I grew up in a fundementalist Christian cult called ‘Branhamism’, which taught implicitly and explicitly that God’s love and salvation had to be earned by following extra biblical rules and traditions. I was baptised into this religion when I was a child, not understanding the work of Christ but following a myriad of false teachings that undermined the gospel. When I was 16 God miraculously showed me the reality of my situation and that I was in a cult. I spent the next few years distrusting God and religion. I walked on the fringes of Christian culture, with agnostic leanings, still holding onto ingrained beliefs about God that I’d learned from being burned in the cult. I’d trusted spiritual leaders and been sinned against and seen others unjustly treated. I didn’t know if God was trustworthy, I thought I still had to be good enough and follow rules impeccably to be a good Christian and find favor with God. I didn’t think I could trust God because of the ways I’d been hurt by religious leaders and teachings. I was also full of sin in that time of my life, but because everywhere I looked I saw “greater sinning”, I managed to hold onto the lie that I was better. My pride told me I didn’t need God because I was more righteous than those in the cult, and more righteous than non Christians, and even some Christians. These were lies, an illusion that presupposes that my rule following somehow canceled out my ‘smaller sins’.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”Romans 3:23 (ESV)
Finally a few years later, at the beginning of 2018, I was confronted by my own sin, and recognized not just that I had been sinned against, but that I too was a sinner who had sinned against a holy God. No matter how hard I tried to build up my own walls of self righteousness – I still fell short and into sin. For not the first time in my life I was in a fog of depression and anxiety that no one knew about, and I had not been asking God for help. I’d been struggling with a pornography, and masturbation addiction that was eating away at my heart and mind. I was slowly racking up credit card debt as I tried to keep up with appearances in the hustle and bustle of Washington, DC. I was going on dates with non Christians, and making more and more excuses about why it was okay. I would make a standard like “It’s okay to read erotica but not watch porn…” and then, “Oh, it’s okay to watch this type of less explicit porn…” Sin had its grip on me and there was no way out on my own.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] 4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”Ephesians 2:1-9 (ESV)
I kept moving my standards further and further, and I realized I couldn’t even keep my own standards of righteousness, let alone the standards that God has given us to follow. I came to God with an open heart and hands, admitting that I could not heal these wounds on my own, nor could I be holy without Him. I admitted that I am broken because of what people have done to me and also because of the sins I have committed. I wanted to read the Bible for myself and get to know God for who He truly was. I wanted God to be the Lord of my life and forgive my sins. So (praise God!) I dedicated my life to Christ, and was cleansed from my sin by His work on the cross. Since then I’ve walked in a newness of faith, unlike the counterfeit Christianity I’d grown up in, or even the Christianity I tried to form for myself after I left that toxic space.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”II Corinthians 5:17-20 (ESV)
Like II Corinthians 5:17 says, I’m a new creation in Christ, the old has passed away and the new has come. I’ve been transformed from the inside out and have learned more and more that I need to lean on Christ. I have had to relearn and detangle things that I’ve learned about God that are not true to His character or about me. I now know that God is trustworthy, loving, just, all powerful, and He works all things (even my broken story) together for good, according to His good plans. By God’s grace I don’t need to try to find favor from God because I will always fall short, but because of Christ’s sacrifice, the sin in my life has been paid for. Therefore I can walk unashamed, knowing that I am a child of God and nothing can separate me from His love.
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The penalty for sin is death, but God sent His son Jesus to die in our place. Jesus conquered sin and death, so that all who repent and believe in Him will have eternal life.
To listen to the episode of “The Modesty Files” podcast that I was recently a guest on, and learn more about my unique experience with ‘Branhamism’ click here. Or search “The Modesty Files” wherever you listen to your podcasts.
To find my book on Kindle or paperback, “Where the Willow Weeps” and see my story in riveting detail, click here.
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