What I Believe About “Calvinism” (6/6)

Here is my best shot at capturing your attention for this blog: If you are saved and on your way to Heaven today, how do you know you will be tomorrow, or a month from now, or a year from now? How can you be sure that you will not turn away from Jesus tomorrow for some unknown reason?

I could ask those questions like this: Is it true that “once saved, always saved”? If you are saved today, will you be saved tomorrow? Or will you walk away from the salvation you have?

Those are big questions aren’t they? Is there anything more important than knowing today whether or not you will be believing in Jesus tomorrow? Interestingly, the way to answer the question of whether or not you will be believing in Jesus tomorrow is by answering whether or not you are believing in Jesus today. That means no future guess-work for you.

The Bible answers these questions head on. God has not left us in the dark, not even close. These are not questions He is ‘OK’ leaving unanswered in your mind. I would liken God’s desire to comfort you about your future to a loving dad’s desire to assure his adopted child that he isn’t going to send him back to the orphanage…ever.

If you remember, I have tried to argue from the Scriptures that Jesus got you into your Christianity. You didn’t save yourself. If you are a Christian, the Father chose you, the Son died for you, and the Spirit awakened you to repent and believe in Jesus. Your salvation is entirely God’s work. You didn’t do it and you didn’t help God do it.

Now, what I want to argue is that just as Jesus initially saved you, he is going to finally save you. What I mean by that is “once saved, always saved.” If you are in Jesus now, you are safe and sound, forever.

Enter the Scriptures.

John 10:28-29 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

Jesus says that those who come to him presently have eternal life. He promises that they will never perish. Those who are saved can rest assured they will never be un-saved, or perish. Why is that? Because “no one will snatch them out of [Jesus’] hand.” And no one can “snatch them out of the Father’s hand” who is “greater than all”.

Safe and sound, forever.

Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jude 1:24 “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,”

Philippians 1:6 says that the One who began the good work of salvation will bring it to completion. This is key in understanding this whole idea of “once saved, always saved.” When we believe in Jesus we are justified, or made righteous before God, forgiven of sin, and given eternal life. But we have yet to enter into the finality of our salvation, in glorified bodies, free from the presence of all sin in eternal bliss with Jesus. So, the Bible explains that we are saved, being saved, and will be saved. Phil. 1:6, therefore, is a promise that if we are saved now, we will be tomorrow and will be in eternity.
Safe and sound, forever.
1 Thessalonians and Jude both proclaim the truth of the keeping power of God. He keeps us blameless and keeps us from stumbling in order to present us blameless before him. These Scriptures tell us God is able to keep us safe, and they promise that God will keep us safe in Christ.
Safe and sound, forever.
Do you see the trend that in order to be assured of your future, you just need to be assured of your present. Do you know that you are in Christ today? Do you know that God has begun the good work of salvation in you, that you are repenting to and believing in Jesus for forgiveness today? If so, rest assured that He who began that good work will carry it to completion by keeping you safe and sound in his hands, forever. 
A few more Scriptures?
Ephesians 1:13-14 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
According to Ephesians, when we believe in Jesus we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Ephesians then comments on what this means. Paul says the Holy Spirit is a “guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it”. While we already have the Spirit and are justified, we do not yet possess the finality of our salvation mentioned above. However, having the Spirit today is a guarantee that we will absolutely one day enter into eternal glory with Jesus.
Romans 8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
We are justified through faith in Jesus. If you believe in Jesus, you have been justified. And here in Rom. 8:30 Paul says that all those that are justified are glorified. Glorification is about the finality of our salvation. Thus it seems what Paul is saying is that from “…God’s standpoint the work is as good as done. He will complete it as planned.” (Reformation Study Bible, see “Show resources”).
Safe and sound, forever.
So go ahead. Celebrate with hope that Jesus is keeping you and will keep you! When you wander, He will keep you. When you stumble, He will pick you up. I’ve heard it said there is more grace in him than sin in you. Go take a nap. Rest easy. If you are in Christ today, you are safe and sound, forever.
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What I Believe About “Calvinism” (5/6)

FREE PIC CROSSWhere we have gone in this series: Before God spun out the universe he chose radically messed up, Jesus-rejecting sinners on the basis of his own free and loving will to be saved by the death of Christ and, at the right time, awakened (or called) to faith in Christ by the grace and power of his Spirit.

This is a staggering gospel that stupefies our brilliance. We can’t think this stuff up, nor do we deserve this glory from Jesus. Sit in wonderment.

You may be asking at this point, “So if God already knew whom he would save through Jesus, did Jesus only die for those people (the elect)?” That is the question, whether you have asked it or not, that I would like to address, but first must begin with a weighty preface.

I believe with everything in me that all, all who believe in Jesus are made right before God, adopted by God, and will live forever with God. Jesus proclaimed, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37, emphasis mine).

Jesus rejects no one who comes to him in faith.

I gladly make the universal offer to anyone and everyone that if you come to the cross of Christ in faith, you will be saved from your sin. I gladly invite anyone and everyone to believe in Jesus for forgiveness of sins.

With that preface I ask, “Is Jesus’ cross more than just a universal offer? It is just a possible payment for sins, or is it an actual payment for sins?”

There are two general “camps” with differing answers: Arminians and Calvinists. Both camps “limit” the cross in different ways.

Arminians limit the cross by saying the cross does not go so far as the purchase faith and repentance. What this means is that they believe everyone has the ability to believe in Jesus, and if someone freely chooses to believe in Jesus, they, in a sense, make Jesus’ cross effective for themselves, receiving forgiveness of sins. The cross only becomes effective when they believe in Jesus.

Calvinists also limit the cross. They limit the cross by saying the full blessings of the cross are limited to the elect, or those whom God chose to be saved before the foundation of the world (see Eph. 1:3-11). The cross is more than just an offer for some people. Calvinists believe the cross did more than the Arminians, but for only some people (the elect). What is the “more” of the cross you ask? It is the purchase of faith and repentance. I argued that faith and repentance are a gift from God in part 3/6. They are undeserved gifts from God, given to the elect. Those gifts had to be bought for them, and Calvinism says they were bought at the cross.

Everyone limits the cross in some way. Let’s examine some texts to see what the Bible says.

Enter the Scriptures.

In John 10:1-18, Jesus says that he is the Good Shepherd of his sheep. He says in verse 4, “When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”

Jesus has sheep, and they follow him because they know his voice. Not everyone follows Jesus, so he is talking about a specific group of people, namely, those who follow him.

In verse 11 he proclaims, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Jesus says he dies for his sheep, the specific group of people that he will call and that will hear his voice and follow him.

With thunder, comforting thunder, he announces in verses 14-16, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

Jesus, again, says he has sheep that are his own, and that he lays down his life for them specifically. He then says he has sheep “not of this fold”, meaning not of Israel, the Jewish people. Jesus has sheep, chosen people, among the non-Jewish people, the Gentiles. These sheep, again, will be called and will listen to Jesus’ voice and so follow him.

Jesus is dying for a specific group of sheep that will become “one flock” under “one shepherd.”

The big idea is that in John 10:1-18 Jesus does not say that he will lay his life down for everyone, at least not in the same way for everyone. He is applying his death specifically to the sheep he calls his own; the sheep that he personally will call and that will follow him; the sheep that will be saved and known as Christians.

Some more Scriptures.

In Luke 22:19-20, the Last Supper goes down: “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

I want to focus on what Jesus says about the new covenant. Jesus says his death, his blood is the new covenant. We need to know what he is talking about when he says “new covenant.”

Jesus is referring to the new covenant proclaimed in the Old Testament (Jer. 31:31-33, 32:38-40; Ezek. 36:26-27). We can read of it in Ezekiel 11:19, a Scripture we looked at in part 3/6. “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.”

Ezek. 11:19 says that God will remove people’s hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh. He will remove unbelieving hearts and replace them with believing hearts. Then Jesus, at the Last Supper, says that his blood is the new covenant. His blood purchased this removal of dead hearts and replacement of living, faith-filled hearts. In short, Jesus is saying he is dying to purchase faith and repentance for sinners. Not all sinners come to faith in Jesus, so Jesus is saying his death is for those whom the Father has chosen to be saved. Jesus’ death is more for some. 

One more text.

In John 11:50-52 the high priest that year prophesies, “…it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.’ He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”

Notice that two groups of people are spoken of here: “the nation” and “the children of God
who are scattered abroad.” In the Bible, there are two significant people groups: Jews and Gentiles. Jews are God’s people. Gentiles are everyone else. When the high priest said Jesus would die for the nation, he is talking about the Jews. But then he says Jesus was not just going to die for Jewish people, but Gentile people. And he says something surprising. There are “children of God” scattered all over the world that he is going to die for to gather into one.

We know not everyone is gathered into the “one” people of God, the Church. Only some. So here Jesus is said to have died for the some who will be gathered into one, the one flock of God, the one Church. He died for the “children of God”, or the elect, many of whom have yet to be gathered, but for sure will be.

The Father chooses, the Son dies, and the Spirit awakens.

Jesus’ cross is mesmerizing because it actually did something. It is a universal offer to everyone, that if anyone believes in him, they will be saved. What grace! And it is more. It is actually the purchase of the very faith of all who do believe. If you come to the cross, you will find in the Scriptures that even your faith was a gift bought by that very cross! Jesus came on a rescue mission to truly pay the price for sin that many, many people might be saved and live forever enjoying God.

*I attribute and credit much of this blog to John Piper’s seminar that can be found here. If you watch/read it, you may wonder in this blog where his studies stop and mine begin.

What I Believe About “Calvinism” (4/6)

Free Lifeguard TowerWe have seen thus far in this blog series that we are born dead in our sins and that God saves us by awakening us from our sinful slumber to cling to Jesus in faith. Everyone that God calls to Jesus does in fact come to him in faith and is justified (or made righteous before God).

If you have read any of these blogs up to this point, a question may be pressing on you, or frustrating you. “Why are some people saved and some are not?”

As Christians, we know that not all people are saved. Not all people come to a saving faith in Christ. While many people do come to Jesus, many people reject him. And if God is ultimately in charge of whom he awakens to faith in Christ, the question is, “Why are some people saved and some are not? Why does God call some to Jesus, but not others?”.

The Bible only goes so far in answering that question. I want to try to go as far as the Bible does, but no further. And before we begin talking about the mercy of God, we must remember something, or else our exploration will start on the wrong foot. We must remember that no one, no not one person, deserves grace. We are all swimming around in the ocean of sin, guilt, condemnation, and death. We do not deserve a rescue. If there is a rescue, and there is!, it is unfathomably gracious.

Enter the Scriptures.

Ephesians 1:3-5 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,”

Gal. 1:15-16 “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…”

Paul says in Eph. 1:3-5 that before God created, before Genesis 1:1, God was active doing something else. He was active in choosing people in Christ to be holy and blameless. What was motivating God to choose people to be saved before he began creating? His love. “In love he predestined us for adoption…” Before Genesis 1:1 God was choosing people to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ. Motivated by his own “love” and “will”.

Paul says of himself in Gal. 1:15-16 that he was set apart before his was even born! Before Paul was created, Paul was set apart for the gospel (cf. Rom. 1:1), then he was called by God’s grace (see part 3/6 for background on “calling”), and Jesus Christ was revealed to him! It is OK at this point if you want to stop reading to sit and stagger at the majesty of God seen in Eph. 1:3-5 and Gal. 1:15-16.

2 Tim. 1:9-10 God “…saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,”

God saved us and 2 Tim. 1:9-10 reveals what moved him: his own purpose and grace, not us. The Bible does not delve too deeply into the immensities of his purposes, but rather just keeps our attention on the fact that it was his purposes, not our own, that brought about our salvation. “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16).

Romans 9:15 “For he says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’

Quoting from Ex. 33:19, Paul is showing that God has mercy (i.e. calls people to Jesus to be forgiven) on whomever he wants to have mercy. Remember, all people are swimming in the ocean of sin, guilt, and death. None of us deserve a second chance, grace, mercy, or God’s kindness. None of us deserve God to rescue us. If he let all people slip into hell, he would be good, loving, and just still. For God to save merely one soul would be inexpressibly astounding. The reality that he has saved millions is mind shattering-ly gracious.

Some people are saved and some are not. For me, it is a sobering reality that hell is real and forever. It is sobering to me that people will be in hell forever. This is not something I take lightly. I also know that every last one of us deserve to be in hell. We are not just undeserving of grace, we are ill-deserving. We deserve just punishment. Yet, I have received mercy. Why? Why has God been so kind to me? Is it because I am a good person? Certainly not! It is because I made up for my wrongs? Of course not!

It is only because before time began God set his sight of love, care, kindness, grace, and mercy upon my sinful soul, and proclaimed his forgiveness for me. He sent His perfect Son to die in my place and when I was about 14 the Spirit came to me, revealed Jesus to me, and gave me faith to believe, all according to God’s purposes of election, choosing me by his own free, good, and gracious will. The Father chose me, the Son died for me, and the Spirit awakened me.

What a gospel we have from God.

COMMON OBJECTION

You may be thinking, or have heard the common objection, that God did not choose me to have faith, but rather chose me because he saw beforehand that I would have faith. Many people say that God elects those whom he sees in the future who have faith in Christ.

Here is my answer to that objection by way of recapping things I have already written about in this series.

Firstly, Rom. 8:29-30 states, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Many people say “foreknowledge” here means that God knows information about the future, such as who will believe in Jesus. However, it means more than that. In the Scriptures, knowing someone can mean something far more than merely knowing facts about them. For instance, Gen. 4:1 says, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain…” For Adam to know Eve in this instance is not just to know things about her. His knowing of her produced a child. Different kind of knowing, know what I’m sayin’?

God’s foreknowledge here is about knowing people in a loving, relational way before they were even created. Amazing.

Secondly, if God looked down the corridor of time to see who would freely put their faith in Jesus, he would see not a single person believing in Jesus. Why? Because we have already seen that we are all born dead in our sins, unresponsive to Jesus. All God would see is a world of rebellious people rejecting Jesus. There would be no one to elect if that is what his election is based on.

Thirdly, in the Bible election is said to be based on God’s own free will, not us in any way. Election is based upon the purposes and will of God, not our works, including a supposed choice to believe in Jesus (see 2 Tim. 1:9-10 & Eph. 1:2-5 above; Rom. 9:6-18; Rom. 8:29-30).

Fourthly, if God looked down the corridor of time, and saw people believe in Jesus, they would be believing in Jesus because God himself gave them the gift of faith (see part 3/6 in this blog series). And if God elected them based on them having faith, which he gave them, then God’s election would be based on his own purposes to choose to give them faith, which is what I am essentially arguing that election is about anyways–God freely choosing to give people faith in Jesus.

Fifthly, if God elects those who, apart from his power, put their faith in Jesus, then his foreknowledge and calling in Rom. 8:30 seem to be pointless. If we ultimately choose for ourselves to believe in Jesus, what is the purpose of the calling of God? That idea seems to make God’s calling us pointless and powerless; it doesn’t actually do anything, at least that we know of.

I hope that is helpful. Comment and share your thoughts!

What I Believe About “Calvinism” (3/6)

freeimage-8177877-webIf it is true that we are dead in our sins, and according to Ephesians 2:1 it is, and that we are unresponsive to God in our deadness, how in the world does anyone come to believe in and worship Jesus? How does a dead person begin trusting Christ for forgiveness and life, loving righteousness and hating sin?

If you are a Christian, you agree that you must believe in Jesus and his cross and resurrection in order to be justified (or counted righteous in God’s sight). Through faith in Jesus we are forgiven. The question is, how do we end up going from being dead, faithless people to alive, faith-filled people?

Enter the Bible.

Ephesians 2:1-5 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…”.

We went from dead to alive. How? Because God made us alive.

Ezekiel 11:19 “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,”

We went from having a heart of stone, a faithless heart, to a heart of flesh, a faith-filled heart.

John 3:5-8 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

1 Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”

How does the “born again” thing happen? By the “Spirit”. God causes us to be born again. He gives us this new life.

Apparently, God works in us in a radical way when we become Christians. The question is, does he do all of this before or after we believe in Jesus? In other words, do we choose to believe in Jesus, and then God makes us alive, gives us a new heart, and causes us to be born again? Or does all of that precede believing and cause us to believe?

Enter the Scriptures.

Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

That verse says we are saved by grace. Our salvation is not deserved. And it says we are saved through faith. Faith is the opposite of working to earn salvation, rather faith receives it freely. Christians agree about this. But then Ephesians 2 says something very interesting. “And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

What is not your own doing? This Scripture either means the whole gift of salvation by grace through faith (thus making faith a gift to you from God) is not your own doing, or it means specifically that “faith” is not your own doing. Either way, the faith you have in Jesus was given to you by God, according to Eph. 2.

Philippians 1:29 “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,”

You were granted by God to “believe in him”. Believing in Jesus is a gift from God to dead sinners who only want to disbelieve in and run away from Jesus.

Now, let’s drop the hammer.

Romans 8:30 “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

We already said that as Christians we agree that only those that believe in Jesus are justified. No one is justified apart from faith in Jesus. Rom. 8:30 explains also that all who are justified have been “called” by God. So before we believe in Jesus (and are thus justified), we are called by God. So what is this calling, and what is the purpose of it?

The Scriptures use this terminology “calling” to describe God’s work to give someone faith to believe in Jesus. Everyone who is called by God is justified. Therefore, everyone who is called by God believes in Jesus. The call of God results in faith in Jesus. Faith is a gift.

Let’s summarize: Apart from Christ, we are dead in sin. Dead people don’t trust, love, or worship Jesus, ever. God must do a radical work in them, or else they will stay dead. What God does is give them new life (he makes them alive, gives them a new heart, and causes them to be born again, as we have seen). With this new life comes the gift to believe in Jesus. God gives people the gift of faith to believe in Jesus and so be saved, or justified. All of this is from God, by God, and for God, and you and I take no part in it, though as a result we willfully begin trusting, following, obeying, and loving Jesus for the rest of our lives.

The gospel of Christ proclaims that we do not save ourselves; we do not even help God in the process. God, and God alone saves us by awakening our dead hearts to see the beauty of Christ and so be overcome by his greatness and so believe in him as our Savior and Lord.

Oh, what joy we have to gaze into the depths of this good news.

What I Believe About “Calvinism” (2/6)

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Have you ever driven through a tunnel, a tunnel that you couldn’t see the other side of? Did you wonder, “When is this going to end?”

If you are a Christian, you believe and agree with God that all people have sinned (cf. Rom. 3:23). No man or woman is perfect, or sinless, except Jesus. “For we all stumble in many ways…” (James 3:2). And “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

We have all sinned and are guilty, but just how sinful are we? I mean, how deep does the sin go in us? How long is the tunnel? Just how messed up, if you will, are we? Is it just one part of us that doesn’t love God, while the rest, however much it may be, does love him?

Enter the Scriptures, as they describe in detail our sinful state.

Eph. 2:1-3 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Rom. 3:10-18 “…’None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
‘Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.’
‘The venom of asps is under their lips.’
‘Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.’
‘Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.’
‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.'”

John 3:19-20 “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”

Just those three verses explain you, apart from Christ, like this (brace yourself): you are not righteous, you do not understand God, you do not seek for God, you are not good, you do not fear God, you love darkness and hate the light (the light is Jesus in this context), you do wicked things, you are dead in your sins, you follow the prince of the power of the air (that is Satan), you are passionate about sin, and you desire sin in your body and mind.

Now exhale.

If I told you I wanted to explain Hitler to you, and then gave you that paragraph, you would respond with a, “Yeah, that’s Hitler for ya’!” But most of us would not describe our sinfulness that way. But the Bible does, and just did, in only 3 verses.

Remember to breathe.

Bible commentator Matthew Henry sums up our sinfulness well by saying, “We cannot expect too little from man…”. You see, to be sinful does not just mean you are legally guilty before God. It means that you, in your being, do not love God. And it seems clear in Scripture, in just those three alone, that there is not an ounce in you that loves God. You are not someone who really loves God but just makes mistakes. If anything, apart from Christ, if you do anything “right,” it was probably a mistake on your part.

Ephesians 2 says outside of Christ, we are “dead” in our sins. The term “dead” in Ephesians 2 does not mean we are not active. Actually, the “dead” people Paul describes in Eph. 2 are very active! They are actively loving sin, hating God, and following Satan. In our deadness we want nothing to do with Jesus and everything to do with all things not-Jesus.

In our deadness, according to Romans 3, we do not seek for God. We are not actively wanting to know God. Actually, according to John 3, we run from God! When someone presents to us the gospel, in our sinful deadness, we want nothing to do with Jesus, because his light exposes our darkness. We want to hide. We do not love him or want him; we love and want our sin.

This all sounds very heavy, and very grave. But oh what joy, Christ has come!

What a glorious gospel we have in and from Jesus, that sinners like that, like you and me, might be forgiven of all that we have thought, done, wanted to do, and planned to do. What an amazing gospel, that by the power of the Spirit, we are changed from the inside out, and given a new heart to believe in, worship, and run to, not from, Jesus.

How does anyone come to be changed like this? To believe in and worship Jesus? How does anyone move from guilty sin-lover to innocent worshipper of God? Because that change does happen. It happened to me! And it is glorious. We will explore it in the next blog (part 3/6).

What I Believe About “Calvinism” (1/6)

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There are certain words that have the ability to immediately make someone feel like they just got electrocuted. For some, words like “sex” and “alcohol” make them tense up. And for many, many people, the word “Calvinism” makes them feel like they just took a bath with jumper cables. If these people were to design a haunted house, seeing John Calvin would be the grande finale.

Let me suggest 4 reasons many people, maybe you, tremble at the word “Calvinism.” Maybe:

(1) you know someone who called themselves a Calvinist, had horrible theology, and/or was a jerk.

(2) you have been left to put pieces together of what Calvinism is and have concluded that it is something it is not, and you don’t like what you think it is.

(3) you think it does not matter and that it only causes division in the church.

(4) or maybe you understand exactly what Calvinism means and just don’t like it.

If you land in one of those camps, I hope this blog series, What I Believe About “Calvinism”, is insightful and helpful. I hope it is an introduction and invitation to drink from a refreshing, unending spring. What I hope happens, is that you will feel like you finally found the river that made the hiking, difficult at times, all worth it to you.

Brief Overview

Total Depravity: How sinful are we? If you agree that we all sin, a good question to ask is, “Just how bad off are we?” Are we still good enough to see that God is worthy of worship and choose to turn and follow Christ? Are we too bad to ever want to do that?

Unconditional Election: The Bible uses the word “election” more than once. What in the world does it mean? Does God pick people to be saved? Do we ultimately pick ourselves to be saved? Does God need to pick people to be saved?

Limited Atonement: Did Jesus die for everyone, or only the “elect”? Did he pay for the sins of every person, or only the “elect”? I have always heard that if anyone comes to the cross of Jesus in faith, they will be forgiven. Does the idea that Jesus’ cross is only for the elect contradict that? Does Jesus turn people away if they come to him in faith?

Irresistible Grace: How do we go from not believing in Jesus, to instantly believing in Jesus? What changed in us? Does God force us to believe in Jesus? Or does God leave us to choose him of our own “free will”?

Perseverance of the Saints: I really hope that I can be confident that one day I am not going to turn my back on Jesus and spend eternity in hell. If I am a Christian now, can I lose my salvation? Is, “Once saved always saved” true?

These are questions and doctrines I want to address on this journey of explaining what I believe about Calvinism and why it matters.