The Children of God
The Inside Story By The Daughter Of The Founder, Moses David Berg
by Deborah (Linda Berg) Davis with Bill Davis, 1984

Chapter 11
"The Lord Will Go On. . . With or Without You!"

In May 1968, I made a decision to join my father and his work among the hippies of Huntington Beach. At the root of that decision was a deep lack of spiritual self-acceptance; my motivation was the result of false standards adopted in an attitude of self-rejection. In my own life, I was endeavoring to conform to an outward standard of acceptance, rather than seeking to conform to God's inward standard mirrored in the character of Christ. Unfortunately, outward standards of acceptance rule and govern the lives of many people, Christian and non-Christian alike.
    At that time I was terribly unhappy with my state in life. I was twenty-two years old, a mother of two children, and eight months pregnant. My marriage had become a source of sorrow and frustration. There were times when I would lock myself in the bathroom and cry for hours. Boredom and loneliness consumed me. We did not have any "outward" show of religious activity, something I greatly desired, because I had, after all, grown up in a very religious family. So that May we went to visit my family in Huntington Beach to see what "great things God was doing with Teens for Christ". I sat in the car and talked privately with my father in front of my grandmother Berg's house. Dad was offering me a chance to "get busy for God!".
    "Take a look at your life, honey," he charged."What are you really doing for the Lord? You and John [Jethro] have been getting further and further away from the Lord ever since you left me in Texas.
    "Even your grandmother died very saddened at your spiritual state, the fact you are doing nothing for God. This is your opportunity to get back to the Lord. Don't worry about losing your husband. You'll lose him anyway if you don't follow God, as high as the divorce rate is."
    In my dad's eyes, and in mine as well, following God meant one had to be doing something "for" Him, to be active, performing deeds—as if He needed a helping hand.
    "You've been raised on this life of self-sacrifice," he said."You'll never be happy if you just live for yourself, living in your own selfish little house, with your selfish little family."
    He went on to explain the reason why my life was so empty, my marriage on the rocks, and my relationship with God impoverished: I was not following His leadership. Having a relationship with God presupposed doing some ministry for Him. My father had the perfect solution, of course: Follow him and his work among the hippies.
    "Honey, we'll go on with or without you; that's what we've always done before. The Lord will go on with or without you. But God is giving you another chance." My dad's offer was nothing glorious at the time, but it was nonetheless a way out, an escape from my present boredom and unhappiness.
    People fall prey to the cultic lure for various reasons—perhaps impatience, fear of responsibility, a lust for power or position, a desire to leave home, boredom, or an unhappy marriage.. Regardless of the "outward" reason, the cult victim exchanges his present state in life for an alternative lifestyle; he sees in the cult a chance for opportunity, change, relief, or escape. By contrast, a person who lives in a state of contentment realizes that God has given him everything necessary for total happiness. People grow discontented because they begin judging themselves by outward standards.
    For me, getting back to God meant sacrificing and ministering—activities that were visible forms of religious work. However, it is now painfully obvious to me that at some point "Christian service" can actually be a form of escape, rebellion, and a rejection of God's will in a person's life.
    Consider that all my life I had been raised in the limelight of Christian activities. First I was involved with my grandmother and her work as a famous healing evangelist. Later came my father with his "soul-winning" ministry. As a teenager I worked and sang with Youth for Christ, and then sang in the public relations ministry of Miami Christian School. In 1968, to suddenly find myself alone, without a "ministry," a "mere housewife," did not fulfill my image of a Christian winning the world to Jesus. Earlier I believed I had been "called" to the mission field; life had certainly taken a wrong turn. How ironic to think that I wanted to win the world to Jesus, when in fact He had yet to win my stubborn will to Himself.
    By accepting my dad's invitation to follow him and "do something for God," I was actually rejecting God's highest plan in my life. Being a housewife and the mother of three children was precisely the place He wanted me to be, the perfect situation to make me the kind of Christian He desires. It was the perfect place to learn patience, meekness, unselfish love, faith, and the other fruit of the Spirit.
    Well, I did not think it was the perfect place. I knew better, and therefore I began to rebel in my heart against my station in life. Unknowingly, I was rebelling against God and the biblical principles governing the family structure. (These many years later I am once again in the situation of a "mere housewife"; but this time thankful to be here and learning these lessons joyfully.)
    Trusting God to bring joy and fulfillment into my marriage and life was not at all within my understanding of the will and ways of God. Such simple faith and trust were beyond me. The fact is, commitment to my situation would have involved suffering—truly godly suffering. I was willing to sacrifice—to kill myself, as it were—with religious works, but I was not willing to stay in my situation alone with God and give Him the opportunity to develop a Christ-like character within me. I didn't care to suffer like that. I preferred an outward show of religion as opposed to the reality of Christ within. I have learned the hard way that it is a great deal more difficult to allow Christ to develop character with- in than it is to work sacrificially "without"; but in the long run, any other path will only bring sorrow. There is but one road to follow: to be conformed to the image of God's Son.
    David said, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise." (Psalm 51:17 NASB). A broken heart and spirit I did not have. I violated one of God's greatest principles, and it led me into a ten-year nightmare of sin and sorrow. I was not willing to accept myself in His plan, to place myself behind His will, to make His will my will. This is the basis of self-acceptance in a divine perspective. The result of such acceptance is a state of personal contentment and peace, and of harmony with the plan of God.
    In the years following my departure from the Children of God I began to wonder, What is the specific reason for more than five thousand cults with five to ten million members on the North American continent? That is no small number, and it is growing every day; cults are obviously filling a great need, and people are finding something quite attractive in them. But if the cults are wrong, if they are built upon a lie and the people are flocking to them, then there must be something wrong with the people. What is the weakness of character that renders these people susceptible? Why did I join? Why did I follow? The obvious or general answer is "sin"; I knew that rebellion is one of the root causes of all sin, and that people are drawn into sin by their lusts. Yet I wondered if there was something I was missing, a principle or truth I could teach my children that would strengthen them from falling prey to deception. If the cults are indicative of character weakness in people, what is the cause of that character weakness and, even more important, what is the cure?
    I have come to believe that the problem of spiritual self-acceptance is the cause of that character weakness, and lies at the root of the cult experience—that is, why people join cults.
    Cults offer a counterfeit version of self-acceptance. When an individual fails to realize self-worth through the inward qualities that reflect the divine character, he is left to seek a sense of acceptance based upon outward qualities and values. Cults are but one of many options available in current society. When I refer to the concept of self-acceptance, I am not speaking of viewing oneself positively as taught by psychologists and motivational speakers. Rather, it is how one views himself before God: Self-acceptance in a divine perspective. Spiritual self-acceptance.
    The Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts wisely teaches, "One of the major areas of conflict in both youth and adults is that of having wrong attitudes about ourselves. These attitudes affect every other relationship in our life." 81 God's fundamental reason for creating us is that we might have fellowship with Him through Jesus Christ, and that the full expression of Christ's love might be experienced in our lives.
    The key to this objective is the realization that God has created each of us perfectly to fulfill His purpose. Conflict and confusion over this truth arise when we begin to place a value on ourselves according to false standards, when we compare ourselves with the outward standards of those around us (whatever they happen to be) to gain approval. In so doing, we develop inner conflict. Concern over outward appearances or conditions will often bring varying degrees of self-rejection. When we begin to reject ourselves, it will manifest itself in our actions and attitudes. Evidences of self-rejection are seen in the values and priorities people set for themselves: trying to "impress" others; being highly competitive; selfishness; abnormal love of self; bitterness, inability to face the truth about ourselves; moral impurity; love of money; and the like.
    There are many indications of self-rejection, but the end result is the adoption of false values. When we examine ourselves against the false standards society has erected, we always feel inferior. Who can measure up to them? Even those who have seemingly attained, when questioned, feel as if they have failed in a multitude of ways. Society teaches us that there is a universal standard by which social position, financial status, and physical appearance can be measured. This is entirely false. Living by such standards always causes us to reject ourselves. At that point we can see why self-rejection is a sin. When we reject ourselves, we are ultimately rejecting God. He is the One responsible for our physical appearance, our parents, our race, and our nationality; all the unchangeable features are His responsibility. Hence, if through comparison we fall short of our desired self-image, and develop subsequent feelings of inferiority, we must either consciously or unconsciously blame the One responsible; a rejection of self and all that "self" represents is a rejection of God.
    True spiritual self-acceptance is the kind demonstrated and experienced by a young missionary martyred in Vietnam. She was a person who radiated the love of God; and during her time in Vietnam, she became known as the "Belle of Da Nang." She had such a beautiful spirit, that before long, she was the sought-after prize of the American soldiers. However, she felt her duty to God and the people of Vietnam came before her personal life; she graciously declined the romantic gesturing of her many suitors, chose to date no one, and dedicated her time fully to God.
    She was captured by the Viet Cong. With another prisoner, she was forced to march a great distance. They were given little food for the journey. Toward the end, she gave her small portion to her fellow captive that he might live. Soon she died, but he lived to tell the story. What a marvelous person she was—bringing life and joy to many, and finally giving her life completely to the cause of Christ and the glory of God. Ironically, her background was the antithesis of her virtuous end.
    Before the war, and before coming to faith in Christ, she had two great weaknesses that led her to the brink of destruction. She was deeply involved in immorality, and she had never found true self-acceptance. She had never accepted herself for what she was; a person created in the image of God. This caused her to rebel against life, against God, against His moral standards. She rejected herself as a young girl, and threw her life into a downward spiral of physical and spiritual destruction. She filled her life with false values, wrong priorities, evil passions, and bitterness.
    When this young woman finally came to Christ, a new world opened up within her—the world of inward beauty and truth. Her life took on new meaning, new perspective, new truth. It was a natural step to accept herself as a wonderful creation of God, with an unlimited potential for knowing and fellowshipping with an eternal God and sharing that love and truth with others; even to the point of death. Consequently she turned from her immorality and self-rejection.
    When, amid self-rejection, we come to see ourselves from God's perspective, life changes drastically. The key is the awareness that nothing we achieve outwardly has significance if we haven't developed the character of the Lord Jesus Christ inwardly. God's ideal is a person empowered by the qualities of humility, meekness, piety, mercy, purity, peace, and spiritual hunger.
    In the book All Gods Children, Carroll Stoner and Jo Anne Parke analyze the cultic phenomenon, and survey the kinds of people who join a cult. Are they rich or poor? Talented or inferior? Religious or irreligious? Their basic finding is that there is no stereotype, no predictable category. I agree. Cults fill an inward need; and this cannot be detected readily by outward characteristics. A person who has rejected himself inwardly may keep it very well hidden until the day he finds an avenue that will lead to acceptance and fulfillment. Then he surprises everyone and joins a cult.
    Yet Stoner and Parke did find a common denominator; and it is related to self-acceptance. This common characteristic was perceived by a psychiatric social worker, as related by Stoner and Parke.
A young psychiatric social worker from Boston who has worked with scores of ex-cult members and their families, helping to put lives back together after a cult experience, says that the whole generation is afflicted with copious narcissism, but that those who are lured into the cults seem even more narcissistic than their peers. The cults appeal to inflated egos with their recruiting techniques: "Gee, you are wonderful. We need someone with your special talent to help us change the world." Cult recruiters are trained to flatter, to give false confidence to those without confidence.82 This observation seems to me to be very significant. Narcissism is "excessive love or admiration of oneself." Copious implies abundance. The result is an abnormal love of self that in cult members exceeds that of their peers.
    How does this abnormal condition occur? As I began to look at myself and at people I know in the COG, the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. The problem of copious narcissism is really a problem of inferiority and points directly to self-rejection and broken fellowship with God. This condition follows a predictable sequence:
    An individual, for various specific reasons, becomes a victim of self-rejection. Perhaps he rejects his position in life, his alco- holic father, or his physical appearance. This state of self-rejec- tion will cause bitterness. The self-rejection and bitterness will eventually lead to a rejection of God, his Creator, the One ulti- mately responsible for his state in life. When a person rejects God, inwardly he places himself in a position of rebellion to God and God's Spirit. Consequently, one cannot take pleasure in the things of God, and must therefore seek things contrary to Truth. Self-acceptance will be sought apart from the standards of God, and this condition will ultimately lead to a false sense of acceptance and a fallen ego. Rebellion—the devil's sin—forces the person into spiritual pride to support this fallen ego.
     Spiritual pride is a lie, a false perspective of reality, and will therefore lead a person into worshiping something other than the "Truth," which has long since been rejected. Hence, a cult offers the person the perfect solution to his dilemma. A cult is full of counterfeit truths—self-righteous, world-saving, outward man- ifestations of religion. A cult, like any false religion, masks the real problem of rebellion, self-rejection, and spiritual pride. The mask is the carefully adorned counterfeit of religious works.
    What the Boston psychiatrist had encountered over and over again were those people who had not found their self-acceptance in God, consequently rejected themselves and, instead of developing a healthy love of God and others, turned this void into an unnatural and abnormal love and concern for self. It seems that rebellion causes one to love self and desire the worship of others. That need to be accepted is basic and demanding. Yet if we know that God has accepted us, "self"-acceptance falls naturally into place.
    The Bible demonstrates that happiness and self-acceptance are not found in outward appearances or conditions, but in a personal relationship with God. Scripture records that Lucifer was not satisfied or content with his place. He didn't care to be just the "bearer of the Light"; he wanted to be the Light itself. He desired to be like the Most High; he desired to be something he was not. Yet Lucifer was the most beautiful of all the angels.
    This is an amazing truth. Even with the angelic beings of heaven, we see that happiness and peace have nothing to do with outward appearance, but only with a personal relationship with God, and the humility to accept ourselves the way God created us—be it beautiful or ugly. Hence, the ugliest person in the world, or a person without legs, or a person whose father is a false prophet and sexual deviant, or a person born blind, each possesses as great a potential for joy and happiness as the most beautiful angel in heaven. If a person, or even an angel, rejects what God has done or allowed in his life, he places himself out of harmony with God's sovereign purpose, and cannot find true peace and fulfillment. When we fall prey to self-rejection and rebellion against God's purpose for life, we are left with seeking a counterfeit. And cults offer that counterfeit.
    When I came out of the Children of God, I was confronted with a double measure of self-rejection because of my father. To come to accept myself before God was a tremendous struggle and required a calculated, terrifying leap of faith. Three years had passed, and my life still lay in fragments. I bore the guilt of helping to found the cult, of immorality, of a divorce and a broken home.
    I thought back to 1968 when I was faced with accepting an unhappy marriage and a little boredom. It seemed like nothing in comparison to what I was now facing. After thirteen years, things were fifty times as bad. God had brought me back to point zero; I was once again in the very same place facing the very same choice. Would I cop out this time as I did when I chose to run with my father in Huntington Beach? No, I would not do that again.
    This time I threw myself, my life, and all my unbearable circumstances on God's altar and said, "Please, Lord, use my circumstances to build Christ's character within me." It was a prayer of hope. My situation was so desperate that I knew only God could mend it. So I gave Him the bits and pieces of my life and heart, knowing it was up to Him to bring meaning out of my failures.
    That is the way it has to be with God. A person who sets about to find acceptance in Him must put "all" of self on the altar. It is then God's business to purify the sacrifice. The key to virtue lies not in the purity of one's past, but in the present direction of life—that is, the influence God is having on others through one's life regardless of past failures. Given my past and my parentage, only God could purify the sacrifice and bring peace and harmony.
    I can now say that He has made me a whole person inside. I no longer feel fragmented, torn in pieces. I still live with the consequences of my mistakes, divorce, the effects of the cult on some of my children, and the pain of a divided home. I cannot change these outward circumstances. My responsibility now is to respond to them with the proper attitude.
    God is showing me the inward beauty and peace of Christian character. Certainly the mercies of God endure forever.
chapter 12

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