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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15

The Great River of Apostasy

David Cloud, January 2014

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).

In our day evil reigns, apostasy is on the attack, compromise is in the very air we breathe.

We’re in this wicked world in these apostate times whether we like it or not, and we must overcome it or it will overcome us. And thank the Lord for His many promises that tell us we can overcome it.

End-time apostasy is like a great river sweeping everything along with it, and the Bible-believing New Testament church is like a boat. If we aren’t paddling hard upstream -- through such things as conversion salvation, separated Christian discipleship, and uncompromising preaching -- we are carried along with the flow.

There is no neutrality, no relaxing, no retiring. If you get tired of the work and put down the paddles of godly living and biblical reproof and separation, you immediately begin to move with the flow.

Over the past 20 years, many fundamental Baptist churches have stopped paddling. When it first happens, most of the members are happy. There are usually a few souls who are concerned about the change and they make everyone uncomfortable with their complaints, but since the pastor isn’t concerned and stresses that “nothing has changed,” everyone relaxes and the “old foggies” who still want to paddle upstream are warned not to have a “critical eye.” If they don’t settle down and enjoy going with the flow, they find that they are not welcome and they leave in search of some little boat somewhere that is still paddling up stream, and they take their “critical” publications like O Timothy with them.

With the “complainers” gone, the church can finally enjoy the new situation. It seems like a win-win deal. Instead of paddling for dear life and wasting all of that energy, they can relax and enjoy the scenery, and there is no longer a preacher yelling at them to paddle harder and to keep away from the dangerous shoals and the enticing side streams.

They get so happy that they feel like rockin’. They stop messing around with just “adapting” contemporary worship music. They roll out the rock band, tune up the bass, tighten the drum head, dial up the amp, trot out the worship team (making sure that at least one member is an attractive woman dressed as sensually as their pastor will allow), and let ‘er rip so they can “experience God” through some real worship.

Now they can enjoy life for a change instead of being bound by rules and restricted by separation. They notice that everywhere they look there are many other boats merrily moving with the flow. The crowd can’t be wrong. “Why, that’s Rick Warren’s big boat over there. Man, they are rockin’! And there’s Franklin Graham’s boat. Doesn’t he look happy! Why it’s hard to imagine that some of those old hard-paddling preachers used to warn about his dad. It would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic and wrong.”

Finally the boaters find themselves a part of the majority and no longer the laughing stock of the entire boating class.

Then they notice a lot of side streams, and they all look interesting, though the jungles lining their sides look dark and fearful; and for a moment -- but surely it’s the imagination playing tricks -- it appeared that there were monsters moving beneath the dark waters. No, our new pastor (the son or grandson of the founder) tells us that all those streams are fine and we have lots and lots of liberty. God loves all the streams.

There is the emerging stream and the contemplative stream and the Christian hedonism stream and the Church Fathers stream and the Reformed stream and the modern textual criticism stream and many others that they once saw as dangerous Now they can see for themselves that they are all fine Christian streams and a legitimate part of the “unity in diversity” that God wants His people to enjoy.

The thing that everyone keeps repeating is that life is so much more fun now that we don’t have to paddle upstream. It’s wonderful to finally be free to make your own choices and not be hemmed in by the rantings of some fanatical preacher.

They get so fired up by the rock band, so immersed in “worship,” so busy exploring all of the different streams, that they don’t notice that the river is flowing faster and the scenery is changing. There are rapids now and rocks and shoals.

They start feeling a bit uneasy, and someone suggests that perhaps they should start a bit of the old paddling routine again, but that is put off as Pharisaical. Someone remarks, “What, I guess the next thing you will suggest is that we have some hyper-legalist, preacher-wounding blogger like David Cloud in to speak!” Everyone has a hearty laugh.

Anyway, by now it’s too late. They are moving too fast. The river has them firm in its grip. There is no turning around. And then they hear something in the distance, a sort of roaring, and it is getting louder. And louder. And then they see it. The water is heaving and boiling as it is swept over the great fall.

They are helpless now, in the grip of something too powerful to resist. The time to turn around is past, and they shoot over the fall and crash on the rocks below.

Just before they go over, their cool pastor cries out, “But all we did was stop paddling!!!!”

“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).

“Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” (1 Corinthians 5:6).

“This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:8-9).