This post is a continuation from Part 1. To read Part 1, click here.
The fourth reason I am a Christian is because I know whom I have believed, not who I have believed, the who being church leaders. Many people put their faith in pastors, priests, or rabbis and when they fail or fall, then the faith of many is affected.
Those who leave their faith because they were offended by church leaders should remember the admonition of God: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:5).
Kevin’s decision and the decision of the people at outofchristianity are not unique. The people of Israel also abandoned God: “‘You have abandoned me and turned your back on me,’ says the Lord. ‘Therefore, I will raise my fist to destroy you. I am tired of always giving you another chance’” (Jeremiah 15:6).
Why did Israel abandon God? The prophetic books of the Old Testament give several reasons:
Israel’s prophets were arrogant; they were treacherous men (Zephaniah 3:4).
Israel’s priests profaned what was holy (Zephaniah 3:4).
Israel’s teachers taught lies and falsehoods and thus did not help the people to turn from their evil ways (Jeremiah 23:22).
The shepherds of Israel took care of themselves instead of taking care of their flock (Ezekiel 34:2-5).
But poor leadership was not the only reason the people abandoned God. The people of Israel were destroyed because they did not know the difference between good and evil (Hosea 4:6). They went into exile for lack of understanding of their responsibility before God (Isaiah 5:13).
In addition, the people would not listen to the call for a change of attitude. The people were as stiff-necked as their ancestors had been. The people did not trust in the Lord their God. They rejected God’s teaching and the covenant God had made with their ancestors and the warnings God had given them through the prophets. They followed the work of their hands, worthless idols, and in turn they themselves became as worthless as their idols (2 Kings 17:14-15).
This is what Israel had done. The Lord said: “For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me–the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!” (Jeremiah 2:13).
Notice that God said: “My people.” They were God’s people, but they had abandoned God. They had abandoned God, the fountain of living water in order to be satisfied with water from cisterns, the work of their own hands. Instead of trusting in God, the people of Israel decided to go alone, only to discover that in the hour of their greatest need, they were all alone, deprived of divine help.
The tragic result of living without God is clearly seen in the book of Lamentations: “How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave. She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her” (Lamentations 1:1-2).
Jerusalem represents the people of Israel. The people of Israel had gone into an exile of affliction and hard servitude because they had left God in order to go alone. The people left God in order to find solace among the works of their hands only to discover that at the time of their deepest despair, when they were facing the darkest night of their soul, they were all alone, deprived of the God who could help them, with none to comfort them.
The people of Israel became like the prophets of Baal. At a time when the people needed help beyond themselves, they cried for help but there was no response because there was no one there to answer them (1 Kings 18:26). People who abandon God face the risk of being spiritually alone in their time of need, deprived of the only one who can truly help them.
The Bible encourages believers to persevere. James wrote: “Blessed are those who persevere because they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). Jesus said: “But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
The focus of faith is Jesus, not the Bible, not the church, not doctrines, and not church leaders. The words of the hymn written by Eliza E. Hewitt express this truth clearly:
My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device or creed;
I trust the ever living One,
His wounds for me shall plead.
I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me.
Claude F. Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary