Forgiveness is not a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card, Part 1 OF 5: INTRODUCTION

It seems that the more a Christian learns about the mercy of God, the more poignant their own sin is to them.  The more we understand the evil of sin, the more we must pause in awe of the forgiveness that God has extended to us. However, it is important that we do not overextend the use of God’s forgiveness: it is not a “get out of jail free” card.  We do not see that record in Scripture, and we truthfully do not expect it in real life.  Recent statements by Star Scott—in particular equating being forgiven by God to your sin having never originally occurred—are far from orthodox and do more to undermine justification by imputation than to add any value to our understanding of God’s forgiveness.

 

“I was talking to somebody just the other day. I don’t remember all of the details. But the person came to me and said there was some confusion based upon a sin. “Some people just found out about this sin, and they were really shaken by it and couldn’t believe that something like that could happen in the life of a Christian.” They had come to this person in our fellowship here and was really distraught. The person came to me and said, “This is a big thing to them. What should I tell them?” This person knew what they were talking about. He was getting ready to go, now, meet this person. He said, “What should I do?” I said, “I would do something like this. I would go up and as they begin to speak toward this situation, I would just look them right straight in the eye and say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about.'” “Well this and that, this was done, and that was done!” “I don’t remember any of that.” “What do you mean you don’t remember it?” “No, in fact I’m positive that never happened.” “What do you mean it never happened?” “It was cast into the sea of God’s forgetfulness,” amen? There’s nothing to talk about. It never happened. It never happened! How many of us keep letting it happen? How many sins are you holding on to, that you say happened, that God said never happened because it’s forgotten? Amen? Wouldn’t it be great to really believe the Bible? Wouldn’t it be great to really forgive and be able to receive forgiveness; amen? “Is it that absolute?” Absolutely! “

Star Scott, Power in Humility, July 31, 2013

 

“So we realize, then that, as we’re walking in this spirit, it never-love never remains suspicious. Have any of you ever been sinned against? Are you at a place right now where those that have hurt you approach you and there’s no suspicion? Are you at that place (you need to get there) that you are so vulnerable, that you’re able to lay your life before them again? Just like it never happened. You have to, because here’s the reality: It never happened. Amen? If you forgive them, it never happened. If they confess that sin, it never happened. So why, then, are you suspicious? Why, then, are you continuing to think evil of this person that God has cleansed by His blood?

Star Scott,  The Greatest Witness, September 1, 2013

 

Forgiveness means it never happened–and if it never happened, then there can be no requisite that has to be met as to why we can now relate to one another. It never happened! It never happened. It never happened. “I want to believe that, but inside of me my emotions, the pain!” “…even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” So are you going to believe your emotions, or are you going to believe what God has told you to do?”                                                     Star Scott, No Greater Love pt. 5, August 15, 2012

 

Interestingly enough, Calvary Temple surely doesn’t treat your sins as forgotten when you’re ready to leave.  Exit interviews are spent recounting your sins to you, and if you leave then your sins are slyly recounted before the congregation under the guise of “minimizing confusion.”  For example, just recently there was a church-wide prayer meeting in which congregants would “nominate” someone who had left and Star Scott would let everyone know what sin they were supposedly involved in so that everyone could pray for it.  This continual rehashing is often of things that were disclosed in confidence years beforehand by somebody who genuinely wanted to get help—certainly they didn’t expect their trust to be used against them to undermine their credibility with their friends and family.

 

Incidentally, both extremes are wrong.  The idea that God can truly forget anything, in the sense that we as humans can forget anything, is patently false.  While their treatment of those who leave is certainly inconsistent with their previous stance, it is moreover inconsistent with true Biblical forgiveness.  While our sins are not absolved to the point as to have never originally occurred, they have been imputed to Christ’s account.  Therefore, the only way for them to be back on our own account is to reject Christ altogether.  Therefore, while CT members insist that they don’t believe that leaving their church is tantamount to leaving Christ, their actions indicate otherwise.

 

Thought Experiment

 

Perhaps our study would be aided by a quick thought experiment.  I will say that I suspect Star Scott’s doctrine is heavily influenced by trying to rationalize his past sins, and this thought experiment is designed to poke at his claims in an uncomfortable way.  So here it goes.  We all know about the Jerry Sandusky scandal: in 2012, former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of 45 counts of sexual abuse of young boys, most of which occurred over a decade beforehand.  Suppose that at his sentencing, he stood up and told the judge, “Your Honor, I understand that I was found guilty of 45 counts of child molestation, but yesterday I became a Christian.  I asked God to forgive me of those sins and He has.  God’s forgiveness means that He forgets that it ever happened: in fact, it is as though none of those sins ever did happen.  In fact Your Honor, it ought to be considered that these crimes happened decades ago and I have not done such things in a very long time.  Regardless, Your Honor, because God forgave me, it never happened.  Since it never happened, I should not have any punishment or consequence to bear.”  Now, in our thought experiment, if Jerry Sandusky truly did repent of his sins and God forgave him, then before the throne of heaven he would have his sins removed as far as the east is from the west, like Psalm 103 says.  God would truly relate to Jerry as though his sins never happened as in regards to his divine position in relation to his soul’s final destination.  However, is that the same thing as those sins truly having never originally occurred?  Ought our judge to release Jerry Sandusky from the earthly penalties due him?  Furthermore, imagine that every one of his victims stood before the judge and said “I have done a lot of thinking, and I just want Jerry to know that I have forgiven him for his sins against me.  I do not hold those sins to his account in any regard.”  At that point, ought the judge to let Jerry off the hook?  Suppose further that the judge were a devout Christian, and that he recognized that Jerry had been forgiven by God and man: does that absolve Jerry of his responsibility to be punished for his numerous, insidious crimes?  Does the forgiveness of God and man absolve our consequences before government leaders?

 

Suppose just a little further that instead of Jerry being caught and standing before a judge, that you became aware of this entire back story at the same moment that Jerry Sandusky was your pastor.  Suppose that he had hidden this terrible back story from the authorities and had managed to keep all of his victims quiet for 40 years, but perhaps through Providence you have been made aware that this grievous claim is true in every respect.  Furthermore, suppose that these criminal acts were occurring immediately after Jerry Sandusky supposedly became a Christian and was happening during the entire time that Jerry Sandusky was attending Bible College.  Do you think that in light of the tests provided in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (all things have passed away such that all things become new) and 1 John 3:9 (“No one who is born of God will continue to sin…they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God), you could possibly conclude that such a conversion was genuine?

 

Could someone who fails the tests in 2 Corinthians 5:17 and 1 John 3:9 possibly claim that they are called to ministry? Can a non-Christian hear a call to ministry? In light of Jerry’s gross sins that are not even mentionable among the Gentiles (to borrow from Paul), could he pass the qualifications for eldership?  Could he somehow argue that even though he is by no means (1) blameless, (2) of good behavior, (3) able to teach, (4) not violent, (5) not a novice, or (6) of good testimony among those who are outside (beyond reproach) according to 1 Timothy 3:1-7, that his self proclaimed “calling to ministry” precludes him from needing to meet the base qualifications?  I mentioned “able to teach.”  I mean, if he spent the entirety of his time in Bible college molesting minors, what Bible knowledge could he possibly have retained, especially in light of 1 Corinthians 2:14 (The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit)?  Could he claim to have the Spirit while at the same time failing the most basic tests of Christianity i.e. by repeatedly and relentless molesting minors in such a way as to demonstrate that there could be no genuine repentance during those years?  Can this man (Jerry Sandusky…not Star Scott) claim that you have no Biblical support in seeking someone else to be your pastor, because by his own proclamation, God called him to be your pastor?

 

Ok, that was a very involved thought experiment.  Rarely is the purpose of a thought experiment to address the obvious answers.  It is meant to provide means to explore the various nuances and predicaments that arise from the description.  Since it was long and full of rhetorical questions, I will summarize below:

 

  1. If Jerry Sandusky (or anyone) was forgiven by God and man for his sins, does that preclude him from having to pay the consequences of his crimes?
    1. Is there a difference between God’s forgiveness making it as though we never sinned and God’s forgiveness making it that we never sinned in the first place?
    2. Does God truly forget our sins such that His consequences for us are nullified by His forgiveness?
  2. Could Jerry Sandusky be a Christian during the same 15 year time period that he was molesting minors?
    1. Could Jerry Sandusky hear from God, be called and qualified for ministry during the same 15 year time period that he was molesting minors?
    2. If Jerry Sandusky told you that God wanted him to be your pastor, do you have the God-given responsibility to vet him to ensure that this really is God’s desire for your life and you family’s life, and that this man isn’t really a wolf?

 

As we explore these issues through the Word and our God-given common sense, we should begin to see a Biblical pattern emerge that addresses the underlying theme of how sin continues to affect our civil and sacred lives after we’ve been forgiven.  I guess now would be a good time to mention what might be obvious to some and less obvious to others: there truly is no difference between Jerry Sandusky and Star Scott as far as crimes are concerned.  From a criminal justice perspective, they would both be found guilty of breaking the same sections in the law code and be sentenced in similar fashion for crimes that they committed decades before.  The difference is that current CT congregants are able to despise a Jerry Sandusky and revere a Star Scott because of decades spent presenting steadily deteriorating doctrine that is self-serving to Scott’s goals, which ultimately come down to pretending that he is somehow different from Jerry Sandusky.  If you are a current CT member and you are reading this, pause and consider if the early church would have ever allowed Jerry Sandusky to be a pastor over a local flock.  That stated, let’s begin.

 

This is a five part series, authored by Brandon. Please check back tomorrow for Part 2!

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Resources for Survivors

by Naomi

It has been quite awhile since we have had the opportunity to post on Against Calvary Temple. Our personal responsibilities of jobs, college, business and family are increasingly demanding, and unfortunately keep us from putting the time and energy into voicing our objections to Calvary Temple’s cultic practices.

Make no mistake, friends, we still firmly believe in the mission of AgainstCalvaryTemple.com.

We still fervently pray for freedom for current Calvary Temple members.
We still rejoice every time someone leaves Calvary Temple.
We still shudder at every story of brokenness that we hear, every tale of suffering and destruction and despicable conduct at the hands of so-called “spiritual leadership.”
We still support ex-members of Calvary Temple with our prayers, our hearts, our lives.We hope to be publishing a few articles in the coming months. If you have been checking back often for new content, you may want to check out our new facebook page:

Be sure to LIKE the page, and then follow the page. This will allow you to see links to new articles as they are posted.

 

Also, I would like to share a few resources for those who have survived Calvary Temple.

Please keep in mind the following disclaimers:

a) We are not formally affiliated with any of these websites. As such, we do not claim to have read every word or necessarily agree with everything that is written. In some cases, we do not even know the identity of the authors — but we heartily applaud the courage of those willing to give up time and energy to stand against the spiritually abusive, contraBiblical practices of Calvary Temple. We support their endeavors and pray that God continues to use these words to bring freedom to the captives.
b) We gain nothing by bringing these resources to your attention. In the case of recommended books, we do not use affiliate links. We do not make money from this website. Its costs come out of our own pockets, and we do not attempt to recoup those costs by recommending resources. All resources have simply been a blessing to us, and we want to bring them to your attention for this reason.

Helpful Books: 

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church by David Johnson & Jeff VanVondoren

Toxic Faith: Experiencing Healing from Painful Spiritual Abuse by Stephen Arterburn & Jack Felton

Related Websites:
Leaving Calvary Temple  – http://leavingcalvarytemple.blogspot.com/
Tactics of Calvary Temple – http://tacticsofcalvarytemple.wordpress.com/
Dear Calvary Temple / Letters to My Children – http://dearcalvarytemple.blogspot.com/
Just Our Stories of Calvary Temple – http://justourstoriesofcalvarytemple.blogspot.com/

 

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Panel Discussions: Clarity or Control?

by Naomi

After any cataclysmic event, Calvary Temple has something they refer to as “panel discussions.” It’s the cult version of a Q&A session. Congregants/church members submit questions, either written down if the topic is particularly sensitive or verbally if they’re feeling courageous. The panel of pastoral staff answer the questions. These panel discussions often follow the exodus of a prominent church member or a particularly inflammatory teaching series (usually regarding how you should never leave Calvary Temple. Listen to the sermons yourself. Every sermon circles back to the same thing).

One of the specific marks of a cultic environment is that they control information. The members of a cult believe only what their leaders tell them and are immediately suspicious of outsiders/outsider’s information.

Panel discussions are Calvary Temple’s chosen method of controlling information believed by their members. The leaderships (I do so dislike calling CT pastors & deacons “leadership” since they are such a bad example of what God has called leaders to be) has this down to a science. They have weekly pastors’ and deacons’ meetings to discuss ‘issues’ and ‘situations’ that arise. The pastors tell the deacons what to think and then the deacons tell the people what to think. If their initial form of information-twisting doesn’t work or the situation is serious enough to warrant whole-congregation information feeding, they must resort to a panel discussion. Or several.

Characteristics of Panel Discussions:

Mud-Slinging, or more Biblical term: Slander

Defined as: Defamation or Evil-Speaking. 1 Peter 2:1-3

Pastors say, “if you only knew what we knew” about the departing member. They cast as much doubt as humanly possible onto the character, integrity and motives of the departing member. They bring up past sins and disciplinary issues. They may even tell stories, most often exaggerated and even some outright lies to bolster their message that there is absolutely no way on earth this person was right in leaving! They’re rebellious! They’re proud! They hate authority! Their ‘much learning hath made them mad!’ You know it’s getting serious when they bring out the King James English. And again, I feel like I’m repeating myself, that’s not what that verse means!

Every single Calvary Temple member is conditioned to accept this information as truth. These members can hardly imagine the possibility that their leaders are often lying. Yes, lying. Speaking falsehood, deception and untruths. The members think, surely not! I trust them! Run away, these leaders are not worthy of your trust. If/when you leave the church, they will slaughter your reputation from the pulpit, too. Once lauded and applauded, you will be maligned and maliciously destroyed. They will try to eat you for lunch (a word to those who left/leaving, just walk away. Don’t live in bondage to the opinions of Calvary Temple members & leadership. You only need the good opinion of God. He is the One who judges you and that is enough.).

When people leave normal churches, normal Christians don’t usually treat them like lepers. They shake hands, have them over for dinner one last time and wish them well on their journey. If they moved on to a different church in the same area, they’ll see them around town and greet each other with genuine warmth and care. Normal Christians don’t burn bridges and sling mud at other believers.

 

Placing Blame 

Blame is placed on members that are doubting, by inferring that to doubt, question or search the Scriptures themselves is sin. This particular aspect screams of spiritual abuse. It also reminds me of the corruption in the early Catholic church. The Bible was in Latin and the common man was forbidden to read it, because supposedly, he couldn’t interpret it right. Panel discussions often include encouraging members to listen to more teachings and discover the hidden sin within themselves that would cause them to doubt the validity of CT teaching. Because obviously, you *must* be in sin if you’re questioning (sarcasm).

You know who questioned the apostles’ doctrine?? The Bereans. You know who applauded them for doing so? The Apostle Paul. And yet the self-professed Pastor-Teacher-Apostle-Prophet Star Scott thinks that you should read the Bible less, because  you can’t interpret the inspired Word of God responsibly for yourself and you need him to do it for you. (definitely sarcasm).

Re-Establishing Authority

Star Scott loves to bring out obscure Old Testament passages to liken himself to Moses. That’s unBiblical: see Pastoral Authority is Not Mosaic. He also likes to ridicule the scholarship of anyone who would interpret Scripture differently than him, which is hilarious, considering he has very little training in how to interpret Scripture. Bible training also doesn’t validate interpretation. If we’re comparing dollars-to-donuts here, I probably have more Bible training than Star Scott. That alone doesn’t make me right. It is honesty and integrity with the Word that makes me right. I welcome any discussion, questions, criticism and comments about how I interpret the Word of God. I welcome polite, respectful, cordial discussion about the points that I bring up. I absolutely welcome face-to-face conversation about Calvary Temple’s doctrine — but so far, none of the CT members I know have cared enough to do that. They’d rather believe the gossip that comes from the deacon’s meeting than ask me themselves.

Star Scott also enlists others to re-establish pastoral (and mostly HIS) authority. He has surrounded himself with “yes men” and puppets-on-a-string that more than willingly flatter him before the congregation. They say, “We are so blessed to have a man of God like this, who preaches sound doctrine even when it’s unpopular. It is such a privilege to sit under this man who has laid down everything for us.” Syrupy-sweet flattery that sounds spiritual and is used to further convince members of their ultimate fear — that to leave CT is the equivalent of leaving God.  Oh, and consider this: he says that his accountability is in the “plurality of elders,” but in just the past 5 years both of his chief pastors (who were designated by him to take over the ministry in his place should the need arise), 4 or 5 deacons, and 3 or 4 young adult captains have left the church over Scott’s anti-Biblical doctrines.  Does he change?  No, he just replaces them with lesser men and preaches on Korah and Dathan and Aaron and Miriam one more time.  So when we call his pastoral staff a rubber stamp club of yes men, that’s what we are referring to.

 

Reminding Members of Their Absolute Dependence on the Community

“If you leave, you are serving your flesh.”
“If you leave, you are going to be spiritually shipwrecked.”
“If you leave, you will fall into sin.”
“There’s nothing wrong with leaving… but if you want to leave, there’s something wrong with you.”

 This characteristic of Calvary Temple particularly infuriates me (don’t go crazy and call me bitter and angry, because (a) I’m not bitter and (b) there is a holy anger). I am angry by the arrogance that Calvary Temple leadership and members constantly show in assuming not only that they are the best church, but that they are the only church that is really teaching truth. Is God so limited that He can only speak through one church in the entire world? Is the power of God so weak that He cannot empower a believer to live holy without the support of the almighty Calvary Temple?

 

Fearmongering

This is the use of fear to influence the opinions and actions of others towards some specific end. Panel discussions are the perfect venue for inspiring fear in Calvary Temple members because they are particularly vulnerable to drastic decisions (like leaving the church) after a trusted member has left. The pastors know this so they use every opportunity to say their favorite line: “if so-and-so left (because they were considered spiritual), then you could be next.” They imply that because so-and-so left, and obviously they had to be deceived to leave the only church in the world that preaches truth (extreme sarcasm), then you could be deceived, too!… and leave… and go to hell!

Outsiders are reading this and thinking, “this is insane! Pastors actually do this?!” Oh yes. You have no idea.

 

Re-Directing 

“Don’t spend a lot of time studying the Bible on authority.  You should spend more time studying what the Bible says about self, then you’ll realize who you are, and all of these other things will be easier to accept.” Star Scott, January 13th, 2013 Panel Discussion

When honest questions are asked at Calvary Temple, often they are not answered — they are redirected. When inconsistencies are noted by the members, pastors turn attention to the person asking the question. That their motives must be wrong, their heart must be impure, they must be somehow in sin.  I don’t know about you, but when I ask an honest question, I expect an honest answer. Honesty, integrity, truth. Not deception by avoiding the question.  In a healthy church, there is a way to ask tough questions without fear of retaliation through labeling and discipline for “deception.”

 

Manipulation

Panel discussions are framed for the purpose of producing a specific action. The leadership would say that they just want their people to obey the Word, but really, they want the people to take very specific actions… to obey leadership. We are not talking about specific commands of Scripture. We are talking about ideas that they have, non-Scriptural commands that they give and expect unquestioning obedience, weddings that they want to take place, more money to be given to the church, correct information to be spread across a three hundred member congregation so they can all lie and sound like they’re telling the truth (i.e. “it’s not a school!” even though everybody calls it a school, it’s not a school).

CT leadership manipulates people into doing what they want. If you’re a member there, I pity you. I am sorry that you cannot make your own decisions (except for stupid things like what you are eating that day), but that they are made for you. I am sorry that you are held to the standards of others, instead of walking with Christ and finding the standards that the Holy Spirit presses on your heart. I’m sorry that you will probably stay because you are afraid of losing your family/marriage/friends/etc. I’m sorry that your spiritual life will be dictated to you and that you will lose the joy of being led by the Spirit, because you are only being led by a man. I’m sorry that you now believe this manipulation is actually spiritual leadership.

 

Conclusion 

To sum up, panel discussions are not preaching. Not teaching. Not edifying. Not enriching. Not enlightening the believer. Not giving aid. They do not expound on Scripture, except to use it in error. They do not point CT members to Christ, but to a man and a religious system.

Panel discussion are slander-centric. They are comprised of pastors oiling the hinges of their controlling machine with spiritual sounding words that go against the very essence of Scripture. Panel discussions aid in destroying relationships and reputations. Panel discussions are venues for publicizing bad reports, guiding willfully ignorant souls into more ignorance and engaging much spiritual dialogue with nothing but a sprinkle of real sound doctrine. Like honey added to poison, members swallow these lies because they “taste” good. Lies always go down easily. Then you are murdered while you remain unaware.

One last reminder: Panel discussions are often edited before being posted Calvary Temple’s website to remove information that pastors say “confuse people.” In rare circumstances, panel discussions will never be available to the public. When churches hide information that is spoken from the pulpit, it is yet another sign of a cultic and controlling environment. For a place that lauds personal transparency (Calvary Temple-ism alert: “walking in the light”), there is much darkness and cover-ups happening in the backrooms and offices of Calvary Temple in Sterling, VA.

Panel discussions are another way for the pastors to use the Bible as a battering ram on the hearts of CT’s members. It forces loyalty to Star Scott, rather than loyalty to Christ. I pray that one day, those panel discussions will not be enough to stop the exodus.

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The Why & How of Personal Bible Study | Part 4

by Naomi

This is a four part series. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

We have talked about the attitude of Calvary Temple leadership on personal Bible study. We understand our personal and spiritual deficiencies when we exist without personal Bible study. The question remains; what shall we do now? Study the Bible! How do we study the Bible? Keep reading for a few recommendations on this vast subject.

Recommendations for Personal Bible Study:

* Get a new version of the Bible. At Calvary Temple, the King James Version is the preferred translation. Unfortunately, this version only serves to confuse most modern readers. There are a few peculiarities to the KJV that make it even more difficult for CT members to understand the meaning.

a) The King James Version is printed in verse form, with each verse being its own paragraph. This format causes readers to mistakenly believe that each verse is separate from the others, and instead of reading the author’s whole train of thought–they get “revelation” from one single verse and often, their application is skewed violently from the author’s original intent. This is in violation of basic laws of Bible interpretation. This concept is useful to Star Scott because he often quotes only one verse or one phrase from a verse and then indicates that the hearer should fill in the blanks. Because the hearers are conditioned by Star Scott’s ignorant Bible interpretation, they assume that the volume of Bible verses he quotes means he is teaching solid Bible truth.

b) The KJV’s antiquated language is a great barrier in understanding (and therefore, properly applying) Scripture. English words are used much differently now than they were in the 1600s or even the 1800s. It’s easy to assume you know the meaning of the text, and you might be entirely wrong. It is also easy for a not-very-educated pastor like Star Scott to proclaim the KJV says one thing (because of a particular word or turn of phrase) and for every Calvary Temple member to accept it as truth. Star Scott has very little knowledge in the original languages. By “very little,” I mean even less than I do. Add his propensity for dishonest Bible interpretation to his ignorance and you have a recipe for disaster.

c) The King James Version is translated word for word. The literal accuracy is great; but any language translator knows that there will be discrepancies because of differing syntax and idioms.

I’m not saying that the King James Version is bad. I keep several KJV Bibles for my own personal study. I am simply stating that you should be aware of the KJV’s weaknesses, complexities and variances. Then, you can more easily understand how Calvary Temple and Star Scott can use the Bible for their own gain.

There are many great translations that may be more helpful to you in your personal study of the Bible. I prefer the New American Standard. My husband reads the New International Version. We often borrow each other’s Bibles for cross-references and use additional versions of the Bible for clarity (a great way to avoid taking things out of context). Be informed.

Find a Bible that you can understand. It makes reading and applying God’s Word so much easier.

* Get understanding in basic Bible interpretation.

I highly, highly recommend “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth” by Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart. It’s a short, relatively easy read. This book is incredibly helpful on learning how to interpret the Bible yourself. When you have spent most of your life listening to a pastor make the Bible say whatever he thinks it should, you need a complete brain overhaul on how to interpret the Bible. You need a good dose of real common sense and real hermeneutics. Star Scott uses the word “hermeneutics” and then completely does the opposite of proper hermeneutics. This would be funny, if it wasn’t so alarming.

Here’s a few simple rules for understanding the Bible:

1. Context is key. Don’t just read one verse and then, build a doctrine out of it. Read a few verses before and after, read the whole chapter, read the whole book. For real understanding and a good overview, read the whole Bible. You will have a much better understanding of what God is saying through His Word when you have seen what He says in the whole thing. As a vociferous reader of many kinds of literature, I rarely read a book that I don’t finish. It amazes me that so many people (who claim Christianity as their reason for existence) have not read the entire Bible cover to cover. To truly understand the meaning of Scripture, you must read ALL of the Bible for yourself.

2. It cannot mean to you what it did not mean to them (the original audience). You need to understand the author’s original intent to be able to understand its meaning. A text cannot mean what it never meant. You will never be able to have a proper application of a verse if you do not comprehend its original meaning.

* Get honest.

Many people get uncomfortable when they come across a Scripture verse that contradicts or challenges their previously-held beliefs. It is dishonest to twist God’s Word to fit your own ideas. We must be able to submit our preferences to what God is or is not saying in Scripture. Commit yourself to personal honesty, no matter how uncomfortable it is. Be diligent-absolutely bulldog stubborn–in your pursuit of truth.

*Get serious about personal Bible study.

Many people have a mental block about reading the Bible in its entirety. Book, chapter and verse dividers have made it easy for us to pick up a few verses here and there and consider ourselves great scholars of the Word, or at least good Christians. If you have not read the Bible completely, cover-to-cover, beginning to end, that you should make it a top priority to do that. Right now.

Here’s some food for thought:

The Bible contains about 789,000 words, give or take depending on your translation. The Harry Potter series contains approx. 1,084,000 words. The Twilight Series contains approx. 520,000 words. In the time it takes to read these two series of garbage, someone could read the Bible through cover to cover twice. If the overwhelming majority of pre-teen girls can devour those series over and over again, why do we shudder at the thought of devouring the Word of God once? Much less three to four times a year? If you truly believe that the Bible is inspired by God and is beneficial to your spiritual life, then treat it as such. READ. Jump over that mental block. Read so that you become spiritually mature, strengthened and able to handle anything that comes your way.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Conclusion

My intent is not to condemn or guilt you into reading the Bible more. My desire is to challenge you to be studious in your personal pursuit of Christ, to plow into the depths of Him, to find truth for yourself instead of being that little helpless child that believes everyone and everything. I want you to know the tremendous value of Scripture. We have been given the most precious gift in having the ability to study God’s words for ourselves. Don’t surrender that gift to anybody else.

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The Why & How of Personal Bible Study | Part 3

by Naomi

This is four part series. Read Part 1 and Part 2 here.

My challenge to you: Study the Bible for yourself.

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

Turn off Star Scott’s teachings and find out what God really says in His Word. Once you dig in, you will be surprised by the ignorance that is propagated under the guise of “being so well-taught.” For people who claim to be uncompromising in the Word, they have very little respect for it and very little knowledge of it, besides Star Scott’s multiple Bible phrases thrown into his sermon-type rambling. The sad truth is that for a great apostle who “sets doctrine,” he handles the Scriptures like a first-grader. Topical studies pulled straight from the concordance (the concordance is a tool, not a crutch), spiritual jargon, rambling, contextual messes, convenient theology that changes based on who left the church at that particular time, nonsensical strings of phrases that sound like Scripture, but do not originate from Scripture.

It will take work to study the Bible and not be influenced by the things you have been taught since your youth. The continual stream of ‘teaching’ should be called, “brainwashing.” To brainwash is to make (someone) adopt radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible pressure. Calvary Temple utilizes this method by mocking anyone who disagrees, reinforcing Star Scott’s teaching by having other pastors teach and quote him more than they quote the Bible as if he were the final authority, by threatening dissenters with painful penalties and employing manipulation and church discipline as weapons under the guise of being “for your own good.” Calvary Temple breeds Scriptural ignorance under the guise of “being so well-taught.” This is heart-breaking and maddening and disgusting all at the same time. Ignorance is not bliss. Whether you are a current member or a former member or simple someone who has had contact with Calvary Temple, I urge you to study the Word of God for yourself.

As believers in Christ, it is our sober responsibility and our greatest privilege to be able to study the Word of God personally. Christians throughout the ages have laid down their lives, often burned at the stake, to give us the Bible in our language. Christ Himself laid down His life, suffered the most awful agony on the cross–for the purpose of ripping the veil in the temple–a symbol of His making a way for personal access with God. To willingly give up that access to God and His Word is to denigrate His sacrifice and devalue one of the basic tenets of the faith–the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture.

Calvary Temple thinks you don’t need the Bible… personally. Or they think you don’t need “too much of it.” They like to twist Scriptures like “much learning hath made you mad!” (Acts 26:24) and “knowledge puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1) to discourage personal Bible study. Those two verses have nothing to do with personally studying the Word of God to know and understand Him better. Calvary Temple implies that you need to be spoon-fed Bible teaching from Star Scott. They’re dead wrong.

You need God. You need His Word. You don’t need Star Scott.

Stay tuned for Part 4!

 

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The Why & How of Personal Bible Study | Part 2

by Naomi

This is a four part series. Read Part 1 here.

Without personal study of the Word, we are unable to discern between good and evil.

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” Hebrews 5:12-14

Over and over again, our ignorance mocks us. We hear the words of so-called church leadership who tell us to do things absolutely contrary to the Word of God. We believe them. We submit to them. Lives are destroyed because we could not/would not/did not assimilate the Bible into ourselves. You might be wondering what this lack of discernment looks like. Let me elaborate.

One disturbing example is the tendency of Calvary Temple leadership to insert their unBiblical “counsel” into the marriages of their members. They suggest (in reality, demand) that members separate from their dissenting spouse, which is opposite what Scripture teaches. They declare that “spiritual adultery” is grounds for divorce, when in fact, that phrase is never, ever, EVER used in the Bible to talk about the literal marriage covenant between a man and wife. They counsel separation if a spouse is ‘speaking against leadership’ or ‘questioning’ or any attitude that is rebellious towards church leadership. They usurp the authority of the husband by suggesting that the wife confide in some other man about spiritual matters (hello! inappropriate!), especially to tattle on their husband for real or imagined sin. Calvary Temple leadership violates the sanctity of the marriage covenant, by making it about the Husband, the Wife and the Church, rather than a precious covenant between Husband & Wife, at the exclusion of all others. If a spouse expresses the desire to leave Calvary Temple (I will not elaborate on this concept in this article, but let me state: yes, you can leave a church. No, you don’t need the leadership’s permission), the leadership suggests manipulative tactics, running back to one’s parents (completely contrary to Scripture’s teachings on this subject), ignoring one’s spouse while they’re on church discipline, breaking them down and using children as pawns in a life-altering game. Their strategies are absolutely despicable and only more so because they are done under the guise of obeying the Bible.

The Bible is clear on the subjects of marriage and divorce. When a man and wife are married, no one gets in between. They leave their parents (Genesis 2:24) and cling to each other. If a believer and unbeliever are married, they are to stay married unless the unbeliever decides to leave (1 Corinthians 7:12-13). Just because someone leaves the church doesn’t give their spouse any room to divorce them. Even if they leave Calvary Temple and leave the faith completely, there is still no room for a professing believer to divorce them. God hates divorce. He hates it! He detests it! God created marriage as a covenant not to be broken, and most definitely NOT for the stupidest reason ever of leaving Calvary Temple.

In this example, Calvary Temple has taken something that God despises — divorce — and actually called it necessary and held it up as some badge of honor. They have encouraged what God strongly discourages. This flip-flopping of truth is not limited to the idea of marriage and divorce, but rather is a prevalent practice throughout Calvary Temple. Star Scott calls something good evil, and something evil good, and nobody reads the Bible enough to recognize it.

Without personal study of the Word, we are perpetual babies.

Just like our bodies are designed to grow and mature from babyhood to adulthood, God intends for us to grow up spiritually (Ephesians 4:15). No growth = abnormal. Calvary Temple likes to keep people in perpetual babyhood, because babies don’t question. Babies don’t talk. Babies don’t leave. Babies just eat what’s shoved in their mouths and smile.

“like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” 1 Peter 2:2

It is a mark of a true believer that they are hungry for the Word of God. I seriously wonder how any pastor could discourage a new believer from studying the Word for themselves. The Word of God is the catalyst for our spiritual growth. Without the Word, we will starve. Without the Word, we will degrade and waste away. The Word is what leads us to victory.

“I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” 1 John 2:14

It is an interesting process. Because you are a newborn baby in Christ, you are hungry. You desire spiritual food. You want the milk of the Word. You eat that Word. It is life and spiritual strength and victory to you. Subsequently, you grow up in God. You are no longer a baby. You are a man or woman of God. You are mature. That is exactly what God designed you to be.

Read Part 3 now!

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The Why & How of Personal Bible Study | Part 1

by Naomi

The conversation was hardly two minutes long. It was a passing comment and yet it burned in my memory from that day forward. I was standing inside the Calvary Temple sanctuary with a Calvary Temple friend. The friend told me of a recent new convert, who had been saved in CT’s prison ministry. This young man* was a voracious reader of the Bible. When he was released from prison and became a member of Calvary Temple, he had many questions. Questions that he took to leadership.

“The leadership told him that he shouldn’t read the Bible so much,” my friend said. “He doesn’t need to, because he gets such good teaching here.”

In the most eloquent way possible, let me communicate my thoughts: SAY WHAAAAAAT?!

The leadership of a church told a new convert that he should not read the Bible. He didn’t need to read the Bible. They discouraged a new believer from the very source of spiritual strength and nourishment that will bring him into maturity. They inferred that a pastor’s teaching is higher, better and more useful than the divinely inspired Holy Scriptures. According to John 1, Christ is the Word. The leadership of Calvary Temple cut off a new Christian from Christ Himself.

Through this seemingly-insignificant comment, I learned that Calvary Temple only professes to love the Word. In reality, they love the teaching of Star Scott. They relish his words over the Word of God. When confronted with Scripture, they quote a Star Scott one-liner and spout one of his Scriptural phrases used out of context. This example of the leadership redirecting a new believer away from Scripture disgusted, alarmed and provoked me.

Without personal study of the Word, we are helpless.

We are at the mercy of every charlatan who can speak in churchy language and holds a concordance. We are like little babies, abandoned on a street corner in the wintertime. Freezing to death, and powerless to stop it. We base our trust in humans–fallible humans–instead of the infallible God. We believe anything and everything said to us by the person that helped us get saved, because (supposedly) they wouldn’t lead us astray.

Without personal study of the Word, we are easily deceived.

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” Ephesians 4:11-16 (underlines added for emphasis)

 

Calvary Temple is skilled at cutting people off from divine truth—the very place that would help them to realize that they are in deception. Is it important for pastors and leaders to preach the Bible? Absolutely. It is also important (and I would venture to say, even more important) for Christians to be able to study the Bible for themselves, lest when they hear incorrect doctrine–they are too stupid to discern it.

Without personal study of the Word, we handle the Bible carelessly.

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

Accurate handling of the Scriptures means that you have nothing to be ashamed of. Conversely, if you are unable to handle the Bible accurately, you should be ashamed of yourself! Without diligent personal study of the Word, we are apt to pick up any verse at any time and use it however we feel like using it. This is a dangerous and irresponsible practice.

Without personal study of the Word, we are incapable of conquering sin.

Sinners sin, but saints live holy. As Christians, we are living in the shadow of Christ, walking in the steps of Christ, mimicking actions of Christ. Sin is not the normal practice of our lives, and it is certainly not acceptable. Calvary Temple teaches that you will always have some level of personal sin in your life that is unavoidable and unconquerable. Really? The Bible doesn’t teach that.

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.” Psalm 119:9-11

When you are unable to overcome personal sin, there will always be some mud for spiritual leadership to sling at you. There will always be something they can say to somehow prove a point; that you couldn’t possibly be right because you have done this sin and that sin and that other sin. Calvary Temple has created the perfect little gilded cage that you will never escape from until you learn the Bible for yourself and allow Christ Himself to free you from that spiritually abusive environment and from the chains of constant personal sin. His Word is enough to do this!

Read Part 2 now!

*I do not know this young man personally and his life is not relevant to this article. I am merely using this conversation that I was privy to as an illustration of the erroneous and spiritually destructive attitude of Calvary Temple towards personal Bible study.

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A Christmas Prayer for You

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith ; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”
Ephesians 3:14-21

In this difficult holiday season, we are praying for you. While many of us are experiencing rejection from loved ones, we are praying that you experience the love of Christ like you have never known before. That you would be given courage and strength to stand. That the storms of this life would rage around you, but that your stance would be immovable, unshakable and unchanged as you are grounded in the One who is our foundation. That you would find hope in the Mighty God, who is not cowed by those who use His name to justify their unChristlike actions. That the impossible would become possible, because He is able to do even more than we could imagine.

We pray that you would not give up, give in or go back. We pray that you would be men and women of faith, men and women of courage, men and women of God . That you would draw close to the One who is the Answer to every question, every problem and every trial. That you would find yourself enveloped in His grace.

We pray that in this season of joy and cheer, you would not just find happiness, but that you would find joy inexpressible and full of glory. If Paul and Silas could worship in chains at midnight, we can do so as well, with the power that God gives.

We pray for healing of the heart and soul. Healing of your wounds. Healing of the pains that are held so deep inside. We pray for divine grace to forgive those who have committed these things against you. We pray for miracles of the heart.

We pray that if you are unsure that you can receive the love of your Heavenly Father, because of the rejection of loved ones, we pray that God will circumvent these atrocities and show you the miracle of His love. The love that forgives, transforms, changes and encompasses you.

We pray for restoration, reconciliation and redemption. We pray for wholeness instead of brokenness. We pray for truth. We pray for righteousness. We pray for the glory of God. We pray for you.

A Merry Christmas from your friends,
Brandon & Naomi

Holiday Pain

               by Naomi

When you’ve been shunned by family members who go to Calvary Temple, the emotions hit the hardest during the holidays. “There’s no place like home for the holidays” is ringing through every store. Coworkers and friends are asking the eternal question, “what do I buy my parents for Christmas?” People are extolling the virtues of family, talking about parents/sisters/brothers/grandparents and seeing everything through the twinkle-light-romantic-Hallmark-movie euphoria.

Those of us who are related to current Calvary Temple members have varying family situations to deal with. For some, CT parents continue in semi-normal, yet emotionally detached relationships with their former-CT adult children. They will speak to their children, invite them to dinner, give gifts and remain cordial. For others, this cordiality lasted for a short time and now there is not the slightest hint of relationship. For parents whose adult children still go to Calvary Temple, there’s much emptiness in the home on holidays. The phones remain silent, the photo frames of grandchildren are empty, and the loneliness is palpable. For others, they have been estranged from non-CT family for so long (even a lifetime), that when they come out of that church, there is no relationship to speak of. They had CT friends who took the place of family and after they made an escape from the clutches of the controlling church, they are left spinning their wheels. Alone. It can be a terrifying realization that you are alone in the world, and sadly, it is one that often drives people back to Calvary Temple. Still others have left Calvary Temple and all its members behind, and are in the midst of forging new friendships, traditions and a life outside of the CT bubble.

Our personal situation is such that we have been completely shunned. No conversation, no phone calls, no invitations, no contact whatsoever. I have never formally met my in-laws, since before they became my in-laws. Please don’t make jokes about how ‘it must be so nice to not have in-laws.’ It’s not. We are grieved by the state of the non-relationship with my husband’s parents. It is unnecessary and brings shame to the name of Christ. We are saddened and it is especially acute during the holiday season. I imagine that many former Calvary Temple members feel the same. I want to share with you a few things that are helping me to deal with the holiday season.

1. Keep my focus right. I make a conscious effort to remember the true meaning of the holidays. When I’m celebrating Thanksgiving, I spent much time meditating on how much I’ve been blessed and how much I have to be thankful for. I remember not what I have lost, but what I have gained. I possess life and health. I possess good things, daily provisions, an amply comfortable home. I possess truth and righteousness and the accessibility to God’s Word. I possess some family relationship, those who love me and those that I love. I thank God for my husband, and that even through the cultic environment that he was raised in, God’s hand was upon him–upon us–and God created beauty from pain. God gave us a marriage that is amazing in every way. And most importantly, if all else were lost, I would still be grateful for the one very important thing. That I serve a God who will never, ever, ever fail me. He will never leave and never forsake me (Psalm 9:10). When I’m celebrating Christmas, I remember that God the Father had a plan. Even though men messed it up with sin, He sent His only Son for redemption. Redemption is the key. God redeeming me from sin is enough to be grateful for every single day. Even on Christmas.

2. Acknowledge emotions. Emotions are real, emotions are valid and they were created by God. God created you as an emotional being. He created you to be in His image, to feel joy and to feel pain. Are you under the impression that truly spiritual people don’t feel things? That surely the strong ones do not have moments of weakness? Or are not bothered by injustice? Read the psalms. Delve into the torment of the psalmist’s heart. He grieves, he rages, he wonders, he prays, he cries, he mourns, he worships, he hurts, he rejoices. He is silent and he is loud. He is with the congregation, in a corporate setting, but mostly he is alone with God. The psalms are a wonderful window into the prayer life of a man after God’s own heart. The psalmist feels things most acutely. He is not ruled by his emotions, but he takes them to the secret place of the Almighty and beseeches the Most High God to bring resolution. Acknowledge your emotions this season. Acknowledge that there may be days of struggle, days of pain, days of loneliness, days when the wounds of betrayal feel fresh again. There may be days of righteous indignation and days of diving into the forgiveness you have experienced in Christ, so that you can forgive again the ones who have wounded you without cause. You may feel, but that is no excuse to sin. Christ Himself was angry and yet did not sin. Strive to live that way. (Eph 4:26)

3. Appreciate healthy community.  Newsflash: Not every church is like Calvary Temple.  In fact, most aren’t.  A healthy community does not manipulate you into cutting off family members. A healthy community does not think that it is the only church worthy of your attendance or the only church where the presence of God dwells (do you really think the Almighty God is so limited?). A healthy community does not get jealous or offended when you visit relatives in another town/city/state during the holidays. A healthy community does not commandeer ALL of your free time for its super-important (sarcastic) events. A healthy community does not use guilt; they do not manipulate or goad. Period. A healthy community knows that they do not control people’s lives. A healthy community will not fall apart if there is no Wednesday night meeting the day after Christmas. On the flip side, a healthy community consists of people who are there in times of need, are thoughtful, kind, humble, are not selfishly-motivated, who think the best of you, mind their own business instead of minding yours, work out their salvation daily with honest living, and seek God enough privately to know that the Word of God always remains higher than the words of their pastor. Granted, no church or community is perfect. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you will be able to extend grace to people instead of running away the first time they offend you. But most churches do not look like Calvary Temple–and thank God for that! Keep your eyes open for spiritually abusive situations; as those who have come out of an abusive environment are more prone to find a similar situation in a different form. But don’t become overly suspicious. And remember, you are not a slave to people. You are a slave to Christ alone. People will not be able to take advantage of you, your time or your resources if you set boundaries. Community is a wonderful part of life.Set your heart to enjoy community in its proper place and in a healthy way.

4. Bear someone else’s burden. And do it quietly. (Matt 6:3) One day, I looked around and realized that everyone else was dealing with or had dealt with some tragedy or heartbreak in their life. It was a revelation to me. I don’t know if I was simply maturing out of the teenage tendency of complete self-involvement, if I had suddenly been gifted with empathy or the Lord was teaching me an important lesson. Many of my dear friends had endured and were enduring the most tragic circumstances possible. Death, divorce, abuse, betrayal, abandonment, financial burdens and the crushing pressures of life. It is important to look beyond our own heartbreak and to look into the heartbreak of others. We are not suffering more; we may be only suffering a little differently. While it is common at Christmastime to be a do-gooder, I challenge you to meet someone’s need without broadcasting it. Do something without breathing a word to anyone else about it. Open your ears to the pain of others. Listen, remember, meet the need. And allow only heaven to be your witness.

5: Create new traditions. Maybe you can’t imagine Christmas without your parents, your siblings or the same house you were raised in. It’s time to change your mindset. The most wonderful Christmas traditions are yet to be discovered. Make new memories. Stop thinking that you’re living your second-best life until so-and-so gets a clue and leaves Calvary Temple. You can only control your own life (not the stupidity of others), so create new traditions to enjoy. No matter what the Christmas movies say, we live in an imperfect world. You will never have the movie-perfect Christmas, so enjoy the one you have!

6. Look forward to the future.  There will be a day with no more tears. There will be a day with no more cults and no more estrangements and no more discord. There will be a day when the only thing that matters is Jesus. Comfort one another with these words.

Friends, I don’t claim to have all the answers. If these words help even one person during this holiday season, I will rejoice. May your hearts be filled with thanksgiving and joy.

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Resource: Self-Elevated Little Popes

by Naomi

We have not given up on writing for this blog. While Brandon is wading through his various responsibilities of work and engineering studies, I will be taking on the majority of writing responsibilities of this blog. My personal notes have become more abundant than ever before. They are nearly book-length. I am attempting to bring them into more palatable length for future articles.

In the meantime, I wanted to pass along an article that a friend passed along to me. It is strikingly, impressively, dangerously applicable to Star Scott and his following at Calvary Temple. Keep in mind, this article was written more than 60 years ago. We are not fighting a new battle against “little popes.” These power-hungry souls have been in operation throughout the years of Christian history. Just as this danger is not new, our response is not new. We are compelled to dig deeper into the Word, to cling closer to Christ and be more desperate for the Spirit as our Teacher and Guide. 


(Arthur Pink, “Private Judgment” 1950)

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.” Matthew 23:8

In every generation, there are those of an officious spirit who aspire to leadership, demanding deference from their fellows. Such men insist upon unqualified subjection from their followers. Their interpretation of the Scriptures must not be challenged, their dictates are final. Everyone must believe precisely what they teach, and order all the details of his life by the rules of conduct which they prescribe–or else be branded as a heretic.

There have been, and still are, many such self-elevated little popes in Christendom, who deem themselves to be entitled to implicit credence and obedience, whose decisions must be accepted without question. They are nothing but arrogant usurpers, for Christ alone is the Master of Christians; and since all of His disciples are “brethren,” they possess equal rights and privileges.

“Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father–He who is in Heaven.” Matthew 23:9. This dehortation has ever been needed by God’s people, for they are the most part simple and unsophisticatedtrustful and easily imposed upon. In those verses, the Lord Jesus was enforcing the duty of private judgment, bidding believers to allow none to be the dictators of their faith, or lords of their lives.

No man is to be heeded in spiritual matters, any further than he can produce a plain and decisive, “Thus says the LORD” as the foundation of his appeal. To be in subjection to any ecclesiastical authority which is not warranted by Holy Writ, or to comply with thewhims of men–is to renounce your Christian freedom. Allow none to have dominion over your mind and conscience. Be regulated only by the teaching of God’s Word, and firmly refuse to be brought into bondage to “the commandments and doctrines of men.” Instead, “Stand fast in the liberty with which Christ has made us free,” yielding unreservedly to His authority alone.

God does not require the minds and consciences of His children to be enslaved by any ecclesiastical dominion. Each one has the right to exercise his own judgment.

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care . . . not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:2-3. Instead of lording it over God’s heritage, preachers are to be “examples to the flock”–personal patterns of good works, holiness, and self-sacrifice;models of piety, humility, and charity.

Love of power has been as common a sin in the pulpit, as love of money, and many of the worst evils which have befallen Christendom, have issued from a lusting after dominion and ecclesiastical honors. Such is poor human nature, that good men find it hard to keep from being puffed up and misusing any measure of authority when it is committed unto them, and from not doing more harm than good with the same. Pastors are to make self-abnegation, and not self-exaltation, their constant aim.

The right of private judgment does not mean that each Christian may be a law unto himself, and still less lord over himself. We must beware of allowing liberty to degenerate into license! No, it means the right to form our own views from Scriptures, to be in bondage to no ecclesiastical authority, and to be subject unto God alone. Two extremes are to be guarded against:
1. slavery to human authority and tradition, and
2. the spirit of self-will and pride.

Private judgment does not mean private imagination, but a deliberate conviction based on Holy Writ! Though I must not resign my mind and conscience to others, or deliver my reason and faith over blindfold to any church–yet I ought to be very slow in rejecting the approved judgment of God’s true servants. Self-conceit is to be rigidly restrained. Private judgment is to be exercised humbly, soberly, and impartially, with a willingness to receive light from any quarter.

Ponder the Word for yourself; but mortify the spirit of haughty self-sufficiency, and be ready to avail yourself of anything likely to afford you a better understanding of God’s truth. Above all, daily beg the Holy Spirit to be your teacher! And always accord your brethren the same right and privilege, which you claim for yourself.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~
This article is re-posted from Grace Gems.

You might want to read the whole of Pink’s very helpful 5 page article, “Private Judgment“.

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