Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Liberated

(Reposted 5-7-2013. Unedited. When I wrote this I was coming through an awkward transition. My feelings here are raw and a little hurt by former groups that we felt wounded by. This year we were reconciled to most of the people from the homechurch that I mention in this post.)


Liberated!

I mean this post to boast in nothing except Jesus Christ. If it sounds like I am boasting in myself at all, please forgive me. I am nothing… Jesus is everything. (See Galatians 6:14) Also, as far as I know there is no bitterness in my heart towards any of the people or groups that we were formerly affiliated with. If it sounds like I am putting my dear friends down, I do apologize. It is not my intent. My goal is to see Christ glorified and to see people healed from their pains and released from their bondage.

Paul and I have been liberated from a cage we have been constructing for ourselves the last several years! In an effort to be as pleasing to God and as holy as we could possibly make ourselves, we boxed ourselves in with rules… almost entirely extra-biblical rules.

But, do you see the biggest problem with the logic of what we were doing? I just wrote, “as holy as we could possibly make ourselves.” Friends, can we/ do we ever make our own selves holy? Careful now. Who is it that has the power to make me holy? Only God - through the bloody sacrifice of Jesus, His Son. It is Jesus who has made me holy. And I cannot do anything to add to my own holiness. My efforts to fix myself before God are as filthy rags before the Lord. (see Isaiah 64:6)

This is the very reason why – while we were yet sinners Christ died for us! (see Romans 5:8) While we were enemies with God, Christ died for us! (see Romans 5:10) We can never earn salvation. We can never make our own selves holy. This realization has set our family free from years of bondage! We have shaken off the shackles of some of our legalisms and elitisms and we are now living a life of holiness that is granted by God and not earned by us.

I feel that I have been given wings to fly! I am no longer lonely and aching (which was largely caused by our family’s inability to find friends who were almost exactly like us). I am no longer over-eating to fill some great void. I am no longer dependent on caffeine (though I feel at liberty to drink a coke or a coffee). I am no longer living with the burden of man-made rules!

Some specifics:
I have been wearing blue jeans, slacks, and capris in public for a few months now.

I no longer feel that I have to “homestead” some day… though we still would like to live in the country and do some farming things

I no longer feel that I have to eat a diet of mostly whole foods. We are even at liberty to eat at McDonalds! *winks*

These few considerations (which are a very small sampling of the huge metamorphosis of the heart that we have been going through) might seem silly to you, but they were all very real to me and to many ladies. So many Christian blogs and magazines are preaching Christ alone in word… but works salvation in practice. Ladies, why do we get so caught up in secondary issues? Many of us have believed the lie that the more mature Christians are the ones who eat all whole foods, raise their own chickens, sew their own skirts, have 10 babies, etc. And, if a woman grinds her own wheat then she has truly “arrived.” Satan has deceived us! He has taken a good thing (healthy eating/good stewardship of our bodies) and used it to put many, many women into bondage.

My neighbor is a great source of encouragement to me. She and I talk about all of these expectations regularly. She wisely reminds me that Christian ladies need to keep going back to our “job description.” Does Titus 2 speak of raising chickens and goats? Does it speak of the need to have a perfectly clean house? No – these are characteristics of “Super Mom,” not necessarily a Titus 2 wife/mother.

Paul and I are free from years of bondage. As I said – a cage of our own making. Are you backing yourself into a cage? Perhaps by your: clothing convictions, food choices, mode of worship/type of church gathering, schooling choices, birth-control choices, child-rearing choices?

Do a little self quiz:
Can you go to church in a large church and worship with a group of diverse “normal” Christians? Or does the idea of going anywhere but your congregation of 20 select people give you the willies… even if you do have to drive over an hour to get there? (Friends, I am speaking in love here… we have driven 2+ hours before to find “like-minded” Christians, because our idea of like-minded was skewed. And, kudos to the pastor of that church who kindly but firmly said that if we were coming that far just to go to a Vision Forum Family-Integrated church, that we were making it of greater importance than the Gospel. He said that would be making family-integration a cultic thing. Amen, brother!)

Do you feel that you could be friends with someone who is a Christian but is part of a different denomination?

If you answered “No” to either question then you might be an elitist Christian. (Only God knows your heart) Paul and I know the elitist type very well. We saw one every time we looked in the mirror for the last 5 years! Over the years our church size kept shrinking and shrinking. God let us go all the way to the far extreme of an isolationist home church to see the results of our exclusivities. (I don’t know that all home groups are separatists or isolationists. In fact, most of them would be outraged by the idea of this accusation. But, what are many of them living in practice? Solitude. Isolation. Exclusion. Separation. Some home churches even screen potential visitors to save problems and disagreements down the road. This seems pretty exclusive to me.

For now, our family is attending a huge, very diverse church in town with “normal Christians.” Some are immodest. Most choose to send their kids to public school. Most families send their kids out of the service (just before the preaching) to go to children’s church. The girls flirt. The boys are often naughty. There are broken families alongside the healthy families. There are divorced people. There are working mothers. There are many things that Paul and I used to shrink from. But, for now, this group is home. We go and we minister to those in need. (And we are ministered to as well). We pray for the hurting and the sick (and we receive prayer as well). We worship with our whole hearts alongside of other imperfect Christians. We may not look like our previous notions of what holy Christians look like. But that’s okay. We stand before God admitting that we are undone, and thanking Him that it is HE and not ourselves who makes us Holy. This is the gospel.

9 comments:

Arthur Sido said...

Good thoughts Bethany. I wouldn't say that all or even most home groups are as insular as your describe but some certainly are. We homeschool but I try not to look down on those who don't. We teach our kids to have certain expectations but I try not to see myself as holier than others. We have a little "homestead" but that doesn't make us more faithful. The list goes on and on. Anytime we see our attempts at faithful obedience as being something that makes us "better" than another Christian or a reason to separate from them, our obedience has turned into sin.

Bethany in mid-MO said...

Arthur,
Thank you for your comment. For what it's worth, I was not thinking of you as my audience as I wrote. You are not the same man you were when I started reading your blog. Your recent post mentioned ecumenicalism and youth group in the same post (without condemning either.) You are a changed man. My prayer is that both of our families will keep growing in grace.
Bethany

Arthur Sido said...

Bethany,

I didn't think your post was aimed at me. What is interesting is that my beliefs on certain issues (homeschool, headcovering, Calvinism, etc.) are probably firmer now than before but what has changed is how those beliefs impact my interaction with other Christians. I still have a long way to go but I think I am slowly learing.

Diane in TX said...

Bethany,

First time commenter. : )

Loved your post today about being liberated!

I know exactly what you mean as we had also built a cage and crawled in for the past 10 years!

In our case, I had to remember that it is EVE (the woman) who was deceived. I would look at what all the other “spiritual” people are doing and want to mimic that in our own home. So I would “research” a topic to death, and inform my tired, hard-working husband of the info, skewed the way I thought things should be. So my dear husband, (like Adam) conceded to allow his wife the opportunity to put these rules and practices into place, neither one of us realizing that we both have been duped by the enemy.

Now I have quit wearing dresses only (although I still wear them some), used the headcoverings for dustrags (a great symbol of my good works being like filthy rags!), and now we attend a church just like you describe. A blessed mixture of sinners saved by grace! To me, it is a vision of what heaven must be like . . . many different types of people all prasing and glorifying our Lord and Savior, Jesus!

Blessing to you today!

Bethany in mid-MO said...

Diane in TX,
Wow! That sounds just like our experience! I thank God that He has set our families free!

Come back and visit again soon!

Bethany

Bean said...

Bethany,
I am just so glad to see you blogging, I missed your blog. You are truly on a journey, you sound more relaxed and hopefully feel some contentment.
Congratulations on the new baby due later this year!!
Blessings to you and yours, and I am happy for you all :)

Bean

Simple said...

Amen, friend! Liberated indeed...
Blessings,
KA in IA

Mama Hen said...

Bethany, I so love that we have freedom because of Jesus and because of that we can be free to do the good works He commands us to do! I have prayed for you, even in your blogging absence, that you would know the love of Christ that knows no boundaries. Please pray for me, we are all in this together, as sisters in Christ. Love, Wendy

Bethany in mid-MO said...

Mama Hen/Wendy,
I truly appreciate your prayers! God continues to mold us... It is not always easy. I will pray for you and your tribe as well.
Bethany