As Calvinist and Reformed Christians our lives ought especially to be characterized by true godly humility. Our doctrine teaches us the awfulness of our sin. We do not believe that our sin is merely a matter of a few sinful acts that we do occasionally. Rather we believe that we are totally depraved, wholly incapable of any good in the sight of God and prone to all manner of evil. Such is our natural condition from our very birth. We know that not only are our evil deeds dreadful in the sight of God but our corrupt nature is also an abomination in His holy sight. So perfectly holy and righteous is our God that He hates our sin with all of His infinitely perfect being. As sinners therefore we cannot stand in the presence of this holy God. Because of our sin we are miserable and wretched and damn-worthy according to the righteous judgment of God. The Reformed Christian is deeply conscious of his sinful nature and this humbles him to the dust in the presence of God. Very few others, including those who call themselves Christians, have such a view of themselves. The world and even nominal Christendom. boasts of the inherent goodness of man and of his great dignity. Modern liberal Christianity emphasizes that we must have a positive self-image. The truly Reformed Christian counts himself with the apostle Paul as the chief of sinners. His self-image is that of a miserable wretched and unworthy sinner. From his lips arise no boasting and glorying at all. The consciousness of his sinful nature daily humbles him in the presence of his God. It also humbles him in the presence of his fellow man. The Reformed Christian knows that he is by nature no better than the worst of his fellow man. He therefore finds in himself no reason at all to exalt himself over others nor to condemn others with self-righteous contempt. If we are truly Reformed Christians this attitude about ourselves will be reflected in all our dealings with our fellow man.
As Calvinists we know that even though we are Christians we are still very imperfect. This too is cause for humility on our part. Our continuing sin is highly offensive in the sight of our holy God. It often interrupts our experiences of the favor and blessing of God upon our lives and separates us from the blessed presence of God. The Reformed Christian therefore often is downcast in his soul and is often heard crying out of the depths of his sin and misery to his God for mercy. The life of the truly Reformed Christian is filled with godly sorrow for his sin and daily repentance unto God. This can surely be heard in every prayer of the Reformed Christian. Though most who call themselves Christians today would hardly ever be heard praying a prayer of deep sorrow and repentance over their sin, the prayer of the Reformed Christian is constantly filled with this matter. The Reformed Christian will be long and frequently on his knees sorrowing before God because of the greatness of his sin. Not to pray about this or to pray mere formal prayers is wholly inconsistent with Reformed doctrine.
There is one point of Reformed doctrine that above all others is reason for humility. It is the great truth of God’s sovereign and gracious election. The Reformed Christian knows from his doctrine that God has chosen him in love from before the foundation of the world. By this wonderful gracious election he is distinguished from all mankind as the object of the love and favor and blessing of God. He has been made the particular choice of God to be saved with wonderful and everlasting salvation. He has been chosen to dwell with God forever in the presence of His infinite glory and majesty. The knowledge of this truth above all causes the Reformed Christian to fall down in humble adoration and awe before his God. The Reformed Christian knows that there is absolutely nothing in himself that moved God to choose him while rejecting others. This is cause for ceaseless praise and daily humility for the Reformed Christian. Surely this ought to be reflected in our practical lives!
Finally, the Reformed Christian ought to be humble because his doctrine teaches him about his continual and absolute dependence on God. As Calvinists we believe in God’s preservation and our resultant perseverance. But we know that this is emphatically God’s preservation. It remains forever true that God alone must preserve us. All of our strength is in the Lord alone. Without the Lord we can do nothing. Practically that means that the Reformed Christian is never heard boasting of his own strength and faithfulness. He knows that if God were to let him stand even for one moment in his own strength he would surely fall. Therefore the Reformed Christian is one who earnestly depends upon his God. This too is reflected in his practical life. It is reflected in the earnestness and frequency of his prayer. It is reflected also in the frequency and the manner in which he goes up to the house of the Lord. The Reformed Christian knows that the preaching of the Word is God’s chief means of grace to him. Knowing that his strength is alone in God the Reformed Christian seeks the preaching of the Word not as it is the word of mere men but as it is the Word of God Himself, which is powerful and effectual to save him. The Reformed Christian comes to God’s house faithfully again and again to be admonished and corrected in his sin, to be strengthened in all of his weaknesses, and comforted in all of his sorrows. He knows how deeply he needs all of this for his daily life.
The Reformed Christian has a deep sense of the urgency of living a separate and holy life. Again this is rooted in his doctrine. He knows what it means that God is holy. He knows that the world in which he lives is totally perverse and wicked. There is therefore need for him to live radically different from the world, even spiritually opposite to it. The Reformed Christian knows that at no point can he make common cause with the world, at no point can he become unequally yoked with the world. He finds nothing good and nothing redeemable in this wicked world. He finds it necessary to flee from this world and to keep himself spiritually separate from it. He steadfastly refuses to follow after its philosophy, its evil lusts and pleasures. In all of his purposes, desires, hopes, goals the Reformed Christian reveals himself to be different from the world. His whole manner of life reflects this. He is different in his home, in how he lives with his wife and family. He finds that he cannot go along with the philosophy of the world that seeks to dictate what the calling of the husband and wife should be, or how many children he should have, and how he should raise those children. He finds that he has to live exactly opposite to all of the philosophy and practice of the world on this. The Reformed Christian is radically different in the manner in which he conducts the daily affairs of his business and occupation. While the world is characterized by wickedness, deceit, and corruption, the Reformed Christian knows that all of his life must manifest the justice and truth of God. Practically, the Reformed Christian is distinct even in such things as the books that he reads, the clothes that he wears, how he spends his money, and what he does for entertainment.
The Reformed Christian ought to be one zealous unto good works. This is not something that is inconsistent with his doctrine of salvation by grace alone. The Reformed Christian does not believe that his good works in any way contribute to his salvation. He knows that Christ Jesus has perfectly merited his salvation and has already fulfilled all righteousness for him. The Reformed Christian knows also that even his best works are imperfect and polluted with sin. Therefore there is no reason for him to boast in those good works. If he does good works this is only for the Reformed Christian reason for humble gratitude to God who enabled him. Yet the Reformed Christian is truly zealous to do good works. His great desire and purpose in doing good works is to show his gratitude to God for His wonderful salvation and to reveal the glory of the grace of God that works in him the wonderful power to do good works.
The truly Reformed Christian manifests in his life a practical attitude of hope and joy and assurance. This is not inconsistent with the sorrow that he has over his sin. Though he has sorrow over his sin he has joy and rejoicing and confidence in God. It is not distinctively Reformed to be always in despair, to be morbid and downcast. That is in fact un-Reformed. Our doctrine teaches us of the perfection of our salvation in Jesus Christ. Though we have sinned and do sin daily, yet there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus has fulfilled all righteousness for us. Though we are weak and often fall, yet the Lord is always faithful. Our final and perfect and wonderful and glorious salvation is absolutely sure. The knowledge of this doctrine ought to fill the heart and soul of the Christian with abounding joy and confident assurance. The Reformed Christian ought to reveal himself practically, in all of his life, as one who is profoundly happy. He is one therefore who is often heard singing songs of joy and thanksgiving to his God. The Reformed Christian is irrepressibly happy and joyous. He has a certain hope and confidence that nothing in this world can cast any doubt j on at all. All the sorrows and hardships of this life cannot in any way diminish or drown out the joy and confidence of the Reformed Christian because his joy and confidence are found in God alone and in the wonderful work of His salvation in Jesus Christ. It is an awful shame when the Reformed Christian is found always going around with a miserable and sad countenance.
Finally our Reformed doctrine ought to show itself in our lives in that we are always content with whatever our lot may be. We believe in the absolute sovereignty and goodness and wisdom of God. We believe that our God works absolutely everything in our life for our good. What a tremendous doctrine that is! Surely when the Reformed Christian constantly goes around complaining and murmuring in his life he denies his faith. If he is always complaining about the circumstances of his life, if he is complaining about how poor his business or farm is, how he doesn’t get the profits he wants, if he is not satisfied because he does not have as much as his rich neighbor, then he may be Reformed in the doctrine he holds but it doesn’t mean much in his daily practical living. All murmuring and complaining is totally inconsistent with Reformed doctrine. Indeed the truly Reformed Christian ought to be one who can bear the greatest adversities and trials of this life in peace and joy and confidence and thanksgiving. Because the Reformed Christian believes that God is sovereign he is sure that nothing in this life can possibly separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus. If he has the love of God in Christ Jesus then it does not matter if he has nothing in this world.
We have a wonderful doctrine, Reformed Christians. That doctrine is truly the blessed, glorious, and wonderful truth of God as it is revealed in the Scriptures. Let us believe that doctrine with all our heart and soul, but let us also reveal that doctrine practically in our daily lives for the glory of the name of our God.