The Hebrew writer issued a very clear warning about the danger of drifting away: “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift away from them,” (Heb. 2:1). Since drifting is obviously a clear and present danger, and since we have been so strongly warned, one might wonder why anyone would drift. The Scriptures reveal several enlightening reasons to ponder:
1. Some people drift because they are not satisfied with fundamental truth. After charging him to preach the word, the apostle Paul warned Timothy that the time would come “when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts,” (2 Tim. 4:2-3). To have “itching years” is to desire to hear other things, things which satisfy our own desires, whether these other things be true or not. It is a sobering thought that people can actually get to the point where they would rather hear what pleases them or makes them feel good, than the one thing which can save them — the truth.
Jesus said that we have been given the truth. “Sanctify them in the truth, thy word is truth,” (Jn. 17:17). “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” (Jn. 8:32). The truth of God’s word is here, it is available, and it is all sufficient, (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Yet, we come to the point where it is not good enough for us. We want something additional, something else. We are not satisfied with remaining in the truth, so we drift on to other things.
2. Some people drift because error appeals to their own lusts. “Having itching ears, [they] will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts, and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside onto fables,” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Eve partook of the forbidden fruit because it appealed to her own lusts, despite the plain truth with which God had equipped her, (Gen. 3:6; 1 Jn. 2:16).
The religious landscape is full of churches which have drifted away from their original moorings because more modern practices appealed like fables to their members. Even though these practices and fascinating new positions are contrary to God’s word, their members just follow them because it’s what they want. In the end, these churches little resemble their original form. They are hardly recognizable, and many of them finally give up the pretense of even calling themselves the Lord’s church any longer.
The same is true even in the brotherhood. For example, congregations once faithful to the Lord, which formerly resonated with the beauty of scriptural, a cappella music in the worship services, decided that they wanted something different. And, in further demonstration of this principle, they one-by-one adopted principles contrary to God’s word, having renounced their commitment to remain loyal to the truth. They hearkened to their own lusts. Their wrongful desires overcame the purity and simplicity of God’s instructions, and they drifted away.
3. Some people drift because they think they know better than God. The ancient ways seem so out-dated, so distant from current, societal norms. They are no longer politically correct, and it is embarrassing to cling to them any longer. This mindset reminds us of the ancient Israelites, who clamored for a king so they could be like the nations around them. Never mind God’s warnings against the dangers which would befall them, the despair and heartaches which such a decision would bring. They thought they knew better than God.
I have known of once strong congregations beguiled into changes because of the loud voices of those who thought they knew better than God. Churches which once resisted and stood against denominational observance of man-made religious holidays, now offer Christmas carols in December and Christmas trees in the church foyer. Despite the fact that God’s Word describes such religious observances as “fearful” and “vain,” they think they know better than God, (cf. Gal. 4:8-11). Other congregations which once clearly understood God-ordained roles for women, now feature women leading men in worship. To them it matters not that God said a woman is not to teach or exercise dominion “over the man,” (1 Tim. 2:12). These are some of the reasons why people drift away from the truth. But regardless of why it happens, the sad results are real, and always devastating.
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.