By: Thomas F. Booher
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As usual, I refer to piety as Calvinistic because I believe Calvinism is an accurate reflection of what Scripture teaches. However, I also believe that those who hold to the doctrines of grace will find certain temptations greater than others who hold to a different theology of Scripture. If God is sovereign, why evangelize? If God is sovereign, why pray? If God is sovereign, why discipline yourself and your children? If God is sovereign, why concern yourself with piety and holiness at all? Won't God grow us when He is good and ready by Himself?
Those who hold to a free will theology do not have the aforementioned issues inherent in their theology. Rather, their problem is that they must evangelize, pray, and discipline themselves and their children without an all-sovereign God. Further, they believe that they can do these things without God being sovereign. What this does do is put the impetus on themselves and their own free will. If evangelism fails, it is because of what they did. If their prayers don't get through, it may be because they didn't pray the right way. If the children are disobedient and they are unholy, it is because they must not have exercised their wills rightly.
These things are, of course, true. Our wills are freed in Christ. The difference is that we have a sovereign God, and we have remaining, indwelling sin that previously enslaved our wills but now claws at us and seeks to entice us back to our former bondage. We are also indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and Scripture says we must wage war against sin by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:13). Because God is sovereign, we can trust that God will grow us in the faith by His strength, for it is He who is working in us both to will and to do His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). And yet, God calls us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). Piety then, religious devotion and practice, finds its strength not in ourselves, but in God. We need weapons and armor to wage war against the flesh. These are provided, not by our free will, but by God's grace in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 6:10-18 says:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saint.
Notice that v. 10 says we are to be strong "in the Lord and in the power of His might." It is His strength, not ours. Truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the Holy Spirit, these are all gifts of God, and access to God through prayer is likewise given to us through the atonement of Christ.
How then, shall we pursue truth? How shall we use righteousness, proclaim the gospel, exercise faith, devote ourselves to prayer, and live in the Spirit? Calvinists will answer this differently from non-Calvinists because we see all these things as a gift from a sovereign God given to helpless men who were dead in trespasses and sins.
As I thought about why I am writing a book called The Tulip Driven Life, I realized this is one of the reasons- to understand how we as reformed people should live using the means God has given us. How do we apply our theology to our Christian piety? How do the doctrines of grace inform our religious devotion?
I am pleased to say that The Tulip Driven Life e-book should be ready sometime in July. I plan on making it available through Amazon for free. I hope you will read it and be helped by it to live more faithfully and devoutly to God.