Recently, songwriter Marty Sampson of Hillsong shocked the Christian community when he announced on social media, “I’m genuinely losing my faith, and it doesn’t bother me.”
Something about his revelation struck a chord in me. A man who led worship in Christ’s name, and who also wrote “O Praise the Name,” (one of my personal favorite worship songs, by the way), was ready to give up the One he was praising. To just give it all up.
And then, I was tasked to write a blog about one of the churches Jesus admonishes in the book of Revelation. The church of Sardis. God’s timing and irony never surprises me:
“I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God” (Revelation 3:1b-2).
Jesus just told a group of good church-going folk that even though they look legit from the outside, they are complete hypocrites.
No one likes a fake.
Even in our culture of perfectly-staged Instagram photos filtered to represent the #bestdayever, we are all — deep down — longing for authenticity. We crave to be fully known but are afraid that if others knew our real selves with every flaw magnified, we’d face rejection.
Does anything in there shake you?
Yet, how many of us stroll into church on Sunday going through the motions of religion but are just walking dead? We play up our deeds to ourselves and even to others. Maybe our performances aren’t up on a stage, but they are still out there for the world to see.
Jesus specifically warns against this kind of behavior.
“Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you” (Revelation 3:3).
This isn’t a “Hallelujah” moment for this group of people when Jesus comes back. This is a “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” take you out behind the woodshed kind of admonishment. This calls for a serious heart check.
Which brings us back to Marty. I read some pretty harsh criticisms of him when he released his statement on Instagram. Many in the Christian community threw him some serious shade (that’s urban slang for got upset with him). He was called out for using his platform to possibly cause others to stumble. Which I totally get, but I also have my own thoughts.
At first, I was shocked about his “deconversion.” Then, I felt empathy for him. It never feels good to question all you thought you believed.
I’d be a fake if I didn’t share my own struggle.
My husband and I are pretty well entrenched in the ministries here at Christ Chapel, and I teach at a Christian school where Bible is one of my curricular subjects. I have a great reputation among like-minded circles, and my Christianity appears rock solid. But, let’s face it, résumés mean nothing to God.
What others don’t know about me ― the real me ― is that I fight an off/on battle with a real temptation. These are the dark tendrils that snake their way into my mind, “If God was really good, He would have healed her. Do you want to keep loving a God that allows small children to die? Others have been healed, but not your daughter; He has forsaken you. Why even bother praying because He certainly doesn’t answer your prayers. Is it worth being a Christian if He calls you to give up everything you love? Wouldn’t it be easier to just give this ALL UP?”
I could respond to these thoughts with sin; I could believe the lies and reject Him, and believe my own way is better. I could quit reading the Bible, cease prayer time, and do the best I could in my own strength. Or, I could totally fake it. Oh, I’ve been tempted.
Marty, if I could write to you (and anyone else who is struggling in this way, here is what I have learned):
I don’t know how you do life without Christ.
I know what it’s like to be “pressed in on all sides, but not crushed” (2 Corinthians 4:8). I’ve personally “walked through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4a) from my own hospital bed, and then again, while holding my youngest child’s dead body. Christ is my guide through this darkness, holding me together when the bottom threatens to fall out, time and time again. I cannot keep on living this life, raising my remaining two children, and walk in joy if He does not give me the strength to do so.
I believe but I can still be a hypocrite. Aren’t we all in our human frailty? And yet ― and yet ― there is One who is perfect. Who lovingly gave up His life for mine so my spiritual future could be secure. When I doubt the goodness of the Father above, when I get stuck in the miry seasons of my own grief, I have to remember (and often be reminded by others) there was another who did this all willingly. Who felt all of this agonizing pain. The Father lost a child, too. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
I tend to forget how far from grace I’ve fallen because I live based on my own good standing far too often. But my own reputation is far from being worthy. You see, Marty, I have to be okay with genuinely losing myself ― not my faith. When God turned His face away from His Son, He turned toward us in love. In this, I surrender my doubts. This is where I find my true identity: in Christ. I am His. This is enough.
Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life.
–Revelation 3: 4-5
National Orphan Sunday Lunch
Sunday, Nov. 3
Oak Room at the Fort Worth Campus
As the church, we’re called to care for children without families. Maybe for you that means pursuing adoption or foster care, or maybe it means supporting those that do by making dinner, buying diapers or giving away your children’s too-small clothes. Come to lunch — we’ll have an excellent guest speaker! —and learn what next step you can take in caring for the orphans in our community. Click here to learn more.
Join us any Sunday!
Whatever your week was like, you’re welcome here at Christ Chapel. Gather with us on Sundays for community, worship and truth for your everyday life.
Fort Worth Campus: 9:15 a.m., 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
West Campus: 9:30 and 11 a.m.
South Campus: 11 a.m.