Epiphany…(follow up to apology)

The first 10 or so years of my Christian experience I grew in Biblical understanding as defined by Evangelicalism and outward appearance would indicate that I was a “pharisee of pharisees’. Inside, I knew better and with each passing day I had to try harder and do more in order to make God happy with me. I was involved in so much because that is what a Christian is supposed to do. Dying to self meant rejecting anything not “spiritual” and that included  secular music, much of television, movies ( I remember our pastor at the time asking a group of us how we would feel if Jesus came back for us and we were sitting in a movie theater). Everything  was either good or evil, black and white…no gray. It was easy then to become proud of my accomplishment of staying on the narrow path, and even easier to condemn others for “backsliding” into sin or the spiritually blind for not seeing the truth.

But inside I was coming apart. I knew God was angry with me because I wasn’t living up to the standard of holiness and righteousness He demanded. Finally, I had a spiritual breakdown. I could no longer pretend and I let everything out to a Christian friend. All the struggles, sins, weaknesses, failures that I had hidden from others in the church. I thought he would reject me, just as I had believed God rejected me.  I was wrong.

For the first time I felt God’s unconditional love through the acceptance of a friend. And that defining moment of sitting in his living room on a cool autumn evening with a person who loved me as I was, changed the whole focus of my walk with God.

Grace, forgiveness, mercy and God’s love became real to me and since that time it is THE message I proclaim because it is the Gospel. I was freed from the false gospel permeating much of Evangelicalism and my passion is to see others freed too. I have come to truly see that the center of it all is Jesus not me.

I have nothing to offer God, I cannot be good enough. I never will be good enough. I echo the words of the apostle Paul…”Oh I am an evil, wicked man, who will save me from myself? Thank God for Jesus Christ for now that I am in Him there is now no longer any condemnation, I am free.

Sadly, it is at times like swimming against the current of a fast-moving river. I have been accused of being an unbeliever, a liberal, a heretic, and yes even an anti-christ. Some in the church have hurt me more than anyone outside the church walls could ever do. I thought of leaving the church. The Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me…..

I hope this gives you a little insight. Enough about me!

12 thoughts on “Epiphany…(follow up to apology)

  1. Ah yes…leaving the church…I have done so. Can’t find a church that preaches the gospel according to Christ and…lives it. Am I expecting too much…maybe. But I cannot be happy in a church that tells me it is wrong to go to other churches and hear the Word of God. That tells me I shouldn’t listen to other Pastors. In other words I cannot tell the difference between sound doctrine and not so sound doctrine. I have been a Christian since 1987 and I have studied the Word in the light of the Holy Spirit. Not always walking the way I should but always believing in the saving grace and mercy of God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Why do churches believe they are the ONLY ones who know the truth? I don’t understand that. I have to believe that somewhere out there there is a church that is sound and not hypocritical…but we are human and humans are fallible. Again do I expect too much from my Christian brothers and sisters? I don’t know.

    1. If expecting fellow Christians to love and accept and care for each other is too much to ask, then we are in big trouble.

  2. One more thing I forgot to mention. I would love to sit with other Christians and not feel the pressure to perform to someone’s standards. To be able to bask in the light of warmth of fellowship and not feel condemned by my peers. Is it me that persecutes myself or is it really what I am feeling from others that look down on me becasue I have tattoos or because I was a drug addict? Mark I hear your struggle within and feel sadness for it. To be a Christian and have to experience the condemnation of others…it crushes me to the core to recognize this in the people I so looked up to in church. Is this the modern day martyr to be persecuted by those he/she most looks up to in the church? I guess that is why we are to our faith in no man and look only to Christ!

    1. Lynn,
      You do not expect too much of the Church, you are expecting what Christ expects of the Church. So on the one hand, you are right. I find though, in my own life, I personally do not live up to the standards Christ outlines in the Beatitudes let alone the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, let alone the entire life of Christ. Yet Christ is gracious to me. He stays with me. He loves me despite my hypocrisy and brokenness. And so I personally am challenged to stay in relationship with a local congregation, despite their hypocrisy, because that is what i experience from Christ. I also ask that the Church, the local church, stay with me through my hypocrisy and not judge me, so I need to be gracious to them since that is how I want to be treated. There is that stinking Golden rule again. I would much prefer doing unto others as they have done to me–judge and walk away. But I would like grace and mercy, so I have to extend grace and mercy.
      Just my thoughts and what I have struggled with.

      1. So true…I think maybe I am sitting in judgement on their sitting in judgement on me. Does that make sense. Well either way I am just as guilty. Eyes open I look to the heavens, ask for forgiveness, and here’s the important part, I accept that forgiveness and move on in love!

    2. We are to look only to Christ as our example but when there are so many Christians who claim to know Him telling you how bad you are, you start to think that this must be how Jesus is thinking as well.

      I am sorry that you have been wounded by those who sit in church pews on Sunday praising Jesus and then spend the rest of the week judging those they deem as unworthy.

      Lynn you are a beloved child of the King of the Universe and He loves you and accepts you completely in Christ. When you feel alone He is there, when you feel rejected, He is holding you close to His heart, when you fall into sin and feel like you can’t go forward, God, like the Father of the prodigal son is running to you to pick you up and wrap He arms around you, reminding you that you were forgiven at the Cross and that He will hold your hand as He lifts you back on your feet. He loves you forever my sister. Rest in this truth.

  3. This is so beautiful and real. It is in some respects, the story of all of us in one form or another. Every one of us has a person on the inside that we feel that God (or family, friends, or society) would not accept. You are right on that unconditional love and forgiveness are the real gospel. What could be truer or more enlightened than that? Grace and mercy are the greatest gifts that God bestows on us – they are certainly the greatest gifts we can bestow on each other!

  4. It is so very difficult. I listen to how Christ spoke to the throngs of people and to the individual. How he got right down to the issue, the personal issue with people. With most encounters I am left overwhelmed at gentleness of his counsel; the God of the universe; who did no wrong, who knew what was to happen on the Cross, who did not have to condescend to even step foot into our crazy insane world…who would speak the truth in love to a prostitute; to a embezzler, to an occupier, to a harlot, to ‘dumb’ men, to a busy-body, to a proud rich man. He had every right to smack em upside the head; just like he does all of us, yet he spoke the truth in real love.

    Mark, your post gets to the heart of the matter; motivation. It telegraphs out through our words and attitudes. Do we speak to someone because we are motivated by love? Or do we speak because we are motivated by the lust of the mind that would have us take dominion over the truth and subjugate those around us? Too often I speak from the latter – “search my heart oh Lord and show me any unclean way..”, “the heart is deceptively wicked, who can know it?”

    I am suddenly re-aware of why our first reaction towards God will be to fall down. I am, truly, unworthy to even unbuckle his sandal. But yet He loves me. Us.

    Amazing grace.

  5. That’s a great testimony that sheds light on your zeal to condemn those you feel are too condemning.

    Please consider that there are true Christians that have a love for the lost and a zeal for the truth and want desperately to see Jesus Christ, who is full of both grace *and* truth, exalted. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

    It’s true that there are many broken people desperately looking for acceptance. From your last few posts, it seems like you miss that there are also people perfectly content and thoroughly enjoying their sin and have no thought of the eternal consequences of that sin. We need to love those folks as well by asking them to think about the very serious matters of sin, death and eternity and share the gospel with them too. Sharing that we too deserve hell for our equally heinous sins but for God’s amazing grace which he lavished on us and that He offers to lavish on them as well if they repent and put their faith in His perfect son, Jesus Christ. We need to share this in a gentle, respectful and loving way but in a way that does not compromise the Word.

    I understand the damage self righteous legalist pharisees can do and I see from your testimony you’ve felt it personally which is awful. But, not everyone who wants to bring light to the darkness of sin should be painted with that same broad brush. As an example, you might be surprised to find some very compassionate and loving people peacefully demonstrating at an abortion clinic. People wanting very much to comfort a woman wrecked by abortion with the gospel as well as plead with women who have not yet aborted to not abort and know God’s strength in carrying an “unwanted” child to term.

    Christ shed His precious blood not to free us TO sin but to free us FROM sin.

    1. Thank you for you comments and I would like to take a moment to sort through and clarify some things if I may…

      First, I would like to say that I do not condemn individuals, I condemn the hateful words and actions of those who claim to be followers of the God who is Love.

      Secondly, I realize that there are multitudes of Christians out there that are truly seeking to follow God and to love others, and that they see their vitriol as speaking the truth in love. I do not blame them because that is what they have been taught from hundreds of pulpits across america. They have been fed the idea that it is “us”, the Christian against “them”, the godless heathen. They have been taught that all people connected with the pro-choice side are vile and the devient homosexuals have an agenda to recruit unsuspecting children. They have been taught to use a broad brush to paint all people in a way that causes fear, and anger, hostility and hatred, not of sin but of the individuals.

      You said that these same Christians love sinners and that they should have the right to ask sinners to “think about the very serious matters of sin, death and eternity and share the gospel.” This is where the problem arises. Some pastors spew vemon toward their congregations concerning the unsaved and then those in the congregation go out and what, befriend someone who is considering abortion or is gay or lesbian, or liberal, or an atheist? I hardly think that is the case, rather they go out and protest and picket, or they confront and demean the unbeliever, either to their face or behind their backs.

      And finally, this is getting too long, (and now I have thougths of a new post), I am not surprised that there are “very compassionate and loving people” protesting at an abortion clinic, but the girl or woman walking into or out of the clinic does not. All they see is a person that hates them for what they are going to do or have done and they conclude Jesus is not for them.

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