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                                  They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us.
                            For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us;
                                  but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
                                                                    (1 John 2:19)


          My first real experience of this sort was in high school. My neighborhood friend Bubba (yes, we lived in the
South!) made profession of Christ, was baptized, and was excited to come to church. It was great to see him saved . . .
or so we thought. But suddenly one Sunday morning he didn’t want to come to church with us. And in no time his
interests had turned entirely. He didn’t want to go to church, and he didn’t want to talk about it. And the fact that I did
want these things was a strain on our friendship.

          You’ve seen the same, I’m sure. From the beginning every church has seen it - those who come in, make
profession of Christ, seem for a while to be “one of us,” and then are gone. Their interest just ran out. They are no longer
in church. The things of the Lord are not topics of interest for them. The people of God are not their usual companions.
They’re gone - away from Christ and back into the world.

          What do we make of them? What is their true spiritual state? For a few generations now Evangelical churches
have been told that such people are still saved, even though their lives do not reflect it. Having salvation is one thing, we
are told; living it is another. We may be saved even if there is no evidence of it in our lives. And these people who have
left us - we may not enjoy their company in Christ here, but we may be sure nonetheless that we will see them again in
heaven.

          It’s a comforting doctrine. But it is wrong. The inspired apostle John tells us otherwise. Continuance with Christ
is the proof of our profession of Christ, and leaving Christ - and his people - is proof that our profession of Christ
is false.

          There is such a thing as “spurious” faith. It’s a flash in the pan kind of faith. The kind of faith that makes a show for
a while and then dies away. It is a kind of faith. But it is not true saving faith, for genuine saving faith has this as its mark -
it continues on with Christ.

          We do no one any favors when we allow them to believe they are saved when in fact they are lost. It makes no
difference how many professions of Christ they have made, if there is no evidence of following Christ, no evidence of
discipleship, there can be no assurance of salvation. Salvation is free and comes to us apart from our works by faith
alone. But salvation is more than escape from hell. Salvation entails freedom from sin and living for Christ. Simply put,
salvation lasts. It sticks. This is why the apostle John can speak with such certainty - those who leave are not Christians,
only those who stay. “if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of
them belonged to us.”

          Moreover, this is why it is so important for each of us to finish well. We must pray and strive daily to pursue
Christ. This is the “narrow way” that leads to life, and we must make it our aim to have at the end of our lives the
testimony of the apostle Paul -  “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).

Leaving Christ
by Fred G. Zaspel