Friday, July 31, 2009

8/1- Test the Spirits I John 4:1-3

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

8/1- I John 4:1-3 Test the Spirits

1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

Calvin abridged: Many people have abused the name of Christ in order to serve their own errors. Some have made a half profession of Christ in order to find friends, and then they injured the cause of Christ. Most of the spiritual confusion centers around Christ himself. What the Apostle says consists of three parts: He shows the faithful a dangerous evil (telling them to beward); He prescribes how they are to beware of this evil (distinguish between spirits); and then he shows them a particular error (those who believe Jesus didn’t come in the flesh).
“Many false prophets have gone out into the world”- It should be noted that Satan had already seduced many, so we should not be surprised to find false prophets today. It is a perpetual problem whenever the Gospel is conveyed that Satan attempts to pollute and corrupt its purity by its errors. In our day many monstrous sects have surprised some, even to the point that some give up on faith altogether. They don’t find a quicker way to escape the errors. But this is foolish- shunning the light of truth, but casting themselves into the darkness of errors.
“Do not believe every spirit”- When the Church is disturbed by discords and contentions, many, as it has been said, being frightened, depart from the Gospel. But the Spirit prescribes a far better remedy, that is, that we should not receive any doctrine thoughtlessly and without distinguishing between them.
“Spirit”- this is speaking of the one who boasts that he is filled with the gift of the Spirit in order to be a prophet. No one was permitted to speak in his own name, but credit was given to the Holy Spirit that the prophets might have more authority. People were called “spirits” who represented the Holy Spirit by what they said. God desired that his Word be received from a prophet as if he himself had appeared from heaven. But here Satan interposed, and having sent false teachers to adulterate God’s Word, giving also the name “spirit” that they might more easily deceive. False prophets have always claimed whatever honor God’s true servants obtain. The Apostle could have said that any person should be believed. But false prophets claim the Spirit, he notes that it is frivolous and meaningless. “Test the spirits” – since not everyone is a true prophet, the Apostle declares that we should examine and try the spirits, and this is addressed to everyone- even the faithful.
How can we make any discernment? The ones who say that the word of God is the rule by which everything is measured say something, but not the whole. Doctrines ought to be tested by God’s Word, but unless the Spirit be present, the word will avail little, for the meaning will not be clear. Gold is the standard, but only those who understand the art of gold can make the standard real. The Apostle would have commanded this in vain if there were no power of judging supplied. The godly will never be left destitute of the Spirit of wisdom about what is necessary, provided they ask from the Lord. The Spirit will only guide us when we render all our thoughts subject to God’s word. But if everyone has the liberty to judge, nothing is certain. There are two kinds of trials of doctrine- public and private. Private is the trial by which everyone settles their own individual faith. Public trial refers to the common consent and polity of the Church.
4:2- “This is how you know”- Christ is the object of our test- what we believe about Christ is the key. As long as we abide in Christ there is safety; but when we depart from him, faith is lost and all truth is rendered void. “Christ came” refers to his divinity; “in the flesh” means he was a real man, of the same nature as us, that he might become our brother except he was free from every sin and corruption. The cause of his coming must be noticed too- for he did not come for nothing- and so his office and work are remembered. 4:3- “This is the spirit of the Antichrist” – this is added to make the impostures more detestable. The spirit of the Antichrist had already come- meaning that it was already in the world carrying on its secret work of iniquity. But as it was not complete with superstition and false dogmas, he says it would come.

Thought- Just because something, someone, some action is spiritual does not make it true or right. In our day, people lump the spiritual together, drawing no distinctions- with one as good as another. But such thought is wrong-headed, and naive. Some see so many options about religion or belief, that they choose not to believe and not to do the work of discernment. Calvin says the Word- but not just the Word is our source for discernment- the Spirit must also be at work. Our task is to abide in Jesus through his word and Spirit. Today- on our way to Peru, I am thinking about the religion there- a syncretism of Christianity and the old Inca.
There are so many different beliefs, how do you decide what is true. It is not just the Word, but also the Spirit- that makes the Word live and distinguishing- sharper than a double edged sword.

Prayer- Holy Spirit- guide us into all truth- for you are truth. Keep us close to Jesus.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

7/31- Psalm 139- Flying for God

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

7/31- Psalm 139: 7-10
“Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your have will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

Calvin abridged: It is impossible that people by any deception would escape the eye of God. David means that he could not move from one place to another without God’s seeing him, and following him with his eyes as he moved. No matter what obscure corner we hid in, God finds us- for he is able to see through heaven and hell.
“The wings of the morning”- speaks of the suns rays brightening up the world swiftly. The idea is that even if we fly with the speed of light, there is no place that escapes his great power (which is what “hand” means).

Thought: Today I will be in the air for about 11 hours on my way to Peru via- Columbia to Dallas to Miami to Lima to Iquitos. We are going there to do preliminary work to establish a water filtration plant there. Iquitos has 120,000 residents (one study said 600,000 metro area), but no clean, potable water. The church will be putting in a filtration machine that should be able to filter 3,000 gallons a day. This will be near the mission compound. Right now the people of Iquitos, bathe in the water, wash in the water, go to the bathroom in the water, and drink from the same water. Francis Burriss said, “They know the water makes them sick, but they also know they can’t do much to prevent it.” We hope to be doing something. I am blogging on these verses and Calvin’s commentary on them, because they are my favorite flying verses- “if I rise on the wings of the dawn, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” Flying to me is like riding a roller coaster. I used to like it, not it just shakes me up. Flying is something you just go through. But God does not neglect anyone- we can’t fly above or below his radar and care.

Prayer: Lord, help me to rest in your great care and love.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

7/30- I John 3:23-24 God living in us and we in Him

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

7/30- I John 3:23-24

23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 Those who keep his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

Calvin abridged: 3:23- “this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” The discord between us and God is great that we are kept from accessing God except when we are united by love to one another. He does not just commend love alone, but adds the companion of faith. Some distort this as if prayer were dependent on faith and love (and love as a work we do on our own). But John is not speaking of our worthiness to pray. John is only showing that God doesn’t grant anyone a relationship with him but his children who are regenerated by his Spirit. Faith and love are joined together in the singular word “commandment.” They cannot be separated. “On the name of his Son.” The only right faith is that which embraces Christ as he is portrayed in the Gospel. So there is no faith without teaching (Rom. 10:14). The Apostle includes faith in the knowledge of Christ; for he is the living image of the Father, and in him are laid up all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
3:24- “Those who keep his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” The union we have with God is evident when we entertain mutual love. God does not abide in us, except his Spirit dwells in us. The Spirit shows his power and efficiency. No one abides in God who does not keep his commandments. John here speaks of the effects which the Spirit produces while dwelling in us. Paul does this too when he says that those led by the Spirit of God are God’s children. He is speaking of dying to the flesh and living to God. In sum he is saying that we are God’s children when he rules in our life. Whatever good works are done by us, come from the grace of the Spirit, and that the Spirit is not obtained by our righteousness, but is freely given to us.

Thought: Assurance does not come from going good. Assurance comes by God’s gracious Spirit. Love is a way that we show our faith is real. Love shows itself most not in the even times but in the really good times or the really bad times. In a poor economy, we are tested, even more than if we had never had prosperity. It is a hard adjustment to give up the things of the world- but we all must. Tomorrow 7/31 I am going with some of my church folk to Iquitos Peru- a place that is among the poorest in the world. They do not even have clean water there though they are surrounded by the Amazon. We’ll be doing site prep work for a water filtration system. I think the people there may have a shorter but more content life. I am always thinking of what I don’t have, or what I may not have. Few of those in Iquitos are worried about educating their children in college, or making the car payment. Blessings bring worry. Perhaps it is easier to enjoy life and love others when we let go of the things in the world. The main thing is not how much of the world do we have or not have, but how much of God is in us, and how much of us is dwelling in God. He is in us as the air, and we are in him as we are in the atmosphere. This is part of our union or adoption into Christ.

Prayer: Lord, let me unclench my hand that I may extend it in love to another today.

7/29- I John 3:19-22 Prayer and a Guilty Conscience

(OJ Simpson- Maybe a guilty face?)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.
7/29- I John 3:19- 22

19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.

Calvin abridged: 3:9 “This is how we know that we belong to the truth”- “truth” is taken differently than in the previous verse. If we truly love our neighbors, we have proof that we are born of God- who is truth, and that the truth of God lives inside of us. But we should remember that this proof of love is not the same as knowledge of God and does not bring the certainty of salvation. The only real knowledge of our salvation and adoption is by his Spirit. Love is an accessory or an inferior aid, a prop to our faith, not a foundation on which our faith rests. Why then does the Apostle say, “we set our hearts at rest in his presence?” In this he reminds us that faith does not exist without a good conscience; A genuine assurance cannot be obtained unless his Spirit produces in us the fruit of love. No one should conclude that we must look to our works in order that our assurance of salvation may be certain.
3:20- “If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” On the other hand, if we say we are Christians, but do not have a good conscience we are foolish. For if anyone cannot escape the guilt of their conscience, how can they escape the judgment of God? Faith is undermined by the uneasiness of a guilty conscience. Paul says that though he was not conscious of his wrongs, that doesn’t mean he was justified (I Cor. 4:4); for though we are attentive to our lives, we miss many things, and we are ignorant of mistakes that God perceives. So John follows this with “God knows everything.” How can those things be hidden from God which we (who in comparison with God are dull and blind) can see? Since the knowledge of God penetrates deeper than what our consciences see, no one can stand before him unless the integrity of his conscience sustains them. Someone may raise the question about the reprobate who are sometimes sunk into such a stupor by Satan that they are no longer conscious of their own evils, and without alarm or fear (as Paul says) rush into sin and destruction. Hypocrites also flatter themselves and disregard the judgment of God. Hypocrites are made drunk by their false conceit about their righteousness and feel no convictions of sin. Hypocrites are deceived because they shun the light; and the reprobate feel nothing because they have departed from God- and there is no security from an evil conscience but in hiding places. But the Apostle is speaking here of those whom God has drawn into the light and come before his tribunal, and fills with respect of his judgment. We cannot have a calm peace unless God’s Spirit gives us pure hearts. Those who are stupefied, often feel secret regret, and torment themselves in their lethargy.
3:21- “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.” This refers to true believers (not hypocrites or gross despisers of God). The Lord is the one who weighs our hearts (Prov. 16:2) no matter how much the reprobate approve of their lives. This scale of God (on which he weighs our conscience) does not allow us to boast we have a clean heart. We only come in calm confidence into God’s presence, when we bring with us the testimony of a heart conscious of what is right and honest. By faith an access to God with confidence is opened to us (Eph. 3:12), and by faith we have peace that our consciences may stand peaceably with God (Rom. 5:1). There is not much difference- though Paul shows the cause of confidence (faith), and John shows the addition of confidence (love).
Another difficulty comes up in that who has a heart that never finds fault with themselves? But the godly are reproved that they may also be absolved at the same time. It is necessary that we should be inwardly troubled about our sins, that terror may lead to humility and hatred of our selfishness, so that we may flee to the sacrifice of Christ where we will find peace. Knowing that it is possible to please God gives us a calm and peaceful heart so no inward guilt disturbs our calm cheerfulness.
3:22-“ and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.” Now he shows that none can really pray to God unless they in reverence and purity rightly worship him. The idea of a clean conscience proceeds the idea of God’s hearing our prayers. It is a general truth in scripture that the ungodly are not heard by God, but their sacrifices and prayers are an abomination to him. So the door of his presence is closed to hypocrites. It should be noted that good conscience is not the mediator but Christ is the only mediator in God’s court. “Because we keep his commands” does not mean that confidence in prayer is based on our works; but he is saying that true belief and sincere worship of God cannot be separated from faith.

Thoughts: Is it possible to not be perfect and yet have a clean conscience? This passage speaks to this telling us we can have peace with God, and have confidence in our relationship with Him. This peace and confidence does not come from doing anything, but by His Holy Spirit who brings us assurance and peace with God. An ultimate sign of peace and confidence with God is prayer. If our relationship with God is a good one, we can talk to Him knowing He hears us.

Prayer: Lord, thank you that you hear our prayers, and bring us into your peace, giving us confidence in life. In our stressful, busy, and anxious world, help us to reflect your peace and the confidence that comes from know you are on the throne.

Monday, July 27, 2009

7-28- The Birth and Death of Calvin's son

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

7/28- I John 3:19-22 Calvin’s son, Jacques is born (1542)

3 A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. Ecclesiastes 6:3

Calvin’s son Jacques was born 7/28/1542. Calvin baptized him. He lingered for two weeks and died.
Calvin writing his friend Viret In August said, “Greet your wife , to whom mine returns her thanks for so much friendly consolation. She is unable to reply, except by a secretary, and it would be very difficult for her even to dictate a letter. The Lord has certainly inflicted a severe and bitter wound in the death of our infant son. But He is Himself a father, and knows what is good for His children.”

Idelette never fully recovered. She had two more pregnancies, less hopeful than this one. She and Calvin were sick together most of their nine years of marriage. They did walk around the city (see picture above), but even then though some greeted them warmly, some made fun of them. Some used the occurrence of the still births to say that Idelette and Calvin were being punished because in her former marriage (Idelette was a widow. She first was married to an Anabaptist, and they did not believe in having legal recognition of their marriages, though they had a religious ceremony). Twenty years later Calvin would write about one of his enemies: “Balduin twits me… that I have no children. God had given me a son. God has taken my little boy…But I have myriads of sons throughout the Christian world.”

7-27 I John 3:14-18; Love as evidence

(a KKK march- not every group is a group for love- hatred has no place in Christian faith)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

7/27- I John 3:14-18

14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a fellow believer is a murderer, and you know that no murderers have eternal life in them. 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17 If any one of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in you? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Calvin abridged: “We know”- He commends love to us as an evidence of a transition from death to life. So it follows that if we love our brothers and sisters we are blessed, but that we are miserable if we hate them. There s no one who does not wish to be freed and delivered from death. So those who by cherishing hatred willingly give themselves up to death, must be extremely stupid and senseless. We are not our own deliverers, as though by loving others we could escape death. Here the cause of salvation is not human love, but it is a fruit of the Spirit and a symbol of regeneration. Since no one can truly love the brethren, except he is regenerated by the Spirit of God, so he rightly concludes that the Spirit of God, who is live, lives in all who love the brothers and sisters.
3:15- “Anyone who hates a fellow believers is a murderer.” To stimulate us to love, he shows how God detests hatred. Everyone dreads a murderer, but here it is declared that all who hate a fellow believer are murderers.” He could have said nothing more atrocious. Even if we do not seek an injury, but wish an evil deed to happen to our brother from someone else, we are murderers.
3:16- “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” Now he shows what true love is. For Christ, not sparking his own life, testified how much he loved us. This is the goal for each Christian- when we transfer to love of ourselves to our fellow believers, so that everyone in forgetting themselves, should seek the good of others. It is the Apostle’s purpose to stop the vain boasting of the hypocrites, who boasted they had faith in Christ without love for the believers. He means that our feelings should be so formed and shaped that we may desire to devote our life and also our death to God and our neighbors. Our death and blood does not mean as much as Christ’s death.
3:17- “If any one of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in you?”- He now speaks of the common duties of love, which flow from Christ’s love for us. He who refuses to help his brother with material help will not expose his own life to danger. But there is no love in us if we withhold help from our neighbors. Here are some propositions: 1) No on truly loves their fellow believers except those who show it when they have the occasion to show it. 2)We are bound to show love for the Lord provides opportunities to show love. 3) if any one needs food or drink, our aid is required. 4) no act of kindness except those accompanied with sympathy is pleasing to God. “The love of God” This generates the love of fellow believers.
3:18- “Let us not love in word” – we cannot love in tongue only. Let us not just profess with the tongue how we love, but prove it by our deeds.

Thoughts: It is one thing to talk about faith, as a philosopher, a professor, a church goer or and adherent who doesn’t go to church. It is another to have it right. Calvin often talked of this. There is a visible church- those who profess (or talk) about faith and there is an invisible church (those who really are the elect- only God knows these). Today there are a lot of people who speak of being a Christian, but it doesn’t mean much to them. Our faith according to this passage should bear the fruit of love for others. One of the great purposes of church- especially in our day when we can see church on TV or the internet- and believe we practice our faith isolated- is to love. Frankly, this is why churches are such hard places in which to take part. It is in the church that we are around people with a common goal- a goal to love God and neighbor. Love means nothing if we are purposefully (not because we are sick or unable) neglectful of other people. In this passage John talks about faith without love- or fruit means nothing. It is similar to the passage in James- faith without works is dead. It is not saying we are saved by the work of love, but that love is a fruit of that work (as Calvin says love is an evidence not a cause of faith). As a husband can say he loves his wife, but is never home spending time with her- and that relationship is dying and meaningless, so those who neglect Christ’s bride- the Church- may talk of loving God and neighbor but it means little.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for giving us many opportunities to love others. Thank you for the Church which gives us those opportunities to serve together, and learn to cope with and love one another.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I John 3:10-13- Human and Divine love linked

(Cain and Abel Ghent altarpiece 1432)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

7/26- I John 3:10-13 Love One Another
10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Those who do not do what is right are not God's children; nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters. 11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.(TNIV)

Calvin abridged: 3:10- “Those who do not do what is right are not God’s children.” – To do righteousness and to sin are here put in opposition to each other. Righteousness is a perfect keeping of the law (the faithful are always far from this); Yet because offenses and failings are not imputed to the faithful [they are imputed to Christ instead], righteousness is the imperfect obedience which the faithful render to God. To do righteousness is to fear God from the heart and to walk in his commandments as far as human weakness will permit. John declares that everyone who does not live righteously are not of God, because all that God calls, he regenerates by his Spirit. So newness of life is a sign of God’s adoption. “nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters.” The love of God holds the first place, but as the love of humans depends on it, the two are intertwined. Then John declares that everyone who is benevolent toward humanity is just because love fulfills the law. He confirms this saying by noting that this has been taught from the beginning.
3:12 “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother”- He starts off in the negative- for in the reprobate hatred reigns, and it holds the chief place in their life- Cain is given as an example. He also gives the faithful consolation as at length he says, “do not be surprised if the world hates you.” People think wrongfully about how to live, because they thought holiness is simply doing good, and they torment themselves with trifling matters they think of themselves doubly acceptable to God, but this is just superstition. Let us remember that human love for brothers and sisters, as it proceeds from the love of God as an effect from a cause, is not separated from it, but is evidence of our love to God. By saying that Cain was driven to kill his brother, he shows that when unbelief rules, hatred occupies the first place. He speaks of Abel’s righteous works, that we may learn to endure persecution with patience. The world may hate us gratuitously, without any fair reason.

Thoughts: Love of God and love for human beings are linked. Cain’s heart of evil and actions of evil are linked. When God is valued, human beings are valued. When we grow in love for God, we grow in our ability to love one another. This includes love for family members- parents, children, brothers and sisters. In our society as the love of God grows cold, so does the rise in crime and disrespect of human life. Gangs (as an example) do not exactly have love for God or love for human life.

Prayer: Lord, help us to grow in love for you and also each other.

7-25; I John 3:7-10; Not Continuing in sin

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

7/25- I John 3:7-10

7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. 9 Those who are born of God will not continue to sin, because God's seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Those who do not do what is right are not God's children; nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters.

Calvin abridged: The Apostle shows here that newness of life is testified by good works. The likeness of Christ appears by the fruits that we bear in our live (Gal. 5:25- if you live in the Spirit also walk in the Spirit). Many would gladly persuade themselves that the have the righteousness of Christ buried in their hearts, while iniquity evidently occupies their feet, hands, tongue, and eyes!
3:- “Commit sin”- there is no life of God in the hearts of those who act perversely and wickedly, but they are slaves of the devil (which is totally unlike Christ). Christ is seen here as the beginning of all righteousness, and the devil as the beginning of sin. He assigns to the devil all of those who do not do what is Christlike- or follow Christ. There are not two contrasting principles- one good god and one evil one (as the Manicheans say). The devil was not wicked by nature but became so through defection, and is not equal to God. As John talked about Christ not sinning as his body- the elect; so he speaks of the devil’s sinning as the reprobate.
3:9- “those who are born of God will not continue to sin”- Some say that this means that those who believe will be perfect in this life.
We are not regenerated all at once. The children of God are not free from sins, and they daily sin because they have remnants of their old nature still about them. Yet the flesh is under a yoke, checked and restrained by the Holy Spirit. It is not that the Spirit helps us to be only neutral, but the Spirit motivates us toward the good. There are also those who say that everything is lawful for the faithful since God says they cannot sin. Thus they take the liberty to commit adultery, to steal, to murder.
3:10- “Now we know who the children of God are and the children of the devil are”- the fruit and adoption always appear in this life.

Calvin doesn’t say that believers are perfect. Nor does he say that there is no difference in the way the elect live versus the non-elect.
The world (made evident in the media in America) holds Christians to perfection, while holding themselves to as loose morals as possible. There is little grace in the way the world views people. Perhaps today, more than any other, there is little grace. This is what Christ offers us- grace. But when we receive His grace (and we receive grace by His grace), then we don’t need to abuse His grace by continuing to be in a pattern of sin. “I forgive you” means nothing if we don’t intend to stop the sin we want forgiveness for. Calvin was not demanding perfection here, but he emphasized a striving (trying to follow) after Christ.

Prayer: Help us, O Lord to continue after you, and not continue in our ways of sin. Show us our problems, but also give us grace and power to correct our mistakes. Help us to trust in your grace.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

7-24- I John 3:4-6- Struggle against sin

(As sun drives away darkness so the reign of Christ drives away sin)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

7/24- I John 3:4-6

4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Calvin abridged: 3:4- “Everyone who sins breaks the law”- The Apostle has already shown how ungrateful we must be to God, if we take for granted the honor of our adoption. He is declaring that all who sin are wicked and transgressors of the law. There are always those who flatter themselves saying, “We are just human beings. It is no wonder that we sin; but there is a great different between sin and iniquity.” The Apostle destroys this line of thinking by saying that sin is breaking the law. His purpose is to produce hatred and horror against sin. The Apostle does not make all sins equal, by saying all who sin are guilty of iniquity; but he means to teach us that sin arises from contempt of God, and that by sinning God’s law is violated. “Sin” does not mean to offend in some instances; nor does it mean every fault or wrong a person may commit. But he calls sin when men run into evil wholeheartedly. The faithful are not deemed guilty of iniquity, for as sin does not reign in them John says they do not sin. The perverse life of those who indulge themselves in the liberty of sinning, is hateful to God and cannot be overlooked by him, because it is against his Law. The faithful, however, desire to obey God hate their own vices, and strive to live according to the law.
3:5 “But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.”
Here he shows how much sin and faith differ from each other. For it is the office of Christ to take away sins, and he was sent for this purpose by the Father. He who believes in Christ takes part in his virtue and is cleansed from their sins. Here John is saying that Christ really and actually takes away sins, because through him our old man is crucified, and his spirit (by repentance) mortifies the flesh and its lusts. “And in him is no sin”- this is not speaking of the person of Christ but of the body of Christ (the Church). Wherever Christ’s grace spreads there is no more room for sin. Christ by his Spirit does not perfectly renew us at once, or in an instant, but he continues our renovation throughout life. As far as the kingdom of Christ is in the believer, sin is abolished in them. They are said to be righteous and to live righteously, because they sincerely aspire to righteousness. The faithful are said not to sin because they do not consent to sin, but struggle and groan against it. The faithful are said to abide in Christ because we are by faith united to him and made one with him.
3:6- “No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” As the sun drives away darkness, so the reign of Christ drives away sin. The knowledge of Christ transforms us into his image. By seeing or knowing he means simply having faith in him.

Calvin draws a distinction between the act of sinning and the willingness to sin, and also subtly whether we even try to restrain ourselves or simply indulge ourselves in sin (whether sin reigns over us or not). As believers we at least see that we need to struggle against sin, and not just give into our natural nature. The evidence of this struggle is that we do not “continue” to sin (TNIV- IN Greek- “sin and keep on sinning”). This passage also infers the power of Christ over the addictiveness of sin. The Spirit enables us to break the bonds of slavery to sin. In our day, people say (as Billy Joel) “You’re only human” and don’t take the consequences of sin seriously in this life or for the next one. Being a Christian means you can find forgiveness and face your sins head on, breaking the power of sin by God’s grace.

Prayer: Father, forgive us when we take your love for granted. Help us so that sin will fade in our lives, and your light will shine more and more.

7/23- The Unknown Adoption, I John 3:1-3

(Some kids at Thornwell Home for Children- from which many are adopted)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

7/23- I John 3:1-3
1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

3:1- “See what great love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God!” John now reminds us (in the second argument) of the dignity and excellency of our calling; for it was not ordinary honor that the heavenly Father gave us when He adopted us as his children. In response to such an honor, we should have the desire for purity ignited in us, so we may be conformed to his image. There is no alternative but for those who acknowledge themselves to be God’s children should purify themselves. “Love is lavished” infers that it is only God’s bounty and benevolence that makes us his children. The origin of this dignity is from the gracious gift of God’s love. The more abundantly God’s goodness is shown to us, the greater are our obligations to him (cf. Rom. 12:1). The adoption of the godly is a gift and does not depend on ay works. We especially need to understand that since the only cause of our salvation is our adoption, and since the Apostle testifies that this flows from the mere love of God alone, there is nothing left to our worthiness or to the merits of our works. Why are we God’s children? Because God began to love us freely, when we deserved hatred rather than love. If there is any good in us, it doesn’t take away from God’s grace, but adds to it. “Called”- or named. It is with God’s own mouth that we are declared to be his children; as he gave a name to Abraham according to what he was. “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” When we are not regarded as God’s children, and are treated with ridicule and contempt, it is a trial that assaults our faith. It is hard for us to see that God is a Father to us, for the devil tries to hide this blessing. An example of this is found in Isaac and Jacob who were chosen yet had to endure the laughter and taunts of Ishmael and Esau. However, when we are oppressed by the world, our salvation still remain safe and secure.
3:2- “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.” Our present condition is short of the glory of God, for in this body we are dust and shadow; death is always before us; we are subject to a thousand miseries, and the soul is exposed to numerous evils- so that we always find a hell within us. So it is necessary that our thoughts are not focused from the present view of things, lest the miseries around us should shake our faith.
“But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” The word “appear” is used differently- once as “seem”- “it does not appear what we shall be” and the other means show up- “but when he appears” (cf. Col. 3:3,4). Our faith gains strength to stand by looking to the coming of Christ. The reason God delays the showing of our glory is that Christ is not glorified in his kingdom yet. “Know” is not opinion, but shows the certainty of faith, so that we may be assured that we will be like Christ. “We shall be like him”- this doesn’t mean we shall be equal to him, for there is a difference between the head and the members; but this refers to the change in our temporary body being made like his glorified body (Phil. 3:21). The end of our adoption is that what has in order happened in Christ will be completed in us. The wicked will also see his glory, but we will see his glory as a friend- which will not be the case for the wicked, for they will dread his presence. Adam similiarly, dreaded the presence of God when he sinned. As the image of God is renewed in us, we will have eyes prepared to see God. I will not wrestle with exactly how we can see him (Augustine was not even capable of answering this). But we must beware lest we lose that peace and holiness without which no one will see him. 3:3- 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”- Our desire for holiness should nto grow cold in us, because our happiness has not yet appeared. Our hope leads us to Christ who purifies us and is the perfect pattern of purity.

We who believe are children of God by adoption. Our adoption is not yet known on this side of heaven. That is, the world doesn't think there is a Father to adopt us. The world see the misery of Christians (and sometimes we do too) and think "what's the use?" But when we set our hopes on Christ’s coming, we will not forget it. Our adoption is made complete when we are made like him. Therefore, let us not give up hope, or our desire for purity.

Prayer: Lord, let my eyes be fixed on you the author and perfector of our faith.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

7-22- Abiding in Him means not abiding in something else

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

7/22- I John 2:24-29
24 As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what he promised us—eternal life. 26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. Now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.
2:24- Overview- John connects this to the former passage pointing out the fruit of obedience, and exhorting them to perseverance.
“From the beginning”- John is not trying to prove his teaching (or any other teaching) is true because it is old. But he is saying they have been taught the good faith and they should continue in that teaching. It would be stubbornness not perseverance if we were unwilling to depart from a doctrine that we once embraced because we held to it before. So wisdom is encouraged so that a reason for our faith may be clear form God’s word: then let inflexible perseverance follow. “what you have heard”- Here is the fruit of perseverance, that the ones in whom God’s truth remains, remain in God. Remaining and cleaving to God is the greatest truth to pursue in religion. But the one who does not dwell in the Father through the Son is fake and empty whatever knowledge he may possess. He also reminds us that real happiness occurs when God dwells in us. 2:25-“this is the promise- eternal life” basically means that we must live in order to nourish the seed of life sown in our hearts. John insists that not only the beginning of the blessed life is to be found in the knowledge of Christ, but also its end or perfection. John cannot repeat this enough because so many have been ruined when they are discontent with Christ and want to wander beyond the simple doctrine of the gospel.
2:26- “These things have I written to you” John admitted he was admonishing some who knew what he was saying. But he did this so that they might ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit. He was saying, “I do my part, but is it still necessary that the Spirit of God should direct you in all things; for unless he speaks within you I am wasting my voice.” We are reminded when John writes about those who would seduce us from our faith, that the duty of a good pastor is not only to gather the flock but also to drive away the wolves. No one can faithfully teach the Church unless they are diligent in banishing a seducer’s errors whenever they are found.
2:27- It is fanatical and absurd to take this passage as if it excludes the outward ministry of the Church. The faithful have already been taught by the Spirit, so that they did not need to re-learn such things. Everyone had some assent to this knowledge according to the measure of their faith. In some faith was small, in others stronger, and in none perfect, so it follows that no one knew so much that there was no room for progress.
2:27- “And you do not need anyone to teach you”- It is not that teaching is useless; It is not, as some say, that we do not need any outward ministry. He was saying that the faithful, taught by the Spirit (illumination), did not need to teach new truth, but to appropriate the truth already revealed to them. When people really understand what is necessary for them, we still should warn and rouse them so that they may be assured and confirmed in their understanding. John wanted to strengthen their faith when he called them to listen to the Spirit who corrects and approves doctrine and seals it in our hearts, so we may know what God says. God is His own witness that what we received from Him really comes from Him. “as that anointing is real, not counterfeit” The Spirit seals God’s teaching making it certain in our hearts. The Spirit gives us judgment and discernment so that we will not be deceived by lie, so that we will not hesitate, vacillate and be doubtful. “Continue in him”- or abide in Him. He has said that the Spirit abides in us; John now tells us to abide in the revelation made by the God (Christ). He is not saying we should abide in the anointing but in the anointer (Christ). The purpose of the illumination of the Spirit is that we may know Christ. He promises here the fruit of perseverance which is confidence. Faith is not a naked and frigid apprehension of Christ, but a lively and real sense of his power, which produces confidence. Faith stands up against the waves of attacks by looking to the coming of Christ. Those who indulge in their vices fearlessly turn their backs on God; they obtain peace by forgetting God, and in a stupor neither dread sin nor fear death, and shun the judgment seat of Christ. But a godly confidence delights to look on God, so that the godly calmly wait for Christ, and do not dread his coming. 2:29- “if you know that he is righteous”- faith is here connected with a holy and pure life. We are spiritually born into the likeness of Christ. Thus, no one is born of Christ except the one who lives righteously. We are born of God in Christ; but we are born of Christ who are renewed by his Spirit.

The idea of abiding, remaining, continuing in Christ here is very important to Calvin and echoes John 15. This is a work of the Spirit of Christ. There are many counterfeit teachings to lead us astray, but when we abide in Christ we are able to discern by the Spirit the true from the false teaching. The best way to detect a false dollar bill is to focus on a good dollar bill and know it well. So we are called to focus on Christ. Abiding in Him means not abiding in something else.

Prayer: Lord, keep my eyes on you today. Let your Spirit give me grace to abide in you today- wherever I go, whatever I do. Help me to live in ways that would please you, and keep me abiding in your great love.

7-21; I John 2:20-23 Knowing the Truth

(Truth holding a mirror and a serpent- Thomas Jefferson Building- Washington DC)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

7/21- I John 2:20-23
20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Messiah. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

2:20,21- “I don’t write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it”- The Apostle backs down a little from his earnest warning about the future- recognizing that they probably knew these things. Paul did the same thing with the Romans (15:14,15). Yet it didn’t hurt for them to be reminded of these things so that they could do their duty. Both apostles were talking about what was practical for them and they were speaking not only to the ignorant but also to those well instructed in the Lord’s school.
“know all things”- is not to be taken in the widest sense of the term, but it is confined to the subject and truth treated here (“all of you know the truth”). “An anointing from the Holy One” is an allusion to the ancient types. The oil used for anointing the priests was taken from the sanctuary; Daniel mentions the coming of Christ as the proper time for anointing the Most Holy (Dan. 9:24). For Christ was anointed by the Father, in order to pour forth on us an abundant overflow from his own fullness. So people are not rightly made wise by the acumen of their own minds, but by the illumination of the Spirit; we are not made partakers of the Spirit except through Christ who is the true sanctuary and our only high priest.
2:21- “no lie comes from the truth”- the writer gives them a tool by which they could distinguish truth from falsehood; It is not the dialectic proposition (as is taught by the scholastic logicians) but what is said is practical and useful; he was saying that they not only hold to the truth, but were also fortified against the false and fake teaching of the ungodly. But he was saying whatever deception Satan might make up, or in whatever way he may attack them, they would be able readily to distinguish between light and darkness, because the Spirit is their guide.
2:22- “Who is the liar? Whoever denies that Jesus is the messiah” – earlier John had said that those lied who said that Jesus did not appear in the flesh, but here he adds another test. I agree with the ancient writers who say that Cerinthus and Carpocrates are referred to here. But the denial of Christ is much wider than this. For it is not enough in words to confess that Jesus is the Christ, unless he is acknowledged to be how he is depicted in scripture. The two I have named gave the title of Christ to the Son of God, but imagined him to be only human. Others followed them such as Arius who though he called him God robbed him of his eternal divinity. Marcion said Jesus was as mere phantom. Sabellius imagined that he was not distinguished from the Father. All of these denied the Son of God. But adulterating from the truth of scripture as far as they could, they devised an idol for themselves instead of Christ. Pelagius followed in their footsteps-not that he denied the essence of Christ, but strayed in denying the honor that is due him, giving humans all the glory for salvation. When we set his grace and power aside we reduce Christ to nothing. So the Papists of our day say part of our salvation comes from works. Thus they make a fictitious Christ weakening his power and undermining his work. So we understand that Christ is denied whenever things that belong to him are taken away from him. As Christ is the end of the law and the gospel, and as all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in him, so he is the target of the attacks of the heretics. So the Apostle points out that the chief imposters are those who fight against Christ.
“such a person is the Antichrist denying the Father and the Son”- the writer doesn’t speak of the one person who appears at the end of times; but he was putting all of those who seek to overthrow Christ into the same category. That he might amplify their crime, he asserts that not only the Son but also the Father is denied by them. Basically saying, “they no longer have faith for they wholly cast away God.” Then he confirms this adding that the Father cannot be separated from the Son. This is a remarkable sentence and should be one of the first recognized truths of our faith. When we confess that there is one true God, we mean that he is no one else except the One made known in Christ. It is certain here that the Son cannot be disunited from the Father, for he is of the same essence (homousios). But this also says that the Father who is invisible, has revealed himself only in the Son. So Christ is called the “image of the Father (Heb. 1:3) because he reveals and exhibits to us all that is necessary to be known of the Father. For the naked majesty of God would, by its immense brightness, ever dazzle our eyes; therefore it is necessary for us to look on Christ (otherwise God would be inaccessible). This passage is not a discussion of the essence of God but it is a practical calling of our faith that since God has given himself only in Christ, when we look other places for him we will not find him. Since the fullness of the Deity lives in Christ, there is no God apart from him. So even those who worship one God, yet deny Jesus have a mere idol and not the true God. It doesn’t matter what titles you give to God as much as that you come to God through Christ in whom God has shown himself. Otherwise God is a fiction we make up. Philosophy about God without knowing him is useless- raving and ranting- without the Head (Col. 2:19). So it is obvious to conclude how necessary is the knowledge of Christ. Some may say that many of the ancients thought rightly of God, to whom Christ was not known; I admit that the knowledge of Christ has not always been so clearly revealed. Nevertheless I contend that it has always been true that as the light of the sun comes to us by its rays, so the knowledge of God has been communicated through Christ.

Calvin here helps to define our faith by saying what it is not, but also saying that to find God we must focus on how God has revealed God’s self- namely in Christ. To try to find God apart from how God has ultimately revealed himself is idolatry- making up God as we want Him to be. Pilate asked, "What is truth" when the way the truth and the life was standing before him. Philosophers try to find ultimate truth apart from the ultimate revelation of God, and they wonder (and wander). Today many have given up on the quest for truth, and have given into a philosophical no-man's land called "post-modernism." Basically, it is an effort to elevate tolerance above truth so that we might get along. Truth takes a back seat, in part recognizing our own limitation in finding it. Calvin would agree that apart from revelation, we distort the truth and even with it we distort the truth. Yet the Holy Spirit makes the difference- opening our eyes to truth. Truth is still truth even if we see it in a mirror dimly. Truth is also a corrective to how we live and what we believe. It is hard to build a house without true measurements. It is hard to build a life, or build a society without honesty and a goal of truth. Havel said postmodernism creates a world "where everything is possible and almost nothing is certain.” Christ gives us not quicksand, but a solid rock to stand on.

Prayer: Lord, help us to listen to what you have said to us in Christ the living Word. Thank you that you did not leave us ignorant, but you accommodated yourself to us, coming down so we might know you. Keep us from adding or detracting from or not focusing on your revelation of yourself.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

7-20; I John 2:18-21 False Christ and false Christians

(Antichrist selling indulgences lucas Cranach 1521)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

July 20- 2:18-19
18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. (TNIV)

Calvin commentary abridged: 2:18- “it is the last hour” John is trying to strengthen the faithful against disturbing criticisms. Already many sects had risen up which brought disunity and disorder in the churches.
The apostle turns this problem into an opportunity by reminding them that the last time had already come, and so they should be more vigilant. It is as though he was saying, “while various errors come up, it makes sense for you to be awakened rather than overwhelmed; for Christ is not far away; so let us attentively look for him, so that he doesn’t surprise us.” In the same way we should comfort ourselves and see by faith the nearness of the second coming of Christ. Satan’s causing confusion and disturbing the Church is a sign of the last times.
But so many ages have passed away since John died; But what John was trying to say was that nothing more remained of the necessary signs except that Christ should appear to redeem the world. But because he doesn’t assign a time to Christ’s coming, he did not give them a false hope, nor did he intend to say the succession of the years of the Church was unnecessary. Doubtless, if we think on the eternity of God’s kingdom, so long a time will seem to be a moment to us. The last days or times are those in which all things are so completed that nothing remains except the last revelation of Christ.
“as you have heard the antichrist is coming”- John speaks of the antichrist’s coming as something well known and taught regarding the future disorder of the Church. He reminded them of this so that they may be careful to keep themselves in the faith, and instruct their posterity to be watchful as well. Yet many say nothing about the antichrist today. Some (namely the Romans) claim that the antichrist will harass the church for only three and a half years. “Even now are there many antichrists” Those who say there is only one man are greatly mistaken. Paul predicts a defection that would prevail throughout the Church. He then makes the head of the apostasy the adversary of Christ who would sit in the temple claiming divinity and honors. Paul seems to point to an Antichrist and John saying that there were already many antichrists. John only meant to say that many particular sects had already risen which were forerunners of a future Antichrist (like Cerinthus, Basilides, Marcion, Velentinus, Ebion, Arris and others who were in opposition of Christ). Though the Antichrist was not yet in existence, John was using the name that he might effectively stimulate the godly to repel frauds. If the Spirit of God even then commanded the faithful to stand watch, now is the time not to sleep when he holds the Church under his cruel and oppressive tyranny and openly dishonors Christ.
2:19- “They went out from us”- He anticipates another objection, that the Church seemed to have produced these pests, and to have cherished them for a time in its bosom. When anyone of us professes the true faith, fall away, the weak are disturbed. But John denies that they were ever really of the Church. The Church is always exposed to this evil, so that it is burdened with many hypocrites who don’t know Christ, no matter how much they may profess his name in their mouth. “They went out from us”- they had previously occupied a place in the Church, and were counted among the number of the godly- as chaff though mixed with wheat on the same floor cannot be labeled wheat.
“For if they had been one of us”- the ones who fell away were never members of the Church. The seal of God remains sure (II Tim. 2:19). A difficulty appears that many who embraced Christ often fall away. But there are three sorts of those who profess the faith; those who feign piety while a bad conscience reproves them within; the hypocrisy of others is more deceptive, who not only seek to disguise themselves before others, but also dazzle their own eyes so that they seem to themselves to worship God aright; the third are those who have the living root of faith and carry a testimony of their own adoption firmly fixed in their hearts. The first two have no stability, but the last is the group of which John says it is impossible that they should be separated from the Church because the seal which God’s Spirit engraves on their hearts cannot be obliterated. The incorruptible seed, which has struck roots, cannot be pulled up or destroyed. It is not the faithfulness of people that the writer has in mind here, but God. So where the calling of God is effectual perseverance is certain. Those who fall away never had the full knowledge of Christ, but only a light and transient taste of it.
“That they may be made manifest” – trials are useful and necessary for the Church. Since the Church is like a threshing floor, the chaff must be blown away that the pure may remain. This is what God does when he casts out hypocrites from the Church for He then cleanses it from refuse and filth.

Not much is really known of Calvin’s view of the last things. Here he hints at some parts of his view. The end of the world and the second coming of Christ appear to occur simultaneously to Calvin. He believed that he and all the Church were in the last times in which nothing else needed to be fulfilled before the Lord came back. He also was convinced that before Christ came back there would be a common falling away in the Church. He also believed strongly (against Donatism and all those who want to find a pure church in this life) that God alone purifies the Church, and the Church is made up of good and bad (wheat and chaff). If Calvin could speak today, he would note how far the Church in the West has fallen still, and point out that we need to be ready for Christ’s coming. Yesterday on CNN the newspeople were speaking of republicans who had gone to a certain house in Washington D.C. for Bible study, but whose political careers were now in shambles because of immorality. It is easy to be discouraged in our day when so many fall prey to temptation. We should learn from this passage in John.

Prayer: Help us, O Lord, to live with the impure here without becoming corrupted by them. Help us not to be discouraged by those who profess faith yet fall away. Come Lord Jesus.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

7-19 I John 2:17-19 Lusts vs Love

(Jacob Gheyn II "Lusts of the Flesh" 16-17th cent)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

7/19- The Lord’s Day I John 2:15-17

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If you love the world, love for the Father [a] is not in you. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful people, the lust of their eyes and their boasting about what they have and do—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.(TNIV)

Calvin commentary abridged: 2:15- “Love not the world”- The writer has said before that the only rule for living the Christian life is to love God. When we are preoccupied with the prideful temporary love of the world, we turn all our thoughts and affections in another direction. This vanity must be torn away from us so that the love of God may reign in us. Until our minds are cleansed, the former doctrine may be said a hundred times, but without our hearing. It would be like pouring water on a ball. No drop can be gathered on the ball because there is no empty place to retain the water. By the word “world”- understand everything connected with the present life apart from the kingdom of God and the hope of eternal life. So John includes in “the world” corruptions of every kind, and the abyss of all evils. In the world are pleasures, delights, and all those allurements by which people are captivated, so as to draw us away from God. The love of the world is severely condemned, because when we value earthly things so much, we forget God and our own good and are possessed by a beastly stupidity. “If anyone loves the world”- How necessary it is to cast away the love of the world if we wish to please God. What belongs to the world is wholly at variance with God. A corrupt mode of life is here talked about which has nothing in common with the kingdom of God. When people become so degenerated that they are satisfied with the present life, and think no more of immortal life than mute animals, they make themselves a slave to earthly lusts.
2:16- “The Lust of the flesh” John inserted these three particulars as examples of ways people live for the world. Paul in Romans 13:14 says to make no provision for the flesh and its lusts. The flesh is the body and all that belongs to it. Another way to look at it is when worldly people seek to live softly and delicately and are intent only on their own advantage. Well known from Cicero are the threefold division of Epicurus: he made the difference between lusts; he made some natural and necessary; some natural and not necessary; and some neither natural and necessary. But John, knowing the rebellion of the human heart unhestitantly condemns all lusts of the flesh because it always flows out without restraint.
“the lust of the eyes”- He includes sexual lusts as well as the pride which delights in pomp and splendor.
“Pride” or haughtiness; with which is connected ambition, boasting, contempt of others, blind love of self, headstrong self-confidence. As soon as the world presents itself, our lusts or desires, when our heart is corrupt, are captivated by it, like unbridled wild beasts;
2:17- “and the world passes away” As nothing in the world lasts, and as it all fades away in a moment, John concludes that those who seek happiness from the world do not provide well for themselves. The true happiness which God offers his children is eternal. Therefore it is shameful to be entangled with the world which with all its benefits will soon vanish away. “Lust” or “desires” is what is is coveted or what captivates the desires of people. What is most desirable in the world is but a shadowy phantom. By saying those who do the will of God lives forever he means that those who seek God shall be perpetually blessed. If anyone says “but no one does what God commands” the answer is that he is not speaking of keeping the law perfectly, but the obedience of faith, which however imperfect it may be, is yet approved by God. The will of God is first made known in the law, but as no one satisfies the law, no happiness can be found from the law. But Christ comes to meet the despairing with new help. Christ not only regenerates us by his Spirit that he may obey God, but he also allows that our endeavor (our striving) should obtain the praise of perfect righteousness.

John Calvin summed up the Christian life (sanctification) as dying to self and living to God (mortification and vivification). This fits in nicely with this passage. We are to die to our lusts, our comforts, our temporary pleasures that tend to lure our hearts away from the eternal, good will of Christ. Hollywood holds up the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life. But what loses in Hollywood’s idea of lust is true love. A previous generation had people who were often having 50th wedding anniversaries. Today, the standard is feeling more than commitment. The common person in American today may say, “I don’t care if it lasts or not.” There is a long string of broken hearts and torn up lives because of this. Children without parents, parents who cannot depend on working together for their children’s mutual benefit; the lack of discipline. Lust is a mean master. In contrast to lust is true love. In contrast to the temporary are the lasting benefits of Christ. Christian growth is not done perfectly here, and it is done by the Holy Spirit. Yet it is not to be despised because it is not perfect. The very striving or endeavoring after God is a work of the Spirit.

Prayer: Lord, change our hearts and the hearts of those we know and love to you. Help us to give ourselves for what will last, not for what fades away.

I John 2:12- 14- Christ of different ages

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

7/18 I John 2:12-14

12 I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young people, because you have overcome the evil one. 14 I write to you, dear children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young people, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

Calvin abridged: 2:12- “Little children” By this John means children of all ages, and this applies to all uses in this chapter. When John speaks of little children he calls them "paida" (Grk.), a word that expresses age; but here, as a spiritual father, he calls the old as well as the young, "teknia" (Grk.). Here the writer affirms the forgiveness of sins, which uniquely belongs to those who have faith. In order to make sure this promise of forgiveness is certain, he lays salvation up for us in Christ alone (for his names sake). Holiness of life ought to be urged, the fear of God ought to be carefully encouraged, people ought to be sharply pressed to repentance, newness of life, together with its fruits, ought to be commended; but still we ought to always remember lest the doctrine of faith be smothered, that Christ is the only author of salvation and of all blessings; This moderation of good works should be presented so that faith will retain its primacy. This rule is given to us by John: having spoken of good works, he carefully calls us back to contemplate the grace of Christ. “Your sins are forgiven”- Without this assurance, religion would not be anything but fading and shadowy; The ones who forget the free remission of sins, and dwell on other things, build without a foundation. John teaches that nothing is more suitable to stimulate the fear of God than when we are taught the blessings Christ has brought us (cf. Phil. 2:1). The ground of what John is saying is that God is so benevolent to us so that our sins are not imputed to us.
“For his name’s sake” It would not be sufficient to know that God forgives us our sins, except that we come directly to Christ seeing the price he paid on the cross for us. Foolish people try to pacify God by various satisfactions, and devise numerous kinds of expiations for the purpose of redeeming ourselves. We are prevented from approaching God by the many means we try to come up with to earn our own pardon. So John adds that God is forgiving toward us out of a regard for Christ, in order that he might exclude all other reasons for pardon. We who enjoy his blessings, should pass by and forget all other names, and rely only on the name of Christ.
2:13- “I write to you fathers”- John now comes to enumerate different ages that he might show that what he taught is suitable to everyone. Our sinfulness is so deep that few think that what is addressed to all belongs to them. The old often excuse themselves, because they have exceeded the age of learning; children refuse to learn, because they are not yet old enough; the middle aged do not listen, because they are occupied with other pursuits. So John accommodates and applies the Gospel to all, mentioning three ages- the most common divisions of life (cf. Lacedemonian chorus). He begins with the old, and says that the Gospel applies to them because they learned from it to know the eternal Son of God. The elderly become unteachable because they measure wisdom by the number of years. Horace (Art of Poetry) says that they praise the time of their youth and reject whatever is done or said differently. But the Gospel contains not only ancient knowledge but also leads us to the eternity of God. He says Christ was “from the beginning”- which refers to the Divine presence as being co-eternal and co-powerful with the Father, so that what he was yesterday he is today (cf. Hebrews). It is as though he says, “If antiquity delights you, you have Christ, who is superior to all antiquity; therefore the disciples ought not to be ashamed of him who includes all ages in himself (Heb. 13:8)
“I write to you young men”- though it be a demeaning word, "neaniskoi" yet he directs it to those who are in the full bloom of their age. Those of this age tend to be so addicted to the vain cares of the world, that they think very little of the kingdom of God. The rigor of their minds and the strength of their bodies inebriate them. So the Apostle reminds theme where their true strength lies, that they may not exult in their own flesh.
“You are strong because you have overcome Satan” That strength is what we ought to seek, for it is a spiritual strength that is not obtained except from Christ. He says that those still engaged in the contest had conquered. While in human war the end is in doubt, there is no doubt that Christ has conquered for us the whole world.
2:13- “I write to you, young children”- the gospel is well adapted for young children because they find the Father in it. But this really applies to all of us as there is nothing in us except what is frail and fading, except the power of Christ dwelling inside us. We are all like orphans until we attain the grace of adoption by the Gospel.
2:14- “I have written to you fathers”- these repetitions are superfluous and probably the result of copyists.

Calvin takes a view that each age has a particular reason for denying Christ. He could have taken the view that each age has a reason to accept Him, but he emphasizes our blindness. On the other hand, he in this passage as in many others typically (unlike many others in his day including Luther) downplays Satan’s role (vs. 13) leaving out any mention of “the wicked one.” What is so helpful is that he helps us see that each age makes up excuses for denying our faith. We ought to ask ourselves, where our own temptations lie in making up excuses to deny God in our lives.

Prayer: Thank you Lord, that you are God yesterday, today and forever. From generation to generation you are God. Forgive us when we continually think our generation is superior to the previous one.

Friday, July 17, 2009

I John 2:7-11 Love- Human and Divine

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

7/17/09- I John 2:7- 11
7 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. 8 Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. 9 Those who claim to be in the light but hate a fellow believer are still in the darkness. 10 Those who love their fellow believers live in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But those who hate a fellow believer are in the darkness and walk around in the darkness; they do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
Calvin abridged: 2:7- This is more explanation about the idea that loving God means keeping His commandments. John reminds us that he taught nothing about love except what had been heard by the faithful from the beginning and had been used so much in the past it had become old. There are three reasons for this: First, novelty is disliked; Second, we don’t do things we do not like; Third, when we believe a doctrine we don’t want anything changed about it. Some explain this idea of “old commandment” differently. They say that Christ is not saying anything differently than what is in the Old Testament. This is true. But I think that he means that these commands were the first elements of the gospel, that they had been taught this way from the beginning, and that they should not think such commandments that they had the opportunity to keep long ago should surprise them. He calls it old not because it was taught many years ago to our ancestors, but because it had been taught them on their new entrance to the faith. This applied to them because it came from Christ himself. “the word which you have heard from the beginning is the old commandment”- the gospel is not new, but it has come from God and is eternal truth- as if God said, “You should not measure the antiquity of the gospel by time because in it is the eternal will of God. Something is only old and deserves faith and reverence when it has its origins in God. The fictions of humans cannot gain so much authority as to overrule the truth of God. 2:8- “A new commandment”- new implies that God renews it daily by suggesting it, so that the faithful may practice it through their whole life for nothing more excellent can be searched for by them. The things which children learn are replaced by what is higher and solid. Love for brothers and sisters is not something that grows old with time, but it is perpetually in force, so that its requirements do not fade with time.
People are naturally curious and always seek something new, having grown weary of the truth, and gaping for new mysteries. It is a steady constant course that counts as true, and love is this way.
“Which is true”- the whole truth of Christ is found in the union of human love. Truth means completion or a perfect state. The church’s union with Christ is also a true state in which the head is joined to the body. If the church had this continual love it would really be united to Christ and have this state of perfection.
“Because the darkness is past”- this means as soon as Christ brings light we will have the full brightness of his knowledge. Not that everyone becomes wise on the first day that they believe (Phil. 3:12- Paul still is striving); but that the knowledge of Christ alone is good enough to eliminate the darkness. So daily progress is important for us. The faith of everyone has its dawn before it reaches its noon day sun. The knowledge of the Gospel is the true light, when Christ the sun or righteousness shines.
2:9- He that says he is in the light but hates his brother is in the darkness now. He concludes that all are bline and walk in darkness who are strangers to love. The love of God and of others are so connected together that they cannot be separated. In the third chapter John says we falsely boast of love for God unless we love our neighbor; But he now takes love to our brothers and sisters as a testimony to prove that we love God. Love refers to both God and people. The whole perfection of life consists in the love of God. Paul teaches that all of the law Is fulfilled when we love our neighbor (Rom. 13:8). It remains certain that love is the rule of life. We should be wary of this because everyone chooses almost anything else than this one commandment of God. “There is no stumbling”- The one who acts in love will never stumble.
“But he that hates his brother” No matter how things may look, there is nothing but sinfulness when love is absent (cf. I Cor. 13). But most of the world is dazzled by all sorts of masks or disguises. Thus fictitious sanctity dazzles the eyes of almost all people, while love is neglected or at least driven into the farthest corner.

Calvin’s great emphases came out in this passage. He emphasizes love for God, love for neighbor and union with Christ. The three interconnect and elicit each other. The more we love our neighbor the closer we get to God, and the more we love God the closer we get to our neighbor. Union with Christ brings us into union with others. Perhaps Bernard of Clairvaux and Thomas a Kempis show their influence on Calvin here. Our day shows a deep longing for human love, but not in the purest sense. So many in our day have tried to substitute human sexuality outside of marriage for human love, and it ends up breaking them instead of uniting and fulfilling them. Human sexuality is a strong motive (as Freud would attest), but it is only a part of human love, not the essence of it. I would contend that human love given the chance is a stronger, more lasting, though slow-burning motive than even sexuality. Those who cohabit are four times more likely to have an affair than those who commit to marriage, and fifteen times more likely to break up in the first five years. Commitment and love go together like light and love. But the real test is not the result from an earthly standpoint. All our human relationships should ideally be within God’s will. When they are holy and loving there is a double union to hold us together. The way we love other people is not separated from the way we love God. One love affects the other love.

Prayer: May your love O God constrain us to love our neighbor. May our union with you unite us to your church and to others.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I John 2:3-6 Knowing God vs Knowing about God

(Crucifixion Lucas Cranach 15th cent- on the cover of Thoma a Kempis Imitation of Christ)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

I John 2:3-6 (TNIV)
3 We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 4 Those who say, "I know him," but do not do what he commands are liars, and the truth is not in them. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

Calvin abridged: Having treated the doctrine of remission of sins, he comes to the reasons that belong to that doctrine and that depend on the doctrine. First he reminds us that the knowledge of God, derived from God’s Word, is not without effect, but obedience is elicited from it. He then shows what God requires from us, which is the chief thing of life which is to love God. It is common to make the knowledge of God into frigid speculations so that the heart of the faith is gone and people proudly show off their speculations. John concludes that those who don’t keep his commandments don’t know him. Plato denied that “the beautiful” which he imagined could be known. So Plato asks how is it possible to know God and not be moved by feeling? Nor is it in God’s nature that to know God is to immediately love Him. Rather the Spirit illuminates our minds, and inspires our hearts with a feeling that goes along with our knowledge. The true knowledge of God leads us to fear him and to love him. The doctrine of the gospel is a lively mirror in which we contemplate the image of God, and are transformed into his image (cf. II Cor. 3:18). Where there is no pure conscience, the knowledge of God is an empty phantom knowledge. “If we keep his commandments”- Some say that since no one keeps all of the commandments purely, there can thus be no knowledge of God in the world. But John consistently has pointed out that all are guilty before God, but he means that we strive to form their life around the will of God. For whenever Scripture speaks of the righteousness of the faithful, it does not exclude the remission of sins, but on the contrary begins with it. Faith is not dependent on works even though good works is an evidence of faith. Having certainty of faith depends on Christ’s grace alone. But piety and holiness distinguish true from theft-like knowledge of God which is imagined and dead. For Paul said those who are in Christ has put off the old man (Col. 3:9). 2:4-“He that says, I know him but keeps not his commandments is a liar” God is not known by plain imagination, since he reveals himself to our hearts by the Spirit. Hypocrites boast of a faith they do not have. What he says would be a waste if there were no false and proud professions of Christianity made by people. 2:5- “if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them” John defines here what a true keeping of God’s law involves, namely to love God. The meaning of the passage is “to love God in sincerity of heart is to keep his commandments.” Moses said the same thing in Deut. 10:12: “Now, O Israel, what does the Lord require of you, but to fear and love Him and to walk according to his commandments” (also cf. Deut. 30;19,20). The law which is spiritual, does not command only external works, but especially asks us to love God with our whole heart. Brotherly love flows immediately from the love of God (as we shall soon see). Whoever wants to be approved by God must have all his doings directed to this end [loving God]. If anyone objects saying no one has loved God perfectly; I would reply it is sufficient to aspire to the measure of grace given to us. The definition of the perfect love of God is the complete keeping of the law. To make progress in this, as in knowledge is what we are called to do. We know we are in him by God’s love. No communion with God can be without love for God. 2:6- “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” He doesn’t simply command us to imitate Christ, but calls us to be united with him. A likeness in life and deeds with Christ will prove we abide in Christ.

There is a famous statement in Zwingli that says that the fate of Socrates, Plato and Seneca was better than the popes. He also inferred that all truth is from God and therefore those who found truth are also given that from God and must be close to God. So every good and holy man and faithful soul from the beginning of the world to the end may be in heaven (this would jive with our common post-modern viewpoint). Calvin agreed that there is something good about striving for good according to what we know. But for Calvin the main thing is not striving or being good as much as loving God. He notes here that even Plato felt that he could not know God. For Calvin it is not just externally living like Jesus as much as being in union with Him by faith. Knowledge of God is not just knowing about God, but knowing God in an intimate sense. The Pharisees, scholastics and medieval theologians knew about God, but they were missing the intimacy with God- the communion with Him. This also was a key difference between Zwingli and Calvin- Calvin left a lot of room for the Holy Spirit to unite us to Christ, while Zwingli recognized a common union we have as human beings. Calvin begins his Institutes speaking of the knowledge of God, and his key thought is that it is possible despite our sin to know God. The knowledge of Socrates and Plato I would contend is but shallow knowledge about God compared to a deeper union that Calvin inferred. It is too easy to read about God but not be in relationship with Him. We are called to seek Him, not just seek things (or knowledge) about Him. There is a difference say between knowing about the president by reading about him and actually knowing him.

Prayer: Lord, help us to not just talk about you, but to live like you. Help us not just to be good, but to be in communion with your person.

7/15- I John 2:1,2- Christ our Advocate

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Calvin abridged: 2:1- “So that you will not sin”- To not sin is not only the basic teaching of the preceding passage, but the meaning of the whole gospel. Our sin always exposes us to God’s judgment, yet Christ’s sacrificial death intercedes for us so that our Father is forgiving toward us. Christ does not give us a license to sin because of God’s mercy. The Apostle testifies first that the design of his doctrine was to keep people from sinning. Christ is not silent about the gracious remission of our sins, for though the heavens should fall and all things be unanswered, yet this part of truth should never be left out; The person of Christ should be preached clearly and distinctly (which is what we should do now). Though people misunderstand us, we still should boldly proclaim the grace of Christ which brings salvation to us. These challenges are like barking dogs, and should be disregarded because the disciples were also facing these challenges. In order to show how we return into favor with God, he says that Christ is our advocate. He appears to God in order to exercise toward us the power and work of his sacrifice. The intercession of Christ (as our advocate) is a continual application of his death for our salvation. That God does not punish us for our sins is because Christ is our intercessor.
Here John calls Christ two things: “Just” and our “propitiation.” An advocate must have both qualities. An unjust sinner cannot reconcile God to us. We are excluded from access to God because of our impurities. No one can be a high priest except the innocent man (Heb. 7:26 describes Christ as innocent). Likewise no one can be a high priest without a sacrifice, a propitiation. A priest enters the sanctuary with a sacrifice and prayers. All saints have need of an advocate, and Christ is our true advocate. Because Christ died for us and prays for us, our own prayers can be heard in his name. We should also be careful that his honor not go toward another. The Papacy gives the special saints the ability to intercede for us. But the intercessor or advocate must also be a priest. Only Christ is our great high priest. People err when they think that Christ falls to his knees before the Father to pray for us. These thoughts detract from Christ’s own heavenly glory. He makes his requests and our prayers holy by his continual sacrifice on the cross.
“and not only for our sins” Christ’s love does not just cover one individual sins, but the sins of all those who would believe. How have the sins of the whole world been forgiven? It is not that everyone is saved- even Satan himself. Such a monstrous thing deserves no refutation. Commonly people say that Christ suffered sufficiently for the whole world, but efficiently only for the elect. But this does not fit this passage. John is not talking about those who have faith and those who don’t but different parts of the world geographically. The grace of Christ is for those in every land.

For Calvin, Christ is our ultimate advocate. This was very meaningful for Calvin who was trained as an advocate, a lawyer. Calvin studied at the best law school in the world at the time (Orleans), and rose as a prominent student. The Pope asked the law school for an opinion on Henry VIII’s divorce, and Calvin was asked to sit on the panel that made the decision (he voted against the divorce). A lawyer was supposed to speak for the client, and intercede for them. Calvin appreciated (and we should too) that Christ speaks to the Father on our behalf, and more than that, he also sacrifices for us.

Prayer: Thank you Lord, that you care about the whole world, and you intercede for the world and for us.