Monday, June 21, 2010

Why don't Born-Again Christians act like... Born-Again Christians

1.1 Sheep go to Heaven, Goats go to Hell

“Where's the 'kaboom!'? There was supposed to be an earth-shattering 'kaboom!'” - Marvin the Martian
  The modern church lives within what it considers to be an exciting time. We are seeing thousand of decisions for Christ happening internationally on a scale that is growing exponentially each year. The advent of the Wide World Web and other forms of digital communication have allowed for a more broader spreading of God's word within relatively short time. Places that were once hardened against the gospel are now opening their doors to missionaries and evangelists. Nations controlled by tyrannical regimes shift to democracy when their leaders come to Christ. Reports abound of healings, miracles and deliverance on a continental scale. One cannot help but feel a sense of excitement towards what is currently happening within Christendom.

  However, an examination of the actual ratio between decisions for Christ and church attendance records in addition to other statistics regarding the moral character of people who claim to be of a Christian background reveals a shocking contradiction towards the above statement:
- In a 1990 crusade in the U.S., 600 decisions were obtained. No doubt there was much
rejoicing. However, ninety days later, follow-up workers couldn’t find even one who was
continuing in his or her faith. That crusade created 600 “backsliders.”

- In November 1970, a number of churches combined for a convention in Fort Worth,Texas, and secured 30,000 decisions. Six months later, the follow-up committee could find only 30 going on in their faith.
- In Sacramento, California, a combined crusade yielded over 2,000 commitments. One
church followed up 52 of those decisions and couldn’t find one genuine conversion.
- A leading U.S. denomination published that during 1995 they secured 384,057
decisions, but retained only 22,983 in fellowship. They couldn’t account for 361,074
supposed conversions. That’s a ninety-four percent fall-away rate.
- In Omaha, Nebraska, a pastor of a large church said he was involved with a crusade
where 1,300 decisions were made, and not even one “convert” continued in his or her
- In 1991, organizers of a Salt Lake City concert encouraged follow-up. They said, “Less
than five percent of those who respond to an altar call during a public crusade...are living
a Christian life one year later.” 

Sadly, these statistics are not just confined to the Western Church:

-   Pastor Dennis Grenell from Auckland, New Zealand, who has traveled to India every year since 1980, reported that he saw 80,000 decision cards stacked in a hut in the city of Rajamundry, the “results” of past evangelistic crusades. But he maintained that one would be fortunate to find even 80 Christians in the entire city.

  - A major Christian television network broadcast an interview with a Russian Christian leader on July 5, 1996. She said of Russian converts, “Many thousands have received salvation and healing . . . but because of there not being many leaders, not many stayed with their faith.”

Notice where the blame is laid with the Russian professions of faith. They fell away because there “not being many leaders”.

But what about the remaining 10-20% still within the church?
  In 1996, a survey conducted by the Alan Guttmacher Institute in New York found that “eighteen percent of abortion patients describe themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians”. That is, of those who murdered their own unborn child, nearly one in five professed faith in Jesus Christ. That is a little difficult to reconcile with the fact that Christians are supposed to love God and to love others as much as they love themselves.

             Some years ago, statistician George Barna revealed that sixty-two percent of Americans claim to have “a relationship with Jesus Christ that is meaningful to them.” Yet a Gallup Poll taken around the same time found that, of those Americans who say they have a relationship with the Savior, approximately ten percent were what Gallup called “a breed apart”: “They are more tolerant of people of diverse backgrounds. They are involved in charitable activities. They are involved in practical Christianity. They are absolutely committed to prayer.”
             That means there is a great mass of people who say that Jesus Christ is meaningful to them, but who are not “a breed apart.” They are not involved in good works, nor are they tolerant of others. Neither are they involved in practical Christianity nor committed to prayer. That means there are millions of people in the world who insinuate that they belong to Jesus Christ, but whose lives don’t match their claims. A Gallup Poll found “very little difference in the behavior of the churched and unchurched on a wide range of items including lying, cheating, and stealing.”

             In a 1999 national survey, George Barna found that the percentage of born-again Christians who had experienced divorce was slightly higher (26%) than that of non-Christians (22%). In Barna polls done regularly since the mid-1990s, that number has remained about the same.
             “True Love Waits”, a program sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention, is one of the most famous evangelical efforts to reduce premarital sex among youth. Since 1993, 2.4 million young people have signed a pledge to wait until marriage to engage in sexual intercourse. Did these youthful believers keep their promises? In March 2004, researchers from Columbia and Yale Universities reported their findings taken over a seven-year period among a sample of twelve thousand teenagers who took the pledge. Sadly, they found that 88% of these pledgers reported having pre-marital sex; that is, only 12% kept their promise. The researchers also found that the occurrence of sexually transmitted diseases “were almost identical for the teenagers who took pledges and those who did not.”[i]

  Among those that remain and still call themselves “christian”, how many are actually soundly saved?

1.2 Understanding Original Sin, Regeneration and Conversion

               In response to the above statistics courtesy of Barna, Gallop and others, John Piper rebuts:
I’m not saying their research is wrong. It appears to be appallingly right. I am not saying that the church is not as worldly as they say it is. I am saying that the writers of the New Testament think in exactly the opposite direction about being born again. Instead of moving from a profession of faith, to the label “born again,” to the worldliness of these so-called born again people, to the conclusion that the new birth does not radically change people, the New Testament moves the other direction. It moves from the absolute certainty that the new birth radically changes people, to the observation that many professing Christians are indeed (as the Barna Group says) not radically changed, to the conclusion that they are not born again. The New Testament, unlike the Barna Group, does not defile the new birth with the worldliness of unregenerate, professing American Christians.

The doctrine of Original Sin and Regeneration is incredibly important because it explains the source of the new life we have as Christians. In justification, our status before God is established; in regeneration, we are given a new life that begins with a fundamental transformation at the deepest levels of our person.

             Although created perfect, when Adam and Eve at of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, sin was brought into the world. Life began to die; man was cut off from his original knowledge and relationship with God. Human nature became corrupted beyond it’s original design. Scripture is clear that apart from divine intervention on the part of the Holy Spirit, man’s natural inclination is not to seek or worship God, but rather to resist him with hostility and rebellion (Total Depravity/Inability):

9What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10As it is written:
   "There is no one righteous, not even one;
    11there is no one who understands,
      no one who seeks God.
 12All have turned away,
      they have together become worthless;
   there is no one who does good,
      not even one."  
Romans 3:9-12
21For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.' Mark 7:21-23
9 The heart is deceitful above all things
       and beyond cure.
       Who can understand it? 
Jeremiah 17:9
5 The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. Genesis 6:5
3At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. Titus 3:3
6 All of us have become like one who is unclean,
       and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
       we all shrivel up like a leaf,
       and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
Isaiah 64:6
7the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. Romans 8:7-8
14The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14
In the Old Testament regeneration is spoken of as the promise of a new heart given to us by God.
“I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” Jeremiah 24:7
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules”
Ezekiel 36:26-27
             In the New Testament, regeneration is spoken of in terms of a new birth, or being born again. The summary is that we are born physically alive but spiritually dead and must be born again spiritually to have a new heart and new life with Jesus. Apart from this, man simply cannot know, worship or do anything to glorify God.
There are ten aspects of God’s regenerating work in the new heart of those who are born again as Christians to a thoroughly new life:
1.             New Master 
“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” 
1 John 4:4
2.             New creation “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” 
2 Corinthians 5:17
3.             New identity “. . . you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” 
Colossians 3:9-10
4.              New desires “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” 
Galatians 5:16-17
5.             New emotions “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God
6.             New freedom 
“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” 
Romans 6:6
7.             New life “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” 
1 Corinthians 6:9-11[ii]

1.3 The Parabolic Key

3"Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times."
 9Then Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

 10When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12so that,
   " 'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
      and ever hearing but never understanding;
   otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'"
 13Then Jesus said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14The farmer sows the word.15Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown."

Mark 4:3-20

  Throughout the gospels, the parable of the sower provides a clear illustration of what will happen when the seed of the gospel is sown and how the conditions of the “soil” affect whether or not someone may have what proves to be a genuine conversion.

  Each soil type represents a different response from those who hear the gospel message. Seeds that fall on a solid footpath are easy prey for birds and scavengers; the message is preached and the hearer doesn’t believe, allowing them to remain under the captivity of Satan. The other soil types represent those who hear and respond. The good-soil represents the hearer whose faith proves to be genuine, bearing the fruits associated with truly being born again, hence the other types must be represent those who are false.
  Using the harmony of the gospel accounts, let’s examine how the parable describes the nature of false converts:

1. There is immediate results
5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root
Mark 4:5-6

When a plant grows in shallow soil, the roots do not grow deep, hence the stem immediately shoots straight up higher and higher, rapidly sprouting leaves and branches in an attempt to receive nourishment above the ground. Since the roots are stunted and are without the nutrients that come from the rich minerals found within deep, fertile soil, the plant becomes malnourished and is soon overwhelmed by the elements (weather, sunlight, disease) and quickly starts to die.
  A false convert may at first display an excessive amount of change: they’re sensitive to the Word of God, they demonstrate uncanny aptitude in learning, they quickly manifest spiritual gifts, they enthusiastically want to get involved in every opportunity for service that the church can offer. After a while however, the signs of burn-out start to show and all of these changes start to gradually disappear until they eventually go back to their old lifestyle.

2. Lack of moisture
Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.
Luke 8:6

A false convert can also demonstrate spiritual dryness on a habitual basis: disinterest (if not open hostility) to the things that nourish and grow true believers such as prayer, bible reading, solid teaching, praise and worship, fellowship.
What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” 2 Peter 2:22
At the Valentine household, we’re happy to host a diverse number of pet animals such as birds, gold fish and two dogs. Any pet-owner knows that as nauseating as it is to see a dog regurgitate it’s last meal, even more disgusting is when you try to clean up the mess only to find your dog try to eat it back up again only to vomit once more. So it is with false converts: no matter how much they’re exposed to opportunities to pray, worship, study the Bible and get involved in fellowship, it never seems to completely sink in in a manner that leads to genuine growth.
  By the same token, the reason why a sow will roll in the mud is because by nature a domesticated pig’s skin is very sensitive to sunlight, hence they use mud as a form of sun block. For the false convert, that “mud” is the former life they once had: the heat of direct exposure to the presence of God as evidenced in what should be the norm of genuine Christian living will only serve to char the unregenerate heart.

3. An irresponsible response to the gospel message
20The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. Matthew 13:20-21

At the time of decision, a potential false convert may make a decision Christ without fully considering the cost and sacrifice being a Christian will ask for. It may surprise many of us when we see that Jesus openly said and did things to discourage those who would only follow him out of superficial commitment:
 28"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'
 31"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
 Luke 14:28-33

4. Circumstantial convictions
18Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitfulMark 4:18-19

A false convert can appear to be okay with everything the Christian walk involves – as long as it works for them. It soon becomes clear that God is not the centre of the person’s life when ambition, greed and desire start to affect priorities. Difficulty and tragedy causes them to lose trust in the promises of perseverance: 
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord(Romans 8:38-39).
If God has promised believers that nothing in creation can cause them to be separated from His love yet such things do cause people to fall away, then either God cannot keep his own promises or the believer wasn’t partaking in it. 

1.4 Lordship vs Easy-Believism

  Unfortunately, many incorrectly interpret the parable of the sower to mean that there exists a variety among those who make decisions for Christ ranging from the healthy and fruitful to the weak and compromising; it is not necessary that one becomes a committed disciple, bears fruit or demonstrates a holy lifestyle as one simply has to “just believe.”

  Sadly, the prevailing view within the 21st century church as to what actually constitutes saving faith growing more and more shallow, with anyone who claims to be a Christian finding others that are willing to accept a profession of faith regardless of whether or not the person
’s behaviour shows any evidence of commitment to Christ. This watered-down understanding of salvation and the gospel itself is commonly called “easy-believism” and it stands in direct contrast to what Jesus actually teaches.[iii] When Jesus asks everything of us, he’s not just explaining the cost of being a disciple, he’s talking about what it requires to truly enter the kingdom.

  Today, easy-believism teaches that saving faith is merely being convinced or simply giving acceptance towards the gospel and does not have to include actual repentance or commitment to the person of Christ. Imagine if you will, if Jesus didn
’t ask for such a high level of commitment, and instead opted for the modern models for church structure, polity and leadership:
   Okay gang, hold up for a sec! I’ve sensed from my Father that there are definitely some among you who are more into this than others. So here’s what were going to do: we’ll have our Sabbath meetings as per usual where we’ll look through the Torah passages that point to me, after which we’ll have a time when I’ll pray for the sick. We’ll break up for lunch, then Pete, Jim and his little brother Johnny will take those interested in a rehash lesson of what I’ve taught you guys so far. During the afternoon, those of you who are really keen can meet me in the hills where I’ll take you through the deeper stuff. Then last but not least I’Il be meeting with the twelve in the evening for an evaluation of the week plus Judas’ fortnightly budget report!”    

  Of course, Christ didn
’t say that.
  Jesus recognised no distinction between belief in him, and commitment to him. Discipleship, in his own eyes, was not something that was to be left for only the elite among those who had his name within their personal vocabularies; he was expecting anyone that would declare him as Lord to be willing to drop everything on the spot and follow him no matter what the resulting costs would be, even if it resulted in suffering and death. Full surrender to Jesus’ lordship is not an addendum to the biblical terms of salvation, but rather the call to submission is really what is at the heart of the gospel found throughout scripture.

1.5 The test of Assurance

  The first epistle of the Apostle John gives believers a comprehensive test as to how true converts can be distinguished from false. The true convert reads 1 John and sees that the Evidences of Grace that John describes are active in their life whereas the False Convert will read and see that not everything is necessarily going as it should:

1. An honest view of personal sin
5  This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.10  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
1 John 1:5-10

Do you honestly view yourself as being inherently good, or inherently evil? Can you say that there actually was a time when you wholly comprehended what it truly meant to sin against God to the point the you cried out to him in repentance?

2. Obedience to what Christ requires

1  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2  He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3  And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4  Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5  but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: 6  whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.1 John 2:1-6

3. Genuine love for the brethren
7  Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8  At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9  Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10  Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11  But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
12  I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake.
13  I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.
14  I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.
1 John 2:7-14

4. Consecration against worldliness
15  Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16  For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.1 John 2:15-17

5. Fellowship and Loyalty to the Body of Christ
19  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 it might become plain that they all are not of us20  But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21  I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.1 John 2:19-21 (Emphasis added)

6. An urgent desire for Christ’s return and the Kingdom of Heaven’s Establishment
28  And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29  If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. 1  See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2  Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
1 John 2:28-3:3

7. Continued cleansing from the Sinful nature
4  Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5  You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6  No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8  Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9  No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10  By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
1 John 3:4-10

8. The test of Christ-centered Truth
1  Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2  By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3  and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4  Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5  They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6  We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.1 John 4:1-4

9. The testimony of Christ’s victory over the powers of this World
1  Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4  For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?1 John 5:1-5
  At this point, you may be thinking “But Ben, my own Christian walk is nowhere near what the Bible says it should be!” If that is indeed the case, John encourages us by saying
9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2  He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world1 John 2:1-2
Perhaps by reading this article you are starting to feel a bit self-concious as to the validity of your own testimony. If that is the case, do not fret. Get on your knees and cry out to God. Don’t recite some man-made sinner’s prayer; speak to God in your own words from your own heart and keep on crying out to God until he Himself tells you that you are soundly saved.
16  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17  and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Romans 8:16-17

1.7 Confronting Backsliders

Some of the hardest people to witness to are those who have essentially “been there, done that!” and/or those who profess to be Christians, though their mannerisms and ideas about God, the Church and Christianity in general come across as being highly questionable. They will answer all the questions right, but they just don’t live like a Christian. You are not their judge and only God knows the status of their soul, but you have every right (and responsibility) to judge those in the church if they are sinning (1 Corinthians 5). Here are some questions that might reveal their level of faith or understanding:
“Are you born again?”
What is their testimony? Can they pinpoint the exact time in their life when God became tangibly real and they were convicted of sin to the point of seeing the need for a savior? If they cannot remember such a life-changing encounter with the creator of the universe, then in all likelihood it has never happened.
“Do you know Jesus?”
This really gets to the issue. People (including ordained pastors) may know all about Jesus, but they do not know Him. Remind them you are not the judge, but that you are concerned and the Bible says we should examine ourselves as to whether we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Encourage them to test themselves to see if Jesus Christ is in them.

1.8 How wolves infiltrate the pasture

  False converts and Apostates are not just those that come through the front door of the church in the form of new believers and visiting “Christians”. They can also be among the “mature”, the respected and the revered, having positions of authority and leadership in such a way that they can be an influence upon not just local churches, but the wider body of Christ as a whole.
  One prominent example in recent history is that of the late Charles Templeton. 
Born in 1915, he was generally acknowledged to be the most versatile of the new young evangelists. Templeton soon rose to prominence, even surpassing another dynamic young preacher, Billy Graham. In 1946, he was listed among those best used of God by the National Association of Evangelicals.
             As the pastor of the rapidly growing Avenue Road Church in Toronto,  Templeton also became one of three vice-presidents of the newly-formed Youth For Christ International organization in 1945. He then nominated his good friend, Billy Graham, to be field evangelist for the new ministry. Templeton, Graham, and a few others regularly spoke to thousands, winning many to Christ both in America and in Europe.
             Newspapers and magazines carried reports of his meetings informing readers he was winning 150 decisions a night. In Evansville, Indiana, the total attendance over the two week campaign was 91,000 out of a population of 128,000. Church attendance went up 17%.
             However, despite his popularity and seeming success as an evangelist, all was not well with Charles Templeton’s walk with God. The more he read, the more he found he was beginning to question the essentials of the Christian faith, because he could no longer believe God’s Word beginning with the creation account in Genesis, the holiness of God, and eventually the deity of Christ.
             In a conversation with Billy Graham concerning Templeton’s desire to attend Princeton Theological Seminary, Templeton warned Graham that it was “intellectual suicide” to not question the Bible and to go on preaching God’s Word as authoritative.
             With this background of doubt about God’s Word welling up inside, and lacking any type of formal education, he decided to pursue a degree in theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. Resigning from the church he had pastored for several years, Templeton began, with special permission, his coursework at Princeton in 1948.
             Rather than alleviate his doubts by providing sound theological answers for the questions he had concerning the authority of the Bible, the historical veracity of Genesis and the deity of Christ, Princeton Seminary only served to increase his qualms. This is not surprising, considering the liberal influences that had infiltrated Princeton.
             After graduating from Princeton, Templeton accepted a position with the National Council of Churches, conducting preaching missions across the United States and Canada. However, he faced increasing health problems, specifically frequent chest pains. He visited a specialist in Pennsylvania who encouraged him, after finding nothing wrong with his heart, to clear up the conflict in his life—namely the doubts he harbored about the authority of the Bible from which he so fervently preached to thousands each night.
             Templeton’s struggles affected others, too. As Templeton wrestled with the “demonstrable fact” of evolution which made it impossible for him to believe “the biblical account of creation”, he sought out his close friend, Billy Graham. This caused Graham as well to grapple with tough questions that shook the very roots of the faith he professed and preached daily—namely, “was the Bible completely true?”
             With ‘science’ pulling Templeton one way and the Bible seemingly pulling him in an altogether different direction, he resigned from his position with the National Council of Churches and took over the Department of Evangelism of the Presbyterian Church USA.
             Finally, however, the doubts about everything he stood for became too great and he decided to leave the ministry. 
In 1996, the book Farewell to God was published for all the world to see the author, Charles Templeton, claim:
‘I oppose the Christian Church because, for all the good it sometimes does, it presumes to speak in the name of God and to propound and advocate beliefs that are outdated, demonstrably untrue, and often, in their various manifestations, deleterious to individuals and to society.’

  Charles Templeton died in 2001. What are we to make of his life? How can it be that one whom God used to evangelize and disciple hundreds of Christ-followers can suddenly turn and become a fierce enemy bent?[iv] Scripture gives a clear warning that some of the most dangerous attacks on the church are to come not just externally, but internally as well:
29I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. Acts 20:29-31


  While on the outside such people may look and sound no different to another Christian, it is obvious in light of what we have learned about the characteristics of a true believer that deep down, the most heinous false teachers cannot possibly be regenerate in any way. Hence, they can only be expected to be drawn to deception to the point that they become instruments of Satan for the purpose of infiltrating the church in the hopes of destroying in from within.

Questions for reflection and discussion:
1. Have you ever known someone who backslid and fell away? What do you think were the causes? Share your experiences.

2. Why do you think the topic of soteriology (salvation theology) is something most churches want to avoid? What impact does a congregations’ model for explaining salvation have on church-life overall (worship, fellowship, discipleship, etc)?

3. When people see cases of hypocrisy made public, why do you think they choose to reject the existence of God altogether rather than consider these may not really be true Christians?

4. “The answer to backsliding is whether or not you do follow-up and discipleship”
In light of what you’ve learned from this article, how valid is the above statement? 


[i] Ronald J. Sider. The Scandal of the Evangelical Concience: Why are Christians living just like the rest of the world? Baker Books, 2005. pg 18-23.
[ii] Mark Driscoll. “Religion Saves and Nine other Misconceptions: Faith and Works”.  Preached February 10, 2008.

[iii] Rick Holland. “A Primer on Lordship Salvation”. Crossroads College Ministry, Grace Community Church. Preached 2nd July, 2000.


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