Today's guest blogger, Garth Young, addresses the lack of religious instruction at the Oregon City F.O.C. To read previous guest blogs by Garth, enter his name in the search box.
* * * *
At the F.O.C. in Oregon City after the last elder died, the closest thing we had to a pulpit preaching ministry was a wedding ceremony. At a wedding there was a certain predetermined line spoken by the F.O.C. man performing the ceremony: “It’s been proven, if you do the things you have been taught you will have a long and happy marriage.” On its face this sentence has all the makings of a great message: (1) Desire for life and happiness. (2) The necessary teaching to satisfy that desire. (3) The proof that life and happiness has been achieved.
Sadly, all we received from the pulpit was that hollow sentence; there was no explanation, exhortation or application. It was just one sentence meant to fulfill the duty of the man overseeing the marriage, and equip the man and woman for entering into a lifelong relationship. Like many things at the F.O.C. this vague sentence seems to imply an answer while the actual answer to life and happiness isn’t given. Such statements are confusing and misleading unless the teaching and proof is specifically addressed. The proven and sure hope of eternal life and happiness is what I’m interested in addressing here.
It was a tremendous breakthrough for me personally to discover there is such a thing as certain hope. Before this I had always put hope in what others said that made me feel confident in my own position and ability, I then used that teaching of man to interpret the bible and make it fit my own self-centered understanding-- trusting in the words of man is anything but certain. That all changed when grace became a reality, my life was no longer about justifying my position because I knew my position was indefensible. The scriptures have shown me what is true; trusting in what God has said is the only way for hope to be certain. It is with that certainty that our existence and purpose ought to be interpreted, anything else is folly. The following three points and conclusion is my outline of the certainty of God as seen in the resurrection.
(1) Desire for Life and Happiness
And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
1 Corinthians 15:17–19
It may seem selfish for me to start with the question of man’s personal happiness but it’s not a selfish pursuit if we understand that God is glorified when we are satisfied in him. Jesus said: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” John 15:11
It would indeed be “most miserable” if Jesus hadn’t been resurrected, but Paul gives great hope to believers by assuring them that the death of Jesus was the effective substitutionary sacrifice for their sins. The believer’s pursuit for joy can be satisfied now and in the life to come because God’s righteousness was satisfied by the sacrifice of Jesus.
(2) The Necessary Teaching That Satisfies the Desire for Life and Happiness
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 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: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
1 Corinthians 15:1–5
There is only one source of information that can save a soul and give ultimate joy, it is the gospel. The only means by which anyone can be saved is faith in Jesus. This Gospel information that Paul received and delivered to them personally contains life altering good news… that Jesus died and paid the debt of those who believe in him, that he was buried and rose again from the grave, all according to the scriptures.
Paul doesn’t say here or anywhere else that having faith in your church, yourself, your lineage, your works, or anything else will save you, anything else would be a different gospel and a different Jesus. Paul isn’t saying we should seek after signs, he’s saying this is it. Everything Jesus said would happen has happened and the scriptures have been fulfilled. The only thing that can save is belief in the gospel of Jesus, the same gospel Paul delivered.
(3) The Proof That Life and Happiness Has Been Achieved
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
1 Corinthians 15:20–22
His resurrection is the biggest and most important event in human history; it is the central event of the gospel. Because of the inherited death from Adam all of mankind is under the penalty of sin but Christ’s resurrection grounded in eyewitness testimony changes everything. There is now a sure hope of being made alive and has been evidenced beyond any doubt. Paul says Jesus is the “firstfruits”, His resurrection and life indicates what the rest of the crop will look like, He has obtained victory over death for all who believe. And we can know for sure that God was satisfied by Jesus work on the cross because he furnished proof by raising him from the dead.
Conclusion: “If you do the things you’ve been taught…” I have a pretty good idea what you were taught at the F.O.C. in Oregon City, I know the doctrine that was passed down from generations before and I understand it to be lacking the essential gospel message that Paul taught above. Am I wrong? You tell me, how is it that a group of people who call themselves ‘Followers of Christ’ can be so separate and exclusive and don’t associate with anyone outside of their group, or try to convince others of the hope they have? And what’s worse is you don’t even know why. How is it that you have no elders, no teaching, and no open reading of the scriptures? Why is it that so many anonymous OCFOC members who comment here spew poison, hatred, or insult? These are the fruits of unregenerate people under the curse of Adam. Until you come to grips with your own sinful estate and embrace the gospel of Jesus you will remain on the other side of the curse.
I have been praying for Oregon City for many years and I don’t write here to make enemies or beat you down, I care a great deal about you. I write because I have a message and I know that some will read it. If you want to escape the condemnation upon yourself because of sin you must heed the biblical warnings, you can’t be good enough! You can’t pay the debt! I’m pleading with you to consider the seriousness of your situation because you can’t escape the holiness of God, His eyes can pierce to the very center of your heart and He knows everything about you. You’re not good enough and you know it, you can’t flee from his presence and you know it, what will you do?
The angel was very intentional in pointing out the empty place where Jesus was laid in the tomb, saying: “he is risen, he is not here” if we miss the significance of this event we miss everything. The resurrection was powerful and amazing not just because it happened but because it’s a fulfillment of everything Jesus said would happen. It actually happened; Jesus truly is the son of God who came to die for us as the propitiation for our sins. And with the resurrection God sent a message that is certain and proven: The debt is paid in full. Those who hope in this message are free because they trust in what the Savior has done.
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?