A reader sent me an interesting story out of Maryland. An Episcopal church has decided to convert, en masse, to Catholicism. The parishioners, along with the pastor, wants to be under the authority of the Roman Catholic Church and its pope. Why? "[C]hurch members said, they were satisfying their longing for a clear religious authority by welcoming the leadership of Pope Benedict XVI." It was not because their denomination allowed gay and lesbian ordination of pastors. No, that wasn't it, sad to say. It wasn't because of bitter land disputes around the country costing tens of millions, either, as "Seven breakaway Northern Virginia congregations have been in court for more than four years with the Episcopal Church" over land issues. No, the congregation is converting because they want authority and they decided that the Reformation was a mistake. "It feels fantastic," Delaney said. “It’s like correcting 500 years of history.”
The thirst for authority has come, they say, because of the dearth in leadership in their congregations, and the 'absolute authority' of the Pope is attractive enough to fill that spiritual void. “In the Episcopal Church, bishops in one place say one thing and in another say another,” explained Patrick Delaney, a lay leader from Mitchellville. “That’s the crux of it. Each bishop has its own kingdom.”
They forgot that their authority is Jesus, the Word!
This story is emblematic of the larger problem of the prophesied apostasy. Apostasy is a falling away from the truth. The word Paul used in the prophecy of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is 'apostasia' meaning a defection, or leaving a previous standing. Apostasy is not new to the church. Almost immediately, the church was infested with people falling away, and Paul even used these words to describe one group that defected [from the Truth]: "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;" (Galatians 1:6).
But Jesus said that at the end of days and as a sign of His coming, defection from the truth would occur in widespread fashion. In Matthew 24:5 He said, "For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ’ and will deceive many." And in verse 10 He reiterates, "At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other," and in Luke 18:8b Jesus asked rhetorically, "However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
Other examples of a current falling away come to mind. Charismatics, many in holiness Pentecostal churches, allow personal revelation and spiritual experience to be added to the Divine Word. It's gotten so bad in some cases that they allow personal revelation and 'spiritual' experience to be the authority for the congregation instead of the Word. When one member stands up and says "God told me and we should do the following," they DO, even if it is against the Word!
In the case of Mormons, they have allowed an angel named Moroni bringing a different Gospel to become their authority. Even though Paul wrote in Galatians 1:8, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" Mormons accepted what "Angel Moroni" had to say and a cult was born. The Mormon issue is serious because one who holds great political and cultural and political sway is Mormon Glenn Beck, and two candidates running for President are Mormon. (former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.). The article "Mainline Protestants need not apply" remarks on how none of the current 2012 Presidential candidates are from traditional Protestant denominations.
The figure atop all Latter Day Saints (Mormon) temples is the angel Moroni. Jesus is not given that high position of worshipful adoration, a false angel is, even though the Word says not to do it! (Rev 22:8-9)
In these three cases, either a fallible man (Pope) has become their authority, or personal experience has become their authority, or an angel has become their authority. The Catholics allowed the Word to be swamped under Tradition. The Charismatics have allowed the Word to be added to. The Mormons allowed the Word to be rewritten.
I believe all humans have an inherent compass that seeks ultimate authority. We chafe under authority sometimes but we all need it and we all look for it. In the cases of apostasy, that drive to find ultimate authority has been jogged off the path of righteousness toward a false authority of some kind or another. In all cases, from Paul's time to this, the mistake is the same. They left their first love. The sin of the Church at Ephesus so described by Jesus in the Revelation 2:4 is that they declined in love, slipped and slid away from sound doctrine. They were not completely cold. But the condition of the faithful at the end of the age is one that WILL have lost all its warmness. Paul warns Timothy that people will be unholy and without love (2 Tim 3:2b-3a). Jesus prophesied that at the very end, "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold," (Mt 24:12)
When fervency for the Word is lost, other doctrines creep in, and so do other authorities. The bible and its doctrines are all-important because Jesus IS the Word, and the Word IS Jesus! "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1) When you submit to His authority you submit to the Word, and when you submit to the Word, you submit to Jesus. Accepting other authorities means you set Jesus aside and accept not the truth. Then begins a long, downward spiral. It's like that 70s song by Johnny Lee, "Looking for love in all the wrong places"
Mark 12:24 Jesus replied, "Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?
Romans 10:17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
The authority is not the Pope. The authority is not Moroni. The authority is not a spiritual revelation given by a dream or a word. The authority is Jesus and His Word. Do not leave your first love. Why? Because He first loved US! (1 John 4:19)
For fun, listen to the video again but through a filter of Jesus and the truth. Video.
I've spent a lifetime looking for you
Single bars and good time lovers, never true
Playing a fools game, hoping to win
Telling those sweet lies and losing again.
I was looking for love in all the wrong places
Looking for love in too many faces
Searching your eyes, looking for traces
Of what.. I'm dreaming of...
Hopin' to find a friend and a lover
God bless the day I discover
Another heart, lookin' for love
You came a'knocking at my heart's door..
You're everything I've been looking for..
God bless the day I discover
You, oh You, lookin' for love