True Reformation

The topic assigned to me is "True Reformation." I should like to deal with it in the setting of four basic questions. . .

-Ministerial Association Secretary, General Conference, at the time this article was written

"FOR THIS cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, . . . that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith" (Eph. 3:14-17).

The topic assigned to me is "True Reformation." I should like to deal with it in the setting of four basic questions.

The first of these is, What is true reformation' The inspired definition is "a reorganization, a change in ideas and theories, habits and practices" (Selected Messages, book 1, p. 128).

It means: "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well. ... If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it" (Isa. 1:16-20).

This is true reformation, and this is how important it is for God's children to experience it.

In this connection I read a searching, thought-provoking statement from Selected Messages, book 1, pages 109,110:

During the night of the first Sabbath of the Newcastle meeting, I seemed to be in meeting, presenting the necessity and importance of our receiving the Spirit. This was the burden of my labor the opening of our hearts to the Holy Spirit. . . .

In my dream a sentinel stood at the door of an important building, and asked every one who came for entrance, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost?" A measuring-line was in his hand, and only very, very few were admitted into the building. "Your size as a human being is nothing," he said. "But if you have reached the full stature of a man in Christ Jesus, according to the knowledge you have had, you will receive an appointment to sit with Christ at the marriage supper of the Lamb; and through the eternal ages, you will never cease to learn of the blessings granted in the banquet prepared for you.

"You may be tall and well-proportioned in self, but you cannot enter here. None can enter who are grown-up children, carrying with them the disposition, the habits, and the characteristics which pertain to children."

It is most significant that our fitness for the kingdom of heaven is determined by whether or not we have reached the full stature of a man in Christ Jesus, according to the knowledge we have had. This means bringing our lives into full harmony with revealed truth, and for Seventh-day Adventists this is comprehended in the revelations of the inspired Scriptures and of the servant of the Lord. This is true reformation.

Is Reformation Necessary?

And now to the second question. Is a true reformation necessary? If so, how comprehensive should it be?

A revival and a reformation must take place, under the ministration of the Holy Spirit. Ibid., p. 128. (Italics supplied.)

God calls for a spiritual revival and a spiritual reformation. Unless this takes place, those who are lukewarm will continue to grow more abhorrent to the Lord, until He will refuse to acknowledge them as His children. Ibid. (Italics supplied.)

God said "must," so this should settle it for all of us today. It is the desperate need of the church in every area of its experience in tithing, in Sabbathkeeping, in dress, in health, in our plans and activities, in our homes, in our churches, in our church business, in human relationships, in divorce and remarriage, and in all other matters. For our membership, and perhaps most of all for our ministers and their leaders, reformation is a must.

Revival without it is fruitless. There is no genuine repentance without it. There is no victorious living without it. The work will never be finished without it. Minor matters will continue to occupy our time, attention, and energies without it. We can never be ready for the coming of our Lord unless true reformation takes place in our lives, and in our churches.

We have drifted far from God's plans and counsels in so many ways and the full blessing of God cannot rest upon us as individuals nor upon His church until we return to Him. I saw that before the work of God can make any decided progress, the ministers must be converted. --Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 468.

We must have a converted ministry. The efficiency and power attending a truly converted ministry would make the hypocrites in Zion tremble and sinners afraid. --Ibid., vol. 4, p. 528.

Let us take a moment or two to peek into the tremendous message of the book of Malachi. This book deals almost exclusively with this subject.

According to the prophet, there are seven vital areas where reformation needs to take place:

1. In our preoccupation with other things to the point where we are either unaware of or indifferent to the love of God (Mal. 1:2).

2. In despising God's name. By manifesting an unwillingness to really give Him the lordship of our lives (verse 6).

3. In offering a polluted sacrifice, (a) By holding in contempt the table of the Lord (verse 7). (b) In giving God less than our best (verse 8). (c) In serving for what we get out of it and not serving unless we do get what we want (verse 10). (d) In complaining about the demands of the work (verse 13).

4. Unfaithfulness to our original marriage vows (verses 14-16).

5. A subtle, distorted theology (chaps. 2:17-3:3).

6. By robbing God in tithes and offerings (chap. 3:8).

7. By secularizing the sacred, and a thoughtless, irreverent use of our words (verses 14, 15).

In this book the Lord has shown us clearly how far our rationalizations, our intellectual maneuverings, our humanistic philosophy, and our fuzzy theological conceptions have taken us. Now we must return! As we do the Lord will open the windows of heaven and pour us out a blessing such as there shall not be room enough to receive.

When the Spirit of God takes possession of the heart, [1] it transforms the life. [2] Sinful thoughts are put away, [3] evil deeds are renounced; [4] love, humility, and peace take the place of anger, envy, and strife. [5] Joy takes the place of sadness, and [6] the countenance reflects the light of heaven. No one sees the hand that lifts the burden, or beholds the light descend from the courts above. The blessing comes when by faith the soul surrenders itself to God. Then that power which no human eye can see creates a new being in the image of God.--The Desire of Ages, p. 173.

Closely associated with this, and as a consequence of the Spirit of God transforming our lives, is this very significant statement from The Acts of the Apostles, page 551:

In the heart renewed by divine grace, love is the ruling principle of action. It [1] modifies the character, [2] governs the impulses, [3] controls the passions, and [4] ennobles the affections. This love, cherished in the soul, [5] sweetens the life and [6] sheds a refining influence on all around.

How?

Now we come to the how of true reformation, and once again we turn to our opening text. It presupposes a faith that accepts and believes that:

1. There is a God.

2. He is worthy of our worship.

3. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and also our Father.

4. He has a family in heaven and on earth.

5. He takes pleasure as our Father in passing out the riches of His glory, especially to His earthly family so much in need of them.

6. He is working through His Holy Spirit to strengthen us with His might.

7. It is His earnest desire and purpose that Christ shall find a dwelling place in our hearts.

This, I say, is a tremendous revelation of the love of God and of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. But what does it mean to us Christians living in a sin-polluted world surrounded by so many evidences of the power of the devil and the deceitfulness of his willing agents?

This leads us to one of the most vital and beautiful personal relationships, and helps us to under stand how our lives may truly be come a series of uninterrupted victories.

What the apostle is saying to us is that God is not just somebody away out there, hiding out in His great universe somewhat, if not altogether, disassociated from us. He is not merely the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who lived and operated in the misty past.

Our concept of God will go a long way to determine what kind of persons we are. It is an irrevocable law that we take on the character and nature of our god, and we all have one.

Let us then look carefully at our text and draw some vital lessons from it. "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." The Living Bible says, "And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts."

This is not a make-believe experience. We are to be conscious of His presence and day by day live as if we were constantly aware of His indwelling.

If we would like to see a demonstration of true reformation, we may find it in the complete change of life-style that takes place when a young wife becomes an expectant mother. From the time that she is aware that there is a new life within, until the day of delivery, her habits and practices and plans and dreams center in that new life. Her eating and drinking, her recreation and rest, where she goes and what she does, all these things give evidence of her awareness of the life within.

And so it is when Christ lives in our hearts by faith. It is not just a visit, it is not an occasional call. He has come to make this His continual abode. This is His permanent address. He will not leave until He is expelled or dispossessed by our personal choice.

We must point out that this is not a literal, physical indwelling. It is a faith experience. It is a spiritual indwelling. But faith is daily acting as if the fact is already accomplished, as if Christ in His very person dwells within. The truth is that the more we come to enjoy this relationship the more real it becomes, until in every sense we are aware of His presence.

Practicing the Presence of Christ

We have been counseled to "practice the presence of Christ." This means that we are constantly conscious of His presence night and day. We are told:

The only defense against evil is the in dwelling of Christ in the heart through faith in His righteousness. Unless we become vitally connected with God, we can never resist the unhallowed effects of self-love, self-indulgence, and temptation to sin. We may leave off many bad habits, for the time we may part company with Satan; but with out a vital connection with God, through the surrender of ourselves to Him moment by moment, we shall be overcome. With out a personal acquaintance with Christ, and a continual communion, we are at the mercy of the enemy, and shall do his bid ding in the end. --The Desire of Ages, p. 324.

If this means what it says, and if Christ is to be more and more at home in our hearts, there are some important personal questions I propose.

1. What does He see as He looks through our eyes?

2. What does He hear as He is made to listen through our ears?

3. What does He say as He speaks through our voices? Whose voice speaks? Whose words are spoken?

4. What does He think through our minds? Whose mind really directs our actions? And whose thoughts are given the most attention?

5. Whose heart loves and what causes it to beat faster? Who and what do we love most?

6. What is Christ made to do through our hands? Whose hands work and perform?

7. Where is He made to go on our feet? And can He really go there?

8. What is He made to eat and drink? Whose taste is satisfied?

9. How is He clothed if indeed He indwells us? Is the body in which He dwells covered modestly, decently, and in good taste? Or is He made to be guilty of in decent exposure?

10. If Christ really indwells us, who is in control of our lives? Our homes? Our activities?

It should be possible for us to clearly answer these questions. Notice this important statement.

When we learn the power of His word, we shall not follow the suggestions of Satan in order to obtain food or to save our lives. Our only questions will be, What is God's command? and what His promise? Knowing these, we shall obey the one, and trust the other. --Ibid., p. 121.

How does this all come about? The answer is found in Ephesians 3:20: "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us." This, my friends, is what true reformation is all about, and this is the power, the indwelling presence of Christ, by which the changes can be made in our lives and in the work of our church.

What Are the Results?

And now to the last question. What are the results of true reformation? The answer is found in two very beautiful statements from the servant of the Lord:

Let us remember that a Christlike life is the most powerful argument that can be advanced in favor of Christianity, and that a cheap Christian character works more harm in the world than the character of a world ling. Not all the books written can serve the purpose of a holy life. Men will believe, not what the minister preaches, but what the church lives. Too often the influence of the sermon preached from the pulpit is counteracted by the sermon preached in the lives of those who claim to be advocates of truth. --Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 21.

God rebukes His people for their sins, that He may humble them, and lead them to seek His face. As they reform, and His love revives in their hearts, His loving answers will come to their requests. He will strengthen them in reformatory action, lifting up for them a standard against the enemy. His rich blessing will rest upon them, and in bright rays they will reflect the light of heaven. Then a multitude not of their faith, seeing that God is with His people, will unite with them in serving the Redeemer. --Review and Herald, Feb. 25, 1902.

Conclusion

What is true reformation? It is a reorganization, a change in ideas and theories, habits and practices. Is it necessary? "A revival and reformation must take place under the ministration of the Holy Spirit."

How does it come about? "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith."

What will happen when it takes place? "Then, a multitude not of their faith, seeing that God is with His people, will unite with them in serving the Redeemer."

This, my friends, is what it is all about. I long for that blessed day to come. We all know wherein we individually and collectively need to reform.

We have heard much during this council about repentance, revival, and reformation. We have heard the urgent appeal of our president and others as they have unburdened their hearts and have called and begged us to experience this reformation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The big question is, What are we going to do about it personally, in our leadership, in our conferences and institutions, and in our homes?

May God grant that we shall go back with the solemn determination to redeem the sacred vows that we have made here, and lead our dear people into the revival and reformation that shall prepare the way for the great multitude of souls that are now on the verge of the kingdom waiting only to be gathered in.


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-Ministerial Association Secretary, General Conference, at the time this article was written

January 1974

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