See the Heart of John Calvin

from Jul 10, 2009 Category: Articles

Though his name evokes powerful images—most of them being negative—John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine & Doxology, edited by Burk Parsons, offers a rich portrait of a man whose example and teaching remain vitally relevant today. In the preface, Parsons writes “above all Calvin was a man whose mind was humbled and whose heart was mastered by the Lord God Almighty. His life’s prayer—‘I offer my heart to you, O Lord, promptly and sincerely’—was an unwavering declaration of surrender to the Lord, whom he sought to love with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength. He saw himself first and foremost as a disciple of Jesus Christ, and he desired earnestly to be taught daily ‘in the school of Jesus Christ’ so that he might rightly know the Lord in order to ‘trust, invoke, praise, and love him.’… Calvin would have wanted readers to come away from this book not primarily with a greater knowledge of the life, ministry, and doctrine of the man John Calvin, but with a greater knowledge of all the doctrines of God and, what is more, with a greater knowledge and love of God Himself, leading to a life of sacrificial duty and overwhelming delight as citizens of His kingdom.”

Such knowledge begins with a right view of man. Chapter 11, “Man’s Radical Corruption,” contributed by John MacArthur, addresses this. “False belief systems always seem to downplay human depravity. Some even deny it altogether, insisting that people are fundamentally good. This is a tendency of nearly all quasi-Christian heresies, humanistic philosophies, and secular worldviews. Apostles of those religions and philosophies seem to think describing human nature in upbeat and optimistic terms somehow makes their viewpoint nobler. That fact alone perfectly epitomizes the blind illogic that goes hand in hand with unbelief and false religion. After all, humanity’s moral dilemma should be patently obvious to anyone who seriously considers the problem of evil.”

Continue reading Chapter 11.

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Possessing a right view of ourselves in relationship to God will lead us to be thankful to Him for His amazing grace, so writes Keith Mathison in Chapter 14, “Transforming Grace.” “When we come to a full understanding of how serious our situation is as fallen human beings, our perspective on these doctrines changes dramatically. If we view fallen man as merely disabled or sick, we will never understand the full riches of God’s grace. When we see ourselves as God sees us, however, the truth of the matter is sobering. When we realize that we were spiritually stillborn, rebels against the Almighty and Most Holy God, the Creator of heaven and earth, wicked to our core, we will not have an overinflated sense of our own goodness and abilities. We will not delude ourselves into thinking that God chose us because of some innate goodness within us. We will not flatter ourselves in thinking that we are saved because we made the first move to come to God.

On the contrary, we will fall down on our knees and thank God every day for His amazing grace. We will thank God that He came to our tomb, when we were dead and helpless in sin, and cried out to us, “Come forth!” We will thank Him for giving us new life, for turning our wills from evil, for granting us faith and repentance, for bringing us out of the tomb and loosing us from the burial cloths in which we were bound. If we walked out of the tomb, it was not because of any power in us. It was not because we made a decision for Christ. Rather, it was solely because of the irresistible grace of God, the sovereign and mysterious work of the Holy Spirit, who gave us new life. When we finally learn this, we will, with Calvin and our Reformed forefathers, ascribe all glory to God alone for our salvation.”

Read Chapter 14.

To commemorate the year of Calvin’s birth, this volume has been reduced in price to $15.09. Find it here.


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Reformation Trust produces books that are true to the historic Christian faith by the best of today’s Reformed pastors, educators, and church leaders. Here you will find books that unfold key theological topics, explore biblical passages, and take you down the halls of church history to tap the wisdom of the past. It is our goal that Reformation Trust books will be trusted resources for you as you build a library of essential Christian literature.