Comments on Perfection and My Book...

I received two comments on older blog posts (from someone I don't know) earlier this morning. The person stated that he attended my former church in Chino over twenty years ago. Twenty years ago would have been just prior to the move to Tennessee being announced. He didn't say if he moved with the church or not. And I might be able to remember him with more information. But with nothing other than a first name, I don't remember who he is. Rather than go back to the old posts to respond, I thought I would bring the conversation to the top of my blog so that more of my readers could read it. And this is why:

I am asked frequently by current Christian friends, what in the world was the basis for the belief that one had to reach perfection in this life to go to heaven (because the Bible is clear that salvation is a gift by grace through faith). I can never really make anyone understand how certain scriptures were twisted to make it seem glaringly true to me all my life. If your thinking has never been conditioned in this way, it really is hard (almost impossible) to fathom. Because I had one of those conversations in response to that question as recently as last week, I just wanted to share these blog comments to help my current friends understand the mindset a little better. David, the person who commented on my blog this morning, says that he has not attended church in seven years, but he clearly remains faithful to the "truth" of what he was taught in the "Body of Christ" churches I was raised in.
The first comment:
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Be Perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is ...":

It's sad that you chose to leave the Body of Christ.

Hopefully you haven't strayed so far from the truth that it would prevent you from meriting a resurrection and getting another chance.

I have to post as anonymous since I don't have any of the accounts to post otherwise, but my name is David, and after 47 years in the Body of Christ (including attending the church in Chino when I lived in CA), I know there is no other truth in this world.
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Healing from Spiritual and Emotional Abuse":

I'm not familiar with commenting on these blogs, but I left a comment on one of your older posts. I wasn't sure if you would see it or not because of how old it is, so I'm leaving you a comment on this newer page as well. I also left a comment about CGT being a cult on the website about cults that re-printed this page. It didn't show up, so I don't know if they will post it or not.

I don't know if we ever met at CGT in Chino since it's been over 20 years since I moved to Kentucky, and then Indiana. I just came across the site about cults that is promoting your book and re-printed what your blog says. That site had the URL for your blog. That's how I ended up here.

I'm very sorry to hear that you feel the way you do about the Body of Christ, and I have to admit that I am very hurt to hear that anyone who attended such a wonderful church that gave it's people the incredible amount of freedom that CGT did could ever call it a cult. I've seen how other churches in this world operate, and CGT is about as far from a cult as you can get. Yes, some of the teaching was strict, but the scriptures are strict when it comes to killing the flesh daily as the Apostle Paul tells us we must do in order to overcome sin. If we have no further obligation than the cross and repentance of our sins, and striving to reach perfection is a false gospel, then the Bible has to be false, because there are over 20 verses in the New Testament that tell us we are to reach perfection. Jesus himself tells us in Matthew 5:48 "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." I can't see how it could be any more clear or straightforward than that.

I don't mean this in a vindictive way, but regarding your book and public outcry against CGT, please remember that that the only way to offend Jesus is by offending his people. Even though I haven't attended church for about 7 years myself now, I would never speak ill of it, if for no other reason I would not want to offend the many good people and children of God that do attend it. In fact, I try not to speak ill of any church regardless of who they are because there are good people in every church that will someday hear the call to come out of her my people, and I wouldn't want anything I said be an offence to them and cause them to miss out on the truth some day.

If you think I'm brainwashed, trust me, I'm not. I've questioned a lot of things I've been taught, and I've searched the scriptures, and my heart many, many... MANY times. In the end, I've always found that regardless of what I wanted to be true, the things our pastor taught us from that pulpit on Sunday mornings stood every test I could give it, and it always proved to be the truth.

While you probably consider me a cultist or something because I still believe the teachings we both learned are true, and I still believe that the King James Version Bible is the word of God, and is infallible, you also know that because of that very same teaching that I love you as my sister in Christ, and that I will still pray for you.

God bless you sister.
Your brother Christ
My response:

Dear David,

Thank you for taking the time to comment on my blog. I'm sorry that you feel sad for me. And I know the sadness you are feeling is very genuine because you believe I have lost my way and strayed from the truth. But you need not feel sad. While it is true that I have left the group professing to be THE Body of Christ in the earth, I have not left God. My faith is 100% in the blood of Jesus Christ -- His sacrificial death on my behalf and His resurrection -- for my salvation. I know you believe that His work on the cross did not accomplish my salvation and is not sufficient in itself to get me to heaven, but the Bible is clear that there is no other way. As far as whether or not I still "merit" another chance or a resurrection, the answer would be no. I merit nothing. God's grace is unmerited favor. If the gift of eternal life could be gained through merit, it would be a wage and not a gift. And not one single person other than Jesus would be in heaven. Because not one single person in the Bible was declared perfect other than Him. The Bible is filled with flawed, inadequate people -- not perfect followers.

I am so thankful to have been delivered from "the truth" you believe I have strayed from. And my hope and prayer for you is that you will one day be delivered from it as well. It is a false gospel. It is not the truth. In fact, many of the people in CGT today don't even claim they believe in the perfection doctrine anymore.

May I ask why you no longer attend church when you believe so strongly that God requires you to be perfect? The reason I ask is because this is one of the sad realities I observed throughout my life that helped me to see the idolatry of the group. I witnessed so many people stray from God, but always remain uncompromising in their loyalty to the group and its teachings. Even in your comments, your sadness is all about my leaving this group and its truth. You believe my ultimate salvation is in jeopardy because I have strayed from this group and its beliefs. This conveys that the group and its beliefs are paramount in salvation; even more important than the cross. Your words of concern confirm that. That is idolatry. There is nothing more important than the cross.

As far as the scripture you quoted, I now see that verse in context. The entire chapter is addressing the love we should have for others. It is not addressing salvation or how to obtain salvation.

Yes, I do believe that it is important how I live my life. I believe that obedience is the strongest evidence of my faith. I believe God expects me to love others, to love even my enemies, to return good for evil. And I want my daily life to honor Him and glorify Him. But I do not believe my works are going to be the determining factor in whether or not I make it to heaven. My works are the evidence of my faith. But it is faith that overcomes the world. I am saved by grace. I can add nothing to the cross. However, I can demonstrate my gratitude for what Jesus has done by responding to His love and mercy with a life that honors Him. I do try to crucify my flesh. I do try to overcome my selfish nature. I do make an effort to resist temptation and not sin willfully. To be perfectly honest with you, I make a much greater effort to honor God in my daily life since leaving CGT than I ever did while I was believing those teachings. A true transformation has taken place in my heart and in my life since I have believed the true gospel.

My book tells my own personal story of deliverance and redemption. I didn't write it to speak 'ill" of anyone. And anyone who has actually read the book knows that it was written in love and not in malice. I have a story to tell. I have a testimony to share. I wanted to document that testimony in writing. I began writing from the desire to help others. I had no idea how much God would use it for my own healing. But He has. If you read my book, you will find more answers to your questions (including scripture references). However, because I spent nearly a year of my life putting it all into the book, I don't feel compelled to explain myself any further in this response. I've moved on.


Shari said…
Wow. I just realized that David's first comment was in response to my very first entry on this blog. When I began this blog, I had absolutely no clue I would one day put my testimony into a book.

By the way, I receive an email notification any time someone comments on my blog -- no matter how old the actual entry is.
I find it somewhat amusing that David has left the church himself but holds you accountable to the church and it's teachings.

Yes, I believe in the truth of "the body of Christ" but I no longer believe in "the body of Christ".

What I am is a follower of my Savior who died for me. The only person I have to follow is Christ. Whether or not I follow a group of men is irrelevant. My salvation comes from Christ not a minister or a group of people.
Amazing the hold abuse has over the mind.

Thinking that a certain doctrine or body of believers is to my thinking "the golden ticket" of religion. Find the right church or belief and "POOUF!" you sit back with your beer (in my case fuzzy navel :) and your glory bound.

No need to do that messy stuff called a relationship with Christ and his children on earth.

And yes David, there is more to Christ's children than the "Body".

Shari...Lewis Wells of Commandments of Men wrote a great post about his soul searching:

I think you would really enjoy it :)
Anonymous said…
Hello again Shari. Thank you so much for the kind reply to my comment.

I felt obliged to respond to your question about why I haven't attended church for a while, and I believe this will address Simply Taunya's and The Cult Next Door's comments as well.

Why I haven't attended the services for some time is something I won't go into great detail in case the things I say offend anyone that reads this. What I will say is that I had a problem with patience, sincerity, especially in apologizing for my offences, and many times my words were offensive. I will also admit that for some time I had let my faith wane to the point where I all but lost it.

Thankfully, I never strayed from the foundational teaching, and I'm even more thankful that "a bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench..." I have spent much time in prayer over the years, and I do believe God spent that time dealing with me about many issues I have had regarding the church. Sort of a 'time alone in my own personal wilderness' as it were to talk to the Lord, and to struggle with my issues.

Taunya, it's not the church I feel we are held accountable to, but the Lord, and the more truth we know, the more accountable we can be held for our actions. I know that I am fully accountable to the Lord for the decisions I have made, but thankfully God has been bringing me out of my personal wilderness with a more perfect understanding of his word, his plan, and MUCH more patience than I had before. Seven years ago I would have replied to this blog in anger. Now, I can reply in love, and I do pray that what I have said was not mistaken for anger. In fact, after reading what I wrote last night, it does sound judgmental, but please believe me that that was not how I intended it to sound. I apologize for not being able to choose my words more perfectly. I honestly meant to convey love rather than anger or judgment. Honestly, I was so surprised, and even shocked, that I really wasn't sure what to write, and I did not spend the time praying about it as I should have.

Shari, my sadness isn't so much in the fact you left the group, but that you also left behind the teachings. You felt they were too strict as I understand it. If I am wrong, then I apologize and ask you to forgive me for my misunderstanding. But believe it or not, I feel that the teachings we are receiving now is not strict enough, especially when it comes to the perfection doctrine, which as you say, so many people are straying from. Believe me 'Cult', I in no way believe that simply finding the right church guarantees your salvation. Quite the contrary. I fully believe that it is in our everyday lives that we must work to kill the flesh, feed the spirit, and overcome sin. For me, this wasn't being taught strongly enough.

Please forgive me if what I said here or in my earlier comments seemed judgmental or offended you in any way. That was not my intention. I was just afraid to run on too much, as it seems I have done here. In fact, I had to edit this quite a bit because I exceeded the character limit, so I will close now.

God bless you my dear sister,
Shari said…
David, I was not offended. I understand where you are coming from. And I thought your tone was kind.

I don't think I've ever described myself as leaving the teachings because they were too strict. That was not at all why I left. I think you would understand my journey better if you had read my book. I have found it to be a common assumption by those in the group that people who leave do so because they don't want to submit to the standards. I left because I realized I could not grow spiritually in that environment. Legalism was a part of that decision, but I explain it more fully in the book. It wasn't that I wanted an easier lifestyle. I am very sincere about wanting to please God. But I don't believe all the emphasis on the outward appearance is what pleases Him.

I can't encapsulate all the reasons I left into a comment box. But anyone who wants to understand CAN understand by reading my testimony. Please forgive me for not really wanting to spend a lot of time explaining in detail what I have already spent so much time detailing in my book. It took 32 chapters for me to explain where I've been and where I am today spiritually. I'm not trying to "sell" the book to you. But you seem interested in my reasoning and my choices and that is where you can find the answers to your questions. The book is not hateful, spiteful or mean-spirited. I still love my old friends in CGT. I always will. But I'm glad I'm not there. I know you can't understand that. And that's okay with me.
Anonymous said…
I know the pure heart of my dear friend Shari. I know that every day she strives to do God's will. I also know her heart is full of love. I know she loves to give. I think she has been robbed of much of her life. I pray that God gives her many years with her beloved John.

Shari, dear, we cannot reach perfection. I pray that I can be as good person as you. I am so proud to be your friend.

Much love to my true friend.

Shari said…
I am so thankful for your friendship, Mark. You are a blessing in my life. Thank you for these sweet words.