“They were never saved to begin with.”

by K.W. Leslie, 09 October 2019

Sometimes people who believe they’re Christian aren’t really.

Sometimes people whom we believe are Christian aren’t really: They’re faking it for any number of reasons. Or they’re Christianists; they’re big fans of popular Christian culture, but have no relationship with Christ Jesus himself. Somehow we missed the fact they bore no fruit of the Spirit… or, more likely, we didn’t care they were fruitless. We were much too happy to consider them one of our own; we never bothered to ask real, penetrating questions for fear we wouldn’t like the answers. We get that way about celebrities, wealthy people, politicians, or on-the-fence friends and family members; we’ll take what we can get.

So when these not-actually-Christian folks have a faith crisis, or God otherwise doesn’t come through for them in the way they expect or demand… they leave. Or when the only reason they pretend to be Christian is to make people happy, and they grow tired of making those people happy… they leave. Heck, even actual Christians will quit church and quit Jesus himself under these circumstances; we should hardly be surprised when pseudo-Christians do.

Thing is, when real Christians leave church or Jesus for much the same reasons, many a Christian will figure it’s for the very same reason the not-really-Christians did: They, too, were never really Christian to begin with. They were faking it. Pretending. Going though all the motions but never had the Holy Spirit.

I mean… that has to be the case, right? Because once saved, always saved. Right?

Well I wish that were so, but the scriptures indicate it’s not.

Hebrews 6.4-6 KWL
4 Can’t be done: Those who were once given light,
tasted the heavenly gift, became partners with the Holy Spirit,
5 tasted the goodness of God’s word, and the age to come’s powers 6 —and fall away.
To restore them to repentance again, crucifying and humiliating the Son of God for them:
Can’t be done.

Sometimes people do have living, saving relationships with God. Are born again. Are filled with the Holy Spirit; even experienced his baptism. Do have real live God-experiences same as the prophets and apostles in the bible; even heard God speak to them, and let him perform miracles through them. They were fully authentic Christians.

But they quit Jesus.

Pride goeth before destruction.

People can quit Jesus. I wish they couldn’t.

Same as I wish compatible married couples could work out their differences and not divorce. Same as I wish favorite bands wouldn’t break up over money or personality conflicts or drug use. If I had sovereign control over the cosmos, maybe I’d intervene instead of letting ’em exercise their free will. But I don’t.

I’m not gonna presume God acts the way I only wish I could, and imagine he deterministically controls the universe in ways the scriptures don’t describe. Obviously he lets people leave one another. We see it in the bible; we see it in real life. And leaving God is one of the worst things they could ever do—not just to God, but to themselves—yet God lets them leave when they really want to.

He doesn’t want ’em to. We see examples throughout the bible of him warning the Hebrews not to. Yet they did. And people still do.

It’s a mad, wild, crazy act. It makes no sense to me, ’cause I’ve seen up close how good God is. Why would I ever want to quit? But I’m not those people; I don’t know what’s going through their heads. I just know they quit Jesus.

The only way certain Christians can make sense of the mad act of quitting Jesus… is to rationalize it away by saying, “Well they must never have been Christians to begin with. ’Cause a real Christian would never. We have more sense than that.”

Yeah, that’s pride talking. I don’t know that we do have more sense than that. I’ve seen lots of people whom I thought had sense, yet they chose to do some pretty dumb things. Like blow up their marriages, get hooked on alcohol or drugs or gambling or sex, quit perfectly good jobs, vote for morons, and of course ditch Jesus. And I don’t presume I’m better than they: If it weren’t for God’s grace I might do something equally dumb.

That’s the key, I believe: We gotta stay humble.

Those who quit Jesus, don’t. You talk with any ex-Christian about why they left Jesus, and they’ll always, always state they learned better, or now they know better, or they discovered better. And they’ll be super condescending towards those of us who stick with Jesus: “You’ll learn better too, someday. Once you stop denying reality. Once you accept the facts.” They’re convinced they’re right and we’re wrong.

Well of course we’re wrong. It’s why we follow Jesus; he’s right! But these folks figure they’re right. So that’s that.

Presuming they were always this way, that they never did know Jesus to begin with, presumes real Christians can’t make such mad decisions; that the Holy Spirit’s either conditioned us to know better, or reprogrammed us and deleted some of our free will. It gives us more credit than we deserve. Christians—real, honest, truly-know-Jesus Christians, have done all sorts of outrageous things. I’ve heard the confessions; we can be pretty messed up sometimes. Quitting Jesus appears to be beyond the pale, but really it’s not. (I’m not gonna say Christians have done worse; there isn’t worse. I’ll just say plenty of us do stuff that’s nearly as bad.)

Presuming Christians can’t quit Jesus, is making the very same mistake any apostate does: It’s again presuming we’re right and they’re wrong, instead of recognizing we’re all wrong. It’s presuming we’re special and they’re not. Calvinists tend to call this specialness “election”: God supposedly put something uniquely special into certain humans which’ll ultimately get us saved, and that’s why some of us become Christian and the rest don’t. It has nothing to do with repentance and faith. In fact Calvinists will actually teach if you’re elect, you don’t even need to repent and believe. Because God elected you, he usually arranges things in your life so at some point you’re obligated to go through the motions of repentance and belief—but if by some weird happenstance you don’t, if you never ever repent and believe, God’ll save you anyway. ’Cause election. No, this isn’t in the bible anywhere; it’s simply the logical conclusion what Calvinists believe about election. Some will claim it’s a hypothetical situation that’ll never ever happen ’cause God holds the reins of the universe so tightly… and the rest will admit yeah, it is how election works.

In reality, apostate Christians are in the very same boat as non-apostate Christians: None of us know better, which is why we need to follow Jesus. The difference is apostates used to trust Jesus, and decided they don’t anymore. Non-apostates still kinda do, or are trying to. But if we ever get too full of ourselves—if we forget to remain humble, and embrace pride instead—we’re gonna go wrong. The best-case scenario is to go a little wrong, like Calvinists. Worst case? We leave Jesus behind and become pagan, or some other religion, or nontheist. Some situation where it’d take a lot to turn us back around to Jesus; and not just because our pride hardens us to his calls to repent.

The thought we have that much say in our relationship with God, and might ruin all if we have one bad day, terrifies certain Christians. ’Cause we know what sort of screw-ups we are. It’s far easier and more comfortable to imagine ex-Christians were never truly Christian. Far more pleasant to imagine we’re special and apostasy-proof. All because of our pride.

Sometimes the elect quit God.

The LORD chose to save the Hebrew descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, from slavery, and take ’em to Canaan like he promised their ancestors he would. They were elect. (Same as we Christians who were originally slaves to sin.) The LORD ordered Moses to get ’em freed from Egypt, bring them to a mountain in Arabia, and establish a formal relationship with a newly-freed people who were now his people.

Now some of ’em didn’t want this relationship. Or wanted it on their own terms: They wanted to be in charge instead of Moses. Or they’d follow the LORD only so long that he fed them what they wanted. Or they’d follow him till Moses wandered off; then they’d resort to gold calves or Moabite sex religions or whatever else was handy and fun. Basically they didn’t care the LORD had elected them, and treated him with contempt. Emotionally, intellectually, they left God. Some repented. Some didn’t.

Y’might argue, and many have, the rebellious Hebrews who never repented were never really the LORD’s chosen people to begin with. Some have taught these rebels were just “rabble” who mixed in with the real chosen people, tagged along in order to escape slavery, and frequently stirred up trouble for God’s true elect. They’d still be entirely wrong though. All these people, “rabble” or not, were chosen, were elect, were God’s kids to bless or not. When they followed him, he blessed them. When they didn’t, he corrected them.

Election didn’t mean the Hebrews would never, ever quit God. Plenty still did. And election likewise doesn’t mean “true Christians” will never, ever quit God either. Too many of us still do.

If the idea makes you anxious—“I don’t ever wanna quit God!”—okay. I get that. I used to have that worry too when I was a kid. I grew out of it because I realized I need Jesus far too much to ever quit him. (Like Simon Peter once said, where else am I gonna go? Jn 6.68) I definitely don’t have the universe all figured out, but Jesus does. I follow him, and stay humble. If you do so too, you needn’t stress over the possibility of quitting Jesus: You won’t. You know better than to think you’re so special you’ll never go astray.

You know better than to think you know better. (There’s a fun little paradox for you.)