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Lord's Day Liturgy

The Sum

John Calvin wrote the Institutes of the Christian Religion to defend why some of his fellow believers were willing to be burned for the faith. The final edition is some 1400+ pages of theology, but it was life and death. It wasn’t a relaxing reflection, Calvin himself was in exile from his home country as he wrote.

He described the “sum of the Christian life” as one of self-denial. It takes a little getting used to, but with qualification, it has some helpful parts. And yet, we need to grow up in our self-denial. We need to realize that self-denial is the way for the self to be most full.

Take communion as a testing Table. Properly received, the bread and the wine are a complete rejection of ourselves. Here we admit that we need external help. We have a body, we have blood, and all that we do in the body deserves judgment. On our own, we could give our bodies to be burned for another, and it would still gain nothing outside of Christ.

To receive the Lord’s Supper is to receive a Savior and to deny our self. We deny our righteousness, our good works. We deny that we have any merit, any reason that God should accept us on our own.

And it is that self-denial that lifts our heads. It is that rejection of self that opens into rejoicing. God calls us to deny ourselves and gives us a feast.

As we learn to follow Christ as His disciples, it is appropriate at times to fast. We do not indulge the flesh, which would be love of self. And yet here is food and drink. Come with your empty hands by faith and do not deny the feast.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Making a Mess

In his “Treatise on the Holy Supper of our Lord and Only Savior Jesus Christ” John Calvin observed:

The devil, knowing that our Lord left nothing more beneficial to the Church than this holy sacrament, according to his accustomed manner, exerted himself from the beginning to contaminate it with error and superstitions, and to corrupt and destroy its fruit, has not ceased to pursue this course, until he has almost wholly subverted this sacrament of the Lord and converted it into falsehood and vanity.

What was true in 1536 is still true today; the devil is still our adversary and he still seeks to spoil our time around the Lord’s Table. Whatever specifics Calvin had in mind, what are the things that make communion “false” today?

  • Communion is false if men participate as frauds, that is, if they partake without love and pursuit of righteousness.
  • Communion is false if men participate as if the bread and wine themselves are magical, that is, if they do not partake of the elements by faith.
  • Communion is false if men participate in sadness, that is, if they partake without rejoicing in the salvation Christ purchased for them.
  • Communion is false if men participate in isolation, that is, if they partake either on their own apart from the body or in unresolved conflict with another member in the body.
  • Communion is false if men participate with presumption, that is, if they partake without giving thanks. Jesus gave thanks when He instituted the meal, twice, both before the bread and the wine. Being confident to share communion with God in a meal of peace does not mean He owes it to us.
  • Communion is false if men participate flippantly, that is, if they partake without a sober appreciation of the cost, namely, the death of God’s own Son. To be solemn does not require us to be sullen, but a lack of serious joy disrespects His gift to us.

Satan is working to make a mess of this meal. Is our communion true or false?

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A Shot of Encouragement

The Genius of Geneva

Great and brief biography of John Calvin. We liked Calvin so much we named our son after him.

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A Shot of Encouragement

Why God Sometimes Conceals His Remedies

From John Calvin’s commentary on Genesis 32:

“[T]he Lord willed that the mind of his servant (Jacob) should be oppressed by this anxiety for a time, although without any real cause, in order the more to excite the fervour of his prayer….For although he anticipates our wishes, and opposes our evils, he yet conceals his remedies until he has exercised our faith.

We, also, are to learn from him, that we must fight during the whole course of our life; lest any one, promising himself rest, should willfully deceive himself. And this admonition is very needful for us; for we see how prone we are to sloth. Whence it arises, that we shall not only be thinking of a truce in perpetual war; but also of peace in the heat of the conflict, unless the Lord rouse us.”

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A Shot of Encouragement

No Undiscovered Lurking-places

On God’s call to Abram (Genesis 12:1) to leave and seek what he could not see:

[I]t is not to be supposed, that God takes a cruel pleasure in the trouble of his servants; but he thus tries all their affections, that he may not leave any lurking-places undiscovered in their hearts.

—John Calvin, Commentary on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis

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A Shot of Encouragement

The Reformers’ Days

Charles Spurgeon, “Holding Fast the Faith”:

Everybody admires Luther! Yes, yes; but you do not want anyone else to do the same today. When you go to the…gardens you all admire the bear; but how would you like a bear at home, or a bear wandering about loose in the street? You tell me that would be unbearable, and no doubt you are right.

So, we admire a man who was firm in the faith, say four hundred years ago; the past ages are sort of a bear-pit or iron cage for him, but such a man today is a nuisance, and must be put down. Call him a narrow-minded bigot, or give him a worse name if can think of one. Yet imagine that in those ages past, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and their (friends) had said, “The world is out of order; but if we try to set it right we shall only make a great (racket), and get ourselves in disgrace. Let us go to our chambers, put on our night caps, and sleep over the bad times, and perhaps when we wake things will have grown better.”

Such conduct on their part would have entailed upon us a heritage of error. Age after age would have gone down into the infernal deeps, and the pestiferous bogs of error would have swallowed all. These men loved the faith and the name of Jesus too well to see them trampled on. Note what we owe them, and let us pay to our sons the debt we owe our fathers.

It is today as it was in the Reformer’s days. Decision is needed. Here is the day for the man, where is the man for the day? We who have had the gospel passed to us by martyr hands dare not trifle with it, nor sit by and hear it denied by traitors, who pretend to love it, but inwardly abhor every line of it.

Look you sirs, there are ages yet to come. If the Lord does not speedily appear, there will come another generation, and another, and all these generations will be tainted and injured if we are not faithful to God and to His truth today.

… Stand fast, my beloved, in the name of God! I, your brother in Christ, entreat you to abide in the truth. Quit yourselves like men, be strong. The Lord sustain you for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Happy Reformation Day!