Shipwrecked Faith

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shipwreckPastor Ryan Bell’s recent announcement that he would suspend his “belief in God to see what atheism is all about” surely must have startled his Hollywood congregation. He went on to tell his fellow Californians that he had decided to spend 2014 “as if there is no God.” He would forego the typical things Christians do such as attend church services, read Scripture and pray. Not only that, he would even interview avowed atheists and devour the writings of mockers of Christianity such as Friedrich Nietzsche and Richard Dawkins.

The first thing that came to my mind upon reading the CNN article applauding this man’s disastrous decision was to wonder how a Christian pastor could come to such a place in life. The answer became crystal clear as I continued following the story. According to CNN, over the years Bell “had advocated for the church to allow gay and lesbian leaders, campaigned against California’s same-sex marriage ban and disputed deeply held church doctrines about the End Times.” In other words, if he ever truly had faith in Christ, it had long ago been dashed to pieces upon the rocks of worldly thinking.

Before I go any further, I should mention that this man did not receive his ordination papers from some sham online organization. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and so impressed the faculty of this prestigious evangelical school that he was invited to join their ranks as a teacher.

One might expect the faculty to have quickly distanced themselves from the heretic, but that is surprisingly not the case. Kurt Fredrickson, associate dean of ministry at the seminary, temporarily relieved his “friend” of his duties while he sorts out what he actually believes. “From an academic standpoint, and even as a personal journey, I’m really excited about what Ryan is doing,” Fredrickson gushed. “There is no honest person of faith who doesn’t have doubts, and Ryan is being courageous enough to take a step back and assess his life. This is bold stuff.”

Huh?

Rather than applaud his friend’s descent into the dark abyss of apostasy, Fredrickson might have pointed out that there is nothing new about unbelief or atheism. Three thousand years ago, David said, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalm 14:1). He might have exhorted his wavering protégé with what the apostle Paul had written to his protégé: “…fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith” (1 Timothy 18-19) He may have even pressed Paul’s warning that in the last days “there will be men who abandon the true faith and allow themselves to be spiritually seduced by teachings of the devil” (1 Timothy 4:1 Phi).

As I considered this troubling story, another question came to me: “What kind of spiritual system do we have in America that men like these can be instructors in a prominent seminary without anyone taking notice?”

But just as I began to work myself up into an impressive rant against this backslider and his undiscerning mentor, a most troubling thought stopped me in my tracks: “I am a product and member of the same religious culture that produced Ryan Bell.”

I have read the same versions of the Bible he used to read. I have enjoyed some of the same worship music he used to enjoy. I have listened to the same radio preachers he has listened to. And perhaps more telling than any of these similarities: I have been affected by the mixture of worldly prosperity and the Christian message like he and every other American Christian has.

These thoughts hastened my mind into an even more disconcerting thought: “What makes me so sure I won’t one day abandon my faith? After all, didn’t Paul say, ‘…let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall?’” (1 Corinthians 10:12)

As I pondered the frightful reality of this notion, my mind went back to my salvation experience. I was not saved into the American Evangelical Movement; I was saved into Jesus Christ—the One who sacrificed Himself to appease God’s righteous fury against my sin; the One who pulled me out of the hell of my own making; the One who has loved me, and disciplined me, and guided me, and revealed Himself to me on countless occasions.

Having quieted my personal fears, my mind returned to this wayward pastor. “How is it possible for someone who has truly been born from above, to entertain the idea that there is no God?”

“I can’t imagine that being possible,” was my conclusion.

Then I considered the multitudes of people who are very much like Pastor Ryan—only don’t realize it. Perhaps their churchgoing has so masked their underlying unbelief that they never think to follow the apostle Paul’s instructions to the Christians of his day to “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (2 Corinthians 13:5) Surely if they did this with any earnestness they would have to admit that their lives don’t reflect the belief that there is an Almighty God perceiving their thoughts, discerning their motives, watching their secret words and actions.

It was then that it came to me: Perhaps the secret of the Apostasy is found in each person’s entrance into Christianity. The faith of those who have a genuine encounter with the living God is founded upon a vibrant relationship with a Person. It is a profound union of their spirits with the Spirit of Christ; a marriage that has occurred at the deepest level of their souls.

In contrast are those who have wedded themselves—not to Jesus—but to a religious system they call “Jesus.” Yes, their emotions have often been stirred by rich worship and heart-tugging sermons. Their minds have been stimulated by intellectual teachings. But beneath the realm of their emotions and intellects—deep down in the recesses of their hearts—their souls remain unmoved, unaffected, unconverted. (For a stark reminder of what the Redeemer is really like, view The Radical Jesus video clip.)

Truth be told, it is only a matter of time before they too become so disillusioned by this religious system that their “faith” ends up on the rocks. How could they possibly endure when their belief system is built upon nothing more than a fleshly commitment?

There is coming a great shipwreck of souls such as the world has never before witnessed. Pastor Ryans by the millions will one day openly abandon and renounce their Christian faith.

But none of this will move me because my faith is not built upon a corrupt religious system but upon a living Savior who has never failed me nor forsaken me.

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About the Author:

In 1986, Steve founded Pure Life Ministries (PLM), the first ministry in the world to sexual addicts. Over the years he and his wife Kathy did their utmost to create a spiritual atmosphere for men who entered the PLM residential center. It was part of God's plan for him to begin this ministry, but over the years the Lord laid a burden on Steve's heart to call the Church back to holy living. In 2008, Steve stepped down from running PLM to devote the rest of his life to exposing the great apostasy, calling people to repentance and leading Christians into an eternal perspective. Follow Steve Gallagher on Google+
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Comments

  1. Sue  February 3, 2014

    God bless you Steve…you nailed it. People just “playing church,” going thru the motions of attending church but hearts are never changed…they hear the words but it falls on rocky soil.

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  2. Annetta Small  February 3, 2014

    Thank you for speaking out. Tremendous article.

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  3. Britt Franklin  February 3, 2014

    Great article my brother. We must tell it as God’s Word says it is. Thank you.

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  4. Alex Breder  February 4, 2014

    Quite enlightening! You’ve surely made a point there!
    Matthew 24:12 is something we’ve already been living in our society: “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold”. Congrats on not being ashamed of taking a stand in a time so many have daily compromised their faith!

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  5. john white  February 4, 2014

    AMEN, STEVE!!! Absolutely our “religious system” is corrupted by twisted anti-biblical heresies – calling the marriage of same-gender couples a “blessing,” praying to statues of Mary, etc. – but our passports into the Kingdom of God are not stamped based solely on THINKING that what the Bible says is true. This would be a form of Gnosticism. Rather, we have eternal life because the Biblical truths have led us to the Person of Jesus to whom we have confessed our sins and pleaded for mercy. We have eternal life because we love Jesus, because we personally KNOW and FOLLOW our Shepherd who has saved us.

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  6. Rick T.  February 4, 2014

    Steve, thanks for being “iron sharpening iron.” You make a valid observation, and one which we are already seeing unfold before our eyes,

    My observation is that so many believers are waiting for a massive worldwide revival/outpouring that will result in millions saved. But in Luke 18:8, Jesus says, “…However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Could the Great Apostasy be the result of strong delusion from our enemy masquerading as a worldwide revival?

    I am interested in your thoughts on this. God bless you!

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    • Steve  February 5, 2014

      Thanks for your thoughts, Rick. I should tell you first that I am one of those who definitely believes in a great revival. I can’t see the Church ending this thing in the defeat that characterizes so much of it.

      But, yes, I share your concerns in that there are those who are so fixated on “signs and wonders” that they are vulnerable to deception from the enemy. The only way to avoid deception is to be grounded in the Word of God and to allow the Holy Spirit to bring conviction and discipline into our lives. Without the Father’s sovereign care over our lives, Jesus’ word to guide us and the Spirit’s correction, we would all be doomed!

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  7. Deanie  February 6, 2014

    Steve this is so good.
    I thank you.
    My prayer for all of the true believers including myself, is that as we live out our lives for Jesus and carefully evaluate our sincerity of the committment to Him, that He will reveal through His Holy Spirit what it is in our lives that is contrary to His Word.
    I want to see myself as He sees me. Oh may this be the cry of each of us that call ourselves Christians.
    Thank you again Steve.
    How Jim and I love you and your sweet wife for these kinds of convicting articles.
    May God help us.
    Like Buddy Robinson said, “One second without Him I am a devil”.
    Blessings,
    Deanie

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    • Kathy Gallagher  February 6, 2014

      Wow, I don’t know who Buddy Robinson is but he sure nailed it!

      We love you too, Deanie.

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  8. JR  February 7, 2014

    What a great reminder that my faith, hope and salvation all rest in one person…Jesus Christ!

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  9. Renee Robertson  February 26, 2014

    Steve,
    I met you at the home of a dear saint in Atlanta, GA in September of 2012. You were in town for a conference on persecution. I am so thankful the Lord has led me to this website. I have been in the wilderness the past 3 years, just sitting at His feet and learning from Him. We must learn to find contentment and satisfaction in Jesus alone. Thank you for being faithful to preach His truth.
    I will keep you and Kathy in my prayers.
    Renee Robertson

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    • Steve  February 27, 2014

      Hi Renee. Yes, I remember you as being a very earnest and dear Christian woman. Hope all is going well with you in the wilderness! It has produced some real giants in God’s Kingdom!

      Steve

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