Caught this video a week or two back, and it genuinely spoke to my own frustrations with the modern Christian church. The director of “The Chosen” is responding to criticism over the idea of Mary Magdalene backsliding into sin after being saved… The implication being that she was never saved, or that being saved was not enough.
I have heard too many pastors make this accusation, and every time they do, I pray for the Lord to bring them wisdom and clarity. Most recently – a popular pastor quoted Rick Warren when saying (and I am paraphrasing here) – if someone has left your group, left your church, it does not matter as they were never actually saved. Consider them “blessed subtractions.”
“Be willing to let people leave the church. And I told you earlier the fact that people are gonna leave the church no matter what you do. But when you define the vision, you’re choosing who leaves. You say, “But Rick, yes, they’re the pillars of the church.” Now, you know what pillars are. Pillars are people who hold things up … And in your church, you may have to have some blessed subtractions before you have any real additions”Rick Warren – The Purpose Driven Church
If an individual who has been saved by Christ backslides into sin, or walks way from a church, that does not make them a blessed subtraction, it means they need God more than ever. They need guidance and Truth. The modern church seems to have a greater focus on the 99 than the one who has gone astray. Mankind does not determine who is saved, only Jesus.
12 “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? 13 And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.Matthew 18:12-13
I have also heard pastors proclaim that unless someone is baptized in water – they will never see the Kingdom. They are not saved. All that they have done, all that they believe, all that they have committed to following Christ simply is not enough in the eyes of the church. I recall this specifically because it was said shortly after I lost my Father, a life long Catholic.
The implication was clear to me, that as a Catholic, because my father was not born again in water, because he did not accept Christ in a manner ordained by the church, he was not going to heaven. In fact, he was not there now! “You were not baptized as a child, you got wet.” A pastor said that on April 28th, 2019. The day I was born again. Take that in.
Now Jesus said the following…
5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.John 3:5-6
Simple enough explanation… but follow my thought process for a moment here…
39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, [j]“If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”
40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”Luke 23:39-43
Where was the water tank? By the standards of men, that criminal was damned. By the standards of Christ – when he closed his eyes for the last time he awoke in the Kingdom of God. Another pastor reinforced my belief by recounting the tale of an elderly woman who on her death bed turned to Christ. She was saved. No water but the living water of Christ required.
14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”John 4:14
37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”John 7:37-38
We are human, we are flawed, we are sinners, but none of us are beyond redemption. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as atonement for our sins wiped our slate clean.
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.John 14:6
There are no asterisks there, no fine print. I love Jesus for that. Nowhere in the Holy Bible does it say if you backslide, you were not saved to begin with. Now I have seen Matthew 18:15-17 used to justify the idea of a blessed subtraction, or that someone simply was never saved…
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.Matthew 18:15-17
Jesus Himself, as quoted by a former tax collector! The way I interpret that, is if a brother sins – talk to them directly. If they do not listen, bring another brother with you. If they still do not listen, talk to the church. After you have done what you can as commanded by Christ – love them.
What? Why can I not just call them a blessed subtraction to laughter and applause, or simply dismiss them as never saved? Who are we as followers of Christ to dictate the terms of the salvation He gave us? Some may think that is proper, but Christ thought differently.
30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”Mark 12:30-31
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.Matthew 5:43-48
It is wrong to imply that any follower of Christ who has backslid into sin, left a church, or not been baptized in water is not saved. Whomever proclaims as such is antithetical to the Word of God. No amount of salt matters when the voice is bereft of both the living water of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Let not your hearts be troubled. Have faith. Love God. Seek peace!
The truth here is that each and every one of us is a prodigal son. No matter the sin, no matter what anyone says in regards to the quality of our faith – praise God that Jesus has the final word. When we backslide into sin or think we have lost our faith… our Father will see us approaching no matter how far away He seems, and He will come running.
There are great, talented, God loving pastors out there right now, actively helping to turn lost souls towards Christ. They stand at the very beginning of the road we must travel back to our Father in heaven. They stand ready and waiting for the meek and the humble, for those seeking Him, to help us repent and start our journey back home.
Seek, and you shall be found.