Monday, February 21, 2011

Is My Christian Friend Really A Christian?

Question Received:

"I'm not sure whether I am dealing with a "backslidden Christian" or an apostate. Can you help me discern which, and how I might pray for this situation? This person accepted Christ and for many years lived a dedicated Christian life, even held an ordained office in the church. Then a distinct trait of selfishness surfaced and the person became obsessed with gaining personal gratification, even at the expense of others, i.e., life became all about them. Accompanying this behavior was also a mean, tyrant-like demeanor that surfaced if they felt challenged in any way. This person stopped saying Grace at meals which was a definite change from the normal procedure they used before eating. Eventually all spiritual conversations were turned into arguments until finally there was no spiritual talk at all coming from them. Yet, the person attends church and Sunday School every week and financially supports the church with tithe. Is this person simply backslidden or is it apostasy? Where is the fine line drawn? Please help me discern what I am dealing with. Sometimes I feel afraid when I am with this person."

Answer:

It is right to be concerned about your friend. Is he backsliden or in apostasy? It can not be discerned by what information you have shared. Your friend is not living and enjoying the fruit of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5:22-23. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." [NIV]

Christians do fall into trouble and depression. Charles Spurgeon, the great London "Prince of Preachers" in the 1800's, battled depression for years. Christians also fall into wrong doctrine. Paul writes to the church in Galatia about this. Galations 1:6 "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ." [NIV] The false prosperity gospel comes to mind when physical satisfaction is the primary focus of faith.

In the parable of the sheep and goats [Matthew 25:31-46] we know all professing members of the church are not Christians. Only The Son of Man the King will discern who is a Christian and a member of the kingdom.

Pray with your friend. I would suggest John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

1 Corinthians 15:57 " But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Apostasy or backslidden? You can not draw that line. Pray with your friend and comfort him. If what you say is true he needs peace and most of all peace with God.

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