An Open Letter to Jonathan Steingard, Lead Singer of Hawk Nelson

Dear Jon

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. My name is Gabriel, pastor of a Baptist church in Junction City, KS. We have never met, but I have followed the band Hawk Nelson for a long time. Before you joined, I was in Christian radio and hosted a Christian rock program that aired all across the Midwest. I've done interviews with the band and hung out backstage with Daniel Biro and Jason Dunn. I emceed Hawk shows when they played various gigs in Kansas, including Dodge City and Wichita. I was also that guy who drove the band from the venue to the hotel.

I read the story you posted on your Instagram this week about leaving the Christian faith, and my heart is grieved. More than grieved, I fear for you—I'm afraid for your soul, for your wife, and for your children, and my concern extends to the many you will lead astray by your comments. You say, "I hope that my openness and transparency can be an encouragement to... you, if you feel the same." So you are not simply out to tell your story. You want to lead people, if possible, out of saving faith.

It is out of love for you, for your family, and for your fans that I am responding, and I am responding openly since the comments you have made were open. I have been careful to represent your remarks accurately, which you will read in bold. My comments follow in regular type. Consider this as if we were sitting down and having a conversation.

In addition to being a pastor, I am the oldest of six, and my siblings—many of whom are also not walking with the Lord—will tell you that I am a stern older brother. That is the way that I will also respond to you. My comments may hit hard, but this is a serious matter, and I am not going to pull my punches. Let us begin.

"This is not a post I ever thought that I would write, but now I feel like I really need to. I've agonized over whether to say this publicly, and if so, how to do it, but now I feel that it's less important how I do it, and more important that I do it. So here goes.

"After growing up in a Christian home, being a pastor's kid, playing and singing in a Christian band, and having the word "Christian" in front of most of the things in my life—I am now finding that I no longer believe in God.

"The last few words of that sentence were hard to write. I still find myself wanting to soften that statement by wording it differently or less specifically—but it wouldn't be as true.

"The process of getting to that sentence has been several years in the making. It didn't happen overnight or all of a sudden. It's been more like pulling on the threads of a sweater, and one day discovering that there's no more sweater left."

You use the analogy of a sweater, which comes up occasionally in your letter. I would liken this less to pulling on the thread of a sweater and more to pulling the thread out of a Christian t-shirt. You stood in front of audiences in Christian attire, but your faith was only on the surface. Underneath was a young man who didn't truly believe in God. You may have thought you did, but it will become more evident as we continue through your comments that you never knew Him. I hope you and your audience see that, and that you come to true repentance and faith.

"I have been terrified to be honest about this publicly for quite some time, because of all that I thought I would lose. I'm still scared, but I'm writing about this now for a few reasons.

"Firstly, I simply can no longer avoid it. Processing this quietly felt right when I simply had doubts, but once they solidified into a genuine point of view, it began to feel dishonest not to talk about it."

You seem to be driven by what you feel, not what is true. You think you're being honest now, yet you are not willing to admit that you were being dishonest and lying to everyone before now. As for being terrified, you should be, for "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31).

"Secondly, I have had private conversations with trusted friends about my doubts, and discovered to my absolute shock that they are shared by nearly every close friend my age who also grew up in the church. I am stunned by the number of people in visible positions within Christian circles that feel the same way as I do. Like me, they fear losing everything if they're open about it. I hope that my openness and transparency can be an encouragement to them, and to you, if you feel the same."

To be honest, I also hope that your openness exposes these hypocrites who are using the name of Jesus to profit themselves but do not actually believe in Him. Better still, as my wife expressed on our podcast, I hope your comments make those false teachers realize that they've been hypocrites, they will repent of their sin, and they will truly love God and the people of God and stop putting on airs.

Perhaps you wince at being called a hypocrite, but that is what you are. Have you not read the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:1, "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them"? Is that not what you and your false teaching friends have been doing? You've been pretending to be Christians when you were not. Jesus says to Pharisees, "For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness" (Matthew 23:27).

You believe you are being transparent. But you are merely rolling back the stone and revealing that you've been full of deadness the entire time. You are still dead in your sins, and you have never been saved.

"Thirdly, I've got a whole lot less to lose now. The band isn't playing shows or making new music at the moment, and we've all found other work and careers to focus on for the time being. In order to make sure I'm able to keep providing for my family, that had to be the case before I could be totally honest—and that fact is one of the issues I have with the church and Christian culture in general."

This was simply an astonishing statement. It was okay to lie to everyone when that lie was profitable. But now that you've found other means of income, you say you're ready to be honest? What a manipulative lie, Jon! You're throwing what you call "Christian culture in general" under the bus as if it was all someone else's fault, but you were part of the fakery you say is to blame.

Consider carefully these words in Romans 2:1-5. The Spirit says, "Therefore, you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another, you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed."

"So if you're someone who follows me because of Hawk Nelson, and my involvement in Christian music, you are probably thinking, "Wait—were you lying to me this whole time? Were you just pretending to be a Christian? What about all those songs you wrote? Did you mean those?"

"The short answer is that I was not lying. I did believe those things at the time. I have been pulling on the threads of the sweater, but there was still some sweater left back then."

No, you were lying then and you're lying now, leading others into darkness and unbelief. You may not have been aware that you were lying when you called yourself a Christian. You may have believed the lie yourself. But it was still a lie. Permit me to use a better example than your sweater analogy.

Let's say you vow to your wife on your wedding day that you will love her, to have and to hold from this day forward, as long as you both shall live, 'til death do you part. But five years later you no longer feel in love and you want to get a divorce. Did you lie on your wedding day?

The answer is yes. You lied.

You may have felt like you were telling the truth—you really, really meant it—when you said, "Our love is the greatest love that's ever been loved and I will always love you!" But you made a life-long commitment, and if you don't keep that lifelong commitment, you didn't really mean it. You responded to fleeting feelings and convenient circumstances, but you weren't really committed to the person or to your vow.

Following Jesus is more than a lifelong commitment. It's the promise of eternal life, sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption. You don't step in and out of eternity. You either have it, or the life you claimed you had was not eternal. If you did not have it, your "I love Jesus!" moment was nothing but a passing opinion. If you say you love Jesus with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, then you will affirm that by living for Him to the end. Jesus said, "The one who endures to the end will be saved" (Matthew 10:22).

If you do not make it to the end, then you are of the rocks or of the thorns, as Jesus told in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23). You may have heard the message of God's kingdom and immediately received it with joy (v.20), yet if you were not rooted in Christ, you either whither away, or the cares of this world choke the word and it proves to be unfruitful (v.22). Had you truly been rooted in Christ, you'd have produced fruit and endured until the harvest.

In 1 John 2:19, we are told, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us."

"So what did this sweater-thread-pulling process look like then? Okay, let's get into it.

"I grew up in a loving Christian home. My dad was a pastor (and still is), and as far back as I can remember, life was all about the church. It was our community. It was our family.

"It feels important to point out that church wasn't something we went to once a week—it was more like something we came home to as often as possible, after bravely venturing out into "the world" when necessary. It wasn't a part of our life. It was our life.

"When you grow up in a community that holds a shared belief, and that shared belief is so incredibly central to everything, you simply adopt it. Everyone I was close to believed in God, accepted Jesus into their hearts, prayed for signs and wonders, and participated in church, youth groups, conferences, and ministry. So I did, too.

"I became interested in music, began playing and singing on worship teams, and started leading worship at church and youth events. Even then I remember being uncomfortable with certain things. Praying in public always felt like some kind of weird performance art. Emotional cries such as "Holy Spirit, come fill this place," always felt clunky and awkward leaving my lips. A youth conference I attended encouraged every teen to sign a pledge that they would "date Jesus" for a year. It felt manipulative and unsettling to me. I didn't sign it."

In none of your growing-up experience do you mention being taught what the Bible says. It sounds like you were loaded with a lot of seeker-sensitive, Christian-culture gimmicks and emotionally-driven charismaticism. Of course none of that stuff is lasting, and it's hardly ever meaningful. I've been preaching against exactly this kind of thing my whole pastoral ministry.

We do not come to faith by witnessing signs and wonders, for those signs had their place and they have  accomplished their purpose (Hebrews 1:1-2, 2:1-4). The children of Israel who saw the Red Sea part and heard the voice of God from the mountain all perished in the wilderness. Romans 10:17 says, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." In John 6:29, Jesus said, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."

We do not believe by feelings-based emotionalism, which surely you understand is subjective and fleeting. We believe by faith in the Son of God, and faith comes through the Word of God. If the Word of God was not central to your faith, it's of little wonder why you don't have any.

"At the age of 20, I joined Hawk Nelson and began touring with the band. It was a blast. Our music wasn't overtly "Christian," but as time went on we became more outspoken about our faith in our music. To be fair, I was one of the loudest voices pushing for that shift, because I believed it would lead to more success in the Christian music world."

I get that Hawk Nelson was part of an industry more than a ministry. As much as I loved the Christian music I grew up around, I'm not naive. But it sounds like here you were pushing to be more "Christian" because it would make more money. Is that right?

"When I became the lead singer and main songwriter in 2012, this shift was fully realized. We went from singing songs like "Bring 'Em Out" to songs like "Drops in the Ocean." Google the lyrics—the difference is not subtle.

"Even through this shift, there were still many things about Christian culture that made me uncomfortable. In fact, the list was growing. There were things that just didn't make sense to me.

"If God is all-loving and all-powerful, why is there evil in the world?"

Have you not read? It's because of the sin of mankind (see Genesis 3).

"Can he not do anything about it? Does he choose not to?"

He is doing something about it. That's what the Bible is about: how God through the Son, Jesus Christ, is reconciling "to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross" (Colossians 1:20).

"Is the evil in the world a result of his desire to give us free-will?"

Where is "his desire to give us free-will" mentioned in the Bible? Our will never supersedes God's will. "Consider the work of God: who can make straight what He has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other" (Ecclesiastes 7:13-14).

He will be glorified in all that comes to pass, both in the salvation of the godly and in the destruction of the ungodly. It's not about our will; it's about God's will. What man means for evil, God means for good (Genesis 50:20).

"Ok then, what about famine and disease and floods and all the suffering that isn't caused by humans and our free-will?"

Romans 8:20 says that all of creation is under a curse, subjected to futility because of the sinfulness of man. "Famine and disease and floods and all the suffering" may not directly be the result of someone sinning, but they exist because of the sin of man. Come on, man! This is Genesis 3! It's literally at the beginning of your Bible.

"If God is loving, why does he sent people to hell?"

He doesn't send anyone He loves to hell. He sends people to hell who "are condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God" (John 3:18), "who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thessalonians 2:12).

Those whom God loves love Him. Surely you have heard this from the time you were in Sunday school! "In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins... We love because He first loved us" (1 John 4:10, 19).

Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep... My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one" (John 10:13-15, 27-30).

You demonstrate throughout your letter that you have never known the voice of the Shepherd, nor have you followed Him. You are still lost. If you do not repent and follow Jesus, then on the day of judgment, you will hear Jesus say, "I never knew you" (Matthew 7:23). Not, "Well, I knew you for a time." He never knew you at all. You do not know Jesus, and He does not know you.

"My whole life people always said, "You have to go back to what the Bible says."

"I found, however, that consulting and discussing the Bible didn't answer my questions, it only amplified them.

"Why does God seem so [ticked] off in most of the Old Testament, and then all of a sudden he's a loving father in the New Testament?"

The key word in your question is "seem." Your perspective is a mess. God is a God of love, but that's not all He is. He is also a righteous judge who feels indignation every day (Psalm 7:11). He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but will by no means clear the guilty (Exodus 34:6-7).

To those who love God and did the will of the Father, Jesus will give His kingdom that was prepared for them from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34), but the cursed who did not do the will of God will depart into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angles (v.41). Jesus is a loving Savior who will deliver His own into a glorious, perfect kingdom (Revelation 21:1-4), but He will cover His sword with the blood of the wicked whom He will strike down in judgment (Revelation 19:11-16).

Notice that these references are from both the Old and the New Testament. You read about God's love and His justice throughout the whole Bible. The God on the left side of the book is the same God on the right side of the book. Jesus was not absent at the judgment of Sodom, nor was He in disagreement. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit will all be present and will be glorified in the eternal kingdom in which the redeemed will rejoice forever.

"Why does he say not to kill, but then instruct Israel to turn around and kill men, women, and children to take the promised land?"

Murder is killing unjustly. What is the penalty for murder? Death (Exodus 21:12). The sixth commandment is not a blanket prohibition on any and all kinds of killing. But if from a wicked heart you destroy a life with contempt for a person who has been made in the image of God—this is condemnable sin (see also Jesus' words in Matthew 5:21-22 and 43-48).

God told Abraham in Genesis 15 that He would deliver Abraham's children from affliction. He also said that He would give Abraham's children the land that belonged to the Amorites when their wickedness was complete (v.16). So God would save the Israelites from captivity and give them a promised land, and He would use the Israelites to punish the people of that land for the full measure of their sin.

Before they were about to inherit the promised land, Deuteronomy 9:4-5 says to Israel, "Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, 'It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,' whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you. Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that He may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob."

Likewise, there is a day that is coming on which Jesus will be "revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might, when He comes on that day to be glorified in His saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed" (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).

No one is saved because they had a righteousness of their own. Rather, the ones who are saved are saved because "He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills. You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault? For who can resist His will?' But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me like this?' Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy, which He has prepared beforehand for glory?" (Romans 9:18-23).

"Why does God let Job suffer horrible things just to.... win a bet with Satan?!"

What a puny view of God you have. It's no wonder you don't believe in Him. I wouldn't believe in your god either!

Who taught you the Bible? You've missed the whole point of the book of Job. What Job endured was so Job would see God, and when he did, he was fully satisfied, even with the calamity he went through (also the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing (Job 1:22, 2:10), but you are!

God is in the heavens and He does all that He pleases (Psalm 115:3). He tests whomever He wills, and when He afflicts His children, He does so in love, that we may share in Christ's sufferings, we are made to be more like Him, and we rely not on ourselves but on Him who raises the dead (Psalm 119:50, 71; Romans 8:28-30; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9).

Hebrews 12:5-6 says, "And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? 'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by Him. For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.' It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons."

But if, Jon, you do not endure, then you demonstrate that you were never really a son of God. Instead, you are a son of Satan (John 8:44). Even in the Old Testament, God tested Israel that it would be known who truly loved God and who were the children of the devil (Deuteronomy 8:2, 13:3).

"Why does he tell Abraham to kill his son (more killing again) and then basically say 'just kidding! That was a test.'"

Because once again, He tests whomever He wills. Isaac did not die, and no where in the Bible does God receive a sacrifice of children (apart from the giving of His own Son). The whole point was so that Abraham would see and that we would see, "'The Lord will provide'; as it is said to this day, 'On the mount of the Lord, it shall be provided'" (Genesis 22:14). God provided the ram in place of Isaac, and from the line Isaac would come the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world.

Do you not know that visible from the very spot where Abraham made his altar, you would have been able to see the place where the Son of God would be sacrificed to atone for sins 2,000 years later? God decreed the way of salvation, and He provided the means to that end—the Lord Jesus Christ.

"Why does Jesus have to die for our sins (more killing again)? If God can do anything, can't He forgive without someone dying? I mean, my parents taught me to forgive people—nobody dies in that scenario."

Because, "the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23), and, "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins" (Hebrews 9:22).

You don't think sin is that big a deal, and you have little to no understanding of the holiness of God. The Bible says His eyes are so holy that He cannot even look upon our sin (Habakkuk 1:13). God is so righteous, and your sin is so awful, the penalty for your sin is death. To be cleansed of this injustice that you have committed against Holy God, it takes the sacrifice of His righteous Son, Jesus Christ, who gave His life in the place of mine.

Yes, when people wrong you, you must forgive them. But when you forgive, you do not cover over the injustice that was done. You may have borne the offense, but can you clear the guilty of their guilt? When we put faith in Christ, Jesus has borne our guilt in His body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). He gave His life as an atoning sacrifice so that we who believe in Him are cleared of any offense, and we are justified before God. We are able to stand before Him as righteous because of the righteousness of Christ. We read in 2 Corinthians 5:21, "For our sake, He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."

Continually, you are pointing the finger at God, claiming that you know better than He does. Will not God be completely vindicated in wiping you out for this arrogant display of self-righteousness against the Creator of heaven and earth? You are a puny man. Stand in fear of Him before His righteous judgment falls on you.

"I was raised to believe that the Bible was the perfect Word of God. Sure, it was written by human beings, but those people were divinely inspired—and we can consider the words they wrote to be the Word of God.

"I began to have questions and doubts about that. It seemed like there were a lot of contradictions in the Bible that didn't make sense. I don't want to get too deep in the weeds here so I'll leave the details for another time."

Fine. Then I'm content with this simple answer: You're wrong, the Bible is right. It was right before you showed up to have your doubts about it. It will be right long after you're gone. As the Scripture says, "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever" (1 Peter 1:24-25).

"Suffice it to say that when I began to believe that the Bible was simply a book written by people as flawed and imperfect as I am—that was when my belief in God truly began to unravel.

"During a vacation to Mexico with my wife's family, I had a revealing conversation with my father-in-law, who is also a pastor. Like my dad, he is a loving father. He is patient and sincere, and believes in God with all his heart.

"I was asking about a verse in 1 Timothy that seems really oppressive of women. It indicates that women shouldn't be in church leadership, shouldn't teach men, and shouldn't wear their hair in braids. To me, that seemed less like the message of the loving God that most Christians believe in now, and more like the ideas that would have been present in the culture at the time... a male-dominated society where women were treated less like equals and more like property."

Do you even know what "oppressive" means? Because women can't be pastors—like they also cannot be husbands or fathers—you read that as oppression and that women are property? Don't you think you're being overly dramatic? Does not the Scripture say that women are fellow heirs of salvation with men, and that men and women together are one in Christ (Galatians 3:28, 1 Peter 3:7)?

Why is it that you think the Apostle Paul was the one who was affected by the culture of his time to write the way that he did, but you are not being affected by the secular culture of your time to read the Bible the way that you do? What makes you so much smarter than the writers of holy Scripture, which was not "produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit"? (2 Peter 1:21)

Paul gives his reasoning for his instructions regarding the roles of men and women in the church. He does not appeal to the culture. He appeals to the creation order going all the way back to the book of Genesis. Watch this 90-second video if you truly want to understand.

"My father-in-law asked me if I had been reading the King James Version—because he felt that King James had put his own spin on a lot of things, and that version couldn't fully be trusted.

"'You have to go back to the original Greek,' he said.

"This is something I've heard a lot over the years. I asked him, 'So it sounds like you believe that modern translations can't fully be trusted, because they are human, flawed, and imperfect? I am simply taking that thought to its next natural conclusion—that the original Greek is also human, flawed, and imperfect, and also can't fully be trusted.'

"He replied, 'Well, if you believe that, what do you have left?'

"I said, 'Exactly.'"

Given that your representation of your father-in-law is correct, he's not a very good apologist. There are plenty of answers to the questions you've raised. In an internet age and with the plethora of books that are available, there's simply no excuse for your ignorance.

You and I are able to read the same Bible, but you don't understand it because the naturally-minded man cannot understand spiritual things. The Apostle Paul wrote in the Spirit of Christ, "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God... The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 1:18, 2:14).

If you were saved, you would have rejoiced at the message of the cross. But because at present you are a man who is perishing, you have never rejoiced to hear this gospel and believe it. Instead, you have mocked it.

"Once I found that I didn't believe the Bible was the perfect Word of God—it didn't take long to realize that I was no longer sure he was there at all. That thought terrified me. It sent me into a tailspin. The implications of that idea were absolutely massive.

"I began to ask myself, 'What now?'

"Over the past year, I've occasionally mentioned publicly my struggles with depression. This is what really kicked that off.

"What do you do when the rug is pulled out from under your feet? When you find yourself no longer believing the thing at the core of how you see yourself and see the world? What do I teach my own children? If I'm honest about this, will all my Christian friends abandon me? Will this alienate me from my family? Will this leave me with nothing?

"Those are the questions that led me into a very dark place for a while."

So you began to realize you don't believe in God, and you became depressed and life became meaningless? You don't see the connection? If there is no God, what else is there? Your life is nothing but a cosmic accident and you are heading no where in a purposeless universe that doesn't care about you or the people you love. The feelings and emotions you have toward your family are just brain gas. Of course that's depressing!

"I feel like I've mostly emerged from that dark place now—because I've discovered that life really does go on. I have trusted friends that know this about me, and love me anyways. My family is showing me incredible love and support, even though I know this grieves them. While I know I can no longer stand on stage and in good conscience sing songs like 'Drops In the Ocean,' I no longer fear losing my place in Christian music. I know this means giving it up voluntarily.

"I'm ready to be transparent and open."

Right, when you no longer have the record deal and touring schedule to lose. How brave of you.

"I think that 'open' part is key.

"I'm open to the idea that God is there. I'd prefer it if he was. I suspect if he is there, he is very different than what I was taught. I know my parents pray that God reveals himself to me. If he's there, I hope he does.

"Until then—I feel like the best thing I can do is be honest."

It's not honest. You continue to lie and believe lies. You lead others astray, you lead your wife astray, and you will be leading your children astray. What you are saying and what you are doing has eternal ramifications. You are literally playing with the fire of God's judgment. And you think that's "honest"? I tremble to think about what will happen to you if you do not repent.

I do agree with you on one thing—the God of the Bible is very different than what you have been taught. I hope you come to know Him, because He is incredibly loving and gracious. How much space could I take up talking about all the wonderful mercies God has shown to me!

I was a sinful, pitiful, wretch who used others to benefit myself. Like you, I wore the Christian t-shirt. I knew how to put on a show, too. But God convicted me of my sin. He broke me and showed me how fake I was. I knew that what I deserved was judgment. But what He showed me was mercy. I am forgiven. I have eternal life with Christ my Savior. He is a Savior to all who humble themselves, who repent of their sin, who follow Him, and you will receive the righteousness of God.

Jon, you have never had faith in God, so stop saying that you did. The faith you say that you once had feels so empty to you because it was as purposeless and as useless as the universe you see yourself in now.

Psalm 92:5-8 says, "How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep! The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this: that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever. But you, O Lord, are on high forever."

"Stepping away from belief in God has felt like a loss in some ways—but it's felt like freedom in others. Jess and I both always had this sense that we weren't doing enough of the things we were supposed to do as Christians. We didn't enjoy going to church. We didn't enjoy reading the Bible. We didn't enjoy praying. We didn't enjoy worship. It all felt like obligation, and our lack of enthusiasm about those things always made us feel something was wrong with us.

"Now I don't believe anything was wrong with us. We simply didn't believe—and we were too afraid to admit that to ourselves. So in that sense, we have a tremendous sense of relief now.

"I am hoping that writing this contributes to that relief. As I've processed these thoughts and feelings over the past year or so, I've avoided writing online about matters of faith. I didn't want to pretend to believe anything I didn't believe—but I also didn't want to rock the boat.

"I am not sure how much this will rock the boat. I don't know if this will surprise anyone. But it doesn't matter. What matters is that I've finally worked up the courage to tell my story. To share my deepest truth. And that feels like freedom, too.

"It's going to be 72 degrees here in San Diego today. The sun is shining. It's a beautiful day. No sweater needed."

Your Christian t-shirt is gone, and what is beneath is a naked man who has never truly loved God but has pleasure in unrighteousness. I pray you recognize your errors and repent, before it's too late—for you, for your wife, and for your children.

Jesus said, "For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent" (Revelation 3:17-19).

Jon Steingard responded to this letter shortly after it was published. Hawk Nelson replied to Jon Steingard's letter with a public statement of their own. Read both in part 2 of this article by clicking here.

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