Out of consideration for you, I feel it is time to let you know of a decision I have come to. This is something that has taken much thought and prayer and has come with much struggle. I will not be coming to your Sunday mornings anymore. I cannot say it is any one thing that has made me come to this decision but a number of things. Perhaps the strongest reason of all is the belief that all others outside of meeting are said to not have a place in heaven.That I do not think is even for the workers to judge. The teaching that only through going to meetings, fitting into man made traditions, and shunning of those who don't fit in to these traditions will we have an eternity with God. I cannot accept this. I believe that Jesus died for ALL! We cannot earn our salvation no matter what we do. Not by dress, meeting attendance or even living the best lives we can. That is why Jesus shed his blood for us. We are all sinners. This is the wonderful grace of God. Something I am so thankful I have felt in my life. The only thing we need to do is to acknowledge this and accept him in our lives. The rest is done for us. This gift is not just for those few who come to meeting but all in the world who acknowledge this sacrifice. I have not made the decision to stop coming because of the history of William Irvine, excommunications or other rumors. Although all these things have caused me to search just what this way really is, and what God really means to me. This is a personal decision I have made with God. I did enjoy coming to your meetings but feel the "truth" and all its doctrine is no longer right for me. I cannot accept the exclusiveness and the condemnation of others because they are not fitting in to the outward traditions of this group. This letter is not to preach or to convince anyone of anything, but to help you understand a bit better why I have come to this decision. I know I will need to continue to read and pray. I am reassured that God is with me now as he has been in the past. Please feel free to show this letter to anyone who asks of me and my reason for leaving. (Signed)
My dear family and friends, I'm writing this letter to you because I care what you think, and I want you to know that I have thought and prayed long and hard over these concerns, and I've earnestly searched Scripture, looking for the answers to these concerns.(Acts.17:11) Having found some of the answers I feel moved to share these with you that you may more easily understand how God's hand is leading me. 1) "The Truth" is the only way: We have heard so many times from so many different workers, that accepting God means accepting The Truth or The Way, as we're called. Those of us who have been born and raised in this Way have never questioned that statement, or wondered about it. If the workers have told us, then it must be true. But I have felt the warmth and love and mercy and gentleness of many Christians from other churches, yet I've never had fellowship with them because I've been taught that we are the only Way. I have felt sorrow for my friends who are members of ungodly churches. I have judged them in my heart as unsaved, simply because they are not part of our fellowship. I'm not suggesting that there is anything wrong with our fellowship, but think deeply about that attitude. "They are going to hell because they're following a worldly Christian church." Isn't it really judging their salvation? Are we really prepared to put ourselves in God's position as judge? We need to understand Jesus' teaching on this matter. In Matthew 12:22 a demon-possessed man was brought before Jesus that the man might be healed. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus cast out that demon. The pharisees who heard of this said, "It is only by the prince of demons that this fellow drives out demons." Jesus response was, "...if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.... And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age, or in the age to come." What was the sin of the pharisees? They were denying or rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit. Isn't this what we do when we condemn the "worldly churches who are following false ministers to a lost eternity"? When we see the work of the spirit in another's life, just as the pharisees saw His work, and when we deny that work as being just natural or as the work of a wrong spirit, we are blaspheming the Holy Ghost. I've heard many people say, including myself in the past, "Yes, there's a spirit at work in those churches, but it's not the right one." That doesn't mean that there aren't false churches out there. There are, but when we speak against a church in which God truly is working then we blaspheme the Holy Spirit. That terrified me when I finally realised what it meant to stand up in a meeting and say I'm glad I'm part of God's only true way on earth! I was guilty of that sin. And when we deny the Spirit's work in the lives of others we deny Him entrance to our own lives. In denying Him entrance to our heart we shut ourselves out of the kingdom of God. It took a miracle on the road to Damascus to open Paul's eyes to the truth. As long as this fellowship as a whole, believes that they are the only ones on earth truly following Jesus, then they are in danger of blaspheming the Holy Spirit's work in other Christian churches.
2) The 2x2 ministry. Many times we hear that God ordained only one ministry, and that of the apostles forsaking all and going out in twos and by faith, to preach the word of God. There is nothing wrong with this ministry. It is, in fact, admirable that so many men and women have given up careers, the hope of a family, a home, to go out and spread the wonderful message of the Gospel. This is just as Jesus sent those apostles in Matthew 10 and as he sent the seventy. But why did he send them that way? They were to leave everything and go straight away because Jesus would be following closely behind them. As they quickly made their way through Palestine from town to town, Jesus was only ever two steps behind. Their mission was to preach the coming of the Kingdom of God. That message was fulfilled as Jesus came to each town the apostles had already passed through. Is it important to go out 2x2? Well of the 28 times apostles and disciples went out on missions in Acts, only 8 times did they go in pairs. In Matt 28:18-20 when Jesus gives the great commission to go out and make disciples throughout the world he never mentioned that they had to go 2x2. Why? Well, some would say because he'd already sent them 2x2 the first time, and that set the pattern. But when we read Jesus statement in Greek, the language it was written in, we can understand why he never mentions a number. The importance is on Jesus command "Make disciples" not on "Go ye". We are all charged with the ministry of bringing people to God. Think about this, if the ministers have to go out and preach 2x2 to be considered true to Jesus, then we as individuals can never bring anyone to God, because we're not going around preaching 2x2. This is one example of why it is dangerous to read individual verses without really understanding what Jesus meant, and with taking verses out of context of the whole of the bible. Also, in the Jewish traditions of law it was required for two or three witnesses to testify to the truth of something. Sending them 2x2 to the immediate Jewish surroundings was a necessity. Is it important in our age? We have no such custom. Is it important to give up everything? When Jesus sent out the 12 and then the 70, it was for short journeys. They were to move quickly and carrying extra luggage would simply slow them down. Jesus reverses his order in Luke 22:35. Jesus said, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" "Nothing, "They answered. He said, "But now if you have a purse take it, and also a bag." If it was so important that they went out with nothing, why does he later reverse his order? Because the first mission was short and hasty. The next time they go would be on long dangerous journeys. This does not mean our ministers aren't working for God. I believe they're doing a wonderful job. But it is a mistake to make our 2x2 ministry a matter of importance, even a matter of salvation. Again when we or the workers disregard the ministers of other churches we're in danger of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, if those men and women are ordained by God.
3) The emphasis on external appearance. Every convention we hear certain workers preaching about the importance of women's clothing and hair, and of how vain or wicked make-up and jewellery is. I wondered about these things and searched the Scriptures, keeping a prayerful heart and mind, and open to God's leading. Yet there is not one word in the New Testament that says it is necessary for women to wear skirts and dresses or that it's evil if they wear shorts or slacks. We have no basis whatsoever in the written word of God to teach such a thing. Jesus and the writers of the New Testament never preach against make-up. There are two verses that may be understood as speaking against jewellery. Let's take a look at them. 1 Peter 3:3 "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery or of fine clothes. Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."
Read that carefully. Peter does not command women to not wear gold or fine clothes. He urges them to emphasise their heart. Let their beauty come from within. To read this as a literal command against jewellery or fine clothing is to ignore the Greek figure of speech. Peter is saying, "Don't judge a woman's righteousness by how expensive or beautiful she looks. Rather take a look at their heart and see if it's pure." Incidentally, if that were a command to be literally followed, then all the females who braid their hair are committing a sin. The other verse is 1 Timothy 2:9-10. "I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God." This is the same Greek sentence structure that Peter used. Paul is saying exactly the same as Peter. Neither of these verses can be used to prohibit women from wearing jewellery. Interestingly, 1 Tim. 2:8, immediately preceding says, "I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer." Why do we go on so much about women's dress standards and utterly ignore a verse immediately next to it? Some will say I'm just trying to find fault, or that I'm nitpicking. But this isn't the case. If we are really God's only way on earth, why is it that we ignore so much of the New Testament? For eg. a) Men holding up their hands in prayer. 1.Tim.2:8 - ignored, but we accept 1.Tim.2:9 about women not wearing jewellery. (Incidentally, perhaps men holding up hands in prayer was for a custom of the churches of that time. Yet if that was only a custom then so too is the next verse about women and jewellery. We can't accept one verse as relevant to us and ignore the next.) b) Elders praying over the sick. James 5:14-16 -unheard of c) The ministry offices of pastor, teacher, prophet. The workers are only filling the office of evangelist. Eph.4:11-13 -non-existent d) The fact that elders are responsible for discipline and care of the local church, not the workers. 1.Tim.3, Acts 20:17,28 --workers seem to fulfil this role e) The role of deacons who are to administrate the local churches. 1.Tim.3:8-12 -nonexistent f) The fact that salvation is a free gift from God; there is nothing we can do to earn salvation. When we believe and put our faith in Jesus, we are saved and then we respond to His free gift by living a life of love. Rom.3:22-24, 4:23-25, 6:23, Eph.2:8, Gal.3:22 -much emphasis on what WE can do. Paul said the fruits of our sinful nature are obvious: debauchery, drunkenness, sexual immorality, lying, hatred, theft, envying. Since when does women not wearing skirts or having short hair fit in the same category as these other sins? When we consider them we see the common factor. They all hurt other people and ourselves. Women's dress standards is an immaterial issue that takes our focus off Jesus and what He has done for us, and puts the focus on us and how we have to look to fit into a role. In other words saying there's something women can DO, to earn salvation. Equally the fruits of the Spirit are obvious: love, gentleness, humility, meekness, compassion, joy, peace, etc. These are all about love for each other. I cannot dismiss these fruits when I see them in the lives of Christians from other churches. To do so would be to deny the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. It seems that accepting the workers as the only true ministry is not in accordance with the New Testament. I sincerely believe that these men and women are trying to do God's will for them. But as long as they deny the ministry of people from other Christian churches then they are in grave error. The emphasis is on accepting, not Jesus alone, but a package. That package consists of, a 2x2 ministry, a need to conform to a strict dress code, an emphasis on faith+what we can do: as opposed to faith alone, the belief that this fellowship is the ONLY one that God has ordained.
I know that friends and workers honestly believe that submitting to the dress code is an outward sign of submitting to God. Yet this denies the freedom of grace in which we are allowed to be who we are. Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." Are you really free to worship and serve God according to who you are? I believe that we are impressed to serve God according to what the group as a whole believes and upholds. This is conforming to a system of belief, as opposed to being transformed by the Spirit of God. And when people don't uphold that system of standards, they are judged as rebelling or not having a spirit of submission. But submission to who? God, or a church? When Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life", what did He mean? It is subtly inferred that we as a group of people and as a particular ministry, are The Truth or The Way. In fact, Jesus the person, Jesus the man, Jesus our God, is the way and the truth. We are to follow Him, not to follow a particular way or set of standards. This is the heresy that Paul refuted among the Galatians. They believed that they had to do something else as well as believe. We commit the same folly when we teach the importance of women having long hair/not wearing shorts or slacks/not wearing jewellery, of men having to have short hair, etc. We are saying "What Christ has done is insufficient. We need to do something as well." Refer Galatians 3:1-5. Some will say that Paul was talking about the Law given to Moses. This is true. But that same law was holy and God-given. Is it somehow acceptable to God to put another law in its place? A man-made set of conditions? If He has said that faith in Christ is enough, that we don't need to follow Moses' Law, then following any other law or set of standards or guidelines, won't impress Him. For this reason and according to what God has convicted my conscience of, I cannot continue going to meetings and pretending that I believe it is God's only true church on earth I accept it as one of the members of the body of Christ, not as the whole body in excluding all other Christians. For the time being I will continue with missions, specials, and conventions. I wonít go to meetings because I donít believe my convictions would be received freely or favourably. I know that many of you will see me as having "lost out". I know that you will be sad and wonder how the devil drew me away. Yet my life has never been more fulfilling or more full of the Holy Spirit and focused on Jesus the person, and on sharing that message with non-Christians. Those of you who sincerely believe that The Truth is God's only group of people on earth, I know you will no longer believe that I am saved, and living in Jesus. But I cannot escape God's calling on my heart, and the messages He has spoken to me. I only ask that you would look deep into your hearts and in the same spirit that Jesus displayed, don't shut me out, so that we could continue to accept each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. I am, forever, a child of God, and your brother in Him. With much love in His grace and mercy, Rob Oxenbridge. Ps. I am speaking entirely for myself. What Karen believes is between God and her.
This letter was given to each family in the meeting of which I was elder and to the overseer in the state of Victoria, Australia: 12 January 1999 My dear friends I do not find it easy to write this letter as I know this may come as a shock to many. I have nothing personal against anyone, nor have I been offended by anyone in the fellowship in which I have met for many years; especially my friends in Australia and other parts of the world. There are issues which have been of great concern to me for 40 years which I can only touch on briefly. The Summer of 97 letter which was compiled by some concerned American friends, expresses these concerns in detail. There are certainly many people throughout the world who share these views. My three major concerns are as follows: 1: The origins of the "Testimony" fellowship: I have known all my life that this fellowship began with William Irvine in 1897. My father Otto Schmidt personally knew William Irvine, and was asked by him to go into the work about 1911. Therefore the origins were never a problem for me. However I can understand the shock that this revelation could have to someone who has never been aware of this fact, believing there was a direct link to Christ and the Apostles and early Christians. This belief is incorrect. 2: The exclusive nature of the fellowship: The belief that this group is the only right way is of great concern to me. I do not believe that any group of people, or church has any right to claim a monopoly on salvation. This limits the boundless loving kindness, mercy and grace of our God, manifest to us in the sacrifice of Jesus our Saviour and our Redeemer on the cross of Calvary. I do not wish to be guilty of judging another soul for whom Christ has died. I quote Luke 6:37 "Judge not that ye be not judged. Condemn not and you will not be condemned. Forgive and ye will be forgiven." There are many within this group who believe our fellowship to be the only right way to salvation. I am aware of a number of workers who have expressed this view in the past twelve months, including Bruce Smith. At 2nd Williams convention in WA he stated that if he had any doubts about this being the only way, he would not be preaching, and those who didn't accept the exclusiveness of the group should do something about it. Evan Jones expressed similar thoughts at Merbein, Victoria, in 1988. For many years now I have believed that Jesus alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life and the only name under heaven whereby men can be saved. (Acts 4:12) No group of people can claim to be the "only right way" as this is something that Jesus only can claim. He alone can say "I am THE Way". "I am the Bread of Life" "I am the Light of the world" "I am the True Vine" "I am the Door of the sheep fold" "I am the Good Shepherd and the good shepherd gives His life for the sheep" 3: The question "What is salvation?" I am concerned that when those within the fellowship are asked what their concept of salvation is, they answer "The 2 X 2 ministry and the church in the home." I ask the question "What about Jesus? What about His sacrifice on Calvary as our Kinsman/Redeemer? To me the gospel (or good news) is that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. And hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. For He hath made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor 5: 19-21. This is what it means to be saved by grace through faith and not by works of righteousness which we have done. Ephesians 2: 8-10. For salvation is a gift, we cannot earn it! What can we add to the completeness of salvation which God has given to us in Christ? For our own righteousness is as filthy rags in God's sight. Paul was concerned that the Galation Christians were adding to the gospel of the grace of Christ. Galations 1:6. Some were saying that they could not be saved unless they were circumcised and kept the law of Moses. Paul's reply to them was that they were frustrating the grace of God, for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Galations 2:21. If ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. Galations 5:2. Christ is become of no effect unto you whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace. Galations 5:4. I believe we are in danger of the same error as the Galations (legalism). I see the doctrine of receiving salvation only through a 2 X 2 ministry as an "add-on" to the Gospel of Grace. I realise that having these thought puts me out of line with what is taught in our fellowship. I had hoped there may have been change eg. a move away from the exclusive nature of our fellowship. I believe this is unlikely in the near future, so I must withdraw from the fellowship. I have no hard feeling or bitterness against anyone in the fellowship. My concerns are with the error of the basic teachings of William Irvine. I no longer believe there is any justification for his interpretation of Matthew 10 as a prerequisite method necessary for preaching the gospel. I would like to add that my love for Jesus is as strong as it has ever been. Please don't confuse the fact of my leaving the fellowship in any way with the loss of my faith in my Saviour and Redeemer. If anyone is concerned and would like further explanation regarding this letter, I would welcome your interest, and can be contacted on 03 50 253296. With Christian love. Merv Schmidt.
18 January 1999
Dear List members,
I have been thinking back over the past 2 years since our journey took on a more serious focus, and reflecting on our belief in the early days that workers would listen to our concerns, and encourage us that, yes, there were problems, but they would just take time and prayer to "fix".
I read back over some letters we wrote to several workers over the past 2years, referred to in the letters pasted in below as @@@, ###, ***, and &&&, and which remind me of the initial goal of many who confront change. That is, how can I accommodate change with the least amount of change myself?
The following letters were all, except the last one, written whilst we were still in the 2x2 group. It never entered our calculations that we might need to leave the group in order to follow our convictions. We left the 2x2 group in June, 1998.
I should say that the start of my journey resulted from my unrest about the slaughter in Bosnia, and why did God allow such atrocities, especially when those people had no chance of hearing the "Gospel".
I had grave concerns that something was wrong with the foundation of my belief, but I didn't know what it was that was wrong. My prayers were that God would show me His plan of salvation, and what was wrong with the 2x2 system that I had been raised in, and I hesitatingly added later, that I am willing for whatever You require of me. Initially, I wondered if He might want me to go to Ethiopia, or Bosnia or where ever. I really didn't know. But it just goes to show how little I understood of what the problem really was.
I had read The Secret Sect 18 years ago, knew relatives of Doug Parker, the author, but still managed to rationalise what was written. I really didn't take on board the doctrinal issues.
I have to admit that the Summer Ď97 letter helped to pull all the pieces together for me and like many, are appreciative of those who put the time and love into telling the truth.
For me, the timing was perfect. But then, I started to realise that God didn't want me to do something physical, but rather to trust Him alone. That step into the unknown was taken on 12 June 1998, as we met with the head worker and those from our meeting to tell them of our decision.
Anyway, this wasn't supposed to be a bio, but rather to share the following letters with you as a way of saying, it's OK to feel the need to change the system. It's part of the journey. Just be patient with your emerging understanding. And as someone emailed to me yesterday, it's not possible to undo the revelation of what is truth.
4 July 1997
I wonder if you would be interested in reading the accompanying letter downloaded from the Web site.
Apparently it is being widely distributed to the friends in the US and Canada.
I think it summarises fairly clearly, although rather "long windedly" what is troubling some of our friends around the world.
As I think I said to *** a few weeks ago, I have come to realise that a lot of interpretation of what I read in the Bible today has been filtered through 40 years of background, and when one releases those constraints, there would appear to be other interpretations.
I hesitate to even presume that you have the time or interest in the "debate", but be assured that it is a reflection of my belief that people like you and *** are capable of digesting it and applying independent thought to the material.
Many of us have wrestled with issues over the years, but with the discouragement from questioning the status quo, and an awareness of the good things about our fellowship, have developed a sort of inability to follow it through to a satisfactory conclusion.
The recent information has revived those issues and put them in writing, and when you see all of the issues assembled, an overall picture takes shape.
I would welcome the opportunity of discussing the issues with you and *** when you feel you have time, or if you have the inclination.
Regards to you both,
28 July 1997
Dear @@@ and ***,
It was good to talk to you a couple of weeks ago, @@@. I couldn't gauge from our discussion how closely you had looked at the material, and what your thoughts on the various issues, as presented, were.
By your comment on the Redemption/Salvation matter, I sort of concluded that I shouldn't pose additional questions at that stage. I believe that we all need time (and the willingness) to digest the ideas, especially as we read the Bible, and are able to view what we read with those alternative concepts in mind.
For example, this weekend I was reading in The Acts about Philip and the Eunuch, and Peter and Cornelius.
They were both working one day "missions".
In Philip's case, I don't think he was one of the Apostles, but he still worked a mission. In both cases, the messenger was without a "companion", and the message was the same.
The message was on the need to believe in Jesus for Salvation/remission of sins. Any other instruction is notably lacking.
That revelation brought a "born again" experience to both, and resulted in them wanting to be immediately baptised.
Why was there no instruction on how they were to conduct their lives. You would think that, given the experience of Peter with the vision, God would have used this "mission" to employ all of the essential criteria for his ministers. A sort of model for all time. (I believe He did!)
Why can't we have one day missions? I suspect it is because we preach that Jesus came to SHOW us the Way, (and that takes quite a while) rather than preaching that Jesus said "I AM the Way".
I can now understand why Zachaeus and the malefactor on the cross beside Jesus could receive instant assurances.
And what about "God be merciful to me, a sinner". My only hope is in Your mercy. I take no comfort from the fact that "I am not like other men", that I am different, my total reliance is on You and your Grace/Divine favour.
I've been thinking about the Salvation/Redemption issue.
I believe that you are correct in saying they are different.
Redemption is what Jesus has done for us, Salvation is what we get as a result. Through the redemption of Jesus, we have Salvation, and it is a salvation by Grace, the realisation of which brings unspeakable joy to the believer, and causes a love for Him, and a realignment of our lives to reflect His standards, as far as our poor human ability allows. I believe when Jesus said that we must "endure to the end to be saved", He was referring to the enduring of our faith in Him as our redeemer/saviour.
I've always tried to explain our fellowship to others by saying that we follow the letter of Jesus' teaching as set out in the Bible. I wonder if you will come to the same conclusions that I am coming to.
@@@ and ***, please consider all of the issues raised in the "letter". It is generally well written, and by current Friends who have a better grasp of the Bible than me.
I believe the answer to all of this lies at least in part, in the need for dramatic change. The Berlin Wall and collapse of the USSR is nothing!. Many of our older friends will be shaken by the changes, and that is why I believe the workers must get on top of the issues first.
Many of us have been praying for the answers we now seem to be getting, and praying for the changes which we assumed would ultimately accompany those answers. We all want to preserve the fellowship, but not at the expense of sound doctrine.
Have you sent the "letter" to ### yet?
More than happy to communicate further with you both, or come and see you, maybe just to have fellowship, because I don't feel adequate to do too much explaining/talking.
I hope you receive this in the spirit in which it is sent. My engineering training says that problems are approached by : - definition, open discussion and analysis, and a proactive solution plan. I believe this can be applied to the present set of issues, with copious quantities of humility, prayer and an open mind.
Look forward to hearing from you,
Regards to you both,
16 October 1997
Dear ###, &&& and @@@,
Thankyou again for your time last Monday. We hope our direct questions and statements were taken in the manner intended.
It was good to feel that there were no barriers to expressing what we really believe. It clears the air and opens up the way to be shown where we need to change or where to search more.
After the meeting, we put together as far as we were able, a summary of the main points of what we discussed, so that when we meet again we have a basis for reviewing where we have changed or otherwise.
Reading the summary, it does seem a bit like "them and us", which I don't really like, but because it is just between us, and not for general distribution, I hope that will not be a problem. I think you will agree that we will never know what we mean unless we state it clearly, instead of "beating around the bush".
If there is anything that you feel is incorrect, please let me know so that I can correct the record.
I would really love to keep the lines of communication open with you and hope you feel the same.
My only plea is to ask that you study God's word for what it says, not to justify what we have been brought up to believe it says, or to support a system of belief, which I have done for years, I am ashamed to say.
I understand the Pharisees expanded the Law to support what they were brought up to believe, to the point where they virtually worshipped the Law, and saw it as their salvation. They couldn't believe that the Messiah would come to do away with their Law. That's why the conversion of Saul/Paul was such a momentous event, and why they stoned Stephen to death. Just the way I see it at present!!
Regards and brotherly love to you all,
5 November 1997
Thanks for your letter. Pleased that the resume' finally reached you.I'm sorry if you feel our paths are diverging @@@. I find it hard to accept that someone I feel I can relate to freely would feel a gulf developing. I would love to spend a few hours with you and me just chatting with our Bibles on our knees and examining the truths contained therein that have been hidden from me for years. Partially hidden at least. Like getting specs after realising one's arms are too short!!
I accept that you wouldn't endorse some of the things which were said by ### that night. However, ### has told someone who wrote a letter to him questioning something he said at special meeting, that by questioning ### the person was effectively questioning Jesus and as a result, like the Pharisees who questioned Jesus, the questioner was committing an unforgiveable sin. Scary stuff when it comes to infallibility. And totally unsupported in the Bible plus many instances when workers have had to be corrected over the years, as you will be aware.
I didn't understand what you meant that we have "moved from a faith/works extreme to a Grace only view".Of course "Grace on God's part and faith on our part are vital ingredients to salvation". It's just that we put a system between man and God as a precondition to salvation, and discount the work of Grace/faith, which the Bible says is the only prerequisite to salvation.
I just marvel at the provision God made through the ages, for man, when man could not save himself, and came to acknowledge that vis:
Man's role was in letting God do it, through Faith.
I believe God wants a relationship of love with His earthly family. Like a natural family, my children love me (I hope) because I love them, and provide for them. I don't condition my love on them abiding by the house rules or being home by midnight. My love is unconditional, and as a result I feel their love for me and them WANTING to understand what pleases me so they can adjust their behaviour accordingly.
And the more I understand, by faith, about Jesus and what he has already done for me the more I WANT to show the works which confirm that my faith is alive and well.
Someone was telling me the other day that for them, the most important thing is their relationship with God. ie, all this other stuff that people are talking about is so irrelevant. Well, that's OK so far. Then they said HOW they get that relationship with God. They have the goal of perfecting themselves as far as possible so that the more they become like Jesus, by keeping his commandments, the more they receive the Holy Spirit, and the closer their relationship with God. I think that may typify the view of many. Wouldn't a relationship based on love be more meaningful to God? Love for Him, because He first loved me?
It makes me sad to hear reference to people who say "all you have to do is believe to be saved" in a derogatory manner. The implication being that there is more to it than that, and they aren't willing for it. What judgement!. The opposite is the case. Because they REALLY believe in Jesus, they don't need to be given a set of rules to control their lives because love takes care of that.
@@@, I have attached a letter to the List from a couple we met in Iowa in 1975. ----- and --- set out the position more clearly than I can. It is a response to a professing man named ---- who posted to the list.
I hope we can discuss this further, @@@. I would like to leave it between us, until a clear position is reached.
There is much more that I could write, but I know your thoughts are at the upcoming convention. And I wouldn't want to impact that other than for good. The ministry has a valuable role in strengthening the body of Christ. If the focus is on the love of God revealed through Jesus, and moves away from trying to reinforce rules that strengthen the structure, it will achieve its purpose.
Regards from your brother in Him,
17 August 1998
Just a short note in with (wifeís).
I am asking myself why I am writing to you. Why would someone write to another who has made it clear that he doesn't really want to maintain contact?
I guess it comes down to me not being able to fully accept that the *** we once knew is now not capable of independent thought, and is fearful of associating with someone who doesn't share his understanding of various issues. It would be a funny world if everyone felt like that, wouldn't it?
I suppose I still love you as a brother, and feel if anyone can see what is going on, you can.
If you can't, then I had better get back in my box!!
***, we left the group because we came to an understanding of sound doctrine, the doctrine of Grace.
Only after we left did we discover that we were in a CULT. Go on, deny it if you will. I did!!
A couple of examples for you to think about. In our phone discussion on Saturday, you said you didn't agree that our salvation was solely dependant on what Jesus has done for us on Calvary.
You said that "except we become as a little child, we would not see the Kingdom of heaven". Presumably you were meaning one (or both) of two things.
I had become too taken up with some new idea, and had it all worked out, and would not ever see the Kingdom, because I was too big in myself. I have heard that some have made comments similar to this.
We had to spend our lives working at becoming like a little child, like the workers teach, and then we would see the Kingdom.
If you examine the Scripture, you will see that Jesus was speaking to the disciples who were asking who would be the greatest in the kingdom. I believe Jesus was making the point that being "the greatest" wasn't conducive to seeing the simple plan of Salvation in Jesus. Only when we are small enough, and put aside our own preconceptions, and trust Him like a child trusts his parents, can we come to understand that our righteousness comes only through Jesus.
So you were really agreeing with me, but you didn't realise it!!
But do you see how we have twisted Scripture over the years to say what we want it to say?
When you were over last time with @@@, you made reference to three verses in Acts 2, such that if we read them backwards, we could see the order of things for us to DO for our salvation. ***, I say these things to you as a friend. I feel like I want to shake you to wake you up, but I was where you are for over 40 years, so I have to be patient.
But your illogical thinking (and mine over the years) and non acceptance of us slots very comfortably into two of the several aspects of a Cult.
If you would allow yourself to even THINK about it, it would be a start.
If I don' hear from you ***, I won't give up praying for you and others, but I will assume that you don't want to pursue any of these things.
***, I know this is hard hitting, and I wouldn't say these things to anyone else. It is said out of love. You might say, well, if you love me, why disturb my peace! Fair point, but I can now see the destructive teaching of the group, and the destruction of peace in the lives of many in the group, and that worries me. Sure, there are a lot of people who are happily members of a Cult. (Except, they don't believe they are in a Cult) Just scan the names of Cults in the attached list, and tell me which ones would contain members who aren't happy and who don't have peace!!
I'll see if I can find an email from an ex worker to one of his converts, and include it with this. It is a serious matter.
***, if you have a hunger for truth, and just the smidgin of concern that maybe all is not well, we can assure you that God is waiting.
Let me assure you though, that it is a very uncomfortable road, but it is a step based in Faith, and a step into the unknown, just like Abraham experienced as he separated from Lot, trusting only the promises of God. And maybe like Peter felt as he stepped out of the boat to walk to Jesus. Once he had become like a little child and agreed to trust, from that point on, it was up to Jesus. Maybe you will say that Peter had to keep working at his trust, or he would sink, and that is how it is through life, eh? To which I suggest that Trust is not a state of DOING, but rather a state of BEING.
If I don' hear from you ***, I won't give up praying for you and others, but I will assume that you don't want to pursue any of these things.
But as I think (wife) has said in her letter, the door is always open.
Christian love as always,