I swear on my soul, that if these men are speaking for God, I would rather spend eternity in hell than serve him. How are you supposed to love the God they represent? Unconditional Love? yet contradicted… Grace? yet contradicted…

Because all of that junk had completely clouded my view of Jesus, and I didn’t even know who he was anymore. Was he the harsh judge that was just waiting for me to show I wasn’t “holy” enough so he could smite me? Was he the one that demanded absolute perfection? The one for whom nothing was ever enough?

These are the feelings of two people who left their separate churches. Some find it hard to break from the erroneous view of God that they encountered in an unhealthy church. This can be especially difficult for those raised in one. Every time they see someone from their former group write about the group’s beliefs or they read Bible passages that were distorted in their church, they wrestle with trying to break away from the harsh taskmaster they came to know. But this isn’t the same Jesus portrayed in the Bible, but rather a false view that arises from erroneous teachings and how these are taught and applied.

Erroneous teachings can indeed cloud your view of God. They can give one a very different and distorted view. The tragic aspect of this, and one I have seen all too often, are people who can see the error of at least some of the teachings and yet have not yet been able to break from this distorted view.

This is what happens in a performance based church and while things vary from one unhealthy church to another, the teachings lead to performance based religion. While many will not say, for instance, that following outward standards is a matter of salvation, they will believe one is lost or at the least backslid if they don’t adhere. Many will say ‘it is better to be safe than sorry‘. These actually make them matters of salvation, whether or not it is specifically stated as such.

This is an excerpt of an email I received from a visitor to the spiritualabuse.org website. They are from the United Pentecostal Church and wrote:

WE strive to live Christ. Do we error? YES! But we try. There are some Pastor’s who goes over board, but for the majority, it is just about trying to make heaven our home. Yes, some things seem extreme, but in comparison to eternity, it is the least we can do. Our dress and appearance is simple a safety protocol we take to assure our success in making heaven our home. I hope you give this some thought.

Take note of what was actually said. It’s about trying to make it to heaven. It’s about safety measures. It is not at all about trusting in the finished work at Calvary. I don’t know how many posts I’ve read through the years where someone has written something like, “I’d rather be safe than sorry” concerning a teaching. And remember hearing church testimonies that said something like, “Pray for me that I will make it in”? They have no lasting assurance of salvation. In their mind, though they probably do not recognize it, salvation is based upon their performance and not on the completed work of Jesus on the cross.

There is a vast difference in being obedient to God and in obeying rules so one will be saved. The latter removes us from living in God’s grace and places the emphasis on us and our actions in order to make us acceptable. The good news from Jesus is that He paid the FULL penalty for all of our sins. He took away our unrighteousness and clothed us in His righteousness. We either accept this by faith or we will somehow try to earn our salvation.

And that’s what the performance based teachings lead people to. Many start out OK, but as time goes on, that initial joy of coming to Christ is replaced by an undercurrent of fear and worry…. that we will mess up and be rejected…. that God is almost anxiously waiting for us to err so He can zap us into oblivion.

What a horrid, horrible and unfair characterization of a loving Savior!

Do you struggle in this area? You may realize that the standards teachings or some other teaching is not a matter of salvation and many are not even biblical. You may know that through the teachings you developed a warped view of God. You need not remain in the position where the warped view continues to taint your perception. Your former church is still having influence over you and you are believing lies that will hinder you in your relationship with God. May your mind be set free to see Him as He is.

You do not have to live with a warped view of God. A good place to go for help is in the Gospels. That’s where we have the most information about Jesus. Just read them to read and not to study. I strongly suggest you use a different Bible than the one you have used in your former church, as yours might be filled with notes from sermons. Using another version other than the one you used should be helpful as well.

Leaving An Unhealthy Church #1: You and Those Who Remain
Leaving An Unhealthy Church #2: Anything You Say Can, And Will, Be Used Against You
Leaving An Unhealthy Church #3: Why It May Be Important To Resign Your Membership
Leaving An Unhealthy Church #4: Remaining in the Same Organization
Leaving An Unhealthy Church #5: Don’t Listen To The Gossip
Leaving an Unhealthy Church #6: How You Are Treated
Leaving an Unhealthy Church #7: It Happens To Ministers, Too
Leaving an Unhealthy Church #8: The Way Of The Transgressor Is Hard!
Leaving an Unhealthy Church #9: Some Must Return To Remember Why They Left
Leaving An Unhealthy Church #10: Sorting Through The Teachings
Leaving an Unhealthy Church #11: Confusion & Not Knowing Who or What to Believe
Leaving An Unhealthy Church #12: Can I Go To A Church Where I Don’t Agree With Everything?