one tiny soapbox: my account of Sovereign Grace...
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Thursday, March 15

my account of Sovereign Grace...

I'm greatly compelled to begin by making a few things explicitly clear: God is intrinsically Holy. Man is intrinsically unholy. To reconcile these two --and to avoid the Just & Righteous Wrath of the The Intrinsically, Infinitely Holy God-- man must Believe the Gospel & repent of His unholiness. To read a fuller explanation of this reality, please click here.

What follows is a brief story of how I personally was brought to face these Profound Truths. I trust you'll profit from reading. Feel absolutely free to question anything you read in the comment section below; I would love your feedback!

I spent ages 5 to 18 at a small, Pentecostal church in Minneapolis, and upon graduating from high school, I headed off to university in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Can you guess where? ...why, Oral Roberts University, of course! (Where "all" good Pentecostal & Charismatic teens want to go.) ORU, if you don't know, has been a bastion of the modern-day "Prosperity gospel," and is closely related to what is known as the "Word of Faith" movement. ('Course, I didn't know all this then, and probably wouldn't have cared, much, either. But it's far more important to me now, after having been drawn through the narrow gate and seeing much more clearly from this side.)

In my 4 years there, I experienced some pretty, uh, "interesting" happenings, for sure. But most importantly, the theology often proved loose and scattered (though I have to admit some good stuff likely was taught, I can't think of much, now). Here's a taste of its fruit. It's a video of the guy who formerly pastored the church I attended in Tulsa, himself an ORU alumn, who now fully - and defensively - espouses Universalism. Of course, this particular heresy was denounced by Oral himself as utterly "damning." Yet, I can't help but deduce, and rather forcefully, that it is yet another by-product of the bad hermeneutic employed by a community of (largely) un-Regenerate, self-appointed false prophets of -and associated with- Oral Roberts Ministries. It was so bad, I'm beginning to suspect of myself that I now selectively overlook (consciously or not) whatever amount of good was present in that place.

Further, I'm reasonably sure I never once heard a convicting, rightly exposited Gospel proclamation in all my years there, or prior at that small, independent Pentecostal church.

Why? Well, firstly, is the topical preaching prevalent in such circles. Back at my old church, theology and doctrine were basically disdained as man-made and unprofitable. So not one minister since its founding ever had seminary training and I believe have never learned how to truly exposit the Scriptures -- methodically, consistently explaining the intended meaning of each book or epistle verse-by-verse-- thoroughly examining its historic, cultural and literary contexts (You know, like the Bible is supposed to be taught: Acts 18:26; 2 Timothy 2:15).

Secondly, the Gospel presentation was flawed. At the small Pentecostal church there was plenty of "conviction" preached (our little church had a reputation for "preachin' the Word"). Basic calls to "get right" with the Lord and earnestly seek forgiveness were the gist of it. Repentance was called for, without a full and accurate explanation of exactly what it entails. Since most are Arminian, many Pentecostals and Charismatics over-emphasize man's action, making it more about his response and less about the Lord's Sovereign work in the heart. Man becomes the primary determiner of outcomes; God becomes handicapped by the will of man. There was also no solid understanding of the importance of the law to drive depraved man to Christ. Thus the "piercing needle" of the law, behind which the thread of the Gospel necessarily follows was replaced with the blunted match-stick of general guilt-loading. (Perhaps a bit of brimstone without the actual fire?)

The Gospel preaching at ORU and sister ministries was just plain weak, being mostly a "come on, let God fill your heart with happiness and help you fulfill your potential," kinda message. I can only recall a single, solitary appeal that even came close to describing Biblical repentance, and that from a fellow student who still left the matter of the Law's demands on the sinner under-addressed. Other than that, gospel appeals were largely a "come hither-ism" with splashes of theater to attract a "sight and sound generation."

In these contexts I'm convinced I only encountered a not-so-fully-orbed Gospel message, which I believe was devoid of the "power of God for Salvation" which Paul described in Romans 1:16. So ... how did I come to be Regenerated? You ask great questions!

I moved here to Cali in '96 (following a "call" to fulfill my "purpose" as an entertainer, of all things!). In 2000, a friend loaned me Hank Hanegraaff's book, ‘Christianity in Crisis. That one small event set me off on a period of total disillusionment with the whole Pentecostal/Charismatic way of belief. I had begun to wonder about it years earlier, but at that point I really began to question in earnest.

In '03, I was exposed for the first time, by God's Grace, to the sound, expository preaching & teaching at my beloved Grace Community Church. But it wasn't until the following summer, within days after my son’s mother left our home for the East coast, that I heard a 24 year old recording that changed my life! It was a sermon by John MacArthur, in which he very thoroughly explained the Gospel (with all its rough, offensive elements). It was the one thing I needed more than anything! Only then did the Lord open my eyes to fully perceive my own total wretchedness before His infinite Holiness.

You see, I had professed faith in Christ at 16, and had even lived in such a way that real evidence seemed to result. I was a respectable kid, a leader among my church peers, yada, yada, yada... But, though I didn’t (of course) see it then, I later saw in hindsight that I had never really demonstrated a genuine reverence for the Lord, or hunger for His Word, or any pattern of obedience to the Biblical Text. I had no real hatred for my sin, and had never honestly, thoroughly examined myself in the light of the Bible's Truths (something I'm still learning to do). I could see that I had been proud and arrogant in my puny religiosity...and in the days following my Conversion I began to perceive, with increasing clarity, patterns of sin and self-deception that had been present in me for years. (Heck, I'm still discovering these layers of sin...and assuredly will through the moment of my death.)

Sadly, I had lived like a Pharisee, displaying only external obedience to God's law & modifying it at will to reflect my own idea of what a "committed Christian" looked like.

But upon hearing that very sound exposition of the Gospel, I felt an almost palpable conviction over my sins and a desperate need to repent of them. And, for the first time in my entire life, I spent time in humble, repentant, tearful prayer begging forgiveness for those sins. Because only then had I come to realize my utter wretchedness before an infinitely holy and justly wrathful God!

How I thank Him for His matchless Mercy & Grace!!!

Anyhow...that’s it in the proverbial nutshell. If you'd like me to fill in any gaps you find, feel free to leave a comment below, and I'll be sure to respond.

ibcarlos, Reformed thinker

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Comments on "my account of Sovereign Grace..."

 

Anonymous DeeAmedeo said... (Sun Feb 01, 01:44:00 PM 2009) : 

Small world Carlos. I'm so thrilled that you are a blood washed, spirit filled, Holy Ghost believer! I thank God He put you in my path.
Love your writings.
Blessings to you and yours,
Dee Amedeo

 

Blogger gwennablogs said... (Tue Mar 31, 09:53:00 PM 2009) : 

Wow Carlos. Thank you for your testimony. Only the Grace of God through Jesus Christ could make that possible! Your thoughts really struck a chord in my heart. You really put into words what I have not been able to since my time at ORU. I too have come to realize the false teaching we were exposed to at ORU. I read Christianity in Crisis shortly after graduation in 96. I new something was wrong, sadly, I did not know what.

I am truly thankful that God knows His elect and He keeps them by the power of His hand. I

 

Blogger ibcarlos said... (Tue Mar 31, 10:07:00 PM 2009) : 

Thanks, Miss 'gwennablogs'.

The Lord is indeed good (far more than we'll ever possibly deserve)!

Who are you, by the way? I think your comment got cut off.

(c:

 

Blogger gwennablogs said... (Wed Apr 01, 09:24:00 PM 2009) : 

This is Gwen Pozun (formerly Tarpley) from ORU. I forget that my blog name is not idetifiable. I got cut off, and it was really late when I wrote it. I kind of gathered from your post about our chief purpose to bring Christ pleasure....that you somehow no longer were a fan on the "faith" movement. It is sad to say, but I think your post may have said that Christ exists for your pleasure if you were still of that mind. I do not recall anyone at that time that would have clung to such a thought.

Well, I am needing some family time and sleep. But I am looking forward to checking out your blog!

Grace and Peace...

 

Blogger joydriven said... (Fri Jul 31, 10:24:00 AM 2009) : 

Thanks for sharing this, Carlos, with both conviction and clarity.
~joy mccarnan

 

Blogger ibcarlos said... (Fri Jul 31, 11:39:00 AM 2009) : 

Well...it's sure a Pleasure, Joy, to be saved. And mightily so!

Blessed be His Glorious Name!

 

Anonymous GodsPrincess79(CDFF.COM) said... (Sat Sep 05, 10:25:00 PM 2009) : 

Just recently an acquaintance of mine mentioned their desire to attend ORU. I know I was led to your blog for the specific reason of obtaining your insight as a student there so that I can share it with them. Thank you for being open and honest and for your obedience in sharing.

 

Blogger ibcarlos said... (Sat Sep 05, 10:53:00 PM 2009) : 

My pleasure! May the LORD's name be glorified in all things.

 

Anonymous orangehead75 said... (Fri Jan 15, 11:37:00 PM 2010) : 

Thanks for sharing! I pray your testimony will not only bless other believers but bring The Truth to those who need to hear it! The Lord be praised for His grace displayed in your life!

 

Blogger Naomi said... (Sun Dec 05, 06:58:00 PM 2010) : 

I too lived like a Pharisee all my life growing up the daughter of a Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod Pastor. My life became completely unmanageable:I received a Spiritual Awakening through completing my 12 steps of Codependents Anonymous. Now I take every thought captive to see if it is good, pure, and encouraging. Thank you Lord for delivering me!

 

Blogger Annette said... (Sat Jan 01, 04:35:00 PM 2011) : 

Happy New Year to You!!!!

First off, let me say that I found your testimony of your journey to Christ quite touching, honest, and relevant. Last night I attended a watch night service at a friend’s church and was quite shocked by what I heard. The “sermon” that the Pastor delivered was a Prosperity and Word of Faith message on steroid. The Pastor strategically steamed bible verses together taking them completely out of context to tell the congregation that they can control their future i.e. what will happen in 2011 simply by speaking. His primary text was Phil 3:13-14. In essence, he stated that we have to neglect, ignore our failures/problems of the past and move forward to what God has promises us in the future. Unfortunately, he did not point out that scripture is referring to us striving to be more Christ- like and that the prize is we joining Christ for all eternity in heaven.
Other texts used Proverbs 18:21, Mark 11:22-23, 2 Cor 4:12-15, Rom 4:17 and Ez 37:1-14.
None of the scriptures has anything to do w/ obtaining riches here on earth and speaking those riches into existence. But, I witnessed a congregation holding on to every word of the Pastor; many shouting in agreement their “Amen(s)” and “Speak the Truth Pastor”. Next, the Pastor had the congregation to repeat proclamation for 2011, which stated I proclaim thus, and so for 2011 which included good health for themselves and their families, increase in their finances, jobs, growth in business opportunities etc.
What is lacking in his message and so many others messages that are preached from pulpits each week is the Sovereignty of God and His Will for our lives. The audacity to think that because I proclaim or speak something that it will automatically come to past is absurd. God is not sitting in heaven waiting for us to petition him w/ all our wants and desires. I’ve prayed prays for healing for my relatives before and they still passed away, so did God fail me ─ ABSOULTELY NOT!!! We are all destine to die some day. Who is to say that their healing did not come in their death? The Prosperity Gospel Message forgets that Jesus said in Matt 5:45 that it will rain on the just and unjust; thus, we as Christians will face trails and persecution in this life. However, the one promise that we can hold onto w/ absolute certainty is Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

Be Blessed and Stay Encouraged as you grow in Christ.

Feel Free to email at psalm86_2011@yahoo.com

 

Blogger ibcarlos said... (Sat Jan 01, 09:52:00 PM 2011) : 

Thank you, Annette!

Indeed such a "timely" & accurate observation. And one our (oft times ill-taught) Pentecostal & Charismatic Brethren (& we too) need to be told as often as can be managed.

Thank you for sharing!

Carlos

 

Anonymous Providence said... (Tue Aug 02, 11:09:00 AM 2011) : 

Thank you Carlos for your wonderful testimony! What is so dangerous about the prosperity gospel is that many who believe in it never truly seek God for who He is but they seek God for what He can do for them. They are in fact worshipping an idol God, materialism, hoping in temporary substance instead of God's eternal substainance. I once was a part of a Pentecostal church (and not saying all Penecostals are such) that taught the very same thing. Many stay in the church for years before they leave disappointed and dilusioned because their financial or health condition has not improved, despite "claiming it" "speaking it," and being a faithful tither, etc. Please do continue to share your testimony with others to encourage those who may have been there or are there, that they may seek the true and living God, and He will make His abode with them, and they shall be saved.

 

Blogger ibcarlos said... (Tue Aug 02, 09:53:00 PM 2011) : 

Soli Deo Gloria! (c:

 

Anonymous Anonymous said... (Tue Jun 11, 04:45:00 AM 2013) : 

Thank you so much Carlos for sharing your journey to the truth. You lead me to listen to John MacArthur's recording of Matthew Ch7 V.21-29

I am heading for the narrow gate, now!

Thank you thank you!

 

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