Leaving the Faith

By Robin Schumacher

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While debates are endless about what separates a person who possesses genuine salvation vs. a pretender, the more I study the Scriptures and listen to "de-conversion" stories like this young woman's, the more I'm convinced that it comes down to this:

It's all about the kind of freedom a person wants and the desires they exhibit.

As Jonathan Edwards wrote in his masterful Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, holy affections will characterize the life of a person God has brought to salvation. This doesn't mean that a Christian will still not struggle with sin as the old nature is still present (Romans 7), but it does mean that an authentic desire for God's will presents itself where none existed before.

Further, these new holy affections are given freedom to grow and manifest where, before, the only freedom the person had was the "freedom" to sin without much effort or guilt and the "freedom" to easily disobey God's will for their life. Paul spells this out in clear detail:
Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:1623)
Did you catch Paul's quick statement about a non-Christian being "free in regard to righteousness"? The Message paraphrases verse 20 as, "As long as you did what you felt like doing, ignoring God, you didn't have to bother with right thinking or right living, or right anything for that matter."

In other words, that kind of person is "free" from obeying God's moral law and has little to no love for the things of God. Such things have no hold on the person and there is no affection for them because the only "freedom" the person has is to obey the sinful desires they have had since birth.

But the Bible calls that being a slave to sin (Romans 6:20).

By contrast, the Christian gradually defeats sin by loving something more than sin, something better. As Thomas Chalmers wrote in his famous sermon, "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection:" "Misplaced affections need to be replaced by the far greater power of the affection of the gospel." [1] The person is changed to be someone, as Jesus said, that hungers and thirsts after righteousness vs. things from their old way of life (Matthew 5:6). [2]

So why do some people who once professed to be Christians walk away from the faith? They do so because they have really no true affections for the things of God, no real love for God to hold them in a relationship to Him, and no freedom to choose God's ways over their own ways because they are a slave to other desires.

It's a sad choice they make, plain and simple; a choice they love "a thousand times more" than God Himself.

1. Chalmers, Thomas; "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection".
2. Of this fact, Martin Lloyd-Jones writes in Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, "I do not know of a better test that anyone can apply to himself or herself in this whole matter of the Christian profession than a verse like this. If this verse is to you one of the most blessed statements of the whole of Scripture, you can be quite certain you're a Christian. If it is not, you had better examine your foundations again."

Image Credit: Josh Clayton; "Walk Away"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Salvation  | Theological-Beliefs  | Witnessing-Evangelism

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Published 7-28-14