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"Always Reforming"

"Master," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us."  "Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you." (Luke 9:49-50)

I am a Reformed Baptist Pastor.  While you can trace the roots of my biblical convictions to the Protestant Reformation, the principle on which this is set can be found in the phrase, “semper reformanda” (“the Church reformed, always reforming”) traced to Jodocus van Lodenstein in 1674.  In a day when Christian debates were forming over the use of the organ in worship, Lodenstein knew that the real battle was elsewhere, the heart and core of the gospel.  

There has been an issue on my mind this month, though it has come up at various times and different ways, without it being directly addressed.  There are entire “ministries”, it seems, set up to be the “Christian Culture Watch”, and call out other pastors and church who will not tow the line on their issue.  For the average engaged Christian (and even pastor), it will not be worth your time (and joy) to be delving into every controversy of Christendom, but rather to be studying the Truth in Scripture to the extent that you’ll be readily able to identify counterfeits! 

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:1-2).  In a day with much false teaching and apostasy, we do need to “be on guard” against evil influencing our church from without and within, yet we can be equally prone to commit the disciples’ mistake in Luke 9.  We can be so zealous in protecting “the inner circle” that we may be missing our own “blind spots”.  Jesus’ response to them/us is that “you will know them by their fruit”! (Matthew 7:16-20) For example, we may order our service in the way that seems best for worship & spiritual nourishment, but a critical spirit may lead some to simply see that other way as “wrong”.  It was Augustine of Hippo (354-430) who said, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love.” 

A more modern rendition goes like this: “On the Majors, we take action. On the Minors, acceptance.  In ALL things, love!”  The problem also exists when everything is seen as a “Major issue” as well!  Paul and Barnabas were a case in point: when they sharply disagreed on whether or not to take John Mark with them in their journey, as he had abandoned them earlier, they split company!  Paul was perhaps right to be cautious, but later on in ministry recognized his error, and John Mark’s worth (2 Timothy 4:11)!

A positive example may be seen in Priscilla and Aquila’s treatment of a young, bold preacher name Apollos in Acts 18:26, “When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.”  Rather than being heavy-handed, there is often an element of Grace to bestow on those areas where they or we may be wrong. The question comes down to our/their response when we’re graciously shown the way!

The phrase, “Semper Reformanda” (Always reforming) refers to the approach one must take that God’s Word is infallible, and we are not, so as we are in scripture, and progressively shown the error of our ways, we must always be willing to make course corrections so that it lines up with God’s Word.  2ndly, we take on the view of Romans 1 Humanity, and Romans 3 Grace, that if it were not up to God’s Grace, none of us would be saved.  “We all stumble in many ways.” (James 3:2) 

Different people are at different stages in their walk with Christ.  Quoting Isaiah, Matthew points to the life of Jesus, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory.” (Mt 12:20).  So also, we “restore gently” (Galatians 6:1).

Rather than creating a list of names of people or organizations to avoid, I would rather give positive, scriptural principles in which to abide.  Here they are:

Be careful of those who seek to divide us!  More than a church that 100% agrees with your beliefs, seek out pastoral leadership that humbly puts God’s Word as the Primary Authority to Reform all else!  If you are shown the error of your ways from scripture, will you also reform, accordingly?  In those areas that are not 100% clear, such as elements of eschatology/politics/applications in life, are you willing, as I am, to work through those differences in love?  Are you willing to let your pastor, pastor you on this?

I’ll tell you that I have changed in areas of biblical understanding, such as on eschatology, but what has not changed in my walk with Christ is my conviction that the Bible is the infallible and inerrant source of Truth and Authority for all aspects of life and practice.  May we be continually course-correcting (reforming) together to increasingly become like Christ, until that day when we are raised incorruptible! (1 Cor 15:42)



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