A Crisis In Faith
(May 22, 2000)

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All Messed Up

Recently, I attended a three day conference held by World Salt Foundation. I am a member of the board of directors, so we had some business to attend to, but the primary purpose of our semi-annual meetings is to gather together from around the globe and consider some teaching and to try to hear from the Lord. This years conference presented Gene Edwards, author of "Revolution" and more than a dozen other books. Gene prefaced the conference by stating that, when we were done, we would be as messed up as he is. I did not quite know how to take that.

Gene is probably the most knowledgeable authority on first century Christianity alive. He is certainly the one with whom I am most familiar. His first century diaries, books with names like "The Silas Diary", "The Titus Diary" and "The Timothy Diary" are tremendous in their presentation of Paul's three journeys. You come away from them feeling that you too went along and participated.

So, did I get messed up, or what? I think I did for a little while. I may still be and may always have been.

Gene's basic argument is that the epistles were written to specific churches, not to individuals. Furthermore, he argues convincingly that what we regard as the church today is a poor comparison to the bride of Christ, which met daily from house to house. We simply do not have the body life they had and he therefore argues that we are anemic and weak as Christians because of it. He quite passionately and angrily charges that the bride has been taken from him. The solution, as he sees it, is a return to living in neighborhoods, close to our Christian brothers and sisters and meeting in homes.

If you have ever heard him, Gene is very anti-establishment. He takes on everything from pastors to pulpits and pews and proves that they have no biblical basis in relation to how we use and apply these terms today.

My internet friend the Moonman has been having his own crisis in faith. His crisis has to do with affiliations and condemnation. Mine has to do with doing what God wants done. Does God want us to build up this present day church structure or tear it down?

I'll elaborate. Gene was quite funny in jokingly prophesying that in twenty years, every believer who says the sinners prayer will be furnished with his own non profit ministerial corporation and have his or her filing for the 501 c 3 exemption done right after they finish praying the prayer and joining the church. Quite a funny line for some, but for me, it stung a bit. I incorporate ministers. I help them obtain 501 c 3 letters. Does God want me to do this? There you see crisis #1

I came to Christ, came to believe on him and wanted to serve him. But am I worshipping the work of the Lord, or the Lord of the work? Now, in case you are wondering, I am secure in that I know my Lord has called me to "Financial Ministry". But what exactly is that and how do I fill in the blanks? The scripture exhorts us to "examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith." Periodically, it is good to examine just where our ministerial meanderings have led us to.

Some Scripture:
Proverbs 23:7-For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.

1 Corinthians 10:4-For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exaltheth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readines to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
1 John 1:10-If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

We come to know things with a certainty and then no one can shake us. An example: I have suffered from nasal allergies, including sneezing and congestion, since I was a child. At the age of 41, some of these conditions worsened and I began to read and search for an answer. I arrived at the following prescription: 2 grams per day of chewable vitamin c, 2 grams per day of "Ester C", 100,000 units per day of Beta Carotene, a multivitamin, and garlic tablets. For me, this worked. Now, I no longer need to read about these things or wonder about whether they work, for I have the experience. There are things in our faith like this.

But the converse is also true. We tend to build thoughts and arguments like we do buildings. Deep down in the thought pattern, undergirding the entire thought structure, or strong hold, there may be something that is in error, or perhaps our own supposition that was not authored by God. God may need to and may want to remove that and when he does, our whole thought building will come crashing down.

Many years ago, I was involved in Mormonism. One of the central tenets is that Men can become Gods. Every Mormon is exhorted to do his "temple work". In order to enter the temple, every Mormon must come before the bishops in his "ward" and attest that he has overcome all sin in his life. It was at this point that I made my exit from Mormonism, but not all of Mormonism had departed from me. I had picked up thought patterns and arguments: some of which may still be with me to this day.

I believe that one such stronghold that has lingered with me is the idea that I could someday walk without sin through the power of Jesus living through me. For years, I have believed that when John looked at Jesus and exclaimed, "behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world", that this meant that Jesus could take away my sins while I was still here on this earth in such a way that I would not do them anymore. Such an argument must necessarily deal with Romans 7:24, which I took as Paul, uttering a statement of hyperbole that did not describe his own personal condition before God.

Recently, I have come to understand that I cannot live the Christian life and that I will not, while, in this earthly tent, arrive at a place where Jesus can walk perfectly and completely through me, every day of the year. And so now, you see crisis #2. Further on, now I have been confronted with the words of Watchman Nee and Gene Edwards, who affirm that they too cannot live the Christian life and that our Lord affirmed that no one could live it. Still further, in the breaking and humbling process are the words of Nee that when a man reaches this point, he is at the BEGINNING of God's being able to deal with him. After all these years, to only be at the starting line is a bit hard to take. Yet if that is where I am, better to realize it and begin to run rightly than to continue in error.

So, in closing, consider Paul's words from Romans 7:24, as spoken by a man who deeply meant what he said as a self description: "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."

Stephen L. Bening

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