Coming Home to Grace
My journey of repentance began in July ’93 at Mississauga City Hall’s outdoor theatre where, as the young adult pastor at Queensway Cathedral in Toronto I had taken a group to worship in the marketplace. Later a friend introduced me to a John Arnott, pastor of what was then the Toronto Airport Vineyard. We chatted briefly and went our way. Little did I know that this brief encounter would lead me to a head-on confrontation with my arrogance, jealousy, and pride.
“God began to pour His grace into my life, and I began to crack.”
The following February, John invited me to come to his church to check out some unique happenings in the Lord. I had heard about it through some of my young adults before john phoned me, and I had already pronounced judgment on him, the church, and the whole Vineyard movement. I was jealous, but couldn’t see it. I hung up the phone and vented to the Lord, ‘Why them and not us?"
Jealousy tore me up as I listened to people I had counseled for weeks telling me how they had been delivered and healed from their bondages and sin in just one evening of “carpet time.” I cautioned people and even told them not to go to services at the Airport. I was in a holy war, and I was right. I wasn’t aware that legalism and arrogance were blinding me to seeing God’s work.
But I continued to listen to reports. For the next six months I listened avidly at Vineyard music looking for a common thread or theme that could give me a label for what was happening. Yet the legalism in my life caused me to scorn the lyrics which talked about sitting on the Father’s lap and letting God hold you in His arms. “Yuck!” I thought. “What weakness!"
However, two themes emerged: holiness and the Father heart of God. I couldn’t deny these two beautiful truths. God began to pour His grace into my life, and I began to crack. The freedom I experienced blew me away as I came home to grace! The Father was telling me, "I love you as you are, not as you should be.“
I began to embrace God’s work at the Airport church. At renewal meetings I was touched by Him in profound ways. Then I jumped at the chance to travel to Pensacola, Florida where revival was happening and the Spirits presence is so evident.
I waited eagerly for the music to begin at the Brownsville Church in Florida, and felt ready to jump in the river and enjoy the ﬂow of the Spirit. But as the hand struck the ﬁrst note, my heart suddenly sank. The Holy Spirit reminded me of my attitude and response to John Arnott, the Airport church and this move of God.
“Now the hard part. I asked for the opportunity to repent before his congregation. He agreed.”
The Lord showed me that my attitude had been like that of Michal, David's wife. She despised David in her heart as he celebrated with abandon before the Lord when the Ark of the Covenant was brought back to Jerusalem.
I, too, had despised what God was doing because I couldn’t understand it, recollections of my jealousy and arrogance ﬂooded my consciousness. God exposed me to myself and the words of Jeremiah appeared before my eyes: "The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked about all things. Who can know it (Jeremiah 17:9 KJ)?“ My heart grieved with the pain of my sin, and I felt like a black dot on a white background. Only after God's forgiveness was I again able to worship.
I returned, a man with a mission. Neither flesh nor devil was going to deter me. I had to ask John Arnott to forgive me. The Lord had given me 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 as a confirmation. It says that we can keep from being judged by the Lord if we judge ourselves. Since judgment begins with the house of God (1 Peter 4:l7 My translation), I knew I needed to submit to God in this matter. That meant going to John and the Airport church to confess my sin and ask forgiveness.
I tried phoning to make an appointment but I couldn’t get through. In desperation I drove to the church to secure a 15-minute appointment. A month later I found myself in Johns office telling him my story. As 1 confessed my sin of pride, arrogance and jealousy, John graciously and quickly forgave. Now the hard part. I asked for the opportunity to repent before his congregation. He agreed.
On Sunday October 6th, I stood before the Toronto Airport congregation and told them the whole story. When John asked the church if they would forgive me, they all rose to their feet and cheered.
It was a glorious lime of reconciliation. My wife Colleen and I broke bread with John and Carol Arnott as we embraced, cried and rejoiced together. The devil had lost, the flesh had lost, and the cause of Christ stood ﬁrm and constant. I learned that repentance is a means by which we are restored rather than a method to use to appease God.
Since this move of God’s Spirit began, reconciliation among brothers, sisters and denominations is happening everywhere as the Father heals and restores His bride so that she can be strong, healthy and able to gather in the harvest. If we allow divisive attitudes to blind us to God‘ methods, or to resent those He uses, the harvest will rot in the field. We need to lay our insecurities on the threshing floor. The harvest depends on it.