Living for God

To glorify this gracious God and not to displease Him are necessarily the desires of those whom He redeems.

Calvin saw himself as a sinner who owed all that he was to God. It was God who subdued his mind to the knowledge of Christ. The piety that was recovered at the Reformation has sometimes been caricatured as a life of cold, austere obedience to God. But the caricature rests on ignorance of the connection between the love of God and the gratitude of believing hearts.

 

We are God’s: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal [Rom. 14:8; cf. I Cor. 6:19]. O, how much has that man profited who, having been taught that he is not his own, has taken away dominion and rule from his own reason that he may yield it to God! (Institutes, 3.7.1)

On the opening page of every edition of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion stand the words that were the unifying motif of his life: “True and sound wisdom consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” So he first wrote in 1536, and through all the years that followed, the emphasis remained the same. Calvin saw himself as a sinner who owed all that he was to God. It was God who subdued his mind to the knowledge of Christ. The piety that was recovered at the Reformation has sometimes been caricatured as a life of cold, austere obedience to God. But the caricature rests on ignorance of the connection between the love of God and the gratitude of believing hearts. To glorify this gracious God and not to displease Him are necessarily the desires of those whom He redeems.

Yet there are dangers for those who revere the memory of Calvin, and I will mention two that present themselves to me.

First, in our circles, piety and godliness are not the characteristics of Calvinistic belief to the extent that they ought to be. We believe that divine revelation has come to us in words and in propositions, and for these we must contend. But truth is only rightly believed to the extent that it is embodied in life. The gospel spread across Europe in the sixteenth century primarily through the witness of transformed people.

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