October 23, 2017

Courting Disaster

Carolene Esayenko

Recently someone sent me an article that caught my attention. It was a clipping from a local arts and entertainment newspaper, and it featured a close childhood friend of mine. Naturally, it was of great interest to me.

We had grown up together, attending the same church, school, and even Bible college. As children we did everything together, but as the years passed, our lives went in different directions. We had lost touch, so I was very interested to know what my old friend was doing.

As I opened the article, I noticed a picture of him. He looked a bit older and had a beard, but other than that and his shaved head, he didn’t look much different. But as I began to read the article, I realized that my friend had changed drastically.

The clipping described him as an art aficionado who was apparently well known and respected within the local arts community. According to the article, he had become an expert on Canadian artists. His waking hours are devoted to the cause. The point of the article was clear: my friend had developed a passion for art.

My friend grew up in a good Christian home. As a child he made a profession of faith, and as a teenager he expressed an interest in becoming a pastor. Unfortunately, not long after he began to attend Bible school, he dropped out. His term papers had became heretical. He blamed people in the church for turning him away from the Lord, but judging by his hatred for the brethren, it is obvious that the man is not saved (1 John 2:9–11).

After finishing the article, I could not push what I had just read out of my mind. My thoughts were flooded with memories of what my friend used to be like. I recalled the concern he expressed for a Mormon he had been witnessing to. I remembered how he had stepped through the waters of baptism, giving testimony of his desire to become a pastor. Wonderful memories of camp and youth group mixed with sadness as I thought of how much he had changed. It bothered me to see how different he had become over the years. It. was not his shaved head or goatee that bothered me. It was not even his interest in art that disturbed me. What troubled me most was his passion for something so vain. The desire for the temporal had replaced any interest that he had had for the truth. He had thrown away the greatest treasure ever given to man, choosing instead to devote his life to art. What a tragedy!

My friend made a very foolish decision. Like many others who have been faced with the truth, he found the pleasures of this world more attractive than following Christ. While it may be easy for us to shake our heads at the story of my old friend and his foolish decision, we all realize that he is not alone in his tragic pursuit. Ungodly man naturally seeks those things that are vain (Col. 3:5–7). Unfortunately the natural man is not the only one who faces the temptation to seek after the vain. Even the most godly saint has struggled with the desire to pursue things that will not matter in the light of eternity. Even though a believer knows that he is to lay up treasure in heaven, it is easy to become distracted from the pursuit of the prize, choosing instead to seek after the vain.

The problem of vain pursuit capturing our passion is a lifelong struggle for the believer. The heartfelt devotion to the Lord that we once experienced can easily become replaced with apathetic duty as we become enamored with some worldly distraction. But apathy is nothing new. Believers in New Testament churches struggled with this sin just as we do today. However, the Bible records an example of a church that had a severe case of chronic apathy.

From the outside the church at Ephesus looked like a model congregation (Rev. 2:1–7). This was a church that was noted for its works. Those attending the fellowship were diligent and patient. Their doctrine was pure. The people had gone through some very difficult times, yet they had remained faithful. They were gifted with great discernment, refusing to tolerate evil men and testing those who called themselves apostles. The Ephesians were even praised for hating the wicked deeds of the Nicolaitans. In all likelihood a common observer would not have known that there was a problem. Yet, the work they so diligently labored in had become the very distraction that had captured their passion. The people in the church had allowed their love for the Lord to cool. Now deep-seated apathy was spreading like a vicious cancer affecting the hearts of those in the congregation. Mechanical service had replaced the servant’s heart. Duty had replaced love. Unless repentance was at hand, the facade would crumble and divine judgment would fall. The candlestick would be removed, signifying an end to the church at Ephesus.

The judgment that followed was one that none of us would like to hear. The charges were serious, but more importantly, they were true! Even though none of us would like to see our church face such serious charges, we need to realize that we are susceptible to the same sin. As believers it is possible for us to maintain good doctrine, work hard, have great discernment, and still be spiritually sick. It is easy to maintain a righteous facade outwardly yet not have our hearts in it. It happened to the Ephesians, and unless we guard our hearts it could happen to us. We may dutifully volunteer to teach Sunday school and work in the nursery, yet forget that we are working for the Lord instead of our pastor. It is even possible for a pastor to carry out all the duties expected of one in such a position yet not have a close walk with the Lord. Even the Biblical standards that we so diligently maintain can become a legalistic chore done out of a sense of religious duty. How easy it is for us to forget that everything we do is to be done to bring glory to God (Col. 3:17)! The Ephesian church had forgotten this simple truth.

Apathy is something that we can quickly fall into, but like any sin that man suffers from, apathy can be cured. The church at Ephesus did not have to wither away. If they repented, divine judgment would not fall. God would be merciful and not allow the candlestick to be removed. The Ephesian church needed to return to its first love: that passionate love they once had for the Lord. Dutiful service was not enough. Even hard work was not enough. The only thing that would cure the Ephesians was to allow their eyes to gaze on the One who had given His all for them. The cure for our apathy is just the same. The cure for sin is found in focus on Christ (Heb. 12:1, 2). When our lives are focused on the One who gave His life for us, apathy will disappear. The sins we struggle with will be given up for the sake of the One who gave His all for us.

Two thousand years ago Christ was nailed to the cruel cross for our transgressions (Isa. 53:5). He gave His life for sinful man. He shed His blood for us. Christ gave everything in order that we could obtain salvation through His precious blood. If only we could begin to comprehend the immense sacrifice Christ made for us, our lives would be so different. Apathy would disappear. Those sins we find hard to break from would be abandoned for the sake of the One who gave His life for us. Cold, mechanical duty would be gone because joyful service done out of a sense of love is only fitting for such a Master. Passionate conviction would mark one so awed by the sacrifice Christ made for our sakes.

The apostle Paul exhorts the believers at Rome to give their lives as a living sacrifice. A life that is holy and acceptable to God is the reasonable service for every believer (Rom. 12:1). The only way we can begin to live such a life is to look unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:1, 2). He paid the price for us. He deserves our highest praise: a life passionately yielded to His control.


Carolene Esayenko, a full time homeschooling mom of four, lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

(Originally published in FrontLine • January/February 2005. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)


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