People often think that the greatest dangers to losing one’s faith lie in the world. The world offers all kinds of temptation that lure the Christian away from pure devotion to Christ. Success in the world and the pleasures found there can lead the Christian into dangerous territory. Sure. I won’t argue that!
The most effective ways to lose your faith, however, are found in the safe confines of your Christian community, the steady pace of your own Christian lifestyle, and the all too familiar confession that Jesus is Lord. Nothing is more effective in helping you to lose your faith than the subtle lies that allow you to remain a Christian.
You may think it is the devil doing it to you or your backslidden neighbor, or your tv, or the internet. But no, you are so easily the agent of your own destruction. You are entirely in control of what you think and what you decide your next move is. And there lies the rub. Why? Because, at heart, we are diametrically opposed to everything that Jesus stands for. Let’s take a look at these means of faith-loss.
Stop Sharing Jesus’ Life
It may be a conversion or a process of confirmation in the church you grew up in, but when a person becomes a Christian, there is abundant joy. This joy is expressed and shared. But soon the new becomes the “new old.” The joy over salvation in Christ transforms into a bore. Being a Christian becomes a behavioral pattern carried out without conviction or passion.
Whoever stops letting the life of Christ flow through his or her being to others, is losing faith. I don’t just mean evangelism or missions. It is much bigger. We have been called by Christ to live for others. Our essential being, the being of faith, is expressed in an existence for others, whether in words or in action. Bot within and outside the Church. Consuming the goodness of Christ and letting it go stale will turn us into a festering pool that eventually dries up and ossifies.
You may still be in church. You may still recite the creed. But you have lost your faith.
Be Convinced of Your Truth
A good number of Christians see the need to defend the Truth. That is all good and well, but in the process they lord it over God’s Truth and without knowing it they proclaim their own limited human truth in place of the Truth with a capital “T.” They set up their own understanding of Jesus, Bible, and God as idols and use these as litmus tests to determine whether other people’s ideas match up to their standards.
The idolization of their own truth is not enough. They go to war whether on the religious, cultural, or political fronts and take on the so-called enemies of Christ with their own ideas and constructs. They expose, attack, ridicule, and shame those who think differently.
Apart from the damaging effect to the Church’s witness to Christ in our culture, these people subvert the actual Truth of their faith. No longer are they dependent in faith on God’s self-revelation in Christ. Rather, they have Christ in their pocket and as experienced ventriloquists they make Jesus say what they think He should.
This is idolatry. It is a faith that no longer knows questions. Rather, it knows all answers to all and every question. There is no dependency on God. Rather, God has been made dependent on the rhetoric of these people. This is faith in oneself under the guise of faith in Jesus. This too is a loss of faith.
Consider Yourself Saved
“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!” sings one of the old hymns. This is true! Whoever has Jesus, has received a blessed assurance. But let us take a look at what this means. “Jesus is mine” can only be true if Jesus is my Lord. And Jesus is only my Lord, when I have surrendered myself to Him. In other words, the assurance of which the hymn speaks is an assurance of no longer being my own, or no longer being in control, of no longer assured of my own selfhood and independence.
Some Christians, however, take salvation to be a possession. They see salvation as a one-way ticket into heaven. Once purchased, it keeps it validity for ever. So, there is no need to thirst after God, follow Jesus, seek to be obedient, or listen to the voice of the Spirit. Now, I’m not arguing here over the question whether one can lose one’s salvation. But I do say that whoever sees salvation as an advance purchase on a nice eternal retirement fund that will yield returns without any effort, does not understand salvation.
Faith that seeks the easy way and sees salvation as a way to by-pass the notion of dying with Christ, is no faith. Such faith, does not believe in anything but its own comfort. It is faith in oneself. Such faith is a lost faith.
Genuine faith, however, is a trusting surrender to God. Such faith is obedient in its gratitude, humble in its witness, and self-effacing in its sharing itself with others in the world. True faith loves in giving itself, speaks in love, and it forever marvels at the gift of grace.
The three most effective ways to lose your faith are all found in the familiarity of Church and the Christian life. Let’s be people of living faith. People always dependent for their salvation on God’s grace. People, who faithfully witness to Christ in humble love for the world loved by God. People who faithfully share their lives, all of it, with those around them.