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Dealing With Our Own Spiritual Biases
By Rev. Dave Roberts.+

A More Personalized View of Change.

Last month I wrote a message called “Change,” and it was that most people tend to change as the years go by. I described a few people I had known at least 30 years and for all of the people I mentioned in that message, I don’t think I mentioned the changes I’d seen in myself, however, in the nearly fifty years I’ve been a Christian. So, at the risk of sounding egocentric, I’d like to make it more personal this month as a corollary to the last.

Pastor Bill Whorton and I both came to Salt Lake by the call of God about 27 years ago, he from Montana and I from Los Angeles. A call to Utah can be considered a great adventure because when you first get here, you have no idea how things are going to go and if you’ll even be here five years later. There is a high drop-out rate but those who manage to stay seem pretty dedicated to being here.

About ten years ago, Bill said to me that he’d noticed that in all the years he’d known me, “you haven’t really changed, Dave. You’re very much the way you were when we met in 1984.” I took that as a compliment, I guess, because even though my hands-on ministries tend to vary from time to time, my sense of being based in and ministering from Utah is still the same. It goes back to the prophetic word that was given to Jeff Freeman and me before we left California to come here: “When you go to Utah, be a Christian presence and pray.” I haven’t deviated from that as a guiding principle and with the Lord Jesus Christ as my God and His Word, the Bible, as my foundation, I guess I wouldn’t need to change anything.

Maybe just “adjust” as the needs arise. But some things have changed since those early days in the 1960s and, frankly, I’m glad they have. Have you ever read any of your old letters to people? If Arthur Pope, whom I’ve known since we were in high school in 1958 wants to get to me, all he has to do is drag out our old correspondence from when we were both new to the evangelical faith.

Or how about sermons? Now those will really get you backpedalling years later! Again, quoting Bill Whorton, “I look at some of my old sermons now and cringe.” Yep! I do too, Bill! St. Paul talks, in I Corinthians 14, about things that when we were young being acceptable but now that we’re older, we put away the things we did back then. One of the things that turned me off about fundamentalism was that they are often still using the same catchy phrases, choruses and stories they were in the 1950s. I remember the one line I used to hear in response to the Beatlemania of the early 60s – “I’d rather be on the Rock of Ages than the age of rock.” Nothing wrong with that but if I went back to the fundamentalist church where I’d heard it, they’d probably still be saying it like a creedal response and still be preaching salvation messages with an altar call to the same saved people who’ve been sitting in the same pews for the last fifty years.

And no service would be complete unless we referred to something about “the good ole’ days.” No, I had to adjust because preaching against the sin of makeup in 1959 is not in the same universe of what challenges we face in the ministry world today. What we see today we never saw coming back then and I cannot afford to have an anachronistic faith to meet the challenges.

One of the things that had to change in me (and, let’s be realistic, would have anyway because of lack of stamina at 67), was being a zealot over some pretty crazy stuff. I look back now and cringe over the mini-crusades I went on and how it must have appeared to people who loved me enough to overlook it. Perhaps one of the biggest ones was when I had just moved to Saskatchewan in 1971 and I came across a tract that was ripping on a New Testament called Today’s English Version (TEV), better known as “Good News for Modern Man.” The tract was showing how many verses had been changed to water down some pretty basic doctrines of the Faith and I picked up the writer’s offense and ran with it. We didn’t have photocopiers in those days so I typed up a mimeographed sheet of my own and lifted the most salient points out of the tract to make my point that the TEV was heretical. What appealed to my far-right political position back then was that it was, I’d heard, the most popular version of the Bible being handed out to our troops in Vietnam. Being both a hawk on a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible and a hawk on Vietnam, I saw it as a near-divine mandate to run with this cause and mailed off the Gestetner sheets with the purple ink still smelling to a mailing list of maybe 25 people back then. The thing about being that kind of a zealot is that you really believe you are helping God out. By the time the last ones were in the mail, I felt a sense of catharsis and that I had just saved the Kingdom of God from the pitfall of a watered-down gospel.

There were other drives that I went on in those days that weren’t road trips. They were generally centered on whatever thing I felt the Lord was speaking to me at any given time and I had to be sure that everyone else knew about it. But some things the Lord reveals in your heart, often through His Word or in your prayer times, are a promise to you that He is going to see it through to His perfection and glory; we can’t do it. He should be able to speak to us individually and give us our own personal daily bread. Let me put it this way: In the neophyte stage in my Christian life, I felt that everyone needed to have the same experience I did and went out to promote it. I can remember several instances of it that I did after I was baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1962 and after a healing a few years later. If those things could happen to me, they must be for everyone around me too! Not! But the zealot in me propagated and projected my own experience onto others and that was where I missed what God was really saying. His Grace got me past those embarrassing experiences and I now look back at them and either laugh, cringe, or both.

Not that I’ve yet arrived even now at 49 years in the Lord. But I realize that the zealot that was in me at the outset of this spiritual journey got tuckered out and now I can sit and see the hand of God work in spite of me, around me and, sometimes, through me, without my having to force it, drive it, manipulate it, passively aggress with it and I can drop the verborrhea of hype that used to explain my intentions.

No, it’s the Sovereignty of God that has changed me and many of those around me for good. I don’t need to feel jealous or fearful for not having the near-fanatical drive I did at 20 or the fundamental fervor to put me on a one-man crusade for whatever I thought God might be saying that was meant for me and my own personal growth. It took awhile but I thank God for the grace period it has taken to prepare me for going Home.

A truly fanatical fundamentalist zealot would probably be disappointed with Heaven the way I’m beginning to envision it now. In this, I have changed. And it’s really all about Jesus!

– Dave.+

Copyright 2010 by Dave Roberts.+


Copyright 2010 by Dave Roberts.+

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