The inseparable trio of Jenny, Mandy and Alexis formed the core of the singles group of First Community Church. Each of the longtime friends had been blessed with her own particular quality. Jenny was the smart one (nicknamed “the scholar” by the two) who somehow continued her 4.0 grade average on into college. Mandy’s pretty face and long blond hair made her the envy of every girl in the singles club. Then there was “Alex,” as her friends called her, who had the winsome personality everyone adored. The three would often talk long into the night about all kinds of things: guys, school work, Christianity and their disdain for the promiscuity and party atmosphere so prevalent at their college. It was one of those deep friendships that life rarely affords.
The inconceivable unraveling of it began toward the end of the school year when Mandy began experiencing a growing sense of uneasiness. She tried to explain it to the other two but could never quite find the words to describe the vague agitation plaguing her. Those internal struggles were about to grow worse.
One Sunday night the three girls went to another church to hear a radical preacher named Sammy Moreno whose reputation of being a “radical” sparked a certain degree of curiosity within them. It didn’t take long for Jenny to want to leave: not because the fiery preacher’s words troubled her but simply because she was bored. She preferred her pastor’s calm teachings through the Bible, which always provided her with interesting facts about biblical times. Alex wasn’t particularly moved that evening either, although she did actually enjoy the message.
Mandy, on the other hand, felt as though her insides were being torn apart. Every word, every sentence shot into her inner being with great force. “How do you know that you’re saved?” the man demanded. “Do you really think that just because you’ve been in church all your life that you have some right to heaven?” Although Brother Moreno’s questions were disturbing, there was no sense of harshness in his voice. Actually, in some inexplicable way, to Mandy they had the ring of love, almost as if his message was some sort of divine pleading.
To her surprise, she found herself quietly sobbing. It seemed that the very foundations of her Christianity were being decimated by this man’s words; no, not by his words, but by some power she felt working inside her. “I don’t know God,” she suddenly announced to herself. It was a stunning revelation that made no sense to her. “I’ve been a Christian my whole life,” she assured herself, but she knew her internal arguments were useless. She could not escape the bare truth staring her in the face: her Christianity had been of her own making, based on her own morality. For the first time in her life, she understood Paul’s term, “filthy rags.” She wasn’t sure what to say to the Lord. She could think of no words that would properly express the feeling of regret, sorrow and shame she was experiencing. “Lord, I repent of my willfulness and surrender my life to You. I give You my life, whatever that means.” But for its utter sincerity it would have seemed a trite prayer under the circumstances.
On the way home that night Jenny and Alex queried her about what she had experienced, but Mandy wasn’t ready to talk to them just yet. She went to bed that now with the same inward turmoil she had grown accustomed to, only now it was intensified.
The next morning, however, she woke up a different person. She felt as if a heavy load had been taken off her back. She couldn’t wait to tell her dear friends all about it. The three met for coffee that afternoon. Mandy excitedly told them how convicted she had felt during the sermon, how she had come to realize that her Christianity had been a sham, that she had never truly surrendered her heart to God. “Now I understand that weird feeling I’ve been having,” she confided. “It was the Holy Spirit preparing my heart!” She chattered away—like one of them would do when a cute boy had taken an interest in them—not realizing that Jenny and Alex weren’t sharing her enthusiasm.
Over the following weeks, Mandy spent more and more time at the church the evangelist had spoken in—a church that seemed to have life in it. To her amazement, she seemed to be drifting away from Jenny and Alexis—the only true friends she had ever had.
However, theirs was a lifelong friendship that none of them was prepared to forfeit without a fight. The three girls, each in their own way, tried to keep the awkward relationship intact but it became increasingly more obvious that Mandy’s interests now lay elsewhere. She no longer wanted to be a part of their ritual Friday movie night. She had no interest in the “boy talk” that used to consume the three of them. She didn’t even seem to care about her education now—at least not in the same way as before. In fact, the few times they did get together she only wanted to talk about the Lord.
It was becoming painfully clear that she was moving in a different direction than her friends. Theirs was a moral Christianity that kept their lives within a loose framework of biblical principles. The promiscuous, party life they witnessed at their college was unthinkable to them. They took a certain degree of pride in their Christianity—the kind of pride that made them feel that they were above such sinful living.
Mandy had shared those feelings, but now she saw herself as a sinner in need of a Savior—not really any better than the party girls at school. Not only that, but she also felt she needed God’s involvement in every aspect of her life. Gone were the days when she kept Him at arm’s length and relegated Him to Sunday mornings. Mandy was now governed by an inward conviction that seemed to direct her every decision in life. She instinctively knew those inner promptings were from the Holy Spirit.
One day, Jenny and Alex decided they were going to straighten out their friend. “Mandy, you’ve gone off the deep end with this stuff,” complained Jenny. “You used to be carefree. Now you’ve just become so… so legalistic!” On and on she ranted, her words becoming increasingly shrill and hostile. Mandy knew her friend’s anger pointed at something deeper than the loss of their friendship. Jenny was under conviction about her own life. Nevertheless, her words cut very deeply into Mandy’s heart.
Alex couldn’t take the tension anymore and finally blurted out, “Mandy, why can’t it be like it used to be?” But she knew she could only answer in her heart: “Because Alex, I’m no longer just a nice church girl. Now I’m a believer in Jesus Christ.”
They all instinctively knew the relationship was over—ruined by the unexpected interference of an Intruder. This is the story of a religious system that has fallen far from the reality of God—where true believers are no longer welcome.
That is the apostasy.