In past weeks I’ve shared the news of some Christian leaders recently turning away from their faith.
In the Western World, we’ve seen a macro-version of this over the past two generations–especially in Europe and among young people. Some call it the “Great Turning Away” that the Bible predicts.
These reports jar us–even cause some doubts in our hearts.
For the next three weeks I will share a “Faith Trilogy” on who you can trust to stand firm despite the defections. Here is Part 1:
Why I trust the cloud of witnesses.
Faith Trilogy 1 – Why I Trust the Cloud of Witnesses
I can think of at least three reasons you can absolutely trust in the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ. They form a strong three-legged stool of faith beneath you and a three-strand cord that can’t be broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
The first leg of the chair includes billions of people.
Though turning away from other religions is far more common than those who turn away from Christ, defections happen in every generation–starting with the first. The Early Church dealt with this problem and gave specific teachings why some people turn their back on Jesus (e.g. Hebrews 6:4-6, 2 Peter 2:20-22, 2 Timothy 4:10).
More importantly, believers in all time periods have focused strongly on those who give their lives to Christ for a lifetime–even through persecution and death–because of their trust in God.
They make up a vast cloud of witnesses.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us… ” (Hebrews 12:1).
Just as courtrooms use evidence and witnesses to reach verdicts (the truth about a crime), so our faith is similarly built. Biblical faith is not blind-sighted. We believe because there is more credible evidence for the truth about Christ than anything else.
In other words, we trust because of the witnesses–the evidence. I wouldn’t base my life and eternity on anything else.
Hebrews 11–the “Hall of Faith–gives a short list of the witnesses of God’s salvation. They include:
- Noah, the most righteous man in the pre-Flood world.
- Abraham–the incredibly obedient father of faith.
- Moses – a great deliverer and law-giver who met with God face-to-face.
- David – one of the greatest kings of all time and a “man after God’s own heart.”
We could add some New Testament giants:
- Peter – the fisherman who became the pillar of the Church and was crucified upside down because of his unswerving faith in Jesus of Nazareth.
- Paul – one of the most brilliant intellects of history–whose letters and writings have impacted the world more than any other.
There are the other heroes of history including Augustine of Hippo, Patrick of Ireland, Boniface of Germany–and billions of others, some well-known and others little known–who put their faith in Christ and impacted the world for good.
Could this array of “witnesses” ever be produced by a false god, false ideas, and a charlatan Messiah? Would any of them have laid their lives down for a lie?
What about the Muslim religion? Islam has nearly 2 billion followers. But its numbers come primarily from forced conversions and birth. Where are the character-filled heroes? Where are the godly examples of faith, hope and sacrificial-love?
They almost exclusively exist in the cloud of witnesses who believe in God and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Every Jesus follower also possesses a personal group of witnesses whose faith impacted theirs. My personal “cloud” includes Steff Steinhorst who brought me to faith and Gary Bannister who taught me to follow Him. Blythe Harper helped deliver me from demonic bondage and Roly Houghton, Rev.Dave Jacobsen, Bill Thompson and Noel Hunt taught me to love the Bible.
Loren Cunningham inspired me to pursue the Great Commission and Leland Paris imparted the burden for revival in America. Dozens of YWAM leader/friends show me daily that God is alive and well–and at work around the world.
One of the smartest businessmen I ever met–Harry Conn–taught me the uniqueness of the Christ’s atonement. A humble engineer–Gordon Olson–led me to trust in the blessed character of God and His kingdom. Steve Watkins shepherded me as a young follower of Jesus and Keith Warrington helped me find my destiny.
Today, I am surrounded by family, friends, co-workers, missionaries and others I’m acquainted with who all witness that faith in Christ makes me right with God and brings eternal life.
This cloud of witnesses, both in heaven and on earth, is overwhelmingly–if I keep my eyes clear and in pursuit of the truth.
Other godly witnesses whom I’ve never met also instruct me.
John Cooper, songwriter and lead singer of Christian rock band Skillet, shared a powerful apologetic recently on the trend of high-profile Christians renouncing their faith.
Here is a sampling of his witness:
“What is happening in Christianity? More and more of our outspoken leaders or influencers who were once ‘faces’ of the faith are falling away. And at the same time, they are being very vocal and bold about it. Shockingly they still want to influence others (for what purpose?) as they announce that they are leaving the faith.”
“I am stunned that the seemingly most important thing for these leaders who have lost their faith is to make such a bold new stance… basically saying, ‘I’ve been living and preaching boldly something for 20 years and led generations of people with my teachings and now I no longer believe it. Therefore, I’m going to boldly and loudly tell people it was all wrong while I boldly and loudly lead people to my next truth.'”
“I’m perplexed why they aren’t embarrassed? Humbled? Ashamed, fearful, confused? Why be so eager to continue leading people when you clearly don’t know where you are headed?”
“They say ‘I’m disavowing my faith but remember, love people, be generous, forgive others.’ Ummm, why? That is not human nature. No child is ever born and says, ‘I just want to love others before loving myself. I want to turn the other cheek. I want to give my money away to others in need.’ Those are Bible principles taught by [Jesus] who wants us to live by a higher standard which is not an earthly standard, but rather the ‘Kingdom of God’ standard.”
“Therefore, if Jesus is not the truth and if the Word of God is not absolute, then by preaching Jesus’s teachings you are endorsing the words of a madman. A lunatic who said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ How would you know ‘what is good’ without Jesus’s teachings? And will your ideas of what is ‘good’ be different from year to year based on your experience, culture trends, [popular] opinion etc. and furthermore will you continue year by year to lead others into your idea of goodness even though it is not absolute?”
Cooper’s witness reminds me of a good cross-examination–refuting the hollow arguments of the faith defectors (Proverbs 18:17).
His wise words add to the mushroom cloud of witnesses that Jesus is the way.
Root your faith in the abundance of evidence of changed lives. Though trust is ultimately not about numbers, be encouraged by the cloud of witnesses around you that shout out the reality of the loving God and his salvation found in Jesus Christ.
Next week I will share an even greater reason for faith.
It’s your GPS. It tells you where you are and where you’re going.
Stay tuned (and pass it on).