Many of the signs that will precede the coming of the Lord are now very evident. We hear of wars and rumours of wars, nations rising against nations, and kingdoms against kingdoms. We also hear of famine and earthquake happening in many parts of the world. However, the most glaring sign of the last days is the spiritual coldness of many believers. This is in accord with Jesus’ warning when he said, “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other” (Matt. 24:10). Many believers are backsliding these days. They still have the form of godliness, but no longer have the same love and zeal that they once had. Their behaviour no longer conforms to that which the Lord requires. They have lost their first love.
But what causes believers to abandon the faith? Jesus said, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12). The backsliding of believers is not an overnight phenomenon. Rather, it is a gradual slide as they allow themselves to be surrounded and influenced with wickedness. They will be so desensitized by evil that they will easily absorb wickedness. Before they know it, they are already embroiled in it. And because they are now so absorbed in wickedness, their zeal and passion for the Lord begin to wane and the only thing that they are able to keep is the form of godliness. Of them the apostle Paul said, “…having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them” (2 Tim. 3:5).
The sins that cause believers to waver in their faith and backslide are not unfamiliar. In fact, the apostle said, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-20). By their nature, these sins are contagious. Some of these cannot be committed alone, but involve another party. Notwithstanding all the admonitions and warnings, many still commit these sins because of strong influences from those who are already indulging in it. How can these influences be better handled? The apostle Paul said, “But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat” (1 Cor. 5:11). These are strong words and yet this is the only remedy to ward off negative, influences, not from unbelievers, but from believers who persist in doing all kinds of wickedness.
The reason the apostle Paul came with strong warnings is the terrifying consequences of living in sin. Repeating his previous warnings, he said, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). If heaven is the ultimate goal of believers, their journey can be derailed if they are not careful. All efforts that were initially exerted to live in holiness will then be a waste. God will certainly not allow anyone who chooses to live these kinds of lifestyles to enter heaven. It is for this reason that Jesus himself said, “But he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:13). Indeed, there will be growing wickedness that leads to apostasy, but believers need not be deceived into following the flow.
Friends, we are living in perilous times. Wickedness is invading the whole world and it will become even harder for believers to live holy lives. They only way to overcome is to stay strong in the Lord and endure all kinds of temptations until the end. We certainly can have a strong start, but what matters to the Lord is the end. Therefore, let’s not allow wickedness to permeate our lives so as cause our love for the Lord to grow cold. Instead, let us be steadfast in the faith and encourage one another until the coming of the Lord. Let us be aware and resist all the influences that will try to deceive us. Many of these will come strong, “but he who endures to the end will be saved.” Hallelujah!