Belief We Can Change In
We can hardly turn on the TV or read the newspapers without being bombarded from the political arena about “change we can believe in” or “reforming the system.” We folks in the Reformed Church have the heritage of the Reformation and actually know something about change and reform. I trust we have a different take on this subject.
Much of the “change” that folks want in our society has the wrong basis and purpose. The way it is often presented begins with: Let’s have a change, and then the rest of the time is spent getting people to believe in it. This is humanism at its worst, where faith is placed in man and his ideas of change.
Much of the clamoring for change is designed to take us farther away from God’s will and to exalt man’s will. This is humanism — which will finally and always fail. Man playing God is a mere charade that will fool some people for a time. In the end, God will bring it to its boney knees.
The reformers of the sixteenth century did the reverse of this. They had it right. Instead of believing in a change, they taught that belief would result in change. They understood that we must begin with faith alone. That faith will bring about change — a change that is necessitated by and grounded in the Word of God only. This is not just a matter of historical interest for us as we celebrate Reformation Day, but a principle that the church must always function by — true faith brings right change, not vice versa.
Once reformers such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Bullinger, Ursinus, Olevianus, and others went back to the Word of God, believing that it alone is the standard for faith and life, radical change was the result! A real Reformation! A change brought about by God, not man. As Martin Luther, who grounded his objections on the Word of God, said, “Here I stand, I can do no other.”
John Calvin rightly taught, The restoration of the Church is the work of God, and no more depends on the hopes and opinions of men than the resurrection of the dead ... It is the will of our Master that His Gospel be preached. Let us obey His command and follow whithersoever He calls. What the success will be, is not ours to inquire.Calvin, Necessity of Reforming the Church
Reformers were never championing change for the sake of change. They were not declaring that change itself was the focus of faith. They were not looking at a reformation of the church to please the people or fit society, but to glorify God. Change is the result of submission to the Word of God, prompted by the Spirit of God within us. The reformers were not preaching “change.” They were preaching the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ for a change.
Whether in the political realm or in the daily life of the church, there needs to be change that is the product of God’s grace and power. We confess that we were all conceived and born in sin. God must change our petrified hearts into living hearts of flesh. This is not a reformation, but a transformation by the renewal of the mind (Romans 12:2).
We also confess that once this conversion (repentance and faith) has taken place, all of life changes. This is the work of God’s Spirit who sanctifies us to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29)
Regarding the Church, the reformers were wont to say that the church is always reforming. What they meant was that it was always striving to conform itself more and more to the Word of God. That would be true of all of us as individuals too. There must always be the hatred of and turning away from sin and a delight in the Law of God.
The Reformation made great strides in changing the theological landscape. Reformers preached a message of faith that would and must change the life of the hearer. It is a change that must flow freely from faith and obedience to the Word of God. A submissive faith in God’s Word gives rise to this change, but it may never be the other way around, where change dictates what we must believe.
The Reformation, which is our inheritance today, blessed us with the return to the hope that our salvation is by grace through faith in Christ only. It made tremendous changes — all stemming from a solid, biblical faith. With that system of beliefs, there are no limits to the resulting change that God will bring about in our lives and in the life of the Church.
This is a belief that we can change in.