NASHVILLE - In the wake of several prominent Christian leaders publicly abandoning their faith, theologian John Piper has urged believers to retain a proper fear that they, too, could "commit apostasy this afternoon and go to hell" if it weren't for the grace of God.
Piper, founder of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota, participated in an "Ask Pastor John" breakout session held at the Sing! Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.
Without specifically mentioning former pastor Joshua Harris, who recently declared he is no longer a Christian, the interviewer asked: "What would you say to those of us who have a healthy distrust of our own hearts; who look at this man who has now walked away from the Gospel and we say, 'Could this happen to me too? Could I one day walk away from the Gospel, walk away from my spouse, walk away from Christ?"
"The short answer is yes, and the interesting thing about that answer is that for a lot of people, it seems to call into question the doctrine of eternal security, which I believe," Piper began. "It shouldn't call into question the doctrine of eternal security to say, 'yes, I could commit apostasy this afternoon and go to hell.' I wonder if that's a jarring juxtaposition for you.
"Nothing you do originates the decisive act or impulse that saves you," he continued. "Nothing you feel, nothing you think, nothing you will, nothing you do, originates the act of the soul or the act of the body that causes God to elect you, predestine you, call you, keep you, or glorify you. All of it is a free gift. So, nobody should have the mindset, 'I can keep this from happening.' I can't. No, you can't, God can."
One must replace their sense of "self-stability" with "God-stability," Piper said, adding: "It requires some Bible knowledge and some prayer and deep soul work."
The pastor cited Romans 8:30: "And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified."
"Nobody falls out. That's why I believe in eternal security. Between foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification, nobody will be missing. None. That's rock-solid security in assurance," Piper explained.
"You are secure in Christ, but your security is totally in the hands of God," he continued. "If God is faithful to you, you will make it. If you don't make it, He didn't cause you to make it. So, that's foundational to what I believe and think."
The Don't Waste Your Life author went on to address the responsibility of a Christian: "Alongside 'those whom He justified He glorified,' there is a whole range of commands for us to persevere," he said, citing Philippians 2:12, which reads in part: "work out your salvation with fear and trembling."
Piper said that every day, he falls to his knees and prays, "Hold onto me," adding: "The remaining corruption in every human being's soul is enough to make money more precious than God at age 74 in the faith. Sin is that powerful if you leave God out of the picture. God keeps John Piper, and if God takes His hand off me this afternoon, I will commit apostasy. It depends on Him, not on me."
The pastor urged listeners to continually immerse themselves in Scripture and "cry out for keeping."
"If I'm going to believe, I've got to have Word," he said. "That's how He keeps me. That's the way we think in the Christian life, that there's this massive sovereign God who has chosen us before the foundation of the world, who has called us to Himself, who will keep us."
Piper added, "The evidence that that has happened is, 'are you pressing on?'"
Harris, author of the controversial Christian bestseller I Kissed Dating Goodbye, sent shockwaves through the evangelical Christian community after announcing on Instagram that he and his wife, Shannon, were ending their marriage. He later published another Instagram post announcing: "I am not a Christian. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I'm not there now."
A short time later, former Hillsong singer and songwriter Marty Sampson posted on Instagram: "Time for some real talk ... I'm genuinely losing my faith ... and it doesn't bother me."
In an interview with The Christian Post, H.B. Charles Jr., author and pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, said stories of defections from the Christian faith should serve as a "wake-up call" to the Western Church.
"The corporate worship of the Church is a key way to not only disciple the young generation but to strengthen all the saints to be steadfast in their faith," he said. "My perseverance in the faith is not so much about me holding fast to Christ, but Him holding fast to me. We need to be teaching and singing sound doctrine. I believe that there is no need for something exotic or special in order to build faith and sustain faith for the long haul."
Charles added that teaching the fundamentals of the Christian faith will "nurture the coming generation and help the saints to be focused on Christ and not man."
"I feel like to the degree we fail to do that, we'll hear many more of those stories, unfortunately," he warned. "If faithful pastors and worship leaders don't declare their faithfulness to the word of God and seek to lead their congregations in faithfully worshiping Him, this drift will continue."
"Sing!" is a three-day worship conference led by modern Christian composers Keith and Kristyn Getty. The conference, held at Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center and Bridgestone Arena from August 19-21, included daily breakout sessions and nightly concerts.
In addition to Piper, featured speakers included pastor John MacArthur and Joni and Friends founder Joni Eareckson Tada.