Posted in Christian

God Doesn’t Hand Out Crutches

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What is a spiritual crutch?

A spiritual crutch is anything you turn to for comfort, for peace, or for security.

Looking at that basic definition, we may not be quick to say that we use spiritual crutches. By that definition, these crutches sound an awful lot like a false god and we know better than to worship lifeless idols. Don’t we?  But let’s look a little deeper at what they are and see if we don’t have a pair of worn out crutches sitting in our room.

Do you ever turn on the tv in order to find something to distract you from your troubles? The tv has become a spiritual crutch.

Do you ever grab a book to read in order to hide from issues surrounding you?
A book has become a spiritual crutch.

Do you ever create art: paint, draw, knit, color, etc. to escape and unwind?
Art has become a spiritual crutch.

Do you exercise to deal with the things you can’t handle in life?
Exercise has become a spiritual crutch.

Do you eat in order to better handle a bad day?
Eating has become a spiritual crutch.

Clearly, we could go on and on for days but I think you get the point, and maybe by now you even have your finger on the spiritual crutch or crutches in your life.

Why are spiritual crutches wrong?
Spiritual crutches are a problem for the Christian because we are trusting in something to woo us back into our happy places instead of relying on the Living God to do what He said He would do.

Have you noticed that spiritual crutches look an awful lot like hobbies? So…are hobbies sinful? Are we to give up the things that give us pleasure?
Hobbies are not sinful. I believe the Lord gives us desires and talents and allows us to enjoy them. And why wouldn’t He? He gave us taste buds to enjoy food. He gave us the sense of smell to enjoy the wonders around us. He gave us sensual pleasures to enjoy the duty of procreation.
He often showers us with delightful add-ons just because He can and it pleases Him to do so. So what’s the problem with these hobbies-turned-crutches?

The problem is when you turn to your pleasures instead of God when you’re going through difficult times. The problem is when you reach for your “fix” instead of your God.
How often do we say something like, “I’m having a terrible day but a good cup of coffee will make it all better.” Or we might turn up the radio and drown out the sorrows. Let the base rock the tension out of our shoulders.

The problem is not in the things. It’s in our placement of these things. Here’s a good example:
I’m around readers through several social platforms, and I’ve heard this dozens of times. They’ll say something like, “I can’t concentrate on this book I’m reading. It’s a great book, but I have so much going on at home (dog died, sister is in the hospital, child ran away, and they lost their job). I just want to get into a book and get lost. But I can’t and I’m frustrated.”
Of course, they’re frustrated!! Why wouldn’t they be? They’re trying to cover the gaping hole in their heart with a Looney Tunes band-aid! It doesn’t work that way. We don’t work that way. We weren’t created for this at all.

The Lord is our safety net. He is our perfectly sized, never falls off, medicated band-aid. The truth is, you don’t need anything else. You don’t need a backup plan. You don’t need God and that cup of coffee. You don’t need the smell of paints and a little Scripture.

You need to put your focus on Christ and only Christ.
Recite scripture to yourself and see how quickly your day turns around. No need to spend $3.99 for yummy calories.
Sing praises and hymns and watch your mood shift from night to day. You won’t even have to use a bookmark or recharge your kindle.
Read the Bible and notice how clarity floods your soul. You won’t even have to pull out your art supplies.
Pray to the God who is always listening and see how quickly peace enters in. There’s no need to hit the gym again on your way home.

It’s not that hobbies are bad. It’s that we often accept them in place of something so much greater. I’m not suggesting that you stop enjoying things you love. But I am saying that the next time life overwhelms you, turn to God first. Let Him heal you in a way that only He can. THEN enjoy all the extra stuff. You can’t empty your mind by numbing your mind and that’s what these crutches offer. Instead, empty your mind by handing over everything that is bugging you. Hand it over in prayer and turn those prayer requests to praises.

How can I be so sure that God can heal me, mend me, and turn my attitude and my perspective around? Here is just a sampling of what God says in His Word:

Psalm 121: 1,2
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Psalm 120: 1
“I call on the Lord in my distress, and He answers me.”

Psalm 71:1, 5, 14, 23, 24
“In You, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame…For You have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth…As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more…My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to You-I whom You have delivered. My tongue will tell of Your righteous acts all day long for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion.”

Psalm 62:5-8
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.”

Psalm 54:1, 2, 4
“Save me, O God, by Your name; vindicate me by Your might. Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth…Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me.”

Psalm 42:5
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

Psalm 28:6, 7
“Praise be to the Lord, for He has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him.”

In the face of such evidence, how can we continue to turn to a donut for comfort? All we ever have need of is hidden in Christ. Let us remember this the next time we reach for a crutch. After we have been healed and our hearts are whole, we can enjoy our hobbies. But as believers, we have to stop letting our hobbies become the crutch that allows us to hobble through our day. We were never meant to hobble.

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Posted in About the Author, Christian

My Testimony

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I’ll be celebrating a birthday this month, so I like to take time each year to share another special birthday: my conversion story. 

I attended a church program when I was seventeen. At the end of that program, I believed that God was dealing with my heart so I walked down the aisle, spoke with someone, and prayed a prayer.

But that’s it.

I left there feeling excited over the choice I had made that night, but that excitement never carried over into the rest of my life. Over the next five years, I would continue living life my way. I made no efforts to attend church after that night and felt no need to be baptized. I continued life with my filthy mouth, wicked thoughts, and sexual sins. I knew these actions were wrong, but it didn’t bother me enough to quit. I can remember my aunt trying to talk some sense into me. She tried to tell me that a Christian couldn’t continue in their sin like I was doing, but I believed that I knew better. “You don’t know my heart,” is what I would tell her. And it’s true, she couldn’t see my heart, but she could see my fruit…or lack thereof.

Better still, God could see my heart and He knew all too well that I was continuing in a life of rebellion, all while claiming that I was saved.

Five years later, I noticed a great stirring in my heart. I longed for the things of God and in time, He would lead me to a church. I began faithfully attending this church, all while trying to hold tightly to my sins. I would attend almost every Sunday, but my life had yet to change.

My pastor was preaching through Romans during this time and it seemed like every single sermon held the same theme, “No Change = No Salvation.” I’m near positive that he said those same words in every sermon at some point, or at least that’s what the Holy Spirit was bringing to my attention.

During this time, I began to doubt my salvation. I remembered the feeling that I had that night when I was seventeen and I walked down the aisle and when I prayed. I remember the excitement. I remember the jitters. But I never remembered forsaking my sin and myself. I don’t recall a day after that when I would purposely choose God’s ways over my own. No change = no salvation. These words echoed through my mind so often. And it would be these words that would be the theme of my testimony. One night, while listening to the latest sermon from Romans, I finally admitted the truth: I had never changed, therefore I’m not saved and will go to hell. I had finally come to grips with the truth and would finally turn my whole life over to Him.

After this moment in my life, I could see a serious change taking place. It didn’t happen all at once, although there were some things that did fall off at the moment of conversion.  For the most part, I would be growing in stages. This is something the Bible calls, sanctification. Sanctification is a life long process. The thing about being saved is that you WILL go through sanctification. After only a few months, I could see a change taking place.  A few months later, even more change.  Every so often when I would stop and look back over my life, it wasn’t hard to find evidence of the changes that were taking place.

How could I change? Because Christ now lived in me, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws.” It’s the strangest thing, but the things that I used to love, I was growing to hate, and the things that I had once hated, I was growing to love. It was impossible for me to hate my sin while I lived in darkness, just like it was impossible for me to have the Spirit of God living inside of me and not change into His image. Although I have come a long way in my walk, I feel that I must clarify that I do and can still sin. But when I do, I no longer love it. When I sin, it literally grieves the Spirit within me. To put it plainly, it feels dirty; it feels wrong. Remember, sanctification is a life-long process. No one will reach the end until they reach Heaven.

A few years later, the devil would attack my assurance. He would begin to plant doubts in my mind. You see, most Christians can tell you exactly when they were saved. Many know the date, time, place, and some can even remember what they wore. But I knew none of these things. There were several moments of brokenness and sincere prayer, so  I’m not sure which one was the “one.” For about two years, I would struggle and doubt. And I can tell you honestly that it was the most miserable time in my life.

One Sunday during the altar call, a member of our church came forward and announced that she needed to be saved. She had believed herself a Christian all this time but knew something was off. At that moment, I had the courage I needed to come forward and announce that I had doubts and I was ready to get this settled. I came forward and was counseled by two ladies from our church. They both did a wonderful job trying to help me see, but it was something that I would have to continue to wrestle with on my own. For the next 36 hours, there was a great battle raging inside of me.

I began by searching my life for fruit. What proof did I have of being saved? I searched long and hard. I knew that the most common ideas of Spiritual fruit were actually works. Things like church attendance, tithing, and service. I could claim all of those things and I believe the scriptures teach that each Christian should be growing in these areas, but I also knew that these works could be faked, so I didn’t dwell there. I searched deeper, looking at things like repentance, conviction, and growth in the areas that other people could not see.
When I had a sinful thought, did I feel conviction?
Was I willing to repent of the tough stuff, even when no one else would know that I was involved in such sins?
Did I grow in the deeper, more hidden areas of my life?
I walked away confused because I had such strong doubts and yet as far as I could tell, I passed the test. I knew that if I were to plead my case to any person, I would be able to convince them that I was in fact saved. But I didn’t want to convince someone else, and I didn’t need another person to confirm me. I wanted God Himself to confirm once and for all that I was His. My prayer at the end of the night was simply this: Lord confirm me. I felt like Jacob in that hour, clinging to His robe crying out, “Either confirm that I’m Yours or save me! But I’m not leaving until You do one of them!” Jacob, too, refused to let go until God blessed him.

The next morning, I felt led to pick up a book that my pastor wrote titled, Genuine Conversion. In this simple booklet, he breaks down what it means, or rather what it looks like, to be saved. He compares what the Scriptures actually teach with what common belief says. It’s a simple read which lists what conversion DOES NOT look like compared to what it DOES look like based on the Bible.  In the end, he included a quiz to help the reader understand what kinds of fruit are growing on the limbs of their trees. I went through this same book that morning and there were two things that seemed to be repeated on every page.

1: Matthew 7:17-20 A bad tree can not produce good fruit

2:1 John 2:3-6 I can KNOW once and for all that I’m saved and never doubt again.

First, the verse Matthew 7:17-20: “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them” This verse appeared so often in the short book that it became all the more clear. Not only can you know if you are saved by the fruit on your tree, but a bad tree (which I assumed that I was, till proven saved) cannot produce good fruit, just like a good tree can not produce bad fruit. I searched and searched. I took the quiz.  I begged God to show me my own heart and I was finding ample proof from all around that I was saved.

Second, First John 2:3-6: “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” This verse came in and helped me to see that I can know the truth about my salvation. That God actually wants me to know. It’s not His way for believers to doubt. I walked away that morning understanding that I was saved. But this would not be the end of Satan’s attack. He had one last ploy.

Now that I was certain of my salvation, Satan then tried to keep me quiet about it. By twisting Scripture, he reminded me that “pride goes before a fall” and it would be best for me to enjoy my salvation, but just don’t tell anyone else about it. His reasoning was that if I stood up and announced that I had security, what if these doubts resurfaced further down the road and I was proven wrong next time? How embarrassing would that be?! I had to admit, he had a point. And being my enemy, he knew my weakness was my pride. I didn’t want to tell everyone what I had discovered, only to be wrong and have to renounce it. I stood in my bathroom and prayed, “What if these doubts come back? What will prove me next time?” I felt the Spirit speaking to my heart saying, “The same thing that proved you today will prove you tomorrow.” And at that moment Satan’s hold on me was finally shattered.

I cannot tell you the amount of peace that flooded my heart from this moment on. I know I’m saved, not because I can remember the moment I prayed a prayer, but because I have ample proof of being sanctified every day since then. I don’t remember the day I was justified, but I have intimate memories of being sanctified, and, therefore, I can KNOW that I will one day be glorified. The devil doesn’t sanctify and God doesn’t change a person before He saves them. God proved my relationship with Him was real by reminding me of all the changes He had made in my life.  He doesn’t work out of order.  First he justifies, then He sanctifies, and later He will glorify! Satan’s attempts to keep me quiet about my testimony only showed me how powerful my testimony really was. I love to share it now!

If you have any questions or comments, you can email me privately or chat with me below.
If you are interested in getting a copy of the Genuine Conversion book that I read through (which I highly recommend), please don’t hesitate to ask. I would love to send you a copy free of charge!

Posted in Christian

Nothing New Under the Sun: Salvation

I’m resurrecting an older post with a timeless message. I pray it blesses your heart. 

92I had the pleasure of reading Growing up in the 1850s: The Journal of Agnes Lee. You may not be familiar with Agnes, but surely you’ve heard of her father, Robert E. Lee. The journal was an interesting blend of daily activities, family, and faith. But I was most surprised to read Agnes’s testimony… especially when it brought back memories of my own. I came to understand what Solomon concluded, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” You can read my personal testimony here

Before we pick apart Agnes’s testimony, let’s read it in her own words:

Staunton Thursday 9th April ’57
My precious Father,
I have something to tell you which I know will make you very happy. It is, I believe both of your daughters are Christians. I am sure Annie is, and O Papa I am resolved to doubt no longer that there has been a great and blessed change wrought in my wicked heart. That though I see now I am far more vile and desperately sinful than I ever had the smallest idea of, from this very knowledge I feel the insupportable weight of sin and the desire and the necessity of casting my burden at my Savior’s feet and finding rest and peace where alone it can be found. I often feel a sweet peace stealing over me making me so very happy, calming my angry passions, and stilling my complaining tongue, a feeling of deep gratitude to my Father in Heaven who made me so wretched for some time to make me turn to Him, and to my Savior whose blessed promises of pardon and mercy to all who seek Him have raised me to hope and strive while before I was in despair at the awfulness of my sins. At first the struggle was dreadful. We had been studying McIIvain’s “evidences of Christianity.” Its beautiful style and interesting matter attracted me immediately. I did not then know, but soon found out, what momentous truths were most unquestionably proved it, and that he or she was worse than an idiot who could doubt the reality of religion. It set me to thinking, when I heard Bishop Johns was to confirm those disposed Easter. One Sunday when I had spent a most unprofitable day – at night I went into a room where two girls were weeping for their sins, then at once Mine stared me in the face in such awful magnitude – from that hour I had no rest. I wrote to Mamma she sent me a sweet confirming letter advising me to be confirmed if I had a single desire from henceforth to please God….. my tastes, my hopes, my pleasures, are very different from what they were, I have determined to lead a new life by God’s help. The tempter puts so many dreadful thoughts in my mind which I have much difficulty in putting down. The first and oh! a powerful one was that I was so young – to put it off and enjoy myself until I had become weary of the pleasures of this world then it would be very well, but now it would make me deny myself so many anticipated gratifications, that Christians were so gloomy and so criticized I never could expect to pass as one in the estimation of others. Then he would make me believe my repentance was not sincere, that it was just an uneasy fancy which would leave me as before, so I must ask for no advice – tell no one. O these and numerous other temptations have best me, dear Papa, and how can I thank God sufficiently that He has thus far kept me from falling back and has led me to strive on. I am sure I have always had your prayers and dear Mamma’s. O  I pity the human being who has never known a christian Father and Mother! Grandma sowed good seed in my young heart and often have her hold instructions come to me when I most needed them, O may her sainted spirit know how I thank her!… He told us of the cause of our Savior’s dreadful sufferings. There He stood driving back the overwhelming wrath of an avenging God from a helpless guilty people! But my feeble pen is a mockery of his speaking language….Though I much fear it will soon pass away from the minds of many I feel sure there are some, may they not be few, where the Spirit has found an eternal abiding place….I have not yet thanked you for your last two letters, prized as usual. I am very grateful for your prompt long answers but, dear Papa, you must not deny yourself of needful slumber even though it deprive me of great pleasure but I can stand it better than you…I must stop or your eyes will be fatigued…Yours ever
Agnes

What a beautiful and powerful testimony! Now, let us look back through it and glean what we can. Together, we’ll examine the basics of conversion. 

1 Notice of Sin
Agnes: …there has been a great and blessed change wrought in my wicked heart. That though I see now I am far more vile and desperately sinful than I ever had the smallest idea of,…
Myself: I continued life with my filthy mouth, wicked thoughts, and sexual sins. I knew these actions were wrong, but it didn’t bother me enough to quit.
Bible: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight…” Psalm 51:3,4

2 Feeling Wretched
Agnes: …a feeling of deep gratitude to my Father in Heaven who made me so wretched for some time to make me turn to Him…
Myself: …These words echoed through my mind so often…
Bible: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” Romans 7:24

3 Turning to Christ
Agnes: …from this very knowledge I feel the insupportable weight of sin and the desire and the necessity of casting my burden at my Savior’s feet and finding rest and peace where alone it can be found…
Myself: …I had finally come to grips with the truth and would finally turn my whole life over to Him…
Bible: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

4 The Lies of Satan
Agnes: …The tempter puts so many dreadful thoughts in my mind which I have much difficulty in putting down. The first and oh! a powerful one was that I was so young – to put it off and enjoy myself until I had become weary of the pleasures of this world then it would be very well, but now it would make me deny myself so many anticipated gratifications, that Christians were so gloomy and so criticized I never could expect to pass as one in the estimation of others. Then he would make me believe my repentance was not sincere, that it was just an uneasy fancy which would leave me as before…
Myself: …A few years later, the devil would attack my assurance. He would begin to plant doubts in my mind…
Bible:  “He (Satan) was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44

5 The Lie of a Comfortable Silence
Agnes: …so I must ask for no advice – tell no one. O these and numerous other temptations have best me, dear Papa…
Myself: …Now that I was certain of my salvation, Satan then tried to keep me quiet about it. By twisting Scripture, he reminded me that “pride goes before a fall” and it would be best for me to enjoy my salvation, but just don’t tell anyone else about it. His reasoning was that if I stood up and announced that I had security, what if these doubts resurfaced further down the road and I was proven wrong next time? How embarrassing would that be?! I had to admit, he had a point. And being my enemy, he knew my weakness was my pride. I didn’t want to tell everyone what I had discovered, only to be wrong and have to renounce it. …
Bible: “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to Him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19, 20

6 The Faithfulness of Christ
Agnes: …and how can I thank God sufficiently that He has thus far kept me from falling back and has led me to strive on….
Myself: …I felt the Spirit speaking to my heart saying, “The same thing that proved you today will prove you tomorrow.” And at that moment Satan’s hold on me was finally shattered….
Bible: “I have not lost one of those You gave me.” John 18:9

7 Peace
Agnes: …I often feel a sweet peace stealing over me making me so very happy…
Myself: …I cannot tell you the amount of peace that flooded my heart from this moment on….
Bible: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Romans 5:1

8 Change
Agnes: …my tastes, my hopes, my pleasures, are very different from what they were, I have determined to lead a new life by God’s help…
Myself: …It’s the strangest thing, but the things that I used to love, I was growing to hate, and the things that I had once hated, I was growing to love. It was impossible for me to hate my sin while I lived in darkness, just like it was impossible for me to have the Spirit of God living inside of me and not change into His image. Although I have come a long way in my walk, I feel that I must clarify that I do and can still sin. But when I do, I no longer love it. When I sin, it literally grieves the Spirit within me. To put it plainly, it feels dirty; it feels wrong. Remember, sanctification is a life-long process. No one will reach the end until they reach Heaven…
Bible: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

What’s so important about picking apart Agnes’ testimony? Because she did an excellent job showing  what conversion actually looks like. I once talked with someone who described the moment of conversion as warm, peaceful, and loving. Please understand me, I don’t bring this up to poke fun at her or anyone else. I only bring it up to make it clear what genuine conversion really looks like. The hour that the Spirit battles with the flesh is anything but an hour of peace, warmth, and love. Peace comes after conversion, but not during it. Love is present in God’s mercy and grace, but in the midst of the battlefield, the focus isn’t a feeling of love. The truth is, sometimes love hurts. I’ve always loved C.S. Lewis’s example of conversion in the life of Eustace from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Eustace, who had turned into a dragon due to a greedy heart, had tried to cure himself. He washed and he scratched away his dragon skin, but it couldn’t get clean. He couldn’t get deep enough. Then Aslan pierced him with his nail, digging deep into the dragon flesh and cutting it away. Eustace talked about how it had hurt him at that moment but felt gloriously free just after. You see, when God works heart-deep it’s going to hurt. It feels like you’re being ripped apart as Eustice can clearly testify to.
If your testimony doesn’t include a recognition of sin, feeling wretched, a literal turning to Christ that resulted in peace, and a change of desires then you need to reexamine your salvation. Do not be alarmed to find Satan’s tricks and lies weaved into your experience, but hopefully you will also be able to proclaim Christ’s faithfulness to you both then and ever since then. 

If you have some concerns and wish to discuss these things further, please email me. I’d love to talk with you.
With love,
A.M. Heath