I was raised in an environment that at times adamantly opposed Calvinist ideas. Often times it was said that Calvinists were heretics, but that as long as their heretical ideas didn't affect their teaching/preaching, they were okay. I assumed that statements such as this were true. I was also told that often times Calvinists can be cold and distant because their Calvinist ideas caused them to have a view of God's sovereignty that caused them to feel like since God is in control of everything, they don't have many responsibilities (evangelism/loving the brothers). There were even some experiences I had that seemed to validate this last view.
It wasn't till I went to college that I started to realize that what I had been taught might not be entirely accurate. I started hearing about John Piper and about how he was a 5 point Calvinist, and everything I was hearing about the things he taught sounded really good. I even found out that he was extremely passionate about world missions, and he seemed like an extremely loving and awesome man of God.
I continued to muse on these things I was being exposed to. I was reading books for classes that explained some of the ideas like "Total Depravity" that really made sense. I started realizing that even among Calvinists there was a wide variety of beliefs, and to make broad brush statements about them in general is not fair. Many of them defined the points in different ways than I had been taught growing up.
Also, many of my professor's were/are "Calvinistic" in their beliefs, and they seemed so passionate for the Word and for Evangelism and the growth of the Church.
Even with all this exposure, I still wasn't quite sure I could say for certain where I stood, and I still don't...but today I was reading in Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology book for my Systematic Theology 3 Class (this class discusses the Doctrines of Anthropology, Hamartiology, and Soteriology) and he was discussing the sovereignty of God, and the things he was saying got me thinking about this...and I figured I would share some of the thoughts I had, and some things that he said...
First of all, my own musings on the reason why I was taught as I was when I was younger. Many Fundamentalists Churches, in a reaction against perceived and possibly even valid problems with Calvinists, have swung so far away to the point of denying God's sovereignty in the election by God of believers. To deny the election of the saints is to completely disregard a plethora of NT scriptures that support it. I recall when I was younger that preachers/teachers would try to explain away these passages by saying that it was talking about being predestined for sanctification (which would follow that if you believe it means people are predestined for sanctification that God would also choose them for salvation, but I don't know what their answer would be to this argument), or that it is giving us assurance of our salvation. I don't think these can be truly argued from the text...this is trying to impose presuppositions on the text...they're presupposing that God does not choose people for salvation, so they explain the meaning of the passage so that it fits their presupposition. But we must be faithful to the Word of God...and not compromise the truths found in it!
Now, onto what Mr. Grudem says. I was going to explain why each quote was significant to shaping my beliefs on this matter...but a commentary would make this post far too long...so I'll just post these quotes and then give some concluding comments (all quotes are taken from Grudem's book: "Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine").
Election is Paul's guarantee that there will be some success for his evangelism, for he knows that some of the people he speaks to will be the elect, and they will believe the gospel and be saved. It is as if someone invited us to come fishing and said, "I guarantee that you will catch some fish -- they are hungry and waiting." (pg. 674)
God's act of election was neither impersonal nor mechanistic, but was permeated with personal love for those whom he chose. (pg. 674) If the ultimate determining factor in whether we will be saved or not is our own decision to accept Christ, then we shall be more inclined to think that we deserve some credit for the fact that we were saved: in distinction from other people who will continue to reject Christ, we were wise enough in our own judgment or good enough in our moral tendencies or perceptive enough in our spiritual capacities to decide to believe in Christ. But once we begin to think this way then we seriously diminish the glory that is to be given to God for our salvation. (pg. 678)
The doctrine of election tells us that I am a Christian simply because God in eternity past decided to set his love on me. But why did he decide to set his love on me? Not for anything good in me, but simply because he decided to love me. There is no more ultimate reason than that. It humbles us before God to think in this way. It makes us realize that we have no claim on God's grace whatsoever. Our salvation is totally due to grace alone. Our only appropriate response is to give God eternal praise. (pg. 687)
There were many more things that Grudem said as well, that I didn't include in these quotes, and that's the fact that even though God sovereignly chooses us for salvation...from our perspective, we choose to believe, but this is only because God sovereignly ordained it to happen.
So...where am I on this? I really don't know...I think I'm too uneducated to say for certain what I believe yet. We're going to be discussing the Calvinism vs. Arminian debate in class, so I'm looking forward to looking more closely at the Biblical Arguments for both. I hope and pray, though, that whatever I decide to believe, or "lean toward"...I will attempt to, by God's abundant grace, be humble and gracious and faithful to the Word in the midst of it all...and that I will be more faithful to the Word, than the traditions of man.
When we walk down a street and see houses and gardens and families dwelling in security, or when we do business in the marketplace and see the abundant results of technological progress, or when we walk through the woods and see the beauty of nature, or when we are protected by government, or when we are educated from the vast storehouse of human knowledge, we should realize not only that God in his sovereignty is ultimately responsible for all of these blessings, but also that God has granted them all to sinners who are totally undeserving of them! These blessings in the world are not only evidence of God's power and wisdom, they are also continually a manifestation of his abundant grace. The realization of this fact should cause our hearts to swell with thanksgiving to God in every activity of life. -Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: And Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, pg. 665
Well, you can probably guess what this is going to be about based on the title...
This feels like a never ending struggle for me. 26 years old...my sister is married and has a baby whom I adore and would love to have my own...my friends who are younger than me are getting engaged and getting married...and here I am...just floating along...
I've had many friends tell me things like, "Just make sure your walk with God is right before you pursue any relationship" or "God will bring the right one along when you are content with only Him." I've had periods within the last couple of years where I thought these could be said of me...at least to a degree...but looking back I know now that I only thought I was because I was tired of hurting girls so I wanted to be single...so I was not wanting the relationship out of fear, rather than because God was directing.
Then, more recently I started going the other direction where I was seeking it out like I have in the past, and I knew this was wrong...
So...there's the predicament I'm in...have I come to any conclusion?
This evening I was reminded of the sermon by David Platt that I had posted about in the past...the sermon is called "The Gospel and Singleness." He speaks in the sermon of the fact that we view the gift of singleness and the gift of marriage as if some people have one, and some people have the other (and while this may be true, we don't know for sure, because we're not God, which one we have)...and this causes us to think that we are destined for a lack of contentment until we fulfill the needs of our gift. Mr. Platt suggests that if we're single, God has gifted us with singleness...while we're single we shouldn't waste the freedom we have...if we're married, we're gifted with the gift of marriage...we shouldn't waste the opportunities this gives us to minister to our family.
This was really encouraging to me at the time that I heard it, but I feel like God has shown me how this truth plays out even more. God has gifted me with singleness...why waste it in feeling sorry for myself? Now, this realization shouldn't cause me to have the attitude of trying to pull myself up by my bootstraps...this is never helpful...for I can do nothing apart from Christ.
So...what does not wasting my singleness look like? Well, that's what I'm going to seek, with God's help, to figure out...but I have some ideas that I believe God has given me right now. First and foremost...I need the Word! I need to seek Christ daily, and seek Him as my ultimate source of contentment. He is the only one who can give me the fulfillment I desire.
Secondly...I need community...the body of believers. Reaching out to them and discipling them, and even of course seeking to make disciples of unbelievers. This way I'm pouring out the things God has taught me to others, and not just holding it all in and becoming stagnant (for this has happened for far too long for me).
So, by God's grace, I would seek to go forward with the Lord...seeking Him in His Word and seeking opportunities to disciple and make disciples.
So, I pray: "Oh Lord, help me to be content with you and you alone. Help me Lord to embrace opportunities to disciple and be discipled. If it be your will that I get married in the future, may it happen in your perfect timing...and if it be your will that I be single till you take me home, help me to be content with that. Help me to run to you every day for strength, and not try to do this on my own. Enable me, by your grace, to go forward in the strength that only you can give me. In Jesus name I pray, Amen."
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
(Colossians 3:1-4, ESV)
Today in Systematic Theology III class the professor was talking about us being made in the image of God. I could talk about the implications of this truth, and I would like to in the future...but one thing the professor brought up really hit me. It's a truth that I have often heard, but God opened my eyes to the truth of it's implications a little more...
The idea the professor presented is the idea presented in the verses above. What you feed your mind, will fuel your affections, and fix your will. The idea of what I think about affects what I desire and what I seek after. This has proven so true in my life...
When I'm constantly thinking about possessions, I will and do want more things. When I focus on my anger about a particular situation, this causes me to treat people badly and causes my anger to increase. When I'm thinking about myself, and feeling sorry for myself...I don't want to talk to anyone or be around anyone.
On the other hand, I find that when my thought's are focused on Christ and I'm meditating on what I know to be true about Him, this ends up coming out in my actions...I love people more, I am more patient, I desire to be around people and to be a blessing, rather than wanting to escape from them...
There's a particular relationship in my life that has been a great struggle lately. I've gone back and forth in my mind between pity for this person and anger at this person...but it occurred to me this morning...why don't I pray for her? Why don't I try to see this person through God's eyes? Why don't I see this person as someone who's made in the image of God?
God can heal broken relationships...but this doesn't happen by dwelling on our anger toward them...this happens by renewing our mind with what is true, and seeking to love them through our prayers...then I think God changes the heart to where we find ourselves loving them instead of being angry at them.
That was kind of me talking to myself as much as I'm talking to my readers...I pray that this post will be a blessing to those who read it...and that God will use it in your life as much as He did in mine.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
(Psalm 77:11-15, ESV)
Today in chapel President Patz spoke on this passage...he encouraged us as a student body to mediate on the works of God in our lives, and he encouraged us to share these works of God...and raise our Ebenezer (this is a reference to 1 Samuel 7:12 when Samuel set up this "stone of help" to remember how God had delivered them in the past). So...I would like to raise mine Ebenezer...God did a great work in my life this summer...
As great as God worked in my life during my missions trip to N. Africa, God did an even greater work in my life during my internship after the trip. Throughout the internship I was struggling with a "private sin" in my life that had been a struggle for a long time. I couldn't understand why I couldn't beat it. I wanted help, but I was too afraid to ask for it...I was too afraid of being judged for this struggle...
This is where God's work came in (although, I know in letting me sin He's working as well, but His work became more clear to me). He caused me to be faced with an opportunity to confess...I was specifically asked if there was something I was struggling with...and I couldn't hold it back. I confessed...I was ashamed, I was afraid, I wanted to hide under something...but I was also relieved that I didn't have to bear the burden without some help...
God could have let me continue to sin, and He could have let me continue going after seeking pleasure in myself instead of seeking pleasure in Him...but He proved to me that I was His child in that He lovingly chastened me.
Through some time of counseling over this struggle...God revealed to me that at the root of my sin was anger at Him for things that I perceived to be injustices...
I was like Job...presuming to question God for the things He does...but just like Job couldn't see all the vast things that God was doing, I don't see everything God is doing...I may see what appears to be a disaster...but to God is a part of a beautiful tapestry that He is making...He is using circumstances in my life to shape me more into the image of His Son...I do not need all the answers...I can trust God, for He is faithful!
I was counseled that I need to meditate on the Faithfulness of God...so that is what I've been doing...meditating on His faithfulness...in the Word...
God is faithful...He's faithful in the times of great joy, He's faithful in times of suffering...He's faithful in my infirmities, He's faithful in my healing...His faithfulness has no end...and I will make His faithfulness known!