Over the years, I’ve known many people who have professed faith in Christ. I have grown with them, studied Scripture with them and discussed God’s plans with them. I’ve worshiped with them and wept tears of joy at the salvation of others with them. This is why I’m so shocked when I see some of them fall away . . . and fall away HARD. Two of my childhood friends, both of whom put my faith to shame at one point, are now open homosexuals who seem to have adopted some wishy-washy spirituality that, at the very least, permits a lifestyle of unrepentant sin and, at the most, justifies it. One person, who has written an expose online as to his fall from the faith, used to lead a bible study for Chi Alpha Christian Ministries. Another pen pal simply posted on his blog one day that he wasn’t a Christian any longer. Some others took a while to fall, first excusing skipping a church service here or there, not reading their Bible one day, etc.. They have all sorts of excuses as to what happened that convinced them that God wasn’t real or, at the very least, that the God of the Bible wasn’t real. The problem was that I’ve been through many of the same things that they have been through and I came through it with my faith intact, if not stronger. I’ve examined what has kept me focused during those times.
First of all, I understand that bad things happen to good people. Throughout Scripture, we see normal people who suffer for God, realizing that their treasure is not on earth, but in Heaven. Paul gave up a position of power, wealth and prestige as a “Pharisee of Pharisees” to walk the narrow road of suffering for Christ, finally reaching the end and his Crown of Glory. When my first marriage ended, I contemplated suicide. I was devastated. But I had good, godly friends who walked with me through it and I am now married to a godly woman who challenges me to grow in my faith.
Second, I don’t let people who are supposed to be Christians color my view of what it means to be one of the Elect. Especially pastors. My ministry mentor once compared our relationship to that of Paul and Timothy’s. After a bad situation, he broke off all contact with me. I’ve attempted to e-mail him a number of times, but they always go unanswered. He’s given up the ministry for another vocation, although he doesn’t seem to have given up his faith. I’ve felt the loss keenly and it has hurt a great deal, especially during those times when I really needed spiritual advice from someone who knew me personally. But I don’t blame God. The minister is only human.
Third of all, I pray that I am Elect. As a Calvinist, I truly believe that a person who is truly saved will never fall away. 1 John 2:19 says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (ESV) A person who is not Elect may serve God’s purpose his entire life, but may fall away before the end. It’s a sad fact. But, on a higher note, it can also work the opposite way. A person may live a life of the flesh and find Christ in their twilight years. Or, like the thief on the cross, he may even find him just before his life ends.
That last one is the key. The Doctrines of Grace stand or fall together. If we believe that Salvation is an act of Christ, alone, then we cannot truly believe that anything can earn our Salvation . . . including our own will. It’s Sola Christus, or “Christ alone” . . . not “Christ plus one.”