Synopsis of the Sermon
Two well-known examples of people who walked away from their faith are Frederick Nietzsche and Charles Templeton. Nietzsche was the son of a Lutheran minister who grew up loving the bible. But as an adult he grew increasingly hostile to Christianity and became aggressively outspoken against Christ for the remainder of his life. Templeton, not from a Christian background originally, converted to Christ and went into ministry. He became the pastor of a large church in Toronto and at one time even worked with evangelist Billy Graham. Doubts, however, eroded his faith, and he eventually abandoned Christ and wrote a book about his agnosticism.
Why do some people walk away from Christ? Why do people who at one time in life, seem to love God with all their hearts, turn away from Him entirely? What causes people to lose their faith?
In this week’s sermon, we looked at the life of Joash, which could be divided into two parts: the good years and the bad years.
During the good years, we first see evidence of the promises of God. The promised Savior and Messiah was to come through the lineage of David. But the wicked queen, Athaliah, killed off everyone from the line of David except for one infant boy, Joash. While it looked like the God’s promises had failed, the line of David is preserved through this one descendent, from which Jesus of Nazareth would later come!
Second, we see the role of the law of God. Even Joash, the king himself, was to be subject to God’s laws. The whole world could be divided into two basic types of government: one where their leader is above the law and the other where the leader is subject to the law. The first time in human history we see the leader is subject to the law like everyone else is in the bible. This is the foundation for all democracies.
Third, we see the centrality of the Temple of God. Tithes and offerings were collected for the purpose repairing and maintaining the place of worship—the Temple. Joash was careful to both collect the money and use it properly. How Christian leaders use money is an important indication of what kind of leader they are—that money collected for the Lord’s word is used for the Lord’s work!
But then there are the bad years. The turning point came for Joash when his mentor and spiritual leader, Jahoiada, died. Others who were not faithful to the Lord filled Jahoiada’s place in Joash’s life, and he began to walk away from God. It is obvious that he had never internalized and personalized his faith in God. It was all external, based on what others thought. He was a classic co-dependent leader. Which led Joash to walk away from God.
There are four main reasons why people walk away from faith:
- They never make their faith their own—they never personalize it.
- They experience a moral failure—they want to live a life style that is incompatible with God’s will!
- They are unprepared for intellectual challenges—their childish answers do not resolve adult size questions!
- They experience disappointment with God—God didn’t do what they had wanted Him to do!
Here are some of Rich’s reasons for NOT walking away from faith:
- The people I admire the most are Christians
- Because I believe in and love the way of Jesus
- I love Christ’s care for the marginalized
- The resurrection gives me an answer for death
- I feel whole and right when I worship
- There is no other place on earth that I find the kind of community that I find within the church
- I hate the alternative
- Being a Christian has made me a better person
- I’ve had too many experiences with God
- Christianity diagnoses the world’s core problem and answers that problem better than anything else
- No other way of life is available to everyone the way the Christian faith is.
In 5 minutes or less, briefly give a synopsis of this week’s sermon. What insight, principle, or observation from this weekend’s message did you find to be most helpful, eye-opening, or troubling? Explain.
Getting the Conversation Started
These questions can be used as ice-breakers in the beginning OR interwoven between the questions below to draw the group into the discussion.
- What did you find most interesting, most challenging or most encouraging about this week’s sermon?
- Have you ever struggled with doubts about your faith? What caused the doubts? Has there ever been a time in your Christian life where you walked away from Jesus? Why did this happen? What resolved your doubts? What brought you back to Christ?
- Perhaps you know someone personally who once followed Jesus faithfully but no longer does. What are some of the things that you believe contributed to that person walking away from faith?
Read 1 Timothy 1:18-20:
18 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. 20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. (NIV)
I’m passing this work on to you, my son Timothy. The prophetic word that was directed to you prepared us for this. All those prayers are coming together now so you will do this well, fearless in your struggle, keeping a firm grip on your faith and on yourself. After all, this is a fight we’re in. There are some, you know, who by relaxing their grip and thinking anything goes have made a thorough mess of their faith. Hymenaeus and Alexander are two of them. I let them wander off to Satan to be taught a lesson or two about not blaspheming. (The Message)
Read through both versions of the passage out loud with your group to get a good understanding of the text.
- How would you say Paul views the Christian life? How is this perhaps different from many people’s expectations of what following Jesus should be like? What are some of the things Christians today battle with? What are some of your personal struggles? What helps you to hang in there and not give up? Discuss.
- What do you think Paul means by “holding on to faith?” What are some things that cause people to let go of faith? Why is this often so hard? Why do some people lose their grip? What has helped you to not “relax your grip?”
- How would you define a “good conscience?” Why does Paul mention that here? What role does conscience play in not walking away from faith?
- The New Testament talks about different kinds of consciences: the weak conscience (1 Corinthians 8) and the seared conscience (1 Timothy 4:1-5). How would you define each of these? How would you define the strong or the healthy conscience?
Two important aspects of conscience is first, properly informing it and second, not ignoring it. We “inform” or shape our consciences through God’s Word. Our consciences are naturally defective because of sin. It is through God’s Word that we learn His law/His will/right from wrong. Then we must pay attention to our newly informed conscience so as not to violate it and God’s commandments. (see Romans 3:20; 23; 7:7; 12:2)
- In what ways has God’s Word has “informed” your conscience? What are some examples of things you once thought were “ok” that you now know are not? Describe how a person can “ignore” their conscience? How instead can we “pay attention” to our “newly informed” consciences?
The cases of Hymenaeus and Alexander are examples of church discipline. It involves removing someone from the warmth and protection of fellowship within the body of Christ—which is essentially, “handing him over to Satan.” The purpose is not punitive but rather remedial—that those being disciplined would learn a lesson and be restored. The Alexander mentioned here may be the same one mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:14, whom Paul said “did him a great deal of hard.”
- Church discipline is often a last resort. What do you think would be some preliminary steps when trying to restore someone to faith in Christ?
Below you’ll see some options for ministry time with your group. We always encourage you to reserve time in your group to pray for one another and wait on the Holy Spirit.
- In Rich’s sermon there were four reasons listed for why people walk away from the faith. Which one/ones might be applicable in your life right now? What things from this week’s sermon and/or small group discussion has been most helpful for you and why?
- We often know someone who we once shared warm fellowship with in the Lord who has now turned away from Christ. From the sermon and/or small group discussion, what do you think were some of the contributing factors? Share some practical things we can do to restore those who have turned away.
- Take time to pray for those struggling with doubts as well as those who want to be used to help restore someone who walked away.