I first began reading John Calvin while I was in seminary - mostly reading excerpts from his "Institutes of Christian Religion." Today, while in my study - I pulled it off the shelf again and began to read Chapter 1 of the first book of his Institutes. There I found a great answer to a very common contemporary question, "How am I to get know who I am?" His first "Book" in the Institutes is all about our knowledge of God. The first chapter is entitled, "The Knowledge of God and of Ourselves Mutually Connected. Nature of the Connection." (Great title!) There Calvin does not lead us to subjective answers to this question but instead calls us to meditate on the "face of God." (Now, if you haven't read it...the whole nature of this post will be for you to spend sometime reading him and meditating on the truths of just his first chapter).
Calvin calls us to meditate on God and when we do so - we find much about ourselves. Not that as we look into the "face of God" through the lens of Scripture that we somehow see ourselves as though looking into a mirror. No - but through looking upon His greatness, His majesty, His power, His holiness, His beauty, etc. we then are enabled to be humbled to begin on the pathway of "getting to know ourselves." He writes:
"For, since we are all naturally prone to hypocrisy, any empty semblance of righteousness is quite enough to satisfy us instead of righteousness itself. And since nothing appears within us or around us that is not tainted with very great impurity, so long as we keep our mind within the confines of human pollution, anything which is in some small degree less defiled delights us as if it were most pure: just as an eye, to which nothing but black had been previously presented, deems an object of a whitish, or even of a brownish hue, to be perfectly white...So long as we do not look beyond the earth, we are quite pleased with our own righteousness, wisdom and virtue; we address ourselves in the most flattering terms, and seem only less than demigods."
This is why I love John Calvin, because he loves the "Greatness of God." Oh friend - in all our searching - may our hearts ache for the knowledge of God! May I ache for the knowledge of the Holy beyond knowledge of myself! And when we learn of the holy - I am driven to look for a Substitute and there at the Cross is mine! The One Who "got to know us" - by being made one of us - the Perfect Man - Jesus Christ! May we spend our days as we "know ourselves" finding ourselves running to the Cross - and there by the work of the Spirit, we are made to know ourselves changing into His likeness! Too often - I have a high view of myself and a low view of God. Oh what a day that will be when we see "true white" - - and rejoice in His purity, unlike anything we could ever imagine! For now, we only see particular "hues" - but all by grace we will see Him - we will then know Him.
I will end this post with this quote: "Though the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves are bound together by a mutual tie, due arrangement requires that we treat the former in the first place and then descend to the latter." May we treat "the former" - God in the first place and then - and only then descend to the latter!