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Tuesday, 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 go 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 decades-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 in the light of His own absolute 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.

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