–by Dr. Peter Hammond
Article source: JOY! Magazine
Ecclesia Reformata Reformanda Est (The Church, having been Reformed, is still to be Reformed).
- Scripture alone is our ultimate authority on all matters of faith and conduct.
- Christ alone is the Head of the Church, and He is the only mediator between God and man.
- Salvation is by the Grace of God alone, received by faith alone.
- Everything is to be done for the glory of God alone.
These great Reformation principles challenge us to regular and rigorous self-criticism and constant re-evaluation of our personal lives, congregations, missions, families, and society. The general tendency in most churches is to regard the status quo as normative and right. “We have always done it this way” takes on the force of authority. The common practice is frequently lifted above Scripture and popular approval is assumed to have some Divine authority! However, Scripture alone is our final authority for all matters of Faith and conduct.
Challenging the customs
We applaud the reformers for challenging the customs and superstitions of their day in the light of Scripture. Indeed, where in the Bible were we taught to pray for the dead? Venerate angels and saints? Use images? Worship Mary? Believe in the existence of purgatory? Require ministers to be celibate priests? Pray through the rosary? (with ten prayers for Mary for every one Our Father!) Where in the Bible do we read of popes, cardinals, monks, nuns, inquisitions, transubstantiation, and the assumption of Mary or the infallibility of the pope?
The reformers, by championing Scripture alone as our ultimate authority, freed the Church from many unbiblical heresies, superstitious beliefs, and burdensome practices. However, we would be much deceived were we to assume that the Church of today is not similarly in need of Biblical reformation and Spiritual revival. Our beliefs and practices must always be subjected to examination and re-examination in the light of Scripture. Our life, programmes, activities, institutions, publications, and personnel must continually be subjected to evaluation in the light of the Word of God. We need to dare to look at ourselves and our ministries in the mirror of God’s Word, under the searchlight of Scripture.
The church still needs reformation
We dare not allow inertia and stagnation to take root. The Church, having been reformed, is still to be reformed. Reformation is an ongoing, life-long responsibility and duty. Some have regarded the work of reformation as having been complete by adopting the confessions and catechisms of the 16th century reformation movement. However, it is not enough to have the truth in our head, we need to love the truth in our heart and live it in our life.
Head and heart, doctrine and devotion
The motto of reformer John Calvin was: “Promptly and sincerely in the service of my God.” His emblem was a heart aflame in the hand of God. We need doctrinal backbones of steel and we need Holy Spirit fire in our bellies. The truth on fire was the goal of the puritans. Head and heart, doctrine and devotion – in balance, all for the glory of God alone.
Enemies of the reformation
The greatest enemies of the reformation are apathy and complacency. We dare not settle for less than God’s best. God gives the very best to those who leave the choice to Him. As heirs of the reformers we need to build upon the firm foundations laid by faithful men and women of the past. But we are expected to build and progress further. The work of the reformation is not yet complete. Much remains to be done. So much in our homes and hearts, communities and congregations, needs to be transformed by the powerful Word of God. We need to renew our minds by studying the Scriptures. We need to revitalise our devotional lives by praying through the Psalms. We need to restore the prayer meeting to the central place it belongs in the life of the local church. Our congregations need to become houses of prayer for all nations, making disciples, teaching obedience to all things that the Lord has commanded. We need to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, delighting ourselves in the Lord, humbling ourselves, praying, seeking His face, and turning from our wicked ways. We need to rekindle the fires of spiritual zeal by working for Biblical reformation, applying the Lordship of Jesus Christ to all areas of life.
Profess the truth of God’s Word
Our Lord Jesus Christ declared: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word….” – John 14:23. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther: “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition, every portion of the Truth of God’s Word, except precisely that point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, then I’m not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides is mere flight and disgrace – if he flinches at that point.” So what are some of the issues that we need to address today?
THE CHURCH NEEDS A NEW REFORMATION
We want God to bless our countries. But we cannot expect God to bless those who are in rebellion to His Laws. Our societies need reformation and our churches need revival. As in the days of the reformers, today we are facing both internal and external threats. Internally we are facing a renaissance of paganism. Externally we are facing the threat from an aggressive radical Islamic Jihad. Even more seriously, there is a crisis in our churches. Most of our people are ignorant of history, and have a very superficial grasp of Scripture. As a result, many professing Christians are compromising, cowardly, and ineffective. Our churches are filled with weak and worldly, lukewarm and inactive members. The salt has lost its flavour, and the light is being hid under a bushel.
Churches are conforming to the world
With many Christians in defeat and retreat, we are facing a resurgent paganism, a pervasive humanism and an aggressive Islamic radicalism. To counter these threats, we need the faith and boldness of Martin Luther, the courage and conviction of Ulrich Zwingli, the doctrine and devotion of John Calvin, the evangelistic zeal of William Farel, the dedication of William Tyndale, the faithfulness of Heinrich Bullinger, and the steadfastness of John Hus. It would appear that humanism has hijacked many churches. Theistic evolution is uncritically accepted, worldly entertainment and music predominates in all too many youth groups. Antinomianism and egalitarianism are pervasive. All too many churches seem to be more conformed to the world than transformed by the renewing of their minds.
Compromise, cowardice, and corruption are pervasive
Many churches are neutralised by an eschatology of defeat and retreat. Escapism and defeatism have sucked the life out of all too many congregations. Rapture fever and an end-times obsession have so distracted all too many congregations that they are ineffective in fulfilling the Great Commission. What is needed if we are to rescue our churches from worldliness and work for Biblical reformation and Spiritual revival?
Reformations need literature, leadership training, and itinerant evangelists
In this clash of civilisations, the battlegrounds are found in classrooms and on university campuses, in bookshops and market places, in pulpits and parliaments, in homes and hearts. To win our world to Christ we need university professors like John Wycliffe, John Hus, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Theodore Beza, Heinrich Bullinger and Martin Bucer. We need theological seminaries like Luther’s Wittenberg, Calvin’s Academy, Zwingli’s Carolinium, and William of Orange’s Leyden. We need writers like John Wycliffe, John Hus, Martin Luther, William Tyndale, Ulrich Zwingli, William Farel, John Calvin, Heinrich Bullinger, and Thomas Cranmer. We need field workers of the reformation like the Lollards, singing and reading Scripture and preaching the Gospel in the common language, in the market places, highways and byways and from door-to-door. We need creeds like The Augsburg Confession, The Belgic Confession, The 39 Articles, and The Heidelberg Catechism. We need worship manuals like the Genevan Order of Service, Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer and Knox’s Book of Common Order. We need handbooks like Bullinger’s Decades, Cranmer’s Homilies, and Calvin’s Institutes. We need to remove idols, re-emphasise reformed doctrine, revive worship, renew prayer, revitalise our families, restore Biblical economics, reform society, re-establish Christian schools and restrict government to Biblical limits. Reformations need literature, leadership training, and itinerant evangelists.
- Reflect on the state of our churches, families and souls.
- Realise how far we have fallen.
- Remember how the Lord led and spoke to us in the past.
- Recognise the dangers of antinomianism, egalitarianism, secular humanism & worldly music.
- Repent of worldliness and wickedness and do thorough restitution.
- Remove those things that are detestable to God.
- Return to God in repentance, faith and humility.
- Revive the prayer meeting.
- Re-emphasise Reformation doctrines in our preaching and teaching.
- Restore missionary vision and the Bible study as central to our Church life.
- Renew devotion to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all areas of life.
- Resolve to honour the Lord’s Day as a day of rest and worship.
- Re-emphasise the Reformation doctrines.
- Re-orientate our Discipleship programmes.
- Refocus on the Biblical Worldview.
- Recommit all members to regular evangelism.
- Reform our society, applying the Lordship of Christ to all areas of life.
Our families, congregations, and communities need reformation
Our families need reformation. Parents, particularly fathers, need to teach and train their children in the Law of God – both by instruction and by example. Our congregations need reformation, we need to revive the prayer meeting, get back to the Bible, move the congregation away from entertainment to Biblical education, spiritual edification, and enlist every member in fulfilling The Great Commission. Our communities need reformation. We need to clean up our communities and apply the Lordship of Christ to all areas of life.
OUR COUNTRIES NEED REFORMATION
“If My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, I will forgive their sin and I will heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14.
We need to inform, inspire, and involve. We need to motivate and mobilise, we need to educate and enlist. It is essential that we are informed, inspired, and involved in fulfilling the Great Commission, working for reformation and praying for revival, applying the Lordship of Jesus Christ to all areas of life.
We are involved in a world war of worldviews
The battlegrounds include the rewriting of history, the education of the next generation, the entertainment industry, the news media, religious institutions and political institutions, both local and provincial, and national. God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts, His ways are higher that our ways. The reformation set about to restore Biblical principles to all areas of life. This is God’s world, and we need God’s Word to be obeyed in every area of life.
Is your conscience captive to the Word of God?
Is your desire to obey God promptly and sincerely with your whole heart aflame in the hand of God? We need doctrinal steel in our backbones and Holy Spirit fire in our bellies. May the Lord fill us, and empower us, with His Holy Spirit – to be faithful to His Word and effective in His service. May the examples of these reformers inspire us to go back to Bible, to love God wholeheartedly and to fear God alone, to work for Biblical reformation and to pray for spiritual revival. May God find us faithful to His Word and effective in His service as we work for Biblical Reformation and pray for Spiritual revival.
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