When someone walks away from the faith it sends seismic ripples throughout the church. Somewhere amid the shock and emotions, we realize that we saw alarming signs but didn’t think they would materialize. I personally have seen this happen far too many times. In each case, however, the steps, the path is eerily similar.
First let me give you a bottom-line proposition: The path to apostasy is paved by bricks of apathy towards Christ. If you want to persevere, then give attention to your affections.
Now, how does this happen? This walk down the road to apostasy is intended to illuminate a dark and often camouflaged way.
1. Neglect. When someone is routinely neglecting the common means of grace you can be sure that there will be spiritual consequences. Just as an unhealthy diet will affect the body so the negligence of spiritual food will adversely affect the spiritual life. Here I mean the neglecting of the Word of God (personal Bible reading), Prayer, Meditation, Corporate Worship Gathering, and Community Life (service and discipleship). This withdrawal may seem simple and harmless but it is an active disconnect. It is a brick in the path toward apostasy. Not all neglect leads to apostasy but all apostasy is paved with bricks of negligence.
2. Indifference. Specifically, this is indifference to the glory of Christ and his Word. Suddenly, Jesus isn’t so impressive. He becomes routine. His glory is no longer bedazzling, instead, it becomes common. Instead of longing for heaven, an indifferent heart becomes more at home in this world. Sin no longer moves us to tears, it may even make us laugh. Where sin used to make one blush now it’s the things of God that make them ashamed. You can see how this builds off of the first brick: negligence of the ordinary means of grace will grow an indifferent heart. Why? Because we see the glory of Christ through the Word of God by means of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18; Jn. 17:17). When we fast from the Bible, our eyes will grow dim of Christ’s glory.
Pastors know this. We’ve seen it before. This is why we begin to earnestly reach out, exhort, admonish, and encourage hearts back to Christ. We know the materials that build the path of apostasy. When we see the bricks of apathy gathered, we react.
3. Frustration. Neglect fuels indifference and it gains momentum like an avalanche. Soon it blossoms into frustration. This is because it is very difficult to continually engage an indifferent mind with a cold heart. They lack the mental recourse to refute a heart that does not prize Christ. The heart is cold and the arguments for Christ are eclipsed by the sermons of self-worship. Soon, the frustration of having to perform Christianly and keep up the pretense of loving and loyally following Jesus will be overwhelming. Frustration grows quickly into an uncontainable force. Like a shaken-up bottle of soda, it needs relief; they can no longer live with the dichotomy between head and heart. Soon, you give way to your heart and relieve your mind of the frustration of the contradiction, and simply walk away. Selfishness rushes in to seize the now empty house, swept and put in order. And the latter end is worse than the first.
This path has been walked many times. People who have watched it can see the danger of simple negligence.
We must battle for delight in Christ even when our heart seems cold.
Why are you cast down my soul?
Hope in Him who saves you
When the fires have all grown cold
Cause this heart to praise You
We must continue to wear out a path to the cross to preach the reality of the gospel to our hearts.
We need to have the beauty of Christ arrest our affections so that he makes all competition seem puny in comparison. This intentionality starts with an open Bible, a heart inclined to God in prayer, and sober honesty about the danger.
If you don’t think you need this then you show your vulnerability already. Do not neglect so great a salvation. If you do you will in fact drift away (Heb. 2:1–4). This is the repeated warning of Scripture. The wise man heeds and the fool reclines to himself.
Again: The path to apostasy is paved by bricks of apathy towards Christ. If you want to persevere, then give attention to your affections.