Jessie is a product—if not a downright victim—of a centuries-old doctrinal system that went bad. It began as a solid offshoot of Reformed theology, emphasizing the eternal security of a believer and stressing the fact that true faith in Christ is always accompanied by true repentance—heart-probing, sin-renouncing, life-transforming repentance.
Over the years the “once saved, always saved” doctrine was vigorously maintained and defended, while the emphasis on meaningful repentance and inward obedience was increasingly neglected. By the time Charles Spurgeon came along in the latter part of the 19th Century, he lamented that the denomination was “going down hill at breakneck speed.”
Today, the spiritual deterioration of this great movement is evident in thousands of post-modern churches that offer a form of Christianity which expects very little in the way of change, all the while assuring its members that their salvation is secure, guaranteed and irrevocable.
Into this happy delusion stepped Jessie, fresh out of years of rebellion, drugs and promiscuity. He was “played out” and ready for a new way of life when he discovered Christ in one of these churches. The eyes of his heart were opened to the spiritual realm—the very kind of enlightenment that leads to conversion. But, for Jessie, this is where the salvation process ground to a halt.
His limited contact with Christ was only enough to produce a change in his lifestyle. He cleaned up his act, married a church girl and procured a decent job. He no longer had to face the unrelenting consequences of the party life and could now enjoy the benefits of moral living. To this day Jessie remains a faithful church member, but if something drastic doesn’t occur in his life, he could very well be doomed to destruction.
You see, Jessie’s repentance never reached his heart. He was never presented with the need to undergo the painful process of examining his heart or coming to grips with the self-centered attitudes lying within his bosom that made way for sin; never experienced the kind of godly sorrow that is part-and-parcel of real repentance; never knew what it means to emerge from “the dark night of the soul” a new creature in Christ; never committed himself to the kind of meaningful change that is always associated with a bona-fide conversion.
The truth is that he never saw the need to go through this process because his spiritual leaders do not consider it to be a necessary part of the Christian life. When his pastor talked about the need for repentance, it was nearly always in the context of unbelievers. True, from time to time he would mention the fact that Christians also face temptations, but sin was addressed in such a vague way and with so many assurances that “God’s grace covers all our sin,” that his listeners never felt the need for repentance. Subjects that believers face such as self-will, worldliness and pride were never touched upon in his sermons. Improvement is well and good for those who desire it so long as the person isn’t too hard on himself.
A “fly on the wall” of Jessie’s home could have testified to the fact that this man’s conversion was not to Christ but to a religious system. Jessie’s constant round of indulgence in sports, network television and carnal Internet fare reveal the true devotion of his heart. His unwillingness to acknowledge being wrong about anything in life—whether it be petty arguments with his wife or serious soul issues—shows someone who has never been broken and humbled before the Almighty. His unwillingness to seek God’s will in decision-making exposes the utter lack of concern he has about the need to live in submission to the lordship of Christ.
Had he attended a church service led by a God-fearing man, perhaps the course of his life would have taken a different turn. He may have truly bowed his knee at the Cross or he might have rejected Christianity altogether—but at least he would have been afforded the opportunity to make that decision for himself.
Instead, he wandered into a church culture wherein a state of “happy delusion” about Christianity thrives; where unconverted churchgoers can live free of those pesky convictions about sin and worldliness; where inward lawlessness is rampant and heart-felt obedience is rare.
That is the apostasy.