The Armstrong Archives (59): Only Part of a Christmas Letter, 1978

DSCF5352 copyChristmas, 1978 ‘Tis the season—that happy season when my thoughts naturally return to remembering with delight the old and anticipating with hope the new. Remembering all the dear people I love so warmly, and especially recalling with great joy the advent of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Our first snow fell, and Detroit looked breathtaking in pure white! “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” For me? Forgiveness like that for me??? “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” And I echo Psalm 103: “Bless the Lord, O my soul…Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeh all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crownth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies…”

New Year’s Eve was always the time at our house when I was growing up to gather around and share with each other our chief joys, sorrows, and learnings from the previous year. Since Alan and I will be the only sibs home this Christmas, I decided to try to recapture a bit of what I’ve (and in many cases, “we’ve”) learned.

Attending the Gothard Seminar (for the second time) last May really sparked off a lot of new beginnings. It made such a dramatic impact on my spiritually; I wish everyone would take the time to attend at least once! Anyway, I was like those “O foolish Galatians,” who, having begun in the Spirit, were attempting to be made perfect in the flesh. Which, as anyone who has lived long enough (or died) knows, is perfectly futile. I found myself saying with Paul, “For that which I do I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” I was like a bird trying to flap my wings and fly without the power. Why? Because I wouldn’t die. “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. The first thing I learned was what it means to repent. Today I think people are told to believe in Christ without first repenting. In Acts 20:21, Paul says he was teaching “both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (In retrospect, I think I was probably never genuinely converted when at age 12 I first made a profession of faith in Christ. I don’t know. I do know that “though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” I have peace.)

Anyway, I think all this easy-believe-ism so rampant today is the result of people giving lip service to faith in Christ without having repented of their sins. I had been a long time under bondage to the law: “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”

That is a good starting place, so for years I tried to understand the “fear of the Lord,” which is the promised beginning of wisdom. Fear the Lord…fear to sin…“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” Then Solomon responded with an “I will” so to speak: “pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the forward mouth, do I hate.” No, that wasn’t Solomon speaking, that was the Lord, for He goes on to say, “Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I am understanding; I have strength.” So I said, “All right, Lord, I want to fear you, but I can’t. You do it.” He continued, “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.” (Of course I know that “we love Him because He first loved us,” and that “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”)

[The second page of this letter went missing, I couldn’t find it anywhere. I’m now wondering if I didn’t think it was “too preachy” and not “newsy” enough so tried to start over and never finished or something. It was a very busy time, and Alan and the kids all got quite ill.]

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