From the beginning of the Gospel of Christ people have heard about what He has said and done, and many have committed their lives to Him. Also from the beginning, many have fallen away from Jesus and no longer believed. In the narrative of Judas Iscariot we see the type of person who falls away, not because Jesus is insufficient for trust, but because the heart of some people simply cannot believe.
There are many reasons why people stop believing in Jesus, but none of these have anything to do with Him. Human beings are complicated and have many difficulties with spiritual life. The Bible describes us all as lost in our sins and incapable of saving ourselves. Even after some people come to faith in Christ, they struggle with their doubts for many years. Some give up and no longer follow Jesus. This essay is dedicated to an understanding of people who fall away from Jesus.
First, and most important, anyone who places their trust in Jesus and finds salvation does so of their own free will. Whether a person remains with Jesus and continues to believe, is also their decision. When we examine the texts of the New Testament we see that Jesus never tried to force people to trust Him. He answered their questions and told them what they must do, and then He left the decision to them. The rich young ruler came to Jesus wanting to know how to obtain eternal life. Jesus told Him that his wealth was the barrier to trusting Him and if he was willing to sell all he had and follow Jesus, he would have eternal life. The young man was not able to do this, and walked away without salvation. Jesus did not pursue him, but left his decision to the young man.
When the Samaritan woman at the well asked Jesus to give her the eternal life Jesus promised, she believed with all her heart and went out to tell the people of her village that Jesus was the Messiah. She did this of her own free will, Jesus never pressured her to believe.
The New Testament is filled with texts that describe the necessity of persons to continue trusting in Jesus for all of their life if they will obtain eternal life. It is often easy to say a few words of faith during a moment of emotion and start to follow Jesus; it is another matter altogether to continue to trust Jesus throughout one’s life. There are many obstacles along the way that cause people to stop believing. Jesus addresses three of these in His parable of the sower.
Jesus describes the word of God as the seed that is scattered throughout the world. Some of this seen falls on hard ground that has been trampled and it never takes root. People with hard hearts because of hurt, failure, sin, or abuse, often find it difficult or impossible to accept the truth of Jesus. In this parable, Jesus said that the devil comes along and steels this truth from the hard hearts of some people and they cannot continue to follow Jesus.
There are many people who claim to be atheists who are really just wounded souls who have been hurt by the world. They have been abused by religious people or churches. They have see the hypocrisy of those who claim to know Jesus and they are rightfully disgusted. The problem for these persons is that they cannot distinguish between false or pretend believers, and Jesus Himself. It is a fact that some who claim to follow Jesus, do not act properly as people should who belong to Jesus. The bad behavior of people does not diminish the perfection of Jesus or change who He is. Sometimes people struggle with sin, pride, and their own doubts, and this leads to very bad behavior as a follower of Jesus.
We should be wise and recognize that people are not going to be perfect. They came to Jesus in the first place because their lives were a mess and they are in the process of becoming like Jesus. None of us who love the Lord are perfect and we all make many mistakes. We should understand that simply because a person claims to believe in Jesus, they are still living in a body of sin and they will make many mistakes. People who trust Jesus obtain a new spirit within them that wants to please the Lord. They also live in the old body with the old nature, and this causes a constant battle between the spirit and the flesh. Only after our body dies and our new spirit within is released, can we truly become perfect like Jesus.
Everyone who trusts in Jesus is forgiven from all their sins because of what Jesus has done, but they will not be completely like Jesus until their death and they are free of the old body of sin and death.
Jesus on the other hand is perfect in every way. He will never disappoint us, or act in any way that is contrary to genuine love or perfect righteousness. We should keep our eyes on Jesus and not people. If we focus on Jesus and who He is, we will never fall away from the Lord because of the bad behavior of people.
Another cause of a hardened heart is the loss of loved ones. It is hard for some people to reconcile their prayers to God for healing when their loved one’s still die. Often people don’t realize that from God’s point of view, death is the door that heals people we love. We think about the loss of those we care for; God thinks about a complete and eternal healing where they will never get sick or die again. If we really think about this, we will realize that this is what we wanted when we prayed for their healing. When we pray and ask God to heal people we love and they die, He has answered us. They are now healed and will never suffer again. They will remain in heaven where their lives will be perfect forever. We can see them again is we continue to trust in Jesus for all of our life.
Jesus described a second type of person who hears the good news of salvation, accepts Jesus but they have no roots in the word of God, and so, they fall away from Him. Without a daily consumption of God’s word, we will all starve to death spiritually. Without time spent meditating on the good words of God in the Bible, we will not have the strength to endure the trials and difficulties of this life. Every believer in Jesus who begins to fall away from Him, can trace their weakened faith to a lack of daily Bible reading and prayer. These two are essential to enduring with Jesus for our entire life.
The third person is one who hears the message about Jesus and receives it, but the cares of this world and the pursuit of things that are in the world, cause these people to fall away from Jesus. The danger of doing well in life and prospering financially, is that sometimes these things tear us away from Jesus. We get so busy with the things of the world that we no longer have time to spend with Jesus, His word, or prayer. When we begin to forget to spend time with Jesus in His word, it will not be long before we will fall away from Jesus. It is not a sin to have things in the world, but it is a sin to let the things in the world have us. We need to maintain a light touch on this world if we will be able to endure with Jesus for all of our life.
Can A Person Who Falls Away From Jesus, Return To Him?
The Bible is filled with texts that tell us this is absolutely true. Anyone who falls away from Jesus can come back to Him and be accepted. I don’t know anyone who has not had doubts in their life as they have been following Jesus. Doubts are not sin,; falling away is not sin; staying away is sin. Any person who has had doubts and stopped following Jesus for a time, can come back to Him and continue on with their relationship with the Lord. Those who fall away and come back, living the rest of their life for Jesus, will be saved.
The problem for some of those who do fall away is that they don’t want to come back to Jesus. Once we detach ourselves from Him, the attraction of the world, sin, and the lies of satan, can permanently tear us from Jesus. If we do not come back to Jesus and continue to follow HIm, we will not be saved.
One of the clearest texts that describes a person falling away from Jesus, is found in the book of Romans, chapter 11. In these scriptures Paul describes the Jews as the branches of a tree that began with Abraham. When Jesus came to earth as the promised Messiah, most of the Jews did not accept Him as their Messiah. These branches of Abraham’s tree were broken off. Then Paul describes how the Gentiles were branches that were grafted into Abraham’s tree.
Paul warns that since God cut off the original branches, the Jews, who did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah, He will also cut off the grafted in wild branches of those who are Gentiles, if they stop believing.
But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree. But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root. “Well,” you may say, “those branches were broken off to make room for me.” Yes, but remember—those branches were broken off because they didn’t believe in Christ, and you are there because you do believe. So don’t think highly of yourself, but fear what could happen. For if God did not spare the original branches, he won’t spare you either. Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off. ~Romans 11:17-22 (NLT)
In John’s Gospel, Jesus describes the need of all believers to remain attached to Jesus, if they will receive eternal life. Notice how John uses the same illustration of the branches that remain and those that are cut off, to demonstrate what will happen to those who stop believing in Jesus:
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. ~John 15:1-6 (NLT)
The Decision To Be Saved Or Lost, Is Ours
Just as a person can fall away and be lost forever; a person can change their mind and come back to Jesus and follow Him again. These persons will have eternal life if they continue to trust Jesus for the rest of their lives. Paul writes about these individuals:
Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. ~James 5:19-20 (NKJV)
By Paul’s instructions to believers that if they help turn a person who has wandered from Jesus, back to Him, we can understand that a return is possible. We also find that there are many who turn away from Jesus and it is impossible for them to come back. The impossibility is not with the Lord, for all things are possible with Him, but with those who stop believing. Often a person who falls away from Jesus, finds it impossible to come back to Him:
For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come—and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame. ~Hebrews 6:4-6 (NLT)
Why has it become impossible? The human heart is a delicate thing. The trauma of falling away from Jesus and going back into the world, often creates permanent damage that will not allow a person to return. Jesus is always ready to accept anyone who has fallen away. The problem is that people don’t want to come back.
For this reason, it is very important that we do not allow our heart to tear us away from Jesus. Doubts are to be expected. Trials are a certainty. Losses and crosses to bear will come into our life. We must not let anything persuade us to stop trusting Jesus and remain faithful to Him for the rest of our life. If we do fall away, we can come back, but sometimes it is impossible once a person falls away.
Be assured that if you have fallen away from Jesus, He is ready to accept you once again, if you come to Him and remain with Him, you will have eternal life and heaven will be your home forever.
Judas Iscariot is an example of someone who fell away and found it impossible to come back to Jesus. Peter fell away from Jesus but repented of his sin, came back to Jesus, and continued to believe for the rest of His life. Judas was lost, Peter was saved. The decision to leave or come back to Jesus is ours. If we remain faithful to Jesus for all of our life, we have the promise of God that we will be eternally saved.
How True Salvation Takes Place
The way that God saves people is not by knowledge. Learning about Jesus does not save us. In John chapter 3, the Pharisee, Nicodemus, comes to Jesus at night. He wants to know how Jesus is able to perform miracles, if He is not from God, as his fellow Pharisees have alleged. Jesus cuts through all the religious discussions and informs Nicodemus that “unless you are born again, you cannot see or enter the Kingdom of God.” Nicodemus is hearing what Jesus said, only in terms of his Jewish religion. “How can a man enter into his mother’s womb and be born a second time?” Jesus tells Nicodemus that He is not talking about a second physical birth, but a second that is possible only by the Spirit of God.
Inside every human being, God created an eternal Spirit. Because of sin, that spirit is dead to God. It cannot have a relationship with its Creator any longer. Jesus said that when any person believes that He is the Messiah that God promised, and by His crucifixion and resurrection, our sins are forgiven, we have entered into this second birth of the Spirit. God makes us alive spiritually and we begin a new relationship with God.
If we merely go to church and listen to the sermons; we pay a tithe, or tell people about Jesus, this is not salvation. We might go on a missions trip to a third world country. We might go to Seminary and become a pastor or Bible teacher. These things do not make us born again of the Spirit. Only when we are sincerely sorry for our sins and come to Jesus with genuine belief that His death paid for our sins, do be become born again. It is at that moment that salvation becomes ours.
Many people who think that have stopped believing in Jesus, never were truly saved in the first place. They said and did everything that a believer is supposed to do, but it was all works of their flesh and not works by God’s Spirit.
If you are not sure whether you have been truly born again, you can settle this issue right here, right now. By a simple prayer of sincerity, meaning with all of your heart what you pray, God will hear you, forgive your sins, come into your life and live in you. If anyone does not have the Spirit of God living in them, they are not His. When we are sincere and genuinely want to turn from our sins—to live our life for Jesus—He comes to live in us and causes us to be truly born again. The following is a sample prayer you can pray to make certain you are born again by God’s Spirit and genuinely saved:
“Dear Lord Jesus. I know that I am a sinner. I am asking you to forgive all of my sins at this moment. I am willing to turn from those sins and follow you for the rest of my life. I believe that you died for me on the cross, Jesus. I believe that you rose from the dead on the third day, as the scriptures predict, and the disciples wrote. I place all my trust in you. I intend to follow and believe in you for the rest of my life. I pray this in your name, Jesus, amen.”
Evidence For Faith
At the following links on this website you will find many essays that describe facts of the Christian faith, and the science of the universe, that will help you in growing your confidence and faith in Jesus.
- Evidence For God
- Scientific Evidence For God: A Fine-Tuned Universe
- How The Physical Laws Of The Universe Prove God
The facts of evidence that is included in the following essays, proves that it is possible to know for certain whether we can trust what is written about Jesus. The following are the resources available at this site which contain evidence to prove each of these important issues:
- When Were The Gospels Written?
- Were The Gospels Written By Eyewitnesses?
- Did The Gospel Writers Borrow From Each Other?
- Has The Text Of The New Testament Been Changed?
- Is The New Testament Filled With Errors?
- Were The Four Gospels Written Anonymously?
- The Body Of New Testament Evidence
- Are There Sources For Jesus Outside The New Testament?
- Is The New Testament A Valid Historical Narrative?
- Did Jesus Really Claim To Be God?
Other Articles For New Testament Criticism
- The Synoptic Problem
- Historical, Evidentiary Proof Of New Testament Reliability
- Why The New Testament Is a Valid Historical Narrative
- Evidence The Four Gospels Are Separate And Distinct Narratives
- Scripture Is The Only Authority In All Matters Concerning Christianity
- Alleged Textual Variants Of The New Testament Do Not Change The Narrative
- The Internal Evidence Of The New Testament Proves Its Integrity And Reliability
- Archeological Discoveries That Confirm The New Testament Narratives Of Jesus
- How Forensic Evidence Proves The New Testament Is Historical And Reliable
- Correctly Dating The P64 Magdalen Papyrus
- First Century Manuscript Evidence For Jesus
- A List Of Conservative And Liberal Bible Scholars
- The False Assertion That The Gospel Writers Borrowed From Mark Or The “Q” Document
- It Is Very Easy To Deceive An Atheist
- Impeaching The Idea That The New Testament Is Not True
- New Testament Reliability: Eyewitnesses And Liars
- The Four Gospels Were Not Written Anonymously
- The New Testament Passes Every Literary Test of History
- The New Testament Is Intended As Historical Accounts
- Examining The New Testament For Reliability And Eyewitness Accounts
- Proving The New Testament Is A Reliable Narrative Of Jesus’ Crucifixion And Resurrection From Evidence
- Does Jesus Live In The Believer? How Jesus Communicated A Remembrance Of All He Had Done To The New Testament Writers
- Table Of Extant Greek New Testament Manuscripts
- 121 Non Biblical Sources For Jesus in the Historical Record
- How Does Criticism Of The New Testament Relate To Its Reliability?
- Evidence Of New Testament Reliability: Reliance Upon The Old Testament
- Truth And Lies Regarding New Testament Reliability
- The Truth Of The New Testament Is Not Defined By Opinion, Bias, Or, Doubt, But By Historical Evidence
- The Historical Records Of Jesus’ Life, Death, And Resurrection Are Unimpeachable
- How Liberal New Testament Scholars Deceive The World Today
- When A New Testament Scholar Is Not
- Jesus Authenticates The New Testament As Scripture
- The New Testament is Written by Jews, About Jews, For Jews
- Empirical Integrity of the New Testament
- Biblical Inerrancy And The Errors Of Critics
- The Reliability of the New Testament
- The Historical Record Proves That God Exists
- Old Testament Law: A Lesson In God’s Nature Not Understood Today
- Are The Old Testament Laws Applicable Today?
- The Greatest And Most Astute Scholar In History Said That Jesus Is God And Messiah
- The Historical Documentation For Jesus’ Death And Resurrection
- The Death and Resurrection of the Messiah Predicted by the Old Testament
- If You Just Read The New Testament For Yourself, You Will See That It Is True
- How Peter Knew the Birth of Jesus Church Was a Fulfillment of Prophecy
- New Testament Evidence, Jesus is “Yahweh” of the Old Testament
- Principle Differences Between Jesus And All Other Gods And Religions
- These Things Were Written: An Expositional Treatise Of The Life, Death, And Resurrection Of Jesus
- How Faith And Evidence Work Together
See Rob’s Published Books On The Christian Faith
Categories: A poor representation of Jesus, Agnostics and Skeptics, Complicating a Relationship with God, Errors of the Christian Church, Going to Church but unsaved, How to Pray, Jesus Church, Jesus confirmed by secular sources, Living For Jesus, No Compromise, Overcoming trials, Pleasing the Lord, Pretend Believers, Reasons For Unbelief, Robert Clifton Robinson, Science and the Bible, Studying the Word of God, The Condition of the Heart, The Historical Jesus, True Repentance, Understanding Suffering
I can’t believe what I’ve done. I sat in Church all my life, yet lived in gross sin and was never saved. I feel like God, justly, has turned his back on me. He is right and just to do so. But I want to come back so badly! I want to be clean from my sin, and know that I have a home in Heaven. Is there a way back for me?
Ray, Jesus died for sinners. You are no different from me, or any other person. All of us fail and fall, but Jesus is a merciful and kind Savior. If you are sincere and want to return to Jesus, all you must do is tell Him you are sorry and He will always forgive you, and welcome you back.
I had also struggled with whether I was really saved, because I made so many mistakes, many times. I think lots of people feel this way.
I realized that my struggles with sin is common for everyone who follows Jesus. I confessed my sins to Him, turned from them, and continued to trust Him.
That was more than 20 years ago. I am still following Jesus, and I appreciate His love, mercy, and patience, more every day.
Come to Jesus and pour out your heart, tell Him exactly how you feel, and He will forgive you, cleanse you of your sin, and welcome you back.
The key for me in remaining close to Jesus for over 45 years was continually reading and meditating on His words in the New Testament, confessing my daily failures and inadequacies, and accepting that He really does love me.
Come home to the only One who truly understands you, and knows everything about you, yet still loves you with an everlasting love.
Blessings to you dear friend!