The Capranica

Comments on theology and life

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Location: Hemet, California, United States

Co-Pastor of First Baptist Church of San Jacinto, California

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Coming to Calvinism: A Personal Testimony - Part 1

I, like others, have not always been a Calvinist. That is, with a capital “C.” But then again, the more I look back on my conversion, I must have been a calvinist (I get a squiggly red line under that word without the capital “C”) when I was converted.

When a child, I embraced the kind of gospel call to be saved where you bow your head and very sincerely pray to receive Jesus into your heart so that you won’t go to hell. I was very sincere, and I wasn’t interested in merely being religious. I was raised in a liberal Methodist church. I saw the hypocrisy of a “gospelless” approach to God. My parents embraced it and were on the verge of divorce. Everyone I knew in church embraced it and demonstrated the fruit of the flesh in ways that helped me grow to hate the church. So, when I was at a Southern Baptist VBS and was first confronted with the gospel message, it resonated. I sincerely prayed and yet I still remained in my sin. How do I know? My life, my attitude, and the consequent hardening of my heart toward most things Christian confirmed my lack of conversion. I had repented of nothing. I merely plastered over my diseased heart with the paste of emotional religion. And the emotions faded. Whatever I did at that VBS, it didn’t save.

Then I saw my father converted. I witnessed the one-eighty in his entire approach to living. My mom was next. We changed churches to one given to expository preaching (I didn’t know what that was at the time), passionate singing, and some very loving and patient people – especially toward a church-hater like me. My caricature of Christianity was being shaken. I was deeply convicted of my sinfulness before God. I would pray every week for God to save me. But I didn’t seem to change. I was miserable. I secretly, so no one would think I was interested, began reading my Bible and praying for God to save me. The fun thing about this year-long internal battle is that the church I attended was not a Calvinistic church. I don’t remember hearing rants against Calvinism, but from what I know now of the pastor and the church, they certainly had no real affinity (possibly much knowledge) about the doctrines of grace. No matter. God converted me anyway. I eventually came to the place where I saw the goodness of God, was convinced of my sinful and rebellious heart and yearned to be a disciple of Jesus. My entire heart toward the church, the Bible, salvation, Christ – all things Christian, changed. I was liberated.

But, alas, I still was not a Calvinist. No, even in those days I wouldn’t claim that it was my faith apart from God’s direct intervention in my life that brought me to conversion. I knew that God changed me. My change became quite evident to everyone around me, especially when I publicly declared that I believed God wanted me to serve him in the pastorate. At age 19, I became an associate pastor of a small Baptist church. At age 21, I became the Senior Pastor. And becoming a pastor is what eventually convinced me of Calvinism. I'll explain in part 2.


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