But the Spirit explicitly says that in later
times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits
and doctrines of demons,
1 Timothy 4:1 (NASB)
When you learn that
your child has abandoned their faith in Christ your first inclination is to
find something or someone to blame. Was it that new friend? Was it the school
they’re attending? Was it the influence of a public figure or a boyfriend or
girlfriend? We know that bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor. 15:33),
and we know that the Scriptures talk about listening to foolish talk and how it
corrupts (Eph. 5:4). But are those really the cause of a person abandoning
their faith?
The ugly truth is that when a person
abandons their faith they are revealing an aspect of what is going on within
them; they are revealing the contents of their heart. They have ceased to
believe biblical truth about God, the world, and their place in the world. These
spiritual rebels leave their faith for a variety of reasons that have been well
documented elsewhere. Reading such articles leave parents with little hope
their children will repent and return to faith in Christ.
When your child announces s/he is
renouncing his faith in orthodox Christianity what a parent hopes is that s/he is
“merely” prodigal. You hope and pray s/he has taken temporary leave of their
spiritual senses and has “only” run away to chase after something in the world.
We know they walk away from the confines and restrictions of their faith thinking
it will mean freedom, and fun, and experiences beyond what they have found in
the church or living under the authority of the word of God. As older and wiser
people, most of whom have seen or experienced what the world has to offer, we
know what awaits the Prodigal.
Sooner or later, they discover the
grass is not really greener on the other side of the fence. In fact, the grass
is almost always growing over a broken septic tank. They realize that stepping
outside of how the Bible says we are to live is not quite as wonderful as they
thought. And they discover while wallowing in the midst of the contents of that
septic tank, that what they thought would bring them such happiness and freedom
instead brings them misery and shame and sorrow. While you are in the mire is
nothing like looking over your shoulder at what you gave up to see how sweet it
is. By God’s grace, that is often what leads them home.
“I tell you that in the same way, there
will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine
righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Luke 15:7 (NASB)
As parents, our joy overflows when
they return. We desire to pick up right where life left off, but they (and we)
are changed. Sometimes, there are steep consequences to being a prodigal that carry
over into the rest of their lives even if they repent. Perhaps an illness or other
physical consequences of their prodigal living. Perhaps there are broken
relationships that cannot be restored. There is no doubt that all sin carries
When our children repent and are
restored to their faith they bring the lessons learned and experiences with
them back into the repentant life. Many times, their lives are much richer for
having spent that time as a prodigal. They have a greater appreciation of grace
and mercy, and it seems their love for God is stronger than the love that is
untested. Their gratitude for forgiveness and restoration is unparalleled.
The more frightening reality is the
prodigal that never returns. The prodigal that becomes apostate. The prodigal
that with purpose and intention throws away his or her belief in the Word of
God, the deity of God, the reality of heaven and hell. This is the one for whom
no sacrifice is left.
For if, after they have escaped the defilements
of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are
again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for
them than the first.
For it would
be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having
known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.
Peter 2:20-21 (NASB)
For if we go on sinning willfully after
receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for
Hebrews 10:26 (NASB)

You cannot minister truth to an apostate.
They will have none of it. This person believes they have been unshackled from
the restrictive rigid and foolish religiosity that once bound them. They are
full of the wisdom of the world, they are enlightened and how have no need for
the principles and precepts they once held so dear. It is heartbreaking for
those who love them to watch this take place.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness
to God. As the Scriptures say, “He traps the wise in the snare of their
own cleverness.” 1 Cor. 3:19 (NLT)

Where will they go when tragedy
strikes and there is no God to run to? Where will they turn in their darkest
hour? Where will they find their wisdom when the wisdom of the world is ashes
in their hands?
[Wisdom speaks] And you neglected all my
counsel and did not want my reproof; 
I will also laugh at your
calamity; I will mock when your dread comes, When your dread comes like a storm And your calamity comes
like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you.…
1:25-27 (NASB)
This is most certainly
heartbreaking, but the joy of the returning prodigal is something to behold. So
we wait. We pray. We hope. We trust in God’s perfect plan for the prodigals
that we love so deeply.