Salvation


After I experienced spiritual abuse I questioned everything.

I did not know who to trust, what to believe, or what was true. I doubted my own judgment about everything.

For over four years I wanted to know what was true, but I did not know where to find it.

Thankfully, someone did. It took over four years of searching, trying Christian counseling, talking to pastors and ministry leaders, sharing with family and friends. It took over four years of searching, digging, striving, working, pleading, fighting, and finally surrendering before God said, “look here”.

I knew the answers lay with God, I just didn’t know how to find it and live it.

A door opened for biblical counseling/discipleship. This was completely different from the Christian counseling I had received because it was all about God and scripture and not about us. I was shown what the Bible said about each subject. I was taught that the Bible was not an instruction manual given to guide me, but was the revelation and presentation of God. I was shown once and for all that truth exists, and exactly where to find it. When God said, “look here”, he wasn’t referring to the discipleship, but to himself and his revelation in scripture.

“We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true.  And we are in him who is true – even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20)

If we do not believe that Christ is truth, and that he is the source of all truth then we are not believing in who he is.

I no longer believe in a man, believe in a religion, or believe in teachings. I live by truth.

Today I listened to an amazing sermon that clearly presents how we can be deceived and misled. It is based upon Colossians 2:6-8. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”

If you have struggled to know what truth is or have felt as if you are mixed up, confused, and living under confusion I have three suggestions:   

  1. Study scripture to learn about the character and nature of God. Throw out everything you have known and especially what you have been taught by man, and let the Lord and the Holy Spirit bring truth to you.
  2. Read 1 John. I believe this book clearly shows how we know what is true, presents fruit that is exhibited by those who walk in truth, and teaches us HOW to live out a life that is changed from the Gospel transforming our lives.
  3. Listen to the sermon I mentioned above. It is by Matt Chandler at the Village Church in Texas. I do not know much about the church, but I know Matt’s reputation is very sound, and he is one of the strongest biblical teachers in our nation. He is very blunt (which I like), which means he will address things that other pastors might not, including how we are misled by false teaching. He gives us some tests to use and ways to communicate with others when they present us teachings and philosophies that sound good up-front, but which really drive us away from truth. You can find the sermon here. The first 12-20 minutes are the section that speak directly to these issues, but the entire sermon is good and powerful.
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We have a problem in the church, a problem that is growing because we are not recognizing and addressing it. Our problem is we are moving away from truth and toward our own wisdom. We have taken up moralizing and psychologizing issues and not looking at our issues as a result of a distorted understanding of God where we have hold other things as idols that take the place of God in our lives.

This information is quoted from Galatians: The Law and the Gospel by Timothy J. Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, NY:

  1. Moralizing: Basic analysis: Your problems is that you are doing wrong. Repent!
    This focuses on behavior but doesn’t go deep enough. We must find out the why of our behavior. To simply tell an unhappy person (or yourself) to repent and change their behavior is insufficient, because the lack of self-control is coming from a belief that says, “Even if you live up to moral standards but don’t have this, then you are still a failure.” You must replace this belief through repentance for the one sin under it all – your particular idolatry.
  2. Psychologizing: Basic analysis: Your problem is that you don’t see that God loves you as you are. Rejoice!
    This focuses on feelings, which seem to be deeper than behavior but it also fails to go deep enough. We must also find out the why of our feelings. To simply tell an unhappy person (or yourself), “God loves you – rejoice!” is insufficient. The unhappiness is coming from a belief that says, “Even if God loves you, but you don’t have this, then you are still a failure.” You must replace this belief through repentance for the one sin under it all – your particular idolatry.
  3. The Gospel: Basic analysis: Your problem is that you are looking to something besides Christ for your happiness. Repent and rejoice!
    This confronts a person with the real sin under the sins and behind the bad feelings. Our problems is that we have given ourselves over to idols! Every idol-system is a way of our-works-salvation, and thus it keeps us “under the law.” Paul tells us that the bondage of sin is broken when we come out from under the law – when we being to believe the gospel of Christ’s-work-salvation. Only when we realize in a new way that we are righteous in Christ will the idol’s power over us be broken. “Sin shall not be your master for you are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). You will only be “under grace” and free from the controlling effects of idols to the degree that you have both repented for your idols and rested and rejoiced in the saving work and love of Christ instead.

Grace, a word and concept we don’t understand. Christ saved us by faith and grace, not by works. Grace frees us because it does not condemn and shame us, but it points us back to the work that Christ did for us. It tells us that the law will not, can not, was never meant to save us. It just shows us the contrast of what the Lord did for us and how we are liberated and free.

Moralizing and psychologizing will not save us, but the Gospel will. It is all about Christ’s work and not ours.

I was raised in a mainline denominational church. There are many things I love about the churches I attended growing up (we moved every few years so I went to several that I remember), but there are few things that I did not learn about in that denomination: the Gospel, making a personal commitment to Christ, putting off the old self and putting on the new, and sin.

I remember in late high school or college I struggled at times to even see sin in my life because I wasn’t doing things like drinking, drugs, lying, cheating, stealing, sexual misconduct, or even dishonoring my parents. I was a “good girl”, in fact I was often ridiculed because of that. Occasionally something would come up that I would struggle with, but usually I dealt with it quickly and moved on.

Over the last couple of years I have learned a lot about sin and where it exists in my life. It isn’t in my actions, but in my underlying beliefs which then affects my actions, especially in relationships. Again, it isn’t that I am blatantly doing those top recognized sins or living in ways that oppose my Christian beliefs, but instead I doubt, fear, struggle with my beliefs, and believe things that give me a wrong starting point so every step I take from there is incorrect. It is like the bird who accidentally flies into a room through an open window and keeps banging on the closed window on the other side because it can see out, but the bird has the wrong belief that this closed window will let it free, it only needs to turn around to see the truly open window behind it.

Sin is anything that separates, divides, or leads us from God. It truly starts with our deep, underlying beliefs. It starts with our heart. I recently heard someone say that all sin starts with the first and second commandments: you shall have no other gods before me, you shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything. If we have made something else an idol or a god in our life, even if that is a belief we hold in our heart then we are walking in sin. If we think lowly of ourselves, lowly of God, or do not trust his Word then we are living in sin. If we know a truth in the Bible and are not living by it then we are living in sin.

Honestly, life was easier when I couldn’t recognize sin in my life. I could move forward and not think much about what I am doing and what the condition of my heart was. Now, I am daily seeing how far I have to go and how wrong I am. It is humbling. I am not depressed or upset about it because I know it is bringing me closer to the Lord, but it is hard. I wish repenting of the sin was as easy as just saying I wanted it to end and that I choose to turn from it. Unfortunately many of the beliefs and actions are so engrained that it takes a very long time and a lot of work to change. I can get upset at myself because I know my heart wants to change, but my flesh is so weak. My heart is heavy at times because I have such sorrow over the sin I see in my life and how much I want it to be completely and permanently gone. I take heart in 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 because it gives me hope that my sorrow and struggle have an outcome ahead that I can not see yet.

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.”

What is sin? Sin is what I do, think, and believe that doesn’t represent Christ, show him and his truth to the world, and bring redemption, hope, and promise. Sin is how I have lived and what I want to move away from. Sin is what separates me not only from God, but from you, from others, and even from myself. Today I am overwhelmed by seeing and knowing about the sin in my life and I pray that my heart does change, that my life is repentant, and that my life is transformed by the power of the Gospel of Christ.

I recently came across this story, and while it was likely written about people coming to faith, I think it also can apply to coming out of the darkness of abuse and coming to the light of healing, hope, faith, and restoration. This story reminds me of my own story, although I had known what light was before going into the darkness of abuse and the spiritual confusion that followed, I lost my memory of what the light was like. I wonder what the story will make you think of and feel.

People lived in the darkness for so long he didn’t know that it was dark.  The dark was normal, and since he never experienced delight, dark didn’t seem dark to him.  It wasn’t as though he woke up in the morning Crane and longing for light.  Add it wasn’t that he had to work to accept the darkness.  No, darkness was all he ever known.  Sure, he fumbled around, bumped into things, and fell down a lot, but none of it bothered him.  It was what every day was like for him.  He didn’t really long to see.  He didn’t long to see each as he didn’t know that there was anything worth seeing.  He really didn’t think that he saw all there was to see – darkness.  He didn’t have an accurate sense of size, shape, or color.  He had little sense of beauty.  He didn’t really know what things looks like because the darkness you lived in was so pervasive that the objects around him were but shadows, logs, and blurs. 

He had no idea what he looked like because he’d never released seeing himself.  He thought he knew what he looked like because he’d touched his face and run his hands down his torso, but he’d never seen himself in the light.  He was actually quite content in his darkened world, and he was quite happy to do what people do when they lived in the dark place.  He just got up every day and did what you do when you can see.  Except he didn’t know that he couldn’t see, because he’d never seen, because he’d always lived in darkness.

Then it happened one day.  He had looks long for it.  He hadn’t asked for it.  It just happened.  The shaft of light exploded into his world.  At first it scared and confused him.  He didn’t know what it was and is all I us didn’t seem able to take it and.  All he really knew was that it was different from the darkness he’d always known.  It was a bright and beautiful and it hurts as I us, but he couldn’t stop looking.  He couldn’t keep himself from walking toward the light.  The closer he got to the light, the more he began to see what was around him.  There was a whole world of shapes and colors he never seen.  But something even more profound began to happen to him.  It was shocking, disturbing, and exciting all on its.  The closer he got to the lights, the more he saw himself!  The first thing he realized was that he was naked.  For the first time he felt naked.  For the first time his nakedness made him uncomfortable.  But he not only realized he was naked, he realized he was dirty.  And not only was the third see, he was confronted with the fact that he was lame.

He kept walking toward the light, and he felt sure you see did so, but the joy was mixed with grief.  As he walked see began to weep.  He never wept like this before.  He wept at the pain he felt over his condition.  He did not know how dirty he was.  He’d not known how crippled he was, and he felt overwhelmed at what he now knew.  He was stunned by the fact that he been this way since birth and he’d never known it.  He was shocked that he’d never figured out that he moved with a limp.  But his shot was quickly mixed with the deepest longing he’d ever felt.  It was like he was starved for something he never eaten it now wanted desperately.  What he wanted desperately for the first time in his life was to be clean.  For the first time in his life he wasn’t satisfied being crippled.  He longed to be healed.  And even though he didn’t understand light at all, for the first time in his life he wanted to live and it.  And he couldn’t imagine ever been content to live in the darkness again.

So he started to run.  He ran because he felt drawn – Braun to the light that so radically altered his world.  He wanted to be in the light because somehow he knew if he could get him the lights, he’d be washed and he’d be clean.  Somehow he knew that if he could get to the light he would be healed.  He’d never run before because he knew he couldn’t run each as he was lame, but he did run.  The light was drawing him.  The light was giving him strength.  He remembers well those darkened days and that darkened place.  He remembers it all with a broken and celebratory heart’s.  And he is very aware that not only has he been cleansed and healed, he’s been given the ability to see as well.  And he’s deeply grateful that he’s been clothed with what he couldn’t purchase and that keep within him has been placed the desire to be clean.

(Quoted from Whiter than Snow by Paul David Tripp, pp 45-47)

Recently a comment was made that said, “For me, it has certainly been a journey of two steps forward and 1 step back, sometimes with the steps backwards happening in succession before moving forward again.”

I can relate to that today. One of the struggles on this journey of recovery are the steps backward and what forms they come in. For weeks I have felt like I was improving and doing better. I was hopeful for healing and that some reconciliation would be possible with my old pastor. Last week when the meeting didn’t go well it took wind out of my sails. This week as I met with my counselor (who had met with the pastor, elder, and I) we had a very frank discussion and he shared openly about his feelings regarding my situation. He feels the pastor’s communication and actions toward me are unhealthy, that his charges toward me show no credibility or substance. He feels that I have definitely shown a faith in God, and a heart that is turned toward God and believes that the elders have made sinful decisions and actions toward me. Finally, he said that he would describe what has happened to me as spiritual abuse, because what could be more abusive than having my walk with God and salvation judged by others.

One of the known issues with abuse is denial. It is very common, especially with domestic abuse for the victim to deny abuse occurred because of their love, connection, and commitment to the abuser. The same thing can happen in spiritual abuse. It is really hard coming to terms with the fact that others believe I have been abused again. I don’t want to describe the situation with those words because I love that pastor so much, and I believe that deep down he has a good heart. The reality is we can believe whatever we want about abuse, faith, life, etc. Our beliefs don’t change truth. Truth is truth. People don’t believe God exists, but he does and those who don’t believe pay the price of their salvation. I can not believe I was abused and deny the hurt and betrayal but the one that most hurts is me.

I have taken two steps forward (maybe even more), but this is one big step back that is going to take some time and work to get over. My heart is broken again and only God can provide the true healing I need. I am very thankful to know the truth that he is where I need to turn and that I have the faith to trust that. Accepting truth can be hard but it is only through doing that where we will move forward in our healing and find true hope.

On Monday afternoon I was finally able to meet face to face with the pastor and an elder from my church to hear the charges that had been made against me and to seek a path to reconciliation. Despite as much preparation as I think I could have done in the word and prayer, and despite prayer cover from some people … the meeting did not go that well.

We need to learn to thank the Lord for closed doors just as much as we do for open doors. The reason God closes doors is because He has not prepared anything over there for us. If he didn’t close the wrong door we would never find our way to the right door. Even when we don’t realize it, God directs our paths through the closing and opening of doors. When one door closes, it forces us to change our course. Another door closes; it forces us to change our course yet again. Then finally, we find the open door and walk right into our blessing.  (http://sweetnostalgia.wordpress.com/2007/08/28/behind-closed-doors/)

In summary I was dismissed from the church not under “church discipline” but due to a pattern of behavior they did not view as matching the words and actions of a believer. They deemed I was a non-believer who was exhibiting a lack of submission and was at risk of causing division in the church. Since I was deemed a non-believer they did not follow Matthew 18 and did not take the issue to the church. I was informed that I have been “churched” and can talk the talk but that my ongoing questions regarding clarity of communication from the church leaders showed lack of submission. They felt my communication toward the leaders showed intentional twisting of words and creation of miscommunication and drama so that I would have control. I asked if there was any noted miscommunication with others besides the pastor and was told that as far as he was aware the issue was limited to him but of course he was not privy to all other communication.

Part of why I was told I was a non-believer was that I have struggled with some sin over an extended period of time. (I did not recognize it as sin until June when God started revealing it to me, but that was not addressed. This sin is unbelief, a small view of God, walking in victimization, doubting the power of God, etc. due to the spiritual abuse I experienced 4-1/2 years ago.) As they are firm believers in Lordship Salvation they believe that no true believer can fall into an extended period of sin, be taken bondage or captive by sin, or have an ongoing struggle where victory is not seen. I asked them about this directly and since they were deeming me as a non-believer I asked if they would help me right then to become a believer and be right before God because I desire to spend eternity as part of God’s family. The pastor told me it was too much to deal with right then and he would just leave that to the counselor to address at a different time. Even when I asked a second time to deal with it right then I was told no. (There was still 30 minutes left in the meeting.)

The pastor and elder came across to me with a defensive and unopen tone, and I witnessed absolutely no desire to reconcile or heal the relationship. They were quite angry that I had defied their communication to not “associate” with anyone from the church as I had emailed/mailed a group of people to express my repentance for my wrong actions and lack of faith and shared what God had been doing in my life. It was clearly communicated at the meeting that they desire absolutely no further contact from me directly and expect me to not communicate anything to anyone else in the church community. My counselor is allowed to contact the pastor and maybe in the future there will be some room for a path to reconcile fully with God’s family but at this time they believe they have no responsibility to me and washed their hands of any responsibility to see me reconciled or restored to God’s family.

Even two days later I am still not sure what I am thinking and feeling after this meeting. The most important things for me are 1) To have assurance that I am saved 2) to know that the relationship with this church and everyone that is attending there is now completely closed 3) to know that no matter how I move forward they will not restore me openly to God’s family and I will not receive their blessing no matter what life and walk I have with God.

I am very sad and grieved for those leaders and that church. I pray that God deals with the issues and shakes the church so that it will be purified and their leaders will move forward in Godly ways.

  1. The pastor and elder will need to stand before God to give account for why they turned away someone who came to them earnestly seeking a true walk with God.
  2. The pastor and elders deemed me as an unbeliever and therefore judged me. At this time no-one else in my life agrees with this assessment and I have honestly gone to others trying to take the stance that maybe I was not a believer and needed to address that issue. If I was a believer they will have to give account for their judgement and rejection.
  3. They are missing God’s heart which is expressed all over the Bible, but is summarized here in Isaiah 61:1b “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners”. Also, Matthew 15 clearly shows God’s heart for the lost and how he pursues after them, looks for them, and welcomes and rejoices them when one that was lost comes home. Whether I am just dealing with my sin and repenting, or honestly moving forward with a brand new true relationship with God doesn’t matter as much as the fact that I am now standing in a healthy and right relationship with God and they were unwilling to even listen to or see that. Even if the decision to remove me was correct, they are missing the heart of accepting a repentant person and seeking to help them walk forward in a right relationship with God.
  4. They have lead an entire church community to cut off contact with another believer and to walk in disunity and brokenness within God’s family.
  5. They clearly articulated they are in a “protective mode” at the church right now and in saying that they openly showed that protecting their body and the unity of that individual local church is more important than God’s gospel and the unity and peace within his larger church and unity between his people.
  6. The pastor and elder showed lack of faith that God can change a person’s life.

Although I am saddened and grieving for God’s church I have forgiven these leaders and freely release them into God’s hands. They are not my enemy and I harbor no anger or bitterness to them. They are my brothers in Christ, and I love them deeply, extend grace and forgiveness to them, and will continue to uplift them in prayer and walk in unity and peace with them to the best of my ability. The door is open for the day they desire to reconcile and I pray that God will move them to that place in their walk with him. I honestly believe that no sin or issue is too big for God to overcome and I place this in his hands to resolve. God, I move forward in love, hope, and promise toward the future you intend for me. Lead me to where you want me next and show me the path to integrity, unity, peace, wholeness, holiness, and righteousness as I move there.

I have been reflecting on salvation and how we can know if someone is saved or not. It doesn’t seem like there a widespread accepted way to know with certainty. Some say you just have to pray a prayer, others believe it is much more complex and the way is so narrow that few will enter it. Why isn’t this something that is clear at least to other believers?

About six weeks ago I was introduced to the concepts of theologies and learned that there are at least three main theologies: Free Grace, Lordship Salvation, and Arminianism. I wonder how many people really know what their church leaders believe and teach, and what percentage of American believers fall into each group. My guess is that most American’s do not know about Lordship Salvation, and that many churches are a mixed mess of different theologies and beliefs. If that is true, then how can we know truth, how can we stand firm in what is truth, and how can we be assured that what we believe about salvation is correct? If we are teaching incorrect things we are sinning and damaging God’s kingdom…a scary thought!

According to this site there are evidences that can be used to prove or disprove ones salvation:

  • Here are the seven evidences that can not be used to prove or disprove ones salvation (because they can be counterfeited by a false believer) : Visible Morality, Intellectual Knowledge, Religious Involvement, Active Ministry, Conviction of Sin, Assurance, and Time of Decision.
  • Here are the nine evidences that are the fruit of true salvation: Love for God, Repentance from Sin, Genuine Humility, Devotion to God’s Glory, Continual Prayer, Selfless Love, Separation from the World, Spiritual Growth and Obedient Living.

I know that I come from a background with a mixed mess of theologies and I want to know with absolute certainty that I am saved. I feel certain I am saved and have been for 25 years, but others (including my pastor) have recently doubted that and said that I can speak the language and talk the talk but they don’t see a changed heart and do not believe I am a believer (I believe that is because I was deeply confused by a stronghold of sin which clouded my mind and by lack of proper Bible teaching). It makes me wonder how we can be certain and how we can know anyone is truly saved or not.

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