Calvin on “The Sum of a Christian’s Life (Forgetting Self)”
Part of my training for being a church planting resident at Redeemer Fellowship–as we hope to plant Cross of Christ Fellowship in Naperville–is to read books in preparation of ministry. The longest and oldest book I’m reading is John Calvin’s “Institutes.” I’m reading about 125 pages per month, and have been richly fed, instructed, and encouraged by the reformer’s words. Here’s a passage that really struck me this past month about from his chapter “The Sum of a Christian’s life”:
“We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set is as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours.
Conversely, 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. 1 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! For, as consulting our self-interest is the pestilence that most effectively leads to our destruction, so the sole haven of salvation is to be wise in nothing and to will nothing through ourselves but to follow the leading of the Lord alone.” Institutes 3.7.1
1 reply on “Calvin on the Sum of a Christian’s Life (Forgetting Self)”
Good post Tom. Wow, a very strong challenge for us to forget our “self”, which I assume Calvin means that we shouldn’t pursue the selfish desires of our fleshly nature. But maybe he means even more than that. If he does, then that would be difficult indeed. Calvin states: “let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds.” If Calvin is taken literally, then I’m not sure how we can do that. We do almost everything by our reason and our will. So maybe he was just using very strong language to make his overarching point about not pursuing our selfish desires. Anyway, Calvin certainly makes us think!