Knowledge of God and Self
John Calvin, in the opening lines of Institutes of the Christian Religion, expresses this idea: The knowledge of God and the knowledge of self always go hand in hand. There is no true knowledge of self apart from the knowledge of God.
What he’s pointing out there is that when we don’t have God’s attributes as our reference point, then we’re going to measure ourselves according to wrong measuring sticks. When we want to truly know ourselves, it seems counterintuitive, but the place to start is actually not by looking at ourselves, but by looking at who God is and then drawing the comparisons and conclusions from that.
When you look at the things that are only true about God—his incommunicable attributes—it will teach you things about yourself that you probably didn’t want to acknowledge.
Who We Are In Light of Him
When you look at the things that are only true about God—his incommunicable attributes—it will teach you things about yourself that you probably didn’t want to acknowledge were true in your sinful heart—like the fact that only God has no needs. That’s not true of me. Now, I see myself differently and that to say that I don’t have any needs is to call myself God in a way that is not right.
When you look at the communicable attributes of God and you see that God is infinitely loving, that makes you look at yourself in regard to how loving you are in a different manner. I am loving, sure. But, I’m not infinitely loving. Not only that, there are a lot of areas where the example of the infinite love of God is calling me to a higher standard in my own life of extending love to those who he has placed in my spheres of influence.
As long as I’m only measuring my ability to love others against another human, I’m going to find ways to make myself feel good about how I’m doing. I will probably surround myself with people who are less good at loving their neighbor than I am so that I can feel like this thing is going okay.
That’s why we desperately need a vision of who God is so that we will use right measuring rods, and understand that the thing that we’re called to—while it is infinitely beyond us—is something that is granted to us in increasing measure.
- What Freedom from Sin Looks Like in This Life (Jen Wilkin)
- Sanctification: An Often Painfully Slow Process (Jen Wilkin)
- The Problem with the Self-Help Movement (Jen Wilkin)