Daily Devotional 11-1-16

When God’s Word is Recovered, True Faith is Reformed (2 Kings 22)

luthers-thesis
Luther’s thesis nailed to the church door in Wittenberg. Engraved by Johann Leonhard Raab, from a drawing by F. Lessing. New York: T. Whittaker, ca. 1850. [Image no. 4434] Source: Presbyterian Historical Society (http://www.history.pcusa.org/).

It is possible for people to be searching for an answer that is already in front of them.

I shall never forget a particularly hectic motor car trip in London. By the way if you go to London, do not rent a car. Use public transportation. That is what people do who are in their right minds. But I rented a car. My wife, our daughter, Amy, and I, were staying at the Foreign Missions Club in Islington, north of London, and wanted to drive up to Ipswich, in East Anglia, to visit my first cousin. We had a full day there and by the time we left to return it was dark. Driving on the “wrong side of the road” is one thing; but trying to shift on the wrong side of the steering wheel is another. Add to that the twists and turns and roundabouts of London traffic, the directional signs that don’t say north and south, but indicate direction by villages, and it adds up to escalating blood pressure and just a bit of marital tension. In those long, lost days before iPhones, Androids, or MapQuest, my wife had a map of London spread out across the dashboard of our very small economy rental car, announcing my turns, as I passed each of them. It was midnight. We were exhausted. We were lost. The little French made tin can was on empty. Amy interrupted our intense marital discussions about directions by suggesting that we pray. I pulled over to a “petrol” station. I filled up. I settled down. And we prayed. We looked at each other with a smile that God was in control. I pulled out of the all-night petrol station, turned left, and—you may not believe this, but it is absolutely true—we turned in to the Foreign Missions Club! We were shocked! And yes, we thanked God. We were searching for what was right in front of us.

It is possible for you, too, to be searching for the answer that is already in front of you.

The Southern novelist, Walker Percy, through his character Binx Boling, wrote about the sense of longing in the postmodern soul that he discerned as far back as the late 1950s when he was writing his first novel. In The Moviegoer[1], Percy wrote,

“The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.”[2]

In 1517 a German theologian was coming out of despair and was on a search. His search had led him to the right place: to the Bible; specifically, to Galatians. There, he read the words of St. Paul,

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.[3]

Thus, on All Saints Day, Martin Luther took to the Facebook page of his day, to the church door at Wittenberg, and nailed his 95 Theses: a declaration, an affirmation, and, yes, a protest. He advanced Biblical truth and he countered human error that had buried the truth of God that had always been right in front of him. And it was a shot heard around the world. He was not alone. John Wycliffe (1331-1384) had started the movement much earlier in England, at Oxford: that the Bible had to be read and preached in the language of the people in order to be heard and followed for changed lives and a transformed world. Jan Hus (1369-1415), in Bohemia, the modern Czech Republic had followed Wycliff and was Luther’s predecessor in the reforming movement. John Calvin would join with Luther’s movement in Geneva. John Knox would join with Luther in Scotland. Thomas Cranmer would help bring Reformation to England, and later the Puritans, and from them, the Pilgrims, would extend the principles of the Reformation to a New World.

And what was the heart of this Reformation? They found what was always right in front of them.

In 2 Kings 22 the sad legacy of mostly evil kings is broken by a child-king who did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. Josiah, whose story is also told in 2 Chronicles 34, was a follower of the Lord. According to 2 Chronicles 34 he had opposed idolatry in Israel even as a boy-king. The work of restoring the temple in 2 Kings 22 was a part of this restoration. Yet, there had been something missing. This was a man, like Luther, on a search for God and His Word for Man. In the midst of the repair work on the House of God the workmen locate the Word of God, the sacred scrolls. The priest brings them to the Chief-of-Staff, the “secretary” as he is called, and this scholar reads them to the King. What happens next is nothing short of a miracle, a miracle that happens every time this event is repeated: in a nation or in a single person’s life.

For you see what we learn from this passage is this:

When God’s Word is recovered, a person’s faith is reformed. 

How so? True faith, which brings faith for living, is reformed in four life-transforming commitments, according to the Biblical story of King Josiah.

The first commitment is seen is this:

Faith is Reformed through Spiritual Rebirth (22:11).

Josiah had been on a search. But what he had been looking for was always right in front of him: buried by the commandments of men. Upon hearing the unadulterated Word of God, the young King Josiah repented and believed. He was in every sense born again unto a new life that was honored by God. This new birth spilled over into his sphere of influence which was his an entire nation, a nation that would, of course, one day bring forth a Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ.

It was Charles Haddon Spurgeon who said of apologetics that the first step in defending the truths of the Bible is to treat it like a lion in a cage, open the cage door and let it out! The lion will take of everything else himself once released! There was a Swiss theologian of the twentieth century who taught, “Jesus Christ is my apologetic.” He is the Word made flesh. Thus, in Him, I validate the Bible and in Him I validate the existence of God, I validate the authority of the Bible.[4]

Josiah found the Word and it transformed Israel. Yet, before it did that the Word transformed Josiah. His search was over. And there is every indication in the Text that Josiah was born again (John 3:3–7).[5]

Thus, it is with each of us. Our lives are transformed by the Word of God. We are born again by the truth of the Gospel that resides in that Text. It is not just a book, but the Holy Spirit inspired Truth that is the Second Person of the Trinity, our Lord Jesus Christ. To encounter the Word is to encounter the Christ. To encounter the Logos, the Christ, is, like Luther, Calvin, Knox, and the Puritans and Pilgrims, the Protestants, and, yes, the Catholics in the Counter Reformation that followed the Reformation, to encounter the resurrected Savior who bids us to follow Him. We can never be the same again.

And just think: this new birth is right in front of you. It is as close as the teaching of your parents; as close as the Bible on the shelf; as close as the words I speak to you this very moment. The search is over when you receive Jesus Christ the Word. You are born again. And a whole new world is opened before you.

There is a second life-changing commitment in the Text:

Faith is Reformed through Biblical Priority (22:1,2).

Nothing is more apparent than this! The Word is found. The Word is read. The Word is read to the King. The King gathers the nation and reads the Word to them. The Word takes priority in personal and public devotion. Out of this priority the community finds its meaning, its compass, its promises of blessing and penalties, and its guidance for the future. Indeed, the Word provides explanation for their pain, and hope for their redemption from its curse. The man-made precepts that had been imposed onto the Word of God are stripped away like centuries of ugly varnish covering the pristine, beautiful wood of a treasured piece of invaluable furniture.

This is what happened in the Reformation. Luther’s 95 Thesis argued against abuses of his day in the Church, but the arguments were grounded in the priority of the Word of God over the priority of any single man in the Church. Indeed, he said that the treasure of the Church was not the treasury at Saint Peter’s but the treasure of the Gospel of God’s grace in Christ Jesus.[6]

The priority of the Bible brings blessings to our lives in every area of life. This has been the living legacy of the Reformation. The major difference between the founding of civilization in North America and South America, it could be argued, is the priority of the Bible: in religion, in civic life, in politics, in economics, in commerce, in the trades, in higher education; indeed, in every area of life. Protestantism emphasizes the Word as the governing feature that organizes all of our lives, including our laws.

Today, one of the pillars that has been dismantled has been the pillar of the Word of God from the schools. Thus, we have grown several generations of citizens who have interpreted the Constitution and who have made laws outside of the framework of Biblical truth. Such laws are destined to lead to human bondage and pain. This is why I oppose them. Not because of politics, but because anything that stands against God’s Word leads to bondage and as such calls upon me as a pastor to stand against it, to speak against it, for it will invariably lead to human pain.

Conversely, for you to receive Christ and to follow His Word leads to blessing upon blessing in your life. Whenever you see a new Christian, you will see a simultaneous hunger for God’s Word. That is because the Word, the Logos, is the Person of our Lord Himself inscripturated in a way that we can receive Him daily in the Bible.

A third commitment:

Faith is Reformed in Covenant Renewal (22:3).

Note that King Josiah calls the People together in sacred assembly to renew themselves to God’s Covenant. This is the Covenant that goes back to Abraham. It is the Covenant that what God demands, God provides. He only provides a duty that is ground in the law of love.  They had wandered into worshiping other gods because they had turned the covenant into a religion that was so different from that which God conceived and delivered to them.

Each Sunday you and I are called to gather in sacred assembly. We come in reverence and awe before the Livin God just as these people did for covenant renewal. The devil, the flesh, and the world conspire to twist, to distort, and to destroy the covenant of grace that is in force through the Word of God mediated to us in the life and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Today is a day for you to renew that covenant in your own heart. Turn from your sins. Turn from the temptations of the devil, from the lusts of the flesh, from the siren song of the world, by the compelling vision of the Lord Jesus, “Come unto Me all you who are weary.” To find God’s Word beneath the rubble and ruin of our own religious folly is to return to God in true worship, worship in spirit and in truth, to renew our relationship with Him: He is our God. We are His people through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Finally, see the fourth commitment:

Faith is Reformed in Sacramental Restoration (23:21-23).

The Passover had been abandoned for many years—since Samuel the Prophet (2 Chronicles 34:18). Personal rebirth, Biblical priority, and Covenant renewal is accompanied by a return to the sacrament of salvation. Why was this so important? God knew that His people needed a physical sign to bind them to a transcendent, metaphysical truth. Thus, He gave them this sign of His saving work: Passover. It was to be observed forever.

Our Lord Jesus Christ took Passover and infused the Sacrament—the sign and seal of God’s authentic Word—with His own death as the Lamb of God. Thus, Passover, in the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, the Eucharist, which means the Thanksgiving, continues today.

One of the marks of a reformation of true faith is a reformation of this central sacrament of the Church. In one sense a luke-warmness of religion can cause man-made doctrines to pile man-made ideas on top of the sacrament or to rob it of its transcendence, either way,  injuring the pure power of the Sacrament. The Sacrament of Holy Communion in the Reformation was a source of controversy. But, are we really surprised? All important things are subject to debate. So, I am not at all put off that at a time when the Church is in the midst of reform such a question should arise. Yet, the truths that emerged about the Sacrament in our tradition were distilled from the Word of God as these:

Holy Communion consists of simple elements in order to remember Christ’s sacrifice of love for us on the Cross, yet it is not a mere memorial; it was something more. “Is this not His blood?” Paul asked. There is an element of glorious mystery in it, as we are taught that there is spiritual nourishment and even real power to harm if not taken with faith. We hold to “Real Presence by faith.”

Holy Communion is highly ordered and regulated by the Word of the Lord, and is not a personal act, but always an act of the Church, of ministers set apart by the ordaining work of the Holy Spirit and the ordinary oversight of the Church.

Thus, Communion is simple, mysterious, powerful, nourishing, and even dangerous. We are brought together with Christ, with each other, with the Church around the world, with the Church in heaven, and we are re-calibrated to the central act of salvation: the death of our Savior on the cross for our sins.

You have that opportunity to taste that mystery and receive that nourishment from these simple elements of salvation today.

Conclusion

“I was searching, searching. But He was always there.” That is my testimony.

I spent the years of my adolescence and early twenties in search of those truths that could answer the great existential questions. The answer came to me as I heard Dr. D. James Kennedy preach on Ephesians 2:8,9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” Yet, those words were the power that uncovered the Word that had been buried by years of pain, struggle, heartache, misunderstanding, and, yes, my own sin. What I found was the living Word, Jesus. He brought

  • rebirth,
  • priority of His Word in my life,
  • an entrance into the Covenant of Grace, the unbreakable pledge that God would save based on His own life, and that I would follow Him out of love, and
  • it brought a new love and hunger to come to His Table to be fed all of these truths through the Word in bread and the cup.

This is the invitation for you to come to Jesus Christ this morning. He has always been right there. And He will never leave you. And to receive this faith is to receive a faith for living.


[1] Walker Percy, The Moviegoer, 1st ed. (New York,: Knopf, 1961).

[2] P.R. Broughton, The Art of Walker Percy: Stratagems for Being (LSU Press, 1999).

[3] Galatians 2:20-21, King James Version.

[4] “Christology is the touchstone of all knowledge of God, in the Christina sense, the touchstone of all theology.” “Tell me how is stands with your Christology and I shall tell you who you are.” Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline (New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers, 1959).

[5] Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’[5] (NRSV)

[6] See article 62. Martin Luther and Kurt Aland, 95 Theses, with the Pertinent Documents from the History of the Reformation (Saint Louis,: Concordia Pub. House, 1967).

Works Cited

Barth, Karl. Dogmatics in Outline. New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers, 1959.

Broughton, P.R. The Art of Walker Percy: Stratagems for Being. LSU Press, 1999.

Luther, Martin and Kurt Aland. 95 Theses, with the Pertinent Documents from the History of the Reformation. Saint Louis,: Concordia Pub. House, 1967.

Henry, Matthew, and Leslie F. Church. Commentary on the Whole Bible: Genesis to Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1961.

Percy, Walker. The Moviegoer. 1st ed. New York,: Knopf, 1961.

 

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