A Foolish Vow

August 10, 2013


 

 

When I was first saved, I really wanted to be the best Christian that God ever had. It was not that I wanted to excel and be prosperous like the American dream or false gospel now preached, which can only be preached in 1st World countries. No, I just wanted to please God and be a good son.

 

Zeal is a wonderful thing, but zeal not tempered with wisdom can be dangerous. In my first love and excitement I made a statement that if satan convinced me I was going to Hell I would still preach for God for I know He is the truth. OY! Somehow in my naiveté I thought all I needed was doctrine. I had no idea how much more I did need though I am sure I read many times where Jesus said that without Him I could do nothing and the the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. I did not see that they had to be meshed together like body and soul to be able to operate in my life and the life of others.

 

 

What I did not know was that I was basically saying that having begun in the Spirit I could go on quite well in the flesh. I was ignorantly saying that I did not need God’s presence or the influence of the Spirit to live the Christian life. Hmm, a strong Galatian attitude though I had no knowledge of what Galatianism was since I was so new in the faith as were the Galatians. Yes, thank God for getting me here and I can take it from here or so I thought.

 

 

You can see now why Peter and I relate so well since we both made rash vows from our emotions rather than from our intellect and certainly not from the Spirit’s insight. I do not know where in my first six months that I made that vow, but in the sixth month the devil threw down the gauntlet and used something to make me believe that I committed the unpardonable sin. Indeed, that would convince me that I was going to Hell.

 

 

What did I do? Before I was saved I had a mouth that would make a sailor blush though we always talk about cussing like a sailor. This Air Force lad was giving the sailors a run for their money. I couldn’t stop it even when my daughter was getting old enough to start copying my speech much to the chagrin of my wife who was constantly telling me to watch my mouth. God took that away the day I was saved. However, while I was typing a card to help memorize Hebrews 4:12 I misspelled the word spirit. I was chastising myself by saying something like “Dummy how in the world can you misspell &$^#&# spirit?” I immediately cringed in horror thinking that I had blasphemed the Spirit!!

 

 

Yes, I know the word there means man’s spirit and not the Holy Spirit, but I did not know it then and the devil took my obviously expressed fear and ran with it. It was his opportunity to see how good my vow was and he had a handle and more than a foothold on my life. I was in much duress and sorrow. I sought out my pastor and he tried to console me with passages I could quote back to him and when he was trying to think of a verse to help me I offered one and that was what he was looking for so how do you counsel a person who knows the verses before you use them? Not easy. I spoke with others as well. Had one of them caught the fact that the word spirit was man’s spirit that might have helped nip it in the bud, but they didn’t.

 

 

I was more than depressed. I was devastated. I would lay on the floor weeping not wanting to live without Him and yet not wanting to die and go to Hell. I was more than a mess. I believe now that the Spirit was trying to console me but this hit the very core of my soul and insecurities so I did not receive His consolation. I doubted my salvation and even if I really believed in God. I was a train wreck.

A humorous issue happened when I was talking to a saved Jewish man. After after hearing the story of my conversion he literally jumped out of his chair and said that I was saved. Then he backed up the truck from that solid affirmation. That was a bit confusing. Years later I read a book by the founder of the organization he worked for who was was a very strong TULIP or 5 point Calvinist. In his book on counseling, which was very good in many ways, he said that you should never tell a man that Christ died for him since you do not know if he is part of the elect or not. If that is so, how can you counsel or expect your counseling to be effective if the person is not saved? All our hope is in Christ.

 

 

Needless to say, that conversation was not very helpful and so I just went on seeking to serve God out of a love (phileto) for Him but also trying to live up to that vow whether I always thought of it or not as such. Can you imagine why a pastor would cry on Visitation night when the only ones that showed up to go was him and the guy who thought he was going to Hell? Where were all the saved, secured, happy and I know it folks? I felt bad for the guy.

 

 

I am not sure when I told God I would “surrender” to preach after the pastor described the lack of pastors in our particular group of Baptists. They were short over a hundred pastors. I told God I would go and went to bible college still in deep doubt that I was saved. They took me even after reading my explanation of what was going on. Maybe they thought getting grounded in the Word would help.

 

 

I never totally shook off that fear. I graduated with honors and went on to many years of service that makes a good resume and others affirmed my gifts and such, but I was working almost totally in the flesh consciously or unconsciously to my vow while being plagued by the fear.

 

 

I got wrapped up after college with a group, that while there are some good men in it, were more concerned with externals than the internals. This only made me more Pharisaical and hypocritical. I did not see it, but after a time with a pastor where I felt like I was learning how not to do ministry rather than how to do it, I did try to find a more balanced position. Yet, I was still primarily working in the flesh, but did not see it. I could justify my sins, yet openly denounce other people’s sins. At first, I was self-righteous until through a series of failures I started to admit that I was not perfect. That should have been the start of a new path in my life, but since I was in the flesh it really amounted to being not much more than keeping a New Year’s resolution.

 

 

I cried out to God many times, but when you are not even sure you are a son it is hard to hear the answer to a prayer. How do you claim the promises when you are not sure they are for you? I could preach them and counsel others, but all that preaching and counseling was not changing my own life. My marriage almost ended twice. My children have made some unwise choices because I was not demonstrating the power of God in my life, only religiosity. I had a form of godliness but lacked the power thereof. I was a full fledged member of what a friend calls the sin, repent club. I preached grace, but lived law.

 

 

I have received many affirmations by people and many rejections as well and the rejections only further hurt my soul since they activated all the old insecurities even though some of the rejection reasons were not biblical ones. I will only know when I get to glory how many of those rejections saved me from further hurt that might have hurt others as I poured out my pain from the pulpit.

 

 

I believe God was at work in me, but as someone said recently I longed for God’s truth but hid my face from it. I recently asked God for a catharsis. I told Him I did not want to go on like I have been. I do not remember all that I asked for, but I wanted an epiphany or catharsis. I wanted more than what I had. That is a loaded request, but one all the saints should ask for though it may put them in shock as He reveals things you would never believe are in your life. It will shake up your comfort zone and certain end your complacency.

 

 

I believe that He is in the process of giving me what I asked for though I do not know all that will entail. I have received some peace and I had two brothers tell me that their spirit witnessed with mine that I am a brother in Christ and I received that. I am confident that I am indeed a child though one in need of a John 21 experience to move into a new period of grace and maturity.

 

 

I have asked for a deep and thorough cleansing. I want the chaff burned off and to be refined to where the complete dross is removed. That is a tall order and it has been painful. It is not easy to have your whole life seem to be nothing but wood, hay and stubble. Of course, the enemy has been enjoying this and putting in his two cents as well. While it is painful, I want the presence of Christ and to hear Him clearly and the Spirit to have a clean house for Him to redecorate so that He is fully comfortable to do a full transformation of my soul and renewal of my mind.

 

 

I have been doing some sort of ministry since ’75. I have written books, taught in a seminary, answered questions from around the world and preached in many churches. God, in His mercy, has blessed the Word given because it is His Word. Yet, because so much of that work was done in the flesh it has not produced the fruit it could have produced had I not been struggling to please God through the flesh. Sincerity from someone who made a rash vow and unsure of their salvation only turns into hypocrisy at some point.

 

 

I have always told the people that I have ministered to that they need to check anything I said with the Bible and to look to Christ and not me for men will fail them, but He will not. May God heal any wounds I have caused in my ministry due to harshness, unkindness and any other work of the flesh.

 

 

Be careful of rash vows, misreading of the Word, dead works, the leaven of the Pharisees as well as the errors of the Sadducees. Seek Him as well as sound doctrine as He is the source of sound doctrine. He has sent the Spirit to lead us into all truth. Be sure to catch the word ALL. The Spirit needs to give life to the letter to have sound doctrine or else all you have are men’s traditions and wisdom, which cannot feed your soul or spirit.

 

 

Pray for me as I seek a renewed relationship with Christ as a son and not a man trying to buy His love by service to Him. May I be filled with the Spirit in a way I am never known since those first six months and experience Christ in a way that I have never known now as a redeemed, restored and renewed child of God.

 

 

May your relationship also be renewed or strengthened as the need exists. Maranatha!

 

 

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