My Walk With the Lord

Last night, I was challenged by a friend regarding the types of blog entries that I write. He told me that my writing always seems to center around politics. Ignore the fact that this friend is my most politically active friend or the fact that the only person to comment on my poem about my wife was said wife, and I considered this a challenge.

I went to the altar for the first time when I was twelve. I did it because my mother did it the same day and most of my adult years I have lived with the knowledge that I wasn’t truly Saved at that point.

Let’s skip forward nine years. I rededicated my life to Christ when I was twenty-one. This was the time when I can truly say that I became a follower of Jesus. From that point forward, I read the Bible regularly (I’ve read the NIV from cover to cover, though not necessarily in order), prayed daily and began entreating the Lord on behalf of my, at the time, unsaved father.

But even now, as I approach my thirty-fourth year, God is still revealing new things to me. I’ve spent my entire life living as a Christian, but not wanting to rock the boat. What I’ve discovered is that my walk wasn’t really Christian at all. To paraphrase Ray Comfort, one of my new heroes in the faith, if we call ourselves followers of Christ, but don’t have a longing to reach the lost, then we should reevaluate our Salvation.

The problem is with the concept of “freedom from religion.” What made me realize that I wasn’t behaving as a true Christian was the fact that I, for most of my adult life, viewed evangelism in the same way as our new president. When he was asked if Christ was the only way to Heaven, he said, “He is my only way.” So Obama seems to view Christianity as one of many roads to the same place. He doesn’t want to offend his base. The problem is that people die for their faith in Christ everyday and all over the world. But even more go to Hell each day. And I was afraid to offend people by “pushing” my views on them. How can I have been so callous as to be more concerned about offending them than warning them of an eternity of torment?

Another change that I have noticed is my views on doctrine. Most of my adult life, I have considered myself a member of the Assemblies of God church. I looked at things from an Armenian point of view and enjoyed every message in tongues that I heard. I am still a “continuationist,” meaning that I believe that the spiritual gifts like tongues, healing and prophecy still exist. My issue is with execution. Paul, at one point, lays down the rules for speaking in tongues. He says that only a couple of people should speak, then there should be an interpretation, preferably from the person who gave the message. The last AG church that I went to followed this rule. I only remember ever hearing messages one at a time and they were always interpreted. But I often went to churches where almost everyone around me was yelling something in tongues and they were never interpreted. As near as I can tell, this isn’t Scriptural.

And, while I still believe in prophetic messages, I don’t believe that they will ever contradict Scripture. Benny Hinn is NOT a prophet. He says things that cannot be proven in Scripture, or even by common sense. Remember when he said that Adam could fly around like Superman? Huh?

I have also spent a great deal of the last year reading things by the likes of R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur and John Piper. But I’ve also spent a great deal of time perusing the blog of my mentor, John Sneed. What I’ve come to realize is that I am much closer to being a Calvanist than I ever thought that I was.

Dr. Sproul once commented on praying for the lost. If we truly believe in Free Will, who are we to intrude on someone’s right to choose by praying that God would same them? Remember that I said that I was praying for my father’s soul? He got saved in 1996 and went to be with the Lord ten years later.

Total depravity
I think that anybody who is a Christian should believe this one. Man is born in sin. We have no way of getting ourselves to Heaven apart from Christ. It’s that simple.

Unconditional election
I’ve heard people who don’t believe in predestination say that this point would make evangelism unnecessary. As Pastor Sneed points out, though, we don’t know who would be the elect. God doesn’t tattoo it on their foreheads. So we witness to everyone, assuming that they are of the elect right up until the day that they die.

Limited atonement
This one seems open and shut for me. Christ died for Christians. He didn’t die for Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Neo-Pagans or agnostics, unless the people who led these lifestyles in the past turned to Christ before their deaths. Then they are Christians.

Irresistible grace and Perseverance of the saints
These are a little more difficult for me. Hebrews 6:4-6 says, “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” (ESV) I have had people who are much more intelligent than I say that this is a warning. But I just want to understand why God would have included a warning in Scripture about something that couldn’t happen. Trust me, I don’t want to anger any of my Calvinist friends (least of all my beautiful wife), but I would really love to understand this better.

I use a dear friend from Ireland to illustrate my point on this. I won’t mention his name here, but he is an author whose blog I follow regularly. At one point, he was one of the most passionate Christians that I have ever known. He was a true apologist who would defend his faith strongly. Then, less than a year ago, he posted on his blog that he is no longer a Christian. I pray for him everyday, not to offend him, but because I don’t want to be callous about his eternity. But was he ever truly one of the elect? If he had died a year ago, would he have made it to Heaven, but would now see Hell? I am just confused about situations like this.

So, for those of you who haven’t seen me in a long time, you are probably scratching your heads as you read this. “What happened to Jeff?” I am a Baptist minister. I am a continuationist. I am a “three-point” Calvinist.

Any other questions?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “My Walk With the Lord

  1. Hi, Jeff. I imagine I am your dear friend from Ireland. 🙂

    I’m not offended at all by what you say, in reevalutating whether I was every truly a Christian. In fact, I totally understand it.

    From your perspective, the Bible is telling you one thing and your experience is telling you another. You are literally faced with believing I was never a true Christian or denying the validity of Scripture. Big stakes.

    But from my perspective, this situation is yet another example of how the Bible fails to live up to its claims in the real world. I didn’t persevere because “Perseverence of the Saints” isn’t real. The reality is that people change their minds, as they grow through life, and Christians are not exempt.

    When you accept a religion, your mind get “implanted” with doctrines, i.e. you’re told what you believe from a book rather than figuring out what’s true about life by your own deductions. Once I rejected that form of “programming” and starting trying to figure things out on my own, I found that really started learning about life and losing the sense of bewilderment I lived with as a Christian.

  2. Actually, it isn’t so much what the Bible teaches about “Perseverence of the Saints” being false doctrine that concerns me. As I pointed out from my Scripture reference in Hebrews, I don’t necessarily believe that it is a Biblical Doctrine at all. This is something that puts me at slight odds with my mentor who is training me to be a preacher. But, the positive thing is that he doesn’t really care that he and I have differing views on this. We both are followers of Christ.

    I believe that anything that you run into in this world is going to “program” you in some way. I get programmed by your blog (in a good way). The difference is in what we allow ourselves to be programmed by.

    I mentioned my father in my blog entry. He had never been to church. He had never been indoctrinated by anyone (except his irritating son). But he finally decided one day that God was real and that he needed a relationship with him. I can’t really say that it was programming, because my father was good at tuning out things that I said that bugged him.