A God Unlike the Assembly God: A God of Love, Not a God of Fear
Gratefulness to the author and perfector of our faith, a God unlike the Assembly god! Perfect Love destroys fear, because FEAR has torment! In the Assembly we learned so many fears.
The fears went like this....
I fear I will not be good enough.
I fear I will not be accepted.
I fear I will not be rewarded or acknowledged for my hard work.
I fear that God will stop loving me.
I fear that everyone will know my secrets.
I fear everyone will know I failed.
I fear I will not find a mate in this fellowship.
I fear I will not be able to obey my mate.
I fear if I leave this place of fellowship, my life will go downhill.
I fear that other places of fellowship are worldly.
I fear that if I don't live in a training home, I'm going to miss out on something.
I fear that if I marry this person, I won't become a Worker.
I fear that if I do marry this person she might see my weaknesses.
I fear that I won't be able to keep up this sense of perfection forever.
I fear that George and Betty and the leading brothers won't like me.
I fear that I won't be chosen to go on a team.
While in the Assembly we all lived through a form of bondage. If brothers did not prepare ministry they were condemned. If sisters wore short or tight clothing they were condemned.
If people started dating apart from counsel that was cause for gossip and condemnation. If people did not measure up in the home, they were labeled, "unfaithful".
If people did not follow counsel, they were called rebellious and heading for excommunication. If people failed, their secrets were told and they were gossiped about. If people dated someone from another assembly, they were called rebellious and were sometimes excommunicated.
If people didn't move into one of the training homes, they were not invited to a lot of the events. If people didn't esteem leadership, they had a character weakness.
If people asked questions, they were troublemakers. If people didn't come to all of the meetings, they were losing the vision.
Conversely, people were constantly accepting lies and living in a delusion to remain in the assembly.
The self deceit went like this:
If you read the Bible every morning, you will be a spiritual man or woman.
You must pray the selfer's prayer in the morning, at night and all through the day to have victory.
God loves those who do everything right. Coming to all the meetings pleases God; coming to some of the meetings appeases Him.
Being at pre-prayer and coming to meetings on time means you are a serious.
Those who do stewardships excellently are more godly than those who do them routinely. Those who are always rejoicing are godlier than those who are needy.
Really godly people hang out with George and Betty. Those who go on outreaches and teams and witnessing are really the ones on the front lines.
God is more pleased with the Workers than He is with everyone else. The ones whom God is really, really pleased with are sent out into the work.
But Our God is a God of Unconditional Love!
Now that I have been out of the Assembly for one year, I have concluded that while I was there I learned of a god who was unlike the God of the Bible. And I learned to be a man pleaser, not a God pleaser.
I am now convinced that the ways we treated each other broke God's heart. We had so many scriptures twisted up that it was hard to see God true and loving heart in the assemblies.
What God has been teaching me is that we cannot ever increase or decrease God's love for us. God says "I have loved you with an everlasting love." I know we were taught in the assembly that God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.
Mothers were taught to frown at their children when they did something wrong. Head stewards were told to frown at their roommates when they broke one of the standards. This made it feel like God hated us for something we did wrong.
Do you think the Lord Jesus frowned at the woman who was taken in adultery? Did the father frown at the son who came home from the pigsty? Did the Lord Jesus frown at Peter when he denied Him?
God deals with our sins in a loving way, not mockingly. He doesn't say, "What consequence will you pay for your sin? What consequence will you pay for upsetting me and those in the home?" What He says is, "Any sin shall be forgiven" (Mt. 12:31), and, "If your brother sins against you, you shall forgive him 70 times 7 (Mt.16). He says he is the author and perfector of our faith, so God will work on us to change our behavior patterns.
In the assembly we picked at one another's failures so often it's hard to believe we even thought God existed. We acted like little Nazis who not only told people what they were doing wrong, but how to fix their problems, and we stood over them and watched them do it.
But God deals with us on the level of our hearts. Remember when he asked Simon Peter, "Lovest thou me? Feed my sheep". This is the way God dealt with the man who denied him. On the basis of love. Do you love me, Peter? Have I won your affection? Do you see your accountability to me? Do you see what I have done for you? Do you remember that you said you were willing to follow me wherever I'm going? Then Peter, love in on my people!"
When we sin, God isn't expecting us to get quiet for a while, to blame ourselves, to act pious, to do a consequence to make up for the unacceptable behavior. He expects us to repent and that means to turn towards God (Mat 9:13). God wants us to turn to Him. Turning to God means having a talk with Him about things we have done.
The prodigal son is a good example of this when he says, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son." This son was honest and humble. His father saw his sincerity and was glad; therefore, he proclaimed a feast and brought forth the best meats to celebrate.
But remember what happened when the perfect son walked up and found out what his father had done. He detested his father and blamed him for giving "this waster" the fat cow. But his father said, "Son you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours."
Doesn't this story remind you of the employer and the wages. The employees who began work at 8:00 a.m. were angry that the employees who began at 4:00 p.m. received the same wages. God does not play favorites. He does not love some of us more than others.
John was always talking about how he was the one whom Jesus loved, but he was not loved more than the others. To say that God could love some of us more or less than others would be to slight His righteous character and discredit His name. God is love and Love loves. That's all.
God Loves Us Through Our Suffering
Perfect love casts out fear. Many of us believe that if we do everything right, we will not have to suffer. The consequence system taught us that when we suffer it's because we haven't been perfect enough, and someone is displeased with us.
But the truth is that while we are here on earth, suffering is part of the bargain. We have to suffer. There is no other way. Our world is full of people who do not know God. People who do not know God do hostile acts including murders, deceit, witchcraft, hatred, racism, and many other things. As long as we live down here, we will always be faced with some person or company who will not be honest or value us.
Our trials do not mean that God values us any less. In fact, God often uses trial to show His love toward us. Look at Peter and Silas while they were in prison for sharing their faith. Did they ever have the thought, "Why has God allowed us to be thrown into prison? He wouldn't have done this if he loved us." Probably so.
But they didn't dwell on that. They began to sing. Shortly after, God created an earthquake and those two men were free to go. Did you ever think that God created that whole big earthquake just for them? If they had a trial free life we would not be able to read about how God is able to create an earthquake for us when we are in trouble.
Look at the children of Israel. Look at the numerous ways God poured His love in on them. First, Pharaoh put them under bondage, hard labor, reduced wages and more bricks. But God decided that He wanted His people to be free. So God raised up Moses.
God loved his people so much that He chastised Pharaoh numerous times for not letting His people go. Pharaoh lost all his grain, lakes were turned to blood, darkness covered his house, his sons were killed because God wanted Pharaoh to know that His people are special to Him. No one can touch them without touching the apple of God's eye.
God never looks the other way when His people are suffering. In fact there is no suffering we feel that Christ does not also allow himself to feel. He is moved with compassion at all we go through. There are some people that nod their heads in empathy, but Christ takes our suffering as His very own. Remember how he told Saul, "Saul why do you persecute me?"
When God's people are hurting, God is hurting. When God's people are weeping God is weeping. It makes sense, for after all, we are Christ's body. What happens to Him happens to us. What happens to us, happens to Him. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. There is one spirit. There is one body. Hudson Taylor knew this and took great delight in it when he was in his severest trials, "God is with me, God is for me and God is in me".
And so when we are in trial God teaches us and works in us to be complete and entire lacking nothing. Knowing that there is nothing that we can add to our lives or take away from our lives to make us happier. Not long prayers. Not finding a better mate, not moving to a new community, not changing our situation. In fact, Christ will work this truth out in our lives in many circumstances. "You shall have no other God before Me." God plus nothing.
Therefore, we can always know that when we are saying, "I just can't take this anymore," that is true. We couldn't take it when we first started it, but now at last we have exhausted our energies and our works.
And see the love of God, because He didn't want us to even try to take it. He just wanted us to acknowledge that we couldn't take it, and rest in his love. What a wonderful slogan to learn "Here's another one for you, Lord." To handover our trials to the Lord and not try to make ourselves right.
Can you imagine someone performing surgery on themselves? I once saw a man on Ripley's Believe It or Not perform plastic surgery on himself. He reduced the size of his chin. We all can work on ourselves and try to make ourselves better, but our surgeries can only change external things, not the real issues that really matter.
God has to work on these things and He delights to do so. God leaves giants in our lands to work on us. When the giants are there, they remind us that God is all I need. When the giants are gone, we often believe I don't need or want to need anyone.
Believing that we are self sufficient is always the lie of the devil. The devil works hard to get us to trust in ourselves all the time. Saul believed that he had become so great that he could be the King and the Prophet so he made the offering. But immediately the prophet Samuel came and reproved him.
Ananias and Sapphira wanted what others had, but they did not want to share. Their greed led to their destruction. The children of Israel believed they could go out to battle without the Lord, they were destroyed.
God doesn't want his children to be smug, elite, haughty, better than others. He works on us in our trials to produce a joyful humble state of mind. We learn that He is true to his promise, "I will never desert or abandon you". Yes, we may suffer affliction, health may fail, cancer may settle in, we may lose a spouse, we may lose our hair, we may not have much money, we may be imprisoned. We may be sad and depressed.
But that doesn't effect what God promised He would do for us always at all time: "I will never desert or abandon you." Desertion means to leave alone, to forget about. Abandon means to not care, to ignore.
We can always expect God to remember our needs and to provide for our needs. God will do this forever. Like love, care is God's essential character. I know we did not learn much about this caring God in fellowship, but that's the way God really is.
He does not give up on us when we fail, when we cry, when we reach the end of our rope, when we do that dumb thing again. When we disappoint everyone. God is not like man. Man tires and loses patience quickly. God abides forever. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
God's Love Will Restore Us
Some of us may be thinking that we gave so much in the assembly, too much, so we have to make up for lost time. I must say that for a good while I felt that way. I was driven to make up financially, spiritually and socially for all of my losses in the assembly.
How do you reconcile 15 years of being deceived about yourself, other groups and George and Betty? How do I reconcile 7 years of being duped as his secretary while I sat among them day in and day out in the study? Only God can reconcile it. He says he will redeem the time the cankerworm and palmerworm has eaten.
Do I now need 7 years of fatness making big money, learning all the Bible I can, getting into new clubs and relationships, trying out new things making new friends, having new experiences to make up for the 7 lean years of having been taken advantage of in almost every way.
I am learning the answer really is "no". God vindicates His people and redeems the time. God evaluates the whole situation.
It is so easy now to believe that we are all good for nothing. God only knows what our value is and how our experiences can be used. After Moses had killed a man and fled to the desert, he probably thought he couldn't be used much again.
After Joseph had been banished again and brought down to the dungeon, he probably thought his best days were behind him. After Naomi and Ruth's husbands had died, they probably thought they'd have to walk the fields for the rest of their lives for their livelihood.
After Rahab had spoiled herself with traveling men, she probably thought she would only be the town harlot. After the prodigal son had set out to go back to his father's house, surely he never thought his father would give him such a reception.
God does the unexpected. Sometimes, just when we think it is over, it's only beginning. Certainly, that's the way the cross of Christ appeared too! It's over! Die and be buried, you Deceiver! And then, a word from the Father, the stone removed and a glorious resurrection.
God delights in mercy. He plans for every stage of our lives. The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord. God does not exclude our suffering or deception from His plan. His thoughts toward us are innumerable. We have no idea how He has worked to repair the breaches and find the sheep who are lost and hurting.
But be 100% assured God is seeking out everyone of us who is lost and hurting. He says, "I will leave 99 to find one! "I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day" (Ezek 34:11).
The Lord is our Shepherd! He takes personal responsibility for his sheep. The Lord Jesus told the Father, "I have kept them in they name, none of them is lost, but the son of perdition."
We do not have to get our act together. God is personally committed to getting us together. He will get our act together. Just think back on all this last year and the many people he put into our lives to help us. God does not lie to us.
Jesus said, "I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly." An abundant life includes trials. We cannot blame God for allowing us to suffer the temptations and trials that are common to human experience. Our world is full of liars, deceivers, gamblers, anglers, strategizers, manipulators, robbers, thieves, murderers, and shysters. But we can ask God to use all things to glorify His name.
Finally, we have nothing to prove to anyone. We don't have to be the best: "I'm the good son, the one who did not waste his father's goods. I'm the woman who sat at Jesus feet while my sister was taken up with many cares. I'm the one who leaned on Jesus bosom, but Peter denied the Lord. I'm the one who was a devout and holy man, but Saul slew many Christians."
"I'm the one who prepared the upper chamber for the Lord, but that man over there cut down the tree where they hanged him. I'm the one who begged for the body of Jesus and had him buried properly, but that Roman soldier is the one rolled the stone over his grave."
I'm inclined to say, that God doesn't care about our good works, he cares about trust in Him.
Really, there is no room to boast of ourselves that we did not fall into the snares and traps other Christians have fallen in . If there is any goodness in man, man certainly does not receive the praise for it. We give all glory to the author and perfector of our faith and acknowledge that every good thing in us comes from Him. There is no room for self boasting at all.
Even boasting in others is inappropriate. Recently, I was at a missions retreat in which I profusely praised the speaker for his right-on-ness and profundity. Shortly after, I learned how inappropriate that was. We acknowledge the benefit and affirm the value of the other, but we do not lift up man. God is at work in that man.
Lift up God. Thank God for that person and pray that God will keep him humble and usable. Every believer is of the same value to the Lord, not one of us is better than another. Therefore, "Where is boasting then? It is excluded" (Rom. 3:27). the grace of God we are what we are.
All of us have received a gift. We need to look for that gift in each other and acknowledge it and affirm it. If we are too strongly letting our gifts blurt out, we may miss someone else's gift. God does not look at any of us as being less.
Christ's blood seats us in heavenly places, not our good works. Maybe we have lost confidence. Maybe our self esteem lags. Was I deceived? Yes! Does God place me on His less-valued list? No! Am I bound to my weaknesses? No! Must I live in fear for the rest of my life? Of course not!
So many things were shaken when George was exposed, but God has not moved. His throne is not unsettled. Our faith in man crashed harder than the stock market. But God remains faithful and true always. He never changes. If we believe not, He remains faithful. He cannot deny himself.
Maybe we didn't know that God accepts us no matter what we do. He does. Maybe we didn't know that God saves us out of all our folly. He does. Maybe we thought we had to get our act together. We don't.
Maybe we feel we've lost years of our youth, innocence and wholesomeness. Who says? The Devil. God is for us. God loves us. Let us rest in this great love.
God has already proven His love for us, so let's put aside our feelings about our unworthiness, our bitterness about the past, our attempts to make up for lost time and our fear that God will abandon us. He can't, He hasn't, He won't.
God is love and like it or not, God has set His love upon us! Now that's incredible acceptance and incredible eternal security! The only appropriate response is gratefulness and humility.
Comments from Readers
Nov 25, 2004, Joe Sperling: Wow!! I hadn't read this article before. This is one of the most encouraging articles I have ever read. All of us, in our own way, have had to deal with the effects of legalism in our lives. So much of what she says rings so true. The Lord has really been teaching me very strongly about the tendency to lean towards a legalistic mindset, and how the god of legalism is really an idol. The "god" of the Assembly was exactly that.