It’s not about me….

Michael Spencer’s posts on grace (here, here and here) gave me an “aha!” moment about what was off-base, spiritually speaking, in the Geftakys Assembly, and other legalistic groups. That kind of perfectionistic performance-based teaching invokes a schema that is all about the individual. Do I have the right attitude – “Are you rejoicing, sister?” Am I praying enough – “Did you sign up for prayer tower?” Am I walking closely enough with the Lord – “How are your morning times, sister?” Am I following all the rules – “Your hair is a little short, sister.” Am I spending time with enough people – “Are you going through the Anchors with someone?” Am I working with my children enough – “Are you having mat times at home, sister?” Am I teaching my children the way of the cross – “Are you enforcing first-time obedience, sister?” Am I a good example – “There’s nothing wrong with a glass of wine, but you have to think about your testimony.” (Sorry, but I really needed that glass of wine.)

You form a picture of a God who is busy all the time scrutinizing the lives of His children for flaws and failures. That’s his preoccupation, that’s what he is really, really interested in – pointing out all the mistakes, and searching, searching for the rare soul who is doing it all right. Those few – those very few – successes are his delight! Those few successes are what the whole human project has been about since the book of Genesis, and they are the ones in the book of Revelation who help Jesus win the final victory! Yaaay for the Overcomers!

God’s other main endeavor right now is preparing great things for them!

Uh, pardon me, but that schema is bass-ackward! Emphasis on the “Aack!!” THAT IS NOT God’s plan and preoccupation! He created man because he wants to reproduce the love that exists between the Father and the Son. The angels were fine, they’re sentient and powerful and all. I mean, talk about performance! But they have no clue about relationship. He wanted beings who could share the love.

Of course, having the image of a God like this and and being able to freely choose to love him, we were also able to disobey, and the rest is history.

So is God all about trying to get us to shape up, already? NO. He sent his son to live the perfect life on our behalf and to die to bring us into union with himself, so that, by grace through faith, we are once again in that circle of love between the Father and the Son and the Spirit. And although we still sin, we have within us the desire to behave like family members. The more we experience the love, the more we want to change and become like Them.

And that’s how it works! Instead of it being all about our individual performance, it’s all about believing more and more what God has already done on our behalf, opening ourselves up more and more to receive his love. As that happens our minds get renewed. We begin to operate out of a different set of beliefs. We change! (A little. Sometimes a lot, but not often, because changing our beliefs isn’t easy…) But that’s the difference between legalism and grace–it’s a completely different paradigm! It’s not about us, it’s about the love of God!

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Margaret Irons and her husband Steve and three children were in the Fullerton Geftakys Assembly for twenty years. We left in March, 1990. We are still recovering and learning in Orange County, CA.

5 thoughts on “It’s not about me….

  1. Have I truly, with my whole heart forgiven those who have wronged me if I still have lingering negative thoughts and or feelings about the experience? Furthermore, if I say disparaging things about the perpetrators of the wrongdoing, am I guilty of gossip?

    I wonder if there will ever be a perfect answer to the former, because try as I may, sometime, somewhere, a negative memory is triggered by a new event and my response is based upon past experience. I think that I tend to be guarded and suspicious. I don’t want to become a member of any group. I feel more comfortable, hanging back a bit.

    However, I know I have grown and I know I have had some victories over the wounds but even Jesus will forever bear the scars of what He endured. Therefore, if God allowed His own son to be betrayed and hurt then surely what happened in The Assembly, we can translate into joy because we have partaken of His suffering. God will turn that which was meant to destroy us into that which will edify us.

    Perhaps in this way, I have a deeper understanding of what it means to “bear my cross” and follow Him. The wounds I bear, my scars are now a part of who I am. Although not perfected, although not yet having arrived, I continue on the journey and I endure, even if it is with some chagrin, my own faults and the faults of others.

    As for the latter part of my question; the motive of why I say anything is the point of measurement of whether or not I am guilty of gossip. I want vindication; to be cleared of blame. I want to be comforted, so that my hurts do not affect my present and my future. I want to expose the darkness and bring it into the healing light of grace so that the truth is exalted and the lies eradicated.

    I hope those motives are pure and show forth a healthy seeking for recovery. On the other hand, if I want revenge or to destroy others for the purpose of payback, then I better watch my step lest I too fall. The heart is exceedingly wicked and we can even deceive ourselves. We will be held accountable for every idle word we speak. The power of life and death is in our words.

    I have had words of death spoken over me through defaming, shaming and blaming. I even speak them over myself at times because I can’t seem to totally rid myself of the negative tapes that playback in my head from time to time. I find I need to remind myself that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit frequently urges me to cast down imaginings and every thought that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.

    The truth is that we are loved perfectly and in the prophetic perfect tense we have arrived. I am not merely an over-comer (which the Assembly set as the highest achievement), I am more than a conqueror. I have already arrived in God’s eyes to that place of perfection for which I long. Until I am presented without spot or wrinkle as His perfect bride; I will always have something to iron out on this plane. Yet, in God’s view, I entered into eternal life when He gave me His Holy Spirit and sealed me with it as a down payment of things to come. Because I accepted His mercy, grace and love, I am received as a co-heir with His blessed Son.

    The keys of the kingdom are in my hands through Christ Jesus who completed the work of God. Maybe I have discovered one or two of them. Foremost in my mind pertaining to the current topic, are forgiveness and gratefulness. Isaiah 61:3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.”

    Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave us. Ephesians 4:29-31

    It’s a fight but one worth the fighting. We have certainly been given a few hurdles to leap having been through the blender blades of The Assembly so I leave you with the prayer of Paul for the Ephesians found in chapter 3:14-19 For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

    Wow, that last part is amazing; imagine that we can be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Amen

  2. “Sheep” – isn’t that the truth! Same in our group. The terrible after-effect of it is that it’s a difficult process to find our true selves again, and to get our image of God detoxified – we thought it was God who hated our personality and wanted to stamp it out.

  3. In the Dade City cult I was OBESSED with doing away with self – the pastor preached again and AGAIN about losing self- preservation.
    As I now know, she was blasting through God-given protection to rule more completely.

  4. I apologize for the blunt illustration but sometimes they help me the best to remember important truths.

    In a recovery meeting, someone was talking about letting go of our old ideas of God. He said, “If you had a business and one of your workers was not producing, you wouldn’t tolerate it. So, if you have a God that isn’t helping you in life, you need to fire the son of a bitch.”

    Crude, but it makes the point. My old ideas of God didn’t help me have joy and peace. It didn’t help me deal with sin in my life. It never produce a character that others were impressed with or drawn to. It really never did a whole lot of good but make me feel guilty, deficient and confused.

    One day I took a piece of paper and wrote down what I truly believe about God aside from doctrine, theology and any intellectual reasoning. I wrote things like the following:

    1. I believe God loves me at least as much as I love my children.
    2. God celebrates my progress and grieves the pain I put myself through.
    3. I believe God is an adequate and competent communicator. If I miss a lesson in life, he is fine with letting me learn the same lesson as many times as it takes or teaching me in a different way. I’m not condemned because I make a mistake or fail to learn something.
    4. God does not have a self-esteem problem. I don’t have to be the corrector of what people think or say about him.
    5. Humility and learning from others about God is more important than arguing about God and being right.
    6. It’s OK to say “I don’t know” about things concerning God that I really don’t know or understand.
    7. I don’t have to believe something just because an authority figure says it. I am free to say in all honesty “I’m glad that works for you. I’m not sure I see that just now.” I am not obligated to debate or defend why I don’t believe what the person is saying.
    8. I believe God will teach me as I am open to Him teaching me. I will not always seek Him perfectly. I will not always hear and understand perfectly. But God is patient. He doesn’t give up just because I happen to be dense or make horrendously bad choices.
    9. God is more into progress rather than perfection.

  5. …because changing our beliefs isn’t easy…) But that’s the difference between legalism and grace–it’s a completely different paradigm! It’s not about us, it’s about the love of God!

    Oh, gosh, that is so true. Thanks for posting the really simple and wonderful truth.

    I remember all the cliches of Assembly speak, how it was easy to string them up into a whole of nothing. One of the worst ones that undermined grace was the Inheritance teaching. Losing one’s Inheritance could be held over someone’s head.

    I’ll keep reading.

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