Calvin says that real self-denial is naturally very difficult for us because it means seeking the good of both friend and foe alike, and we don’t want to do that. Why must we be kind to everyone? The answer is because each person bears the image of God, not because every man, woman, and child is worthy in himself. Every stranger, no matter how lost, bears a family resemblance to us because of the image of God in him.
If we remind ourselves to love the image of God, even in the unloveliest of characters, we can treat others as we would like to be treated in similar circumstances. This means asking God to give us real sympathy and pity when we don’t feel like it. In reality, we sometimes find it hard to love our own families. If we are praying for God’s grace to love the stranger, how much more should we be praying for that kind of self-denying love for our own husbands and children and parents? Self-denial means asking God to fill us with His kind of Continue reading ‘June 14: Self-Denial, Part 2′
(Continuing from Calvin’s Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life)
Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could forget ourselves once in a while? Or at least almost forget ourselves? When we are thinking of others and putting God foremost, it is the closest we ever get to really being free of self.
The opposite of self-denial is, of course, vanity or an excess of self-love. We should want to love ourselves correctly, which means that we understand who we are in Christ and what we are for. When we understand that our lives have purpose (glorifying God) and meaning (because He has redeemed us for Himself), we are set free to worship God rightly and love others sacrificially.
Self-denial is putting God’s glory ahead of our own. It means we “regard God in every enterprise” and Continue reading ‘June 13: Self-Denial’
(The next few posts will be some gleanings from John Calvin’s Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life.)
“A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it…” (Isaiah 35:8-10).
The first chapter of this short, insightful book, is about obedience (always a great place to start). Calvin observes that man is by nature “sluggish,” and we have to be urged, prodded, and stimulated to press on to holiness. He identifies holiness as the key principle, the one rule of the Bible, so we must be instructed to love holiness. Loving and obeying Christ is the only way to holiness.
Calvin defines holiness as full obedience to Christ. Not half-hearted. Not on Sunday only. Not a little here and a little there. Holiness requires us to be sold out completely. If we love Jesus, we obey His commands. If we obey His commands, we grow in Christian character, because we become more like Him. As a result, our Continue reading ‘June 12: Spiritual Progress’
Does the Bible shape your view of conjugal love, or have you let the world define for you what it calls “sex”? Conjugal love is married love, while sex is an enlightenment term, almost a mechanical term, for what any animal can do to propagate its kind. The Bible is famous for its list of sexual sins, but it is also the source of the definition of married love. So here are a few observations from what the Bible says (particularly from Song of Songs and Proverbs) about conjugal (a great word that we should use more often) love.
1. Married love is protected by a covenant; it is not a one-night fling or a two-month shack-up. It is for life.
2. It is a garden enclosed (Song of Songs 4:12), not a public park.
3. Married love is fair (4:10), not cheap.
4. It is delightful and pleasant (2:3-4), not striving for the high-octane kick. Continue reading ‘June 11: Conjugal Love’
We have covered how Christians should not be ashamed of their own weakness, because in Christ it is no longer weakness. But what caused some questions is where I got off saying we should be willing to be vulnerable, yet also making fun of the practice of getting out your sin for display purposes only. I seemed to be issuing a challenge to Christian women to both shut up, and open up. This is because I think both are needed, often times simultaneously. Continue reading ‘June 10: Vulnerability Part 3′
God has built accountability into the very nature of the world. Consider, for example, what happens when you leave home for almost two weeks in the late spring. I know about this because I just got home two days ago. Do you think my garden is holding me responsible for the state it is in? Yes, indeed, it is. The weeds are a mile high for all the world to see. No pretending who has not been on duty or what has been going on while I was away.
Weeds are just one example of how God holds us accountable, but we can learn some important lessons about our Christian life by digging around in the garden. We reap what we sow. If we neglect our spiritual life and become distracted, we may hope no one notices for a while, but sooner or later it will come out. It always does. If we go ahead and just plant some nasties in our garden on purpose (which is what sin really is), how much more are we to blame for the state of our souls.
God has given us some ground to steward. You may have a little tiny garden you are cultivating, or you may have extensive grounds. Either way, you’ll be called upon to give an account for the state of things. God gives us the means to keep Continue reading ‘June 6: Accountability’