The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Corollary Between Calvinism and Evangelism

In the nearly three years of holding to the doctrines of grace, I have heard many learned men in the realm of theology and Scripture say that most reformed folk are cold, callous and apathetic when it comes to proclaiming the gospel. I expected to hear that from non-Calvinists. When I started hearing it from fellow Calvinists, I began to get angry.

First, an admittance. It is true, some Calvinists tend towards hyper Calvinism, or at least take a lethargic, ho-hum attitude toward sharing the gospel. The zeal for evangelism doesn't seem to be there. No doubt this is problematic, to say the least. But when I hear Calvinists say that other Calvinists and Calvinistic churches have a problem sharing the gospel, I get upset not because they are going too far, but because they are not going far enough.

In my book you aren't a Calvinist if the gospel isn't everything to you. A Calvinist who is apathetic towards sharing the gospel is no Calvinist; in fact he is far worse than an Arminian that is zealous to share the gospel with the world. There has to be either something wrong in the person's theology or understanding (meaning they aren't really a Calvinist) or in the person's heart (likely meaning they aren't really regenerate) to claim to adhere to the doctrines of grace, and yet not want to share that grace with the world.

I'm not talking about fear of man. Believe me, I have a fear of man. I want to share the gospel so badly with others, yet so often fear of man overcomes me and I keep my mouth shut, or don't put things as plainly and pointedly as I ought. But then I go home and am burdened at night for not doing what I so badly want, and should want, to do. And the truth is I never, and I mean virtually never, felt this way, until I became a Calvinist!

The Calvinist gospel is why I became evangelistic, not just in theory, but in practice. In the first 18 years of my life, prior to being a Calvinist, I never shared the gospel with a single soul on my own. In the last three years since becoming a Calvinist I have shared the gospel with more people than I can count. And I am not talking about street preaching or handing out tracts (I am not denigrating that by any means) but actually taking my time to talk with people, for hours, one on one, about Jesus Christ, about judgment and forgiveness of sins.

The reason is the message. The true message of saving grace, amazing grace, is something that Calvinism reveals. It's partially hidden when you take a free will belief system. Free will systems present a grace less amazing, a Savior less saving, a God less glorious, and replaces it with a more magnificent man. But of course, a true Christian who is not reformed never thinks of it like this. The truth is, they don't know that the truth is so much better than their misunderstanding! It is the amazingness of the truth of God, His love for His people, His love for me, in light of my incredible sinfulness, that gave me my evangelistic fervor.

Not because of anything we have done, or would do in the future, but because of God's mere pleasure did He save you and me. God looks down on man, and he doesn't see people seeking Him out, or people just a little confused, but people in open rebellion against Him, so much so that they have convinced themselves they are good and in God's graces. He sees a people who will reject God once they realize how holy and just He is. He sees a people who always spurn the offer of salvation, because they don't want to be saved from the one thing they love- sin.

God's love saved me from myself. It saved me from my love of sin- sin itself- not just its penalties. He made me willing to love Him by taking out all that hated Him in my heart and replacing it with the love of Christ, the Spirit of Christ! He saved me by dethroning me, and putting Himself on the throne. Now the non-Calvinist gospel says you must choose to do this if you want to be saved, that you must dethrone yourself and give God permission to take up residence in your heart. The true gospel says that God on the throne is the salvation that God gives, that He pours out on His people- He dethrones us, because we would never dethrone ourselves. This is because salvation is from sin, not hell. It is from what ultimately brings sorrow and destruction and death, unto the only source of gladness and restoration and life- which is God Himself.

When you understand that this, all this, is given to you totally undeservedly, by the good God whom you naturally hate, you can't but help share this good news with this lost and dying world. As the love God had for His Son spilled out over to us, so our love for Christ, and what God did for us through Christ, spills over to our fellow man. The loving Spirit Christ had for the world, we now have for the world, because the love of Christ has been poured out into our hearts (Romans 5:5).

The bottom line is this- experiencing God's saving grace is the best thing that has ever happened, not just to me, but to anyone. It is still happening to me, I am still being saved daily by the grace of God. I am captivated by the love of God. 1 John 4 puts it well:

10 "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."

We didn't love Him. We didn't choose Him. He chose us, He chose to love us, knowing we would never love Him back unless He gave us the same love He had for us. This love is too much! The only qualification I had to have to receive it was to be a God hating sinner. Believe me, I qualified. From Calvinism, from Scripture, I learned that true love is this- dying for those who hate you to produce a love in them that cannot die.

Verse 11 makes it quite clear then. If we are to have the love of Christ, then we also ought to love one another the way Christ loved us. And the way Christ loved us was by dying for us. Even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. As enemies, He died for us. As children of wrath, children of the devil, He died for us. He opened our hearts so we could see that sin is death but He is life and happiness.

This is just pure gospel, but not so much if you aren't a Calvinist. I didn't share the gospel before I was saved, because I didn't understand how great my salvation was. I am convinced of this. I thought that I chose God, that God would be disrespectful if He changed my will. I thought I desired Him and His righteousness and not sin because of me, with some help from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I truly believed my thinking went something like this: "I love God, I chose God, and others don't. It is up to them. It isn't hard. If they keep on sinning when they know that they could be forgiven, that's their choice, that's their problem."

But Calvinism showed me that true salvation is being set free from what you desire- sin- and having a new enslaving obsession- desiring God. We were made for God, therefore, we find our satisfaction, our rest, in God. Before salvation, I was enslaved to sin, willingly. But Christ made me a willing slave to righteousness.

What I am trying to get at is the supernatural nature of salvation. I didn't fully grasp that as a non-Calvinist. Sure, I gave mental assent to it, and believed that the Holy Spirit would now convict me, but I didn't understand that the whole process, including faith, was a work of God. So my crisis was that most everything I had been told was a lie. I needed to be saved, truly, to be freed from my love of sin. Indeed, I cannot just make a decision to stop living for sin because as unregenerate it is all I worship and adore! My friends didn't understand this good news. The world didn't understand this good news. I had to tell the world.

Some refer this to the cage stage for Calvinists, or something like that. Well, as far as I am concerned I wish I never came out of it. Sure, the way the message is presented can be a bit rough sometimes when you first learn of it, but are we not handing out passes to super zealous arminians despite the fact that half the time they are presenting a gospel that is no gospel at all? My point is simply that when you hear the good news of the gospel, the true gospel, the gospel that Calvinism draws on, you can't help but love it and want to proclaim it to everyone, assuming you are regenerate. So for those 'Calvinists' who aren't all about the gospel, both knowing it more deeply and sharing it with their lost loved ones, arminian friends, the world at large, etc., there is something terribly wrong. Either they aren't regenerate, or they don't really get it. I understand hearts can grow dull at times, and I am prone to apathy, but the thing that brings us out of that dullness, by our prayers and through the Holy Spirit, is falling back on the one true gospel and remembering it all over again! So I can't see how a true Calvinist can be apathetic to sharing the true gospel for long. For me, Calvinism is all about the gospel. If it isn't for you, then you aren't really a Calvinist, no matter what theology you claim to hold too.

So that's the corollary. When you see the beauty of the gospel as Calvinism shows it to us, and since the love of Christ which you now much more clearly understand is shed abroad in your heart, you pour out this same love to even those who hate you. Yes we still fight the flesh and the devil, we still have the fear of man, but He who is in us is greater than our flesh and the devil and all the wicked, scary men of this world. Our gospel message, our Christ, has overcome all that, He has overcome the world!

One last thing I want to address. It is true that Calvinists can get big heads. To learn of the the doctrines of grace for me was like being opened up into a whole new world. It was like going through puberty as a Christian. Crossing the threshold of Calvinism further opens your eyes, analogous to how puberty opens our eyes even further to our very nature. Calvinists see the importance of theology and how it directly relates to loving God. Knowing God more is a command. But it should be done so that we can adore Him more. You aren't a Calvinist if you don't understand that. You aren't a Christian if you don't understand that at least to some degree. If it is just head knowledge, then it's sin. The true gospel is not head knowledge, it's salvation. To those who are being saved, the message of the cross is the power of God. So we seek to know Him more and more and more, so we can love Him more and more and more in our hearts, and then pour out that love in our hearts on others more and more and more.

Knowing more leads to loving more, which leads to living rightly more. This is what Calvinism, the true gospel, ultimately connected for me. Therefore, Calvinism leads to evangelism! True gospel coming in the power of the Spirit produces true love, which produces love for the lost, for those who hate God, because this IS the love of Christ.

I know a few good Christians who are not reformed. They are not Calvinists. Yet God has given them a heart that loves about as well as they possibly can for the bit that they know. What I mean is, there are good Christian non-reformed folk out there. Some, many probably, have bigger hearts than I do. They have bigger hearts for God, not because they necessarily know more theology than I do, but because they have taken seriously the call to love God and kill sin more seriously than I have. And that is the abominable thing. I can know so much about God, yet still love so little. It is a profound disturbance. I beg God that my head would not grow fast yet my heart slow. I pray that my heart would grow fast as well as my head. We need big hearted Christians, filled to the brim with the love of God. But the amount of love we can have grows with the amount of understanding of God that we have. Indeed, one can have a false understanding of God, and truly love their false understanding, and therefore truly be worshiping a false god!

I've only seen a few people in my life that God has blessed with both big hearts and big heads. When I meet one though, I love to talk with them. They are the type of people you want to be around, not just to pick their brains but to pick their hearts. To learn something about God not just from their knowledge but from their life, their kind and gentle spirit. The way they carry themselves. I want my Christian friends to be big hearted and big headed. I want the girl I marry to be big hearted and big headed. I want to be big hearted and big headed, by God's grace, for His glory.

Here is the rub- big heads don't lead to big hearts. Big hearts lead to big heads. But you can't have a big heart without a big head. So how can you ever get either? By the grace of God, by the love of Christ poured out in our hearts. The regenerate heart seeks out God and His righteousness because the regenerate has had his eyes opened and been given ears to hear and understand the true gospel. The sinful flesh and our lack of understanding, our lack of mind renewal, may mislead and deceive us, and cause us to spurn the true doctrines of grace, but patience and diligence with such people, I have no doubt, will lead them to see the glory of the cross through the lens of the sovereign grace of God. The true gospel is powerful, it is beautiful, it sets the world aright. For those who have that Spirit of Christ already, it is just inevitable that the true gospel will lead to evangelistic fervor. Sin will certainly temper it, and sanctification is certainly a process, but is it not blatantly obvious that a supposed "Calvinist" who is growing in the head but shriveling in the heart is not only not a Calvinist, but not a Christian?!

So please, don't say Calvinists are weak in evangelism. Those who claim to be Calvinists may be, but true Calvinists, who are regenerate, who really understand the amazing message of the gospel, are literally burdened that the lost hear this amazing message! Fear of man, sin, may soften our fervor, but only for a season. The Spirit of Christ, the renewing of the mind, the ability to fall back on this true gospel again and again, assures us that we can never lose this passion. It will ebb and flow, but it will flow more and more the more we study, the more we learn, the more we seek to understand the object of our love- our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years

I don't even want to pretend like I know about military life, or the sacrifice soldiers make for us. All I know is I wouldn't want to do it. I'd probably try to dodge the draft. So from that perspective, I have a great deal of respect for those in the military, even though some are just in there because that was the last place for them to turn. That's the only way I would go.

Some people feel a sense of duty for their country, for their nation. Without the military, without God's instruments of wrath and justice, we would not have the freedom we now enjoy. What 9/11 reminds me of, much like the tornado that ravaged my hometown, is the fact that it is ultimately God's grace, and not man, that keeps us safe. That's not an attempt to undermine the military; I am not trying to say that they aren't a grace of God to us- they are. My point is simply that, no matter how much we try to protect ourselves, the only thing keeping us from total destruction is the grace and mercy of God.

9/11 brings to mind Luke 13:1-5. Read those verses, and you will see that the towers could have just as easily, and justly, fallen on our own heads. It's simply what we deserve- death. The death we deserve however, should come at the hands of God, not the hands of other sinful men. That's why it was just for us to go to war, to fight to protect ourselves, to promote justice.

It is no wonder that God uses tragedies to draw people to Him. Such events remind us that if God wills, we die. Deep down, people aren't sure they are going to make it into heaven. However, in America, death doesn't seem to be right around the corner- most of us have  a nice home, all the food we need, clothes, etc. So when the World Trade Center collapses, we go bonkers. How could that happen in America, we exclaim.

Why couldn't it happen here? Why couldn't it happen again? Why couldn't it happen again today? If we look at things realistically, the chances of us dying is absolute. The chances of us dying sooner rather than later is pretty high as well. Sickness, disease, car accident, natural disaster, terrorist attack, there are so many things that can, and eventually will, go wrong for us. Something is going to get us. So why do we forget the reality of death just because a natural disaster or terrorist attack doesn't happen here everyday? Because they do happen somewhere everyday, taking someone's life. How do you know today isn't going to be your day to go?

My goal is not to scare you for the sake of scaring you. I am not trying to paint an overly grim picture. I am trying to paint the grim picture that is the reality of this sinful, fallen world. Man is wicked, God is holy, and that's our problem. Our wickedness either causes us to cast God as not so holy, or not so good because He is holy. Both are panaceas that just won't work. All they do, in the end, is demonstrate just how sinful we really are, and how just God is in allowing towers to fall on us.

Don't run from God when disaster strikes, when death strikes. Run to God when disaster comes, knowing that is God who is causing the disaster and destruction, and justly so. Trust in Christ as Lord and Savior, He is the only tower of refuge. He lived a sinless life, fulfilling the requirement of righteousness that we miserably fall short of. He died the death of crucifixion, bearing the guilt of sin, the wrath of God against sin, for all the sinners who turn to the work of Christ on the cross for their salvation. You can be forgiven of your sins if you are united to Christ. Faith unites us to Christ, what He did on the cross, paying for sin, and what He did in His life, living sinlessly, fulfilling God's demands of righteousness.

And when you are covered in the blood of Christ, when you have been broken over your sinfulness, when your eyes have been opened and your heart has been changed so that you now love God and His holiness and hate sin and your wickedness, you can look at 9/11 and say it is still less than what we truly deserve. You can say that you deserved that death. Yet, God has given you grace. God has given you Jesus to die in your place. There is no fear in death, for Christ has defeated sin and death, and thus hell, by suffering it on our behalf. Sin has lost its power, death has lost its sting. He is risen from the dead. Therefore, united to Christ, I have new resurrection life. The towers cannot kill me, even if they kill me. I will rise again, with glorified bodies, in the presence of the Lord, and will enjoy His presence forever.

The alternative is to die apart from Christ, in your sins. That leads to eternal suffering in hell, where the towers always fall on us, and all those around us, yet death never comes. We were made by God, to glorify God, and in our glorifying God, to find our deepest and truest and greatest degree of satisfaction, joy, and happiness. In hell, we are cut off from all that brings joy and gladness, namely Christ, and we are left with our sinful selves.

It is my prayer that 9/11 will be a grim reminder of the grim reality of this sinful, fallen world. I pray that those who are saved would again be reminded of God's grace to them, and that they would share the love and grace of God with their unbelieving friends and family. For those who are not saved reading this, you need to trust in Christ as your Lord and Savior, so that you can be born again, have a change of heart so that you can now love God and His righteousness, and hate sin and your wickedness, and as a result find true happiness and joy, and avoid the punishment of hell that you deserve.
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