In light of recent news that a leading evangelical Christian and author has now denounced the faith and embraced convictions contrary to the teaching of Scripture, how do those of us who were once influenced, encouraged and maybe even led to Christ by such a leader respond to this drastic turn of events?
In the last few weeks, I have been quite saddened by the announcements made by two well-known Christians that they had renounced their faith. Joshua Harris, the purity-promoting author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, separated from his wife, apologised to the LGBTQ community, and acknowledged he was “not a Christian” in quick succession. Days later, Hillsong’s Marty Sampson declared in a now-deleted post, “I’m genuinely losing my faith, and it doesn’t bother me.”
It’s perfectly alright to feel sad and even hurt by what these men have done. While each individual is responsible for his or her faith, the truth remains that our faith is fostered and developed in a Christian community. We are a community of believers who depend on each other for our spiritual, emotional, and intellectual needs. So when someone we respected and learned from is caught in serious sin or falls away from faith, it is natural to be affected by it. But should we be affected to a point where our own faith begins to be swayed?
The apostle Paul, writing to young Timothy, who was combating false teachers in Ephesus, warned him about the coming apostasy: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). It is the consistent teaching of Scripture that some who held the truth of God’s Word would repudiate it (Matthew 13:21; 24:10-11; Mark 13:22; Acts 20:29; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 2 Timothy 3:1-13; 2 Peter 3:1-7).
It is the consistent teaching of Scripture that some who held the truth of God’s Word would repudiate it
Accordingly, while it makes us forlorn, we need not be shocked when someone becomes an apostate. We must remember that Joshua Harris and Marty Sampson made headlines on account of their popularity, but they are just a couple of the many the Bible speaks about who would question or fall away from the faith. As the apostle John clarifies, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).
Is it possible for someone to be in ministry for years, write books, pastor a church and still fall away? The Scripture says it is possible, but gives a stern warning that, for such a person, repentance becomes impossible. Hebrews says, “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). The author in these verses is affirming that those who persevere are the true saints. But a practical truth has been verified again and again in church history that those who have shared in the privileges of God’s people and then deliberately renounced Christ are the ones who are most difficult to reclaim.
You may have trusted Joshua Harris or Marty Sampson or some other leader who has rejected Christ. Many of your beliefs may have been due to their sermons or songs. Now that the leader is gone, should your faith go with him too? The answer is a resounding “no.” Because your faith does not ultimately depend on people, but on the truth of the Word of God they taught. God’s Word was true before the leaders who taught it left the faith, and it is true even now. We need to develop the attitude that says, “Even if the leader I admire spiritually falls away from the faith, I’m going to keep serving the Lord Jesus.”
God’s Word was true before the leaders who taught it left the faith, and it is true even now
But you can be sure not everyone will leave the faith. There are numerous believers who will continue to love the Lord Jesus Christ and serve Him till the end. While this should encourage us, it should also exhort us to “be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election” (2 Peter 1:10). It is dangerous to profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and not have evidence of fruit in your life.
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).
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