He had worked at a church, knew the Bible, and professed faith in Christ for years. Then one day, he decided to no longer be connected to any church, submit to anything in the Bible, or practice Christian faith any more.
He was my friend.
He was apostate.
Apostasy Isn’t New
Apostasy is simply a big word for professing faith but not practicing it. Someone who is apostate says, “Yes, I’m a Christian,” but they live contrary to the teachings of the Bible.
The problem of apostasy isn’t a new one. In Revelation 2:12–17, Jesus, through John, addresses the issue in the church of Pergamum, which though they had stayed true to the faith through persecution were nonetheless tolerating false teaching and sexual immorality. They were willing to proclaim the faith but weren’t living it out.
Even though Revelation is two thousand years old, the human heart is the same today as it was yesterday, and apostasy still happens in our day.
Apostasy Is a Choice
No one accidentally becomes an apostate. Each day we have a choice to follow Jesus or follow sinful desires. Those who choose the path of apostasy, like my friend who walked away from Jesus and his wife, know exactly what they’re doing: living in open rebellion.
Sadly, today there is no church in Pergamum, and there are few if any Christians in the entire region. Today in the nation of Turkey, there are some 79 million people, of whom fully 99.8% are Muslim, and there are about 3,500 evangelical Christians. According to Operation World, that makes Turkey—the same place on the maps in the back of your Bible—one of the least-churched nations on earth!
There was a day, however, when Turkey was the center of Christianity. Pergamum was a city that had an opportunity to plant churches and to be used of God for a long time, but today that’s not what has happened. At some point, the apostasy became the norm, and people ceased to believe in and live out the gospel.
3 Ways We Can Become Apostate
How could we fall into that same trap today? I believe it happens in three ways.
1. You Form Your Identity Based on Culture Rather than Christ
The people of Pergamum formed their identity primarily by culture. Rather than embrace Jesus, they embraced sexual sin, religious pluralism, and general spirituality. If you decide, “Who I am, what I believe, and how I behave will be more shaped by culture than Christ,” you invariably put yourself on a path of apostasy.
2. You Compromise Sexually
Ultimately, sex is an act of worship. It’s not just physical; it’s also a spiritual. That’s why, for example, Romans 12:1 says “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
Spiritual compromise generally is rooted in and leads to sexual compromise. You may confess Christ is Lord, but you collaborate with your enemy in sexual sin. If you’re living together, sleeping together, looking at porn, and doing things sexually that you ought not be doing, you’re on the path to apostasy.
3. You Compromise Doctrinally
The Pergamites said, “Yes, we believe in Jesus, but there are some things that he teaches that are very controversial and unpopular. We’re going to reject those things and find teachers who will affirm what we want to hear so that we can live in rebellion with spiritual authority permitting it.”
The truth is that we don’t like much of what we read Bible when we first read it. Why? Because it says we’re wrong and sinners—and that we have to change our mind and our behavior. As we grow in Christ, however, our minds are renewed, and our desires are changed. Yet, some people slip back into old patterns and ways of thinking.
Are there any places in the Bible where you are suppressing and rejecting the truth? If so, you’re on the path to apostasy.
Are You Apostate?
Today, I’d simply ask you, are you apostate? Are you professing a faith that you’re not practicing?
If so, I’d encourage you to get honest with yourself about where you are with Jesus and to repent. The beauty of the gospel is that you can always turn and come back to Jesus.