away, and that will also be discussed in this Bible commentary. Also, there was also Moses who because of temporary disobedience was not al- lowed to enter the Promised Land, but who certainly is in heaven now!}

It should be apparent to you right now that this Bible commentary judges “righteous judgment” rather than the appearance of religious matters and organizations. And if you are to enjoy and appreciate this Bible commentary as well as all nine of the commentaries of the LEARN CHRIST FROM THE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS series, then you too must work at the judging of the “righteous judgment” of John 7:24. Paul elaborated on that by contrasting impression versus appearance. It is amazing in our day and time how impression or perception has become predominate over reality. In the last 20 years or so in management dynamics as used by big business and government, in education, in politics, in American society, and religion, appearance has tak- en the forefront as compared to reality. The very common saying, “Things are not what they seem to be” has been replaced by “things are what you can make them seem to be.” A case in point is the takeover** approximately 20 years ago of the Southern Baptist Convention by the fundamentalists. They did so by convincing the southern baptist church members that they, the fundamental- ists, were the only conservatives on the Bible, and that if anyone disagreed with them and their fighting spirit then they were not conservative. What is more they were liberals! I think their more condescending spirit dictated calling dissenting conservatives, “the moderates”.

**NOTE:  You will read a great deal about the Takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention as signs of a lack of brotherly love in the destruction of careers and reputations of other Baptists brethren, signs of the great apostasy of the falling away; but since you might wonder why something that happened 20 or 30 years ago should be pertinent now.  THE ANSWER IS SIMPLE:  now with positions and status in large pulpits and denominational offices, they are seeking for doctrinal control on dispensationalism and the false doctrine of the secret rapture.  And most of that doctrinal takeover effort is coming out of Dallas Theological Seminary, the former home of Scollfied, Chalmers, Jeffers, and other fundamentalists.

The seductive and fighting spirit of the fundamentalists was made evident by one of their leaders, W.A. Criswell, approximately 25 years ago when during a televised interview by Bill Moyers, Criswell said about the warfare between fundamentalists and moderates that “they would keep fighting until one side or the other won.” You get that, keep fighting with other Southern Baptist believers until one side or the other won. They did keep fighting, and won with the help of such fundamentalists who originally were not even from or trained in the SBC like Charles Stanley, Adrian Rogers, and W.A. Criswell. Fifty years ago when I was growing up in Southern Baptist work in Houston, we called them “fuedamentalists” instead of “fundamentalists” because you always knew what they were “against” more than what they were for. Or in the language of the South, “what they were agin more than what they were fer.” If you really want to know and see this fighting and seductive spirit of the fundamentalists, it is visible with the exercise of righteous judgement: you do have to ignore popularity and majority and control. For example, there is Charles Stanley who when elected by a fundamentalists majority went off on a warfare against the Bible professors at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Recently as a knowable lady on religious affairs helped me find copies of one of Warren?s “purpose” books and a book on the faith of President Bush, first I had to explain to her that my purpose in reading the books was not what she thought, it was rather in order to support my thesis that they are both practitioners and promoters of the American Democratic Faith {I am thoroughly convinced that in this time of “will not endure sound doctrine”, the time of the Falling Away, any popular teaching is suspect, but intellectual honesty dictated that I read about it for myself and then prove it}; and then tried to help her find a copy of a book by Charles Stanley on “Spiritual Warfare”. It naturally came out of my mouth that Stanley had to be an expert on “warfare” since he is always fighting with his wife, his son in the ministry, the staff of his First Baptist Church in Atlanta, and other dedicated Bible believers and preachers in the SBC. {since then I have decided that he would be more qualified to write a book on “The Art of Warfare”.} How does he and other of the fundamentalists leaders of the SBC get away with it: appearance and impression over reality and righteous judgment. Jerry Falwell, who by the way remained a Bible Baptist fundamentalists during the changeover of many others because he was already popular, recently told Jesse Jackson during a television interview about the politics of the moral majority, that “it was better to kill them {the avowed terrorists in Iraqi} over in Iraqi than here at home”. You see the fighting spirit of “kill them”. It is consistent. Even in the moral majority you see the fundamentalist as “against” abortion more than being for something of love and conviction. Fighting and being against is as natural to them as a Christian spirit. Indeed, it is a seducing-Fighting spirit armed with the doctrines of the American Democratic Faith. {By the way I really like the American Democratic Faith, and I have spent years studying it in books on American Studies; however, it is not an adequate substitute for the faith of Christ and the Bible, it can not provide salvation, and I resent the presentation of it as if it were the same as the Faith of the Bible. It is always going to be popular to wave the American flag, and the fundamentalists know it! In the name of patriotism, you can get away with murder!}

Enough negative, let us proceed to a more extensive description of the Six Contemporary Signs of the Falling Away. {However, do not forget in this little aside about the fundamentalists, the positive effort was made to call for “righteous judgment”, and to warn you that fundamentalists will as ever also label this Bible commentary as “liberal” since their house of clay fables would fall if they recognized a Bible conservative that disagreed with them!}

1. The present and widening gap between Christ and what it means to be a church member alone should be adequate evidence that we are in The Falling Away. It doesn’t matter whether you talk about Roman Catholic churches or denominations, the Baptists, the Presbyterians, the Methodist churches, the interdenominational churches, or the nondenominational churches, there is an evident gap between Christ and church members. In spite of the recent efforts of Rich Warren in his Camelot-like “purpose” books to once again re- peat the old excuses for non-Christlikeness in the churches {he knows that is a popular approach}, the facts remain for all to see that no primary thrust is put into “unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…” (Ephesians 4:13) Beyond the lack of primary thrust in Chrislikeness is the lack of trying at all to be like Christ. It is either considered not important anymore, or substitutes are found for Christlikeness as Warren does in the “purpose” books. What are the substitutes? Well, that remains a discussion for the primary body of this commentary, and in particular the conclusions in the last chapter; but a few such substitutes should be listed here: (1) if you are a member of Saddleback Church, then you do not need Christ for salvation {this comes from the classic as practiced habit of all pastors now as they convince their church members of how they are the elect of God, comes from a lack of the promotion of inherent unity based on the bonds of peace of the seven ONEs, and comes from the use of behaviorism to secure and maintain unity in a local church rather than the inherent unity of the Spirit, all of which will be dealt with extensively in this Bible com- mentary}; (2) if you generate any strong convictions based on Christlikeness you might get kicked out of the Camelot Church for violation of the covenant to protect the unity of the church; (3) this so-called unity of fellowship is based on superfcial doctrines and behaviorism with perhaps a touch of the denial of the “priesthood of believers” to the membership; and (4) the boastful of over 9,000 baptisms in 7 years without at the same time any split in the fellowship tries to make those baptisms synonymous with discipleship which even took Christ more than three years to obtain {even so among only twelve disciples there was a split in fellowship as Judas fell away}; and (5) it is questionable that Satan would allow such an avowed work of God over seven years without opposition, rather being very supportive of church work which would promote agreement on basis other than the seven ONE?s of Ephesians and the inherent unity of the Spirit. {Granted this is just a super?cial look at the shortcomings of the “purpose” books by Warren. We will look at it thoroughly in the context of this Bible commentary as one of the best examples of an intolerance toward sound doctrine. Why put this much effort into countering such teachings? Because this book if being used by churchmembers to support the unity of fellowship they have which is not the unity of fellowship promoted by the book of Ephesians and the rest of the Bible. They use this book to support their lack of endurance of sound doctrine. They use this book to prove that they are not part of the Falling Away.}

How long has it been since you have seen any church member exhibiting Christ-like characteristics, of any denominations or churches? Instead you hear of the rape of children, the inhumane running off of pastors in a manner not even practiced by big business, partly because it is illegal there; you hear of splits in fellowship and wars between church members and other between denominations; and you hear of divorces among church members where you know if they can not get along with their own spouse, how can they get along with other church members; and you hear many church members who take the name of God in vain. {Here I wonder how many of Warren?s 9,000 take the name of God in vain while they start their discipleship, according to his teachings, by becoming a friend of God, a dubious doctrine to say the least. If Rick Warren wanted to make a real contribution to the kingdom of Christ, he should make a follow-up study of those 9,000 based on the teachings of Jesus about the seed and the fruit, where only a fourth were fruitful.} You know I have been told, although I can not verify it in writing, that the Mormons and Southern Baptist lead the nation of churches in the number of divorces. Christ taught “one man and one woman for life” with only one allowed reason for divorce, and that anything else in divorce is to commit adultery. While it is so easy to confess this sin to God as a violation of His law and of the teachings of Christ, many will not recognize it as a sin and consequently live in rebellion against the will of God. The rebellion is not the sin of divorce: it is rebellion against the legitimate teaching of Jesus against divorce.

2. Anarchy in church government is another Sign of the Falling Away, where a group of church members or even the whole church exercise the will of the majority to run off the pastor. One of the most false of all false doctrines is the doctrine that the majority vote of the church is always right! That majority vote must inherently become less and less right as the church moves into the Falling Away. If you want to talk about the Purpose of God for a church, then you should see that the purpose of God for your church was to send you your pastor; and rather than seek and find the purpose of God for your church and your life, by running off your pastor you are subverting the purpose of God. {Unless you can twist your thinking to decide based on Warren?s exposition that your purpose from God is to run off the pastor.} I wonder if the children of Israel thought they were exercising the purpose of God when they rebelled against the authority of God as endowed to Moses their leader. If so, they must have been shocked when 12,000 of them were slain by God in one day.

Nowhere in the Bible is the doctrine taught that any majority vote of the congregation is the will of God. Instead, the Bible teaches that Christ is the Head of the Church, the control rests there and conformity to the teach- ings of Christ promotes that control, and Christ has appointed the pastor as the angel-messenger to your church. Most generally the running off of the pastor is a sign that your church will no longer endure sound doctrine, espe- cially on marriage and divorce; and that you are participating in the “heaping” out of sound teachers which must precede the “heaping” in of teachers with itching ears.

This reverence for the doctrine of the majority is more a part of the American Democratic Faith than it is for the Bible. While there can be many similarities between the Doctrines of the Bible and the Doctrines of the American Democratic Faith, there are two outstanding differences: (1) In the American Democratic Faith the majority is always right while in the faith of the Bible Jesus taught that the many go the broad way to destruction and the few go the narrow way; and (2) Toleration is the name of the game in the American Democratic Faith with an acceptance of all beliefs and value systems while the same kind of toleration is not permissible in the Bible such as that suggested a few years ago in a vote by the Presbyterians as to whether the claim that Christ was the only way of salvation was intolerant. At ?rst, when approximately 30 years ago I read an American Studies book entitled MAIN DOCTRINES OF THE AMERICAN DEMOCRATIC FAITH, I was sceptical that such a Faith does exist; but now I know it is real. It was expressed by former Prime Minister of Israel Begin when he said, “You Americans are born Christians just we Israelis are born Jews.” It has come to the point in the history of this country when just to be an American is a faith and a religion. It is best described by the American Democratic Faith. It is the faith a person has who claims to be a Christian who has never experienced the inward change of the new birth, and that includes a lot of Americans. In a recent book on the faith of President Bush, the author speaks of a “civil religion”, and we come to see that as such with the infuence of the fundamentalists in politics. If you look at the fundamentalists closely, you will see a deep-seated faith which goes beyond the faith of the Bible in the majority and in toleration.

3. Another Sign of the Falling Away is divorce. We have previously touched on this in this preface, so we will save most of the further discussion for the main body of the commentary where we show exactly what the Bible teaches; however, we should note that now in our country well over 50% of the marriages end in divorce. Figures are not available on what percentage of those divorces are in Southern Baptist churches, or how much divorces have increased since the fundamentalists took over the Convention. I would think that along with other absences of Christlikeness, divorces under fundamen- talists have rapidly increased since this seemed to be one way in which they took over the SBC {Southern Baptist Convention} in the first place. However, once again I must emphasize that it is not the sin of adultery of divorce that Christ taught which is the problem. The problem among Southern Baptist and over churches is the denial of the legitimate teachings of Christ on marriage and divorce. Rather than individually and collectively confessing their sins of divorce, they deny they are sins; and rebel against the will of God on marriage and divorce. They, especially deacons who object to the Bible teachings which require no divorce for deaconship and pastorship, rebel against God and the clear teachings of the Bible. And when your very church leadership is rebelling against the will of God and the teachings of Christ on something so fundamental as marriage, what else can you expect from them in the way of sound doctrine and sound behavior. {Sound Christlike behavior is also sound doctrine as doctrine is just another word for “teaching”.}

4. The fourth sign of the Six Signs of the Falling Away in our genera- tion is the taking of the name of God in vain. I do not have to prove this to you, for you have heard it for yourself, and you are constantly hearing it from church members. Does the popularity of the taking of God?s name in vain among church members make it right? No, the Bible says and will always say to the majority or the minority, “God will not hold him guiltless that takes His name in vain.” The point of this Scripture from the Word of God is that there is no acceptable excuse. “Well, I don?t mean it!” The answer from the Bible comes, “God will not hold him guiltless.”  “I am a member of a church, or even Saddleback Church.” The answer from the Bible comes back, “God will not hold him guiltless.”

“Such church members do not really mean it. They have been infuenced by the people around them.” The answer comes back, “God will not hold him guiltless that takes His name in vain.”  In the cubicle next to me at Raytheon sat an Engineer who half the time was giving advice to people from the Bible, and who the other half of the time was impressing people on the phone, obviously of a more worldly bent, by the constant taking of God?s name in vain. Pastor James said long ago in the book of James that such double speaking should not come from the same tongue. It is like both bitter and sweet water from the same fountain: it just can not co-exist. I know he was a former active member of some church in Cali- fornia, and I think it was the Saddleback Church.  If it was the Saddleback Church, I can see how such a contradiction of the Christ life can happen. It seems that if you go by Warren?s purpose books, the primary and dominating doctrine or teachings is to show agreement with all church members whether that agreement exist internally or not; and I can see where someone raised in that church environment could easily make “agreement with all” the dominant drive of his life. When on the phone with a church member, agree with them by quoting Scripture; and when on the phone with a person of the world agree with them by taking God?s name in vain.

And unsound doctrine on God could also cause such weird behavior as the taking of the name of God in vain. If a person does not really know about the holiness and power and other characteristics of God, they might be in- clined to take the name of God in vain. If what they learn about God is less than the doctrine of the Bible; for example is the teaching from Warren of how God is our friend, a very dubious doctrine, then they also might tend to take the name of God in vain. Granted Abraham was a friend of God, and so was David and Enoch who walked with God. But my goodness, to think that a whole church, Camelot or not, was full of such friends of God is ludicrous; and as a fundamental, starting doctrine, to consider God as a friend instead of Christ as the friend and the way to God is super?cial if not sacri-relgious. Why is it so readily accepted from Warren” Well, during the Falling Away churchmembers want to hear new sounds that tickle and comfort their ears. Such a sound is, instead of God the Great Creator sitting on the Great White Throne with Jesus at His right hand as mediator, I bring God down to my level of daily companionship. That is not even the way Jesus taught us to pray. It is not “Our Father which is down here next to me as my Friend…”: it is “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…”

5. The Fifth Sign of the Six Signs of the Contemporary Falling Away is the amazing popularity of Itching-Ears Teachings. You will have to admit that the popularity of books like those on “Last Things” by Tim LeHaye and on “purpose” by Rich Warren have surprised the American public. They are on the best selling list, and they have a popular appeal because on the surface they sound so differently from what most churchmembers have heard. {If you will study them carefully, you will find that they are not at all differently from what fundamentalists know; and in the final analysis they are not so differently from what the world has practiced historically.}

I think there are three doctrines in the “purpose” books that appeal to church members most, and perhaps also to non-church members: (1) that the God of love wants to be my friend as a beginning teaching; (2) that unity in fellowship of a local church is possible through behaviorism; and (3) that God has a purpose for each life to be fulfilled in a local church rather than “a spiritual blessing in heavenly realms” from the Church of the Firstborn, written in heaven. This last doctrine, remember that doctrine is another word for “teaching”, this teaching from Warren is based on faulty exegesis of both the book of Ephesians and the usage of the word “ecclesia”, for church, in the total body. Lest this cause you to pause that a pastor of such a famous and Camelot-like church in California, could be guilty of such inadequate “exegesis”, I would remind you that several years ago the well-known associate pastor of the Crystal Cathedral would constantly talk of the book of “Revelations” instead of the book of Revelation. This is and always will be a sign of a person inadequately schooled on the Bible. In short, the Bible uses the word “ecclesia” approximately 128 times with indeed the majority of about 100 referring to the local church; however, to conclude as Warren does that the other 20 times are insignificant, where the Bible unmistakably refers to the body of all believers, the Church of the Firstborn, written in heaven, is a sign of immaturity on the part of Warren. The same kind of immaturity and un- sound doctrine that allows him to promote God as the initial friend in a begin- ning relationship. That was meant for Christ, and Christ only. {We will look at these matters of sound doctrine in more detail in the commentary, doing Bible exegesis according to good Bible-ordained hermeneutics, the science of biblical interpretation.}

6. The Fighting spirit of the fundamentalists is another of the Six Signs of the Contemporary Falling Away. You know it is really hard to think of Christian, or Christ, or Christlikeness in the same sentence with “fighting”. Yet you have seen it on every hand with the fundamentalists, and you will continue to see it. I recall a few years ago when good ‘ole Bible evangelists, J. Vernon McGee, said of the fundamentalists, “I wish they could learn to contend for the faith without being contentious.” They can not even though sometimes they put on a good show when they entitle television shows like “In Touch” and “Love that Matters”, more of the impression over reality. The conclusion of this book, and the conclusion with which you must agree, is that a fighting spirit such as what the fundamentalists have is a seducing spirit; and is right next to the intolerance of sound doctrine! Also that the fighting spirit belongs more to the American Democratic Faith than to the faith of the Bible!

NOTE:  Churches, denominations, and their leaders are the prime leaders in the Falling Away as they are about the only ones to have anything to fall away from.  They are too lax with routine like “at ease in Zion”, and professionalism in the world has taken the place of the Christian vocation.  If you wish, you can download a free copy of WHAT CHURCHES DON’T WANT YOU TO HEAR at http://www.sungrist.org/wcdwyth.pdf .

 

 

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