Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Prescription for Apostasy


By Dennis Pollock

I was recently shocked and saddened to hear that prominent minister and former Christian author, Joshua Harris, announced that he no longer considers himself a Christian. Harris was something of a big deal in the evangelical community around twenty some years ago. At least he was in my house. I learned of him when my daughter read his book, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.”

Harris wrote the mega-bestseller when he was around 21 years of age and it exploded among young Christian singles. He believed that the concept of dating was non-Biblical and did far more harm than good. He espoused an old-fashioned idea of parent-controlled courtship, which should only take place when a young person was seriously looking for a husband or wife. I never read the book, so I was never sure what to think of his concept, but my daughter, Joy, devoured it, quoted it, and solemnly announced her intention to live by it. No more dating for her!

I had to laugh inwardly at her insistence on this, because I knew she could never maintain this posture. She was pretty, outgoing, and incredibly popular in high school. And before this decision, she had had a numerous and varied assortment of boyfriends. Of course, she did date after that, although she never totally rejected the non-dating idea. Mentally she agreed with Harris; emotionally and practically she did not.

The fad came and went, and Joshua Harris dropped out of sight. At least he dropped out of my sight. I hadn’t heard of him or thought of him for at least fifteen years. And then came the bombshell. It turns out that Joshua Harris had become the pastor of a fairly large church for some time, and then resigned to further his education. Apparently while studying he has decided that he no longer needs or believes in Jesus in the traditional view as Savior, Lord, and God manifest in human flesh. In a statement he declared:

I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus… By all the measures that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian… I do not view this moment negatively. I feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful.

High-Tech Apostasy

Joshua Harris announced his apostasy in a very modern fashion, in a post on Instagram with a picture of him looking out on a beautiful lake, as though in deep and spiritual reflection – a pretty and fashionable way to illustrate a very ugly and sad act. He also announced he was divorcing his wife and apologized to the LGBQ community for previous statements against homosexuality. Some people are deeply shaken in their own faith when a prominent Christian leader forsakes the faith, especially in such a public and dramatic fashion. But it doesn’t shake me in the least. It saddens me, of course, but it doesn’t rock my world. Men and women have been forsaking the God of their youth since the days of Cain. The church of Jesus Christ is stronger than some people think. Joshua Harris isn’t the first person to turn his back on Christ, nor will he be the last. The church has survived the falling away of many apostates, and we keep right on going, right on praying, right on evangelizing, right on preaching, and right on lifting up Jesus through every possible means, enabled by the Holy Spirit.

Still it is sad, and it makes one wonder why men and women can seem so passionate about Jesus, so entirely given to Him in their younger years, and then some years or decades later turn completely from Him. I must admit that there is something about this that escapes me. I was preaching Jesus when Harris was in kindergarten and I still preach and love Him today. I have made plenty of mistakes in my life and I’m sure I have offended the Holy Spirit sometimes with my stupidity and insensitivity, but I’ve never felt the least inclination to walk away. Like Peter, I can only say, “Where would I go?”

If we consider adulthood to be the age of 21, Harris only required 23 years to go from fiery evangelical to cold-as-ice unbeliever, publicly declaring he is not a Christian. What happened to him? Or more importantly, what are the common themes, the common pitfalls that move men and women to thoroughly reject the Christ they once appeared to love?

The Marital Version of Apostasy

It may be helpful for us to consider another type of “apostasy” – the marital version. One of the saddest types of marital breakups is when one person says to his or her spouse, “I’m leaving you – I don’t love you anymore.” Often that same person told their spouse in the early days of their marriage that they loved them again and again and spoke as though they were the luckiest person in the world to be married to them. But now they are saying, “I don’t love you anymore.” And this sad transformation may only have taken five or ten years to go from “You are the best thing that ever happened to me” to “I don’t love you anymore.”

Here’s a question for you: did this state of not loving their spouse (which is never a legitimate justification for divorce) happen like a bolt out of the blue? Did they love their spouse passionately and totally for nine years, and then one day wake up and realize, “I don’t love my wife or my husband at all?” We all know the answer to that one. The state of feeling loathing rather than love never occurs that way. It is always, always, always a gradual process. And in nearly every case the love is lost over little things that begin to occur daily. They cease talking to their spouse, and sharing their thoughts, hopes, and dreams. They allow a negative tone to creep into their words. They begin to put out a minimal effort to show respect and kindness toward the one they once promised to cherish all their lives. They argue more and tolerate their spouse’s weaknesses far less than in the early days.

Like a small leak that increases and eventually brings rot and decay to the entire roof of a house, the relationship is slowly and steadily eaten away through the erosion of neglect and disrespect. Sometimes both partners are involved in the process and the ensuing divorce is mutually embraced. But sadly, in some cases one partner loses all the initial feelings of love and attraction, while the other still feels them. And then the day comes when those cutting words are uttered: “I don’t love you anymore – I’m leaving you.” How gradually we can lose our love, if we do not protect and cherish it.

And the same thing is true with our relationship with Jesus Christ. Apostasy and the forsaking of Christ never happens overnight. One does not go to bed one night loving Jesus, faithfully following Him, and feeling incredibly blessed to belong to Him, and then wake up the next morning despising Him, doubting His reality, and wanting nothing to do with Him. Like a marriage that decays day by day, the loss of one’s faith is a steady and imperceptibly gradual process. We are never blown out of the hands of Christ by some explosive force. We drift from the Savior. We slowly and steadily cease to pray. We read the Scriptures less and less. We start skipping church services here and there, and then more and more, and finally it seems that every Sunday morning finds us sleeping in, watching television, and lounging around the house, without even a thought about the church we used to attend so regularly.

Danger of Drifting

The Bible says, “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Hebrews 2:1). Not lest we be blown out of the saddle, or lest we sprint away, bolt away, or run away. No, we are to heed the gospel and stay in God’s word lest we drift away. Drifting is a slow process, so slow that it is hardly noticeable. Olympic swimmers do not drift toward the finish, they swim with all the speed and power they can muster.

Some people who escaped from sinking ships and were able to reach a raft containing no engine to power it, discovered when rescued that they had drifted many hundreds of miles while waiting for someone to come along and save them. They hadn’t really noticed the drifting. Still they were being carried along by ocean currents day by day.

In some versions of the Bible, Jesus says in John 15, “Abide in Me.” But remain is probably a better translation. He is declaring to those who have come to Him, “REMAIN IN ME – Don’t go anywhere once you get here!” But people like Josh Harris are doing the exact opposite. They are not remaining in Christ; they are departing from Him. Jesus knew that for His followers, their biggest danger was not persecution or prison or martyrdom – it was departure from the faith. And this is emphasized again and again in the book of Hebrews. The writer tells us:

  1. Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God (Hebrews 3:12).
  2. We have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end (Hebrews 3:14).
  3. Let us hold fast our confession (Hebrews 4:14).
  4. But we are not of those who draw back to destruction, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul (Hebrews 10:39).

Power of Maintenance

One of the keys to keeping a house, a car, a relationship, or a walk with God together and healthy is maintenance. Take any house, no matter how well built, no matter how expensive and ornate, and walk away from it, lock the windows, bolt the doors, and leave it for a hundred years. When your great-grandchildren return to check out great grandpa’s house, they will find it in total ruin. Not because a demolition team came and blew it up or because vandals spoiled it. That house was ruined due to two factors: time and zero maintenance. Broken windows, sagging roof, rotten doors, termite-eaten wood, rats and bats living inside. The house which was once the pride of its owners is now fit for nothing but vermin.

On the other hand, there are many houses throughout the world that are over one hundred years old and are still in great shape. I have toured the house that Abraham Lincoln and his wife lived in before he was President, in Springfield, Illinois. It is still in immaculate condition. How can a house over one hundred and fifty years old be in such great shape? The answer is maintenance.

Our relationship with God is precisely the same. We must maintain that relationship. We must not only experience an infilling of the Holy Spirit, but we must continually be refilled and renewed in the Holy Spirit. We cannot simply read the New Testament through one time in our early Christian days to see what it says, then put it away and never read it again. When we get to the end of the Book of Revelation, we must begin the Gospel of Matthew the next day. We never eat a large meal and then expect that we will never need to eat again the rest of our lives. We eat our meals today, and then tomorrow, and then the next day we eat more meals, and on and on. This is how we live.

To abide in Christ, to remain in Christ involves feeding on Jesus, talking to Jesus, going to church, fellowshipping with believers, and seeking His will all our days. We do this in our early twenties and we do it in our late eighties as well, if we make it that long. Jesus tells us, “He who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations…” (Revelation 2:26). As we maintain our walk with Christ, maintain our daily time in His presence, continually seek to do God’s will, we will never be like those who make posts on Instagram, declaring that they are no longer Christians.

Rather we’ll finish our days like the apostle Paul, and can announce at the end, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7,8).



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