Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Union with Christ and hope

Just enjoyed The Plan (Gospel Coalition Booklets) by Colin Smith.

He quotes Martin Luther:

"Faith . . . unites the soul to Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom. By this mystery, as the Apostle teaches, Christ and the soul become one flesh. And if they are one flesh and there is between them a true marriage . . . it follows that everything they have, they hold in common. . . . Accordingly the believing soul can boast of and glory in whatever Christ has as though it were its own."

I think there's a danger this analogy can be pressed too far but, for the believer, it could be said that:
  • As Christ is perfect so, in the Father's eyes, are you;
  • As Christ has infinite riches so have you;
  • As Christ is the Father's son with a guaranteed inheritance so are you.
Later in the booklet, when Smith speaks about our common doubts and fears he writes:
"We love Christ, but we feel the pull of the world, the flesh, and the Devil. We trust Christ, but we struggle with many doubts and fears. We have new life in Christ, but at the same time our bodies are subject to sickness, aging, and death.

Christians are a mass of contradictions, but it will not always be so. Your love for Christ will be complete, your faith will be turned to sight, and you will experience the joys of everlasting life in a resurrected body. You will be with Christ in glory forever."

What a hope we have! How easy it is to forget that "I am my beloveds, and my beloved's mine" (Derek Webb).

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Calvin's Institutes - Book 1, ch. 4

Though deep down we know there is a God, we try to supress what knowledge of Him we have - "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth" Rom. 1:18). For Calvin, the consequence of this for many is that they "fall away into superstition". Those that "set up a fictitious worship", he warns, "merely worship and adore their own delirious fancies". Or, as Romans 1:22 says, "Claiming to be wise, they became fools".

Not surprisingly, those who will not revere God hate the thought of His justice more than anything else. On the one hand they try to deny it yet on the other, because of the guilt deep within, they imagine they can appease His wrath by doing good deeds of some sort ("a few paltry sacrifices" and "punctilios of no value"). At the same time they will "defile themselves with every kind of vice". In short, says Calvin, instead of fixing their confidence on God, they trust in themselves. The eventual outcome of this is that "they bewilder themselves in such a maze of error, that the darkness of ignorance obscures, and ultimately extinguishes, those sparks which were designed to show them the glory of God".

Yet, in all this, the conviction that God exists cannot be completely extinguished. Calvin demonstrates this by reference to when some great calamity threatens them, those who previously had nothing to do with God, will suddenly resort to prayer in their despair. I am reminded of the saying: there are no atheists on a sinking ship.

Thanks be to God for His mercy for rescuing a God-suppressing, justice-hating sinner like me!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Calvin's Institutes - Book 1, ch. 3

The knowledge of God has been naturally implanted in the human mind.

Everyone, even the most "barbarous" or those in some tribe far from civilisation, have some sense of a deity "indelibly engraven on the human heart" says Calvin and this leaves them without excuse before Him. This is because God has "endued all men with some idea of his Godhead". No matter how much man may harden his heart in hatred against God, this sense of a deity "now and then breaks forth" and "gnaws" at his conscience. Calvin argues that, since we are "born and live for the express purpose of learning to know God" to fail to seek Him is to fail to live in line with the very purpose for which we were made.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Calvin's Institutes - Book 1, ch. 2

What it is to know god and the result of this knowledge.

In Ch. 2 Calvin says that only those who love and revere God will have true knowledge of Him:
"Until men feel that they owe everything to God, that they are cherished by his paternal care, and that he is the author of all their blessings, so that nought is to be looked for away from him, they will never submit to him in voluntary obedience; nay, unless they place their entire happiness in him, they will never yield up their whole selves to him in truth and sincerity."
How true that is. We will cling so tightly to the slenderest of threads rather than surrender completely to God.

For Calvin, knowledge of God necessarily involves trust and reverence:

If we know that God: We will:

· Governs all things

· Confide in Him

· Trust his faithfulness

· Is the source of every blessing

· Trust His care in any difficulty or need

· Is good and merciful

· Rest in God with supreme confidence

· Has all authority as both Father and Lord

· Love and revere Him

· Aim to glorify Him

· Obey His commands

· Is a just judge who will severely punish all sin

· Restrain ourselves for fear of provoking His anger

· Embrace God as much for His justice as for His mercy

Blogging the Institutes - Book I, ch. 1

The knowledge of God and of ourselves are mutually connected.

It's a new year and I thought it was about time I resurrected the blog. I can't promise how long I will keep it up though. :-)

Having started a few years ago I also thought it was about time I got round to finishing Calvin's Institutes so I decided to use the blog to record memorable quotes and reflections along the way.

Calvin begins with the thought that without knowledge of self we cannot really know God. It is only though an awareness of our imperfections that we will seek the one who alone is perfect. We will not seek after God until we are displeased with ourselves he says. I must admit, even as a Christian, I find this principle still at work in me all too often. How easily we think ourselves to be God!

Calvin continues that it is equally true that without knowledge of God we cannot really know ourselves. For,

"Since we are all naturally prone to hypocrisy, any empty semblance of righteousness is quite enough to satisfy us instead of righteousness itself. And since nothing appears within us or around us that is not tainted with very great impurity, so long as we keep our mind within the confines of human pollution, anything which is in some small degree less defiled delights us as if it were most pure just as an eye, to which nothing but black had been previously presented, deems an object of a whitish, or even of a brownish hue, to be perfectly white."
Again, I am reminded how easily we will compare ourselves to others and think ourselves not so corrupt. Why do we want to settle for a righteousness of our own instead of resting in the perfect righteousness that is ours by faith in Christ Jesus?