H  O  M  E          
Theological, Doctrinal, and Spiritual Musing - and whatever other else is on my mind when I notice that I haven't posted in a while.
  • - Endorsed
  • - Indifferent
  • - Contested
I Affirm This
The Nashville Statement
Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
My complete profile...
The Buzz

Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich

His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole

[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
- C-Train

This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos

Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead

There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
Email Me
Friday, March 31, 2006
Turning Points...

Warning: Extremely long post!

My mother grew up on a farm in rural Manitoba. She attended the one room, school-house along with every other kid in the community. The teacher was a Catholic nun, which suited the dead Catholicism of the community. By grade five she had dropped out of school and was living with her sister in the big city – “Winnipeg.”

My father, a Dutch immigrant, came to Canada with his family when he was a young boy – he too came from a dead Catholic tradition – though by the time he had met my mother he wall all but an outright atheistic. By the time myself and my siblings came along, my father had already decided that God was the invention of man, and Christianity was something worthy of scorn.

My mother always held to an ignorant, superstitious faith – having understood that Jesus was the Christ who died and rose again to save sinners – but being entirely ignorant of the bible, and somewhat inundated with Catholic error, her understanding of justification was – “do good and you might go to heaven.”

We never talked about God per se, though we were allowed to pursue faith if we wanted – we were certainly never encouraged in that direction.

I recall, at the age of three or four my mother asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up – and I said I wanted to be a priest. The first turning point in my life was the day that my mother told me about death – that everyone died. I was three, and terrified, and the only balm for my terror was the carrot of heaven – dangled as it were before me - a hope that I might not have to go to hell.

Of course, even with my limited knowledge of Catholicism, I knew enough to reason that surely - priests must go to heaven! And it may be that this influenced my aspirations at the time – but alongside that I recall clearly that I had an interest in Jesus. I even asked my mother if I could become Jewish because Jesus was Jewish. I wanted to be like Him. My mother didn’t seem too impressed by that – but I didn't care - saying as I did that I would become a Jew with or without her blessing as soon as I was old enough!

It is funny to look back on that sort of stuff now – the naivety of my very early youth. This same boy I am describing, upon being sent to his room, once prayed for God to make his mother call him down and stop the punishment. The prayer came in the form of an ultimatum – God, if you are real, make my mom let me come downstairs – I am going to count to ten, and if you don’t answer my prayer, I will not believe in you anymore. One… Two… and so on. Of course God didn’t heed my prayer, and I decided that I would show him – I think I said it out loud – “Fine then. I don’t believe in You!” But I cried and cried after saying that.

We moved out of the big city when I was seven. My father had purchased a business in a rural, French speaking community in southern Manitoba. While living there, someone came to our door one day and asked if any of the children would be interested in attending Sunday School. They would provide the bus - picking them up at the door, and dropping them off afterwards.

The community we lived in was entirely Catholic - there was no evangelical church, and to be sure - our family was so ignorant of the bible and religion that we didn’t really see any real difference between evangelicals and Catholics - such was our ignorance! Had we known that evangelicalism was another name for "protestant" I think I would not have been allowed to go. We may not have known much - but we did know that protestants were enemies of the true Catholic faith.

My father was polite but firmly told the fellow that none of us were interested. Except that I happened to be near the door at the time – and hearing the conversation I chirped up – “I am interested!”

If you knew my father, you would understand that this was a very big breach of protocol – it made him look foolish, and that was not something you ever wanted to do – yet I spoke before I knew what I was doing – and my father quickly back pedaled. So it was agreed – the fellow would show up with a bus on Sunday Mornings and pick me up. I had four other siblings – but I was the only one going to Sunday School (though eventually my older sister began to tag along).

To be sure, we went to another town on Sundays, and as soon as the service began we were herded into the basement of some dank old church – where we were taught a whole bunch of old testament stories. Most of them I knew already, because my Kindergarten teacher from Winnipeg had made a point of reading to us from a big book of bible stories every single day (back when such things were permissible in Canada).

Eventually a “Billy Graham” crusade came through the area. I don’t think Billy actually came to town – but some representative came, and distributed those little red new testaments to everyone who prayed the salvation prayer and “signed the card.” Now – having my own bible seemed like the coolest thing in the world to me. My Mom and Dad didn’t even have a bible! I said the prayer on the card, and signed it – and was “welcomed into the family of Christ” – but frankly, I had never heard the gospel even once. I knew I was a sinner, and although I was assured by the adults that saying this prayer would get me into heaven – even at my age I was quite skeptical. But I wanted the bible – so I said the prayer.

At around this time my father’s business went bankrupt - someone actually sabotaged the building – setting off explosive charges on a propane tank the size of a semi trailer. The resulting explosion leveled my father’s business – and put our family immediately into bankruptcy (my father didn’t have insurance for that sort of thing). It is an amazing story, but I won’t bother with it now (if you are really interested you can dig through the autobiographical links in the left column for more details.)

Immediately following this explosion-induced bankruptcy, our family moved back to the big city. My father found work as a janitor, and our standard of living fell through the floor.

The only connection I had with anything spiritual for the first year or so after that was my association with the Boy Scouts of Canada (I was in “cubs”) – God wasn’t spoken of directly, though there was a time of prayer.

Later we moved from that part of the city to another part – and there I was invited to attend a weekly outreach program at a local school called “Stockaders” – I am not sure who put it on, but we would play games in the school gym, and pray, and talk a little about the Lord.

It was through this group that I was invited to attend Sunday School again at the evangelical church who sponsored the stockader program at the school. It turned out that one of the ladies who attended that church lived close to us, and so she volunteered to take myself and some of my cousins to church with her each Sunday. Once again I was given a bible in exchange for signing a card – but this time it was a KJV – Old and New Testament! It was a cheap-o hard cardboard cover made to look sort of like leather - at the time it seemed so mature! I remember trying to read it and giving up as the English was all weird sounding. They also gave me a paper back NIV New Testament – which was much easier to read – but frankly, wasn’t as cool looking as the KJV.

Of course, Sunday school meant yet another dank cellar, where some seemingly disinterested teacher taught us more Old Testament stories. By this time I wanted to know more about Jesus. So once in a while I would stay upstairs when the kids were dismissed (to go downstairs to Sunday School) – but I couldn’t even tell you what the preacher looked like – all I remember was that he spoke for a long time, and once in a while his sermons would convict me.

I don’t know how things would have turned out had my cousin not been stealing money from the purse of that same kind lady who gave us rides to church every Sunday. I found out about it after the fact – and I was devastated. How could they steal from this dear and kind lady? Don’t mistake me – I was as much a willing thief as anyone who was living in poverty – but I knew enough not to steal from nice people – and especially if it was blatantly obvious who the culprits were. My cousins however, were either very stupid, or simply didn’t care. I suspect a bit of both. So one day I showed up at her doorstep to go to Sunday School and found a hand written note that said plainly that until someone confessed to their crime, there would be no more rides to Sunday School.

Now – that might seem harsh – but my cousins weren’t stealing pennies – they were going into her wallet and stealing lots of money – and doing so on a weekly basis. I found out about this at the door that morning. My memory is cloudy, I think she may have seen me out there and even opened the door and rebuked me – not knowing my own ignorance and innocence in the matter. Whatever the case, I was hurt, and disgusted at my cousins. They laughed about it – and were happy to “get out of” having to go to Sunday School. I think their mother put them up to it – I don’t recall them ever enjoying it – and as I have said, they didn’t seem too concerned about hurting this lady, or making things right.

So it was that the door closed on my religious pursuit for the next eight or nine years.

Then came another turning point in my life. The day I knew I was going to hell for sure.

Recall that I grew up more or less superstitious (doctrinally speaking). I “knew” that salvation depended on a few things – first, you had to be good, and second, you had to be sure that you didn’t commit one of the big sins.

Premarital “indulgence” was one of those sins that I “knew” would send you straight to hell. Even though I already had three bibles, I hadn’t read much in them – and my ignorance was profound. Being full of “youthful vigor” and not unattractive it wasn’t long before I found myself weeping uncontrollably one morning in my seventeenth year.

The day before I had “sealed my fate” as it were, having given into youthful lust and so had certainly, according to my superstition, damned myself. Convinced that my salvation was now impossible, I determined (after a time of inconsolable mourning) to get on with life - and at least enjoy the ride to hell as best I could.

From that day forward I gave up “trying not to sin” – what was the point? My heart quickly hardened and over the course of the next two or three years I fell into the drug culture, crime, and flagrant debauchery.

I moved out at 18, and being free from the last of my moral shackles – I began to pursue with vigor and abandon every pleasure my wiles and circumstance made available to me.

In this pursuit it happened that I one day suffered a bad “break up” with a girl I had been going with. Being hopelessly insecure I jumped at the possibility of reconciliation when she suggested that I should stop calling her and “go become a missionary” so that I wouldn’t call her any more. I thought that if I went out and did become a missionary - perhaps I would demonstrate the profound nature of my “love” and she would feel guilty for dumpting me and take me back. I was an idiot teenager - what can I say?

This happenstance however, heralded the next turning point in my “religion.”

Immediately after she dumped me thus - I flipped open the phonebook, and looked up churches in the yellow pages. I called the first one that had the word “missionary” in its ad – and the pastor answered and arranged for an interview either that day or the next - I really can't remember.

It was at that interview that I first heard the gospel. Now, I had presumed I could fake out this pastor – convince him that I was a Christian – then get sent somewhere cool – like Africa – where I could do some good deeds and come back worldly, and thus more attractive to my ex-girlfriend. His first question however derailed that plan - as he wanted to "hear my testimony."

I wasn’t familiar with any of the lingo – “testimony?” He explained that he wanted to know when I was “saved.” Saved? “When did you become a Christian?” – I still didn’t get it. “You mean when was I baptized? I was baptized as a baby! I have always been a Christian – I am Catholic!” I explained.

At that point he didn’t give me a big doctrinal lecture about the differences between Catholicism and Evangelical Christianity – he simply asked if I had ever heard the gospel. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about – so he explained it to me.

He started off by showing me in scripture that the wages of sin were death – that is, that the soul that sins shall perish. That even the smallest or slightest sin condemns a person to hell.

It took about ten minutes or so – but he had his bible right there and let me read these verses for myself. I knew the bible was true – In my upbringing I had been taught that the bible was sacred, but this was the first time anyone had shown me that the word of God actually condemned me for my sin. I had always felt there was some “do good” clause – but this guy had me convinced from scripture itself that I was lost.

Prior to that I had always held out some hope that perhaps, just maybe, I could do some great and good thing to redeem myself in God’s eyes – but this hope was utterly removed when God’s word condemned me utterly.

I will always recall that moment - the moment I knew that I was truly condemned. I was near frozen with fear. What if I tripped and fell down the stairs and died – I was going to go to hell if I died – and suddenly my life was very dear to me. But if I had felt bad upon losing my “innocence” at 17 – this was much worse – God’s word had made this truth so real to me, I could feel hell licking at my heels.

Into the dread of that moment I managed to squeak out something like, “How can anyone go to heaven then?” – I knew that everyone I knew was a sinner, how could anyone go to heaven if sin sends you to hell? My question wasn’t one of concern for others, but of concern for myself. I was really asking – how can I be saved if I am a sinner?

The pastor then explained that Christ died for my sins. That Christ took the sins of all believers to the cross and that God punished those sins there – and that everyone who calls on the name of Christ – asking Him to take their sins to the cross – and believes that Christ will do just as He promised to do – that person will be saved by Christ. This was the way of salvation – and it was the reason Christ died on the cross.

I had never heard that before. Oh I am sure that people mouthed the words in my ears in the past – but I tell you – I had never heard it. Suddenly the cross made sense – it was as if a million pieces suddenly fell into place, and I saw with clarity a picture that couldn’t be comprehended only moments ago.

The pastor was silent as I took this all in. He then asked me if I was willing to give my life to Christ in this way – to trust him to save me instead of my good works. I couldn’t fathom the idea of being a “Christian” – Some part of me knew that “giving my life to Christ” meant that I would have to be willing to do whatever Christ wanted me to do. I knew deep down that this couldn’t be done with my lips – it had to be done with my heart – I had to mean it.

I felt like a man standing between life and death. The next step I took with damn me with all certainty – or save me from that damnation with as much certainty. I don’t understand how I did it – but somehow I believed. My heart spoke to me then as though it had a voice – “I will believe!” it said – and I prayed to Christ, and asked Him to forgive me for all my sin – then I asked Him to come into my life and rule it – to save me from my sins.

Something happened at that moment that is more profound that I can ever explain – but it was like a wind of cleanness blew right through me – and as it blew through me it cleansed me from all my sin. I suddenly felt like I could die right then and there – and I would surely go straight to heaven. I would love to say that the burden of all my sins fell to the floor – but I can’t even say that – the burden of my sin wasn’t there – I felt as clean as a man can be.

I wonder to this day what my face must have looked like. I was so filled with joy, I tried to explain it to the pastor – this profound, unearthly experience – I didn’t really know what was happening – and inquiring of the pastor what this was that I was going through he said – that is the Holy Spirit.

I walked home – I was too elated to take a bus – within a few steps of the church I literally jumped up and clicked my heals together!

The next morning however, I sinned – and the sensation departed. Like a junkie who comes off a fix, I sat there trembling and certain that I had, by knowingly sinning that morning, messed up my salvation. I knew I shouldn't have done it - and the conviction of sin was a flaming wall ten stories tall - but for some reason, I stiffened my neck and sinned anyway. Immediately the clean feeling was replaced with dread.

The pastor phoned later that day – but I was ashamed at having lost my salvation forever (such was my understanding) so I made excuses not to come and see him – and in the coming days I did so many times. Eventually I pretended I was my room-mate and said that I had moved away and that I (the pretend room-mate) didn’t know where Daniel had moved to. I even lied and said that he (me) had stolen my (the pretend room-mate’s) television when he left.

I turned back to a life of sin after that – but it wasn’t the same. Prior to this I could sin with ease – but now, even though I was convinced that I could never be saved again – I still found it offensive to sin. I knew I was sinning in a way I never had before – I was sensitive to it – and I literally had to train myself to sin again – and even then I could never fully ignore the guilt of it. I knew that when I died and went to hell – I would still love Christ – even if I was a useless wretched sinner – I would still love Him. I didn’t care how inconsistent that was.

I got married in a Lutheran church about six or seven years later. My wife was a Lutheran by birth – but she wasn’t saved, having never heard the gospel in all her time at church (which was only at Christmas, Easter, weddings, and funerals). Her family wasn’t saved either. We were interviewed by the pastor and he wanted to know if I was a Christian – he never thought to ask if my wife was – since she was a church member, it was assumed that she was saved. I gave him the gospel top to bottom – leaving out the part about how I lost my salvation. He was convinced and we were married.

My wife describes the first five years of our marriage as a “living hell” – I would like to disagree with her – but I have to agree, I was almost impossible to live with.

I had lied to her about every single aspect of my life. She truly married a stranger – the only thing I was careful not to mask was my personality. I was always “me” even if the me she had dated and become engaged to had an entirely made up history.

Frankly, had we been Catholics, she could have had the marriage annulled years later simply because she truly married a lie.

But it was around the fifth year of our marriage that the next turning point came in my walk with God. I come into contact with a genuine born again believer – not the kind that warms the pews on Sunday, then lives like the world the rest of the week – but the kind that lives out his faith all the time and in every way.

He was my martial arts instructor.

He was always talking about God – and since it was an atheist friend of mine who had dragged me into joining this martial arts club – we would always laugh about how absolutely brainwashed this guy was. It didn’t make any sense – he was university educated – even brilliant – yet he continued to cling to this religious superstition. By this time I had fallen so far away from the Lord that I was openly denying Him. I couldn’t deny Him in my heart – but I certainly could with everything else – and I did.

My martial arts instructor however wasn’t phased by my cantankerous ridicule of his faith – instead he challenged me in all that I thought I believed. We got onto the discussion of homosexuality one day – and I said something like “Why would God create homosexuals then condemn them for being homosexuals?” – since everyone knew that ten percent of the population was genetically ordained to be homosexual. He point blank rejected my “common knowledge” as fact – and challenged me to demonstrate to him through whatever scientific method I chose that homosexuality was anything more than a moral choice. This was his manner with me. I would show what an idiot he was according to common knowledge – and he would challenge me to verify that the “common knowledge” was actually factual. Again and again – as I did the research I was thwarted. homosexuality was not genetic. homosexuality did not occur naturally in all species. The instance of homosexuality was far less than ten percent – arguably being less than even one percent.

When I could not belittle his beliefs from science, I began to challenge his interpretation of scripture. Where does it say that homosexuality is wrong? Leviticus? Let’s see that verse. Yeah – well Jesus never said anything about it. What’s this – Peter writes that the Spirit of Christ was speaking through the old testament prophets and Moses was a prophet – thus Christ Himself condemns homosexuality? Fine - you win with homosexuality. But I don’t think it is right for you to judge them – doesn’t the bible say not to judge people? What do you mean context? Oh.


One day, I suppose I began to frustrate him, and he finally said, “Look Daniel, I would love to instruct you out of all your error – but if you want to talk to me about scripture – you really should read if first. You never know what you are talking about, and frankly, until you do, you really don’t have a leg to stand on.”

Now, of all the things I admired about myself – my intellect was the crown jewel. I alone of all my extended family (from near 50 grandchildren) had graduated high school. I put myself through university and then college – I was “smart” and I knew it – and this condescending remark hit me where I was soft.

I began to read the bible (I bought a “good news” bible) – not to learn anything, but to brush up so that I could rub his nose in it. Of course with that motive, I didn’t last long.

This was where the next turning point in my faith came. My martial arts instructor was driving me home one day, and trying to share the gospel, and I had had enough. I had been reading the bible a bit, and it was re-awakening in me the guilt of my sin. So as he once again brought the conversation to Christ I simply said I already knew the gospel. He didn’t seem convinced – so I shared the gospel top to bottom with him, and told him how I had given my life to Christ a decade earlier.

He was stunned. Even struck dumb. For a few long breaths he was silent – then when he spoke there was such joy in his voice I couldn’t believe it. I had told him everything – including how I had “lost” my salvation forever.

He politely, though a little too gleefully, explained that I hadn’t “lost my salvation” – that if my salvation was genuine, it could not be lost – it was an eternal possession – you either have it eternally, or you do not – that you cannot lose something eternal once you have it. Likewise, since I had done nothing to “purchase it” I could do nothing to lose it. I didn’t buy it. I knew I was still lost – but he began to speak scripture to me – and by the time I got home, I had hope again.

Of course, I had fallen so far, that faith seemed impossible to me. I had trained myself for so long to ignore those promptings inside me that I felt I could never have faith to believe like I did that day in that pastor’s office – to believe with all my heart. I began to read the bible – but I doubted it. These writers were ignorant and unsophisticated. They didn’t know about modern science or evolution – I began to pick out the parts of scripture that could be believed, and ignored the parts that I reasoned were full of error by way of primitive ignorance.

I didn’t grow at all.

It was around that time however that the next turning point came – and this one was perhaps the biggest and most profound.

My martial arts instructor was the son of a pastor. One day he told me that his younger brother had just received the “call” to become a pastor. I wasn’t sure what he was on about – but he explained that God “called” his brother to be a pastor – that is, God impressed it upon his brother’s heart to leave his job and become a pastor. His brother, regarding the office of the pastorate to be too high a calling to enter into whimsically “threw out a fleece” and waited to see what the Lord would do.

I didn’t understand what it meant to throw out a fleece – but my friend explained that you asked the Lord to verify the call in a way that would be unmistakable. His brother chose a way that was impossible – so flaky and whacky that it could never happen in a billion lifetimes. He didn’t tell a soul his prayer – yet the very next day God answered it 110%.

I won’t bother with the details – but it was unbelievable. Had it been anyone else telling me this I would have suspected that it was an entirely fabricated affair – or at the very most a wild, unscrupulous, exaggeration. But the prayer had been answered in a way that was entirely verifiable.

You would think that I would have been filled with wonder and joy, but it was a death knoll to me. By this time I was convinced that I might still stand a chance at being saved – but I was not convinced that God really heard my prayers, and whatever faith I had, couldn’t be measured even with a micrometer. To hear that God answered this man’s prayer in such an obvious and indisputable way – it was as if God was saying, “this is what it looks like when I really love someone.” My own pitiful relationship with God came into full relief, and I was sick with doubt – though I took it all in stride on the outside – yet within I crumbled like a thrice dried leaf in a rusty mulcher.

That night I prayed like I did that first time in the pastor’s office. Not to be saved – but I prayed for faith to believe. I knew I didn’t have it – and for the first time I knew that I couldn’t make myself have faith by simply wanting it. I had tried, honestly tried, to generate faith. I rehearsed the facts, called them facts – believed them to be true as much as anyone believes anything to be true – yet even though I could acknowledge these things as being true – at the same time I could not believe them to be true “for me.”

So I had it out with God that night. I prayed and prayed, and finally came to that great awareness that I could do nothing, that God would have to do it if it was going to be done – and that if God didn’t do it, I could say on that last day that I had given Him the full reign to give me faith – but that He had dropped the ball.

It was a rash and childish prayer I suppose – but it was a grueling prayer too. I shed tear after tear into a well of despair – I wanted faith with all my being – and I wanted it so bad that I was even willing to put it in God’s hands – having failed to achieve it with my best efforts.

The next morning I woke up from a profound dream (see my autobiographical links for more details) and found to my amazement that I was suddenly hungry for scripture - I was “alive.”

I hadn’t felt that wonderful cleansing wind like I felt in the pastor’s office – though I begged for that the night before – yet something had changed...

That night in prayer I had determined before God to read His word and believe it – trusting that God would provide me with faith according to Romans 10:17. That morning I could have devoured the bible on a plate – I ran from my sleep to pull out my bible – and I began to read it and I found belieiving it to be the most natural thing in the world. Naturally I started at Genesis 1:1.

Scripture was suddenly alive! Every inconsistency that previously had plagued and encumbered my reading – disappeared. I can’t really explain it – but scripture suddenly was simple and easy to understand. Everything fit into place like a puzzle, and the joy! I could read for hour after hour.

My prayer time suddenly was long and searching – I could pray for hours. One thing I noticed – sin was sin again. I suddenly was sensitive to my own sin again, but this time I had scripture to show me how to deal with my failures. I began to confess sin, and trust that the Lord had truly forgiven me my confessed sins.

It was a sort of wonderful honeymoon that lasted for five or six years, saved my marriage – nay, absolutely transformed my marriage and family life – and set my heart to ministry.

The next turning point would have been when I had come to see my need for fellowship with other Christians. I hadn’t joined myself to a church, nor had I submitted myself to Christ in the matter of baptism – two things I was under sore conviction about.

My wife and I joined a church and within months I was volunteering in the youth ministry. To be sure - I hated working with youth. Not these youth – but in general. I don’t know what I was thinking, but a need came up, and I seemed to have the skills needed to fill the need – and so (trembling) I offered myself as a candidate for that ministry.

I won’t lie – I truly felt that I was not worthy of the ministry. Oh, how my heart trembled under the idea of being responsible for these youth in any way. The pastor of the church felt certain that I was the man for the position – but I felt that I wasn’t worthy of it – thinking that I was surely insane for having even dared to offer myself to the ministry. Yet the pastor thought it was a perfect fit, and I soon found myself ministering to these youth in a lesser capacity.

Strangely enough – almost immediately I loved these kids. If you knew me before you would drop your jaw in awe – but seriously, I loved them, and I suddenly found myself paternally concerned for their spiritual growth.

It was only about six or eight months into this ministry that both pastors resigned. There was corruption in the leadership (not in the pastors, but in the other elders). The pastors had tried unsuccessfully for over a year to bring this corruption to discipline – but the church constitution was constructed in such a way as to utterly insulate the elders from this discipline. After a year of trying to work around it the Senior pastor resigned, and the associate pastor resigned as well.

The whole thing came out and when the elders in question refused to step down, many in the congregation felt inclined to resign from membership. My wife and I were amongst this group.

It was the most difficult decision we ever had to make – and I recall fasting over it for three days – but there was nothing to be done for it. The only thing I was really concerned about was who would take the youth group?

As it turns out, the youth group fell apart – and with it my heart. I couldn’t stay in fellowship with this church for the sake of the youth group – but I thought, I could continue meeting with them at my house until the church started up its own youth group. By now most of those attending the youth group were young adults – and we felt there was nothing untoward about like minded Christians meeting for fellowship.

I should mention this wasn’t your pizza and pop style youth group – where we simply got them off the street for an hour a week – this was a serious group of believers who met to sing, pray, and especially study scripture.

When we began to meet at my house we called it the “Renegade Bible Study” – each week we sang songs, prayed together, and did a John MacArthur Bible study. This went on for about a year before the other church started up a youth group again. At that point we lost some of the younger people – but a core group of young adults – now college age students, continued to meet weekly for the next couple of years for a time of song, prayer and study.

Those of us who left the old church formed a new church. We were Baptists after all (haha) - so I suppose it was almost expected of us. Nevertheless we had enough of a group to form a new church, and so we did - calling these same two pastors who had resigned to be the pastors of our new church.

It was about a year or so later that we purchased a church building. The younger of the two pastors resigned to start a house church - and the older one stayed on to train a new pastor - when the new pastor had been there a month, the old pastor resigned, but stayed on as a member of the congregation - teaching bible studies and occasionally preaching.

Yet it had been around the time that I entered into this youth ministry that another turning point came in my spiritual life - I had begun to attend a “shepherd’s college” – a ministry that trained men for full time work in Christian ministry.

Three years later I felt that perhaps God would use me in the pulpit, and so I pursued and entered into a “personal mentorship” with that same senior pastor who had retired from the pulpit. His "retirement" wasn't from ministry, but rather into a "pastor of pastors" ministry. I have been in this mentorship now for two years – and the anticipation is that I will become a pastor.

It was (in fact) because of this personal mentoring that a new and significant turning point once again came in my life.

After four years of shepherd’s college, and a year of personal mentoring under a gifted and thoroughly experienced pastor – I was asked to preach in a church!

I prepared for that first sermon for weeks, but especially in the week prior to preaching. I was in prayer constantly that week and fasting like crazy; above all this I strained as much as a man can strain - to keep myself absolutely spotless from sin.

Now, you might say – hey, you’re a Christian! Aren’t you supposed to be keeping yourself spotless all the time anyway?

Well, yes I am. But I had become rather comfortable in my Christianity by this time. I had come to a place in my walk where I had dealt with more or less all of my sinful habits - I had trained myself to be suppress the desire to sin when it came up - and with the exception of some "strongholds" I had more or less come to a place of "rest." Not that wonderful rest from sin that scripture portrays - rather a settled laziness that comes from wearing yourself out suppressing sin on a daily basis.

I had trained myself to suppress sin as soon as any temptation arose – and in the strength of this "skill" I managed to free myself from all sorts of sinful habits. In fact, my Christianity had become a series of "good habits" loosely tied together through a sort of "Romans Six" reckoning - at least that was what I had convinced myself. The end result (at least regarding external exprestions of sin) was that I wasn't really struggling with sin anymore.

Not that there was less sin in my life - but that I began to rest in those areas where I had had "victory" - and silently fretted about those areas where I could not gain the victory. The outside of my cup was starting to look pretty clean - but coinciding with this external sheen, was a realization that I had only really dealt with the sin that "didn't matter."

I didn't like swearing anymore, so I didn't have any trouble with corrupt communication. Oh, occasionally I would say something off color - but by and large I was a right speaking fellow. I quit drinking alcohol - just to be safe - but frankly I hadn't really been drinking all that much lately anyway. I quit television, which was perhaps one of the best things I could have ever done for my faith - I quit all sorts of things in fact - the list is profound to me, since at some point they all seemed so crucial to my life. Never-the-less, all I had really done was get rid of (as best I could) every weight that was hindering my walk.

But that week as I prepared to preach for the first time - I brought my entire awareness to bear on the problem of residual sin in my life. Not the external expression - but the internal reality: my motives, my thought life – that whole week long I brought everything into the captivity of my will – if spirituality was a muscle – I remained clenched like a quivering fist all week long.

When that Sunday came, I came into the pulpit trembling to speak before God in Christ a message for his lambs – profoundly aware that I had done all I was able to keep myself from sin – and I preached a powerful sermon on sin (it had been my constant thought all week, after all). Upon stepping down from the pulpit I felt that I had discharged my service to God to the utmost of my ability, and I was even glad to have been used by God in that capacity.

But a funny thing happened on the way home.

As I mused over the past week I suddenly came to realize that my most profound effort – and I mean it when I say profound – my most profound effort to deal with internal sin, did not do away with it, neither had it lessened it's power in my life one iota. My all out, hard won, unprecedented suppression, while it produced a lessened sense of guilt because there was less outward sin to confess - yet it in no way affected me internally. Nothing in me had changed – I had simply given my best effort to keep myself from sin – and my best effort hadn’t changed a thing about the inside of my cup. Still within me was a desire to sin that I had to either suppress or release.

It was on that ride home that I began to fully realize - to my utter horror – that I could not clean the inside of my cup. I realized that suppression of sin doesn't clean the inside of the cup at all - it simply cleans the outside – the inside of my cup would remain filthy no matter how I railed against sin.

I suddenly understood that suppression doesn't make you have sweet water bubbling up from within – but rather temporarily corks the bitter water that is coming up from within. It was as if you plucked the apples off an apple tree as soon as they began to form - and then hung oranges on the limbs - and by continually doing so you insisted that this was in fact an orange tree - but the sprouts (no matter how you might suppress them) bore witness to the tree.

I was still in the bondage to sin, and all my efforts, while they may have made me look like Christ on the outside to some degree - certainly weren't making me be like Christ on the inside. This was the first time perhaps that I had a real, fundamental understanding of the power of sin – nay – of my own bondage -to- that power.

All my external holiness amounted to a hill of beans. I taught myself Greek – what of it? I read the bible thrice every year – so what? My understanding of the Christian condition seemed unparalleled amongst my peers – what pride! Had any of this saved me from the bondage to sin?

Now -- don't get me wrong -- I am the first to preach from Romans six – dead to sin. Amen – a thousand times Amen. I regarded Romans six as something sacred – the Holy Grail of scripture – here was the answer, clearly stated, but for some reason obscured and clumsy in my understanding. I knew that “freedom from sin” meant I was supposed to reckon myself dead to the sin, and alive to God. And in the strength of suggested reasoning I had managed to free myself from all sorts of sinful habits (giving God all the glory of course) – and in this way I managed to purge from my life some of my worst sinful habits. But this "old man" was -NOT- powerless, as scripture was saying, but was in fact full of power, and all I had ever done was suppress that power. It wasn't rendered powerless - rather I had learned along with Plato and humanism in general - that if I were willing, I could positively reinforcement better behavior in myself - except when I did it, I dressed it up as something spiritual.

I had become, but only just then began to realize - a Pharisee.

Not unlike a good Jew, or even a pious Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu - I had identified something of my fallen condition - and through good habits and hard effort I had trained myself to automatically suppress any wicked desire that came up from within.

I had become the “model” Christian – except that it was all hinging on autosuggestion, positive reinforcement, and a profound hypocrisy that thanked God for doing in me what really was my own personal effort. Really, I was doing it all – and giving God credit for it.

So when I suddenly understood that I was a big faker and a hypocrite – I began to slack off. Oh, I still read the bible and prayed – but my bible reading became a trickle –taking an entire year to read the bible cover to cover, and praying no more than half an hour at a time. I would still confess my sin – but it began to be very generic – I am a “sinner” etc.

At a time when you would expect my ministry to whither and decrease, instead it was flourishing. I felt like in spite of my wretchedness I was miles ahead of my contemporaries - a “rising star” – yet because of my inability to have true victory of the source of sin in my life - I felt myself to be an utter hypocrite.

Truly, I had dealt with all the little things. I didn’t smoke, drink, swear, or look at porn. I stopped watching television, and we homeschooled our children. I gave up everything that took me away from God – yet I was no closer to the Lord than I had been at the start. I could see God in my life in the same way that a person sees the wind – by the evidence of what the wind does – so too, I knew that God was working in me, but I had a hunger for righteousness that wasn’t being slaked by all my personal effort. Had you asked me about a "personal witness" of the Holy Spirit I would have described this sort of thing to you - but I really didn't have any internal affirmation except in this indirect sort of way.

I note of course that scripture doesn’t actually say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall fill themselves with righteousness and then pretend that God did it so that they can give God the glory and live another day pretending that everything is okay” – yet again and again that is what I continued to do. Whatever righteousness I did possess - if you could call it that - was not springing up from within me – rather it was being forced into me by the sheer effort of my own will entirely because (having read the bible) I knew what righteousness was supposed to look like - and knowing myself to be a believer - I did what everyone else I knew was doing - I tried to look be the part.

But I was really stuck in Romans Seven. O many would pat me on the back and say, you’re being too hard on yourself, no one ever gets free from that internal sin – the best you can do is just push it down with all your might until you can make a 'victorious' habit of doing so. The trouble with that is –that kind of “sanctification” is available to every single false religion on the planet – and I knew it.

It was at this point that I began to study what exactly Christ died to free me from, that is, I began to study sanctification. I wanted to know what the bible taught about it – and how that compared to what modern theology teaches.

Our "gospel" hangs much of itself on our atonement model. Christ died to pay the "penalty" of our sins - God punished Him instead of us. Thus our gospel because, Come to Jesus and You will be saved from the penalty of your sins - but that is not what Matthew 1:21 says is it?

I began to think of Jesus as the one who saved me, not only from the penalty for my sin - but especially from the power of my sin - really, that is what Paul talks about in Romans six. We all stand up and say AMEN with regards to reckoning ourselves dead to sin - as long as we don't mean by that that we are actually free from sin's power in any practical way...

Seriously - I don’t know why, but I began to look at this whole thing by studying the humanity of Christ. Soon I was convinced by scripture that while Christ was indeed 100% God, his incarnation was truly 100% human. That meant that every time Jesus did a miracle, or knew something, or anything out of the ordinary – anything that a normal man couldn’t do – these things he did not in his own power, but in the power of the Holy Spirit who indwelled Him.

Until one actually does the study – one might not agree with that – but scripture isn’t silent on the matter. Clearly the reformers understood the importance of understanding Christ’s humanity – and all our historic theology demonstrates this.

Being convinced that Christ was perfectly human – different from me only in that he did not suffer the “taint” of original sin – I reasoned that it was through the power of the Holy Spirit that Christ remained sinless through out his earthly life – an impossibility for a “tainted” believer – having (as we do) a fountain of filth within us that is (by nature) at enmity with God’s Spirit – and being such, is entirely unable to submit to God’s Spirit.

Introspection: Can I really obey God’s Spirit?

I began to understand that Christianity isn't about moulding yourself to the form - that was Paul's charge against the Jews - they had a "form" (like a jello mould) of righteousness that they were pressing themselves into - but in doing so they denied the real righteousness that comes from God.

Clearly I had always understood the righteousness from God to be that imputed righteousness that comes with justification. Yet as I began to explore that thought it didn't play itself out. No one pursues some thing that they have already obtained - yet scripture encourages believers to pursue holiness (without which no one will see God).

I suddenly saw that Christianity isn't about following rules - it is about obeying the Holy Spirit whom God has given. So utterly simplistic I was embarrassed that I hadn't noticed it up front.

This should have been obvious since obedience is a choice. By that I mean that when a “command” is tactical such as “go and do this!” I can obey it from my will, not that my heart is obeying it - but that I am obeying it externally. When the command is immaterial however, such as – “love God!” I suddenly find that I was unable to obey - unless God Himself granted me that obedience.

This inability to obey from the heart is called “Total Depravity” and I suspect that many of the internet theologians who talk about it haven’t the first idea how deep the rabbit hole goes – having been taught the concept intellectually rather than having experienced it first hand.

While I absolutely understood that justification and sanctification happen simultaneously – the former being instantaneous, judicial, and forensic, and the latter being a progressive consecration that God does to you – yet I in looking at this I began to question the validity of some of our Christian vocabulary. I was begining to see that Christ isn't formed in us the moment we are saved - we certainly receive something - but was it correct to say we were born from above while we justified yet walking in the flesh? Seriously - how many new believers are walking in the Spirit - how many old believers? How many believers actually have the first idea what it means to walk in obedience to God's Spirit?

Luke tells us that they were first called “Little Christs” at Antioch. I had always taken this verse as an historical footnote: the label - "Christian" - was first applied to believers at Antioch.

But as I began to study it, I asked myself why Paul always spoke of laboring in birth for believers so that Christ would be formed in them. Weren't they already believers? Can you be a believer and not have Christ formed in you? As I pondered this I began to knit together inconsistencies - why wasn't a river of life flowing out of me? Why didn't I love God with all my heart? Why didn't I want to evangelize the world? Why wasn't I like Christ - a little "Chirst" , really - I was getting tired of applying all these promises to myself when it was plain to my reason that while these things were supposed to be true, they were in fact deficient in my experience.

Oooooo hush, hush - mustn't talk about that. ;-)

I began to get very honest about my faith - I was convinced entirely that I was “justified" - that is, saved, but I was finding a difference in scripture itself between being saved from sin's penalty and saved from sins power. The one being a matter of justification - the other a matter of consecration/sanctification - but both being appropriated by faith.

I had certainly appropriated my justification - the gopsel I had been presented was all about justification - but it was silent on sanctification. The gospel I was presented spoke of sin's penalty - and I believed as much - but it didn't speak of sanctification at all - so I didn't believe anything about sanctification.

Now – when you start talking about the gospel and sanctification - people start getting nervous. You are walking on the borderline (if not ten miles past the border) into what is commonly regarded as "heresy" and everyone knows it. Yet I cannot deny that the only gospel that was ever presented to me equated being “born again” with being justified/saved. Yet scripture seems to tie being born again with salvation from sin (as opposed to from sin's penalty). Justification happens in a moment - and sanctification, accompanies it like a stillborn siamese twin.

So I say I began to question the terminology. When are we born again? When Christ saves us from hell, or from sin? Or does Christ not save us from sin? If he doesn't save us from sin, what is sanctification? If he does sanctify us, why does scripture every speak of growing to maturity/completion/perfection? Not that we become perfect, but perfectly complete.

Doesn't scripture describe “Christ being formed” in a person in such a way as to suggest that until Christ is actually and fully formed in you? When Christ is formed in you, wouldn't you be like Him - wouldn't someone call you a "little Christ"?

Now - I am --NOT-- suggesting that we can become “sinless” or unable to sin – but I am wondering out loud if the tainted fountain within us – that well of darkness within us that motivates us to obey sin – can this same thing be removed through faith in Christ? Did he die to take away our sin (as the scripture says) or to take away sin's penalty (as we everywhere infer because the presense of sin in our life goads us to make this inferrence)?

What was it that Christ took to the cross and rendered powerless? The penalty? We know what Romans six teaches - but can we believe it? Does it not teach that the reason a Christian stops sinning isn’t gratitude over being saved – it is that they have been set free from a heart that was previously in bondage to sin! Has that internal desire to sin that motivates and decieves both us and the children of darkness - has this same heart of stone been replaced with a heart of flesh upon which God's law is etched - or are we truly playing mind games with the cross of Chirst - yes our sins is powerless over us - but no, that doesn't mean you have power over sin - except to slowly, progress from a darker to a less darker state over the course of your walk on earth.

I am coming to suspect that only when the spring within that bubbles up this bitter water is removed (as opposed to putting our own finger in it through continual supression) only then can rivers of living water truly flow out of a person’s innermost being.

I may be wrong of course, and that is why I share this - to be corrected if I am off in la-la land, but I am coming to believe that Romans six, properly understood can free a person from the power of sin such that, while a person might still choose to sin, the motivation to do so, won’t be rising out of their own heart - but will only enter in externally through daily circumstance. In this way I believe the believer will no longer sit in Romans seven hoping to (at best) gain a facility at suppressing “who they are” at heart. This seems to me to be the very cleaning of the inside of the cup.

So this last turning point in my faith has been perhaps the most troubling – being (as it is) seemingly at odds with the popular faith. Everyone I know seems content to suppress sin – and any suggestion that we can actually have a “practical” solution for internal sin is met with stout resistance - and cries of “Sinless Perfection” – and “Entire Sanctification!” No one, they quickly add, can have actual victory over sin – unless it is of a progressive and incomplete variety – that same variety that sober reflection will demonstrate is actually common to all religions.

So with this last turning point, I am becoming more and more convinced that Christ can clean the inside of my cup - and my faith seems to be soaring through the roof. Where before I couldn't believe the Lord for much - suddenly I am regarding my Savior - not as some distant fellow who kindly released me from my sin debt - but as the living Savior who is working even today to deliver from sin itself.

I am of course concerned, as my heart seems more and more drawn to this. Is it a pipe dream? Can Christ deliver a man from the power of sin - that is, can I love God for real - the kind of love that causes a man to willingly go wherever he is called - or am I always going to have to beggarly and approximate sort of love - the kind that relies not on God's but my own ability to generate affection and gratitude?

What you’re your thoughts on this? And feel free to be Frank.
posted by Daniel @ 2:38 PM  
  • At 4:47 PM, March 31, 2006, Blogger Jennifer said…

    I must apologize first off to you. I have read your site regularly and have read every post you've written. I share your struggle but over time started to resent you because you seemed so dang pious and pulled-together. I longed for that for myself but always felt like I was a big failure. Sure, I have also given up TV, drinking, cursing, pornography, and many other habits and vices. I'm even quitting my job in June in order to begin homeschooling my daughter. But I still feel like something is missing. I read my Bible and feel ashamed because sometimes my mind wonders or it's not very interesting. I don't pray as often as I would like because it seems disingenuous. I'm such a sinner though to the world I appear righteous. But if I've had such victory and my life is completely opposite of how it used to be, why do I still feel so horrible deep down inside?

    Thank you for sharing this. I know it isn't always easy to lay yourself out exposed and to ask difficult questions. I feel so bad for thinking ill of you, being envious that you have so much more than I seem able to grasp.
    I don't have any words of advice or deep theological insite to offer. Sometimes I think it is a matter of really letting go of the fear that if I have complete faith in God's ability to clense me inside and out, I may be let down. My will is a strong and stubborn beast.

    I too believe that the inside can be cleansed. It has to be more than outward displays and internal struggle. Those who would deny this may be too afraid to step out on that limb, or afraid to admit that they aren't as together as they appear.


  • At 5:22 PM, March 31, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Me pious? hahah.. you kill me.

    I think there anyone who genuinely comes to the end of themselves comes away in one of two ways - either they begin to seek God entirely, or they just give up altogether and "make do."

    Would that I could give up and make do - but I am spoiled for the truth, enslaved by a need to be as close to God as possible - and I fear that this same burning, even unrelenting hunger might be a dangerous thing if I slip into error.

    Surely I am not hearing too many people talk about real sanctification these days - and that could mean that it is probably the truth (narrow is the way), or probably false (wisdom in the multitude of counselors).

    I don't like to "go with my heart" - but the thought of simply approximating the Christianity of scripture so that I fit the common church mould - and that in violation of my own intellect, and sense of the truth - and ultimately, to my own disrest and dismay - well, it is something I must be very careful about.

    Thanks for the comment - and thanks for the patience - it must have taken at least half an hour to read! I have changed it in the last two hours - adding to it and changing the way I said things - correcting some grammar and spelling - mostly in the last 25%of it.

    Anyway, thanks again.

  • At 9:56 PM, March 31, 2006, Blogger Even So... said…

    Wow. Thank you. Grace and peace to you. I pray that others will enter into this discussion. I hope you don't mind a long answer, but I am right there with you in wanting to be done with this indwelling and pervasive sin (and how often you remind me of it, yet I keep coming back, hmm?)

    I don't have the answers, but perhaps God has shown me something along the way (Christian for 32 years, "away" in a big way, like you, for about twelve).

    To be honest, I have recently been blogging about this "sanctification" ordeal (as it has panned out in my life).

    The "Ongoing Struggle" post probably fits with most of your modern day "fight it off with a stick" mentality. It was actually written five years ago.

    As I have been teaching it on Wednesdays I have added two important parts to it. haven't posted them yet, perhaps I will VERY soon.

    One being "mortification of sin" using some MacArthur, Owen, and especially what I have found in Ephesians 4:22-24.

    This may seem a little sloppy, but in order to explain the premise to the people I put them in terms using alliteration.

    Basically three points, first, verse 22, put off the old man, or push away the filth (what you are talking about and what we are all already trying to do), second, verse 23, renew your mind, or pull in the faith (atmoshpere, prayer, Bible, sacraments, etc.), and third, verse 24, put on the new man, or pray to be filled.

    This is what I believe to be a problem, we do the first one, or the second, or even the first two, or we may even know all three, but we fail to consistently "do" all three. I realize that "doing" isn't what you are talking about.

    The second addition to this has been what I have called "resurrection power", taken from Paul in Philippians 3:10-11 and the surrounding text. Not quite Reformed, but neither is this whole post, in a way.

    I alliterate (I cut my teeth on Adrian Rogers) four "r's". Reckoning (vs. 7-9), repentance (vs. 12-14), revelation (vs. 15-17), and residency (vs. 20-21).

    I wonder; being what I consider Reformed, perhaps you haven't read any Miles Stanford, the Brethren minister? Phil Johnson (he being of the flaming ones) has had some not so good things to say about his ideas, and the Bible.org blog has been blazing a little recently about it. His idea is that the old man doesn't go away at all, victory is possible through identification truths, etc. seems like the corking or plugging you mentioned to me, but intruiging nonetheless.

    If our old man is just a trace then it would seem possible that we could get to a place where we have crucified all that remains, but wouldn't this still be US doing it, like you are saying?

    As you can see, You and I are not the only ones who struggle with this, and so much blogging sometimes only clouds the issue, I guess. Thanks again for the "realness". At least we struggle "to enter into that rest". This struggle with my own as well as the sin I see in the world is why I begin and end my posts Even So (Lord Jesus, Come).

    Even So...

  • At 8:07 AM, April 01, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Even So - I have read five of Miles J. Stanford's books, and some of his polemic work. I read him very early on in my faith, doing bible studies all through green letters and a couple of other books.

    The preacher who influenced my early walk with the Lord more than any other would be John MacArthur. I listened to "grace to you" as often as possible, and for years I would do one or two of his bible studies a week (check out www.biblebb.com.

    Like many modern Christians - the gospel I received was all about justification, and included nothing about sanctification. Every place where the bible said that Jesus saved me from sin - I was supposed to understand it as being saved from sin's penalty. In the strength of this I went many years. But eventually - as I said - you come to a place where you begin to see that sin isn't something you do - it is something you are. You begin to see that no matter how you resist/suppress it that "living water" doesn't flow out of your innermost being for having done so. You also begin to see that you really can't do a thing about sins of the heart such as loving or trusting God. My presumption was that either [1]this was either the way it was supposed to be, [2] I wasn't really saved, or [3] this was not how it was supposed to be.

    Over the course of time I ruled out [1] and [2] because neither view was reflected in scripture. I know I was saved, and I know that scripture calls Christ my Savior - but the question for me was - what did Christ save me from? These sorts of questions put me on the road I am on.

    Thanks for the thoughts Even So. Like yourself I too would like to see some discussion.

  • At 1:36 PM, April 01, 2006, Blogger Frank Martens said…

    in other words... "welcome to the life of a believer".

    I believe God allows us to sin sometimes to see our need for him. It's really a humbling thing because we really don't want to believe we are all that sinful.

    But if I continue with this thought, I'll be reitterating everything you've said and everything these other commentors have said.

    Good post! :)

  • At 12:54 AM, April 02, 2006, Blogger Bryan said…

    Good post Dan, I always enjoy hearing about your life, and I for one am still glad you decided to help out with the youth. ;)

    This post did more to explain what you've been talking about with me then all discussion we have done so far, although I am still unsure if:;

    "while a person might still choose to sin, the motivation to do so, won’t be rising out of their own heart - but will only enter in externally through daily circumstance."

    is correct. It explains what you have been hinting at in church better then anything you have yet said, but I can't help but think Spurgeon is right when he said:

    "It is a doctrine, as I believe, taught us in Holy Writ, that when a man is saved by divine grace, he is not wholly cleansed from the corruption of his heart. When we believe in Jesus Christ all our sins are pardoned; yet the power of sin, albeit that it is weakened and kept under by the dominion of the new-born nature which God doth infuse into our souls, doth not cease, but still tarrieth in us, and will do so to our dying day."

    More study, and expirence is needed, before I can come to a final conclusion.

    But definitly a good post!


  • At 7:20 PM, April 02, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Bryan - like yourself, I too am held in check by godlier men than myself - teachers whom God has gifted the church with in ages past - a more than famous majority who all agree with Spurgeon; the best a man can hope for is to become so proficient at suppressing sin that it is no longer the struggle it used to be - but always remains a struggle.

    I swallow up teaching like that because, while it finds no support whatsoever in scripture - it agrees entirely with my own experience.

    Yet this quote from Spurgeon draws out the main rational of that opinion - the pillar upon which it rests - that the atonement is primarily punitive - in that rather than "saving us from sin" Christ has merely purchased our "pardon."

    If I look at the atonement as primarily penal and substitutionary in nature - I have no trouble believing in eternal security - since clearly my sins are "paid for already" - though in order to be "just" - that theological position requires our "just" god to punish an innocent man.

    If on the other hand our atonement model follows the theology laid out in Romans six a little closer - that is, if we say Jesus "saved us from our sins" (Matthew 1:21) - by taking our old heart (Ezekiel 36:26) into Himself (1 Peter 2:24) thus making Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21), such that God did not punish the innocent Jesus in our stead - but actually punished us directly "in Christ"

    --Then we see the atonement as Christ putting us into Himself just as Noah and his family were put into the ark - and positioning himself between us and God's wrath - He absorbed the full fury of God's wrath so that we were not destroyed when God punished us.

    Being "in Christ" we receive Christ's own righteousness "imputed" to us - and it is Christ's righteousness that justifies us before God - just as in the penal substitution model - but in this model, since it was our actual sin that Christ took to the cross - and not our penalty - we can look to Christ to save us from sin itself and not only from sin's penalty.

    If my atonement model primarily teaches that Christ saves me from hell (justifies me) rather than from sin (justifies and empowers me) it stands to reason that I am not going to find a balm for sin - since according to that model Christ hasn't defeated sin - he has only weakened it somehow.

    The more I look at it, the more I am convinced this is the more correct model. It certainly chafes me that many of my theological "heroes" (Spurgeon being one such) failed to see this as a real possibility - concluding from their own experience (rather than scripture) that while Christ's death justifies them - it doesn't really save them from sin itself - which they regard as being an ever-present thing that Christ merely wounded on the cross.

    I appreciate your post Bryan. I am persuaded that there is an answer to sin's power - not just that Christ can weaken it - but that it is truly rendered powerless - the question is, "What does that look like?"

    As time goes on, I hope to be "fully" persuaded - that is to take what is (today) my best aspiration - and to pursue it until it either becomes my own experience, or scripture convinces me that there is no such experience. I am a slave (after all) to what I know.

    If it turns out that your old friend Daniel has purchased a ticket to quacko-ville; at least it is a return ticket (just in case). ;-)

    Grace and Peace Bryan.

  • At 8:33 AM, April 03, 2006, Blogger candy said…

    I believe God works in us...line upon line, precept upon precept. we may find that certain sins no longer have power over us, but then other sins just come up to the surface to confront us. Let me give an example. For many years after I became a Christian, I really struggled with thoughts of how much I missed smoking weed. It took many years for that to no longer have power over me.

    We find ourselves not so much struggling over obvious glaring sins, but struggling with attitudes, or laziness, or whatever the case may be.

    I really enjoy C.J. Mahaney's book on humility where he states that every night before going to bed, he thanks God for all the graces of the day. In the morning he awakes and acknowledges his utter dependence on the grace of God for the day to come. We can recognize our wretchedness and his amazing grace.

    All that said, I am NOT content at all with my own seemingly apathetic approach to prayer and reading his Word. Sigh. I totally appreciated your post.

  • At 10:55 AM, April 03, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Susan - I would be delighted to answer your questions, and I hope you don't mind if I do so one comment at time. This first comment I will look at:

    Can you point to the passage in Peter where the Spirit of Christ speaks through OT prophets, Moses being a prophet thus Christ condemns homosexuality?

    We see in 1 Peter 1:10-11 the following: Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.

    Who was the Spirit of Christ in? The old testament Prophets.

    That Moses was a prophet is made plain in Acts 3:22: For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. (Quoting Deuteronomy 18:15)

    Christ Himself (in passages such as Mark 1:44, 7:10, & 10:3 - "What did Moses command you?" etc.) identifies Moses as the one who penned the law - therefore when we read the commandment that Moses pens in Leviticus 18:22 - "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination" We understand it to be the Spirit of Christ speaking in Moses.

    Hope that clears that up for you.

  • At 12:16 PM, April 03, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Susan asks: Can you comment on the verse about not judging others lest you be judged by the same measure - with respect to context?

    First, there is a difference between discernment and judgment. Judgment carries the idea of condemnation - whereas discernment is more diagnostic. It is good to distinguish between the two prior to discussing "judgment."

    Paul makes it plain that we are not to "judge" those outside the church - that this is the prerogative of God and God alone (1 Corinthians 5:12-13, "For what have I [Paul] to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore 'put away from yourselves the evil person.'")

    We need to be clear about this - identifying sin is no where near the same thing as judging a person. We read in Ephesians 5:11 that it is correct Christian conduct to, "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them." This instruction (and those that are like it) would be impossible if we suspended discernment in the church. It is not only permissible to call sin by its name - it is even our duty to root it out and expose it for what it is.

    We do well to ask - "How then can I expose sin in someone else's life without being condemnational at the same time??" - since we reason (correctly) that sin is condemned by God, wouldn't pointing it out carry with it God's condemnation? Yes - it does carry God's condemnation - but it shouldn't carry our own (and that is the point!) It is the prerogative of God to condemn - and not us.

    We read of the parable of the "log and the speck" in Matthew 7:1-5:

    "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

    We typically hear verse 1 - and discard the rest of it. But we see in verses 2 and 5 the heart of this teaching - not that you mustn't be discerning - but that if you are going to judge in the church - you had better judge righteously, because you will be judged as you judge. Therefore, if you are going to judge, you had better have no bias in yourself.

    In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul himself judges the man who has sinned by taking his father's wife (verses 4-5, "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.) clearly, in matters of sin, we are expected to be fit to "judge" those in the church.

    Likewise in 1 Corinthians 6, we see that the Church was encouraged to judge "things pertaining to life" personally - that is, not to turn to world to settle disputes that occur amongst Christians.

    It is hopefully evident that the command to "judge not" has a context associated with it, and unambiguous examples in the New Testament of how that plays itself out. It is not a "carte blanche" idea that we are never to judge one another - but rather it is a qualified instuction concerning our judgment - that judgment is to be thoughtful, and fair - and that those who judge do so at their own peril - for frivolous or biased judgment will bring judgment on the judge.

    Having said all that - there is tremendous potential for abuse here - especially amongst those who suffer from legalism. It seems to me that many Christians today have adopted the world's post modern philosphy: "every one is right therefore only evil people rock the boat." By isolating the "judge not" portion of scripture from the remainder of scripture they need never deal with sin in the church - and furthermore feel piously justified for their indifference.

    Of the few Christians who are indeed willing to judge - it seems to me that too many of these are driven by legalism - desiring conduct from their fellow Christians that conforms to their own personal interpretation of scripture - such that "judgment" is liberally applied to everyone who doesn't agree with them about everything.

    Somewhere between these two extremes men like Paul walked - willing to not only identify, but even condemn sin in the church.

    Let me know if that explains it - surely many believers hold up "judge not" as the filter by which they interpret every other verse that speaks about judgment or discernment. Said another way - they presume that the teaching is "judge not" and having satisfied themselves that scripture teaches that and only that - they preload every other verse with that thought so that they see it when it is not there - at least that is what I used to do.

    Let me know.

  • At 1:36 PM, April 03, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Susan asked, with regards to the March 15th post "Can you say this" -

    "It was the Holy Spirit whom Christ received in fullness in the Jordan - it was through the Holy Spirit that Christ offered Himself to God."
    This brings up all kinds of questions for me.
    (a) Was Christ not filled with the Holy Spirit prior to His baptism? (b) Since you write "in fullness," was He only partly embued with the Spirit prior?
    (c) Also, as it relates to your current post, was it the Holy Spirit that moved you to realize you couldn't generate faith on your own, but only by God?

    [a] Was Christ not filled with the Holy Spirit prior to His baptism?

    Good, nay, great questions by the way.

    First, let's be clear about Christ's humanity. It is not humanly possible to command a four day old corpse to come back to life.

    If Christ raised Lazarus in His own power - He was -not- 100% human! To be sure - if Christ did anything (in His own strength/power) that you or I cannot normally do - He was certainly not 100% human.

    It is heretical and dangerous to blur/mix the divinity of Christ with the humanity of Christ. When Christ came to earth, He remained 100% God, but in order to be 100% human Christ had to set aside all his divine privilege and prerogative.

    So the body of Christ, which was "generated" in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit - was 100% human (just as Adam was 100% human). Like Adam, Christ's incarnation was created free from the taint of original sin - that is, if anything - Christ was more human than any of us - having his earthly incarnation created free from the corruption of Adam's sin.

    That is where we must start - Jesus was eternally God - but His incarnation being entirely human, was not (as we might heretically imagine) super-human.

    So in thinking about Christ's interaction with the Holy Spirit - we want to maintain our perspective - Christ (in His dealing with God) was dealing with God just as any other man might deal with God.

    Now - a word about "fill."

    Consider the father who drives home drunk one night - and because of his poor choice his only daughter (who was with him) is killed in an accident. He is filled with grief because of his loss - but he is also filled with regret because he himself is reponsible for it.

    When we think of being "filled" in terms of "filling up a cup" we lock ourselves into a sort of linear system - where you can only be filled by one thing at a time.

    Yet that isn't the right way to think about being filled.

    When the sail on a ship is "filled" with wind it "motivates" the boat in the direction that the wind is blowing.

    These are better examples of what it means to be filled - and I bring them to the table up front so that we can look at this properly.

    So while scripture doesn't explicitly record that Christ was "filled with the Holy Spirit" prior to his baptism in the Jordan - it is safe to reason that if John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit from the womb - that Christ certainly was no less gifted. I think therefore it is safe (even necessary) to reason that Christ was already "filled" by the Holy Spirit prior to his baptism.

    Yet when I say filled, I do not mean filled in such a way that Christ could receive nothing more from God - as though a heart filled with grief could not at the same time be filled with regret also.

    The words Messiah (Hebrew) and Christ (Greek) both mean "annointed." That is, to be called the Christ was to be called the "Annointed One."

    In the old testament, oil was used to annoint Kings - picturing God's Spirit being poured out on the person. In the Jordan Christ was annointed by God with the Holy Spirit - proclaiming Him to be -The- Messiah.

    This annointing - pictured by His baptism - was no generic thing. It was (like all annointings recorded in scripture) a declaration by God that this person has been set apart to some ministry. The "filling" here is therefore not that Christ was receiving "more" of the Holy Spirit - rather Christ was receiving authority and power from the Holy Spirit to enable/empower Christ's earthly ministry.

    [b] Since you write "in fullness," was He only partly embued with the Spirit prior?

    I hope the above explanation answered this as well. Filling is not necessarily linear - such that being "filled" you have no more room for "filling" - rather it is to be understood in the context of divine enabling. Recall in Exodus 28:3, 31:3 how the workmen were filled with God's Spirit - not neccesarily in all things - but in wisdom, understanding, knowledge and in all manner of workmanship - that is, they received a full portion of God's Spirit with respect to the ministry God had separated them to.

    [c] Also, as it relates to your current post, was it the Holy Spirit that moved you to realize you couldn't generate faith on your own, but only by God?

    According to my understanding, "the natural man cannot receive the things of God, because they are foolishness to him, nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned." That is, if I understand anything spiritual, it is only because God has opened my eyes. If I have misunderstood these things - it is certainly because I am exercising a worldly wisdom.

    All I can say for sure is that when I came to the end of myself - I knew it. I understood that nothing I could ever do with change my flesh - that the solution wasn't to suppress it in my own effort, but to accept what God has already done - and that is, put it on the cross.

    Let me know if that answers your question.

  • At 3:32 PM, April 03, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Susan - Let's say I was suffering from a terminal skin disorder and had perhaps a week or two (at most) left to live. Let us say that the character of this illness was such that direct sunlight burned my skin, and physical exertion caused me great pain.

    Given that information - it is not terribly likely that I would spend my last week or so out in my backyard digging holes.

    Follow me on this ...

    If in the same scenario - terminal skin disorder - a week or two live etc. - I had come into possession of some new information. There was a "good" chance that someone a hundred years ago had buried a small box full of copper wire somewhere in my yard. Even if I knew beyond doubt that such a box existed - I would certainly not spend my last few days on earth trying to find such a "treasure" - especially considering the personal suffering the search might cause me (recall in our model that direct sunlight, and physical exertion caused me pain).

    But what if the box contained diamonds? If I were not entirely convinced, I wouldn't bother - really, even if I did manage to find them in time - by the time I found a buyer and got the cash, I wouldn't be too interested in the things they could buy. In fact - even if I knew for sure that there was indeed a box back there - and that it really did contain diamonds - yet this "treasure" has no value to me since I reason that the suffering by which it would be purchased would not warrant the reward.

    But if I knew for sure that somewhere in my back yard was buried a box that absolutely contained a miracle cure for my condition - even though it pained me to seek it out - yet I would get out there and search for it - the reward (my life) being so precious to me that I was willing to suffer much in order to gain what I was sure was there.

    I hope by this I have shown that two things are required for brokenness.

    The first is that I must believe being broken - no matter what the cost to me - will actually do something. I have to "know that the treasure is there" - and secondly, I have to value that treasure as something that is more precious to me than anything else.

    Put biblically, I have to count the cost for only if I am convinced that the thing can be done (that with my army I can defeat the other army) will I bother trying to do it.

    Do we really believe that being broken is going to get us what we want - and is what we want something we really can't do without.

    If we doubt the value or the reality of either, we cannot hope to be truly broken. Likewise if we see in our own hearts an inability to do anything about it (that is, that we really are totally depraved) - we need to turn to the only One who can change that.

    Humility doesn't begin by doing what God says - it begins by confessing that we are utterly unable to do what God says - then against all worldly wisdom and personal conviction - we trust not in our own understanding, but commit our way to the Lord - acknowledgin his sovereignty in everything that has to do with this - and trusting him to make our paths straight.

    Its easy to describe - but quite another thing to do. It all begins however with being honest before God about where we are, where we know we should be - and how we don't really have a desire to be there.

    if that helps

  • At 4:36 PM, April 03, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Susan - You slipped your last post in while I was still answering the previous one. lol!

    I want to be clear on this one point (for those who are reading the meta) no one can empty themselves of self;

    That is really the whole point - our "old man" can never be suppressed into submission. No matter what scheme we come up with - and what label we tack onto it (dying to self, emptying ourselves, full consecration, utter surrender, entirely broken etc.) we cannot, and never could, nor are we expected to perform this in ourselves.

    That is Christ's and only Chirst's battle. There is no victory for us, except the victory "in" Jesus. The battle truly does belong to the Lord.

    We enter into the reality of that truth not through effort, but through faith.

    I agree - we do need to be completely emptied of self - but I know that is not a human work, but a divine one.

    How can we receive such a profound benediction of God's grace? By humbling ourselves. Like little children who trust entirely in their parents for everything - so too we must trust God - even for the ability to trust Him. What must we do to do this work of God? Believe on Him.

    It certainly goes against the grain of our reasoning. How can I not try and be emptied of self when I know full well that I need to be! Really - this is just perfect - since it illustrates clearly how we are absolutely self reliant even in something that expeience has shown us time and again that we are utterly powerless to do anything about. We can try and cork the flow - but we can do nothing about the flow itself.

    When we try and do it ourselves we demonstrate the kind of heart we really have - a heart that says, "If I don't do it, it won't get done!" - that is not faith,... it is self reliance.

    When we turn to God and say - I really cannot do this thing - You must do this thing in me - then we are getting close to it.

    I am reminded of Isaiah 45:11 where we read this nigh incomprehensible thought - "Thus says the LORD, The Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: 'Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons; And concerning the work of My hands, you command Me.' "

    God instructs us to command Him concerning the work of His hands. Would that we prayed like that!

  • At 10:11 PM, April 03, 2006, Blogger Jim said…

    Wow Daniel, that was like a marathon! pheww...

    I really appreciate your insights on sanctification. I would tend to agree with your assessment and think you are right in that the Holy Spirit does want to free us from all sin and the desire to sin.

    I was thinking about the songs we sing and how they are primarily concerned with the initial stages of salvation and the greatness of God, yet little is mentioned about the need and process of sanctification.

    This meaty substance of growing in grace and walking closer each day to the Lord should be the natural progression of a believers desire as they spend time with the Lord. To remain immature and weak spiritually is not normal or healthy. May the Lord give us a pure vision of how to walk and live a consecrated life to Him.

    Praise the Lord

  • At 8:55 AM, April 04, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Susan - I chose to have a "terminal disease" in the illustration because such a thing brings into focus how valuable our time truly is.

    The illustration isn't as deep as it may appear - and I am sorry if I may have presented it as such. The idea of the terminal disease was to highlight that if we knew we only had one week left to live, we would not spend that week digging holes in our yard. To spend what little time we have left digging holes would require a powerful, driving motive - yes?

    Thus the example was meant to demonstrate the relationship between our valuation of the "treasure" and our capacity to be motivated to actually dig.

    If we are think the treasure isn't worth it, or if we don't really believe it can be had - we won't bother digging.

    That is all I meant. The terminal disease helped paint that picture in that most of us would dig up the diamonds if we thought they were there - but if we only had a week to live - even a great treasure such as diamonds wouldn't be all that motivating - since even a house full of diamonds won't buy us another minute on the earth.

    The "cure" however - is worth digging for, and if we believe it could be had, we would truly pursue it.

    So it is with sanctification - if we truly believe that God can free us from sin - and that is something we desire - we pursue it.

    Let me know if that clears it up.

  • At 8:56 AM, April 04, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jim - A marathon indeed! Thankfully I type pretty quick!

  • At 1:29 PM, April 04, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Susan - we are probably saying similar things.

    The point is that God must do it. There is nothing wrong with asking, seeking, and knocking - this is certainly appropriate.

    I hope that straightens it out.

  • At 1:02 AM, April 07, 2006, Blogger Mike Perrigoue said…

    Wow, thanks Daniel. You've inspired me to sit down and try to come up with the words for my own conversion. Very good stuff. Challenging.

  • At 10:40 AM, February 20, 2010, Anonymous Sabeian said…

    Wow........ I was present in the first half of your life and never knew you at all! I had always thought you pompus and condesending ( which I thought were your good traits) to say the least.I never saw your struggles or inner turmoil as I was too consumed with my own. I would love to say I could understand now why you behaved thusly for the better part of my youth, but in truth it still eludes me. I can atest to the upbringing you had, I was there; but our lives were so different, so disconnected with each other it is a struggle still to really know you. I am astounded by your growth and wish I could say the same about wanting salvation in my life at such a young age, but like you, the generic Christian 101 knowledge was all I had. I remember racing through the rosery every night so I could get off my knees and into bed. I remember sneaking pizza to you after you were sent upstairs without supper because I knew it wasn't fair etc. I too, was under the misguided belief that I had to only be good to get to heaven. I always admired your intellect and thirst for knowledge but the person it made you out to be at the time, made me fear book smarts because I didn't want to end up that way. (no offence intended)
    I was too young to know what had caused us to leave the abitwa (spelt wrong I know) until today. I am, and always have been proud of you and enjoy your posts as they have allowed me the oppritunity to get to know you, which is something I felt I would never accomplish. Thank you Daniel.

  • At 11:54 AM, February 20, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    That must be you Scabo.

    It's spelled Abitoir, and ya, you weren't old enough to understand what was going on. Prior to the Abitoir, Dad was a lot more confident and easy going, a regular extrovert, with tons of friends, and quite a social life.

    If you wonder why I was a jerk in your youth, it is because I was a sinner. Period. The greatest moment in my life, with respect to being set free from the burden of my childhood, was the day I understood that Dad was a sinner also. Once I realized that being sin's slave turns everyone into a jerk at heart (even if some hide it well), or worse, it was easy to both forgive and especially to move on. On the day I forgave everyone everything, the burden of life fell away. I stopped looking back, and in doing so, was freed from the baggage that always looking behind brings.

    I can't change my past, but I can determine today whether I am going to wallow in it or not, and frankly, wallowing only hurts the person who is wallowing, everyone else thinks they just look stupid. ;P

    So, it is good to put the past behind us, at least in as much as it hinders our "today" - which might sound like pop psychology, but it is quite biblical - sufficient for today is it's own worries; if we drag every yesterday with us into today, we just got more and more bogged down as life goes on.

  • At 8:08 PM, December 12, 2012, Blogger Carrie said…

    Hi Daniel -I am a newbie to your blog, but have really enjoyed reading it. The Lord knew I needed to read your testimony tonight, so I am grateful! Thank you for your transparency and obvious desire for God. Your blogs are very real and are a huge encouragement. Thank you!

Post a Comment
<< Home
Previous Posts
Atom Feed
Atom Feed
Creative Commons License
Text posted on this site
is licensed under a
Creative Commons
Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5