I just read that dog ownership is up to about 68 percent in American homes. It is a sharp increase in the last few years from somewhere in the mid-fifties. Dog people are gaining; cat people are in the increasing minority. The war, I am sure will continue.
What is it about dogs that so captures people? Is it their loyalty? I saw the movie “Hatchi” a few years ago. It was an American adaptation of a true story in Japan about a dog who was adopted as a puppy by a university professor (played by Richard Geer). The professor would catch a train every day in his little town and ride into the University and then return in the evening the same day. Every day the dog, Hatchi, would find a way to escape his yard enclosure and see his owner off on the train. Then, at the end of the day, when it was time for the train to reappear, there would be Hatchi, waiting for his master.
This became ingrained in the lives of Hatchi, the professor, and the townspeople. Everyone knew of Hatchi and his patient, loyal waiting for his master to return and he became a sort of town mascot. One day, the train returned at night and the professor was not there. Sadly, the professor had died that day of a heart attack. But every day, Hatchi would wait for his masters return at the same spot until the train station shut down for the night. He did this for the rest of his life. Today, a bronze statue of Hachiko sits in his waiting spot outside the Shibuya station in Japan as a permanent reminder of his devotion and love. There is also a bronze statue of Hachiko now at the location in Rhode Island where this American movie version was filmed. There are many such stories of dogs like this. Greyfriar’s Bobby and Lassie come to mind. Not so much for cats!
But no matter how much you might love dogs, one thing that is not so pleasant and actually utterly disgusting is dog vomit. It is bad enough to have to pick up after your dogs business in the yard but it is totally another thing to have to deal with dog vomit. But then, the worst of it is when a dog turns around and eats his own vomit. Not a pretty picture. Not a great subject for a blog, right?
Yet, it is the picture that Peter employs when talking about an apostate. An apostate is one that once professed to believe the gospel and love the truth. Then, in an about face, they deny the truth they once averred. In the first century, this had already begun happening and happens to this day. And while we probably all are familiar with the “dog returning to his vomit” proverb, most don’t consider the context in which Peter employs it. In 2 Pt. 2:17-22a tells us (with my parenthesis added):
“These (apostates) are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. (Here is why) For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them (the ones ‘barely escaping’…those who are being confronted with the gospel) freedom, but they themselves (the apostates) are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world (that is for a while, they lived a “Christian lifetyle’) through the knowledge (their profession) of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: ‘The dog returns to its own vomit…’”
Turning back to the world, its values, its philosophies, and its lifestyles is like a dog returning to its own vomit. Being once again enslaved and ensnared in the corruption and defilement of our past is a sign of an apostate.
This does not mean of course, that any Christian who sins, even in a way he might have sinned before salvation, is an apostate. But those who overthrow God’s morals, standards, and truth, intentionally returning to such, and (this is key) enticing others to do the same, are apostates. They are the ones who have “returned to their vomit”.
Peter lived in a day of apostasy and we still do today. When we think that even one of Jesus’ chosen disciples was apostate, it should come as no surprise to us that there are many today. Paul had his Demas who “has forsaken me, having loved this present world”. It would be utterly surprising that we would not see the same today.
But what a tragedy. Those who know the truth and once embraced it now face “the gloom of utter darkness (that) has been reserved for them.” They were in a position of privilege and grace that allowed them to know the truth, come near the truth, and in many cases proclaim the truth. But they themselves were never captured by the truth. Instead, they returned to their vomit and became ensnared once again with their former ways.
Most of us, if we have been a believer for any length of time, probably know someone like this. Is there any hope for them? For a true apostate, no. Jude says of them just as he does of the angels that kept not their first estate, “…he has kept (them) in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day” (Jude 5, 6). He goes on to say of them “These are blemishes on your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, looking after themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever” (Jude 12, 13). There is no hope for a true apostate; he is twice dead and good only to be uprooted completely.
What does this say of Josh Harris (see blog of August 5th). I do not count, as of yet, Josh Harris to be an apostate. I am not aware that he has denied the faith and claimed the gospel to be untrue. He has declared that he is not a Christian and he has (at best) “waffled” on some key implications and teachings from Scripture, particularly in relation to the LGBTQ issues. Time will only tell if he is truly an apostate. If he is not, there is hope for his repentance and salvation. If he is, he is twice dead. What a tragedy that would be. Let us pray for those in this situation that they not become apostates.
Dog vomit is not a pleasant subject matter. Why is this important? It is because Hebrews 3:12-14 says, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
Beloved, stand fast in the Lord and in the power of his might!