Tag Archives: doctrine

Forgiveness is not a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card, Part 3 OF 5: NEW Testament

This is a five part series, authored by Brandon. Please read Part 1 and Part 2.

  

Let us move on to the New Testament to determine if God’s forgiveness changed in any way to mean “it never happened” after the cross.  As an example to stimulate our brains, how could God have inspired the recording of Peter’s denial of Christ in the Gospels thirty years after the fact if He had forgotten that it happened?  Food for thought.  The Old Testament and the New Testament act in harmony, and New Testament writers frequently quote from the Old Testament.  For example, Paul quotes David when he writes “Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin” (Romans 4:8, Psalm 32:2).  In such a case, the same exegetical principle applies: unless specifically stated by the New Testament author, the meaning of Romans 4:8 must mean what it meant in Psalm 32:2.  Paul understood David’s context, and quoted it within that context.  As a point of clarification, I understand that God wrote Romans 4 and Psalm 32 through Paul and David: the hermeneutical principle is that the Word is divinely inspired, but the authors could not lay aside their faculties while writing.  God did not set aside Paul’s deliberate thoughts when he penned Romans 4 just as He did not overtake David’s hand when he penned Psalm 32.  This means that David had a specific meaning in mind and Paul wanted to convey that meaning to his audience.  I don’t want to belabor the point, but what I am trying to say is that the doctrine of justification via imputation must be informed by understanding what David meant when he wrote “impute.”

 

To impute is to attribute something to a person vicariously, meaning that your standing before God is derived from a source other than yourself.  This is very different from “to impart” which is not a vicarious action, but rather a direct action that gives something to you that you can then call your own.  Imputation in Scripture has often been described as an accounting ledger, such that each line item (sin) has to be put somewhere because all sin demands a penalty. In fact, several translations interpret Romans 4:8 and Psalm 32:2 as “Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”  In David’s time under the Law, a type existed such that if any person sinned, a specific sin offering had to be made (Leviticus 4).  That animal was exchanged for that person’s sin, and the penalty of that sin (death) was laid on the animal instead of the person.  In this way, the guilt of the person was placed vicariously on the animal, and the animal vicariously paid the penalty for that person’s sin in place of the person.  This is the world in which David understood imputation, and he knew from the Law that each sin must be accounted for.  As it stands, a non-believer’s sin is on his own account. However, according to 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  What this means is that our sin was imputed to Christ on the cross, and Christ’s righteousness was imputed to us when we became new creatures.  When David wrote “Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin,” he meant “Blessed is the man who has no sin on God’s ledger account of his life.”

 

This is a critical concept, because as Protestants we believe that we are justified through imputation, whereas Catholics believe that we are justified through impartation, or the notion that the righteousness of Christ was imparted directly to us such that we literally are righteous as Christ is righteous.  The obvious problem with impartation is that Christians still sin, whereas the righteousness of Christ was sinless.  Protestants interpret justification as being through imputation: our sins were put on Christ’s account.  He paid the penalty for our sins.  In like fashion, His righteousness was vicariously placed on our account, in such a manner that we can approach God with Christ’s righteousness.  This provides an interesting distinction between “as though I never sinned” and “I really never sinned.”  By definition, “as though” refers to a vicarious position, which is consistent with imputation; whereas “I really never sinned” is a direct position that is consistent with impartation.  We will have to keep that distinction in mind as we press on.

 

Having developed the concept of imputation, the question must be asked, “When God forgave me, where did my sin go?”  It went to the cross of Christ.  While it might seem like a semantics game, the key point is that your sin did not vanish.  God knows exactly where it is.  It was placed on Christ’s account.  If you were to reject God and backslide, your sin would be back on your account and Christ’s righteousness would be taken off of your account.  This is the difference between God accepting us as though we never sinned and God accepting us because we never sinned.  You did sin.  That’s the point.  God certainly hasn’t forgotten your sin, rather He has removed it from you and sent it to a place where it will not be held against you; and He will not remember your sin during the Judgment, so long as you continue to rely on the finished work of Christ which bought your justification in God’s sight by the imputing of your sins on Christ’s account and Christ’s righteousness to your account.

 

This development of justification through imputation preserves the harmony of other Scriptures because it addresses the backsliding problem, whereas the notion that God can truly forget our sins in such a manner that in His sight our sin never originally occurred does not.  God tells us of the final judgment throughout Scriptures such as Ecclesiastes 12:14, Matthew 12:35, Romans 14, and 2 Corinthians 5:10.  All men must give an account for their deeds.  The notion that forgiveness indicates that the sin never originally occurred, such that it dissolved in Christmas past, would allow no venue for backsliders to give an account of the evil deeds that they committed before their salvation.  Certainly we understand that those deeds must be accounted for as well, which indicates that it is not possible for our sins to “have never originally occurred” in such a manner as to absolve us of them entirely.  That can’t truly happen until we are no longer capable of backsliding.

 

The backsliding problem faces no difficulty when considering that God’s forgiveness is demonstrated in justification through imputation. Our sins are currently on Christ’s account and not our own account.  As such, God does not hold them against us.  As long as we remain in faith, God chooses to not remember our sins in the sense that He can look at His ledger for your life and the column recording heavenly debts is empty, whereas the column recording heavenly credits has one entry: the righteousness of Christ.  But where did our sin go?  God can’t forget, and God must punish sin.  Because we did in fact sin, and that sin demands a penalty, God has imputed—attributed—our sins to Christ’s account.  But if we backslide, God reverses the exchange such that we lose the righteousness of Christ and our sins are re-added to our account.  Through this line of reasoning, we must affirm that God’s forgiveness makes it as though we did not sin, and we must deny that God’s forgiveness means the sin never happened.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

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!

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

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!

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The Crux of the Matter

Some people will wonder how we can call such a “nice church” these awful things. And sometimes I wonder how a church with identical basic beliefs (doctrine) as myself and a whole host of other non-denominational/Pentecostal churches could be so off. So controlling and cultic.

There is one very real perversion of Scripture on which the whole of their faulty doctrine lies. Essentially, it is the doctrine of salvation. Calvary Temple has confused what salvation really means, who is involved in one’s salvation, and what a personal relationship with Christ looks like.

What Salvation Is

Man is sinful. He has chosen to go his own way, to do his own thing and to transgress the Law of God. Sin permanently created a chasm–a great divide–between God and man. There is no possible way that sinful man can approach a holy God. Then Christ came. A perfect, sinless sacrifice. A go-between. A mediator. The One who paid the unpayable debt, by dying on a cross. By being bruised, beaten, tortured and crucified. By being rejected by the Father for sins that He did not commit. Because of what Christ did, we are able to turn away from sin (repent) and turn towards God. We are born again, made into a new creation in Christ. We are not only welcomed into the presence of God but delighted in!

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified  by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” Romans 5:8-11

This is a short summary of the greatest privilege in all eternity, and my intention is not to trivialize it by speaking very concisely on the matter. However, I must go on to how salvation is misunderstood and practiced at Calvary Temple.

Evidences of Salvation

There are two evidences of salvation:  (FYI – these are derived from the study of Scripture and also the fundamental truths of the Assembly of God denomination. Calvary Temple was formerly associated with the Assembly of God until the 1980’s, and still holds to their sixteen fundamental truths. This can be viewed on the What We Believe tab from Calvary Temple’s website).

The inward evidence of salvation is the direct witness of the Spirit. People do not tell you that you are saved. God tells you.

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Romans 8:16

The outward evidence to all men is a life of righteousness and true holiness. Spiritual fruit is not based on how many ministries you serve, how many hours you spend “up at church,” how many chairs you set up or break down, how much you remember of the latest “teaching” and whether or not you lose your job because you wanted to go to Africa for two weeks. Spiritual fruit is the outward evidence of the Holy Spirit’s influence in your life, by spiritual characteristics like love, joy, peace, patience, etc. These things will be observed by other saints and sinners, too.

“And that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Eph. 4:24

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Gal. 5:22-23

Salvation is an event in a person’s life. Then there is also the day-by-day walking of a Christian. This relationship is between you and God is about fellowship and communion. Adam and Eve’s sweet fellowship with God was interrupted by their sin. Christ has restored us to relationship. To hear and know His voice.

You have been given two things to hear God’s voice to you: The Word and the Spirit. The Word is infallible; God-breathed and without error. The voice of the Spirit will always be confirmed by the Word and will always lead you right or impress you to not go/do something which also lines up with the Word.

Herein lies the primary error of Calvary Temple. Spiritual leadership is not meant to be God’s voice to you. That is out of Biblical order. Spiritual leadership in the New Covenant is that of gentle shepherding and oversight. Shepherds help sheep to find spiritual food for themselves, for example, “there’s the pasture of the Word of God; go feast in it!” A man of God, a pastor, a church leader has two things that they are to be devoted to: study of the Word and prayer. This is so they can teach the Word accurately, which is one of their God-given functions within the church. This is not so that they can tell you where to go to college (Virginia, or REALLY close in Maryland), what career to have (whatever doesn’t take you away from church), who to marry (whoever is currently seen as spiritual), and when you can leave the church (NEVER. There’s nothing wrong with leaving a church; but if you want to leave this church, there’s something wrong with you).

You are not being spiritually “led,” you are being spiritually taken advantage of.  Your pastors no longer exist for the purpose of feeding the sheep; but rather, the sheep now exist for the purpose of feeding the pastors.  This is the epitome of what the apostle Peter warns against in his epistle!

“Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” 2 Peter 5:1-3

And you know what? It’s not sin to walk away from that sorry excuse of spiritual leadership. If your pastor does not point you to the Bible and encourage you to search it out for the purpose of questioning something that does not line up, you should leave. If you are afraid to question, if you think you’ll lose your salvation and be “shipwrecked in the faith” if you leave the church, that’s when you know… you really should leave. God is bigger than your church. In fact, God doesn’t need your cultic, controlling church leadership to keep you in His salvation. It’s probably leading you further and further into spiritual destruction.

Answering the Question of “Why?”

This is such a great salvation that God has given us. As I consider the doctrine of salvation and how it applies to individual believers, it causes me to ponder this. Why do people put the responsibility of their relationship with God on other people? Why do they depend on pastors to tell them what God says?

Here are a few possibilities.

1. Laziness. It’s so much easier to listen to someone else’s version of God’s will for your life, than to put in the daily work of personal Bible study and prayer. The self-disciplines of walking with Christ daily are hard. Difficult. Any day you can choose to get some extra sleep or read another book or watch another TV show rather than seeking God in prayer, searching out His Word and laboring to learn more about Him.

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

You know what’s easy? Reading a teaching transcript and quoting a “one-liner” in a small-group discussion. Listening to a teaching online. Reading the same chapter a day as everyone else in your church. That’s easy Christianity. Oh yeah, you look really spiritual and you can spout off with the best of them about what God is speaking (coincidentally, it is exactly the same as what Star Scott is speaking). But is it personal? Is it real? Is it unshakeable faith?

Calvary Temple members, I dare you to study. I dare you to learn. I dare you to seek truth and look at the Bible itself in context and without the filter of what your deacon says.  He probably doesn’t know what he’s talking about anyway. He’ll go ask the pastors and they’ll say to obey “because we said so” (On this Rock, Pt. 3) or something equally unscriptural.  And I dare you to really know God and see what happens.

2. Safety. When faced with the large life decisions such as college, career and marriage, it is tempting to lean on the advice (read: orders) of others who are more mature that yourself. But I say that if you have grown into adulthood and not yet learned to be certain of the voice of the Holy Spirit in your life, you are more of a spiritual infant that you would like to believe.

The idea of leaning exclusively on spiritual leadership for “counsel” (i.e. doing what they say no matter what the decision is) is very safe. If you really believe in their spirituality and thus their direct access to God, you are compelled to believe that God would not let you down—i.e. your spiritual leadership cannot be wrong. You assume incorrectly that if your leadership is wrong, God will take care of it.  Or as you might say, “It is our responsibility to obey our leaders.  If our leaders are wrong, God will at least bless us for obeying them.”  This is making the glaring assumption that God is in the business of fixing all the wrongs in the world and correcting every false shepherd by somehow striking them down with lightning; in reality, His Word commands you to determine if what you are hearing is from a false shepherd  (1 John 4:1). Don’t put your responsibility off on God, and assume that He’ll come through and do your job for you.

Here’s the deal: If it is safety to never hear God for yourself, to never be certain of the specific will of God outside of what your pastors tell you, then it is a false safety. It is a house built on the foundation of men, rather than God. It is shaky and uncertain, and when the storms of life come, you will be clinging to an unsteady hope. Floundering in the turbulence with no other assurance than “my pastor told me to do this, and I obeyed and surely God will bless that.” No. God is not obligated to bless your blind obedience to men. Someday your safety will be shaken. And found wanting.

3. Lack of personal responsibility. The only person who is responsible for your spiritual walk is you.

“..building yourselves up in the most holy faith,” Jude 20

From the Garden of Eden until today, it remains the same. Your choices to obey or disobey God are your own. Guess who answers to God on Judgment Day? Each person. Individually. For their works.

“So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” Romans 12:14

If God tells you to do something and you refuse on the basis that your spiritual leadership says differently, it’s still disobedience to God. And you will be judged for it. You cannot abdicate your personal spiritual responsibility as a Christian and disciple of God, for any reason, and be innocent of judgment for disobeying God’s voice.  When God points His finger at you during the final judgment and asks why you disobeyed His commands, you will not be able to bring your pastor to the stand to plead guilty for you.

 “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even though we, or an angle from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” Galations 1:6-10

The fact is there is no trembling before the Lord at Calvary Temple.  O, you tremble at the thought of hearing your name from the pulpit.  You tremble at becoming a second rate citizen if your kid chooses to leave the church.  You tremble at the thought of being “deceived” enough to speak out against the leadership.  But there is no need to tremble before God, and to fearfully determine how you will honor Him.  That’s all determined for you.  Come to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night, Thursday night, Friday night, and 3 out of 4 Saturday nights. Don’t get caught hanging out with your family members that left the church and CERTAINLY don’t say anything stupid about leadership to the people who are still there. If you hear something stupid about leadership,  just “go up the chain” with it so that it gets dealt with.  In small groups just talk about one of Pastor’s clever one-liners and how it taught you something you didn’t know about yourself.  O, and every month at your home fellowship meeting talk about the sin you overcame last month (never the sin you are dealing with now and will share with them next month).  In this way, they have sterilized your need to walk fearfully before God for yourself.

“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Phil. 2:12

4. Ignorance. Calvary Temple has created the perfect environment of Biblical ignorance. After convincing people from babyhood to adulthood that they are “so much more well-taught on doctrine than most Christians,” they have created people who measure themselves by themselves and subsequently have an enormously overinflated view of their own spirituality. Guess what? Listening to Star Scott’s teachings doesn’t make you well-taught. Star Scott’s ideas of doctrine are misguided at best, and wrong at worst. Yet, because of the lack of real information, CT members are convinced that this is how real Christians live and this unhealthy dependence and control by spiritual leadership is somehow exactly like the early church lived. FYI – it’s not. At all.

Conclusion

You might be wondering how these things apply to salvation.  I find the doctrine of salvation to be the hinge on which the door of CT’s fallacies hang. God has sent His only Son to save you from your sins, to reconcile you to Himself and to give you the blessing of relationship with Him. To depend on fallible humans-even your spiritual leadership-to be God’s voice to you is irresponsible and not what God intended for you. What is the use of walking in the Spirit if you never actually do what He told you?

Or maybe the better question would be: if you have really become a Christian, why would you choose to obey man rather than God?

~Naomi

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,