As a child I grew up in a Ukrainian Pentecostal Family. I remember very little from that time in regards to the church we attended, I was still very young. I vaguely remember the boring sermons, and occasionally falling asleep on my mom’s lap. To be fair, at that age few things could hold my attention for over an hour. But what I do remember very clearly was the day when my family left the Pentecostal church to join another. This church did not have a label as the others. It did not have a big building or a large congregation; it was a teaching, a word, a way of life. I remember talking with my Dad about moving to a different church and asking him why. He told me “Andrey, we must be like Jesus”, and I responded with a quiver in my voice “… but … Jesus is perfect”. This made my Dad smile; I remember that smile to this day. In all honesty I don’t know exactly what was said on that day, in actuality my dad was speaking his typical Ukrainian/Russian mix, but what I do remember is that smile. The idea of perfection and being like Jesus was a bizarre idea for me at the time (as it may be for you), and it scared me as well. But on that day I saw a boldness in my Dad, with no fear or equivocation.
In the beginning we met at houses with barely enough people to fit a living room. We didn’t have a Pastor who stood in front of us speaking while everyone else remained quit. Instead we had a group of people all siting in a circle with bibles in hand, discussing what was written in the scripture. I especially liked this new church because they let kids out early to go play (after maybe 30 minutes). As a kid this is all I could ask for. Needless to say I enjoyed this new church a lot more then the older one I went to. For a long time all I knew about this new church was that there was a different word, a different teaching. And that teaching was purely based on the scripture, without any preconceived notions of what the truth should be or any traditions created by men. What this word was I had no idea. All I knew was what my father said from the start “Andrey, we must be like Jesus”.
As I grew older my parents began to force me to start staying at church longer and longer. My 30 minutes turned into 40, and then a few weeks later 50. But I began to catch snippets of this new word, this new life. I kept on hearing phrases like “freedom from sin”, “we are holy”, “we are righteous”, and lastly the bread and butter “we must be like Jesus”. Then there was also a lot of talk of death. We were dead, then we died and rose again, and now we are dead to something or other. Naturally, I was a bit confused.
At this point my faith in God was very superficial, no surprise for a kid my age, but I did believe. I never had any doubt in my mind that one day when I was grown up I would get baptized and become a member of the church; it was only a matter of time. Eventually our congregation set up a youth church for the kids to start learning the basics, which was sorely needed in my case. There I began to learn in simplicity, and this is were the seed was sown. This is not to say I read the bible every night out of fascination, this is far from it, I rarely read the bible on my own. But what I did like was coming to our youth meeting and hearing about the word of God. I learned about many things, ranging from the Old Testament to the end of the world. But what was crucial was learning what Jesus did on the cross. All men and women on this earth are born of a sinful nature, inherited from Adam and Eve because of their disobedience. This sinful nature is defined in the bible as the Law of Sin and Death. This is not like the Law of Moses; this is more like the natural laws we all learned in school. It simply means that if you have the Law of Sin and Death living inside of you, by no means can you stop sinning. All you can do is sin, feel bad about it, repent, and then repeat. The Law of Sin and Death is a never-ending cycle of Sin. At this state man is separated from God, and his meaning of creation is not fulfilled. This is where Jesus Christ comes into the picture. He came to reconcile us with God, for us to fulfill his goal. The goal is simple, build himself a home/temple where he can live, and this home is in the hearts of people.
Ephesians 1:19-22 “Now, therefor you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and the members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place for God in the Spirit”.
Unfortunately all of mankind already has a tenant living inside their heart, something rotten. Due to this mankind is guilty of sin, which rightfully deserves the punishment of death. Jesus resolved all of these issues with his own death on the cross. With his death he forgives us all past sins by his blood, and I believe all Christians on earth agree on this point. The second part of the issue is where the controversy begins; this is the part where our church begins to set itself apart (the list go’s on an on). By our faith we can be made one with Christ, be with him when he dies on the cross, and die with him. By this death we overcome the Law of Sin and Death, and when we rise with Him we have something completely new living inside our hearts. We have Jesus himself living in our hearts, the Holy Spirit, the Law of Liberty, the Law of the Spirit of Life. And in the same way that the Law of Sin and Death had a function about it, so does the Law of Liberty. The Law of Liberty is simply the state of being free from Sin, and a person who is free from sin can no longer sin.
John 8:34-36 “Most assuredly, I say to you, who ever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
Therefore, we are “holy”, we are “righteous ”, and here it comes again “we are like Jesus” because he himself lives in our hearts.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”
Romans 8:3-4 “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled is us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the spirit.”
Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”.
This is the faith that was built in me when I was sitting in youth church every Friday night. Not complete of course, but it had many of the cornerstones that our church lives by. At the end of the day I knew this, that if you are a sinner you are not born of God, you do not fulfill his meaning of creation, and you will by no means inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. This is controversial since millions (probably nearing a billion) confess to be sinners and yet claim to be born of God. This may be your understanding, but I am here to tell you that you are mistaken. This understanding is in direct contradiction with the Bible.
1 John 3:4-9 “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him, and he cannot sin because he has been born of God.”
1 John 5:18 “We know whoever is born of God does not sin, but he who is born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.”
If you are starting to feel some angst or resistance to what I am saying, I urge you to remain calm. I completely understand these feelings, hearing this for the first time is probably a shock, especially if you have heard the complete opposite for your entire life. You might think that this understanding is a fantasy, not realistic, not practical. But ask yourself, why do you Sin? What is the root cause? Are you really born of God? Does scripture support your rebirth?
I openheartedly invite you to continue reading through the website and always reference the Bible to verify if what we say is true. But read to reveal the truth, for your salvation, and not just to prove your pre-set beliefs. I confess with all my heart that Christ lives in me, and today I (along with my brothers and sisters in Christ) fulfill the meaning that God intended for me.
My story does not end here; me attending the youth group was only the beginning. I will continue my story sometime in the future.