Tuesday, August 27, 2013

“Reformation: The Outgrowth of Revival”

Third Quarter 2013 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Reformation: The Outgrowth of Revival”
For the week of Aug. 31, 2013

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Gen. 1:27.

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Gen. 2:7.

But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Cor. 4:3-7.

In the beginning, God made man in His own image. When God breathed life into man, man did not need re-formation, because he was already perfectly formed - spiritually, mentally, and physically. He was formed in the image of God - of God’s own family lineage.

With sin, the image of God was defaced and marred in man. Thus man’s behavior - the function that is the outgrowth of form - was corrupted. The plan of salvation, the gospel, is the power of God to restore what was lost by breathing new life (revival) into man which produces the re-formation of a new life. 

But the predicate for this re-formation is a new identity in Christ - the identity forged by Christ in taking all humanity into himself and re-forming humanity according to the divine image. He did this by being born of a woman, under the condemnation of the law of sin and death, by being “born again” at His baptism as the representative of all humanity, by  His self-sacrificing life and death becoming that grain of wheat that falls to its death in the earth, springing up in new life while conquering death.

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again....Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 2 Cor. 5:14-17.

Re-formation is the repeating of the creative process by which God creates in us something out of nothing through the faith of Jesus. Yes, our cooperation and free-will are required, but there is no power to re-form within us apart from the indwelling Christ. And there is no indwelling Christ without an intelligent heart appreciation for the incarnation and cross of Christ.

We as Seventh-day Adventists are called in this end time to proclaim a final re-formation. The lesson points us to the three angel’s messages as this final call. Who can give it by word and demonstration?

Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Rev. 14:12.

Today we are faced with two competing distortions of how this happens.

One view seems to be based on trying to keep the commandments of God without properly emphasizing and understanding - better yet, living - the faith of Jesus. But we cannot receive power to re-form from Christ as a commodity. We must actually receive Him indwelling us to possess His faith. Otherwise our efforts to re-form are futile, as we possess no creative power. This requires the death of the cross, the death to self that only happens when we see the cross in the context of what it means in Christ.

The other view, new to some of us, but very old in reality, is promoting a mystical indwelling of the essence of divinity in a false christ without the offense of the cross.  Thus we have no need to re-form, but creatively form, our own spiritual being as we pursue the divine. 

But the presence of God in the gift of faith to all men does not mean man must merely look inside himself to find God. He must look outside of himself to Christ. The divine being was robed in humanity, for the very purpose of hiding the divine essence of being while revealing the divine essence of character, in interpersonal, self-sacrificing love that the New Testament calls agape.

In sending Christ as the second Adam, God has already re-formed humanity in Christ. Thus, in accepting Him, we have the experience in selfless agape of Ephesians 2:10:  

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Interestingly, Martin Luther’s early appeals for reformation appeared to have involved a deeper understanding of the connection of this reformation to the person of Christ than we may have thought. Note this from a review of the book Union With Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther:

Mannermaa expounds the book’s thesis as follows:  “According to Luther, Christ (in both his person and his work) is present in faith and is through this presence identical with the righteousness of faith. The idea of a divine life in Christ who is really present in faith lies at the very center of the theology of the Reformer.” The forensic element in Luther’s doctrine of justification is thus viewed by the Finns as a function of his central emphasis on the believer’s actual participation in the divine life through union with Christ....Luther, on the other hand, “does not distinguish between the person and work of Christ. Christ is both favor of God (forgiveness of sins, atonement, abolition of wrath) and gift (donum).” Faith means “justification precisely on the basis of Christ’s person being present in it as favor and gift.”  http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/01/union-with-christ-the-new-finnish-interpretation-of-luther-5 

This brings a new depth of understanding to our memory text, does it not? Christ has participated in our corporate human life so that we might participate with Him in the divine life.

For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren. Heb. 2:11

- Todd Guthrie