I read a disturbing article the other day on CNN by writer and speaker, Ryan Bell. Ryan Bell is a former Seventh Day Adventist pastor who after 19 years resigned. To sum the story up in a nutshell, Mr. Bell resigned to live a life without God. He states in his article “Christian upbringing taught me that ultimately this life doesn’t matter, which tends to make believers apathetic about suffering…” Furthermore, he says, since leaving his faith he feels more motivated to make it count.
This article was so disturbing to me, not only because of Mr. Bell’s misguided faith which led to his faith being destroyed, but because I have read other articles regarding the older, mature Christians leaving the faith. One article referred to these members as “Goners” while the younger generation, who are not filling the pews, as “Noners”. This is the tragedy of misguided faith.
Indeed, in Luke 9:23- 24 Jesus says ““Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” ” Self denial is spoke of many times in the Bible. Unfortunately, self denial is something many in this world know little about. In our fight to reach the worldly pinnacle, many shattered marriages, friendships and relationships, lie in the waste.
What else does the Bible say about this life other than self denial? If we read a little further in Luke 9:56 Jesus says “For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” Jesus came to grant eternal salvation for all believers while unbelievers, such as Mr. Bell, choose only to think in the here and now. This does not mean we live our current life in utter despair. In fact, as believers, we are granted the Lord’s peace in the storm, we are promised all of our needs will be supplied (Phillipians 4:19), all good things will be given (Matthew 7:11), freedom from condemnation (Romans 8:1) and the list goes on and on. This life is given to us as a blessing not as a curse or a challenge. The Lord only wants good things for all of us and He wants to show us how to receive them. As a child we had no choice to obey our parents. As a child of God, He has given us a choice. Do we want to live under His Providence?
If following Jesus has become more of a curse and less of a blessing in one’s life, their faith has been misguided. If we are not following God’s plan of salvation by accepting Jesus as The New Covenant but instead following man made traditions and religions; our faith no longer lies in The Gospel of Jesus. Jesus, fulfilling all of the Laws of the Old Testament, being sacrificed as the perfect lamb for our sins, made a New Covenant with God so we would have power over hell and evil in THIS LIFE and eternity. Jesus’ ascension to Heaven, sitting at the Right Hand of God is proof of His perfection. The New Covenant was made between God and Jesus. For us to be a part of this Covenant, we must accept Jesus’ finished work on the Cross. Too often, religion attempts to make a “new covenant” itself by way of works and legalism. In doing so, The Cross of Jesus is negated and thus not in God’s plan of salvation leading to destroyed faith.
When we don’t trust The Gospel of Jesus Christ, we don’t know The Gospel of Jesus; our faith has once again been misguided. As Christians, we are called to minister The Gospel or to “make disciples of all nations…” (Matt. 28:19). Just as a doctor ministers to ones injuries, Christians ministers to ones soul by way of The Gospel; we are merely the mouthpiece God uses – we are His tangible tool to the lost.
“You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?” Matthew 7:16. Our fruit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). When we show the lost our fruit, minister to them The Gospel of Jesus Christ and allow the conviction of the Holy Spirit to do His work, the Truth of The Gospel will be revealed to them. It is up to them to respond to this conviction, God has given us our free will. Our motivation cannot convict the sin out of the lost. Our motivation or dictation is merely temporal. It is another distraction down any road but Calvary Road. We do not have to add to or take from The Gospel of Jesus.
So as the “Goners” are gone and the “Noners” rejection of The Gospel leave the pews empty, this too is a sign of the Bible prophecy being fulfilled of the end times (Matthew 24:10). As Christians, we recognize the symptoms of the church. As Christians, the great falling away of many causes us to grow stronger in our faith. God is raising up a remnant who remain in their faith of Jesus’ finished work, who believe in the entirety of His Word and trust in the convicting power of His Holy Spirit. My prayer for the “Goners” and “Noners” is they will hear what the Spirit of God is speaking to their spirit. My prayer is that pride will not hinder their response to His conviction. My prayer is for the pews to be filled because of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. – Donna Warren