Thursday, November 1, 2007

Restoring The Early Church ~ Lesson 6

I'm sure it had to have begun much earlier, but this was certainly a defining moment in my spiritual journey. I know I heard him correctly, for the way this large man bellowed, no one could have missed it. His frankness in asserting that this was his "fifth time getting saved" left me dumbstruck.

His hair still dripping from his recent baptism, he confided that he "liked to do it every once in a while to keep things right with the Big Man". That same feeling I get when someone drinks a diet soda with a Quarter Pounder and fries, or follows a Vitamin C tablet with a drag on their cigarette...that same, "That. Just. Isn't...enough..." feeling smothered me. A choking desire to scream and sob all at once left me speechless. Judging from the others around me all smiling, hugging and slapping the back of this poor fellow, I must have been the only one with misgivings about what I had just witnessed.

I knew I was not completely alone, though. Mr. Visionary and I had just the previous week been discussing his first experience officially going "soul winning". On a Saturday, he was paired up with an "experienced soul winner" and spent the first half of the day walking around an apartment complex trying to find folks with whom they could witness. The tally at the end of the day for this pair was one soul "won". After Mr. Visionary explained that the woman to whom they spoke was stone-cold drunk, and barely able to repeat the "sinners' prayer", I could not help but wonder...what about all the other thirty souls "won" that day? The soul winners who announced their totals the next day in the worship service all seemed proud enough, and the music and applause afterward were certainly booming. Yet, the nagging whisper did not go away. If the numbers of folks who had been "saved" through this congregation's efforts were so vast, where were the folks? Or better yet, assuming they could have gone somewhere else to church...the numbers cited were approximately ten percent of our large city's population...why hadn't the face of our entire city been changed? What was wrong with this picture?

Our background coming into this lesson was certainly one of believing that something was missing in the church, that there had to be something more to salvation than what we had always been told (and believed ourselves). It was a frequent occurrence that I would walk someone through the Roman Road, sweetly assuring them that all they had to do was believe. I would calm their fears, and settle their minds. When they asked, "Isn't there more to it? Don't I have to *do* something?". I would always say, "No, that's the beauty of His grace...all we have to do is believe." When later, the same person was living like hell again, with no recognizable difference in their life, I would be sad and frustrated and think, "I know I said all they had to do was believe...but...but..."

A major truth that Mr. Visionary and I had to accept was that no true doctrine can lose anything by closer inspection. Inside, outside, upside down...the truth is the truth is the truth...and our tearing it apart to make sure it is true could only lead to two outcomes. Either we would discover that it was wholly or partially false, or we would be that much more firmly grounded in why it is true. "...Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" 1Peter 3:15b. There are no other options, and we could not lose.

We can fully relate to Kirk Cameron's testimony. He tells that he first got saved with the Jesus-loves-you-and-has-a-wonderful-plan-for-your-life spiel. It wasn't until much later that he heard the bad news that he had transgressed the holy standard of a holy God, and experienced true repentance. Since this was our story as well, we have for several years only preached the good news with the bad, to our children and those we come into contact with. But even with the Bad-News-First plan (Here's the law...see, you broke it...but here's what God has done to fix it), there was still something missing. We were determined to dig until we found it. Even if it meant that our neatly boxed paradigms were shattered once and for all. We were willing to take that chance to find the truth. Having already worked through the Demolishing Strongholds materials, and both of us having prayed earnestly that Father would remove from us any spirit of deceit...that we would see only His truth...and nothing else...we were ready to begin.

This lesson was pivotal in our journey to understanding the true gospel. What in the world did the Old Testament have to do with the gospel? What exactly was this gospel that the Early Church preached? I'm sure we had no idea...but we were going to find out. I was fully and forcefully convicted, however, that I could not keep saying that I believed the Bible was God's Word, that it was infallible, and utterly sufficient for all of life if I was to continue treating the Old Testament the way I had. The truth is, it had been good for stories for the children, for debunking the theory of Evolution, for pulling out a few gems for parenting, and for my self-righteous Reading-Through-In-A-Year plan, but I mostly ignored it as irrelevant. I had to repent, and in the changing of my ways, my Father has once again showed unending mercy toward me, by teaching me what it was I had been missing.

My prayer is that this would be your testimony as well.

Here is the link for Lesson Six.

(Please note that this was a post in a series from a study we are working through on Restoring The Early Church. You are welcome to join us at any time! Please start at Lesson One, which is HERE.)


  1. You're such a great writer! You truly have a gift. It makes me want to share a tid-bit of when we made our life changing discovery as well. I'd love to hear stories from others too.

    Our journey has similarities in that we, too, had a nagging feeling that "there has got to be more than this!" At our church, in our family, and individually we felt like some rather large piece was missing. My friend remembers me being rather agitated at times and saying, "This can't be all there is. There has got to be more. Something just doesn't fit." She would agree but neither of us had any idea about what it was that was missing. Later on she, too, had the strong sense that something was missing and her family, too, discovered the missing piece.

    When we started homeschooling we started a chronological Bible reading program as part of our studies. The goal was to study history as we went through the Bible readings. For example, we studied creation at first and then the flood, we did our own table of nations and then we moved to the land of Shinar, etc. It was absolutely fascinating! To add to that, the L-RD brought into our home various things that went along with our reading and our studies that we didn't intend - right down to those junk mail magazines and commercials on the library videos we had checked out, they fit right into our studies. Our eyes began to open and we began to realize that there is SO MUCH in Scripture that we take for granted, the very Words of G-d and His instructions for His children. If out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks then we have a record of our Father's heart toward us and we had not been taking it seriously. Were we His children, too? If so, then did "forever" include us? We started to adopt some of the things we were reading about into our lives. The second year we read we had made a few lifestyle changes based on "this sounds good" and we began to see Scripture different again - phrases and sayings made more sense now because we had seen (and remembered) where they came from, places and people made sense. It all started to come together as one book rather than 66 books or 2 divisions. It was then that the nagging feeling began to settle down and we began to feel that "This is IT! This is the missing piece!" I love the song that says "I will never be the same again. I could never return, I've closed the door..." It is the perfect song for our journey.

    It was so exciting! There are specific moments that each of us remember that were thrilling and exciting, times when we knew that the L-RD was showing us something special. I remember getting chocked up when we were reading through Leviticus one day and at the end of the days readings the kids would whine and ask for more. I asked them, "Isn't Leviticus boring? Why do you want to hear more?" They piped up with, "No, this is my favorite book! I love this book. Please can we read another day?!" They loved the instructions for living, the instructions for how to approach our Loving Father. I cried. I was loving it too.

    Now, I'll try to get lesson 6 read today and I'll be back on Sunday. My challah is in process, laundry being done and I am looking forward to tomorrow with friends. May you all have a blessed Shabbat/Sabbath.


  2. In the past year I too had come sense that something was missing, and not quite right. It caused me to dig deeper and I feel I am learning more about God's desire for me and for the church as a whole. My parents did teach me about repentance and obedience, about taking responsibility for my sin...but very few churches in my experience take God's Word that seriously or teach those truths. They don't want to "offend" someone...and besides, God won't be appealing to people if they have to fear Him.

    I jotted down a couple of key ideas from the lesson that jumped out at me. I also think that the "Gospel of the Covenant" is a MUST to go along with these lessons...I am convinced that much of the church in America today has never really come to a true understanding of what salvation means; it has embraced a false gospel.

    I noted a list of "lacks":
    The church today is lacking a knowledge of God's laws, personal liability for sin, understanding of God's nature and holiness, desire of and love for God's Word; the Holy Spirit, the truth, commitment, sound teaching and doctrine, and spiritual role models.

    What is needed today is repentance, yielding, trust and obedience. From those will come a love for God's Word and a desire to walk closely with Him; an outpouring of the Spirit will follow so that others may also learn of Him.

  3. What a very well written post...but more importantly what important truths it contains. Sadly we have also witnessed many examples such as you shared. :( But the good news is that of God's grace. Grace, grace and more grace. What a mighty God we serve!


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