“[We are] … waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” - Titus 2:13-14
Institutes Book 3, Chapter 7, Section 3, Part b
“But, nothing is more difficult than, having said farewell to the reason of the flesh and having bridled our desires- no, having put them away – nothing is harder than to devote ourselves to God and our brothers, and to meditate, amid earth’s filth upon the life of the angels. Consequently, Paul, in order to extricate our minds from all snares, recalls us to the hope of blessed immortality, reminding us that we strive not in vain. For, as Christ our Redeemer once appeared (Titus 2:11), so in his final coming he will show the fruit of the salvation brought forth by him. (Titus 2:12) In this way he scatters all the allurements that becloud us and prevent us from aspiring as we ought to heavenly glory.” (3.7.3.b)
It comforts me to know that John Calvin thinks that the Christian life is hard. “Nothing is more difficult”, he writes, ‘than to devote ourselves to God and our brothers.” In order to live the Christian life we need more than the promise of past grace, we also need the promise of future grace. We not only need to rest in the grace which was given to us through the life and ministry of Jesus, but we need to hold onto the promise of what will happen in the future.
In seminary, my professor for Christian education would often emphasize that the two chief motivations for the Christian life are “justification” and “glorification.” It is hard to continue to devote ourselves to God and to others. Our Christian life needs to be propelled forward by the knowledge of God’s gracious acceptance. We are declared righteous – "justified". We are brought into God’s family and called his children – "adopted". These truths propel us forward. But the hope of the return of Jesus and the grace that will be revealed in the future pulls our Christian life forward. We will be made perfect in our enjoyment of God for all eternity – we will be glorified. This our “blessed hope.”
Calvin says that this blessed hope “reminds us that our striving is not in vain.” It is a necessary motivation for enduring the hardship of the Christian life, but one that is frequently under-emphasized in modern western Christianity. Perhaps it feels embarrassing to talk about heavenly glory. Perhaps we have bought into the secular assumption that the only thing that matters is the present moment. Whatever the reason, reading old books like this one can help us to gain perspective on the ways in which our modern expression of Christianity may be distorted.
Does the "blessed hope" of the return of Christ affect the way that you think and live? (Matt)