Truth


I grew up in the Presbyterian and United Methodist churches. Overall, their beliefs are very similar, and by the time I left the care of my parents and church I had a good start to a foundation. I had only been a believer for two years when I stepped out my own, not realizing there were dangers that lay ahead.

In college, I attended InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the Covenant Church, and a non-denominational church. I also studied Religion, and was exposed to a large range of belief systems. When Christianity was discussed, it was often in negative light or a very weak manner. After college, I served with a ministry in the south (Bible Belt) and then went overseas with Youth With a Mission. I returned to the states to look for a solid church home for several years before settling into a non-denominational church. Twelve years later, I was abused.

Since that time I have received counsel from leaders of many different churches, worked with counselors with different belief systems, attended several different churches, and I have been exposed to a very large number of books, sermons, web sites, conferences, etc. They do not all share the same viewpoints and beliefs.

I am a theological mess!

The mixture of things I was exposed to has broadened my mind and stretched me, but it holds many dangers.

I have been exposed to so many varying teachings and beliefs, that sometimes I don’t know what to believe.

Sometimes things I read or hear sound really good, and then I start to realize that it is misleading or shortsighted in some way. It leaves me wondering how often I read or listen to things and do not realize it is distorted or off target. It isn’t that these writers and speakers intend to mislead, because I am sure they firmly believe what they share, but unless we know the whole truth, the parts can mix us up or may not make sense.

Not long ago I learned that a very well-known pastor I have read and listened to believes the Bible is a product of humans, and not inspired and created by God. He used to look to the Bible for truth, but now he just accepts that certain things will remain a mystery. The news shocked me and made me wonder why I did not know this about him. It made me realize that I do not know much about the beliefs of those I have listened to and read.

Not knowing about those speaking into my life has left me in a very dangerous position where I can be mislead and deceived.

I have been taught many conflicting things.

Sometimes I don’t know what to believe, but there one thing of which I am absolutely certain.

The Lord is greater than any theology or belief I hold. He can fix any mixed up belief, deceit, misleading, or shortsighted understanding I hold.

After all, he is God!

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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.

Sometimes circumstances leave you behind a rock and a hard place, and no option looks or feels good.

That is how it may feel to be authentic and transparent about your life.

You know your past, you know the story, you know the good, the bad, the lame, the extreme, and you know the parts that might live better hidden under a rock. Do you have any of those pieces? Pieces of your story that you are not proud of? Pieces of your story that you may be coming to terms with, but others don’t want you to tell? Do you have pieces of your story that could hurt others, and therefore you are not sure what to do with them?

When my life intertwines with others, then my story becomes our story. My story no longer exists alone.

It is hard to learn to own our story. We may be willing to accept the parts of our story that we feel responsible for, but not those parts that are imposed or inflicted upon us. When our stories involve others it is difficult to know how to own our story, and what to share with others. That is especially true if the story could hurt others.

Some of us have stories where we are hurt, disillusioned, and victimized. Church and spiritual abuse typically occurs at the hands of leaders, and many people feel it is wrong to speak against leaders or to say anything that might damage their reputation. However, not being allowed to share our stories can leave us in silence, shame, and bondage. Those things are not healthy, and they keep us from being authentic and transparent. They keep us from growing and having healthy, mature, and authentic faith lives.

Sharing our stories does not need to be a black and white issue. There are some guidelines that can help in knowing when, where, and what to share.

1) Own your story: Are you willing to accept your story for what it is? This includes being realistic about what happened, and not denying it. Accepting it means being able to state facts about what happened with little to no shaping of your own perspectives and agendas. It also means taking responsibility for your part of the story and accepting things you did wrong. In my story I had to accept my sin, my failures, my false theologies and beliefs, and my poor communication and relationships.

2) Check your heart: If you are going to share your story, take time to ask why. If you are only telling your story because you need to work through issues, then choose an audience who will help you do that. This will typically be people you see face-to-face, and I believe it is best done in community and relationships and not just in a counselor’s office. A time may come to share your story (or elements of it) to a larger audience like a bible study, a church group, in a written newsletter/article, on a blog, or in a book. Knowing the condition of your heart and why you are sharing are critical when you start to speak beyond those who are closest and most intimate with you. If you are not sharing for the right purposes, then please stop and take your heart to the Lord to have it changed.

3) Guard your words: When our stories intertwine with others, anything we say can reflect poorly on others involved. Checking our heart is the first step of guarding our words, but even if our intentions and purposes of sharing are correct, we still need to be very careful that our words are shaped in a way to redeem, build up, strengthen, give life, and encourage. Our words can hurt and destroy. Take time and make very determined effort to speak words that will bring life, hope, and healing. You do not need to tell everything to express your story, and if you are testifying about what God has done your focus will be his work, and not the deeds of other humans and how they might have failed you/God/others.

4) Seek to bring God glory: What better purpose is there in sharing our story than to bring glory to God? This actually might be the only reason to share our story beyond our closest circle, but our stories are also a work in progress and always changing. If all we do is seeking to glorify God and to bring him glory then our words, our purposes, our heart will all be focused on that. We will not have room in our heart or mouths to speak things that lash out, destroy, or bring malicious damage to others.

5) Give grace: Give others and yourself a great deal of grace. Even in the best of situations there is room for things to be misspoken, misunderstood, or shared with a perspective others do not share. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Be willing to correct and change things in your story if needed to clarify so others have the correct understanding. Be open when others are critical about you sharing, and allow them to speak their disapproval. It might be that their disapproval will change if voiced, or there could be room for compromise. Also, give grace to yourself. Sharing your story may open the door for shame, guilt, criticism, anger, frustration, or denial to surface. Take the time to feel what comes up, and to walk into the painful and difficult parts of the journey. Be realistic that you are a broken person who needs a savior, and even with all the Lord has done in your life up until now, there is still more that needs to be done.

If it is time for you to share our story and the situation is correct, then share it with a heart to glorify God. Speak with boldness, grace, and love.

Tell of how the Lord has brought you through, opened your heart/eyes, and how he is writing you a new story. You do not need to live in silence, shame, guilt, or secrecy. Be honest, be transparent, be authentic and real. Your story is your own, all of it! Sharing your story and confessing things might be the door that opens your life up to the freedom that only Christ can bring.

We studied Galatians 4 last week at my home group. That lead to a discussion about false teachers and how their methods can be contrasted to how Paul responded. I have seen many reports over the last few years about who false teachers are, and how to identify them, but being able to see it more clearly through scripture is very important to me. I don’t want to trust man’s description about false teachers, but I do believe scripture because I consider it to be truth, absolute truth.

Galatians 4:8-20 …. 8Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.  12I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong. 13As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. 14Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. 15What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. 18It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you. 19My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!

In verse 17, Paul talks about “those people”. These are the false teachers. Through this section you can see how Paul pleads with them to return to the Gospel, the ways of God and the truth they have known in the past. Not only do they know God, but they are known by Him. He had captured their hearts and become the Lord of it, but over time other things and the deception from these false believers was capturing their hearts again and getting in the way of the Lord.

 False Teachers  Paul
 Desire
  • followers of their teachings
  • observance of rituals and practices
  • conformity
  • zealous living
  • followers of Christ
  • maturity in faith
  • freedom
  • zealous pursuit of God
Means
  • Teaching of their practices
  • Enslavement to incorrect principles
  • Teaching of the Gospel
  • Life through living God’s principles

This helps me to clearly see that if I am being guided to follow leaders instead of God, and am being lead to conformity instead of freedom by living God’s principles then I am being misled. It is a truth I need to implant in my heart and use as a test for every book I read, sermon I listen to, and leader I consider following.

What other scriptural truths teach you about false teachers?

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.

Several times now I have talked about the necessity of having a good, true, and complete understanding of God. What we believe, right or wrong affects how we live our lives. Due to that, it is so important for our beliefs to be right.

I just came across this video which is a trailer for Joshua Harris’ book Dug Down Deep. I do not know anything about the book, but I definitely believe in the message this video portrays about how our understanding and study of God (theology) matter.

I can not get the Vimeo video to embed, so please visit it at their site. DugDownDeep_Carnahan.mov

I have been reflecting on the differences between forgiveness and reconciliation and the Biblical support for both. My heart conviction is that because I have been forgiven by the Lord I understand forgiveness. I have been reconciled to him. As he has changed and altered my life and heart I am now able and called to give forgiveness to others, offer them grace, and work toward reconciliation. With the Lord at the center of the relationship I truly believe forgiveness and reconciliation is not only possible but necessary between two believers. Many I talk to do not share this same conviction though. They feel it is okay to say “enough is enough” and walk away from a relationship. They feel it is okay to create boundaries that keep the others at bay. While I am a strong support of discipline, boundaries, and accountability I believe these are only successful when done in love and with a heart of teaching others rather than building walls.

Steve Cornell has posted a good Biblically based article on Forgiveness and Reconciliation at his blog. Check it out for the full article, but here are two lists he posts: Actions the offender needs to take, and Guidelines for the offended.

The offender:

1. Accepts full responsibility for his or her actions. (Instead of: “Since you think I’ve done something wrong…” or “If have done anything to offend you…”).
2. Accepts accountability from others.
3. Does not continue in the hurtful behavior or anything associated with it.
4. Does not have a defensive attitude about his or her being in the wrong.
5. Does not have a light attitude toward his or her hurtful behavior.
6. Does not resent doubts about his or her sincerity- nor the need to demonstrate sincerity. (Especially in cases involving repeated offenses)
7. Makes restitution wherever necessary.

For those who are hesitant to reconcile: Ten Guidelines to consider

It is common for those who have been seriously hurt to feel hesitant about reconciling with their offenders. When your offender is genuinely repentant, however, it is important to open yourself to the possibility of restoration. Remember, Jesus spoke about reconciliation with a sense of urgency (see Matthew 5:23-24). If you are hesitant to reconcile, work through the ten guidelines on the next pages.

1.     Be honest about your motives
2.     Be humble in your attitude
3.     Be prayerful about the situation
4. Be willing to admit ways you might have contributed to the problem
5.     Be honest with the offender
6.     Be objective about your hesitancy
7.     Be clear about the guidelines for restoration
8.     Be realistic about the process
9.     Be mindful of God’s control
10.  Be alert to Satan’s schemes


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