Friday, July 16, 2010

Humbling Ourselves Before God

Like yesterday's reading, Calvin discusses how our egos cause us to not have the right attitude before God. We must humble ourselves before Him. Calvin uses a great metaphor here, "For if the stars, which seem so very bright at night, lose their brilliance in the sight of the sun, what do we think will happen even to the rarest innocence of man when it is compared with God's purity?" When we are before God's throne, all the good works which we have performed will be of no benefit, "purity of will alone will be demanded of us." We will eventually discover that all of our good human works, "when judged according to their own works, are nothing buy filth and defilement."

We must still compare ourselves to the standard of Christ. "Let us not be ashamed to descend from this contemplation of divine perfection to look upon ourselves without flattery and without being affected by blind self-love." We almost always think more of ourselves than we ought. We judge ourselves on a relative scale using other people as the measuring stick. We measure our outward actions to the actions of others. That is not what God has called us to do. Calvin writes, "...while man flatters himself on account of the outward mask of righteousness that he wears, the Lord meanwhile weighs in his scales the secret impurity of the heart."

Humility before God is an acknowledgment that we are "wholly poor and destitute" and yielding to God's mercy. If we vainly believe that there is something good in us of our own doing, we are not humble. Calvin points out a few Scripture passages where God speaks of the proud and the humble. One such passage is Zephaniah 3:11-12:
In that day you shall not be shamed for any of your deeds
In which you transgress against Me;
For then I will take away from your midst
Those who rejoice in your pride,
And you shall no longer be haughty
In My holy mountain.
I will leave in your midst
A meek and humble people,
And they shall trust in the name of the LORD.
Christ made the point a number of times that He was sent to call the sinners, not the righteous.  Calvin looks at the parable of the the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18.  This is Christ clearly teaching that it is the one who humbles himself that pleases God, not the proud one who shows off his own good works.  That parable ends with the words, "for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."  I think it is much better for us to humble ourselves rather than waiting on God to do it for us.

Calvin then commands us to not be arrogant or complacent before God because this will prevent us from knowing Christ.  "Arrogance arises from a foolish persuasion of our own righteousness, when man things that he has something meritorious to commend him before God."  That is what the Pharisee thought.  He truly believed that all his good deeds counted for something before God when he was really doing them to show off before his neighbors.  "Complacency can exist even without any belief in works.  For many sinners are so drunk with the sweetness of their vices that they think not upon God's judgment but lie dazed, as it were, in a sort of drowsiness, and do not aspire to the mercy offered to them."  This is also the wrong attitude of heart.  This "que sera sera" attitude is prevalent in our society.  We must care about our salvation and the mercy that God gives us.  So we should not be proud of ourselves, but should strive to please God.  That is the balance that we should achieve.

Tomorrow's reading: 3.13.1-3.13.5

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