They Walked Wi.th Him No More (2)
Jady W. Copeland
In our previous article, We noted that it is possible for a child of God to lose his faith, and hence quit walking with (being in harmony with) God. Also we saw what a tragedy it is to lose fellowship with God, as well as losing fellowship with the brethren to say nothing about losing our potential for good and the hope of eternal life. To say that losing our faith and hence our hope is a tragedy is surely an understatement. Furthermore we saw the symptoms of falling. In this article we want to look at some causes of falling away, how it can be prevented, and finally how to restore the erring.
Underneath all "causes" is Satan. The devil aims at our weak points, and has no hesitation in using any means possible to cause one to leave the fellowship of God. Let us illustrate. Suppose a football coach realizes that the left tackle of the opposing team has been injured and is not in the game. His substitute is a very weak one with no experience. Does the coach say, "We will be easy on the opposition, so we won't run the plays over that young man"? No, indeed, but he takes that opportunity to find a weak spot in the opposition's defense and takes advantage of it. So Satan finds a "weak spot" in our defense; he comes right at us in that area. It is Satan that wants us to fall, and is always looking for ways to cause it (1 Pet. 5:8).
Companionship, One of the greatest causes for falling is evil companionship. Paul said, "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals'" (1 Cor. 15:33, NAS). Macknight says in his commentary, "Shun the company of the wicked, that ye be not deceived by their false reasonings. Profane discourses and vicious examples corrupt even those who are virtuously disposed" (James Macknight, Macknight on the Epistles, Vol. 2, p. 27 1). Solomon found out that even family members can have an evil influence on one, as his wives turned his heart from God to idols (1 Kgs. 11:1-4). It is a common experience for a mother or father to come to a preacher, elder or friend writhing in pain over a wayward child and saying, "He got into the wrong crowd." While it is true that the parent should have thought of such earlier in the life of the child, still it is not to be denied that companionship did play a major role in the loss of the boy or girl.
Weakness Toward Pleasures. Another major cause of falling is our vulnerability to pleasures in life. Americans have become so accustomed to plenty that we are unwilling to make any sacrifices, and this applies to the Christian as well as any other. Satan strikes at the heart of our weak points, knowing that the Christian is not willing to give up his "soft" way of life. We have more money, more leisure time and more opportunities for "fun, frolic and fantasies" than ever before. And since many have become accustomed to such a life style before conversion, it is difficult to give it up. John says, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 Jn 2:15). It is becoming more and more difficult to schedule a gospel meeting when people are not busy with the things of the world - not meaning necessarily immoral activities, but worldly things that crowd out the spiritual life that should take first place in the life of every child of God. In the parable of the soils Jesus explains, "And he that was sown upon the rocky places, this is he that heareth the word, and straightway with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but endureth for a while; and when -tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, straightway he stumbleth. And he that was sown among the thorns, this is he that heareth the word; and the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful" (Matt. 13:20-22). Are we becoming too busy with the pleasures and the cares of the world to be Christians? Along with this, we must put the material things of life as a major cause of falling. Riches are deceitful, as this passage teaches, and can and do lead many astray.,Money promises much, and delivers little in the way of happiness and contentment (1 Tim. 6:6-10).
Inability to Withstand Persecution. As noted in the parable above, some fall away because they cannot handle persecution. The Lord's, way is not the most popular way in life' so when pressures mount from friends, relatives and fellow-workers, they yield to such and become unfaithful. Persecutions do not usually come from physical danger, but from pressures on one's social or family life. Having been accustomed to the ways of the world, the Christian finds himself pressured into turning back to the ways of Satan because of the social pressure placed on him for living for Christ. There are some who simply cannot bring themselves to make the sacrifice necessary to live the Christian life. They decide the "hard sayings" of Jesus are simply too much to handle and their faith fails them (Jn. 6:66-68).
In the area of prevention of falling, Christians must be careful to help one another. Some become discouraged because, being weak in faith, they think the elders or other Christians simply don't hold up their hands and offer help while they are growing. Perhaps they have expected too much, but still the young Christian needs all the encouragement he can get from those who are stronger. The spiritually-minded must realize that they once were where the weak person is, and therefore offer his help, encouragement and advice to hold up the hands of those who need help. In Romans 14 we have the attitude of the strong toward the weak, and we must never forget that we once stood where they now are. Perhaps we have not taken seriously enough Paul's admonition in Romans 14:15, "For if because of meat thy brother is grieved, thou walkest no longer in love. Destroy not with thy meat him for whom Christ died." I often hear caustic remarks to a weak brother by one who has been in the church a long time. They talk to the newborn babe as if he should know everything. We seem to be more patient with the weak brother than with the older Christian who should know better. "Rebuke" is often necessary, but often (especially with the new Christian) exhortation, teaching and love is what the new Christian needs. After all he may not have been "raised in the church."
Brotherly love is very important in the prevention of one's falling away from Christ. "Let love of the brethren continue. . . " (Heb. 13:1). "In love of the brethren be tenderly affectioned one to another; in honor preferring one another. . . " (Rom. 12:10). Since serving as an elder for some years, I find that too many brethren say, "That's the elders' work" when it comes to helping a weak brother. Sure, it is the elder's work, but Galatians 6:1 was not spoken exclusively to elders. When did brethren get the idea that the only one who could lift up a weak brother's hand is the elder? It is often a "cop-out." They simply don't want to talk to the brother, or are fearful of doing so. I am afraid many have been lost to the Lord, because we are "too busy" to encourage one weak in faith. In our group here, we have asked on several occasions that the congregation go to speak to erring brethren about their life. Only a very few do so. "That's elder's business. " Often a good friend can do more than an elder in such matters. Many a Christian who is "falling" could be helped if we would "consider one another to provoke unto love and good works. . . " (Heb. 10:24).
I am not saying the weak brother doesn't have a responsibility. Surely he needs to pray more, read the Scriptures more and exercise himself unto godliness more. He must realize his eternal destiny is at stake. He must realize the Lord said to him, "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18). He must realize a constant search for truth is very important for as Peter also said, "As newborn babes long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation" (1 Pet. 2:2). He must realize that prevention of sin in his life necessitates the "hiding" of the word in his heart (Psa. 119:11). Also the Psalmist said in that same connection (v. 35), "Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight." In fact it would do well for the Christian who finds himself losing faith to read the entire 119th Psalm and note the many advantages to the knowledge of and the Application of the word of God.
Awareness is so very important to the Christian. If we are always aware of the possibility of falling and becoming an apostate, surely we will watch for pitfalls. The Hebrew writer said, "Take heed brethren, lest haply there shall be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God: but exhort one another day by day, so long as it is called Today; lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb. 3:12-13). A great advantage in regular attendance with the saints is the encouragement we get from other saints. While no one is going to be responsible for us in judgment, surely we can "reprove, rebuke and exhort" one another to love and good works. As we so often say, "We need all the help we can get" from God as well as the saints.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 4, pp. 110-111