Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thankful for Grace

Now that I'm done with the Easter study, I seem to be meditating quite a bit on my time in bondage to Herbert Armstrong's error.

In my time confined in Armstrongism, I spoke out boldly against Easter and those who observe it. I concentrated on the name, putting forward grossly inappropriate and highly questionable statements as fact - for instance that "Easter comes from the pagan goddess Eostre, who is Ishtar, and the Bible says God hates Ishtar." I fashioned verbal weapons regarding the pagan origins of eggs and bunnies and lilies, and I beat my fellow Christian with those weapons.
I claimed a billion+ men, women, and children, who call on the name of Jesus Christ and trust in Him for their hope and salvation, were no Christians at all but merely pagans fooling themselves straight into God's wrath.
I threw the term "heretics" at historical figures like Anicetus and Justin and Bede and many others. I was ignorant towards what these people wrote because they were heretics after all and why would I read the lies of heretics?
Rather, I poured over the material of Herbert W Armstrong to devour his facts and figures and private interpretations regarding these things as if those writings were the Gospel itself. I treated them as infallible. I searched for other information that agreed with me on these things. All else had to be lies!
I made excuse after distorted excuse for why the Bible, especially Galatians and Romans, weren't saying what they most certainly were saying, or why the timing of events and days wasn't what it most certainly was, or why this or that thing was a pagan, idolatrous sin when that was in reality not the case.
I disregarded the grace of Christ and treated the law as if the weekly Sabbath were nailed to the cross and died for my sins.
Until I stopped being afraid.

I had no idea that my motivation was twofold: fear and pride.

Fear. I was so untrusting of Jesus Christ to handle my salvation that I went on, day after uncertain day, wondering if I would wake up in God's presence to be glorified forever or eternally condemned to death. I had no confidence, no trust... no faith! Because my heart was on my own efforts, and I could not escape the poor quality of my own works. While I feared about trusting myself, I was also afraid to death at the idea of trusting Christ. The thought of putting everything in Christ's hands terrified me; I couldn't do it. 
I was battling against grace, while believing I was battling towards it.

(I JON. 4: 17-19) 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us.

Pride. I was in God's true Church! We had the truth! In Armstrongism, we believe it to be axiomatic that 99.9% of all who lived had no understanding of the things we knew, and that our "truth" came only from God's Spirit. It wasn't that we believed lies and the obvious distortions of fact and faith drove others away, certainly not! It was Providence guiding us. Others were just blind, pathetic fools to be pitied. They would be resurrected to shame. The wonders stored up for me, on the other hand, were beyond description. Comparing man to man made all that fear I had previously described go calmly away for a short time. At least I wasn't a pagan! I was tormented in my deepest heart, so the salve was to point out the flaws in others. My pride had shut my eyes and my ears to anything but the teachings of the founder, Pastor General, and spiritual and temporal leader of the Church since its inception, Herbert W Armstrong.
But we were all of us deceived.

(I TIM. 6: 3-5) 3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, 5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain [not just gaining money, but gaining salvation]. From such withdraw yourself.

When my eyes opened and I saw the love of Jesus Christ, and I knew for the first time the limitless expanse of His selfless love and grace, the shackles fell off, and the prison doors opened wide. The light shone into my heart and I could see what a fool I was!
In reality, the shackles had fallen off and the gate had opened wide now these one thousand nine hundred and eighty (give or take) years ago. I needed merely to walk out of the prison. What was I waiting for? It was as if the door had rusted solid and had fallen off. The shackles turn to dust at the slightest touch and float away in the sweet breeze. The prison walls had crumbled long ago and flowers had grown up over them. All that was ugly and fearful and the long shadows that gnashed at me... were all in my mind. All long gone in the comforting light of the Son, and the new day in Him.
What on earth was I waiting for?!

Now, Herbert Armstrong has no more power over me. I am not afraid any more! Now I can know the truth, and the truth has set me free (JON. 8: 32).

(II COR. 5: 21) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Thank God for His wonderful gift of grace!

************ It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom.
Acts 17:11


xHWA said...

Awesome quote from Randy at Life AboveGround:

"I once heard that apathy eventually leads to unbelief. If you choose to ignore the cracks that you have uncovered in your belief system they will inevitably grow larger and larger until they consume whatever faith you may have once had. But if you instead investigate those cracks all the way back to their sources you may be surprised at what you find there. If you become willing to dispense with all of your preconceived ideas and follow the rabbit hole all the way to the bottom there is a very good chance that you will find Jesus Christ waiting there for you."

Unknown said...

Such a great feeling... to truly understand GRACE!

xHWA said...

I had never been so strongly corrected, and loved it so very much. What a God we serve!

Luc said...

I can relate to that. It's so ingrained that the neural pathways still transmit messages of suspicion and doubt that have to be periodically reexamined and discarded with the trash.

The kids who were my contemporaries growing up in WCG who weren't the extremist I was, who didn't believe with the intensity that I did, escaped much of the brain distorting after effects. It's sickly ironic that those with the greater orientation toward God received the greater warping of their psyche.

I wouldn't be aware of this if it weren't for my wife's continually contrasting her and her siblings experience to mine.

Unknown said...

What I've found or what is difficult for me now is the fact that the new COG's (splinter groups), especially the largest one out there, are realizing the past mistakes and are making their beliefs more "likeable" to try to hold onto the young people.

jack635 said...

Grace is from God and Jesus Christ. The COG's dwell in the law and they will never obtain life trying to adhere to the law.

The commandments are a lot different than the law. The commandments can be summed up in one, and that is the commandment Jesus left us.

Jesus explained a lot about the sabbath but the COG's seem not to listen to Jesus. If you have to work, you have to work. Honor my sabbath can be accomplishe by a simple prayer before going to work.

Try telling that to the HWA proselytes.