John Calvin: Who He Is, What He Did, and Why He Matters

Sharing today from Gospel Relevance.

John Calvin: Who He Is, What He Did, and Why He Matters

By 

John Calvin is associated with someone’s death. He wrote one of the most influential Christian theological books of all time. Privately, he was shy and awkward. In public, he moved around with stunning confidence. He was impatient and bashful, yet pastoral and caring. We have never seen — and probably will never see — anyone like him.

Who is John Calvin, you ask? I have intentionally studied Calvin’s life over the years. This post is somewhat of a brief biography of his life. Let’s start with the early years.

Early Life

First thing’s first: his name is not John Calvin. Well, at least not at birth. He was born as “Jean Cauvin.” We don’t know when and why Calvin changed his name, but we know that, as Bruce Gordon tells us, “Name changing was a commonplace among humanists of the sixteenth century.”

Calvin was born on July 10th, 1509 in Noyon, France. He was the first of four children. His mother died when he was a child. Calvin had brothers named Antoine and Charles, and a half-sister named Marie. His father, Gerard Cauvin, was over 50 when Calvin was born, and he eventually died of testicular cancer but was an influence in Calvin’s life. He (Calvin’s dad) remarried after his first wife died, although little is known about either one. While Calvin did not write much about his personal life, he respected his father.

John Calvin’s intellectual abilities were quickly noticed by his father and others. Calvin was on track to study theology and move forward into a position within the church. However, in 1526, his dad directed him to abandon his theological studies and to begin studying to become a lawyer. And he did, studying in Orleans and Bourges until 1531. His studies in law would later help him as a thinker and writer. However, John Calvin did not become a lawyer, but a pastor, and that was soon after his conversion.

Calvin’s Conversion

Calvin was eventually converted to Christ between ages 20-24. Historians and theologians do not agree upon the date and method of conversion. While Calvin did not write much about himself (unlike today, it was uncommon to speak about one’s personal life back then) the closest thing we have to an autobiography of his life is his commentary on the Psalms, in which he briefly mentions part of his conversion:

“When I was as yet a very little boy, my father had destined me for the study of theology. But afterwards, when he considered that the legal profession commonly raised those who followed it to wealth, this prospect induced him suddenly to change his purpose . . . but God, by the sweet guidance of his providence, at length gave a different direction to my course . . . God by a sudden conversion subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame . . .”

He continues, “Having thus received some taste and knowledge of true godliness, I was immediately inflamed with so intense a desire to make progress therein . . . In short, whilst my one great object was to live in seclusion without being known, God so led me about through different turnings and changes, that he never permitted me to rest in any place, until, in spite of my natural disposition, he brought me forth to public notice.”

Read the rest here.

Fisherman, Follow Me

Photo credit: freebibleimages.org

Fisherman, Follow Me

By Pat Knight

Peter’s extroverted personality may have been responsible for his leadership as spokesman for Jesus’ select group of twelve disciples. He was a flamboyant fellow whose brusqueness created trouble for himself and for his Master. Have you ever pondered the reason Christ recruited Peter as a disciple, when He fully recognized Peter’s propensity for aggression? Though impulsive and roughly hewn on the outside, Jesus looked into Peter’s heart to identify his potential for loyalty, submission, and reliability. Jesus knew Peter would develop into a powerhouse for the Kingdom of God in the future. But first, Jesus must sand the rough edges of Peter’s personal approach, teach him tenderness and tact, and impress upon His disciple the nature of his Master’s mission on earth.

Jesus’ disciples were a varied assortment of professions and personalities. None among them were important or accomplished. God chose ordinary men to perform extraordinary feats. The most unprepared were believers God could mold and make into a useable instrument for His glory. God peers into hearts, searching for a person’s capacity to serve, obey, and to conform to His will. God’s methods have not changed over the centuries. He converts His weak children to towers of strength to promote His important assignments, as the Spirit infuses us with power and direction.

A life-long fisherman by trade, Peter was self-assertive and independent, intrigued by the authority of the man who urged, “’Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people’” (Matthew 4:19). Jesus issues the same command to all believers, encouraging us to depend on His leadership for every aspect of our lives. When questions or calamities arise, we need not scramble to find our own solutions; Jesus is our close companion, ready to answer and aid at a moment’s notice. In fact, our Savior already knows in advance what will occur in our future. Trusting His guidance and grace offers tranquility when we are surrounded by anxious moments, allowing Jesus to fight our battles and achieve the victory He promises. “Do not be afraid or discouraged … for the battle is not yours, but God’s. You will not have to fight this battle. Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld” (2 Chronicles 20:15b; 17a; 20b).

Peter was impetuous. When he recognized Jesus walking on water, he requested his Master summons him to walk toward Him in the middle of the lake. Peter successfully took several steps on water—until the gusting wind distracted him. Doubt overwhelmed his faith and he began to sink. “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “‘You of little faith,’ Jesus said, ‘why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:31).It took courage for Peter to leave the safety of the disciple’s boat, depending solely on Jesus to enable him to step onto the surface of the water. Whenever believers divert their focus from Jesus in the midst of a storm, our present fear claims more prominence than our trust in Jesus. Like Peter, we lose faith and begin to sink from the Master’s presence. The tangible difference between fear and faith is Jesus!

The Messiah began preparing His disciples by teaching them about His future suffering and death. “Peter took him {Jesus} aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, my Lord!’ he said, ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns’” (Matthew 16:22-23). Peter was struggling with unbelief, exposing his own impulsive methods. When Jesus compared Peter’s actions to Satan, his arrogant behavior exposed an adversary or an accuser.

In the garden the night Jesus was arrested, Peter’s combative nature was revealed when he instinctively whacked off the high priest servant’s ear with a sword. “Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away!’” (John 18:11). Did Peter still believe that Jesus’ purpose on earth was to condemn and destroy? Jesus touched the servant’s ear, healing him instantly. When would Peter learn to trust the saving grace and mercy of the Son of God?

Photo credit: freebibleimages.org

At the Passover feast, Jesus predicted Simon Peter would disown Him three times before the rooster crowed. A few hours later, still vacillating between fear and courage, Peter took his focus off Jesus until the last rooster crowed, the moment when the servant and the Master’s eyes met. “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him. And he went outside and wept” (Luke 22:61-62). How would Peter compensate for such personal failure? By running to the garden, the first of the disciples to meet his risen Savior. Later, Peter was the only apostle to be spiritually reinstated by his Lord (John 21:15-19).

Like the audacious disciple, we may be unaware of our own spiritual deficiencies. Following Jesus from afar as Peter did the night of his betrayal, is a dangerous posture for any of us to assume. When believers learn to trust Jesus wholeheartedly, there emerges a vivacious, vital person whose sole purpose is to concentrate on the Savior. Let us readily admit, as the Israelites did long ago:

“‘We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you’” (2 Chronicles 20:12), a prayer that God the Father honored.

Simon Peter is a vivid example of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Peter was the emboldened orator on Pentecost Sunday, where 3,000 people were converted to Christianity. He had evolved from headstrong to humble; from arrogant to obedient; from timid to fearless. Simon Peter’s spiritual metamorphosis was evidenced as the first disciple to confess to Jesus, ”’You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’” (Matthew 16:16). Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the uneducated disciple authored two New Testament epistles bearing his name. He became a pillar of the emerging church and the first apostle to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. A self-sufficient heart was rehabilitated into a dependent servant fashioned for heaven’s work!

We are confident that each life responds to miraculous spiritual reform. The most bombastic attitude can be tempered and used for God’s glory. Our Lord chooses ordinary believers for colossal assignments, strengthening and empowering them with Jesus’ attributes. God modified Peter’s rebellious characteristics, substituting qualities and sensitivities previously undeveloped in the disciple. All believers are blessed with capabilities that blossom under sovereign tutelage. Jesus is the compassionate Son of God, willing to invest his own perfect life for the purpose of redeeming and reconstructing each of ours.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
(I John 3:1).

5 Holiness Myths

Sharing today from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

5 Holiness Myths

What comes to mind when you think of a holy person? Some of us see the beauty of holiness lived out on a regular basis in our churches and homes. But others fail to see the appeal of a holy life lived out, either because they haven’t seen it in practice or because less-appealing counterfeits have filled their horizon. Sometimes it’s helpful to articulate what holiness is not in order to gain a clearer understanding of what it is and why we want it. Here are five false views that you may have encountered.

1. Holiness is an honorary status.

Some speak of saints as if they were some sort of extra-dedicated class of Christian, a select few who have earned a special status. But the Bible does not make this distinction. Paul calls all Christians saints (1 Cor. 1:2). He tells the Corinthians that they have been “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified.” This is our position before God. We are sanctified “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” at the moment of salvation (1 Cor. 6:11).

Because we are saints in Christ, we are to “put off your old self” and “put on the new self” (Eph. 4:20–24). In other words, our practice should match our position. This growth in holy practice is what the theologians call “progressive sanctification.”

There are not two tiers of Christians. All Christians are saints, and all of us are becoming holy in practice.

2. Spirit-empowered holiness feels easy.

The idea that sanctification requires effort may seem unspiritual to some, but the Bible is full of athletic metaphors that encourage us to do just that. Paul told Timothy, “train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7), and the author of Hebrews tells us to “strive for . . . the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

Spiritual disciplines are essential for growth. As we study God’s Word and pray, our will and desires change to become more like Christ. As we daily resist sin and make God-honoring choices, we are working our spiritual muscles and making progress in the right direction.

Read the rest here.

Counting on Mercy in Suffering

Sharing today from from UnlockingTheBible.org.

Counting on Mercy in Suffering

By Lianna Davis

From the pits of grief and suffering, the human heart and soul can yearn to know the cause of earthly pain. Did a particular sin bring this suffering upon me, or did I need discipline?

Tender answers might pour into the soul from Scripture—Job was a noble man who suffered and grieved (Job 1:8). And the man born blind in John’s gospel was not provided by Jesus with a personal sin corresponding to his pain (John 9:2-3). We cannot always draw straight lines between cause and effect for our individual suffering (Isaiah 55:9). In How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil, D. A. Carson writes,

It is the uncertainty of reading what is going on that sometimes breeds pain. Is the particular blow I am facing God’s way of telling me to change something? Or is it a form of discipline designed to toughen me or soften me to make me more useful? Or is it part of the heritage of all sons and daughters of Adam who live this side of the parousia, unrelated to discipline but part of God’s mysterious providence in a fallen world? But must we always decide? If a little self-examination shows us how to improve, we ought to improve. But there are times when all that the Christian can responsibly do is to trust his heavenly Father in the midst of the darkness and pain. (Carson 66)

“Must we always decide?” We can heed Carson to welcome needed growth in obedience that “a little self-examination” uncovers. Yet, he also warns that our inability to understand the full purposes of God behind our suffering can cause us sorrow on top of sorrow.

Draw Near to the Merciful Savior

While we sit in the mysteries of God’s providence, there is a promise we can be certain of. It’s a theme Carson repeats throughout his book: “From the biblical perspective, it is because of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed” (Carson 44).

As I grow to have a higher and higher view of God being God—creating and owning me, being pure and dwelling in unapproachable light, and deserving of my unwavering devotion and holy fear, I am increasingly unable to view any of my sins as insignificant or any of my fleshly contributions as meaningful. This principle Carson writes of has been crucial for me, especially in the seat of suffering.

Read the rest here.

Ultimate Strength

 Ultimate Strength

by Pat Knight

Is41-10-RedChain--AMP

“I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

I’ll admit it; I’m a pushover for statuesque oriental lily plants. From each underground bulb, a gallant plant emerges. Growing to heights of four feet, the lily boasts a sturdy but invisibly reinforced stalk whose purpose is to support and nurture the entire plant, as well as showcase the lily flowers it produces.

Though the lily plant is tall and grandiose, it seldom requires external support for stability. Even during summer windstorms, it will skillfully withstand thrashing wind without bending or breaking the stem. The lily is built for endurance. Even a plant rimmed with pendulous flowers remains stable under pressure.

It is apparent that the balanced lily stalk must possess intrinsic features that prevent it from breaking under intense environmental conditions, specialized fibers comprising the stalk that offer reinforcement. God, the Creator, designed the majestic lily plant for beauty and dependability, giving it equilibrium by strengthening its internal composition.

What augmented inner support do we depend upon when adverse conditions assail us? With personal tragedy, every fiber of our being revolts, thrashing our hearts, twisting and churning our minds, and interrupting our intrinsic ability to remain calm and composed. We may groan and bend under the emotional or physical weight of the hardship.

Phil4-13-PTZ-Lilies

Whether we break or rebound depends upon the strength within us. Our tenacity alone is insufficient to fight our personal battles, to provide confidence and composure amidst life’s entanglements. When the winds of adversity blow through our fragile lives, does our resolve wither and snap? Reacting to trauma, we may feel as if all of our energy is sapped. Physical weakness may cause us to tremble or shake, but there is a solid Source of immeasurable reinforcement available to us. God converts our trembling to peace; our weakness to strength.

Unlike the lily plant, our Lord designed His children with a renewable Source of strength. The Creator implanted our psyche with innate fortitude, but when that limited resource of inner strength wanes, our Lord is delighted to buttress our supply with his own infinite strength. “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights” (2 Samuel 22: 23-24).

Believing in God’s absolute authority and power is much more straightforward when our days are peaceful and predictable. But, how do we respond in an emergency?

It must have been a traumatic jolt the day King Jehoshaphat of Judah was informed that a coalition of enemy armies was poised at his country’s borders threatening to attack. Vulnerable without a militia or armaments, where would the King find strength of opposition against such a formidable foe? “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord. The people of Judah came together to seek from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town of Judah to seek him (2 Chronicles 20:3-4).

The people prayed continuously as they stood firm to wait for the deliverance they knew the Lord would provide. The frightened, but trusting inhabitants, prayed, “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

Delighted with their faith, God informed King Jehoshaphat and the people that they need not fight the battle. God further instructed them to stand firm in their faith “and see the deliverance the Lord will give you” (vs. 19).

God developed unique war strategy, creating an ambush between that caused the two foreign armies to destroy each other in the confusion of battle. Not an Israelite was harmed. God’s strength was magnified and the people learned a significant lesson about faith and trust at a time when their personal supply was impoverished.

Jer17-7-8-PinkAsiaticLily2--AMP

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

Scripture reminds us to plunge our roots into fertile, watered ground, accessing the Lord, our sovereign Source of all strength. God has created each of us with a natural desire to seek Him and His provisions, to help with both minor and major calamities.  Then on the occasion when we are confronted with an unsolvable adversity, it will be our first response to call on God for His expertise in fighting our battle, for lavishing His gifts of peace and love, and for His intervention to deliver an extra boost of strength.

The lily plant is strong, but not impervious to destruction. Drought, insect infestations, and flooding will defoliate the plant, eliminating its source of nutrition. The plant is given one chance to perform majestically with the nutrition stored within its bulb. If the stress is too great, the plant will collapse.

Our Lord is the God of second chances, over and over again. With the renewable Source of strength God provides, we are able to grow in faith, combat stress, and to submit to the will of the Father. Whatever we lack for life and fellowship with God, He will graciously provide. Union with the living, exalted Christ is the secret to contentment and the Source of abiding strength.

For Now We Rejoice in Part

Sharing today from Desiring God.

For Now We Rejoice in Part

By Scott Swain

God has promised his people supreme, unending, unshakeable happiness. Contrary to the claims of popular prosperity preachers, however, the supreme happiness God promises his people will not be realized in this life. Ours is a life characterized by sorrow in many ways. For now, we rejoice only in part.

There are two reasons for this. First, though the Father’s will to make us happy does not change, and though the Son’s work of securing our happiness is complete, the Spirit’s work of showing and bestowing happiness to us and upon us has only begun. By God’s triune mercy, we have been reconciled to the order of beatitude, what Augustine calls “the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God, and of one another in God.”1 However, as Augustine goes on to tell us, ours is a happiness “we enjoy now with God by faith, and shall hereafter enjoy eternally with him by sight.”2

Second, having been reconciled to God’s order of beatitude, we have been brought into a state of conflict with the order of sin and misery, which wars against the happy God and the people who find their happiness in him. As William Perkins observes, “True happiness with God is ever joined, yea covered many times, with the cross in this world.”3 Our happiness has not yet fully arrived. Our happiness is not yet without opposition. For these two reasons, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10) characterizes the happiness of the people whose God is the Lord as they make their pilgrimage to the happy land of the Trinity.4

Happy Now and Not Yet

In his Sermon on the Mount, our Lord Jesus Christ instructs pilgrims on the path to God’s eternal kingdom regarding the way of happiness.5 In contrast to “the error of all philosophers,” who locate happiness in “pleasure,” “wealth,” and “civil virtue,” God’s Wisdom incarnate sets out the “the nature and estate of true felicity.”6

Read the rest here.

God’s Greatest Miracles Happen in and Around Us All the Time

Sharing today from Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspectives Ministries (EPM) blog.

God’s Greatest Miracles Happen in and Around Us
All the Time

By Randy Alcorn

Recently I listened to John Piper answer the question, “Why Do We See So Few Miracles Today?” on his Ask Pastor John podcast.

His answer is great. It also got me thinking about something else I would add to what John says: that visible miracles are reminders of the reality of greater invisible miracles, which in fact are happening all the time as God regenerates hard human hearts. Hence, God is doing far more miracles than we realize. That’s what this blog is about.

The Costly Miracle of a New Heart

Our Lord transforming human hearts, through stunning acts done daily around the globe, is every bit as miraculous as Jesus transforming water into wine. In fact, these redemptive acts make the dividing of the Red Sea, the falling walls of Jericho, and the raising of Lazarus from the dead actually pale in comparison. Is that an overstatement? No, because the greatest physical miracles cost our all-powerful God nothing, but the miracles of salvation, sanctification, and glorification cost the very life of God’s Son.

God gives us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), makes us new in Christ (Ephesians 4:24), and changes our destiny from death to life, from Hell to Heaven (John 5:24). He takes drug-addicts, sex-addicts, pride-addicts, gossip-addicts, and every variety of sin-addict and works a transforming miracle in us.

As we yield our wills to Him daily, He provides yet another series of sanctifying miracles for us, so that cumulatively, if we have eyes to see, we’ll realize there have been thousands of intervening miracles of grace in just our own lives, and countless millions more in the lives of others. (For more on this, see The Wonderful Miracle of Conversion.)

When God drew me to faith in Christ, as a 15 year old, my life changed radically. One of the hundreds of verses I memorized was this one: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). And the only explanation of this was nothing less than miraculous. As the next verse says, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself…” (v. 18). Miracles are things which God does that cannot be explained by natural processes or human actions. Hence every true conversion—which is not the same as every outward profession—is by definition a miracle.

God’s Miraculous, Empowering Grace

Often when someone dies it’s said, “We prayed for a miracle, but for some reason God chose not to answer.” I understand this, and indeed it’s true that God sometimes doesn’t perform the miracle we asked for.

When that’s the case, I think we would do well to realize this: “While he didn’t perform the miracle we asked for, He performed many other miracles of grace and encouragement, inspiration and comfort, personal transformation and increased dependence on Jesus, worship and deepened relationships, faithfulness and perseverance, empowerment, and open doors of evangelism…and almost certainly many other miracles we don’t yet know of but one day will. And some—perhaps many—of those miracles happened because the miracle we prayed for didn’t.” (See “If I Have Enough Faith, Will God Heal Me?”)

Read the rest here.