“I am leaving the faith”
This phrase is becoming a lot more popular in today’s society. Even without hearing the various testimonies of people who have walked away from the faith, we can know this to be true. Stats alone show a huge shift in culture from Christendom to Secularism.
In the 1940s, 75% of the nation was considered regular churchgoers. That doesn’t mean they went to church just for Christmas or Easter. That stat is reflective of people who attended their home church on a regular week-to-week basis. In the 1980s, that number dropped down to 70%. In 2000, it dropped even more to 65%. Today, that number sits at a whopping 47%. And what these numbers can’t even account for is how many of those regular churchgoers are actually true believers. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than swimming in water makes you a fish.
It’s no wonder that people are walking away from the faith in a culture that glorifies celebrities. In many ways, it could be argued that celebrities have popularized renouncing your faith publicly.
For example, Brad Pitt once stated, “Many people find religion to be very inspiring. Myself, I found it very stifling. I grew up with Christianity and I remember questioning it greatly… I grew up being told God is going to take care of everything and it doesn’t always work out that way. And then you’re told ‘well, it’s God’s will.’ I got my issues. man, you don’t want to get me started.”
Anne Hathaway serves as another example. She was raised as a strict catholic. Later in life, after becoming a nun, she found out that her brother was gay. In response to that, she has said, the whole family converted to Episcopalianism after her older brother “came out”. She proclaimed, “Why should I support an organization that has a limited view of my beloved brother?”
But honestly, if it was just celebrities popularizing a movement away from God maybe the church would be alright. But unfortunately, it’s happening a lot closer to home than that. Even the popular Hillsong songwriter Marty Sampson once wrote: “Time for some real talk… I’m genuinely losing my faith… Christians can be the most judgmental people on the planet – they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people… but it’s not for me. I’m not in anymore.”
It breaks my heart to hear stories like these. These are just a few of the many stories out there about people walking away from God. What does this mean for us? Is Christianity losing its validity? Are people finally just waking up to the truth, that the Bible is not real? Do I need to start questioning the foundation I am standing on as well? These are genuine questions that maybe you or people you know may be asking.
Is Christianity falling? In a way, yes… But it’s not unprecedented.
I am here to encourage you with scripture. Everything is still going according to plan. What we are seeing happening in our world today Is the beginning phases of Biblical prophecy being unfolded. Specifically, we are beginning to see the early stages of Apostasy take place.
2 Thessalonians 2:3 says,
“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.”
The Day believers are caught up to be with the Lord forever will not come unless the “falling away” comes first. The root Greek word for “falling away” is ἀποστασία. (apastasia) That is where we get the word, “Apostasy” from. Apostasy is a falling away, rebellion, or abandonment of something. As it relates to the Bible, it means a falling away from key and true doctrines of the Bible into heretical and false teachings. It’s a complete renunciation of the Christian faith resulting in the full abandonment of Christ.
Now, some people, when they hear this may conclude that Apostasy proves that people can lose their salvation. In any talks of apostasy, we must not allow ourselves to be swayed by this unbiblical idea. Every apostate is an unbeliever, but not every unbeliever Is an apostate. An apostate has at one time “professed” belief. Their understanding of what they were professing to may have been skewed. Or they may have simply professed to a cheapened version of the gospel. But the fact of the matter is that the words coming out of their mouth never matched with the true words and heart of Christ and His true Gospel. The Bible makes a clear distinction between true believers and Apostates who once considered themselves “Christians”. 1 John 2:18-19 says,
“Little children, it is the last hour; And as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 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 they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”
John makes an interesting connection here between “antichrist” and “apostasy”. He says that someday THE Antichrist will come. BUT “even now many antichrists have come.” In other words, the spirit of the antichrist is already here, though the main, big bad Antichrist will eventually come. Where do we find this spirit of the antichrist? Within our very walls. They “went out from us”. But they “were not of us.” If they truly were of us, then they would have stayed with us. This is talking about apostasy – people claiming to “leave the faith”. But what does this passage say? It says that by their leaving, they proved that they were never truly with us; they were never truly a believer in Christ. The spirit of antichrist is apostasy. They will come out from us. Not just appear at random, from the secular world. The spirit of the antichrist dwells within those who say there is a way, but Jesus is not it. Jude 1:4 also attests to this. It states,
“for certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our Lord into licentiousness and deny our Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Are Apostates those who fell from grace? Were they ever marked by God as being a true believer in Christ? NO! God knew of their rebellious, apostate heart long beforehand, according to his foreknowledge. But they have crept in unnoticed by us, who are not all-knowing of the hearts of man. They have crept in to receive our validation, then leave discrediting Christ’s validation. That is antichrist.
We also have concrete Biblical evidence that points us towards the fact that God preserves his children. John 10:28-29 says,
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; No one will snatch them out of my hand. My father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; No one can snatch them out of my father’s hand.”
If an apostate is someone who was truly saved and decided to walk away from the salvation that was given to them, that makes the Bible a liar. “they shall never perish”. “No one will snatch them out of my hand.” These are independent, unconditional clauses that leave no room for exception. A proper exegesis of this passage takes into account the grammatical structure and undeniably shows us that those who are truly saved will never lose the salvation given to them. Hebrews 6:4-6 is another striking example of this Biblical fact. It says,
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God in the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the son of God, and put him to an open shame.”
First, who is this passage talking about? To those who were enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and become partakers of the Holy Spirit… Clearly, Paul, (The assumed author of Hebrews) is talking about true believers. Now, what does he say about them? Again, pay attention to grammar here. “It is impossible for those who were enlightened”… if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance.” What Paul is saying here is not that you can lose your salvation, but rather, he’s saying that if you could, you would not be able to renew it again. It would put Christ to an open shame and demand for Christ to die over and over again. His sacrifice would be rendered insufficient. Paul is using a hypothetical statement to show that Christ’s death was sufficient to keep you from falling from grace. And that if you could lose your salvation, there would be no way back.
Hebrews 6:4-6 gives us a picture of what the apostate wants. The Apostate wants to put Christ to an open shame. They want to say and claim that they had “it” but grew above it and rejected it for a greater enlightenment. They tasted Christ and the Holy Spirit but spat it out and rejected it. In our world, rejection is a power move. “You’re just not on my level”. “Christianity is just not on my level of enlightenment.” It treats Christ as just another common thing. But in your heart, you couldn’t and wouldn’t possibly do that if you truly experienced him! It would place you above God if you had the power to take yourself out of His hands! That would break the universe. Christ would be slammed back upon that cross repeatedly at your command. THAT IS NOT MY GOD! My God died ONCE! And His ONE death covered EVERYTHING! I repeat: you do not have the power to take yourself from God’s hand! If you feel as though you do, then I assure you, you were never in his hands in the first place. Instead of shaming Christ, those who “leave the faith” only shame themselves and commit the sin of apostasy/rejection. Hebrews 10:28 says,
“Anyone who has rejected Moses law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the spirit of grace? For we know him who said, vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. And again, the Lord will judge his people.”
Apostates trample the Son of God under their feet and count him as just another common thing. “It’s just another religion to control people”. “If that’s what brings you happiness then good for you, but it’s not for me anymore.” They turn it into a common thing by saying that it is just another way to happiness. They insult the spirit of grace by pointing at other Christians as the reason for their departure, as though there is no grace sufficient for them. They say it’s a “stifling” religion of rules and regulations, without any mention of the beautiful grace at its core. Even before their departure, God’s grace was used merely as a license to commit unrighteous acts. This is outright slander of Jesus Christ.
At the end of the day, these passages are sufficient to show the nature of apostasy and the severity of the crime. You can distance yourself from something without fully embracing it. That’s exactly what we are seeing. It’s not talking about believers losing faith. They will look like Christians and talk like Christians. But they are not Christian. They know enough but do not trust enough. No change has truly taken place in their heart. 2 Peter 2:20-22
“Four if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: ‘a dog returns to his own vomit,’ and, ‘a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”
A dog will return to its vomit. An apostate, who God has marked long beforehand, will return to their secular vomit. No change has truly taken place. The dog remained a dog. An apostate remains an apostate because God marked them as being one long before they physically leave. We may not know who they are, but God knows. That’s why we ought not to be shaken by the news of someone “leaving the faith”.
We can, however, identify common causes of Apostasy. Again, God knows who is and isn’t. We don’t. There are people who may be in contexts that breed apostasy that could be brought out and saved. Therefore, identifying common causes of Apostasy can be beneficial to attending properly to the spiritual needs of that individual.
There are 3 common causes of Apostasy:
- False Teaching
- Trauma within the church
- Trauma outside the Church
I have once heard that at the end of every heresy is a soul who is suffering. Lies burn. Have you ever been in a situation where you believed someone wholeheartedly, then you later find out that they have been lying to you all along? It hurts a lot, to the point where you probably desire to cut that person completely out of your life, right? The lies and deception of false teaching only go so far. And when someone comes to the end of the heretical teaching, they will get hurt. The health and wealth heresy, for example, says that the devil is the cause of all sickness and poverty. If you are sick, then it’s because you are not praying hard enough. If you are poor, then spiritually you are not right with God, who promises prosperity to those who he loves. Just imagine the response to these lies. “I’m not healthy because I don’t have enough faith. Maybe I need to pay more money to gain God’s favor. Maybe I’m not doing enough.” This person will leave the faith because they are being let down by heretical lies. God does not promise these things. He promises salvation and eternal life: riches and abundant life in Christ for all eternity in the New Heaven and New Earth. These let-downs lead to doubt and disbelief that Christ is Lord. When the Gospel message is compromised, the foundation will crumble.
Trauma within the Church
The sad reality is that people are “leaving the faith” because of people in the church who have hurt them. The problem is that this is completely unjustifiable. If you have experienced trauma within the church, you need to remind yourself why you are a Christian in the first place. If hurt within the church causes you to doubt your faith, then you have your faith in the wrong thing. Your expectation of the church is unrealistic. God is not the culprit. Man is the culprit. It always has been. We know that people are going to hurt each other. We act like the church is supposed to be filled with perfect people. If I got mistreated by every Christian in the world, what does that have to do with my relationship with Christ? I didn’t get saved because I love Christians so much. I am saved because of Christ. I am in love with the person of Christ, and I believe every word that he says! There is nothing that a man on earth can do to me here on earth that will cause me to lose sight of who Jesus is. He is my savior. Period. If one minute you can say that Jesus is Lord, then the next minute you are spitting in his face and turning your back to him because of the way people treat you then you got it wrong. And if this has always been your mindset, then you are not truly saved. The church is not the reason why you came unto the faith in the first place. Yet, this is another resounding reason why we hear Apostasy taking place. Apostasy is not supposed to make sense Biblically. Their hope is in the wrong thing. As believers, we must focus on God’s opinion of you rather than man’s opinion of you. Man will always sell you short. I feel that it ought to be less within a Gospel preaching church, but nevertheless, it still will happen. I say that because this isn’t to say that you should stay in an abusive local church. If it’s producing little to no good fruit, and especially if it’s not preaching the Gospel, then get out of there! But keep your eyes set on Christ. He will provide a church for you. He still loves you and is hurt alongside you.
Trauma outside the Church
Yes, there is literally every excuse under the sun for apostasy. If it’s not for things going on inside the church, it’s for the bad going on outside the church. When suddenly everything bad in the world becomes “God’s fault”, people leave. Apostasy is a whisper in your ear telling you to judge God for the wrongs of the physical world. It’s the same old story. “If God were real, he wouldn’t allow…….”. Fill in the blank. It could be anything. Once that message reaches the heart of a church-going apostate, they will then outwardly fulfill their apostasy and make sure the church knows their “transcendent thought” as if it’s some new life-changing revelation. Nothing is new. Inwardly, they are basically saying, “I would be a better god”. “If God were real, he would be as moral as me”. God is not responsible for man’s sin. Original sin is another essential doctrine that Apostates are not firmly grounded upon. Therefore, their foundation crumbles and they leave when times get tough. Luke 8:11-15 says,
“Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; And these have no root, who believed for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.”
They have no root. This perfectly displays the apostate’s context. There is no root in them. We only see what’s on the surface. We can’t tell how deep the roots are.
I hate to say it, but I believe that there are churches that feast on apostates. They feast by conjuring up an emotionally driven church environment full of exciting and heartfelt music, fluffy preaching and a vague alter call. It’s exactly what this passage is talking about. When a hardened heart hears a shallow Gospel message, they will receive it with joy! But if you don’t share the conditions and sacrifices of giving yourself fully to the Lord, they are going to leave your building thinking they got something, when they truly haven’t. They will believe for a while, but when troubles or temptations come, they will fall away. (Big Breath) Emotional settings and shallow emotionally driven messages create emotionally driven decisions on impulse with no root.
“The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12
Only the true Word of God cuts through a hardened heart and plants the seed of faith where a strong root can grow. A true believer has a deep root. That is what an Apostate lacks.
I already know that there is going to be an Apostasy Part 2. I pray that this was both encouraging and beneficial to your understanding of the Word regarding Apostasy. Stay tuned for the next one. God bless.