It is sad when one hears the Gospel of Jesus Christ, believes it, understands its conditions, but refuses to obey it. As grievous as this is, there is one thing even more heartbreaking. What would it be? It would be when someone has obeyed the Gospel, been faithful to it for a certain period of time, but suddenly the Lord loses His importance to them, they put other things ahead of loving and obeying Him, and eventually apostatize completely.
The Bible is filled with warning after warning not to forsake the Lord nor to put anything in this world ahead of Him. A question of why one will leave the Lord is answered by the apostle John in 1 John 2:1, “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.”
Both you and I have heard the statement one cannot straddle the fence with God on one side and the world on the other. As Jesus said, one cannot serve both God and mammon (Matt. 6:24). An individual who puts anything ahead of his love for God will almost certainly find one day God is gone from his life and thoughts completely. For such an individual to turn back to God on their own or with the rebuke and exhortation of another will sometimes never come to be. Two New Testament passages state this as clear as it can be said.
The first one is 2 Peter 2:20-22.
“For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”
The other passage is Hebrews 6:4-6.
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. “
The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel describes the fate of such individuals in Ezekiel 18:24.
“But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.”
It is difficult to understand why anyone would choose to know and do the truth then turn away from it. Paul wrote this very thing to the Galatians. “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?” (Gal. 4:9). It makes no sense.
The Hebrews writer stated the absolute commitment one must have to not to turn back to the weak and beggarly elements. “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:38, 39).
What is there in this world so alluring to some they cease to put God and spiritual and eternal things first in their lives, trading those for that which is temporal in nature? While the following five are by no means an exhaustive list, they are common things people decide they would rather have and lose their souls over than continue in the grace of God and have eternal life. The first four are not things which are wrong in and of themselves, but the fifth one is and is often the cause for one of the other four to take over one’s life.
The first thing is pleasure. There are clean and appropriate pastimes. There are fun things which the Christian may enjoy. However, Jesus said in His explanation of the parable of the sower, or hearts, concerning the thorny heart, “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection” (Luke 8:14). Speaking from personal observation, one thing which happens to the person who spends too much time with and loves pleasure too much is he soon comes to the point when wholesomeness nor the lack thereof means anything to him. Consequently, evil pleasure lures the person away from any concern at all for God and holy living. This is not the only way pleasure can totally separate one’s mind from God, but it is one which is often the blame.
The second thing which can cause one to leave God out of his life is ambition. If one chooses any respectable occupation, he will naturally seek to excel in it. There is nothing wrong with that kind of ambition. But loving one’s work too much can cause him or her to place too much importance on it. I know one person who puts so much attachment on and time into their work, they will not even take a few minutes a day to read a chapter out of their Bible. Why? Because what they do professionally has become such an obsession God and love for spiritual things are disappearing at a rapid rate.
Another cause for ambition crowding God out of one’s life is seeking the praise of men. This is exactly what happened among the chief rulers of Jesus’ day. John wrote in his Gospel account, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42,43). Wanting such praise often results in compromising either holiness or responsibilities to God. Either way, while ambition is not bad in itself if one is not careful too much can lead to one casting God aside.
A third thing, and it has ties to the previous one. is money. Ecclesiastes 5:10 states. “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.” The more one has because he wants it the more of it he will desire to have. When Paul wrote to Timothy reminding him the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10), he referred to some unnamed persons who coveted money and one of the two consequences was they erred from the faith. Money is a necessary thing for one to have, but the love of it is a necessary thing one must not have!
A fourth thing which can cause one to abandon God is family. We all know Jesus made a statement which many people today need to take to heart. “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37). People have been known to skip worship because family dropped by on Sunday morning. Some have been known by me to attend family gatherings where there is alcohol consumed including by relatives who are apostate members of the church. Some such gatherings take place over the weekend, again causing worship of God to be neglected. Do you know anyone with relatives who abandoned the Lord, and because of their devotion to those family members, they too abandoned God? I do.
There is a fifth reason a person may cast aside their love for God, and as we said, this one is wrong in and of itself. It is neglect. We have seen how neglect is associated with the things we have already discussed and is part of the reason the other issues led to total apostasy. Neglecting worship, neglecting Bible study, neglecting one’s responsibility to labor in the kingdom is wrong, and where it leads is eternally fatal. Neglect may be an occasional thing, to begin with, but it becomes more and more frequent with some until God is excluded from life completely. Let us not neglect our love and duty to our Lord.
What all of the aforementioned matters involve is one loving this life more than the next one. John wrote, “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal” (John 12:15). This same apostle wrote and expanded on this same subject in 1 John 2:15-17. He warns, don’t love the world. All that is in this world is the lust of the flesh, of the eye, and the vainglory of life. All of these things will pass away.
Dear friends, Eternity is a mind boggling thing to us, we can’t grasp it completely because everything we know in this life of a material nature has a beginning and an ending. Isn’t that the crux of the warning John gave? Of course, it is, because if one loves and keeps the Father’s Will eternal life with joy and no sorrow or pain will be his. if one leaves the Father he will be cast into the eternal fire where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. In the fire, the worm does not die, and the fire is never quenched (Mark 9:43-48).