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Finding Comfort In Grace

John Collins08/02/2013

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The most difficult first step for any person as they leave the darkness of a cult and are blinded by the sunlight of new life in Christ is finding comfort in Grace.  After studying the scriptures without the filter of man, it doesn’t take long before coming to the realization that this word, “Grace,” has an entirely different meaning in the Bible than they were accustomed to in the past.

To any new convert to Christ, this word, “Grace,” is comforting.  It is freedom.  It is love.  It is peace, joy, and hope.  It is every good gift that Christ gave us by his suffering and bleeding on the cross, as he hung there crying, “Father forgive!”

But by nature, cult theology will rob you of God’s greatest gift.  That same Grace that sets a sinner free brings chains of bondage to the cult member.  That same freedom in Christ that a new Christian experiences as they read their Bibles for the first time is a job and a chore for those who have been programmed to believe a different kind of grace.

Ephesians 2:8-9 is my favorite passage of scripture, having been through this experience.  This should be the foundation to everyone’s faith, yet it has been covered with the graffiti of man’s theology:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

This word, “grace,” is translated from the Greek word “chariti,” the word very similar to our own English word “charity.”  It is a Gift, because you are loved, and not given to you by anything that you can possibly do by yourself.

This gift won’t be given to you because you followed the rules; it has already been given to you.  It won’t be given to you because you stayed within the invisible boundaries created by man-made religion; it has already been given to you.

Strong’s Concordance describes this word as “blessings,” which afford joy and pleasure.  It uses examples, such as the love of a good master towards his servants, and of one finding favor in the eyes of the Giver. 

In other words, we have found favor in God’s eyes, but not from ANYTHING that we do, simply because He loves us as a father loves his child.

One author explains this word “Grace” using the phrase “Unmerited Favor,” the summary of the entire definition of the translated word.  Our favor in God’s eyes is unmerited – we did not do anything to deserve it, we can never repay it, and it is only because He loved us enough to send His own Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins that we have this Grace.

To the new Christian, this is wonderful!  This is the wonderful Gospel of Jesus Christ!  Christ came to save THEM, and they did not do ANYTHING to deserve it!  Why anyone would not want to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ is beyond me, it is a free Gift!  All you have to do is have faith in Jesus Christ!

But as converts to Christ from the chains of a cult, this isn’t so easy.  We had to “earn” this Grace.  We had to follow man-made rules in order to even deserve it.  And if we broke those rules, we were “taken out from under it.”  For some, even to question the rules or theology was to be taken from Grace.

We want to serve Christ.  And we want to walk in His perfect will.  We do not want to do anything that He does not want us to do. 

For this reason, the first mistake every cult member will make as they struggle to find their new life in Christ is to try and determine which rules they SHOULD follow in order to deserve God’s Grace. 

Finding a church becomes difficult.  I can remember reading through the belief system of many different churches once I realized that I had been born and raised in a cult.  None of them sounded like Christian churches to me – they did not have the same rules I grew up with.  I began accusing some groups of not having read their Bibles, because they didn’t know the rules for earning God’s grace!

That same pride that causes scorn towards other Christians will cling fiercely.  Without even realizing it, you return to the same sin that made you decide to leave the cult in the first place.

Remember the last half of that passage of scripture from Ephesians?  “not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Boasting is one of the many sins described in the New Testament.  And this word “boasting” does not simply mean bragging through words spoken, we can also have boastful hearts.  Boasting is the reflection of “pride,” which is also a sin described in the New Testament.  Those same Christians that love the Lord Jesus Christ with all their hearts in those other churches are no different than us.  They are no less deserving of God’s Grace.  They have done nothing less than we have to deserve God’s Unmerited Favor – because we also did absolutely nothing to deserve it!

Jesus gives a parable in Matthew 20 about laborers in a vineyard.  The first workers agree to a day of labor for a denarius, or a “day’s wage.”  They began working, but the master of the house found more workers later in the day. 

Though the first workers were still laboring, new workers started long after, and received the same wages.  This was repeated the third, sixth, ninth, and eleventh hour of the day, each worker receiving the same “day’s wage” for their labor.

Those that were first worked the hardest.  They worked all day in the hot sun, working for the “day’s wage” that they agreed upon.  But they were upset, because those that only worked half a day received the same “day’s wage.”

Jesus says that this parable describes the Kingdom of Heaven.  Our labor does not earn us any more favor in God’s sight.  He chooses us for the work that He would have us do – not the work that man would have us do.  He chooses us at the time and place that He wants us to serve – not at the time and place that man would expect us to come.

And the best part?  We ALL receive the same reward!

This should make us rejoice and sing constant praise to God!  The Children of Israel suffered through Law.  They labored from the day Moses broke those stone tablets to the day Christ was rejected.  They earned their salvation through the constant work of the Law.

But we have come into the Kingdom at the eleventh hour!  We did not labor like the Jews, and we receive our reward simply because the Master chose us!  His love for us is Unmerited Favor, something we don’t deserve, given to us with the Reward of New Life in Christ!

Anyone who listens to or reads this is probably thinking to themselves right now, “WHAT?  Why would ANYONE not want to accept this Grace that is so freely given?  It’s so EASY to be a child of the King!  Why not just accept it?”

It’s not that simple.

Cult worship does not always serve the same God that is described in the Bible.  Sure, they serve a god that is called “Jesus Christ,” and they serve a god whose father’s name is Yahweh, but they are not the same.  In fact, these gods are far from the same.

Remember the history behind the covenants that brought the Mosaic Law.  Remember how God made a covenant of ten simple Commandments that were all bound in two simple rules:  Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Remember how the children of Israel broke the first and second rule immediately after making the first covenant between God and man through Moses.  God’s wrath was kindled.  He was a loving Father, but he was also an angry Father.

This time of punishment was a time of correction.  The Mosaic Law was given to show the Children of Israel that they could never save themselves.  The entire rest of the Old Testament shows how a righteous man would rise and uphold the Law, and then that same righteous man or those with him would quickly fall and break the Law.  Each time they broke the Law, God’s anger was kindled. 

This is the “god” that is served by the cult.  Not God in His fullness, but one single personality of God.  They serve the God of Law, not the God of Grace.  They serve the God of wrath, not the God of Unmerited Favor.  They serve the God of the Old Testament during punishment, not the God of the New Testament after penalty for that punishment was paid.

Many cults subscribe to the “Oneness” or “Modalistic” theology, the idea that the “god of punishment” from the Old Testament is the same Jesus that died on the cross in payment for those sins.  It is common among many cult, from the Jehovah’s Witnesses to the Mormons and more.

This theology is designed to lift the cult leader into power.  Sermons or writings will be presented that lead the people into believing that this same “god of punishment” is alive and well in the ministry of the leader.  Some will even start believing that this leader is “god” himself.  Others will label the ministry or the denomination as “god” and compare the two spiritually rather than physically.  They will believe that the same “god of wrath” in the Old Testament became Jesus of the New.  Then, that same “god of wrath” in the New Testament was made manifest in today’s “age” through the ministry of the cult leader.

But as in times of punishment in the Old Testament, they will tell you that if your “works” do not meet the standards of their theology, you will “grieve the Holy Spirit” into leaving.  That same “god of wrath” that seemingly turned His back on the Children of Israel would turn his back on YOU!

This is the reason that the Trinitarian belief is denied in so many cults.  The Trinity is not some new idea that creates more Gods – it is the SAME God of the Bible.  It just isn’t the “god of wrath” that they have been serving.

The “Children of Israel” were called “Children” for a reason.  They had a Father.  This Father was Yahweh.  He was a loving father as He displayed with Adam.  He was a graceful father as He showed to Abraham and David.  He was an intelligent Father as we find with Solomon.  He was and IS the Heavenly Father who loves His children.

That Love brought punishment for disobeying.  God does not want us to serve other gods, and when the Children of Israel did, they were punished.  But they weren’t punished because God did not love them – they were punished so that we would one day realize that God’s Grace is sufficient.  There is no reason to serve other gods; we serve the greatest God of all!  We serve the God who loves us!

That Son who died on the cross for us was not the same Father who punished the Children of Israel.  That Son stood before men as the Father called him His own beloved Son. That Son begged the Father to let the “cup” pass from him as the hour of the Gift was coming.  That Son cried out unto the Father to forgive the Jews, because they did not know that they were crucifying the Gift. 

That Son promised to send His Holy Spirit to us.  That Holy Spirit would lead us, and guide us, and would never leave us.  He promised that He would “never leave us nor forsake us.”

That Son is God.  That Father is God.  That Holy Spirit is God.  These Three, the Three that we read about in our Bibles, are One.  They are inseparable, yet we find example after example in scripture describing one as a Father, who loves us as His children.  We find One as a Son, who intercedes on our behalf to the Father.  And One who lives within us, a Holy Spirit that gives us strength.  A Holy Spirit that will never leave us or forsake us.

Finding comfort in Grace means finding the truth in that very statement.  He will NEVER leave us.  He will NEVER forsake us. 

Finding comfort in Grace is learning to take those first steps, while the Father is holding our hand.  The Loving Father is reaching down his hand to his child, letting us hold onto His finger as our legs wobble.  As we learn to walk, He is standing there with us. 

Christ is standing there, covering us with Grace.  The Unmerited Favor that he purchased on the cross is flowing through us as he intercedes on behalf of the Father. 

The Holy Spirit is within us.  It is calling out, begging us to take more steps.  It is leading us to the Truth!  It is drawing us closer to God. 

You won’t find comfort in Grace until you suddenly realize that these Three are One.  After being mislead by a cult leader whose motives were his own, that trust is hard to establish.  You don’t want to trust in the blood that was spilled on the cross.  You won’t trust that the cross is sufficient – and you will want to take your salvation into your own hands.

Until you find comfort in Grace, you won’t trust the Holy Spirit that is calling out from inside of you.  You’ve already been led, and you realized that it was not down a pathway that was pleasing to God.

But when you realize that Jesus IS God, and until you realize that the Holy Spirit IS God, and that same Father that showed his wrath to the children of Israel also had the ability to show love, mercy, and Unmerited Favor, you will become more confident.  Your next step becomes easier, because that is GOD speaking inside of you!  The faith in your own salvation becomes greater, because that is GOD standing there on your behalf, erasing every sin that you committed.  Your next step seem?s more solid, because that is GOD reaching down to hold your hand!

Finding comfort in Grace is realizing what Grace is.  It isn’t some strange magical power that requires words spoken during baptism.  It isn’t some mythical angel sent down to spread his wings of healing.  It isn’t some code of conduct that you live by to achieve spiritual enlightenment.

Grace is a Gift, one that is given because the Father loves you.  He knows that your next few steps may cause a tumbling.  But He also knows that He’ll be right there to pick you up as you fall.  And He already knows which direction you are going to fall, because His Holy Spirit is the One leading you.

Accept the Gift!  Find comfort in Grace!  Find peace and satisfaction in knowing that the Father loves you as His own child!