July 10th marks the 501st birthday of John Calvin, born in 1509 in France. Let us thank God for this great brother and his insights into the Word of God — and be encouraged by his bold declaration of the doctrines of grace.
“Calvin wrote as one who loved God, one who knew what it meant to be loved by God, and one who could explain with profound theological depth the biblical message of God’s sovereignty in salvation.”
(Jonathan Parnell, Desiring God).
Dr Derek Thomas recently wrote of his love for the church – I couldn’t agree more! Ponder his warm, even passionate words…
“Love me, love my dog,” they say, and my poor dog has been sick all summer and continues to be in bad shape. But it is not dogs I am writing about here; it is the church. Jesus seems to say, again and again: “Love me, love my church.”
Something is terribly wrong when professing Christians do not identify with the church and love being a part of her. Something is wrong when professing Christians fail to be passionate about every aspect of the church and long to invest themselves in her, taking all that the church represents and does to heart. Listen, for example, to the way Paul instructs the Ephesians: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27).
I fell in love with the church the moment I was converted as a freshman in college in 1971. Having never attended any church until then, I discovered a community that was, to me, like a family: caring, loving, and nourishing. The church I found was able to tell me that I was wrong about some things without driving me away. I knew that I was loved. The church showed me acts of kindness and fellowship that I recall with affection to this day. I was introduced to expository preaching from the start – a style of preaching that puts the Bible above the personality and idiosyncrasies of the preacher. I discovered communal prayer times, and joyful singing, all of which have been the mainstay of my Christian life ever since. True, I have had my share of worship wars, when Christians disagree over important things and sometimes trivial things; but for all that, I have taken delight in her rituals of song and sacrament, prayer and proclamation, more times than I can relate. I love the church. I fully endorse Calvin’s way of putting it (and the shadow of Cyprian that lies behind it): “For there is no other way to enter into life unless this mother conceive us in her womb, give us birth, nourish us at her breast, and lastly, unless she keep us under her care and guidance until, putting off mortal flesh, we become like the angels” (Inst. 4.1.4). In the church, I have discovered saints and angels (though not, as far as I know, real angels). I have witnessed deeds of extraordinary kindness done to myself and to others, and I have been the beneficiary of kindnesses done to me by those who remained anonymous.
Yes, there is a dark side to the church as there is to all things in this fallen world. The church is not perfect. It has her share of malcontents and killjoys, her energy-sapping attention-getters and despondent hearts. Adullam’s cave has nothing on some churches I have seen, but none of this robs me of my love for the church. Even at her most eccentric – the King James Version’s rendition of 1 Peter 2:9 as “ye are … a peculiar people” is painfully accurate, if quaint — she is still Christ’s body. “Love me, love my church” is what Jesus seems to say in the Bible. I would not have it any other way. Would you?
The great preacher & theologian of the Protestant Reformation, JOHN CALVIN, was born on July 10, 1509 — exactly five hundred years ago today! Praise God for this man and his ministry which reformed the church and changed the face of western civilization.
John Piper’s recent article in WORLD magazine cites…
…Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism given at Princeton Seminary in October 1898. Kuyper was a pastor, a journalist, the founder of the Free University of Amsterdam, and Prime Minister of the Netherlands:
“Calvinism has liberated Switzerland, the Netherlands, and England, and in the Pilgrim Fathers has provided the impulse to the prosperity of the United States.”
Kuyper closed his lectures with a claim that for many today sounds preposterous. Do not write him off. Get the book Lectures on Calvinism, and test these words, spoken to Americans in 1898:
“In the rise of your university education . . . in the decentralized . . . character of your local governments . . . in your championship of free speech, and in your unlimited regard for freedom of conscience; in all this . . . it is demonstrable that you owe this to Calvinism and to Calvinism alone.”
Pastor Ian Hamilton (a Banner Trustee, and author, as a Scot serving a church in Cambridge, England), also spoke (twice) at the recent Banner of Truth Trust Minister’s Conference — once on Calvin as a Pastor, and then bringing the closing sermon of the conference from 2 Corinthians 4.
In the first, Hamilton listed for us “7 Characteristics of Calvin’s Ministry” —
1/ It was carried out with a view of Christ as Chief Shepherd.
2/ Love to Christ is the animating principle of ministry; our motive.
3/ It reflects the servanthood of Christ.
4/ A conviction that preaching and teaching the gospel is the primary task of the pastor; in season, and out of season he preaches the Word. *NB: The preacher has two voices: one to feed the sheep, and one to frighten the wolves.
5/ Much use of pastoral visitation, house to house.
6/ He never wearied of telling believers to get out of themselves and in to Christ!
7/ A ministry shaped and impregnated with the overflow of his own union with Christ.
O Lord Jesus, help me, and my fellow pastors, in our frailty and feebleness to serve You and Your flock better. For your glory, Lord. Amen.
The 2009 US Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference last week began with a sermon by Mark Johnston on Hebrews 13:7. That text and some of my notes follow….
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. (esv)
This year we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the birth of the great Reformer, theologian & pastor, John Calvin. Is it right to celebrate and remember such men? Yes! Why?
(1) As an encouragement to persevere. All those named in Hebrews 11 endured, and embody great faith in God.
(2) As a model of faith & life. Despite some differences in cultural and historical contexts, we are instructed to learn what we can from those who’ve gone before. See Calvin’s personal godliness (amidst ongoing illnesses and the threats on every front).
(3) As those who lead us to Christ!. They do not rally men to themselves, but lead them to Christ — who is the same, yesterday, today and forever!
From philosophy professor James Spiegel (via JT):
Augustine (5th century): Remember that you are a citizen of another kingdom.
Martin Luther (16th century): Expect politicians to be corrupt.
Thomas Aquinas (13th century): God has made himself known in nature.
John Calvin (16th century): God is sovereign over all, including our suffering.
Jonathan Edwards (18th century): God is beautiful, and all beauty is divine.
Thomas a’Kempis (15th century): Practice self-denial with a passion.
John Wesley (18th century): Be disciplined and make the best use of your time.
Fyodor Dostoevsky (19th century): God’s grace can reach anyone.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (20th century): Beware of cheap grace.
Alvin Plantinga (21st century): Moral virtue is crucial for intellectual health.
Read the whole post to get the bigger picture.