04 Sep We Left Our First Love
In 2008 I was gloriously set free through faith in the Cross of Christ. When a preacher declared Romans 8:8 from a Live service on the Internet, “…they that are in the flesh cannot please God,” the Holy Spirit came down and I saw my entire Christian life flash before my eyes: my prayer life, my Bible reading, my witnessing. I fell to the floor in our den weeping. I could finally ‘see’ what the ministers in our little church and my own husband had been trying to tell me for several months, that my faith had been in my own works, my own spiritual disciplines, not in Christ’s Work at Calvary. The next morning my heart was singing, “I’m saved by the Blood of the Crucified One, Ransomed from sin and a new work begun…” Words cannot accurately express the joy and peace that flooded my soul.
At first our little congregation began to grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. The power of the Holy Spirit fell mightily in many of the subsequent services. People were hungry and coming to the Lord. Bondages of sin were being broken. However, the enemy crept in unawares on the back of partial truth catch phrases like, “God is not concerned about your behavior, only your faith,” “you don’t need fellowship, you only need the Cross of Christ,” and “all you gotta do is sit on your couch and believe!” We began to mock and criticize every one who called themselves a Christian, because they did not know this ‘Message of the Cross.’
Within two years, my family and I began to erroneously claim that we understood & obeyed the Message of the Cross better than Jimmy Swaggart Ministries. We were boldly standing up against false doctrine in the face of seasoned pastors, teachers, even family and friends. In fact, we became arrogant in our ‘narrow way,’ sincerely believing that this Message could not include any law, whether it be a moral code or Biblical ‘righteous’ living. We quit watching, listening, and even supporting JSM, all the while becoming more proud, firmly believing that we were the only congregation that truly understood that Christ came to give us a complete rest, meaning all we had to do was just ‘sit on our couch and believe.’
A downward spiral began that we did not see. There began to surface an unrest in my own soul that I could not shake or understand. Yet, all the while, I felt a continual burden in my heart for lost souls. This erroneous teaching of just ‘sitting on our couch & believing,’ caused me to be fearful to intercede in prayer for the lost or even study the scriptures, lest I become a Pharisee again and lose my soul. We had made a law that we could NOT do anything spiritual!! It wasn’t a blatant command, but a strong deception that if I followed any Bible reading plan, or daily prayer time, or even shared a testimony of the Grace of God working in my life, I was focusing on my works, trusting in my flesh. And, didn’t Paul say that was what would cause Christ to be of no effect in our lives, which had to mean we would be sent to eternal Hell, right?
What is the inevitable outcome of this kind of teaching? I had to occupy my mind with other things, so I wouldn’t ‘over-think’ my faith. Because of the Word of God planted in my heart at an early age, I knew worldly pleasures did not satisfy and would lead to destruction. So my mind was a little war zone. I wanted to sing praise songs. I wanted to talk to my Savior about personal cares and troubles, but all He really cared about, I was being told, was saving my soul.p I felt I had to absolutely stay in a ‘neutral’ position to truly believe. And, if you’ve ever been on a hill driving a car with a stick shift and have to stop at a stop light, you know the dire situation I’m talking about. If you lose that perfect balance with the clutch and accelerator, you will inevitably roll backwards, fast!! Talk about trusting in one’s flesh!! I felt I was going insane! I knew that enjoying the world or mere earthly things was not my answer, plus I did not want to do those things, but how was I to behave? What was I to think? Where was I to turn? I kept finding myself frantically repeating the same prayer over and over: “Lord, please save my miserable and wretched soul!” Then, I would remember Jesus’ words: “but when you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do” (Mt 6:7). Yet that’s what I found myself doing!
Having grown up in a legalistic church, consumed with a fear of displeasing Almighty God, I had not fallen prey to drug addiction, sexual vices, or alcoholism. However, there was a boat load of other sins in my life holding me in bondage, even though I thought I was trusting fully in Christ Crucified. You know you have an addiction when you crave that thing all the time, and when something or someone gets in your way of fulfilling that desire, the frustration, anger, and even the ‘fangs’ start coming to the surface. I was desperate, lonely, and fearful, like a drowning victim in the ocean with just a symbol of the Cross in my mind. That personal relationship & communion I used to have with my Lord as a Spirit-filled college student was completely gone.
Was it possible that this ‘sit on your couch’ doctrine had been a deceptive ploy of the enemy all along? Was it the ‘roaring Lion seeking whom he may devour’ the one who cleverly kept us from reading our Bibles and set us apart from other believers to destroy us, like a predator who preys on the lonely, wounded animal outside the pack? My parents had taught me that the Bible was the infallible Word of God and I am so grateful to them for planting His Word in my heart from a young age. One of my favorite passages was Psalm 18:2-3, “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.”
So, in that deepest recess of my heart, I began to seek the Lord to show me if we had erred. If He could save and deliver Paul, a Pharisee of Pharisees, all the while using him to minister in a powerful way to the church, I hoped He could keep me in the faith, change me into His image, and give me freedom to serve Him in ministry.
One beautiful day, He showed up! The Holy Spirit gave me the words from Revelation 2:1-7, originally written to the church in Ephesus. I knew that I knew it was exactly what we needed to hear: We had left our First Love. That whole passage perfectly described us. Repentance is a tough, humbling, yet beautiful thing. “…Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble….Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…” (I Peter 5:5,8)
This past year has been rough as my husband and I began to humble ourselves again to the Truth, asking forgiveness of those we attacked and arrogantly opposed. He really does deliver from sin! And, He truly cares for me in every area of my life. I Peter 5:7 “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” Praise God!! I now have His Peace again AND His Glorious Victory over that particular sin that had so easily beset me. He will not leave us as we are!! He still loves me and works powerfully and continually in my life to clean out ALL sin and unrighteousness.