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Saturday, 11 May 2013

Putting Myself On The Line

Last week I wrote, Lordship Salvation - Fact or Fallacy? and according to input by other bloggers on this site, I think my last blog could have been easily misunderstood. In one sense I could be one labelled as Easy Believism, a label which I'm prepared to accept. But as one who grew up as a Roman Catholic who turned atheist during my later teenage years, I was then converted to Christ in 1973 then aged twenty, and after this accepted Lordship Salvation as a way of Christian living, which dominated the 1980s and into the 1990s, I thought of writing this follow-up blog in a hope of clearing up any doubts, uncertainties or confusion which might have arisen among readers of last week's blog post. 
When my father was a boy, not long before the onset of World War II, he was sent for a time to be educated at an Italian Convent. On one occasion, he took Holy Communion without first making confession to the priest. When Mother Superior found out, she approached him and crashed her hand full force onto his cheek. Little wonder, after I was born, I grew up in a "hellfire" environment, a concept enforced by the Church itself in preparation for First Communion every Catholic child was obliged to take.
In those days I was aware of Jesus Christ, an exceptionally good man who did no wrong. That was why I wanted to know him, even as a boy. But what I craved was his love. Instead, an image of him constantly displeased with my attitude and behaviour led me, when I got older, to deny his existence.
It took many, many years to undo everything I learned and grew up in. But even to this day, rather than to say that I have arrived, it would be more honest to say that I'm still on my way there. One real eye-opener occurred when I attended a Baptist church in my home town around 1975 or '76. As we filed past the door steward, each of us were given a copy of the Baptist hymn book as we made our way to the main auditorium. By pure chance, I was given the large print copy, normally used by the pastor or elder. One of the hymns we sang that evening was To God Be The Glory, which contained this verse, followed by the chorus:
O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood;
To every believer the promise of God,
The vilest offender who truly believe,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!
Let the earth hear his voice.
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!
Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father through Jesus the Son,
And give him the glory, great things he has done!
That evening I was shaken. Because of the large print copy, the verse carried an extra powerful punch. Written in 1872 by Frances Crosby, who had been totally blind since she was a baby, such lyrics were a reflection of her faith. Then the explosion of praise which followed. This is Christianity - a love-relationship between a believer and God his Saviour. It is God who does all the saving and all the keeping, and the believer revels in his free gift of salvation.

Frances Crosby
I have discovered by my own experience that Lordship Salvation hardly comes close to such explosive praise as the hymn narrates. As I wrote already last week, I had been involved with a small Pentecostal home group for about a month, which after I left, not being happy with the leader's theology, the structure of service and his intrusion into member's homes to check that there was no television in the house. This attitude, often known as heavy shepherding, I found offensive. I believe that the leader sensed my unease, and he let me go, unlike with the rest of the group which he had a strong hold over.
The group soon moved into a chapel near the town centre. For several years he led a growing congregation. Then one day the chapel was vandalised, with windows smashed. A special mesh was put up over the newly re-glazed windows. Shortly after, the leader disappeared as if off the face of the earth. He was never seen or heard of again, according to my knowledge.
This Pentecostal leader was a good example of Lordship Salvation. His theology included a fear of  loss of salvation, along with short hair for the men and compulsory head cover for the women, normally with a headscarf. Compulsory long hair for the females did not seem relevant, some of the women were middle aged and preferred their hair permed. It was during this time that I, for once, decided to have my hair cut to satisfy his wishes and, to my belief, pleasing to God.
But otherwise, since I was eighteen, I grew my hair long, and I have shoulder-length hair to this day. Perhaps this stemmed from the military attitude of my late Uncle, Dad's older brother. He was Warrant Officer in the Royal Air Force. He was very particular that, as a youth, I always wore shirt and tie all day, even at weekends, and insisted that I had short back-and-sides. Once, when he came to visit, he rebuked my parents for allowing my hair to grow by an inch. No doubt, Mum resented this, and stood up to defend both my younger brother and me. By the time I came of age, Uncle was powerless as he watched my hair grow long whenever he and his wife came to visit.
To this day, I feel comfortable with long hair. During the day I have it tied back as a ponytail. Like this, from the front I look as if my hair is short, as well as keeping it away from my eyes whilst at work or in the gym. Therefore, I did not like to be told to cut my hair, although I obeyed, if it meant pleasing God. He took this idea from Paul's letter to the Corinthians that it is against nature for men to have long hair. In a sense that is true. No way would long hair would have suited my Uncle, being chubby-faced as he was. Also with virtually no neck, a shirt and tie was best suited for him as well. 
But to read that a man sporting long hair is effeminate and shall not inherit the Kingdom of God, to me, is way out of order, but I believe that there is such a teaching in some groups, including Pentecostals. Do I have a dislike for the Pentecostal denomination or their churches? By no means. To me, every one who truly believes is born of God and is a member of God's family, regardless of group or denomination. But to read or being told that a man with long hair is effeminate, I find so irritable, and does not edify. As a matter of fact, when I had an assessment with a Psychologist some years ago, she commented on my "brutally masculine" character. On top of this, tradition has it that Jesus Christ had long hair. Being from tradition, of course, this can be disputed, and it has been too. But one Biblical character who did have long hair was none other than Samson, one of the judges of ancient Israel.

 Samson, with his long hair, might have looked like Jesus Christ, above.
Samson was a Nazarite, a special calling from God which required the head to remain unshaven and to refrain from anything of the grapevine. We tend to imagine Samson with huge, barrel-shaped biceps whose strength was the result of years in the gym. Rather, the very fact that the Philistines had to blackmail his wife Delilah on where he had gotten his strength indicates that as a person, he looked like any other man, except with long hair, as his call to be a Nazarite demanded. The word "Nazarite" means "Branch" and it was the same title applied to Jesus. In order to keep the whole Law, Jesus had to have been a Nazarite, which included having long hair and staying off alcohol. That is the reason why I think pictures of Jesus sporting long hair are valid.

So after reading about men with long hair being effeminate, I decided to look into where this idea came from. It turned out to be from the Authorised Version (KJV) of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, which reads:

Know ye that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God.

Puzzled, I turned to the Interlinear Greek/English New Testament to verify exactly what Paul had written here. In fact the Greek word malakoi, translated as effeminate, actually appears as voluptuous persons. With this, the picture changes. A voluptuous person is one who revels in luxury without giving any regard to God, let alone thanks. It had nothing to do with a guy wearing long hair! Yet such a bad translation was the cause of such demeaning messages put out both in writing and orally.

But there is more. Lordship Salvationists, along with groups which insist that salvation can be lost if unconfessed sin accumulate, often quote these two verses as proof text for their position - mainly that an erring believer is in danger of ending up in the fires of Hell. I have read of one British author and pastor teach exactly this, and his books have sold well in English churches and bookshops. Even in my own housegroup back in the 1990s, I was rebuked by other members for calling this chap a "false prophet." But in just about all cases, I have yet to come across the verse which immediately follows:

And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. v. 11.

That Paul wrote that we are washed, sanctified and justified speaks volumes. With washing in the blood of Jesus, I imagine a garment washed in soapy water. The solution penetrates between every fibre in the garment, extracting the very last speck of dirt. Then the garment is rinsed. This may explain why the modern washing machine has five rinse cycles. This is necessary to ensure that the last of the soap is removed. But with the garment, once worn over the body, it will start collecting dirt again. But to be washed in the blood of Jesus, the cleanliness is eternal. No dirt could ever pollute the soul again. This is backed by Paul's statement that we are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus. Another term for justification is judicial acquittal. It means that the whole of our sins are taken away and the righteousness of Christ is imputed to our account. Therefore God the Father see Jesus in us, not our own righteousness. Finally, sanctification means that we have been called by God to conform to the likeness of his Son. Since this take a lifetime, we are in effect, students - or disciples of the Kingdom of God.

So does the content of verse 11 contradict the content of verses 9 and 10? No, not at all, because these two verses were not referring to the believer as Lordship Salvationists thinks. To understand who Paul was referring to, we need to read the whole chapter, and it is one concerning believers taking their disputes to unbelieving judges, barristers and lawyers. Paul sharply rebukes these believers for not dealing with the dispute themselves. "What?" he protests, "you who are in Christ are taking your disagreements to unbelievers? Don't you know that the unrighteous cannot inherit the kingdom of God? Neither the fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, the voluptuous, sodomites, thieves, drunkards, revilers and such like, shall inherit the Kingdom of God. Yet some of you were as them. But you as believers, are washed by the blood, sanctified and justified in the name of Jesus. Yet you go to unbelievers who are unrighteous themselves to resolve your dispute? Are you out of your mind???" That was Paul addressing the unrighteous who cannot inherit the Kingdom. The unrighteous were the unbelieving judicial system of the day, and not the Christians! Paul finally hammers this home with the words:

And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. v.14.

A positive, unconditional promise for all who are in Christ! Those believing in Lordship Salvation just seem to miss out on the joy of such a promise.

An Ancient Fountain, Corinth.

Also in his letter to the Romans, Paul talks a lot about Judicial Acquittal, or Justification by Faith, and he picks out Abraham as an example. In Genesis, God declared to Abraham that he will have a son, from whom his seed will bless many families. Abraham believed this revelation and God's righteousness was imputed to his account. There was no talk about "unconditional surrender to Christ" or "do not sin or else you will perish" or for that matter, "cut your hair and don't go about looking like a woman." No, instead God revealed to him something and by believing he was acquitted from all his sins.

Which leads me to a question which answer would put myself on the line:

Can we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
The answer is, Yes, we can!

But Paul did not write that in Romans 6:1. Instead he wrote:

Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?

That is a very different question, to which the obvious answer would be:

God forbid. How shall we, who are dead to sin, live any longer therein? v.2

I love the J.B. Phillips' version of Romans 6:2 as if Paul was a posh Englishman - "What a terrible thought!"

But then he asks the question: If we are dead to sin, then how can we continue in it? Dead to sin. That what Judicial Acquittal does, removes our sins as far away as east is from the west, and our iniquities he remembers no more. In other words, God no longer see our sins. Instead in us he sees Jesus Christ.

Yet, going back to 1 Corinthians 6, Paul wrote in verse 18:

Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he who committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

For Paul to instruct members of the church in Corinth to flee fornication seem to imply that there was evidence of it going around among the assembly. But there is no indication that any of them were in danger of losing salvation and threatened with Hell. Instead he instructs them to put away fornication, for it is a sin against the physical body, a temple of the Holy Spirit dwelling therein. I have a book written by Dr. McMillen, None of these Diseases, which tells very graphically of the agonising pains suffered by sexually transmitted diseases as being the end result of fornication. God certainly does not want members of his family to go through such dreadful experiences. Therefore, God disciplines his children whenever they go astray. But this discipline has two purposes and neither is a threat of Hell. The first reason for discipline was for their own good. The second was so they would partake in his holiness, the best way for any saint to experience full joy in the Lord.

My heart goes out to anyone who thinks Lordship Salvation is the only way to live the Christian life. But I do get angry with the "guys at the top" who constantly push such nonsense to their followers, depriving them of the fullness of the truth of the Gospel. They were the ones who underwent college training and passed graduation. Because of this, they are seen by their followers as always right, and us plebs who had never seen the inside of a university as hopelessly wrong and deceived. It is at this I at times would wish I could grab these leaders by the neck and shout, "GET YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER, YOU WHITED WALL!" - as Paul himself had done on one occasion, although he had to apologise afterwards! This is again putting myself on the line, but done for the glory of God. 


  1. I have had what people call the 'Pentecostal' experience, part of that which I experience being a supernatural speaking in a language which I have never learned but through which I can communicate with God in a way that is much deeper than my natural prayer. However I would not say that I am of the 'Pentecostal denomination' because every denomination appears to have added something to the doctrine of Christ. I have come across people who are humble and kind, showing the love of serving Christ in their every day life and in the church gatherings I have attended. I have also come across people who try to lord it over others and would rather people follow them than Christ. By their fruits we shall know them and I do not think slapping a person across the face demonstrates the fruit of the Spirit, nor do I think it is a commandment of Christ that you remove a television from your house. As far as how we dress or how we wear our hair, it is 'as a man thinks so he is', not what he wears or what he looks like. I have never felt that I belong to any denomination, Jesus is my Lord and Master and I want His ways to be my ways so I would rather let His word be my judge, not a doctrine that is added to it. If we are truly seeking God's wisdom and knowledge, we shall find it, and so far I have found the Lord's ways are corrective, yet most loving and long-suffering because He understands we are flesh. It is good to hear your thoughts Frand, thank you for sharing them.

  2. I think because you've had bad experiences with the Catholics, with that group you was recently in, and from whatever other groups you were in. Because some people took certain things to an extreme by coming in ones house and seeing if there is a tv, which is crazy by the way, or the situation with your uncle. From all of those experiences you have decided to do what you see is best instead of what one tells you is best, which isn't exactly a bad thing. We aren't to trust in man anyway, but in the Lord. But when you come across something you feel uncomfortable with or disagree with, you deduce it to be some crazy theology man created, even if in some cases it is something that isn't exactly some concoction of a man's brain but it is in actuality written in scripture, said by the Lord Himself.

    There are certain key tenets in the Christian faith, like Love one another like God loves us, Justification by faith, being born and again, and so on. Jesus Himself said we are to deny ourselves if we want to follow Him. This wasn't something a denomination made up, it's written clearly in scripture. Wisdom should be applied if one is to truly understand what they should deny themselves, to know what is detrimental in a persons spiritual walk/growth and what is not.

    I agree with everything Brenda said. The truth still remains that nobody wants to deny themselves anything, that's the idea, it's a sacrifice, minor compared to the sacrifice God made for us on that cross. Many people feel entitled to certain things. The best example of a person refusing to deny themselves, is the story about the rich man who Jesus spoke to. The rich man pretty much thought He was going to heaven because he kept all of Gods commandments from a child. How many of us can honestly say we did that? And even then, Jesus told Him good, but now give away all of your riches and follow me. Jesus was telling the rich guy to deny himself of what he had already grown accustomed to and liked and felt he was entitled to. The rich man couldn't do it and walked away.

    I'm pretty sure, that rich guy thought there was nothing wrong with him being rich. In all honesty there wasn't, that wasn't what Jesus was trying to get across with that story. He wanted to show us how we love certain things so much, we would rather cling onto those things, which will ultimately perish, instead of trusting in God for our joy and happiness. I'm sure that rich guy didn't think he would be eligible to go to hell either, but what did God say after the rich guy walked away, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven". This wasn't because of His wealth, this was because of the rich man's inner feeling towards His wealth. What treasures he had acquired in this life took precedence over following the Lord, so he refuse to let go, to deny himself. He felt He couldn't live without it, his joy and happiness came from that. He obviously loved his money more than God, as he couldn't bother to part with any of it, even to follow Jesus.

  3. We must be careful not to lean on our own understanding, running with every wind of false doctrine. Self denial is one of the key tenets of the Christian faith, that wasn't something created by some denomination, it was said by the Lord himself in each of the Gospels. If you are having trouble with what you should deny yourself, I think you should seek the council of the Lord, let Him help you to understand what you should let go and what is okay. However, Frank, I don't think you are having any trouble with that though. As I have gathered from reading this post of yours and the one prior, you think the entire idea of denying oneself is ridiculous, superfluous at best. Just like the rich man who Jesus spoke with.

    Like Brenda said each denomination has added something to the doctrine of Jesus Christ, that is very very true, which is one of the reason I follow none of them. But you shouldn't just jump up and say I'm not following that because some denomination created that, and I'm talking solely on things that the Lord God himself instructed is us on, not the thing's the denomination actually did create. Of course, it takes wisdom to know the difference between what is some crazy doctrine fabricated by men who went to seminary school for their doctorate in theology, clearly because they didn't get the memo that the Holy Spirit leads one to all truth, and what is of God. Knowing the difference is important. I'm pretty sure that guy marching down to everyone's house to see if they have a teli was not instructed by God to do so.
    I follow no denomination, just like Brenda. I only follow the teaching's of Jesus Christ and what is revealed to me by His Holy Spirit. Like I said in my other comment, on your other post, "There is a way that seem right to man, but that way leads to death" Proverbs 14:12. And I will add this, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" Proverbs 3:5 May God guide and bless you brother.

    1. Dear Sateigdra,

      Thank you for your comments, for this post and for its predecessor, and although your latest comments are virtually identical to the ones you posted last week, I welcome you to this forum.

      In this post I have revealed much of my life as a background explanation for why I believe the way I do and why I have chosen the direction I have taken.

      Now, I have believed in the Lord for the last forty years (I was converted in January 1973) and I have been through much ups and downs with my faith, and the reason why I share these things is to open the possibility for the reader to identify at least with the few of the things I mention in order to encourage and to edify, that is build up the faith in others. And I very much hope that the Holy Spirit in me is working through this - if not, then I'll shut this entire page straight away.

      First, I admire your commitment to Christ and your daily devotion to Him. I am fully aware how much you want to serve him just by reading your blog as well as your comments. But the snag with your comments, Sateigdra, is that you do not know me at all - certainly not what I have been through, for example - a terrible family tragedy which details I prefer not to share here. But suffice to say, having faith in God during such times was extremely beneficial, and more than that, believing in my heart that all things work for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose - not only helped us cope with the crisis, but also had a liberating effect in my ability to always thank and praise God in all things, just like Frances Crosby as mentioned above - blind, but wrote one of the greatest hymns of all time.

      You mention the rich man and his encounter with Jesus. Sure enough, he turned away sad when the Lord told him to sell everything, give the money to the poor and follow him. You then use this as a yardstick to deny my sincerity in wanting to follow him.

      Now another thing I should let you into, Sateigdra, and that was I once actually believed that to follow Jesus to my full potential, I had to end up homeless and as a vagabond, wonder from place to place across the country, almost literally feeding on discards thrown out by others. This may be bearable in the Summer or in the Middle East (where I spent some months) but such a lifestyle would be torturous during the Winter here in the UK. It was only by getting to know the Bible better that I realised that God had never called me to that way of life!

      So I challenge you, Sateigdra, to let me into your ideas on HOW I can deny myself and follow Jesus in the way you describe, and tell us the things you do in your life, and all the things you have denied as well, so someone like me can have some light too.

      Will I be denied entry into the Kingdom like the rich man was? Not that I'm anything but rich! Rather, at times I struggle to keep the budget afloat, but even then I still thank God for what I do have, and I much rather stay as I am yet be close to God than to become a multi-millionare (in £ Sterling, which is something!)

      I have mentioned in last week's blog about struggling to keep our budget afloat - First, do you read my blog carefully? Secondly, can you really class me as the same as the rich man - who had probably not done a day's work in his life?

      Now I close with this: Just as I have no right to evaluate your faith - because this is between you and God alone and to him only you are likewise, how I stand in the Lord is between God and myself only, and God is indeed able to make me stand! Therefore my respect for you and your faith will grow if you are to respect my faith too, and not to decide whether I'm denying myself or doing the right thing or not.

      So you devote yourself to the faith, and as being a sister in Christ, may God lead and bless you richly.

  4. Hey, Frank. I do believe you took everything I said the wrong way.I'm sure you have other readers on your post and they read the comments, so much of what I said was me speaking generally, not just to you, specifically the story of the rich man. The reason I used the analogy with the rich man, wasn't because I believe a person following God, should go live on skid Row or something, eating out of the gutters and I doubt that's what Jesus shared that story for. It's for everyone to examine themselves. A lot of the things we refuse to deny ourselves are detrimental to our spiritual walk. Where your treasure is, is where your heart is. I wasn't using that story as a yard stick to measure anything about you. It's obvious where you stand in regards to denying yourself of certain things.

    I still believe you missed why I used that example. You are correct I do not know you. I don't know how anything in my comment even gave you the impression I was delving into things about you beyond what you shared here on this post and the one prior. My comments were based on the information you provided, so I didn't make any guesses into other aspects of your life. You mentioned your uncle, I mentioned your uncle. I didn't mention a long lost cousin or something that you didn't reveal about yourself. The things you revealed on here makes every one of your readers privy to at least some aspect of your life. The tile of your post is "Putting Myself On The Line", and you did.

    If I had known initially that you're the kind of person who wants a persons comment to be something you would agree with, I wouldn't have commented in the first place, because I'm not one to say what people want to hear, but perhaps from the information gathered which they have shared themselves, what they need to hear.

    As for what I have denied myself Frank, many things my friend. Mostly thing's like fornication, living a homosexual lifestyle, lying, different vices, and things that may be trivial to most but still was damaging to me, so on and so forth.
    The whole point of both of my comments was to let you know we HAVE to deny ourselves certain things that we are comfortable with, self denial is important as a follower of Jesus. I didn't make that up. Jesus said that straight forward in Scripture. That's all I was trying to say. What I gathered from the information you provided about yourself was that you don't agree with that principle of denying yourself, in spite of the fact that it is something Jesus Himself said a follower of His ought to do. That's all I was trying to say. You provided information and perhaps I thought my comment would help. Obviously my comment is in opposition to what you believe, that self denial is not necessary, so I guess you assume I'm acting like I know you. I don't know what else to say Frank. I was only trying to add some feedback that would edify hopefully, guess it didn't, sorry if there was any misunderstanding.

  5. Praise God that He loves us infinitely. As a loving Father, He chastens us when we go astray, but when we return to Him, He welcomes us with open arms. We have liberty in Christ and are not bound by legalism. Paul explained that eating or not eating certain foods, observing or not observing certain feast days, etc., is a matter of personal conscience. We are not to judge one another, for only He knows the heart, and only He is the righteous Judge. Hairstyles and TVs are not going to keep us from Heaven any more than they are going to get us there. TV, or the Internet, or wealth can all be instruments of good or of evil, depending on how they are used and with what motive. Thanks as always for the excellent and Biblically sound post, Frank. God bless.

  6. Great post Frank and great comments too. I'm not sure on where I stand on it all, as not growing up in a Christian family or background and never being churched in any way as a young person, it has always been me and God, and when I prayed as a youngster I felt His presence and Spirit in my life, simple as that! For someone from an ordinary W/class background this was a revelation, as none of my family are believers in any way and are basically skeptics; so why me? I don't know really.

    I struggled, and have struggled with, issues of lust for a long time and partially because I am single and desire to meet someone, fall in love, get married and have kids. As well as this I want to be a successful author and work quite hard to this end. I pray about it all regularly. One thing I do believe is that being a Christian we should never judge another because of their hair, or what programs they watch, or music they listen to, and so on. This is never out of love but usually always out of control. Christianity is relationship not a cult or sect. If we love God, love others and have a healthy love for ourselves, and put that into practise in a practical and pragmatic way each day, I believe we are doing God's will; and as for doctrines? Well if they come from the Bible all well and good. If they are mere traditions tacked on; well we need to think about that don't we?