One of the news stories that’s been making the rounds in recent weeks is the story of Joshua Harris, a very well-known pastor and Christian author who has recently come out as declaring himself to not be a Christian. He’s left the faith and actually left his wife and headed down a new path theologically, and this has really shaken up the Christian world. I get a lot of questions about this: “What do we make of this?” and “How do we understand this?” and it’s a very sad, tragic situation that we want to reflect on a little bit.
This is a great opportunity for us as Christians to not necessarily look at other people, but really to take a moment to reflect on our own hearts.
Well, the first thing to note about it is that this is something that probably most of us have experienced at one point or another in our life, and that is that we know someone we thought was a Christian who turns out later not to be. I’ve seen this in my own life at numerous points. Probably most pointedly for me was my own youth pastor growing up, who taught me the Bible, and I was part of that youth group and looked up to this man as a leader in Christ and it turned out later that he did something very similar. He ended up leaving his family and divorcing his wife and declaring himself not to be a Christian and went off in a whole new direction theologically, and that’ll shake up your world, and I think most Christians have probably had that happen to them.
So what do we make of that phenomenon? Well, there’s a word for it in theology. It’s called apostasy, and apostasy is just this idea that there’s some people out there that seem to be believers, look like believers, profess to be believers, and later prove themselves not to be believers by walking away from the faith. People wonder “Does that mean you can lose your salvation?” Well, no. Theologically, we think if you are a real Christian with a new heart, that you can’t lose your salvation. But it is true that people who seemed like Christians can prove later not to be.
Everyone needs to persevere in the Christian life.All of this is just a great opportunity for us as Christians to not necessarily look at other people, but really to take a moment to reflect on our own hearts. The issue isn’t really so much “What about that person or that person?” but it’s a chance to say “I need to reflect on my own belief and realize that everyone needs to persevere in the Christian life”, to not take your faith for granted but to realize that God calls us to be striving for it every day, to follow him faithfully, and that everyone, on one level, needs to be aware of the dangers of apostasy. There’s always that sort of temptation in the world to leave Christ and to follow other things. If nothing else, my prayer in this very sad story is that Christians would be more reflective about their own walk with Christ and more committed to him in the end and more willing to really stay and persevere in their walk in faith.