CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Unfriended – Where Have They All Gone?

Aug 20, 2016

Have you ever noticed that people who were your great friends one day seem to have disappeared altogether the next day? I was reflecting on this the other night, and wondering if God feels the same way. That is, how many people come to God one day, but eventually they are nowhere to be found?

Consider human friends and the social media for example. I often get people seeking to befriend me, and they are full of praise for me and what I do. They have recently discovered my website or some such thing, and they can’t seem to get enough of me. They initially are very active in interacting with me.

They will like and share my stuff, and make all sorts of comments. But then, a few months later, I am left asking, “Whatever happened to so and so?” “Where did he go?” “Why do I never hear from her anymore?” They seem to have dropped out just as quickly and unexpectedly as when they first got in touch with me.

Now I realise everyone is busy, and people change, and so on, but I just find it odd that one day some folks seem to think you are some sort of superstar, yet the next day they have dropped you like you have the plague. I have to ask myself, “What did I do? After all, I did have a bath a few weeks ago!”

fb 18It is getting to the place that when some newcomer appears, seeking my friendship and singing praises, that I feel I must warn them: sooner or later they may well find something about me they don’t like. They may discover that I am in fact a rank heretic (in their view) and they will then turn on me like I am the anti-Christ.

But of course there are likely all sorts of very good reasons why people may dump me as abruptly and decisively as they once befriended me. I am sure I have all sorts of things about me that may put people off. Sometimes I am surprised that I have any friends at all!

But when we think about God and those who would seek him, then the story changes radically. Millions of people come to God in a rush of adrenalin, in a place of emotion, or a climactic initial encounter. But how many of these folks are also fair-weather friends, who seem to disappear as quickly as they came on the scene?

They come to God through Christ, but soon enough drop away. But in this case they have no excuse whatsoever for doing so. As mentioned, if people dump me they may very well have a hundred good reasons to do so. But if they dump God, they have zero good reasons for leaving him.

He is perfect, unchanging, glorious, loving and merciful God, and all who come to him have every reason to fully and finally stay with him. Yet tragically so many people stay only for a little while, then turn their backs on God altogether. Some may do so temporarily, but many do so permanently.

They walked with God for a while, then they turned away. The Bible of course records this sad fact in the life of individuals as well as groups. Simply think of Israel as a whole, and how often she abandoned God, forsook God, turned away from God, and resisted God. The Old Testament presents a very sad picture of all this.

Individuals can also abandon God. We read about many such cases of apostasy, backsliding and desertion. The New Testament both warns against this and provides examples of it. Here are just a few of them:

-Mathew 24:9-14 Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

-Acts 20: 29-31 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!

-1 Timothy 1:18-20 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

-1 Timothy 4:1-2 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

-2 Timothy 3:13 evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

-Hebrews 3:12-14 “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.”

One of the clear warnings about the dangers of falling away comes in the Parable of the Sower, or what might be better called the Parable of the Soils. We find this teaching of Jesus in three places: Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20; and Luke 8:1-15.

I have already spoken to it elsewhere, as in: billmuehlenberg.com/2015/07/17/flash-in-the-pan-or-faithful-to-the-end/

But let me speak to it here just a bit more. Not all soils are conducive to the seed of the gospel, and many hear the Word but quickly fall away because the seed has not taken root. In the parable we have four different responses to the sowing (the preaching of the gospel) with only one of them being successful.

The three poor soils indicate an initial reaction to the gospel, but because of various reasons, that commitment is short lived, and three out of four types of hearers of the word will eventually fall away. James Montgomery Boice lists the four responses as follows: the hard heart, the shallow heart, the strangled heart, and the open heart.

Only the last sort receives the gospel and is truly converted. The other three are short lived responses but not a whole-hearted dedication. While this parable is likely not telling us that a full three-quarters of those who are at first receptive to the gospel will fall away, it does tells us that many will – probably the majority.

I am not sure how many friends and followers I have lost in life. Plenty I am sure, and as mentioned, many may well have had good reason to give me the flick. Sometimes I want to give myself the flick! But we have absolutely no reason at all to give God the flick.

He is the only one in the universe we should run to, trust in, rely upon, and glory in. He is fully faithful, always loving, eternally trustworthy, and the best companion you will ever find. Jesus dealt with wavering responses throughout his ministry. The episode found in John 6:61-68 is worth closing with here:

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

[1453 words]

29 Responses to Unfriended – Where Have They All Gone?

  • Many thanks Bill, I’ve just realised my problem: I haven’t had a bath in several months! But seriously thanks.

  • Don’t worry about them Bill. You have done your best with them. I can see that the Holy Spirit does anoints His people thru you. Maybe one day again they will see the light and return to Jesus. You are heaps blessed by God. They work you do is phenomenal.

    Erik

  • I’m astounded you have been able to write so many words and get so many right. If I had written a fraction of what you have I’m pretty sure I would have offended nearly everyone. Not that I think I get things wrong all the time. It’s just when we are talking about complex issues what we say needs to be understood in context otherwise, just as Peter mentioned about Paul’s writings, people struggle with it and take things wrongly. (2Pet 3:16) In fact what you do could probably be summarized in the following verse:-

    2Pe 3:17 Therefore, beloved, knowing beforehand, beware lest being led away with the error of the lawless, you fall from your own steadfastness.

    God bless.

  • Sorry to hear you’ve been unfriended Bill. Happens quiet a bit on Facebook and in the world. I like the saying ‘be slow to take offence and quick to forgive’
    I’ve been unfriended at times too. It still amazes me how a Christian viewpoint is intolerable to some.
    It what God thinks that is important. He is always my friend and yours. Thanks for your insightful messages.

  • You do a great job, Bill! We appreciate your honesty and spirituality with in what’s happening in the world today! You say what we need to hear. You aren’t tickling our ears like the Pharisees do!

  • Many thanks indeed guys.

  • I’m still here 😉 but have been unfriended, blocked and abused. If have been, Bill, it means you are speaking the truth.
    The truth has been unpalatable to many people and people who once read the bible and prayed can sometimes be the biggest haters.
    This post is a good reminder for me to spend my time wisely not pleasing people but God.

  • I know of no site like your’s Bill, and frequently direct others in the UK to it. It remains a place where we as Christians can return to re- charge the batteries, bring back news from our area of the theatre of war and exchange valuable information with others who are fighting in different arenas. It is certainly a place where we can all gain encouragement and re arm before returning to the front.

    However as the war intensifies it is taking longer for some of us to report back to base as we are engaged in our own local battles, which as you will agree are growing in intensity and length.

    Not only that; as the years have passed and the Bible has come under increased attack, new issues which we would never previously have given a second thought , have arisen which indeed as you say, cause our best and dearest to suddenly become strangers.
    The list of issues that we have to grapple seems to grow by the day: women in headship in the church; divorce; homosexuality; ecumenicism; Arminianism vesus Calvanism; Neo – Calvanism; pre- tribulation versus mid and post tribulation; the post apostolic age versus the Pentacostalism; replacement theology etc., etc. These are issues which never presented themselves to me before. Need I mention those Christians who feel passionately that it is our duty to be part of the European Union and those who see it as Sodom; or dare I say those who would vote for Donald Trump and those who, not in a million years would do so? It seems that we are faced with pushing those with whom we have journeyed through a diminishing eye of the needle. Indeed it seems that one day we will have made the eye so small that even we cannot pass through it.

    And if many of us have left our local church, is it any surprise that we will then look hard at the small band of discontents with whom we have joined? It is good that we are being sifted but whilst major surgery is being performed we need to keep the body alive and forebear with one another.
    I think we need to learn a lesson from Paul, who was no respecter of persons and who never sacrificed truth for the sake of unity. On the other hand we also need to regard Peter who was always gracious and quick to admit his error.

    On a completely different topic have you seen this video, entitled “SODOM”, from Russia, which features Dr Scott Lively and Dr Eric Anderson? This is a must view. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYMzW8mu5RQ

    Be encouraged Bill, we shall always be indebted to you and your unique ministry.

    David Skinner UK

  • @Peter Newland – I have one every spring – whether I need it or not!

    Seriously though, I find it happening with monotonous regularity too. Not so much in Christian circles. I probably have gravitate to those of similar or like opinion. However, when new acquaintances, at work or play, find that I’m a bible believing follower of Christ it’s amazing how quickly the friendship wanes sometimes.

  • Hi Bill
    I value your words.. More so than those people close to me… Godbless you and your ministry
    Prayers for you
    Pita Lino

  • Ditto to Sue McKracken’s comment! Besides, nothing can compare with “real” friends – ones you can talk to face to face instead of only through “social” media!!

  • I love you Bill. BTW I also enjoy/like/value/appreciate what you write.

  • I hope you are feeling a bit better now with all these comments sympathising with you

  • Friendship has high value. Jesus calls us His friends. But just as all things in our existence are tainted by sin, so friendship also is. Most people do not regard friendship as a calling, but see it as beneficial in so far as it helps their interests. Most people will drop even good friendship at the drop of a hat. Some friendships are just for a season & they fade away. One is sometimes astounded that seemingly good friends whom you have helped a lot intimes past, will drop you in one shot when you need them most. i experienced that when my house burnt down. When things went well with me, a number of people were very committed, but they dissapated when i stood amongst the ruins of my house & they never turned up again: It’s over a year now. They never even called to hear how things were. Reaching out to them brought excuses from their side. It is painful but it is reality. The interesting thing is that new friends turned up: People truly committed for the sake of Christ, not their own or mine. These are truly kingdom people, not false friends. They know the true value of Christ as their friend & it shows in how they treat others – without thinking for one moment what’s in it for them.

  • I too greatly appreciate your site Bill for its close-up focus on bible scriptures and your tireless efforts in increasing awareness. I check in from the other side of the world in the UK to see what topical issues are up for discussion, as nothing else quite compares. Social media is a flawed way to conduct a friendship as there is the temptation to live life through a virtual reality and before long communication deteriorates either by accident or design and a sort of group think creeps in. You’re doing a great job!

  • I once had a friend whom I loved dearly as a sister. When she just dropped me and was not even honest I felt hurt and betrayed. My only and most treasured source of comfort was that Jesus promised He will never leave me nor forsake me. The wound has healed and I pray for her and her unsaved children. I found that has helped me to forgive.

  • Hi Bill, I like what you write. Sometimes you say something I do not agree with but I will not unfriend you. We all do not think a like on all things. As long as we agree on main points we will make it to HEAVEN.

  • Following Christ is seen today as so unfashionable. People just smile and nod, thinking under the surface, “no-one believes that stuff these days, they’ll come around to reality eventually”. As for social media, I don’t “do” any of them, it seems to me they are full of people full of their own importance….half of them (indeed nearly of all them) are nobodies outside Facebook and off the Internet. I wouldn’t give tuppence about being unfriended by any of ’em. Your site is one of my first visits of the day and an oasis amongst all the muck that is out there.

  • Dear Bill,

    I am an 80 year old Catholic Christian. A convert at seventeen from Methodism but I personally thank God for people like you as I know ‘The Holy Spirit blows where it will’ and not always from the hearts, minds and voices of Catholics. When the truth is spoken many will not like what is said because they would have to change and they don’t want to do that. Let them desert you if that is what they want but God will never leave you because He knows you are faithful to Him and His work.

  • A true kingdom believer will always be a prey in this present dying world that is in constant war against Christ and “Christ within us.” With the remaining time so short, we are increasingly the target and our former friends are just not comfortable with us any longer – they do not want to hear the truth. We are dumped. As John the Baptist said, “He must increase and I must decrease.” Jesus well knew the loneliness of standing alone. And until He returns, our walk with Him will continue to become an increasing lonely one that will propel His own to cleave to Him as never before which will enable us to be faithful to the very end. Every day I pray that God will strengthen His true followers to be strong and courageous, to be wholeheartedly devoted to Christ and to be filled with soundness of mind and heart during these terrible times, and not to fear as we live through the times that Jesus said would come upon all the world. Bill, it is a good thing that God is doing in allowing you to be “unfriended”, I think, because God allows disappointment and humility to prune us. Your stand for the truth and provision of this forum is a much-needed blessing for so many of us who are grappling with the realities of our everyday lives in these horrific sin-filled last days, endeavoring to stay true to Him Who has chosen to have us live in this very time in history (His Story). You (and we) will continue to be “unfriended” by the friends of the world, a sure sign that we are on the right track. But your true friends that are in Christ will remain so until the end. The comments above have blessed me so much, as I see others around the world (I live in the U.S.) expressing the same things that God is showing me. It helps me to keep on keeping on.

  • The question is, where have you gone? You’re the one who abandoned THE TWITTER. Anyone abandoning THE TWITTER is pretty much dead to me, but I made an exception for you and made an app to your blog on my HOMESCREEN.

  • I had noticed not any (some days) comments. But I think you are saying we need to watch our step. I think you lean a bit too far to human responsibility as against the other extreme “the elect will be saved – regardless” which is unscriptural hope, but I don’t know how that can be avoided in articles of the warning and exhortation type. It’s good to read what others positive take is on your comments, creates “fellowshipness” (the computer thinks I want to write fellows hipness 🙂 ) but He Himself is our fellowship eh! I am very indebted to you in the Lord for your writing on the social scene especially, though I don’t always dot your theological “i” s, certainly I believe you are anointed by the Lord and no doubt like others of the prophetic ilk have your “daze days” e.g. Jeremiah. John 16: 33. Rev. 19:10. Thanks Bill “Looking unto him the Author and Finisher of our faith”. SDG

  • Some people may have very good reasons for not wanting to be seen on the Front Lines with culture warriors like yourself — Think spies. There are also some who want to spend as much time as possible with families and friends, witnessing to them, urging them toward Belief in Christ, before they too make that ultimate sacrifice of going troppo-style public, which, as you very well know, is soon going to entail heavy fines and possible imprisonment, possible expulsion from from the country for non-citizens, in what was once a Freeland know as Australia.

  • Bill

    I promise not to unfriend you as long as you bath regularly and brush your teeth. Once every two weeks won’t cut it!!

    It may be of interest to you that I have browsed your site regularly for a number of years. I would have at least skimmed 99.5% of your articles and read a great majority in detail. Great reading and educational, thought-provoking and useful. This might sound strange, but the ones I particularly enjoy are those where you divulge something personal about yourself or something happening in your life. Why? Because it provides a little bit of connection to someone I don’t know personally and may never meet in person. I can see the individual rather than just the intellectual talking head.

    This is one of the essences of friendship.

    Another is the giving and receiving of thanks and gratitude, and I have to say, on this I must sadly mark your report card “could try harder”. Case in point – your recent article “Life is Short”. A number of your regulars posted messages of support and prayer, yet I see nowhere in the comments your thanks, nor an update on your wife’s progress since. Perhaps you could have invited her to comment and thank her well-wishers.

    Some while back I sent a short email with a message of support to the head of an Australian charity which had just suffered a blow through not fault of its own, which threatened to destroy or severely damage the good work it does. The person concerned and I had never met yet he responded almost immediately with “Thankyou David. Your words gave me great heart at the end of a terrible week”. I felt overjoyed that my simple message had been useful.

    Your readers take the time to read and sometimes comment on your articles. Some may be supporting you financially, I don’t know. But when they send messages of support, they surely would like to know that it hasn’t just disappeared into cyberspace. No one wants to feel like Jesus deserted by the lepers.

    I have no way of knowing of course, but maybe that is why some people disappear. We know you’re busy and no one expects you to go into raptures over every comment, And I know you do say Thanks at times, but sometimes it’s good to hear “Thanks guys, it meant such and such to me at a hard moment to have you thinking and praying for me etc”.

    Another suggestion: around 31 December each year, post a message of thanks to everyone who has read your blog, encouraged you, prayed for you and held you in their heart, and wish them well for the new year. Only needs to be a short article!!

    Sorry if this sounds preachy, but, well, you did ask. I don’t want it to sound like I’m miffed and huffy; far from it. Its a privilege to know you even if only in cyberspace. I don’t do dummy-spits just because I disagree with someone, so I’ll stay with you.

    Cheers in friendship.

  • Thanks for the comment David! I appreciate the thoughts and taking the time to send it through. Since it primarily comes in the form of a “please explain!”, am I allowed to explain? If so, a few words here if I may. Yes, I can always improve of course, and I am rather aware of my many shortcomings here. It does bother me often that I cannot do more of what I should do. Thus I really do covet prayer so that I might do better. Even in finding time replying to others and thanking others, etc. But a few points if I may:
    -I do say thanks to people for their comments fairly often. There would be hundreds, maybe thousands, of times I have done this.
    -As to the “Life is Short” article, I just had a look, and I notice that I in fact replied three times to people, and those replies included words of thanks as well as a mention of how my wife was doing. So you might have missed something there.
    -But I do have 55,000 comments on my site. That is a fair amount of comments I think! As I state in my commenting rules, I will not be able to reply to every comment that comes in here. Indeed, if I did, I would have well over 100,000 comments. I guess when life is busy, I must prioritise things a bit. So I cannot always reply as much as I might like to alas.
    -This website is not the only way I communicate. I use social media and bulk emails as well. In all three I have done regular generic ‘thank yous’ for those who support what I do, pray for what I do, and financially help what I do. I am quite aware that I can always do it more often however.
    -CultureWatch is me. Period. I have no staff, no secretaries, no assistants. So I must do everything myself. That includes writing nearly 4000 articles now, and moderating every single comment that comes through. That includes not just the 55,000 that have been allowed on, but the tens of thousands that have had to be rejected (foul language, no name, etc). I do much more than the website, however, including speaking, teaching and travelling regularly. That also eats into my time big time. Plus I try to turn out a new book every year or two.
    -And of course I am a husband, a father, and so much more. So Culture Watch obviously can only occupy a part of my time. I think I would be hard-pressed to properly do CW justice even if I were just a free-wheeling single!

    So I guess I am saying that I am a bit busy. I am not trying to make cheap excuses here, just lay out the facts. Yes, I know I can do better, and as mentioned, I will try, and I do desire prayer cover in all this.
    Thanks again for sharing all your concerns. My apologies for not doing everything as good as I want to. Pray for me thanks! Blessings.
    PS. I will try to take a bath more often too!

  • For me it has been pretty serious health issues and unresolved housing issues….and they are a bit overwhelming so that is why you’ve not seen much of me lately. It’s not because I don’t still think you are a superstar!

  • Thank you Bill for your inputs. The new website format is nice too, and, as is always, the content is great.

    I probably should comment a lot more than I do because the articles I agree with are many and they are vital in this day and age. It is very rare that I have disagreed with your writing, after reflection.

    And the community of people who take the time to put comments here is also useful, and valued. Thank you all!

  • Hi Bill,

    I read a Charles Spurgeon morning reading this morning and God spoke straight to my heart and I was filled with so much peace and joy and a little more insight into the incredible love God has for his children. I felt lead by God to share some of it with you. I am sharing this in humility and hope these words will cheer your heart.

    Here is a few little excerpts:

    Nahum 1:2 “God is jealous”

    “Your Lord is very jealous of your love, O believer. Did he choose you? He cannot bear that you choose another. Did he buy you with his own blood?…He is also very jealous of our company. There should be no one with whom we converse so much as with Jesus. To abide in him only, this is true love; but to commune with the world, to find solace in our carnal comforts, to prefer even the society of our fellow Christians to secret prayers with him, this is grievous to our jealous Lord. He would fain have us abide in him, and enjoy constant fellowship with himself; and many of the trials which he sends us are for the purpose of weaning our hearts from the creature, and fixing them more closely upon himself.”

    The whole reading can be read at:

    http://www.teachingtheword.org/apps/articles/default.asp?blogid=0&view=post&articleid=59799

    God bless you and your family richly in your ministry.

  • Many thanks for that Kirsten.

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