fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

Still Crazy After All These Years

 Still Crazy After All These Years by Julie McAllen

Concerning Jesus…

“You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?”   (John 7:20)

The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” …At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death.  (John 8:48, 52)

Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”  (John 10:20)

Concerning the Apostle Paul…

At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.” (Acts 26:24)

 Still Crazy After All These Years…

 “In the past, people tended to avoid those who suffered from mood disorders. As a result, many who were afflicted became social outcasts. Some encountered job discrimination. Others were shunned by members of their own family. Often, this only aggravated the problem and prevented those who were ailing from getting help.

In recent decades, however, great strides have been made in understanding clinical depression and bipolar disorder. Now it is well-known that these conditions are treatable. But getting help is not always easy….

The important thing is to reach out and get help. “Many times sufferers are frightened and ashamed of their condition,” … “The real shame, though, is suspecting you have a problem and not seeking the help that you so desperately need.”

I agree with these statements. The article from which they were taken also offered advice that I further support. It encouraged seeking comfort from God’s word the Bible and fellowship with other believers.

“Discerning Christians, therefore, avoid implying that depressed people are responsible for their own suffering. Such remarks would be no more helpful than those offered by Job’s false comforters (Job 8:1-6), and adds, “There is no doubt that by providing meaningful support, family members and friends can play a significant role in a sufferer’s well-being.”

Who wouldn’t agree? This is all very sound advice taken from the January 8, 2004 Awake! magazine published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. I think they tactfully dealt with the topic of mood disorders and I was very encouraged to read it because I have Seasonal depression. It usually begins in mid October with pain in my eyes and a loss of energy. Page 10 of the article noted that one member of the congregation of Jehovah’sWitnesses said, “the depression increases because I feel that my disorder must be a reflection of a lack of spirituality.” And added, “I have learned that depression is an illness that needs to be dealt with. It is not a reflection of my love for God or for my fellow Christians. It is not a true reflection of my spirituality.”

I also learned this lesson. I had become discouraged over the years as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and when the pressure got to me, I walked out in the fall of 2003 not knowing if I’d return. So this particular article was healing to me as I felt the Watchtower Society was addressing something going on in my own congregation. My discouragement had begun a few years earlier when I was reprimanded by an elder for following the Bible’s advice to “speak consolingly to the depressed souls.” Having grown up with a family member with bi-polar disorder and knowing my own seasonal depression, I was perhaps more sensitive to those in my congregation who were discouraged or depressed. The elder told me to “look out for number one” and reminded me that time spent trying to encourage the sister whom he referred to as “weak” was time I could be spending out in the door-to-door ministry. He had also given a talk on “marking” weak ones in the congregation and taking special precautions in our limited dealings with them. When I concurred that we have to protect our own spiritual standing but asked, “what if that person is so distraught they’re near suicide, you can’t leave a person alone in that condition can you?” His answer was a cold-hearted, “what are you going to do, commit suicide with them?”

I eventually followed orders and fell in line as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses “in good standing” by closing my heart and just performing my duties. Years passed and finally in 2003, I just stopped going to meetings. When I got the article on mood disorders at the start of 2004, I read the advice on pages 12-13 on how the congregation can offer support and was confirmed that I had followed the right course in reaching out to my sister after all….

“The Bible admonishes all Christians to “speak consolingly to the depressed souls” and to “be long-suffering toward all” (1 Thess 5:14) How can you do this? First, it is important to understand the distinction between mental and spiritual illness. For example, the Bible writer James indicated that prayer can make the spiritually indisposed one well. (James 5:14, 15) Nevertheless, Jesus acknowledged that those who are physically ailing need a physician. (Matt 9:12) Of course, it is always right and helpful to pray to Jehovah about any concern, including our health. (Ps 55:22; Phil 4:6-7) But the Bible does not state that increased spiritual activity in itself will cure present medical problems.

Discerning Christians, therefore, avoid implying that depressed people are responsible for their own suffering. Such remarks would be no more helpful than those offered by Job’s false comforters. (Job 8:1-6) The fact is that in many cases depression will not improve unless it is treated medically. This is especially so when a person is severely depressed, perhaps even suicidal. In such cases, professional attention is essential.”

I was being told NOT to speak to this discouraged sister because the elder said she was “spiritually weak.” Yet the article in the magazine that he, along with 6 million others at that time, were distributing door-to-door gave the advice TO SPEAK and TO PRAY, NOT AVOID! It also brought out that expecting increased activity from the individual would not be helpful, yet as any one of Jehovah’s Witnesses know too well their status of “weak” or “in good standing” is based upon the activities of meeting attendance and field service. She was doing less of both and thus labeled as “bad association.”

This incident made me feel insecure because I feared being labeled as “weak” and “bad association” myself if I was in need. How refreshing to read from the pages of the Awake! magazine this advice to the congregation,

“To be of assistance to sufferers, strive to be empathetic. (1 Cor 10:24; Phil 2:4) Try to view matters through the eyes of the sufferer rather than through your own. Do not burden the individual with unreasonable expectations. “When I am accepted for the person I am now,” says Carl, who struggles with depression, “I feel that my sense of belonging is gradually being restored. With the patient help of a few older friends, I have been able to build a closer relationship with God and have found a great measure of joy in helping others to do the same.”

I knew I had been an encouragement to that sister and perhaps the elders attitude toward it was merely a local problem and I could use the article to point out the physical as well as spiritual dimensions of my own depression and hers also.

Knock, Knock!

The elders had made a surprise visit to my home in mid October of 2004 demanding more activity from me with no offer to pray for me. I told them I was building my own relationship with God and found it difficult to go out in service telling others about how wonderful “Jehovah’s organization” was when I myself had begun to doubt that. Two weeks later I received a phone call letting me know of their intentions to disfellowship me which plunged me into a deep depression. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, however, reasoning that perhaps my seasonal depression was affecting my ability to receive corrective counsel so I quoted from the January 8, 2004 Awake! article to plea mercy and asked if we could put the hearings off until spring when I would be more stable in my thinking. They refused. What was my crime and why the hurry? I had begun to talk too much about Jesus.

Instead of speaking consolingly, they put me through an insulting inquisition. Instead of praying for me, they condemned me. On December. 2, 2004 they announced to my “brothers and sisters” that I was an apostate to the faith because I answered “yes” to their question of whether a person could have a relationship with God outside of the Watchtower. And thus I ended that year as a shunned person, one that the Watchtower recently declared as “mentally diseased.”

No one but me had followed the advice of the Awake! magazine yet I was the one called an apostate to the faith?

Where were the “loving and empathetic” elders of whom the sister in the Awake! article said this, “When the elders reassure me of Jehovah’s love, read me passages from God’s Word, the Bible, and speak of Jehovah’s purpose for a paradise of peace and well-being and when they pray with me—even on the telephone—I feel the burden lifting. I know I am not abandoned by Jehovah or by my brothers, and that is a source of strength for me.”

Actions speak louder than words and I discovered in more cases than just this one that the printed material from the Awake! and Watchtower differ from the actions of its leadership. One thing I would like to make aware to the public is that the Watchtower magazine that Jehovah’s Witnesses bring to your door is not the same information they study each week at their meetings. An article published in the July 15, 2011 study edition of The Watchtower warns followers to stay clear of “false teachers” who are condemned as being “mentally diseased” apostates who should be avoided at all costs. It reads, “Suppose that a doctor told you to avoid contact with someone who is infected with a contagious, deadly disease…. you would strictly heed his warning. Well, apostates are ‘mentally diseased’, and they seek to infect others with their disloyal teachings.”

They do not clarify what these false teachings are however. I learned the hard way that any teaching that does not agree with theirs is considered as false. But I’m in good company because according to them, Jesus Christ also would be considered an apostate to their faith.

To have a mental illness in itself should never be regarded with shame, their own literature pointed that out. In this case, however, the term “mentally diseased” is a supreme insult and many former members are rightly speaking out about it. Active members who are still able to think for themselves are not going to put up with this much longer either.

The July 15, 2011 article intended to inculcate their flock worldwide basically said that those of us who left to follow Jesus Christ are “mentally diseased.” In addition to that, they are told regularly at their meetings that those who have never joined their religion are “worldly” and will be destroyed at Armageddon. They believe that they alone have a channel of communication to God and this information about you and about me is not just from the leadership at Brooklyn, New York, but from Jehovah God himself. Basically, what they are being told is God is displeased with you and me and the only way to be in his favor is if we join the Watchtower so that we too can condemn everyone outside of it. And they call this Christianity????? To stand against this CONTROLLING RELIGION is not insane, it’s HEALTHY.

From the mouth of God straight into the Watchtower magazine for brainwashing amongst the flock: Taken from ‘Will you heed Jehovah’s warnings?’

“Jehovah, the Great Physician, tells us to avoid contact with them. We know what he means, but are we determined to heed his warning in all respects? What is involved in avoiding false teachers? We do not receive them into our homes or greet them. We also refuse to read their literature, watch television programs that feature them, examine their websites, or add our comments to their blogs. Why do we take such a firm stand?
“Because of love. We love ‘the God of truth’, so we are not interested in twisted teachings that contradict his Word of truth.”

Yes, because of love, entire families shun their own who are not able to keep up with the Watchtower’s requirements. I have friends who have been completely cut off from their families and suffer greatly because of it, yes, some of them do fit the description of “mentally diseased” now because of this action. But then, what happened to “by providing meaningful support, family members and friends can play a significant role in a sufferer’s well-being” from the January 8, 2004 Awake! article? Which article will they obey?

In the New World Translation of the Bible which Jehovah’s Witnesses use and make available to the public, Ecclesiastes 7:7  is rendered as “For mere oppression may make a wise one act crazy” and I can vouch that while under their oppression I was crazy.

I entered the ranks of the Watchtower in 1996 at first happily praising God because I thought I had found “the truth,” but by 2004 I was asking the demons to kill me. Insanity? YES!! The confused years that followed were a struggle to regain my mind, but by 2007 the dark cloud of Watchtower oppression left and I totally give credit to the healing ministry of Jesus Christ, the REAL TRUTH in my life.

The Awake! article on page 11 mentioned a woman who found it helpful to keep a daily journal in which she could pour out her feelings. Because we were not allowed to voice our own thoughts in the religion and discouraged from making friendships outside of it, my journal became the safe haven to release my tormented thoughts.  It’s not that I need to go back into that darkness again, but I thought it might be to someone else’s benefit to read selections from my personal journal.

Even in the Bible’s familiar Psalms of anguish, I believe the Spirit of Christ was writing them. I notice this in my own struggles also. At times my pen was seething with anger like a caged beast demanding freedom and then interrupted by a small still voice that said trust God, wait and hope in the promise of rescue not yet understanding how or when it would come about.

I began my study with Jehovah’s Witnesses in March 12, 1996. I was baptized 7 months later to the day on October 12.

February 7, 1997- Sometimes I’m sure I’m gonna bubble over with enthusiasm for the Truth! I can’t believe I’ve been so privileged to be drawn by Jehovah to do His will (John 6:44). It truly does give life purpose and meaning to share the good news with others. No one REALLY knows love until they feel this love (1 John 4:7-10)

After a large assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses I came home and wrote this April 14, 1997: Observation about the Truth to relate to new Bible studies: I realized it along the way and want to get it across to my students. First, you recognize the Bible as being the source of Truth. Then you recognize the organization teaching it and as a whole living by it.

Within 3 1/2 years under the influence of that organization, I wrote in August 1999: My worst fear is not that this system will end, but that I be found among the hypocrites putting faith in one another and our works and not the God of Salvation, Jehovah.

By that December, I questioned the existence of love: God is love. What is love? Love involves discipline. It is not love on the part of a friend if he allows his friend to inject poison in his body. Freedom of choice, then, becomes wicked. True love corrects, directs to a righteous way. It does demand obedience to “a way.” Tolerance, then, is against one way.

God was jealous for me and ready to show me the poison I’d been drinking in the Watchtower. I was about to undergo His discipline which eventually led me to repent of my involvement with the Watchtower.

December 1999: Into the pit. The cold harsh reality of life. So brief. So unimportant. Death so final. To know that there is no true friendship or love. We are essentially greedy and self-centered. We live for our gods or ourselves. But nothing is really truth. Life, all life, will end. Meantime, we live as we choose or make the most of our unfortunate circumstances.

4 years under the influence of “Jehovah’s organization” I was craving love…

March 23, 2000: All that I want. When all is said and done, what we all craved is LOVE. Unconditional. Life presents to us opportunities for praise in our accomplishments, material assets to prove our worth, but we are not really worthy until we believe—really trust—that we were worthy of LOVE. The ones who can believe are truly blessed. No matter how many lies or drugs it takes, we never quench the quest. Don’t make me stop. I’m too weak to believe otherwise. I’d rather believe the lie that LOVE exists. God exists. Life has purpose. I have a right to be here. Don’t take that away, it’s all I got amongst my mountain of things.

Good for nuthin’ slave… Manure is manure. It has value if spread out to nourish vegetation. Other than that, it stinks. Manure is manure. I am of value when used to help other things grow.

2001, five years under the Watchtower influence…

I will cling to whom I trust.

I know you created all things Jehovah. I know you have given me Spirit and Truth.

I know you care, I trust this. But what of earthly love?

I do not recognize love on the part of your servants, only your enemies—

Those clever, clever enemies of Truth

They accept me and love me,

But I can never attain to the divine

Which your imperfect, yet holy servants

Say I must aspire to.

It is a narrow road, perhaps too narrow for me.

And it’s knowing that you will spit me out

That makes it easier to leave.

You require me to cling

And yet if I doubt for a day

I am dust….

Continuing in the Watchtower. Welcome to my nightmare….

June 2002: “Then they shall know I am Jehovah!” When? When He acts violently against this dying system? Isn’t that how we FINALLY make ourselves known? By our violent tantrums as we break free from our enforced cover of purity? Who am I now???!!!!
As I smother every last vestige of myself in a shroud of Christianity, I find myself, yes, anticipating that violent day of proclamation prophesied about Him but it’s also for ME!!! But for what? To live forever in that world I’ve begun to despise by seeing its future inhabitants? There is NO LOVE, only clean, smiling people taught so well to be that way.

Oct 2002
Hate is crippling
I hate so much
where does it come from?
Is it because I’ve left them/it/Him in my heart
or is it because I’ve come to know them/it/Him?

Them/it/Him is Jehovah.
Jehovah is no longer God of course.
Jehovah is THEM: the organization
It: the congregation
Him: God expressed through the Bible

So much would be solved if I could just express myself, but doubt is not allowed.
Already judged
Labeled weak
Do show yourself weak and they will take advantage of you
Protect the children! With what? Religion?
Love is always the answer
Am I capable of defining love?

November 2003
I cling to the hate because if I don’t hate you I have to turn it on myself and I will slit my wrists. You were so mean, so insensitive, so powerful in your damned secure position able to oppress. Of course I am crazy now! You are protected by your position. I am open, naked, exposed and vulnerable. And I am trying to build my walls. I will not stoop so low as to take out this life. You will remain and I too will remain, but I will be honest and I will seek solace and I will not trust those who oppress. If I ask Jehovah to help me forgive and trust I will be vulnerable again.

I knew my anger was protecting me and any thought of forgiveness or love at that stage would just make me vulnerable to the oppressive wolves I discovered in the Watchtower. I went to the meetings and out in service with a smile, but I was gone, gone, gone. All I could do was hate. Free birds don’t like captivity. I was seeking release.

December 2003
One will see Christ’s fire in overturning the tables and make it their calling to expose religious hypocrisy.
One will center on Christ’s outreach to the hungry and set up a food shelter.
Another focuses on healing the sick.
All are ministries inspired by the Son of God.
Still, Truth will motivate others to do the work that indeed he commanded to be done,
“preach the good news of the kingdom.”
Again, a ministry given by the Son of God.

If I were to express my ideas through Christ, you say I have lost Jehovah.
If I were to present my case through Mosaic Law, you will say I have not known the Christ.
I use scriptures to defend my points and you say Satan has quoted them!
I find myself in a lost cause.

Yet I am free,
for I know the Truth
and it has set me free.
Free to expose the hypocrisy
Free to outreach to the hungry and sick
Free to also speak of the kingdom.
Yes, I will be crucified by the leaders for this
but I will be free!
(one year later I was disfellowshiped (crucified) for talking too much about Jesus and not recognizing Jehovah’s organization as his sole channel)

Just prior to their announcement that they intended to disfellowship me, I wrote this in the fall of 2004.
I just wanted to believe in love. Who would it hurt anyway? I just wanted to believe in love. When will the bullet find me? When will I feel the peace, the peace of non existence. To live and not know love is pure hell. This is the place where you love the demons because they will find a way to kill me and I welcome the peace.
There’s still a conscience, it says, “wait!” You can still turn to God. Yes, I can.

Out of all the voices in my head, I tried to listen to that one. It wasn’t easy, but I stuck around to listen.

Later in 2004, I penned

There’s a point at which the dedication to God becomes fused with dedication to the Society. It becomes one and the same. Leave the Watchtower and you have left God. Work for the Watchtower and you are working for God. I remember the subtlety, the encouragement to pioneer—or just “do more.” All the time. Eventually it gets to you. You begin to BELIEVE you don’t love God enough because you’re never DOING enough. You let go of that wonderful Spirit that was leading you to do works through love and begin working for THEM. I remember the feeling. It was the first time I signed up to auxiliary pioneer and it didn’t turn out well. I was “in” at that point. Prior to that I truly felt led by Spirit and I could truly love and minister to others through that love. It was a crossover. Now I’m at the crossroads again. I want to give up THEM. Their interpretation will be that I have “left Jehovah.” But no! It is because I miss Him so much! I wish I could trust that Spirit again. The one that made me work, yes, but through love for God, not obedience to THEM. I still believe in God. But yes, I’ve been confused as to who He is and what it is He really requires from us.

He is Jealous For Me.

In John 2:14-16, Jesus storms into the temple courts with a whip to drive out those elements which do not belong there. Zeal for his Father’s house CONSUMED him!! In seeking the Christ within each of us, there are stages of growth. One of which is this kind of righteous indignation he showed at the temple. I believe my anger and tears were the work of the Holy Spirit overturning the tables and reclaiming the temple of my body. Yes, Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He condemned it and wept. I think it is no different for us. I wept losing my beloved religion, but I also had to be honest and condemn it for what it was.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. (Eph 4:25-27)

Anger is part of speaking truthfully. Jesus proved this. But we do have to be careful that it does not control us and make us worse sinners than those we fight against. The bitterness can fester and thereby give a foothold to the devil. That is why Jesus taught us to pray for and bless those who persecute us. Forgiveness is armor for us, not permission given to them to wipe their feet on our backs. Jesus knows that when we have his Spirit in us, we are powerful in our words and actions. He wants Lordship even in our justified and righteous anger. I have learned to give it to him and use it to glorify him. May God be praised in the fire that motivates those who expose religions that falsely represent him.

Mind Control and Mental Illness

I am grateful for Mental Illness Awareness Week every October. During that time, dedicated volunteers from the National Alliance on Mental Illness use the opportunity to make known their services to help those suffering from chemical imbalance, stress caused by physical, sexual, and emotional abuse including the trauma incurred by those exposed to war. There is a network to those experiencing the post traumatic stress of abuse brought on by mind control also, but it is largely unknown and underground. That is why I feel it is necessary to bring it out from the shadows and into the realm of print this month. There are literally thousands of websites dedicated to helping those affected by cult involvement and mind control. Cults often persuade their members not to search these websites out, but I encourage those who are suffering or know someone who is to begin looking for answers in the interest of their mental health. There is help, there is hope.

During Mental Illness Awareness Week, many newspaper editorials make us aware of the chemical imbalance responsible for mood swings and the treatments available. They also note the effects on the brain from various past abuse and the necessity for counseling through such traumatic experience. We can be grateful for those who research and publish the information. An often overlooked area is spiritual abuse through mind control and how many people do suffer mental illness because it. I believe cult awareness belongs with Mental Illness Awareness and so I am sharing this as my contribution to Mental Illness Awareness Week. Your doctor, no matter how skilled and educated, may not understand the unique struggles you face in overcoming trauma brought on by years of spiritual abuse, but there is help through the many websites dedicated to discussion (group and one-on-one), prayer, and information to help you in your journey toward better mental health. Please begin the search today.

In 1961, Dr. Robert J. Lifton wrote the book Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, after studying the effects of mind control on American prisoners of the war under the Communist Chinese. In chapter 22 of his book, Psychiatrist and Professor Robert J. Lifton outlines eight criteria of mind control, whether used by political, religious or psychological cults.

Members of high-demand organizations often experience the gradual narrowing of their thoughts. Their life experiences and future expectations are restricted and reduced to conform with that of the group. When this tendency is combined with an intense belief system that emphasizes the benefits of life in a higher plane of existence, members are more easily influenced to radically commit themselves to behavior they would not otherwise choose which sets up a perfect breeding ground for a mental disposition referred to as cognitive dissonance. Even after years of physically leaving a group and its teachings, the person’s mental health is impaired and they need support and healing.

These are the eight criteria found in Lifton’s study on Thought Reform.

Milieu Control This involves the control of information and communication both within the environment and, ultimately, within the individual, resulting in a significant degree of isolation from society at large.

Mystical Manipulation There is manipulation of experiences that appear spontaneous but in fact were planned and orchestrated by the group or its leaders in order to demonstrate divine authority or spiritual advancement or some special gift or talent that will then allow the leader to reinterpret events, scripture, and experiences as he or she wishes.

Demand for Purity The world is viewed as black and white and the members are constantly exhorted to conform to the ideology of the group and strive for perfection. The induction of guilt and/or shame is a powerful control device used here.

Confession Sins, as defined by the group, are to be confessed either to a personal monitor or publicly to the group. There is no confidentiality; members’ “sins,” “attitudes,” and “faults” are discussed and exploited by the leaders.

Sacred Science The group’s doctrine or ideology is considered to be the ultimate Truth, beyond all questioning or dispute. Truth is not to be found outside the group. The leader, as the spokesperson for God or for all humanity, is likewise above criticism.

Loading the Language The group interprets or uses words and phrases in new ways so that often the outside world does not understand. This jargon consists of thought-terminating clichés, which serve to alter members’ thought processes to conform to the group’s way of thinking.

Doctrine over person Member’s personal experiences are subordinated to the sacred science and any contrary experiences must be denied or reinterpreted to fit the ideology of the group.

Dispensing of existence The group has the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not. This is usually not literal but means that those in the outside world are not saved, unenlightened, unconscious and they must be converted to the group’s ideology. If they do not join the group or are critical of the group, then they must be rejected by the members. Thus, the outside world loses all credibility. In conjunction, should any member leave the group, he or she must be rejected also. (Lifton, 1989)

I am not blaming the Watchtower for anybody’s chemical imbalance which manifests itself as mental illness. But I am not shy about exposing the trauma their oppression has caused in many minds including my own. As their Awake! article pointed out, there is such a thing as spiritual sickness and physical sickness. I still deal with my physical sickness of seasonal depression, but I am joy-filled even through dark days because I know my savior lives and he LOVES me. THAT is what was TAKEN from me as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses–the TRUTH that GOD LOVES ME. It made me insane to keep having to guess if Jehovah would still love me if I missed a meeting or didn’t get my hours in the door-to-door service! Now I know for certainty that God loves me and I will not let mere men oppress me again for it leads to spiritual sickness due to a divided mind that is not WHOLLY dedicated to God. Now that the Watchtower is no longer controlling my mind, I can once again love God with my WHOLE mind, heart, soul and strength. AMEN!!!

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

October 1, 2011 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Hand him over to Satan?

Hand him over to Satan? by Julie McAllen

You’ve heard the term “original sin” and know that it traces back to the disobedience in the garden. Sin changed the relationship between man and God, but even after the sin, God remained present in the lives of Adam and Eve. He did not cut them off completely. Rather, God disciplined them while continuing to be their provider by clothing them with garments of skin (Gen 3:9-21). Eve credited God for the birth of her first son acknowledging some form of relationship with the Creator of life (Gen 4:1). We also know God remained in their family life because their boys were bringing offerings to the Lord. God looked with favor upon Abel and administered counsel to Cain about the sin that was crouching at the door (Gen 4:3-7). He was active in their lives providing clothing, children, a place of worship, favor and counsel. And yet, we understand the original pair sinned.

David also sinned. He lusted after Bathsheba and when he discovered she was pregnant with his child, he sought to have her husband killed (2 Sam 11)! God’s prophet was sent to expose his sin. Though he committed adultery and murder, David’s heartfelt repentance elicited favor from God and he’s remembered among the faithful in Hebrews chapter eleven. David was forgiven his sin.

Is there any sin that God can not forgive?

Mark’s gospel brings our attention to Jesus’ words that ALL sins of men will be forgiven them. Yet right within the same passage he brings out a sin which can never be forgiven.

I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin. (Mark 3:28-29)

So if God is still present in the lives of sinners, and adultery and murder can be forgiven, but the sin against the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven, don’t  you wonder what exactly that means?

I come into contact with a lot of people who’ve been kicked out and shunned by their religion due to sins they’ve committed against God and/or sins against  their religion’s particular doctrine. Terms used by these  groups vary from excommunication, the ban, the shunning, or disfellowshiping,  but the results are that the person often wonders if they can ever be forgiven and if they’ve sinned against the Holy Spirit.

Inability to conform to a religion is not sinning against the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a person, not a religious group. In my own case, when I was disfellowshiped, I felt condemned by God because I was rejected by what was called “God’s spirit-directed organization.”  In my controlled mind I wondered if I was guilty of sinning against the Holy Spirit. In reality, the religion itself was a false god and the Holy Spirit was responsible for drawing me out of it. I had not sinned against the Holy Spirit, I was listening to Him lead me away from a deceptive religion. That authority had to be understood for what it was, so that I could stand alone before God and let Him be the judge of my life. But when a person is first expelled from a body they once trusted as teaching the correct interpretation of scripture, it’s a powerful burden to bear and my heart aches for them. They often go off into deep despair as family and congregation abandon them as a form of “godly punishment.”  This is a shame.

I penned a heart and the words “thank you” next to John 9:35 in my Bible where it reads “Jesus heard that they had thrown him out” concerning the case of the blind man who was kicked out of the synagogue for testifying to the healing he received from Jesus. Though he lost his family and his religion, Jesus heard about the ban and came to him alone.

But is excommunication from a valid Christian fellowship ever warranted when a person actually sins against God? And with what goal?

The passage that churches use in such drastic cases is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.” (1 Cor 5:11-13)

Paul advised expelling a brother from the congregation who was sexually immoral with his father’s wife. The  New Testament makes clear that sexual immorality in the congregation is a sin against God and also one’s own body (1 Cor 6:18) A church body would be right to address such a case, yet Paul does not say they had, instead they were boasting in it.  Their pride wasn’t about that form of sin, it was their distorted understanding of God’s grace. No longer under law, they were saying in effect, “look he is not keeping the law and yet Jehovah is not sending any lightening bolts!” The new church was often corrected for this distorted view of changing the grace of God into a license for immorality (Jude 4). And given that this behavior was reported to Paul it must have been going on for a while without the man sensing any reason to repent and change his course of action.

But one might ask, “didn’t Jesus pay the price for this sin at the cross?” He forgave us while we were yet sinners (Ro 5:8). He paid for this man’s sexual indiscretions , so why was he expelled from the congregation? Where is grace? Where is forgiveness?

Consider this. If I was hired as a nurse I would be expected to do the duties of a nurse. If I showed up at the hospital every day and never cared for any patients yet expected to get a paycheck every week, would I deserve to be fired? Not only was I receiving a paycheck for no services rendered, but I was exploiting the trust of patients who expected to find a qualified nurse in the hospital. Losing that position and paycheck would be just the thing to help me assess my priorities. Likewise, if a person claims to follow the Lord and is enjoying the blessings of the Christian congregation but persists in a sin for which he refuses to repent and seek help, then really, he just decided not to do his job. He wanted the freedom and was granted it. Outside of the fellowship, he would be in a better position to assess his priorities. Christians still sin, after all, but when we sin, the Holy Spirit leads us to repentance (1 John 2:1-6). Apparently this man was not being led to repentance by either the Holy Spirit or the brothers in his midst. The real problem then, was not so much the naughty thing he did, but that he was no longer able to discern God’s correction.

So what did Paul advise to bring about repentance in this man?

When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, (1 Cor 5:4)

They assembled as a body in the presence of the Lord. That tells me they were united in prayer. I believe that prayer was not just for this man but also the error of this boastful congregation in not recognizing the seriousness of his sin.

hand this man over to Satan, (1 Cor 5:5)

In the presence of God, they handed the man over to the enemy. Why? It was their acknowledgment to God that they were aware that this man had already chosen the lordship of the king of sin. The man was already in Satan’s hands. They’ve finally called the sin a sin. How then can they continue boasting? The congregation could now be restored to the Spirit’s lead of repentance and consequent refreshment. Naming the sin is not always easy for us to do with our brothers is it? Think about the relationships in that congregation. Friends and family united in Christ. Maybe some were winking at the sin not wanting harm to come to this man who may have at one time been very strong in the Lord. But they must expel him and hand him over to Satan as Paul directs in his letter.

Now, what was the purpose?

so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. (1 Cor 5:5)

Did you notice that? They are handing over this man to Satan, but do they consider him to be beyond recovery? NO! They did this so that HIS SPIRIT WOULD BE SAVED ON THE DAY OF THE LORD! His sinful nature was committing incest and would be destroyed, but his spirit was sealed when he accepted Jesus Christ as his savior. His spirit is pure because it is Christ’s spirit (Ro 8:9-11). His spirit would be saved on the day of the Lord. There’s a comfort in that grace, but certainly no reason to boast. As Paul said, they should be filled with grief. The reason is that if he continued to sin, he would not be useful as a cleansed vessel to do the will of God while on earth. What a loss. A body ought to grieve when it loses a member. He was also putting himself in danger of a worse sin, that of denying the Holy Spirit, if he persisted in blocking His voice. According to this, however, he had not reached the point of losing his salvation. The hope of the church was to allow the heavy hand of God to bring about a fearful expectation of judgment upon him so that he would recognize his sin and turn to the atonement made in his behalf through Christ’s shed blood. A person won’t seek forgiveness if they don’t know they are guilty. In his shame, he would be left to seek Christ. But if by God’s mercy he was led back to Christ as his righteousness and yet considered the sacrifice unworthy of his attention, there would be nothing left and he would be guilty of insulting and sinning against the Holy Spirit.

 26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28Anyone who rejected the Law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb 10:26-31)

Excommunication is not always the answer but in the case of this man it was necessary. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, it appears the man was repentant and they were instructed to reaffirm their love toward him (2 Cor 2:5-11).

As Christians, we sometimes lose our footing, but we are sealed. We were saved the moment we put our faith in Christ who died for our sins. All sins he died for. He died for our past sins, present sins and future sins. The price was paid in full. If you are not faithful, God remains faithful. He will hold on to you. Have you ever felt the heavy hand of God lead you to repentance? Don’t refuse Him, it’s a kindness. He is ready to forgive, but you have to come to Him and acknowledge the sin. The Holy Spirit’s role is to lead you there. However, if you let sin rule by deciding in favor of it by continually drowning out the voice of God and the servants He sends to correct your destructive course, you could end up in the dark, away from His light, away from His people like this expelled man or in the pig pit like the prodigal son. And what happened in that story? The faithful Father was running open-armed waiting for his son to come to his senses and return. God waits for sinners to repent. This expelled man didn’t lose his salvation, but while “out there” he missed an awful lot of blessings. And it is precisely that act of HANDING HIM OVER TO SATAN that drives a person to the conclusion that they had it better in the Father’s house. So the reason the wicked man was expelled from their midst was to allow him to wallow in his sin and hopefully come to his senses. I respect a fellowship that does not wink at wrong doing. Sin ought to be addressed, but God is much more merciful and ready to forgive than some religious organizations that claim to represent Him in their misuse of expelling members.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

October 30, 2010 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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