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.
Go here to download your free Guide, How to Enjoy the Bible Again (when you’re ready) After Spiritual Abuse (without feeling guilty or getting triggered out of your mind). You’ll receive access to both print and audio versions of the Guide (audio read by me). I’m praying it will be helpful.