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God's Free Grace & Favor

Observe carefully, my brother, this order (Extra Nos first, then Intra Nos), for everything depends on it. However cleverly this factious spirit makes believe that he regards highly the Word and the Spirit of God and declares passionately about love and zeal for the truth and righteousness of God, he nevertheless has as his purpose to reverse this order. His insolence leads him to set up a contrary order and, as we have said, seek to subordinate God’s outward order to an inner spiritual one…should you ask how one gains access to this same lofty spirit they do not refer you to the outward gospel but to some imaginary realm, saying: Remain in ‘self abstraction’ where I now am and you will have the same experience. A heavenly voice will come, and God himself will speak to you...[1]

As I have been working on a new book for publication, I have been thinking much about my Christian life, the errors and heresies I learned and then taught others. I have been amazed at the Grace of God to forgive me my many sins and for the Pastors He provided to help teach true doctrine and destroy much of the bad theology I grew up in and later espoused. To God Alone be the Glory and Honor for He is faithful to correct, rebuke, reprove and instruct in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16 KJV). Paul also told Timothy to “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth…” (2 Tim. 2:15)

Tomorrow, Oct. 27th, my church (Faith Lutheran LCMS – Mountain Home) will be celebrating the Reformation when God used Luther to bring to light many false teachings and bring back the true Gospel to His People so they would no longer be under the burden that somehow their obedience plays in their justification. Three Solas came out of the Lutheran Reformation (in the Calvin version there are 5 Solas):

Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)

Sola Fide (Faith Alone)

Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)

That salvation is found completely outside of us is essential to understanding the Power of God unto salvation.

First, it is through Grace, not merit. You do not earn salvation by being a good person, doing your job right, helping those around you, not lying, cheating or stealing or coveting (those are fruits of regeneration). Grace is a favor that you don’t deserve. None of us deserve this grace of God and THAT is exactly why it is called grace: unmerited favor. Not one person who has ever lived or will live deserves the goodness of God towards them. We all deserve eternal damnation and apart from grace, we will get what we deserve.

Second, that saving faith was gifted to you. Faith is not something you pump up in yourself. It is not some feeling that your get yourself excited for. Neither is it blind trust in something nor a mathematical equation you calculate to see if it works. Faith is a gift. Faith is a treasure given the Means of Grace (Preaching of the Word, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper). You do not activate your faith, nor does everyone have that faith that they just need to move over to Jesus. God gives this faith alone. It also means that that faith is alone. Works never saved anyone. Works never justified anyone. Paul Speratus’ hymn states it quite well:

(You may listen here)

Salvation unto us has come

By God’s free grace and favor;

Good works cannot avert our doom,

They help and save us never.

I love the line: good works cannot avert our doom. So, what or who does?

Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone,

Who did for all the world atone;

He is our one Redeemer.

Third, salvation is found in Scripture alone…and thus begins my story of how my Christian life began with all this extra-biblical junk, the stuff of human making, the broken and debilitating gospel of me-ology.

Jesus was very clear that the Bible is not about you. It is not a to-do book. It does tell us what we should do in the Law but it tells us quite clearly and plainly that you cannot do it so Jesus did it FOR YOU! The Bible is not: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth UNLESS those instructions are about Jesus and the Gospel promises of life and forgiveness.

That is not how I learned it. Here then, is the story of where I came out of and how Christ, by His Holy Spirit through His written Word and the proper preaching and teaching of it, pulled me out of a self-focused belief system into the true Gospel where God does everything from outside of us to affect the inside.

Coming out of Pentecostal and Charismatic theology

In 2005 my husband, Roberto, and I were on our way to a summer camp that our church, Evangel (Long Island City, NY) promoted. One of our Assistant Pastor’s would often speak during this week and my husband and I looked forward to gaining a “greater anointing” as well as enjoy the Blue Mountains of Pennsylvania. That year, as we were leaving my husband pulled of the bookshelf the book God’s Generals II and I grabbed Old Paths by JC Ryle. It would change our lives and our theology quickly and decisively.

The next morning at camp my husband comes into our cabin asking, “Have you heard of Jan Huss? Have you known about justification by faith alone and Martin Luther?” Though familiar, as my father had become more reformed in his theology at the end of his life, I was not thoroughly versed in either subject. However, reading from Old Paths and just finishing the chapter on Justification that moment of epiphany hit. Bobby said it best, “If this is true, we are in a heap of trouble because what we’ve been learning and teaching goes against the Bible.” We both sat and closing our eyes began to repent of serious error and asking for God to straighten us out theologically and bring us to the true gospel of Jesus Christ. That moment would forever change the course of our lives as we transitioned from Pentecostal/Charismatic to Reformed Baptists to Calvinists (Continental reformed) to Lutheran.

This change in theology also caused quite the stir that summer at the camp. Everything we were taught from the pulpit we began to search the Scriptures to see if they were true. It also became a new book, A Modern Ninety-Five (Available here).

Sadly, most of what we were taught was false doctrine. This blog has a two-fold purpose: first, it is a warning to the leaders of today’s churches to bend their knees once again to what the scriptures teach and submit under the lordship of Jesus Christ and teach the faith once handed down to them. Second, it is an alarm to the people in the pews to run from the false teachers who would use them to build their ivory palaces with their “seed money” and false teachings across the television screens, over the radio waves, and across the Internet in the guise of “prophetic utterances.” This is a clarion call to the Church to return to the truth because “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

As I said earlier, no one is immune to these errors and heresies. I count myself as having been, formerly, an enthusiast, or as Martin Luther and the German reformers referred to them as, Schwaermers. Only as I began to search out whether or not these teachings were in Scripture as well as studying the history of the Church did I find that what I had been taught in a Holiness Pentecostal church and then later in a more generically charismatic evangelical church and under the New Apostolic Reformation was patently false and somewhat heretical.

It was not easy to admit that I had been duped and fooled into these teachings so much that I pushed them myself at various women’s meetings and privately in conversation but confession is always a good course to follow when you come to realize you have sinned. Elevating personal revelations, words claimed to be from God over and against the written Word of God are never good and always dangerous. History shows that many throughout history have looked for God speaking beyond Scripture and it has always led to heresies of one shape or form. This work will show by Scripture, Church History and the Confessions that the modern Pentecostal movement, and subsequent offshoots, i.e. Charismatic, Word of Faith, New Apostolic Reformation, began in falsehood and continue to push an Intra Nos focus which leads to desperation and its followers are continually hounded by this monstrous uncertainty.

Moving from Pentecostalism, semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism, through to the Charismatic movement, along the byways of the prophetic and apostolic movements, and into the darkness of deliverance ministries, I wandered for over fifteen years. I ran after the newest teachings thinking that they were true but instead found myself swallowed in the mire of error and the muck of heresy. I grew up in a Holiness Pentecostal church who held that “the Christian faith in light of their new experience of God[2]” was the proper way to interpret Scripture. “Experience is my creed…” is the position from which they argue for all their experiences and teachings. There was, in the early Pentecostals and the church fellowship of which I was a member (Ridgewood Pentecostal Church Fellowship) a belief that one needed to re-read the Scriptures since “in the light of their own experience of God and the spiritual needs of the world…the one thing that mattered was that the whole thing rang true to their own lived experience of faith…[3]

One also did not need outside teachers because you had the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you into truth. How did one tell that the Holy Spirit was leading them? You would know on the inside. Verification for their experiences were Intra Nos or inside themselves. No one was permitted to doubt since the Holy Spirit spoke, sometimes audibly, directly to your own heart. Sometimes they would say that if you feel the Spirit impressing something then you would just know it. Often those butterflies one feels when nervous would be taken to be the Spirit guiding you and speaking to you. Feelings over facts. Inward word over the objective truth. What is in your heart over and against what is written down in the Bible. The Pentecostals, modern day Schwaermers and Enthusiasts desire and preach an Intra Nos focus first rather than how God has always worked first, via Extra Nos. Feelings and emotions lead the Pentecostal Christian as Arthur Clement notes, “People flocked to Azusa Street, hoping to meet God there.[4]