I’ve had a few epiphanies in my lifetime, and all of them have been important. But this one, this is the biggie.
It happened in November of 2004, eighteen years ago this month. I was scrubbing the kitchen floor. While I scrubbed, I listened to some Bible teaching on cassette tape.
So let me back up a little.
About two years earlier, in 2002, I remember being curled up in my favorite big comfy chair for my early morning devotions and Bible study time. (Sometimes I sat at my desk and typed out my thoughts and what I was learning, but this was a time of coziness with the Lord in the big chair with a blanket.) I remember holding my arm out in front of me and pressing against the air.
“God,” I prayed, “It seems like there’s a wall in front of me, and I can’t progress in my Christian life. I think maybe I can see something beautiful out there, but it’s hazy, and I can’t quite grasp it. I feel a little silly praying this because I don’t even know what the wall is or even if it’s really there. But . . . whatever it is, if it is, would you bring it down? Would you make it collapse or make a way for me to go through it or make a way for me to leap over it?” My mind flipped through all the Scriptures I knew about walls.
Because I felt a little silly praying about a wall I couldn’t even really quite discern, I didn’t mention it to the Lord often in the succeeding days. But it came up every once in a while, more like a wistfulness than anything else. “There’s something more, and I want it.”
All the deep studying I’d been doing through various books of the Bible and various subjects—most recently, Galatians—was teaching me much about the Lord and about myself. But all this study was also leading me to that feeling that something was missing in my life.
So now, back to the floor scrubbing and listening, two years after I prayed that prayer.
This teacher was talking about faith, on and on about faith, hours of it, because it was a seminar. When I first started listening, I thought, “Yes, of course, faith is good. But I already have faith, so I’m not sure if I’ll learn anything.” But I kept listening when I had opportunity, and scrubbing the kitchen floor was a good opportunity.
Sometimes a teacher might say something that just makes something click, and that’s what happened to me. While I was listening, I suddenly reared back on my heels, scrub brush in hand, and said,
“Oh my goodness.
IS BY FAITH.
My brain began to scramble. Didn’t I already know this? Well, um, I wasn’t sure. If someone had said it, wouldn’t I have nodded in agreement? Well, probably, maybe, but without really understanding.
But it made sense. All of a sudden, everything I’d been studying that felt far away MADE SENSE.
Sanctification is by faith alone.
Though I may have agreed in theory, I immediately SAW that I had not been living this way. My life had been about what I was supposed to do. I wouldn’t have said, “What I’m supposed to do to get into God’s favor,” I would have said, “What I’m supposed to do to be a good Christian.” But it ended up working out the same way.
Sanctification is by faith alone.
I needed to study it all, all over again, I thought. I needed to go back to Colossians, Galatians, Romans, Ephesians . . . I needed to find out the implications of such a truth.
It wasn’t new. But it was new to me.
Sanctification is by faith alone.
Of course I’m not talking about any kind of “faith.” I’m talking about faith in Jesus Christ, who alone is our sanctification, which is right there in 1 Corinthians 1:30, for pete’s sake.
I began to go back through all my studies, looking through this new grid. Everything made sense that hadn’t made sense before. I felt as if formerly I had had all the pieces of a puzzle but didn’t know how to put them together. Now all the pieces were coming together.
I saw the picture. And it was Jesus.
Faith in Jesus Christ is what sanctifies us, what makes us holy, what makes us pleasing to God.
Honestly, I felt as if I were being saved all over again. I would sometimes just sit and weep with thanksgiving. The joy I experienced can hardly even be described.
Back in my late teens and 20s, I’d read a number of books that were supposed to help me find the higher, deeper, victorious, abundant, normal, exchanged Christian life. But mostly I didn’t understand them. It felt, reading those books, that I was supposed to just sit on the couch and wait for God to do something; I wasn’t sure what.
Maybe it was me. Maybe it was them. But I did not understand from those books that Jesus Christ is the source of our sanctification and we access that sanctification by faith alone.
“This teaching isn’t taught enough,” I lamented. “It took me so long to understand it! Others need to understand it too!”
I studied the Word of God and sought the Lord and experienced His care and presence for another five years and then finally starting this blog in 2009, with a desire to pour out what He had been teaching me (to my audience of zero).
THIS was the reason for this blog.
During the five years from 2004 to 2009, the Lord carried me through a dark time that I wrote about here. Then for four months in 2008 He descended on me in glory in a way that still takes my breath away when I think about it. I wrote about that here.
During that same time, the Lord also brought into my life my first friend to begin teaching me about domestic abuse. In 2008 (same year as the glory cloud), because of the counseling this friend was receiving, I became aware of Jay Adams’ atrocious little booklet Godliness through Discipline, and I wrote a long refutation of it based on what the Lord had taught me through His Word. For several years I didn’t know what to do with that refutation, so it just sat on my computer. It never crossed my mind to post it at Here’s the Joy, because in my mind that wasn’t what this blog was about.
This blog was to teach the joy we as Christians can find when we allow our Lord Jesus to carry all the burden of “holiness” for us, since He can accomplish that and we can’t, and how that holiness / practical righteousness / sanctification / godliness can be worked out in our lives through our continuing to look to Him in faith. (Which, as I think about it now, it is EXACTLY the opposite of what Jay Adams taught.)
But . . .
By 2012 when I got to know the story of the first woman who talked with me about sexual abuse and Bob Jones University, I was starting to actually push back against specific church teachings on this blog, just a little. I started out 2013 by posting that review of the Jay Adams book, I pushed back against the works-based teachings of another pastor, I pushed back against Sovereign Grace Ministries, and I ended the year by pushing back against the Botkin sisters of Vision Forum fame.
In 2014 I began posting about the weird teaching of “don’t take up offenses” and the ubiquitous teaching of “Christian should yield their rights” because I was so horrified that this is what abuse survivors and their friends were told, and I knew what the Scriptures were really saying.
Year after year I was being pulled more into the dark world of spiritual abuse.
In 2016 I posted all my research about “bitterness,” since I knew this accusation was used to silence abuse survivors and a full-blown word and subject study sounded like an exciting challenge to me. Then, by request, I combined that and the rights studies into my first Untwisting Scriptures book.
By this time I was definitely seeing more clearly what was going on. The teaching of the transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit was being squelched, sometimes in ignorance, but sometimes, I was learning, through the desire to cover up evil, in some cases evil beyond what I could have formerly imagined.
Did I mention that I had a very steep learning curve?
By 2017 it was no-holds-barred for me—I began to take on every teaching in the evangelical church that had been bothering me for years.
But, my friends, I keep coming back to the Foundation. The reason I started this blog. The reason it’s called Here’s the Joy.
The Foundation is the Lord Jesus Christ. The Foundation is that He is the Savior, Redeemer, Friend, and Comforter. When the burden of “gaining God’s smile” is released (because we are in Christ and He is perfectly pleasing to His Father, which means we are too), then we are free, truly free. We are free to work for His kingdom with joy, knowing that we have His smile, His delight, rather than working to try to gain it. What a world of difference that makes.
By His Holy Spirit He transforms our lives to love what is worth loving and to despise what should be despised. We are free to no longer strive for His approval, but to strive the way Paul strove, to send out everywhere the good news of the gospel of the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So this is what continues to provide the framework for this blog and my books. These days my life is so full that I don’t write on here as much as I would like, but my primary goal has not changed. I want to lift up the Name of the true Lord Jesus Christ (not that fake one) as the only one in Whom we can find our full salvation: both our justification and our sanctification. And He is very present with us, ready and delighted to provide it for us.
With all my study of spiritual abuse and recovery, I’ve drawn some conclusions.
Even through the fog puffed in our faces by some preachers and teachers, may the light of His truth shine through. His full salvation is the best news of all. This, my friends, is the gospel.
Wow! Love the fresh living water this blog is bringing me! I relate to that “wall” I could have written that description of where am at. This is so timely .
Yes, and God bless you, Carmen.
Your teaching is so refreshing. The constant struggle to be good enough, holy enough is exhausting. That, along with teaching that says we are always to think more and give more to others no matter how they treat us, brings the term soul draining to mind.
Definitely! God is not soul-draining. He is soul-enlivening. God bless you.
I’m so grateful for the work you do to bring the Truth of God’s Word to the abused. Finding safe community in a twisted system has been elusive, however, it is what God has used to continually draw me to Jesus. The Way, The Truth and The Life. Thank you, Rebecca…God is using you mightily!
Rebecca, how is your health?
I don’t want you to die laughing.
A number of years ago I was between churches, as I was looking for a body of believers closer to where I was living at the time.
It seemed that I was going to find a church home in a Baptist assembly which was within walking distance of my home. I then had occasion to hear the pastor state his opinions on husband/wife relations.
He drew an analogy of the mother with two sons serving in the military. One son was a general and the other was a private. The mother loved both sons dearly and equally, but in the military there was a clear and definite chain of command.
In other words, the mother represents God, the general is the husband, and the wife is the private, and the husband/wife relationship is the same as that between a general and a private.
I resumed looking for another church.
Pretty awful, yeah.
Thank you again Rebecca for clarifying this truth to me! God is soooo good to me!
“Honestly, I felt as if I were being saved all over again. I would sometimes just sit and weep with thanksgiving. The joy I experienced can hardly even be described.”
A sentiment that rings true for everyone who has encountered Him. It’s a treasure beyond words.
Your writings have equipped me to more easily recognize any false gospels I encounter. We are thankful for the wisdom you share as the Lord has been faithful to help you grow in this.
“A sentiment that rings true for everyone who has encountered Him. It’s a treasure beyond words.” Amen!
Well, praise the Lord. But I had that epiphany FROM reading all the “deeper life” books, which teach sanctification thru faith and relationship, and have many testimonies of the authors’ epiphanies. Probably it’s like the “rule of three” in homeschooling, where the third program is the one that works–not because it’s necessarily better, but because it just happens to be the one that helps things “click” for your child. We all have different hang-ups and blockages, and what finally gets thru to us doesn’t mean that no one else ever taught that, or that they don’t teach it “the right way,” or that our friends will get the same thing out of it when we excitedly share our discovery. (Which can be really frustrating.)
I theorize that if we just emphasize relationship with the Lord, and practical handles for that, most of these things will take care of themselves “naturally,” like how kids learn to walk and talk without us giving them classes on the “theory of walking.” However most of us who spend any amount of time in the institutional church have been bewildered and confused and discouraged already and need to unlearn and detox. Like an abuse victim, the key to unlock our healing will be slightly different for each person. Our personal history and learning style may predispose us to respond to a particular teacher or book or testimony out of the smorgasbord of quality stuff.
Most of us learn to use excellent grammar in speaking and writing before we ever “study” grammar, and years of studying grammar usually just succeeds in making people hate grammar study (although I personally like grammar.) But they continue to have good grammar even when they don’t remember the difference between an adjective and an adverb. Those who speak with bad grsmmar can correct it by listening to others and practicing, without ever taking an English class (but they have to have access to proper English speakers. Lots of us, unfortunately, don’t have a lot of access to vibrant, joyful Jesus followers. Or a church culture where we can follow them around and ask personal questions. I discovered in organic church that just spending time with vibrant mature believers can make most of your legalisms fall off, like Christian’s burden falling off his back.)
I think the spiritual life is almost 100% learning by doing. We don’t take bicycle riding classes before we learn to ride, or swimming classes from a textbook. Most of us got saved before we knew anything about the Trinity. Jesus never lectured about atonement or sanctification theory. I’m more and more convinced we need to experience things first and analyze them afterwards. But church history is full of people going on and on with theories about spiritual things they haven’t experienced themselves, OR imposing their exact personal experiences and explanations as the ONLY way God can work in someone’s life. Jesus’ method was almost 100% relationship. Follow Me, live with Me 24/7, enjoy Me, watch how I do things. And now He lives inside us. His method remains the same.
I say all this as a person with an intellectual bent who loves to study theory and theology. But I find my analytical nature gets in the way more than it helps most of the time. I also realize many people are not so analytical, and they generally are better Christians.
Oh yes, I knew that many had “entered into that Sabbath rest” that I couldn’t seem to find when I was floundering in my 20s. I think some of the authors may have over-complicated it and/or had some what I would now call wrong teaching, but mostly the problem was me, I think.
Interesting that you talk about learning grammar. Especially when I was teaching English as a Second Language, I thought about this very thing a good bit. I wrote about it here: https://heresthejoy.com/2009/12/lessons-from-teaching-english-as-a-second-language/
This is Lifegiving Truth! I’m so very grateful you have worked hard writing truth that sets people freeeee! Free in our Lord Jesus.
That “working hard”–it’s the striving that’s born out of not having to strive. Get it? 🙂
A tested stone, precious cornerstone, firmly planted. Already there. No need to be it. Just rest in it. Sweet Sabbath rest.
Yes, love it.
This is so powerful and true. Abuse is about earthly power. Jesus is about freedom. I’m all in for His way. Thank you for this beautiful reminder, Rebecca.
God bless you, friend.
Rebecca, I read your article regarding that dark period in your life’s in the early 2000’s… I just came out of a time similar to that that lasted 2 to 3 years… I’ve been a Christian for over 50 years and this was the most confusing and painful time of spiritual dryness that I have ever experienced or ever thought I would ever experience. Just knowing that other true believers have felt this way too is so helpful…
Thank you Rebecca for untwisting Scripture also… I have really become aware of how powerfully and diabolically Satan works… When we think we are being good Christians, sometimes we have actually misunderstood God’s word and are not following Him really at all, but a twisted version of his Truth. How eye-opening that is and how important it is for all Christians to understand this – such a pitfall – so dangerous to our faith!
My best to you, Jane
Thank you so much for sharing your experience too, Jane. I know how very painful these dark times are, and yes to the being led astray while thinking we’re following the Lord. My very best to you.