At age 17 I left home (Sacramento, California) to play football and attend class occasionally at Whitworth University.
Because it’s always dark and cold in Washington, at age 19 I returned to California, transferring to Westmont College. There a friend immediately connected me to a great church. Through this church God became much bigger to me.
I began meeting regularly with my pastor, Reed Jolley. Reed helped me see what the Bible says: God is big; God is sovereign over all things; the Christian life is a call to glorify God by enjoying him forever. A paradigm shift was initiated in my head and my heart.
Along with leading me through the Scriptures, Reed handed me books to read. The first book he handed me was Desiring God by John Piper. That book changed my life. I had never heard of John Piper before.
The message of Desiring God was the message I had begun to see in the Scriptures. It was the message that entered my heart in seed form when I was converted as a young boy. At age 19, this seed began receiving the sunshine and rain it needed–a growth spurt occurred.
I spent that first summer (age 19) and my second summer (age 20) in Santa Barbara wrestling deeply with the absolute sovereignty of God–I pounded against this doctrine, I poured out my concerns and objections, and I prayed through what I was seeing in my Bible and feeling in my heart. It was God, my Bible, the friendship of Reed Jolley and Christian Shalesky, taking a new look at the world around me, and the writings of John Piper that led me to eventually reach and rest in the same conclusion and conviction as Jonathan Edwards:
From childhood up, my mind had been full of objections against the doctrine of God’s sovereignty…It used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me. But I remember the time very well, when I seemed to be convinced, and fully satisfied, as to this sovereignty of God, and his justice in thus eternally disposing of [dealing with] men, according to his sovereign pleasure. But never could give an account, how, or by what means, I was, thus convinced, not in the least imagining at the time, nor a long time after, that there was any extraordinary influence of God’s Spirit in it but only that now I saw further, and my reason apprehended the justice and reasonableness of it. However, my mind rested in it; and it put an end to all those cavils and objections. And there has been a wonderful alteration in my mind, in respect to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, from that day to this; so that I scarce ever have found so much as the rising of an objection against it, in the most absolute sense, in God’s shewing mercy to whom he will show mercy, and hardening whom he will. God’s absolute sovereignty and justice, with respect to salvation and damnation, is what my mind seems to rest assured of, as much as of any thing that I see with my eyes, at least it is so at times. The doctrine has very often appeared exceeding pleasant, bright, and sweet. Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God.
That was 13 years ago. I’m 32 now. The trend continues: God gets bigger with age.
I wish I could say that since then I’ve consistently lived in line with (rested in) the absolute sovereignty that “I love to ascribe to God.” I have not. I am prone to forget that God is always on his throne. So, along the way God has given me wonderful jumpstarts that revive the “born again, again” experience that took place in my heart 13 years ago.
Yet despite my wanderings, God gets bigger with age. God has always been the same size: infinite. But, with each passing year of life God appears larger to me. The more I live, learn, suffer, and rejoice, the more I see of God. And I love this. I love God! I love getting to know and enjoy God more as he becomes bigger and bigger to me with age.
Back to John Piper. I was prompted to write this post because of a book I received last week: For The Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper. Reading the rich, meaty essays in this book is bringing me back to the paradigm shift that started a long time ago. I feel like the 19 year-old me talking theology with Reed Jolley at the coffee shop off 101 and State Street, sitting at East Beach pouring over and pounding on my Bible, standing atop Gibraltar Road thumbing through my copy of Desiring God.
Reading For The Fame of God’s Name is like reading Desiring God all over again, but through the eyes of 27 other people (27 people contributed essays to the book) who have been deeply influenced by the ministry of John Piper. Buy the book.
Question: When/how did you come to your conclusions about the absolute sovereignty of God?