Today is a nice day to consider my own personal reformation. Not so long ago I was working for the weekend, living for baseball and computer games. Oh, don't get me wrong, I went to church. I was committed to church. I even sang in the choir. I was a deacon. I taught Sunday School. But I had no idea (and to a degree still don't) what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ. I was quite sure that I had decided to be a believer, and that Jesus was happy to be my friend.
And then things started clashing. What do you mean God chose me? What does Paul mean when he says "elect" or "predestined"? Because these obviously don't mean what they look like they mean. Or do they? I had conversations with a friend (who in retrospect possibly had hyper-Calvinist tendencies) into the wee hours of the morning debating free will vs. predestination.
I began to come around eventually. Some of the influences in my life were the book of Romans, R. C. Sproul's The Invisible Hand, and Southern Seminary. Systematic Theology I & II at SBTS were highly formative, and I continue to benefit from two papers I wrote on God's Sovereignty and Human Freedom and Responsibility and The Problem of Evil.
In the recent days of my personal reformation, I have experienced the joy of real spiritual communion and fellowship with my church, over 160 Piper sermons on Romans, and many discussions about the subject with my best friend.
At this time, I feel like things are culminating at James 1:2-4. In my preaching class this semester we have to preach a sermon (duh). Well, I drew this passage. And the main idea of the passage is that believers should maintain an attitude of joy--even during persecution and poverty. Why? Because trials produce perseverance, and perseverance produces maturity. And maturity is God's design for believers in this life. So, come what may, I am trusting God as he brings about this personal reformation, and I am incredibly grateful that God included me in his saving work.
And, ultimately, "we know that for those that love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28).
"Give what Thou dost command, and command what Thou wilt." -- Augustine of Hippo