Categories
Life Theology

My Theological Journey

Over the past several months, I have reflected on my journey toward a gospel centered, Reformed theology.  It’s fascinating to me to listen to other people’s conversion-to-Jesus stories. But I also love hearing stories of theological development, particularly, what God used to draw them to one theological persuasion or the other. That’s what this post is about: my theological journey, or conversion, if you will.

In the summer of 2006, I went on a mission trip to San Diego (rough place for a mission trip). Before that, I would have never called myself a Calvinist. I grew up in a Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, had a healthy fervor for “free will,” and generally had no knowledge of what Reformed theology was all about (but knew it was wrong, obviously!). On that fateful mission trip everything changed. I was given a copy of John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your LifeThis book came with a weight of glory that is still hard for me to describe. I was also given a CD (yes, a CD) of a Piper message from Passion 2000. The book and sermon motivated me to be centered on the person and work of Jesus in everything. I wanted to hear more from this Piper guy, so I dug into his blogs, sermons, and other books when I got home. Desiring God showed me that glorifying Jesus by treasuring him was the point of Christianity. God Is the Gospel opened my eyes to see that the gospel is not just about the gift of forgiveness, but about the gift of getting God himself. If you know anything about Piper, you know everything he writes or says is saturated with Bible and God’s glory and sovereignty. I feasted on it. By God’s design, John Piper is the main reason I am persuaded by Reformed theology and Christian Hedonism.

During my senior year of college, 2006-2007, I was preparing to join staff with Campus Crusade for Christ. Our campus director, Bill Kollar, encouraged me to buy a book to help me understand the grand narrative of the Bible. I loved systematic theology–I had been given a copy of Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem earlier in the year–but this idea of biblical theology (big picture narrative stuff) was foreign to me. The book was by Vaughn Roberts, a British Anglican. I had thought Anglicans were weird (and wrong), and Brits even more so. The book was called God’s Big Picture. I devoured it, finding joy in one-plot storyline of Scripture. Today, it’s probably one of my most-recommended beginner resources.

As I shopped for Roberts’ book on Amazon, I found one in the “related” section called Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics by another Anglican, this one an Australian named Graeme Goldsworthy. I was intrigued by this “gospel-centered” phrase, thinking, That’s what I want to be. So I bought the book. Yet unlike with Roberts, I was devoured by Goldsworthy. I couldn’t keep up. It wasn’t until some four years later in 2011 that I finally finished–and loved–the book. Happening upon Goldsworthy’s text was the first time I had seen or heard the term “gospel-centered.” The Gospel Coalition had not been founded yet; but Goldsworthy, as I found out, was one of scores pastors and scholars, dead and alive, who were “gospel-centered” before it was cool. I wanted to learn from them. Luther. Calvin. Edwards. Spurgeon. Stott. Lloyd-Jones. Packer. Sproul. Bridges. Keller. Carson. And, of course, Piper. 

Finally, two major things shaped me during my short time as a Campus Crusade staff. First, my Cru staff team at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We weren’t a “Reformed” campus ministry, but we might as well have been. This team was committed to a high view of God and a low view of man, deep theological reflection, and a greater understanding of the gospel and conversion than the Four Spiritual Laws (what Cru is often known for).

Second, I was asked to write a series of Bible studies on 1 and 2 Samuel. Crusade (now called Cru) was making a theological shift at the time to be more Christ-centered in their discipleship material. Keith Johnson, director of theological education and development for Cru, Tim Henderson, Cru director at Penn State, and Bill Kollar, were so gracious to disciple me to see Christ and his gospel as the solution to every Scripture passage. Keith had me read a few chapters in Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Preachinga book that changed my whole approach to preaching a teaching. In the end, writing those studies proved to be one of the richest theological and practical exercises I have ever done.

By the time I went to South Africa with Cru in 2009, I was at home with Reformed theology, and the gospel-centeredness was beginning to settle. This gospel element, thankfully, taught me to not be a Reformed jerk (I am not immune, but I am growing!). It was either immediately before or after that trip (I can’t remember), that I read Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God and Counterfeit GodsBoth books were helpful for diagnosing the heart-source of my jerkiness and gave me biblical, gospel-centered ways of dealing with it.

There’s so much more, but I am sure 900 words is enough for you. God has been so gracious to lead me theologically (and practically!) and the journey is not done–which is the most exciting part of all!

What about you? How has God shaped you theologically, and what did he use to get you to that point?

Categories
Theology

I’m Leaving on a Jetplane

I’ll be on my way to Denver at 5 am tomorrow.  Thursday morning, I’ll be on a 7:30 am flight to New York, followed by a 5 pm flight from New York to Johannesburg, South Africa.  I should be in Pretoria by 7 pm local tim on Friday, July 4.  Being in a foreign country on our nation’s holidy will be interesting.  It’ll be nice to miss the fireworks and drinking, though.

I will have scarce access to internet (as far as I know), while in Pretoria, so that’ll make blogging difficult.  I hope to post updates once a week.  Thank you to all who read and stop by the site.  I’m humbled that God would use this to be a resource of truth, grace, and encouragement to people all over the world.  Thank you for allowing me to be a blessing and know that I’m blessed by all of you!

When I started this post (just a few seconds ago), I wanted to include some last-minute thoughts.  However, I’m drawing blanks and can only just praise God for what he has done and is doing in my life.  The Lord is incredible, indescribable, and inexhaustible.  I’m amazed just to know him!  So, instead of my own thoughts, here are some verses that my heart has been clinging to in the past few months as this trip has been approaching

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment…The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
– Revelation 21:5-6; 22:17

The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.
– Psalm 12:6

How can a young man keep his way pure?  By guarding according to your word.  With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments.  I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
– Psalm 119:9-11

Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.
– Luke 18:29-30

For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be the glory forever.  Amen.
– Romans 11:36

And to that I sing, “Amen.”