Jim, I have been a Christian for 29 years (I'm 36). For the past 12 years, I've been a bi-vocational preacher in and around the Baptist church. For the past two years I've gone through a "Faith Crisis" trying to figure out why I've been playing this powerless, legalistic, religious game called the Christian life that has made me bitter, cynical, and miserable.
A Very long story short, about 3 months ago, like a lightning bolt from heaven, God dropped the true doctrine of Grace and Freedom on my head. I stumbled on to Steve McVey's website, found John Moneypenney's new site, and found your site through John's link page. I never realized how free I really am. You guys are preaching LIFE and now I understand what Jesus meant by His promise to truly set us free! I never really fit into the religious mold I was born in, but I didn't know why until now. God was preparing me for this new dimension of understanding, peace and joy.
Now, here's my dilemma. What do I do with my New Testament now? If all we had was Romans, Galatians and Ephesians I'd be OK, but how do I handle all of the apparent "New Covenant Commandments" splattered throughout the N.T.? How do I handle verses like "confess your sins to one another...", "do this, don't do that"? The critics always take you to those verses (usually written by Paul) and the old argument, "Well, Paul's just describing how the new life plugged into Jesus will manifest itself..." isn't cutting it.
I'm at a point now that any law sprinkled on my grace meal (like salt) is sickening to me. Granted, I'm probably a bit like my stupid dog who lives in the Suburbs and runs like a gazelle when she gets out of the fenced yard. One day (when I mature some in this and settle down) I'm sure I'll be more like the farm dog that could run but chooses to stay on the porch. But right now I'm running from and rebelling against anything that smells religious; and frankly, that includes my big black Bible. Oh, I've got some selective verses (Gal. 5:1, etc.) but overall, I just don't know what to do with it. Do you have any advice? Thanks so much. Alan
Wow, hello Alan!!
I am thoroughly excited to have received your email. What a testimony to the power of Christ. :) Now, this will probably be a short letter since I don't have much time this evening, but I at least wanted to let you know what a thrill it was to read your letter.
Ah yes, what to do with the book? :) I'm going to warn you right now that many of my thoughts will probably sound extremely radical, even heretical and blasphemous, in many ways. Also, you'll find many of these thoughts already published here and there all over my web site. So if I'm too slow for you don't hesitate to check it out some more. hehe. :)
I believe the doctrine of the inspiration of the scriptures is merely a form of godliness by which we have been convinced that whatever inspiration is we'll never actually get any because it's all used up already for this period of time. Because of this teaching, religion has turned these incredible writings into a pagan magic book of chants and instructions. We end up quoting them and standing upon them while at the same time rejecting the life of God in Christ as being our life ... just like the Pharisees did while claiming that Jesus did not believe the scriptures but that THEY did. What a crock!! Jesus told them that if they had believed Moses then they would have also believed HIM since he was the one Moses wrote about.
The writing of the Law was likened to words in stone, but the new covenant with God would be likened to a living writing being upon the heart. God has spoken to us in these last days IN HIS SON - NOT by having a new set of words written down for our new covenant. Because Jesus IS the word of God. As a word is the expression of the being, so Jesus is the exact expression of God - the perfect representation of His being.
Okay, I could say much more, but the point is that the reality of the new covenant is that the Spirit of God Himself is that which is written upon our hearts. The completed Bible is NOT what is meant by everything pertaining to life and godliness in 2 Peter, but instead is that by having been made partakers of God Himself we now have everything we need.
Anyhow, our whole religious interpretations of the Bible have been formed upon a written-word based understanding of God instead of a living-word based understanding. The new testament writings are NOT our only authority to know God - the SPIRIT is that authority within us. But religion has tailored our very understanding of these writings by forming itself around the phrasings and wordings, so that we often cannot even see them for what they are actually saying!
I've been reading Matthew quite a bit lately. I absolutely LOVE it, especially the so-called Sermon on the Mount. I am convinced that this scene that has been presented to us NEVER ACTUALLY HAPPENED. No, no, I'm not questioning the fact that Jesus spoke these words (or at least the Greek or Hebrew form), but that we automatically hear religion instead of life. I see Jesus as a very real character systematically ripping their religious world apart in these words. I hear what Paul said actually reflecting his words. As a matter of fact, if we can't see how Jesus was cremating their religious bondage then we won't have an ounce of understanding when it comes to reading James' letter ... for James mimicked Jesus, his half-brother.
Each letter MUST be read within its OWN context to have a clue as to why most things were written to the individual groups. If you'll check out my older Shoveletters on the Judgment Seat of Christ I really get into how the whole context really changes the understanding completely.
Now, let me say this important piece of info. Our understanding of God is not hindered because we don't understand the Bible, and just because we might study the Bible doesn't mean that we know Him because of it. We understand God because His Spirit has GIVEN us understanding!!! This is good news considering the mess we've made of interpretation with all the gazillion different meanings. :)
I don't hesitate to tell people to simply put their Bible down until God puts it in their heart to pick it up. And anything we don't know can be filed away in a folder that is labeled, Stuff I Don't Understand Right Now.
Don't be afraid to rejoice in this freedom you have come to thrill in, and then simply not worry whether or not you understand why the heck those guys seemed to write some really crazy stuff. If it comes, it comes. And you can be glad to hear the freedom of those verses you love. Actually, the more you insist on standing in this freedom by which Christ set you free, then you will little by little discover how his freedom is front and center even in those verses and passages that SEEMED to contradict it. That's how it's been with me.
Well, I've probably written way more than you even wanted, but please fire away any questions you may have now that I've opened the can of worms even more!!! hahaha!