The Bible tells us that ‘Ye shall know them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:15-23). We can know who is an apostate, and who is a true child of God, A TRUE PROPHET. We can know them by their ‘fruits’, but not always by their outward appearance.
A beautiful tree can produce horrible fruit. A tree is measured by the kind of fruit it produces. The same with those in congregations. There can be some well mannered, polite, refined, educated, poised, and sweet talking ones, who are inwardly apostate, and therefore produce bad fruit.
"...false prophets shall rise and deceive many...’
I Timothy 4:1-8
"...in the latter times, some shall depart from the faith...’
II Timothy 4:1-5
"...the time will come, when they shall not endure sound doctrine."
Judas was an apostate, but the other disciples had to ask who was the betrayer that Jesus spoke concerning, for they did not recognize him as being a betrayer, yet, he was. His weakness of a ‘love for money’ led him down a path to apostasy, opening him to the demons who deceived him.
Ananias and Sapphira apostatized because of covetousness and lying. (Acts 5:1-14).
Demas ‘having loved this present world’ (II Timothy 4:10) apostatized, even though he had been a preacher of the gospel (Col. 4:14, Philemon 24).
The apostates have all stumbled at God’s Word, been bewitched not to follow God’s Word, refused to hold fast till the end to their faith, and entangled themselves again in the distractions of life. The sins of the flesh, the lusts, and greed, caused them to grow cold in the faith. They departed from the faith, due to the seductions of evil spirits. Once their hearts were turned away from God, they found sin can imprison their souls.
The Bible tells us a way to never fall from grace into apostasy. Surely, none of us will ever be perfect. Yet, to fall into apostasy is more than a sin of weakness, a flaw in our training. What shall we do to avoid the possibility of apostatizing? There is a way, but few ever read the appropriate passage, few want to discuss it, for we find many do not want to even admit that there are apostates in the church.
II Peter 1:5
‘And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue.’
We would not be Christians, if we did not have ‘faith’. Yet, some try to live their whole Christian life with just ‘faith’. Yes, that does make us to be a child of God, but if we stay there, with only ‘faith’, then the battles against evil spirits and against the wiles and temptations of life, we will find ourselves too vulnerable to failure.
We are to add to our faith, virtue. This is the Greek word, ‘arete’ meaning ‘manliness, valor, excellence.’ There are many who like to hide in a fox hole, or in a cave, or in the back pew of the hurch. They have not realized this is a battlefield. They have not seen that the devil and his cohorts are enemies of the church, and are on the attack. Their lack of willingness to be part of the Lord’s army, results in a weakness that leads to apostasy. Those that step up to battle the devils, will find it hard and tough, but that willingness to battle starts the insurance of never apostatizing.
II Peter 1:5
"...and to virtue, knowledge...’
The word for ‘knowledge’ is ‘gnosis’, which refers to proven knowledge, science. We need to get into the Word of God, and seek to get the answers to the questions. Study of the Word, gives more faith, for ‘faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word...’ We need to grow in knowledge, adding it to our faith and virtue. As we do, we get stronger.
II Peter 1:6
"...and to knowledge, temperance...’
Temperance is the Greek word ‘egkrateia’ meaning ‘self control, to be strong in a thing." So many do not want to be righteous all the time. They look at their faith as a part time job, and want to relax sometimes, want to have recreation periods, furloughs from the battlefront, and vacation from faith, God, and the battle. They indulge self in excesses, distractions, and leisures. We need to stay strong, for while we lay down our faith, cease fighting in the battle, we find that in that weakened state, the devil mounts some serious attacks.
II Peter 1:6
"...and to temperance, patience...’
Patience is the Greek word ‘hupomone’, meaning ‘endurance, enduring a wait.’ Some have a hard time not having the victory parade till the end of the war. They want heaven now, they want the war to be finally won, and no more temptation, no more struggles. Their impatience with the long warfare, brings them to weakness. If we learn to be patient, the Lord will keep the possibility of apostatizing from coming upon the child of God.
II Peter 1:6
"...and to patience, godliness...’
The word for ‘godliness’ is ‘eusebeia’ meaning ‘piety, holiness’. There is a need for holy living. Sin grips, entraps, ensnares, and is harder and harder to stop. It does not stay the same, but every sin leads to more sin, entrapping more. Therefore, to live free from sin, and repenting of every failure, having a holy life, is key to staying away from apostasy.
II Peter 1:7
‘and to godliness, brotherly kindness...’
This is the Greek word ‘philadelphia’ meaning ‘brotherly love.’ It is a love with respect for the person. This love is admiration for another, agreement with their person. This is a love different than we can have for our enemies. This love we have only for those who are good persons. We need to find those who are worthy of love, who are worthy of respect. Having godly friends, to whom we can go for intercession and encouragement,
II Peter 1:7
"...to brotherly kindness charity...’
Having found some that we can have phileo love for, we need then to add ‘agape’ love. The word ‘charity’ is ‘agape’. It is a love given to those who are unlovely, those who are not able to be respected and honored for their goodness, and love-ability. We have this love for ‘enemies’, for those who are yet sinners and unlovely.
II Peter 1:8
"For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren, nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’
The words ‘be in you’ means ‘to come into existence’. For these need to be quietly birthed into us, and then to ‘abound’ in us. We are not to seek a ‘small dose’ of this remedy, for it is something upon which we need to feast. It is not to be a vaccination against apostasy, but a permanent power over apostasy.
We should not be ‘barren’, meaning we are not to be idle and delaying in getting and keeping these things to keep us from apostasy.
If we do these things, we will not be ‘unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ This ‘knowledge’ of Jesus is the word ‘epignosis’, meaning a ‘full discernment’. We will fully discern our Lord, knowing Him in a personal and fellowship way.
I Peter 1:9
"But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten he was purged from his old sins."
The kind of ‘sins’ mentioned here are ‘hamartia’, which means ‘missing the mark.’ We should all have God’s laws, and His will as our target, and be aiming to do as He desires. The ‘old’ failures of hitting that mark, are ‘purged’. God forgives all repented sins. They are ‘cleansed’ from us. Some forget how great a grace that was, and have not done as He has required of those He has forgiven.
I Peter 1:10
"Wherefore, rather, brethren, give diligence, to make your calling and election sure, for if ye do those things, ye shall never fall."
It does take "diligence" to heed the instructions given here in Peter’s epistle. Our ‘calling and election’ to God’s kingdom, can be made ‘sure’. The word ‘sure’ is from the Greek word, ‘bebainos’ meaning ‘stable, stedfast, and certain.’ If we do these things, as instructed, we will ‘never fall’. God’s Word is true. We can have assurance of salvation, but there is an ‘if’, and there are things we should do.
"...we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. Whereunto I also labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily."
Thus, let us not be forgetful of the fact that it is the Lord working this maturing process in us. It is our part to present Him with a body, soul, and spirit that is yielded to His working.
"I beseech ye therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present yourselves a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable, unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God."
How does Christ and the Holy Spirit work in us? There is a process which varies in specific content from one of us to another. Yet, there are some similarities that are alike for all of us.
ACCEPT THE SEED
First, accept the blessings that God gives in "seed" form. Just as He gives us children to raise, not adults. He gives acorns to plant, not full grown oak trees. He likewise gives us blessings in seed form, and we are matured by learning how to plant the seed, and water, tend, and see the bountiful harvest come.
We may pray for revival, and He tells us to intercede. We may pray for our enemies to cease their attacks, and He tells us to love them. We may ask for financial blessings, and He provides us a new job. We may ask for a great ministry, and He gives us one gift to begin to use.
ACCEPT THE FUTURE TARGET
Secondly, accept the "targets" that God gives us. If our lives revolve about a past event, we are miserable. If life revolves about a future goal, we are happy. This is why God made one third of the Bible to be prophetic. We would be miserable if we did not have a future resurrection, a future reunion with the Lord, a future heavenly reward to anticipate. The Christians who ignore, or are ignorant of, the prophetic Word, are miserable Christians.
BE POSITIVE, NOT NEGATIVE
There are two circles of saints. Some in this latter rain revival talk of miracles, healings, and salvation. Some others talk of backsliding, sin, failings, judgment, and how hard it is to witness. Both of these extremes are present in this latter rain revival. The Lord can do little with the second group, but the first group who see the "silver lining", instead of the "dark clouds" are more easily moved by God toward perfection, power, and victory.
Surely, there is death, persecution, and the wrath of the sinners to come in attack against the saints. Yet, there is also the double portion of the latter rain revival, the rapture of the church, the judgment seat of Christ, and the joys of heaven also soon to come. On which do you contemplate?
When we must speak of judgment, remember that God judges with the expectation that many will turn to Him during the judgment.
"...in their affliction, they will seek Me early..."
If we must speak of trials, let us also speak that:
"...all things work together for good..."
When we must speak of the great sins of the day, let us add:
"Where sin abounded, grace did the much more abound..."
When we speak of being beat down, let us not forget to add:
"...we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us..."
CEASE YOUR DEMANDS
Fourth, let us not demand "strokes" The story is told of a man who saw a little girl on top of the hill stroking a dog. She kept stroking and stroking. He sensed that something was wrong, so he approached. He found she had bite marks all over her arms. Every time she tried to stop stroking the dog, the dog bit her. This is like too many church congregations. Some demand strokes from others.
If we want to allow the Lord to develop us into perfect, powerful, and victorious saints, we must cease such demands of others. Forget how others see you. Don't expect or seek attention, praise, and pats upon the back. Seek only the approval of the Lord.
QUIT FEARING THE DEVIL
Fifth, quit fearing the devil. We are victorious in Christ Jesus, and we are on the winning side. There is a story told of a bee, buzzing and buzzing about a boy. The father came to help, and he swatted at the bee also. The bee finally stung the father. The son kept frantically swatting. The father said, "RELAX, SON! THE BEE LEFT HIS STINGER IN ME!" The devil keeps buzzing about us also. Yet, he has lost his stinger at the cross. He has been defeated and is no longer a threat to us. Laugh at the foolish devil. We are told to "resist the devil, and he will flee..."
The writer of the book of Hebrews preached:
"Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us. Let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith... consider Him... lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds."