Matthew 6:10 – Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
God, Grant Us Reformation
In his book, Hot Tub Religion, J.I. Packer makes this observation,
“…we look at the church of our day and say, ‘We need another reformation.’ But do we know what we are saying? …We are in danger of settling for too narrow a perspective of what reformation is – too narrow a notion of what it was in the past and too narrow a notion of what it will be in the future if God visits us once more.”
Packer asks a good question. Do we indeed know what we are saying when we cry out for reformation? I was awakened to how little I comprehended the word when I began to study what reformation, biblically understood, truly means. I have discovered that this simple word is filled with great meaning. Contained within the word reformation are the ideas of revival, renewal, awakening, restoration, and even overhaul.
As I have considered these words, I have come to realize that the coming of the Kingdom of God was and is a reformation. As our Lord Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God, he brought forth revival and renewal to people’s hearts, minds, and spirits. He awakened them to their great need for the living God. He brought forth restoration where only brokenness existed before. He turned existing ideas about God and humanity upside-down as he revealed God and his good news. He exchanged the temporal perspectives of man for God’s eternal perspective for every sphere of life. Because of this, I have come to see the need for reformation, biblical reformation, in three essential areas of life.
Reformation and the Individual
God uses individuals to touch and transform the church and the world. A.W. Tozer writes,
“It is mere common place to sing or pray, ‘Lord, send a revival, and let it begin with me.’ Where else can a spiritual quickening take place but in the individual life? There is no abstract ‘church’ which can be revivified apart from the men and women who compose it.”
Tozer points out that which should be obvious; that the church and world will not be reformed until faithful men and women begin chasing after God and his ways. Individuals do not have to wait for the church before they can be renewed to newness of life and the things of God. Our own faith must be real and personal before it can be social and corporate. Tozer adds,
“Every prophet, every reformer, every revivalist had to meet God alone before he could help the multitudes. The great leaders who went on to turn thousands to Christ had to begin with God and their own soul. The plain Christian of today must experience personal revival before he can hope to bring renewed spiritual life to his church.”
It is true, or course, Christianity is about community and relationships. No Christian is called to live alone on an island. However, this community is a community of men and women who have been personally and individually touched by the Holy Spirit and brought forth from death to life.
Reformation and the Church
One aspect that unites great leaders from Christian history, such as the Apostle Paul, Martin Luther, and John Wesley, was their prophetic word to the church in their day. Sadly, they were sometimes viewed as John the Baptist – as lone voices crying in the wilderness. However, the Holy Spirit moved through these faithful men to bring about reformation in the church in their day. God is still using people the same way in our day. In my own denomination, the United Methodist Church, I see faithful men and women standing up for the true and living God and his Word. I also see God renewing lives in his church through a variety of renewal groups. And I know it is through the prayer of these men and women that God will bring a mighty reformation to our denomination. This is true for churches in every denomination or no denomination at all. However, we need to be guided by a proper understanding of reformation, so we might know what direction to take, and therefore, what path not to take.
The puritan pastor and writer, Richard Baxter, has helped provide clarity concerning the notion of reformation. In his book, The Reformed Pastor, he showed that the idea of reformation, biblically understood, combines the heart and mind. In other words, we are not experiencing true reformation in the church when only one aspect is emphasized. Baxter points out that there must be inward spiritual renewal as well as outward correction of doctrine in Christ’s church. It does the church little good if she is only emphasizing correct doctrinal adherence and ignoring inward spiritual vitality. So too, a church that cares little for doctrinal faithfulness and only concerns herself with “religious feelings” cannot rightly be called faithful either. Instead, genuine reformation will reflect these two sides of the same coin. J.I. Packer comments,
“The Bible records many striking movements that textbooks usually call reformations. In every case this same two sidedness applies. These movements had an outward aspect; immorality and idolatry were put away. But they also had an inward side; men and women were stirred to seek God and renew their covenant with him.”
This is true reformation experienced in the Bible and in Church history. These two works, the inward and outward works of God, are really one work seen from two points of view. We cannot have one without the other. Prophetic voices must call Christ’s Church back to both emphases if we are going to experience real reformation. Martyn Lloyd-Jones declared that we have no reason to expect God to usher in reformation and revival if we are not being faithful to God in our present situation.
Reformation and the World
The Lord Jesus Christ came to a dark and lost world with the good and transforming news of the Kingdom of God. Individual believers, and the church, are called out of the world to bear witness to the Light of the world. We are called Christ’s ambassadors as we proclaim God’s message of reconciliation. Along with that beautiful, life-transforming message, God calls us to love our neighbors by serving them and standing up for them. We are called to be who we are in Christ – salt and light to a dark and decaying world. We live in the world though we are not of it.
Our faithfulness in our little part of the world will help bring about the reformation God desires. The Kingdom Jesus ushered in and proclaimed was not about slight adjustments here and there. It was about a complete overhaul – in our thinking, speaking, attitudes, values, priorities, beliefs, and behaviors. As God’s will is done in our lives as it is in heaven, God’s Kingdom-influence will be extended to the various spheres of our lives.
So, let us pray that God will bring biblical reformation into our lives for his greater glory and the blessing of our families, churches, workplaces, communities, and world.
Meet with some brothers in Christ to discuss the following questions.
· What areas of your life do you need biblical reformation? Explain each.
· What are you presently doing to grow more faithful in these areas?
· Do you regularly pray for God to bring reformation and revival into your life? Why or why not?
· Watch the video and read the material, “If Men Will Pray.” (Click here for link) Discuss your thoughts with your group.
· For one month, commit to regularly praying for reformation and revival for yourself and your group of men. At the end of the month, discuss what insights the Lord has revealed to you.
John 1:38a - Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?”
What Are You Seeking?
· Where are you going?
· How are you going to get there?
· How will you know when you’re there?
A few of years ago I received a newsletter from Len Sykes. Len is a godly man who mentors, teaches, disciples, coaches, and leads men in the Atlanta area. In his newsletter, Len shared a little about his ministry. I’m always encouraged when he shares what he’s doing, as well as what God is doing through him, because there’s so much I can learn about my own life and ministry.
Len wrote a little about his passion, mission, and vision for his ministry. He said those are the three main areas he encourages his men to focus on. The three questions I listed at the top of this devotional are my paraphrase of what Len is talking about. These are important questions to ask because, as the old saying goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will get you there.” There are a lot of men who have no idea where they’re going and they’re making great time getting there.
These issues of passion, mission, and vision are very important. I think most men want to live for something bigger than themselves. Part of their frustration is they either don’t know what that something is, or they have an idea, but aren't quite sure how to pursue it.
This is the “why” question. What drives you? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? Len says passion is “the emotional/inspirational element of our desire.” It’s that which energizes us.
What’s your passion in the various spheres of your life? For yourself as a man of God? For your family? For your work setting? For your church? For your personal ministry? For your community? What’s that something bigger than you that you want to live your life pursuing in each of those areas?
Len next points out that mission “relates to how we carry out our desires to serve the Lord and his people.” In other words, how are you going to fulfill your passion? How are you going to get there? What’s your plan? Who are those brothers in your life who are going to help you get there?
This last component “relates to what the end result” of your passion and mission will look like. In other words, how will you know you’ve fulfilled your mission (or that you’re making progress in the right direction)? Lots of aimless activity is not the same thing as moving toward your goal. Having a vision of what the goal will look like will help you focus and persevere as you move toward your dream of that “something bigger than yourself.”
My Prayer for You
My prayer for each of you is not only for you to have a passion, mission, and vision, but also for you to spend your life pursuing them as they relate to each sphere of your life – your personal spiritual growth, as a husband, father, employee/employer, church member, neighbor, etc. To be sure, this is a huge undertaking, but can you imagine anything worthier of your time and energy?
My family’s life-verse is 1 Corinthians 10:31, which says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” From the extremely important to the utterly mundane, all of life is to be lived for God’s
glory. My children probably grew tired of hearing this repeated over and over as they were growing up, but hopefully they could cite it to you. More importantly, I pray they are seeking to live it out. This is a key idea behind the phrase, “living life on purpose” or “living intentionally.”
Having a passion, mission, and vision, when pursued according to God’s Word, will help you glorify God in all the spheres of your life. If I can help you discover, develop, and pursue your “something bigger than yourself,” please do not hesitate to let me know. It would be a blessing to travel alongside you as you seek to follow God’s call in your life.
Reflect on the various spheres of your life listed below. Talk with a Christian brother or two about what your passion, mission, and vision for each area looks like now and how it might grow this year.
· Spiritual Growth
· Church Member
· Other Areas
Selected verses from Genesis 22
Abraham was told by God to sacrifice his son – the son of promise – the dear child Abraham and Sarah had waited a century to have. It was this very son, Isaac, whom Abraham was to take to the mountaintop and sacrifice – to kill.
As Abraham and Isaac approached the fateful place, Isaac looked around, saw the fire and wood, but no animal for the offering. “…Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Isaac asked his father.
“Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide…’” And he did. We know the story well. As Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son, the Lord stopped him, and provided a ram to take Isaac’s place. God provided.
The Lord tested Abraham to see if he feared God (vv. 1, 12). A test from God is designed to move you forward in faith. The purpose of Satan’s temptations is to trip you up so you will fall backward. This was a test. And Abraham passed. He was blessed accordingly (verses 15-18). Why the blessing? Because God is gracious and Abraham obeyed God (verse 18).
This is part of our covenantal relationship with God. If we obey God and the conditions of his covenant, God promises blessings (because he graciously sets the terms of the covenant, not because he must). If we disobey, he promises curses. What either of those may look like is not so clear. That God promises to work this way is very clear.
I wonder what blessings God desires to pour out upon us for our faithfulness today. Deeper faith maybe? More influence for the Kingdom perhaps? Greater responsibility? God specifically said Abraham’s descendants would be blessed through his faithfulness. Might our obedience now impact our children and our children’s children later? I believe the answer is “yes” to all those questions.
If God chooses to bless us in material ways, that’s fine. (Of course, we ought to thank God every day for the many “material” blessings we have already received from him.) But shouldn’t the blessings we desire be things like, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is heaven”? And shouldn’t the provisions we hope God will bestow upon us be along the lines of an ever-increasing knowledge of and communion with him, a growing conformity to his likeness, and an ever-expanding influence for his Kingdom?
Abraham was faithful and God blessed him. Where is God calling you to greater faithfulness in your life?
1. Do you agree with this devotion? Do you believe God still operates in this same “blessings and curses” motif in the new covenant? Why or why not? What Scripture might you appeal to?
2. Abraham was told to sacrifice the whole world to him – his beloved son. What form of sacrificial living is God calling you to?
3. What is preventing you from trusting God to provide for you?
4. What obstacles are getting in the way of your obedience to God?
5. What do you need to do to help you faithfully respond to God’s call in your life?
6. What are the kinds of things you normally ask God to bless you with?
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