In my undergrad days, I along with a team of other students made weekly visits to a juvenile detention center in order to talk about the Lord with the incarcerated young men and women. It was there that I met a young man who had openly and eagerly aligned himself with the malevolent being whom Scripture refers to as Satan. Like most people, this young man was a lot bigger than I was (and am). We were sitting across from each other, and he kindly leaned his hulking torso toward me so we could look eye to eye. He was politely disinterested in what I and the other Christian college students had to say about Jesus and the Bible, but I was utterly fascinated with his story.
From A Guide to Christian Living (pages pp.28-31), a devotional extracted from the third book of John Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion:
When Scripture commands us in our dealings with men to prefer them in honor to ourselves, and to strive loyally to advance their welfare (Rom. 12:; Phil 2:3), it lays down requirements which no human heart can possibly fulfill, unless first freed from its natural inclination. For we are so blinded and engrossed by self-love that we all believe we are entitled to rise higher than everyone else and to despise them in comparison. If we receive some valuable gift from God we immediately use it as an excuse to exult. Not only do we swell with pride, we almost burst with it! We make sure we hide from others the vices that beset us, and we pass them off as minor and trifling. Sometimes, indeed, we admire them as virtues! As for our own gifts, we hold them in such high regard that they are a source of wonder to us. If, however, the same, or even better, gifts are found in other people, so that they put us in the shade, we either ignore or else belittle them as much as […]
The last (and first!) entry ended with a plea to consider the claims of Calvinism for whatever biblical truth they may represent and expound. This next series of entries will examine (relatively briefly) the major theological claims of Calvinism and consider what these claims “look like” when they are lived out, i.e. truly believed.
But before we get to the particulars, let’s be reminded from Scripture of the nature of theological belief. I’m currently preaching through the book of James – talk about a book with a sanctifying sting! James continually puts before us the nature of true faith in Christ. True Christian belief is demonstrated by actions in accord with the doctrine believed. Anything less is self-deceit – 1:22.
For the Christian heart, to know who God is and what He has done in Christ is to act in accord with that truth. Thus, in Scripture, commands from God (the imperatives) always proceed from doctrinal statements about God (the indicatives). The indicatives often segue to the imperatives with the simple word “therefore.” Consider Romans 12:1 as a classic example. The command in 12:1 is based on all that precedes it in chapters 1-11. The indicatives imply and demand the imperatives. Biblical doctrine […]