Recently a few well-known ministers announced they are walking away from the Christian faith. Many friends gave their two cents on this through Facebook. What I surprise is the lack of mentioning the consequences of walking away from the Christian.
I have two disclaimers before I start. First, I haven’t read too much about these ministers and their stories. This post is not critiquing them on what they should have none or analyze why they come to such a decision. There are many articles online already discussing that. I don’t need to know these matters because they are trivial and sounds like Christian gossip. No one knows the truth except themselves and God. Frankly, what matter is themselves and God in the end.
What I want to write about is the consequences of walking away from one’s faith. Here’s my second disclaimer. I am not referring to someone new to Christianity or someone who is exploring Christianity. I am writing specifically about ministers, leaders who walked with the Lord for a Long time.
I am also not going to talk about theology on Calvinism versus Arminianism or predestination. There is a time and a place for that, but it is not in this article.
I am referring to those who deliberately walk away from one’s faith after following Jesus and was His fellow laborers.
The Bible never once mentioned someone who walked away from Jesus is innocent or not know what they are doing. In every case, those who knew Jesus, the Truth, and walked away always suffer negative consequences.
Here’s how Peter described false prophets and teachers who knew Jesus and ended up rejecting Him:
If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.” – 2 Pet 2:20-22 NIV
Peter didn’t mince his words. He described them like a dog returning to its vomit. The truth is not because they lost hope or are confused. The truth is that they rejected Jesus because they loved the sins of the world more than the One who saved them.
We either walk in the light, following Jesus or walk in darkness, by disobeying Him. There is no neutral position in this. No matter how sincere someone described why they are leaving the faith, it is because they love the sins of the world more than they love Jesus.
In John 3:19-21, Jesus stated that those who do not receive Him, the light, loves the darkness because their deeds were evil. One can say someone may not know Jesus; therefore, they reject Him. But what about ministers, those who know Him for a long time? We can tell someone is burnt out or push into ‘stardom’ too early and therefore they lost their way. I have no problem with someone burnt out. Take a break or set boundaries to protect yourself.
They may be doubting their faith. It is not wrong to doubt as long as the doubt is healthy. But for one to say to walk away from Jesus after serving Him, knowing His ways, for so long, is more than doubt. No matter how sympathetic we can be or how sincere the minister is, the crux of the matter is their heart loves evil deeds, sins, and walking away from Jesus, the light, so they are not exposed. The eleven disciples who followed Jesus also doubted, but they also worshipped (see Matthew 28:17).
Knowing the consequences of walking away is a sobering thought. I am not writing this article because I am angry or bitter when ministers leave the faith. I am writing because this is the truth which none of us want to discuss. The Bible states this very clearly. We live in a politically correct culture where we don’t want to anger others.
In short, no one ‘accidentally’ walks away. The hearts of these ministers, having found light in Jesus, are darkened with sins again and intentionally walk away from Him.
Demas, the minister who walked away
Demas is an example of a minister in the Bible who’ve known Jesus and walked away in the end. Demas was part of Paul’s ministry team (Phil. 1:24), and Paul commended him alongside Mark, Aristarchus, and Luke. These men were leaders and ministers. At the end of 2 Timothy, Demas deserted Paul because Demas loved the world (2 Tim. 4:10).
Demas is an example of a sad truth. Ministers who leave Jesus, or the faith, do so not because they doubt or are not sure. They rejected Jesus because they love the things of this world more than Jesus.
When a minister, especially a prominent one, left the faith, we are often in awe and confused why he/she can do such a thing. It is when he/she loves something more than Jesus and decided that Jesus is not worthy to be pursuit. That thing which the person adores more than Jesus, no matter how good it is, is a sin because it became an idol in his/her heart.
Is there no hope?
If a minister left the faith, does he/she forever condemned? Not necessarily. John Mark is an example in the Bible as someone who walked away from the faith and came back in the end. John Mark was a Barnabas’ cousin and joined them on their first mission trip. Because of the pressure of the mission, John Mark deserted them (Acts 13:13). The desertion had a substantial impact on Paul and Barnabas. When Barnabas wanted to take John Mark on the second mission trip, Paul rejected. John Mark caused Paul and Barnabas to separate from each other (Acts 15:37-39).
Despite Paul refusing to take John Mark back when Barnabas suggested in Acts 15, eventually, Paul took John Mark back. Paul mentioned John Mark in his epistles as a faithful laborer (Colossians 4:10). Paul asked Timothy to bring John Mark to him in 2 Timothy 4:11 because Paul found John Mark to be useful. The Bible didn’t say much, but we see a beautiful ending of John Mark missing the mark and restored in the end.
What does this mean?
There is a belief that once someone walks away from Jesus, he/she can always come back. Yes, some come back after walking astray. However, some walk away and never comes back.
We have to be very careful about this. We never know who will come back and who will be lost forever. It is wrong to assume that if we walk away from Jesus, we can always go back to the Lord whenever we feel like it.
We often think we are in control of our soul and our emotions. But we are being controlled by them. Every action and decision we make in life is either walk toward Jesus or away, light, or darkness. When we commit a sinful act, it messes our consciousness and distorts our mind from telling right from wrong. A person can end up loving sin, darkness, then Jesus, the light.
In Romans 1, Paul described those who knew the truth but refused to accept it. Instead, they committed themselves in sinful actions, and their mind became more corrupt. Their consciences are seared. They can’t even tell what’s right or wrong.
If this is the case, then how can someone like John Mark come back? It is only by the grace and the mercy of God. We are not to ‘test’ God in this. Our goal is to remain in Him as close as we can.
If God, all-knowing, will not bring someone back to Him when they turn away from Him, does this mean that God is not all-loving? Absolutely, not. God desires everyone to turn to Him. But at the same time, He gives everyone the freedom to choose. Those who do not follow God is because they love the world and love darkness more than they love Him (John 3:19). Those who rejected Jesus choose to do so, and God accepts that choice.
What about those who walk away?
For anyone who walked away, our goal is to help them come back to Jesus. James 5:19 teaches this. By doing so, we save them from death. If we know them, we are to encourage them back to the Lord.
The key is to pray for them. It is easy to read a lot of articles and talk about it with others like celebrity news. We need to intercede and pray for them. If we are in the position to do so, gently bring them back to Christ.
“And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him— the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.”
John 12:47-48 NKJV
Side note: When we talk about walking away from the Christian faith, we think of apostasy. In this article, I didn’t use apostasy because they are only used twice in the Bible and not relevant to what I am discussing.
The Greek word is, apostasia, and it means to revolt or defect. It appears in Acts 21:21, when the Jews accused Paul leading the Gentiles to forsake (defect) from Moses’ ways, and in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, when Paul described the ends times when many fall away (defect) from the faith. In both cases, they are not talking about ministers who left the Christian faith. For more info, please see https://biblehub.com/greek/646.htm.