10 Things I Didn’t Understand Before I was Reformed

I, like so many others in my generation, was a Christian for a long time before being confronted with the doctrines of grace. Why does this matter? What difference do these doctrines make in the Christian life?

There is a solid Christianity that has been fought for, that people have died for. There have been Church councils and controversial men who stood up to revolt against corrupt practices and unbiblical doctrines. We aren’t left in the dark to figure Christianity out all over again. The truth has been opened and passed down to us by Saints past.

Not only has reformed theology opened my eyes to new things, it’s cleared up so many things that I already believed but failed to understand.

10. MY SIN

I knew I was a sinner. I knew I needed to be forgiven. But just how much of a sinner, I had no idea. Sometimes I would say, “Wow, I didn’t sin much this week.”

Now I know that it’s quite possible that I have never, for a second, obeyed the command “Love the Lord, your God, with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength.”. I never took seriously Jesus’ words that looking at a woman with lust is to commit adultery, or that hating a man in your heart is murder. I ignored the fact that Jesus said “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” -Matthew 5:48

I finally understand that I sin every day, every hour… on some level I sin every moment of my life. This is how sinful I am. But God! Oh, how merciful He is to such a sinner.


This seemed like a nice idea – God works stuff out in the end. I don’t need to worry too much, because God can clean up the messes and put it back together.

But once I understood sovereignty, it all changed. God doesn’t just react to what people are doing or the messes that pop up in life. He is “working all things” for the good of His people. Because He orchestrates everything, my life isn’t left to chance for a split second. Nothing surprises Him, not because He knows it all but because He’s actually in control.


This is something everyone does. We pray for our family and friends to be saved. We say things like “soften their hearts” or “reveal yourself to them”. It’s not something I ever thought about as incosistent with my beliefs, but now I see how strange it really was.

If God couldn’t override people’s free will, how could He save them? How could He do anything different than the 100% He was already giving everyone, waiting fo them to make their decision. What does it mean to “soften a heart” other than “do more than You are doing to change their mind”?

Now I can pray fervently for God to override a family member’s sinful will, because I know that this is their only hope. If God can’t touch our wills, we all go to Hell. God, destroy their will, and MAKE them love You, so they can be saved from Hell!


I was always on the fence on the “can we lose our salvation?” question. I’d seen and heard of epic backsliding and people who walked completely away from faith. So it only seemed logical that there were certain sins that could push us too far away from God.

The Bible says nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love that is in Christ, let alone the very thing he died to forgive. The gospel teaches that everything past, present, and future is forgiven. So what could undo the work of Jesus and make us accused again?

Now I understand that sins aren’t counted against me anymore. God convicts me to cease from sinning, but the condemnation and marks against me have been paid for. I’m truly free.


The idea that Jesus was in my place on the cross was another nice thought, and was truly my object of faith. But I believed He took everyone’s place on the cross, even people who would wind up in Hell. What kind of assurance can I find in a substitution that doesn’t help such a large number of people it took the place of? What does it mean to die in someone’s place, if not that they are pardoned?

I understand, now, that Jesus was laying His life down for His sheep… perfectly. Not one of the people who’s place He took on the cross will be in Hell. Those who do find themselves in Hell were never atoned for. Jesus truly, perfectly, and finally took my sins on Himself not because I applied His blood to myself, but because the Father placed my sins, specifically, on His Son.


I used to pray. I would pray especially hard when I messed up, or when something was completely out of my control. When I knew there was nothing I could do about a situation, then I’d give it over to God. Other than that I’d pray very generally that God would help me in my life.

Reformed theology has opened my eyes to the truth that I am completely helpless. I’m one-hundred percent at God’s mercy. God could, if He wanted, take the faith out of my heart tomorrow. I’d wake up, shake my head, and say, “Wow, that Christianity phase was weird.” and get right back to my sinful life. God promises to never do that, but that’s how much we are at His mercy.

I NEED God to live, I need him in every area because I’m powerless without Him. He’s the power that makes me flee from sin, help people, open His word, and even pray. Yes, we should pray that God would give us the desire to pray. God is truly our strength, so we must pray without ceasing. Anything less would be relying on our powerless flesh.


When I look back, I don’t even know how I would have defined being born again. I knew it was a change, maybe a feeling. I definitely knew that you needed to be born again to be saved, and I even knew the moment that it happened to me. What it was, though, I’d be hard pressed to answer.

Oh boy! I could tell you now. It is the supernatural change of a God-hater into a God-lover. It’s the work of God to change a man’s entire nature. We are set free from slavery to sin, and made slaves of righteousness. We are new creations. Without it man cannot believe the gospel or repent. Praise God for this free-will smashing new birth!


What a mystery the Holy Spirit was. I believed in the Trinity. Father – The one who calls the shots. Son – The One who came to earth to die for sin. Holy Spirit – um… it’s like a mist, that like… is everywhere. Kinda like the wind, I guess. And it… helps us.

Praise God for His Holy Spirit! The third Person of the Trinity that works in God’s people. He’s IN me! It’s amazing! He’s the One that produces the fruit, the One that makes me understand the Bible, the One that makes me cry “Abba, Father!” The Holy Spirit confirms to my spirit that I’m in Christ. He perfects my broken prayers and praises. Without God’s Spirit inside us, we’d never know God.


I would, from time to time, share my faith. I would talk about how Jesus died, but the most important thing I was seeking was a decision. Offensive parts of the gospel, about sin and wrath… those don’t make people want to accept, so I’d minimize them. I would let people know that Jesus wanted to make them happier and fulfill their lives – certainly not that He demands their submission and will take away their rights.

Now I know that apart from the clear and complete gospel, nobody can be saved. Anybody who has signed a decision card or said a prayer based solely on a promise of, “The Bible tells us that we can know where we go when we die. Come to Jesus and He’ll forgive you.”, is not going to heaven. They were deceived. People must hear about their sinfulness, the forgiveness on the cross, and the repentance God requires. This is how we are saved, through the gospel.


God’s creation, I would have guessed, was an experiment in free will. How will people respond to God becoming a man and dying? God was trying His hardest to save as many people as possible, yet inevitably some would go to Hell since it was their decision. Jesus died to make salvation possible, and God was going to be eternally frustrated by all the people that He loved who would be in Hell for eternity. In the back of my mind, I always had a theory that God would forgive them all and bring them into Heaven in the end, and we’d all rejoice.

Oh, how glorious God’s plan truly is. God’s number one priority is to show off His majesty and be glorified. God is beautiful, and when we see His beauty and respond in worship, we are fulfilling our entire purpose. When we fail to love God, we are spitting in this glorious King’s face, and we will be punished.

The purpose of this creation is for God to demonstrate His power and mercy. The fall of Satan and Adam are all part of this amazing story. God’s righteous hatred toward sinners will display His awesome power for eternity. God became a man and redeemed mankind from His own wrath. All who He has mercy on will worship Him for eternity because of this amazing love displayed on the Cross. Heaven will be the most amazing pleasure imaginable, fulfilling the very purpose of creation. We will worship God forever because we’ll know what we have been saved from. He displayed love beyond our comprehension! Praise God!

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8 Responses

  1. Amen, Les.

    When we talk about “A peace that passes understanding”, I think much of what you have written is the bedrock for that peace.

    The peace in knowing that, even as wretched as I am, God has saved me. That there is now no condemnation. That God can and does save sinners. That the Holy Spirit is working. That the Gospel is absolutely necessary – and powerful enough to save. And that God works out everything for the good and His Glory.

    I am at peace in times of stress, and fear, and difficulty because I believe in a sovereign God who does all these things.

  2. Pingback : Before I was Reformed | Effectual Grace

  3. Stan Edmonds

    Thank you for articulating and sharing these points that so many of us can relate to! Let us worship and rejoice in Him!

  4. Gz

    About “God, destroy their will, and MAKE them love You, so they can be saved from Hell!” in point number 8, why didn’t God just do that with Adam and Eve? Destroy their wills and save all of use rather than a small group.

  5. Cruz Trevino

    I don’t remember how I found the Reformed Pubcast, but I know it around October 2013. The show introduced me to Reformed Theology. Somehow everything has just been easy to digest. The doctrines that so many have problems with have just made sense when laid open. Maybe it was because I didn’t really grow up in a church. I thank God for the understanding that has been gifted to me. I thank God for the fellowship and teaching from the Pubcast as well as the Pub facebook group. It has been an almost limitless amount of resources and loving discussion. This article describes exactly what it is like to embrace the doctrines of grace. What always amazes me when thinking of the Holy Spirit is that I share it with my brothers in Christ, the same as I share it with Mary’s cousin Elisabeth and the babe who leaped in her womb (Luke 1:41). That thought brings me great joy. On one of the episodes of the Pubcast you guys made the comment that “if you put your hope in anything other than Christ, you will always be let down”. That comment helps to me keep my focus on what is truly important. Thank you Les & Tanner, and all the members of the Pub, for this ministry you have created. Cheers and Amen.

  6. Concise and fabulous explanation of these very important aspects of the Faith. My only problem is the way you started out with #7 ” I’d seen and heard of epic backsliding and people who walked completely away from faith. So it only seemed logical that there were certain sins that could push us too far away from God.”

    Though you basically clarify this in later entries, it appears, at least at first glance, that you’re saying that a person who walks away from the Faith is still in good shape, because Jesus suffered and died for their sins. You and I both know that this sort of “easy believism” is rather popular, especially amongst the “once saved, always saved” folks (rather than the Biblical Doctrine of the perseverance of the saints IN the Faith, but the working of the Holy Spirit), which basically says one can “get saved” (whatever that even means) but good works might not necessarily come along, and you could even at some point abandon the Faith altogether, but you’re “all set” because “once saved, always saved.”

    Of course the Scriptures are clear that those who abandon the Faith were never a part of us in the first place. I’m sure you’d be in agreement with me on this, but it was a bit of a puzzle to read it when I did.

    The Lord bless you and keep you,

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