From The Berean Call
These are troubling times for every born-again Christian. The apostasy seems to be increasing exponentially. Biblical Christians are having greater difficulty finding churches that preach and teach the Scriptures. Extra-biblical content has captured the imaginations of growing numbers of Christians as they turn to religious bestsellers and “biblical” movies rather than to the written Word of God. Even with the rise of discernment ministries and “watchmen” blog sites, doctrinal confusion has increased, seemingly unabated.
The Bible warns that such conditions will take place and tells us that we are not to be surprised when they do. The Bible also gives us some of the reasons why this is occurring. Scripture declares prophetically: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
Again it says, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils…” (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
Whether we’re in the last days, or even the last of the last days, it should be obvious to every biblical Christian that “sound doctrine” is scarcely being “endured.” In fact, it’s ironic that at a time in the Western world when access to the Bible has never been greater, biblical illiteracy among Christians abounds. Rare is the believer who can name the twelve Apostles; more critical, however, is the number of Christians who have difficulty explaining the simple gospel. The “slipping away” from the truth, of which Hebrews 2:1 warns, has become a steep slope for the church.
The Bible doesn’t downplay the struggles that accompany a believer’s life in Christ—some of these may be revealed as the bad fruits of one’s old nature, but others are the consequences of the world and Satan’s opposition to God’s Word. Jesus declared: “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me…” (John 15:20-22)
The Apostle Paul, formerly a persecutor of Christians, was subsequently subjected to persecution after his conversion and throughout the rest of his life. Nevertheless, he wrote, “As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:36-37).
It may seem that continual trials in a believer’s life could have no such good end, but Peter gives further insights: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified” (1 Peter 4:12-14).
Few believers in the US have experienced the kinds of physical trials that Paul and Peter have described, yet there are trials of a different sort that are destructive spiritually even though they are not necessarily physical. There are the trials of one’s faith in the realm of religious seduction, e.g., being deceived by popular false teachers and unbiblical doctrines, being ostracized from one’s fellowship for not going along with a new teaching or practice that isn’t supported in Scripture, or for being a “thorn in the side” at a Bible study group for not compromising the truth of God’s Word. These are things that often create conflicts simply by one’s trying to be steadfast in the faith.
Then how can that steadfastness be maintained without causing conflict and division? It can’t, except in rare situations where there is a willingness to repent and to submit to the truth of God’s Word. Nowhere does Scripture promise that there won’t be opposition to God’s Word. Instead it makes available a condition of “exceeding joy” that takes place within the heart and enables the believer to “conquer” or handle the situation in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. How is that accomplished? First Peter 4:14 tells us: “…for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you….”
The work of the Holy Spirit is absolutely necessary in the life of a believer. That’s why Jesus said, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.…Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:7).
Every true believer in Jesus is born of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5), sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), and enabled, empowered, and led by the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13) in order to glorify God and to live one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him. According to the Scriptures, this is the only way that a believer can be spiritually fruitful.