This is a very important topic to consider. Why Reformed? Why Confessional? I would say it is of upmost importance, because as the old phrase goes:
“Those who do not know their history, are bound to repeat it…”
I have not always been Reformed or Confessional. I was born-again outside of church, on the deck of my home in Morris, NY. The first church my wife Nancy and I attended was a Word of Faith Church. I believed that the charismatic church people had a “closer” relationship with God. And I wanted to be as close to God as I could. But being born-again, I desired to know God and there was no better way to do this than to begin to study His word. His word was my reference for knowing His will.
You see, I have been deceived in my life. This being the case, when I came to faith in Christ, and understanding that the Bible is God’s Authoritative and infallible Word to humanity, I clung to it to be my guide, knowing that because I have His Holy Spirit in me, that He would teach me and lead me into all truth (Joh 16:13). This did not mean I saw no need for church. My heart regenerated, I also had a deep desire to unite with God’s people – His church, and to develop Christian fellowship and relationship with them. I desired to hear the word of God faithfully preached from the pulpit and to learn and grow also by this discipleship. But I did not expect what came next…
A funny thing happened. As I studied and as I attended church, I began to spot instances where what I was hearing from the pulpit was not what I read in the scriptures. I began to see and feel things which made me feel very uncomfortable – people prophesying week after week about how “God is well pleased” in the midst of all kinds of what I now recognize for what they were – weird manifestations of the flesh and the demonic that were dressed up as “Christian.”
In my younger days, I was a Private Investigator. I investigate. That is my nature. So, because Benny Hinn was looked up to at my church, I went to go see him. I literally walked away from that “Miracle Crusade” disgusted by what I saw and heard: Benny Hinn strutting to the front of the stage – throwing his arms up in the air as the worship team sung the chorus –“I am a friend of God”. A sea of wheelchair bound people being denied entry to the stage to get healed, while many were invited and “received healings” which are unverifiable. 2 – Gallon Buckets being passed around for the nights offerings. I knew a scam when I saw it.
In the church and local church community, I attended and even ministered at numerous “Miracle Revival” Services. At these, I witnessed that a) I never healed anyone, and b) People with obvious visible maladies never received healings. Just those who had invisible issues which needed healings.
I started to see – the people who run these events may want to see the LORD move through them, or they may simply want to become popular or famous, or they wanted some combination of both. But I NEVER saw a healing. Not one eye opened, not one’s deafness destroyed. Not one paralyzed person standing and walking, not one limb grown. I did hear many testify of their back-aches healed, their arthritis gone, their body pains disappeared. I also saw those who I remained in contact with have these issues return pretty quickly after the emotional high of the event wore off. This caused me to conclude – these were likely all psychosomatic healings. Temporary. Not Genuine.
Next: One Sunday, the LORD healed a woman who was scheduled for a double leg amputation below the knee that following Tuesday. She went to the hospital for her surgery, they unwrapped her legs and saw that she was healing and no longer needed the double amputations! This was done after Nancy and I prayed for Irene – in tears – pleading with the LORD to touch and heal her. And He Did!
Then, one day, a woman came to us with deep emotional issues. We sensed something demonic about all this, and so we prayed for her, asking the LORD to cast out any demons who were oppressing/possessing her. Now mind you, I was not actually expecting anything to happen. But suddenly, she began vomiting and vomiting, bowl after bowl was filled, and this woman, who Nancy and I both loved and love to this day, was delivered.
Why am I telling you this? To boast? No and Yes. Let me explain in the context of everything I have written above: a) I knew that neither Nancy and I were healers. We both knew we did not have the power, talent gifting nor ability to do these 2 miraculous acts. b) We both knew that they did happen. c) We both knew that God had chosen, in those moments, of His Sovereign will and pleasure, to perform these miraculous acts. We were not seeking to become “healers” or “deliverance ministers” and to make these 2 moments sources of fame and riches.
I realized: The supernatural/miraculous gifts were no longer present today. But the Sovereign, Almighty, miracle-working God IS!
I wish I could say I was fully convinced in a day. But this process of theological change occurred for me over a 15 year period. I thank God that He chose to save me through a Reformed Para-church ministry (Way of the Master). I thank God – that because of how He saved me, I had many reformed friends on Facebook with whom I would argue against in favor of charismatic theology. I would always leave these debates uncertain. The investigator in me was not satisfied that I had made my case fully and completely. I thank God – that because of my reformed friends, I found ministers such as Dr. Steven Lawson, Voddie Bauchman, Paul Washer and Dr. John MacArthur.
What I experienced listening to these Godly preachers of the LORD’s Word was that – and this is a very, very big deal: They preached from the bible, using manifold scriptures to make their case on what the word was saying to everyone, using these scriptures in context, preaching word for word, sentence by sentence, chapter by chapter. I never heard any charismatic preachers employ this type of hermeneutic. They almost always relied on topical preaching, plucking verses out of the word to insert to make their point.
One day, in prayer, I had the realization: All throughout the bible, we see God choosing. God Calling. God drawing. God saving. We see this in Israel – a people who did not deserve any of Good’s goodness. We see that God is Sovereign in election. And we see that man’s choice – his free-will is always given a secondary position to God’s choosing. I realized – As a Charismatic, I had bowed my knee to Good in every matter, EXCEPT my decision to be saved. I had, in my pride, gave God all power and Sovereignty, EXCEPT over when and how I would be saved. I was in essence saying:
“God, You are Almighty and over all, except my salvation. For that, You waited, desperately wishing that I would make that decision to invite you into my heart. Until then, You stood off to the side, wringing your hands wishing...hoping that I would invite You in, because until that happened, You were powerless to move to save me.”
And I saw how ridiculous… and how pompous, prideful and rebellious a statement that was. And I humbly and tearfully bowed my knee to God – literally – and begged His forgiveness.
What Happened Then: REVIVAL! I have to say – it felt like I was born-again, again! My first love for God came rushing back in, but now in a deeper way, because I had relinquished my power over God in the most important area for the individual Christian: Their choice and their salvation! The scriptures suddenly all aligned beautifully! In the areas of election and pre-destination...of free-will and God’s Power and Sovereignty… they all made sense! God is Sovereign over all things, including my faith and my choice! It is ALL His work and I have NOTHING to boast about (Eph 2:8-9)!
And so, I embraced the doctrines of the Reformation. Here is where history plays into all of this… Every single Protestant is Protestant because of what martin Luther did at the church of Wittenberg in 1517. The Protestant Reformation was based on the idea of getting back to the bible as our rule of life and authority. At the Word of God and what it says to us as being Sovereign over the dictates and institutions of man.
I understood – to the degree we refute these truths, is the degree to which we will veer off of the path of truth and into false doctrines. And I then looked at the charismatic churches and saw a people who had strayed.
And so, here I am. Reformed and Confessional.
Why Confessional? It is quite simple. I have studied the famous confessions of faith as a matter of my Christian Heritage. I have concluded that what they say is more in line with God’s word and were established as an aide to the church to remain in God’s word as our authority and Rule for Life, Practice and Worship of our God. To wit, I have embraced the 2ndLondon Baptist Confession of Faith as my, and our churches Confession over the Westminster, primarily over the issues of the ordinances vs sacraments, and Infant/adult baptism.
I see that in those 2 areas, the Baptist Confession is closer in line to the scriptures than the Westminster. I also see that these disparities are not “as unto salvation” and so will not divide over them.
That concludes my brief testimony of how I came to faith and how I arrived as a Confessional-Reformer.
I will close on this note: Since I bowed my knee to God in the final frontier of Free-will and Salvation, I have written every reformed friend of mine who I ever drove nuts in debate, and apologized to them, thanking them for persevering with me in long-suffering. I fully believe they shall be rewarded for their love and faithfulness to me.
God Bless You! Pastor Chris