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Mark 16:16-18 "Faith"
In the following e-mail exchange, the e-mailer's comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.
My name is Peg. I was raised in a rather unique church very similar to Pentecostal with the added primary focus being on Mark 16:16-18--proving one's faith. I was never allowed to be baptized because I was unable to prove my faith by taking up the serpents or drinking deadly poison without harm--I got very ill after drinking strychnine at the age of 6.
I attended that church until I was 16 at which time my parents left the church. Although I went through hours and hours of special lectures to remove the demons I apparently carried, I was never accepted as a member. I am now 36 years old and have struggled with not being able to get close to God. Any suggestions or advice you may provide on this matter would be greatly appreciated.
I have heard of churches like the one you mention. I believe they are popular in the Appalachians, especially in West Virginia. But, IMO, they completely distort what is meant by "faith" and seriously misinterpret Mark 16.
Jesus is NOT referring to people proving their faith by purposely engaging in dangerous acts. He is saying that God *might* protect someone if they either accidentally are bitten by a snake or are poisoned by someone while on the missions field. This was the case with Paul. He did not purposely pick up a serpent while on Malta, but was accidentally bitten while ministering on that island (Acts 28).
I know it is difficult, but you need to put behind you what you learned in the aberrant church, because that is what its teachings are: aberrant. They are not reflective of true Christianity. True faith refers to trusting Christ for your salvation, not testing him to perform miracles on your behalf (Matt 4:5-7).
Focus on what Christ has already done for you in dying for your sins. Meditate on the incredible gift of salvation from your sins. Read and study the Bible for yourself. Find a good Bible believing church, not one that distorts the faith message, but one that focuses on Christ's finished work on the cross.
I hope that helps some.
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