After seeing some examples of reformation at work in the Old and New Testaments, during the Protestant Reformation, and the need for it in the final days, we are ready to move on to our mental and spiritual preparation for reformation to happen. It requires grace, surrender, humility, and conviction. Let’s see how each of these qualities can be ours.
Memory Text: “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” James 4:6,7 NKJV
Revival, as we’ve seen it, is a reawakening of spiritual life. But if all we did was wake up in the morning, we’d miss out on a lot. Reformation allows us to fully experience the new day. And the above verse says a lot about the experience we will have. We are GIVEN it through GRACE, after we HUMBLE ourselves before God. If we are SUBMITTED to God, then it is He who helps with RESISTING the devil, because only God is powerful enough to make him flee.
Sunday: The Grace to Grow
The disciples who followed Jesus while on earth had obviously had a spiritual awakening when they first left their nets, their former lives, and joined Jesus and His band of itinerant preachers. Several passages in the gospels show us the amount of growth that was still needed in order to be of full service to their Master.
After reading Luke 9:51-56 and Matthew 20:20-28, we see glimpses of two brothers who were still angry and unforgiving at times. But were also self-seeking, power-driven, and proud in their hearts. They had outwardly surrendered much of their former livelihood and behaviors, but there was much “heart-work” still needed.
The revival at Pentecost was just the shot in the arm they all needed, especially after the horrendous events at Calvary. We see a marked improvement in their behavior toward others after the Holy Spirit came down full force during their revival meetings in the upper room.
The spiritual growth seen in the disciples should strengthen us in our struggles to be all the Christian that we desire to be. It doesn’t happen all at once. Every journey looks different, but they all have one constant theme…the grace of God does it all. The Holy Spirit is our enabling tool, when it comes to patterning our lives after the Father. We have only to choose to follow and reforms will happen.
Monday: The Power to Choose
I remember a sign in a classroom from my former school days. In an effort to make each student do their best, the sign read “Do your best and leave God the rest.” That sign later haunted me, as it implied that I was expected to do something and God would make up the difference when I fell short.
Later I read John 15:5 where Jesus told His disciples “…without me, ye can do nothing.” But there was also a verse that others fell back on when they didn’t think someone was trying hard enough to be a Christian: “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…” Philippians 2:12.
Discussion Question: What is God’s role in the working out of our salvation?
This very troubling quandary is one that is as old as the ages. It really goes back to faith vs. works. So let’s examine that passage in Philippians in context and see if we get a clearer picture of our part in this whole reformation process.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing.” Philippians 2:12-14 NKJV
First of all, we can see that the Philippians were not told to work out their own salvation in the absence of God, but in the absence of Paul. It’s obvious that God is still involved in our works, as it states plainly that “it is God who works” in us.
As God works in us, we are able to make the choices to “work out” our salvation. In Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 134, it says that “finite, sinful man…must place himself as an apt, willing student in the school of Christ; and as he accepts the grace that is freely offered to him, the presence of Christ in the thought and in the heart will give him the decision of purpose to lay aside every weight of sin, that the heart may be filled with all the fullness of God, and of his love.”
The Holy Spirit convinces us of right, but we must choose. Then he empowers our choices, making the fulfillment of God’s will possible.
Tuesday: Confidence and Doubt
Two of the disciples displayed common attitudes that needed reformed. We don’t often associate Peter with Thomas, but both found their bad attitudes a hindrance to following God as they desired.
We remember the confidence of Peter that he would never deny his Lord. And yet, Jesus predicted he would, before the cock crowed three times. Perhaps because of this incident, we think of a bold, self-confident individual as “cocky”. Read about this in Matthew 26:31-35.
Then there was “doubting Thomas”, another expression that has become associated with someone who must see the evidence before believing anything. See his story in John 20:24-29.
As the lesson points out, “Peter placed confidence in what he could do, Thomas in what he could see.”
Discussion Question: How do confidence and doubt affect our reformation efforts?
Wednesday: Conviction to Return
The story of the prodigal (one who spends or gives lavishly or foolishly) is important for our understanding of reformation because it gives us a look at the role of conviction and the value of returning to our Father God, in our heart and in action.
We read about this parable in Luke 15:15-21. The son finally sees his degrading surroundings, “comes to himself”, and determines to return home to his father’s house to be a servant there. This is a pretty good picture of how salvation works in our life today. The son had to make a choice–the pigpen or his father’s household. He couldn’t have both.
Personal Thought Questions: Do I find myself in the world, but also of the world? How much separation from God (=sin) am I comfortable with? What worldly pleasures must I relinquish if I want a total reformation in my life? As the prodigal son or daughter, I can’t serve God without returning FULLY to His household. The choice is mine.
Thursday: The Faith to Act
The story of the healing at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-14) is a testimony of the amount of faith required to become healed from sin. First of all, we see great love on Jesus’ part when He encountered this sufferer, trying for so long to find healing at the poolside.
I think that one of the lessons in this account was the fact that the crippled man recognized his need. Perhaps he had at one time thought he could of himself get into the pool for healing, but after 38 years, he has finally come to realize that without help, he will never achieve his purpose.
The question of Jesus seems rather taunting and cruel at first. “Do you want to be made well?” He asked. The sufferer could have retorted rudely, but instead he politely admits his need. Jesus knew that a public admission of need was essential in this man’s healing and forgiveness.
God is far more anxious to heal us spiritually than we think. And that compassion and caring shined through Jesus so much that when told to take up his bed and walk, the poor man immediately obeyed and he and the crowd were amazed at his instant recovery.
Discussion Questions: Why doesn’t God always heal our physical illnesses and diseases, when we ask in faith? What promises do we have that He will always heal our spiritual sicknesses though? What must we do to receive His healing touch?
Personal Thought Question: When was the last time you made a promise to God (like Peter) but failed to follow through? What did you learn, or can you learn, from that experience?