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4501 Waller Rd E
Tacoma, Washington
INI
Reformation Sunday
October 25, 2015
Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA
Paul Naumann, Pastor

REFORMATION IN THE HERE AND NOW
II Kings 23:1-3

Grace, mercy, and peace be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, Amen. The Word of God that we will consider today comes from the second Book of Kings, the 23rd chapter, beginning with the first verse, as follows:

"Then King Josiah sent them to gather all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem to him. And the king went up to the house of the Lord with all the men of Judah, and with him all the inhabitants of Jerusalem - the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great; and he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the Lord. Then the king stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people took their stand for the covenant." Here ends our text.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, our Prophet, High Priest and King, Dear Fellow-Redeemed,

I was reading some political commentary the other day, and the subject of the discussion was "reform." The writer pointed out that reform is a particularly potent rallying cry during this election year. A call for governmental reform strikes a chord with just about every voter, since every voter believes that certain parts of the government are badly fouled up and need to be fixed. And of course if you're a candidate you want to stop right there in your campaign speech. Because if you start talking about which parts of the government you're in favor of reforming, at that point there's going to be a lot of disagreement. And savvy campaign managers also know one other thing - it's easy to make promises about sweeping reforms sometime in the future. What's hard - and what almost never comes to pass - is for the candidate to turn those reforms into reality after he gets elected.

As Christians, we should all be in favor of reform. After all, we're followers of Jesus Christ. Our spiritual life as His disciples is the single most important thing in our lives. Or at least it should be the most important thing in our lives -- Do you ever feel like you've been sidetracked? Like there are just too many things crowding in on your life? Crowding God out? If so, maybe it's time to do something about it! Today is the day we commemorate the most sweeping reform in the history of the world - the Lutheran Reformation that began in Germany 498 years ago. But reformation has to be more for us that just a historical footnote - reformation is something each of us needs to apply in our daily lives as Christians. That's why our theme this morning is --

REFORMATION IN THE HERE AND NOW

I. NOW is the right TIME
II. HERE is the right PLACE

You've all heard of Martin Luther, and you're probably acquainted, in a general way, with the reform that he brought to the Christian church. He pulled Christians back to the Bible. But have you ever heard of Josiah before? Probably not. He was a rather obscure king of Judah during the last few decades before the people of Jerusalem were taken into captivity in Babylonia. He's worth remembering, though. Because he led people of Judah (temporarily, at least) in a great spiritual reform movement. And he sure chose the right time for it. The people had been ignoring the Lord for generations. The two kings before him, his father and grandfather, had led the people in worshipping idols. Things had gotten so bad that one day the chief priest stumbled across a copy of the Holy Scriptures in the temple, and he didn't even know what it was! But he read it, and the book was brought and read before the king. "And when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law...he tore his clothes." II Kings 22:11. Josiah was upset! If what the words in this book said were true, then his people were dreadfully in need of reform! "So the king sent them to gather all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem to him." Josiah didn't waste any time - he saw that a major reform was needed. Somehow, he had to get back on track with God, and the time to do it was immediately - RIGHT NOW!

What about you? Has your personal relationship with God been wearing thin lately? Is it threatening to disappear altogether? One trend among American Christians that troubles me is "compartmentalization." There are many in our day who seem convinced that they can make their Christian faith into a separate compartment in their lives. A compartment that in no way touches or affects any other aspect of their lives. I'm always amazed by the political candidates, e.g., who say that they are Christians, but who in the next breath say that their Christian faith will in no way effect their political decisions. How can that be? You might as well say, "Dropping a tea-bag into a cup of boiling water will in no way effect the color or taste of the water." Once you put the tea-bag in, it's tea! And once the Holy Spirit works faith in your heart, you're a Christian, and that's going to effect and permeate and penetrate every single other aspect of your life. How can you take something so foundational and lock it away in a compartment?

And yet, I'm afraid that's exactly what we try to do sometimes. Are you guilty of compartmentalization? What about your prayer life? Your family devotions? Your attendance here at church, where God's Word is preached? Is that just one more item on your schedule? Is your Christian faith one more neat compartment in your life, along with your job, your family, the clubs you belong to and the activities you attend? Maybe it's not even a very important compartment compared with the others. If that's the case, then you need a reformation in your life, and the best time is right now. For God, in His holy Law, requires much more than that. Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment." Matt. 22:37-38. It's the most important Commandment there is. And every single one of us has broken this First Commandment in a myriad of ways and time without number!

NOW is the right time for us to spiritually reform our lives. A man came up to a pastor one day and said, "Excuse me, Reverend. I've never been a church-going man, but I've been thinking lately that it's about time to start. What do you think? When is the right time in a person's life to start going to church?" "Well," replied the pastor, "to play it safe, you'd better make sure you start attending church at least a month before the date of your death." The man looked astonished. "But…I don't know the date of my death!" he protested. "Neither do I," said the preacher, "so I guess we'll see you on Sunday, then, won't we?"

My Christian friends, we can't afford to gamble with eternity. NOW is the only safe time to come to the Lord Jesus. To the Savior who has promised to pull us out of any and every sinful mess we may have gotten ourselves into, if we'll only trust Him to do it. Jesus lifts that heavy yoke of sin and guilt off your shoulders - including the guilt you feel about not keeping the First Commandment: to love God and serve Him above everything else in your life. What better time could there be than this to rededicate our lives to the Lord? As St. Paul put it, "Behold, NOW is the accepted time; behold, NOW is the day of salvation!" II Cor. 6:2. NOW is the right time to institute a reform in your life - you haven't got a minute to lose!

It goes without saying, of course, that for an effective reformation you have to have more than just good timing. You have to know who you believe in, and where your salvation lies. The Apostle Paul says "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Is essential for us to be in Christ Jesus. With the storms we face in life, there's no other safe place. With judgment day approaching, there's no other safe place. During hurricane Patricia this week, there was an interesting news item about a rescue vehicle that they use on offshore oil rigs. They call it "the bus." And if there's a hurricane threatening the oil platform, this is definitely one bus you don't want to miss! It's an orange, bullet shaped capsule mounted on a ramp. In case of emergency, the workers scramble into the bus and strap themselves into their seats. When the entry port is shut, the vehicle is released down its ramp and projected away from the rig. The seat belts protect the occupants from impact with the water. The capsule then bobs safely in the sea until rescuers can pick it up. But obviously, when the entry port is shut you've got to be in the vehicle to be safe. As long as you are in the rescue device you're completely out of danger. Our safety - when the storms of life blow, and when the final storm of the last judgment threatens -- our safety lies in one thing: being in Christ. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Like Martin Luther, King Josiah had made his resolution to start a reform. To get right with God again. And it's interesting to note the place he chose to carry out that decision. Luther went to the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Josiah went to the Temple of the Lord. In our country, executive decisions are made in the White House, and legislative decisions are made in the Congress. In ancient Israel, the seat of the executive was the royal palace. The seat of the legislature was the city gate, where the elders of the people would meet to talk things over. Very significantly, Josiah bypassed both these places, and went to the one place it was proper to renew the people's commitment to the Lord - THE LORD'S HOUSE! "And the king went up to the house of the Lord with all the men of Judah, and with him all the inhabitants of Jerusalem - the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great; and he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the Lord." They wanted to reform their lives, and they knew the right place to do it! They went to God's house. The place where God was worshipped, and where God's Word was read. Everybody went, from greatest to least, from the king on down to the poorest beggar. They went to confess their sin. They went to hear God's Word and receive God's forgiveness. They went to rededicate themselves to God's service, and to REFORM THEIR LIVES.

Here, in the Lord's house, is the right place for us, too, to start a real reform. HERE is where God's Word is preached! Have you ever seen a blast furnace? Do you know how they achieve such fantastically hot temperatures? By piping in pure oxygen to feed the flames. When you come to church on Sunday, your faith is fired and inspired by the highest-octane spiritual fuel there is - the pure Word of God. Every Sunday, that Word is preached from this pulpit. Here, every Sunday, is where you'll get the fuel that your soul needs to keep your faith burning white-hot. God's Law, and His Gospel. His word of repentance: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." And His sweet word of forgiveness: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I John 1:8-9.

Here is the right place for us to start a real, sincere reform movement in our personal lives. And there's something else we gain by getting together with our fellow Christians to worship God, and that's heat by association. The it's pretty common to hear someone object, " I can read God's word at home - I don't have to come to church to be a Christian." And that's true, as far as it goes. But there's something missing. I grew up in dairy country in the Midwest, and spent my share of time on farms. Then one day it suddenly occurred to me: there's no furnace in a cow barn. No source of heat at all. How could that be? In an area of the country where winter temperatures can get down to thirty below and stay there for weeks on end, how could the animals survive in a building with no heat? The answer, as one farmer explained to me, is heat by association. One animal alone in a barn would freeze to death, but thirty animals provide enough heat to make the inside of the barn warm and cozy even on the coldest days.

Well, our building here is certainly more graceful and inviting than a cattle barn. But a similar principle applies. One thing our worship here gives us is heat by association! God's house is where believers join together to praise and worship Him, and to encourage one another in the faith. We need that heat. Without it we run the risk of letting our faith grow cold, and die. That's why the writer to the Hebrews said, "Let us consider how we can stimulate one another to love and to do good works. Let us not stay away from our worship services, as some are regularly doing, but let us encourage one another, all the more as we see the day coming nearer." Heb. 10:24-25 - AAT.

In 1517, as a monk named Martin Luther stood at the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg Germany, the church was in dire need of reformation. So Luther, with hammer and nails in one hand and the 95 Theses in the other, did something about it. At the time of King Josiah, the people of Israel had been in need of reformation for a long time. So they did something about it! "Then the king stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people took their stand for the covenant." All of us, as well, are guilty, to some extent, of letting ourselves be sidetracked from our service to God. Jesus has earned us forgiveness for this guilt, too. Do you want to start a personal reform in your spiritual life? NOW is the right TIME! HERE is the right PLACE! -- To rededicate ourselves to the Lord. To renew the covenant of salvation with our God. Right now, right here, let's give the answer the psalmist gave when he said, What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. Psa 116:12-13. AMEN.