Faith on Fire


We have been created to know the majesty of our Creator, and that we might come to love, honour, worship and serve Him with all reverence, awe and iove. The main concern of our life should be to seek God, to serve Him and to glorify Him.

Insipid Seif-Centeredness
Reformer John Calvin taught that glorifying God supercedes personal salvation for every truly pious person. “It is not very sound theology to confine a man’s thoughts so much to himself, and not to set before him, as the primary motive for his existence, zeal to illustrate the glory of God... I am persuaded that there is no man imbued with true piety who will not consider as insipid that long and laboured exhortation to zeal for heavenly life, a zeal which keeps a man entirely devoted to himself and does not, even by one expression, arouse him to sanctify the Name of God.”

Much of what passes for Christianity today is actually quite self-centred, self-seeking and self-absorbed. This kind of “bless me” superficial, selfish, sensational, materialistic, obsession with our own salvation, needs and greeds, is far from true Biblical Christianity.

False Religion
The Reformers taught that false religion can be recognised by its lack of the fear of God. Those who disregard the judgment of God do so “because their estimate of God is governed by the foolish and thoughtless conceit of their own mind, and not by His Infinite Majesty. They actually turn away from the true God... It is not the Eternal God they are worshipping, but rather the dreams and illusions of their own hearts... True Godliness... consists, rather, of a pure and true zeal which loves God as a real Father and looks up to Him as a real Lord; embraces His Righteousness and detests offending Him more than it does dying. “ - John Calvin

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin wrote that true Christianity "establishes in us a true and solid piety, that is, faith mixed with fear... but man, trusting in the enormous excellence of his nature, and forgetting where it had come from, and by Whom it continued to exist, endeavoured to exalt himself apart from the Lord. He therefore had to be stripped of all God’s gifts, on which he foolishly prided himself, so that, divested and deprived of all glory, he might know this God, Who had so enriched him... The flesh... is impure, irreverent and abominable to God.

For man's wisdom, blinded and steeped in numberless errors, sets itself against God’s wisdom. The will, wicked and full of corrupt affections, hates God’s justice more than anything; and human strength, incapable of any good deed whatever is furiously inclined towards iniquity. Scripture often asserts that man is the slave of sin... his mind is so far removed from God’s righteousness that he thinks of, deeply desires and undertakes nothing that is not evil, perverse, iniquitous and sullied... he sins with full agreement of his own will, and he does it eagerly and in line with his own inclinations. The corruption of his heart... is devoted to every kind of evil... sin means both that perversity of human nature, which is the source of every vice and the evil desires which are born from it, and also the unjust and shameful acts which spring from these desires: murders, thefts, adulteries and other things of this sort.”

True Christianity
Calvin taught that God “calls us back from error to the right road, from death to life, from ruin to Salvation, from the rule of the devil to His own realm. To all those whom He pleases to re-establish as heirs to eternal life the Lord has ordained, as a first step, that they should be distressed in their conscience, bent beneath the weight of their sins, and moved to live in His fear. To begin with, therefore, He sets out His Law, which is what brings us to this state.”

For Calvin, theological understanding and practical piety, truth and usefulness are inseparable. Theology first of all deals with knowledge - knowledge of God and of ourselves - but there is no true knowledge where there is no true piety.

The Knowledge of God
Piety is rooted in the knowledge of God. It includes our attitudes and actions. Attitudes which lead to adoration of God. And actions which lead to the service of God. This is no dry, academic, head knowledge. The Reformers taught a dynamic experiential faith, a “mystical union” with Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. A relationship of joyful fellowship with God. The Reformers emphasised a vibrant faith where head and heart work together, but where the heart is more important.

Attitude and Action
Zeal for religion must shape us to true Godliness.

Calvin taught that: “piety designates the right attitude of man towards God. Our attitude towards God must include true knowledge of God, heartfelt worship, saving faith, the reverential fear of God, prayerful submission to God’s Will and devoted love for Him”.

“Knowing who God is (theology) must lead to the right attitudes of worship, love and fear towards God (devotion) and doing what He wants, putting our faith into action, applying His Lordship to all areas of life (service).”

Calvin taught that: “The whole life of a Christian ought to be a practice of godliness.”

Soli Deo Gloria
The entire goal of our lives must be to glorify God. “We are God’s: let us therefore live for Him and die for Him. We are God’s: let His wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s: let all parts of our life accordingly strive towards Him as our only lawf ul goal."

We are called to take refuge in Christ for forgiveness of our sins, knowing Him through His Word, serving Him with a loving heart, doing good works in gratitude for His goodness and exercising self-denial to the point of loving our enemies. This requires total surrender to God Himself, His Word and His Will.

As John Calvins motto declares: “My heart, promptly and sincerely in the service of my God.”

Only in Christ can the Christian truly live as a willing servant of our Lord, a faithful soldier of our Commander and an obedient child of our Father.

(Puritan Reformed Spirituality by Dr. Joel Beeke).

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