Calvin’s 500th and the Year of the Bible

2009 marks the 500th birthday anniversary of John Calvin, the great reformer of the 1500’s. His most famous work, his magnum opus, is a little 1800 page volume called The Institutes of the Christian Religion. In celebration of his birth-year a number of blogs are guiding a reading program through the institutes over the course of 2009. A few of us at the office have decided to read along.

(If you are interested in also reading along, we are not that far into the book – 50 pages or so – and it would be easy to catch up. You can follow the bloggers at Reformation21 or Blog and Mablog throughout the year. Email Ref21 for a reading schedule.)

2009 is also the year of the Bible at The Crossing. (Don’t misunderstand. Of course, every year is that year at The Crossing, but this year in particular, as Dave shared on Sunday, we are excited to read through major portions of the Bible together as a church body.) So, as I was working through an early section of The Institutes, this passage jumped off the page:

Calvin writes:

Just as old or bleary-eyed men and those with weak vision, if you thrust before them a most beautiful volume, even if they recognize it to be some sort of writing, yet can scarcely construe two words, but with the aid of spectacles will begin to read distinctly; so Scripture, gathering up the otherwise confused knowledge of God in our minds, having dispersed our dullness, clearly shows us the true God. – p.70

You, no doubt, have heard this famous analogy from Calvin before. He states that scripture acts like a pair of glasses in our lives, bringing the blurry, fuzzy confused ideas about God, others, and ourselves into clarity.

Dave also mentioned Sunday that the Bible is our literal food as Christians. If we are to grow closer to Christ, know him more intimately, love him more deeply it will only be a result of digesting His words to us in the Bible.

Or as the author of Hebrews says, “The word of God…is sharper than a two edged sword…discerning thoughts and intentions of the heart. No creature is hidden from its sight.” Here, the author highlights the judging power of the Word. It is a force that exposes our true hearts, it judges us, convicts us. Like a mirror, when we submit ourselves to it, we are revealed as we truly are.

Reading Glasses. Food. A sword. A mirror. The analogies and metaphors we can use are endless. Scripture plays many important roles in our life. It sustains, reveals, judges, grows, nourishes and much more.

One particular quality of scripture that Calvin seems to be highlighting by calling the Bible a pair of glasses for our soul is the power it has to organize and make sense of our lives. Slowly, over time, as we steep in the words of God – continually and faithfully – a new way of “seeing” begins to overtake the old way. We organize our experiences differently, we call things different names, we begin to make sense of mysteries that have plagued our minds for years. In short, we begin to see the world like God sees it – the way it really is, and it begins to make sense of our experience and reality in ways we could never have imagined.

This analogy from Calvin got be excited to jump into our Bible reading plan at The Crossing this year. What an incredible opportunity and privilege it is, when I step back and think about it, to be able read through the Bible over the course of the year with people I see (at least) on a weekly basis, my friends, co-workers, family – a community of other believers who want the same thing I want: to put on the spectacles of the Word and see the world rightly, as God sees it.

I pray that as we explore, study and meditate on the word this year, our vision will change, that we will see like we have never seen before, that we would be changed more and more into the image of Christ, and that we would fall in love more deeply with the only source of true life, our Father, our God.

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