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Posts Tagged ‘emergent church’

Yesterday in a book store I skimmed through the introduction to a book by a scholar who had studied himself out of the faith that I claim to believe in.  I did not get so far as to look at his evidence or reasoning, only the description of his journey through many decades of seeking the truth.  I have to admit that it rattled me – just to hear the words of a man with a giant intellect who claims to have walked in my shoes, yet come to decide that it’s not what he once thought it was.

I do not for a minute doubt his sincerity or his desire to know what the truth is.  I have been on a similar journey of my own for years as well.  I know that for Seventh-day Adventists, writings by former members can create many reactions;  fear, “what if”, mental scrambling for that piece of fact that no one can take from them, anger and blind defensiveness.  I found this mental confrontation giving me the same kind of experience, fueled by the fact that I have friends who have succumbed to doubt and fallen away as well.  Do I open that box and see what is inside?  Would I come through the other side victorious or defeated?  What IS my faith based on?  What does it depend on?  What do I ultimately trust IN?  One thing I know for sure is that I cannot base belief or doubt either one on the conclusions of someone else.

This morning I was wrestling with these questions and talking to God.  He’s my dad and I take everything to Him.  I apologized, after all He has revealed and shown to me, and done for me, that I could wonder if there was any validity to the doubts of another human.  I won’t claim this post is what He Himself told me in response (for those who should rightly question that claim), but here is what came to mind, and it reminded me a little of the Parable of the Sower.

I saw three traps that prevent people from really knowing Jesus.  They may overlap, or one may lead to another, but these three became so clear to me.  There are examples of these both in the unbelieving world and in “the church”.

The carnal person never gets beyond his own desires in this world.  Even if he hears the truth, it does not affect his direction, which is to seek his desire for lust, things, or power.  He may even try to use the truth to that end, but in the end, all he wants is what HE wants.

The mystic may not care much for material things, pleasures, or position, but he loves the supernatural.  However, he doesn’t consider that not everything that is spiritual is from a good source.  Lying spirits easily lead him off on a trail to do what the first man does, in a different way; seek happiness in self through discovery, actualization, or improvement through accessing the “higher self”.  Evil is not necessarily something that is ugly, scary, cruel, or sinister.  It’s simply wanting my own way.  It’s rebellion.  Spirits in the church are also teaching people to seek this path in the name of Christ.

The intellectual on the other hand has no time for shallow, worldly pursuits, nor is he silly enough to believe in the reality of the spiritual realm.  Some “believers” may live on knowledge alone and never consider that God is a Living Person who can speak and act in their own sphere beyond the pages of a book.  Neither do they acknowledge the reality of evil spiritual entities.   Eventually, the miracles may seem as legends, the stories allegories, and God Himself becomes a metaphor.  The man is left to worship his own mind.

A Christian can be assaulted from all three sides – his own lower desires, refusing to “discern the spirits”, or trusting his own intellect until someone raises an objection he can’t answer.  What person can keep himself from falling away with these dangerous pitfalls at every step?

Some believe it’s important to constantly warn Christians they can lose their salvation.  While scripture does contain passages that warn us, the Gospel (Good News) focuses on what God has done, not my potential for weakness.  The underlying message of the fear-based approach to faith (fear &  faith don’t mix by the way) is, “You better hang on for your dear life.”  I know the motives of these pleadings are genuine, but I also know that in myself, I can’t trust myself to be strong enough to hang on.  And even if I did – in the end I could say, “Thank you Jesus for saving me, and good thing I held on tight enough to not be pulled away by that tricky satan guy.”  The end of that equation is Jesus saves, but my ability kept me saved.  One thing my faith does NOT rest in, is my own strength or reason.  I am so thankful for His promises to us in that regard.  I get tired of the argument about whether or not I can choose to reject Jesus after He saved me.  I love Him and I trust Him with my life. (Jude 24,25)  I can’t speak for anyone else.  I don’t know of any other Love or ideal I could even begin to follow.  Who have I in Heaven or Earth but Him?

The beauty of Jesus is that He satisfies all three of the areas I have just described.  He gives us our desires, so that in seeking Him, we are fulfilled.  There is a feast in the here and now, amid the pain and trials.  We do not have to wait for heaven to taste of His goodness.  There is a joy, satisfaction, and a peace in walking in His Spirit that  the world never gives.  There is in this world, “no greater joy” than to be in communion with Christ and to be in His service.

His Spirit is real and alive, and active and personal.  He does not leave us orphans!  His Spirit testifies with our own spirit, that we are His children.  Does my little boy doubt who his parents are?  My heavenly Father is just as real.  He has so many ways to communicate to us His love and His direction, if we will listen.  He desires we come to Him as our little children come to us; love, need, trusting dependence for even the smallest of things.

He gives us knowledge of Himself, even if through the veil of human agents (the scribes and the prophets).  People could not believe Jesus was God because he was cloaked in human flesh. Some people cannot believe the Bible is the Word of God because it came through human agents.  Yet on the road to Emmaus, as Jesus opened up the Scriptures for two of His followers, their “hearts burned within them.”  When he opened their eyes, they truly knew Him.  My heart also burns as I read His Word and He opens my eyes to see Him in new ways every day, even as it challenges me.

My faith is IN a living Jesus, and even this is not from myself.  It is a gift.

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The context for this discussion is not cults, but what commonly passes for genuine Christianity.  The climate in Christianity today completely squelches discernment in the name of tolerance and “not judging”.   Some verses are consistently used as a fallout shelter for anyone seeking to justify their false position.  Nowhere does the Bible instruct us check our brains at the church door and abandon discernment.  Quite the opposite in fact.

The “If you can’t say something nice…”  mentality has taken us over.  I wrote about this in a much earlier post “My Apologies to Thumper’s Mom”.  But I would like to go deeper into why it’s so important to practice discernment and to contend for the truth.

Anyone who has a belief system of any kind will have some way to define what they consider truth, and what they reject.  A Christian should be able to explain why he is not a Hindu and an atheist will be happy to explain why he does not believe in a God.  Even the relativist has an operating system governing his decisions – professing “there is no absolute truth”.  This ironically becomes his absolute truth.  Sadly, we are now trained to be tolerant of everyone, except for those who say there is something they can’t tolerate.  Those individuals must not be tolerated under any circumstance.  As goes the world.. so goes the Church.

I don’t expect  everyone to agree with me here, but more importantly to understand where I am coming from and why. I fully acknowledge I am not always going to apply this correctly – but knowing we all have a margin of error does not prevent me from seeking to be grounded in truth as solidly as is humanly possible.

Two things I try to avoid are this:  1 – Rejecting every ministry or teacher which holds to some point at which I disagree with them.  2 – Accepting any teacher as valid simply because they claim to be Christian and are widely acclaimed.

I recently heard a pastor who believes a popular teaching I consider extremely unbiblical.  However…  while most teachers who follow this line of thinking make this belief the central focus of their ministry, this man in contrast preaches the true, bedrock gospel and is reaping an amazing harvest for the Kingdom.  I would never speak a word against him because he is a true brother, in spite of this point of contention.  His first and foremost desire is to see people repent and be born again into God’s family, and God is using him greatly.

On the other hand, there are many false prophets, apostles, and teachers IN the church – not just in cults.  We were warned there would be by Jesus and the apostles.   They described them for us so we could clearly see the contrast between the true and the false.  I have found two short litmus tests for these:

1.  Proclaiming Jesus is the Son of God – a true gospel focus.

1 John 2:23  No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.

1 John 4:14, 15  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

Anything that DISTORTS or DISTRACTS (replaces the rightful focus) of Jesus Christ and His gospel is not from God.  (“Indeed.. there are many antichrists in the world”)  The word “confesses” here is not a one time thing – it’s an ongoing activity. (I checked this verb tense with a language scholar.)  It must be the main point and goal of a true Christian ministry.  We can do many great things but if Jesus is not at the center of it, we are not drawing people to Him but to a philosophy or our own agenda.  This may sound simple, but it’s not.  People replace Jesus with many good things.  We can talk about “God” all day long and not ever train our eyes to see Jesus and His words.  Even Paul with his vast wealth of knowledge said he had known nothing among his pupils but “Christ and Him Crucified”.

This test requires more than a correct doctrinal statement.  It demands an eye with a single focus.  Jesus said Follow ME.   He said anyone who is ashamed of Me and MY WORDS, I will be ashamed of him.  Those are hard words!   Jesus said many hard things that few people have the courage to actually preach in this day in time.  His Grace doesn’t give us an excuse, but should give us a desire to stop making them.  We must fall broken and humble at His cross and agree with Him that we can’t do anything at all without Him, both as individuals and corporately.

2.  Right relationship with money.

Matthew 7:15  “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Ezekiel 34:2  “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?

Isaiah 56:11  The dogs have a mighty appetite; they never have enough. But they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each to his own gain, one and all.

2 Corinthians 11:1-4  I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me!  For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.  But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

2 Corinthians 11:19, 20  For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves!  For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face.

It seems that the falsehoods change little over the millenia, yet they still succeed.    I couldn’t write a more accurate description of what I see going on in some ministries.  I would really urge every believer to make a serious study of EVERYTHING Jesus and His true Apostles had to say concerning money.  Write it all down and read it all together, then use it as a plumb line.  These are not cultural, outdated exhortations but foundational to the walk Jesus Himself described.  Did you know that greed is listed right up there with sexual immorality in the New Testament?  That seems often overlooked.  We will condemn the homosexual and keep our greedy leaders because they promise us we can have all that too!  This should be to our shame.  False teachers would have very little success but for the willing audience and financial support.

False teachers love to quote scripture, but are they hearing what God is really saying or what they want to hear?  Every deception is cloaked in many great statements of truth.  This is the element that disarms the listeners and gains their trust.  Satan comes to us as an angel of light, and speaks truth!  Almost.  But I would assert this:  The truth when misapplied is more dangerous than the lie.

So this is the WHAT…  but what about the WHY?

Paul qualified his ministry against the impostors based on his sufferings and sacrifice for the gospel, as well as the power demonstrated by the Holy Spirit.  He had not exalted himself, asked for pay, or lorded over anyone.  I on the other hand can only say that I am worse than a nobody.  I have been a false teacher deserving of the double curse Paul uttered in Galatians – not in the aspect of seeking greedy gain, but in the sin of exalting something other than Jesus as  my focus (idolatry).  I did not have a formal position (being female I would never take one), but I did attempt in many ways to share and spread a false message.  I and my husband both deserved to be discerned as false and confronted, but we weren’t.  Either no one could see the problem, or they lacked the resolve to speak up.  I don’t pretend I would have received it well at the time, but I believe that both of these elements are desperately needed in the church today.  We have lost our ability to identify divergent gospels and humbly give or receive correction.  It’s now a taboo!

In the public arena of thought and discussion, I have a burden to be one small voice  available to speak the truth in areas where lies and half -truths have comprised our foundations in Christ.  Because He is worthy!  We are dragging his name through the mud in so many ways and turning the world off with a false Jesus, not giving them the true, Life-giving Jesus.  He said “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.”  Instead the church as decided to lift up idols and draw all the other Christians in town to our new and improved brand of religion, to empty smoke and mirrors.  People go from church to church, some looking for Life, then get derided for “church hopping” when they can’t find the genuine article.  True seekers (not the kind who want to be tickled and entertained) are bailing out in droves.

If you think the American Church is “okay” you really need to look at the latest lab results.  The statistics tell a very different story.  It’s going the way of Europe’s Church which has almost disappeared.  Having been delivered from a false religion, I am now confronted with a reality so depressing that if I did not believe in the words of Jesus, that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church, I would completely lose hope.  I do believe He will save it from itself, and it will not be pretty.  Hard pruning hurts.  A refining fire burns.

But will He save it in America?  That remains to be seen.  Nothing says He has to.  The parable of the wedding feast, while given to the Jewish nation, I believe would apply to any group of people too busy or distracted to accept His invitation.  Revival comes first with the gift of eyesight- seeing our need, then with humble, earnest prayer and fasting.  It comes with total consecration.  It comes with a willingness to surrender and follow the truth at all costs.  I don’t see that willingness in very many places, even people who have all their facts right.  Their minds are fortified in doctrines and their hearts are in the world, or held up in  their own efforts apart from the power of God.  Truly we believe we are rich and in need of nothing, not even the one who gave us Life.  To be a Christian in this country and not be sucked into this is almost impossible.  I don’t claim to have completely escaped.  Just because I can see where we need to go doesn’t mean I have arrived there myself.

I speak out for those who are seeking truth – but not to start arguments with those who have already made up their minds.  I will not and cannot be silent.  My heart is broken for the church in America and just as Jesus lovingly calls His church to repent in Revelation 3, his Spirit is yearning now with many to speak this same message.  I am one tiny voice among many.  If my words do any good anywhere, it is only by His design.

If you are a friend or family member and have taken offense at anything on this blog, I am sorry and have not directed anything here to anyone personally.  I love you all and am happy to openly discuss anything.  I enjoy and appreciate open, honest dialogue.  The friends I value the most are the ones who love me enough to be honest, even when we don’t agree.  I would rather be confronted than patronized any day.  So don’t just say something nice.  Jesus deserves praise but we are tempted in it.  Be willing to see the Truth, and speak it in love.

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I recently entered a discussion with someone who expressed concern that I might be a little too heavy on grace and feel-good verses in the Bible and not heavy enough on the requirements of God. He is not SDA or Hebrew Roots, but an evangelical Christian who is zealously living out his faith in a way that puts 99% of us to shame. I have a great deal of respect for him and I understand his genuine concern for Christians to walk worthy of the Name they carry. I am very disgusted to see and hear believers justify their sin on the basis of grace.  None of us are perfect, but a believer should never justify himself in his sin. If he is not grieved, I also have to wonder if his faith is real. Our discussion moved into what defines legalism.  I am not in a position to discern if he is a legalist or not, but am responding here to some explanations he gave me.  I found it interesting to be having this discussion with someone in the evangelical world rather than with members of the various law-centered groups I have belonged to in the past.   I decided to post this so I can refer people here instead of repeatedly explaining my position over and over.

The interesting thing about legalism is everyone thinks they know what it is, but you can’t find anyone who will admit to being one. The very nature of the problem prevents people from seeing they have it. Only by looking to Jesus is this veil removed.

Your assertion that legalism is not defined in the Bible, as well as your own definition of it (that it is simply requiring more than God does) are both the hallmarks of how legalists often defend their positions. Using the phrases “what God requires” and “in order to be accepted by God” also are red flags to me that someone is confusing their legal standing with God, based on Christ’s all-sufficient work alone, and their own success in living up to the righteousness of God they see in Scripture. Even in your explanation that “what God requires is constant repentance for sin” in order to maintain His approval, you are creating an impossible standard that cannot be quantified. I can never know if I am even aware of every sin in motive, action, or omission. The fact that it may be hidden from me makes it no less a sin and no less in need of cleansing from my life. Our justification and approval before God however can be measured at 100% immediately in the moment of our salvation. It does not diminish to 80% or 25% on any given day based on our ability to keep our repentance up to date. If it is possible to fall back into unbelief (big if) then it would go from 100% to 0%. There are no in between states of being. You are in Christ, or you are not.

Legalism – which is coming to God through any other means than through faith (believing ALL He has promised) – is rebuked in its many forms all through the Bible in the Old and New Testaments. People do this in various ways, and for a wide array of reasons.  We often live by the natural reflex of our fallen nature.  We tend to think something has to depend on us, try to do God’s work in our own way, or accomplish what only God alone can do. We try to get around really submitting to God by looking like we love him on the outside, while still following our own agenda and keeping our secret sins. While it often does manifest as a focus on man-made traditions or standards, it’s definitely not limited to that. We most certainly can be a legalist attempting to obey only God’s commands alone. It can also come in an over-emphasis on God’s laws instead of the Lawgiver (a form of idolatry) and man’s efforts instead of God’s work.

The worst forms of legalism in my opinion are those that teach you cannot be saved (and/or stay saved) unless you successfully meet God’s requirements in your Christian walk. They say, “Yes Jesus died for your past sins, but you better toe the line from now on or He may throw you back out.” There is an element of uncertainty here that can never be overcome and does not bring the “full assurance of faith” described in Hebrews. First of all we can’t find a clear picture of how high the bar is because people come away from Scripture with so many different conclusions about what our obligations are; and secondly, we can never truly know if we have “arrived” or if we have fallen. Even if you do not believe “once saved always saved” there is still much more assurance available in our relationship with Christ than this form of legalism allows. The opposite danger is for the legalist who has not received Christ to take comfort in his obedience as his assurance, filled with pride at his own performance. He is the Pharisee who prays, “Thank you Lord that you have not made me like this pitiful sinner I see over there.”

The New Covenant is conditional only in the sense that God’s covenant with Abraham was. Belief. Read what happened when God made the covenant with Abraham. God did it all, promised it all, and performed it all. He made the oath with Himself. Abraham was involved only to the point that as a bystander, he believed what God had promised. God called it righteousness. He wasn’t perfect either in living out his belief. He fell into doubt and works and tried to make the Promise come about how he thought it should happen.  Galatians equates this action of Abraham with the Sinai Covenant.  Both of these examples are demonstrations of the failure of works.  Works can’t bring about the Promise of God, and works don’t ever hold up our own promises to God.   In Christ, we are of the faith of Abraham. We believe the promise of God, but neither are we always perfect in walking in the Spirit when we find opportunities to do it our way.

Sinai was a temporary covenant intended to show man he can’t fix himself, and to foreshadow the perfect finished work in Christ.  He made this covenant with Israelites and all those who would agree to be circumcised and join them. (God’s principles are not temporary, but this contract and many details within it were.) It contained conditional blessings and curses depending on their obedience – having to do with the temporary physical realm. Salvation was never promised through this covenant, only earthly blessings and the status of being God’s Chosen People.  (Even though Israel broke the covenant, God promised them they would never cease to be a nation before Him.  He has kept that promise.  He has also promised to completely restore them.  God never breaks a promise.) The conditional nature of this covenant based on performance is never implied in the New Covenant. Obedience in the New Covenant comes as a RESULT of an unconditional promise, not a prerequisite.  Some legalists see the New Covenant as nothing more than the very same terms and laws as the Old Covenant – except Jesus gave you the power to keep up your end of the bargain now so you have no excuse for failure.  This is completely out of line with Hebrews, Romans, Galatians.. Acts..    Short of quoting the entire New Testament, this is trying to live for Jesus under Mt. Sinai, still making promises we can’t keep because like it or not, we are still living in fallen human flesh.

What God requires is absolute and complete perfection. No less. To say He demands less is to find a loophole somewhere (maybe another form of legalism?) I fully admit I can never meet God’s requirements. Only in Christ are they met. In Christ I stand fully and completely forgiven, past, present and future. If this is a dangerous truth – it would be only to those who have not truly known Christ. No one who knows Him can take Him for granted and respond to this flippantly. Result, not Requirement. It’s what God deserves from us, and develops in us – our reasonable service – a living sacrifice. There is no fear of condemnation in failure, but hope and victory when we give it to Him. If we are stubborn, He is faithful to discipline, not reject. (speaking as one who has been more stubborn than submissive). Can I fall into unbelief and throw His gift back into His face? Theoretically I guess it would be possible, but I can’t imagine it. Paul says the “The Love of Christ controls us.” That’s a pretty strong power. It flows from Him to Him and through us to others.

Jesus commanded us to obey Him and He said if we abide (not strive) we will have fruit. I have heard sermons detailing the “to do” list of how to abide in Christ. But Jesus gave a very simple explanation of His own command. “And this is my command, that you love one another as I have loved you.” To have the love of Christ – that is our command. “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for each other.” But we don’t trust love. We run back to the many details of the letter of the Law, not realizing that Love IS the highest law. It covers morality, justice, compassion. It speaks to every situation. It raises the definition of sin considerably higher as well. I Corinthians 13 shows love is a more excellent way in every way. Self cannot exist on the throne in its presence.  It is the very essence of God Himself.  But this is not a reason to reject the Word of God which reveals He is also a God of wrath against wickedness and sin.  God is full of paradoxes we struggle to balance out. But children do not fear his wrath. We may need to stand in fear of his rod, but not his wrath.

We cannot be transformed to resemble the life of Christ by gazing at the ministry of death (the Law engraved on stones). It serves to show us our depravity, but does not offer any help or hope. (hence the name Paul gives it)

2Corinthians 3:17, 18: Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

You cannot behold the Glory of the Lord and not be changed. Isaiah’s instant response was, “I am a man of unclean lips…” We realize our need AND we get the coals from the fire under the throne of God – to cleanse us – the power of our death to sin and a resurrected life!(Romans 7 & 8 )

The legalists in Judaism asked Jesus,

John 6:28, 29 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

The very next word a legalist says is “But…” There is no but. As with Abraham, so with us.

Everything else grows out from there, and the Promise of God does not depend on the level of maturity we achieve from this point onward. Our rewards in the Kingdom are, but not our destiny of eternal fellowship with God.

If we belong to God I believe we will love Him and bear fruit, but I also think we need to be careful in judging the fruits of others. Not only can we be fooled by fake fruit that looks real, but we can also sometimes miss genuine fruit and pass judgment when we have no right to do so. I do believe we need to be accountable to one another in humility, with a great deal of discernment and love, not being puffed up – remembering what we are without Christ. Very few people can hold others accountable in love and humility. Paul said he wrote to the Corinthians, those hard sounding letters, in tears. I don’t see that too often in those who wish to expunge sin from our midst.

I am deeply grieved as you are by “believers” who live as if they have been set free to sin. I don’t know how anyone who has truly seen Jesus and realized the gift of God could not care if they spit on Him an bring shame to His name by calling themselves a Christian. But as I’ve already stated and continue to be redundant, this horrible situation is not cured by placing external demands on people. They must see Jesus as He is and fall on Him in brokenness, either as a lost person, or an immature believer either one. The solution is the same. It is the only way the heart is changed.

Where the Spirit has fruit (Gal. 5:22) legalism also has fruit which is cold, hard, unmerciful, and demanding. It is also often arbitrary because when rules are the focus it becomes impossible to be consistent. It doesn’t understand “exceptions” as Jesus tried to explain to the Pharisees, reminding them of how David ate the bread that was only for the priesthood. It can’t bend for mercy. Judaism has written volumes of Talmud trying to clarify and protect the Law. Legalism of any form always has to do this. People react to the the FRUIT of legalism without realizing the root problem. That’s why they can’t put their finger on what it is.. they sense something amiss, but the root is hidden deep. Often people who are the most disturbed by it have the same problem and they don’t even realize it. There are few things more fierce than legalists battling each other! 😀

After I had lived as a believer for several years, I came to a place that felt like spiritual death, in spite of all my fervent religious activity. I was in misery and thought I must need to try harder. I lost all desire to worship, to reach out, and wanted so badly to just give up because I saw no transformation taking place in myself or anyone else around me in the group we were in. We were very proud of some aspects of our “obedience” but it had not done anything at all to change the things that mattered the most. Finally through reading the gospels and hearing the words of Jesus I was terrified to realize the fruit I valued and was striving to produce had nothing to do with the kind of fruit Jesus said His followers would have. Mine was based on performance, His were centered in having my heart motivated by love – no fake imitations. I was so far from what I saw there that I knew I couldn’t even claim to be His follower at all, even though I appeared very religious, and led a very upright, moral life. It was a time of intense grief and repentance, but I am so thankful God revealed this sin to both me and my husband independently and nearly simultaneously. My deepest sorrow was that I had put Jesus in the backseat and had my “obedience” riding up front with me for all to see, and I was driving!! Now I endeavor to let Him drive, and I try not to be a backseat driver.  (He is now my chauffeur.)

Since then I pray for real fruit and God is continuing to answer. He is changing my heart and attitudes. I love people I couldn’t love. I am becoming less cold, hard, and judgmental. Instead I say, “But for the grace of God, there I am. Father help them!” It’s not the old me.  Because of the love He is pouring into me and through me, I read I John’s words where he says, “I write these things to you so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.” and agree – not because of what I do, but precisely because I know I didn’t do it, and none of it has come from me. All of God, none of me. The litmus test in I John, in context, is love – over and over he says this. But for some reason, people see the word “commandments” and run back to a list of rules on stone tablets. Those rules fall so short of what God wants to create in us. We are not without law. We have a higher law and a better promise.

Some legalists are not saved because they have never trusted the work of Christ, but believe they earn their way to heaven. But I know some have received the gift, but are not aware of what they possess. Both the legalist and the freedom-loving antinomian spend most of their time pointing out each other’s faults, but both need to see Jesus and the fullness of the Promise and the Sacrifice.

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