As you may have noticed I bang on a lot about Reformed theology and the doctrines of grace and if you don’t know what I’m talking about click here and prepare to have the way you think of God overturned. But why do I think it matters? What’s so vitally important about it? Why do I care? It’s not because I think reformed Christians are better than others for I’ve met too many people who aren’t and yet walk so closely with Christ. One of the biggest benefits of the Christian Union is meeting a lot of people who I disagree with theologically speaking yet put me to shame for my lacklustre walk with God. It’s not because I think that you’re a bad Christian if you’re not reformed. And it’s not because I want everyone to agree with the Ben Mildred Way of Looking at Things. No, it’s something greater than all these.
There are many ways I could answer the question. I could give you a pretty good theological argument for why the Reformed truths are so completely and wonderfully biblical. I could debate this point and that and constantly emphasis how much glory is given to God through a proper understanding of the doctrines of grace. I could go through church history and name drop Luther, Calvin, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Own, Edwards and more recently Driscoll, Piper and Moyer. I could recount story after story of how reformed theology has wrought transformation in lives beyond counting. More so, I could tell of marvels done because a Christian stood on the firm ground of reformed theology and with it faced all the storms and battles of life.
Instead, I’m going to talk about how it has affected one live in particular: mine. How convincing it will be I have great doubts over; the conceit it may imply worries me as well but this is something I feel the need to write.
My anchor of late has been the truth of Perseverance of the Saints i.e. once a Christian; always a Christian. It is the truth expressed by Jesus when he says about his people: “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.” (John 10v29). This has been so important to me of late because I have realized for the first time how fragile a hold I have over my faith. There’s been more than one occasion of late when I have felt the urge to pack it all in and give up on following Christ.
So it is of greater comfort than I can adequately put into words that God has me in his hands and no one, not even me, can pluck me out of them. Imagine if this were not the case – why then, I would zero confidence of ever making it to heaven because I know all too well the waywardness of my own heart and my inherent weakness. No, my confidence is in God’s hold of me not my hold on God.
And I see this truth working out in many ways. In words of encouragement that were solely needed, in refreshment when times are dark, in verses that spring to mind, in sermons that bring comfort and in the support of all my friends. But greater than that is the direct work of Christ in bringing me time and time again back to him when I start to stray.
When I look to the future I need this bedrock of biblical truth to stand upon. God has chosen me since before the creation of the world, Jesus sought me out and saved me and he’s not about to let me go. As Paul writes:
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”
Ephesians 1 v 13 - 14
My guarantee against all the troubles and worries of the future is the fact that the Holy Spirit is within me and God is not about to let me fall away.
To move onto another truth I find that in personal evangelism there is nothing more uplifting and encouraging than the truth of Total Depravity as expressed in Romans 3v1: “As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” If it were not for this truth I would quail under my friend’s indifference to the very gospel that they need to hear. If it were not this truth then I would be in agonies over how my friends, who are all good people, would not believe in Jesus.
And the twin of this truth is yet more glorious: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” Ephesians 1 v 4-5. God, in his love, has chosen people to be saved! What a burden that if lifted from my shoulders for now it is not on my works that other people come to Christ but on God’s sovereign choice. If I mess, as I do, in proclaiming the gospel; if I lack the courage to take an opportunity; if I bottle it instead of speaking out then my feeble works have not resulted in damnation for that other person. Salvation depends on God not on me and I am only used as a means as God best sees fit. It is precisely because my own actions have zero affect on the overall outcome that I find the motivation to speak out.
God’s sovereignty over all things, including salvation, is a force unlike any other in stirring a heart to action. Ok, honestly compels me to admit that this is how it should be. Shamefully, in my case it is often not so. Yet my feeble efforts would be so much less if I thought for a single second that salvation depended even in the slightest on myself.
This is probably the least convincing case for Reformed truths ever put forward. I only need to look at my own life and it is all too clear how little these glorious truths have effect. But this I plead with you: to stand firm in the faith you need a firm theology to stand upon. Reformed theology is inherently recognising that we are nothing, God is everything and salvation belongs to him. As such you will find it the firmest of all foundations upon which to stand on.
“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
John 6 v 37 – 40
If you are reading this as a Christian think on this: God the Father gave you to his Son so that you might be saved, kept then raised up on the last day to be granted eternal life. Your own compliance in the matter is entirely incidental. And given your wretched and sinful state that is the most beautiful truth in the world.