In July, 1945, when I was ten years of age, I was born again by the love, and mercy, and grace of God in a "Holiness" church in Delano, California. About two weeks later, I received that wonderful experience which both Paul and Peter called "Sanctification of the Spirit" (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2).
I had attended that "Church of the Nazarene" for about five or six weeks, when an evangelist came for a revival there. I can still envision him somewhat when I think about those precious days. I suppose I shall never, in this life, forget his full head of handsome, silvery white hair, full in the back, and reaching about halfway down his neck. Although, he probably would not remind you of Billy Graham at all, his hair was about the length which Bro. Graham kept his.
You may be aware that "Holiness" groups, of whatever roots, generally have a standing list of the things which Christians either must or must not do. Apparently the customs of that Church of the Nazarene were a little different from the "Holiness sects" in the part of Oklahoma in which we presently live.
I was not aware of all that business of "church rules" when God reached out and drew me unto Himself. I simply fell in love with God and His word, and plunged myself into a life dedicated to God and His word. It was not too long until I discovered that there was some considerable disparity between the Word of God and "the rules." Of course, that applies to "the rules" of all denominations. Some sects maintain a list of rules which are far too restrictive, and others have a list that is far too liberal, or no list at all.
For many years I made a special effort to read the entire Bible each year, and engaged in various studies besides. I married when I was twenty, and was blessed with a wife who loved the Word of God even as I did. To this day we search the Word of God together; feasting on its inexhaustible riches.
In my early years with Christ Jesus, I gradually became aware of the contest which was in progress between the Word of God and "the keepers of the rules." I discovered that "The Rules," both social and doctrinal, were considered sacrosanct, the Bible notwithstanding. One of the largest Pentecostal/holiness organizations at that time, of which we were members, would tenaciously hold to traditions of error over Scripture, even as they were looking at the relevant passages and saw the truth.
During the process of our searching for "God's way," in about 1979, God made us aware of "The oracles of God:" "The Doctrine of Christ" in Hebrews chapters 5 and 6. We began a diligent search of that doctrine throughout the Holy Scriptures, and we rejoice that we can now say with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, "Our doctrine is not ours, but His that sent us." According to the Apostle Paul, if you do not know that doctrine well enough to teach it, you need to find someone who does, and have them to teach it to you.
By the searching of the Word of God I began to see the error in the general focus of "our church," and churches in general. Our focus was upon us, and "what we think," instead of what God thinks. Therefore, I turned my attention even more to the word of God, and was very impressed to see that God covers every aspect of life in the Holy Scriptures.
About a year after my conversion, my father, Virgil McNabb, began to renew his commitment to God, which he had let slack for about 20 years. Soon thereafter he moved us to Salina, Oklahoma, where we began to attend a Holiness church where the aging pastor was the pastor my father had served God under in his youth.
One Sunday night, about the time of my 12th birthday, after we had prayed for a while, near the close of the service, my father suddenly stepped up onto the wooden prayer bench, and raised his hands; glorifying God. Shortly, he stepped off the bench, and walked over near one of the windows; praising the Lord. Then he broke one of "the rules." He suddenly began to speak in tongues by the unction of the Spirit of the Lord.
Naturally the pastor and his wife were very upset. The words of their wailing still ring in my mind: "Virgil has bought a package from the devil." They were halfway across the continent from that Holiness church where I found peace with God, but they were all in the same room in that matter. There they were, otherwise precious saints of God and avid Bible readers, crying out in blasphemy against the Holy Spirit of God; and that, in the face of the words of Jesus Himself (Matt. 12:30-33). They had their rules! They simply threw away a lifetime friendship, and offended the Holy Spirit over an erroneous and presumptuous doctrine.
I rejoice that Jesus, the authorized rule-maker, always has precedence in all matters. And what did he say? "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. Wherefore I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come."
Does that mean that Christians who have blasphemed the Holy Ghost have lost their redemption? It is a question we cannot answer, for we have no authority to judge. "All judgment is given unto the Son" (John 5:22). Therefore, I will neither judge the unauthorized judgers, nor the ones whom they are judging.
The Apostle Paul also said, "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:4). As ministers, we sometimes must "reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine," but to judge the salvation of another child of God, NEVER.
It appears to me that many "Christians" have died with sins un-repented of, thus un-forgiven. Therefore I ask you to please note that three times, Moses mentioned God's great mercy toward them who had sinned in ignorance (Lev. 4; Num. 15; Deut. 21).
And did not Job, by the Holy Ghost, say, "What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous? Behold, He putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man" (Job 15:14-16).
In Matthew 6:9-16, Jesus used the terms "debts" and "trespasses" with the same meaning, and encouraged His apostles to ask God daily to forgive their debts. The implication is clear: we all sin, sometimes without even knowing it. John well said, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8).
God forgives even such sins as murder and fornication, both of which are punishable by death (Ezekiel 16:38). And Solomon said, "Whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding. … A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away" (Prov. 6:33). You may come to God and get forgiveness, but the people who know you will never forget. I think that also may well be the outcome of many honest saints who have truly thought that speaking in other tongues, by the Holy Ghost, was of the devil. They may enter into "the world to come," but at a great loss compared to what they might have had (2 John 1:8).
Did not Paul say "Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? … If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men (Gal. 3:2-3; Col. 2:20-22)?"
The truth is, no matter how well meaning the Christian rule makers are, the rules will not keep people from tripping. It is the Word of God, and the grace of God by which we overcome the wiles of the devil, and will be able to stand victorious on the battlefront for God.
What we can do, with great effect in our service for God, is to love our Christian neighbors as ourselves, and in mercy forbear with them and hold them up before God in our prayers. May God sustain us all in this evil day.
To God be the glory.
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