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  • Writer's pictureTrace Pirtle

Falling Away: The Good, Bad and Ugly

God's Divine Wind is blowing this morning. The leaves are beginning to fall away from their trees in the Texas Hill Country. The gusts exceeding 30 mph are just strong enough to get your attention. God has my attention this morning about the great "Falling Away." I pray He stirs up your attention as well. That you are not one of the falling away leaves.

The Holy Spirit led me to the Book of Hebrews. Looking back on the last week, it seems logical. After struggling with the repentance of sin article a few days ago to yesterday's post about free will and the wind of God, today is a further step forward.

I hope you read yesterday's discussion about the seriousness of saying "yes" to Jesus. If so, you know that once we pick up the cross, there is no putting it back down without severe consequences. Dropping the cross after we have taken it up is what falling away is all about.

As much as we would like God to spoon-feed us His wisdom and discernment, the reality is that spiritual growth demands continuing effort on our part. We can't remain spiritually stagnant once we accept Christ's invitation to pick up our cross and follow Him.

Instead, we must be in His Word daily, checking our moral compass to ensure we are aligned with His purpose for our life. This purpose bears good fruit and results from spiritual maturity.

The Apostle Paul issued a strong warning against falling away. We will look at that in a couple of minutes. But notice how Paul leads into the falling away. Believers stop being open to the Word. They stop studying and growing in Spirit. Paul says,

"We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear because you no longer try to understand." Hebrews 5:11

The first evidence of the falling away appears to be laziness, a lack of effort to understand what is happening around us. People become desensitized and numb to the constant bombardment from the world. It's easy to drift into complacency and begin falling like a leaf from a tree. "God will catch me!" some say. Perhaps, depending on how far you fall.

God tells us through Paul's letter that He expects us to continue learning and growing in faith. Paul writes,

"In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's Word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!" Hebrews 5:12

We can feel the frustration in Paul's statement. For various reasons, people fail to progress in their walk with Jesus. But when God expects reasonable progress, and it's not happening, we must question if the person is falling away. It's not a judgment or condemnation; it's an observation and opportunity to become the watchman and sound the trumpet.

"Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." Hebrews 5:13-14

Paul's acknowledgment that "constant use" is what separates discerning believers from those who require constant reeducation. He offers a startling message that should reinforce the wake-up call to all falling away. There is no turning back to the tree once the leaf has fallen. God says,

"It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting Him to public disgrace." Hebrews 6:4-6

Those verses alone should stir up within the believer a renewed sense of commitment to grow in the Spirit. Why would anyone willfully lose their grasp on the Tree of Life? Let's encourage one another to keep a tight grip on the Word that teaches us wisdom and discernment. If we are growing, it's expected of us.

Not All Falling Away is Created Equal

We should think about falling away from three discernment perspectives: the good, the bad, and the ugly forms of falling away. Of course, based on scripture, we immediately identify with the "bad" and "ugly" forms of falling away. But how could falling away possibly be good? Well, it depends on what the leaf is falling from. That's what we'll talk about now.

Let's imagine two trees in front of us. On the left is the one we'll call the "Tree of the World." This is the symbolic tree we are born into. It is the world we live in right now. We'll call the tree on the right God's "Tree of Life." It is the tree we are grafted into based on God's grace and our faith in Jesus.

Non-believers live in just one tree, the world. They are offered everything the world and the powers that govern the world have to offer. Their quality of life is attached to the world's people, places, and things. The more of each, the better. This world is about gratifying the desires of the flesh. The pleasure principle drives human behavior in this tree.

Since believers live in the same world and come from the ranks of non-believers, we quickly realize this Tree of the World is a temporary home; we are simply passers-by. However, that doesn't mean we are on holiday moving from one party to the next.

No. We have responsibilities while in the Tree of the World. We must continually fall away from the world as we ascend higher in the Tree of Life. Ascending or climbing the Tree of Life takes effort, discipline, and study. Thus, the more we fall away from the world, the more we commit to Jesus Christ.

Note: This is simply my conceptualization to help me make sense of the falling away process. Since the Holy Spirit allows me to write away, I'll assume it's okay. :-)

A Simple Falling Away Test

I like simple tests to keep me aligned with God. Simple tests like this one for Falling Away are for training and accountability purposes. Every day I take this test in some form. Here it is:

Test Assumption: Commercial ads, mainstream media news, sports, Hollywood entertainment, and unfortunately, even much of what was previously called "science" and medicine now reflect the world, not God.

The Simple Test: As you live your life, note how the world calls for your attention. Notice the ads and commercials, online videos, social media, and other media you surf from one branch of the Tree of the World to the next. Think about these questions:

  • Where do you land?

  • What captures your attention? Is the image beautiful or ugly? Compelling or repulsive?

  • How long are you held captive? A second, minute, an hour, or more?

  • What do you do with the information? Do you take immediate action, save it for future reference, or disregard it?

  • How do you feel as you process what you've experienced? Empowered, embarrassed, ashamed, humbled, convicted, or ??

  • How does the reflection of the world's ideal align with the Bible and the Holy Spirit within you?

Based on your responses, you can discern whether your falling away is good, bad, or ugly. Here are a few specific examples and how they fit into the discernment categories.


Example #1: You see a magazine ad showing a teenage girl with a nose ring, eyebrow piercings, and body tattoos. The caption reads, "Think you can do whatever you want with your body? Think again." It concludes, "It's pro-choice or no choice."

Example #2: A news program talks about unpatriotic U.S. Navy Seals who refuse a vaccine based on their religious beliefs. The commentators agree that they should be dishonorably discharged from the military.

Example #3: An ad suggesting "Christian Nationalism" threatens democracy.

Example #4: News coverage of American politicians, professional athletes, and Hollywood elites "taking a knee," but it's not for prayer.

Example #5: A gay pastor dresses in drag for the Christian church service.

Example #6: The Opening Ceremony of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, highlighted by "dreamers" bowing down to a 10-meter high bull.

Consider how each of these examples affects you:

  1. Consider the world's overt message and purpose for creating them.

  2. Think about the questions I posed in the simple test above.

  3. Be honest about your answers and where you fall.

Again, my purpose is not to judge anyone. That is God's responsibility. However, if we aren't falling away from the world (the good falling away), then it's just a matter of degree (bad) or (ugly) that we are being seduced by it. The more we empathize, condone, or tacitly approve of the world, the greater our risk of falling away from God.

Concluding Thoughts

The best way to continue growing in faith and preventing a bad or ugly fall from God is to remain in the Word and prayer. Then, as we live in the world and do God's work, we become aware of the enemy's lies and do not fall for them. Open your eyes to the world daily. Test yourself. Is your falling away the good, bad, or ugly? If you need help, your answers are no further away than the Holy Spirit within you.

I want to leave you with an amusing YouTube video courtesy of This is Salvation titled, "If Christianity Had a Commercial...this would be it." :-) May God bless you with wisdom and discernment! In Jesus' name. Amen.

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About Me

Image of Dr. Trace Pirtle sitting on park bench identified as Jesus.

Greetings, I'm Trace!
I'm a retired counselor education professor who spent 35 years in the "helping professions." I'm a U.S. Air Force veteran who served as a Missile Launch Officer with I.C.B.M's during the Cold War (1980's). Today, I'm an "all-in" believer working full-time for our Lord Jesus Christ. I've included my personal testimony if you are interested. 
May God bless you beyond your wildest dreams!

In His Service,

Trace Pirtle

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