Letter to Myself at 15
You’re probably at the piano, writing songs about things you know nothing about, like love and loss. Or doing vocal warm-ups so you can audition for that blasted show choir. (Don’t bother. You won’t make it until your senior year, and when you do, you’ll become a bigger nerd than you already are.) I do hope you’ll find time for this letter. I’m writing from the future, of course, to warn you about five big issues you’ll encounter in your Christian walk over the next thirteen years.
1999 is the year you go gung-ho for Calvinism. Truth be told, you won’t even read Calvin’s Institutes until grad school. (I know you don’t plan to go to college, but I’m sorry to say your dream of becoming a famous singer straight out of high school does not come true.)
Let me tell you a secret. Brand-new Calvinists, although on the right track theologically, are awfully annoying. In their newfound passion for all things reformed, they often say silly things. You will too. But don’t let TULIP become more important to you than people and their pursuit of God. And certainly not more important than the gospel.
You’ll get caught up in the mechanics of Calvinism. God elects, calls, regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies. In your mind, he does everything but love. It all gets very mathematical. Salvation becomes an equation. I know how much you enjoy debating Arminians in those AOL chat rooms, but don’t discount everything they say. No offense, but you could learn a lesson from them on love. Don’t forget about love. (Also, AOL pretty much doesn’t exist anymore. Tell your parents to invest in Google.)
LOVE & OTHER EMOTIONS
Speaking of love, I know it’s something you’re wary of. Your pastor, overreacting to the threat of emotionalism, has told you love is an action. Love is a verb. Catchy sayings, but they’re only half true.
First and foremost, love is an emotion, an affection, a noun. Something we feel because God himself feels it, and we’re made in his image. Once felt, love inspires action—it becomes a verb. Obedience flows from love, not the other way around (John 14:15). I regret to inform you that your skewed view of love will cause you to spiral into legalism. (You’ll learn that word later.)
In 2006, Matthew Elliott will write a book called Faithful Feelings. Read it. It’ll help you regain a biblical understanding of emotions. Oh, and a pastor in Minnesota named John Piper will totally blow up. Get a head start on Desiring God.
DISPENSATIONALISM & COVENANTALISM
You’ve got a lot to unravel in the realm of theology. You don’t know this yet, but you’re a dispensationalist. If it sounds scary, it is. Eek! You know your friend Sammy Emadi? He’s going to challenge you and your church when he covers covenant theology in Sunday school. But remember these two words: big picture. They’ll help you through your transition.
That also means that right now you’re a premillennialist. Don’t worry, plenty of Christians are. But be sure to say yes when Matthew Emadi suggests you visit him at Biola. He’s going to take you to a small bookstore where you’ll pick up a book by Kim Riddlebarger that’ll rock your world.
Believe me, I know what you’re struggling with. The struggle. We need not go into details. I understand you sometimes question your salvation as a result. I want to be honest with you and let you know that, at 28, that struggle remains. But when you get to be my age you’ll have a better understanding—and experience—of grace. Guaranteed.
Over the years, removing that thorn will become your ultimate goal, and Jesus will become a means to that end. Learn this lesson now: Jesus is always the end and never the means. Let your highest goal be to know, love and become more like Christ. The thorn won’t go away—at least it hasn’t yet. But you’ll learn, like Paul, to boast in your weakness as a way to magnify Christ’s power (2 Corinthians 12:9).
And yes, someday you’ll be able to sing “Blessed Assurance” with gusto. But not before you abandon your obsession with doing better, meeting your personal standard of holiness, checking every box. Not before you trust completely in the finished work of Christ, and really grasp the great exchange that occurred at the cross—our sin for his righteousness. When you walk by faith, you will most certainly rest assured.
Which brings me to my final point. God has lots of surprises in store for you. But please remember one thing: the gospel. It’s easy to get lost in the details of doctrine, but don’t lose sight of the gospel—the plain simple beautiful miraculous gospel.
Whether you’re debating Arminians, discovering “new” truths, or struggling with assurance, promise me you’ll make your cause Christ, and your goal his gospel. It’s the only way that you get joy and God gets glory. Trust me on this.
In his grace,
Your future self
P.S. You’ve got so much joy ahead of you. You haven’t even heard of LOST yet! Just wait, young man. Just wait.