Thomas Edison said that “restlessness and discontent are the first necessities of progress.” I find myself restless and discontent with the obvious decline of the true Christian religion as it is defined by the Word of God. My restless and discontent soul drives me to ask myself the question: Martin, do you have a vision and hope for reformation in the church?
If you think I have a passion for reformation, then I’m guilty. My passion is not for the return of the 16th century Reformation or the return of the “good ole days” (which were not good at all). My passion is for reformation with a little “r.” Our 16th century Reformation forefathers were not satisfied with the Reformation, they wanted reformation. They understood the biblical concept of reformation which demands the recovery or discovery of biblical truth. The recovery of the law and gospel is the foundation for reformation in the church. The Reformation fathers were God’s instruments to recover the truth in the whole counsel of God. They saw reformation as an indicative in the present tense and in the passive voice. It was a matter of fact” they were being reformed.” They were active participants, but they were being acted upon by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
This brings us to a point of self-examination. Are we being reformed by the Word of God through the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit or do we try to reform the Word of God according the power of darkness? The evidence indicates a strong move among reformed and evangelical churches toward reforming the Word of God rather than being reformed by it.
The cause of the epidemic abuse cannot be easily traced to any particular discipline or lack thereof. However, there are several foundational philosophical dynamics at work. When the 16th century Reformation began, the parochialism of Rome was replaced by evangelicalism which is truly universal. While the church was liberated from parochialism, there was the sacrifice of unity for diversity. Although diversity is not sinful in essence, it affords the opportunity for the birth and nurture for private agendas and ultimately individualism.
The cultural milieu has been and still is in the process of change. The light of modernity begins to fade as postmodern thinkers begin to emerge. Orthodox belief systems are being challenged. Historical Revisionism and deconstructionism have trickled down from the intellectual elites to the rest of us. Theology has been replaced with religion. Intellectual pursuit has been replaced with the “dumbing down of Christians.” Sacrifice has been replaced by prosperity seekers. Tradition has been replaced by the contemporary. Tradition may become sin, but it is not essentially and necessarily sinful. Tradition is important to provide stability to an orthodox belief system.
Christians rightly ask, “What’s the solution?” The solution is a process called reformation. The Word of God rather than our preferences must be the basis of our belief system. Confessional standards must be maintained with integrity and dignity. A passion for truth must find a place of honor at the debate table. The aggregate of these principles equals reformation in the church.
What we believe, what we know, and what we practice will set the agenda for reformation in the church. On the other hand corruption and a continuing descent away from biblical truth will steal away the hope and vision for reformation. It is my hope and vision that pastors, theologians, and laymen will find a passion for reformation in their individual soul. The expression of that passion will be the seed for revival in the church.
The mandate to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth is abundantly clear in Scripture. However, in recent church history men have devised many pragmatic schemes to “win the lost.” The side show mentality has found its way into the church with astounding success and with it a plan for people to make a decision for Christ. Now I ask you, with all the evangelistic success over the past 100 years, why is the church so sick? The answer is simple. The powers to be in the church failed to teach reformation principles, thus they forgot to recover the truth of the law and gospel. The gospel went forth without the law. A sinner cannot appreciate the gospel without the law preceding the gospel. An appreciation of God’s grace can be seen only in the light of God’s wrath. Remove God’s wrath and the gospel is worthless. The hope and vision for reformation will give the church hope and vision for making disciples and a new order for personal Christian growth.
It is time for reforming reformers to step forward and tell the local church that the church must be reformed by the Word of God. You may be the one person who will inspire the congregation with the spirit of reformation. It is my prayer that your hope and vision for the church is reformation.