Our Responsibility to the Ex-Christian
I have been reading “de-conversion testimonies” of professing ex-Christians. My heart sinks as I read these testimonials of former pastors, missionaries, husbands, wives, and children whose parent(s) is/are their symbol of the Christian faith. The misinterpretations and misquotes of Scripture is alarming. The financial/physical/sexual abuse some endured by church leadership is nauseating. The presupposition that belief in God is for the unintelligent is insulting. And, the downright lack of shepparding of new converts by mature Christians is unforgivable.
But, the question lingers in my mind “If one has truly been converted by the Holy Spirit, is it possible to be de-converted?” According to Webster.com, conversion is “an experience associated with the definite and decisive adoption of a religion;” a synonym of convert is transform which is “to change in character or condition.” I find it very difficult to believe that one who has allowed “God [to] transform [him] into a new person by changing the way [he] think[s]” (Romans 12:2) could ever return to the warped thinking of the world.
I found a common theme among the testimonies. Not one of these ex-Christians mentioned a personal relationship with Jesus. However, all of the complaints were the result of external events that were based off of misbehaving Christians or ignorance of proper study of the Bible. Information about how to live Godly lives was dependent upon church culture and not Biblical authority. What the pastor said, no matter how un-Biblical or absurd it was, was believed to be spoken from God’s mouth. The rampant misuse of Scripture by taking a verse out of context was often used to bully money out of church members, control the conduct of followers, or to manipulate the vulnerable into behaviors that are contradictory to what Christ preached.
These ex-Christians relied heavily upon the affirmation of other believers to make their faith real to them. Many asked questions like: “Why does the Bible contradict itself?” “If I am a new creature in Christ, why do I still do the same things (and want to do the same things) I used to do?” “Why did God take my mother, one of His most devout followers?” “Why is there so much evil in the world if God really exists?” “If Christians are supposed to be so good, why do they do most of the bad things in the world?” They looked in the wrong place for the answers, man, instead of seeking God’s wisdom.
“For there are a lot of rebels out there, full of loose, confusing, and deceiving talk. Those who were brought up religious and ought to know better are the worst. They've got to be shut up. They're disrupting entire families with their teaching, and all for the sake of a fast buck. One of their own prophets said it best: The Cretans are liars from the womb, barking dogs, lazy bellies. He certainly spoke the truth. Get on them right away. Stop that diseased talk of Jewish make-believe and made-up rules so they can recover a robust faith. Everything is clean to the clean-minded; nothing is clean to dirty-minded unbelievers. They leave their dirty fingerprints on every thought and act. They say they know God, but their actions speak louder than their words. They're real creeps, disobedient good-for-nothings” (Titus 1:10-16 MSG).
Accepting Christ is the first step in the journey of a converted life. A journey that is consumed with learning how to make the foundation of our faith solid, unmovable, fixed to the rock (Matthew 7:25). "But if you just use [His] words in Bible studies and don't work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards” (Matthew 7:26-27 NLT). It is not enough to just look like we are faithful, attending church, participating in worship with all the “right” words and gestures and our minds not fixed on the object of our worship (or maybe it is). It is not enough to walk down the aisle and say that Jesus is Lord of my life and not obey the Word of God. It is not enough just to do good things and expect to have an empowered life.
For the Christian, our power comes from the Word of God which is the rock. Obedience is the way we show our love for God (John 14:15). For the ex-Christian not enough love for God was shown by us. They needed to have seen our faith at work in our lives -- our genuine relationship with Jesus -- not just vague, insincere talk about God. Brothers and sisters, although their shepherds have led them astray and turned them loose in the mountains of this world, our responsibility is to help them get back to the sheepfold (Jeremiah 50:6). Except this time, we will keep praying for each other asking God to enable us to live lives worthy of His call (2 Thessalonians 1:11) so that the light of Christ will shine through everything we do so others will know the truth and choose light over darkness. Because, Christianity is not a “mind game” it is a battle to renew the mind (Ephesians 4:23) and “all of it is real”.
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