Lately, we have received so many lettereslike the two below, that I think we need to answer them in this open letter to all.
“Dear Michael Pearl,
I am writing to thank you. I am 31 years old. My life without Christ was one of continual party, alcohol, women, and porn. After I was saved, the many pornographic images that had been burned into my head came to haunt me. This left me defeated. I sought and received advice from several teachers, even visiting missionaries. They told me that my struggles and failures were normal for young men, but the words of Jesus about cutting off that which offends you would not let my heart rest on the issue. I felt like a complete loser. I was desperate, and several times I held a hunting knife to my offending member, but could not go through with it. Although I married an amazing woman, this problem followed me into marriage.
When I heard your series, “Sin No More” the Holy Spirit of God set me free—by FAITH. Thank you for being faithful to the text. I am so thankful to have been set free from the bondage of sin. God has put it in my heart to share the gospel with those who have never heard. As you must know, what I now believe is not what is traditionally taught by fundamental churches. So I have been rejected by 2 mission boards because I could not sign their statement of faith. Furthermore I would like to share with others what the Bible really says about freedom from sin, but what I now believe is not acceptable doctrine in my church. I feel it is wrong to withhold truth from another struggling brother, yet I fear causing division in my church. What do I do?
By the Grace of God,
—Your Brother A”
I would like to thank you for making the Romans series available as a free download. Your teachings have changed my understanding on just about everything. I have been studying my Bible and reading history. It seems there were always people who believed the gospel as Paul taught it. I can see that ‘perfectionist’ movement and Finney’s Congregationalist all had bits of the real gospel. Both these movements taught that God would not send His only Son to die and then leave us in bondage to the flesh, and that overcoming sin is a gift of faith and not a struggle of the will. They were not right on the money, but it is obvious that they knew something of the truth. Once I came to grips with Romans, I re-read all the epistles and have seen the truth as you taught it in your Romans series in all of them.
Now I ask myself, “Is there any denomination even close to the truth? Are my children learning stuff that will keep them in bondage to sin when they become adults?” Sometimes I want to publicly ask, “Are we new creatures in Christ? Are old things passed away? Are we risen to walk in newness of life? Is it then possible to overcome all sin? Does salvation work or not? What did Jesus mean when he said, ‘Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect,’ or when he told the woman at the well ‘go and sin no more’? ”
This whole new understanding has really spoiled my ideas of a church. I am open to go anywhere God leads me, but so far we have visited 12 churches and have not felt led to any of them. Plus many are so worldly. What seminary would you recommend?
Thank you sir, for your boldness in ministry. May God richly bless you.
Michael Pearl Answers:
I understand your dilemma very well. Jesus predicted that his very church would be marked by false doctrine, false converts, corruption, lack of faith, and would be a habitation of devils and their doctrines. There is no surprise that it is so today.
When I was still a teenager, I came to the rude awakening that the preachers I knew, the fine church I attended, and my Christian friends, were all quite imperfect, sprinkled with hypocrisy, legalism, error, secret sins, pride, greed, and the list runs on and on. But, like family, they were all I had, all I knew, and I was discovering that I was no better. In time, when I was about 25 years old, long after I had graduated from Bible college, and after I had been a pastor for four years, through reading the word of God, I discovered the doctrine of Sanctification by faith. Through continual reckoning myself to be “dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God” I experienced deliverance from sin. It was a thrilling miracle, as good as salvation itself. I immediately tried to preach it to my congregation. It was new to me. It was unfathomable to them. In six months of preaching it, no one caught on or understood, for I did not yet understand clearly all the ramifications of my new doctrine and could not distinguish it from the traditional beliefs I had received from my youth. I must have seemed confused to them. In my heart and experience it was clear, but my doctrine was not well-defined. It was ten years before I was really qualified to teach the truth (though I continued to try). In time I saw others begin to experience complete deliverance from sin, and together we rejoiced in the finished work of Christ. Our numbers grew, and I saw homosexuals, porno freaks, pimps, murderers, dope heads, and preachers discover the simple truths of Christ’s finished work in the believer.
It has been 35 years now, and I am not as pushy as I once was. I am not as quick to try to straighten out the thinking of others. Some time ago, I determined that if the life of Christ in me does not demand an explanation, then I shouldn’t exclaim so much. If Christ in me does not make me love more, be more patient, and more understanding of the faults of others, what do I have to offer? If my discovery of Biblical doctrine makes me reject other believers simply because they are presently where I was before I saw the light, could it not be said by onlookers that my doctrine of sanctification by faith has made me judgmental and sectarian—maybe a little bit self-righteous?
My advice to those of you who have discovered life-changing truth through my Bible teaching is to let your new message be your changed life. If your friends don’t see the change, you don’t have anything to offer. When they ask why you are out front telling sinners about Jesus, why you suddenly rejoice in the Lord more, why you are giving more to missions, why you spend more time with your family, why your wife is praising you so fervently, why you never miss a church meeting, but are praying fervently for your pastor, why you are visiting the sick and going to the local jail and the old folks home, then you can try to teach them a Bible doctrine that is different from the one that has left them living in sin. In short, keep your mouth shut until your life demands an explanation.
If you have just got to tell somebody, as the song goes, then find a sinner that is not already in church and start at the beginning with him. Teach him the whole gospel until he rejoices in Christ’s finished work for him and to him. That way you will not dishonor your pastor. You will not sow confusion. You will not become a wandering Jew, going from church to church trying to find perfection, and you will not sow a spirit of exclusiveness in your children. In time you will see the conversion and sanctification of several people. If you can’t find believers with common understanding, you can make such a fellowship out of the great pool of sinners.
As to your children, I would recommend removing your family from any environment that is a bad influence on your children, including a church. However, neither adults nor children understand very clearly the nature of the systematic dogma that is taught at church. More is caught than taught. Most people, especially children, are more moved by the ‘spirit of life’ than by the doctrines underlying the church experience. If you teach the truth at home, not in a combative manner, and not in such a way that you are arguing against church teaching, and if you live the truth, your children will be eighteen before they realize that the church is not teaching the same thing they have taken for granted through your teaching. If your children do recognize the difference, then you should lead them to accept the errors of others without being critical or condemning.
Finally, don’t come here to Tennessee and try to join our church. I don’t want anyone following me. Nor will I come where you are and help you start another church. Once you have learned the truth through my teaching, forget me and continue to allow the Word of God to be your final guide. It is not about being right; it is about being right for your family and fellow believers.
Finally, I understand the pain of sitting in a church and listening to a sermon that is so false it is closer to Buddhism than Bible. But I learned long ago that God can use a crooked stick, and I have watched God abide with and bless a sincere group of believers who were in error while a man with more accurate doctrine wanders around screaming the errors of other, and all to no avail, and without the blessing of God upon him. When you cut off God’s people, no matter how messed up they are, you have cut yourself off from the church and from God. If God has received them, can we do any less? Heed the admonition Paul gave to a young minister:
“But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:23).
As to which Seminary do I recommend: Any Seminary that believes that God has indeed inspired and preserved his words in a book that you can hold in your hand so that you can accept every word in it as the perfect Word of God. You will then have an authority higher than the opinions of the teachers.