Friday, June 01, 2007

Banner of Truth 2007 -- Session #8

Derek Thomas -- "Meditation and the Future Life: The Goal of Holiness"

Romans 8:1-11
Ephesians 4:17-24
Colossians 3:1-4

In this third and final session we come to what Calvin has to say about the goal of holiness. For most of those who attend the Banner there is a great love for the Puritain experiential preaching of the scriptures. What draws us in is that they speak to our hearts. What we long for most of all is that God's word addresses us not just at level of intellect but at the level of our affections and actions. We probably find Calvin more intimidating because we have concluded that Calvin does not speak to our heart like the Puritans. But that makes a division between the Puritans and the reformers of the 16th Century. The puritans loved and read Calvin. That sort of division is simply not true. To dismantle this error all one has to do is plumb the depths of book three of the Institutes.

Piety was important to Calvin. He in writing was writing in contrasts to the Summa of Aquinus. Calvin's institues were a summa of piety. They are the theology of the heart. We often do not grasp that. It shows how disengaged with how the reformers understood the Christian life. The problem is likely ours, not Calvin's. For Calvin there is a particular reformed spirituality. Reformed understanding covers all of life. That would include spirituality. It would point out that what is important are truth, what and how we know what we know, scripture, worship in accord with principles found in word of God, etc.

Central is the doctrine of the union with Jesus Christ. In that restoration and renewal the image of God like a ruined castle is recreated by the Spirit so that what is broken is brought together again. This is primarily that we might know God. Calvin in the institues is seeking to show how a believer comes to know God better.

In 1538 when Calvin was thrown out of Geneva, the first thing he did was to write a cathechism. There is pointed out that true piety embraces God as much as a father as it reverences him and fears displeasing him worse than death.

For Calvin especially, mind is hugely important and significant. Your mind matters. We are to use our mind. But, the heart is to be used too. We as Christians ought to be like newlyweds. Longing and anticipating and thinking about the future as we fall more and more in love with Christ. Sin and world and Satan all seek against this. Therefore effort is needed to maintain and grow love and hope toward God. Calvin called this meditation.

Meditation is enormously important to Calvin. Baxter had same take. He said we are to imitate the most powerful preacher we have ever heard in applying Biblical truth to our lives. Calvin said we are to live in this world so we more and more desire the one to come. We do that by meditation on those scriptures that are given to get a foretaste for what is to come.

This begins with a renovation of the mind. A change in the way we think. What is it that you thnk about when you are not thinking about anything in particular (Owen). Makes us realize we must force ourselves to think spiritual thoughts. Calvin does much the same thing. In commenting on Colossians chapter 3 he said, what Paul is saying here is that we are to express with aciduity and intesity to think on those things above. He warns that we are to beware of the tendency to stop at the resurrection. He comments that we have made too little of the ascension. One implicatoin of the ascension is that CHrist brings us with him into heaven. So we are to think on Christ where he really is, at the right hand of God in heaven. This requires a regular discipline of our minds. Those who are of the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit.

Second, a detachment from the present world. There is an improper and intemperate love of this world that keeps us from serving and loving God properly. We tend to be slaves to this world. But, this world is like a shadow or dew in the morning. It will disappear. Even in Eden the garden was meant to move Adam and Eve to see the beauty of the one who created the beauty of the garden. All to often we fool ourselves that this world is all that there is. Even health and exercise are idols in today's world. Even in the Christian circles. Is that not in part because too many people live in affections for this world instead of eternity. We should live in light of eternity. We must sit loose to this world. Heaven it our homeland, so the world is an exile and a seplecure. This is not because there is not value or proper ways to enjoy this world. Calvin has much to say about that, but all the same this world is not our home. The new heavens and earth are our home. No one makes progress in sactification without looking in anticipation to death and the new life.

Meditation is not close your eyes and hum. It is a thoughful examinination and contempation and application of scripture. It is not a matter of asceticism and the like, but setting mind on things above. Trials are meant to detach us from this world and set our longings and affectons on the future world. The crosses we are given to bear are like ladders by which the mind and heart ascend to heaven. To loosen us from the things of this world.

Calvin says where is true joy and lasting joy to be found. It is to be found in its true sense not in the things, relationships of this world because they will pale in comparision to the joy of being in the presence of God and see Christ in all his glory.

Third, a realization that heaven is the ultimate destiny. There is a sense in which we have been save, are being saved, and will be saved. Only in glory will we be saved from the last remnants of corruption and freed from that attacks of Satan. There is an eternal weight of glory being prepared. Real world is actually the unseen world of angels, church triumphant and Christ and God. For Calvin this is one of the glorious priveleges is that when troubles come it does not shake us because there is an underlying rock under our feet of our eternal home that can never be taken away. Yes, it will be painful, but those who believe can stand because they look to what cannot be shaken.

So how do we do this?

This is done in part by the portayal of this life as found in the Psalter. The psalms were basic to understanding the nature of this life. The Psalms are realistic. They deal with all of life in all it good and bad. We should sing all the psalms. They are completely realistic covering the whole spectrum of emotions. We need to sing the psalms or we miss out on the shape of reformed spirituality, and will not anticipate the world to come as we should.

Second, prayer. For Calvin the psalms are prayers. What does it mean when we pray. In it we are being drawn into heaven. In prayer the Spirit makes requests in groans that words cannot express, and carries us up to heaven. For Calvin God gives us the Spirit to enable us to pray. The Spirit works for us and with us to bring our feeble voices to the Father in heaven.


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