Reading Calvin's Institutes has been helpful for my own soul. I have found him to be very pastoral, and everything is connected to how it is used in the encouragement of our faith.
I am an unworthy sinner. I do not deserve God's gracious favor. I deserve to be cast into eternal torment this moment. I do not deserve even the grace that would sustain me through the writing of this post. By God's righteous justice, I should have been stricken dead long ago, and I should have been suffering the fires of Hell for the past 28 years.
That is enough to begin rejoicing. I'm not in Hell right now. God has been immeasurably kind to me in spite of my callous rebellion against His holiness. For 28 long years I have provoked His wrath against me. I have treated His kindness as if it were license to mock Him. I have lied, cheated, stolen, hated, and I have been idolatrous. I can find no reason for God to think me worthy of any of his kindness. Yet He has been kind to me.
He has given me every breath that I breath. He has given me every bit of nourishment that I have ever used to sustain my body. He has placed me in a country where the hostility toward His people is mild. He has given innumerable opportunities to hear His Gospel proclaimed--week after week--year after year--decade after decade. He has given me an inclination to desire to please Him--albeit weak and tainted. He has given me the opportunity to study His Word and His truth at an intensely deep level--though I am uncertain about how much it has changed me--stubborn as I am.
I have never suffered any kind of abuse that is common to many today. I have never gone hungry. Though I have been poor throughout my adult life, I have never gone without the ability to pay my bills--a grace that I certainly do not deserve.
God is good, and He has been good to me. Though I continue to struggle, fail, and despair--I have not lost hope. He has sustained a seed that He planted in me--however small the fruit--it is still fruit.
Yet I do not deny what I stated above: that certain interruptions of faith occasionally occur, according as its weakness is violently buffeted hither and thither; so in the thick darkness of temptations its light is snuffed out. Yet whatever happens, it ceases not its earnest quest for God. --John Calvin. III.II.24
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