Series of Sermons for the Reformation Season - Part 3
delivered at Grace Presbyterian Church, October 25, 1998

The Reformed Believer's Life
by Bob Burridge 1998

Romans 12:1-2

Today is what we call "Reformation Sunday"
481 years ago, in 1517, the people of Europe were preparing for All Saints Day on November 1. People were converging on the major cities to attend the churches so they could receive special blessings by looking on the relics, attending Mass, and by doing various kinds of penance. There was a special sale of indulgences which could be purchased excusing the buyer from various kinds of sins. Those superstitions had come to dominate the church.

It greatly troubled a monk in the German university city of Wittenberg. On the eve of all saints day he posted 95 theses for debate on the public bulletin board on the door of the castle church. In those 95 statements he challenged the church to debate its teachings and to question the biblical foundation for some of its beliefs and practices.

Today we look back on that event of October 31st as the beginning of the Reformation. Little did Martin Luther know as he posted his topics, that he was about to step into history as one of its most influential people. The Sunday before October 31st is a good time to remind ourselves about the principles that changed not only the church, but shaped the whole course of Western civilization.

This is the third sermon in a series directed to help us define the Reformed Believer. The most basic principle of Reformation is that ...

we should work to re-shape, or "re-form" our beliefs and practices
so that they fit the form presented to us by God in the Bible.

To the Reformed Believer, the Bible is God's absolute word and his only standard. By it he must judge everything he believes and practices.

When the Bible is allowed to speak for itself, and any other assumptions or principles are removed, a very different set of beliefs, and a unique style of living emerges.

One of the central differences is that the Reformed Believer will have a different view of God.

God is shown in Scripture to be Sovereign, Personal and Omnipotent.

He rules over all he has made, and moves all things toward his decreed ends.

This includes the redemption of his people on the basis of the work of Christ alone. This means that our faith and understanding don't come from our own reason or experiences. They come by grace, as divine gifts, based on nothing but the good pleasure of God. All our blessings, our trust in Christ, our conviction of sin, our spiritual understandings, even the basic dispositions that concern us about good and God, are blessings of grace alone. They ought to humble us before God and drive us to grateful worship and service.

When applied to the different areas of life ... the Reformed Believer will see the whole world, and his place in it, differently. The Bible gives us a world-view that is unlike any other. Everything is seen as being as made and ordered for the glory of this sovereign, all-powerful and personal God.

The Book of Romans presents a thorough summary of the Christian faith. In it Paul shows our lost condition, and how salvation is purely a work of God's grace alone. When the Holy Spirit, by means of the gospel, makes a dead soul alive -- evidence is produced. He repents of his sin, trusts in the work of Christ that pays for his sin, and he becomes sincerely concerned to live obediently as one with a soul that is spiritually alive.

Then in chapter 12 Paul shows that ...
Salvation ought to produce visible changes in our lives.
1 I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

What he is saying here is ... based upon our gratitude for the merciful sovereign grace of God, we have two duties to perform.

1. We ought to present our bodies as a sacrifice of reasonable worship
(Romans 12:1)
The word service he uses here is connected with worship (as the NASB shows). Its a worship of the reason, the mind, the human spirit: rather than of physical sacrifices.

The Old Testament service of worship was centered in the blood sacrifices. The death of the animals and all the rituals God commanded to Israel were for one purpose: They pointed to and illustrated the coming work of the Messiah.

But after Jesus completed the promises represented by the sacrifices, a new order was established: Instead of bringing sacrifices to the altar ... God's people are set free from those old forms to serve a living Savior.

Therefore, those who are redeemed, ought to live as ones delivered by the mercies of God. The Believer's job is to present his body as a living and holy sacrifice.

By sacrifice Paul doesn't mean that we have to suffer in our bodies to pay for our sins. That was one of the errors Martin Luther had identified in the church in 481 years ago. Even today some still think that we need to pay penance for our sins, or give up things to satisfy the justice of God for our offences.

But the Bible has a different message entirely: No human suffering can satisfy God's justice. though a person spend eternity in the pains of hell, the offense to God's justice of even one sin will be no closer to being paid.

That's what Jesus came to do in our place. Its what the ancient animal sacrifices represented.

Only the death of the perfect Savior, for those he came to represent, could justify a person so that his fellowship with God can be restored.

Out of gratitude for that mercy, the Christian's entire life
ought to be a living and holy testimony
displaying the wonderful work of that salvation
to the worship and praise of God.

When we are redeemed by Christ, we become the special possessions of God.
1 Corintians 6:19-20 "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body."

We are to live in view of this enlightened understanding of the work of Messiah.

This brings us to the second related duty ...
2. We ought to be transformed from world-mindedness, into living by the will of God.
Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

The expression "This world" is an idiom that meant "this present age." It has to do with this era before the perfection God will one day bring to the world. This is a time of history where the corrosion of sin still effects the attitudes, values, goals, practices and customs.

The Apostle John explained ...
1 Jn 2:17 And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.

Paul is commanding that we stop allowing ourselves to be fashioned to this age. We are not to copy the behaviors and attitudes that are not modeled after God's ways. The root word used here for being conformed is, sxhma. From it we get our world "scheme." We should not get our scheme, plan, or model for living from the one that surrounds us.

Instead we ought to be transformed. The Greek term here is, metamorphour. It means to change the form of something. We could translate this "be reformed". That's exactly what being a Reformed Believer means. Our minds must be formed back around the form God presents for us in Scripture.

The goal of the change is to demonstrate the good, acceptable and perfect will of God. That will of God is not to be found in dreams, visions, feelings, voices. Now that the Apostles have laid the foundation for the church in giving us a completed Bible, we look only there, to the written word of God, to discover the divine will.

In writing to the Ephesians, Paul warned the believers not to be deceived by the words of the world. He said that we should "not be partakers with them" (5:7) Instead, in Ephesians 5:10, he says we must be "trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord."

This transformation ought to touch every area of the Reformed Believer's life.
The Bible must set the boundaries, and give us the principles that guide us in all we do. It presents us with an accurate and helpful model to follow in ordering ... our private lives, our homes, our church, our places of work, and our society as a whole.

1. The Reformed Believer's PRIVATE LIFE is ordered according to God's word.
There is a secret part of our life that no one else sees. Its the inner motives behind our decisions, our inner thoughts, our inner attitudes about life itself. This secret life is shown in how we live when no one else sees us. Its what we think and do away from the watching eyes of others.

The Reformed Believer understands that he needs to shape his own heart around God's word. He knows that God is honored by what proceeds out of the heart, not by what we appear to do and believe.

He doesn't want what others see in him to be just an act. He wants to live without having to keep up an artificial show. To him integrity, honesty and openness are not things to pretend for personal gain. They are the substance of inner peace and consistent living.

To the world we live in, of which we would be a part if it was not for God's grace, honesty, truth and sincerity are impressions people get, not real things. The unbeliever turns hypocrisy into a principle for living. To him false witness, perjury, lies and well timed displays of contrived tenderness are justifiable tools to manipulate people and circumstances for his own benefit.

But the Reformed Believer knows from the Bible, that his soul needs inner feeding. He reads God's word every day. He reads it not as a mindless exercise, but to really learn what it says.

He thinks a lot about what he learns from the Bible, to understand how it effects his beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.

He prays to God many times during the day to confess his faults, to ask for strength, and to thanks God for the forgiveness that is his in Christ. And he prays that what he learns will change him.

And he plans how he can change his life by fitting it to the form in God's word. He might plan a personal schedule, set reasonable goals, formulate plans for how he will respond to various temptations as they come.

The private life of the Reformed Believer is one that seeks first the kingdom of God.

2. The Reformed Believer's FAMILY should be ordered by God's word.
The family in our modern era is losing its definition, its duty and its devotion. Marriage is seen as merely optional. Children are often disposed of as an inconvenience. Physical abuses and cruelty make some homes a dreaded place to be. Divorce is 5 times more common than having your appendix taken out. For many today, family remains only as a voluntary relationship of convenience, or as an unavoidable consequence of a romantic wedding.

But when we model our home after the form given in Scripture, something different appears. God tells us that when we get married, a man and a woman become one flesh in his eyes. The husband must learn to be a loving leader: making decisions not for his own benefit, but for the spiritual benefit of his wife and children.

The wife must learn to be a wise and loving helper to her husband: respecting her husband's duty to lead the home, but not silent when she has an idea, or when she believes God is not being honored.

When children come, Parents should raise them with tenderness, encouragement & loving discipline. They should take the full responsibility for their children's education and oversee it. They should make sure children learn to worship, and see a good example of Christian service. Children must honor their parents and obey their godly rules and advice.

Only then does a home become the refuge from the turmoil of the world God says it can be.

3. The Reformed CHURCH will be ordered by God's word.
The idea of church has a very different meaning for the mind not subjected to God's word. Some have re-organized by what works in business, rather than by the order given in God's word. Worship has been turned into celebration and entertainment.

Instead of doing what God tells us to do in worship, new elements are brought in. Instead of songs that humble us before a holy God, there is music to make us feel happy. Instead of the expounding of God's word by the elders and pastors, there are dramas, mimes, puppet shows, movie clips, ballet performances and group hugs. No one condemns any of these things. In themselves they are very good things. But they are not part of biblical worship!

Instead of leading and supporting families and the community, the church had been gutted. Taxes take money the church used to get to care bountifully for its sick, aged and needy. Culture entices members to squander the tithe in their own ways rather than the elders distributing it in ways that promote the kingdom of Christ. Television, clubs, laziness and economic pressures have crowded our schedules leaving little time for worship, attending Bible studies or seeking pastoral advice. The church has been institutionalized into more a cultural provider of entertainment, a replacement for personal evangelism, and substitute for family Bible times with children.

When the biblical form for the church is restored, re-formed around its biblical pattern, the church becomes the body of Christ in the way by which God says he is honored.

4. A Reformed Believer views his WORK as God presents it in his word.
The world has lost the idea that our work to provide for our needs is a "vocation." The word "vocation" means "a calling."

Instead of seeking what God provides for us to do to earn our provisions, people look for ways to become wealthy, for work that would be entertaining, or for ways to get what is wanted without really having to do much.

This has led to an oppressive workplace where: owners and managers try to get the most they can out of their workers for a little cost as possible. workers try to get as much for as little work as they can.

Greed and love of ease has replaced the concept of "vocation" and lost its blessing.

The biblical form of labor and service is very different. But unless the workers and managers conform to the biblical model, the workplace will fall far short of what it ought to be.

5. A Reformed SOCIETY would be ordered by the principles in God's word.
Our communities, states and nation have abandoned God's pattern for government & culture. Now self interests compete by deception, breaking of the law and manipulation of the public. There is little concern for long term effects or for what is lawful and honorable.

Like the modern family, there is no commitment, no sense of duty or obligation.

Society ought to be governed and organized so that it becomes a place where ... individuals, families, churches, and businesses are protected from hindrances to freely living according to what God has commanded.

A biblical society should protect from crime and unjust aggression. It ought to be the enabler of freedom, not the one who dictates what we ought to desire.

But unless there are responsible and godly individuals, there can be no godly families, no godly churches, no godly businesses and no godly society. Its not society's job to change individuals.

Its the individual who must change first, because he is the material from which society is built. You can't make a sound building our of crumbing bricks. Its true that a poorly designed building can put uneven pressure on bricks and damage them. But even a well designed building will not change crumbling stone into hard supports. Society made up of unsaved, dishonest, selfish, greedy citizens will neither be a good society, nor will it endure for long.

But to fix it, we don't need so much to spend more on society. We need to see individuals reforming their lives according to God's word.

The one thing our nation needs more than anything else
is a reforming population.

We need individuals who are serious about reshaping their own lives to the form God has given. And they are working together as families, businesses and churches to do the same.

The Reformed Believer is one who develops a world view that is biblical.
He knows he needs to make improvements and is far from perfect, But he knows where to turn to find the form around which things must take shape. He loves his Bible as the loving help God himself has provided for him.

With this unique world view, the Biblical Believer in Christ has a more healthy and victorious outlook.

If we love our families, care about our churches, want to engage in more rewarding work, and see our nation restored to its former strength, integrity and honor ... Then we must be Reformed Believers ... seriously engaged every day in letting the Bible become the form around which we are molded.

How you care about, rest upon, trust in, and obey the God who made you will determine the success of everything else in your life.

Do you Remember the Latin motto from our first study ...

Semper Reformanda
It means "Ever being re-formed."

We must always be bringing our beliefs and practices to the test of Scripture. We must make sure that only what God has revealed is our standard and foundation. We must bring each of the relationships of our lives as close to conforming with that standard as we are able. But first -- we must seek to make our own walk with Christ to follow the pattern God has prescribed.

May God help us each to be truly Reformed Believers, for his glory, and for the benefit of all whom we love.


NOTE: All quotations of Scripture are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.

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