Letter to My Unbelieving Friend

Isaiah 29:13-14 (ESV) And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”

My dear, beloved friend, I have watched helplessly over the years as you have repeatedly refused to yield the throne of your life to Jesus, and I want you to know how very deeply it grieves me to stand by and watch you slowly-but-surely descend into the abyss of desperate living. By now, I think you know me well enough to understand that – like you – I am all too guilty of hypocrisy and unbelief, worthy of nothing other than the condemnation of Christ and my fellow man. So I do not write this letter to you lightly, nor do I speak to you from some lofty podium as someone who “has it all figured out” and is in some self-deluded competition for early sainthood. Not at all! Rather, I write to you as a fellow traveler, and someone who cringes inwardly as I identify with the desperate man in Mark 9:24: “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Doubting ThomasAs far as I can tell – I would be insanely happy to find out that I am wrong! – the single, critical difference between the two of us is that I wake up every morning determined to rip myself off the throne of my heart and put Jesus there instead, where He rightly belongs. To that end, I (imperfectly) heed the words of other faithful Christians and, where necessary, make small “course corrections” in the direction of my life where others can “see” better than I am able. Sadly, and with great grief, it is my perception that you simply will not take heed and make the necessary changes that must be made for you to finally experience the fruits of the Spirit that your soul so very clearly needs – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and – perhaps most significantly – self-control (Galatians 5:19-24).

Together, you and I have worshipped God in Truth. Side by side, we have opened our mouths and given glory to God with our words. As one, we have plunged headlong into difficult and unmanageable ministry settings, and by God’s grace we have been immeasurably gifted to see others in the community of Christ blessed by our feeble efforts at faithfulness. The only place where we have been forced to part ways is at the fork in the road marked by the sign “Daily Obedience.” You are probably smarter than me, intellectually speaking, and you are certainly more gifted than I when it comes to relating well to others. And yet, it appears that you are still unwilling to do even the most basic things in the ever-present battle against the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).

To put it bluntly, in a way that hurts my heart to put to words, the way you are living your life marks you out as an unbeliever to a watching world.

You know that I am more than sympathetic to your struggles. Together, we suffer the slings and arrows of the same enemy. You have often provided me with a “cool drink of water” in the heat of my own battles, and to this very day I thankfully praise God that He chose in His sovereign good will to bring us together on the road of life. It is my love for you that guides my decision to write this letter, and I am (of course) very open to the possibility that I am unduly alarmed by the evidence you have placed before me, but here’s one thing I know for certain: As a fellow addict, I can say with absolutely zero chance of error that your situation is far more desperate than you think it is; you are closer to “the end of all things” than you would dare guess. It is the nature of addiction that we are willingly self-deceived, deliberately foolish, stubbornly stiff-necked and dissolute playthings in the hands of our greatest (and final) enemy.

The great and glorious hope of Easter, of course, is that you – and everyone else who claims Christ – can be restored to new life and new purpose and be a blessing to others now (Ephesians 2:5-10) as well as in the Age to Come (Revelation 21:5-7).

It is the height of folly to think that you have your life firmly in hand when the evidence so strongly suggests otherwise, but (perhaps more alarmingly) it is blasphemy of the highest order to listen to the enemy as he belittles Christ by whispering in your ear, “You’re too far gone for recovery now…” It would be arrogant for you or I to think that our sin is so great that Christ – the son of God – has not made allowances for it through His atoning death on a Roman cross. Let Satan pay for whispering this lie to you (and me, and millions of others) but for the sake of all we say we hold dear, let’s not add to his hellish work by allowing these ideas to come in and make themselves comfortably at home in our hearts and minds.

A Fork in the RoadMy own life is ample testimony to sin, folly and rebellion. So much so, in fact, that I simply must allow other men into my life who love me well enough to ask me uncomfortable questions. I have not only sought out several such men, but I have made it a habit to think better of their opinions and advice than that of my own “massive intellect.” Sin makes me stupid; I need people who are not emotionally attached to predetermined outcomes to suggest means and methods to me for battling my own deathward trajectory.

We are all too willing to listen to the voice of Death calling to us from the streets (Proverbs 7). Our stubborn pride is the soil in which the weeds of our own undoing flourish! We resist admitting our foolishness and need for guidance to our own destruction.

I love you, my friend. But I grieve for the unwilling and unteachable spirit that I see in you. When I think of you, I very much want to be the Holy Spirit in your life, which is of course impossible. Your face often comes to mind when I read through Proverbs, particularly those sections that make a clear distinction between Wisdom/Life and Folly/Death. My ongoing prayer is that I am very much wrong in my fear that you have chosen death. Today, however, it is my perception that your spiritual life can be summed up with a terrifying word picture, something akin to the captain of the Hindenburg assuring everyone on board – “Don’t worry, I got this!” – as his vessel bursts into flame and consumes all.

How can I love you well in these difficult days? How can I throw myself in front of the “car” you are driving, the one that is slowly killing you and those you claim to love? How can I help you stop talking about Jesus and start actually living for Jesus? Can we walk together as you slip-and-fall your way two steps forward, one step back? Put more realistically, how much pain must come into your life – and the lives of dozens of others – before you will rend your heart open and stop trusting yourself to heal? I end, as always, by inviting you to humble yourself, repent of trusting in your God-given talents, beat your breast and cry alongside me, “Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13)

May the Lord have mercy on both our souls. Grace and peace to you should you choose to enter again into the heat of battle, my dear friend.

Proverbs 9:13-17
The woman Folly is loud;
she is seductive and knows nothing.
She sits at the door of her house;
she takes a seat on the highest places of the town,
calling to those who pass by,
who are going straight on their way,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
And to him who lacks sense she says,
“Stolen water is sweet,
and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”

Proverbs 14:12
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

Romans 12:3
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

Hebrews 3:12-15
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

One Comment

  1. John W. said:

    wow. can’t believe what I just read. just finished reading your 3-4 posts under the topic of doubt, including this one. I am this. Informed, taught, educated, etc., but persisting in a livelihood of doubt. I’m going to read them over again, especially your story about Nathanael. That story of his interaction with Jesus and Jesus’ response has me stumped. all for now. oh for a happier life.

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