On the way into work this morning I was reading John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion on my iPhone (using the Logos iPhone Bible Software). Calvin being always quotable, I thought I’d share some with you:
For (such is our innate pride) we always seem to ourselves just, and upright, and wise, and holy, until we are convinced, by clear evidence, of our injustice, vileness, folly, and impurity. Convinced, however, we are not, if we look to ourselves only, and not to the Lord also—He being the only standard by the application of which this conviction can be produced. (1, i, 2)
Some things never change, huh? When all we ever do is look at ourselves, we begin to think we’re ok. But what if there is something else we should be comparing ourselves to? Calvin helps clarify:
And since nothing appears within us or around us that is not tainted with very great impurity, so long as we keep our mind within the confines of human pollution, anything which is in some small degree less defiled delights us as if it were most pure just as an eye, to which nothing but black had been previously presented, deems an object of a whitish, or even of a brownish hue, to be perfectly white. (1, i, 2)
When we only seek to look around us for comparison, we can indeed think we are quite fine. Oh, look, I’m a better husband that that guy. I’m a better employee than that slacker. I’m nicer than that cashier. But these are nothing less than the “whitish” and “brownish” of which Calvin speaks. So, what are we to do?
So long as we do not look beyond the earth, we are quite pleased with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue; we address ourselves in the most flattering terms, and seem only less than demigods. But should we once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and reflect what kind of Being he is, and how absolute the perfection of that righteousness, and wisdom, and virtue, to which, as a standard, we are bound to be conformed, what formerly delighted us by its false show of righteousness will become polluted with the greatest iniquity; what strangely imposed upon us under the name of wisdom will disgust by its extreme folly; and what presented the appearance of virtuous energy will be condemned as the most miserable impotence. So far are those qualities in us, which seem most perfect, from corresponding to the divine purity. (1, i, 2)
We are to stop and turn our attention to our creator. The problem I find is that we are far to lazy in this effort. I speak primarily to myself here, though I’m sure it applies to you as well. We are far too comfortable looking around ourselves for the standards of good, righteous, holy, acceptable, right. However, we must stop and look to God and realize that “those qualities in us, which seem most perfect, (are so far) from corresponding to the divine purity.”
However, gazing upon the creator and divine purity, we see our great shortcomings. I am far from a good husband. I am far from a good employee. I am far from nice. But what is our hope? Are we left to dwell in misery after turning our eyes and attention unto God?
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for fall have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)
The God to who we turn our eyes and see our inadequacies has provided the answer. It is through faith in Jesus Christ. God has put forth Jesus and His perfection as the gracious gift to all who believe. As Pastor Pete read in the benediction on Sunday:
…though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
May you and I, this Christmas season, turn our eyes to God and not only see our great need for a savior and redeemer but that Jesus is that savior and redeemer.