For the majority of my Christian life, I have (regrettably) not been reformed. I say that it's regrettable because the amazing beauty of God that is shown in embracing reformed theology, would be unthinkably painful if it were somehow, now taken from me. I regret not taking the time and making the effort to further my understanding of God and know Him, and revere Him how the scriptures direct us to.
It was a heart of humility, a heart that was broken and beaten and a heart brought exceedingly low by the Lord, that allowed me to read the scriptures afresh and see His faithfulness and above all, to show me the truth of His sovereignty.
As it is for most, it was the embracing of Calvinism that was my doorway into reformed theology. Reading through Paul's epistle to the Romans - a letter that I had read several times before - I was reading now with eyes opened to the actual language of the text, rather than just a glancing over. I opened my bible and began to read Romans chapter 8, and of course it begins with the iconic verse, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." What more could the Christian ask for, right? We are made righteous with God, given mercy, resulting in the forgiveness of ALL of our sins! Absolutely breathtaking! However, the chapter is far from over. Paul continues, and makes a clear distinction for us, between the flesh and the Spirit and the significance of each. Versus 6-8 say:
"For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God"
The distinction is that those who set their mind on the flesh are carnal, and do not belong to God, they are not saved; those who set their mind on the Spirit, are those who belong to God, they are saved. The "mind" is exemplified in this passage, which Paul describes as being the best part of the man, of both those saved and unsaved. Although that is true, it is only the Spiritually minded that possess life and peace. Further, those who's mind is set on the flesh are hostile toward God, and this is more than just being an enemy of God, Paul is describing someone who has enmity against God. They are actively opposed to, and venomous toward Him. In other words, they actively hate and oppose the one true living God! The fleshliness of those in the flesh is shown by the fact that they are hostile to God or they hate God and do not submit to His law.
And this is usually how Christians think of non-believers, 'they're just people who don't submit themselves to God's holy commands'. Paul however makes a distinction that forces us to have a different understanding. He continues and says "indeed, it cannot". So the mind set on the flesh, not only hates God and doesn't submit itself to God's law, it doesn't submit itself precisely because it is not even able to do so. Then Paul says that those in the flesh are not able to please God. This made me scratch my head, wondering, and asking myself, "then what does it take to please God?" I was then reminded of Hebrews 11:6, which says "...without faith it is impossible to please him (God), for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." Then the question became, "how did I, being in a state of fleshliness, and hating God, muster within myself God pleasing faith, which resulted in my salvation, being completely unable to please Him?"
It was this exact question that turned my arminian beliefs on their head. The passage goes on to say "...whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him". So, whoever would draw near to God, by faith, must believe He exists, and denial of God's existence is something that non-believers do very well. We read in Romans 1 that those who don't believe "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man...", and "they exchanged the truth about God for a lie...", and "they did not see fit to acknowledge God...". It is obvious that those who do not believe will do anything except that which pleases God. And it seems that Paul was convinced that it is God who saves, because those who are unsaved are utterly hopeless apart from the gracious work of God in overcoming our hard hearts, and utter denial of Him.
It was this very reality that forced me to then look to the final passage that was the last piece of the puzzle (at least for me). Ephesians 2:8-10. It became clear to me that the grace, as well as the faith in the passage are both gifts of God. Many think that the grace is from God, and the faith is yours to exercise. The truth is however, salvation is through faith, not as a cause or condition of salvation, or as what adds anything to the blessing itself. Then, the very idea of even a hint of effort on my part for salvation became utterly repulsive to me, because any work that I did, would - even if in the most minute way - diminish the work of Christ, my blessed savior. And to that end, I eagerly warn everyone (including myself) to evaluate their life and see if there is any place that they are taking the glory of Christ for themselves, and to then repent of this, and then praise the Lord for His grace and forgiveness once again.
It was at the end of this great revealing of the sovereignty of God, that I knew I had been mistaken for many years, and that now I must begin to learn nearly everything over again, and learn all about my great Triune God with a renewed heart! This did and does seem at times like a great labor to me, but actually it has brought me great joy!
Let us approach the Word of God with humility, and patience and this will result in untold riches and blessing; tasting and seeing in a fuller, richer, more satisfying way, our great God.