Monday, September 9, 2013

Reader Testimonies - Centurion

It's time once again for one of my very favorite things about having this blog -- reader testimonials!

Here’s a testimonial from one of our readers who is going by the name “Centurion". This reader left Armstrongism just recently, and what a story they have. I am eager to share this with you. By the end of it I found myself sad that it was over. I hope you enjoy this and find some inspiration in it.

I would have you know - the reason we do reader testimonials is so that you, whoever you are, can see that you are not alone out there. There are others out there like you. Maybe you are currently attending a Church of God splinter group but you are hesitant to leave. Maybe you have already left and you wonder what others went through. Regardless of where you are, I hope you find something in these testimonials that help you along your way. I hope you find something you can relate to. And that they bless your heart and give you reassurance.



I was born into the Worldwide Church of God.

I used to feel really lucky about that. Turns out that might be right after all, but more on that toward the end of this testimony.

I grew up thinking that Herbert W. Armstrong was God’s end-time apostle, and the Elijah for-to-come, a man who was like a wise-old grandfather who was close to God and understood Bible Prophecy and held the very keys of unlocking Bible Prophecy!  He was probably one of the two witnesses of Revelation and God would not let this man die before the return of Christ. His name was effectively revered in our home.

Conversely, I understood that all the rest of the world, including all other “Christians” were deceived and not a part of the true body of God. Those poor people – if only they would listen to Mr. Armstrong, but apparently God was not working with them. At all.

I followed all the clean and unclean meats laws, paid double and sometimes  triple tithes, Sabbaths and holy days, and all the other Armstrong doctrines and believed them with all my heart.  I believed that the US and England were secretly the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, that we were the Philadelphia Church era, and that this 19-year time cycle was important. All we all had to pay and pray for “The Work” of preaching our unique gospel to go out to all the world.

I was part of this glorious “work”, so I could tell myself I did not care if I could not fit in at school, believe my history teachers, compete in sports (due to Sabbath and Friday night conflicts),  or go on dates. I tried to overcome poor grades caused by keeping feasts and therefore missing weeks of school which eventually gave me trouble getting into the colleges of my choice.

My small sacrifices were worth it because we were told how successful the Plain Truth magazine was, and how Foreign Leaders around the world wanted to speak to Mr. Armstrong and needed his advice; the church was growing and my whole world revolved around being in “The Church” – no friends in “the world” because we were told not to… what does light have to do with darkness?

As a child, my parents told me I would never go to school, because the church was going to “flee to the place of safety” before I ever reached school age.  Then I reached school age.  “Don’t worry,” I was told, “the dates may have been wrong, but it will still happen soon – you will never go to high-school.” By the time I graduated college, Worldwide had begun to change things, and I began a life-long process of spiritual blinders coming off. Blinders I did not want to come off, or even realize I had on.  I was not deceived, not me, I was special, I had the secret knowledge that no one else in school had, no one at work had; how could the chosen, the called out, the elect ever be deceived? God would not allow his church to be deceived!

A crack forms in Armstrongism


I did not leave the Worldwide Church of God. I was kicked out. Marked, and disfellowshipped before the whole church.

It sounds like a scene from an anti-Christian movie, but this happened to me. The minister actually gave a sermon about how we should not talk with, or fellowship with those who are marked.  (Well that “light has nothing to do with darkness” bit sure backfired!) And I got walked out during the sermonette as a visual aid to all 400 people in attendance at church that Saturday. 
My crime?  The minister found out that I had read some “outside the church literature”.  
I was “turned in” by my well-intentioned aunt.  Oh they gave me one chance to “repent” and never do that again; but at this point I actually wanted to know what other churches taught.  I told the minister , “I think I should read whatever I want for as long as I want, so long as I remember to think.” My reward? Bad Christian – you are hereby banished from the body of Christ! 
This was devastating. I had no friends outside “the one true church”. I had no life outside the church. I could not even apply for a new job, as I had no one I could put as a reference!
I learned something critical which is this: “the church” is not the Worldwide Church of God, a physical organization, but rather a spiritual organism composed of all the people God had given his Holy Spirit to.  My first step away from Armstrongism; the first fracture in the shackles on my soul.

Cults have “conditional love”, and love you as you support the organization, but hate you if you leave.

One thing was certain in my mind: I was not going to get my life burned down by a church organization again.

Another crack forms – Church Eras


I joined an Armstrong split-off group.  (retroactive facepalm) It was the church group whose “outside literature” I was reading that got me kicked out of WCG.

At that point, I still embraced the vast majority of Armstrong teachings, but there was no path back to WCG, nor a desire to return, so an alternative to WCG made perfect sense at the time.  
From this group I learned that the “Church Era” theory was false.  

The church era theory taught that the seven churches found in Revelation 2 and 3 were actually representative of time eras.  The churches/eras are Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.  

WCG taught that they were the “Philadelphia era”, probably because there is nothing but praise for that church, and because it’s nearly at the end of the list and therefore at the end “time”. 
The whole Church Era concept was fraudulent. As proof, all you have to do to shut that concept down is to say “prove it” – which you can’t.  Done.

But some argue, “No you can’t ‘prove it’ but it still makes sense. So it’s still true because it fits.” But does it?

I was told to draw 19 lines on a piece of paper, each represents 100 years; it was another way of looking at 100 separate “19 year time cycles” (anyone associated with WCG should be familiar with Herbert Armstrong’s love of 19 year time-cycles).

Now let’s fill in the chart:

The last 100 years could be filled in by the Philadelphian church. But also the Laodicean church was to emerge when the Philadelphian church was hiding in the ‘place of safety’ – so there was overlap between the two eras during the last 100 year time era.

Sardis, taught by WCG to be the “dead church” of the Seventh Day Adventists, also existed simultaneously alongside of Philadelphia and Laodecea – so that last 100 year time period on your paper… shade that in with 3 overlapping and simultaneous church eras.

The first era was Ephesus, that was believed to have ended with the death of John the apostle around 91AD – so the first 100 year period? Shade that in with Ephesus.

Ok, the first and last 100 year periods are gone, and we’ve used up 4 church eras in only 200 years. That’s 3 church eras left to cover the remaining 1,700 years! This doesn’t sound very much like church eras at all and doesn’t make any logical sense.

So now that I don’t believe in church eras, or in church exclusivity, I started to be on the lookout for other potential issues than need a bit of tuning up.  Armstrongism was still clearly true in my mind at this time, but there were a few issues, so there could be a few more.  I decided to keep my eyes open.

Why aren’t we keeping ALL the laws?


I started reading the Bible, mostly Old Testament and happened across Nehemiah 10, which read…
31 And if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the Sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy it of them on the Sabbath, or on the holy day: …

Victuals literally means food prepared to eat. So, no eating out on the Sabbath then? Bummer, because I loved eating out on the Sabbath – nearly the entire church group I was now attending with went out together to eat at a restaurant every Sabbath after services. But here it was in my Bible, and so I followed my conscience and stopped eating out on Saturdays.

People started asking me why I wasn’t eating out with everyone on the Sabbath anymore, I simply told them: I don’t believe we’re supposed to because it says so in Nehemiah 10. This started to become quite an offense to everyone. I didn’t even need to be in the room, my simple lack of attendance at these meals became sore point for many in the church group. One of the church leaders tried to “explain” to me that I didn’t understand the verse correctly, and that he would sit down with me and explain it so I could eat out again. I told him “I have a Strong’s Concordance and a Young’s, I’ve looked up all those words, I have no doubt about what they mean.” No further attempt was made to reason with me. My loss, they figured. They told me I’d come around as God gave me understanding.

Week after week I didn’t eat out and the minister begrudgingly / patiently tolerated it. But every week I didn’t eat out was like poking him in the eye.

But my take away was this: Why are we keeping only SOME of the laws and not ALL of them? Doesn’t it say in the Bible that we are to keep the whole law? And not to take anything away or add anything to it?!?

But I was still a law-keeper, a legalist, I thought we just weren’t keeping the laws right, and Armstrong had a little more wrong than I’d thought.

Bible Editing


The minister at this church group also had a bad habit. He tended to “correct” the words in the Bible to be what he meant for them to be. This was normal in Worldwide. We’d go back to Strong’s Concordance, find another place where the same Greek or Hebrew word was translated some other way elsewhere in the Bible, and substitute this new word into place in the offending verse, and voila! Instant meaning changes! But this guy did it a lot – to the point it started to bother me. I started keeping “tally marks” at the top of my sermon notes, so that every time he would change a word I would keep track. I did this for many months. I call this the Strong’s Game. He always scored. Sometimes he only scored 5 or 6, but other sermons he would score in the 30s or 40s!!

I wondered , “Why can’t I just read my Bible and believe it?” It seemed to me, that the more we played this Strong’s Game, the more we were correcting the Bible instead of letting the Bible correct us. One day after the sermon, where this minister spent a goodly amount of time telling us that Jesus was crucified on an upright stake and not a cross, I confronted him about it – nicely.

I said, “My Bible translates the word as a ‘cross’, and I’ve read in history that at different times the Romans crucified people both ways – so how did he know which way Christ was crucified?” Furthermore, to his point that “God would not allow Jesus to be crucified on a cross because the cross is pagan.” He said the cross was actually the symbol for the letter “T” that stood for “Tamuz”.  (They had English in ancient Babylon?)  I replied that the upright post was also pagan, and that May-poles, obelisks and all manner of pagan phallic symbols filled the pages of pagan histories, therefore whether or not there was a cross beam, Jesus was without question crucified on a pagan symbol.

His reaction? Suppressed anger, red-in-the-face anger, though he did nothing yet. Still, the line had been crossed.

It was only a matter of time now before I would be kicked out of this church – this WCG split-off church that did not practice disfellowshipping – as well. I was not towing the line. But they were wrong about things, and the more things I caught, the more I got on my guard. Now I was listening to every message closely, listening for the errors (and marking the times he corrected the Bible in the Strong’s game).

Put out…. Again


Eventually the church that taught me to question everything and not to believe the speaker but rather to “believe your Bible” had that doctrine starting to backfire.

This time when I was “put out of the church” it did not faze me at all – I was ready, and when I was kicked out this time for finding yet more laws the church wasn’t keeping, my attitude was that of “challenge accepted”.

And so, my Holy Spirit was revoked - again - by no longer being part of the one true body of Christ in the form of the church - again.  This time I was cast into utter darkness over the phone.

During this phone call, I was actually reading this minister scriptures directly from the Bible and asking him to respond logically with scriptures while he instead shouted over top of me that “you do err, not knowing the scriptures”. I read him more things, and he yelled over top of me as if from some rehearsed script. He was livid. He was about to hang up and I said to him: you realize I’m reading you scriptures and you can’t respond to them right? You don’t have any way to defend against what I’m reading to you in your own Bible, you’re only recourse is to shout over me?

He responded that I was put out of the church and kicked me out. I took it as a win.  This time I was ready for it, it did not destroy me, or hurt at all – I stuck to the Bible, and he stuck to his old Worldwide ways. 

It seemed to me that the Worldwide ways were starting to appear to bear bad fruit. By now I’d now seen many lives destroyed by Armstrongism. I’d now seen marriages broken up by order of Armstrong ministers. My love for Herbert Armstrong was all but wiped out as I had seen Herbert Armstrong’s MANY failed prophecies – hundreds. 

I also learned this: Cults have “conditional love”, and love you as you support the organization, but hate you if you leave. I can testify.

You’ve got to be kidding


Yet somehow I managed to reason, “Ok, so apparently Armstrong’s prophecies were all totally wrong, and a lot of his other doctrines were wrong, but some of his other doctrines were still correct, right?”

If you guessed that the next thing I would do was to find yet another Armstrong split-off group, you would be absolutely correct. (facepalm)

But that’s how God was working with me – remember that I was born into this cult, and thought that I was persevering though trials, but holding fast to the knowledge revealed to the saints. I was slowly but surely taking steps out, one doctrine at a time, but it was not my intension to do so.

Every time I made some large steps away from Armstrongism via new understanding, I was blessed in other ways, sometimes impressively; and I did not believe that Satan blessed people to trick them out of Armstrongism. This was a common saying among Armstrong’s people, that if someone left the Armstrong church and had a difficult life afterward that it was because God was cursing them for leaving, but if you were blessed when you left as I was, then Satan was blessing you to fool you into staying out of the one true church.  Reminds me of the witch trials – throw her in the water, if she swims she’s a witch and we’ll burn her. Can’t win for losing this one.

When I accepted another step away from Armstrongism, I noticed something in my head, that I now believe to be the Holy Spirit, pointing me to the next thing to challenge. Sometimes I stepped up to that challenge right away. Other times I’d delay, often for months or years before I’d really challenge that next doctrine. All the while, I attended Saturday church with this last Armstrongist group.

I remember talking with a buddy who would later be instrumental to my leaving Armstrongism. We’d read about the fruits of the Holy Spirit, and we saw one of them was ‘joy’.
 “We need that one” I said.
 He agreed, “and we don’t have it, and I think I really want that one. Joy would be my favorite fruit”.
 “I’m angry all the time at everything”.
 “And I hate everyone, and everyone’s an idiot”.
 “Maybe we’re doing something wrong.”

Lifeline tossed down


I was blessed with the acquaintance of a few real friends in this third group.  Real friends – people that were true. No small amount of emphasis should be placed on this.

Nearly everyone in this final group were lifelong ex-members of the Worldwide church, and had found themselves orphaned away from other Armstrong groups, and formed a church by default because they had no other place to go.  I still believe most of them to be honest and good people who were sincerely deceived.

One friend I found I happily found I could talk to about the doctrinal errors I would hear in the sermons. He was an older gentleman, superficially a grumpy old man, but he was wise and wily. Every Sabbath, after the sermon one of us would find the other one, and we’d say something like, “did you catch X today?” and we’d totally trash the errors in the sermon, often using our Bibles right then and there. We did not trash the speaker, our effort was to improve our understanding, and to identify error to improve our beliefs and seek truths. This went on for years.

I lost an argument


I was always sincere in my beliefs and was honest with myself in what I’d argued regarding Armstrong’s teachings, though there was less and less I actually agreed with. It almost felt like I was clearing a forest, one tree at a time. But now there weren’t a lot of trees left, and I didn’t want to lose those precious last few; besides, I had no doubt in the requirements of the Sabbath and the Holy Days, those trees were mighty indeed.

In retrospect, the reason I didn’t actively start reviewing every doctrine I believed in is because one of the hardest things to do in life is to eat crow and admit that the guns you stuck to were completely false. What if I was wrong? Have you ever argued with someone, and then come to a point in the conversation where you suddenly realized you might actually be wrong? What a horrible sinking feeling. Do you stick to your guns and keep arguing? Run away? Come clean? There’s nothing good, short-term, at the end of this. Fortunately, I knew I was not wrong.

Those who would say, “You should not discuss religion with someone and all you can do is pray for them”, I believe to be missing a big part of the picture. I understand this point of view, and the allure of not having to do anything at all except talk to God because it’s an easier thing to do. However, is that the Biblical example? We see Paul kept trying to win over the Jews and Gentiles, despite personal hardships (beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, left for dead etc.) and tried to convince them away from their defunct or false religions and into Christianity (Phil. 1:22-24).

Paul said in 1Cor.9
19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.

I think the example here is not that we can't help - Paul says he planted, Apollos watered, but Jesus gave the increase - instead, I think our approach needs to be like Paul's. For Armstrongists, we should approach them as one under the law and help win them to Jesus. I think our mistakes (especially after being IN Armstrongism) include bad-mouthing the prophet/apostle, and engaging in name calling. That's sure to turn those people away. But if we can follow Paul's example of being all things to all people, then I think we have a large role to play. That was the case for me.

Friends that didn’t give up


Another close friend had completely left Armstrongism. It was kind of shocking. We were in this third church group together for a few years. We grew up in Armstrongism and he’d thrown the baby out with the bath water! Sure there were some doctrinal issues, but we should just fix them, understand them and get better, not abandon everything we’d learned in our lives, right?

But he did abandon everything. I thought he’d lost his mind, and was deceived – there was not much I could do but pray for him, because I couldn’t actually win arguments with him – he did a lot of homework and was ready with answers. I was good at this too, but here I was on the losing end – had I lost my edge? No, he would come around someday.

I never really lost an argument before, at least not one that I had to admit to myself that I’d lost. Remember that Armstrongism is an entire framework of beliefs. Doctrine X can’t be wrong, because that would affect doctrine Y, and no we can’t argue about doctrine Y either because that supports doctrine Z and so on. Yet now I found in my religious discussions that I couldn’t solve some of the logic problems that hadn’t occurred to me before.

The problem is that I was discussing doctrines with an ex-worldwide member, someone who knew how Armstrongists think and reason, and he could make points than no protestant or catholic ever could. People like this were put-out and excommunicated for a reason back in WCG days - they know what to say, they know how you think.

New Challenges


I remained honest in my beliefs, and my arguments were for myself as much as anyone else. My buddy would drop little time-bombs off in my head. I knew what he was doing, but I could take it, right? For example, he mentioned that the doctrine of the United States and Britain being Manasseh and Ephraim was just false. Well that’s a pretty core belief that Worldwide held. All the prophecies were dependent on it, and it was one of the ‘vital keys’ to understanding Armstrong’s prophecies. I looked into it, and couldn’t find a shred of evidence supporting the claim. Another core doctrine gone.

I quietly knew there was nothing prophetical that Armstrong said that was correct. Ouch.

But at least I’m not a Trinitarian! I’m not a Sunday keeper! There was always some reason not to check out other churches, not to abandon everything I’ve known in my life.

Then something odd happened. I’d never experienced anything quite like this. I felt an actual urge to go check out the Sabbath and the Holy days. What?! No! I don’t want to do that – these were some of the only doctrines I had left! If I didn’t have these, then I had nothing! Let me be clear, I did not want to investigate the Sabbath and holy days. We are nothing if not law keepers. I’m not going to do that. But some urge inside me pointed me to do that. Seriously? I really don’t want to do that. But that’s what I had to do. I felt a sinking feeling when I contemplated what would happen if I were to lose this argument.

Fine. I’ll look into it. But I have my proof-texts – I can do this. I still felt pretty good about keeping the law. After all, they’re God’s laws, and God changes not!

The Law


This study expanded from just the Sabbath to all the laws we were keeping – I didn’t realize I was challenging legalism. After all, who wants to be illegal? Nevertheless, that’s what was happening. I had to look at the entire requirement of the law itself – into the covenant issue that supports the Sabbath and the Holy Days. I felt a degree of confidence. I’m on solid ground here.

 Acts 15 was a critical puzzle piece for me. Here was a New Testament church group that was being told to “be circumcised”:


24 Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law” —to whom we gave no such commandment— 

Wait, what was that? “The law”?? “To whom we gave no such commandment”???
What the…. Wait, no!

This scripture was just about circumcision! Not the law. But there it was – and there was nothing I could do about it.

And then Paul follows that up with these verses:

28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.

That’s it? That’s all that the gentiles were ever supposed to do? No mention of the Ten Commandments? No other burden at all? I had just learned that I’m a gentile, and now this? Repercussions of this knowledge started bouncing around in my head.


Hebrews also started saying some really crazy things:

Heb. 9:13 In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Heb. 7: 22 by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant.

Heb. 8: 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.
 
You can read Hebrews any way you want, but you can’t get that the old covenant is still in effect.

But the covenant is NOT the law – sure the old COVENANT is gone, but the law remains, right? I was taught that the covenant is just the agreement to keep the law; it’s not the law itself. The covenant changes, but the law remains. After all, God says “I change not”!

And then this…  I didn’t like this next verse at all:
Ex. 34:28 So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

Seriously? The covenant IS the Ten Commandments? 
My subconscious must have known that was a bad thing to learn. Because if the commandments of Moses ARE the old covenant, and the old covenant is gone, then….
No, this was unthinkable. Surely the law remains!
I found these scriptures regarding the law in the new covenant.

Romans 7:6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

Galatians 5:4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

Romans 10:4  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Hebrews 7:18 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness

And there are many more scriptures regarding the law, similar to the above, I won’t put them all here, but there are a lot of them. A lot.

The Roller Coaster


All the tenants of Armstrongism were chopped down now, and I came to a point I call “the Roller Coaster”.

Death blows had been struck to my religion and I realized I had nothing left of Armstrongism. This was incredibly unsettling. I felt like I was in free-fall. Prophetic events of Armstrong, gone. Identity of nations and church eras, gone. The law, gone. Sabbaths and holy days, gone. What did I have left?? Tithing, unclean meats, gone. Church exclusivity, gone. The Armstrong gospel, gone. My identity is being stripped away. The law, gone. Is this what it feels like to be deceived??

It was so emotionally scary, and I felt like I was spiritually going over the big hill on a roller coaster. My whole life, and all these challenges to Armstrongism were click-click-click going up the hill, but now, … now I’m finally going over the hill and I don’t know what happens next, but it is so scary. There is no escape, and I don’t want to go. 
Jesus.  
This new guy I’d never really been taught about but read all about. The Gospel. Jesus was all I had left, and he’s the one who caught me. Jesus is what’s left when everything else is stripped away. 
Peace.
For the first time in my life, I felt peace. No more anger at other churches for being wrong. No more frustration at other Christians for refusing to see the Armstrong truth. No more hating Christmas carols. (Why did I hate “joy to the world” so much?) No more anger with incompetent or deceitful ministers. No more Puritanical anger towards any behavior that didn’t meet the Church’s high standards. No more ager at my own lack of being able to keep the very law I defend. No more sweet-sweet anger at all. Just peace. And I liked it.
Joy. Finally!
As I started re-educating myself in the scriptures I found that elusive fruit of the spirit – joy. Yes, this is good and real, not self-righteousness, or arrogance that I know something others don’t know, but just real honest joy for the chance Jesus gave me. It feels like this huge weight has been lifted off my heart; a weight I clung to for so long, for no reason. I have never felt freedom like this.

Another friend, who was never associated with the Worldwide Church of God or its many splinter groups, also had a lot of answers I needed. I would assault him with my various proof-texts from Armstrongism, and he had some profound-while-simple answers for me, patiently explaining things. He’ll never know how much I needed those answers. There were lots of proof-texts to investigate, but now seen in the light of New Testament Christianity, and the new covenant, things made sense.

I didn’t have all the answers, but I had to step out on faith that the answers would come, and they did.

The Worldwide Church of God always taught that Paul is extremely difficult to understand. Yet now the writings of Paul were simple, and plain. Paul became easy to follow as he taught about the law, grace, faith, salvation and the gospel – it felt like the New Testament was magically unlocked as it never had been for me before.

Epilogue      


Thankfully I never converted anyone to Armstrongism. I tried. I thank God for that failure.

My buddies pointed me at church groups that could help me in my new-found Christian walk. I’d always identified as a Christian, but now I think back that I wasn’t really one after all. I’m the walking wounded, wondering if I can really be redeemed for the lifetime of deception I’ve lived. Jesus can fix that. God I love you.

It’s not all easy either, being on this side. I’ve had to forgive people, and that is hard to do – but found later that I’ve been the one who’s healed by forgiving other people (even if they think they’ve done no wrong). For me, that’s really hard to do, but it gets easier each time. You can’t understand it till you try it.

I’ve had to eat a lot of crow. I have friends and family still in COG splinter groups. I’ve had to tell my parents that I’ve left the church they raised me in – that they’re still in – and this creates a lot of family and social awkwardness for us. They think I’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water. I pray for them most every day and try to plant subtle time-bombs in their heads when I can. I want them to have the peace and joy I have.

But through the challenges of leaving the Worldwide Church of God culture, and the challenges of living this new covenant Christianity, it’s still completely worth it. To know that I have life is so amazing. To not wonder if I’m going to make it into the afterlife. To know that I’m forgiven, and yes, even will be in heaven someday – that’s provable too. The peace and joy and life is worth it. I finally understand what Paul meant when he said: 
Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

I spent a good year kicking myself for being so stupid and believing things so easily disprovable. How could I believe things that were so well documented and patently false? What an idiot I’ve been. So much to atone for, so much humbling myself before friends and family, because it’s not easy to admit to being so monumentally wrong.

Recently, I’ve thanked the Lord Jesus for giving me the Worldwide experience. I’ve mostly stopped kicking myself. I am actually pretty lucky to have been in the Worldwide Church of God. Why? Contrast! I know what I believe, not just because my parents told me this or ministers preached that, but because I’ve studied and am ready with an answer. I can help people still in the clutches of Adventism and Armstrongism and Legalism in a way few other people are able.  I can show people that the opposite of legalism is not “illegalism”, but rather a real relationship with God.

It wasn’t a lifetime for nothing, or a wasted life, it was the journey God set for me to take, and He never gave up on me. It’s been an amazing roller coaster ride, and it’s not over.
Thanks, "Centurion". We hope all the best for you on your journey. There is much hope in your testimony!
No... not over at all. Just beginning.

We are very proud of you for having faith in our Savior and stepping into the New Covenant in His finished work on the cross. Praise the Lord!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a great testimony. I recognize so much of my own experience in Centurion's words. It is in some strange way, comforting to see that the journey to grace from wwcg is a story we who escaped share. May God bless you in your travels, and thank you for sharing.

Bill said...

Great insights into his process of coming out of legalism. I see so many parallels with what I went through and struggled with. How do you convey to legalists the unthinkable in their mindset; that the law is NOTHING. If anything, it is counter-productive, as it blinds one from seeing and understanding the true, real gospel.

I've added a new phrase to my vocabulary for defining and understanding the legalistic / cultic mindset, which I now call the "burn the witch" syndrome where one's zeal leads them to see others as being guilty until proven innocent, and one can never truly prove themselves innocent in their eyes. There is no benefit of the doubt, because there is no doubt. There is no grey. There is no leeway for differences of thought and ideology.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly what happened to me when I started studying into Armstrong's legalism. It was so obvious that Jesus Christ is calling us into the new covenant while the Churches of God were trying to restrain us in bondage to the old.