READ: Psalm 129, Zechariah 8, Matthew 11, 2 Timothy 1

REFORM SCHOOL

In our impatient moments the restraint of God offends us. Like John the Baptist we are offended that Jesus does not do more with His great power (Matt. 11:6). We either don’t think God is active enough in the world or we don’t like what He does or appears to leave undone. In our lucid moments we worry less about what God is doing (or not doing in the world) and concentrate on what He needs to do in us (Psalm 119:35-36). We pray: “Lord, reform me! Lord, compel me. Lord, take me by force; impress your will upon me even if I protest. Lord, in my infrequent moments of eternal clarity, I declare I need you to forcefully reform, reconstruct, purge, cleanse, and make me holy.” And we are comforted that under His yoke, learning from Him, we find rest for our souls (Matt. 11:29). The Lord promises His people, “Just as you were a curse . . . so I will save you and you shall be a blessing. Do not fear. Let your hands be strong” (Zech. 8:13).

Some of us (like Paul) have done unimaginably hurtful things to the family of Christ. Some of us are former abusers, violent, insulting, perverted, attackers of what is holy, innocent, and pure. Some of us have been a curse to others. How amazing then the promise of God who “has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10)! This is Paul who wrecked havoc on the church testifying to the reforming power of God. For those of us who have done shameful things, God can reform and renew us and turn our curses into blessings. Do not fear. This is the power of the gospel: God taking human curses and reforming them into His human blessings.

Reform school takes a while; it is not a four-year process. We don’t graduate until we are elevated to glory. In the meantime we have a responsibility to love what is true and to be ruthless about anything that is false in us. We err if we think only the publicly known sinners need reformation. Those who have walked with Jesus for years still need His ongoing work and loving correction in our lives. Those who have walked with Jesus the longest can ironically be the most blind about their blemishes of character. We can become so familiar with grace that we no longer allow it to batter us.

Poet John Donne put it this way:

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
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