As a young girl, confusion clouded Carolyn Schrock’s mind and heart. She grew up hearing about God, and she knew He was real. She was also taught that He was the Creator of the world and that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for her sins. Carolyn believed that heaven and hell were real, and she wanted to make sure she ended up in heaven one day.
But though she knew all of these truths about God and the Bible, she was being taught many false doctrines at the same time. One such doctrine was that in order to make it to heaven, she must follow certain church rules and regulations, including a specific dress code that had to be adhered to.
So, which is it? Carolyn wondered. Was Jesus’ death enough for me to get into heaven, or do I have to obey all the church rules and do good works as well?
Carolyn’s genuine hunger to follow God and make it into heaven set her on a quest for truth. She had a difficult time accepting her church’s teaching that its members were the only ones who had discovered God’s “special ways” of doing things. She wondered how it could be that they were the only group who had any hope of making it to heaven, while the rest of the world went to hell because they didn’t know the “truth.”
The more she pondered the teachings of her church, the more she began to long for a different kind of relationship with God. She used her youthful imagination to help her escape from the rigid doctrine of her church. She wondered what it might be like not to have to obey all the dos and don’ts that constantly hung over her head, and how freeing it would be not to always wear the mandatory women’s head covering and to be free to purchase clothing instead of having to make her own dresses.
Even more importantly, she wondered what it might be like to be able to actually think for herself, making her own choices—not just about clothing but about all aspects of life. So far, her parents and her church had made all her decisions for her.
She had asked her parents many times if God was really the one who gave them all the rules they had to keep. This thinking didn’t reconcile with the God of love she saw within the pages of her Bible. She wanted to know why Jesus wasn’t enough and if God really required her to follow all the “extra” rules to make Him happy. Her parents’ only response was, “The preachers know what’s best for us, dear.” But even though they gave her that answer verbally, she could sense an unrest in her parents and saw a wrenching look in their eyes. She later understood that look when she found out that they, too, were searching and crying out to God for answers and help.
Not having anyone to turn to for answers added to Carolyn’s confusion. She felt stuck in the middle of wanting to obey God but not wanting to obey all of the church’s rules. In her heart, she knew that something wasn’t right. But even thinking about fleeing from the “system” indicated that she was rebellious. She continued to conform because she was afraid to disobey the rules. So, instead of getting answers, Carolyn learned to quickly dismiss such questioning and repent for her disobedient thoughts.
But the Holy Spirit wasn’t about to leave Carolyn alone. While, in her mind, she was pursuing God for answers, the Holy Spirit was pursuing her to show her the truth. The confusion and nagging questions just wouldn’t go away, no matter how hard she tried to squelch them for fear of being in disobedience.
Then one day, at age twelve, Carolyn heard a clear message of the true, uncompromising good news of Jesus: She could be saved simply by believing in Jesus Christ, period. No extra rules. No additional work on her behalf. She could go to heaven because of Jesus alone.
Carolyn had found a new freedom in God. He gave her a brand-new identity in Jesus, and her relationship with the Lord had begun. Many questions about how to actually live out her Christian life remained throughout her walk with God. She often struggled because she didn’t have a clear understanding of God’s true nature and character.
Even though she had found freedom in the saving power of God’s grace, she often fell back into her old patterns of trying to please Him and get her prayers answered based on her performance. She wasn’t able to fully walk in God’s grace and live her life knowing that God accepted her despite the things she did—or didn’t do.
In the midst of her struggle, she learned of Charis Bible College (CBC) in Atlanta. As soon as she heard about it, she knew in her heart that she had to go. “I am so grateful for Charis,” says Carolyn. “Coming here has been a blessing beyond words. It has given me an understanding of the nature of God, the love of God, and the grace of God like never before.”
Charis, which means “grace,” was revealed to Carolyn in a life-changing way through CBC-Atlanta. Her heart and thinking became saturated with God’s grace as the truths she learned at the school taught her how to practically walk in God’s love and freedom on a daily basis—something she had never known before.
Many of Carolyn’s questions about her relationship with God have been answered through the teachings and relationships she has developed at Charis. Through her time there, she has finally learned how to rest in the finished work of Jesus and step off the performance treadmill.
“Living in legalism and living in the freedom of a personal relationship with God that focuses on the heart are opposing ways of believing,” explains Carolyn. “Legalism doesn’t allow you to live out of your heart. But hearing truth being taught from the Word has set me free to live out of my heart.
“Thank you to everyone at CBC-Atlanta for helping to set me free. My life has been changed forever!”
Reprinted from the article Charis Shatters the Grip of Legalism, first printed in the Spring/Summer 2012 edition of the Gospel Truth Magazine.