“Blogging the Institutes” is my on-going attempt to paraphrase John Calvin’s work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. You can find out more about the series in the Introduction. For all the posts in this series, check out the Master List.
Some people who begin thinking about God want to know what the essence of God is. In other words, it’s almost as if they want to know what God is made of. But that just leads to speculation. Rather, it’s better to think about God’s character and the kinds of things which flow from His nature—His attributes. Moreover, is there really a point in even trying to think about God like Epicures does? He claims that God does not interact with the world. But, does it matter at all to try to know a God who doesn’t have any bearing on our lives?
Therefore, knowledge of the true God should cause us to do a few things. First, it should teach us to reverence and fear God. Second, it should make us ask for good things from God, and if we receive them, praise Him for sending them our way. Furthermore, when the idea of God enters your mind, it should cause you to understand that since God created you He holds the authority over you, and you are bound to submit to His authority. You should do all things for His glory. Now, if that doesn’t happen for you, then your life is sadly corrupted. It further shows that obedience to God is not first and foremost in your life, which it should be, because God’s will ought to be what guides our lives.
Your idea of God won’t be clear unless you acknowledge Him to be the source of all goodness. Thinking about God should cause you to have confidence in Him and desire to have a relationship with Him. Unfortunately, our sinful depravity skews our minds and leads us away from knowing God. But the Christian mind does not make up any “god” it pleases; it looks to the one true God. In addition, it doesn’t just make up His character but is content to understand God’s character as He Himself reveals it. The Christian mind is diligent, then, not to disobey His will or wander off of His path.
When you know that God also governs all things, then you will run to Him as your guardian and protector. You will throw yourself completely onto His faithfulness. Because you know every good thing comes from Him, if you feel life pressing in on you or any need, you will remember God’s protection and ask for His help. Because you know He is good and merciful, you will rest in Him. You will not have doubts that God will provide for you in your time of need. Because you know He is Father and Lord, you will submit to His authority over your life. You will show respect for His greatness, aim to advance His glory in the world, and obey His rules. Because you know He is the just Judge who also stands ready to judge, you will have appropriate awe of His justice, self-control in your behavior, and fear of provoking Him to anger. You won’t be so terrified of His judgment, however, that you want to run away from God. You will embrace God not only as the One who punishes the wicked, but also rewards the righteous. It brings God glory to both store up punishment for the wicked and give eternal life to the righteous. In addition, fear of punishment isn’t the only motivation for obeying God. If you love and honor God as your Father, and you want to do His will, even if there was no Hell, you still wouldn’t want to sin against Him.
This is genuine religion: You have confidence in God paired with reverent fear. Both things will lead you to the right worship of God as prescribed in His Word, the Bible. Here’s something to think about: many people go through outward ceremonies to “honor” God, but few actually love Him from the heart.