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"The Wading Pool" - Questions from the Newly Reformed discuss Confused in the Information and Introductions forums; I've been in a lot of churches over the last 30 years and quite a long time out of any church in that time. Everybody ...

  1. #1
    sonlight's Avatar
    sonlight is offline. Puritanboard Freshman
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    Confused

    I've been in a lot of churches over the last 30 years and quite a long time out of any church in that time. Everybody seems to have the right answer and oh yes, they can back it up from the Bible and when you look it all lines up and makes perfect sense. One by one, they all fell to the onslaught of another church that had even better answers. Assembly of God, Church of Christ, many independent churches. Recently I was baptized in and spent 6 mos in the SDA church. Then I came to see that as wrong as well. Now I am attending a Landmark Sovereign Grace Baptist Church. I didn't know much about Calvin and thought a tulip was a flower before I came there. I thought that an example of an arminian was Cher. So, I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed. About the time I think I have a few answers, I stumble onto this and now I feel even more like a useless idiot. Confession of faith.. Westminster... I'm lost. So here we go again. Our church tells me that churches that came from the Reformation are Catholics at heart... reformed Catholics and not the real church. I hear that a lot. Every place I go seems to be the real church and everybody else is wrong. Now I know I am pretty stupid and am far from being the sharpest tool in the shed, but ... everybody can't be right. Somebody has to be wrong. Can somebody explain things in some clear way that a dummy like me can understand. It used to be reading your Bible and believing it to be the true Word of God and trusting in the Lord Jesus as your Lord and Saviour was enough. Now, I don't even know what Bible to read. On one side I hear that every Bible but the KJV is satan inspired.
    If you are not one of the elect then is it completely useless to even bother praying or reading your Bible or going to church at all? The way I understand it, if you aren't elect, you are doomed and have been doomed long before you were born. God created you to destroy you and torture you for eternity in hell. I guess the place has to be filled somehow. So, I guess my question is how do you know you are one of the elect? Since we are depraved, almost usless creatures that have no free will and nothing we can say or do can change anything, I would like to know how you know for sure if you are one of the elect.
    That might sound a bit harsh but it wasn't meant to be scathing or even disrepectful in any way. I've come out of a background where this all alien to me and I truly want to make sense of it all somehow. Maybe I am just too stupid to ever get it but I have to try. I'm too stupid to get a lot of things and this might be one of them but I certainly hope not. If somebody could dumb it down and explain things to me in a way a real dummy could understand I would be grateful. Oops, I think I wrote a book.. hopefully somebody can make sense of my babbling.

  2. #2
    Scott1's Avatar
    Scott1 is offline. Puritanboard Doctor
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    Rick,

    Do not despair. God is not the author of confusion.

    1 Corinthians 14:33

    33For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
    First, take maybe one half day, get away from distractions and pray and fast. Take a Bible with you.

    Next, meet with elders and/or a spiritually mature person in your church and discuss this.

    You can take an excellent reformed theology on-line course, at no charge presently, "What is Reformed Theology?" In the situation you describe, you will want to purchase the book, read and study along, including look up the Scripture verses, and mark your own notes in the book.

    What Is Reformed Theology? Teaching Series by Dr. R.C. Sproul | Watch and Listen to Reformed Theology Teaching Series at Ligonier.org


    The answer, Rick, is "the ordinary means of grace."

    Blessings.
    Scott
    PCA
    North Carolina


    Post Tenebras Lux; "And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever." - Revelation 11:15

  3. #3
    Prufrock's Avatar
    Prufrock is offline. Arbitrary Moderation
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    Rick, you are not dumb for asking such questions at all.

    Yes, it is a most precious truth that our God has elected his own unto salvation from before the foundations of the world; and this truth brings great comfort to those who believe and cling to Christ. But God's choosing is an internal act of his which is hidden from us: we do not know God's hidden decree, and we cannot know it. And so, so long as we are outside of Christ, we cannot speculate, "Am I elect or not?" But while we cannot know God's hidden decree, we *can* know what he has revealed: and that is that he has sent his Son into the world for our salvation, and that all who hear the gospel are commanded to repent and believe. *This* is what we base our lives and actions on; not on something hidden in God which we cannot know. We know that God is faithful and will not turn away any who come to Christ by him; and when we cling to Christ by faith and see our salvation and interest in him, then we, too, can rest assured of our eternal election. So if you want to be confident of your election, follow after Christ and be assured of your interest in him, and then you will see in him the image of your election, so to speak, and will take great comfort therein and be strengthened thereby.

    God works out his decrees, such as his election, through means. When you feel these burning questions within you, and when you feel such a strong desire to make sure that you belong to Christ, recognize the motions of the Holy Spirit working within you, and endeavor to be sure that this "smoking flax" will not be quenched, but fanned into flame. Thank God for his goodness in the work which he has done in you and implore him to increase it; attend the public preaching of Christ and his ordinances of worship; endeavor to follow after God in private prayer and praise, in mediation on his word. Follow after God in these things wherein he has promised his presence, desiring to come to an assurance of your interest in Christ. Knowing that God's Spirit works life and grace in his people, take comfort when you see signs of spiritual life in yourself: do not rest in these as the ground of your salvation, for that is Christ's work alone -- but part of what he is working in you is this life, so take comfort when you see these signs and let them spur you on. This is how you can be assured of your election.
    Paul
    On "Temporary Leave"
    Please feel free to contact me by Private Message, but please include your email address.

  4. #4
    itsreed's Avatar
    itsreed is offline. Puritanboard Freshman
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    Sonlight Confused:

    Wow, that's quite a bit. I do have sympathy. Baptized as a baby in the Methodist Church, baptized/raised in the RCC from age 6, came to Christ via a campus ministry at age 20, joined of my own volition a Grace Brethren church at age 21, and then joined a PCA church at age 39. Quite a long way to go to end up where I am now, pastoring a PCA church. Along the way I had many experiences that seem like they correlate with what you describe.

    It sounds like you are asking two questions: one about election and the other about the nature of the church, although in both you are asking questions that involved foundational issues covering all of Christianity. Let me offer the briefest of answers and then recommend something to you.

    As to election, you understanding is understandably skewed from what reformed folks understand the Bible to be teaching. E.g., one who believes in election is not fatalistic (give up praying, worshiping, witnessing, etc., because God is going to do what He wants anyway). This is because we believe the Bible teaches that God works through means.

    Consider the example of a father and young son working on a project together. The young son's efforts are fraught with weakness and error simply because of his age/ability. Yet because of a purpose greater than the project itself the father insists that the son work alongside him. In the end everyone who sees the finished project will know it was the father's work that made the difference.

    This is a rough analogy to our circumstances. Our works of faith can never really effect any material change. Yet God has said He works through our faith. So we pray, worship, witness, etc.

    How does one know they are elect? That is not actually how the reformed used the doctrine of election. Such a question is actually answered via the Bible's teaching on assurance of salvation. How does one know they are saved? Our understanding is that this is a blessing that the Spirit gives when and where He wishes.

    I admit that these answers are not fully answering your questions. Frankly, I don't think either one of us have enough time in this setting for that to occur. So here is my suggestion: why not sit down with your Bible and a copy of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) and read? Ask the Spirit to reveal to you the truth of Scripture, and determine whether or not you agree, as best you understand, whether or not the WCF accurately summarizes the Bible's teaching.

    This is not as hard as it sounds. The WCF can be read straight through in less than 2 hours by the average reader. There are only 33 chapters, complete with example Scriptures showing that the summary offered is indeed what the Bible teaches (not proof texts, only some examples out of many available for each doctrine).

    The order of the chapters is intended to take you through the doctrines of Scripture in a systematic manner: God, Man, Fall, Savior, Salvation, Christian Life, Church, End Times.

    Your questions on election will be answered not simply from the one chapter on election, but also from the rest of the chapters as they coordinate with the topic of election. The same goes for the other topics; each is a thread in the loom that weaves the tapestry of our faith.

    In the end I suspect you will end up finding much you already agreed with, some that is new that has you thinking, and some that causes you to step back and say "nah." I suspect as well that you will find some release and relief from the "we're the only true church" angst that is sadly too common among too many denominations. (I find it ironic that "Protestants" adopt the principle of the RCC our forefathers left).

    In the end I expect you will find that the tree of Christianity is broader than you suspected. To be sure there are some branches broken off that tree (former parts of the Church that now teach heresy). As well there are some branches that are bent in a sad manner (churches that maintain heterodox, less than Biblical convictions). Yet all in all you will find God has kept His promise about growing His church till it fills the world.

    Hope this helps. Be encouraged, the frustrations you are facing won't go away overnight (sounds like they've been developing over years). Yet God will bless you and remove them. A few months or more of your faith pursuing His promise that you can know the truth and be set free from the tyranny of the doubt and ignorance common to this world, and I expect things will be dramatically different for you.

    Please let me know if I can help further.
    Reed DePace
    Pastor, 1st PCA
    Mgm, AL


    busy seeking
    a better home.
    ~ Heb 11:14-16

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