John Calvin And His Passion for the Majesty of God
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by John Piper
Description: Nothing mattered more to John Calvin than the centrality, supremacy, and majesty of the glory of God. As Piper concisely but forcefully explores the essence of Calvin's preaching and zeal, he seeks to ignite every Christian's passion so that the glory and supremacy of God takes center-stage in our lives as well.
eBook Publisher: Crossway Books, 2008
eBookwise Release Date: June 2009
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [69 KB]
Reading time: 35-49 min.
GOD IS WHO HE IS
ohn Calvin would approve that we begin with God rather than with him. Nothing mattered more to Calvin than the supremacy of God over all things. Focus your attention, then, on God's self-identification in Exodus 3:14-. Here we will see the sun in the solar system of John Calvin's thought and life.
God calls Moses and commissions him to go to Egypt and bring his people out of bondage. Moses is frightened at this prospect and raises the objection that he is not the person to do this. God responds by saying, "I will be with you" (Ex. 3:12). Then Moses says, "[When I] say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and [when] they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" (v. 13). God's response is one of the most important revelations that has ever been given to man:
God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" God also said to Moses, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.'This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. (vv. 14-)
In other words, the great, central, biblical name of Yahweh is explicitly rooted by God himself in the phrase "I AM WHO I AM." "Tell them, the one who simply and absolutely is has sent you. Tell them that the essential thing about me is that I am."
A Passion for the Centrality and Supremacy of God
I begin with this biblical self-identification of God because the unhidden and unashamed aim in this book is to fan the flame of your passion for the centrality and supremacy of God. Does not our heart burn when we hear God say, "My name is, 'I AM WHO I AM'"? The absoluteness of God's existence enthralls the mind: God's never beginning, never ending, never becoming, never improving, simply and absolutely there--to be dealt with on his terms or not at all.
Let this sink in: God--the God who holds you in being this very moment--never had a beginning. Ponder it. Do you remember the first time you thought about this as a child or young teenager? Let that speechless wonder rise. God never had a beginning! "I AM" has sent me to you. And one who never had a beginning, but always was and is and will be, defines all things. Whether we want him to be there or not, he is there. We do not negotiate what we want for reality. God defines reality. When we come into existence, we stand before a God who made us and owns us. We have absolutely no choice in this matter. We do not choose to be. And when we are, we do not choose that God be. No ranting and raving, no sophisticated doubt or skepticism, has any effect on the existence of God. He simply and absolutely is. "Tell them 'I AM' has sent you."
If we don't like it, we can change, to our joy, or we can resist, to our destruction. But one thing remains absolutely unassailed: God is. He was there before we came. He will be there after we are gone. And therefore what matters in life above all things is this God. We cannot escape the simple and obvious truth that God must be the main thing in life. Life has to do with God because all the universe has to do with God, and the universe has to do with God because every atom and every emotion and every soul of every angelic, demonic, and human being belongs to God, who absolutely is. He created all that is, he sustains everything in being, he directs the course of all events, because "from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever" (Rom. 11:36).
A Passion for the Majesty of God
May God inflame in you a passion for his centrality and supremacy in your life. May it be so that when you are dead and gone the people you love and serve will say, "This one knew God. This one loved God and lived for the glory of God and showed us God day after day. This one, as the apostle said, was 'filled with all the fullness of God'" (Eph. 3:19).
This is the aim and the burden of this book. Not only because the majesty of God is implicit in the sheer, awesome existence of God, and not only because it is explicit in the Word of God, but also because David Wells is staggeringly right when he says, "It is this God, majestic and holy in his being ... who has disappeared from the modern evangelical world." Lesslie Newbigin says much the same thing: "I suddenly saw that someone could use all the language of evangelical Christianity, and yet the center was fundamentally the self, my need of salvation. And God is auxiliary to that.... I also saw that quite a lot of evangelical Christianity can easily slip, can become centered in me and my need of salvation, and not in the glory of God." And, oh, have we slipped. Where are the churches today where the dominant experience is the precious weight of the glory of God? May God restore a passion for his majesty in our day.
[Footnote 1: David Wells, No Place for Truth (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993), 300.]
[Footnote 2: Quoted in Tim Stafford, "God's Missionary to Us," Christianity Today, December 9, 1996, 29.]