Reformed theology magnifies God. I’m convinced of it. Last year in school I read parts of John Calvin’s Institutes in Christian Religion. While I don’t agree completely with every single thing Calvin believed, I’ve been so blessed to learn from this 16th century reformer. The reason I believe reformed theology magnifies God is because it reveals that without Him we would be swallowed up in the depth of our sins, unable to escape. When we begin to take that away by saying that man has some good in him with the ability to choose God, we lose that overwhelming gratefulness for all that God has done. Calvin explained it this way:
“Men indeed ought to be taught that God’s loving-kindness is set forth to all who seek it, without exception. But since it is those on whom heavenly grace has breathed who at length begin to seek after it, they should not claim for themselves the slightest part of His praise. It is obviously the privilege of the elect that, regenerated through the Spirit of God, they are moved and governed by His leading.”
Because God is the one who begins and works the process of salvation, HE is the only one who deserves the praise—we cannot claim any of it for ourselves as Calvin stated. God does not save us because He foresees anything good in us though, it is nothing righteous we have done! With this understanding we begin to realize that we should not complain about any type of suffering we face in this life, because we deserve nothing but death and the wrath of God.
“For if it had not been clearly stated that the wrath and vengeance of God and eternal death rested upon us, we would scarcely have recognized how miserable we would have been without God’s mercy, and we would have underestimated the benefit of liberation.”
To say that we deserve better reveals that we believe we have done something to merit favor. However, for an unbeliever, even the “good” things we do are sinful and wicked in God’s sight because they are done with selfish motives.
“As long as we do not look beyond the earth, being quite content with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, we flatter ourselves most sweetly, and fancy ourselves all but demigods. Suppose we but once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and to ponder His nature, and how completely perfect are His righteousness, wisdom, and power—the straightedge to which we must be shaped. Then, what masquerading earlier as righteousness was pleasing in us will soon grow filthy in its consummate wickedness. What wonderfully impressed us under the name of wisdom will stink in its very foolishness. What wore the face of power will prove itself the most miserable weakness. That is, what in us seems perfection itself corresponds ill to the purity of God.”
What an amazing thought. What we claim to be "righteousness" compared to God’s complete and perfect holiness is nothing but filthy rags. And yet God loves us and draws us to Himself to save, justify and sanctify us. What a blessed thought!
*quotes all taken from Institutes in Christian Religion