Located on the side of the highway leading into the Crows Nest Pass in south west Alberta, Canada, is the most photographed and produced by artists paintings, but what is not evident is the rot and deterioration! Upon close inspection one will see that the tree is now supported by steel brackets fasten to the rock from which the tree once grew. Just as grey hairs appear without our being aware of them, spiritual deterioration can creep upon us in the same way. Our spiritual character can become inferior to what it once was and should be, as we begin to loose our spiritual quality and spiritual values, we deteriorate and become ineffective Christians.
SPIRITUAL DETERIORATION: “BEWARE of unforeseen deterioration! A condition where the Lord may be gone out on feet so noiseless, we feel that his Spirit has glided along the corridor, and through the doorway, whispering, “Let us depart””. UNFORESEEN DETERIORATION, The reasons: Unprotected exposure to the elements, no protection, not enough protection, wrong type of protection, protection applied incorrectly, natural aging. Materials exposed to the elements must be properly protected otherwise they deteriorate very quickly. We protect our children from the elements by providing them with proper clothing and accessories. God’s children must also be protected from the elements that can cause us to deteriorate spiritually. “Deterioration is unforeseen because it is so gradual”. The rot that sets in on the Fall harvested fruit is very gradual. The damp that silences the violin or piano does its work quietly and unnoticed. Satan knows not to plunge us into some outrageous sin at once. He has demolition experts engaged in hollowing subterranean passages through the soul, filling them with explosives, long before the explosion is evident. In Judges 13: 4-5 we see that God made every provision for the protection of Samson for the work to which He was calling him. God was calling Samson to a specific task for which he needed to be separated or “sanctified”as compared to others, and this sanctification would be evident in his appearance, his diet, and the characteristics of his life. He was to be a Nazirite to God from birth until the day of his death .
The Law of the Nazirite states anyone desiring to make a special vow of separation to God as a Nazirite must: abstain from wine and other fermented drink; eat nothing from the grapevine – seeds or skins, and for the entire period of separation his hair must not be cut, it must be allowed to grow long. For the entire period of separation he must not go near to any dead body, family members included, and he is consecrated, or holy, to God. The symbol of consecration to God is his long hair, and God’s Spirit provided the supernatural strength. In many instances in Scripture, God calls an individual and separates that individual for a specific duty, empowering the individual and providing all the necessities and requirements for the individual. So it was in Samson’s case. God had called him to a specific task and was preparing and fitting him for the job. When we think of Samson, we picture a physically strong man, but his weaknesses outweighed his strength. He had a weakness for women making him willing to disobey his parents and God, to get a wife that pleased him. . Although God allowed this for Samson, such a decision is most often disastrous for the child of God, and in most, if not all cases leads to the spiritual deterioration of the Christian partner; a warning to all unmarried believers! He practiced deceit . He fraternized with the enemy ; gave way to anger and vindictiveness ; spent a night with a prostitute ; flirted with evil ; and revealed the secret of his strength to the enemy . He was very self-confident , and worst of all, he broke his Nazirite vow .
PROGRESSIVE SPIRITUAL DETERIORATION. The root cause is our failure is not allowing the Holy Spirit to protect us. We have already seen that deterioration does not occur all at once, it progresses, for reasons such as: Complacency; we are reminded in the story of Lot, Abraham’s nephew, that “he chose for himself the well watered plains of Jordan, and lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom, and the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.” . He then moved into the city, and life in this environment exposed him and his family to all the sin for so long, that he became insensitive to this sin and lost his testimony. When he tried to warn the people, including his sons-in-law, “they thought he was joking” . The Israelites settled in the land of Canaan but were complacent in carrying out the command of the Lord to destroy all the ungodly inhabitants. They allowed some to remain and they suffered the consequences during the times of the Judges, and throughout their history as a nation. Complacency leads to a lack of sensitivity to sin. Justifying wrong actions and decisions; it is so easy to “gloss over” or “explain away” the real reason for our actions and decisions, or to call sins by other names. Samson knew what was required of him as a Nazirite, yet still he allowed himself to become “unclean”. He and his parents had been on a long journey, they were hungry and needed nourishment, and even though this meant contamination with a dead animal, he just had to have something to eat . He broke one of the vows of the Nazirite , and could rationalize this action because he was hungry. How easy it is for believers to justify our wrong actions and decisions! Lack of sensitivity to God’s Spirit; our eyes become blinded and our ears become deaf as our senses are dulled by sin; and we become totally unconscious to the progress of evil within us as our spiritual deterioration progresses. So it was with Samson. He was lured into disclosing the secret of his great strength, and was “prodded” constantly until he complied. Finally, he was not aware that God’s Spirit had departed from him . His long hair was an outward indication of him being a Nazirite – separated to God, however, it was his relationship to God that gave him his strength, and the act of shaving his head was a denial or rejection of his consecration to God! Samson was not aware the Spirit of God had left him, and in his self-confidence fell to the enemy! He attempted to continue to serve God but was incapable of doing so. So it is with all Christians who are not aware of their spiritual deterioration! They continue to serve but have no effect on others, they are no longer a “light to the world”, they are “salt that has lost its saltiness”. The Holy Spirit no loner has any influence over their lives because He has been shut away in some inner-closet as they allow themselves to be increasingly influenced by society and sin, and we, like Samson, can loose our relationship with the Lord and become ineffective in our service for Him.
GENUINE PROTECTION FROM SPIRITUAL DETERIORATION: Spiritual declension blunts our sensibility. The first act of the burglar is to gag the voice that might alarm so he kills the dog. So, sin blinds our eyes, and dulls our keen alertness to the presence of evil. Thus, the stages of our relapse are obvious to all eyes but our own. We are drugged as we are being carried off as captives. The progress of evil within us is a matter of unconsciousness, largely because we are quick to discover reasons to justify our process of deterioration. We gloss over the real state of affairs. We insist on considerations, which in our eyes appear to justify our conduct. We still attend to our religious duties, and try to persuade ourselves that nothing has changed. To avoid deterioration we must ever watch and pray, and realize that we are the temples of the Holy Ghost. “Then shall the peace of God as a sentry guard our hearts and our thoughts in Christ Jesus.” In order for anything in life to be truly protected from deterioration, the protective covering must be carefully and correctly applied. And so it is with the child of God. There is the daily washing and cleansing by the Word of God. There is the daily application of the truths of God’s Word. There is the constant submission to the Holy Spirit to do His work in us . The cultivation of the “right-associations”is necessary. That is, we must carefully choose our companions, selecting those who will influence our lives in the things of God. When, as Christians, we fail to be guarded by the Holy Spirit of God from evil and evil companionships, acts, and thoughts, we only hasten the process of spiritual deterioration. The Israelites allowed themselves to be influenced by the ungodly people that lived in their midst, they copied their practices and forms of worship, and finally there was no distinction between the people of God and their neighbors. They became so ineffective in their witness that God had to gradually withdraw Himself from their midst. and had to judge them according to their conduct and detestable practices. . The spirit of God made a gradual retreat from the Temple, lingering, as it were, to see if there would be any sign of repentance from the people. The people of God failed, in that they conformed to the ways of the nations around them; and when we as Christians fail it is likely that we also conform to the society in which we live .
Samson failed, in that he neglected to maintain his consecration, but God, however, restored Samson for “one more”battle with the Philistines, and he killed many more in his death than in all his lifetime . Samson is now a corpse among the dead Philistines, while his separation unto God would have earned him a much nobler death. THE LESSON TO US IS: A loss of our sanctification leads to a loss of power in our lives to effectively serve God, as well as eventual spiritual ruin. One sign of our spiritual deterioration is that we “grieve” the Holy Spirit. Unlike the Old Testament believer, the Holy Spirit does not depart or leave the New Testament believer, the Holy Spirit neverleaves us , He is with us “forever” were the words of Jesus to His disciples. We grieve the Holy Spirit by being inattentive of His presentation to us of the things pertaining to Christ. We are inattentive because we are more attracted and concerned with the ways of the world, trying to conform ourselves to the standards of our society and our unsaved associates, so as to please them rather than God our heavenly Father. When we grieve the Holy Spirit, He no longer performs His normal work of ministering joy and comfort to our hearts, He now has to devote His time and attention to repairing the damage to our souls, and seeks to lead us to self-judgment and confession of our sin so that we can be restored. This is the thought and teaching of the Psalmist in Psa.51, . How do we guard against spiritual deterioration? Do not be complacent in sinful situations. Do not justify or gloss over sin. Be sensitive to God’s Spirit. Seek daily cleansing from God’s Word. Apply the truths of God’s Word to our lives. Be submissive to the Holy Spirit. Seek out and desire Christian fellowship.
Are you living up to your spiritual potential? Do you know where you are falling short? We need to turn to God in sincerity, and earnestly seek and desire “a willing spirit” so that the Glory of God will once more overshadow us and cause us to glorify Him. So let us seek the daily protection of the Holy Spirit from the deadly effects of spiritual deterioration!