“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us . . .”
— 1 John 2:19
Do you know someone who once seemed on fire for the Lord but then backslid into spiritual oblivion? If so, then you know the grief of watching someone slip from God’s grasp, especially when that person is someone you love. You might wonder what this person’s eternal future will be, hoping God’s grace continues to cover him or her. But you also might wonder whether this person was truly a Christian in the first place.
People who fall away from the Lord are called apostates. “Apostasy” means spiritual defection. The great apostate of all time was Judas Iscariot. Unfortunately, many people have followed his pattern.
Charles Spurgeon tells about a great hulk of a man in the village where Spurgeon first preached. This man was a fine-looking giant of a man but a drunkard as well. He often brawled in the local bar with those who dared to cross his path. And he would have nothing to do with religion, until one day when, to the amazement of all, this man asked Jesus to be his Savior. He joined a church, attended every service, and volunteered for any work that needed to be done.
But this man’s former companions made fun of him for turning to religion. After enduring about ten months of their laughter, he succumbed to their mocking. First he dropped away from the works. Soon he didn’t attend prayer meetings. For a while, he continued attending Sunday morning church, but his attendance became more and more irregular until he stopped attending altogether. He never completely returned to his former self, but often people saw him staggering drunkenly about the town. And when his unbelieving friends saw him like that, they said to each other, “Ha, there is your Christian! Hypocrites! That’s all they are.”
Was this man really a Christian? The Bible plainly teaches that God will preserve until the end the ones who are truly His. Whenever the genuine work of salvation happens in the heart of a man or woman, boy or girl, God will see that it perseveres until the day of Christ. But those with sham faith will eventually fall away.
If you know someone who once seemed to follow Christ but has since turned away, pray for that person today. Ask God to do a work of true salvation in that person’s heart so that he or she may know the fullness of life in Christ.