The Antidote to Apostasy

Pastor Sherry’s Message for October 16, 2022

Scriptures: Jer 31:27-34; Ps 119:97-105; 2 Tim, 3:14-4:5; Lk 18:1-8

“In the sixteenth century, there was a protestant reformer in England by the name of Hugh Latimer. He was known as a great preacher of his day and as a result he had many opportunities to speak. Once he found that he was to preach before King Henry VIII of England. As he thought about his great responsibility to bring a message before the king he realized that the message that God laid on his heart was not the message that the king would want to hear.

“As he began his sermon he said, ‘Latimer! Latimer! Do you remember that you are speaking before the high and mighty King Henry VIII; who has power to command you to be sent to prison, and who can have your head cut off, if it please him? Will you not take care to say nothing that will offend royal ears?’

“He then paused and continued, ‘Latimer! Latimer! Do you not remember that you are speaking before the King of kings and Lord of lords; before Him, at whose throne Henry VIII will stand; before Him, to whom one day you will have to give account yourself? Latimer! Latimer! Be faithful to your Master, and declare all of God’s Word.’

“Latimer faced the choice: would he preach what man wanted to hear or would he preach what Christ would have him preach. Latimer did take his stand for truth and preached boldly. Eventually, he was martyred by Henry’s daughter the Roman Catholic Queen Mary.” (Borrowed from a website known as “Ministry 127”, 10/15/2022).

What a choice Hugh Latimore faced: Preach God’s word and offend a dangerous monarch; or preach what Henry the VIII wanted to hear and perhaps offend Jesus. Interestingly, he bravely chose to potentially offend the king. King Henry appears to have respected him for it, and had him made a Bishop. It was Henry’s daughter by his 1st wife (Catherine of Aragon), Queen “Bloody Mary,” who had him burned at the stake as a protestant heretic.

Last week, several of our readings focused on apostasy. You may recall that apostasy means turning your back on, or walking away from your faith in Jesus. You’ve been taught faith in Christ and accepted that Jesus is Lord; but you come to reject this faith, for any number of reasons.

I was a person of faith from my childhood until I attended college at 18. I became a Sociology major—sociology is the study of the influence our groups have on our behavior. My groups influenced me away from my faith. It didn’t help that I didn’t want to get up on Sunday mornings to go to church. And, with the arrogance of youth, I had decided I knew better than God, so I believed I could intelligently criticize Him. It was when I turned 28 however, was married, and had my first child that I realized I needed God’s help in raising that child. My husband and I came home from the hospital with this little boy, sat down on the couch, looked at each other, and said, “What now?” We didn’t know what we were doing. Both of us had come from dysfunctional homes. We knew what we didn’t want to do, but we did not know how to go about what we did want. Clearly, I wasn’t as smart or as competent as I thought I was. I had become what Scripture calls, “Humble /poor in spirit.” I realized I needed God. That’s the first beatitude from Matthew 5:3–Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Our Scripture passages today reveal how God’s Word serves as an antidote to apostasy:

1. In 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5, Paul is urging the young pastor Timothy to maintain church order through preaching God’s Word. Paul commends Timothy in verse 15, saying—…from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. He further asserts that (vv.16-17)—All Scripture is God-breathed [not just written by people, but inspired by God] and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man [and woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. So knowing God’s Word makes you wise. “Your work as a pastor, Timothy (and Sherry) needs to be based upon preaching and teaching God’s Word.” He then charges Tim–and all of us who are Christian ministers–to (v.2) —Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season [when it’s popular and when it isn’t]; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come [and is here, now] when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

I made a friend in Pittsburgh (where I went to seminary)—let’s call her Mrs. Watson—who was a nominal Catholic. She had grown up in the faith, but had fallen away as an adult. She then had created her own set of beliefs by picking and choosing elements from several religions. She called herself a Christian, but also believed in reincarnation. I asked her why she wanted to make her salvation dependent on her own effort–what if she were reincarnated as a cockroach!—when Jesus had already done the work for her?

Back before the Episcopal Church split from Bible-believing conservatives, forming the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA)—liberal theologians were telling people that God was “doing a new thing” (that is, ordaining active gay pastors and marrying gay couples). One heretical bishop from New Jersey told his congregation that it was all right for him to have an affair with his secretary because his wife was physically incapacitated. God may have been doing a new thing, but His new things will not contradict the whole counsel of Scripture. Scripture consists of God’s thoughts written down. It says in several places that He does not change His mind (for example, James 1:17–Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, Who does not change like shifting shadows.

I once had a young man come to me who told me God had said it was OK for him to satisfy himself sexually, outside of marriage. He may have heard a voice say that to him, but since that teaching disagrees with God’s Word, I did not think he was hearing from God. After all, Paul said that (2 Corinthians 11:14). —…Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. This message was something this young man wanted to hear to justify what he wanted to do.

As a pastor and preacher, my primary duty is to preach passages from the Bible. The Truth is that sincere believers are hungry and thirsty for what God provides for us in His Word. I’ll never forget the results of an independent study I did in seminary on the history of the Christian Church in Vietnam since the war we fought there. Prior to the war, both the Catholic Church and the Christian Missionary Alliance Church were very active, making converts in Vietnam. After the war, the CMA especially redoubled its efforts. They evangelized a small tribe hidden away in the mountains, having learned their language. The chief confronted them after he heard of Jesus. He asked them, “How long have you known about this Jesus?” “For over 2,000 years,” they replied. “Then,” the chief retorted, “why has it taken you so long to bring this good news to us?” To people trying hard to appease ruthless gods of nature, the Gospel message of God’s deep, abiding love for us is truly Good News. Similarly, a seminary friend of mine took a small parish in North Carolina. After she had preached for several weeks, she was told by a parishioner at the door, “Thank God you preach from the Bible! I was sick to death of hearing sermons about saving the whales, or about championing the Green New Deal.” Paul knew we would get off course, drift away from Jesus, if we preached anything but God’s Word.

2. The psalmist (Psalm 119:97-105) predates Paul but says about the same thing: In verses 97-100 he declares that meditating on Scripture makes a person wiser than their teachers, their elders, or their enemies. If one is able to live by the wisdom he or she reads in the Bible, she or he is also able to discern wrong paths and understand right actions (v.104).

When I arrived at the church I served in New Orleans (around 2003), the staff was reading a book (The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown) that was popular at the time but filled with unorthodox and heretical nonsense. They did not know Scripture, so they had no way of knowing why what they were reading was untrue. My boss and I had to sit down with them and point out where the book departed from the Truth Scripture tells us about Jesus.

“John Wesley used to ask his young men whom he had sent out to preach on probation two questions: “Has anyone been converted?” and “Did anyone get mad?” If the answer was “No,” he told them he did not think the Lord had called them to preach the Gospel, and sent them about their business. When the Holy Ghost convicts of sin, people are either converted or they don’t like it, and get mad.” (Dwight L. Moody, Moody’s Anecdotes, Project Gutenberg, 2009, p. 123).

As the Psalmist writes (v.105)—Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. God’s word shows us the way to go. Like a flashlight in the dark, or a miner’s or fireman’s helmet, it helps guide us to safety.

3. Jeremiah prophesies (in 31:27-34)—even before the people are defeated by the Babylonians—that God will bring them back to the Promised Land. He did bring them back starting about 70 years after they were deported (516 BC). He also brought them back in 1948. They returned to the Land, and to the country Israel, but not to the Lord. That prophetic fulfillment awaits the End Times. Then, the prophet predicts, God will restore Israel—because He loves them—and they will come to know Jesus Christ as their Messiah. They do not as yet accept Jesus as Messiah; they have not discerned God’s Word rightly.

4. Jesus tells the Parable of the Unjust Judge in Luke 18:1-8. His purpose in telling the story is to encourage them…to always pray and not give up (v.1). However, He is not saying God the Father is like this crooked judge. On the contrary, God the Father is much more moral, much holier than this corrupt official. And He commends the persistent woman, and asks (v.8b) —when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth? He will if we are faithful to utilize our antidotes to apostasy: (1) To read and meditate on Scripture—so that it is almost written on our hearts–and (2) to persist in daily conversation (prayer) with God. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Alleluia! Alleluia!

©️2022 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

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