Three Pleas to My Formerly Christian Friends

Many of my friends who once professed to be Christians have walked away from the faith. If you are one of those people, I want you to know that I still love you and deeply appreciate our friendship. But I also grieve for you and pray for you. I know we don’t have the opportunity to go chat at a coffee shop, and perhaps we never will, but as my friend I hope you will take 10 minutes to read what I have to say. I want to make three pleas to you; one to your mind, one to your will, and one your emotions.

A Plea to Your Mind

One of the most common reasons I hear for why friends have walked away from the faith is their experience with hypocritical Christians. Perhaps your parents were considered exemplary Christians in their church, but you knew what really went on at home. Or you listened to preaching or attended a church that was ruthlesslly legalistic. Maybe you experienced a nasty church split or suffered as the church people shredded your dad, their pastor, to pieces. I don’t know what you have experienced, and I don’t downplay it in the least. One person once told me as I walked through deep ministry waters, “God is good, but sometimes his people are bad.”

Hang on to that thought, because we’ll come back to it in a minute. For now, though, would you please consider this simple plea? Please do not measure the worth of Jesus by his worst representatives. I get it, if that’s what Christianity is like, then you want nothing to do with it. But don’t stop there. Find the best imitators of Jesus you can, and then make your value judgment.

If I wanted to persuade you that soccer is an amazing sport (and I think it is), I would be foolish to take you to my 6-year old daughter’s Saturday soccer “game.” It looks more like a tornado of todders than a soccer match. No, I would take you to Spain to watch FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi work his wizardry live. Why? Because he’s the best of the best. And beautiful soccer is a delight to watch.

My plea with you is, even in spite of your experience, to consider there may be brighter fields of Christianity. Seek them out. I say this with sincerity, because I know there are brighter fields. And we have to ask ourselves, “How can people claim to be Christians, but live as hypocrites?” This leads me to my second plea.

A Plea to Your Will

Earlier I mentioned the quote, “God is good, but sometimes his people are bad.” I think that statement is partially true. As born sinners, all of us do bad things, but God’s children have been given new hearts, and their heavenly Father lovingly disciplines them when they do wrong. So if we think God’s people are bad without any repentance or spiritual growth, then we are wrong.

Which leads me to ask this question: when you walked away from the faith, did you really choose to walk away? Or did you simply confirm externally what had always been true internally? God says that when people walk away from the faith, it shows they never really believed it in the first place.

“They went out from us, but they were not of us;
for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.
But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”

1 John 2:19

In other words, your will was never enamored with Jesus Christ, at least not in a persevering, saving way. It had always been captured by a different love. More than that, your former experience with Christians may have been no experience with Christians at all, for they too may have never believed. The hypocrisy you witnessed was no true faith at all, but actually a “different gospel” (see Galatians 1:6-9).

So I make this plea to your will. Repent and believe in the gospel, not on the basis of former experiences, baptisms, or altar calls. Believe it on the basis of the finished work of Jesus Christ. Believe in his death as a substitute for your sin and in his resurrection as power for your new life. If you do, I can promise you will experience a radically different kind of Christianity than the one you walked away from. This promise leads me to my third and final plea.

A Plea to Your Emotions

As someone who has never actually believed the gospel in a life-transforming way, I plead with you—come, “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8)! You have never truly feasted on him. You don’t know what he is like. You have never known the God who formed the cosmos with his word, wound the clock of time, called and created a nation out of a barren couple, judged nations who sacrificed their children to false gods, raised the dead at funeral processions, granted eternal life by the death of his immortal Son, turned the world upside down with a handful of stubborn disciples, and now waits to commence the end of this age.

This same God is full of compassion for you. He wants you to know him, delight in him, and be satisfied in him. As Psalm 36:7-9 says,

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
    and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light do we see light.

I have hope some of you who read this will come to know the delight found only in Jesus Christ. This gospel which you already know so well is still offered to you freely. And I am always open to talk more. I will always count you as my friend, and I will always pray you hear my pleas to turn to Christ.

~CP

Jehovah Rapha (The Lord Who Heals)

Dealing with all the dirtiness of the Coronavirus made me start thinking about all the biblical themes of uncleanness that permeate the gospels. Jesus, by nature of his healing power, seemed to draw both physically and spiritually dirty people to him.

It isn’t something we like to think or talk about, but our world’s real and deadly plague reminds us of the deeper infection that all humanity already is plagued by. It reminds us that the only one who can heal us of our sin is Jesus Christ. The name Jehovah Rapha is a Hebrew title for God, meaning “the Lord who heals.” God may or may not choose to heal us from physical sickness, but the gospels make clear Jesus stands ready to heal anyone who comes to him for spiritual healing.

I wrote a song to try to capture this idea. I hope it ministers to your soul. You can watch me sing it here: https://youtu.be/TrKmHNil-yA

Jehovah Rapha (The Lord Who Heals)

“Unclean!” The leper cries,
He dare not lift his eyes,
But staggers up in shame and makes a scene.
For having found the Christ,
He begs with all his might,
“If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Unclean a dozen years
With flow of blood and tears,
The suff’ring woman reaches through the crowd.
With just a simple touch
Her flow of blood dries up,
“Who touched me?” Says the Savior, turning round.

Jehovah Rapha, touch us with your hand,
For we cry “Abba! Father! Heal our land.”
If you are willing, you can make us clean.
For You alone are able to redeem.

With trembling and with fear,
We all can still draw near,
With wounds that go far deeper than our skin.
For Jesus saves the soul,
Who begs to be made whole,
Repenting from the plague of sin within.

Jehovah Rapha, touch us with your hand,
For we cry “Abba! Father! Heal our land.”
If you are willing, you can make us clean.
For you alone are able to redeem.

Copyright 2020 by Cameron Pollock

What About Rahab?

I have often heard this accusation leveled at the Bible: “God commanded the Israelites to commit mass genocide when they conquered Canaan. A God of love could not be so cold and merciless, so I do not accept the Bible as true (at least not certain parts of it).”

There are many ways to respond to this objection, but today I just want to focus on one burning question. If the conquest of Canaan paints a picture of God as cold and merciless, what about Rahab?

Rahab, we are told in Joshua 2, was a prostitute in the ancient city of Jericho. Joshua, the chief commander of Israel, sent two men to spy out the land, “especially Jericho.” When they enter the city, Rahab receives them into her house. The king of Jericho was watching, and he sent a message to Rahab telling her to hand over the Israelite men. Instead, Rahab hides the Israelite men and says she already sent the spies away. If the king hurries, his soldiers will catch up to them in no time. The king bites the bait, giving Rahab enough time to help the Israelite spies escape through her window in the city wall. A prostitute who used to receive men into her home for her perverted profession had now received men into her home for an entirely different reason. Why did she do it? She tells the spies,

“For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.

Joshua 2:10-11
Credit: unsplash.com

Rahab believed in the power of the Lord. She proceeds to form a covenant with the spies. In exchange for her faith-filled act of loyal love and kindness, she begs for God’s loyal love on her family in return (Joshua 2:12-13).

Four chapters later we find God’s people doing exactly as they promised. Rahab hangs a scarlet cord in the same window she used to deliver the spies as a sign to Israel to have that same mercy on her. Don’t miss the stark contrast between judgment and mercy!

But to the two men who had spied out the land, Joshua said, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring out from there the woman and all who belong to her, as you swore to her.” So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord. But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.

Joshua 6:22-25

Rahab was still alive at the time this book of Joshua was written. She was a former prostitute, a woman, and a Canaanite. She had three strikes in that culture and should have been out. But instead she was a living example of God’s mercy and love to everyone in Israel. Hebrews 11:31 tells us, “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

God’s favor on Rahab extended far beyond what she could have ever imagined. Centuries later Matthew mentions her alongside Ruth the Moabitess, another great foreigner of the faith, as matriarchs of king David and the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

“and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king… and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.”

Matthew 1:5-6, 16
Credit: unsplash.com

That is not the work of a cold and merciless God; that is a work of a loving and gracious God. Is it possible that other Canaanites confessed faith in Yahweh and received mercy? In light of Rahab’s story it is safe to say “yes.” Even though the Canaanites knew much about Yahweh, we do not read of many cases like Rahab in the Old Testament. Apparently Rahab’s faith was rare. The conquest of Canaan, if anything, points to the depravity of the human heart that stubbornly refuses to pursue God’s mercy even in the face of impending judgment. It is a miracle of mercy that any of us would believe. And it is to God’s glory that anyone, like Rahab and her family, has been “saved alive.” God still freely extends the promise of forgiveness and salvation to anyone who repents of their sin and professes faith in Christ. The scarlet cord hangs today, but now in the form of the blood of Jesus Christ stained on a wooden cross. Mercy is extended. The only question is this: will we, like Rahab, believe?

CP