The grace and sovereignty of God, free will, heaven, hell, church, etc.,

Dear Fearful Person
A sincere seeker struggles with truth

Hey Martin,

First of all, I want to say that I respect you as a person, and I don’t want to offend you. Due to the technology of e-mail, I feel that I am able to be more direct in my conversation than I might be in person, so I’m trying to be straightforward with you. I think that you grasp several important truths about God, in particular that He is in control and we aren’t. That is what initially attracted me to your literature. On a personal note, I think that you are an entertaining and humorous guy.

I haven’t listened to your program for a couple of weeks. Today I visited your website and scanned through your broadcast topics. I noticed that in your May 21 program you addressed my letter to you.

I had decided not to listen because I didn’t want to be "brainwashed" by your words. They are appealing. To think that I don’t need to worry about myself or anyone else ever going to hell is very refreshing. I am drawn to that attitude. I’ve always wanted to believe that. But I think that many "born again" Christians side-step personal responsibility for their actions when they are told that they are "saved by grace alone, and not by works." I
think it is referred to as "cheap grace." I certainly believe that God’s grace—and not our own power—enables us to do good works. But we are "co-workers" with God. I think that He wants us to try, not just sit back and wait for Him to do everything. There are many scriptures, even in the New Testament, that encourage and command obedience and good works. That is sometimes where I get confused, because on the one hand we’re told that we’re not under law, but then on the other hand we’re warned to do good works.

I’m 39 and never married. I was brought up Catholic, like you. But I didn’t have as bad of an experience as you did. I appreciate that I was taught (and shown) the unconditional love that Christ has for us. When I got to college, I was having a hard time getting my priorities straight. I was partying and so forth, trying to figure out who I was going to be. I always knew that God loved me, but no one had ever witnessed to me before, to let me know that I can be with Him and talk to Him in every-day life, and that He would take care of me.

Someone in my frat witnessed to me. He sort-of criticized the Catholic Church, and so I withdrew from the Catholic Church. I started reading the Bible, and was very happy to be enlightened by God’s word. I knew that Christ died for my sins, and I had a goal in life: to share Christ’s love with others. I knew that I didn’t want to go down the same wide road as the rest of the world (seeking after money, fame, women, glory, worldly gain, and so forth).

I was a loner from any church for a long time. I became part of a non-denominational fundamental evangelical-type church for 5 years. I had a good experience there, but I started to feel more like it was a club. I had to measure-up and project a certain image.

I haven’t been part of a church for about 5 years now. I often get the "forsake not the assembling together of the brethren" line from church-goer friends of mine. I recently sent a list of reasons that I don’t go to church to a friend of mine. Here is a list of things that I DON’T like about church:

1. The pastors always giving us life lessons, telling us what we should do and what we shouldn’t do. It’s obvious to me already: follow the Golden Rule.
2. I feel like I’m constantly being measured, that is, how good of a Christian I am, what ministries I’m in, etc.
3. I feel like I need to portray a certain image. I can’t just be myself, without worrying about being looked down upon.
4. I start to look at people in a judgmental way. I don’t like to always be measuring people, and being judgy, always thinking to myself, Is he/she a Christian?
5. I don’t feel comfortable or feel the need for praying in public, yet in a church group it is pretty much a requirement.
6. I feel like a church is a business, so a pastor has to keep asking for tithes. I know of a church where the pastor has a regular job, and he doesn’t get paid by the church. I think all churches should be that way. Also, that can be the incentive for pastors to want to evangelize, so that the church will have more money, and they will be proud of themselves for getting more people saved.
7. People feel like they get brownie points for evangelizing. They think they will be rewarded in heaven the more people that they get saved. I don’t think that is the way God wants it.
8. I think that the true church is an invisible body of believers. Just because you are in a church doesn’t make you a Christian.
9. As a single person, I sometimes feel like a second-class citizen. The married people with children are considered complete.
10. Church is about establishing relationships. I have friends and family with which to cultivate relationships. I don’t have the time or energy to establish new relationships without them being flaky or half-hearted relationships.
11. Basically, I don’t feel comfortable with the whole church scene. It seems like a big show. It’s like a country club for Christians. If you don’t fit in, or if you disagree with anything, then you are rejected and cast out.
12. I like sleeping in.
13. I don’t like to tithe. I do like to give, but to the person/organization of my choice.
14. I like to think for myself, but when I’m in a church, their attitudes and beliefs start to rub off on me, and I start acting like them. I don’t want to be a Christian zombie that fits into the cookie-cutter mold (cheesy, clean-cut, do-gooder).
15. All the female singles in the church wonder why I don’t ask them out. Then they make me feel like something is wrong with me because there are plenty of perfectly good women right under my nose.
16. Churches make you feel like you always have to be doing something—do more to make yourself a better Christian: "Attainment, not Atonement." You seem to never reach the point where you can say, "I’m content and satisfied with what Christ has done for me, and I can rest in His grace."
17. People in the David Koresh and Jim Jones church thought that they were in a good church. A pastor’s wacky beliefs may rub-off on a congregant. Churches are cultish.

Things I DO like about church:
1. There are other people that love Jesus there. Ideally, you are accepted even with your faults and weaknesses. (But I have family and friends for that.)
2. It’s nice to worship God with others.
3. It’s nice to receive communion.
4. There is a potential to establish good relationships. (But I already have good relationships with people.)
5. Hearing the word of God proclaimed.
6. I think it’s good for children to go to Bible study/church for education.

So anyway, Martin, that is a brief history of my church experience.

Sometimes I think that I want to believe in God as Savior of All because I want to
avoid the consequences of my sins. It seems like an easy way out of having to worry about going to hell, but I don’t think that just because I want to believe it that it’s necessarily true. I don’t think that I take my sin seriously enough, otherwise I would forsake it.

  I have to protect my heart and mind from potentially bad doctrine. That’s why I don’t like it when people present their doctrine as truth. In the New Testament, Paul definitely presented the Gospel with authority, and I like to believe that the Bible is God’s word. I do think that there is absolute truth, but because so many people claim to know the truth, you have to be careful what you listen to. Each person needs to make his or her own decision about truth, and not have it force-fed to them. At least that’s the way that I prefer it. Because you use the Universalist Bible, I have to be careful when I listen to you, because I don’t want to get brainwashed into believing a lie (that is, if it is a lie, which I don’t know). I will always protect myself from potentially bad stuff.

All I know is that Christ’s unconditional love is what is true (even a child can understand this). Everything else is not that important to me, and can even be confusing. I think that actions speak louder than words ("show me your faith without thy works, and I will show you my faith by my works"). No one is perfect, but true believers want to be and try to be perfect. We should all strive to do good, to keep trying, to not just throw in the towel.

I’m sorry if I made you feel bad by my previous letter. I should have given you some supportive words to go along with my critical ones. Please keep your personality (God has given you that gift), and your show. Don’t take this personally, but I don’t know if I’ll listen to your show any more, just because I’m not completely sure whether your doctrine is accurate. I need to protect myself.

May God guide you and give you wisdom. May God surround you with His love.

Hello, and thanks for writing. First of all, I know I come across strong on my show, but I do have a soft spot for you, and I understand your concerns and questions. I appreciate your patience with me. You strike me as a mature person.

To your first point, grace isn’t cheap, it’s free. That we’re saved by grace is a fact. What people do with it is not the issue. Whether people abuse it or get blessed by it is irrelevant in that it doesn’t change the truth. Truth is truth. Are we saved by total grace, or aren’t we? I’m not the cult, believe me. You need not have any fear of me. It is the Christian teaching that has made you fearful, so fearful that you are wary of listening to anything else, even when you know in your spirit that what I am teaching is truth.

Have you read my book How to Quit Church Without Quitting God? It will make a ton of sense to you.

I understand your confusion between total grace and the exhortations in scripture. You are assuming that we have the ability to do the exhortations in scripture. You are assuming that these exhortations give us an opportunity to show God what we can do. No. They give God an opportunity to show what He can do through us. What a big difference.

Additionally, you are confusing absolute truth with relative truth. Absolutely speaking, all we do is of God, and all we are is if God. God animates us in all things. Only relatively speaking can the things be said to be of us. The only way they’re "of us" is that they’re not of someone else. In other words, we are the vessel God is using rather than another vessel, but still, He’s doing it.

Maybe I’ll just shut up and give you a verse that will make it make sense to you: Philippians 2:12-13: "Be carrying your own salvation into effect, for it is God Who is operating in you to will as well as to work for the sake of His delight." The relative comes first: we’re seen to be doing it, but the absolute truth is: God is doing it. Both are true, but only one is absolutely true. We don’t sit around and do nothing. But what we do do is of God. Could we sit around and do nothing and be saved? As long as God gives us faith for it, then yes. It seems you still do not believe that salvation happens apart from works. You say you believe it, then you deny it with your words and concerns.

Why are you still worried about sin? Jesus Christ took away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29). Apparently, you have never heard the truth of justification, that you are NOT GUILTY. Because you still feel guilty, you have not even gotten to first base in appreciating what Christ has done for you. You are disrespecting the Savior by still feeling guilty about your sin.

You are already freed from sin. This does not mean that you stop sinning, it means that you’re free from the guilt of sin. This realization is the only thing that’s going to help you. God is no longer reckoning sin to you (2 Cor. 5:18). Why are you reckoning it to yourself? Did Jesus die for nothing? Why are you insulting his stripes? He already got whipped, why are you whipping yourself? Why are you denying His work? Why are you paining Him by not enjoying your free life? You take yourself and your sin too seriously, as if YOU (big, bad you) are going to screw up what He did for you. You think much too highly of your power, and much too highly of your sin. Thus, you think much too highly of your self. Satan is the one making you feel guilty, not Christ. Christ has freed you, and you are putting yourself back into bondage. I’m trying to help you.

You really need to listen to the new CD I’ll be offering: Part-Time Sinner. I’ll send you one. There are teaching tracks here on the topic of sin. I know you’re scared to hear it because you think I’m a cult leader, but you’re already beholden to a cult: the religion of fear and guilt. I’m giving you scripture that is going to free you. Please send me your street address, and I’ll send you the CD free of charge. And if you don’t have my book yet, then please let me send you one, again, free of charge. I am not a cult. I want to share with you the words of Christ, not my words.

Listen: I have never told people: "Just believe what I say." I have never said, "This is true because I say it is." That’s the mark of a cult. I am always encouraging people to check up on what I say, because the more they check up on it, the more they will realize I am right. I’m saying the same thing to you.

I certainly do not use a "Universalist" version of scripture. I am not a Universalist, as I have made clear elsewhere, but apparently not clear enough. I believe God will be all in all, but that doesn’t make me an "ist" of any kind. The Concordant Version is a literal version in which truths come out due to consistent translating. The CV is not biased one way or another toward any doctrine. It’s just that true doctrines come forth with consistent translating. The Concordant Version is not the only one that sorts out important words like "aion," "aionion," and "gehenna." Others are Young’s Literal New Testament and the Rotherham Emphasized Bible.

Stop being so frightened of things that you know in your spirit (your God-given spirit) are true.

I’m not the cult, they are, and I prove it in my book, in chapter six.

Hope to hear from you soon. I really liked your list of reasons of why you don’t like church. They’re all legitimate, and can I ever relate.

Yours in Christ,