I wanted to continue with a few short articles with my personal testimony. Over the next two months, the congregation will be voting whether to call me as the next Senior Pastor of New Life in Christ Church. Many of you came once I was here and you never heard how I became a Christian. Because these early years are so important to my ministry today, I wanted to let you know the mighty work God has done.
Today I want to write about the first few years of my Christian growth. When I became a Christian, I finally found the joy that had eluded me for years (see my testimony from last week), and all I wanted was to know more of the joy in following Him. I wanted to treasure Christ above all other things (Matthew 13:44), whether treasuring Him above my favorite sins (Romans 13:44) or my earthly ambitions and successes (Philippians 3:8). I knew that the Lord was changing me into the person He wanted me to be, yet I become more aware every day how I needed His ongoing help to grow in my Christian life.
One of the most powerful times of personal growth I experienced occurred when I first I understood the “Doctrines of Grace” (or “Calvinism”). In the months leading to this discovery, my young spiritual life was in rapid decline. I wondered why I wasn’t having more success over sin, I was overly focused on school, and my passion for Christ was waning.
That is when someone first told me about “Calvinism” or predestination. Like many people, I first protested against the idea that God chose those whom he would save, until I looked into what the Bible taught.
That is when I read “Chosen by God” by RC Sproul and I intensely studied what the Bible teaches about predestination – I learned that I did not deserve His love at all. I learned that He loved me when I was a sinner and had orchestrated my life to put me in the path of salvation. I learned that Christ paid for all my sins. I learned that God would never let me be separated from Him. Over time, I was convinced by these truths. I found that I was hungering for this them, like I was created and saved to enjoy these realities.
Seeing that these “Doctrines of Grace” were taught in the Bible, I began to grasp God’s limitless love for me. It radically changed my life. It gave me the power to “pluck my eye out” by avoiding the temptations that were leading me to sin. If God loved me enough to choose me in my sin, where else would I find greater love or greater joy? I wondered why I would ever sin and separate myself from the love God had for me? The love of God, in the gospel of grace, became the greatest motivation for godliness that I would ever experience.
Another way that God caused me to grow was through a steady application of the spiritual disciplines. I did not grow up in a Christian home, but in becoming a Christian, I suddenly found an insatiable desire to learn. What was previously boring now carried enormous interest to me. By daily reading I had the chance to read the Bible through a few times. I learned how to hunger for God through prayer and fasting. I learned what it means to enjoy God through worship, the sacraments, and knowing Scripture. Scripture memorization and mediation burned His truths into my heart. My faith was tested as I began to preach the gospel to both Christians and non-Christians. My heart became lighter as I enjoyed fellowship with saints around the Word of God.
In a culture that is satisfied with trivial things, I have had to learn the way to true happiness – “keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1). The spiritual disciplines have helped me keep my eyes set on the ultimate Treasure in heaven.
Significant books for my growth in spiritual maturity:
Desiring God, John Piper
Chosen by God, R.C. Sproul
The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges
Holiness, J.C. Ryle