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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Falling Away

It had been some time since I'd heard from him. We'd gotten busy, and before we realized it, we hadn't talked to each other in a couple of years. My goodness! We had been in ministry together, serving at our church. We've been through a lot together. He was a mature Christian, a man of God, whom I love and respect a great deal.

Anxious to catch up, I ask what seemed to be an innocuous question, "So tell me, what has God been doing in your life?" His answer was unexpected and disappointing. Ironically, it was not really much of a surprise. Why? Because I've heard the same answer from several other people over the years.

It seems that people who are on fire for the Lord, who are believers that are grounded in truth, who have served in ministry, can still fall away from the Lord. They'll explain it by telling you that life just got busy and they haven't been in church lately. This particular friend said he hadn't been walking with God, and asked me to pray that he might return to the Lord one of these days. I mean, what is that?

How can it be that people who are with Jesus then find themselves not with Jesus? It wasn't a conscious choice that they seemed to make. Even if it was, they don't seem to be aware that they made it. It's as if they one day woke up with the realization that they were going through life without God. Maybe it came as a surprise to them. When they explain it, most seem to have a demeanor of guilt and/or shame about them regarding their walk with God (or lack thereof).

To be honest, this whole notion worries me a little bit. I think walking with God, living one's life in union and community with God, is important. If mature believers, even pastors, can somehow "fall away" from God, what's to keep me from ending up the same way? If they're capable of such spiritual failure, aren't I?

I know it's been drilled into my head that one cannot lose their salvation (whatever that means). So if that's true, then maybe this whole concept of "falling away" from God or from church isn't really important. Could that really be the case?

I once talked with a friend about this who argued that being in church or being connected to a fellowship of believers isn't really necessary in order to stay connected to God. He said it was the church's fault that he had "fallen away," because the church had hurt him or disappointed him. But of course God never had - so he insisted that his walk with God was the same. Can that be? Can one's walk with God be the same with or without church? (Somehow I doubt it.)

Scripture says our salvation is secure. The Bible says that we are to be in fellowship and community with one another. It says that we are to tithe. Oddly enough, I find that people who aren't in church usually also aren't tithing. Usually they aren't reading their Bibles or praying much either. Aren't these things sin? I know, I know - sin is forgiven if only we believe that Jesus is who He said He is. But still, doesn't obedience matter? I'm just saying ...

I love my friend who has "fallen away" from the Lord. And I will pray fervently that he return to God "one of these days" (as he put it). But I think I will pray that God so connect and condition heart - and so manipulate his life that he would never think of walking without God. I will pray that his thirst for God become urgent and unquenchable - such that it becomes the driving force in his life.

Let's be clear here. Staying connected to God matters. Walking in His ways is important. End of discussion.

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