“I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase is ‘falling away.’ By all measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.” And with those words, Joshua Harris sent shockwaves throughout the evangelical community.Harris had been the pastor of a megachurch in Maryland and had even been recognized for his book, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” which called for sexual purity before marriage. But on Instagram recently, he not only declared his abandonment of Christianity, but he also announced his separation from his wife. And yet, his heart was “full of gratitude.” His social media post indicated a new freedom and joy that Harris had found. He even apologized for his previous “fear-based approach to life” and specifically apologized to the LGBTQ+ community for his previous stances/teachings.
Then just a few days later, Marty Sampson appeared to make it a duo when he determined that Christianity is “just another religion.” The popular Hillsong songwriter admitted that he was “genuinely losing” his faith, and yet he was happy and at peace with his status. He continued, “How many preachers fall? Many . . . No one talks about it. How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send four billion people to a place, all ‘coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it.” (Sampson later “clarified” his remarks and said he had not renounced his faith yet but that it remains on “incredibly shaky ground.”)
As I read through both of these accounts, I could not help but grieve for them, while inwardly wrestling with their decisions. You see, I believe that the true believer perseveres to the end (cf. Matthew 16:16-23; Luke 22:31-34; John 8:31-32; John 17:11-23; Hebrews 7:25; 1 Peter 1:5; etc.). So, what about these guys? Well, if they are authentic believers, then they will turn back to the Lord. Simon Peter was indeed sifted by Satan and deserted Christ, yet he returned and was used mightily for the Kingdom (Luke 22:31). Of course, there is the possibility that they never knew genuine salvation itself. As John pointed out in his first epistle, false teachers “went out from us” because they “were never of us” (1 John 2:19). Even Jesus pointed out that not all who did works in His name were His children (Matthew 7:23). Either way, I pray that the Lord would work in their lives to illuminate His truth and transformation.
But there is a wider discussion that should be had here concerning the church and its fidelity to God’s Word. These stories remind us of the need for both depth and breadth in our spiritual journeys. We need to disciple people in the Scripture! Too many have gravitated to an “experiential” authority in our churches. Does the worship make us feel good? Does the preaching warm our hearts? Does the experience line up with what I want? And while I love great experiences, the Bible is and always will be the final authority of our lives! Although I don’t have room here to say all that I want to say about this, I would to encourage you to read John Cooper’s full response to Harris/Sampson online. The worship leader relates, “My conclusion for the church (all of us Christians): We must STOP making worship leaders and thought leaders or influencers or cool people or ‘relevant’ people the most influential people in Christendom. (And yes that includes people like me!)” Cooper then exhorts, “Let us hold on even tighter to the anchor of the living Word of God. For He changes NOT. ‘The grass withers and the flowers fade away, but the word of our God stands forever’ (Isaiah 40:8).”
My friends, there are a lot of churches/people (even in Ruston) that are straying from the truth. They are emphasizing “feeling” over truth. Let’s not fall into that trap! Rather, let’s remain faithful! See you Sunday as we gather around the living, powerful Word!