Most of the Christians I know, myself included, feel like our country is drifting further away from God’s principles at an ever-increasing, accelerating pace. I’m afraid for my country.
The truth is, I am afraid for myself, too. I am beginning to see compromise and some drifting away from some of the beliefs and values that I hold dear. And it scares me.
Please give me some advice on how to arrest the drifting.
I’d be glad to share a few thoughts. Hebrews 2:1 summarizes the issue:
We must pay more careful attention to what we’ve heard so that we do not drift away.
Let me illustrate. My daughter, Bronwyn, and I were flying late one Saturday night from Dallas to Tucson. Believe it or not, only five people were on the American Airlines flight. We were playing chase all around the cabin. The flight attendant told us to sit down. So we did. Unfortunately Bronwyn was all full of vim and vigor and before I realized it we were up and running again.
She approached me from behind.
“Okay dad,” the flight attendant said with dripping sarcasm. “If the oxygen masks come out, whose do you put on first?”
I knew the answer to that, but I had to think for a moment.
“That’s correct, but if it happens you won’t have that much time to decide.”
On my next flight I decided I’d better listen when the flight attendant gave instructions. I’ve heard it 1000 times. I grew up on airplanes! I looked around the cabin and everyone was ignoring her. I started listening again to the things that she was talking about, insignificant things, like where to go to get oxygen when there isn’t any.
The same thing can happen to us in the spiritual realm. It’s now happening to our country. It’s now happening in the church.
This generation, like no other, is characterized by people who are rewriting the standards.
Into many of our lives, seldom do we hear the watchword, “Thus says the Lord...” Now we hear, “Let’s be reasonable.”
We are finding less sharp edges and increasingly more rounded corners.
Moral purity, marital commitment, ministerial integrity, issues like abortion and gay marriage, and biblical fidelity are things that are up for grabs to many Christians.
Our society is drifting away from our godly heritage and is turning its back on God’s dealings with mankind.
Drifting is Dangerous
The writer to the Hebrews continues in the next two verses:
“Since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?”
“...It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen[c] away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.”
5 Reasons That We Drift
Let me share a story as an example: A man encountered a prostitute who said to him, “I need help. Please. I’m desperate.” She was at the bottom. She’d been through the drug scene and wanted to get free. That man shared with her the gospel of Jesus and she prayed to receive Christ.
Then he said, “Do you have your little black book of contacts with you?”
“Then let’s just take a match and burn it.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean just what I said. If you really experienced Jesus’ forgiveness and want him to be your savior, then let’s have a little party and burn the book and praise the Lord.”
“But that book,” she said, “is worth a lot of money.... an awful lot of money.” She paused and then said, “I don’t want to burn my book.” She put it in her purse, looked him in the eye, and said, “I guess that I really don’t want Jesus, do I?”
And she left.
She made a bad bargain. What she kept for a little while wasn’t worth anything compared to what she could’ve had in Jesus Christ forever.
2. Riches In This World (Psalms 73:3-9, and Proverb 1:32).
4. Blindness To Relative Values Versus Actual Spiritual Status (Like Laodicea In Revelation 13).
5. Hanging On To Favorites Sins (Ephesians 4:27).
Demas is the Paramount Biblical Example of Drifting
God gives us three snapshots of Demas, three points on a graph, which show him drifting rapidly downward from “fellow worker with Paul” to apostate.
The first snapshot is in Philemon 23-24:
“Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.”
Demas is a “fellow worker” with the apostle Paul. There are few honors better than that. He is in the company of spiritual giants. He began with a hot heart. He surrendered to full-time Christian service. He decided to follow Christ at any price.
The second snapshot is in Colossians 4:7-14:
“Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.... Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you.... Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.”
Eight individuals are mentioned in this passage and it is no accident that seven of them are pointed out for some good work while Demas is passed over in silence. I believe that at this juncture, Paul was beginning to suspect that something was wrong with Demas.
The third snapshot is 2 Timothy 4:9-10:
“Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.”
“Demas, my fellow laborer; Demas; Demas has deserted me.”
This is the story of a man who made a fine beginning but a poor ending.
It’s obvious that the qualities which make for a good start are not identical with the qualities that see life through to the end.
I’ve noticed that it’s easy for Christians to be like Demas and to love this present age. Many begin with Christ but then some comfortable corner of this present age invites us and we nestle down. Our Christian profession lapses and we do not amount to much in the end for Jesus.
If I should accuse some of us of being Judas, we would be indignant. We would never deliberately sell out. But Demas, how many of us have been that.
Staying Power: How Not to Drift
1. Staying power in Christianity is always associated with the experience of giving oneself completely over to Jesus Christ.
Think about Paul and Demas. Paul was in with staying power. He could’ve had the simple life as a professor at the University of Jerusalem. He could’ve had all that Rome had to offer; but he set aside all of that and was willing to die for Jesus Christ. Demas was of another sort.
2. Staying power in Christianity is always associated with complete faith that God is still on his throne and is carrying out his plan on the earth.
Of all the maddening things in history, with Nero on his throne and with Paul in his prison, can you think of anything more unlikely than that the gospel for which Paul stood would outlast the mighty Roman Empire?
Of course, that’s what got to Demas.
Who would ever have believed that one day we would name our sons “Paul” and our dogs ”Nero”?
I wish for every Christian a life of great convictions and staying power, which develop, expand, and elevate through life— fine at the beginning, but loveliest of all at the last.
Frankly, is there anything that we can better pray for ourselves than to avoid the opposite?
Well Amanda, I hope that you’ll find my thoughts helpful and that you will choose to stand with Christ at any price.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/JoshuaJames
Editor's Note: This Ask Roger article features insights from Roger's daughter, Brie Barrier Wetherbee, a sought-after Bible teacher and conference speaker, author, analyst, and Christian theologian.
Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at email@example.com.