Bit by bit we conquer the old and come alive to the new. Day by day we take more and more of the vast possession that is ours in Christ. And always and ever we look with expectation to the day the battles will finally be over, the land will finally be fully conquered, and we shall reign forever with Him.
The Israelites had sojourned in the wilderness until the last of an entire rebellious generation had died and been buried. They had walked to the banks of the Jordan and had seen its waters before them. They had crossed the river and entered the Promised Land. And now the true work and the true challenge would begin.
Though God had promised that this people would inherit this land, and though he had promised that it would be their possession, he did not intend to deliver it to them in its completed form. He did not intend to give them a land whose every field was forever cleared and tilled, whose every crop was forever ripe for harvest, whose every barn was forever full. Rather, he intended to give them a land whose climate was right, who soil was rich, whose nutrients were plentiful, and whose waters were pure. He intended to give them a land that would respond appropriately and provide bountifully to their hard labor.
And so as the people took possession of the land, as they displaced its inhabitants, they set to work. They claimed the fields that had already been broken and planted, but they also claimed new fields and prepared them for sowing and watering and reaping.
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By Ryan Griffith — 2 weeks ago
We may rightly regard Calvin as a hero of the faith, but he didn’t ultimately see himself that way. Humility had taught him to walk modestly before God and others—and, in the end, the freedom to lie down in a forgotten grave.
On May 27, 1564, just after eight o’clock in the evening, a nurse urgently summoned Theodore Beza (1519–1605) to Calvin’s bedside. “We found he had already died,” Calvin’s friend and fellow pastor later wrote. “On that day, then, at the same time with the setting sun, this splendid luminary was withdrawn from us.”1 Calvin was 54 years old.
Calvin’s death sent a shock wave throughout Geneva and beyond. Beza writes, “That night and the following day there was a general lamentation throughout the city . . . all lamenting the loss of one who was, under God, a common parent and comfort.” He records that two days later “the entire city” gathered at the St. Pierre Cathedral to honor their beloved pastor. Despite Calvin’s prominence, the funeral was unusually simple, “with no extraordinary pomp.”2 But Calvin’s burial was particularly unusual.
Eighteen years earlier, on February 18, 1546, fellow Reformer Martin Luther died at the age of 63. As was common practice for ministers, Luther’s remains were interred inside the church where he had faithfully served. His casket lies in Wittenberg’s Castle Church, near the pulpit, seven feet below the floor of the nave. Luther’s successor and fellow Reformer, Philip Melanchthon (1490–1560), is buried beside him.
So also William Farel (1489–1565), who first called Calvin to Geneva in 1536, is buried in the cathedral of Neuchâtel, where he spent the final years of his ministry. When Calvin’s friend and successor Theodore Beza died in 1605, he was buried next to the pulpit of St. Pierre, the Genevan church in which he and Calvin ministered together.
But Calvin’s remains lie elsewhere.
Rather than being interred in St. Pierre, Calvin’s body was carried outside the city wall to a marshy burial ground for commoners called Plainpalais. With close friends in attendance, Calvin’s body was wrapped in a simple shroud, enclosed in a rough casket, and lowered into the earth. Beza writes that Calvin’s plot was unlisted and, “as he [had] commanded, without any gravestone.”3
Why did Calvin command that he be buried, contrary to common practice, in an unmarked grave? Some speculate that he wanted to discourage religious pilgrims from visiting his resting place or to prevent accusations from the Roman church that he desired veneration as a saint.4 But the answer lies somewhere deeper — in Calvin’s understanding of Christian modesty.
Forgotten Meaning of Modesty
When we speak of modesty today, we most often mean dressing or behaving in such a way as to avoid impropriety or indecency. But modesty more generally refers to the quality of being unassuming or moderate in the estimation of oneself. For centuries, the church understood the connection. Immodest dress was not simply ostentatious or sexually suggestive; it reflected an overemphasis on appearance. As Jesus warned, outward appearance can mask impiety (Matthew 6:16) or pride (Luke 18:12).
This is why both Gentile women converts in Ephesus and the Jewish Christians addressed in Hebrews are urged to consider how their outward appearance relates to the disposition of the heart. Excessive adornment could be evidence of self-importance (1 Timothy 2:9). Acceptable worship requires a posture of reverence, not pretension (Hebrews 12:28). Thus, a modest person represents himself neither too highly nor too meanly because he understands both the dignity and the humility of being transformed by the grace of God.
Modesty, then, is simply the outward reflection of true Christian humility. It obliterates pride by embracing the reality that a Christian is both creaturely and beloved. In this light, self-importance becomes absurd. Grandiosity becomes laughable. Celebrity becomes monstrous.
We Are Not Our Own
For Calvin, the gospel radically reshapes our view of self. As those created in God’s image, provisioned by his goodness, redeemed by his mercy, transformed by his grace, and called to his mission, those who belong to Christ no longer live for themselves. “Now the great thing is this,” Calvin writes, “we are consecrated and dedicated to God in order that we may thereafter think, speak, meditate, and do, nothing except to his glory.” Calvin continues,
By Dan DeWitt — 9 months ago
While it is an interesting question to ask what Bible Jesus read, it is a beautiful thing to see how we are able to read Jesus on every page. From the Old Covenant to the New, Jesus looms large. God’s comfort in the light of the curse was the promise of a child who would one day defeat the serpent (Genesis 3:15). Flash forward to Jesus’s baptism, where He immediately goes out into the wilderness to be tempted by the serpent. Jesus is the critical piece of the story tying it all together.
Have you ever wondered what Bible Jesus used? Was Jesus’s Bible, the Jewish Scriptures, different from the Old Testament we use today? If so, how?
These are all questions I ask my students to think about in my theology class at Cedarville University. The short answer is, “Yes.” It was different. The longer answer is, “No, not really.” Jesus’s Bible would have had the same content as our Old Testament, it was just organized differently.
Here’s a difference: Jesus’s Bible only contained 24 books compared to the 39 found in the Old Testament in our English translations. Where did the other books go, you ask. Fair question. They’re still there, I promise. It’s just the Bible Jesus would have used combined certain books. For example, all twelve of the minor prophets are packed into one book, not so creatively called “The Book of the Twelve.” And all the sequels are compacted into one (think 1st and 2nd Kings).
The Jewish Scriptures are often referred to as the Tanakh, a Hebrew abbreviation for the three organizational categories of the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. The Torah includes the five books written by Moses, also called the Pentateuch, which, not so creatively, means five books. You can find a helpful comparison of the Tanakh and the Old Testament ordering of these books here.
Early in the history of Christianity, the current ordering of the Old Testament — as it appears in our English translations — was affirmed at a council at the end of the fourth century.
By Jim Weidenaar — 8 months ago
The new heart and new life that Christ gives is the beginning of an entirely new tree. In the gospel, our true and eternal identity is in Christ, even though we still battle with the patterns and baggage of our old ways. Rather than simple self-discipline and willpower, though, the real source of change is new faith and affections in our hearts, redeemed desires, and transformed worldviews—all given to us in Christ.
“But isn’t it just a lust problem?” Mike asked. I was explaining to Mike the Harvest USA Tree Model, the core content of our ministry to both individuals and churches. Mike wanted to believe what I was saying about the deeper aspects of his sin. It gave him hope that there was a path to victory in his fight against the porn habit he’d been losing for years, because willpower certainly hadn’t worked. His objection revealed a problem that most of us encounter when thinking about our sin.
Mike’s question forces us to seek a more complete understanding of sin. We tend to think of sin in simple ways that only scratch the surface: I’m tempted; I fall; I repeat. But a biblical view of sin goes much deeper. This is what our Harvest USA Tree Model illustrates.
Jesus describes sin as having a source deep within us, in the heart, the epicenter of where our intellect, will, and affections all converge. In Matthew 15:18–19, Jesus said, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Thinking of our hearts as part of a tree originates from Jesus’ words in Luke 6:43–45: “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his heart produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Building upon these verses, our Tree Model pictures the heart as the source of a tree, the seed.
The Seed: Our Hearts
The most basic characteristic of the seed, or heart, is that it is fallen. The word “autonomy” summarizes the sinful inclination of our hearts. We desire self-rule rather than being ruled by the authority and care of God. Our desire for autonomous independence from God affects every aspect of our lives. It shapes our reactions to our circumstances and experiences; it skews our deepest desires; it taints our functional worldviews. These are the inner workings of sin that bear fruit in what we do. The following three make up the other elements of the tree: the soil, the roots, and the trunk.
The Soil: Our Circumstances and Experiences
The soil is the context for the seed. The parents to whom we were born, our families, and our peers are all part of the soil. It is all the things those people do to us or for us—or neglect to do. It is everything that happens to us, good or bad. We are praised, abused, affirmed, attacked, protected, or wounded. We experience trauma and suffering, or we live in shelter and safety. Together, these experiences comprise the context in which our fallen hearts are active.