Dallas: Just one further comment on the texture of the life of hearing. I do something that probably is a little inappropriate in the book on page 212 and following. I give what I probably mis-describe as a formula for living with God’s voice and what I did here is I just give step by step how to live with the voice of God to us. I think that if you just look those steps over, you wouldn’t go very far but I think if you look, you will find there something you might adapt so that you would be very comfortable with this issue of God speaking to us.
It’s something that people can really drive themselves to distraction over and I hope to provide a way of staying out of that. Most of the things involved, I have talked about but I think the single most important thing for us to get is that if we do not hear from God about a particular issue, that does not mean that he has abandoned us or that He is not paying attention to us or anything of that sort. That can be a perfectly natural part of learning to live with God in a conversational relationship and that’s what we want—is living comfortably with God in a conversational relationship with confidence that if He has something to say to us, He will say it and He will not murmur or mutter. He will make it clear and if there is a problem, we simply go back to Him for clarity and once we get the idea that we should then sort of have 360 listening for whatever is to come and being observant, I think that we will find assurance that we know how to do this. That’s really important and we don’t want to wind up sort of struggling with something or it remains an unsolved problem in our lives with Him. [3:02]
So, I encourage you to look at what I say there about a formula—don’t worry about the formula part—I just give some steps that one could go through to ease their mind about the issue of conversing with God.
Now, we had started into the character side of our time together—conversation and character and I want to just emphasize before moving to look at Calvin here that these aspects of character are things that we choose because that’s not emphasized enough. They are presented as fruit of the spirit and everyone sort of closes their eyes and goes to sleep and says, “Well, the spirit will bring it to past”—not if we don’t choose it. We have to choose. We will be talking more about that as we go along here. But, it’s basically choosing to be a certain kind of person. You say, “Yes, I am going to be a person of peace.” Then we get St. Francis’s prayer out and work on that or something but basically we choose to be a person of peace, and we choose to be a person of joy and then we have to work our way into that because that is something we learn and grow in as we move forward in the conversational relationship living with Christ.
So, now we will talk more about those dimensions of the fruit and how for example, we might choose to be a person of love, a person of faith, a person of hope and then what we might do to bring that to pass because we have a part in that. So, we will come back to that. [5:27]
Right now, I would like to spend some time with Calvin and emphasizing different topics so that we can understand better his view of living the Christian life. So I want to just turn some pages here with you.
First of all, page 15—the goal of the new life. What is the goal of the new life? And he puts it in terms of
….“melody and harmony in conduct. What melody? The song of God’s justice. What harmony? The harmony between God’s righteousness and our obedience.
Only if we walk in the beauty of God’s law do we become sure of our adoption as children of the Father.”
That’s a peculiar note that is struck in Calvin and in those who claim to follow him. What is the evidence that you are among the elect? And that’s the way it’s often quoted. He says very simply, the evidence is that we are walking in obedience—walking in the beauty of God’s law. [6:58]
Now, baptized back into our earlier topics, for example the passage in Psalm 119—“great peace have they who love Thy law, nothing shall offend them.” You wonder how that could be. I want to remember that when law is used in that context. It’s referring to more than just say the Ten Commandments or some of the other statements of laws. It’s referring to God’s presence in human life. That’s what the law in the sense of the crux of the Bible refers to.
Loving that—now, what would it be to love the law? Well, it would be to delight in, and promote what is essential to the kind of life that is present in the law. Now, the Old Testament people, especially those who wrote the Psalms, understood that the law as a written reality had very important, special powers that if you took it in, you were essentially taking the order of God’s Kingdom into your mind. That’s what study does.
Study takes an objective order of some sort, puts it into your body, mind, soul, spirit, locates it in there and then you start running on the order that was in the objective reality you were studying. That’s true of all study.
If you study the alphabet, you want a child who goes to school and is taught the English alphabet or whatever their language is—the appropriate language is—they take that order into them and because that order is in them, their life is now ordered in a way; then what comes out of them will have the same order that was in what they studied and took it in. But just to reflect on the central cases helps us understand how this works. [9:45]
You may recall how it went with you in learning to be able to repeat in order the English letters and then the amazing fact that there are capital letters and then there are lower case letters, which I found quite surprising because they pointed to that and said, “That’s an ‘A,’ and they pointed to that and said, “That’s an ‘a’ too!” Well, you have to take that in and now suddenly you have two orders. Someone saying it’s the same but they don’t look the same and gradually your study internalizes that and then you take it into your body. The first time you try to write the letters, it’s very difficult. You have to really concentrate and it doesn’t look very good and all of that but you are taking that order in and now shortly, it comes out of you because it’s in there. It’s very important to understand that about the law. [11:08]
The law is a living reality and we take it into ourselves and then the order that is in the law is expressed in our lives and that relates our lives and actions back to the reality, the Kingdom of God, God’s actions, and what God sees is best. Now, that comes out of us and that’s the secret of understanding how those who love His law have great peace—nothing shall offend them because they are living in a reality that protects them from being harmed or offended by anything. Now, that takes a few centuries for people to work on and internalize but when you come to Jesus, it’s very fully expressed in His teachings about trusting God, living in His Kingdom, the birds and the bees and the flowers and all that sort of thing as expressions of God’s Kingdom.
So now, Calvin just picks right up on that in verse 15 & 16 and he turns us to the scripture. He tells us, for example on page 16 about a quarter of the way down, “Let us then search the Scripture to find the root principle for the reformation for our life.” Well, holiness is the object. Knowledge of the way comes to us through Scripture and then a little later on through the real knowledge of Christ. [13:13]
Holiness is the key principle on page 17 and that’s what we are looking to Heaven for—holiness in our life when we think of this statement that the goal of the new life is that God’s children should exhibit reality and harmony in their congregant.
All right; let’s see. Let’s go to 17, 18, 19—let me move on quickly here to 20 & 21—External Christianity is not enough. So, on page 20, three quarters of the way down,
“The apostle denies that anyone actually knows Christ who has not learned to put off the old man, corrupt with deceitful lusts, and to put on Christ.
External knowledge of Christ is found to be only a false and dangerous make believe;…..”
“Nominal Christians,” he says on the top of 21 should “cease from insulting God by boasting themselves to be what they are not.”
The heart is what has to be changed and “Christians,” he says “ought to detest those who have the gospel on their lips but not in their hearts.”
Now, that sounds like a pretty high standard and it’s important to know that Calvin does not insist on perfection. Right at the bottom of 21—“We should not insist on absolute perfection of the gospel in our fellow Christians, however much we may strive for it in ourselves.” He doesn’t think that perfection should be something we hold ourselves to in the process. It’s simply the goal that we are working toward and progress towards holiness is what he is saying is the mark of the Christian who is a genuine disciple of Jesus. [15:55]
That’s, I think really important when we consider the history of the reformed movement and many people associated with it more or less as reformation Christians because often a very grim picture goes out with this kind of Christianity and that grim picture derives from the legalism into which those who were followers of Calvin and others felt. Of course that’s hopeless and makes every progress really impossible. You can’t progress in that direction of perfection in action. You might make progress but it will be a side affect of something else and so the heart of the matter now practically on verse 25 is self-denial. We need to spend some time on this and have your comments and questions about it because this is so essential but it is so misunderstood. [17:15]
What is self-denial? So now on page 25 he starts talking about it and gives several pages to try to interpret it. He says that
“The divine law contains a most fitting and well ordered plan…. It is the duty of believers to ‘present their bodes a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God’; this is the only true worship.”
But now that requires us to spell it out and what he does is to work through the idea that we don’t belong to ourselves on page 26 and he has a kind of litany there in the middle of the page,
“We are not our own, therefore neither our reason nor our will should guide us in our thoughts and actions.
We are not our own, therefore we should not seek what is expedient to the flesh.
We are not our own, therefore let us forget ourselves and our own interests.
We are not our own; to him, therefore, let us live and die.”
Now, that is just full of problems and the history of the Calvinist influence to people often bears that out. I mean, we are not to think. We are not to exercise our will and that leads to this posture, “Well, we are nothing.” No, we are something. We are not nothing. We are creatures of God and we are redeemed and how to keep a balance between self-denial and self- affirmation is the standing problem of the Calvinistic theology. [19:15]
I don’t think Calvin himself had so much of a problem with it and I think you will see in this book, if you have not already seen that he has a very well developed sense of self and you have to have that or the talk about self-denial doesn’t lead anywhere. If you mean by, “I’m nothing, what I think doesn’t matter and what I feel doesn’t matter” and so on, then self-denial itself doesn’t amount to much. It’s when you have a self and you have feelings and you have thoughts and you have a will that you have something to deny, but to try to deny it does not mean to blot it out or to say it doesn’t exist. It means to not allow it to govern your life. That’s the meaning of self-denial in Calvin and in most of the sensible literature where that is taken up. When you understand that, well then you see how this could be a very powerful approach to holiness. [20:31]
So, the will of God is, in this book often just the will of God—affirming the will of God is the same as the expression of self-denial and that’s a healthy, positive way of putting self-denial is you are putting the will of God first.
God’s will is what matters and within that of course, you have a will and it should function under the direction of the will of God.
He gives a treatment of Titus 2 on pages 30 & 31 trying to spell out what self-denial means. The denial of ourselves and the breakdown that he gives is from Titus 2:11, “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared unto all men teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world; looking for the blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto hImself a peculiar people that are devote to good works.” [22:18]
So, he gives a breakdown here at the bottom of page 30—“Sobriety means chastity and temperance, as well as the pure and frugal use of temporal blessings……” Frugal is a word you will hear rarely used in Christian teaching anymore but it was and has been associated through the centuries with the word sober—sobriety. It doesn’t just refer to whiskey and alcohol. It refers to clothing, housing—all of the things and it refers to just having what is good and necessary but not luxurious. Not something that merely feeds the sensitivities—feelings. [23:12]
So, sobriety, “righteousness includes all duties of justice….” and “Godliness separates us from the pollutions of the world….,” and right at the bottom of 30 there—“When the virtues of sobriety, righteousness, and godliness are firmly linked together, they will produce absolute perfection.” [23:33]
So now, self-denial then leads into those particular forms that are expressed by sobriety, righteousness and godliness. Now, making that into a culture proved and continues to prove a great challenge because people will tend to translate that in certain forms; for example, clothing and if you look through the centuries at all the weird clothing that Christians have decided to wear trying to approximate this and you might get the sense that it is somehow on the wrong track that isn’t the outward form of clothing or whatever that the “gripe thing” emerges but a heart that is set free from using outward forms just to have one’s own pleasure in them.
So, he turns now to humility. On the bottom of 31 this has some very wise words in it to help us. Humility means respect for others. Humility does not mean tearing yourself down. He quotes Paul “in honor to prefer others to ourselves;” this is the bottom of 31, “faithfully willing to devote our whole attention to the promotion of this advantage.” [25:26]
At the bottom of 32, he says talking about the greatest works in human beings,
“The poor yield to the rich, the common people to the upper ten, the servants to their masters, the ignorant to the scholars; but there is nobody that does not imagine that he is really better than others. Everyone flatters himself and carries a Kingdom in his breast”
and that is what humility is designed to help us cure. He had evils of ambition and self-love.
Relating to others with respect is a profound statement on the top of 34.
“If we pay attentions to the honor and reputation of others, whoever they may be, we shall conduct ourselves not only with moderation and good humor but with politeness and friendship.”
This is one of the places where the tender side of the reformed faith comes out and it will in the others parts of this little treatise. We live to hold others up and we allow God to hold us up. [26:55]
Top of 35—that’s why we “seek the profit of others and even voluntarily give up our rights for the sake of others.” So, humility is all focused on others and there is a delightful phrase on page 36 under number 4,
“The law of love does not only pertain to the sizable profits, but from ancient days, God has commanded us to remember it in the small kindnesses of life.”
And that’s a part of the reformed practices that are often missed that there was a very sweet side to all of this that came out in European history and was very influential through a movement known as Pietism, which really did pay attention to the small kindnesses of life.
Now, he makes sure to extend that on page 37 and following to all kinds of people though he says, “the majority is very undeserving.” A third of the way down there on 37 he says, “. . .we must not think of man’s real value, but only of his creation in the image of God to which we owe all possible honor and love.” And you may recall here, Lewis’ wonderful sermon on the greater Weight of Glory and what he says about “no one has ever met an ordinary human being” and Calvin is working on that same line of thought—The true worth of people is seen by putting them in relationship to their Creator. So, if anyone appears in need of your kind services, you have no reason to refuse him. [29:11]
“Suppose he is despicable and worthless; yet the Lord has deigned him worthy to be adorned with His own image. Suppose you have no obligations toward him for services. . .”
See, this is what Jesus is getting at in His Sermon on the Mount when he says things like, “give to him that would borrow from thee. Lend to those who would not pay back” and so forth and so on. What Jesus is teaching is you don’t need a prior claim on you to concede to a request and this is where you need to work on how Jesus teaches in order to understand what He teaches but in much of the teaching in Matthew 5, He is teaching in opposition to a practice and He is not affirming a general practice but an exception to the general practice of human beings, who, for example, when you ask them for something, they say “Why should I give it to you?” Jesus is saying, “Well their need is enough” but He is not giving you a rule; He is teaching you to take exceptions to the general human practice that goes in terms of prior obligations. [30:38]
There is a summary statement on this on page 38 about two-thirds of the way down. He says,
“We should forever keep in mind that we must not brood on the wickedness of man, but realize that he is God’s image bearer.
If we cover and obliterate man’s faults and consider the beauty and dignity of God’s image in him, then we shall be induced to love and to embrace him.”
He has an interesting passage here following that that talks about how you do your charity and in particular, he addresses people who may do charity that always is accompanied with a scolding. He says here, on 39, a third of the way down,
“We are sunk to such a depth of calamity in this awful age, that scarcely any alms are given, at least by the majority of men, without haughtiness and contempt.”
So, heartfelt pity is something he recommends. [32:01]
Q: I was wondering how you talk about the sorbadis incident with Calvin in relation to this?
Dallas: It’s not in conformity with this, is it?
Dallas: See, Calvin and Luther both fell into deep trouble when they became responsible for community. [Laughter] And, that’s something that we can learn a lot from and they fell into the same trap of the Roman Catholic Church, which they suffered from and opposed the idea that they had to take charge and if necessary, use force and stamp on people. Yes? [32:49]
Q: Comments were made about Calvin showing mercy and kindness out of honor and respect for God. Sometimes I think that’s easier than showing honor and respect to people who are in places of authority who perhaps fail. Did Nathan show just as much honor and respect for David when he came in and said, “You have failed in your leadership.” [That was an act of love on Nathan’s part.] Can we show honor and respect to those who have failed?
Dallas: So, when we show respect and honor, we don’t deviate from what is good and right. [Right!] But the spirit in which we carry through with it is not one of arrogance and it wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a video to see what it looked like—one of the things that Jan does that helps us so much is to ask us to imagine what their face looked like when they said things or did things and you think about Nathan and their relationship and what that would have been like?
Comment: I would love to think that he was weeping as he was talking to him but….
Dallas: Well, I think that this is a part of Calvinism that we usually miss is the tenderness and the humility. You know, and even humility comes over so many times and the obsequious attitude and graveling master, “Yes, how are you this morning? O graveling Master.”—A line in a play has that. A couple that walks in and asks the doctor, “How are you this morning?” And he says, “Graveling, master.” [Laughter] [34:50]
Well, self-denial turns out to be absolutely central now but not quite I think the way we ordinarily regard it. It has a dignity to it, a sense of value while ones self and how we relate to people. It is something that looks good when you understand it well.
Now, that is—self-denial is founded upon the idea that true blessing comes only from God and that then denying ourselves, we are cared for that God’s sovereignty is over all and sees to it that we are blessed even though we deny ourselves. I think that’s one of the main things to take out of this for helping us understand living in the character of Christ. It is a noble bearing—nobility that comes from a sense of our place in God and not something that comes from our own assertion. [36:25]
Ok, well, the next important thing I want to stress here is what he calls cross bearing on page 47. I hope you’ve had time to dwell on this. I can’t touch on all of it but there is some really good stuff here about not being anxious for honors and riches and all of that sort of thing and resting in the sovereign provision of God for us but let me move on quickly to 47 and cross bearing.
“Cross bearing,” he says, “is more difficult than self-denial.” Let me say something about cross bearing. He is a very clear minded man for the most part but he, like many people and those who follow him confuse “caught in the cross” with “troubles” and troubles are not the cross but if you have received the cross, your troubles will be much better.
There is a story told about an old American evangelist who preached on “taking your cross and following Him,” and leaving the meeting he was going to his next sermon and he passed a little man carrying a big woman. And he said, “What are you doing?” And he said, “I am carrying my cross.” [Laughter] Now, that’s never the teaching of scripture. The cross is not another person. [Laughter] But yet you hear that, “Well, this is my cross” or something of that sort. The cross is the cross of Jesus. Cross bearing means that we take the cross of Jesus to ourselves and that means we have dropped our old life and have entered a new life. The cross meant the end of the old life of self-service, self-loving and so on. [38:48]
Now, once I say something to try to straighten that out a bit and then we can go on. At the bottom of 47, he says,
“For all whom the Lord has chosen and received into the society, of his saints ought to prepare themselves for a life that is hard, difficult, laborious, and full of countless griefs.” [39:10]
[That’s what I want!] [Laughter] That’s Calvin’s teaching but we want to remember that this was written in a period when a forty-year-old man was an old man and people would have 15 children and three of them live. And so, this actually, the way it was received led people into a way of receiving the hard things in life as God’s provision for them and in receiving them in that way, they were able to go on with hopefulness and assurance of the larger scene in which God was always triumphant and to see themselves as sharing in that triumph in the midst of terrible, really terrible conditions of life.
But, we have to bring that to our time now. Not that we don’t have sad and terrible things that happen to us but it really isn’t the same kind of scene and we have to understand that the cross of Jesus is the same today as it was then. It means the abandonment of our lives to God and he quotes Paul here at the bottom of 48. Saint Paul tells us, “that if we know the fellowship of His sufferings, we shall understand the power of His resurrection and that while we are participating in His death, we are also being prepared for sharing His glorious resurrection.” How much he says! How much this helps to lighten the bitterness of the cross for the more we are afflicted by adversities, the more surely our fellowship with Christ is confirmed. [41:36]
See, this attitude and this practice helps draw us away from the visible world and into the eternal world so he goes on to attempt to say, “The cross make us humble” on 49. The cross makes us humble. What does that mean? It means it takes us off of self-dependence and that’s a major effect of the cross and pride is above all is dependency on self, the sufficiency of the self.
“ . . .Being humbled, at the top of 50, “being humbled, we learn to call on his strength which alone makes us stand up under such a load of afflictions.” [42:30]
And then his next point is the cross makes us hopeful. This is on page 51. Now see, he is talking about how to enter into something that will in effect produce the fruit of the spirit in us. The cross makes us hopeful. We live in the promise of God. If we hope in ourselves, our hope will be disappointed but if we hope in God, it will not be disappointed. Taking the long view of course is what he has in mind.
Next, we move to page 52—the cross teaches obedience. This is all about Christian character and how to enter into it. Some of the reasoning here two thirds of the way on 53,
“. . . if God Himself acts justly when he prevents such virtue from becoming obscure and useless by offering us an occasion to exercise them, then this must be the best of reasons for trying the saints for without affliction, they would have no patience.” [44:08]
And then, remember that when he is talking about the cross here, he is actually talking about the burdens and disappointments of life and that’s what he means by the cross. My own rule is those crosses will do you no good unless you have accepted THE cross of Christ. THE cross of Christ is the one that stands over your life and says, “Now your life is gone and you have now a new life.” That takes us out of the position of trying to make our whole life work within the assumptions of the visible world. [44:56]
So, just quickly, 54, the cross makes for discipline. It trains us. We want to shake off the yoke of the Lord but we can’t do that. It is a discipline because it forms our character and “different persons,” he says, “have different crosses” because different people need different disciplines that particularize the difficulties to the individual. “The heavenly Physician takes care of the well-being of all his patients. . .”
He says toward the bottom of 55, then the cross brings repentance and “when we are in affliction, we ought to review our past life” to see if there is something there that we need to get rid of and this will help us “even in the bitterness of our trials” he says in the middle of page 56—
“. . . in the bitterness of our trials, we should acknowledge the mercy and kindness of our Father toward us. . .
For he does not afflict to destroy or ruin us, but rather to deliver us from the condemnation of the world.” [46:25]
Now he goes into a section about persecution because persecution would be a dimension of the cross. You’ve got to try to keep in mind that the simple way—obedience, holiness, self-denial and the cross; and then many ways in which the cross understood as the burdens of life benefit us. Persecution is one of those burdens. Calvin doesn’t say a lot about it for himself and exercises a bit about it for others. [Laughter]
So, bottom of 57,
“I call it persecution for righteousness’ sake, not only suffering in defense of the gospel, but also when we are opposed in upholding any just cause.”
Anyone who is persecuted for righteous sake in the words of Jesus that is. Now what he wants to talk about and he had some really interesting things to say here. He wants to say that when we are persecuted and deprived of our goods here, that just increases our riches with God in Heaven and therefore we should rejoice as Jesus said, “We should rejoice when we are persecuted for His sake and for righteousness sake.” [48:04]
But interestingly enough now, at the bottom of 59, he says,
“We are not required to be cheerful while we shake off all sense of bitterness or sorrow. The saints could not find any patience in cross bearing if they were not disturbed by sorrow and harassed with grief.”
What he is basically saying here is, “It’s okay to be miserable about the persecution” and he’s addressing people who have the same smile and praise philosophy that you are just happy all the time. That is a message, which he rejects. It’s okay to be full of grief and sorrow. There will be joy and cheerfulness also but there are times when we have to accept the sorrow as proper and at the bottom of 61 he says,
“. . . no man might call sadness a vice” and he quotes Jesus, “The world,” said he, “shall rejoice but you shall even lament.”
“. . . that no man might call sadness a vice, he has pronounced a blessing on them that mourn.” [49:34]
So now, the next dimension of the cross that he emphasizes after persecution is submission and this is on page 62 and following. The adversary will come and wound us and we will be afflicted by disease. We will feel restless and we will shed tears but the key to how to do that is simply submission. We don’t reject it. We accept it. We believe in the goodness of God beyond the condition that makes us miserable.
All right. The next chapter on page 67 is Hopefulness for the Next World. “ . . . the present mind is full of miseries,” he says on page 71. We should not despise the blessings of the present life; they are given to us by God. We should be thankful for them; not to make them the center of our lives but to make them a part of our lives because God has provided comforts and blessings as well as allowing us to live the life in which there is sorrow and suffering.
Interesting statement on 72—
“the divine blessings of this present life should not be despised.”
It says, “. . . our constant efforts to lower our estimate of the present world should not lead us to hate life or be ungrateful toward God.
But believers should find ‘a witness of God’s kindness’ in the things of this life that are Good and there are many for Him.” [51:53]
Goodness is as much a part of God’s provision as anything else that you may experience in this life and we want to be thankful for it; not to despise the blessings of this life but to receive them gratefully and he’s talking about food and clothing and things of that sort and that we need to enjoy the thankfulness to God. That is in his view of responsibility. It is not something that’s divinely designed to wean us off of God but something to help us know God and love him because of His goodness. [53:00]
So now we look forward to Heaven. We anticipate an afterlife but we are at our posts in this world and the idea of being at a post is one of those ideas of the reformation, both in Luther and Calvin that has been so meaningful to people and many people still find it meaningful today that their life is an assignment by God to a post. It has things that we don’t like and that will be our cross and we accept them and we accept them along with the good things that are in our post or associated with our post.
And looking forward, there should be no fear of death. On page 76, you have a heading where he deals with you should have no fear of death and just an anticipation of the goodness of God in this life extending wherever. [54:11]
Lovely statement here on 78 about the fourth paragraph down,
“. . . this we may positively state that nobody has made any progress in the School of Christ unless he cheerfully looks forward to the day of his death and to the day of the final resurrection.”
Just another point or two here and we will finish up with this. It goes on to describe the goodness of the life that is to come. [54:56]
On page 84 there are some comments about the right use of the present life; the right use of the present life. I especially wanted to read to you a few lines from 84 and 85 because they contradict so much that gets associated with the grim life of the Calvinist. You just have to say Calvinists are not all Calvin and probably he was not a Calvinist or he might well be. [Laughter]
So he talks on page 85 towards the top of those who
“. . . commit the very dangerous error of imposing on the conscience of others stricter rules than those laid down in the Word of God.
By restricting people within the demands of necessity, they meant abstinence from everything possible.”
And then you get a contrast by number 4 there on that page,
“. . .there are many nowadays who seek a pretext to excuse intemperance in the use of external things.
Such people take for granted that liberty should not be restricted by any limitations at all . . . “
And now, his response comes at the bottom of 85,
“ . . . we should that it is not right or possible to bind the consciences of others with hard and fast rules.”
That is such an important point. There is freedom in Christ, in walking with Him and scripture lays down general principles he says, “for the lawful use of earthly things.” Now then, earthly things are a gift of God; therefore, a benefit and not for our harm. [57:18]
The bottom of page 86,
“. . .if this were not true, the Psalmist says, would in herbs, trees and fruits besides being useful in various ways, he planned to please us by their gracious lines and pleasant odors.”
Now, think of a still life painting that just gives you lines and textures and so on; that’s for our delight. God didn’t have to make apples pretty but He did. It says,
“ . . . if this were not true, the Psalmist would not have enumerated it under the divine blessings ‘the wine that makes glad the heart of man, and the oil that makes his face to shine.’ “
So, the goodness of things in this world are to be enjoyed and appreciated in the right use as a thing that glorifies God. So you get a balance between people who make it too hard and people who make it too easy and this ‘deprives us of the lawful enjoyment of God’s kindness” as He says on the bottom of 87. [58:47]
Middle of 88,
“ . . . what will become of our thanksgiving if we Indulge in dainties or wine in such a way that we are too dull to carry out the duties of devotion or of our business?”
So, don’t over do it. Where is the acknowledgement of God? If the excesses of our bodies drive us, those are passions that are picked up. So, see He is after balance and the principle of gratitude that he enunciates a quarter of the way down on 89—“ . . .the principle of gratitude should curb our desire to abuse the divine blessings.” We would enjoy them and we would learn how to live with moderation and gratitude and that’s the way we should occupy our time here.
He gives some disciplines in this passage and I am not going to go over them but of course they are as you expect if you would know this culture—frugality again. On page 90, two thirds of the way down, both
“ . . . the liberty of believers in external things cannot be restricted by hard and fast rules, yet it is surely subject to this law, that they should indulge as little as possible.”
The key word there is indulge. ON the contrary we should continually an resolute ourselves to shun all of those per and avoid all vain displays of luxury. That’s frugality. [1:00:23]
So then he goes on t talk about how to be content under privation; that is, when you are poor.
A very, very last thing here is on page 93 and 94. This is faithfulness to your divine calling. The idea of Calvin is that every person has a divine calling. No matter what it is that they are spending their lies in, it is a divine calling. It is a post, which the Lord has placed them and this now, gets pretty particular at the top of 93, “ . . . he has appointed to everyone his particular duties in the different spheres of life.” And, of course, Calvin was very big on duty. We are very small on it, by and large but he was very big on it and he thought that duties flowed mainly out of your place—in your family, in your society—and if you have a civil calling; that is, a calling in your community—that is of God. [1:01:33]
Three quarters of the way down on 93 is this statement—“He who disregards his calling will never keep this great path in the duties of his word.” See, you take your work as God’s calling and then your duties are His directions on how you are to live in that calling.
And top of 94,
“Our present life, therefore, will be best regulated if we always keep our calling in mind. No one will then be tempted by His own boldness, to dare to undertake what is not compatible with his calling, because he will know it is wrong to go beyond his limits.”
So, he lists different callings.
“The magistrate will then carry out his office with greater willingness.
The Father of a family performs his duties with more courage.
And everyone in his respective sphere of life will show more patience, and will overcome the difficulties, cares, miseries, and anxieties in his path, when he is convinced that every individual has his tasks laid upon his shoulders by God. [1:02:48]
If we follow our divine calling, we shall receive this unique consolation that there is no work so mean and so sordid that does not look truly respectable and highly important in the sight of God.”
Now, these are ideas that are a little unusual today. The problem with work and occupation is that it is just a terrible burden for people, very much for those who have jobs as well as those who don’t and finding a place in God to live out one’s life begins with acceptance of His sovereign appointments to us and leads to our accepting the others around us and the work that is to be done by us our time, our history as a work of God of which we get to be a part. And that puts a structure in place that will guide us safely in to not just this life but the next. OK? Jan?