Personal Reflections – Abandoning the Faith 4

We have been looking at the reasons people leave both the Church and, at times, the Christian faith.  We have covered the first four of 8 reasons … 

1> The horrible way that Christians treat each other both publicly and privately, in person and online.

2> The canned superficial answers they had been given to complicated life questions.

3> Believers totally abandon the faith because their “God” did not meet their expectations.

4>  The stupidity and ignorance of so many people who call themselves Christians.

The fifth reason people live the faith and no longer believe in Jesus is because they were taught “another gospel” which, of course, simply deceives them and does not work. 

Paul talks of “another gospel” in 2 Corinthians 11:4 where he states, “For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough…”

There are many “other gospels” out there:

Salvation through the Church

Salvation through the sacraments

Salvation through good works

The prosperity gospel

The great grace gospel

The gospel of legalism

The gospel of salvation

The one that trips people up the quickest and that is the most prominent today is legalism. That is, salvation through keeping the rules and fulfilling the standards set out by the church – a holiness code.

I have watched Christians leave the Lord because they were taught a gospel of legalism – namely, that God will be upset with them if they don’t live a perfect life… ‘perfect’ being determined by the church or a church leader. Despite how hard they tried, they kept failing to keep the standard in various areas of their lives. They prayed, fasted, and sought victory over the problem with no results. Eventually they got so weary that they concluded it is just not worth it to follow the Lord, so they left Him. 

The legalistic gospel leaves people feeling guilty, shameful, and without hope. So, in frustration and often anger they leave ‘the faith’ never to return. In reality, they never did grasp the true gospel that brings them into God the Father’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness. They did not respond to the gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14) because they never really heard it. 

The sixth reason some leave the faith and the Church is simply that they loved the world and the things of the world more than Jesus. 

Jesus was not enough in their eyes to satisfy their heart’s desire – or what they thought were their real desires. The loved “the pleasure of sin” more than the pleasures of God. Paul said of Demas, a Christian worker who had abandoned him and the team, that “he loved this present world” (2 Timothy 4:10).

Of course, Jesus spoke about this in the Parable of the soils (hearts) and stated, “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the Word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the Word, and it proves unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22).

Personal Reflections – Abandoning the Faith 3

Christians Who Abandon the Faith – Part Three

We are looking at why people who professed to be believers, Christians, and who confessed Jesus as their Lord and Saviour no longer believe and have totally walked away from the Christian faith.

We saw in recent blogs that the reasons are varied and include:

1> The horrible way that Christians treat each other both publicly and privately, in person and online.

2> The canned superficial answers they had been given to complicated life questions. Questions that we don’t answer because we live a surface faith without ever dealing with the hard life issues and apparent contradictions within the Scriptures. 

The third reason believers totally abandon the faith is that their “God” did not meet their expectations.

When a person becomes a believer they often enter into the faith with expectations – of the God they are now getting to know, of the church that they have chosen to attend, aa well as expectations of other believers. Add to this the “promises” that are found in the Bible and that they are often told they can claim, and you have a serious opportunity for disappointment and failure in their walk as believers.

It could be a tragedy that they experience. It could be a painful life event. It could be something dark and horrible that they have prayed to be delivered from for years and God does not come through at the right time – thus, God simply does not care. Or, as mentioned above, a promise in Scripture the they stood on in faith and believed was their’s, but never saw materialize.

As a result, they totally walk away from the faith disillusioned and defeated.

The fourth reason many leave the faith and live without any belief in Jesus and what He accomplished on the cross is the stupidity and ignorance of so many people who call themselves Christians.

Too many Christians that I know actually believe what they read on the internet – Facebook, Twitter, and all the other numerous social apps. And, actually believe what they read without checking out the facts or the source of the content. This goes for what they also see on television and in the news. And worse than that, they then spread what they have read or heard as if it were 100% true and accurate. 

Regrettably, many believers believe whatever they read or hear. And some of it is obviously stupid and “from another planet.” 

Those who are wiser and smarter don’t want to be associated with these people. They eventually think, “If Jesus was the Saviour of the world, who are so many of His followers so stupid?” … “If Jesus is the head of the Church, why is His Church so dysfunctional and so toxic in so many cases?” So, they start questioning the claims of the Lord Himself. And, as a result, walk away from the faith because of what others believe and how they live out their faith. 

I am personally bothered by both these reasons why people totally abandon the Christian faith. I have always said that the Christian faith needs to be examined and found to be true by each person for themselves. A person’s faith needs to be based on personal experience and not on what others have told you and what others believe and propagate. You cannot determine your walk with Jesus by what others are saying or how they are living. It is a faith that requires we seek for the truth for yourself and then build your life upon that foundation. It is a faith that must first be rooted and grounded in love – a love that we encounter when we are born again and that we then experience on a daily basis throughout our Christian walk. 

There will always be those who believe whatever they hear regardless of the source and the content. There will always be those who live the Christian faith on the surface and never put down roots discovering the truth of the faith for themselves. Thus, they believe everything they hear and live a superficial faith based on half-truths and lies. There will always be those who design their own ‘religion’ believing what they want to believe and treating many of the absolutes and commands of Scripture as options that they can choose or reject. 

But, we need to keep our eyes of Jesus and forgive the attitude, behaviour, and beliefs of others who say they are followers. We are accountable for our own lives and should not be basing our faith on our own personal expectations or what others believe and teach. 

Personal Reflections – Abandoning the Faith 2

Christians Who Abandon the Faith – Part Two

We are looking at the reason good, faith-based believers leave the church and no longer follow Jesus. I am not speaking of those who leave the church and still follow Jesus having simply given up on the institutional church. We are looking at those who have turned their back totally on the Christian faith.

The first reason we looked at for this is the horrible, disgusting, nasty way that Christians treat one another in person and on line.

2> The second reason people leave the faith is the canned superficial answers they have been given to serious and complicated questions.

Several years ago I was talking with a university student and his significant other and the question of “creation” came up. He was studying towards an engineering degree in university. In his courses the whole concept of Genesis, chapters one and two, had been challenged. With the empirical evidence he had been shown in class the whole concept of God creating the universe in six days and resting on the seventh simply no longer held to be true in his mind. And, the geological data he was being taught did more than suggest that the world was much older than 6,000 years – much, much older. 

And, I did not, at that time, have an adequate explanation for what we, as Christians, believed. I did not know how to “defend” the creation story against the information and scientific data he was being taught. I don’t give him some canned religious answer as I also hate these kinds of responses, but I did have to admit that I did not know how to reconcile the two views or how, as a believer, to speak to his concern. He was good with that because I was being honest. Up to that point every believer he had spoken to about his questions had simply given him a “canned answer” and he knew it. And, because of it, he was about to leave the faith and become an atheist. He was thankful for an honest, non-canned religious response and is continuing to examine and question the faith. He has not walked away as many others have. 

Those of us who are believers need to not avoid these complicated challenges to our faith. We need to be exposed to the sophisticated answers to modernity, to empiricism, to the problem of evil in the world. We, the leaders, to need to show believers that some passages can be interpreted more than one way. And that this does not mean doubting the authority, reliability, or inspiration of Scripture. We need to answer the questions being asked and answer them with depth and intelligence and not in a pat, religious, and nonsensical way.

We need to see the Christian faith as a thinking person’s faith (not a religion) and be actively engaged in answering the real questions that both believers and non-believers are asking. It is no longer possible nor wise to live a surface faith where you simply make everyone feel good about being a believer and never deal with the issues being faced by people in their every day lives. And, we need to have the answers to the many challenges that the faith is facing in the light of new scientific and archaeological discoveries. 

An example: As I travel the world I ask people who created evil. Some say the devil. Some say people did. Some have a number of other answers that simply can be dismissed as soon as they are spoken out loud. But seldom does anyone bring forth the right answer. You see the Bible states that God created evil because He is the Creator. And without there being “evil” then we, the height of His creation, would not have the free will to choose because there would not be an alternative to “good.” Thus God created the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and placed it in the garden of Eden. But, most people have never grappled with the concept of evil and the Christian doctrine (dogma) of evil. We simply slide across the surface of life and belief and never deal with the real, often complicated issues of every day life.

So, when a major crisis of faith arises in a believer’s life they don’t find a biblical answer nor an adequate explanation of the apparent contradiction to their faith that they are experiencing. So, they leave the faith and seek answers elsewhere. 

Personal Reflections – Abandoning the Faith

Christians Who Abandon the Faith – Part One

I have ministered in the same city now for 40 years and I have seen many come to faith in Christ. I have watched as they responded to the spiritual hunger deep in their heart and grew and matured in their walk with the Lord. I have watched as they were baptized in the Holy Spirit and began to move in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. I have been excited to see them minister to non-believers and live an evangelistic, soul-winning life style. 

However, I have also watched many true believers abandon the faith and go back into the world. These were true believers who were faithful and even zealous for the Lord but have chosen to no longer follow Him and who have renounced the faith they once held. Some have simply gone back into the world, others have become atheists, still others have switched beliefs and now follow the precepts and teachings of another world religion.

Now, I am not talking about drifting from the faith. Hebrews 2:1 states that this is a definite possibility f we are not careful to hold on tight to the faith. It states, “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” Many unintentionally do drift for a wide variety of reasons. However, they have not left the faith and can turn things around and become strong in the faith once again.

And, I am not wanting to delve into the whole discussion on whether they were really saved. You know, did they understand and accept the gospel on an intellectual level only – without any true change of heart and sincere repentance. And, as a result, became ‘cultural Christians’ without ever embracing a personal relationship with Jesus. 

I am speaking of those who had a real personal encounter with the Living Christ, repented, and became born again. And then, turned away from this relationship and the foundational beliefs of the faith and have truly renounced their belief in Jesus as “the way, the truth, and the life.”

If you know me you are aware that I don’t believe in “once saved, always saved.” I believe that a person makes a decision to follow Jesus and enter the Kingdom that He rules – the Kingdom of God. And, I believe that a person can make another decision to step out of the Kingdom and away from allowing Jesus to be Lord and Saviour of their life. Many scriptures confirm this belief for me – the one I like the most is found in Hebrews, chapter six…

“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.”  (Hebrews 6:4-6)  

So, let’s explore and think through why these people – who in most cases had al lthe outward marks of being a true follower and disciple of Jesus – decided to serve Jesus divorce papers and turn their back on the true Christian faith and thus on the one true God.

Reason One: The way that Christians treat each other

The reason why some believers want nothing to do with following Jesus or associating with believers in a local church who say that they are following Jesus is due to the way that professing Jesus-followers treat others who also follow Jesus. Christians treating others in non-Christian ways. Christians who are critical and judgmental and reject the thoughts and feelings of others if they disagree with what they think and feel. 

This, of course, breaks the cardinal commandment of the Head of the Church, Jesus. And, indicates that maybe the Christians who are critical and judgmental are not really following nor do they have a personal relationship with Jesus. Jesus said, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12). And, of course, does not in any way fulfill His comments about love found in Matthew 22:39 “…You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

We can look at another two reasons next time…