An Empty Show of Righteousness

Blogging The Institutes

Excerpts taken from Institutes of the Christian Religion (1541 Edition) By John Calvin

Translation by Robert White

Chapter 1: The Knowledge of God

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Deeply rooted in all of us is an arrogance which persuades us that we are righteous, truthful, wise and holy. Only clear evidence that we are unrighteous, deceitful, foolish and vile will convince us of the contrary. We feel no such conviction if all we do is look upon ourselves and not also upon the Lord. He is the one and only standard with which our judgment must accord. But because hypocrisy is something to which we are all naturally prone, we are quite content with an empty show of righteousness rather than with its reality.

John Piper once wrote that the problem with mankind is not that we are difficult to please but that we are too easily satisfied. We settle for less than God’s best at every turn. People worship lifeless idols rather than the living God. We become distracted from God’s glory by every sparkling bauble. We are seduced by carnal longings that come and go but refuse to satiate our soul with the living water of Christ (John 7:38). Continue reading

The Sum of True Wisdom

Blogging the Institutes

Taken from Institutes of the Christian Religion (1541 Edition) by John Calvin

Translated by Robert White

Chapter 1: The Knowledge of God

The whole sum of our wisdom – wisdom, that is, which deserves to be called true and assured – broadly consists of two parts, knowledge of God and knowledge of ourselves.

Here Calvin introduces to his readers the two pillars propping up the entirety of the Christian faith: Understanding who God is and understanding who we are in relation to Him. The former needs first to be established in order to erect the latter.

The purpose of the first of these is to show not only that there is one God whom all must worship and honour, but also that he is the fount of all truth, wisdom, goodness, righteousness, judgment, mercy, power and holiness.

Continue reading

Blogging Calvin’s Institutes

I’m beginning a fairly ambitious project here at A Peculiar Pilgrim; one that I hope to stick out until the end. I pray it will bless my readers as it has blessed me in writing it.

I just received a copy of the Institutes of the Christian Religion – 1541 Edition by John Calvin a few weeks ago. I’ve been reading through the first few sections and have been so blessed by it that I’ve decided to share all this theological goodness with my readers. Every chapter of The Institutes is divvied up into small sections. It makes for great devotional reading.

The format for my blog articles will start with selected quotes from each section followed by my own thoughts and insights. I plan to keep each post at 500 words or under. I want quick, easily digestible nuggets for maximum readability. That will be the biggest challenge for me, as I tend to get long-winded at times. So, if I occasionally exceed my own self-imposed limits hopefully you won’t mind all that much.

I hope to churn out  2-3 posts per week – but I’m keenly aware of my inconsistencies. I tend to promise more than I can deliver. It may be more, prayerfully it won’t be any less.

I also plan to write other articles as well as some new works of fiction this year.

Again, it is my prayer that this new series will edify and encourage fellow believers. Perhaps it will engage skeptics as well and pique their curiosity enough to take a deeper look into the Christian faith.

I’m confident you will be blessed, not because my insights are keen but because  I’ll be quoting one of the greatest theological minds the Church has ever produced.

Read Entry One Here.


The Heart of the Gospel

But God commends His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Rom 5:8-10)

I believe the above text of Scripture captures the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. All of human history finds its pinnacle in the death and resurrection of the Son of God. I’ll attempt to break down the heart of this glorious gospel verse by verse.

But God commends His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

The Gospel always begins with God. God is the giver and sustainer of life and of all creation. I wouldn’t be sitting here telling this most wonderful tale if not for the God, who upholds all things by the word of his power. All men everywhere owe God a debt of gratitude for every single breath of life they have ever enjoyed. God is due all glory from his creation. If men will not cry out his praise then the rocks we stand upon surely will. God is glorified in his creation.

God’s glorious attribute of love lies at the golden gates of the gospel message. God is love. He so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall never perish but have everlasting life. God’s love is incomprehensible, its borders cannot be defined. His love is manifested in his grace to all men. God’s grace is about his mercy and compassion on lost sinners who cannot do anything to save themselves.

Sin is the reason the relationship between God and man has been severed. Sin is why we need a savior. Yet the inspired Apostle Paul says here that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Men do more than commit occasional sins, sins that are an affront to a Holy God. Men are sinners. We are depraved in every part of our being. We were born in this fallen, corrupt state. Every thought of our minds and desire of our souls is sinful. We are an affront to a holy God, a stench in his nostrils. Continue reading


I’ve probably heard the catchy “Happy” tune a thousand times if I’ve heard it once. Only this last time, as I searched the airwaves for a decent tune on my short drive to work last week, the lyrics jumped to my attention. This one in particular:

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy

My knee-jerk reaction to this proclamation was a decisive scoff. Us Christian curmudgeons don’t believe in happiness. Faithfulness to God is our calling. Happiness is not to be pursued, lest we fall out of the way at Vanity Fair and never return to the pilgrim’s path. I’ve been known on occasion, whenever people dare to call themselves Christian AND happy, to pour rain on their parade with a pithy platitude about how we are called to faithfulness, not fulfillment. Continue reading