Disease: Pride. Cure: Joy!
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away, from the faith,
paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of liars
seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron.
I Timothy 4:1-2
Any passage dealing with falling away from the faith is difficult. Scripture clearly teaches that those who have accepted Christ as Lord are sealed by the Holy Spirit and therefore will never fall away. They are presented to the Father by Christ as a gift, loved by the Father. Paul writes in Romans 8:38-39 that nothing will ever separate God from those He loves. Once a man is saved, he is always saved. There is no middle ground in Scripture. You’re loved by God or under His judgment.
But it is undeniable that, from our human perspective, some do fall away. I can think of scores of people I know who at one time professed Christ with their lips, but now live as pagans. They, like Judas Iscariot, have heard the words of Jesus but betray Him with their works. A man who falls away has never truly embraced Jesus Christ as Lord. For sake of culture or the esteem of man he has engendered of himself a spiritual high, not from the Spirit. Everyone has a religious spasm or two during their lives.
This is the difference between the true believer and he who professes with his mouth, but does not confess with his heart. The temptations of the world will overcome the strength of the false believer, as no man can resist the lusts of the flesh by his own strength. It is the Spirit who provides the way of escape, and the unbeliever does not have the Spirit. He has no way of escape. He will fall to the temptations of evil, for he finds no joy in Christ and must substitute something else in his life for the joy he seeks.
Hypocrisy is the mark of a “seared conscience.” Hypocrisy dulls the mind and spirit to the teachings of Scripture. The seared conscience does not feel the touch of the Holy Spirit in conviction, encouragement, exhortation, and peace. Hypocrisy allows for an increase in knowledge, but hinders the application knowledge. A hypocrite quickly becomes spiritually bloated, believing himself to be righteous without displaying the fruit of righteousness.
I am convinced by seeing my own hypocrisy and the hypocrisy of others that the foundation of hypocrisy is pride. Pride whispers to the mind that its own knowledge is sufficient. Pride takes a man from being submissive to the Word of God to being dismissive of the Word of God. Pride destroys trust in the Scriptures and places my own intellect and logic above Scripture. A heart riddled by pride is a heart that is calloused, a conscience which is seared. Pride refuses to acknowledge the vast chasm between the infinite mind of God and my own very, very finite mind. A seared conscience and pride cannot be separated.
The obvious question is “How do I keep my spirit alive and fresh, not becoming dull to the Word?” There is no better place to start than kneeling before the Throne of God. The grace of God both saves and sanctifies. We worship a God “able to keep you from stumbling.” Without the constant, sustaining grace of God, my heart will become once again calloused and seared. Callousness is my natural state. Apart from the grace of God, I know nothing else. The grace of God keeps me from believing “doctrines of liars.” And only the grace of God accomplishes this. After a lifetime of sanctification, should God remove His Spirit from me, I would instantly turn and sprint with all my might back to toward the fires of hell. Thankfulness for the grace of God keeps the soul tender to the promptings of the Spirit.
Secondly, we must beg God to increase our joy found in Him. Joy provides the incentive to obey, to evangelize, to read Scripture, to pray. Every Christian virtue is an outpouring of joy. Spending time with God increases the joy found in Him. As I read the Bible and pray, God increases my joy in Him. The cure for callousness isn’t dogged obedience and determination. It is joy! The more I appreciate Christ, the more I want to be tender to the Scriptures. And the more tender I am toward the Scriptures, the more alive I become in Him. The cycle of Christian growth spirals upward in ever increasing joy. All one must do to join the cycle of joy is ask. God does not refuse the heart which earnestly seeks Him.
Ask, and it will be given to you…he who asks, receives. Matthew 7:7-8