hi jim. i’ve been reading your articles from time to time for over a year. Here’s my situation. I don’t know if i’m in Christ or not because I have a sleep over relationship with my girlfriend. Whenever we visit we engage in sexual contact and I don’t know if God can ever use me. I think it’s hindering my testimony to the world which is why i don’t have as much boldness to preach the gospel like I use to. i’m ashamed to proclaim the gospel as long as i’m living in sexual sin outside of marriage. Can God still use me in spite of what I’m doing or not doing? anonymous #1
I am quite familiar with the way you view your life as it is how I used to view it, too. Not only did I grow up with those basic assumptions instilled from my childhood but I had it reinforced by years of religious training. Whereas you refer to yourself as living in sin - and I’m sure you’ve had it hammered in by others - I’m going to suggest that you are instead living under the influence of sin-CONSCIOUSNESS. Now maybe that sounds like a semantic technicality to you, but I say it makes all the difference in the world.
Consider how you started off by questioning the reality of your being joined to Christ based upon what you do or do not do, and also how you view your usefulness to God as being based upon the very same. These questions and concerns are enmeshed in sin and sin-related perceptions. What-you-do clearly refers to what has been called sins of commission, while what-you-don’t-do indicates what’s called sins of omission. These designations, once so embedded in my every day life (especially in my striven-for daily devotions), seem so foreign now.
Let me get a little pointed here. How is it that you - one who has been set free from sin - now assume that you still live in sin? What if you have been falsely taught to view yourself according to the very thing Christ has made to be no more? Don’t you realize that there is one reason, and only one reason, for which you would now view yourself as living in sin? It’s called LAW, and despite its illegitimate demand you are still being convinced of your guilt and sinfulness and not of your forgiveness and righteousness. And since your righteousness is Christ himself what is it that you are judging yourself by if not him?
I know, I know, this seems to totally evade the whole matter of your current lifestyle, doesn’t it, as if grace makes it somehow okay to continue in your present sin? But it’s exactly at this point you need to recognize the deceptiveness of sin in its connection with law. After all, it has not been grace by which you have erroneously established the whole intricately-woven web of legalities through which you delicately tread between your concerns of right and wrong, it has been by sin, which works through law. And if that statement comes across as incredibly difficult to follow, it should, because it describes the insane game by which we have manipulated reality to fit our perceptions.
Don’t you see that it is only through an amazing series of complex beliefs and contradictory attempts of living in view of good and evil that you have been able to pin-point the sin that has been haunting you? How else do you think you can determine the exact nature of the evil that is bringing you so much guilt? After all, where do you draw the line? How technical must you get? Is this sin found in the sexual contact (and exactly at what point is that determined?) or does it begin with the decision to do it (once again, quite relative and different for each party involved)? Then add Jesus’ words into the mix (“…but I say unto you…”) charging you with the very same sin simply for lusting after your girlfriend, apart from any physical contact. The condemning possibilities are endless!
Let’s pause and consider your current living-in-sin situation in view of the supposedly higher Christian moral standards found in those words of Jesus. What if you were able to change your life so that you and your girlfriend ceased doing the dirty deed … and you just kept your lusting quietly to yourself … dealing with it the best you could? Would the absence of actual sexual contact change your view of things between yourself and God? Would you then be less inclined to feel ashamed of your so-called testimony and find more boldness in preaching the gospel, even though according to Jesus’ words you would still be committing adultery? How do we get around such damning implications regarding the sin of adultery? For that matter, how do we get around that sense of condemnation in ANYTHING when EVERYTHING is an interconnected matter stemming from the heart?
Like I say, I understand where you’re coming from because I’ve run myself ragged muddling through the paradox of trying to live by Christian standards only to find myself guilty of the very sin I was trying to avoid because it was still in my heart! I vividly remember the shocking realization that my ministry was overshadowed by the indictment of walking in sin as long as I was guilty of ANY ongoing sin, even if only committed in the heart! The consolation found in determining my motives to be pure regarding a particular aspect of my life could not offset the underlying fear that I might be out of fellowship with God. Even that vicious cycle known as confession by which one is supposedly restored to fellowship could not by-pass those complex predicaments in which I often found myself helplessly stuck. Keep in mind that the sin doesn’t have to be big in order to be bad, as in the case of adultery, when you’re dealing with the sin-focused life.
One of the many issues I dealt with involved operating a vehicle without my prescription glasses, for according to the law I am in violation if I don’t wear mine at all times when behind the wheel. My driver’s license even has a notation to that restriction. For a period of time back in the ‘70’s I had resolved to strengthen my vision and dependency on glasses … and in the daylight I could see rather well, especially as time without lenses increased. I struggled back and forth with this quite a bit as I was on the road all the time as a delivery driver. I often imagined how a cop would not care about my reasoning nor with how well I was able to see without my glasses, for I was in violation … and I knew the Scripture that demanded obedience to every rule! I of course projected this same image upon God, wavering in my perceptions between a loving Father who would forgive me and a strict Judge who would hold me accountable. I imagined the damaging effects such a disclosure would have upon my testimony, being very aware that it didn’t really make any difference who I thought might or might not be observing me.
Now here’s the real kicker. Because I knew that I would be in violation the next time I got in the vehicle my sin would be carrying over even when I was off-road, making it very clear that I was in violation 24-7. Could I really be walking in sin all that time? What about my motivations and my desires … did they provide some means by which to get around such a predicament? And for crying out loud, this was just ONE such predicament in which I struggled!! I recall many admonitions to keep my eyes on Jesus in the midst of my struggles, but how was I supposed to focus on Christ when I was so preoccupied with sin and sin-related living? I have come to realize that all sorts of faith-related doctrines can easily be balanced within the perception of sin-consciousness; and it’s come as no surprise to me that the Bible can be read and studied totally within the same framework.
What if such words, like those spoken by Jesus, had nothing to do with creating guilt and condemnation within you and I, but had been meant to expose the religious hypocrisy of those who claimed victory over sin by manipulation of legal loopholes? Consider that when Jesus equated lusting with adultery he was not trying to make it more difficult to live the Christian life by bringing a new focus on sin via the inner motivations of the heart, but was instead revealing the futility of trying to live in view of sin at all.
Where do we get the idea that an examination of the heart for sin was somehow Christian? After all, the prospect of an intense scrutiny of the heart had always been the most damning feature of the law in reference to hidden sin; and it was only through a carefully constructed system of loopholes that those under the law were able to isolate the doing from the intention so that victory over sin might be superficially achieved and proclaimed. It seems that by time Jesus entered the picture legal self-righteousness had become so well established in Israel that he couldn’t do or say anything without being confronted by the arrogance of its thin facade, which of course he consistently exposed by the very Law they claimed to be representing. Ironically, this same legal self-righteousness has re-established itself upon the very words that at one time had exposed its momma as a whore!
So, you and I have entered the scene under the assumption that we should be able to live in some degree of conformity with the principles of Christian living as stated throughout the Bible, especially, or at least, in the New Testament portion. Little did we realize we were getting sucked right back into the exact same self-righteous logic that made evil appear good. And into this playground we have learned to categorize our world according to various systems of black and white (unfortunately or fortunately, as the case may be) while establishing many gray areas in the process. No wonder we’re so often caught up struggling with where to draw the line, and then plagued by the shock and subsequent guilt of having crossed yet another one. The greater wonder, though, has to do with how easily the sin-conscious logic frames good as being evil, and comes across as so very Christian or Biblical in the process. Good as evil?
After all, what explains the incredible fear that having too much grace will lead to sin? Why else does the very mention of freedom in Christ come laden with so many cautions against taking it too far, thus resulting in sin? How is it that forgiveness has been so often associated with the promotion of continued sin? When did Christ become sin’s promoter instead of it’s destroyer? But this is exactly the reasoning behind the multi-faceted sin-conscious version of Christianity that often dominates our very perceptions of Christ and life in Christ - despite all the bogus flap to the contrary.
I don’t know if i’m in Christ or not … I don’t know if God can ever use me … i’m ashamed to proclaim the gospel
Let me get very blunt. What kind of gospel leaves you in the unknown regarding the very premise of the actual good news of Christ, which is full confidence in one’s relationship to God through Christ? What kind of gospel causes you to think it’s all about what you do or don’t do, when the good news declares that it’s not about you at all but all about Christ and what he has done and is now doing? Do you see where I’m going with this? Perhaps your shame is linked to a gospel that is more about your successes and failures than about Christ. Thoughts? Jim
This answer blew me away. This is also prophetic, for it ‘shouts’ our future in Christ! BOB
I received a well-expressed and lengthy response - made up of comments and a series of questions - to this Q&A from another reader. The progression of thoughts, though built around my above response, don’t necessarily fit in this section as individual parts. They do however form a cohesive unit of thought as they build one upon another. So what I’m doing is to include them in their more appropriate categories as well as including them below. (May-23-2004)
Those who have come to a more full realization of Christ as their life - let me call it an experiential (rather than theoretical or theological) knowing of God - had to travel their own god-ordained path to get there. That being the case, are there not many distractions and ‘sins’ that can rob or detour one away from that realization? anonymous #2
I suspect you’ve heard it argued that if it IS a God-ordained path then it WILL happen. Such reasoning negates the idea that sins and distractions can rob us of anything but are in fact the very tools of God that bring it all about. I, however, see such arguments (though filled with good points) as grace-based attempts at making it all make sense, as well as to help explain away our doubts and fears. In saying this I am not discarding the many experiences where freedom has been found in the midst of sin, only that such experiences defy our attempts to formulate.
Sin is not the cause of grace or the means by which it is revealed (as some seem to suggest). It is instead the backdrop against which grace shines more brightly, the contrast through which we come to realize grace’s overwhelming reality and power. Now regarding this growing experiential knowing of God I have a question: What does god-ordained-path mean? Are we judging this as a future potential that lies before us or rather as a pragmatic validation of one’s past experience in getting where one has gotten? Maybe that’s why the lives of Biblical characters and/or known successful Christians are usually appealed to or considered when discussing the god-ordained path. The truth is that we’re desperately hoping to find some kind of validation for our own paths.
What I’m asking is, how hypothetically do we actually view this thing? How much application or subjectivity or selectivity is involved in order to filter in or out the many seeming contradictions behind such a premise? After all, one little aspect can easily be found to disqualify a person’s whole life so that it no longer considered God-ordained by those who scrutinize such stuff. And since we have such an inside scoop on our own selves we assume we don’t stand much of a chance … unless of course we adopt a view that aids our own particular qualifications and downplays our own particular disqualifications.
Also, is this the path God sets before us to choose or not choose … or is it the path God has chosen? If the first, how many deviations will keep it from happening? If the second, why does God’s choice seem mostly ineffective? Do we really know what we’re talking about or are we trying too hard to validate our own experiences and our own lives by calling it God-ordained? :) Not to negate anybody’s experience (or path) but I suggest we have confused ourselves by logic as there is only one God-ordained path … and that is in Christ himself. For this miraculous life of grace and freedom in Christ is not found by polarizing to one of the extremes or by finding a balance between the two. It is always found beyond the reach of either. That is, above, where Christ is seated. That means it’s always right here. The question, once again :
are there not many distractions and ‘sins’ that can rob or detour one away from that realization?
Can we get side-tracked in our experience in Christ? Yes, we can … and do. As a matter of fact, this is often testified to by those who are finding security in the living grace and freedom of Christ! Don’t miss it just because it’s not presented as a teaching, as it is a reality in the life of those who are losing the fear of exposing their weaknesses and failures. In other words, it is so often cloaked in overwhelming joy that it can be dismissed … and this overlooking can easily happen when inundated with the multitudes of fear, guilt and shame based testimonies of sin and distractions.
Once again, I’ve heard a lot of reasoning that insists that distractions make no difference since God is in control anyway, but this kind of logic merely gets us going around in circles trying to figure out stuff like which came first and whether or not anything we do is important, etc, etc. Know what I mean? God IS in control and yet we will never recognize it according to appearances (except for those short-lived sensations). I hold to the truth that instead of nothing we do being important that everything we do is important. Christ is indeed our everything … even though we misjudge so much of what that implies. When you asked about if these distractions could rob or detour one away from that realization?
I was reminded of Colossians 2:8 where in the KJV we often translated the word spoil as rob (though other versions translate it as takes you captive NASB, NIV - or cheat - NKJV, though all end up at the same point).
Beware lest any man spoil (or rob) you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. Colossians 2:8
The distractions Paul referred to were of an earthly confinement … “and not after Christ”. Though you may not recognize it, the concept of sin is insinuated within the rudiments of the world (or elementary principles of the world NASB). For the law and the breaking of the law is connected to the basic principles of the world (one of the main points made in Galatians). He urged the Colossians not to let anyone take them captive through anything that is according to the world, as it is not according to Christ.
What I’m saying is that the distraction of sin is rooted in law, which is built upon the very elements that make this world go around. That’s why you’ll find the same kind of principle-based living everywhere you go in this world … and not just in religious communities. It’s all around us, even in those who claim no law. The only difference is that the standards are adjusted to particular lifestyles.
Ever watch the Seinfeld sitcom? When I first saw it many years ago I quickly judged it based upon its constant sexual overtones. Then again, I never really watched it, only caught bits and pieces (the re-runs came on during our dinner time right after the news). Well, something in it eventually caught my attention so that I got past my dislike of it. What I realized was that this show captured the very essence of our generation’s way of life like nothing else had ever done (to my knowledge, that is). Instead of seeing a CONTRAST between the morality in Christianity and of that in our contemporary anti-God, anti-Christ society I could only see the overwhelming similarity!
The technicalities of what makes something right or wrong - and the manipulation of those minute points - is embedded within the very perception of the world around us. That’s why the show was so blasted successful. For it examined the very stuff that goes through our heads and our interactions we have with one another and turned it into something we could laugh about. It caused us to feel better about our own selves because we saw others caught up in the very same things. They may have only been acting, but their scripts were written according to the stuff of our lives. All you have to do is change the setting and some of the wording and you’ve got a pretty good scenario of modern Christian society. There is outrage against and chastising of those who don’t meet the standards, intense examination of what makes sin sin, loopholes to make one’s viewpoint the most accurate, and especially acceptance or rejection according to a moral structure that is based upon an unwritten but always underlying interpretation of the rules which everybody is supposed to know and abide by!
This last premise is what mostly caught my attention so that I began terming it the Seinfeld Syndrome, as it almost always came up at least once in every show. You know, as much as written laws, rules, principles and standards seem to hold the preeminent sway over our lives it is actually the unwritten and assumed and most of all shifting understandings based off those carved-in-stone laws by which our lives are ruled in this world. These are the interpretations, the traditions.
Why did I tell you all this? Because THIS is the very philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world by which we get snagged and distracted from real life in Christ. It is the religious undercurrent we have learned to think and to live by rather than according to Christ … because it comes to us in the form of Christ (you know, that form of godliness contained in the law).
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. Colossians 2:8
You addressed his concerns with the grace concept. Basically, even though he’s sleeping with someone outside of marriage, his ‘doing’ doesn’t negate Christ as his righteousness. Cool. Got that. anonymous #2
Maybe you don’t realize it but you seem to have learned to categorize grace as a concept. I’m not just referring to the fact that you phrased it that way (as well as referring to it as grace emphasis or theoretical in other places), but more so from the obvious disconnection that keeps grace from touching real life and real issues. Are you with me so far? You see, there is a prevalent belief that grace is somewhat of an intellectual premise that can be grasped so that we can move on and deal with the real issues of life.
Grace, as an emphasis, plays a part in every form of Christian religion. Some more, some less. This is a necessity and it simply must be somehow incorporated because of the Biblical usage of the word. In many cases of long-standing religious belief-based institutions (i.e. denominations) grace remains as an attachment, a residue, or a remnant of an earlier reality. There has also been a recent trend to re-establish a grace emphasis in some of these old institutions so that the IDEA of grace has often been substituted for the reality. Just so you know, I think you’ve got some very good insights, insights you’ll look back on and realize as coming from the insistence of life within you.
I think you’re struggling because you’re trying to fit them into a sin-conscious framework. What I’m suggesting is that the answer is standing right in front of you waving its hands trying to get your attention only to get a nod in recognition while your eyes are looking elsewhere for the more practical - perhaps, more theoretical - answer.
Here’s the thing … isn’t his lifestyle (though it doesn’t negate Christ’s finished work on the cross, that is, the nailing of his sins to the cross) still distract him from realizing who he is in Christ? In other words, by pursuing, making provision for or following the flesh, isn’t he ‘buying the lie’ that through physical/emotional intimacy outside of the marriage covenant, he’s trying to find his sense of worth, significance and acceptance outside the very source of his life - he’s trying to find life outside of his true life, in other words. anonymous #2
I agree that one’s lifestyle can be a distraction - and definitely that nothing but futility comes as a result of trying to find life outside the true life. But what makes a lifestyle what it is? And no, I’m not trying to ignore or elude the obvious situation our friend (as well as yourself) has found himself in, but rather I want to get to the bottom of it. I want to expose the interconnected web of legalities that forms the basis of one’s lifestyle, and not just to focus on the main activity we recognize it by. For this applies to those matters of lifestyle we’ve learned to accept or downplay in view of the more severe ones. In other words, it levels the playing field by stripping things down to their bare essentials. Know what I mean?
An important question to consider is this: Does the lifestyle cause the distraction or did the distraction cause the lifestyle? But we usually approach a situation like this as if that final decision (you know, the one we assume pushed it over the edge) becomes the sin we need to avoid. It’s easy - and quite naive - to simply tell someone they need to stop what they’re doing. Easy, because it seems so clear cut to the one giving the advice; naive, because it is ignorantly assumed that the person hasn’t already tried doing that very thing numerous times, only to find himself stuck in a vicious cycle.
From what you wrote, though, I think you understand that aspect very well. Focusing upon specific sins and selecting specific Bible verses to validate our specific convictions causes us to misjudge the bottom line of all matters of sin so that we draw our lines according to what seems right to ourselves. A sin-specialist totally misunderstands sin and yet thinks he sees so clearly. Contrary to the usual sin-conscious view of the NT letters, sin, though addressed as manifesting itself in various forms, was dealt with as a whole. Consider Paul’s holistic approach to the putting off of the old life and putting on of the new:
But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Ephesians 4:20-24
Approaching this new-versus-old reality with the logic of law and legality has only resulted in confusion. The difference between old and new is not discovered through transgressions (i.e. technical distinctions based upon the breaking of particular laws) but is pure and simply a matter of a new life that has replaced the old. One is wholly being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, the other has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
As long as those who have been made new are still being addressed - or are stuck in perceiving themselves - as those who are in transit from one to the other they will hear the reality of the new life as being merely an emphasis or a concept. The concept of grace only makes for a newfangled version of law, hence, turning grace into an opportunity for the flesh. And this is what creates fleshly patterns in those who have been born of God: the underlying principle of law, which the judging of life according to the flesh and not according to Christ. The codes give us formulas that help us categorize all things by a system of rights and wrongs, and not by life.
Making provision for the flesh comes as a direct result of judging ourselves by the elemental principles of the world, which is also the basis upon which the Old Testament law was built. It is also the basis by which we have turned the demands of the new life into New Testament law. We have gotten so used to viewing ourselves accordingly that we find it un-Biblical to view it any other way. And because we’ve judged ourselves by the same elementary principles that guide all humanity we have unwittingly set ourselves up to be stimulated by the very sins we try to avoid. You see, grace not only tells me that my doings don’t negate Christ as my righteousness but grace is the very life of Christ that is my righteousness which removes me from the elementary principles of the world.
Don’t you see, it is the legal balancing of the grace concept by which we find ourselves with no other option than to buy into the lie that life might be found outside our true life? As long as we cling to one of the many versions - make that, PER-versions - of the good news we are going to redefine grace according to its particular confinement. The version of the gospel you hang onto keeps demanding a clean and lifeless separation so that grace sits bogusly out of reach and ineffective in real life, except in principle as being a possibility … in other words, IF ONLY you could get over that indefinable grace-hump where everything would finally click. But what if this supposed hump only exists in the logic of a former wisdom?
You speak emphatically about how we are not under the law - we live in freedom and liberty in Christ. A beautiful message, indeed. But while we shouldn’t live by dos and don’ts, are we still not to follow Christ wholeheartedly, which can mean doing away with many things in our lives that would distract or cloud the realization of our reality in Christ? anonymous #2
If Christ is our life then to follow him wholeheartedly is the only living reality before us. Many things will be done away with that are seen to be standing in the way of true life. I can attest to this in my own life. Somehow, though, I suspect you also realize that law has found its way into our consciousness as to the meaning of wholeheartedly so that we are often caught between its reality and the imposition of a concept. After all, since wholehearted is to be true to myself would it be correct to also call the attempt to be true to another’s perception of me (or of my path) as being wholehearted? But we do.
The truth of Christ is the truth of real life, for his life makes us whole. To wholeheartedly follow Christ is to wholeheartedly follow the life that is within us … for that life is Christ. But do you think our spiritual leaders actually trust us to truly live in such wholeheartedness, or to even know what it is that we’re supposed to be doing or thinking or following? Furthermore, intimidated by such an elementary perception (for this is the very wisdom of the world) do we really trust ourselves to live wholeheartedly … or have we mostly defaulted to another’s demand?
Fortunately, God does not abandon us even in the midst of our attempts to carry out someone else’s perceptions, for his life in us keeps making another insistence from another place. That insistence waits for true validation, which is found in Christ, which we hear proclaimed in the true good news of miraculous life from the dead.
During my Bible College years in the early 70’s (including the months leading up to it) I made up my mind to wholeheartedly serve the Lord … or so I thought. No doubt God was with me even during that time, but the overriding factor behind my actions was driven by the perceptions of my leaders regarding serving the Lord. I remember being convicted of holding onto my Rock music record collection and being finally compelled to throw it all away. I did so in private so as not to call attention to my guilt and embarrassment. Guilt, because I knew I had been holding out against the expectations of one who was supposedly serving the Lord; embarrassment, because I didn’t want my family to witness my struggles and instability in my new religious endeavors.
Somehow, my striving to be wholehearted caused me to be anything but. Then again, hadn’t I already been trained how to do that? My religious attempts at wholeheartedness only reflected my own inability to be true to myself in every other area of my life.
Attending Bible college in the early 70’s meant that I was confronted with the whole issue of the length of my hair. My dad had always cut our hair (not necessarily very well) and had kept it quite short, and this of course got more and more difficult after the Beatles and other long-haired bands hit the scene. It wasn’t until I was 17 or 18 that I had gone out to get my own hair cut that I was able to leave a little touching my ears (: yeah, I was pushing the limits, I was! :). So, for a short 2 or 3 years I was able to get away with growing it out a little longer at a time.
When I started attending an outreach youth group (connected to the Bible college that I eventually enrolled in) one of the big issues was the length of a man’s hair. Fortunately for me (in a manner of speaking), I went to a concert to hear one of my very favorite rock bands, CCR - aka, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and was impressed by John Fogarty’s new, short haircut. He was the lead singer, guitar player, and main songwriter of the band … in short, one of my idols. So, even though I was at odds with the Bible college stance on short hair, I found myself willing to have mine cut, without the stigma of religious compliance. Of course I was also taking the back-door approach to a compliance with God’s standards (as I had come to perceive them) even though I could make it appear it was for a totally different reason. After all, if one can talk himself into liking or agreeing with the standard then he can comply without complying.
Interesting. Having enrolled in the Bible college I soon discovered that my short hair cut was not really short enough. So I got it cut again to the (apparently) godly standard of length (which I later found to be in conformity with the currently accepted practices of business professionals - as one of the teachers produced an article from a business magazine that carefully detailed these standards). Of course, the official stance was based upon the infamous Bible verse…
Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him 1 Corinthians 11:14
But I don’t want to split hairs … hehe. Anyhow, let me take this beyond the obvious conflicts regarding my own wholeheartedness in this matter. Maybe a year or two later (after having somewhat settled into my leadership role in the aforementioned youth outreach, the Sr Hi group) I was approached by one of the college girls involved in the Jr-Hi girls group with a conflicting report about my earlier motivation to cut my long hair. It had been stated matter-of-factly by the wife of the household where we met that I had cut my hair as a direct result of “God’s command in 1 Corinthians 11:14”.
Wholehearted does not describe anything about this whole matter in my life that was supposedly a doing away with a distraction, a hindrance - or to be honest, to us it was a sin that stood in the way of serving the Lord wholeheartedly. Instead of wholeheartedness, I had merely found a loophole by which I could feel both stylish in the eyes of the world and restore my honor at the same time. Then, when hit with this new perception of myself, wholeheartedness - that is, being true to the life screaming out within me - was pushing me in another direction.
What I wanted to say, what I really wanted to do was to expose this misperception right away … but I dared not. Why not? Primarily because I would have to shatter my growing spiritual reputation, and the myth of my wholehearted service to God, by admitting that my main motivation had been a Rock-star, and not God nor the Bible. On top of that, because I had grown to accept the matter of long hair as one of the prime issues needing to be dealt with and resolved by those who were under my direction, I didn’t want to upset the favorable impression by setting the record straight.
So in the end, even though I pacified myself that I was operating under the premise of serving the Lord, I had actually backed down from a real inner truthfulness and honesty - meaning that I had not been wholehearted toward God, myself, or toward those impressed by me. And why not? Because I was trying to live by the same basic principles of the world I had learned my whole life. Just because this kind of life was given Biblical validation didn’t change its basic nature! Instead, I was buying into a religious version of the same lie by holding and pushing this law-based approach toward life, toward God, toward myself, and therefore, toward others.
Following Christ wholeheartedly, in the religious twist of the imagination, no doubt has produced an awful lot of activity in doing away with distractions and hindrances. What if the religiously motivated substitute for wholeheartedness IS the real distraction, the real hindrance that would distract or cloud the realization of our reality in Christ? What if you’ve gotten yourself into your current situations because you’ve been trying to juggle the religious concept of wholeheartedness with the real thing that screams out within you? Of course, I will continue! :) Jim
This is a response from and to the writer of the original question that started this whole thread of questions and responses. (June 12, 2004)
I’m ashamed to proclaim the gospel but the thing is whenever I do proclaim the gospel it’s a gospel of grace. I tell others that they can know they have eternal life if they have believed in the Son yet in my own heart I don’t know for sure I have eternal life. anonymous #1
I wasn’t sure if I’d ever hear back from you, but am so glad I have. :) Thanks. Please know that I really do understand the doubts and fears that want to creep in and destroy the REALITY of this grace in Christ and turn it into a CONCEPT or THEOLOGY of grace. I recognize this gospel of grace you mention, for it pretty much reflects what I learned and proclaimed from my Bible college years in the early 70’s. As a matter of fact, we were rather sure that we had the clearest grace gospel around. Much of the gospel I now hear is getting closer to what was loudly proclaimed (as well as recorded in numerous books) back then through our Bible college founder and president and another couple professors from that college.
Do you really suppose that your own insecurities are not being reflected through what you term a gospel of grace? In other words, if YOU don’t have security in the gospel-of-grace you preach then it makes no difference if you tell someone else THEY can have security in it. What you end up sharing becomes more of a technique, more of a formula that has less to do with life than with form. Your above statements make that rather obvious. Do you not recognize this? You desire security through a correctness in intellectual understanding when true security can only be found in Christ himself.
Though you suspect your fears revolve around God’s word they merely revolve around technicalities cloaked under the premise of truth. It really makes no difference whether you question your salvation according to James, Chapter 2, the unpardonable sin … or from a black cat crossing your path, because they are all based in the fear-factors inherent in the technical, superstitious realm. The technical mind of legality is the only reason we’ve so misconstrued James’ and Jesus’ comments in the first place, which makes the real problem not found in the wording of faith without works is dead or unpardonable sin but in a salvation that is based upon the same principles upon which the world turns.
It’s really frustrating that I’m not good enough to be accepted by God. anonymous #1
And why is that? Why are you still hanging on to the frustration found in the LAW? Don’t you realize that not-good-enough is merely an elemental principle of law? Oh yeah, I know that many grace teachers keep pumping this principle out as if it forms the basis of grace and freedom, but it is merely a rationalization of the legal mind. To be frustrated by this only indicates that you’re hanging upon the assumption that you’re supposed to keep trying to do so! What is up with that? Don’t you think it’s time to move past the futility of the old creation and into the miraculous reality of life in Christ? Whaduya think? :) Jim