After wrestling with a decision, Calvin ultimately decided to return, writing again to his dear friend with humble fortitude: “when I remember that I am not my own, I offer up my heart, presented as a sacrifice to the Lord…..I have no other desire than that, setting aside all consideration of me, they may look only to what is most for the glory of God and the advantage of the Church.” The Sunday after his return to Geneva, without vindication or spite, Calvin entered the pulpit and continued to preach through the Psalms, picking up at the exact verse where he left off three years earlier. He preached there until his dying day.
In the summer of 1536, promising young author John Calvin was traveling to Strasbourg to pursue a quiet life in academics. He spent one night in Geneva on his journey, where he was approached with an offer from a local minister, William Farel. Farel persuaded Calvin—under threat of God’s cursing—to join him in the reformational efforts at the Genevan church.
Only eighteen months later, Calvin was expelled from Geneva and given three days to depart from the city where he had diligently labored. This blow hurt him deeply, but in some ways he was glad to be free of the pastoral troubles. After all, it meant that he could finally make it to Strasbourg where he was able to return to the scholarly pursuits he so enjoyed.
In Strasbourg, Calvin spent his days there teaching, lecturing, and writing. Among several noteworthy books, in 1539 he published an expanded version of his seminal work, the Institutes. This edition included the first appearance of a section entitled, “On the Life of a Christian Man,” now famously known as the “golden booklet of the true Christian Life.”
After his diversion to Geneva, Calvin had learned a thing or two about self-denial, and focused a section of the institutes on this subject.
Self-denial, Calvin reminds us, is found in remembering that “we are not our own.” When we belong to God, every aspect of our lives ought to be governed by Him. “We are God’s,” Calvin says, “Therefore, let us live and die to Him. We are God’s. Therefore, let His wisdom and His will govern all our actions. We are God’s. Therefore, let us—in every way in all our lives—run to Him as our only proper end.”