There are stories of people coming to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior in a life-changing, intimately personal way. They are so excited at the refreshingly NEW LIFE they have begun to experience in their daily walk with the Lord. Some eventually serve the Lord in their church as deacons, ushers, or Sunday School teachers.
Some of these believers after some time lose the fervor they had at first. The excitement gradually fades, and finally they stop going to church regularly. We call them “backslidden” Christians. Such Christians are not few in number especially in the christianized West—where the teaching of the Nicolaitans which Jesus hates has taken its toll.
I was listening to Christian radio during a recent drive. One beautifully performed song, sung by a sister in Christ, was particularly touching. “Bring me back to the way it was in the beginning”, was the plea she uplifted up to her Lord.
Why does this happen?
I am convinced that it’s due to the teaching of the Nicolaitans which Jesus hates (Rev. 2:6 & 2:15). Over the centuries since the birth of the Church two thousand years ago, this teaching has slowly infiltrated the body of Christ. The Church has now become an organized religion heavily influenced by the traditions of man and having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:5). Although every local church has a very fine and scriptural mission statement, what is always left out is the priority for the leaders to keep their ecclesiastical positions as professional clergy—in turn requiring them to pay the bills to keep their church and ministry in operation.
And so—unconsciously—they keep the flock from maturing into the whole measure of the fullness of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:13). They baby their congregants, feeding them a sugary diet of “grace” which keeps them happy and coming every Sunday with their tithes and offerings. Essentially the flock becomes perpetually dependent upon the pastoral staff to keep them fed Sunday after Sunday. In that way the congregation keeps growing in number—to the delight of nearly every pastor. But Jesus desires every believer to grow up unto Him, becoming like Him in maturity and fruitfulness, dependent no longer on man but on God. Now believers must have healthy challenges from the Lord to face and conquer in order to keep growing in Christ.
What is the supreme challenge given to the Church from our Lord? It is THE GREAT COMMISSION which we are commanded to fulfill before His Second Coming.
Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations [people groups, tribes and languages], and then the end will come.
Sadly, however, challenges to fulfill the Great Commission play a very minor part—if at all—in the day-to-day teaching of a typical church. Our focus rather is teaching our people how to find fulfillment in this life on earth “with God’s blessing”. This is one eventual consequence for the Church in the West of the teaching of the Nicolaitans which Jesus hates.
In order to survive in the West’s market-driven culture, local churches are forced to provide mostly sugary teachings which attract the crowds and enable us to pay our considerable bills as they give their tithes and offerings Sunday after Sunday. But in the New Testament we do not see local churches as we see everywhere in the West today. Rather we see house churches having little operating costs to speak of. Only within the context of house churches can we feed solid food to God’s people and challenge them to obey Him radically.
Disciples who are challenged by the Word of God will not get bored following Jesus Christ. It will not be “going to church Sunday after Sunday” to hear ear-tickling sermons which will eventually become tiresome and result in our backsliding.
Rather, Jesus commands us to “SEEK FIRST his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
Jesus says that God will provide for us all we need if:
1) we first seek to bring about his kingdom in our lives and in the world—“in the world” referring to fulfilling the Great Commission—
2) and if we first seek to live righteous lives just as he is righteous.
Sometimes backsliding is also due to the debris of disappointment following unanswered prayers for a sick loved one leading to doubt regarding God’s love or even existence. This again can be traced back to the teaching of the Nicolaitans which has given birth to the “theology of helplessness” so prevalent in the Church today.
Believers who notice the immense difference between the vibrant Church as presented in the New Testament and the relatively effete Church in the West today will, despite the prevailing teaching of cessationism, begin to entertain doubt—even if they choose to keep going to Church.