Wednesday, February 29, 2012

LIBERTY FROM LEGALISM THROUGH THE GOSPEL: MY PERSONAL STORY: PART ONE

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PERCEPTION VERSUS REALITY
Anyone who has followed my blog or checked in from time to time might have come to the faulty conclusion that I am a person who has his act together. That because I have an ability to write and communicate ideas in an organized and coherent manner, that that somehow extrapolates to a personal life of order and uniformity, and that when it comes to managing the basics of my life, I probably "have all my ducks in a row".

We're talkin' real basic, practical things like managing my household's personal finances and paperwork, vehicle maintenance, diet and regular exercise, routine medical check-ups, upkeep on the house, and keeping healthy relationships with my wife and children, doing things together as a family, and also maintaining contact with close family, friends, and acquaintances.

And what about that sphere of my life that is distinctively Christian. Certainly I got my act together there, right? You probably think I have a regular private worship time when I read the Bible, pray, and spend time together in relationship with the Lord. That I have a ton of self-control, able to resist's the world's seductive baits that only harm me, and that I would always learn from my past sins, being cautious never to do them again.

Maybe you think that I give my money unselfishly to the church and to others in need. And that during public worship at church on Sunday mornings my mind is focused like a laser beam on Christ and the Gospel alone; never straying, never, wandering into dark areas it should never go. And that in the area of my own Christian ministry to others, whether through my church or on my own, is one of pure devotion and self-sacrifice.

YOU WANT TO KNOW THE TRUTH? MY LIFE IS A COMPLETE DISASTER!!!
It is a comedy of errors in which I constantly fail at these most basic fundamentals of life. Every aspect and every sphere of my life is one that lacks conformity, stability, organization, common sense, and self-control. And yet, it is through the realization of my wanting to have control and discipline over my miserably unmanageable life that the Lord has taught me to rest in the Gospel and in Christ and His finished work.

"I'VE GOT TO DO MORE AND TRY HARDER..."
Therefore, this is my post-conversion story of how the Lord is liberating me from the legalistic mentality of "I've got to get my life together and organize things. I ve got to eat right and exercise regularly, I've got to keep my car clean and well maintained, I've got to do more around the house, I've got to understand all that stuff about paperwork and taxes and then organize it all, I've got to keep up with my regular medical and dental appointments, do a better job at raising my kids and loving my wife, I've got to maintain a regular private worship schedule of Bible reading and prayer and then immediately pray when an urgent prayer request comes up, I've got to drink less, cuss less, treat people better, clean up my act and then the Lord will not be so disappointed with me, and I will be a happy, contented person".

FREEDOM IN THE GOSPEL
Through the Lord's great providence (The Lord sovereignly orchestrating and ordering the circumstances of my life) I am learning that true happiness and true peace is found only in the One who lived a perfect life on my behalf and died the death that I deserve. When it comes to God's laws, He doesn't grade on a curve. It's either a pass or fail grade. I have failed in the past, I fail 24/7 in the present, and I will continue to fail in the future. If I am looking for the Lord to give me a passing grade according to my works and deeds, I will be exposed as a complete and utter failure. My grade on keeping God's laws? F

But Jesus was my perfect righteousness for me. He was the One who took my test and aced it! Therefore, although I want to do what is right much of the time, I am free to be a failure at home or on the job, free to be a loser, free to be looked down upon and criticized for failing to lead an exemplary life, and free to be transparent on what a disgusting piece of filth I really am; after all, if the Lord Jesus already knows everything about me and He gladly receives me, then why should I fear the opinion of man?

ONCE UPON A "TIME"...
...before the universe ever was, or for that matter, before time even existed, the Christian God chose me, Casey Nygren, and other people from an entire population of fallen humanity, to be His chosen people redeemed by Christ and His finished work. (Yes, God chooses people, it's everywhere in the Bible). I must be someone special, right? Wrong-o! God does not choose people because they are better, smarter, more persuasive, more loveable, more talented, or more religious that others. And He doesn't choose people because they somehow earned it by living an upright life; contributing their time and efforts for human good, giving more money to church and other worthy causes, and trying harder to be a better person.

WE GOT IT ALL WRONG
Actually, it's the other way around. The Lord usually chooses the losers, the lowly scumbags, the freaks, the underachievers, the outcasts, the morally bankrupt, the unlovable and undesirable. In other words, the Lord's choosing me had nothing to do with me; as if I was somehow special, loveable, or worthy, and that Heaven just wouldn't be Heaven without my presence.

He chose me because it pleased Him to do so. He does whatever He wants to do, He is Lord and He chooses whomever He wants to choose. And that fact alone fuels my gratitude for what the Lord has done for me in spite of my total failure at life, spiritually dead, spiritually blind, morally broken, beyond any ability to save myself. It's what the Bible teaches, and that is what makes the Gospel deliciously sweet and conforting to such a rebel as I.

A SHORT, SHORT RECAP OF MY SALVATION STORY
So I was born in 1962. I was an atheist who fiercely resisted the idea of God. Christianity was especially repulsive and I hated any mention of Christ. I wanted to live my life the way I wanted to, and I didn't want anyone telling me how I ought to live. I always had an undying compulsion to do bad, bad stuff, and I enjoyed the endless evil pleasures this world offered. But I was also miserable at the hopelessness and pointlessness of life; part of me wanted to live, and another part of me wanted to die. In the latter part of 1999, I transitioned from being an atheist to a Christian in the span of about six months. Just amazing! My conversion to Christianity happened, not because I somehow figured things out on my own. It is because the Lord caused me to become a Christian. If you are interested you can read MY CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY on how I became a Christian.

So at God's predetermined time, according to His perfect will, He raised me from spiritual death and opened my eyes to the truth of my own spiritual condition; a ruined, rebellious lawbreaker facing everlasting torment for crimes against a Holy, righteous, perfect, and just Deity. I bent my knee in January of 2000 and prayed for God to rescue me through faith in Jesus Christ. At this point I didn't know what the hell happened to me. All I knew is that know God was Holy, I was a sinner and deserved punishment for my crimes, and that Jesus, the second Person of the Godhead, became a God/Man to fulfill His redemptive work. And by trusting in Him I would be rescued from the torments of Hell and my broken relationship with God would be restored. Theologically speaking, I was basically clueless about anything but the very basics of the Gospel.

THE FRUIT OF GENUINE CHRISTIAN CONVERSION
But the changes in my life were immediate and profound. By God's grace my brother Mark, a Christian of thirteen years, helped my better understand Christianity and the Gospel, and through Mark I was taught the Reformed Doctrines of Grace, a.k.a. Calvinism. As a baby Christian I was so hungry for Truth. I was constantly reading theology books and listening to cassette tapes of reputable pastors, reading the Bible, and praying to my Savior. I was truly on fire for the Lord and was fed and nourished spiritually by my massive intake of books, sermons, and Scripture.

FINDING A CHURCH HOME
My wife was a nominal Roman Catholic and was not saved at the time of my conversion. She noticed a big difference in me and thought I was just going through one of my many phases. I emphasized that I had to find a church home, so we settled on Wayzata Evangelical Free Church. It was a large church with many members, and very close to home. Their doctrinal statement was solid, and for the first few years I really liked attending Wayzata Free.

AWAKENING
But then God opened my eyes to some things about Wayzata Free that were disturbing. For one thing, they were Arminian and I was Reformed in my theology, and I am absolutely convinced by Scripture and conscience that the Bible teaches the Reformed view as true.

I slowly became aware that Wayzata Free was a seeker-friendly church that sugar-coated the Gospel, watering down unpopular doctrines and turning it into a man-centered theology focusing on the felt needs of "seekers" in an effort to reach them for Christ. That was an unbiblical evangelistic methodology that I despised.

Overall, the preaching at Wayzata Free was shallow; a mile wide but an inch deep. They never transcended to the glorious depths of the Gospel that I yearned for. I was also frustrated at the lack genuine Christian love and devotion the pastors had for their flock. Membership was reduced to business decisions about the church. And I also noticed an increasing lack of biblical discernment on behalf of the pastoral staff at Wayzata Free, allowing in doctrines and teachings that were not biblical. I made my complaints known, yet in all my complaints I felt marginalized. This made me increasingly frustrated so I started seeking another church home.

THE LORD GUIDES ME TO A GREAT NEW CHURCH HOME
I discovered REDEEMER BIBLE CHURCH through listening to a Christian radio program called "Talk the Walk with Todd Friel", a local Christian personality. Redeemer pastor Bob Glenn was filling in one day and I happened to be listening. He was discussing the doctrine of Hell, which I thought was refreshing compared to the Gospel-Lite coming out of Wayzata Free. Bob was bold, unapologetic, and really knew his stuff. He mentioned that he was a pastor at Redeemer Bible Church in Minnetonka.

I remembered seeing the blue "Redeemer Bible Church" sign on Hwy 7 and made the connection. I was very interested in this church as a candidate for a new church home. I called the office and asked if they taught the Reformed faith and the reply was "Yes". I asked a few more questions and I knew I had to check this place out. I was very excited.

I visited Redeemer Bible Church for the first time, by myself, in early January of 2006 I believe. Bob was preaching through the book of Exodus and the sermon text was on one of the Ten Commandments, "You sall not commit adultery". I was very impressed Bob's preaching. By now, Valerie my wife was a Christian. I knew she would not like the major change of finding a new church home, but in my mind, this was where the Lord was leading me and my family.

So my family left Wayzata Free and we started attending Redeemer Bible Church. It didn't take long to figure out that the Lord steered me in the right direction. All I can say is that the preaching, teaching, pastoral care, and fellowship of Redeemer Bible Church has turned my world upside down. I met with Pastor Bob over lunch not long after we started attending Redeemer and found him to be a real down to earth, caring, tender hearted guy.

Within a year we applied for church membership, enrolled in the class, and we became members of the Redeemer family of Christians. It's just a fantastic church and I am very bleesed to be there and give hearty thanks to the Lord for bringing me and my family to Redeemer Bible Church.

Anyway, that's enough of my personal story for now. I an just laying a foundation, my chronological post-conversion background that will serve to build the rest of my story on. There will definitely be a Part Two, and maybe a Part Three. I would like to finish my personal story of liberation from LEGALISM through the Gospel by Sunday. On Monday March 5th I plan on initiating the WEEKLY BLOG POSTING SCHEDULE described in my prior post.

I intend to keep up with the Series on Galatians and pastor Bob's series on Acts on wednesdays, but there are some other details I must address first.

3 comments:

  1. Very powerful story. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Thanks Jen, it only gets better!

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  3. I'd read your story and it seems to be like mine... I'm from Perú, but there is not difference about the road that we have in the ways of the Lord. Thank's for sharing this. Jesus cares for us, always. He loves and cares his Wife.

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