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Picture a gemologist holding up a large diamond pulled from a mountain of precious gems. John Calvin’s articulation of the essence of Christian living is like that. Deep in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, he writes, “Now the great thing is this: we are consecrated and dedicated to God in order that we may thereafter think, speak, meditate, and do, nothing except to his glory” (3.7.1). A few sentences later, Calvin polishes this diamond down to near-blinding brilliance, declaring, “We are not our own: . . . we are God’s.”

The Bible repeatedly describes a Christian along these lines:

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. (1 Cor. 6:19–20)

He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Cor. 5:15)

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. (Gal. 2:20)

There is no more necessary message for our world today, no greater counter to our own self-indulgence, and no more basic reality for Christian living than that by nature, but uniquely so in Christ, we are not our own but God’s.

Everywhere we turn, our culture is awash in the illusion of personal autonomy and self-sufficiency. Ignoring all natural limitations and signs of our utter dependence on God, the world shouts to us: “You are in control. You can do whatever you want. Become whatever you want.” We can customize orders, stream movies, and instantly communicate with friends. More and more people believe that we can even choose our gender, the time of our death, and whether children in the womb will be born.

It may be easy to reject the blaring madness in many of the messages of our age. But what about the tangled web of iniquity in our hearts? How often do we put ourselves in the place of God and serve ourselves rather than our Creator and Redeemer (Rom. 1:25)? The antidote to sinful self-indulgence is not to deny ourselves modern conveniences (though that may be necessary if they are the occasion for us to sin). Rather, the proper response is to heed Christ’s daily command for all His disciples—namely, to deny ourselves (see Matt. 16:24).

If God the Father has joined you to Christ by the Holy Spirit (see 1 Cor. 1:9) and you belong to Him—body and soul, in life and in death, as the Heidelberg Catechism puts it—then you should renounce yourself as the all-consuming center of your attention, affection, and praise. Turn your heart again toward the matchless glory of God. Remember again that because you are in Christ, you belong to Him and not to yourself. And feel the breeze of heaven blow into your life afresh.

The Command to Preach

The Fear of Men

Keep Reading Augustine of Hippo

From the February 2024 Issue
Feb 2024 Issue