He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For everything was created by him,
in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions
or rulers or authorities—
all things have been created through him and for him.
He is before all things,
and by him all things hold together.
He is also the head of the body, the church;
he is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead,
so that he might come to have
first place in everything.
For God was pleased to have
all his fullness dwell in him,
and through him to reconcile
everything to himself,
whether things on earth or things in heaven,
by making peace
through his blood, shed on the cross.
Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds expressed in your evil actions. But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through his death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him—if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard. This gospel has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become a servant of it. Colossians 1:15-23
Growing Up Evangelical
Yes, that’s the book for me
I stand alone on the Word of God
Did you ever sing this song? I remember singing it as a kid and it came to my mind as I’ve been thinking about my Christian upbringing. I love this song. It speaks a simple truth that kids can understand but adults have trouble grasping: the Bible is true and can be trusted. By the grace of God, I still stand alone on the Word of God.
I’m saddened as I think of people I know that have fallen away throughout the years and as I think of the many people I don’t know that have departed from the truth. People that now have come to reject the Bible and reject the authority of God. They memorized Bible verses with me at AWANA. They went to Vacation Bible School with me. They went to youth group with me. They went to church. They memorized Scripture. They sang the songs. What happened? They started out well…what went wrong? I explored this here. My purpose here is to describe and reflect on some of my experiences in Evangelicalism.
I was raised around the prosperity gospel and in Pentecostal churches as a young kid. My mom watched Joyce Meyer, Ken Copeland, John Hagee, CBN, and Charles Stanley during my childhood. When I was 8 my mom led me in a sinner’s prayer. My dad was kind, loving to me, and generous. However, he was not the spiritual leader of the home (I’m not intending to insult him but just sharing the reality). My mom taught me what she knew of God and the Bible. I wasn’t taught to be a Berean or a critical thinker. I wasn’t taught presuppositional apologetics. I wasn’t taught about doctrines and sound theology. I was taught the basics. I went to an independent baptist church from 8 years old all the way through high school and college.
I may have been saved since eight years old but I didn’t really own it for myself until after college. I had heard verses like John 3:16 and Romans 3:23 many times in my life. I had heard, memorized, and recited all of the great salvation verses. I prayed the sinner’s prayer. I went to released time at school, AWANA, and youth group. I went to Vacation Bible School. I sang songs like: “My God is so big”, “Jesus Loves Me”, and “The B-I-B-L-E”. I watched VeggieTales. You know, “God is bigger than the Boogeyman, He’s bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV.”
While I love that song still and it has some good intentions, it doesn’t say enough. The boogeyman isn’t real. Godzilla isn’t real. The monsters on TV are not real.
Death is real. Bullies in school are real. Sexual temptation is real. Abuse is real. Porn is real. Anger is real. Cutting is real. Contemplating suicide is real. Divorce is real. Murder is real. Infidelity is real. Doubts are real.
I’ve been thinking about these songs and looking back and reflecting on some of my personal experiences:
- Is God bigger than my singleness?
- Is God bigger than my feelings of mediocrity?
- Is God bigger than a plane crashing into two skyscrapers that I saw on TV in 5th grade?
- Is God bigger than my loser job at Mcdonalds working 3rd shift?
- Is God bigger than my fear that I’ll never realize what God’s will for my life is?
- Is God bigger than my failures?
- Is God bigger than my depression, depersonalization, and derealization?
- Is God bigger than my loneliness?
Yes He is…at least that is my answer now. It wasn’t always the answer. My answer was…God is bigger…if I just pray hard enough and do the right things and serve in the church. I said the prayer. I asked Jesus into my heart. But I don’t know if I was regenerated. I was moral and not holy.
You may have asked some of these questions in your life:
- Is God bigger than losing my loved one?
- Is God bigger than the bills that need paid when I’ve just lost my job?
- Is God bigger than my alcoholism?
- Is God bigger than my drug addiction?
- Is God bigger than my shame?
- Is God bigger than the regret I have over my past sins?
- Is God bigger than my sickness?
- Is God bigger than my ugliness?
- Is God bigger than my breakups/divorce?
- Is God bigger that my cancer diagnosis?
- Is God bigger than my cheating spouse?
- Is God bigger than parents going through a divorce?
- Is God bigger than the sexual, physical, emotional abuse that I experienced in the church or from a relative (or any abuse scenario)?
- Is God bigger than my attraction to the same sex that I’ve been praying and praying for Him to take away…but He hasn’t?
- Is God bigger than two kids killing 13 people and themselves in a Colorado school on April 20, 1999?
- Is God bigger than hurricanes?
- Is God bigger than a Las Vegas shooting?
- Is God bigger than a Texas church shooting?
- Is God bigger than racism?
- Is God bigger than someone killing 17 people in a Florida high school on February 14th, 2018?
- Is God bigger than the wickedness and depravity of this world?
“God made you special and He loves you very much” right? “My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty there’s nothing my God cannot do!” right? I’m sure that many people would respond to the questions on that list by saying…”If God is so big, then why did He let X happen?” Many kids in American Fundamentalism (AF)/American Evangelicalism (AE) were taught about God’s love and about how important it was to trust in Jesus.
However, I believe they weren’t taught about the magnitude of depravity that exists in the world. They weren’t prepared to face these kinds of realities. Many were taught that we were saved as long as we prayed a prayer and we were truly sorry. We were taught “Jesus loves you” but not “all who seek to live a godly life will be persecuted”. We were taught how we should stand on the Bible but we weren’t taught how to study and interpret the Bible properly. I was taught 2 timothy 2:15 in AWANA. I recited this key verse many times. However, I never knew what it actually meant until I became more discerning in 2013. Bad theology has run rampant in the American Church over the past 50+ years. What AF/AE became in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s was flawed and most AF/AE kids were set to fail.
The doctrine of regeneration is something I think many AF/AE kids missed out on. I have been in the church all my life but didn’t learn about regeneration until I began to study reformed theology over the past couple years. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard John 3:16 quoted and taught in my life. I can also say that as a kid and teen I had never read it in context with the verses that precede and the verses that follow verse 16. I also did not read it in the context of the whole chapter and in the context of the whole book of John or put it into to context with the entirety of Scripture. I didn’t even know about the importance of context. These concepts were absent from my childhood and teen years in the church.
If you grew up in AF or any kind of works based Christianity, I highly recommend that you listen to the sermon Art Azurdia preached on John 3:16. He speaks truth to errors that have been taught in the church. This sermon specifically addresses morality based Christianity. He begins with an excellent illustration of the daisy oracle (he loves me, he loves me not) and ties this to our view of God’s love. Do you have a daisy oracle view of God?
“I’ve just been given a major promotion at work…He loves me. I’m having to close my business and file for bankruptcy…He loves me not.
After all these years I’m finally having a baby!…He loves me. I’ve just been told by my OB/GYN that my body will never allow me to get pregnant…He loves me not.
I’ve now been cancer free for five years…He loves me. My recent X-Ray reveals a new spot on my lung that requires surgery…He loves me not.
I’m finally getting married…He loves me. I’m still single…He loves me not.”
“This text which Luther called, “The Bible in miniature” leads us to ask and answer a question. How can you be absolutely certain of God’s great love for you?
Recognize the object upon whom it (the love of God) is directed, identify the sacrifice that defines its true character, and embrace the purpose that has motivated its demonstration.”
There are many times in my life that I could have easily given up on God and walked away. Just read the news or go on social media and you will see the depravity of humanity on display. Why should anyone believe in God if He lets tragedies happen? Is it all just a big setup? Why did Got make us and put that tree in the garden if He knew what would happen? Does He arbitrarily damn some to Hell and choose others to be saved? If there is one thing I’ve learned throughout the years it’s this: don’t just believe what people say (especially strangers on the internet) but compare what they say to Scripture. The Bible has answers to these hard questions. You may not like the answers but they are there nonetheless.