Skip to comments.The Joy of the Reformed
Posted on 01/05/2010 8:25:32 AM PST by Alex Murphy
I wasn't born and raised in the Reformed church. In other words, I am a Reformed immigrant. Like many people in the Reformed church today, I migrated out of broad based evangelicalism and non-denominationalism. Many of my friends, both ministers and laypeople, have had similar immigration experiences.
Recently, at the funeral of my father-in-law, I had the opportunity to get reacquainted with many of my Reformed immigrant friends. Much to my surprise, I found myself having a very similar conversation with this group. They shared with me that they felt like something was missing in their Reformed experience. While they were all satisfied with the doctrine, worship and government of the church they spoke of a missing intangible element. They had trouble articulating the exact nature of this missing element. I suggested a variety of terms to give it a name and the one that seemed to come closest was "joy." These immigrants perceived the Reformed church to be suffering from a deficiency of spiritual joy.
These conversations got me thinking. I did my own assessment of my Reformed experience and, I must admit, I had to agree that "joyful" was not one of the first adjectives that came to my mind to describe it. Then I began to contemplate why the Reformed church seems to be lacking in the joy department. My contemplation yielded two main reasons.
First, I think the Reformed church is joyfully deficient because of the immigration wave of which I am part. Over the past twenty years the Reformed church, particularly through the efforts of men like R.C. Sproul, has been very successful in drawing people out of evangelicalism and assimilating them into the ranks of the Reformed. What attracted these immigrants were the things that they perceived as woefully deficient in evangelicalism. These included things such as irreverent worship, imprecise doctrine and sloppy to non-existent church government. In other words, most of the immigrants to the Reformed world made their migration because they were dissatisfied with evangelicalism. They were evangelical malcontents. This means that many people in the Reformed church today fought their way into it. They entered into the Reformed church with strong convictions and bearing the bruises of their evangelical exodus. This type of soil is not naturally enriched with joy. This type of soil requires joy to be cultivated and we've not been doing a great job at it.
Second, I think we are joyfully deficient in the Reformed church because we are perpetually circling the theological wagons. The Reformed church seems continually occupied with the task of theological preservation, a struggle that resembles Tolkien's battle at Helm's Deep. We are simply forever consumed with survival and we don't have time to focus on neglected, but seemingly less vital, topics like joy. For example, when it comes to the topic of worship we don't spend our time pontificating on the joy of worship, but rather we exhaust ourselves, appropriately so, with topics like the regulative principle. When it comes to the topic of justification, we expend our resources, again appropriately so, in defending its forensic nature rather than on the joy which flows from it. The end result is often joyfully deficient theological precision.
So how do we remedy this deficiency of joy in our ranks? We do what the Reformed have always done-we turn to God's holy Word. There is no doubt that the Scripture emphasizes joy in the life of the believer. This is not the namby-pamby joy of the world, but real spiritual joy that can only be experienced by those who are in Christ. The great Dutch Puritan, Wilhelmus a Brakel, defined this spiritual joy as follows:
This spiritual joy consists in a delightful motion of the soul, generated by the Holy Spirit in the heart of believers, whereby He convinces them of the felicity of their state, causes them to enjoy the benefits of the covenant of grace, and assures them of their future felicity.
Note that Brakel's definition directly links this joy to the "benefits of the covenant of grace." Exposure to God's covenant Word and covenant deeds should yield joy in God's people.
This is exactly what happened in the days of Nehemiah.
In Nehemiah 8 we are given the privilege of witnessing an ancient worship service which was celebrated after the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt. The people begged for God's Word and they listened to it attentively. The congregation of God's people felt the piercing power of his Word and they also felt the weight of their sins. This led them to mourn and grieve.
But then something quite extraordinary happened, Nehemiah, Ezra and the Levites commanded the people to stop their mourning. Nehemiah told them why they must do this, "Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10, emphasis mine). With these words the worship service ended and the Scripture records what the congregation did next, "Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them" (Nehemiah 8:12, emphasis mine).
This account from Nehemiah demonstrates that spiritual joy flows from a proper understanding of God's covenant Word. But this text also teaches us that the ministry has an important role to play in encouraging that joy among God's people. When ministers read and preach God's holy Word, particularly God's law, we must always speak to God's people like Nehemiah. We must say to them "Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). We must remind them of the source of their joy.
In the Reformed church we need to do a better job of emphasizing this spiritual joy in our own lives, in our congregations and in our pulpits. We must remind our people that, just like our righteousness, spiritual joy is not something we can create or produce. It is an alien joy. It comes from our communion with God and it is only made possible through the propitiation of Jesus Christ. We must remind God's people that it is God who sovereignly bestows this gift upon his children. We must tell them that this joy is so powerful that it can be experienced even during our trials (James 1:2) and at all times (Philippians 4:4). We must commit ourselves to proclaiming to God's people the "benefits of the covenant of grace." This is exactly what I plan to do in 2010. I plan on emphasizing this Reformed joy in my preaching in 2010. I hope you will consider joining me in reminding God's people that the joy of the Lord is their strength!
Anthony T. Selvaggio is presently serving as a Teaching Elder in the Rochester Reformed Presbyterian Church (RPCNA), Rochester, NY. His published work includes The Prophets Speak of Him: Encountering Jesus in the Minor Prophets, (Evangelical Press, 2006), What the Bible Teaches About Marriage (Evangelical Press, 2007), A Proverbs Driven Life (Shepherd Press, 2008) and 24/7 Christian: Expository Thoughts on James (Evangelical Press, 2008). He also edited and contributed to The Faith Once Delivered (P & R Publishing, 2007).
....In the Reformed church we need to do a better job of emphasizing this spiritual joy in our own lives, in our congregations and in our pulpits. We must remind our people that, just like our righteousness, spiritual joy is not something we can create or produce. It is an alien joy. It comes from our communion with God and it is only made possible through the propitiation of Jesus Christ. We must remind God's people that it is God who sovereignly bestows this gift upon his children. We must tell them that this joy is so powerful that it can be experienced even during our trials (James 1:2) and at all times (Philippians 4:4). We must commit ourselves to proclaiming to God's people the "benefits of the covenant of grace." This is exactly what I plan to do in 2010. I plan on emphasizing this Reformed joy in my preaching in 2010. I hope you will consider joining me in reminding God's people that the joy of the Lord is their strength!
What is the reformed church, and how does it differ from other Christian churches?
It’s a cult that worships a limited god.
If anyone would like to be included on this new pinglist, drop me a FReepmail.
If there is only one God, how can He be limited? Limited to what, or by what?
>> What is the reformed church <<
Hard-shelled, old-fashioned Presbyterians, plus a handful of Dutch Christians from Michigan!
The Reformed don;t believe in Free Will because their god cannot handle being sovereign with the existence of mankind's free will.
The one true God, OTOH, is quite sovereign, powerful, and all mighty with man's free will. The Reformed believe that their god has created most people only to throw them into Hell--with no possibility of them having a chance. It doesn't matter what you believe, you're going to Hell or Heaven based on some arbitrary decision by someone else with no input from you.
‘Circle the wagons’ is what we perceived when we were still in the Episcopal Church, trying to hold the fort against the liberal heresies. It is NOT a good place to be.
I don’t think so. The Reformed Church where I lived is Dutch Reformed and has been here since the Dutch settlers in the 1600s. They are old-time Calvinist Protestant but have been undergoing a slow crisis with an aging congregation and softening of doctrine like many Protestant churches.
Its a cult that worships a limited god.
Not at all.
I don’t understand how someone can worship the wrong God, if there is only one? Who hears their prayers and thoughts?
Just because someone believes in God in their own way, does that really change God?
The reformed perspective succeeds in aggravating a fair number of folks that don’t really want to be confronted by the claims of the Scripture. Witness the respondant to your fair question.
And fair it is. And it deserves a complete and honest answer.
If you are interested, reply back and I, along with other believers, will begin to provide an answer to that question.
If I am wrong, please enlighten me. I would seriously like to know the truth.
I asked because I’m just not that familiar with the different Christian beliefs. The one I’m most familiar with, is Catholicism. That’s the one I am able to use as a reference. I don’t really want anything in detail, just something general. I did get the impression that SA isn’t a member of the Reformed church. Thanks
How does someone counter the word of God himself? How does someone or a movement alter the bible the word of God a few centuries ago and eliminate 7 books??
How can a man made church snub the church founded By Jesus Christ himself? other than the sin of pride how can man form his own belief system, thinking they can establish a church better than Christ himself ? altering the bible after 12/16 centuries.. it does not compute.
www.catholic.com maybe ask your questions their! Shalom..
Catholicism is so rich in tradition and understanding thru the holy spirit in following Christ..
I am pleased to see folks use their time, and FR bandwidth, to promote their own faith ... rather than using them to insult and denigrate other folks’ faith.
One book aside from the Bible has brought me joy is R.C.Sproul’s “Sanctity of God”.
Reformed church of what??? I see later in the article it refers to a Presbyterian Church, but all these seem to be latecomers to the scene.
First, the term “Reformed” came from the period approximately 1517 - 1648 when a large number of influential men stood against the abuses of the Catholic Church in Europe. Some of the names you may recognize were Luther, Calvin, Zwingli. The common understanding reported in history classes is that these men revolted against the political power exercised by Rome, but there was a far more important matter at stake. The Reformers were arguing for a return to the original, simple message of the Bible without the overburden of traditions, ceremonies, and superstitions added over the centuries by the Catholic Church. That war continues to this day.
If you are not interested in the details, it would do little good to give you more than this. If you want to explore it further, let us know.
Thats the one I am able to use as a reference. I dont really want anything in detail, just something general. I did get the impression that SA isnt a member of the Reformed church. Thanks
Start, IMHO, with the Heidelberg Catechism.
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