I get excited by a “good deal.” I like big sales on things I “really need” (“need” can be open to interpretation, I know!) I like getting the best exchange rate when making overseas purchases, using credit cards with no annual or transaction fees, and planning for economy and efficiency in travel arrangements.
It may seem crass, but God’s grace in Jesus Christ is the most astounding “deal” in life. John Calvin expressed this best in a powerful quote. But before I share that, I’d like to have a “sidebar” (that’s fancy talk for chasing a rabbit trail) on Calvin.
Calvin usually gets a bad rap for harsh theology and for the dreaded “Puritan work ethic” that squeezed all the fun from life because of the strenuous demands of a stern God.
These unfortunate stereotypes keep most people from giving Calvin a chance to speak to them. A fair and thoughtful reading of Calvin, however, reveals a deep devotion for God that moved beyond, but did not exclude, the best thinking possible.
Calvin’s motto and seal (like a family crest) was a flaming heart on an outstretched hand offered to God (see the stained-glass photo above). Calvin’s personal motto, developed during his time as a fugitive, expressed his commitment: Prompte et Sincere in Opere Domini (translated, “Prompt and sincere in the work of God”).
Calvin’s test for true theology was that it inspired piety, by which he meant genuine reverence joined with love for God. Nothing inspired that passionate piety more than the person and work of Jesus Christ.
He communicated the “amazing deal” we have in Christ in his comments on 2 Corinthians 8:9, where Paul wrote,
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (English Standard Version ESV).
Jesus’ life, death and resurrection made it possible for God to transact a wonderful exchange in our lives. By God’s grace we trade all our “bad stuff” in exchange for the “good stuff” God gives us in Jesus Christ.
John Calvin described the wonderful exchange this way:
“This is the wonderful exchange which out of his measureless benevolence he has made with us; that becoming the Son of Man with us, He has made us children of God with him; that by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us; that by taking on our mortality, he has conferred his immortality upon us; that by accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power; that receiving our poverty unto himself he has transferred his wealth to us; that taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself (which oppressed us), he has clothed us with his righteousness.” [John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book IV, chapter xvii, 2].
I read this passage often to remind myself about the depth and breadth of God’s mercy in Christ.
It helps me to pause and reflect on each phrase. I won’t take time to expand on that now. Let me simply observe that the first three “exchanges” establish our identity and our destiny. Through faith in Christ, we know who we are and where we are going. These are the foundations for the last three exchanges that speak to sustaining us in daily life.
Hope these thoughts light a fire of joy and devotion today—and tomorrow.