"Whatever happened to...?" "Oh, he's not with the Church anymore. He got turned off." Have you ever heard these or similar comments? Have you had the urge to get together with an old friend in the Church, but you hesitated? You remembered that your friend has little to do with the Church and God's Work any longer. There's a difference in outlook now. You do not feel comfortable together because you are not of the same spirit anymore. Your friend is turned off. Why? When I think about the people I have met in the Church over the past 24 years, many names and faces come to mind. A passing parade of diverse personalities with different temperaments, backgrounds and abilities. An amazing variety of fascinating individuals.
No longer involved
Sadly a part of them are no longer involved with the Church. They came and went. What happened? Some were on fire when they first came into the Church of God. How did they become turned off? A few died on the vine and dropped by the wayside. But in too many cases, the turned-off ones became offended at what some other human being in the Church said or did, or by rumors about what someone said or did. Read that last sentence again. The turnoff did not occur for doctrinal reasons. Instead, there was an offense, a stumbling caused by other people's shortcomings or supposed shortcomings. Doctrinal disagreement is used as an excuse, but the real reason is almost always the same, the person was offended. Why is it after a person allows himself to become upset with others the fundamental, solidly proved doctrines of God such as the Sabbath, the Holy Days, the keeping of the other Commandments, Church government, become not so fundamental and solid? It happens. Revelation 3:11 warns to beware lest any man "take thy crown." Isn't that exactly what we do if we allow men to offend us and change our relationship with God and His revealed laws?
Love God's law
This pitfall can be avoided. David revealed the way in Psalm 119:165, "Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them." We have to love God's law to the extent that no offense, no misunderstanding, no rumor can ever approach the degree of our love. David said this is how to guarantee never being turned off from God's truth. Jesus gave even more specific safeguards in John 14 and 15. And then He pointed out that "These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended" (John 16:1). It is important, then, to examine what these things are. In verses! to 8 of chapter 15, each Christian is compared to a branch of the true Vine (Jesus). Each branch is required to bear fruit. Can you imagine one branch on a vine judging another branch, becoming offended and saying: "Hey, I don't like the fruit being borne by that other branch over there. It doesn't look right to me. The gardener should have pruned that branch long ago. He is not doing a very good job. I'm so offended by it all that I'm going to stop bearing fruit myself!"
Let God be the judge
The point is that we each must bear fruit in our own lives and let the Gardener (God) judge the other branches. Do you feel that one of the other branches has somehow wronged you? Forgive, and let God do the pruning. He says He will (verse 2). The question is do we believe He is capable. Faith is the key. Many of those who fall away do so because they no longer have faith that God is able to rule His Church, faith that He is able to place in authority those whom He chooses. Faith. Authority. These are the critical words.
Actively bear fruit
Having faith that God is in charge, we should busy ourselves bearing fruit, showing mercy and forgiveness toward the faults of others. We ought to fill our lives actively bearing these fruits, keeping God's commandments (John 14:15, 21). Doing good works (John 14:12). Loving one another (John 15:12, 17). Communing with God in prayer (John 14:13-14, 15:7). Allowing the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us (John 14:16-17). Making the truth known to the world even in the face of persecution (John 15:16-27). Determine to never allow any human being to offend you and turn you off, to dampen your enthusiasm for the truth of God's Word, His laws and the Work He is doing. God lives. And He is in control.