Since around 2004 (17yrs), by God’s grace I have been trying to walk the balance between “grace” and “truth.” Before this time- starting around the time I was saved in 1995 till about one year before I left New Orleans (about 8yrs) I was one of the most legalistic persons you could ever have run into:
– I debated a pastor in his church to rebuke him for celebrating Christmas
– I prayed 2hrs a day, fasted 3 days a week, and looked down on anyone who couldn’t keep up
– I threw a chair once in a prayer meeting when people weren’t praying passionately, I felt I was justified because Jesus did it in the Temple.
– I left my Bible college friend’s wedding because there was dancing and looked down on the students who stayed
– I believed Christians had demons and would try to rebuke them out of even my Bible college roomates, parents, etc.
– The only movie I watched was Passion of the Christ or other Christian movies
– I did not own a TV, play video games, or listen to secular music (there was even a time I was against Christian rap/rock)—— (Update: below in the comment section Crystal Gonzales- who was married to my best friend in Bible college testifies to hiding their TV when I came to visit them after they were first married)
– I rebuked people in my preaching for going to stadiums to cheer for sports teams, swimming at public beaches & pools, or spending time in places like Disney World or amusement parks
– I was KJV only and ridiculed those who used other translations (I knew the quick points to make that made even pastors look ridiculous for not having verses like 1 John 5:7 in their Bibles)
– I worked 6 days a week in the inner city and considered most non-urban churches compromised and greedy for not being in the hood- if they weren’t reaching the poor in the streets they were apart of the Whore of Babylon
– Looked down on Christians who didn’t homeschool because they were willingly sending their children to be indoctrinated by the world
Truly, just like how former witches and those called to warn about whatever they are convicted about during this past Halloween, I was like this about everything I listed above ALL – THE – TIME. Therefore, it is surreal for me to have to take the “other side” of these debates. They believed God called them to warn Christians about the evil in holidays and I believe God called me to warn about the evil of legalism!
What I have tried to do is not ridicule or mock either side— I do not look down on the KJV only folks, nor do I think I am “more free” than those who don’t own a TV, or that I am smarter because I no longer try to rebuke demons out of Christians. By God’s grace, what I aim to do is give everyone GRACE and SPACE to work out their own salvation.
My only request, is that everyone debates and discusses these issues with kindness- because as God as my witness, I do not want to fight with my brothers and sisters over these things with vain arguments. There is too much to do for the Kingdom of God. And other fights we must focus on- abortion, socialism, false gospels, etc.
I do not take my cues from anything except the Word of God (sola scriptura) and sadly, literally everything I did above is not spelled out in the Bible. Certainly, I had ways of using the Bible to stuff everything into passages like; “avoid the appearance of evil” and “come out from among them and be separate”- but it was not consistent. Because the Amish could say driving a car is “worldly” and using electricity is “evil” because of all the harm done with it. Likewise, other Christian sects call war and even being a police officer “carnal” because we are not in a Christian nation and all powers and laws in this age are wicked.
So when someone like me says, “I understand your conviction, but it is truly just that, a personal conviction” I mean it. I had pastors, professors, and other strong Christians say those kind of things to me about the personal convictions I preached above but all I heard them saying was, “I’m a compromised coward and I am not willing to put to death the flesh.” But now, by the Holy Spirit, I see what they were saying was not only right, but biblical- that was exactly what Paul was addressing in places like Romans 14:1, “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.”
It was always staring me right in the face- but I thought secular music was not disputable- IT WAS EVIL. I thought it was obvious the NIV was evil- it is missing verses (duh!). I thought all the holidays were EVIL and thus didn’t belong in the category of disputable matters. And I certainly wasn’t the one WEAK IN FAITH- God forbid! I was the Watchman with greater spirituality and discernment called to warn everyone else of their compromise!
It took God to show me what grace and truth looked like in Jesus and now I get it. And I pray for others to “get it” too or at the very least to remember what is most important lest we divide from one another until it’s just us “four and no more” because no one has it altogether like the ones in our liittle group.
Thank you for hearing my heart- may God give you grace and truth in all you do, in Jesus’s name, this was just my testimony about these kinds of things. ?
(Picture is from a 2004 Halloween Party I hosted at the church I was the young adult pastor at, Belmont Assembly of God)