Hello again readers. Sorry it's been a while--been busy.
As many of you know, in the past year(s) or so we have gone through several theological changes/transitions. As I reflect on these, I am thankful that the Lord has kept us.
In light of these, I look back on the past 12 years I have been in the Reformed faith. By God's grace, there are several things which I have remained unwavering in my commitment to. Yet, it is not I that has kept me here--it is God and His power and His sovereign Word. I wanted to discuss why I remain unswerving in my commitment to the following.
THINGS I STILL BELIEVE
JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH ALONE. In the past 12 years, the Lord has continued to show me my own sinfulness. It is by His grace that He has shown me the darkness of my heart. He has revealed to me Christ, hanging there, bleeding for me (yes, even me) on the cross. I know that my works can contribute nothing but sin to my salvation. Galatians is clear that the Law is not based on faith. I still vehemently oppose the Federal Vision and the New Perspectives on Paul as contrary to the gospel message. I am beginning to understand more and more the importance of the *dichotomy* between Law and Gospel, and the importance of recognizing whether a text is Law or Gospel. I have even lost friends over this glorious gospel.
I don't like losing friends, but here is where we *must* take our stand. We *must* draw lines in the sand here. Indeed, I still believe, and by God's grace always will believe, that justification by faith alone is indeed the article on which the church stands or falls. It is the door which swings open to the church and shuts out of the church. Anyone who denies this gospel I do not count as my brother. Anyone who would add to this gospel and say "justification by faith alone? Yes, but..." I do not count as my brother. Their souls are in danger of putrid self-righteousness adding to the finished work of Christ. There is just not good news (Greek euangellion--gospel) in Rome, Constantinople, Salt Lake City, or in other similar places. I *need* the gospel. I *need* good news.
May the Lord be pleased to keep me in this glorious gospel.
TOTAL DEPRAVITY. I am completely convinced that man is *dead* in his trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1-10), and that he *cannot* even lift a finger toward God's grace (John 6:44ff). Man is not able to "cooperate" with God in regeneration. Indeed, God is the One Who makes born again--the flesh profits nothing. Indeed, apart from grace, all man can do is sin (Romans 8:7-8). Furthermore, I know this to be true by experience, because even after one has been born again, he still sins constantly. Indeed, it is not in the nature of the lion to eat vegetables. The lion will never choose the veggies. The lion needs to be turned into a lamb to eat the vegetables.
UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION. I remain convinced that God has chosen a multitude no man can number based completely upon His sovereign good pleasure. This was not because God looked down the corridor of time to see who would "choose" Him--no one would! I continue to remain convinced as well that God has decreed all things (Lam. 3:37-38; Eph 1:11), and that He has even a purpose in ordaining the wicked's destruction (double predestination--Pr 16:4, etc.). I take comfort knowing that the Great Governor has chosen to pardon some, as we are all on death row and already condemned, but the chosen ones receive mercy.
LIMITED ATONEMENT. I have trouble understanding how people can say that Christ "died for" in the same sense as "atoned for" all of the sins of all mankind. In fact, it is once again terrible news to me if Christ died for the sins of all who have ever lived, including those already in hell at the time of His death on the cross. This smacks of works-righteousness to me and makes a mockery out of the death of Christ. An atonement is exactly that: an atonement, a taking away of sin (expiation) and a turning aside of wrath (propitiation).
Once when I was at Taco Bell, I got a sticker that said "REDEEM for one free taco." So, I went to the counter up front to "redeem" it. What do you think I expected to get back? Nothing? A burrito? A Meximelt? Do you think I expected the workers up front to tell me "actually this is only good to be redeemed *if* you believe we'll give it to you" or "if you give us just a penny, then we'll give you the taco." Of course not. A redemption is exactly that: an actual redemption.
Furthermore, if Jesus died for the sins of Peter *in the same way* that He died for the sins of Judas, then we are all in trouble. What guarantee would we have that Jesus will intercede for us, pray for us, and keep us until the end by His Holy Spirit? Is He Judas' priest too? No. I take comfort in the fact that Jesus died for Peter, and He did NOT die for Judas. This means He is committed to His elect.
IRRESISTIBLE GRACE. When God has appointed the time for His elect to come to Him, then they will most willingly come. I certainly don't see any "free will" in the case of Paul's conversion (see Acts 9). Instead, I see God saving by His power. I see Him giving a new nature. We were by nature children of wrath, but in the day of His power, He looked at the dry bones and said "Live!". Hallelujah!
PERSEVERANCE/PRESERVATION OF THE SAINTS. Here is an area where I can say I am extremely comforted. I take joy knowing that God will keep all those who are His. How do I know I am one of His? If I have come to Jesus. He promises He will not cast me out. Have I come to Jesus? What is it to come to Him? "Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Our Lord tells us what it is to come to Him. It is to *rest* in Him, to rest in His works, His keeping of the Law, His righteousness. I believe that, by His grace, because He caused me to, because He revealed Himself to me, I indeed have come to Him. And I take comfort to know that He will preserve me in the faith forever.
Yes, this is one reason why I am not attracted to Lutheranism. Although I appreciate Lutheranism in its emphasis on keeping Law and Gospel distinct, I find it amazing that our Lutheran brothers and sisters have no problem saying that a truly born again believer can fall away from grace and lose their salvation. This flies in the face of Scripture which says that "you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable." And "those born of God cannot go on sinning, for the seed of God remains in them."
Indeed, there is just not enough of the gospel present in Lutheranism. But the above five points are all gospel to me. I understand completely why Charles Spurgeon would say "Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else."
So that, my friends, is what I still believe, and what I have believed. I believe in the good news of the gospel, and I believe in the good news of sovereign grace. May the Lord open all our eyes more and more to these glorious truths!