Monday, July 25, 2016

"Always Reforming"

Next year will mark five hundred years of the Protestant Reformation. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg, Germany. With this document, he sparked the Protestant Reformation, insisting that Scripture alone is the sole guide to faith, and that faith in Christ alone is sufficient for salvation. Since then, new Protestant denominations continue to spring up. Sometimes they do so out of fractious dissent, but other times it’s simply because Christians realize the truth of a statement made by Hans Kung and Karl Barth, “Ecclesia reformata semper reformanda.” In English, that is, “The Church reformed, always reforming.” Thinking Christians realize that faith is not a static thing, and that in order for it to stay relevant to every believer of every generation, it must always be active and reforming.

In 2 Kings 23, young King Josiah brings reform not only his own faith, but the faith of his people. If you find yourself in need of personal revival, maybe it’s a good idea to consider Josiah’s reforms, which began with a revival of scripture. Verse 2[i] says that “he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord.” God’s renewal in your life must get started with a renewed commitment to reading God’s Word.

Next, verse 3 indicates a return to sincerity. “The king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all his heart and all his soul…” Too many people make rash spiritual decisions, and only give God half of their heart or part of their soul. As Josiah determines to give God his whole self, holding nothing back in his commitment to the Lord, renewed Christians need to do the same.

Then, Josiah proceeds to restore the sanctuary that has been defiled by idolatry. Verses 4b-5a say that Josiah commands the priest to “bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels that were made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; and he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel. He did away with the idolatrous priests.” Since the Bible says that YOU are the new temple of God, then it’s clear that spiritual renewal comes with a restoration of physical health. Is there anything that’s unhealthy in your life that you need to get rid of? A habit or behavior that is displeasing to God? Restoring the sanctuary of your body leads to spiritual health.

Part of this involves renewed sexuality. Verse 7 says, “He also broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes which were in the house of the Lord, where the women were weaving hangings for the Asherah.” Both men and women were involved on cult prostitution. Here, the males were prostitutes and the females were in charge of the hangings and other decorations for the temples. Josiah understood that for real spiritual reform, the people needed to renew their commitment to only engaging in the kind of sexuality that pleases God. As you seek God’s renewal, ask God about how you should renew your sexuality.

In verses 13-14, 19-20, Josiah removes strongholds from the land. He tears down altars to foreign gods, not just in the temple, but throughout the country. He puts to death the priests of idols who are corrupting the people. In verse 24, Josiah retires the sorcerers who practice divination and magic. What spiritual strongholds exist in your life, that may be impeding the gift of God’s blessing and grace? How can you tear down the false gods in your life in order to let God’s revival flow?

Finally, verses 21-22 say, “Then the king commanded all the people saying, ‘Celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God as it is written in this book of the covenant.’ Surely such a Passover had not been celebrated from the days of the judges who judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and of the kings of Judah.” Josiah isn’t just re-establishing Passover, but all the Jewish festivals that had fallen by the wayside. He is restoring the seasons to their proper place. Sometimes our lives can get out of whack. Our seasons and rhythms can get out of balance, and need to be restored. If you want spiritual renewal, then maybe it’s time to get back to church, return to your daily quiet time, take a Sabbath rest, and let your rhythms be restored.

Just like Josiah, the reformers of the past five hundred years have known that the church must be reformed, but that it also must be always reforming. When people have rejected God, they need to turn back. And even when things are going well, it’s best to avoid getting into a spiritual rut. On a grand level and on a personal level, the spiritual life means reformation. I pray that you’ll have the courage to create your own 95 Theses, to topple your own idols, and to cleanse the temple that is YOU.

[i] All scriptures taken from the NASB.

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