As Jesus was preparing to go to the cross and recognizing that his time on this earth was coming to an end, He made this statement to his disciples.
“All this I have told you so that you will not fall away” (John 16:1).
Typically, when a person is nearing the end of their life, they focus on what’s most important. They don’t have time for wasted words. Because of this you must consider why Jesus would tell this to his disciples?
As I sat and pondered this verse, there was only one conclusion I could come to. There must be something hidden within all of us that could tempt us to fall away. Jesus saw it and he was preparing his disciples for what was to come. Because we have this tendency, it is important to consider the signs that may indicate you are in danger of falling away.
A Great Falling Away Is Coming
The reason we must take this seriously is because Jesus predicted in the book of Matthew that there would be a great falling away. Here is what he said:
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other” (Matthew 24:9-10).
I know we all want to claim like Peter that we will never desert our faith in Christ, (that didn’t turn out so well for Peter.) Yet, what we see clearly here in Matthew 24 – and also in John 16 – is Jesus giving us a warning. But he is also leaving some clues that identify what could cause this falling away. This should be sobering to all of us because if Jesus warned his disciples, we must be careful too, so we don’t fall away.
2 Signs You Are in Danger of Falling Away
1. You Are Prone to Deception
A big part of the falling away is not actually falling away, but being led away. This leading away comes by deception. Jesus warns of it here and this is an issue that has followed the church from the very beginning. In the book of Acts, Paul addresses this when he was giving his farewell address to the elder of the church in Ephesus.
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:28-30).
Notice the two main objectives of these savage wolves: to distort the truth and to gain followers. This means that everyone who stands and preaches or teaches from the Bible does not have your best intentions in mind. Some of these people stand in pulpits, broadcast on television, and even appear on social media, yet they are really savage wolves. They are not interested in building up the body of Christ, they are only interested in drawing people to themselves. These people will contribute to the great falling away, and if you are being deceived you may fall away just the same. Don’t worry – I will show you how to avoid falling away later.
Some people fall away because they are being deceived and they are unaware. Others who have been deceived fall away after discovering they were victims of deception. Because of this they choose not to follow anyone because their trust has been violated. This is a different kind of falling away, but it is falling away just the same.
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2. You Have the Wrong Perspective
It is exciting to talk about the blessings that come with following Jesus and the goodness that God shows toward us. It is not only exciting, but it is proper to do. However, if there is something we don’t like to talk about in the church today it is persecution. The truth is, the more you stand for Jesus, the greater the chance you will be persecuted. Quite honestly there are those who have no appetite or desire for that. Jesus clearly states that you will be hated because of him. He mentions this in Matthew and John. This hatred from the world will cause people to fall away from the faith and even turn on those who remain.
In the church today there are believers who will follow Jesus when there are miracles and blessings flowing. Why wouldn’t they because that is when faith is easy. For these folks, when hardships and persecution come, they are no longer interested and they turn their backs and run the other way. These people fall away because they have the wrong perspective of what the cost of following Christ really is. Sadly, I believe there are many who carry the name of Christ who, when the heat is turned up, will not stand. Let’s pray we will not be one of those.
Where Do You Stand?
The question you must ask yourself, and I must ask myself too, is do you have the right perspective of what the Christian life is all about? While there are great joys found in following Jesus, there will be hardships along the way as well. If you don’t recognize this, then when the persecution comes, because of Christ, you will fall away. Jesus didn’t hide this but made a bold declaration of this reality, and it is something we must never forget. As you can see, not understanding this can have devastating consequences.
How Then Do You Stand and Not Fall Away?
There are two essentials necessary to keep you from falling away and they help to deal with both of these issues. The first one is found in the same discourse in John. Jesus gave us the reason we will be able to stand and endure until the end.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17).
The difference between staying strong and falling away will be whose strength are you depending on. We can use Peter as our example. When he depended on his own strength, he denied Jesus. When he was filled with the Holy Spirit, he stood strong. This is how you will stand strong too, and there is no other way. If you will stay connected to the Holy Spirit and depend on Him to help you, you will stand. If you don’t then you run the risk of falling away.
The second way you will stand is found in the book of Timothy.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV).
The only way you will be able to overcome deception is by knowing the truth. This means you must know the Word of God. In this day and age when you can turn on every form of media and hear someone talking about the Bible, you must know what it says. This is how you will be able to detect truth from error. This will be critical in helping ensure you are not drawn away.
Some things you read make you shout, and others make you think. Hopefully this will make you think. Jesus predicted a great falling away is going to happen, so we can count on it. What we must do is get ready and prepare ourselves so we don’t fall victim to it. After all this is why he told us in the first place.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, teacher, author, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled to try to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.