Kevin DeYoung wrote a post here marking John Calvin’s 500th birthday today. The thrust of it is not to celebrate Calvin as much as the centrality of God’s Word in his life and thought. DeYoung insists that this is the way to be both relevant and lasting:
God’s promises are sure and his declarations are always right. Opinion polls will come and go. Focus groups can say what they want. Pundits will wax eloquent on everything under the sun. God’s word will still be true. The word is our compass pointing us in the right direction. It’s the North Star, fixed and firm. We may wander and waver, but the word will remain. It’s like a stately evergreen in a field of grass and tulips. The grass will get green. The tulips will have their day. But the evergreen alone will survive the winter. It will not be moved. Humans are weak, failing, and temporal. The word is strong, abiding, eternal.
This is one of the great paradoxes of life. We all want significance. We all want affirmation. We all want to leave a legacy. Some seek significance in work, some in performance, others in stuff, a lot of people in family. Yet, we all have a God-given sense that for all our bluster and bravado we are still grass. But we all want to bloom. So we pour our lives into degrees, and professional advancement, into ministry, and business, and houses, and kids. All the while, knowing deep down that life is fleeting and passing us by and we desperately need to take hold of something that is eternal.
This is the paradox of permanence. The only way our lives will ever touch that which is eternal is to admit that our lives are hopelessly temporal. John Oswalt in his commentary on Isaiah remarked, “If I insist I am permanent, then I become nothing; if I admit that God alone is permanent, then he breathes his permanence on me.” You want a legacy? You want to transcend your own meager existence? Let go of your vain supposed success and grab hold of the word of our God. “This is the one I esteem,” says the Lord, “he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word” (Isa. 66:2).
The truly significant people in this world know that God is everything and they’re nothing. Fads and fashions will rise and fall, but the word will keep on accomplishing its purposes. It will outlast us all. So let our reading, memorizing, catechizing, and preaching be saturated with the word. Let our songs, ministries and mission submit to the word. May all of our theological questions, relationship questions, family questions look to the word. May every new doctrine, new movement, new church, and new book be tested against the word. May all our living and dying be undertaken with the firm conviction that God is true though everyone were a liar (Rom. 3:4).
God’s word is smarter, clearer, truer, and speaks to people’s deepest needs more than you and I ever could. So try thinking a few less original thoughts and people just might find you relevant in 500 years. “A voice say, Cry out. And I said, What shall I cry? All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isa. 40:6-8).