Sunday, January 11, 2009

Some of my thoughts...kinda long...WARNING..may ruffle some feathers...

Eternal security, loss of salvation, once saved always saved, saved, fallen from grace, back slide, back slidden. These are all terms I grew up hearing and still hear theological debates over. I am going to define these the way I was taught them growing up. (not that I agree with them,I think you will understand me more, the more you read)

Eternal Security- Eternally safe with God. There is nothing you can do once you are saved to change that and you will live forever eternally with God. (Okay, that kinda sounds like what his word says to me but we will go on here)

Loss of Salvation- Somewhere along the way you fell out of fellowship with God and you are no longer "saved" Hugh????

Once saved always saved- You are saved no matter what. You can do whatever you want and still go to heaven.(I think someone made this up to bash the good old baptist..LOL)

Saved- Forgiven of your sins by God's grace through the blood of his son Jesus. Which can also be referred to as "born again" (being born again into the kingdom of God) I believe it all the way!!!!

fallen from grace- no longer a Christian (Okay what is Grace? I think it is defined as unmerited favor. Let me see...the Christian Theology definition in the dictionary defines it as "the free and unmerited favor or beneficence of God; "God's grace is manifested in the salvation of sinners"; Okay now we have that...what is the definition of unmerited...the dictionary defines it as not merited or deserved and then favor is defined as an act of gracious kindness. Therefore in my opinion this phrase does not make sense in the way "Religious" people use it! How can you fall away from something that is free, not deserved, and given to you as an act of gracious kindness even though you are so undeserving!!!!!!

backslide-WHAT? I will be honest, I have NEVER understood this reference to people who once were following Christ but now are not. To be honest as I child I heard it often. "Pray for "Susie" she is going to backslide if she doesn't change the way she is living" HUGH??? When I was a little girl I had two sweet friends, Jennifer and Shannon. We would slide down the slide on our backs on the swing set and say that we "backslid" LOL!!!! We would just giggle and laugh. I still find it funny to be honest.

backslidden- I guess the is reference to someone who has slid down the slide on their back..LOL! No just kidding. It is often used to reference someone who other believers feel have fallen away from God and is no longer living for him.

Okay so now that I have given you a vocabulary lesson for today I will share what is on my heart. I was raised to love God and serve him in all I do in a very Pentecostal, legalistic, conservative way. I have to admit that I have always thought a little more out of the box than most. Not to pat myself on the back. This can be a good thing and sometimes it can be a bad thing. Normally, those who think differently or act differently can often become outcast. Growing up in the Pentecostal church makes for a very exciting environment. (I will be honest, I have been up since 3:30 AM with so much weighing heavy on my mind I am now struggling with how I want to word this without offending people but speaking my heart and truth in love. I do not mean this blog to bash Pentecostals directly. This blog can apply to anyone who allows things to hinder their walk with God no matter their denominational background. I am only sharing my experiences and beliefs) that I have that out of that way, I will move on. By legalistic, I mean that when I was really young, the women wore no makeup, pants, jewelry, etc. These were wrong and a sin. (I know CRAZY) . Many of these rules were just plain ridiculous. They are man- made rules that have nothing to do with the Bible let alone God. I could list dozens of them but these are just a few examples. I can remember the first time my mother bought foundation makeup. She carried it in her purse for weeks. I actually remember when my parents bought new wedding bands because they has stopped wearing them because of "religious convictions" (religious peoples convictions). I remember not be allowed to wear pants and then we moved to Ohio where it was freezing cold and for some reason it was not longer a "sin" to wear them and I could. WHAT??? I also remember in 3rd grade we were going on an outdoor field trip and my parents bought me shorts to wear because it as really hot. I remember thinking..."why was it a sin yesterday but not today?" I actually said that to my parents and then they allowed me to start wearing shorts. WHAT???? Jewelry... I never understood this one. The scripture I was quoted most was referring to women enticing their husbands with adornment instead of their inward spirit ... it had NOTHING to do with wearing it from day to day. I remember when I got my ears pierced. It was a HUGE deal. I got to get them pierced because I said to my parents, "If God is going to send me to hell for wearing earrings, he is not the God I think he is" (See I have always thought a little out of the box...even at 9 years old) I did not go to a movie theater until I was 18 years old. And then I caught myself praying that the rapture did not take place or I that I would die because I was certain I was going to burn in hell for all eternity even if I was seeing just The Adams Family. LOL!

For a long time I was glad I grew up with a ton of the "fear of the Lord" then I as I got older and began to search the scripture and pray and I discovered that "the fear of the Lord" that I was taught to have was not really what God intended. The "fear of the Lord" is the reverence of the Lord and who is. What I was experiencing was bondage. I was not understanding fully who I was in Christ, I did not understand that there is a certain freedom that comes with knowing Christ and receiving his unmerited favor "grace" in my life.

For years I was in a constant state of fear that I was going to go to hell. I was constantly looking for those outward sins. I could not commit any! I had to live "sin free" I was taught that I could live sin free. Do I believe this? NO, I do not. If I could live sin free, then there would be no reason for me to have an advocate with the Father through Jesus Christ. I remember once when I was in high school ( I am being very transparent in this blog, I have NEVER told anyone this in my life but this proves my point) I had always tried to live a good, holy life. I was known for being a Christian. I used to drive my sweet friend Lori insane because I was such a "goodie, goodie" I can honestly say that I did it out of love for God. I wasn't trying to be something I wasn't. I did love God. I just did not understand how much he loved me. So anyway back to high school, I was sitting in class and I was chewing gum (which I knew was wrong, but nevertheless I was chewing it) I had been caught with a few days before and got detention for it (that and being tardy were the only two things I ever got in trouble for) So the teacher sees me with the gum and she ask me if I had gum in my mouth. I do not know what came over me but I looked her dead in the eye and lied. I told her no and then swallowed the gum. The guilt that came over me was unreal. I think it was the first time I knowingly lied. I went home early that day feeling sick. I stayed up all night praying, crying, and begging God to forgive me. I was in torment. I was unsure for days if God had heard me. I finally prayed and said, "please God give me peace that you have forgiven me and that I will not go to hell." I did receive a peace and felt better but it took days. I prayed that I would not die and that the rapture would not take place. I was SO fearful!

I told you that story to share this. I tried all those years to live "sin free"while the entire time my heart and life was FULL of sin. I was so blinded by "religious, denominational garbage" that I could not see the truth. I was focused on those outward sins and not the inward sins that no one sees. (well, God sees them) When God sees them he sees them no differently. Sin is sin! I remember when I came to the realization. I had heard this for years from my husband. He grew up differently than I did and he was always sharing things with me about my life. I did not agree with him and it made for many arguments.

I want to share with you when I came to this realization of how unworthy I truly am. I remember it like it was yesterday. A few years ago we had changed everything in our lives (God did this on purpose so that we could grow and do what he has called us to do) but anyway, we were in a new house, new area, had a new baby, new church,new denomination, everything was new! I joined a ladies Bible study at our new church. I went to the Bible study alone not knowing ANYONE! We split off into small groups and made a circle for our time of sharing. We shared the word, scriptures, praise reports, prayer request, etc. It was typical and I was enjoying it. Then at the close of the time together our group leader said, "I would like for us to go around the circle and tell a sin that we have dealt with this week that we would like for the group to prayer over and hold each other accountable for" I thought WHAT??????? They are going to tell their sin???? I thanking God that I was the last one to go so that I could hear what others had to say, I was thinking surely not everyone has sinned this week. ( I was waiting to hear things like I cheated on my husband, I stole something at Walmart, I lied, I got drunk and did something immoral, I have been gambling our savings away, etc. ) Then one by one the ladies shared their sin. As I sat there listening to the ladies sharing their sins, my heart began to pound. I recognized so many of their sins from my own life. As I heard many of them break and cry and accept the fact that they were fallen sinners saved by grace I began to crumble under the weight of conviction. I had so much sin in my life. I had always know that I was so undeserving of his love, mercy, and grace and I thought I had come humbly before him, but I truly had not. I began to see all the sin in my life such as fear, doubt, lack of being a good steward with my time and gifts, not being a submissive wife for years as my husband tried to take his God given, ordained role as the leader of our home, and all the times I had fought my husband on issues concerning God, church, our family in every way including shaming him and discrediting who HE was in Christ, for thinking I was "wise in my own eyes", for being self-righteous, selfish, and jealous, having bitterness in my heart towards family for hurting me,former church members for hurting my family, for someone who I looked to as one of my biggest mentors lying about me and spreading untruths about me. As I sat there listening to those ladies I began to weep. By the time it was my turn I could not speak. I just sat there and cried. I finally looked up and said, "I am a mess, my heart is full of sin". I will be honest, I think I expected to be judged but instead, they received me in love and explained to me that they were all full of sin too. We all prayed together and I walked away with a different peace in my life than I had ever had before. I walked away understanding the entire story God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit all of it for the first time in my entire life. I had grown up in a pastors home, never missed a church service hardly in my life, I went to a Christian College... for God's sake! I went through the ministerial program in the Church of God and was a licensed minister. I had been a children's pastor for 12 years!!!!!!!!! But that day it was so clear to me who I was in Christ and who He is. Many things are still being revealed to me each and everyday. I pray for clarity, wisdom, strength, and courage. I do not want to every be so "wise in my own eyes" that I can't see through God's eyes. To see what he wants me to see and be what he wants me to be.

I think to have a true relationship with Christ you have to know who you are in Christ and what he wants for you. Now you may ask yourself what the beginning of this blog with all the "religious lingo" has to do with my story about my "seeing the light". Lately it seems that we have been hearing a lot of talk about grace, God's grace, etc. I can truly say that I do not know how deep or far God's grace goes. The Bible says that his Grace is sufficient. It seems that Tommy and I are constantly thrown into conversations of eternal security, etc. with other people. Mostly people question Tommy on Baptist theology because they do not understand it. There is one thing I wish people would understand, if they do not understand a particular denomination, church,pastor, etc. Do not say anything about them. Don't spread idle gossip or information that you are unsure of about anyone or any group of people. All of my life I was told, baptist believe that once you get "saved" you can do anything you want to, you can live anyway you want to, it does not matter. I have not met one truly saved baptist that believes that. Just because you may have heard someone say that they believe that way, and they attend a baptist church does not mean ALL BAPTIST believe that way. I have heard of Church of God people saying that they handle snakes and I know for a fact that they do not handle snakes! I can remember hearing that and it making me so angry. Think of how the baptist feel when they hear that people insult their walk with the Lord. So there, not everything you hear is true. You should search and find out information before you speak it.

That brings me to another point. Preacher bashing. OH MY! That makes me furious. I tell you,it seems like I can't get around a group of certain pastors without hearing, who did this, who did that, who's doing who, where they are moving, why they are moving, etc. It makes me sick. This pastor bashing this pastor up the road for their church, talking about how they do church. Tommy and I were put into a position not too long ago where we hurt by individuals in ministry and it was easy to say mean, idle words about them. I mean how dare they hurt us and our friends! We were doing the Lords work!!! However, we both decided that now matter how ugly they had been to us or our friend we were not going to say anything else negative about this person because it just puts sin in our lives and nothing good comes from it. We also decided that anytime we hear another pastor talking about or bashing another pastor or church that it discredits them in our eyes and their integrity. Recently, I was placed in a position to be with a pastor that I had often thought a lot of. When I came in contact with him, he was "doing the Lord's work" I had always respected him and his walk with the Lord. In the discussion he was having with some fellow pastors another pastors name came up. He said,"He crazy" Now I happen to know this pastor pretty well and when I looked up at him I think he realized and his tone changed and he said, "Well, know, I like him and all but he is WAY OUT THERE IN LEFT FIELD somewhere". Well, you know what he is! He is doing church in a brand new way. He is doing church in a non-traditional way and I admire this effort! Just because he is doing it different does not mean it is wrong or crazy. If you think about it, Jesus had what we may think of as "crazy" ways of reaching people, I mean think about it, a whale swallowed a man, he locked lions jaws, he spoke through a jack ass, he spoke through a burning bush, he allowed animals to file in a boat two by two, he parted the sea and they walked through on dry land, men danced in a burning fire and when the came out they did not even smell like smoke, he gave a 80 year old woman children, he stopped time...need I go on????

I simply looked up at this pastor and said, "Well, someone has to go out there in left field and tell those people about Christ" then I walked away. UGGGHHHHHH!!!!!! That pastor lost every bit of respect I had for him. He was gossiping about his fellow brother in Christ instead of uplifting him and being an encouragement.

Now back to the original point (if there is one.. this may just be a good old venting session LOL). I recently was also in the company of an almost 80 year old man with horrible health. He has been in ministry for almost all his life. He has preached the gospel around the world. He is an awesome man of God. He heard some conversations concerning eternal security etc. and he had some things to share too. He humbly stated that in the end God would have the last say around the great white throne of judgement. However, he said that he had several near death experiences in his life time and that with his health issues and some suffering he had his wife had told him on several occasions that it was okay for him to die. If he felt like the Lord wanted to take him to go ahead go home to heaven. However, he said he was afraid to go. He said, "What if I haven't done enough. What if my best was not good enough? I want to hear him say "well done my good and faithful servant" " My heart broke. When I got in the van with Tommy I was brought to tears. I thought, he is 80 years old and does not understand who he is in Christ. He doesn't understand that there is nothing he can do to make God love him more and there is nothing he can do to make God love him less. Tommy did say that he thought he was just being humble, I understand that but at the same time I could hear the uncertainty in his voice. Just knowing that he has given his life for the service of Christ and still being unsure of what the end will bring saddens me.

Now you are probably asking yourself does she or does she not believe in eternal security? Well, I am going to be honest here. I am not God. I don't claim to know everything. I can honestly say that I am not so naive that I think everything I believe is true because I am smart enough to realize that I some of it is probably wrong. Only God knows everything. He sees the beginning, middle, and end all at the same time. His ways are wiser and higher. You can bring Scriptures at me from every angle that you can't loose salvation that you can loose salvation. I have heard them all. I do however think that many of them are miss quoted and taken out of the original context of the scriptures. Many times people manipulate and use scriptures for their advantage. I know that I believe that you can't loose your salvation at the drop of a hat, that everyone has sin in their life and if that is the case then none of us are going to heaven, I do believe that God knows I am going to fall. He knows this, because I am human and He created me. I was born into sin and I have a sinful nature. I believe that many times we put ourselves above sinning and almost make ourselves equal with God instead of accepting that we are weak, fallen sinners that could never make it without the grace of God. I believe that I should follow the two commandments of the New Testament "to love the Lord with all my heart and love my neighbor as myself." Matthew 22:37-39 If I do these two things everything else is going to fall into place. If a I "seek his kingdom first" Matthew 6:33 then I am on the right track.

In concluding this VERY long blog I would like to share a story that recently happend to me. My ladies Bible study is doing The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace. This study has been awesome for my marriage but it also has been instrumental in the way I look at other people, relationships, and God. I was recently reading from this book while sitting with my mother while she was in the hospital. I was reading about loving your husband despite his sin. The scripture was used concerning that "love covers a multitude of sin" To be exact...this is what the scripture says " Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins (forgives and disregards the offenses of others") I Peter 4:8. Earlier in the week I had heard my cousin and Tommy go back and forth on different theological explanations and beliefs of God, his grace, etc. I had been thinking about everthing that was said back and forth between the two indviduals, when I read that scripture it hit me like a ton of bricks. "Love covers a multitude of sins" What is love? God is love. ahhhhh....... If God commands me to love others through their sin then why would he not love me through mine. In fact, He says love covers my sin. His love is the greatest.

I think the first step that we should take towards these meaningless theological discussions on eternal security is to examine our own lives. Last night at the end of the message at our church Matt shared I Timothy 1:15 which says this "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst." Paul had written this scripture after coming to know Christ and yet admits that he is a sinner (in fact he goes so far to admit one of the worst) So I guess in answering the question as to what I personally believe? I believe this..... I believe that yes, if you have accepted Christ and are following him that you are eternally safe. If you notice I said, following him. There are a lot of people who believe but do not follow. I think you must be making every attempt to live a life that is please to God. To give it your all. To ask God to reveal your sin to you so that you may ask forgiveness and take advantage of that advocate that you have with the Father. God desires a relationship with you. I do not think you can just live anyway and pleasing to God. The bottom line is that I Samuel 16:7 says the "But the Lord said to Samuel, Look not on his appearance or at the height of his stature, for I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." Only God knows our hearts and as the older pastor said God and only God will have the final say. I just know that now that I have freedom of living in Christ, accepting that I am a sinner saved by Grace, knowing that really I think God expects for me to screw up sometimes. He doesn't have high expectations of me because I am just a fallen human. He desires me to want to have high expectations of myself and value my relationship with him to work at it and make it all that it can be. (just like any other relationship in life). I can live basking in his love and promises without feeling fear or doubt in knowing who I am in him. I feel refreshed knowing that God has given me a husband and group of friends that I can be transparent with. That I can admit my short comings, failures, SINS too. That I can know that they will not look on me in judgement but in support and lift me up in prayer and encouragement. To know that they are not blinded by religious denominational garbage and realize that we all have sin in our lives. I leave you with the words to one of the songs we sing at Grace often. It always feels my soul with joy and gladness to know that I live in the everlasting Grace of God. To know and understand that he gave his only son for me so that I can have that everlasting life. Please take time to read the words to this song and think about them. Also, thanks for reading this extremely LONG blog. LOL! Boy I feel better!!!!!!

Wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin;How shall my tongue describe it, where shall its praise begin?Taking away my burden, setting my spirit free,For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me!
Wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching to all the lost,By it I have been pardoned, saved to the uttermost;Chains have been torn asunder, giving me liberty,For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me!
Wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching the most defiled,By its transforming power, making him God’s dear child.Purchasing peace and heaven for all eternity;And the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me!

Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;Higher than the mountain, sparkling like a fountain,All-sufficient grace for even me;Broader than the scope of my transgressions,Greater far than all my sin and shame;O magnify the precious name of Jesus, praise His name!

1 comment:

Brandi said...

LOVE IT! I'm so glad i feel freedom in Christ now! No more doubts and i now am WANTING and YEARNING to learn more about Him! Oh, and I LOVE that song!!!