121 Stories - From Rules To Relationship

Living with Christ in your life brings you eternal peace.

Arnaldo Soto
Mar 29, 2020    6m
In this message a man shares his journey from living under a legalistic religion that caused doubt and shame to finding the true peace and freedom that comes from living with Christ as his savior. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

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Arnaldo Soto: 00:00 I was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I was growing in a very poor community, a lot of crimes, and a lot of needs in many ways. But my family, they were Christian. My mom, my dad, my sister, I just remember my whole life going to church since I was kid. But in church with my sister, my mom, after a few years, I noticed a lot of things that was kind of weird for me. Some of the things were like, there were rules, a lot of rules. For example, my mom or my sister they always have to use like a long skirt, never pants. That was rule in a church, even if you go out to do any other things, going to the park, at home, everywhere, you have to use long skirts. So you can be a good Christian.

Arnaldo Soto: 00:58 I was growing and learning how to play different instruments, drums, and I was very excited to go to every single service and use all my talents and gifts. But at the same time, remember, as I was growing that they told me, you have to have a certain haircut. You cannot be too short, because if that's your church, you cannot really play at least for two weeks only until it grows again.

Arnaldo Soto: 01:24 The other thing that I remember clearly my mind is I had a great leader, children's leader. She was in charge of us, teaching a lot things from the scripture, teaching us arts, how to do performance within the church, like to serve one another in different ways. And she was more open minded in the idea of how we serve Jesus and serve the Lord, and the idea of God's grace into our lives. And that it's about him, and God first working in our lives. One day, she decided to take the kids to a movie, and that was not good for the church, movies. To go to a theater and just have a great time watching a good movie, and she did with some kids. And when she came back, that conversation was all over the church, and the leaders decided to say, you know what? We don't do that in here. You will have six months of discipline. One of the verses that they use in the scripture is found in Psalm chapter 1 they use this verse, "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked nor stands in the path of sinners nor sit in the seat of scoffers." Basically the church was using this to tell people you cannot go to the movies because that's a place that you have a lot of sinners.

Arnaldo Soto: 02:51 And there I was asking question. I was like, what about the bus? What about when you go to a park and play around people? What about...And it was all about be careful with the people that you have around you, because they can be wicked people, and you don't want to be connected with those people because they can influence your life. And I was asking question, is this really you God?

Arnaldo Soto: 03:17 When I was about 12, going to 13 years old, they asked me if I want to get baptized. And at that time I went to a class for at least, for six months. And a lot of important classes like from the scripture Genesis, Exodus. And then understanding from Genesis to Revelation about God and his salvation in my life. But at the same time, all the rules that you have to follow in order for you to get baptized. And I did, and I did all that out of pressure too, because a lot of my friends were doing the same thing. Okay, let's do this, let's go to the ocean, let's have a baptism day. And all the family very happy because I'm in the same page with the church and doing the right thing, and it was all about them telling me what to do.

Arnaldo Soto: 04:12 I went to college, let's do the first year, but I had no clear direction or purpose in my life. And I just prayed, and God opened a door for me to go to a missionary organization, and just go away from my family for a season. But it was a complete different experience, because it was about Jesus, about listen to his voice, about he's looking for me my entire life so I can surrender my life to him. But all by his grace, by his love to me, not by just me going to him and follow all these rules. If not, you're not good, you're not good enough, you are not okay.

Arnaldo Soto: 04:54 At that time, I had the opportunity to learn that he has been working in my life, has been with me, and has been showing me his grace and love in many, many different ways. And it was all about going into a deeper relationship with him, and understanding who he is, who is God in my life. And I read the Bible, I grew up in church, but I read the whole Bible for the first time when I went away from all that. It was a very legalistic approach before, but now it was the freedom of God. The freedom of Jesus is saying, yes, I am here. Just walk with me, and I will show you the way every day of your life.

Arnaldo Soto: 05:33 And one of the main issue in my entire life before, and even after, is the motivation of my heart. Because the temptation is always to do things to get the approval from God, or the approval from people. Because all my life was more like you do all this, so you can do this. You can play drums, if you have the right haircut. 121 has been the place for me to just be relaxed and enjoy the freedom of serving Jesus, and be genuine in him, and grow in him. And today I can say that I have the peace that my dad, my sister, my mom, we are on the same page. They're not back there with the legalistic ideas of how to go to church, or what to do, or the rules. But now having the same conversation, we have the freedom of following Jesus and have a great, beautiful relationship with him.

Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051