Having just finished up a sermon on the betrayal or Jesus by Judas Iscariot, I have found it difficult to get Jesus’ haunting phrase out of my mind, “woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” While there is a uniquely historical aspect to Judas’ betrayal (no one will ever again be guilty of betraying the incarnate Jesus after having been personally called by Him and observing his character and teaching for three intense years), the issue of apostasy is ongoing and very closely related to Judas’ act.
Apostasy is the rejection of the person and work of Jesus Christ after having professed faith in Him and been associated with the people of God (through the church) to a significant decree. To apostasize, then, is to have experienced all the external benefits of Christ, His Word and His people and then to “betray” Him by rejecting these blessings in a functional pledge of loyalty to the evil one himself. Furthermore, the condition of apostates as described in Scripture seems very similar to that of Judas – hardened in sin and rebellion and turned over by God to the consequences of the course they have chosen (Heb. 6:4-6, Heb. 10:26-30) Thus, the assessment for those who reject Christ in this way could easily be summed up in Jesus’ woe to Judas – truly it would be better if they had never been born.
In light of this chilling reality, I would like to post an open letter to apostates (functional Judas’) that I penned last year after the very public statements of Josh Harris and several other prominent, formerly “Christian” leaders. I do wish to acknowledge that, “there for the grace of God go I,” and yet, I pray this letter will be part of the grace of God that keeps myself, and others, from “going there.” By bringing to your attention the stinging, and terrifying rebuke Scripture provides to apostates, I hope to perform a valuable shepherding function for the church as a whole.
Open Letter to Josh Harris and the Other Recent Apostates,
While others have undertaken to expose the foolishness and hypocrisy of publicly abandoning a “faith” that was clearly not your own, I would like to address the darker side of what you have done in abandoning the Lord Jesus Christ who lavished upon you both His common grace and the unique grace of being associated with His people. I do not write this with any malice or personal vindictiveness, but I hope to bring a jolting reminder of what the Bible has to say about your recent actions. My prayer is that you are not yet true apostates and will turn to the loving Savior in repentance and faith.
The first terrifying thing you have done in “abandoning the faith,” is place yourself directly under the wrath of the God that you so blithely reject. It is time for you to again read the warning of Hebrews 10:26-31
“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS M INE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “T HE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Notice again the strength of the condemnation here:
“Terrifying expectation of judgment” (the unescapable surety of condemnation to eternal hell)
“Fury of fire which will consume the adversaries,” (now, you)
“Severer punishment” (greater than one who had never received your knowledge and benefits)
“Trampled underfoot the Son of God” (disdaining Jesus as so much dung to be tread upon)
“Regraded as unclean the blood of the covenant” (viewing the cleansing fount as a defiling stream)
“Insulted the Spirit of grace (“spit in the face” of the Triune God)
“Vengeance is mine” (says God the Father)
“It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (no impotent, mythical deity this!)
Consider for moment that you, as a “naturally” sinful human being, have now multiplied that sin by abusing the work of the Son of God and rejecting the gift of the Holy Spirit, all provided by the gracious work of God the Father. In rejecting Christ, you have removed the one hope of protection you had, and have invited the focused, intentional anger of God upon your person – in essence daring God to follow through on His promise of wrath. This is a gambit which, as surely as the sun rises each morning, you are guaranteed to lose. You have intentionally channeled the infinitely great, eternal love of God for His Son, into a purposed, righteous, focused fury upon yourself.
The second disastrous action you have taken is to run for refuge into the arms of those who are the objects of God’s wrath just like yourself. You have rejected the grace of God, to cultivate the favor of those who can never truly love you. You have been betrayed by a “Judas kiss.” Rest assured that the open arms of acceptance into which you think you are running will soon lock themselves around you in life-crushing coils of cultural conformity from which you can never hope to extricate yourself. Please know that for all their so-called support, you will forever be a despised “Benedict Arnold” in the pagan army, useful for a time as a trophy of secular humanism and then cast aside as a lifeless corpse when they have sucked all benefit from you.
This is ever the way of Satan with his prey. He lures you with promises of wisdom and power, whispering to you of your importance and ability, then, once you have renounced allegiance to his hated enemy (Christ), pouncing and ripping you to shreds through conscience and circumstance. He shows no mercy to those he has duped, and laughingly condemns and crushes them as the fools they surely are. Truly, he is not called a prowling, devouring lion for nothing. You will find no rest for your soul in his deadly embrace. You have fallen prey to the master deceiver and will pay the same price that he must, the eternal torment of your immortal soul.
So, you have traded the security of salvation for the surety of eternal punishment, the steadfast love of God for the capricious manipulation of sinful men, the true satisfaction of God-glorifying service for the temporary soul-destroying pleasures of sin for a season.
I beg you again to turn from this grievous course and cast yourself upon the mercy of God. I fear that if you do not do this soon, you may find yourself forever hardened and thus unwilling and unable to repent. For the glory of God, the sake of your soul, and the good of your family and the world, bend your knee to King Jesus in humble repentance and faith. Don’t delay another moment.