I am a primary care physician and every day I see people who are worried they might have cancer. As doctors listen to the concerns of the patient, they need to look for “red flags” or warning signs that the patient may indeed have a malignancy. Cancer is a horrible, insidious disease that can take the life of the patient if not properly diagnosed and treated. This terrible sickness begins with the introduction into the body of a substance called a carcinogen. These foreign bodies can damage the DNA of our cells, causing the uncontrolled production of mutated cells which will eventually destroy our internal organs and prematurely end our lives.
Apostasy acts very much like a cancer in our bodies. Subtle heresies, like carcinogens, enter our church and quietly begin to damage the DNA of our doctrinal beliefs. This in turn causes the production of church members with mutated teachings who can do great damage to the church and, if left unchecked, destroy the church completely. If we honestly and carefully look at our church today, we will see the red flags of apostasy letting us know that not all is well. The latest statistics compiled by our church show that the faith of our members, especially that of our youth, is being undermined by the heretical teachings of evolution, the acceptance of homosexual behavior in the church, and other heresies.
When red flags appear during the examination of a patient, it is imperative that I as a physician quickly take notice of these signs and symptoms. If I fail to warn the patient of signs of possible cancer, I become guilty of a massive failure as the medical guardian of my patient. My patient could suffer a permanent handicap or, worse yet, might even suffer death due to my irresponsible behavior. This kind of failure on my part might result in a sizable lawsuit, or it could even result in the loss of my medical license.
As church leaders, we are the spiritual guardians of the people. It is imperative that we act swiftly and effectively when we see the red flags of apostasy in our beloved church. Failure to recognize and act upon these signs could cause great, irreversible spiritual damage to our church members or, worse yet, it might even cost them their salvation. What will God say to the watchmen of his people if we fail to sound the warning when we see the cancer of apostasy growing in the midst of His church?
When I diagnose a patient with cancer, the next step is to recommend an urgent treatment that will be the most effective at eradicating the cancer. Often, this means a disfiguring surgery or several months of chemotherapy/radiation. The solution can sometimes seem worse than the disease, but in the long run it will save the patient’s life. Any delay on my part or on the part of the patient can have deadly consequences.
Treating the cancer of apostasy can be just as painful and difficult as treating a real cancer. Rebuking, censoring, and disfellowshipping church members is difficult and unpopular. Dismissing employees who no longer agree with our fundamental beliefs can lead to lawsuits and unwanted heartache. Yet, in the long run, these painful actions will save our church from certain destruction. The longer we delay taking action, the more painful the solution will become.
The Exodus story of the golden calf is a great example of how to deal appropriately with apostasy in the church. When Moses went up to Mount Sinai, he left his brother Aaron in charge of the camp. After some time, a group of Israelites pressured Aaron to allow them to have an Egyptian style worship service. Amazingly, Aaron not only failed to check the apostasy at its inception, he actually facilitated it by making the golden calf. Aaron, due to his fear of the people, decided not to confront the apostasy head on but instead chose to allow an alternative worship style to occur side by side with the true worship of God. On the other hand, Moses directly confronted the apostasy by immediately taking drastic measures to rid the camp of idolatry. Moses drew a line in the sand and challenged the Israelites to make an immediate decision. He stood at the gate of the camp and boldly proclaimed, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” The Levites responded and Moses gave them instructions to proceed through the camp with their swords drawn and to do away with every apostate.
With which leader was God pleased? Which approach effectively cleansed the camp of the deadly cancer of apostasy?
May God give His people courage and wisdom in this time of increasing apostasy. May the Lord’s watchmen sound the warning trumpet loud and clear. May the spiritual physicians of God’s church make the correct diagnosis and prescribe the correct treatment before it is too late.