SPACE GRACE: What I Have Learned about Grace from the IFB

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So, I was called by Jeff Fugate last night and he asked to talk to me about this parody account I run. I’m not sure of his original intent, but he was gracious and the opposite of antagonizing. He voiced some of his frustration, mainly that the attacks greatly bothered his wife and children. He also asked if he had ever done anything to personally offend me. We talked for about fifteen minutes and I was able to explain (very much abbreviated) my perspective and frustration with the IFB. I told him that since he was one of the leaders of the movement, I felt he perpetuated much of the very legalism I disagree with. Obviously, he denied putting standards or exterior actions above relationship with Jesus, but who admits to that? 🙂
All in all, it was a gracious and edifying conversation. I told him talking to him personally would cause me to think twice about the way I go about voicing my disagreements and calling out things I believe to be legalism or hypocrisy, and that I had already begun to do that (one of the reasons I am shutting down this account). I pointedly asked him to allow our conversation to also cause him to think twice and reconsider the way his tweets or statements about standards, books, music, etc come across.

The conversation ended with us both making the offer to visit over coffee if we were in each other’s area, and I will take him up on that offer if I get the opportunity. Although if I show up dressed like this, it might not work out… 😉



I have experienced conversations like this with many IFB leaders (pastors, SS teachers, youth pastors, etc) since I have left the system. The conversations normally go something like this:
1. I am asked what is wrong. 
2. I am allowed to tell a vague story, as long as I don’t run down the MOG in the process. 
3. I receive a vague apology for the “few” in the IFB who are mean-hearted. (Every now and then, I might hear specific names, but told that it is not the norm.)
4. I am told that I am always welcome to talk to them on a personal level, in spite of our disagreements.
(Many of the conversations end here, and everyone is happy!) 😉
5. If I ever have the opportunity to take them up on the offer (I always try), once they realize my tail is not between my legs, and I treat them as peers and no longer am scared to challenge them with candid, gracious disagreements, in almost every case I am pushed away nicely (quoting some verse about separation), or in some cases, very hatefully (quoting the one verse about a heretick). 
6. If I am not pushed away, I am kept at arms length, and repeatedly warned not to talk bad about the whole IFB for the sake of a “few bad apples”. 
7. For the few I still have an open line of communication with, the relationship is shallow, and fear of their peers and fear of disobeying their own teaching on “biblical separation” keeps them from getting too close and loving too freely.
This has yet to happen differently. 
When push comes to shove, the system is ALWAYS chosen over personal relationships. This is why the movement is so polarizing. If you fit the system close enough, you do experience some form of love and community, although not necessarily Jesus-centered and definitely not authentic.
I have a theory about this. The IFB gives what I call “space grace”, which I don’t believe is true grace. Let me explain the two reasons I call it this:
1. They “graciously” reach out to you, and show a form of grace, but there is a limit to the grace. When repentance and conformity does not happen as they think it should, and they realize the fundamental difference, the space of grace runs out.  When they see that you are not just hurt and rebellious, but actually love Jesus deeply and still listen to Christian hip hop and wear skinny jeans, their whole ideology falls flat on its face, so the space grace you once received is now gone.

2. At this point, they will show you grace because they promised they were not like those other “mean IFB guys”, but they only show it as long as you are not close enough too often, because it makes them uncomfortable, and sometimes angry. They show you grace from outer space, at a distance. 

Personally, I don’t want to be the one who loves at a distance. I want to get in your world, walk in your shoes, in the messiness and brokenness of your life, like Jesus did in mine. I pray God gives me grace to see the disagreements and brokenness and still show grace and love. 

For those of you who do not fit the mold of the system, and have pushed to make and keep relationships within the IFB, does this ring true?
I don’t want to take just my experience and judge everyone. Let me know if you have also experienced “space grace”. 🙂

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Identity of a Christ Follower, Part 1

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This is part one of a three part series on our identity as a follower and believer of Jesus.
Part one will deal with the facts of our identity, part two will deal with believing those facts, and part three will discuss the importance of community in the battle to believe our identity.

Identity.
Some of us hear the word often. We are taught, “Know your identity!” We are told, “What we do should flow out of who we are.”
I personally agree with these truths, and preach similar statements on a consistent basis to myself and others, but I wonder sometimes if we even know what our identity really is, and how it affects each of us individually?
Truly believing and grasping our identity begins with understanding the truth that we are made in the image of a Trinitarian God. We know and believe He is Father, Son, and Spirit in one amazing, all-powerful, holy, just, loving, and merciful God, but this affects us much more than we often realize. When we are reconciled to God through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, we are made new creatures. We are restored and renewed, and as a result, able to more fully and more accurately bear the image of our Creator.
Just as there are three separate identities to the Almighty, there are three identities that make up the converted saint when we are made alive in Jesus, each one correlating with an individual part of the Triune God. Each of these things could be unpacked at length, but I will simply list them, make some quick notes, and let every individual study the ramifications of these truths in their own life. For me, beginning to see what our identity actually is, that these are things we are, not just things we do, brought new life to my relationships with God and fellow man. Let us look at these truths for the believer under the grace of Jesus.

1. WE ARE SONS OF GOD, OUR FATHER.
Through Jesus, we are literally made sons and heirs of God and siblings and joint-heirs with Jesus. We do not simply act like family. This is part of our identity. We are sons. It is who we are. Yes, sometimes we suck at being a good son, but Jesus was the perfect son on our behalf. We are family and loved by God as much as Jesus is loved by God!
Read John 17:23, Romans 8:15-17 and Galatians 3:25-26.

2. WE ARE SERVANTS OF JESUS, OUR KING.
Jesus is King and established his Kingdom here on earth. It is not complete, but most certainly has begun. We are invited into His kingdom to serve. We do not simply just go do service. This is part of our identity. It is who we are. Yes, sometimes we suck at being good servants, but Jesus was the perfect servant on our behalf. He submitted himself as a humble servant, even to the death of the cross.
Read Philippians 2:1-11 and Colossians 1:13-20

3. WE ARE SENT BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, OUR GUIDE
Jesus did not just command his disciples to go; He also breathed on them the Holy Spirit to guide them. The Holy Spirit is a missional being and every Christ follower is sent as a missionary. This is not just something we are called specially to go do. It is part of our identity. It is who we are. And yes, many times we suck at being good missionaries too, but Jesus was the perfect missionary on our behalf. He consistently lived and preached His gospel of restoration as the sent missionary.
Read John 20:21-22, Matthew 28:18-20, and Acts 1:8.

When we preach about our identity to ourselves or others, it is important to understand what our identity truly is. It is the fact we are beloved sons of God. We are not only accepted, but we are called into His kingdom as privileged servants. We are not only completely accepted and wonderfully called, we are sent out on mission as part of the remarkable story of God and His mission!
We are family.
We are servants.
We are missionaries.

These are not things we do. They are things we are!

In part two of the series on identity, I will discuss the language we choose to use when preaching our identity to others.

Identity of a Christ Follower, Part 2

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This is part two of a three part series about the identity of a Christ follower. Part one dealt with what our identity in Jesus really means. This post will deal with our language when talking about our identity. Part three will deal with the need for community in believing your identity.

“Know your identity!”
This is a common phrase today among followers of Jesus. I love when Christians preach to each other the importance of their identity. I get excited whenever I hear someone speak more about who we are than what we do!
But what does knowing your identity mean? Even more important, what does it mean to me?
If anyone has been involved much at all in a gospel, Jesus-central church, we have heard much made about knowing our identity. I have heard this idea mentioned and taught numerous times, and I think it is awesome. Anytime people want to lift up Jesus and our completeness through Him, I am all in!
However, I want to propose a change in the language we choose to use. I love the word, “identity”. It means, “the fact of being who or what a person is”. The facts of who we are through Jesus are amazing when we take time to dwell on them. We should never forget them.
The word in this phrase I propose a change to is “know”. This word means “to be aware of through observation, inquiry, or information”. We hear so often we need to “know our identity”. I think we need to quit saying this. Some may think I am dealing with semantics, but I believe language reveals our heart and can cause problems as we disciple others.
The problem I face with simply knowing my identity through Jesus, is that many times, I do know it, I just simply do not really believe it. I have the head knowledge, but my heart and emotions are not convinced. I try to convince myself of the truths found in the gospel, that I am complete in Jesus, and He is sovereign King, but the reality is, in the moment, I simply do not believe it. I observe, inquire, and gather information, but everything I observe and gather tells me the sin in front of me is worth the pleasure I will gain, or that God is not in control of the situation I am facing. It is similar to me trying to convince myself I do not need the new iPhone, and knowing that fact, but observing the shiny phone in front of me. My observations betray and cloud my knowledge, and I do not believe the facts enough in the moment to stop myself from purchasing what I know do not need.
Similarly, when I try to convince myself I am complete in Jesus in the moment of temptation or discouragement, I know that I am, but sin and flesh betray and cloud my knowledge, and I really do not believe the facts enough to stop indulging in my sin or self-pity.
So I propose we stop saying to “Know our identity,” and begin preaching to “Believe your identity!”
Whereas to know deals with being aware through observations and gathering information, believing means “to accept something as true; to feel sure of the truth”. Knowing and believing we are completely accepted and beloved in the family of God are two completely different things. Simply knowing this is a good thing, and it is part of the process of believing. But believing the truths will bring about change in the way I approach every circumstance in every stage of life.
I believe it is acceptable to preach knowledge as a part of the belief process, but not as the end goal. It is not enough to just know. Belief includes knowledge, but it also includes strong feelings about that knowledge.
You cannot have belief without knowledge, but you can have knowledge without belief.
Do not just know your identity, believe it!

THE STRONGEST MAN IN THE WORLD

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Does anyone remember watching The Strongest Man in the World contests?

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I recall as a teenager, we would take trips to my grandparents where they had one of the greatest luxuries that we did not have: CABLE TV!!!
I would take advantage of this luxury as much as I could, and since I loved sports I always gravitated toward the family of ESPN networks.
To be honest, I am not sure if they still run these contests, but I remember watching men compete for the title of WORLD’S STRONGEST MAN!!!
These men would pull semi-trucks, lift small boulders, and carry giant logs, each thinking they could become the world’s strongest man. As a kid, I knew I could never compete, so I made up my own world where I was the strongest. Anyone who was stronger than me, I either cut out of my world, or if I kept them in my world, I made myself stronger than them in my mind. I was the WORLD’S STRONGEST MAN, in my own mind at least.
I promise, I am going somewhere with this. Hang with me.
I get the feeling many Jesus followers believe themselves to be the world’s strongest disciple or Christian, whichever terminology you prefer. We cut out anyone different than us out of our lives and surround ourselves with people just like us. It is very interesting to always hear someone talk about how balanced another believer is, when in reality, they mean that they line up with themselves very closely. We have a propensity to always view ourselves as strong or perfectly balanced.
I have been pondering this much recently, so please go with me to Romans 14 when Paul deals with two types of Christians, those with a weak conscience and those with a strong conscience.
In this post, I would like to simply state some things that I have been pondering recently about this passage Paul wrote to this diverse group of Jesus followers. Take away from it what you want.
I am not going to harp on the normal observations pointed out when this passage gets taught, rather I will try to mention things I believe Paul assumed, but we often miss.
Maybe this will help us look inside and see we might not be as balanced or as strong as we like to think of ourselves.
(Remember as you read, we are dealing with weak consciences in this context, not weaknesses and struggles with sin.)

1. Just because you are of weak conscience in one or multiple areas does not make you a weak Christian.

Many people assume that if a brother is weaker in conscience in a certain area, that person is lesser of a Christian and cannot be learned from. This is completely off base. I propose that we all have areas in our life where we are weak in conscience, and this does not make us unable to disciple others.

2. Just because you are of strong conscience in one or multiple areas does not make you a strong Christian.

You guys probably get the picture here as well, but the same rule applies. Just because you are of strong conscience in an area does not mean you automatically have a corner on any idea or teaching. It also does not mean you are a stronger Christian than others.

3. Paul expected those who were of strong conscience to recognize this, and to restrain from exercising liberty in the presence of the weaker in those areas. He also taught to refrain from despising those of weaker conscience.

This is probably the most common one taught. I believe it is because this is also the category we all love to place ourselves in. No one wants to admit they are weak of conscience in an area, so we find a way to place ourselves in this category, even when we very clearly are not. Common manipulative excuses are, “I am actually strong in this area, but I want to defer to the weak,” or “I am strong in this conviction and this issue is not even a disputable matter!”

4. Paul expected those who were of weak conscience to recognize this, and to be honest about the weakness. He expected no judgment to be passed on those stronger in certain disputable matters.

This category is one I rarely hear someone place themselves in. I mean, when is the last time you heard someone say, “Yep, that’s me! I am pretty weak in that area. I realize it is a gray area and up for debate, and I’m not saying I’m right, but it just bothers my conscience.”?
If you look at your own life and cannot find one area where you can admit weak conscience, you have created your own world where you are the strongest Christian, and everyone else is either weak or just plain wrong. The most common and deceitful self-justification for a weak conscience is to simply claim the matter is not disputable. We have all experienced this with issues such as a preferred Bible translation, alcohol use, worship style, and the list could go on. The weak elevate the issue to a level of doctrine rather than admitting they are weak of conscience in that area. Another response I have noticed is claiming strength in that area, but deference to other weaker brothers. For example, one might not allow his staff to partake in alcohol claiming it is for the sake of the weak in his congregation. Many times this type of attitude is simply a front for weak leadership. Be honest about your areas of weak conscience and be willing to admit them openly to others.

5. We are never called to defer to a weaker brother who does not admit he is of weak conscience in the disputable matter at hand.

Let me explain:
If you are convinced that reading out of any other Bible translation than the King James is going to send one to hell, I have no responsibility to refrain my liberty in your presence. However, if you admit you are of weak conscience in this area and you tell me it is a true stumbling block in relating to God when any other translation is read, I would do well to only reference the King James translation of the Scriptures in your presence. The reason why this rarely happens goes back to point four: No one wants to admit they are weak.

So my main proposition for you is this:
You have areas that you are of weak conscience, and that is ok. Recognize these areas and you will begin to see Jesus through a greater lense than before.
You may even begin to see your weak conscience strengthened.
“When I am weak, then I am made strong.”
How does this work? When you recognize these areas and are humble enough to admit them, love and unity with fellow believers are strengthened. Strength is never found in you alone. It is in your community of love with fellow disciples of Jesus.
“By this will all men know that you are my disciples, that you LOVE one another.”
We are never called to walk this journey alone. Be willing to admit your areas of weak conscience.
It is ok for you not to be the strongest man in the world. That is exactly where God wants you.

#StayHolyMyFriends

Hello from the Holiest Man in the World

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Hi to everyone reading. I have never attempted a blog before and figured maybe I should do a quick introduction post. You can read the quick version here.
The parody character of the Holiest Man in the World obviously comes from this guy. 👇👇👇

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What I attempt to point out with my parody twitter account, @holyholyholiest, is the ridiculousness of pride and legalism. I admit, I am sometimes too personal, but the sarcasm and humor has helped both myself and others.
The Holiest Man in the World can do no wrong and is always right. He takes advice from no one, except the dead superheroes of the past who walked the old paths. That is the character you will find primarily on the Twitter account.
This blog, though, will come from my personal (and real) heart. Mainly it will be random thoughts regarding the church or Jesus followers that have popped in my head. I am not here to teach anyone anything. My main goal is to get you to think for yourself and to challenge you. If you always agree with me, I am not doing a good enough job.
In real life, I am a 26 year old male, married to a wonderful woman with an awesome son. Jesus is pursuing me more and more each day and allowing me to discover He is much bigger than the boxes I used to force Him in. If you really want to know who I am, with minimal research on my Twitter timeline, you should be able to find out. 😉
I look forward to penning my thoughts in the digital world. Thanks for following!

Stay holy, my friends!