Theology in Action
Get up. Let us go from here. (John 14:31)
After the Passover meal with his disciples, after washing their feet, after comforting them with the promise that he was going to his Father in order to prepare a mansion for them in glory, after promising the Helper, the Holy Spirit who would bring to their remembrance all that he had taught them; Jesus then says to his disciples, ‘Get up. Let us go from here.’ After God has done his great work of redemption in you and me, after he has taken our sins away from us as far as the east is from the west, after he has delivered us from the domain of darkness; can we not also say, ‘Get up. Let us go from here!’? This begs the question – where were the disciples going? Well, they were going to John 15 where Jesus told them to bring forth much fruit, to abide in him and his Word, to love one another, to expect persecution and rejection. They were going to John 16 where he told them they soon would be outcasts from the synagogue for an hour was coming when those who would kill them would think they were offering service to God. They were not to worry, however, because the Helper would lead them into all truth and would glorify him. They were going to John 17 where they would listen as Jesus poured out his heart to his Father in the High Priestly prayer, beseeching him by praying, ‘Father, my hour has come. Glorify thou me together with thyself with the same glory I had with thee before the world was.’ He prayed, ‘I was making thy name known to them and I will make it known that the love thou hast for me may be in them and I in them.’ Within a few hours Jesus was going to Calvary where he would take upon himself the just wrath and condemnation of all his people for all the ages. He would shed his precious, undefiled blood on the cross to remove the guilt and shame of our sin. And his disciples, after receiving the promised Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-29, Luke 24:45-49, Acts 1:8), were to make disciples of all the nations.
Our strength is our weakness in the Reformed Church. We are very strong in our commitment to Reformed Theology, more specifically the so-called doctrines of grace (TULIP – total inability, unconditional election, limited or particular redemption, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of God with the saints). This is a very good thing, but our strength has become our weakness. I suggest that we are far too cerebral, far too content to sit in our favourite chair and read or discuss theology. What we need are the five practical points of Calvinism. And what are they? First, we must make disciples of all the nations. This ought to be clear enough (Matt. 28:18-20, Acts 1:8). We are to evangelize the lost and we are to bring them to maturity in Christ (Col. 1:27-29). But you may object by saying, ‘Wait a second. Isn’t it true that God is the author of salvation? He is the One who chooses people to be saved (Eph. 1:4-13). If they are to be saved he will do it. He does not need me.’ True. He is the author of salvation but he always uses people to do his work (Rom. 10:9-17). We must evangelize because God is worthy of praise and worship. All the people of the world worship something (Psa. 96:4-6). We are to make them worshippers of the true and living God (Psa. 2, 47, 67). We must also evangelize because people without Christ are lost and on their way to hell (Rom. 2:5-6, Mark 9:45-48, 2 Thess. 1:8-9, Rev. 20:11-15). And we must evangelize because our churches will die without it.1
The second point of practical Calvinism is – you cannot make disciples of the nations. Why not? Because people are dead in their sins (Eph. 2:1-3)! They don’t seek for God. Their throats are open graves (Rom. 3:10ff). They are ungodly and helpless (Rom. 5:6). They do not want what we are ‘selling.’ Furthermore, you will not make disciples. You may attend church and cover dish dinners. You may play on the softball team, but you will not make disciples. Why not? Your flesh and indwelling sin shrink back at the notion of opening your mouth and speaking to others about their souls. You fear rejection. The world’s way of thinking certainly does not encourage you to do this. They mock the idea that Jesus is the only way to God, that they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked (John 14:6, Rev. 3:17). They think you are a moron (the Greek word for fool) for believing in six day creation, the virgin birth of Jesus, and his literal resurrection from the dead (1 Cor. 2:14, 4:8ff). So your tendency may be to keep your mouth shut to save face. The devil certainly does not want you to speak to others about Jesus. He is very orthodox (James 2:19). He knows the truth about Jesus and he is afraid the church will awaken from her self-imposed slumber and stir up hell by wrenching people from his damning clutches. Are you one who rarely speaks to others about Jesus? Be honest with yourself. When is the last time you spoke directly to someone about his soul? If you can be charged with a guilty silence, then consider the third practical point of Calvinism – you must thirst. Ask God to give you an intolerable burden for the lost, for them to know the glory of God in the face of the Lord Jesus, to see him as the altogether lovely Saviour, to bow humbly before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Nehemiah had that burden for God’s glory. When told that their fathers were again giving their children to be married to pagans, he pummelled them, pronounced curses on them, and pulled the hair out of their heads (Neh. 13:25). You may say, ‘To be honest with you, I don’t thirst. I don’t have an intolerable burden. I am so busy with my family, job, and church I don’t have time to get one.’ I know what you mean. My intolerable burden waxes and wanes too, but surely as we contemplate the glory of God’s great work of redemption in us, we can ask the Spirit afresh to renew a steadfast spirit within us.
And this leads to the fourth practical point of Calvinism – you must pray. Because Jesus is worthy of the praise of all the nations, because people are unable to call upon Jesus in their own strength to be saved, because we must evangelize, then does this not drive us to pray for the Spirit’s unction, power, authority, and regenerating work to fall on people! We are desperate and know it not. We must. We cannot. We will not. Thus we must thirst. Thus we must pray. I challenge you to find a small group and pray for at least one hour per week for the salvation of friends and people in your community. Don’t merely share prayer requests for forty-five minutes and pray for fifteen. Pour out your hearts. Pray in the Spirit. Ask the Spirit to come down upon your prayer meeting so that you sense his presence and power in ways you have never experienced. Pray while fully expecting God to save people. And this finally leads to the fifth practical point of Calvinism – you will shine. Like Moses on Mt. Sinai (2 Cor. 3:13), like Stephen before the Sanhedrin (Acts 6:15), like God’s covenant people receiving the Aaronic benediction (Num. 6:24-26) the glory of the Lord will be on your face. People will see Jesus in your eyes, in your speech, in your actions, on your face. As you have seen beautiful brides beaming with joy on their wedding days; so your face can shine with the glory of Jesus every day as you live out the five practical points of Calvinism. May God so work in you and me that others see and experience the doctrines of grace as they play out practically in our lives!
- See my devotional from April 26, 2012, ‘Evangelize or Perish’, archived here.
Rev. Allen M Baker is an evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Director of the Alabama Church Planting Network. He planted (2003) and served as Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in Hartford, Connecticut, until December 2011. His weekly devotional, ‘Forget None of His Benefits’, can be found here.
If you would like to respond to Pastor Baker, please contact him directly at email@example.com.
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