We are not our own; therefore, neither is our own reason or will to rule our acts and counsels. We are not our own; therefore, let us not make it our end to seek what may be agreeable to our carnal nature. We are not our own; therefore, as far as possible, let us forget ourselves and the things that are ours. On the other hand, we are God’s; let us, therefore, live and die to him (Rom 14: 8). We are God’s; therefore, let his wisdom and will preside over all our actions. We are God’s; to him, then, as the only legitimate end, let every part of our life be directed.[i]
If only we would meditate on these truths today, we would find our lives would be tossed less to and fro upon the waves. Every wind of doctrine which blows in from the worldly coast would be easily buffeted[ii] by our steadfastness to Him and cause much less turmoil in our daily lives.
It is only through an acknowledgement of our indebtedness to the Triune God of Scripture, revealed in the perfect image of the Son—Christ Jesus, that we experience true empowerment by the Holy Spirit’s workings in our inner heart.
John Calvin often gets a bad rap for being a legalist, for teaching doctrines that sensitive Christians should stay away from. However, what I have found is that the majority of those who show great disdain for the man and his teaching which is thoroughly saturated in biblical truth, is that they have not read his works. Or if they have read them they have not spent much time mulling over the truths presented in them to test whether or not they are of God or of man.
I am not claiming that Calvin is God, MAY IT NEVER BE! He is a servant of the Lord, like we who profess Jesus are servants of the Lord. But what he has said bears our attention. Go back and reread his words above. Do they not ring true? Do you not see the legitimacy of his claims? Does your inner heart not say to you—if you truly love God—“yes, he is right.” Can you not throw down your allegiances that are built upon biased opinions and test the spirit of the teaching and see whether or not it has some merit?
When I first began in the ministry, I was warned “you dare not read such things from such men.” Why? Oddly enough, I now wonder if such warnings were given to me out of blatant ignorance or willful blindness?
Calvin bases the statement above on the following truth given to us by the apostle Paul:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12.1-2).
Note, what Calvin has already said from Paul’s words—our lives are NOT our own. Neither were they ours when we were unbelievers (for God created us); neither are they ours as believers (for Christ recreated us). “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Php 1.21), but only insofar as we treat our lives as His to be treated and dealt with as He sees fit!
How are we to give true spiritual worship? What does that look like? Is it 45 minutes of singing? Is it mere emotional outbursts, what some call “moving’s of the Spirit?” I dare not say that in Christ we experience no such enjoyment. Our hearts are elated in the Spirit’s presence to be sure, but the point of true worship, of true sacrifice, of true love is through obedience to God’s Word. He has revealed to us what is “holy and acceptable,” what is “good…and perfect.” We do not have to guess, for He has equipped us, if only we would stop turning inward towards ourselves, but outwards to our God.
When we are transformed by His Word, we grow in dependency upon Him, and we refuse the confirmation that this world with all its false lies tries to impose upon us. Light shines brightest, when it encroaches upon the darkness not the other way around. Let us then learn to let the light of Scripture infiltrate our minds, bringing into submission our reason and our will for they were given as gifts not to be used in any fashion that we choose, but in the fashion for which God formed them—to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.
We, who know the Lord our Savior, have been given the mind of Christ by the Holy Spirit (see 1Cor 2), so that we can discern life truly, but the caveat is this. It is possible only insofar as we are dependent up His Word. When we fail to do this, we sin. Sin is not just an outward act, but an inward motivation to do that which is contrary to our Creator. Sin is found in our thoughts, our words, and in our deeds. Let us learn then to cast such things aside, so that Christ might be glorified, and we be found faithful in our service.
Cordially yours in Christ…
[i] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge, Reprint (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1993), 3.7.1
[ii] That is to say, rather than being struck by the wind we strike it. We withstand it. We reject it. We are an encroaching wall that breaks the wind apart, rather than being broken by it. That being said if we are found in error, if we have been seduced by that which is false and have fallen headlong into sin (of any sort), then be thankful my dear friend that we have an advocate beside the Father who, if we are faithful in our repentance, is just as faithful in His forgiveness (cf. 1John 1.9).
Image by Devanath