Keep the Faith
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons . . . 1 Timothy 4:1
In my first few attempts at recovery, I wanted to be free from my addiction, but at the same time, I reserved the right to return to recreational use eventually. I thought I could break free from the slavery of the pill, while still enjoying it once in a while. I believed in the 12 steps of AA, and I endorsed the concept of recovery, yet I began to dabble. Every time, I told myself it wasn’t going to be a regular thing. There was a time, that lasted several months perhaps, where I would have said I was in recovery, but I was still occasionally using. As far as those around me knew, I appeared to be in recovery.
Eventually though, as once in a while gradually turned into near daily use, my life fell apart and I couldn’t hide it anymore. At that point, though I’d been claiming to be in recovery, it was obvious to everyone else that I was not. I still believed in the principles of recovery, but I’d given myself over to behavior that was completely contrary to it. I was not living in a manner that was consistent with the thing in which I claimed to believe.
Paul must have observed something similar in the early church. In today’s passage, he warned that there were those who’d left the faith, embracing contrary teachings. From the passage though, it appears that these individuals likely didn’t recognize they’d left the faith. They probably thought they were advancing the truth, though they were spreading false teachings. They claimed faith, but their lives were contrary to the gospel. They forbade marriage and demanded abstinence from certain foods to obtain holiness. They thought they were Christians, but Paul said they had departed from true faith.
In this light, it’s easy to see how entire churches have perhaps departed from the faith. The sobering lesson for us, is that we can leave the faith without ever realizing it. When we engage in a lifestyle that is contrary to authentic faith, we can claim to remain in it, but Paul would say that if our behavior is completely incompatible with the gospel of Christ, then we’re simply fooling ourselves. If we truly believe in Christ, we don’t need to worry about losing our faith when we fail. There is always forgiveness in Christ. If, however, our beliefs never impact our behavior, and if our lives never reflect the transformation of Christ, we must at least ask if we may be fooling ourselves in claiming to keep the faith.