Today’s Daily Light:
The Spirit Is Stronger Still
The fact that our sins displease God motivates us in practical terms to put our unrighteousness to death through the power of the Spirit offered and given us in the gospel (Col. 3:1-10). Pastor-theologian John Calvin said it best in his Institutes: “[H]e who in the end profits by God’s scourges is the man who considers God angry at his vices, but merciful and kindly toward himself” (III:4:34). Like David, God is angry at our “vices,” but if we may inject some Lutheran paradox into our treatment of Calvin, this anger is also kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4).
God’s response to the sin of believers is not vengeance, Calvin noted, but “chastisement.” The Frenchman pointed out that “when a father quite severely corrects his son, he does not do this to take vengeance on him or to maltreat him, but rather to teach him and to render him more cautious therefore” (III:4:31). The authors of the Westminster Confession concurred with Calvin when they noted that believers “may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of his countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance” (11.5).
How, then, do we know when we are being chastised? Is God always chastising us since we constantly sin? The Spirit continually convicts us of sin, giving us a low-level form of chastisement (John 16:8). Discipline of the kind that David faced is rare in biblical terms, it seems, and reserved for outsized sins; paraphrasing Calvin, some transgressions receive greater harshness, and many meet with more kindly indulgence (III:4:35). In many cases, we respond to the Spirit’s prompting when our sins have not fully blossomed, a pattern that Calvin calls “voluntary chastisement.” When by the Spirit’s power we train our eyes not to surf over sexual images, or our bodies to avoid gluttonous choices, or our lips not to self-promote, we are engaging in our own chastisement, and no greater penalty will result. So often in our lives, we do not receive what our sins deserve.
Dear Father…your plan is amazing. Your fatherly love is so ‘sure’. Thank you that when we sin…that you continue…through your convicting love…to draw us to yourself. I thank you that you desire a relationship with us. Thank you that you forgive. Amen
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