The Capranica

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Location: Hemet, California, United States

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

Friday, February 03, 2006

Coming to Calvinism: A Personal Testimony - Part 2

Becoming a pastor is what eventually helped me to come to Calvinism. How? Because I was committed to biblical exposition, I began preaching through books of the Bible. But, there were a few books that scared me. Why? Because of a number of tough theological issues I couldn't resolve, like predestination and election vs. the free agency of man (ever heard of that one?). I ignored the "P" and "E" words and those books in the Bible that tended to use them. That’s why I came to Calvinism rather early in my pastorate. There aren’t many books that do not use those intriguing words. But I was very fearful of a few books that seemed to camp on them. Romans terrified me. Ephesians was smaller, so it merely made me nervous. But, I thought that I should deal with the issues and settle it in my mind, so I began an exposition of Ephesians. But that was not all. I was also exposed to the results of “decisional” conversions. I can remember preaching one evening of a revival service (no comments please) and when it came to the invitation (again, no comments), I was able to get seventeen people to come forward. As they came, I asked them why they were coming. Few could communicate a clear answer. To my knowledge, none profess Christ to this day. I was shaken. My approach to ministry was shaken. I returned to my study the next week with different questions in my mind. Thank God for the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit through His word.

I still remember the day that my mind was captivated with the doctrine of depravity from Ephesians 2. It all came together there. Election finally made sense when I saw how desperate my condition was. If God had not elected, I would never have come to faith. I was dead in sin. If God did not preserve me, I could not remain in faith, my flesh is too deceptive. I began to weep in thanksgiving and increased confidence in God for how gracious He was in bringing me to faith. My joy in God had never been greater.

I had some friends who patiently helped me along. Men like James Boice and his commentary on Ephesians, John MacArthur on Ephesians, J. I. Packer’s Knowing God, and the book that seemed to clinch it for me was Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. I was drawn to men whose writings made more of the greatness of God than they did the autonomy of sinful men. Richard Belcher’s little theological novel A Journey in Grace was helpful. Packer’s A Quest for Godliness became a powerful book in my life. Men like Tom Ascol and the Founders Ministries showed me that my growing convictions regarding God’s sovereignty and grace in salvation was a large part of my Baptist heritage. The greatest friend I had whose Personal Narrative liberated me, was Jonathan Edwards. His comments about his own struggles with sovereignty and his eventual reception of the doctrine sent my soul heavenward. In other words, while I wasn’t saved under the ministry of a Calvinist and I would definitely not have called myself a Calvinist for several years after my conversion, I am more convinced now than ever that I was still a calvinist, even without knowing it.

My salvation is a work of God, determined before time began because I was one dead in sin and without the desire or the ability to find or know God on my own. Every day I am more aware of how important it is that God preserve me each and every moment. Without Him, I would more than surely fail. God, not man (primarily myself) has become the center of my life. I was convinced by a steady study of the Bible and a few outside friends of God’s sovereignty. So, I’m probably not too excited to use the big “C” word to describe myself or to attempt to convince others of the doctrines of grace. I would rather them see the grace of God and the more “reformed” view of salvation from a steady study of the Scriptures. I am sure there are many more like myself out there. I pray for them. I pray that God opens them to the wonders of His word and an understanding of His marvelous grace. I wonder, does that make me a Calvinist or a calvinist? Having said all of this, later today, I want to pose an interesting question about Calvinism and conversion. Look for it this afternoon.

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