Saturday, February 7, 2009

February 8- Calvin's Conversion

Jesus replied, very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again. John 3:3
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; he old has gone, the new is here! II Corinthians 5:17

Calvin: "I tried my best to work hard [in the study of the law]. Yet God at last turned my course in another direction by the secret rein of his providence. What happens first, since I was too obstinately addicted to the superstitions of Popery to be easily extricated from so profound an abyss of mire, was that God by an unexpected [or sudden] conversion subdued and reduced my mind to a teachable frame. And so this taste of true godliness…set me on fire with such a desire to progress that I pursued the rest of my studies [in law] more cooly, although I did not give them up altogether." [Preface to the Psalms]

Many Calvinists have downplayed the idea of conversion over the years. There was a book written that many have used called, “Being Presbyterian in the Bible Belt” that does just that. Sometimes the reason given why people downplay conversion is that God is so much in charge that humans have no responsibility to come to Christ. In the past, Calvinists have sometimes overestimated the roll of predestination and election and underestimated the roll of regeneration and conversion. The other side may be that people grow into the church, having parents who have brought them up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” and they believe no one needs to convert. I have heard often that we should leave everyone alone and not try to change anyone to our point of view. So Buddhists should be Buddhists, Jews should be Jews, Roman Catholics should be Roman Catholics, Protestants should be Protestants and Muslims should be Muslims. This view is fairly common in our post-modern society where the most important value is tolerance over any concept of truth. But the pursuit of truth is not the same as finding it. There is a reason Jesus told Christians to spread the good news. It is the news of eternal life, and the abundant life here, and it is also the powerful news of the ability to forgive and to change. If we have been brought up as believers, it shows true ingratitude of what we are and have if we do not want to pass that on to another. As the old adage put it, “we are just one beggar showing another beggar where to get the bread.” While some may grow up never knowing a time when they did not know God. There are others, especially in our secular culture who need to know God if someone would tell them.
There is the power of God to change us. Calvin did not deny the power of God, he lived in it. God had changed him from a comfortable up-and-coming lawyer with a bright economic future to someone who was willing to leave all for God. He left his family, his friends, his education, his career and fled France for many different homes. Calvin would never downplay the power of God to change us, to regenerate us. He might downplay our roll in that conversion, for we generally tend to give ourselves too much credit- as if we were saved by works and not grace.
The first step is to give into the power of God, and give up our own power. This is conversion.
It is, as Calvin said becoming “teachable.” It is having ears to hear. It is stopping our ears to the world and opening our ears to God. Conversion is not the only thing in the Christian life as some are want to place it. But it is nonetheless important. The first step on the pilgrimage is important, but it is not all there is. Let us not neglect the power of God to make us new creatures; to make us be born again; to open our eyes, ears, and minds to Him.

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