“The Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life” by John Calvin: Baker Book House, Reprint June 1965

This is a booklet that Calvin included as part of his institutes and because of its easy reading and practical information it has become a popular work. The booklet is broken down into five chapters and each heading deals with the conduct of a true Christian in the midst of a crooked and unrepentant world.

Much emphasis is placed on true spiritual progress with warnings to shake off false piety and lip service. “The Gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life. It cannot be grasped by reason and memory only, but it is fully understood when it possesses the whole soul, and penetrates to the inner recesses of the heart.” (p. 17) But progress must show itself if a Christian is manfully fighting temptation and attempts to live aright.

Especially important and beautiful is the chapter on self-denial. In this section Calvin points out that in order to fulfill the royal law, one must abandon himself in the service to others and seek the welfare of the neighbor above his own. “How extremely difficult it is for you dutifully to seek the advantage of your neighbor, unless you quit all selfish consideration and almost forget yourself.” (p. 30) And it is by forgetting ourselves that we also learn the virtue of humility. We have to go against the grain in this respect because we are first only interested in our own merits and accomplishments. And in a sense, we all have “I” problems. “To live happily, the evils of false ambition and self-love must be plucked from our hearts by the roots.” (p. 29)

We are told to prepare ourselves for difficult lives as Christ has told us to take up our crosses and follow Him because in cross-bearing we learn patience and in patience – humility. And it is humility we Christians need in order to quench the pride of the flesh. The Cross strengthens, overcomes laziness, prevents backsliding, brings us into subjection and restrains our arrogance. And it is through loss of relatives, personal and business failures, loss of wealth and comforts, disease, famine that we realize how really frail we are. Under these burdens we turn our eyes to Christ and learn to rely on Him for strength and relief. We also accept the fact that, “The Lord planned our sorrow, so let us submit to His will (p. 63)

On a positive note, we must show thankfulness for all God’s gifts to us and learn to use them without taking sinful pleasure in them. This life, he states, is not to be looked upon as having no good thing in it; and we may not hide and isolate ourselves from the world. We must live in this valley of tears until we are removed by God’s hand.

The closing chapters of the book deal with the subject of the death of believers. This subject is avoided by philosophers and scientists. But the Christian looks upon death with anticipation and longing. “But this we may positively state that nobody has made any progress in the school of Christ unless he cheerfully looks forward towards the day of his death, and towards the day of the final resurrection.” (p. 79) While we are called, each one in his own particular area of life, to live here as witnesses of God’s goodness and mercy, we must radiate and reflect those attributes to people around us. This is so difficult while we go about our daily work and we get so bogged down with our own problems that we forget the message we are supposed to relate to others. “It will be no small comfort for his cares, labors, troubles, and other burdens, when a man knows that in all these matters God is his guide.” (p. 96)

We are familiar with the narrative of Jesus and Nicodemus and we see the unfolding of that beautiful plan that God has for those who are His children as He sends His Almighty Spirit forth to change and renew them. We realize that by the Spirit of God we are made aware of our sins and miseries and through the same Spirit are brought to our knees in repentance. These are truths that are basic.

This total change of our lives becomes even more glorious if we examine a little deeper. We can look at what we once were and some of those horrible specific sins that we committed. At the time perhaps we didn’t realize that they were so abomin­able. Our old man is so powerful that we had no second thoughts about our evil doings and we continued our walk contrary to the law. To some of us the music of the day was more important than the songs of Zion. We were quick to catch every new and passing fad that came along without realizing that these things were short-lived and meaningless. Often­times when the minister would preach he would point to certain styles in music, dress, literature and entertainments and would show how Satan works in each category. But of course, we would say, he’s not with it. He’s odd and old- fashioned.

We couldn’t see that we must be a separate people consecrated to the Lord. And even though we were called upon to live in this world our lives can’t possibly be patterned after the children of darkness. But we didn’t see these things. There were those of us who kept a friend­ship with people who hated the Bible and counted the Bible accounts as nonsense and above all, boring reading. And there were many times that the same people told us that the Bible is nothing more than a big contradiction. We couldn’t have argued very well because we were weak in the knowledge of God’s Word.

Some of us thought we would plan our lives according to our own whims. We didn’t see the Master in our ideas at all. All that seemed important lay in what we could purchase and call our own. After all, we had our own strength and we could steer our own ship. What was there to worry about?

We became changed. We desired the Word and we wanted to hear the minister

proclaim it. It was as if we had awakened from a deep and dulling sleep and become alive again. The things that held our interest seemed senseless now. We saw that the world and all its maddening cries for pleasure and more pleasure were passing things. This world that we enjoyed for a time doesn’t want to reckon with the true and Living God and in order to flee from Him it seeks its answer in graven images and every imaginable sin.

But we became aware of our sinfulness and our sins bothered us. Before we closed our eyes in sleep the sins of the day flashed before us, and there were nights that we lie awake wondering if the Lord would ever forgive the specific sins that we committed every day. But we were comforted that thru Christ’s blood and His suffering even the vilest sin was taken away. Our hearts were moved that God could really love us so much. Our eyes were opened and we saw that we belonged to Our Faithful Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

What beauty there is in being born again! We have put off all the old sins and have put the new man on! We long for the day when we will be taken from this imperfect body and changed. Our desire now is to be with Him Who first loved us and gave to us His Son as Redeemer. We long to see more clearly the things which Jesus promised those who love Him and do the commandments. But while we are in the flesh we must remember that this flesh has no more hold on us since The Blood of Christ and the working of the Spirit has made us new creatures. Let us put the old ways aside and follow the new.

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