December 12, 2016

Dear Esther,

Am I an apostate? Can I rejoin the body of believers and be forgiven?

A little over a year ago I left my church and I have spiraled into sin and near non-belief into there even being such a thing as “God.” I was just staring at pictures of my old fellow ministry members when I was struck by a sudden desire to go back. I literally turned my back on them and shame has stopped me in the past when I have felt this way before.

I’m confused because I want to go back, but I don’t want it to be just because of my old friends. Another ministry is out of the question because I feel in my heart that this is the one I NEED to go to for spiritual growth with God (that and the local university church is lukewarm if you know what I mean).

I think I already know the answer to whether God will forgive me. It is faith in the sacrifice of Jesus that saves and to doubt that His sacrifice would not save me is wrong, but I still feel that demon of doubt that perhaps I’m wrong and I’ve committed the only unforgivable sin.

Thank you,

(Uneasy)

Dear Uneasy,
Run, don’t walk back to your old church. I suggest first seeking out whomever you were closest to, and perhaps the senior pastor. It is not too late. It sounds like the Lord has never taken His hands off of your life.

What you sense to be a demon of doubt in your mind can be quashed by the Holy Spirit. Stop what you are doing and make a genuine prayer of confession and repentance unto the Lord. He will forgive you. He waits with open arms for you to resume an authentic personal relationship with Him. Repentance must come with the right heart motive and it must be genuine.

Everyone is guilty of some sort of shame. Don’t allow that to stop you from returning to the place where you feel you can benefit the most in your spiritual growth and best serve the Lord. It won’t be long until you feel at home again. You might find a few people are a bit distant at first, but never mind them; what matters is that your genuine repentance and recommitment to the Lord. He will honor your efforts and embrace you!

In 2 Corinthians 7:10 we read: “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

When a person repents, there is joy in heaven over that one sinner alone!

“I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).

Please rest assured, God is very forgiving. He calls sinners to seek Him, to forsake their sin and promises to forgive them. I believe the Lord has been calling you back to Him. Run to Him and never look back.

“Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7).

When a wayward sinner repents and turns back to God, he or she will live an eternity with the Lord and not an eternity of condemnation.

“But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live” (Ezekiel 18:21-22).

Through the power of the Holy Spirit even the most stubborn people can be redeemed. The author of confusion (the devil) wastes no time trying to pull even the strongest of believers away from the Lord if he can get a foothold into their lives. That is why we must daily:

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).

I want to caution you that some of your unbelieving friends may not be the best influence for you, especially now. You might have to walk away from some of them. You can do it in a quiet non-confrontational way. If you have an opening to share the gospel with them one day when you are stronger in the Lord, then you can always look them up.

It is time to place all your focus on Christ and get into your Bible every day. Your faith will be strengthened through consistent Bible study and a regular prayer life. It is a good idea to get into the habit of reading Scripture out loud:

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans10:17).

If you have even one true Christian friend you can trust, try to spend time together and encourage one another. Between your studies at school and time spent with the Lord, including time at church, you will be very busy and it won’t be hard to steer clear of those who are not walking with Him. Please be very careful what you fill your mind with and be sure to choose your friends wisely.

I am sure you have heard about the Parable of the Lost (Prodigal) Son. Please read and study this story in Luke 15:11-32. Despite the wayward son’s rebellion, when he returned home with a repentant heart his father welcomed him with open arms and was extremely happy to see him.

When he saw his son at a distance he was moved with compassion, ran and fell on his neck, kissed him and welcomed him home. He did everything he could to make his son feel welcome. He clothed him like royalty, fed him the best food and had a magnificent celebration in his honor.

This is an illustration of how our Heavenly Father rejoices when one of His lost children come back to Him. So to answer your first to questions: No, you are not an apostate and as I already pointed out, you can rejoin the body of believers and be forgiven.

Now walk forward, and don’t look back. I am praying for you. I will help you with this; write as often as you need to.

“‘Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Malachi 3:7).

In God’s love,

Esther

“But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live” (Ezekiel 18:21-22).