The Christian life is full of needs. We are a needy people. Our needs go beyond the duty of being justified in the presence of a holy God. For there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). We also know that we have an obligation to be holy as the Spirit conforms us to the image of Jesus Christ (I Peter 1:16). We have a charge from the New Testament to be faithful and gentle and to reflect goodness, among other duties (Galatians 5:22-23).
All of these needs can be overwhelming at times. Our desires for newness of life and protection from the world and purity of life are strong desires for anyone who is united to Christ.
Of course, even with strong desires we fail.
Often our failures in the Christian life flow from the error that has us look at justification from a Protestant or Reformed perspective; understanding that we are justified by faith alone, relying on a sovereign God who elects and shows mercy on whom he will show mercy (Romans 9:15); and yet when it comes to our sanctification, we throw off our reformation principles and rely on the principles of worldly self-help, Arminian discipleship tactics, or Roman Catholic works righteousness. Do we really believe that sanctification is a “work of God’s free grace” as the Shorter Catechism instructs (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q.35)?
Frequently we need to be reminded that our needs are all provided by Christ and through his free grace. The need for justification before a holy God. The need for sanctification through the Spirit. The need for encouragement, heavenly inheritance, among other things— all blessings flow from Christ’s finished work and the application of the Holy Spirit. The Christian life is truly a pentecostal life. It is a Christ-centered life.
John Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, finishes his exposition of the Apostles’ Creed with an encouraging reminder that all of our needs are fulfilled in Christ. He is a complete savior who saves his people completely. Let’s put off false ideas of self-help, man-centered theologies of sanctification, and attempts to find spiritual fulfillment outside of Christ’s finished work. Let’s stop drinking from empty wells and broken cisterns (Jeremiah 2:13) and drink deeply from the river of life. Let’s reclaim a Christ-centered theology that is rich in application from the Holy Spirit as we trust in him to fulfill all our needs— in this life and the next. For he is a complete Christ.
We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of [our salvation] from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is “of him”. If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects that he might learn to feel our pain. If we seek redemption; if remission of the curse, in his cross; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immorality, in the same; if inheritance of his heavenly kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge. In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from his fountain, and from no other. -Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.16.19
For he is a complete Christ! Give thanks that he can and will fulfill all of his people’s complete needs... completely.
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