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Fallen From Grace?

“You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” Gal. 5:4-5

On the heels of Gary's incredible article The Lawless Lawkeepers, I wanted to talk about why I am so fierce and tender about the gospel of grace. About why, until my dying day or my catching away, I will stand FOR salvation by grace through faith in the blood of Jesus alone, and against Lordship Salvation, fruit inspecting, and any “being made perfect through the flesh” or adding to the gospel in any way.

 Here is the gospel: 

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” 1 Cor. 15:3-4 

By putting our faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, we are saved and given the gift of the Holy Spirit, who guides us as we live by faith and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior.

But it was not always this simple to me.

I spent so many formative years “doing” my way to love. I earned my “right to exist” through my actions—sacrifice, hard work, service, an utter giving away of my Self. A young version of me learned that approval, appreciation, acceptance and good will were the rewards of things I did to earn them.

I was a sensitive child in every way, tender in conscience, feeling, heart, and spirit. I was convicted of sin early in life and with remorse and fear sobbed out a heart-felt “sinner’s prayer” when I was about six years old. Fear of death and hell chased after me, but as long as I obeyed God I had nothing to be afraid of, for if I was holy and obedient God would accept me. Soon I found deep solace in Scripture and devotion to God.

I was the firstborn in a large family. We were poor, but we trusted God to meet our needs and He did, in sometimes miraculous ways. Through miracles we never went hungry for food, but I was absolutely starving for love.

By the time I was twelve I’d discovered the secret: I received the love I craved when I was an obedient, godly, and helpful daughter. My acts of service, my work, my chores and helping out justified my existence and made my life matter to others. This made me feel like I had purpose, was useful, approved by God, and worthy of taking up space. I was given a nickname, “happy helping Hillary.”

As I grew older I literally worked harder and harder. Depression set in, but no one knew why. So did complete and utter exhaustion. I was the second mother, the helper. And because I longed for acceptance, belonging and love, and also knew that I had to please God, and because I did not want to be rejected eternally, I became a rigid perfectionist.

With the years came hormones, emotions, and desperation. As the oldest I was constantly reminded that I was responsible for the actions and hearts of my younger siblings, because they were watching me, and so was the world. Whenever I failed, then, the weight of knowing that I was responsible for possibly leading my brothers & sisters astray and damaging my witness piled on the guilt and shame. My depression grew worse. Instead of a helper I began to feel like a tremendous burden, one who only caused heartache and stress, an evil child who made my mother cry or who didn’t show the patience and love of Christ to my siblings. I was a huge disappointment—from the fact that I was gaining weight, to the fact that I had ungodly dreams for my adult life (I liked to sew, and wanted to become a fashion designer, but fashion is worldly), from the fact that I got impatient with my younger siblings, was a terrible example of holiness to them, was tired all the time, argued with my mom, and so on. I wanted to die, to end it all, but I couldn’t because then for sure I would go to hell.

So I doubled my efforts. Helping out became the only way I knew how to show how sorry I was for causing stress to my parents and how much I loved them. I was constantly exhausted but felt guilty for feeling tired, because if I was tired, how much more so must be my mother!—I heard again and again, as more and more children were born in our family. My part was to be humble and obedient, to learn how to sacrifice and die to my flesh... even when my flesh wanted most to rest. Exhaustion became an offering. Suffering refined me and made me more like Christ. I wanted this so much, and this is what it meant to take up my cross daily and die to myself.

Over time my family withdrew more and more from the world and even other Christians. Our doctrine became more and more rigid, gaining momentum through fear-based, guilt-driven theology that put heavy emphasis on behavior, actions, lifestyle, sin and holiness. What I knew of grace was that I, as a sinful child, was just as wicked as a child molester or murderer, and grace was the only reason I was not in hell. But I could be, if I fell away. If I became worldly. If I wasn’t holy enough.

And yet I learned that I could never be holy enough, because of my sinful human nature. So my life—at twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen—became ravaged within this polarity: keep trying to be holy, for God is holy, and no, you’ll never actually be holy enough, but don’t give up, and don’t grow weary or lose heart, because that is the weakness of your sinful flesh; if you follow your flesh you are turning away from God. And if you turn away from God, you won’t be saved.

I dreaded the possibility that He might say, “I never knew you.” 

So I became obsessed with becoming perfect and holy. I fell asleep thinking about it. I sank into deep despair when I failed. I wished I could die constantly...both because I deserved it, and also because I wondered if anyone would actually miss me, and also because of the relentless fear and shame and tiredness. I was never good enough, never worthy enough, deserved no mercy, and the fact that I was “loved” at all was the undeserved patronization of a high and holy God. Ironically, it was the fear of certainly “going to hell,” my understanding at the time, that kept me from suicide.

So instead, for years, I begged forgiveness for my sins and for being a terrible witness for God and a terrible daughter and sister in my family. I wrote pages and pages of confessions, apologies, and tearstained prayers in my journal. The threat of hell loomed over me as constant and intimate as breathing. Not always through direct reminding by anyone else, however. By this time I was well-versed in Scripture & this sort of theology, and my worst tormentor was myself.

So even if I couldn’t become perfect enough, I would die trying.

I was raised to obey God, regardless of the cost. To seek, listen, and obey, even when it meant going against the flow, especially when it required making incredibly difficult choices which might garner condemnation, accusations, or rejection from others. If the world hated Jesus, of course it would hate us too. If we weren’t reaping some kind of criticism or judgment for our holy and peculiar lifestyle, it probably meant we weren’t holy enough.

This conviction led to an unusual way of life: becoming as self-sufficient as possible, living off the grid, following strict hierarchal roles of men and women in the home, authoritarianism, being trained what to think and how to believe, and much more. I became vigorously judgmental, my eyes straining and searching everything for a shred of evil or deception. Everything was suspect. We knew the warning in Scripture that “even Satan masquerades as an angel of light” so nothing was exempt from scrutiny. Daily we judged whatever came along: media, government, food distributors, school systems, churches, local officials, doctors, modern medicine, banks, books, messages or music on the radio, news sources controlled by those with an “agenda,” clothes, careers, personal choices, and lifestyles; we questioned others' hearts, intentions, mind and motivations; we criticized people who had Internet, who used cell phones, who sent their kids to public school or dyed their hair or who “didn't want to know the truth;” people who used modern medicine, who were “trapped in the world,” who took advantage of modern conveniences, who owned a checking account, who went to (or even encouraged) college or higher education, women who moved away from home before they got married, people who were caught up in “the system,” who went to big mega churches or used birth control, or hired a babysitter for special date nights; those who were “tolerant,” which meant they were soft on sin; or anyone who was not like-minded.

This judgment was seen as righteous judgment, holy conviction, and the discernment of a family set apart, one who knew the truth, lived according to the Bible and hoped to convict others to feel guilty, repent from their sin, learn the truth, and live in holiness. We also believed that the world was ending soon, but that we would be going through the tribulation because only people who were weak and addicted to the convenience and comfort of the world—who didn’t want to suffer—believed in a “false teaching” called a pre-tribulation rapture.

So all throughout my childhood, and even into my adult life, the dread of the upcoming antichrist, mark of the beast, and the torments described in Revelation weighed on my heart with unbearable heaviness.

And thus continued years and years.

The hunger for love manifests in many ways. And it takes its toll. I realize now that it dwelt in me as a form of disbelief ... I did not believe I was lovable as-is. Who would love this? I grew up with strong faith, yet even my faith could not compete with the tenderness of a young girl aching to be loved. A young girl who felt faceless and unmemorable in a sea of others—just one of the kids, one anonymous face in a crowd, one soul in a million souls. How could I be loved when there are so many other children? So many other women? So many trillions of people throughout history that God made? Who am I? How could there be enough love to go around? 

And yet I did not want to be loved at the expense of others—I did not want others to be any less loved. Unconsciously I told myself, then I will sacrifice. I will be less-loved so that others can be loved. I will give love. I will love and love and love. 

And I loved so much my heart broke. I became codependent and loved intensely the way I wanted to be loved, yet it was not healthy or pure. I showed it through service, devotion, gifts, words, presence—to anyone who would have me. Not through promiscuity—I was still afraid of hell and the displeasure of God—but through poor choices in friendships, horrible boundaries and toxic relationships. I deeply wanted to prove my love—and underneath it, not even really known to me—my own lovability. If I was loveable then God was justified in loving me, and maybe He wouldn’t send me to hell. 

I remember one evening in January, years ago, standing on my balcony alone with tears on my face. The stars glimmered sweet and the wind whispered soft poems to my skin. I looked at the stars and suddenly realized that I was looking at them with my own eyes for no other reason than so that I could see them. For myself. I could see them, and I didn't need to give this seeing to anyone else. In that moment, all this beauty was for me. 

I remember touching my eyes and in those moments, illumination burst through my entire being. In a lifetime of “doing” where I learned that it was holy to work hard, sacrifice, and give my Self completely away, I also learned that nothing belonged to me. I had no right to good things or beauty. If I had anything good, it was mine to share with others and to sacrifice. Nothing felt sacred in the sense that it was private, with protective boundaries, worthy of holding close and treasuring and keeping. 

And yet I stood looking at the stars, with my very own eyes, eyes that were given to me for my own benefit and pleasure. And I got to keep them. I had something beautiful to keep for my very own. And suddenly I realized: this must be love. It felt like a thrilling secret. I have eyes, and this person over here has eyes, and we both get to see, and my seeing doesn't take away from theirs, and theirs doesn't take away from mine. 

This was the first moment I started to understand. It wasn’t immediate, this understanding. But a holy doubt began to tremble with hope in my heart. Maybe? Maybe I am loved...just because? Maybe I am loved...even if I don’t do anything to earn it? Could I be loved...just because I was born? I have eyes just because I was born. And these eyes are the sweetest gift. Imagine going through life without eyes! And with these eyes I can see stars and words and flowers and the face of my beloved husband and the smiles of my nephews and so much indescribable beauty. 

And the God who made me and gave me this good gift of eyes—I have my very own—He gave them to me before I even earned them. I didn’t have to earn my eyes. And look at how good this gift is. I could even be bad, evil and wicked...and yet I still have the gift of these eyes. 

This is how I received my first tender glimpse of grace. And this is how I came to believe it. Slowly. Softly. With tear-stained wonder. Could it be? Yes. Still more years passed before that seed bore fruit, but as the Lord began to heal my heart, He healed my unbelief, too. I learned what love is—WHO love is. He opened my eyes and showed me the truth that I’d read over and over hundreds of times: that while we are still sinners, Christ died for us:

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us...” (Titus 3:5a) 

Not one act of service can make me more or less loved in His eyes, because His love is not based on what I do or don’t do. His grace is not based on what I do or don’t do. The free gift of eternal life is not based on what I do or don’t do. 

I could sit here for the rest of my natural life and not lift a finger and He would not love me any less. I would not be any less saved. Just the same, I could work myself into the grave through service & sacrifice, and not be any more saved, more righteous, more holy, or more loved. 

Want to know something? When responding to a message of God's good grace, most grace-resistors immediately bring up, “grace, but.” They say “grace is not a license to sin.” (True!) They bring up the book of Jude and how the message of grace gets turned into lasciviousness. But let me tell you something. They say this because they don't get it. True grace, and really getting it, has the complete opposite effect! When you actually realize what Jesus did, you WANT to be devoted and obedient and live a pleasing, holy and godly life.

This goodness and mercy of God, and His kindness, make me more devoted to Him from my heart than a lifetime of pursuing righteousness ever did.

I wish twelve-year-old me could have known that. Not because it is a license to sin. But because it’s the truth. And the truth sets us free.  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Eph. 2:8-9 

Beloved, I ask gently: are you ashamed of the truth? Sin does not make you fall from grace. Trusting in your own righteousness to get you saved, keep you saved, or prove you are saved does. Trying to be justified by the law (through works) does. Are you trying to be justified through your works? Are you teaching others that they must show fruit, do good works, turn from sin, and be holy, or else they might not be truly saved? 

If your gospel adds anything regarding behavior or lifestyle to the finished work of Jesus Christ, you are following or promoting a false gospel. 

“This only would I learn of you, received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” Gal. 1:2-3 

The simple gospel: no incentive to do good? 

If your gospel is anything other than putting your trust in the death, burial & resurrection of Jesus Christ for the payment of your sin, then this is a “new gospel”—one that is not another, but one that perverts the simple gospel of Christ. Many think and teach that if we just rested in the security of God’s grace, then we would have no incentive to actually do good works. It is based on fear, much like the fear I lived with for most of my life. And it is based on unbelief: not believing God. 

“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” 1 John 5:10-11 

In this twisted gospel:
  • Grace insecurity = incentive to be holy and thus become worthy of grace. 
  • Love insecurity = incentive to keep serving & proving you are worthy of love.
  • Eternal life insecurity = keep repenting and living in holiness, just in case. 

Only someone who does not understand the depth of the love of God or the true nature of His grace will believe this or teach this. And when one does not truly understand grace they will redefine it, put conditions on it, or put warning labels on it.

In effect, they shut up the kingdom of heaven against men—they neither go in themselves or allow those who are entering to go in. Scripture tells us plainly that there ARE THOSE who pervert the gospel. And the person doing this may be someone you dearly love...or even yourself.

“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.” Gal. 1:6-7 “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.” 1 Tim. 4:1 

I share this with you with great urgency, beloved! The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Jesus IS coming soon and I beg you to hear my heart in this!

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” Matt. 7:13-15 

I believed and earnestly shared a false gospel for years. On the outside, my lifestyle looked righteous. I looked like a godly young woman. I knew I was unworthy; that my own righteousness is as filthy rags. However, because of my unworthiness, I thought I had to do something to show God that I KNEW just how unworthy I was, and work hard to make up for it.

I knew I was guilty of sin; however, because of my guilt, I wanted to do something to make it right. Through this unbelief, this lack of trust and understanding—and even with good intentions, maybe?—I perverted the grace of God. Through my unbelief in His love, I created a twisted gospel that said His work on the cross was not enough to save me from my sins for all eternity. I had to suffer, do penance, turn from sin, serve, keep trying, persevere, and so much more.

Oh, how grieved I am! And oh, how grateful I am for the mercy, forgiveness and grace of God! And this is why I am so passionate about the simplicity of the gospel of the grace of God that Jesus gave directly to the Apostle Paul for us, so that we can be saved. Scripture warns against those who add to it, who teach that faith in the finished work of Jesus is not enough.

But it is perversion to add anything to what Paul declared, whether it is saying that we must bear fruit, be holy, turn from sin, or anything else to be saved, to stay saved, and prove we are saved. Their message sounds so good and appeals to the part of us that wants to atone for our sin. 

And it’s important to know that these people are not monsters. They might be your favorite teacher on YouTube or your favorite author or “Christian” speaker. They might be your sister, your best friend, your husband or wife. They might look holy, like I did. They might look godly, like I did. They write holy things. They show the “fruit of the Spirit.” And they appeal to the “flesh” that does not want to rest in “just having faith.” They appeal to the flesh that loves religion, self-discipline, holiness through hardship, works and measurable results—all things that are SEEN, whereas faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things UNSEEN. They appeal to the flesh nature, which hates the fact that we are ALL equally sinners in the eyes of God...from the disobedient child to the murderer...all equally sinful and deserving of death.

Scripture tells us the wages of sin is DEATH. Not holiness. Not acts of service. Not years of penance. Not repentance. Not keeping the sabbath. Not being a good person. Not being a good Christian. Not keeping the law. Nothing but death pays the debt of sin.

The gospel is the good news that because God loves you, He sent His only begotten Son to die in your place. And ...

“...if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Rom. 10:9-13 

It is only through the patient kindness and mercy of God that He opened my eyes and heart to the truth that it is simply by trusting in the finished work of Christ that I am saved, sealed and secure FOREVER.

And this is what I want you to know: the difference.

  • The difference between loving because you are terrified of being rejected, and loving because you are already accepted.
  • The difference between living with the torment of fear and living in the confidence of God’s unconditional love.
  • The difference between exhausting yourself to prove you are devoted to God and resting in His finished work.
  • The difference between doing good works because you don’t want to lose your salvation, and doing good works because you are on your face in tears everyday because you are SO THANKFUL for the salvation that God has freely given!
  • The difference between dreading the appearing of Jesus because you don’t know if He will say that you’re a goat, “depart from me, I never knew you”...and LONGING for His appearing because you love Him and cannot wait to be in His presence.
  • The difference between service out of obligation and service out of desire.

....and I could go on and on, but what I want you to know is that once you really get how loved you are, and what a GOOD, truly good Father we have, everything changes. You WANT to do these things, out of pure devotion and gratitude, not out of terror and obligation. God is so good. Believe Him. Believe Him. Believe what He says. Believe the gospel. Trust that what Jesus did for you is enough. Let the Holy Spirit work in you. Don’t try to be someone else’s Holy Spirit. Serve Christ because of what He did for you, not in order to be more holy or righteous.

If you truly believed in the goodness, grace, and mercy of God, and the love God has for you, how would you live? What would your life look like? How would a response to God’s tender love blossom in your life?

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:” 1 Tim. 1:7-10 
“for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;” Phil. 1:5-6
“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.” Romans 8:31-33
“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” 1 John 5:13 

But what about, “If you love Me, keep my commandments?”

Yes. If you love Me.

Not “if you are afraid of Me.” Not, “if you want to avoid being sent to hell.” Not “so you won't embarrass Me.” Not, “if you want Me to accept you.” Not, “so you'll be a good witness.” Not, “so you can prove your faith.”

If you love Me.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us. 1 John 4:18-19

Your love for Jesus is a response to the truth of what He did for you. Really understanding what Jesus did by FREELY and unconditionally paying for your sins with His own death can't help but make you love Him with the kind of devotion He longs for. As you walk in the Spirit and grow in the faith, your response to His love will be doing the things He says. You don't make an apple grow. A tree grows a branch. A branch grows a twig. A twig grows a flower. A flower grows an apple. The apple is the direct result of the twig and the branch and the tree...and so much more, but an apple can't make itself grow.

When you believe the gospel and are saved, you are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. And your lifetime of faith presents to you a choice: you can walk in the flesh, or you can walk in the Spirit. We who believe have the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us. If we walk in the Spirit, we will bear the fruit of it. “Abide in Me,” Jesus said.

“Jesus didn't do sin to become sin. We don't do righteousness to become righteous.”—Michael Lehre

You are so loved. You are loved more than you will ever know.

Recommended reading: Galatians 5

Recommended viewing: the following sermon by Pastor Ralph Yankee Arnold...

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  1. I feel like this message is a red wave that needs to wash over this nation with the truth of the blood of Jesus!

    1. The Certainty of God’s Promise
      13 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.”[d] 15 And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.

      16 People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

    2. TheJuicyorange23 Amen!

  2. Thank you! The timing on this message is perfect. As we get closer to Christ's return the more I struggled with the "I never knew you." Prayed relentlessly that I would not be one of them. I want you to know that our Lord just used you to remind me how deeply I am loved. Thank you.

    1. I'm humbled by your words, Terri...and this answers my prayer: to be used of the Lord. Thank you for taking the time to let me know. God bless you!

  3. Wow. I see a lot of me here. Thanks for the encouragement.

    1. I'm glad this encouraged you, Kevin! I hope that from this day forward you walk in the truth of God's love and grace for you.

  4. You have such an incredible testimony and I identify with so much of it. You are very much treasured here.

    "Want to know something? When responding to a message of God's good grace, most grace-resistors immediately bring up, “grace, but.” They say “grace is not a license to sin.” (True!) They bring up the book of Jude and how the message of grace gets turned into lasciviousness. But let me tell you something. They say this because they don't get it. True grace, and really getting it, has the complete opposite effect! When you actually realize what Jesus did, you WANT to be devoted and obedient and live a pleasing, holy and godly life.

    This goodness and mercy of God, and His kindness, make me more devoted to Him from my heart than a lifetime of pursuing righteousness ever did."

    1,000 Amens. I've written about this idea: http://www.unsealed.org/2017/07/created-for-good-works.html

    "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." - Rev. 12:11

    1. You've encouraged me so much, Gary. Thank you! And thank you for sharing the fantastic article you wrote. Oh, may the Lord set people free! How I long for the truth of what He did for us to be known!

  5. "Scripture warns against those who add to it, who teach that faith in the finished work of Jesus is not enough.

    But it is perversion to add anything to what Paul declared, whether it is saying that we must bear fruit, be holy, turn from sin, or anything else to be saved, to stay saved, and prove we are saved. Their message sounds so good and appeals to the part of us that wants to atone for our sin."

    This message is so, so, so, so, so, so important (is that enough 'sos'?).

    There are two groups that do not rest in the finished work of Jesus, two groups perverting the Gospel. And both groups can be found within Christianity, as well. Legalists and lawless - Pharisees and Sadduccess - Capernaum and Sodom.

    But while Sodom will face judgment, Scripture is clear that the judgment on Capernaum is even worse.

    1. Gary, "True grace, and really getting it, has the complete opposite effect! When you actually realize what Jesus did, you WANT to be devoted and obedient and live a pleasing, holy and godly life."
      So true, and when you don't it isn't 'easy believism' at all or a license to sin. Because it hurts. Your wounded. As you said in your previous post, there are consequences. God disciplines His children.

    2. Gary, a sobering reminder about Capernaum. I was thinking today how some of the hardest to reach are those who are steeped in religion...."Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—" (Rev. 3:17) My heart is breaking for the lost. In religion and outside of it. :'(

  6. Thank you, Hillary.. thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    1. Yes, Thank you, Hillary.

      "But it is perversion to add anything to what Paul declared, whether it is saying that we must bear fruit, be holy, turn from sin, or anything else to be saved, to stay saved, and prove we are saved. Their message sounds so good and appeals to the part of us that wants to atone for our sin."
      So true, and so hard to let this thinking go and to rest in the finished work of the cross.

    2. Thank you for reading, Andrea. God bless you!

      Hi Cathi! It sure is hard, and especially when outside messages suggest that what is really going on is that the enemy is trying to make you unfaithful, or you are falling away / backsliding. Do you know what I mean?

  7. Oh, my dear Sweet Friend, you just placed your heart in its entirety on a page. What a difficult, self-sacrificing and loving thing to do. As you've described, I spent most of my life as a Human Doing - not a Human Being and this takes a great toll on our bodies, but mostly on our hearts and our minds. To love and be loved means to rest in it. It is only with this rest we are then freed to spread the message of the cross. The message of the cross is not "our sacrifice and suffering as Jesus' suffered" for that is impossible and would serve no purpose, since we are a blemished lamb our death and suffering offers nothing. What we are freed to spread is the true message of the cross - the Love of Father, Son & Holy Spirit, that held Him to the cross, the Love for each of us as fallen, undeserving but deeply loved Human Beings.

    He meets each of us at our own need and capacity to comprehend. For me it was the Unconditional Love of animals. I had to see it there first, for I could not see it in humans since we all place so many conditions, perhaps unwittingly, on those we profess to love. But, having seen it in animals I knew it existed and thus it had to come from Him who created us all. To Rest in His Love for ME, is the most fulfilling, most essential and most difficult choice I ever made, for I had to admit the end of, the utter incapacity of MYSELF. We are trained to "contribute", to "control" and to "care" for ourselves and others - all those are good things when rightly done out of the right motive - Love, not out of necessity. The most freeing thing and the most difficult and the most faith filled action in this world is to "Let Go and Let God". It's all about heart, just as the Sermon on the Mount - Don't murder, but do more - don't be angry (it's not an action, its an emotion). We are called to Love More which will DO everything else as a consequence. So Blessed by Your Writing and Your Heart of Love and Kindness as Always - Blessings - Sherry

    1. Dear Sherry,

      You have blessed me with your kindness! This was a tough one to share in a lot of ways, but also a joy because of the abundant grace and mercy that saved me and keeps me. "It is only with this rest we are then freed to spread the message of the cross." THIS!!! Oh, why does it take so long to understand this!!

      I love that the Lord used animals in your life to help you understand His love. What a tender story. I rejoice that you too walk in the mercy of God. "The most freeing thing and the most difficult and the most faith filled action in this world is to "Let Go and Let God"" I agree. And yet He is so tender and faithful. We get to watch. It's humbling that this is what we are called to: to watch. And share what we see.

      God bless you my friend! So much love!

    2. Dear Sherry, you must know God used the pure and uncorrupted love between two children to draw me and my hsb to Christ... I know what you mean... Blessings, sister! :-)

    3. Its a rare and beautiful thing to finally "see" it exists and therefore God is the perfect reflection of it. Performance orientation as part of the gospel is a deadly, double black snake. It is a hard row to hoe to come out of it and I'm not sure you can in this world. You can mentally get it, but at least for me there is always that old refrain, "It would be great, but you're a worm and probably won't make it." I know its a lie, but still its harmful to have to beat it down all over again and again. Blessings for having been there with us! Sherry

  8. Sounds like you had a hard way to go! I was there when I first got saved, all because of misinterpretation of scripture that I would hear pastors just carelessly throw around. Misinterpretation and cherry picking of salvation scriptures are the mother of all spiritual torment. Time to open up a spiritual can of whoop **s on those notions. That kind of torment doesn't go away until you settle in your mind that those scriptures that give you torment are being misinterpreted and you see their true interpretation. So, that being the case ... I've written a couple articles myself on those intimidating scriptures and hopefully opened up a spiritual can of whoop a** on those negative notions about what salvation is and how to "maintain" it. So, what are you waiting for! Get busy reading! Links below ...




    1. Thank you for sharing. Fantastic stuff!

    2. Right on brother. Plenty of cans left to go around for each saint to crack one open ...

    3. "Misinterpretation and cherry picking of salvation scriptures are the mother of all spiritual torment." Amen to this! Thank you for sharing your articles! I look forward to reading.

    4. Extra strength and extra "whup." Straight out of the Whup factory and into the can with no additives or preservatives. All natural. Harvested and brewed right in the USA.

  9. Dear Hillary, this is a truly heartbreaking read. Large parts of it sound like some neo-socialist mother Teresa nightmare. This is was unfortunately happens when well-meaning Christians turn to their own ways and "separate themselves" (Proverbs 18:1)... Praise God He eventually drew you to Christ Jesus unconditionally! I only hope for your whole large family that at least some of them still might have got saved by (true and "sola") grace until today. Time is so short now.

    I wish you would have got earlier to read one of my favourite booklets "The saving life of Christ" by W. Ian Thomas, just so wonderfully illustrating by the picture of a glove the real and daily walk with Christ which is none other that His walk THROUGH you (like the living hand moving within the glove i.e. your body shell being crucified and dead to sins) - if you just let Him!!

    I wish so many in the church today and on YouTube would have understood what difference that makes and how "light" the yoke of Christ then really is. You can experience it. You just would have to COMPLETELY SURRENDER which so many fail to accept so they are left alone with carrying their own, home made cross with so much pride - taking a cross that Jesus never meant nor ordered them to bear. For exmple, I just left Adam with the 'Parable of the Vineyard' channel in deep sadness as he and his Christian truthers are now just doing the exact thing you have warned of in your excellent article above...

    MARANATHA, Father bless you Hillary! 2 Corinthians 13:14

    1. Dear Annabel,

      Yes, praise God! His faithfulness and goodness humbles me everyday. Thank you for the book recommendation. It sounds like a wonderful resource.

      And I agree. His yoke is easy & His burden is light, and John also reiterates that "His commandments are not burdensome."

      Thank you for your kind comments, sister. God bless you!

  10. This an Excellent article/post. The struggle most people have with the Gospel is well described here.

    1. Thank you for reading, Leon. In these last days, may the truth of the Gospel set these people free!

  11. Thank you Hillary. I came to Christ in my late 30's. It was mainly due to legalistic religious people that kept me from entering a church. I didn't want what they had. Romans 3:23 and John 14:6. is the gospel. Through Christ alone.

    1. I hear this story all too often. It reminds me of what Jesus said: “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in." Matt. 23:13

      Praise God that He opened your eyes and set you free!

  12. Oh sweet sister in Christ! Wow. :)

    Romans 8:1

    Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

    Why then do we accept condemnation from others? And most of all from ourselves?

    It's that need for love, and only the kind of love that He can give us.

    You really can't get there until you understand His love and experience it.

    Took me a long time myself. I was saved around 7 years of age, and I do know that I knew it, even then, and I know it more so now.

    But, it has taken a lifetime to experience the reality of it, to get to where I am now.

    A lifetime of purification, of being set apart, of dealing with the sin nature, and yes, even removing my doubts and weaknesses, following His leading confidently, learning to become humble.

    It will continue until we are perfected in Him, and by Him. (VERY soon I hope and believe!)

    I am very much one of His prodigal sons. He is indeed a Father to the fatherless, the orphan, and the abandoned.

    And I praise Him daily for His Mercy and His Grace!

    That He would regard me at all, and pull me from the well of darkness I had stumbled into.

    Blessings dear friend! ;) <3

    1. "... I will stand FOR salvation by grace through faith in the blood of Jesus alone, and against Lordship Salvation, fruit inspecting, and any “being made perfect through the flesh” or adding to the gospel in any way."
      Hillary - you had me on the first paragraph!

    2. Wow, is right, Lwjackin!

    3. If anyone should read anything this would be among the first references I would give...

      Romans 13:10-12

      Love does no wrong to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law.

      And do this, understanding the occasion. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

      The night is nearly over; the day has drawn near. So let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

    4. That and 1 Corinthians 13 and Romans 14...

    5. Thank you for sharing some of your story, Jack. And the wonderful Scriptures. I am so thankful that our Father healed and restored you! And you are right; this journey continues until He who began a good work in us [it's not something WE do] faithfully completes it. I long for that day. God bless you!

  13. Bless you so much Hillary. God is sooooo good. I am amazed at how many of our testimonies sound so similar, particularly when it comes to "I better do good works, just in case...".

    13 years I went away to fast and pray. While I was praying and seeking some 'answers from God', Father God ruined my fear of dying through telling me to read the book of Galatians, which I must have read half-a-dozen times that morning. Saved by grace, by his grace, his shed blood, him, him, him, all about Jesus and not me.

    And praise God he dealt with my fear of dying, because after my fear was ruined, he spoke to me audibly and told me "something is going to happen to you soon, that you won't understand, but just trust me". Never before and not since then has he spoken to me like in such a clear manner (audibly like I would converse with someone else). I went home and told my family what God had said, and we all wondered what it could mean.

    One month later, I woke from a coma in hospital, after having 'died' in the middle of a rugby game, and having no heart beat for 20 minutes (praise God for faithful cousins/siblings who took turn doing CPR etc). When I came out of my coma, we all knew it was going to be ok, because of what God had warned me about earlier on in the month. My fear of dying was replaced with a fear of pain lol (defibrillator shocks are not the most pleasant things to experience in the middle of the night).

    The kicker was I lay in a hospital bed in the cardiac care unit, surrounded by elderly people (I was the only young un (27) there at the time), and the Holy Spirit spoke to my spirit and said "Ryan, if you had died and stayed dead that day, where would you be?" confidently - I said, "with Jesus". The Holy Spirit said, "yes, you are right...but what about them?" And with that, He made me look around the cardiac ward at all the misery and fear on the elderly people's faces, and I felt the desperate heart of God towards them. From that day on, I made it my commitment to tell people about Jesus. Not out of "I have to", but out of genuine love towards Jesus. Now that love waxes and wanes I must admit, and many times I am more concerned about weeding my vegetable garden than tending to Jesus garden. But if we could all continue to grasp how awesome God's love is for us, we would continue to (out of love, not fear), do the greatest of all 'works' that 'Christ has prepared in advance for us to do - Ephesians 2:12' - and that is telling others about this awesome love and forgiveness of sin and removal of shame that Christ has offered freely for all who would believe.

    May we all be blessed and encouraged to, even today, search out for the 'Hillary(ies)' of this world, and speak the awesome grace and forgiveness of Jesus to whoever may listen. Bless you so much.


    1. Awesome testimony, Ryan! Thanks a lot for sharing! Much love... Blessings to you!

    2. Thanks sis - been trying to get my head around (again) 1 Enoch 72 and was thinking of you in the process!

    3. Ryan, your words made me cry. I can't thank you enough for sharing your story & this powerful message. Not only is our Father so kind to give you this advance warning, but to guide and comfort you through it makes me love Him all the more. You lived out literally the words, "saved UNTO good works." (Eph. 2:10) I really appreciate you. And I'm humbled more than I can even say to read your closing paragraph. Thank you so much. God bless you & I look forward to giving you a warm heavenly hug!!

    4. Ryan, what a beautiful Image of our Savior you are. That's why we are here, to Image Him. When we do so, we see the flashes of brilliance you and Hillary have given us today. What a treat - how encouraging! Blessings - Sherry

    5. Dear Ryan if you get to chapter 80 of Enoch it will get more clear how any basic "law" of the heavenlies will be overthrown in endtimes... Much love, brother! :-)

    6. Amen to that - I was thinking this morning (after my grumpy dad sesh with my kids) that it is amazing how quickly we can forget about what God has done for us...I feel one with Paul in the following: Romans 7:15 "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do..."


  14. Thanks so much for sharing, Hillary. So encouraging.

    Two years ago, the LORD began the most painful trial of my life. But in doing so, He freed me from similar bondage, released me to Himself, and showed me how much I am loved. It has been worth it. The language you used in your story is striking because I used some of the exact same phrases to describe my own personal exhaustion from works. I checked my journal from two years ago, here are some snippets:

    "I am *utterly* exhausted in mind and body at this point..."
    "I can't emphasize enough how tired I am..."
    "Preparing for teaching on Saturdays... Teaching on Sundays..."
    "Very very little rest / free-time..."
    "Tired. to. the. bone..."
    "...anytime i feel worn out, all I have to do is think about [co-teacher] and how much pain they must be in [from a painful trial they were enduring]..."

    Galatians has become one of my favorite books these days. So thankful for His grace and love.

    1. Daniel, wow! It is almost uncanny the similarities. It is eye-opening to hear what others have experienced because it shows the depth that a false gospel has gone to. :'( While I am deeply sorry you went through so much pain and weariness of body and soul, I praise our Lord Jesus that He set you free and showed you how much you are loved. As you say, "it is worth it." Much love to you in Jesus' name.

  15. Thank you for this, Hillary Mc. I've struggled with this also and can identify. I grew up in a pentacostal environment. Can't cut your hair. No makeup. No nail polish. No movies. Playing cards is gambling. No school dances. No mixed bathing. It seemed that I was constantly on my knees "repenting" and begging for forgiveness - again. Oh man, did they have it wrong. It took a long time and a lot of study of the word to fully understand that it's ALL about my faith and not my performance. And like you said, once I understood the depth of His love for me, what His sacrifice really meant, and "got it" that the price had already been paid - once and for all, everything changed.

    1. "It seemed that I was constantly on my knees "repenting" and begging for forgiveness." Oh man! I know that feeling! And it's so tough! Praise the Lord that He opened your eyes and revealed Himself to you!

      This also sounds similar to what the Jehovah's Witnesses do and teach. Have you ever seen Michael Lehre's testimony? He has a wonderful ministry on YouTube and I have been so blessed by him.

      Here is his YT channel, Ultimate Mordecai

      Click here to listen to his incredible testimony.

    2. [youtube width="320" height="266" src="sZxKK52ibas"/]

  16. [Rev 12:11 KJV] 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

  17. Thank you Hilary for sharing such a beautiful story of how the Lord revealed truth to you! I know that I and so many others can relate to being snared by the trap of “good works”...how great is His love for us!! Your labor of love to share your story so eloquently is so appreciated. Bless you sweet Sis!

    1. God bless you, Keith! Thank you for reading and for your kind words! That trap of good works is so insidious because it looks so "right" and makes so much "sense." Truly the Gospel is foolishness to those who don't understand. I praise God everyday that more and more people are understanding the truth!

  18. Hillary,

    My first comment on this site. Don't know if you remember me but I believe we have spoken. So glad to see you grounded and secure in the gospel. My oh no maybe hell was when I couldn't quit smoking.

    Always love me some Yankee.


    1. Preston, it is a blessing to see you here! I've shared your book Jesus vs Religion, Do vs Done so many times on this site and in other places. You are a true blessing to the body! I look forward to meeting you one day and thanking you in person.

  19. I feel like this is summed up well in the story of the Prodigal Son. The prodigal gets a party just for turning back towards the Father... he has wasted all that he was given, and not all on good things either. The other son knows that the returning son is a sinner through and through, and hasn't 'worked for it.' so he doesn't want to join the party.

    Sadly, that party is the Rapture I think... Those saved by grace alone will go, while those trying to work their way in are going to be left scratching their heads wondering how they weren't good enough... but at least they will know what to do afterwards. Perhaps there is something for them to earn in the tribulation, or they will be able to turn more souls for the return of the Lord afterwards...

    All in God's hands, this mystery is... Maranatha!

    1. It is a mystery. I take comfort knowing that the Lord knows those who are His. (2 Tim. 2:10-26) And yet there is so much urgency, because I do not want any left behind!

    2. LEFT behind???????

      No "body part" will be left behind.


      To the SAVED yet carnal church at Corinth.....15:51 - for we shall not all sleep, but WE shall ALL be changed, in a moment.

      Here, Paul INCLUDED these carnal believers (ALL) with himself (WE) in the rapture at ONE moment in time.

      Don't let religion take Matt 24 and Luke 21 OUT OF CONTEXT to make you worried that you might not be "raptured". ---For WE shall ALL be changed.....

      a practical note: over the past 2,000...all the saved that have died.....how many of them will be resurrected like lazarus to go through the tribulation????? So if the lukewarm and carnal believers that are part of the body of Christ that have already died don't go through the trib then??????? Not one body part will be left behind. ALL saved will go-----For WE shall ALL be changed (1 Cor 15:51).

      See you when He cracks the sky!!

      a good listen.


    3. I agree Preston....I am talking about the unsaved ones. Those who have not trusted solely on what Jesus did. I grieve at the thought of all the people who are not part of the body of Christ. And I'm really really sad about those who think they are "safe" because they go through the motions of religion.

    4. Sorry,

      I read it wrong. I thought it read "I don't want to be left behind"---I missed the word any.

      I will shut up now. :)

    5. No apologies necessary! I am beyond grateful that you stopped to speak truth, especially if I *had* written what you thought I did. :)

    6. I believe Laodecia will be Left Behind for they are "head knowledge" Christians, they haven't made the transition to Believing. If you read the Letter to Laodecia you see those who are "in the church" are being told to buy of Jesus gold tried in the fire (of Tribulation). Why then, because they never made that final connection from head knowledge, to Heart Understanding - Faith in Jesus' Finished work. The Virgins didn't run out of oil - they had no oil - they weren't sealed. They had all the dogma, they understood in their minds what was to happen, but they didn't Believe! The answers are all in the letters to the 7 churches - Pergamos and Thyatira lose their lampstands and go into the Trib as the One World Religious System. Laodecia goes in to be purified. Overcomers will have spiritually come out of Pergamos and Thyatira and Laodecia and they go up with us. Blessings - Sherry

  20. Awesome - Thank you Hillary. Very honest, vulnerable account. Failure is the wisest of all teachers and quite possibly the only teacher for truly understanding grace. Grace not just for becoming a Christian but in being the Christian you've become!

    The beauty of your position now is that you will not be swayed. You have learned what you have about grace not through a book or a course but through experience, through failure... which is God's preferred method for ultimately placing us on the most solid of all foundations - the work of His Son!

    I appreciate you sharing your journey and story - it has encouraged me. Thanks : )

    1. You are absolutely right, elgordo...I cannot be swayed, thanks be to God! It was worth every heartache, every tear, every bit of weariness and I thank God for His mercy in allowing me to experience what was needed in order for me to understand. He is so good!

      God bless you.

  21. Yes, Yes, Yes! As a Christian blogger, this article reflects the HOPE my co-author and I try to share with the world. Trust in Him, believe Him, recieve His unmertited love!!! I'll be sharing this one! Thank you. theheraldofhope.com

  22. There is a line I share from Christa Black Gifford with those I council which I think says it all.

    "God Loves Ugly"

    Three words that are quite literally a parable in and of themselves.

    Allowing G-d to love us in our brokenness and shattered lives. Allowing Love to come inside not despite the mess but because of it.

  23. Robert Breaker YT channel has released a sermon asking "Are you balanced?" which apparently covers this topic.


    I haven't checked it yet but wanted to suggest to watch it. Robert Breaker might not be all-knowing in some details of all scripture but as he's a true born again believer he surely would have got the general difference between lawlessness and legalism right. His teaching could be discussed here as well. MARANATHA, God bless!

    1. After having watched now, there are but two remarks to make so far: He might himself not get 'unbalanced' by his "KJV only" claim that has already caused many to fall into some kind of (what I call) "Bible worship" and get even some kind of cult out of it... And as far as I know about English versions, the puritan GENEVA BIBLE is/was yet by far the better one than the KJV which had also some translation and words altered on purpose.

      The second remark is marginal but I cannot understand how you can find this summer "beautiful" actually (as he expresses it)... ://

  24. Dear Hillary,
    This was most beautiful and encouraging, thank you. I also learned the hard way, but it was a long time ago, although His message of grace grows more and more wonderful with each passing year. It is heart breaking to see people saying on social media that if a believer is out of fellowship with the Lord, somehow he will not make the Rapture, or is not really saved. It is so very subtle too. I saw a man with big following post last week that if you did not repent you were not saved and one commenter was a poor guy with a nicotine addiction and said he felt disgusting to God because of it. I told him if he had believed in Christ he was not disgusting to God but righteous in God's eyes. After I wrote that no one supported what I said, they just told him to keep on trying. I am not saying he shouldn't try to stop the addiction, but to do it out of fear that he has not repented is just not right. It made me write a blog about it, I was so frustrated. https://inchristalone-byhismercy.blogspot.com/2018/07/faith-plus-or-faith-alone.html

    You have a beautiful testimony and I hope others in your family will come around to the same discoveries you have made by His grace. Love in Christ, Megan

    1. Dear Megan,

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I share your heartbreak over the unbiblical message that seems to be growing more and more prevalent these last days, of another "gospel" that is not another, as Paul says. Keep spreading the light of truth everywhere, my sister! Even if no one supports it, you never know who is reading along silently. May God bless you and your devotion to Him

  25. Thank you, Hillary!

    I finally had some time to read this post. It is personal, beautiful, and wonderfully written, and I know this will help so many who are anxious, fearful, and unsure about God's grace and love.

    You wrote:

    "And when one does not truly understand grace they will redefine it, put conditions on it, or put warning labels on it."

    I encounter this all the time! Ahhhh. It's so frustrating, but true :)

  26. Great article Hilary.. I felt myself breathing a sigh of relief, that I am enough.. One of my biggest fears is hearing those words: "depart from me ...I never knew you", can you imagine how you would feel to have not made the cut, and hear those fateful words...

    My only question is: Who is it that gets left behind in the Tribulation, when the Philadelphian Church of true believers gets taken in the Rapture... (obviously the non-believers and the Laodicean Church), but I would imagine that even the Laodicean (luke warm) Church, will have at some point in their life declared they believe that Jesus is the son of God who died and rose again to life for our sins.. or maybe they are just saying that with their mouth, but not believing it in their heart? Maybe I just answered my own question :)

  27. OUTSTANDING and one of the finest essays on grace I have ever seen! AMEN Hillary!

  28. Hillary,

    What a lovely testimony! So many Christians miss this and don't understand it.

    I was saved at 14 (and I know I truly was), but didn't really understand it either until I was in my 20's. Things happened in my life and I HAD to know for sure and I HAD to understand it. Studying God's word and praying for the Word of Knowledge before each reading was so beneficial in growing spiritually.

    A book by Hal Lindsey titled "Amazing Grace" is my favorite on the subject of Grace through Faith. In fact, Hal Lindsey is my favorite Christian author because he has quite a gift of helping a Christian understand "why".

    I am so happy for you that you, as I did, finally figure out the real truth of the Gift of Salvation. People tell you that you don't get something for nothing. But in this case, you get the greatest Gift - Eternal Life through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    God Bless you for your words and encouragement as to continue to help others understand the True Meaning of Love!

  29. Are you familiar with Paul Washer’s “Shocking Message”? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts!

    1. Interesting timing for your question, Molly. Yes, I heard his message some time ago. Lately, even today, I've been reading more about the gospel he preaches and I have grave concerns. I've been praying about it and don't know to what extent that I'll write anything, but I cannot and do not endorse him. The gospel is my hill to die on, and his gospel is not the one that saves.



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