What’s a new Reformation look like? Restore the Word of God back to its rightful placeNovember 9, 2017
During the Protestant Reformation, 500 years ago, a saying developed that when translated to English reads, “Reformed and always being reformed, according to the Word of God.” By that the Reformers were declaring the Church is a living, dynamic body that continually changes. But they were clear those changes had parameters: notably, the Word of God. In the past 100 years in mainline denominations, the criterion of “according to the Word of God” has been dropped, creating reformations according to the ever-changing preferences of prevailing opinion.
When humanity becomes the standard of judgment, it is not only the Church that suffers, but the world. The Church has a rightful calling and it is not the temporal self-fulfillment nor sexual liberation of those who would see themselves as members of it. The Church is the Bride and the Body of Christ. She is not “ours” so much as she is His. God calls together and sends forth the Church to be a living demonstration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ so others might come to know Him and be saved. Everything else – yes, everything else, is secondary.
Biblical illiteracy creates theological confusion
A comprehensive study released in 2016 by LifeWay/Ligonier about the state of theology in America reveals the nation is not only biblically illiterate, but theologically confused. There are many findings in the study, which demonstrate how comfortable Americans are with religious beliefs that are not only incompatible, but contradictory.
For instance, 58% of Americans say God is the author of the Bible but 51% also say is open to each person’s interpretation as he or she chooses.
Let’s consider that for a moment. If what the Bible says is “open to each person’s interpretation as he or she chooses” then the Bible could mean anything. If the Bible can mean anything then the Bible means nothing because it is no longer an intentional communication of God to Man.
When it comes to the conversation about the Bible’s application to life, suffice it to say the research also reveals a deeply disintegrated worldview when it comes to sin.
61% of Americans believe God is concerned about our day to day decisions, and 65% believe God has authority over all people because He created human beings. But then only 50% believe the Bible (which 58% believe is God’s word) has the authority to tell us what we must do.
Restoring the rightful place of the Word of God
The solution is a restoration of the Word of God to its rightful place in the life of the Church (read: every believer) in order that the Church can rightfully influence the culture. Kingdom people living by Kingdom principles in the midst of the kingdoms of this world. Here’s three simple steps to keep in mind:
- Receive the Word of God for what it really is: the word of God. I Thessalonians 2:13 reveals this first step in an honest engagement with God. If you’re not willing to be honest and deal honestly with God, the communication ends with your rejection of His self-revelation. This involves reverence: we do not receive the Word of God in order to manipulate it for our purposes, but to honor God and His purpose in giving it.
- Respond to the Word of God for who He really is. This is repentance and followership. If Jesus really is who the Bible says He is then that changes everything because Jesus changes everything. Rightly responding to Jesus as Lord brings about a full reorientation of the thoughts of the mind, the affections of the heart, and the priorities of life.
- Represent the Word of God in ways consistent with its content and character. This is done through the moment by moment living of a transformed life in the midst of the real world. This is also the ambassadorial or ministerial nature of the Christian faith. In order to rightly represent the Word there must be a valid interpretation of what God has actually said and then integrity to that interpretation in our lives and life together. Jesus didn’t come as the Word of God incarnate to make us pious, but in order that we might be restored to right and righteous relationship to the Father. Any preacher pandering to the itchy ears or personal proclivities of contemporary culture is misrepresenting the Word’s content and character and should be called out.
Reformation, individual and cultural, requires the admission that we are deformed and transformation comes not only through information but through conformation to the Word of God.
The Scriptures are formative, informative, restorative, and can be transformative. But we have to make rightful use of them in order for their power to be realized. As the Bible says, we must be doers of the Word and not hearers only. But what does that mean?
The interpretation of the Bible is a matter of seemingly endless debate. But it comes down to this: either God has spoken or He has not. If God has spoken, then what God says matters more than anything we feel, imagine or desire. If God has not spoken then a very great lie has been perpetrated and perpetuated for thousands of years.
Accepting that God is real and He has spoken puts us in a reciprocal relationship with Him. Accepting the Bible as the inspired inerrant Word of God requires us to respond. That response is in the context of a relationship with God in which we grow in our understanding and ability to apply what God has said. Desiring to glorify Him and cause God joy becomes our life’s pursuit and our heart’s desire.
This is an excerpt from Speak the Truth: How to Bring God Back Into Every Conversation, published by Regnery Faith. Order your copy today.