Basic Reformed Theology 7
Reformed Theology (RT) must translate into real life! As those who have been humbly affected by what the Bible teaches, they seek to apply those wonderful truths to their lives. Too many seek to master the doctrines of grace and RT rather than to be mastered by them. Knowing these truths without being thoroughly changed and affected by them is a waste and places us in a guilty (culpable) state. These are some of the ways RT becomes concrete.
Means of Grace: Individual and Family Piety
People rightly taught and deeply influenced by RT give themselves to reading and meditating on God’s Word regularly since they cannot live without it (Mt. 4:4). We hear God through His Word (1Thess. 1:5). We do not seek to find God in our feelings, reason, culture, emotions, etc. Since RT is “word centered” (see BRT 1), each believer attempts to be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11). We believe God meets us as we prayerfully read and study His Word. Furthermore, since we are called to constantly pray (Rom. 12:12; Col. 4:2; 1Thess. 5:17, etc.), each believer gives himself to earnest prayer because he knows God hears him through Christ Jesus. If the believer has a family, then he seeks to instruct the members in the things of the Lord (Eph. 6:4) knowing God uses His Word to bring salvation to his children (2Tim. 3:15). To faithfully maintain this, he seeks to daily lead family worship.
Reading the Word of God privately, listening to sermons, praying regularly, and partaking of the Lord’s Supper during public worship are the primary “means of grace” – the channels through which God meets His people and conveys grace to them. He does not seek “extraordinary” means though he knows God often acts in extraordinary ways through the ordinary means. He believes God rewards “those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6). He seeks God through God’s appointed means and attempts “to lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1Tim. 2:2). He aims at personal godliness and not personal fame — all for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
Reverent Public Worship
Since believers must not forsake assembling with God’s people (Heb. 10:25) and must worship God (Luke 4:8; Acts 13:2, etc.), we must worship Him according to His Word and not according to our desires. The Reformed believer takes worshipping God seriously and obediently; it is not an option. Knowing God to be infinitely Holy and majestic, humble believers do not approach Him in a cavalier manner as if He were a “buddy”. If fact, we are called to worship Him with reverence and awe: “let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28, 29). The manner is with “reverence and awe”. This does not mean in a gloomy fashion but with gladness; not somberly but soberly; not haphazardly but humbly; etc. We read that the 24 elders “fell down and worshiped” (Rev. 5:14), worship sometimes included fasting (e.g. Acts 13:2), worship can lead to serious conviction of sin (cf. 1 Cor. 14:23-25), etc. Worship in the NT is never glib, trite, comical, etc. but always serious and reverent.
The Word of God remains central to NT worship and prominent in RT. Therefore the public reading of Scripture (1Tim. 4:13; cf. Col. 4:16) and the preaching of God’s Word dominate Reformed churches. The believer listens to God from His Word. We must also recognize that OT worship does not regulate NT worship because we do not have the Levitical priesthood, the Temple, divinely ordained choirs, instruments, regulations, sacrifices, etc. The first four commandments always apply but worship robed in OT regulations fit the Old Testament (the old economy, the shadow of things to come). Because of the covenantal progression, we worship in accordance with the New Covenant requirements in Spirit and Truth (Jn. 4:24).
Submissive to God’s Providence
We see RT in its best practical form in the area of God’s providence. Since God is absolutely sovereign and is our good wise tender heavenly Father, the child of God recognizes that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God…” (Rom. 8:28 NASB). He knows that nothing happens to Him “apart the will of your Father” (Mt. 10:29, NIV). Nothing “accidentally” happens to him, whether good or bad. For that reason, he humbly submits to what God brings into his life: “It is the LORD. Let him do what seems good to him” (1 Sam. 3:18). At times, like David he will say, “I am mute; I do not open my mouth, for it is you [God] who have done it” (Ps. 39:9). David took it as the Lord’s doing in allowing Shimei to curse him by saying, “the Lord has told him to” curse (2Sam. 16:11).
Being fully convinced of God’s absolute sovereignty, he does not murmur but knows that the difficulties are God’s loving ways of disciplining or sanctifying him (Heb. 12:4-11). Though some events and circumstances may defy simple explanations, the Reformed believer knows that God brought this upon him out of His goodness, love, and wisdom. God’s sovereignty does not threaten him but it sweetens the way he experiences the difficulties. When wonderful and good things befall his life, He knows it came from God and acknowledges it! He knows how he responds to circumstances reveal his deepest convictions about God, therefore he humbly submits to God in all conditions and glorifies Him by his responses.
Confidence in Evangelism
Many of the most ardent and effective evangelists were Reformed (Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Gilbert Tennant, Asahel Nettleton, etc.). In obedience, he declares the good news being confident (not in himself or abilities) that God will sovereignly convert His people. God will not fail to bring His children into the fold and Reformed believers know God uses their feeble efforts and stammering lips to call the sheep into fellowship with His Son (1Cor. 1:9). RT encourages evangelism and emboldens the preacher because God and not the preacher converts sinners through the free offer of the gospel.
World and Lifeviews
Finally, RT teaches that the child of God must look at everything in biblical terms. He attempts to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2Cor. 10:5). God’s Word regulates his view of purpose, ambition, sexuality, identity, money, relationships, family, marriage, politics, arts, education, etc. That does not mean a “distinct Christian” view emerges over everything but his commitment to Christ influences everything he does and pursues. In all things, God’s glory and will constrain him and not his own personal peace, prosperity, comfort, glory, etc. So the world is “surprised when you do not join them” in their same passions and goals (1 Pet. 4:4). RT affects the person’s private and public life comprehensively; Christ’s lordship touches every inch of the individual’s life!