The Hidden Half of the Gospel is now in print, which means it’s time for me to sound promotion bells; but how about I just use a recent, personal example, to tell you why so many people (and maybe you) desperately need this message?
The other day I was listening to a radio show hosted by one of my favorite pastors. People call in with Bible questions, and this pastor answers them, usually with lots of scripture and high caller satisfaction. But one caller on the show did not receive a satisfactory answer.
Essentially, this caller wanted to know how he could get free from his past. He was fifty-two, had been abused as a child, and was still living “in bondage,” even though he went to church and prayed for the peace of the Holy Spirit. How, he wanted to know, could he experience the “new life” Christ promised, and the changes he read about when a person gets the Holy Spirit?
My heart broke for the man as the pastor proceeded to give pat answers that blatantly sidestepped the man’s apparent pain. “Let me ask you a question. Have you ever been to a funeral where the deceased sat up and complained about his past?”
“Well, we can’t focus on the past. It’s done. As we drive through life, we can’t keep looking in the rearview mirror. We have to focus on what matters for eternity. We need to give the past to Jesus and then look to the future with him. Our pasts won’t matter in heaven. We need to believe that Jesus forgives us of our past sins and our guilt.”
Here I thought to myself, He totally didn’t address the man’s question: “How do you help someone who is trying, but is not experiencing, the Holy Spirit?” I wished I could contact this man and offer Paul’s and my book, The Hidden Half of the Gospel: How His Suffering Can Heal Yours. I wished I could talk to that pastor and give him our book, too, so next time he got a call like that, he could offer some real help: a complete picture of the gospel that not only addresses healing sin, but also healing suffering.
The Traditional Gospel Doesn’t Help Everyone
Sadly, this pastor was merely presenting the “status quo” gospel that so many Christian pastors, and Christians, promote. That is, “Christ died for our sins and rose again to forgive us and give us a new life.” Sounds nice. It is nice. This gospel has changed millions of lives. But what about those people who have already tried this gospel, who go to church and pray regularly, and who have even accepted Jesus’ forgiveness, and still live in bondage?
Today Christians and non-Christians alike live in bondage to things like divorce, abuse, addiction, depression, and cutting/self-harm (to name a few). More tragically, many Christians live in bondage to the negative thoughts and lies Satan slams us with in the aftermath and in the midst of these problems. Which means we end up living out false identities long after the initial pain of, say, childhood abuse.
I was one of those desperate people only a few years ago (see my seven-part series “My Ugly, Messy Rebirth Story“). But then God taught me what it really means to live a new life. Over a period of several years, I learned about Satan’s lies and how they take root in our minds and handicap our lives.
It’s insulting, and discouraging, when pastors or Christians tell us we should be “over it” just like that. It doesn’t work. And that’s why we need a better gospel, a complete gospel—the gospel that Paul Coneff unearthed as a young pastor in his search to minister to hurting individuals like that fifty-two-year-old Christian caller.
Jesus Preached a Better Gospel
When Jesus said He came to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free, He didn’t just mean He would heal us when He came back again at His second coming, or set us free from our prisons of darkness when we get to heaven. His promise was for here and now. And that means it includes more than the gospel of forgiveness of sins. It has something for those of us who have been sinned against.
Our book, The Hidden Half of the Gospel, starts right where you are: in the midst of your misery. It doesn’t ask you to deny it or forget it, because that’s stupid; it’s impossible. Correction: by ourselves it’s impossible, but with God all things are possible. Specifically, for those of us who are suffering, healing begins with Jesus Christ’s life of suffering, and the promise that “He suffered in every way we did” so He could offer us his mercy and grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 2:17-18; 4:14-16). In our book, Paul and I flesh out the implications of these promises through stories of real individuals (like myself) who needed a Savior in the midst of suffering, and who found one who understands our pain exactly, because He has been through it.
Jesus was abandoned, betrayed, and abused; He was unfairly tried, convicted, and crucified; and in the midst of all this, he felt forsaken by his Father. As a “man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief,” He knows that we need time to heal, and He doesn’t expect us to do it overnight. He only asks that we look to Him and the victory He accomplished at the cross. As we look to Jesus and allow Him to tell us about the lies and wounds in our hearts, He can uproot them and replace them with a new identity. If this sounds like a message you could use, or one that you’d like to share with others, please visit hiddenhalf.org. There, you can read sample chapters, and if you like what you see, you can order the book. Happy reading!
Get a Discount on the book: When you click “buy the book,” the next page offers a discount box. Type in “HIS-story” to receive a 20% discount through October 31.
Congratulations! I’ll check out the website and your book. I think it’s an urgent need to help people back from the brink during the tough times. My issue with religion (and 12 Step programs to a certain extent) is the ease with which they put the responsibility for an individual’s choices on others, i.e. Satan or God. Individuals need to take responsibility for their thoughts, feelings and actions as well as their choices. They also need to learn about forgiving themselves for their bad choices or for actions they used to cope with their pain. Satan also did not make a child abuser abuse — there are complex psychological and behavioral causes.
I think faith can be a powerful support for healing. It can also be a powerful excuse for some people to hurt others…..
Cinda, thanks for checking out the book. I agree with you that people need to take responsibility for their choices, and the book supports this point. One of the case studies we use is a man who cheated on his wife because he felt unloved and unimportant in his marriage. At first when she left him, he was unrepentant. But as he went through a healing process, talking to God about his feelings, he realized he had to take responsibility for the hurt he had caused his wife. The wife, whose story we also tell, was able to acknowledge her hurtful actions in their marriage, too, after she had been honest with God about her feelings.
You say individuals need to take responsibility for their thoughts and feelings, too–which I agree with as well, but maybe a little differently. A key point of the book is that Satan is the “Father of lies” (based on John 8:44); therefore, we make the point that the negative thoughts we have come from Satan–and those negative thoughts/lies are what drive behavior. I don’t know how much validity you put in the Bible, so you may not agree here. I do believe that we need to ACKNOWLEDGE the thoughts/feelings we have, and let God speak to us about what is truth and what is not, and let him transform our thinking and behavior (through prayer and surrounding ourselves with truth–for me truth includes the Bible–and other good influences).
Your point about complex psychological causes is a good one. I believe we live in a fallen world, and mental illness or trauma, etc. are hard realities. Of course, I may depart from you here, too, in thinking that Satan is still the root cause of all the psychological/behavioral problems. We agree about thinking and behavior being problematic, so it seems our point of difference is where those problems stem from. If you can look past that difference, I hope you might find the solutions to behavior/thinking the book offers to be helpful!
Lastly, I am pained to agree with you that some people can and do wrongly use “faith” or “religion” to hurt others (such as priests/ministers who take advantage of their parishioners’ trust and abuse them). In these cases, I think it’s important not to confuse the behavior of “Christians” with the heart of Christ. Not every who calls themselves Christian really are. Jesus even said (in Matthew, I think) that not all who called themselves followers would enter the kingdom of heaven. It is so sad that people so often misuse that name. I hope I have not done this.
Thanks for engaging in a great discussion!