The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Thursday, February 14, 2013

When Calvinists Are Antinomian

Calvinists can be Antinomian. In my opinion, the YRR (Young Restless Reformed) crowd can be especially prone to this. Many have entered the reformed faith coming out of a "commit your life to Christ in order to be saved" background, where you are always questioning whether your commitment to Christ is strong enough to actually be saved. What I do not want to do is cast doubt in those who have weak assurance of their faith. What I do want to do is to steer them in the direction of a stronger, more robust assurance without them having to think like a cheap gracer.

For starters, let's remember that salvation is in one sense a past event, in another an ongoing event, and in another a future event. In Christ, we are a new creation. United by faith to Him, God sees us as holy and righteous with the robes of Jesus. Jesus Himself tells us that nothing can take us from His or His Father's hands. If one is truly united to Christ by faith, and no one can change that, it follows that we cannot be taken from Christ by anyone or anything.

What, however, is it that justifies us? It is our faith. The faith is a gift from God that we exercise, and it's power lies not in our willing but in the Christ who we are trusting in for our strength. That faith is a working faith, not in a mere social justice sense, but it is a working faith that seeks to be more like Christ. It is a faith that fights to cling to Christ more tightly, not in order to make peace with sin, but to draw strength to fight against the sin warring within us. Perhaps most importantly for this blog post, it is a faith that recognizes that the call Christ gave was a call to bear the burden of the the cross with Him (Lk. 9:23). 

How do we take up the cross daily and follow Christ? The strength of the Holy Spirit and His example are indeed the means, but what does taking up the cross daily look like? After all, didn't Christ die in one day, not His whole life? Yes and no. He bore our sins on the cross, but He bore the curse of sin that effects all creation His entire earthly life. Romans 8:3 says that God condemned sin in the flesh- Christ's flesh. Christ came in the likeness of sinful man, dealing with the same temptations as we as fallen men do, yet He prevailed without sinning. This daily struggle against temptation, against turning the rocks to bread after not eating for forty days when the devil tempted Christ, is the high calling of being a Christian. When Christ bids us come to Him, He bids us come and die. To what? To sinful self. The war against sin does not end at salvation. It begins at salvation.

This can be confused especially when one comes out of a background where the gospel has been presented in such a way that you must dedicate your life to Christ in order to be forgiven. This is putting the cart before the horse. The truth is, in order to dedicate your life to Christ, you must first be forgiven. That is, you must have the Spirit of Christ in you. You must be born again into the family of God before you can start living like a son, like Christ.

The danger that I sometimes see is when reformed people look at the gospel as having no demands on our part. It does have demands on our part- we must take up our cross daily and die to self. But we do not do that in order to be saved. Rather, that is the gift that salvation gives us. It is a privilege to have travail in our souls because of our depravity. It is medicine when we are sick to our stomachs because of our profound wretchedness. It is the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the conviction of Christ, that leads us to, by the same Spirit, put to death the lusting flesh.

Yet we choke out the cross that we are to bear when we begin to think of the gospel in such a way that the gospel has already been borne for us so that we should never feel guilty or burdened by our sins again. Carrying a cross daily is a burden! Why do we seek to see the gospel as a burdenless gospel, a gospel that doesn't tell us that there is a long road of sin to starve and death to bear before final glory?

Do I really think that Calvinists frame their view of the gospel and sanctification in Antinomian terms? Of course not, we are too theologically astute to admit to that heresy. But we do it practically when we see the gospel as something to get rid of healthy, sanctifying convictions of sin that the Holy Spirit has wrought in us. We do it when we have as a basis to our beliefs that any conviction for sin after we are saved is somehow a doubting in the power of the gospel to save us, rather than seeing conviction as something that reception of the gospel (that salvation) gave us.

Repentance, like faith, isn't a one time flu shot that you get at conversion and then never do again. The Christian life is characterized by a lifestyle of repentance, or should be at least. What does this mean? It means that we confess our sins as 1 John teaches us to do, even after we are saved. God says if we do so, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The fruit of true, saving, united to Christ faith is a lifestyle of cross-bearing, which means fighting against indwelling sin and repenting when we fail. And we will fail often. What is our motivation for continuing on? The gospel. The cross. Christ.

The gospel sets us free to walk the same road Christ trod- the road to the cross, carrying our crosses of indwelling sin all along the way. The glorious difference is we are carrying and killing already crucified sins, we are carrying a cross that already bore a Man that died for us. We are killing sins that have already been forgiven, to face a death that has already been defeated.

This is the indicative. The imperative, then, is not to use the cross as a crutch to pacify our convictions of very real sin that still wars within us, but to kill it because, in Christ, we actually can. And we do it with full assurance that we are already forgiven.

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