At one time I believed that I chose to follow Christ. I was twelve years old and attending Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Hoboken Georgia when I made ‘the decision.’ That particular service the Lords Table was being observed. Before this point in my life, I had always claimed to be a Christian based on my church attendance, good behavior, and that fact that I just didn’t want to go to Hell. I knew I wanted to be in Heaven like everyone else does and that is where I placed my hope. But thankfully, on this Sunday night it finally clicked. I understood that it was only through Jesus Christ that I could get to heaven, and it was in Him that I placed my faith. He took away my sins by dying for me, baring my sins with him. Although I truly did become a Child of God that night and it is definitely the most important event in my life, it was not the most life-changing. The eventual understanding of the gospel that took place over the next three years, because of this spiritual salvation would have to be my most life-changing, belief-influencing event.
It was through my eventual understanding of the gospel that I came to rethink everything that occurred that Sunday night in 2009. Before my salvation I read the Bible because I was told to and thought it was needed to go to Heaven. After my salvation I started to read the Bible to learn and understand it. This was the first big step to understanding what Christianity was really all about. At this point I was under the impression that I was saved because of walking to the alter, saying a five minute prayer, asking Jesus to come into my heart, shaking the preachers hand, filling out the card they gave me, and because I was going to be baptized a month later. Man was I wrong! Sure, I felt good about myself because I knew it really happened this time, but I wondered about the fifth-teen previous times I asked Jesus into my heart. Would I have to do it again someday? Am I sure? What if I have doubts? These thoughts would led me into deeper and more in depth study of God’s word and to life altering answers.
My father had a great impact on my belief systems as a new Christian. He would bring home books for me to read that questioned all biblical doctrines that were taught to our church to test them and prove them true. But the more we studied the word for ourselves the more we saw the errors and misconceptions of modern day Baptists. We began to read behind the great Christian men of the past such as John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Knox, Martin Lloyd-Jones, and the great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon and found that their views on church doctrine differed greatly of present day evangelicals. Our study started with the fundamental question of Christianity. How may a man be justified be for God? The research of this essential question of Christianity carried on for the next year or so. The Doctrines of Grace began to appear everywhere throughout the word of God when we researched justification. I began to see His mercy, His sovereignty, His power, His love, and most of all His grace. I began to realize how gracious God was that he would save anyone.
The angles fell from there just standing before God, just as men when Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, yet he gave them no savior. That wasn’t unfair to the angels; it was just gracious to humans. God would be completely just if He sent every creature to hell. Everyone has sin, and is sinful creatures that can do no good in the sight of God. Everyone deserves hell; it’s only by His grace that he saves any. God is a just, therefore in order to save his elect, he sent his Son to Earth to die for their sins, paying their cost and making them Holy and Blameless before Him, justifying them to live with Him eternally. Grace is receiving that which you do not deserve, and in this case receiving the ultimate satisfaction and purpose of life (to glorify God) even though you deserve the worse punishment imaginable, even at the cost of the Judges own son! What unthinkable grace!
This doctrine and spiritual revelation changed my whole attitude and life forever. My beliefs changed greatly over this time period. I used to believe all men were evil and that the same evil man, whose “righteous deeds are as filthy rags,” had the power within him to choose a Holy God. This is the point at which God graciously reveled to me to folly of my views and beliefs, and how contradictory they are. Because of the fall of man through the sin of Adam, all men are “dead in the trespasses and sins.” The question then arose how dead is dead? Until this point, I’ve been taught all my life that man has the power to make a spiritual decision for Christ. My studies showed otherwise. Jesus talked in terms of stone cold corpses, tombs, and resurrections. For instance, Lazarus did not initiate his dealings with Christ, nor did he exercise a “free will” to come to life. Ezekiel’s dry bones did not rattle with consent under the prophet’s ministry.
Is it any wonder that Jesus said, “No man can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” in John 6:44 in revelation to their need of the Bread of Life? In Adam we are all dead (Rom 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:22)! These biblical truths that were revealed to me by the Grace of God during this time showed me how Justification actually works. Arthur W. Pink sums it up eloquently when he writes, “Grace is provision for men who are so fallen they cannot lift the ax of justice, so corrupt that they cannot change their own natures, so averse to God that they cannot turn to Him, so blind that they cannot see Him, so deaf that they cannot hear Him, and so dead that He Himself must open their graves and lift them into resurrection.” My foolishness has been exposed. It was not I that chose to follow Christ, and it wasn’t my will to worship God forever. My will is the same as every other human on earth, and that is to sin and to rebel against God. The only way a sinner can be saved is to have that will changed, to have a heart transplant.
People are so dead in sin and rebellion against God that no one can change their own will; it must be God who draws them to Himself of his own gracious choosing. The Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Spirit work as one to bring about salvation in a person. God the Father chooses whom He will have mercy on; God the Spirit calls those whom the Father chose to repentance; and God the Son justifies the elect of God. I realized that I wasn’t saved because I said a prayer, walked an aisle, and was baptized, but because if was in God’s perfect plan to save whom He will, and I was saved by his Grace, not because I’m special of different from any one else but because that was His Will. God is sovereign and his will is accomplished. The Gospel has changed my life. I don’t look at people the same way anymore. Compassion and understanding come with the knowledge of the true Gospel. God can save whomever he will, no matter how sinful the person. There is no difference to God if you’re a prostitute, or merely over eat; it’s the same in the eyes of God.
Both people are deserving of eternal damnation, and in need of the mercy of God. I used to think if I needed convince them of Jesus, almost trick them into believing, and when they didn’t I would feel disappointed in myself thinking what if it were my fault they didn’t get saved? Later I discovered that the salvation of men has nothing to do with me, I am just a mere tool used by God to save whom He will. The gospel is preached not because we believe that sinners have within their selves the power to receive the savior it proclaims, but the gospel itself is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, and because we know that ‘as many were appointed to eternal life’ (Acts 13:48), shall believe (John 6:37) in Gods appointed time.