Biblical Reformed Piety
Perhaps the two greatest summaries of Christian piety are found in the opening questions and answers of the Heidelberg and Westminster Catechisms. The Heidelberg Catechism reminds us that our only comfort and hope in this life and the next is in our union with Jesus Christ our faithful Savior. We belong body and soul to Him and He will keep us and bring us at last to glory with Him.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism directs us to our goal or purpose in life when it tells us that: "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever." Our reason for existence, the purpose of our redemption is to serve God. It was for this purpose that God redeemed the children of Israel from Egypt (Exodus 3:12). For this reason God sent His Son to save sinners. "But an hour is coming and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers" (John 4:24).
God is the great reference point of Reformed doctrine and piety, "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever, Amen" (Romans 11:36). All of life is to be offered to God as worship in the widest sense of the word. He has saved us that we may serve and honor Him. Romans 12:1 and 2:
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. 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.
This is what it means to glorify God.
We are to live our lives with a view to His honor and reputation. Everything is to be managed under this rubric: "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).
The Practice of Piety
Therefore, we should take our meals acknowledging God's blessing; He has provided food, clothing, and shelter according to His promise in Matthew 6:31, 32: "Do not be anxious then, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?' For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things." Thus we are to give thanks and bless His name, confessing that in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28) and that man cannot live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3, 4).
Furthermore, we are to worship Him by our obedience as we structure our lives by the pattern of His holy law. Only as our obedience is formed by His Word can we please Him by our works, as Heidelberg Q/A 91 reminds us: "But what are good works? Only those which are done out of true faith, in accordance with the law of God, and to His glory, and not those based on our own opinion or on precepts of men."
We glorify Him when we acknowledge that His Word is without error and is our only rule of faith in practice. It is absolutely sufficient to teach us all we are to know and do. We should love the truths of the Bible and cherish the great reformed distinctives. We ought to prize our Bibles and study God's mind revealed in them. We are to pay special attention to preaching, knowing that God speaks to us through the preaching of His Word (Romans 10:14).
Moreover, we honor Him as we pursue our callings (vocations) recognizing that as we do our best according to the gifts He has given us, we serve Him — farming, teaching, mothering, doctoring, building, as well as preaching.
We also glorify Him as we seek to give an answer for the faith that is in us (1 Peter 3:15), seizing the day to speak the timely word that will exalt God and His grace (Colossians 4:5, 6).
We glorify Him as we worship Him in the more narrow sense of bringing to Him the honor and adoration He deserves (Psalm 95:1-7). We must offer such worship in our private spiritual exercises as we daily seek His face in prayer and Bible reading. To this those of us who have families, add family worship as part of the daily rhythm of our lives.
The highlight, however, of our worship is the weekly corporate worship offered to God on the Lord's Day. When this is done on the foundation of faith in Christ and in the context of glorifying God in all of life as well as worshiping Him in private and with our families, it is the greatest act of glorifying God and is the most satisfying enjoyment of Him available to us (Psalm 105:1-5).
The Pattern of Piety
But if we are to glorify God in these things they must be more than rote activity, thoughtlessly performed day in and day out. He is not honored if we worship Him with our lips while our hearts are far removed (Mark 7:6, 70). Our piety must not possess the form of godliness while denying its power (2 Timothy 3:5). We know that whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23). For our lives to be lived to His glory we must consciously offer all to Him as living acts of devotion. Again as we were reminded in Heidelberg Q/A 91, "only those things done out of true faith" are pleasing.
Moreover, to glorify God is to enjoy Him. This means we are to have a "God intoxication." He is to us, "all together lovely" and we are to long for Him. "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, Oh God, my soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before my God?" (Psalm 42:1, 2).
We then delight ourselves in Him (Psalm 37:4) and confess: "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:25, 26).
When God is our portion we are content with our lot, as Habakkuk testified,
Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive crop should fail, and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds' feet and makes me walk on high places.
These are the basic elements of Reformed piety. In the next few issues we will look in greater detail at some of these elements.