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Contemporary Version of Calvin's Institutes - Book 1, Chapter 1

Rendered by Christian Bell
version of 2008-05-13 14:21
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Almost all the things we know—the good things, the true things—center on two kinds of knowledge: What we know about God, and what we know about ourselves. There's a lot of common ground between the two, and it's difficult at first glance to say which one comes first.

On one hand, I’d like to start by suggesting that we can’t think about ourselves without also thinking about God—in whom the book of Acts says we "live and move." Obviously, all the life and movement we’re born with don’t come from us – in fact, there’s nothing about us that doesn’t fully depend on God. We’re like small streams of water that flow out of the mighty river of God.

Doesn't the poverty of our sinful condition make the rich goodness of God all the more apparent? Our sinful condition—which started with Adam and continues in all of us to this day—makes our eyes want to stay wide open, searching for God. We search for God's sustenance when we're hungry, and when we realize just how much he provides for us, we can’t help but be humbled. It's almost as if, without God, we’re trapped in a world of misery. We feel naked without the clothing of God’s righteousness, and everybody at one point or another feels the shame of this nakedness. This shame means that everybody knows at least one thing about God: We’re missing something in life without Him. In short, our shames, our failures—all of our sin—reminds us that in the river of God, and in Him alone, do we find all the wisdom, truth, and goodness that our soul thirsts for.

In other words, our sin actually makes us want to know about God’s goodness more! We won’t want to really know more about God until we realize just how bad of a shape we’re really in. Why would you care about fixing something that you didn’t know was broken? Well, the truth is that we are what is broken – but because we’re often too ignorant to realize it, we remain content with how we are and don’t go looking for a fix.

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