Ex-Christians: Are They Really EX?

April 20, 2010 at 11:30 AM Leave a comment

Ex-Christians: What's THAT All About?

I wrote a book a while ago dealing with the subject (among other things), of people who referred to themselves as “Ex-Christians.”  When you talk with these folks, they will tell you in no uncertain terms that they WERE Christians, beyond doubt.  There is no question about that, and they take umbrage at people who attempt to tell them that, based on their own testimony, they could not have been an authentic Christian.

Having done quite a bit of research on the subject, which went into my book, I found that by and large, that the individuals who KNEW that they were without equivocation, Christians had two types of definitions for what it meant (to them) to be a Christian.

  1. Believing the story of Jesus, or
  2. Doing all the things that Christians do

The first definition is an interesting one, because it’s extremely ambiguous, yet it obviously means something to them.  Natural questions arise such as what part of the ‘story’ of Jesus did they believe, or which story of Jesus, or something else altogether?

The second definition is also interesting.  When you talk to those who claim to be “ex-Christians,” they will tell you what they used to do:

  • prayed
  • read the Bible
  • went to church
  • sang hymns
  • gave money or tithed
  • spoke in tongues
  • healed people
  • memorized Scripture
  • preached
  • studied the Bible
  • went to Bible college
  • went to seminary
  • fasted
  • did penance
  • visited the sick
  • cared for the elderly
  • evangelized
  • street preacher
  • passed out gospel tracts
  • taught Sunday School
  • was baptized
  • went up front after the service to pray for salvation
  • prayed the sinner’s prayer

You can probably add your own – especially if you consider yourself to be an ex-Christian.  The problem with that list is that none of it defines Christianity.  A close look at Scripture indicates that Satan can cause people to do those same things.  Beyond that, everything on the list is a type of work.  If we compare any one of those, or all of those to Scripture, there is nothing on that list that truly defines what it means to become a Christian, as found in the Bible.  Not one thing.

If we consider John 3, we read of Jesus’ conversation with one of the Pharisees, who happened to be intensely interested in Jesus and what He had to say.  He was still afraid though of what the other Pharisees would say so he met with Jesus at night, under cover of darkness.  Sounds like Watergate.

In the course of the conversation, Jesus unequivocally explains what it means to receive salvation.  Let’s look at the text, shall we?

Nicodemus comes to Jesus and says, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him,” (John 3:2).

Notice Jesus’ reply to him.  “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” (John 3:3).  I find that fascinating.  Nicodemus comes to Jesus and compliments Him.  He does not ask Jesus a question.  It appears as though Nicodemus was making his introductory comments and telling Jesus he knew that God was with Him (Jesus).

Nicodemus gets a bit more than he bargained for, because Jesus cut right to the chase and explained to Nicodemus that if he wanted to see God’s Kingdom, he would need to be born again.  Nicodemus takes Jesus’ words literally thinking that Jesus meant that Nicodemus would have to be physically born a second time.  “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? (John 3:4)

Obviously, Nicodemus is confused and fortunately for him, Jesus clarifies for him, by stating, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” (John 3:5-6).

Here Jesus is telling Nicodemus straight up that in order to enter into the Kingdom of God, a person must be born once physically (water, in the amniotic sac), and then spiritually.  So right away, we understand that Jesus is telling Nicodemus that becoming a Christian requires a new, or second birth.  Nowhere in the text does Jesus tell Nicodemus that he must DO things like those in the bulleted list above.  He did not say that Nicodemus had to pray, read the Bible, preach, give money, or anything else.  He simply told him that he had to be born again.

So the big question then is how does one become born again?  This is a good question and an obviously important question.  The answer means the difference between eternal life and eternal separation from God.  It is a question that everyone needs to know the correct answer to; no guesswork.

In order to determine the answer, we need to move a few verses down.  There Jesus says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life,” (John 3:14-15).

What could Jesus possibly be referring to here?  The incident He is referring to with Moses is found in Numbers 21.  Here we see yet another time when the Israelites became discouraged and complained against God.  Apparently, God just didn’t come up to the high standards of the Israelites.

So “the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people,” (Numbers 21:6-7).

So because the people realized they had sinned, the Lord provided Moses with the solution.  “And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived,” (Numbers 21:8-9).

Because of the poisonous snakes that God sent into the camp as a judgment against Israel, Moses is to directed to place a brass snake on the top of a pole.  Any Israelite bitten by a poisonous snake would be saved by looking at the pole with the brass snake on top of it, which was tall enough to be seen from any position in the camp.

Now, the thing to remember here is that it took faith to believe that simply by looking at the brass snake, a bitten Israelite would be saved.  That is all it took, just to look at the brass snake.  Of course, it took faith to believe that looking at the snake would make a difference, and it did because those bitten who looked at the brass snake did not die.

Jesus used this event in the Old Testament to testify of Himself.  In fact, by referring to it, Jesus was indicating that He believed it to have occurred.  Just as the brass snake would be lifted up on the pole, so would Jesus be lifted up on the cross.  Anyone who looked to Him in faith, would be saved.  In other words, by trusting in Jesus as THE antidote for our sin problem, salvation would be granted.

It is believing in Jesus and His substitutionary atonement that qualifies a person for salvation.  We read in Genesis 15 that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.  It is taking God at His Word and this involves much more than simple intellectual assent.  It is a deep conviction that God’s Word is reliable, that His death on our behalf is the only thing that saves us.

Now, about that bulleted list – praying, preaching, teaching, giving, etc., – happens after salvation.  Doing those things in an attempt to earn salvation means absolutely nothing.  In fact, it means less than nothing.  The only thing that grants us salvation is believing in Jesus’ atonement on our behalf.

I have yet to meet an ex-Christian who gives me the proper definition of what it means to be a Christian.  The most interesting part of the whole equation is that I have had a number of them tell me that though they KNOW they WERE actual Christians, they NOW know that God does not exist.  Never let it be said that people who call themselves “ex-Christians” are logical.

The problem of course is that you cannot have it both ways.  Either God exists or He does not.  He does not exist when a person THINKS they are a Christian, but then when they become convinced that they are no longer a Christian, He does not, nor ever did exist.  How can that even remotely be possible?

It is only possible if being a Christian means following a prescribed way of life, for the sake of following that way of life.  Someone who practiced yoga for instance because they believed it to be beneficial only to decide later on that they received absolutely no benefit from it is in a completely different position from one who attests to be an authentic Christian at one point, to becoming an atheist the next.  If being a Christian actually involves a spiritual transaction (new birth), then obviously both they could not have been an authentic Christian at one point, only to find out that it is now NOT true and that the God they thought they worshiped does not, nor has ever existed.  It either was true or it was never true.  No one can have it both ways.

So the ex-Christians who firmly believe that they WERE Christians, but are no LONGER Christians are kidding themselves.  They were NEVER authentic Christians and they need to be willing to admit it, instead of continuing this illogical game of ‘God existed when I WAS a Christian, but now He not only does NOT exist, but never did‘ dishonesty.  That is not only completely illogical, but the fact that ex-Christians actually have the temerity to think people are stupid enough to buy it simply because they say it is as ridiculous as their position.

What are “ex-Christians” then?  They are people who at one point in time firmly believed that they were Christians based on the things they did.  However, it is clear from the Bible that people cannot lose salvation.  The eternal security that is the authentic believer’s is way too hard to miss in Scripture.  Romans 8 starts out with the fact that once a person truly becomes saved, all condemnation is forever removed.  There is no chance that the authentic Christian will ever be condemned at any point.  Romans 8 ends with the fact that there is never going to be any separation.  Authentic believers will never be separated from Christ – never.

People who call themselves “ex-Christians” are very much like the “tares” that Jesus describes in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (cf. Matthew 13).  It’s quite a simple, but profound parable.  Christ is explaining in no uncertain terms about His Church.  A man owned a field and planted good seed (wheat) in that field.  While he slept, his enemy went to that man’s field and sowed bad seed (tares).  No one realized what had occurred until the seed began to sprout.  At that point, the servants began to notice something wrong and went to the owner of the field to ask what they should do about it.  The reality here is that the workers are obviously the angels who gather people at the harvest.  The seed represents the authentic believers and the fakers, or the wannabes; people who looked similar to wheat, but were NOT wheat at all.  In the parable, the owner of the field tells the workers that they should do nothing about the tares until the crop was ready for the harvest.  The owner of the field was concerned about the possibility of ANY of the wheat being accidentally uprooted with the tares.  Waiting until the harvest would eliminate that possibility because it would be much easier to see the wheat from the tares.

This is the visible Church today folks.  It has always been filled with wheat AND tares and it continues to this day.  The very first part of Matthew 13 explains the parable of the sowing of the seed and how it landed on a variety of surfaces.  The only surface that it landed on in which it actually took root was the good soil.  On all the other surfaces, while it may have LOOKED like it was taking root, it never did.  What this means is that in this world, there are all types of people who believe (and may even look like) that they are Christians.  They DO the things Christians do and they can SAY the things Christians can say, but the reality is that all that matters is what is in their hearts, not what is seen on the outside.

Against my better judgment, I recently posted on a site in which the main person attested to the fact that she believed herself to have been a Christian.  I read through her blog and my heart went out to her for the amount of confusion, fear and suffering she had gone through.  She stated that she had been a fundamentalist, and was now happily not.  I posted a few words and was met with remonstration from her, how I had missed the point, etc.  I did my best to clarify why I had posted, but it seemed to make little difference.  In fact, the more I posted, the more ludicrous the responses to my posts became, with one person accusing me of being there for the sole purpose of proselytizing, saying that my motives were completely transparent.

Here is the reality; if these people were in fact Christians, and had somehow managed to walk away (which I do not believe is possible), they have actually lost ALL chances to be redeemed according to the Bible.  Hebrews speaks of the fact that those who have tasted the Holy Spirit and wind up walking away are condemned, because what they are doing then IF they want to come back to Christianity (if that was possible) is crucifying Christ all over again.  The actual text states, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame,” (Hebrews 6:4-6).  A close look at the text does NOT say that the individuals WERE Christians.  It says they “tasted the good word of God” and had a sense of what it means to be a Christian.  In other words, their eyes were open somewhat to the truth.  Did they embrace it?  Not all of it.  They began to move toward it, but balked when things got tough.  There was never any real conversion experience.  This would have been like the thief on the cross realizing who Jesus was, but instead of asking to be remembered when Jesus came into His Kingdom, he instead continued to ridicule Him.  He saw the truth but ultimately rejected it.

The people described by the writer to the Hebrews are beyond redemption.  Me trying to persuade this type of person to “give Christianity a second shot” is summarily worthless.  They are no more interested in giving Christianity a second shot than poking their eyes out.  Unfortunately, folks like this believe that they know it all when it comes to Christianity, simply because they believe they were in fact, authentic believers when they were not.  My preference for evangelism is face to face, not on forums where the only thing that is truly transparent is the fact that the Internet encourages people to hide not only their real identities, but their real motives for why they are on a particular forum.  It is a huge waste of time to proselytize on any forum, because people are normally there to merely argue and debate.  They think by winning the debate, this is proof that they are right in their position.  It may simply be that they are the better debater.

Since deciding to no longer post on that forum, I have received a bunch of other posts by people who I’m assuming have posted, taking me to task for this or that.  Without reading them, I sent them to my trash.  What is the point since they are so convinced that I am there to proselytize?  Another book I wrote – “Apologetics Never Saved Anyone” – is my response to those shenanigans and games.  I did notice that prior to my original post, no one had posted anything after February 2010. Since my initial post, there has  been a good deal of activity, so maybe they should thank me for becoming the focused enemy, which allowed them to band together and attack. 🙂  At least it gave them something to do for a few days.  In a day or two when they realize I have no interest in debating and/or arguing with them, they’ll go back to patting each other on the back and high-fiving one another, and then all will go quiet, until the next person unknowingly walks into the same situation.

Ex-Christians – all of them – may believe themselves to have been authentic believers, but the tragedy is that there never was an authentic, spiritual new birth regardless of what they like to think.  Everything they did was external, which is exactly WHY they struggled as much as they did, and were able to walk away.  It was never in them to begin with, and whether they like hearing it or not, that is the truth of the Scripture.  Of course, they deny the veracity of Scripture, denying even that God exists.  Yet, they cling to the label “ex-Christian” as if it is a badge of honor, or a rite of passage.  They unfortunately have no clue, but they think they have and they can point to their life filled with what they believe to be scars from being a Christian.

Authentic believers will persevere and we do so because Jesus Christ is the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).  He ensures that we persevere.  In short, being a genuine Christian means being in relationship with Jesus Christ.  It is not following rules, or regulations thinking that this is how a person becomes a Christian.  At its root, being a genuine Christian STARTS with a new birth, and everything stems from that.

People will stand before Jesus and be judged.  Some of the saddest words in the Bible are those that Jesus speaks to those who THOUGHT they were Christians, but were not:  “Depart from me, I never knew you,” (cf. Matthew 7).  That’s the key, not what we physically do, but WHO we spiritually KNOW.

Entry filed under: Atheism and religion, dispensationalism, Eastern Mysticism, emergent church, israel, Judaism, Life in America, new age movement, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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