“The human spirit can endure a long illness, but who can survive a crushed spirit?” (Prov. 18:14The Voice)
I was still ridden with guilt that was already taken away by Christ. My soul was sick. I am not rationalizing anything but our hearts and souls get sick just like our bodies (Psa. 6:3; Prov. 13:12). This does not make us bad Christians, it just makes us human. We all get sick. We know this by the symptoms. When we do become ill, we seek a cure with over the counter remedies or home remedies. If we are still sick we seek out a doctor. We do all this because being sick is not normal in our minds, so we must be cured. My sickness was cured in Christ. All I had to do was look to him, see him in scripture, pray to him and know by his wounds I am already healed (Isaiah 53:5). But instead my soul was drawn to legalism, man centered methods and doctrines that promised healing but only brought disappointments. My problem was what I believed.
Now I did not necessarily know I was soul sick. Yet, I began to seek out books, teachings and people that might have a cure. These teachings all had the opposite effect and they fed my guilt instead of relieving it. They only slightly and temporarily healed my wounds (Jer. 16:13-14). For example, I began to read much on revival. I loved Chick tracts and also Keith Green a well known prolific Christian singer. They introduced me to Charles Grandison Finney. I loved reading his biography but later on as I discovered more about his teachings such as his rejection of justification by faith alone and his outright hatred of classical theology it troubled me. He did not believe revival was the work of God but the responsibility of man so he had people take an inventory of their lives listing their sins and confessing them. He taught only then would the unproductive ground of the heart be broken up to produce the fruit of revival. This became like soul micromanagement to me-it is compared to trying to make your heart beat by listening to it.
Then there was the appeal of what people call “deliverance ministry” that taught that the Holy Spirit coexists with demons in Christians. They teach people have demonic curses that need to be “broken” even after they become Christians. I had no doubt we engaged in an invisible war but I knew Christians cannot have demons-period. I protested this teaching because the Bible said, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us…” (Gal. 3:13) and “God’s Son holds <us> securely, and the evil one cannot touch <us>.” (1 John 5:18NLT addition mine). When a Christian is confused with living in defeat or struggling with guilt, rejection, fear and depression one might be convinced they have a demonic problem. The deliverance ministry focuses on sin and Satan instead of directing people back to Christ and his grace. I was invited to a deliverance session and they prayed over me and these “demonic” influences were told to leave. The session I had was very similar once again to taking inventory of my sin issues and thus I felt freedom for a short time but it was short lived. It was Satan’s deception to distract me from my perfect Savior and his great salvation. He must have had a good laugh at my stupidity. It was in what Jesus did once for all on the cross that my freedom was found. I was sealed by the Holy Spirit forever and delivered from all the powers of darkness when Jesus first saved me.
By the time I graduated Bible College and was a evening manager at a Christian bookstore I became fed up with the false doctrines of the word “magic” groups and the self-esteem gospel of Robert Schuller. My Christian bookstore manager asked me to leave when I expressed my concern over these books. Here I thought I was doing the right thing. During that time I met a Pentecostal minister who asked me to come and serve his church and he would remain Pastor Emeritus. He was having difficulties due to his age and wanted to know if I could preach there on Sundays. Things went well, until my brother came and preached on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The seasoned citizen woman who played the organ was a Methodist and she complained to the Pastor. He asked me to leave a few days later. I was devastated.
The devil used my disillusionment against me. While I was a Youth Pastor at a church on Staten Island I encountered a group of people called the Jesus Only, Oneness Pentecostals. They believed in the deity of Christ and many evangelical doctrines but did not believe in the classical view of the Trinity. They taught that Christianity was under the influence of NeoPlatonism like many cultic groups accuse them of. They also believed salvation was by being baptized in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38) and that Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19-20) were only the titles of God not the name of God. They confirmed the feeling of suspicion that had grown in my heart. They lovingly took me in and trained me and showed more concern for me than anyone. I baptized a few church members at that church and was asked to leave. Not long after, I pastored an Apostolic Church for a few years. I had to study a lot of church history and Christology in an attempt to defend my position. God used that in my life to show me that only in the person of Christ and the teachings of classical Christianity represented the truth.
The cures for which I was seeking were just as dangerous as the illness. All these groups were, “worthless physicians and forgers of lies.” (Job 13:4). Religion is always telling you to do something to be accepted, forgiven or to be in right standing with God. We must be wary that of any one group or denomination that claims to have all the truth. Only the church as a whole has the truth as it is in Jesus. The foundational belief that saved and kept me is: that all my guilt and sin, anxiety and fear- all my soul sicknesses were placed upon Christ on the Cross and he carried them away for all time and eternity! This was the key to walking with God all the time.
©2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney, give credit where credit is due.