How Does Apostasy Enter the Church?

We know that in these latter days apostasy has entered the church.  Scripture prophesies to that.  Various translations describe this differently as rebellion and falling away, but the NASB in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 says it most clearly:

Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,

We’ve seen this happen in church after church, most visibly in the high-profile position of a pastor moving away from the actual Word of God.  This apostasy, however, doesn’t just come top down, it also rises from the bottom up.  Today, I want to briefly discuss this aspect of the phenomenon.

With the end times being much of my focus, I read quite a lot both directly about prophecy in the Bible and about what various people say about it.  Naturally New Age and Eastern ideas and philosophies are a major aspect in the whole concept of apostasy.  The occult plays such a huge role influencing the many world religions that it’s no wonder it has infiltrated the Christian church to a large extent.

There’s a subtlety to occult practices that draws well-meaning people into them.  They can be deceptive; and no wonder, Satan is a deceiver, the father of lies.  Thus, people who love the Lord can be drawn into them a little bit at a time until they’re participating in something they never would have previously dreamed of.  The result may be ugly.

One of the biggest deceptions that has come into the church is yoga.  “I just do yoga for the exercise.”  “It’s Christian yoga and has nothing to do with Hinduism.”  We hear these and similar statements justifying why this occult practice is acceptable.  The problem is that yoga can never be acceptable in a Christian context because it’s all about awakening the occult, Kundalini spirit within the self.  Yoga is completely anathema to Christianity.

The practice I want to particularly comment on in this article is contemplative prayer.  This has entered the church through various practitioners that appeal to women.  I’m aware in my church of a couple of women’s all-day teachings that focused on this in the guise of discerning the voice of God.

As believers in a Pentecostal church, we believe the gifts of the Spirit are for today, and needed more than ever in this increasing time of darkness.  However, I believe that the excesses of charismania have infiltrated to one degree or another good, doctrinally solid churches that embrace spiritual gifts.  In doing so, they’ve brought error.  It’s a fine line.  Am I truly hearing God’s voice, or because I’ve opened myself to the occult through various practices, am I hearing a different spirit?  I’ll admit that our discernment better be fine-tuned to differentiate in this matter.  Yet, we say that God speaks to us through His Word, and He does.  For us to hear Him during prayer shouldn’t be a stretch.  The issue becomes whether we’re adhering to Scripture, where our heart is, and how we’re applying Biblical principles in our lives, or not.

Contemplative prayer can be dangerous because some aspects of it specifically take from the occult.  One of its practices is to empty the mind in order to hear God speak.  Unfortunately, the Bible never directs us to do that.  We’re to meditate on the Word of God.  That means to keep Him at the forefront of our contemplation, never to divorce ourselves from Him.  Frankly, emptying the mind is a Zen practice.  That will never draw us to the One true God.

Another dangerous practice of contemplative prayer is visualization.  Adherents are instructed to visualize Jesus coming alongside them and talking with them.  They’re to conjure up in their minds their image of Jesus and to have Him be a constant companion in their lives.  This reminds me of children who have their little, invisible friend who comes out of the closet when they’re in their rooms and plays with them.  What Jesus is being visualized?  Who is this Jesus in the minds of these folks who attempt to make Him their friend who walks around with them and continually speaks about the things they encounter each day?

Much of the teaching of contemplative prayer comes from the writings of Catholic mystics.  There seems to be much admiration for these forerunners in this practice.  It appears that these men and women achieved an alternate state of consciousness that the contemplative prayer folks want to emulate.  Another way that they seek to achieve this goal is through the repetition of a mantra-like practice.  Rather than blatantly using “Om” as the Hindus do, it becomes Christianized.  The teachers say, “Choose a meaningful Christian word or phrase, such as ‘Jesus’ or ‘Abba’ or ‘God loves me.’” This is to be repeated endlessly as all else is emptied from the mind.  In the subsequent “hearing” state, God is supposed to be able to more easily penetrate our natural barriers.

I seem to have missed that instruction in the Bible.  Who is it that’s actually gaining a foothold in these people’s minds?

I’m aware of a situation that recently happened that I must be extremely vague about.  Someone I have viewed as being a loving, cheerful, extremely pleasant servant of God became distraught and acted completely out of character in accusing someone of having an affair.  The mystery was how this person could literally channel the demonic accusations that were uttered.

I know that this person had fostered several teaching sessions that included contemplative prayer.  In the middle of the night, whether from my subconscious or the Holy Spirit, I couldn’t say, out of the blue in my sleepless state I had these thoughts.  Yes, this is complete speculation on my part.  I simply don’t know the truth behind this situation.  I don’t know how much of these contemplative prayer concepts this person may have embraced.  The one thing I do know is that the accusations were completely baseless.  The person against whom they were leveled would absolutely not have done what was alleged.

Did contemplative prayer open this person to the demonic?  Had the emptying of the mind created a vacuum for a demonic spirit to enter?  Was the Jesus this person was listening to another Jesus?  I don’t know.  It’s worth considering.

What I do know is that the possibility exists simply because the occult practice of contemplative prayer may have been a part of this person’s life.  In these perilous times, we who love the Lord must be on our guard.  Anything that smells unbiblical probably is.  Let us be alert and keep our focus on Jesus as we wait expectantly for His soon return and not engage in practices that God never intended for us to follow.

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