Albert Einstein once said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”
John Calvin spent a lifetime working to help others see the beauty of the glory of God as it is revealed in the Scriptures. He was born in Noyon, France on July 10, 1509. This was the same time that God was stirring in the heart of Martin Luther while lecturing on Romans, Galatians, and the Psalms at the age of 25. Of all the reformers we have looked at through this series, John Calvin is the youngest. When he was 14 years old, Calvin’s father sent him to study theology at the University of Paris when France was still untouched by the Reformation and Martin Luther was in hiding while translating the Bible into German.
When Calvin was 23 years old, he began to be introduced to the main tenants of the Reformation. Sometime in November 1533 when Calvin was only 24 years old, his close friend, Nicholas Cop, preached a sermon at the University of Paris that Calvin most likely helped write. Parliament accused Nicholas Cop of “Lutheren-like doctrines” of which King Francis called “the cursed Lutheran sect.” Calvin and Cop were forced to escape France, and eventually ended up in Switzerland where he wrote his most influential book: The Institutes of the Christian Religion.
Although the Reformation made its way into Calvin’s life and world, it was Calvin’s exposure to the majesty and glory of God, as it is revealed in and throughout the Bible that profoundly affected him. While in Switzerland, Calvin met Idelette and married her shortly after her husband died on September 13, 1541. Idelette had a son and a daughter that she brought into her marriage with Calvin; nearly a year after their marriage, they had their first son who died two weeks after his birth. Calvin said of the death of his son: “The Lord has certainly inflicted a severe and bitter wound in the death of our baby son.” They had two more children who also died shortly after their birth.
Then, on March 29, 1549, John Calvin suffered the greatest of loss in his life when Idelette died of tuberculosis; he wrote of his wife’s death: “I have been bereaved of the best companion of my life, of one who, had it been so ordained, would have willingly shared not only my poverty but even my death” (they were only married for 9 years; Calvin never remarried).
What Calvin did with the years he had left was serve the people of the church he pastored; and by doing so, he served the universal Church. During his 23 year tenure as a pastor is Basil, Switzerland, Calvin filled his days by preaching just about every day, lectured three times a week on theology, and authored numerous books that included commentaries on almost the entire Bible.
Above anything else, Calvin was an expositor of the word of God, especially in his preaching; which he believed was the best way he could serve the Church. During his years as a pastor he spent five years preaching in the book of Acts. He preached 46 sermons on 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 186 sermons on 1 and 2 Corinthians, 43 sermons on Galatians, 159 sermons on Job, 200 sermons on Deuteronomy, 353 sermons on Isaiah, 123 sermons on Genesis, and started a series of sermons on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John but got sick and died before he could finish in May 1564.
There are two universal truths that run through the pages of scripture that serve as a universal theme that I want to turn your attention to with the time we have left:
- God is the center of the universe
- You are not the center of God’s universe.
God is the Center of the Universe
Before we can even begin, it is important to understand what God’s glory really means, so here is a definition for you: “It is, among other things, His incomprehensible love, His infinite hatred of evil expressed in His wrath, His tender mercy, His amazing grace, His love of justice, His boundless wisdom, and His iridescent holiness.” God’s glory is all that makes Him who He is put on display for all to see.
When you read a scripture passage like Isaiah 48:9-11, it almost sounds like God is a bit selfish: “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you…. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.”
Isaiah 48 is not the only place that talks about God’s glory:
1 Chronicles 16:27-28. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be held in awe above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place. Ascribe to the Lord, O clans of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him!
Psalm 113:1-4. Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD! Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised! The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens!
Habakkuk 2:14. For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
A.W. Tozer was one of those rare pastors…. of the many books written by Tozer, his most popular is titled, The Knowledge of the Holy, and in it, he wrote the following about the glory of God:
Since He [God] is the Being supreme over all, it follows that God cannot be elevated. Nothing is above Him, nothing beyond Him. Any motion in His direction is elevation for the creature; away from Him, descent. He holds His position out of Himself and by leave of none. As no one can promote Him, so no one can degrade Him. It is written that He upholds all things by the word of His power. How can He be raised or supported by the things He upholds?
Trying to wrap our minds around who God is resembles the little boy who was playing on the seashore in the sand… He made a big pit in the ground. He took a scoop and scooped some water from the ocean and poured it into the pit. He kept pouring water from the ocean into the pit. An elderly man was observing the little boy from a distance. He was rather curious about the actions of the little boy, so he came up to him and asked, “Hello little boy what are you trying to do by going back and forth from the ocean and pouring water into the pit?” The little boy said very enthusiastically, ” SIR!!! Can’t you see!!! I am emptying the ocean!!!
Moses asked the right question in relation to the glory of God in Exodus 15:11, “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?”
My point is simply this:
- If God is the greatest and best reality above everything that exists, then don’t you think that for Him to live for anything or person other than Himself would be ridiculous?
- In other words, if God is God, then to exult any person or thing above himself would not only make him an idolater, but it would prove that he was never God in the first place.
You are Not the Center of God’s Universe
What reformers like Luther, Tyndale, Latimer, Riddley, Cranmer, and John Calvin, and so many other reformers of the Church got right: From Genesis to Revelation, and from the dawn of creation to its eventual consummation, all creation exists to know and enjoy the God who created it.
Let me say it another way: “We are not the center of God’s universe; God is the center of God’s universe, and that is a really good thing. Let me try to help you understand why what I just said is not horrible, but great news!
Any artists who writes music, paints, or sculps, creates out of a desire to make something beautiful to be enjoyed by both themselves and others. Art is not meant to be an exact replica of the artist, but an expression of themselves. This is also true of God with his creation.
If God is indeed God, and he really created everything, and there is nothing better than himself, then it is impossible to experience any greater joy, greater pleasure, greater beauty, or greater love within all of his creation then the joy, pleasure, beauty, and love that can be found in him. In fact, the most loving thing God ever did for you and for me was that he created mankind in his image… for his Glory and our joy.
This is why the apostle Paul wrote such bold statements in the Bible like Romans 11:33-36,
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33–36, ESV)
So, when we read in the Bible, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…” and the final and best part of his creation took place on the sixth day when God said: “Let us make man in our image after our likeness…” We are told that, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:1, 26-27). God creating mankind so that we can worship, know, and enjoy him.
Mother Teresa once reflected about herself, “No one thinks of the pen while reading the letter. They only want to know the mind of the person who wrote the letter. That’s exactly what I am in God’s hand—a little pencil.”
Our purpose in life is that we exist for God. Every detail of your being… is designed to know and enjoy him as you enjoy the good things he created for his glory and your good. The problem is that from the moment from birth, we are born alienated and separated from the relationship all of humanity was designed to have.
The Bible provides us the answer and the solution to our problem and reveals for us what our purpose really is: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1–3).
The solution was to reconcile lost sinners like you to himself by having some qualified to atone for the sins we are all guilty of; that someone was God’s own son. The way to have your sins forgiven is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
Why did God choose to do it this way? For his own glory alone. The five pillars of those who protested the Roman Catholic Church were simple:
- Scripture Alone: The Bible alone is the World of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
- Grace Alone: Salvation is a gift from God and not something that can be earned by our deeds.
- Faith Alone: The forgiveness of our sins can only be received by faith in Jesus Christ alone.
- Christ Alone: Jesus alone died and rose on the third day for the forgiveness of our sins and the salvation of our souls.
- To the Glory of God Alone: God is the center of God’s universe; we exist for the glory of God, which is for our good.
When Martin Luther protested against the Church of his day, he did so because the Church replaced God as the center with religion; John Calvin made it his life mission to show that the great theme in the Bible is not mankind, but the glory of God.
The reason the fifth and final tenant of the protestant reformation ends with, “To the glory of God alone” is because that is the universal theme of the Scriptures and why it is that we live and breathe.
Some think that John Calvin is best known for a certain brand of theology known as Calvinism as it is expressed in what is known as the Doctrines of Grace:
- Total Depravity
- Unconditional Election
- Limited Atonement
- Irresistible Grace
- Perseverance of the Saints
What compelled Calvin to a lifetime of teaching and preaching the Bible was really the glory and majesty of God as the universal theme of all the Bible as the Word of God. In one of Calvin’s sermon on Deuteronomy, he challenged any person called to teach and preach with the following words:
Let the pastors boldly dare all things by the word of God. . . . Let them constrain all the power, glory, and excellence of the world to give place to and to obey the divine majesty of this word. Let them enjoin everyone by it, from the highest to the lowest. Let them edify the body of Christ. Let them devastate Satan’s reign. Let them pasture the sheep, kill the wolves, instruct and exhort the rebellious. Let them bind and loose thunder and lightning, if necessary, but let them do all according to the word of God.
This is what I feel deeply as your pastor my dear brothers and sisters. The best thing I can give you is the God of the Bible in all that I do. The way that you can have a relationship with God according to the Scriptures alone is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. It is for the glory of God that we exist. So, my question to you is simply this: who is at the center of your universe? You will never know the kind of joy and satisfaction you were born to know unless God is the center of your universe. The only way to make God the center of the universe is believe and trust that salvation in by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Amen.
 John Piper. The Legacy of Sovereign Joy (Wheaton, IL: Crossway; 2000), p. 132.
 Ibid., p. 132.
 A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1961), 40.
 Ibid., 140-41.