June 3, 2015

The Tragedy of Apostasy

by Eric Davis

apostasyAnyone who has been in local church ministry for any amount of time is well-acquainted with disappointment. Things like criticism, gossip, and less-than-ideal fruit are normal. And, in some sense, you get used to that.

But there is one thing that seems to never get easier: when an individual who has professed Christ, immersed in the local church, and served in ministries, departs from the faith. AKA, “apostasy.” John Owen defined apostasy as “continued persistent rebellion and disobedience to God and his word,” or “total and final and public renunciation of all the chief principles and doctrines of Christianity.”

As our leadership team has had to grapple with this recently, we wanted to share a few things we’ve learned from the tragedy of apostasy:

  1. We’ve learned to weep over apostates.

The wound is deep and multi-directional. There is the weeping over the shock of it all. There is weeping over the callousness apostates show to the ministry they’ve received. Often, they will shun your care and past ministry to them with a cutting indifference. They do not know your pain as you pour out your heart for them in secret prayer. Often, those in apostasy will not believe you when you tell them that you love them. Nor do they care.

Even more, there is weeping over the disloyalty to Jesus Christ. Weeping over the betrayal of the body of Christ, the betrayal of other loved ones involved, their hard-heartedness, their blown witness, the unbelievers they will lead further astray, and over the believers they lead astray. And weeping over the eternal punishment they will face if they do not repent.

If you weep over apostates, it’s a good thing. By God’s grace, you still care and have fought the constant creep of callousness.

  1. We’ve learned that apostasy is pretty normal.

I was recently reminded that apostasy is as old as the universe. Satan, who was likely among the angelic choir which applauded God for his work in creation (Job 38:7), only later used his words for the destruction thereof (Gen. 3:1).

Then there is the Old Testament, which is largely the history of God’s grace and judgment on an apostate nation.

manyIncredibly, after three years spent with the Lord of glory, one out of Christ’s twelve apostacized. And outside of the twelve, departure was a regular thing: “And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.’ After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (John 6:65-66).

The “many” in v. 66 always gets me. Not few, but many, pulled a nonchalant, about-face on His Majesty. Incredible. But also normal.

Of course, in the parable of the tares and the wheat, Christ lets it be known that there will always be wheat-looking tares in the church.

The Apostles also experienced it. Demas appeared to start well, being named in the ranks of Paul’s “fellow-workers” (Col. 4:14, Philem. 23), only to be choked out later by the cares of the world (2 Tim 4:10).

If that happened to Christ and the Apostles, what should the people of God today expect? “The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith” (1 Tim. 4:1).

  1. We’ve been reminded that God’s people have a vicious enemy.

The longer we are in local church ministry, the more we believe in Satan and demons. Attacks on sound local churches happen that are far beyond neutral coincidence. It’s hard to miss the systematic and unrelenting damage they attempt to do. And they seem to never clock out.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).

But, on the other hand, be encouraged if you encounter Satan’s attack. Like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, his bout with Apollyon meant he was going in the right direction.

  1. We’ve been reminded that, because apostasy is common, leadership needs to say hard things.

As I look back on a recent apostasy situation, I regret not saying some harder things to people. Would it have prevented the apostasy? It would have been faithful, though uncomfortable, to do so. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6).

  1. We’ve been reminded that every Christian is called to help prevent each other’s apostasy.

help“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” (Heb. 3:12-14).

According to this passage, mutual exhortation is one of God’s means of preventing apostasy. And the writer of Hebrews was not talking to elite Christians, but every Christian. The address is to “brothers.” One of the responsibilities in getting to be a Christian is keeping each other away from the apostasy abyss.

  1. We’ve been reminded that fighting for sanctification is essential to finishing in glorification.

By the grace of God alone, a sinner passes from condemnation to salvation, through sanctification, into glorification. And God has ordained that sanctification not happen by effortless drift. His grace empowers that fight-stage of our salvation.

Even the life of the Apostle Paul was filled with fight language. His approach to the Christian life included things like, “I run” (1 Cor. 9:26), “I buffet my body” (1 Cor. 9:27), and, “I press on” (Phil. 3:14). The only time where he seems to let up was when his execution was imminent (2 Tim. 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith”).

He knew that none of us are beyond apostasy. And he knew that God’s ordained means of persevering in the faith is fighting the fight of faith.

  1. We’ve learned that apostasy is going to be normal in churches where sanctification and transparent biblical community are emphasized.

Apostates apostacize because they are not Christians (1 John 2:19). They are of the flesh, and, therefore, spiritually dead (Rom 8:6-7). Since they do not have the Holy Spirit, they cannot experience one of his most miraculous and powerful miracles: sanctification.

Though apostates associate visibly with the community of the Spirit, they cannot do so spiritually by being conformed into the image of Christ. It may appear that they are externally, but they are not experiencing sanctification because they have never experienced salvation.

tares wheatThis means that those who are unregenerate will eventually be exposed in a local church which rightly emphasizes progressive maturation in Christlikeness. The flesh simply cannot last in an obedient church where the word is exposited, sin and repentance is talked about, the cross held high, the one anothers are practiced, humility is emphasized, and members are necessarily getting into each other’s lives in a Hebrews 3:12-14 kind of way. In such a church, the flesh, if not surrendered in salvation, will have nowhere to go, which means apostates will be exposed.

So, in some sense, a local church should be concerned if they never see apostasy. Scripture teaches that it’s going to happen. Tares accompany wheat. So, if apostasy never happens, a church may want to examine whether or not their ministry is accommodating tares.

  1. We’ve been reminded that God will never lose his elect.

It’s easy, especially for leadership, to take on excessive blame when people depart from the faith. The questions can haunt you: “What wrong thing did I teach?” “Did I pursue them and meet with them enough?” “Was I not nice enough to them?”

To be sure, we must examine ourselves and deal with our mistakes. At the same time, faithful local church leaders need to recall that their normal shepherding imperfections are not more powerful to ruin the elect than the sovereign grace of God is to keep them. That is not to say that shepherding mistakes are inconsequential. But it is to say that God’s sovereign grace is far more consequential.

“This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39).

  1. We’ve learned that unwanted social experiences do not force people into apostasy.

Apostasy never happens because a Christian didn’t do enough nice things for the apostate. Social benefit is not the reason we follow Christ. Thus, it is not the reason why we would ultimately depart from him. People apostacize because they are unregenerate and do not love Christ.

Christians follow Christ because of Christ. By his grace, we maintain covenant allegiance to him for no other reason than he is the King of all kings, the majestic sovereign one, who loved us first by laying down his life down for hell-deserving rebels. If that is not enough reason to follow Christ, then nothing will be.

  1. We’ve learned that only God can turn the apostate. 

Debate exists about whether an apostate can ever be saved. It seems that we can make one of three conclusions about an apostate-like situation. First, the individual is regenerate, in a dark time, and God will discipline them soon (Heb. 12:5-11). Second, they are unregenerate and will repent at some point in their life. Third, they are unregenerate and God has judged them with the result that they will never repent (Heb. 6:6).

John Owen comments on the Hebrews 6 passage: “Nor does this text bar any who, having fallen by any great sin or who have returned to sinful ways and have long continued in those sinful ways and then, being convicted, desire to repent in all sincerity, from being accepted back into the fellowship of the church.”

But in each case, the individual’s heart is stone. If you’ve talked with an apostate, you know that your words and persuasions shatter to pieces when they hit that flinty heart. Only the power of God can break through. Even more than breaking through, the individual likely needs an entirely new heart.

  1. We’ve learned that excessive sorrow over, and chasing of, apostates can dishonor Christ.

Pursuing and weeping over apostates is necessary. But too much and we risk glorifying them. If we grovel and paw apostates, we communicate that the privilege would be all Christ’s to have them give him the time of day. In doing so, we can make God look like an unfortunate puppy who may or may not be picked up from the pound.

But Scripture teaches otherwise. “’I am a great King,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 1:14). Our Lord is the great I AM. His supremacy saturates all creation. He is so radically glorious and good. So, the privilege of following Christ is all ours. We mustn’t communicate otherwise to apostates.

  1. We’ve been reminded that apostasy is a despicable sin.

Scripture speaks of apostasy with some of the strongest language. For example, “…they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame” (Heb. 6:6) and, “…has trampled under foot the Son of God” (Heb. 10:29).

32storms-pg-horizontalThey have heard repeatedly of the majesty of Christ. The banquet of his love has been laid out before them in Scripture. His glory in redemption has been proclaimed to them continually, yet they simply walk away like Christ is an out-of-order carnival ride.

The act of apostasy proclaims that Jesus deserved to be crucified. His life, death, and resurrection are not worthy of the apostate’s time. For this, they put him to open shame. The Greek word translated “shame” in Hebrews 6:6 means “to cause someone to suffer public disgrace; to openly discredit someone.” For all this, apostasy is an appalling act.

We don’t just get to apostacize because human beings don’t get to say, “No,” to the Lord Jesus Christ. It was unthinkable in ancient times, for example, for a slave to say, “No,” to his lord. How much more the Lord of lords?

Others have spoken on this:

D.A. Carson: “Failure to believe stems from moral failure to recognize the truth, not from want of evidence, but from willful neglect or distortion of the evidence.”

John Stott: “Unbelief is not a misfortune to be pitied; it is a sin to be deplored.”

John Owen: “For no sin whereof men can be guilty in this world is of so horrible a nature, and so dreadful an aspect, as is this unbelief, where a clear view of it is obtained in evangelical light.”

John Calvin: “To give way, after having begun well, is more disgraceful than never to have begun.”

  1. We’ve been reminded that God will be glorified in the more severe eternal punishment of unrepentant apostates.

For the moment, apostasy appears to have the upper-hand. God seems to be getting slapped between the heathen gods by the act. But, apostates will face a more severe punishment in hell because of their exposure to and defaming of Christ (Heb. 10:29). Some of hell’s highest torment seems to be reserved for them. The punishment is so terrible because the God they disgrace is so wonderful. For this reason, though, it would be better to die than apostacize.

And we do not rejoice in that. However, we certainly rejoice in God’s glory being upheld. This will happen in the judgment when God’s perfect justice administers their retribution (Rev. 20:11-15). In that day, God’s glorified people will worship him for doing so.

However, as Octavius Winslow wrote, the apostate will for all eternity cry out, “God is holy; I was a sinner; I rejected His salvation, I turned my back upon His gospel, I despised His Son, I hated God Himself, I lived in my sins, I loved my sins, I died in my sins, and now I am lost to all eternity! And God is righteous in my condemnation!”

Other lessons are to be learned in the tragedy of apostasy. Some include learning to trust God, pray, draw together as a church, continue to affirm his goodness, and the all-the-more importance of corporate gatherings.

Photo credit: htimeshighereducation.co.uk, boagworld.com, onebigphoto.com, beforeitsnews.com, i.usatoday.net/news. 

Eric Davis

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Eric is the pastor of Cornerstone Church in Jackson Hole, WY. He and his team planted the church in 2008. Leslie is his wife of 14 years and mother of their 3 children.
  • Alan

    Two thumbs up here !!

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  • Eric– Phil and I praise God for you. In addition to your sermons, I’m thankful for these edifying and encouraging blog posts, which are also such great resources to share with others. We are praying for you as you press on in all these important ways for Christ.

    • Eric Davis

      Thank you, Meg. Grateful for your love for Christ.

  • Jeannine

    Thank you for this Eric. I have been pondering the Hebrews 6 passage lately. As I study and read scripture I have concluded it is impossible for a true, called, born again believer to apostacy. I believe we can fall into sin and rebellion for a time but God would either convict, discipline or take my life if I don’t repent. I was somewhat confused as I read the article. It sounds like it is saying both….a believer “could” apostacy and a believer could not. Can you clarify for me please?

    Below are just a couple of the things that I thought might be confusing as to what was being said.

    “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” (Heb. 3:12-14).

    According to this passage, mutual exhortation is one of God’s means of preventing apostasy. And the writer of Hebrews was not talking to elite Christians, but every Christian. The address is to “brothers.” One of the responsibilities in getting to be a Christian is keeping each other away from the apostasy abyss.

    He knew that none of us are beyond apostasy. And he knew that God’s ordained means of persevering in the faith is fighting the fight of faith.

    But then it is also stated that “People apostacize because they are unregenerate and do not love Christ.”

    • Eric Davis

      Jeannine – Thank you for the great question and I apologize for the confusion. First, I should clarify that an apostate, ultimately, is one who is not regenerate, professes to be for a time and associates w/ the church, then turns away, and enters eternity without Christ. At the same time, there are apostate-like individuals as I attempted to mention in point #10 (believer in a deep struggle, who eventually repents or unbeliever who eventually repents). But these latter 2 are not, ultimately, apostates.

      Second, you are correct. God will not lose any of his children. The saints will persevere, by God’s grace, and will never fall away (John 6:39, 10:28-30; Rom. 8:29-30). Praise God for the assurance we have with him!

      However, there is a bit of tension in Scripture, as far as warnings given to believers about the dangers of falling away to apostasy. I think that Hebrews 3:12-14 is one of those. What that passage, and other warnings, are not saying is, “A Christian can lose his salvation and, thus, apostacize in the ultimate sense by dying apart from Christ and enter hell.” What those passages are saying is along the lines of, “The regenerate will persevere, but do not presume upon God’s grace. Working out your salvation in fear and trembling, receiving exhortation (Heb 3:12-14), putting in effort for sanctification-these are God-ordained means by which believers persevere and do not apostacize.”

      So, I think that Scripture, on the one hand, emphasizes the glory of assurance of salvation by God’s sovereign grace in the lives of the elect. However, Scripture also contains plenty of warnings about falling away. Another that comes to mind is the parable of the soils (Mark 4:1-20).

      Let me know if you have a follow-up question.

  • Wispa

    I’m curious about the Octavius Winslow quote – the apostate will for all eternity
    cry out, “God is holy; I was a sinner; I rejected His salvation, I
    turned my back upon His gospel, I despised His Son, I hated God Himself,
    I lived in my sins, I loved my sins, I died in my sins, and now I am
    lost to all eternity! And God is righteous in my condemnation!”

    I can’t see how that ties up with the doctrine of election. The apostate didn’t reject God’s salvation or turn his back on the Gospel, rather God decided that this person was not to be saved, so that person was unable to truly believe and eventually fell away. So is apostasy a sin when the apostate has no choice in the matter? And is God righteous to condemn those that He has chosen not to save?

    • Eric Davis

      Hi Wispa – Your question is an important one, and one that will require you taking time to grapple with more than the doctrine of election, but also the holiness of God, the depravity of man, and sovereign prerogative of God. I would encourage you to read slowly and humbly through Romans 1-9 a few times, at least. Additionally, I would encourage you to listen to a good sermon series on Romans 9, for example, John Piper’s, which you can find at the Desiring God website. He will give a sound explanation of that passage which will answer your question. Then, I would encourage you to read something like, “Chosen by God,” by R.C. Sproul, and the chapter on sovereign election in Bruce Demarest’s work, “The Cross and Salvation.”

      But briefly, here is what Scripture says about your question, if I understand it correctly: 1) The parallel w/ the baby crying will not do. The baby cries, presumably, not b/c of moral reasons. It needs food, drink, sleep, whatever. At least, that’s what I’ve observed w/ 3 so far. 2) Scripture teaches that apostasy is a sin, therefore, it is. Scripture, not our reasoning, dictates what is. I must submit my reasoning to God, not submit God to my reasoning. Otherwise, I put myself in the place of God. 3) You seem to presuppose that man, and the apostate, possesses innocence. But we/they do not. We are all high-handed truth suppressors who actively and willfully do not give God the honor and thanks he deserves (Rom 1:18-23). When an individual sins, say, in apostasy, they make an active, conscious choice of the will to disobey God. They are not being forced against their will. No one is mechanically forcing their decision, while at the same time, they are saying, “No, no, please, I really want to obey and honor my God and Creator!” Rather, they rebel against God. God is just in condemning sinful man b/c man actively violates God’s law. 4) At the same time, Scripture teaches that God has chosen only the elect for salvation (Eph 1:4-5). If he does not, then no one will be saved b/c we are all born spiritually dead and in active, willful rebellion against God. We do not, and will not, seek him unless he mercifully reaches out to us (Rom 3:10-11). 5) And God is not unjust in choosing a finite few b/c he is a perfect God of justice, it is his sovereign prerogative to do as he pleases (Ps 115:3, Rom 9:19-21), and he is not obligated to show mercy on the depraved human race any more than a judge in court is obligated to show mercy to a law-breaking criminal. So, we do not ask, “Why did God not choose more?” but, “Why did God choose any?” We bow low in humility, worship, and reverence, amazed that he would unleash his judicial righteous anger, which we deserve, on his majestic Son, Jesus Christ. We tremble and lower ourselves in absolute amazement that Almighty God would divert our deserved punishment from us to the righteous Christ so that we could be justified by faith alone in Christ alone. And we know that we are no better than apostates, but we have simply become objects of God’s mercy. He is just in all things he does (Rom 9:14). Let God be true and every man a liar.

    • Zachary

      God raised Jesus Christ from death! Jesus is the only innocent person, and yet he willingly died for your sin and mine! Jesus Christ is God’s Elect! Let us repent of our sin, put on the LORD Jesus and be saved!

    • pearlbaker

      Hello Wispa – We do not have the mind of God and we cannot make decisions that are His alone, no matter how logical our reasoning seems to us. Eric’s point No. 13 is well taken, that there will be a “hotter hell” for the liar and the hypocrite, who falsely professes faith in Christ (though they may themselves be deceived by the enemy) and who even serves in ministries of great influence, only to eschew their profession of faith and fall away from their professed faith. Such as these were likely not truly saved up until that point, but because we do not know who is and who is not elect, we must not make the hard and fast decision by our own reasoning that the apostate will not ever be saved until the instant of his death, when he appears to fall away completely, but even this only God knows for certain. This is a difficult subject, but Eric’s answer to you is wise, thorough and humbling, though no man can completely explain God’s ways, which are, as He has told us, not our ways. We do know that God is sovereign and holy and even though we do not yet, and may never, understand all the “whys”, we must have faith in what He has said to us and cling to that alone. Let us be grateful for what we do know, and seek His wisdom for that which we do not understand. Take comfort in No. 8, that God will lose none of his elect, submitting to the fact that only He knows them because only He chose them. And this not on any merit of theirs whatsoever, but because it was His will and His plan to save for Himself, to His glory, a certain number of foreknown and foreordained chosen few, all who were dead in their sin from birth, all who were headed for hell, but for His great love and promise, are saved. Oh, Praise Him! Hallelujah! Our Great God reigns!

  • “Apostasy never happens because a Christian didn’t do enough nice things for the apostate. Social benefit is not the reason we follow Christ. Thus, it is not the reason why we would ultimately depart from him. People apostacize because they are unregenerate and do not love Christ.”
    Thank you for this Eric. This also brings great comfort to pastors and their wives whose adult child has become apostate.

    • Eric Davis

      Diane – What a difficult thing for one’s adult children to apostacize. I am going through that with some dear believers right now and it is just so painful… Until that day when Christ wipes away every tear and makes all things new. Thank you for your comment and may Christ richly bless you, grant repentance to your loved ones, and strengthen you in the battle.

  • Matt Mumma

    Great article to bring much needed clarity to a very difficult issue.

  • Sharon

    Incredible article. Thank you!

  • Darrin

    Eric, thank you for this timely message. For I am an unrepentant apostate of many years, much to my shame. Over the past 24 months, God has been gradually opening my eyes to the light, but I have forever feared that I had stepped over the line of no return, so to speak. This morning, my prayer echoed some of the matters outlined in your article… how grateful was I to God to then discover your piece less than an hour later! It contains a salve in the first quote from John Owen, but also some very searching words of condemnation of my sins, which are useful material for meditation. I am blown away and humbled by this very important (to me) piece of providence from our Lord.

    • Eric Davis

      Darrin – Thank you for stopping by the blog. God is so good to you, friend. If I understand you correctly, it sounds to me like he is really working on your heart…perhaps softening it. I would encourage you to keep seeking Christ in his word, confessing your sin to him (1 John 1:9-10), humbling yourself before him, and getting plugged (back?) into a sound local church. You may need to ask some people’s forgiveness, in addition to God’s, for the apostasy, but God will bless that. So, turn to him. He will forgive your sin by counting it as all punished in the death and finished work of Christ on the cross for you. By faith in Christ, you can have his righteousness as your own, though you do not deserve it, and so stand accepted by God for eternity. God is so good to you. I would also point you to an article we did last week, especially point #2, which details the goodness of Christ in the gospel: http://thecripplegate.com/when-assurance-is-lacking/. Thanks Darrin.

      • Darrin

        Thank you Eric for your helpful recommendations. God has been very patient with me and very gracious. Indeed, softening is an apt description of how He has been moulding my heart and my thoughts. I have learned of late not to try to re-mould myself into something perhaps acceptable to him, but to let him gradually emphasise the work of the Spirit, especially as to conviction; for my own heart is insensitive and although I have a theoretical knowledge of my sinful nature, it is yet to become so real that it breaks me. I have faith that with time, God will bring me to that point. Your article has helped assure me that I had not placed myself beyond grace by my apostatising.

        • Darrin

          Further, I will look at that article on assurance over the weekend.

          As for hooking up with a church locally, I have no idea where to look here (in Brisbane, Australia) for a church that holds to the truth. Perhaps a visitor to this site might have some recommendations, in partic. on the northside of town.

          • Eric Davis

            Darrin – Check out this church that is in the Brisbane area: http://gracebible.org.au/
            Blessings to you.

          • Darrin

            Thank you Eric, I will investigate further.

  • Brian

    I have drifted far from the Lord and indulged in sins that I did in secret and tried to hide from others–such as internet pornography, holding anger and bitterness in my heart, and what is so bad is that I have given into my same-sex attraction over and over and over either in the act of lusting in my heart, viewing inappropriately material online, talking to other guys online and it leaves me feeling dirty, ashamed and it corrupts and darkens my heart and I have doubtful thoughts of whether I was truly saved, if God ever done a good work in me. I used to love and read God’s word but now my heart has grown so cold. BUT I want to be in his word again, I want to love and have a passion in him and his word like the psalmist did in Psalm 119. I have allowed the world to attract my eye and allowed it to pull me in its sway and power. I have allowed the lusting after other guys to consume my mind and my heart, filling them both with thoughts that are sinful and I hate it but at the same time I’m heavily tempted by it and pulled into it. I have stupidly shunned wise counsel from many brothers who I realized cared about me. I feel as if the Lord has been convicting and disciplining me for a long time and I feel like what David felt in Psalm 32:4 when he said, “For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.” I haven’t went to church for a while and I want to go back so much. I used to be part of a church but they taught the prosperity gospel which is no true gospel at all and the reason why I went during that time is because my mother went and not going would disappoint her, even though I didn’t want to go because I knew the false teaching that the pastor preached in the pulpit. Anyways I feel like I have put myself so deep into a pit and I can’t get myself out of it and I know that I can’t. Committing these awful sins has made me wonder if I was truly saved or if I was never saved to begin with. I don’t know.

    • Adam James Howard

      Ah Brian. I appreciate your honesty here, brother, and it looks like you responded to this blog post entirely appropriately given your situation.

      Cry out to God for mercy, friend. Be like the tax collector who couldn’t even lift his eyes up to heaven in Luke 18. God is so faithful and capable.

      Are you near any of these churches?
      http://www.tms.edu/find-a-church/

      • Brian

        But I don’t know if I’m was truly saved or not

    • Robert Sakovich

      Brian,
      Realize that every single one of us commenting here or out in the world is a sinner worthy of eternal death and torment in Hell. You can’t out sin the grace of Jesus. There are a few websites that you can use to look for sound churches, but you still need to make sure you examine the preaching and teaching against the Word. You won’t find a perfect church because all people still sin, but I pray that you will find a faithful body of believers to support and encourage you through this. The fact that you are questioning your salvation and are worried about it is a good sign. If you were wholly unrepentant, you wouldn’t be worried about that at all…you’d either justify your sin or totally reject the faith. Stay in the Word…seek God and trust in Jesus’ perfect life for your righteousness and His death on the cross as the punishment for your sins. That is all that we can cling to in this world for salvation…praying for you.

    • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

      Brian, it is apparent from previous posts that you have struggled with these same sins for many years now resulting in the guilt and pain you are experiencing. Perhaps it is time to take action with respect to your repentance. Your confession is heartfelt, but as scripture says, “Evil will not release those who practice it” (Eccl. 8:8).

      So perhaps today is the day to take your computer to the road. Delete cell phone numbers of those who tempt you. Eliminate any means by which these sins have entered your life. It is better to lose your electronics than your soul. If you are sincere in your repentance and take drastic measures to ensure it, Christ will restore you and give you a testimony that may save others.

    • Eric Davis

      Brian – I am grateful for your honesty here, friend. In addition to everything everyone else has said, I would encourage you to get counseling from a certified ACBC biblical counselor. Depending on where you live, there should be one near you. You can find them here: http://www.biblicalcounseling.com/counselors

  • John Kr

    Would God saying to Samuel “How long will you weep over Saul” be related to point 11?

    • Eric Davis

      John – Great point and I did not think of that. Yes, I think that could be related.

      • Robert Sakovich

        Same could apply to David weeping over Absalom. Except Joab (of all people) had to correct him. I guess that makes sense though since Israel was Joab’s idol and he was concerned for the country, not for what was right for God’s anointed leader.

  • Robert Sakovich

    Seeing that you are a pastor at a church plant, would you say that this is highly important for pastors who are seeking to start a church plant? Not that other pastors don’t need to be prepared for this also, but it seems like pastors for church plants might have less people to count on for support as they deal with apostasy.

    • Eric Davis

      Robert – I think that’s a great point. Not only does a church plant have less people to count on for support, b/c of size and relative lack of stability, apostasy situations can destabilize that fledgling church a bit. Hence, the need all the more for church plant core teams to be absolutely unified, well-trained in core team dynamics, and thoroughly prepared ahead of time on how to handle these things. I think that, in our day, church plant core teams are one of the most neglected aspects of ministry training out there.

  • tovlogos

    As you often do, Eric, you hit a passage that has had great impact in my life.
    John 6:68 is in contrast to apostasy and when I first read it, I thought, “Of course!” This is where Peter responded to Jesus when He asked His disciples if the were ‘also going away.’ Peter answered: “Lord, To whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” I thought, “Exactly. Where would I go form here; and after reading about You, Jesus; where in the world, and to what would I go?”

    • Eric Davis

      Amen, Mark. To whom shall we go? The alternative to following Christ is unthinkable. Thanks for your helpful comments.

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