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Comments

brad

Great Post. I am looking to send some readers over here.
brad
21st Century Reformation

Diane R

Well, I am perplexed. I find myself somewhere in nowhereland between Arminianism and Calvinism. There are so many of us in somewhere-nowhere land.
I too was raised Presbyterian but in a liberal church that was similar to what you hear at the Crystal Cathedral. I too believed that Jesus was the Son of God and died on the cross (for some reason although I wasn't sure why).

But according to Romans 10:9,10 I wasn't a Christian because although I believed this, it wasn't in my heart though I thought it was.

When I wasin college I heard how to be born again and decided I would give that a whirl (after beingan atheist for two years). After I "accepted" Christ my heart and thinking changed. I understood now what Christ had done even before it was thoroughly explained to me in the years to come.

I have met several of my classmates who also went to my church and other liberal ones in my town. They listened intently to sermons every week. But they were not Christians (according to them). They also "accepted" Christ after they left. By the way, all of us were good people..no drugs or alcohol or illicit sex. But we just never heard the gospel.
It sounds as if you were raised in a PCA-like church insted of a PCUSA-like church?

Since I didn't grow up in a church like that I have no reference point. Henceforth, I am still confused..LOL.

Dory

Diane,
Thanks for your thoughtful comments. As to the church, mine at the time of these events actually was a PCUSA church (or perhaps still United Presby. at that point), but all this was over 30 years ago, in a conservative little town. Whether it could happen like that today, I don't know. Doctrine wasn't well explained to me most of the time, but what was given was sound and if I had questions I could get answers. God will call His people and in my case, He did it there in what would seem, humanly speaking, a difficult place for it to happen. I am a member of a PCA church now, and have been for some time, and would not return to the PCUSA. Nevertheless, I did learn to love the Lord and His gospel while I was there.

I think sometimes we are too quick to look back and say we were not Christians at some point or another when perhaps we were. There was a time when I did that, but as I look back on it now, I see that God had been working in my life all that time, and I do not want to dismiss what He was doing for me. I did love Him and cling to the Gospel, even though I had a lot of other things wrong. We are not born again as mature adults; we are born again as babes in the faith. The test of the genuineness of a profession, I think, is not whether a person is now mature in the faith, but whether they do, in time, grow to maturity through the sanctification of the Spirit.

I think another mistake I have made in the past is to confuse a time of commitment to the Lord as a conversion. John 3:3 tells us that we cannot see the things of the Kingdom unless we are born again. How then would it be possible for us to commit ourselves to Christ unless we were already born again? How would repentance and faith be possible if we were still dead in our sins? After all, even repentance and faith are gifts of God to His children. (John 6:44 & 65; Acts 11:18)

The Christian walk is not often (ever?) a straight march forward. We are weak and we step forward a bit, backslide or side-step, and then walk forward a bit more as God works in our lives. In an immature Christian backsliding can look on the outside an awful lot like unbelief. (Though I would expect that lawlessness is not an easy life for a converted person and there must be a lot of inner turmoil.)

The verses in Romans 10, I think, were not distinguishing between believing and having something "in your heart." They were distinguishng between knowing what the Gospel is well enough to say the "right" words of profession and sincerely believing these words are true. Either we believe something or we don't. And we can't make ourselves believe what we don't believe, though we can make ourselves say the words. There is no extra quality of the heart that we must stir up within ourselves to make our beliefs meritorious enough to be acceptable.

I do not mean to minimize the importance of our commitments to Christ, our desire to live in obedience to Him, and our return to commitment after a period of weakenss. My point is only that we ought not confuse those experiences with the "rebirth" or conversion, which is a work of the Spirit, not a work of our flesh, and which happens when God wills it and not man. (John 1:12-13)

The times of commitment and "turn around," in our lives are events of great satisfaction and joy, and we can look back on them with gratitude to God for bringing us to that point. Often those times follow periods of trial, confusion, despair, or error, and they are like emerging from a dark stenchful cave into the fresh air and glowing sunshine of God's truth. But we can also know that God was with us in the cave, too, working all things for our good. At other times, they follow God opening our eyes and enlightening our minds with another aspect of His truth that we hadn't understood before. Sometimes that kind of enlightenment can be the beginning of a "growth spurt" in our spiritual lives.

Anyone can say the words necessary to make a profession of faith. However true faith will not be of no effect in our lives. As James wrote, faith without works is dead. I think what he meant was a profession of faith that remains without works was just words, not genuine faith, because true faith produces good works. One of my favorite passages is Ezekiel 36:26-28. Here God tells us that He gives His people a new heart--taking their dead hearts of stone and replacing them with hearts of living flesh--makes them His people and causes them to walk in His ways. There is nothing in these verses to indicate that this process is initiated by or approved in advance by the people. It is a work of God from start to finish.

You spoke about learning how to be born again and deciding to "give that a whirl." In such situations perhaps a person is just superstitiously trying yet another "charm," to bring some satisfaction in life, but you spoke of genuine change in your life afterward. I don't doubt the genuineness of your experience, but I would suggest that perhaps God gave you rebirth first, which enabled you to hear the Gospel not as foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18), but as your only hope, and respond to it by clinging to Christ, repenting, and asking for His help. The result is the same, perhaps, but I want to recognize that God is the agent of it.

To me, it is of great comfort to know that my commitment to God is dependant upon His commitment to me rather than vice versa. He's a lot better at keeping commitments than I am. Praise be to His name for the things He has done!

Phil Dillon

So true. Conversion for me came during a long process of investigation. I believe God was using those times when I professed un-belief to bring me to the place I could truly believe.

I went down an aisle in a Baptist church, but I was a Christian before I ever made that walk. It was just a way of affirming what I already believed and becoming part of a community of believers.

It may be different for others, I don't know. But that's what it was for me.

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