The interwebs are talking about Joshua Harris and his news of leaving Christianity... and for good reason.
For those of you internationals who don’t recognize this name, Harris wrote a best selling book back in the 90’s that evangelicals gobbled up. He went on to become a mega-church pastor and leader in the purity movement.
The recent news of his divorce may be disappointing to those who followed his relationship advice but his renouncement of Christianity is troubling for us all.
Harris said on Instagram, “The information that was left out of our (divorce) announcement is that I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is deconstruction, the biblical phrase is “falling away.” By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.”
News like this is something we must all understand on a theological basis. In other words, we need a theological framework for processing situations like this and for drawing solid, biblical conclusions.
God does not want us tossed to and fro, confused and disillusioned when we hear reports such as these.
While there are many personal thoughts I could share, I’d like to take the opportunity instead to point you towards Scriptures that will help give you that framework for understanding things like these.
1. Know this is nothing new.
From the beginning of Christianity, people professing Christ and then denying Him has been part of
the story. The most notable example was Judas, who was one of the twelve but denied Christ in
exchange for money. But it doesn’t stop there.
In 2 Timothy 4:15-16 a man named Alexander for a time professed Christ
but then denied the gospel.
Another example is Demas “who loved this present world” and forsook Paul (2 Timothy 4:10).
And in 3 John, Diotrephes gained influence in the church and used it to oppose the Apostle John’s authority, refusing to welcome teachers the Apostle John sent to the church. John calls Diotrephes actions “wicked nonsense” (ESV v.10)
Christ Himself told us in Matthew 7:22-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will
enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On
that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out
demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to
them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (ESV)
2. Understand what it means
In I John 2:19, the apostle John tells us how to interpret a departure from one’s faith: It reveals an un-regenerate soul. “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.”
I do believe God sometimes (and for reasons we can’t always understand) allows Satan to “sift” a believer as he did the disciples on the night of Christ’s arrest- in this case, all the disciples abandoned Christ and fled. However, they ALL returned (notwithstanding Judas, who committed suicide) and QUICKLY. Why? Because upon His resurrection, Christ sought them out and restored each one of them to Himself.
This is what God does with His children!!
What these Scriptural examples show is that it may be easy to act the role of a Christ follower for a time; however, the truth will ultimately be revealed. Time and again, we see that “those who remain to the end” are the ones who are saved (Matthew 24:13, Revelation 3:21) Perseverance in our faith until death proves its genuineness.
3. Press into the Gospel
Seeing someone leave the faith can shake our own. It hurts, discourages, and can even disillusion us when a leader who professed Christ later denies Him. We can wonder if the Bible is true, our faith is legit, and if Christianity is truly the way to God. If it didn’t “work” for them, am I just fooling myself? What makes me better than them? Will I be next?
All of these things can run through our minds and you better believe Satan will use these doubts and questions to try to shipwreck us.
This is when we need to remember that:
- The gospel IS the power of God “to those who believe.” (Romans 1:16) When someone falls away from the faith, it isn’t a deficit in the gospel OR its power to change- it shows a deficit in someone’s (genuine) faith. The gospel IS the answer. It IS the power of God. It IS worthy of our trust.
- Faith is the victory that overcomes the world (I John 5:4) Our faith, though being tried, is what will overcome the storm. Don’t give up on your faith… exercise it!
- Greater is He who is in us than He who is in the world and He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith; therefore, we can TRUST that when we are truly His, He will keep us from falling and present us faultless before the throne (I John 4:4, Phil 1:6, Hebrews 12:2, Jude 24,25)HE IS CAPABLE of keeping what we have entrusted to Him (II Timothy 1:12). Praise God!
Although it’s easy to be discouraged when someone the stature of Joshua Harris renounces Christianity, we can use this as an opportunity to examine our own hearts, to see if WE ourselves are truly in the faith; pray for the person who has renounced Christ; and cling even more closely to the gospel.
I encourage you to go back and look up all the Scriptures listed in this post. Let the truths of these verses sink deep into your heart as you pray for clarity, strength, and thank God for His ability to keep you from falling.
For further reading: Albert Mohler on Joshua Harris