I will try and keep this brief, but I will give as much detail as possible in the hope that maybe there is something everyone can relate to.
I had to learn things the hard way. And I must admit that I am still learning. But one day, very soon, there are going to be a lot of people who will “get it” (understand the important things in life). And I hope that by sharing what I have learned thus far in my study of God’s word will be a benefit to many others – maybe even save them from making the same mistakes that I did!
I was born and raised in a denomination that held the law of God in very high esteem. I was taught that unless I keep all of the Ten Commandments, I could not go to heaven. But I was never taught HOW to keep them and when I looked at the elders in the church, I could see with my simple, childish mind that they weren’t keeping the Commandments. Sure, its disrespectful to judge your elders, but children are looking for consistency, and that’s what I wanted to see. Children have every right to expect that from their adult role-models.
I tried my best to obey, but I didn’t do a very good job. And every time I did something bad, it was as though God would be punishing me. There would be a sudden lightning storm with thunder and lightning – like the fingers of judgment pointing at me, or I would get sick, or something else bad or terrifying would happen.
When I would talk to the adults about my “little” trials (which were not so little to me!) they would say, “Go tell it to Jesus. He understands.” And I thought, Yeah, I suppose He does, because He is all omniscient (all knowing). But it wasn’t really good enough for me. I needed something more personal. I needed a friend who knew how I was feeling because they were going through the same thing.
The simple, spiritual needs of my childhood were never satisfied. I lived under the terrors of guilt and condemnation for many years until one day I turned my back on God and walked away and drowned out my conscience with the pleasures of the world. But I still thought that I was a good Christian and paraded myself as such in the workplace. After-all, my name was still on the church register, so wouldn’t it be OK with me anyway? (Have you ever noted at how good we are at justifying ourselves as worthy of eternal life, no matter how BLACK the life is?)
One day I was out walking with a friend and he very candidly told me that I was not going to go to heaven unless some big changes came into my life. He told me that there are no fast cars in heaven. That there was no rock and roll in heaven. That when God comes He’s not going to just click His fingers and suddenly the things I once loved I will now hate, and the things I once hated, I will now love. No, he said, God cannot force the will. And so God couldn’t take me to heaven because I wouldn’t be happy there. It was shocking news to me!
But as the good Christian I considered myself to be, I thought, You poor man – you’re scaring yourself out of heaven! And I asked God to give me the right words to comfort his poor soul. We walked and he talked and he kept reasoning with me, but no words came to me from God to say to him. I arrived home that night very perplexed. Either God couldn’t talk through me because I didn’t have a close enough relationship with Him, or my friend was right. I couldn’t help but conclude that BOTH of these was the case. But I wasn’t ready to deal with it yet.
12 Years in Captivity
These things plagued my mind, and about six months later I began attending an exclusive little group that professed to teach how to live a sinless life. It was so appealing to me because I wanted to be free from the guilt and condemnation I had lived under for so much of my life. Being part of the group was a very strange experience. I found that there were more than ten commandments – there was practically hundreds of them! I did my best to learn them all. And to keep them too. And I thought I did a pretty good job of it. There were commandments like “Thou shalt not eat any cheese,” “Thou shalt not eat any dairy products,” “Thou shalt not eat any animal products,” “Thou shalt not reveal thy ankles.” These are just a few examples. And in my conscientiousness, I very logically concluded, “Thou shalt not show any chest hairs,” and therefore, “Thou shalt always do up the top button of thy shirt.” These things were all very clearly justified by the Scriptures and the group’s prophet, and I must admit that to this day I still see the wisdom of such things, but the issue is that they had become COMMANDMENTS.
And to this group, they WERE commandments. Jesus had said, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.” So we were taught that if you didn’t do all the little minute things, you didn’t love Jesus. And they treated you as such. And those outside the group got an even worse treatment.
A Dangerous Doctrine When It Stands Alone
In matters of doctrine, the group professed to have a most precious message that was termed: “Righteousness by Faith”.
Unfortunately they only had one aspect of the message God had given, and I will here briefly summarise what that element was because I have found that there are many churches and ministries that are teaching the identical method of salvation based solely upon just this one aspect, but without all the extra laws and regulations.
This aspect was the sinful human nature of Jesus Christ – how He left heaven, was born like you and me into a carnal nature that had impulses to do the things that were wrong. Not only did He partake of humanity’s need to eat and drink and sleep, but He also suffered the temptations from within which we also suffer. But He never sinned, because He never CHOSE to sin. He always CHOSE to do the right.
This teaching appealed to me because I was needing a friend who knew how I felt.
Therefore Christ was presented as an EXAMPLE. He was just like me – suffered temptations to sin just like me – but He overcame. And so, what’s my excuse? Yes, He had to do it with strong crying and tears resisting sin unto the blood – it wasn’t easy! But if Christ did it, so can’t you? And groups that set Christ up as an EXAMPLE, without the rest of that most precious message, become hypocrites and Pharisees because they are always looking at each other and saying, “Well, come on. If He did it, why aren’t you? You’ve got no excuse!” Genuine joy is rare in such groups.
The many mistakes I had made in my life finally caught up with me, and my life began to fall apart. The group I was in didn’t have the solutions to my problem, and so I began to study things for myself, instead of taking another man’s word for it, and what I found was that I was never told the half of it!
This ministry is dedicated to telling you the rest of the story of Jesus.