Embracing the Spirit of the Age
I'm amazed how rapidly our technology has advanced. It wasn't that long ago when we had to unfurl a large paper map just to see which exit to take so we could get to our destination. Now we are guided by satellite with almost pinpoint precision everywhere we need to go. If you miss your turn, the navigation system automatically initiates a course correction. If you don't follow the course correction, the device will continue to suggest a U-turn at the closest intersection. If you continue to ignore the course corrections, the route to your destination is changed and an alternate way is suggested. This driving scenario is not unlike what is taking place inside many churches today. A growing number of fellowships are following the course of this world despite repeated warnings to change direction. This is what happens when the church begins embracing the spirit of the age.
Ephesians 2:1-3 The term spirit of the age has been referred to in many ways in years past. You may hear it called the spirit of the age, the spirit of the world, or the course of this world in Ephesians 2:1-7. This worldly trajectory is referred to as the course of this world because there is a direction the world is heading toward. That direction is away from redemption and speeding toward destruction.Moreover, the world is not only headed in a wrong direction, they are being led there by the prince of the power of the air who is Satan of course. The church which is made up of a remnant of true followers of Jesus worldwide are not following Satan or the course of the world.
Unfortunately, there are many other people inside the local church who aren't following Jesus, they claim to be but they are following a different Jesus. Many of these people gather in and around the church to feel better about themselves. Oftentimes they do feel better because the pastors are soothing their itching ears. These pastors and teachers are so determined to gain, entertain, and retain the crowd that they will dilute the word of God down to a pep talk to suit the passions and desires of their listeners. Tell the people what they want to hear and play to the 'me centeredness' of our day and you will grow your flock. Now we have clowns entertaining the goats as Spurgeon said. Crude speech, theatrics, and pandering to the world were once the exception but now it's widely accepted. This departure from the faith and embracing the spirit of the age is epidemic in many once evangelical churches. Notice in the verse below that the end result is they turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
Paul wasn't just warning Timothy about people wandering away into myths. He was warning him about a coming time when they wouldn't endure sound teaching. They will accumulate teachers to suit their own passions. Now here we are today and the itching ears crowd has enablers in the form of hirelings. There are a plethora of smiley preachers telling people that their best life is now and they can have whatever they desire. Talk about a niche market, what a great sales pitch a so-called pastor makes when he tells the itching ears crowd they can have it all and heaven thrown it too! They aren't preaching Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father. In their twisted doctrine, they rule and reign here and they increase. This preaching which markets Jesus as some sort of life enhancement comes in different forms. It's found in dominionism, the prosperity gospel, and the emergent or emerging church. This apostasy is widespread and will no doubt crescendo as we draw nearer to the return of Jesus.
It gets worse when you see major evangelical leaders embracing interfaith dialogue to the point now that they are opening up their pulpits to Imams and false teachers who teach a different Jesus or that God has no son. We live in a society that is post-modern and many people in our day describe themselves as spiritual but by and large reject Christianity because it is viewed as out of touch. So in an effort to be relevant, hip, and accepted in today's culture, many churches are abandoning the faith that was delivered to the saints. Repentance and holiness are subjects rarely spoken of, if at all. Instead of preaching and teaching sound doctrine, many pastors and teachers have become social justice warriors, seeker sensitive messengers, and builders of the kingdom now instead of the one to come. This type of preaching is done to gain popularity, numbers, and of course profits. The Bible tells us that God will send a strong delusion that they will believe a lie. Can we see the beginnings of that now? I believe we can because in our day we have the willfully deceived, the deceivers, and they are all following the master of deception, Satan himself. These churches and many leaders are embracing the spirit of the age, which is to say that they are embracing the course of this world, not the one to come.
What is the proper biblical response to such an aberration of truth being preached and taught via so many formerly evangelical churches? The biblical course of action is to contend for the faith we see in Jude 1:3. Contending for the faith is a multi-faceted task with one end result which is to glorify Jesus. We contend for the faith when we preach sound doctrine. When we lovingly warn people about false doctrine we contend for the faith. Contending for the faith also means exposing fruitless deeds of darkness and certainly the false teachers who proliferate them. Preaching and teaching sound doctrine is a biblical course correction in someone's life. They may be mired in the teaching of a false prophet. All at once, you preach the truth to people and it's like a car's GPS saying, "recalculating" or in the biblical vernacular, "This is the way, walk in it." Isaiah 30:21
Here is what we must understand in our day full of many false converts, lukewarm, and the deceived. We have to be willing to break ranks and speak the truth of the gospel of Jesus boldly. When you do, some will label you a hater and some will call you out of touch, but remember when you take a stand for the gospel once delivered, you will have opposition. Correct with gentleness and with the goal to see people come to repentance. Go with biblical knowledge and discernment as you contend for the faith. We must lovingly warn people who have been deceived by the interfaith, prosperity, emerging church, seeker sensitive, and social justice gospel movements because they need to hear the truth in the simplicity of the gospel once for all delivered to the saints.