PASTOR'S PEN: Walking away from Jesus, but where?

In 1995, there was a popular contemporary Christian song entitled “Jesus Freak.” Its topic was commitment to Jesus, even at great personal cost. The song, written and performed by DC Talk, included a stanza about John the Baptist and how he was beheaded by King Herod because John refused to compromise when it came to telling the truth.

The chorus of the song was an admonition to Christian young people to not be ashamed of their faith and standing for the Name of Jesus:

What will people think when they hear that I’m a Jesus freak?

What will people do when they find that it’s true?

I don’t really care if they label me a Jesus freak,

There ain’t no disguising in the truth.

The lyrics came back to me recently when I read that Kevin Max, one of the band members who wrote and performed that song, announced he is an “ex-evangelical.”

The news was stunning, and I felt quite grieved inside.

How could this man, who was a very devoted Christian, at least by the evidence of the songs he helped to write and sing, now declare publicly that he has left the faith he once defended? On a broader scale, how could anyone who has had genuine fellowship with Jesus choose to reject the gospel and walk away from Him?

It’s hard to fathom, but sadly it happens. And even more sadly, it seems to be happening more frequently in our day.

Kevin Max, I discovered, is just the latest of a number of former Christian music artists who have publicly declared they have left the faith and are not Christians anymore, or at least not evangelical anymore. Audrey Assad and Marty Sampson, formerly of Hillsong United, are other musical artists who have gone through what has been called the “deconstruction” of their Christian faith, along with married couple Michael and Lisa Gungor.

Joshua Harris, author of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" has also left the traditional Christian faith, along with popular “Ear Biscuit” podcasters Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neale. In the sports world, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers also vocally rejected Christianity about a year-and-a-half ago.

Not surprisingly, there is a common theme among these defections from Christianity. They view the gospel message as being too narrow and, in doing so, reject the biblical doctrine regarding sin. They have come to the conclusion it is too harsh.

According to scripture, everyone has sinned and “come short of the glory of God;” that means we as sinful humans are unable to be in the Presence of God in our sinful state. The wages of sin, it says in Romans 6, is death, meaning eternal separation from God, and that includes all people everywhere who have reached the age of reason.

According to the Bible, our plight as sinners is utterly hopeless. We are condemned.

BUT there is hope for us! And that’s the good news of the gospel.

The gift offered to us by God the Father through the sacrifice of Jesus is forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

God is willing and desirous to forgive our sins and change our very nature but it is up to us to choose Him. He has given us a free will and never forces anyone. To receive salvation, we must put our faith in Jesus, the Son of God, dying for our sins on the cross, and we must willingly surrender our hearts to Him and allow Him to be the Savior and Shepherd of our lives here in this sinful, broken world.

Those of us who accept Jesus as Savior not only have the promise of eternal life in heaven after we die but the promise of God’s very Presence here with us in this broken world. The Spirit of God inside of us brings a peace the world cannot offer or provide. There is hope and joy in serving Jesus. We are admonished to bring about positive change in the world around us by loving others and treating them as we would like to be treated.

Those who choose to walk away from Christianity do so to embrace a philosophy that is contrary to the Bible but is more palatable to us as fallen sinners. They desire a different Jesus than the One revealed in scripture.

Simply put, they desire a Jesus who does not judge sin. They desire a Jesus (or a Jesus-like Messiah) who offers heaven to all without regard to the penalty of sin. Kevin Max even sings about a “universal Christ” in his songs these days. But this Jesus does not exist.

Sadly, the decisions we live with today we die with tomorrow. And then what for those who have rejected Jesus as their Savior?

This is how it is stated in John 3:17-18: “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the Name of God’s one and only Son.”

The choice belongs to us.

— Rev. Mike Dunn is pastor of the South Evart Free Methodist Church