Friday, December 28, 2018

Incomplete Reformation

The year is winding down, which brings me once again toward the end of 2Chronicles. The evil of Manasseh is never surprising. The repentance of Manasseh always is. Something else caught my eye today, however.
He took away the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the LORD and in Jerusalem; and he cast them out of the city. He also repaired the altar of the LORD, sacrificed peace offerings and thank offerings on it, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel. Nevertheless the people still sacrificed on the high places, but only to the LORD their God. (2 Chr 33:15–17)
It's that last verse there. "Nevertheless the people still sacrificed on the high places, but only to Yahweh their God" (emphasis mine). The way that the Holy Spirit notes this is instructive for believers such as we are, who are always in an a state of incomplete reformation.

Recently someone dear to me, who is just now at a very late point in life coming 'round to delighting in the Lord's Day and rejecting man-made holy days, expressed grief over someone else whom he loves. That individual had been talking about praying to this and that saint, and visiting this and that holy site, as a way to enhance the effectiveness of his own intercession before God.

I pointed out to my dear one that, so long as we are coming by genuine faith in Christ, we are coming in union with Christ. I say 'genuine', rather than 'only', because if we tell the truth, then the fact is that we never have perfect faith in Christ. Even if we intend to believe in Christ alone as the God-man, our Mediator, all of our faith is imperfect. Of course, willfully trusting in others as well is not genuine faith in Christ, but every one of our hearts is a tangled web of excuses by which we explain away all of our false trustings.

Well, if we are coming in union with Christ, then the Lord is receiving us according to Christ's righteousness. And, if we are coming in union with Christ, then His blood puts away all of the guilt of all of the sin and error in how we come.

Does that mean that we should be satisfied with imperfect reformation? No, not at all. As we read through Chronicles (or Kings), we find that the Lord cares very much about every detail of reformation, and does "grade" varying degrees of reformation differently. Here, in 2Chr 33:17, there is obvious divine dissatisfaction with the people's sacrificing on the high places.

However, we also learn here not to treat a smaller degree of reformation as if it is worthless for being smaller. The Lord mentions the sincerity of their flawed (idolatrous!) worship: but only to Yahweh their God. Does this take away the guild of the idolatrous portion? Of course not. The Lord was still about to destroy Israel for their man-invented way of holding a feast to Yahweh in Exodus 32:5. Only the Mediator (Christ!!--though, in that section of Exodus, Moses is a type/foreshadowing of Christ) can take away the guilt that belongs to the flaws in our worship.

That is what frees us to celebrate the removal of some flaws--even if there are others that we can still see. Imperfect reformation is not the same as no reformation at all. In fact, covered in Christ's blood and made sincere by His Spirit, every well-intended reformation is something to be celebrated, even if fraught with glaring blindspots of imperfection!

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