Like Isaac Backus, Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, John Piper, James MacArthur, and Charles Spurgeon – just to name a few heroes of the faith:
I was 13 years old, at home alone, and I had no peace. I knew what being a Christian was. I had been told the story of the day I was saved over and over again. But the problem was, I have this weird thing where I don’t remember most of my childhood before 4th grade. As I get older, the memories get blurrier. I don’t know why. Anyway…
I could feel the Lord working in my life. I knew that I needed to settle this. I took the back of a tract (there were many in my house), got down on my knees and decided to settle it once and for all. I admitted to the Lord that I was a sinner, and without His forgiveness, without His sacrifice and resurrection, I was destined for hell. But I knew He took my place. So I invited Him into my heart to save me. I asked for forgiveness and for Him to be my Savior. I confessed Him as Lord.
Since that day, I know that I am saved. I can’t tell you if I was saved before that. I’d like to think I was. I was baptized before that day. Maybe I was. I remember sincerely wanting to serve the Lord before that day. I was called to ministry before that day. But that was the day I remember. I remember Christ working in my heart. I remember what sweet surrender felt like after that. My life forever changed. I had the confidence that Romans 10:13 was true, and I was now a child of the King.
However, I always thought that the feeling of God tugging on my heart, whispering, then yelling for me to surrender my life to Him was something that every human being on the planet would feel at some point. Then, essentially, His hands were tied. He left the call and the means on the table. We had to go get it. Every individual had the same capability to go get it as the next. The idea that when Scripture said we were “dead in trespasses and sins” it actually meant like buried 6 feet under, there was no way for me to even ask for help, dead-dead never occurred to me…
Fast-forward 7 years, and I heard the word Calvinism for the first time. The way I grew up, whatever I was taught to believe, I did. No questions asked. Questioning those in authority was questioning God. Actually, once, my youth pastor said, “Go by my standards until you are mature enough to find your own.” So their standard was cut and dried free will. They even had verses like John 3:16 and the “all encompassing” word “whosoever” to back it up. End of discussion. Plus, if Calvinism were true, then there is the chance that my dad who grew up Baptist, had every chance to seek the Lord, and is now an atheist, might never get saved because maybe he was never called. I shuddered at the thought, looked at my crazy friends arguing and realized that I wanted nothing to do with this discussion. Plus, I had bigger fish to fry, namely, is the KJV the only Bible for the English speaking people, am I sinning by wearing this pair of jeans, is listening to secular music really a sin, and should I leave my independent Baptist church now or just wait for it to consume my soul…. you know, tiny issues like that.
So I started dealing with my other issues, until one day I was proofing a paper for a friend, and his argument for Calvinism started to make sense. I was enraged. No, “Calvinism is a load of crap.” This was my mantra. I took my loosely tied bag of Bible verses and tried to form a defense for “not Calvinism” or whatever I was calling it. My little bag of verses and I went to bat. We probably lost, but in my mind, I was satisfied enough with our performance.
However, it didn’t end there. I continued arguments with that friend and then other friends and then books and then articles and with debates yelling into my empty apartment at all hours and then with myself. I defended my stance to anyone who didn’t know enough about it to argue with me. However, God always gets His way… (Eph. 1:11). The topic would come up everywhere — in Christian fiction I would read, in my American Literature class, in my history final. It was getting ridiculous. I thought, “Is it possible for a doctrine to stalk you?” I realized very recently that the doctrine wasn’t stalking me, but God was calling me. Just like He had called me to use words in my career to glorify and serve Him. Just like He had called me out the independent Baptist church to be Southern Baptist. Just as He had called me to Louisville, Kentucky for my job. Just as He called me to Walnut Street Baptist Church… the list goes on, but you see the point.
But, just as with most callings in my life, I fought it. Hard. And there will always be things that I don’t understand. My study on the topic isn’t extensive. Really, my only tangible defense is “Hey, look at Romans 9, and tell me how you get around irresistible grace and unconditional election.”
So here is my declaration: I can’t explain it all. I may sometimes doubt it. I don’t like the idea that some people weren’t given a call to salvation. I will never fully accept that, which honestly, will fuel me to be more soul conscious and live out my faith and share it so someone may hear and come to Christ. I am floored that Christ loves me. HE chose ME. God adopted me. And nothing I could do will ever keep Him from loving me. I AM REFORMED. And I just said it. I can’t fully defend it, so please don’t ask me to.
I’m not explaining Calvinism here. I don’t think I could even thoroughly do that, short of just quoting the TULIP. So seriously, if you’re interested, read 5 Points by John Piper.
But here’s the evidence of Reformed Theology in my life.
1) I remember being pulled to Christ. I could not have gone to sleep that night at 13 years old without surrendering. I would have never had peace. Why? Because His call on my life was irresistible.
2) His love for me is unconditional. So often, even when I do finally make a good decision, it’s out of the wrong motive. Motive has been my spiritual struggle since I can remember. I am a horrible sinner. He still loves me. More than loves me, He freely forgives me and gives me new life. This didn’t happen because I asked Him for it, because I couldn’t. I was too deep in sin. This happened because He lavished grace upon me.
3) Had a few things been slightly different, I wouldn’t be where I am today. And I had no control over this. Had my atheist father been a part of my life, I might not be saved. Had I not grown up super conservative and legalistic, I might not have taken Jesus as seriously as I do now. Had my mom never walked back through a church door after having two children outside of marriage, I may never have been introduced to Christ. Had I not been practically shunned for leaving independent Baptist Bible college, I may have never went to Mid-Continent University and met the teachers and people that I did that pushed me to be closer to Christ and to seek after Him instead of man’s approval.
4) Every time I make a decision that I know God doesn’t want, He gets His way anyway. Every time, no matter what. It’s frustrating.
And I believe that the Bible supports this. It seems to me as if the apostle Paul was probably Reformed himself. I would dare say that Jesus was too. Romans 9 exists. Actually Romans 8 does too. And Jesus said that His sheep would hear His voice and respond to it. God did harden Pharaoh’s heart. God did expressly choose Abraham. The Bible clearly states that God’s word won’t return void. So if it’s not returning void, it’s working where God intended it to. Sorry, I don’t have the references for all these. This isn’t a defense of Reformed Theology. This is simply me telling you, whoever is reading this, that I am Calvinist, not because I want to be, but because God called me to this view of the doctrine of grace.
And no, I am probably not a 5 pointer, because there are some aspects I can’t make peace with…. like limited atonement.
However, to most eloquently sum up my thoughts right now, I’ll quote Charles Spurgeon and George Whitefield:
“I embrace the Calvinistic scheme, not because Calvin, but because Jesus Christ has taught it to me.” – Whitefield
“Though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me.” – Spurgeon
And His grace is marvelous. And transforming, and overwhelming. And if you’re reading this, you should accept His grace too. Then He can take you on your own particular faith journey. It won’t be boring; I can promise you that.