Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ex-Christians?

We have seen a plethora of on-line web sites, blogs, and etcetera from people who say they are former Christians who have realized that what they thought they believed doesn’t work for them any longer. Of course, there are people who embrace atheism. And there are people like Bill Maher who were raised in the church but never really came to a personal knowledge or understanding of the truth. But what about those who claim that they were devoted Christians who made a spiritual U-Turn and now say that they are atheists or agnostics... and they feel their former belief system was a mistake.

I have known people who reacted to hypocrisy that they see in churches by leaving the church or becoming a member of some other religion. Yes, there is hypocrisy and all sorts of things that exist under the guise of Christianity. I remember having my car smashed by a guy who was pastor of a church. Although his vehicle sustained no damage, he said he wanted money and hounded me (and my insurance company) relentlessly even though there wasn’t any discernible dent or damage to his vehicle. And I kept wondering, why would a “man of God” not even ask if my passenger or I were okay, or even pray for us?

Well... that guy (and many others like him) may be a lousy example of a Christian... but does the existence of counterfeit bills make money worthless? Recession notwithstanding, of course. But seriously, though... if someone has truly experienced the reality of Jesus... the unction of the Holy Spirit... seeing the hand of God moving in his or her life... can that person suddenly turn and become an ex-Christian?

One such person whom we at the Powerhouse have corresponded with is a blogger who says that he was formerly a minister of the gospel who became enlightened and has since come to embrace atheism. Our response to that is...

Huh?

How can someone lose their faith? Could it be, perhaps, that they never had faith to begin with? Could such a person be one of those individuals about whom the Lord spoke in Matthew chapter seven?

22 Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name and driven out demons in Your name and done many mighty works in Your name? 23 And then I will say to them openly (publicly), I never knew you; depart from Me, you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands]. 24 So everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts upon them [obeying them] will be like a sensible (prudent, practical, wise) man who built his house upon the rock.

Matthew 7:22-24 (Amplified Bible)

In the above scripture, Jesus addresses those who did seemingly spiritual things. In fact, the acts they claimed to have done are more grandiose than what most churchgoers can lay claim to. However, Jesus tells these individuals that they are guilty of wicked behavior. They are guilty of disregarding His commands. And what is the greatest commandment from the Lord?

30 And you shall love the Lord your God out of and with your whole heart and out of and with all your soul (your life) and out of and with all your mind (with your faculty of thought and your moral understanding) and out of and with all your strength. This is the first and principal commandment. 31 The second is like it and is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. 32 And the scribe said to Him, Excellently and fitly and admirably answered, Teacher! You have said truly that He is One, and there is no other but Him;

Mark 12:30-32 (Amplified Bible)

The greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. The second and companion to that is to love our fellow man as much as we love ourselves. The love walk, as some refer to it, is the cornerstone of a true Christian lifestyle. Those who pray for souls, who give to the poor, who intercede for others... those are the ones who are doing the work of the gospel. Those who show preference to others... who fail to hurt or harm others... who don’t cheat or defraud or stomp all over others... they are exhibiting the behavior of children of God.

As the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans, “Love does no wrong to one’s neighbor [it never hurts anybody]. Therefore love meets all the requirements and is the fulfilling of the Law.” Yet, how many people go to church and go through the motions, yet never show any concern for their brothers and sisters in Christ? In fact, they would just as soon run you over in the parking lot than to say “Good morning” to you. They are too busy getting to their assigned spot (or, looking for their clique to hang with) than to smile or say hello... or to see if you are alright. If we are not walking the love walk... is there any evidence of being His child?

1 THEREFORE BE imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]. 2 And walk in love, [esteeming and delighting in one another] as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a slain offering and sacrifice to God [for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance. 3 But immorality (sexual vice) and all impurity [of lustful, rich, wasteful living] or greediness must not even be named among you, as is fitting and proper among saints (God’s consecrated people).

Ephesians 5:1-3 (Amplified Bible)

I remember as a youngster being amazed at the fact that my Dad and I had the same birthmark... a spot on our ankles. As I got older, I began to display many of my Dad’s traits. Even after my parents broke up and my Mom had me away from Dad for several years, she would complain about how my posture and other behaviors reminded me of him. One of my uncles told me I held the steering wheel the way that Dad did while driving.

Later, Dad and I got together and had a great relationship. I’m talking, a Courtship of Eddie’s Father relationship. After Dad went to be with Jesus, I visited my aunt and her children, most of whom I had never met. After being around my cousins for just a few minutes, they remarked to my aunt, “He reminds me of Uncle Sonny.” I was born into this world with my Dad’s DNA and probably some of his spirit. Who else would I be like?

If we are born again, then we have God’s spiritual DNA and the Holy Spirit within us. When people are around us, we should remind them of Jesus. After all, those who saw Jesus saw the Father (see John 14:8-10). Those who see us should, through our actions and our behavior, see Jesus.

For a long while, I used to be upset, because people didn’t acknowledge seeing Jesus in me. That made me doubt my faith... because so many accused me of behavior that I was largely innocent of. Yes, I am a flawed human being. However, these folks tried to make me sound like some kind of bacchanalian hedonist or something... even though I was pursuing the Christian life.

I wondered if maybe they were saying that because I was only fooling myself about being a Christian. I commiserated over that until the Lord reminded me of something. In Matthew 11:19, Jesus was accused of being a glutton and a wine drinker... and, a friend of especially wicked sinners. The reality was the opposite. And so, I realized that when people tell lies against me, they are just following the behavior of their father, the devil (see John 8:44). Satan is just trying to steal from me... but Jesus brings overflowing life in abundance (see John 10:10). Let’s continue with our topic... about those who are ex-Christians.

How does someone lose their faith?

Could it be they never had faith to begin with?

There are people who may go through religious motions. They put on nice clothes and go to church... they may serve on a board or usher or sing. Still, this is just Christianism, not true Christianity. Again, if one is a child, they take on traits of their parents.

I had the privilege of listening to Lieutenant General William G. Boykin, the former United States Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence during a service at Horizon Christian Fellowship in San Diego, California. The General recounted a time when he was in such despair that he cried out, “There is no God.” Did he lose his faith? No.. .because the Holy Spirit reminded him in that moment of emotional turmoil, “If there is no God... then there is no hope.”

Know Jesus... know hope.
No Jesus... no hope.

On a side note, the General did a second session at Horizon that you might want to view on-line.

But, like General Boykin... we may experience moments when we feel that God is not there. But like Mary Stevenson’s poem about the footprints in the sand, we know that in those moments when we felt that God was not there... those were actually moments when He was carrying us in His everlasting arms.

If you have true faith, you will never lose it. You will never call yourself an ex-Christian or a former Christian.

I had fallings-out with my Dad when he was on the earth... but I was still his son. Are you truly God’s son? God’s daughter? Do you truly have that relationship with Him, or are you simply parroting the words “Lord, Lord” in vain futility? God loves us and wants us to have eternal life. God sent Jesus to die for our sins. 2nd Peter 3:8-10 tells us that it is not God’s will for any man to perish. He wants all of us to come to repentance. However, the choice is left up to each individual to make. You can choose to serve Him, or reject Him. It is up to you.

If you have never done so, ask Jesus to come into your heart and be your Savior and Lord. You can pray words like these...

“Lord Jesus, I come to you with the knowledge and understanding that without You, I cannot live the Christian life. I cannot love my neighbor as myself... and I can’t love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

Jesus, I acknowledge that I am a sinner and have done wicked things. I understand that you died on the cross to take the punishment that I deserve... and to give me what I do not deserve, abundant life on this earth, and eternal life in Your kingdom.

Jesus, please be Lord and Savior over my life. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit that I might have the power to love God, and to love others the way that You love all humanity. I don’t want to be one who wickedly disobeys you. I want to fulfill Your plan and purpose for my life.

Thank you Lord for hearing my prayer... and I look forward to living a great life with You in charge.”

Amen.

1 comment:

Camper said...

I wonder what they really feel to call themselves EX-Christians. They already found the right path but their intelligence drived them off the creek.