Testimony – Galatians 6

gA certain someone named BK told me to be direct with my testimony this week. The message this week was on Galatians 6. BK must forgive me, because his book review is still in the works. I know he will forgive me though. I have been hearing very ungraceful things from a certain roommate recently. Multiple UBF pastors I have spoken to share the same concern. This testimony is what has followed many discussions.

Paul’s letter to the Galatians concludes that we must boast not in our works, or even in the marks on our body but in Christ. Let us boast of our savior. I thought it interesting that it was not said that Peter “believed” that justification came from works in addition to our faith. But that he acted as if it did. Paul says “When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of all of them ‘You are a Jew, yet you live like gentile and not like a Jew. How is it then that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” Peter putting an undue emphasis on circumcision added to the gospel without realizing it. Similarly if we put undue emphasis on fishing, 1-1 bible study, going to campus, restricting dating among singles, marriage by faith, testimony writing, preparing bible study notes, message training, using ‘one word’, raising disciples, attending all bible conferences, addressing people with titles, or running all major life choices through our personal shepherd and obeying his directive in all aspects we add to the gospel, which as Paul states “is no gospel at all”. The Christian who does such things truly deserves to be fed to lions. Paul says “let him be eternally condemned”.

The more I consider myself the more I realize legalism is a natural bent for myself. Legalism is very attractive because it makes the gospel readily obtainable and manageable. If I am attending church every Sunday and never missing bible study I can say to myself “I am justified.” But our gospel is not so obtainable, because it is already obtained for us. The works we do not make us good, the good in us- which is Christ- makes us good. I spoke to my Muslim student last week. A student had asked her about her head scarf and she said she was required to wear it. I asked “I thought the Koran gave no law. It says to be modest and that is why you wear it.” She agreed and tried to invite me to her mosque. She explained that if we prayed 7 times a day and attended mosque faithfully we would be given “a mark” that would save us. I realized this is how many Christians view the gospel, but it is not gospel at all.

Some Christians may counter this claim by citing passages were Jesus allows some of his followers to go because they did not want to worship him. We may as easily concluding that it is correct to doubt God when Christ said “God why have you forsaken me.” God can doubt God, Christ can turn us over to our sinful desires. But I am moved by Paul “Am I now trying to win the approval of men of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. Paul’s last comment in his letter is for us not to stop doing good. We cannot use our justification as a reason not to do works. Undue pressure produces outward fruit, but never inward fruit, which is what our Lord desires. He does not want works, but the person who on his account wants to do them. How could our God need anything? He has everything. He has everything except our love and devotion until we give it to him.

My natural bent for legalism must recognize this and with the Holy Spirit I must be transformed by constantly turning my back on the world for his sake. All those who disobey Paul’s words on legalism prove them. The law of God is eternal; it is the same 24 hours a day for all people who have ever or will ever live. People who attempt to justify themselves with the law fail and they end up in misery. The testimonies of Ben Toh, Andrew Martin, Brian Karcher and others speak to this. Ben Toh recently said “Reading and studying Galatians in 2009 set me free—28 years after becoming a Christian.” It may take 29 years, but legalism is as unfulfilling as air. It does not feed us. My prayer is that I will never fall to legalism. I pray that I always recognize that I am blessed first, and that any good about me comes from Christ. I pray that I will not be swayed by false teachers. In all these things I pray. Amen.


  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Forests. Yes of course you are forgiven :) Your free book was mailed out Saturday. Thanks for reading and look forward to your direct review.

    Your thoughts here cut to the heart of perhaps the biggest flaw in the gospel taught by most ubf people:

    “If I am attending church every Sunday and never missing bible study I can say to myself “I am justified.””

    The ubf lifestyle is all about making yourself feel good, as if you “did your duty” each week. But as you already found out, this is not genuine goodness. That’s why I am writing a second book, to re-connect with the goodness that was re-defined for me by the ubf missionaries. Goodness was promised but never delivered. Goodness was re-defined to mean “glorify God through ubf”.

    • By the way, Luther said that Galatians was his favorite letter, with whom he was married, his “Käthe von Bora”.

  2. forestsfailyou

    Predictably my roommate focused on verse 17 “From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”

    He talked about how much he could suffer and do for Christ so that he might “bear on his body the marks of Jesus.” Yes, how many works he could do was what he got from Galatians 6:11-18.

    • Yes, the focus in ubf is always on “one word”, so that it is easier to implant and justify the heritage slogans.

      Your article caused me to read Galatians 6 again. I am amazed at how much wisdom is in this short passage of Scripture!

      I only recall studying Galatians 1 time in my 24 years at ubf. The only thing I recall is Galatians 6:6-9, with emphasis on “don’t become weary in doing good”. Since “good” had been redefined as “ubf”, this study burdened me immensely at the time.

      In reading the passage I can see why. Galatians 6 has so many “rebellious, disobedient, disloyal” type thinking that comes from the devil to tempt you to stop doing ubf activities ;)

      This passage does have some good advice on how to write your sogam in ubf if anyone complains about not understanding what you write or claims you have been influenced by those evil ubfriends people. Just follow the advice in Galatians 6:11.

  3. Joe Schafer

    Forests, did you share this in a meeting? If so, what was the response?

    • forestsfailyou

      There was silence.

    • Joe Schafer

      I guarantee that the silence did not last long. I’m sure that, soon after you left, there was a meeting-after-the-meeting to discuss you and your spiritual problems.

      The meeting-after-the-meeting takes still takes place in many chapters. Non-Koreans are rarely invited.

    • Silence. Yes of course. What other reaction would anyone expect from ubf? Either you “give glory to God” or you “shut up and mind your own business” (i.e. “keep spiritual order” and “go back to the bible”).

      ubf is like the Church of Silence in Doctor Who. The Silent church do not want a question answered. They want silence. In the same way, ubf people are normally afraid of answering questions. Case in point: ubf people do not comment here but only click the like/dislike buttons (well usually just the dislike button I presume).

      Here is a description of the Silence:

      “The alien leaders of the Silence were encountered by the Doctor in 1969 America. The Silence had been on Earth since humanity’s beginning, secretly manipulating humanity and its development for their own ends.”

      Because of this maddening silence and demands to make pacts of silence, I have often become the over-the-top, pirate-like, massively vocal critic of all things ubf. And until this cowardly silence ends, I will continue to play this role.

    • And Joe is right, they are only silent in front of “sheep”. I also guarantee that they is much talk about you, as there likely has been since you joined.

    • forestsfailyou

      I know for sure because the missionary testimony meets are after service on Sundays now. So it wasn’t a “special” meeting but I am certain what i said was brought up.

    • Joe Schafer

      Imagine what would happen if you tried set up a prayer meeting or testimony sharing meeting for students only, with no missionaries allowed. They would strenuously object. They would say it was dangerous, that it would become “complaining fellowship,” that it would “spread bad influence.” They would demand to know everything that was said, everything that was discussed.

      I say: What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

      (Does anyone know if there is a Korean version of that idiom? I would guess that there isn’t, because equality and impartiality are alien to Confucian values.)

    • forestsfailyou

      Joe that would only work if we had students. We have 2 university students, and they are very busy. So busy they miss the testimony meeting (biomedical engineering and premed are daunting). I am told by a trusted source that there are about 20 former members in the St. Louis are that left. As my roommate would say they “resisted of rejected the call to campus mission”.

    • Joe Schafer

      Sorry, I should have guessed. Although ubf is supposed to be all about students, most chapters have very few students. (Not counting 2nd gens, who tend to be there for other reasons.)

      “They resisted or rejected the call to campus mission.” How nice. I’m sure that the 20 or so former members would wholeheartedly agree.

  4. Forests, my initial spontaneous response to your delightful Galatians 6 testimony is that I wish I would have realized what you did in my initial years as a new Christian in the 1980s. But for 27 years in my original UBF chapter (1980-2007), Galatians was never preached or taught in church nor studied at any local or international conference.

    I only “discovered” the freedom Galatians proclaimed after 28 years when we studied and preached through the epistle of Galatians for the first time in 2009 at West Loop. God is good.

  5. Forests, your testimony reminds me of Hebrews 13:11-14. In ubf-speak, we do not have a KOPHN here now. We who follow Jesus are looking for a better, eternal city. God’s call is to go outside the camp, to form safe communities where questions can be asked, people can be vulnerable without fear of shame or retribution. There is no place for legalism in the communities God forms, for those communities are to be places of love and friendship and joy.

    Trying to build a KOPHN here now means we would be fighting against God’s will. There is no spiritual order in an authentic Christian community; only Jesus our Lord and his Lordship and mutual submission. Legalism attempts to establish a KOPHN full of horrid hierarchy, which then becomes a prison. Galatians and Hebrews sets us free from the KOPHN prison.

    • forestsfailyou

      I have always rejected the ‘kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ prayer because I believe St. Augustine when he says that all nations are composed of the City of God and the Earthly city. We must choose the City of God, we cannot create a ‘kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ because it has already been made. We just need to accept it with our faith in Jesus. God’s words to Moses here, establish the City of God as Augustine explains.

  6. Forests, might you explain further, “I have been hearing very ungraceful things from a certain roommate recently. Multiple UBF pastors I have spoken to share the same concern.”?

    Perhaps we can discuss the concerns while the ubf silents read?

    • forestsfailyou

      Anytime I read or hear something about UBF here or elsewhere I consult many people both in and outside of UBF so I can make an informed judgement about the claim. Just as you would not have me blindly accept a UBF claim BK, I do not blindly accept your claims either. My roommate’s positions are very important because my pastors and others see him as ‘ideal’ and I have come to the conclusion that they would make me into him if given the chance.

      Here are snippets of a conversation via text messaging.

      I start by quoting part of a book I read that claims
      “I accepted for example that I must remain loyal to my personal spiritual supervisor for the rest of my life, checking with him for major life decisions to see if my decisions were ‘God’s will’.”

      The reaction I suspected was one of denial, or at least acceptance with maybe a “You are free to do what you want though.”

      Instead I got this gem
      “Paul would advocate loyalty to your Episcopos (bishop) which translates to English as overseer or Latin supervisor, as long as their teaching is in line with sound doctrine…my shepherd is…better equipped to discern God’s will.”

      I remarked that the passage in question was used to justify papal infallibility in the 4th century. Then I cited 1 Thess 5:21 and remarked that 1 Tim 5:19-20 tells us that pastors are not above scriptural obligation and that just because a teaching isn’t explicit does not make it less of a teaching. I mentioned that my pastor said dating was allowed, but then broke up two people dating. Then he said the most damning thing I have heard. He actually defended this! I read in disbelief
      “As your bible teacher he *should* pressure (influence, not course) you to do what will help you grow.”
      I say
      “How do you define growth.”
      and he says
      “becoming more spiritually mature, more like Christ, more committed to and effective at serving Christ”
      I respond
      “Yes but in practice you mean fishing more, wiring more testimonies, doing more 1-1 bible studies, marrying by faith, pioneering.”
      And he says
      “Those are the normative and visible means of expressions of spiritual growth in UBF. Spiritual growth can take other forms but and those don’t indicate 100%.”

      I showed this to Paul and John Lee who both said he was wrong. John Lee said ‘(your roommate) started his Christian life in UBF, but you came afterwards. You were more mature. He is trying to impress his experience onto you which is wrong.” Paul brought it up and i didn’t hear the whole conversation but I heard him vividly missing the point as he explained we shouldn’t miss church to go to a ball game.

    • forestsfailyou

      **I heard Paul bring up this conversation to my roommate. I heard my roommate vividly missing the point as he explained to Paul that we should not miss church to go to a ball game.

    • This is why I highly value your friendship forests:

      “Just as you would not have me blindly accept a UBF claim BK, I do not blindly accept your claims either.”

      I love your honesty, directness and critical thinking abilities. You have a great independent mind that also can collaborate in a group. What is more, you are open to new ideas and to correcting yourself. Sadly, most of my friends with these traits were shamed/shunned until they left ubf.

      I rejoice when someone proves me wrong, for it is a time of learning. In fact I really want to be proven wrong about ubf. Unfortunately, I’m often proven right.

  7. By the way, for all the ubf leaders reading this, here is some verbiage I got from my family’s church today (even though I’m not attending church, I get the emails). This is an example of how a Christian community communicates when there are leadership changes (I removed the specific name references that were in the original email for privacy concerns)

    “Dear Church Members and Attenders:

    We hope that you are sensing that God is up to something significant at our church during these past few months. We, as Elders, are very optimistic and excited for what lies ahead. We feel blessed to have watched the staff and leadership team do an outstanding job in our lead pastor’s absence over the past five months. And we believe that our interim pastor has done an outstanding job of teaching, serving and leading during his absence.

    We the Elders (who are charged with governing the church here) want to communicate with you what we have been discerning. We want to share with you what we are currently sensing and how we are being led. We also want to invite you to join with us in seeking God for clarity, regarding His purposes for our church.”

  8. “we shouldn’t miss church to go to a ball game.”

    Yea, like watching those evil Atlanta Braves or going to Alabama to watch the Crimson Tide… I guess such people just aren’t leadership material and aren’t committed to obeying Jesus…. (sorry inside joke)

  9. “I love your honesty, directness and critical thinking abilities. You have a great independent mind that also can collaborate in a group. What is more, you are open to new ideas and to correcting yourself. Sadly, most of my friends with these traits were shamed/shunned until they left ubf.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/05/04/testimony-galatians-6/#comment-13176

    BK, this resonates with me because (as someone pointed out to me) most autonomously directed/driven people have left UBF or were basically forced out or shamed and marginalized until they left.

    A classic statement (or implicit sentiment) is when a senior leader says to a younger member, “If you don’t like what we do in UBF, you can leave.” It promotes legalism, tribalism, conformity (without diversity), elitism and exclusivity and communicates the non-negotiable imperative that “You either conform to UBF ways or you leave.”

    Such leaders think they are being clear and absolute and uncompromising, without realizing how arrogant and unChrist-like they are.

    That said, I think that some/many UBF leaders are being increasingly humbled because many UBF chapters have declined significantly. As Joe indicated their chapters are primarily composed of missionaries and 2nd gens with very few native indigenous leaders.

    • I have found that ubf Korean missionaries only listen and start changing in reaction to 3 things:

      1. Someone threatens to leave (even though they say “go ahead and leave” this is actually the last thing they want, and they will accommodate you for a while).

      2. Someone uses the cult label (even though they do see this as a badge of honor in some twisted sense, they really crave honor and recognition, so they will start reacting to this, eventually.)

      3. Many people either leave or don’t attend (even though they often speak of “one person” highly, they really do count on numbers and desperately seek to increase numbers of people, so they react to decline in numbers).

    • forestsfailyou

      I find it unlikely that I would be shamed or asked to leave. Mainly because if I leave there are no white people, and with that the dream of raising “native” leaders. (I don’t agree with this for the record, Im just explaining)Furthermore this would make them ‘sheepless’ for the summer here. Paul has invested a lot of time into me. That being said my pastor has no leverage on me. I have told him under no uncertain circumstances is he to introduce me to anyone to marry. I have been telling him this since Novemeber. My key verse for this year was 1Cor 7:32

      I do still like things about my chapter and I stay here until I think its time for me to move on. There is a season for everything and i think its my season to be in UBF here is St. Louis.

    • You got it, Forests. ubf shepherds greatly fear being sheepless. I remember so many prayer meetings where we all were divided up into 3 groups:

      sheep-less shepherds who needed to repent
      one sheep shepherds who needed to repent
      multi-sheep shepherds who were praised

      This style of “praying” didn’t last long since the “no sheep” category was always the largest and no one wanted to face the fact of our declining ministry.

  10. Joe, this is my version of “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”: “If you dish out, then please be able to also accept what you dish out!” Sorry that mine is a Dirty Harry version of the cute goose and gander (http://www.ubfriends.org/2012/11/23/go-ahead-make-my-day/).

  11. Joe, I think we should start using some Korean proverbs. Some that seem appropriate are:

    콩 심은데 콩나고, 팥 심은데 팥난다.
    “Kong simeundae kongnago, pat simeundae pat nanda” (basically The fruit/bean doesn’t fall far from the tree)

    낮말은 새가 듣고 밤말은 쥐가 듣는다.
    “Natmaleun saega deudgo bammaleun juiga deudneunda.” (basically The walls have ears.)

    원숭이도 나무에서 떨어진다.
    “Weonsungido namueseo ddeoleojinda.” (basically Even monkeys fall from trees/Even experts make mistakes.)

  12. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    Hello forests,

    Thanks for sharing! Upon first read, I picked up on a conflict between your “natural bent” to legalism and the legalism you are experiencing and seeing in your church environment. You can correct me if I’m wrong on this. Do you think these two are in conflict with each other or is that you are just expressing the existing hostility in both yourself and your church between being free in Christ and yet being bent or attracted towards legalism in yourself? I ask because in the first part you point that those who are legalistic deserve their condemnation, but are you also condemning yourself then? I was confused about this. Also your statement that to be transformed you must turn your back on the world. I’m not sure what it means to turn your back to the world.

    • forestsfailyou

      I think that mankind’s natural bent is towards legalism. A person knows there is a certain way they ought to act and they realize that they do not act this way. So they think they need to do something to make up for this failing. Every religion when striped down is a list a laws and commands to fix the fact that you broke the law. The legalism in my church environment is very attractive, that is it will always have more people interested in it. But I know from Paul’s letter to the Galatians that this does not work, and I know that I must not sink into an “easy” or attractive belief system. So I am condemning the belief, and I am stating that I feel it’s allure, but I must resist because if I try to earn my salvation then I am saying that Christ does not offer it. We come closer to God by turning our back on the world. We cannot find it’s attractive teachings as anything of true substance. By praying and drawing closer to God God works in us so we don’t have to. He convicts us to change. In my view he is the one who changes hearts and cures “sin problems”.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      I also see that we have an inclination as law breakers. What immediately comes to mind is the “law” given in Genesis 2 which was broken in Genesis 3. After that, people have tried to cover up their sin in certain ways, such as fig leaves or other sacrifices and even new forms of laws by which to appear not even needing coverings! Of course, none of those solve the problem (which is hinted at by the fact that proper coverings for Adam and Eve were provided by God when he expelled them from the garden). Among the first two sons was also a law breaker who rebelled and killed his brother.

      What I’m getting at is that to me certain laws or a legalism, for lack of a better word right now, might not necessarily be bad. Paul even called the law holy and good (Romans 7:12). My impression is that the natural bend to legalism you’re talking about might also be our natural inclination to cover ourselves like Adam and Eve. This is not to say that there are not certain legalistic people who try to take the place of God by their own laws. Such people exist. In that sense, even their legalism is a rebellion for it is a man made covering that doesn’t work, just like fig leaves.

      I have found that turning my back on the world was not beneficial, but having the mindset of turning to Christ was, if that makes sense. As you said, he is the one who changes and cures hearts. Anyway, Jesus has left his disciples in the world, though they are not of the world, to interact with and witness in the world.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      If your environment is tempting in that way, and as such is a source of hostility, would you apply advice that you might given in other tempting environments, which is to stay away from it? I’m not endorsing or encouraging you to leave your church at all. The story of Joseph running from Potiphar’s wife came to mind for some reason. I hope this isn’t offensive to you. I found myself removing my presence or activity from unnecessary conflicts more and more–and into more conflicts I found were necessary. But checking more carefully what falls under “necessary.” Personally, I want to enjoy my freedom, instead of having to fight with others who are not as free. It makes me weary after a while.

  13. Charles, thanks for sharing your thoughtful reflections. I’m not sure if this makes sense, but this was what I shared in a previous post: “I’m not opposed to (our so-called ‘UBF core values,’ which has become like the Law if you want to be well regarded in UBF)… But I am convinced that putting any undue emphasis or pressure to conform to any church practices and traditions would invariably teach what Paul calls “a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all” (Gal 1:6-7). To Paul, such “Bible teachers” should castrate or emasculate themselves (Gal 5:12). Worse yet, it invites an eternal curse from God (Gal 1:8-9).” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/05/01/galatians-set-me-free-from-legalism/#sthash.VxY3HQC7.dpuf

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      Ben, what you said makes sense to me. However, I’m not sure how it’s possible to establish such “core values” and assign them to UBF without following up with the pressure to confirm to them and how these values are ought to be practiced. I am not saying I am opposed to them or for them, but I’m not sure how to separate the establishing of them with the pressure to practice them as historically been done.

  14. Charles, I think you expressed my point exactly: “I’m not sure how it’s possible to establish such “core values” and assign them to UBF without following up with the pressure to conform to them and how these values ought to be practiced.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/05/04/testimony-galatians-6/#comment-13201

    In my opinion, as you implied, it is not possible, because the imposition of the “core values” has become a legalism, and a boundary marker and outward sign (just like circumcision, which the Judaizers [Jewish ‘Christians’] imposed upon Gentile Christians) of being a “highly valued UBF person.”

    • forestsfailyou

      I think the Springfield chapter is good. Basically the problem is when you start comparing people based on their adherence to these practices. I know that in Springfield there is no “list” of UBF practices and I think a large part of the inadvertent (or direct) legalism comes from “prayer topics”. For example, when my pastor prays every week that they will attain 40 sws attendance it puts pressure on people to fish more. When my pastor announces for me that he wants me to start a house church it puts pressure on me. In Springfield I don’t recall anything like this, nor in the Philippines. In Springfield I was asked weekly if I wanted a ride to church and I was asked if I was going to attend ISBC, but it was never a “prayer topic” that I would. I am not sure if others feel this way, but this comes off as foreign and awkward to me.

  15. forestsfailyou

    I spoke with a longer time pastor from Chicago about this testimony he said that “The missionaries would have not understood what you were saying.”

    I mentioned this to my roommate who agreed. He said I had “denounced everything that was UBF.” I mentioned that I had “denounced undue emphasis that leads to an incorrect understanding that these activities are needed for justification” But I think this fine distinction is lost. It is true that bible study and fishing might be “better” than not bible study or fishing, but when we demand and make our love as a church conditional on them that’s an issue. I said “the line is when people are compared and judged based on their obedience to these practices”

  16. Forests, your roommate said you had “denounced everything that was UBF.” It is sad and unfortunate when UBFers react so sensitively and interpret virtually everything not ultimately and primarily based on Christ and Scripture, but based on their UBF practices. In fact and reality, their god and idol is UBF, because touching (or critiquing) one’s idol makes them angry, depressed, despairing, retaliatory, etc.

    UBF practices in effect are all nothing but imposed legalisms on UBF members to either conform or be regarded as sub-par or “not really UBF,” a phrase I have heard often in reference to me over the last few years.

    UBF is sadly often not marked by Christ, the Sermon on the Mount, love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, but by implicit or explicit imposed expectation of conformance to their practices and methodology.

    Perhaps this may be changing, but as Charles was told, “Wait, it will take more time.”

  17. forestsfailyou

    I was told today by someone that missing a daily bread meeting to see my family was putting my family over God. I chose not to even entertain argument with this person. “But I can explain…” he started to say. I just told him there was no point in having this conversation.

  18. Forests, I am excited to hear that you are rejecting such harmful teachings. Just don’t miss Sunday service, for that runs the risk of being called Satan…

    Seriously though this speaks to the undue religious influence found in the unredeemed ubf chapters. Dr. Singer’s point #3 explains the bigger issue here:

    “3. Systematically create a sense of powerlessness in the person. This is accomplished by getting members away from the normal social support group for a period of time and into an environment where the majority of people are already group members. The members serve as models of the attitudes and behaviors of the group and speak an in-group language.”

    Notice the contradiction here. In unredeemed ubf chapters (who hold to the non-Christian hamster wheel gospel and heritage slogans) leaders will condition a young adult to have enough cognitive dissonance to hold two contradictory beliefs:

    1. Mission is more important than family, and being family-centered is unspiritual.

    2. Mission requires forming a family, called a “world mission family” or “house church”.

    Thus you end up with the strange non-Christ-like “marriage by faith” teaching as an attempt to hold this tension together. Eventually, after having children, this all falls apart.