Monday, November 2, 2009

The Bible - God's primary tool for Reformation

REFORMATION SUNDAY @ EASTSIDE BAPTIST CHURCH 

TEXT: 2 Kings 22, 23
TITLE: “The Bible: God’s Primary Tool for
An Effective Reformation “
DATE : 1st  November 2009 


God had been at work in Martin Luther (b. 1483 in Eisleben, Germany) for a long time. During a Thunderstorm in July 1505, lightning had almost struck him. He was a devout Catholic, and he cried out to St Anne (patroness of miners) “St Anne, help me! I will become a monk.” Luther believed that this encounter was a call from heaven. He entered the order of the Augustinian monks. Luther was always terrified by the thought of the holy. His greatest problem was that he never seemed to be able to satisfy God at any point. At one point he became so exasperated that he said: “I was myself more than once driven to the very abyss of despair so that I wished I had never been created. Love God? I hated Him!” That thought caused him even more trouble! He believed that he had blasphemed God with that thought! His despair continued for many years.
Yet anyone who seeks to discover the secret of Christianity is inevitably driven to the Bible. Luther set out to learn and expound the Scriptures when he was asked by his mentor Johann von Staupitz, the vicar of the Augustinian order to prepare for his theological doctorate and to teach at the local university. In August 1513 he commenced his lectures on the Psalms. In 1515 he was lecturing on Paul’s epistle to the Romans and on Galatians in 1516-1517. These studies proved to be the Damascus road experience for Luther. Listen to his testimony:
“ I greatly longed to understand Paul's Epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, "the justice of God," because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know that he meant.
Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that "the just shall live by his faith." Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the “justice of God” had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate of heaven … If you have a true faith that Christ is your Saviour , then at once you have a gracious God , for faith leads you in and opens God’s heart and will , that you should see pure grace and overflowing love …”

Luther had come to a new view of Christ and a new view of God. The cross had resolved the conflict between the just wrath and the mercy of God, and Paul had reconciled for him the inconsistency of the justice and the forgiveness of God.
Can you also see that? The Bible carefully read with a longing heart, to know the truth will never fail to produce a rich harvest of revelation and liberation and therefore exultation as everything now falls into proper focus . Jesus set Luther free through His Word , and from that day a mighty work of the Spirit began – the 16th Century Reformation - a work that still affects us to this very day ! And it all began when Luther studied the Bible and discovered the doctrines of grace. In September 1522 he published the German New Testament. The publication of the complete German Bible only happened in 1534.
                                                                                                                                                    

The Word of God is a mighty book, and those that are under its influence truly experience Reformation. This is what we also see in 2 Kings 22.

Josiah was 8 years old. He had to start that young because his father, king Amon had been assassinated by his servants after only 2 years in office. Before that, Josiah’s grandfather, king Manasseh was probably the wicked king in the Southern Kingdom – in Judah ever! What a legacy!
But this young man Josiah seemed to have been an unusually sensitive man. He, by contrast to his father and grandfather must have been one of the best kings in Judah. In this he joins 7 other kings ‘who do what is right in God’s eyes‘ . He shares a particular honour with two of those kings by way of a favorable comparison with David - the standard by whom all kings were compared.
Josiah’s steadfastness is described in 2 Ki 22:2: “He did not turn aside to the right or to the left.” This was also said of great men like Moses and Joshua.
But this good king is currently walking by the legacy of the idol worship of his fathers (see Ch 23: 4-20). He can only do what he knows.

At this stage he has presumably never seen a copy of the Law of Moses. That is strange because God in Deut. 17:14-20 had explicitly commanded that when they came into the land and when they would choose a king for themselves , the first duty of that king was to be that “ he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law , approved by the Levitical priests . And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God…
Clearly, this habit had ceased long ago!
When he was 26 years old ( 22:3) , Josiah sends his secretary Shaphan to the temple with a few instructions to check on the repairs being done there , and while Shaphan is there the high priest Hilkiah says to him : “ I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord! ” (22:8). Shaphan the secretary takes it to King Josiah, who says: “read it to me”.
What happens now is fascinating: (22:11) “When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes. “ The king then orders a 5 man commission to go and obtain prophetic confirmation and light on this matter.
The prophetess Huldah is consulted (22:14). Please note, that Josiah already has the ‘law word’. What he seeks in addition now is the ‘prophetic word’. He needs to know God’s word on the future. And the prophetic question is this : “ What is waiting for us as a result of having neglected the ’law word’ ?”
Huldah’s prophecy (22:15-20) makes 2 points:
(i) There is no hope: ( see 22:16-17). God is determined to bring disaster.
(ii) But there is some mercy: (see 22:18-20) there will be peace in Josiah’s time.

So judgment is certain, but judgment is delayed.
Let me take this teachable moment to remind you that righteous, God fearing leaders that lead God’s people into the discovery of God’s Word are such a blessing to any community. For their sake God will not destroy that community where sin is so rife! Men, like Abraham who know the promises of God’s Word will know that God is gracious and kind to His people. He hears their prayer, and he is kind even to the unrighteous for their sake! (See Abraham’s intercession for Sodom and Gomorrah - Gen 18:22ff)
Though God’s righteous wrath will certainly come upon all unrighteousness (you need no further prophetic word on this, since Jesus and the apostles have said that this must happen e.g. Matt 24/25; Romans 1:18ff) the obedience of just men and women in our day will hold back the wrath of God in our generation.
Ask yourself then: “Where are these courageous men and women of God in our community, interceding for this nation and preaching the gospel to this nation? Does God have any reason to withhold His wrath from us?
Judgment is certain. Jesus has announced it , and even now God reminds us  of this in many visible  ways - through every earthquake, every famine , every war , every pandemic we are reminded  that that a  final judgment is on its way .
ARE YOU PERSUADED?

The Word of the Lord to Luther and Josiah brought the fear of God back into society. When that happens we call that a “Reformation”.  When we see the Word of God for what it is ,  and when God begins to transform our thoughts and our actions we have  a  reformation.
In Josiah’s case the first thing that happens is that the false gods and idols and the false priests had to be destroyed among themselves. Note that Baal and Asherah were controlling the temple worship (23:4ff). The sex cult (male cult prostitutes) was abolished (23:7). Child sacrifice to the God Molech was abolished (23:10). False altars (23:15) built in competition to the one true altar at the temple in Jerusalem were torn down and destroyed. The Passover is restored (23:21). The witches, mediums, necromancers, the household gods, the idols … were abolished (23:24)
No wonder that it was said of Josiah in 23:25 : “ Before him there was no king like him , who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might , according to all the law of Moses , nor did any like him arise after him .”

How would this translate into a modern Reformation? What issues would we have to take captive and make them obedient to Christ? 
Essentially the same issues! 

1. The church needs to be stripped of its false views of God ; its idols ( man centeredness ) and its false priests and pastors who are holding the hearts of people captive with false doctrine and no gospel ! This is the primary problem. Once you take the gospel out of the church , the false gospel ( which is no gospel at all! – Gal 1:7) comes in. Life abhors a vacuum. I thank God that in our day we are privileged to see the return of the doctrines of grace and God and Christ centeredness returning to our pulpits, but I have not yet seen a reformation through broken hearts and changed minds that lead to real change in behaviour of our society !
2. The sex cult needs to be taken captive. Our nation Namibia suffers from HIV/Aids and broken marriages and relationships and teenage pregnancies because sex has become an obsession among us. The church is seemingly powerless in this area, because many pastors may be guilty of this very sin! The saying , “as the pulpit goes – so goes the pew”  is  also  found  in Hosea ( 4:9) “ …And it shall be like people , like priest …
3. Child sacrifice needs to stop. We may not sacrifice and burn children in the fire to the god Molech, but we abort them by the millions for the sake of our god of convenience and pleasure!
4. Satanic manifestations must stop. Have you noticed? A society in which Christian doctrine is no longer respected , presents an open door for Satanism , witchcraft , esoteric religions – all these lead people into deeper  sin  and therefore to   an earlier grave , because these come with drugs , drink and immorality .

We need another Reformation. But where shall we begin?  
We must begin with the Word of God! We must preach it and insist that it be obeyed. Luther and Josiah did that, and they took no prisoners. You either obey God, or you face His wrath. The church is called to be a holy church, and all those that are not concerned about its holiness must be purged from its midst. Look at the extensive reforms brought to Germany and Europe under Luther and Calvin, when they purged the church of their day from its idolatry and false priests and sexual offenders ( many priests and popes had illegitimate children!) . People in the middle ages, under the Roman church lived in terror of witches and spells! See what effect the reforms of Josiah had on Israel. See how wide ranging the effects of the Reformation were .
Can God do a similar work in Namibia today?
He can! Pray that you may always have a tender conscience towards God: Both Luther and Josiah had this in common. Before the Word of God came to them, they feared God. Even if you do not understand the implications of Reformation , pray that when the Word of God comes to you, that you may have courage to do all it says.
And the grace of God will surely be with us in our generation! Amen

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