No, this isn’t some bizarre reference to H1N1.
Miss Piggy just happened to be the example that came to mind as I prepared this third and final post on John Piper’s book The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God’s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. (I do admit that coupling Miss Piggy with this book is a bit bizarre. Let’s see how this goes!)
Why Miss Piggy? Well, she is painfully unaware of how self-centered she is: she tries to get what she wants with sweet-talk; she rages when others disagree; she pouts when she doesn’t get her way.
One of the saddest results of the sinful nature is the way it prompts adoration and obsession with self. Call it egocentrism, call it narcissism—whatever you call it, it isn’t pretty. (Not even in Miss Piggy.)
John Calvin (1506–1564) passionately fought against this elevation of self in the life of the Church. His passion for God’s sovereignty built a frame of thought that was dubbed Calvinist and eventually developed into the theological system we know as Calvinism.
Regardless of one’s stance on this doctrine, it cannot be denied that the supremacy of God was Calvin’s one aim (nor can he be faulted for it). It is this part of Calvin that I was pleased to meet in Piper’s book. And it is this part of Calvin that stirs my own heart in affection for God and inspires me to elevate Him above the preservation and advancement of me, myself, and I.
But the grip of self can be rather tricky. We have the propensity to make all of life about self—even when it comes to salvation and redemption by faith alone in Christ alone. How is it possible to twist God’s grace this way? Well, Lesslie Newbigin explains it like this:
Someone could use all the language of evangelical Christianity, and yet the center was fundamentally the self, my need for salvation. And God is auxiliary to that . . . I also saw the quite a lot of evangelical Christianity can easily slip, can become centered in me and my need of salvation, and not in the glory of God. (p. 118)
Ouch! The truth can be so painful.
Calvin saw this preservation of self growing like a weed the Body of the Church too, even among the church leaders. This stinging rebuke went to Cardinal Sadolet: “[Your] zeal for heavenly life [is] a zeal which keeps a man entirely devoted to himself, and does not, even by one expression, arouse him to sanctify the name of God” (p. 119). To which Piper comments: “In other words, even precious truth about eternal life can be so skewed as to displace God as the center and goal.”
Perhaps my relationship with the Almighty Creator God could be tested on that basis:
Am I becoming more devoted to Him over the course of my days and less devoted to myself?
If my faith allows me to continue to live in devotion and elevation of self, what a pitiful and pointless “faith” that would be.
This is the third post in a series on John Piper’s The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God’s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin—the first post was about Augustine and the second on Luther.