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The Reformation Herald Online Edition

It’s Time

Sunday, December 6, 2020
It’s Time to Be a True Reformer
Aroldo Gessner — Brazil
The situation in the world

Planet earth—our home—arrived in beauty and splendor from the hands of the Creator. Everything was perfect, prepared with love and dedicated to the human race to fully enjoy it. (See Genesis 1:31.) The first man and woman were created physically beautiful, but, above all, they had intellectual perfection and an upright character, which was to be solidified by communion with the Creator. “The sinless pair wore no artificial garments; they were clothed with a covering of light and glory, such as the angels wear. So long as they lived in obedience to God, this robe of light continued to enshroud them.”1

This perfect scene lasted until sin entered, plunging the world into the terrible state of corruption, immorality and sin.

The divine principles presented in the Holy Bible were abandoned and degraded into mere customs subject to human preferences. Most who remained in defense of the truth were sadly led to maintain a religion of outward show, establishing forms and rites devoid of love.

What does it mean to be a reformer?

Such a chaotic scenario requires the presence of reformers. “And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in” (Isaiah 58:12). This important mission presented by the prophet Isaiah identifies the people who work to restore divine principles that have been nullified and misrepresented.

To be a reformer is not to accommodate to this scenario. It is to fight with vigor and conviction to restore the destroyed pillars of truth. It is to remain faithful to the duty to defend the law of God, even in the face of fierce opposition.

Nehemiah was the servant of the most powerful king of his day. However, his heart was troubled by the knowledge that Jerusalem, his homeland, had been devastated and destroyed. But he was not discouraged by the difficulties and impossibilities. With the disposition common to reformers, he took all the necessary steps to reach his goal. Under God’s direction, he overcame all barriers and arrived in Jerusalem with the resources to restore the city of his forefathers. And when the enemies tried to distract him from his tasks—or even destroy him—so that the renovation work would not continue, he would say with conviction: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3).

Satan wants to involve us in things that make us incapable of being reformers. He wants to divert our attention from the solemn legacy we have received through the eternal Gospel; but, as true reformers, we must answer: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot stop!”

The time in which we live

Our days are compared to the days before the Flood. Just as at that time, the sacred principles established by God are forgotten, abandoned and ridiculed. According to the world, being faithful today is not a virtue. As in Noah’s day, debauchery, immorality and dishonesty are common to the human race. “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12).

Obedience to the law of God as a result of a life transformed by Jesus is an increasingly rare feature in our day. Relativism leads humanity into the swamp of sin. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).

All of this shows that Christ is at the door. His return to this world is closer than we can imagine. Inspiration shows us, through the prophetic clock, that the hour is coming.

“When the professed people of God are uniting with the world, living as they live, and joining with them in forbidden pleasures; when the luxury of the world becomes the luxury of the church; when the marriage bells are chiming, and all are looking forward to many years of worldly prosperity—then, suddenly as the lightning flashes from the heavens, will come the end of their bright visions and delusive hopes.”2

What does God expect from a reformer?

To live in this age of utter destruction of godly principles as faithful bastions and defenders of the truth, is the mission of reformers. Now is the time of restoration, and God expects from His people a real work of reform, starting from the heart and expanding to the point of preparing for the return of Jesus Christ (see Acts 3:21).

Living and practicing the principles of the Word of God in this present age is our responsibility. God has given us the privilege of witnessing to His name, and we cannot be distracted.

“The practice, in the details of life, of the principles laid down in God’s word, is too often looked upon as unimportant—a matter too trivial to demand attention. But in view of the issue at stake, nothing is small that will help or hinder.”3

As God’s remnant, He expects us to be true reformers. However, we cannot fall into the same mistake as the Jewish nation. They were the chosen people, the holy nation, and that filled them with satisfaction and pride. Imagining that they would always enjoy this status, they neglected true religion. They became satisfied with pleasing themselves—and they forgot about God. A mere sense of family heritage was sufficient for them, and their daily life did not match their profession of faith.

The same seems to be happening to us. We have been chosen by God to bear the standard of truth in the time of the end. We cannot be proud and allow the satisfaction of this privilege to make us forget the mission. To be reformers that God can count on, we need to be aware that our hearts must be totally transformed by the grace of Christ. (See Ezekiel 36:26.) With a new heart, we can be used by God in the great work of restoration.

The concept of a reformer

Our denominational history began with the need to emphasize the immutability of God’s law. His commandments are eternal, His law is forever. When, for convenience and union with the world the sacred principles were broken, we were called to stay on the narrow path in obedience to the Word of God. “When a people are wholly satisfied with their own attainments, little more need be expected of them.”4 Our reform forefathers immediately took on the mission of maintaining the divine legacy.

The responsibility to bear the ark is now on our shoulders. The spirit of reformation must be ours. We cannot stop the work that started more than a hundred years ago. Treading this path will not be easy, but it is the path we must follow. Our divine Companion will be with us at every step.

“ ‘Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat; because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.’ These roads are distinct, separate, in opposite directions. One leads to eternal life, the other to eternal death. I saw the distinction between these roads, also the distinction between the companies traveling them. The roads are opposite; one is broad and smooth, the other narrow and rugged. So the parties that travel them are opposite in character, in life, in dress, and in conversation.”5

To be a reformer is to live our denominational identity day by day. We inherited from our forefathers the blessed hope of the advent of Jesus to this Earth. The brightness of the fourth commandment on the tables of the law of God has been revealed, and the seventh day, the Sabbath of rest, is included as part of our Christian life. By having the description, “Reform Movement” added to our denominational name, we realize that our spiritual journey can suffer decline if we are not vigilant. To reform means to change from something worse to something better. However, in reforming, we must maintain—uphold—the Word of God in its proper place, as our only rule of faith and practice.

The return of Christ

The greatest event in history is Jesus’ second coming to this earth to seek His church. Because we are Adventists, because we are waiting for His return, we are candidates to enjoy this epic moment with joy. Ascending with Jesus in the clouds and starting the journey to the eternal home is our ultimate goal.

However, to achieve it, preparation is necessary. Waiting for Jesus means preparation, faithfulness, and complete surrender to Him. Waiting for Him, identifying ourselves as His children—while at the same time devoting our affections to the things of this world, is treason. And Satan presents countless attractions to divert our attention from Christ and His return in order to fix our eyes and hearts on the world and its attractions, just as in the days of Noah (see Luke 17:26, 27).

“I was shown our danger, as a people, of becoming assimilated to the world rather than to the image of Christ. We are now upon the very borders of the eternal world, but it is the purpose of the adversary of souls to lead us to put far off the close of time. Satan will in every conceivable manner assail those who profess to be the commandment-keeping people of God and to be waiting for the second appearing of our Saviour in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. He will lead as many as possible to put off the evil day and become in spirit like the world, imitating its customs.”6

We cannot, for a moment, take our eyes off Heaven and its wonders promised to the faithful. Many of us don’t think much about eternity, but we do everything we can to get the most out of this earthly life. For that, we invest all of our time, strength and money. We may even achieve everything possible in this world, but miss the mark. “For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?” (Luke 9:25.) Do you want to live in Heaven? If so, it’s time to be a real reformer, awaiting and hastening Jesus’ return!

The Sabbath

One of the great biblical truths hidden from nearly the entire human race for many centuries is the validity of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment of the law of God. It was given to our first parents as an emblem of His love and care for humanity. And ever since, Satan has fought to hide, cancel, and destroy the Lord’s holy day. Why? Because the Sabbath points to Jesus as our Creator, Redeemer and supreme King of the universe.

“Had the Sabbath been universally kept, man’s thoughts and affections would have been led to the Creator as the object of reverence and worship, and there would never have been an idolater, an atheist, or an infidel. The keeping of the Sabbath is a sign of loyalty to the true God.”7

When the Lord’s messenger received a vision of the heavenly sanctuary, she was shown an intense glow surrounding the fourth commandment, giving it prominence over the other commandments. This served not only to show that this commandment was not void, but also to say it is God’s seal identifying His people.

“To those who keep holy the Sabbath day it is the sign of sanctification. True sanctification is harmony with God, oneness with Him in character. It is received through obedience to those principles that are the transcript of His character. And the Sabbath is the sign of obedience. He who from the heart obeys the fourth commandment will obey the whole law. He is sanctified through obedience.”8

And how are we keeping the Sabbath? What have been our conversations and thoughts during God’s sacred hours? We have come a long way in this regard—we don’t work on Saturday, we don’t buy or sell that day, we don’t cook on it and we dedicate it to church and missionary work. But the sanctification of the Sabbath is not just about these things. It begins with preparation, taking care that everything is ready in order to enjoy the Sabbath in the company of Jesus. The limits of the holy day are sacred. We must be faithful at both the opening and closing of the Sabbath. The family must enjoy these hours in harmony. Our thoughts must be captive to Jesus that day. On Sabbath, our only goal should be to focus on doing God’s will, not our own. (See Isaiah 58:13, 14.) It’s time to be a true reformer in upholding the Sabbath!

Worldliness

From the beginning, it has been Satan’s intention to separate us from God. And for that, he presents the world and its theories to us as something very precious, implying that its loss will bring us unhappiness, just as he allured Eve with the forbidden fruit. When Satan took Jesus up to a high mountain, he showed Him all the greatness of the world, its kingdoms and their glory, promising Him possession of it if He would only worship him. “But Christ was unmoved. He felt the strength of this temptation; but He met it in our behalf, and conquered.”9

Satan also presents the world and its practices to us as an achievement. We are bombarded at all times with the “beautiful fruit” of worldliness and invited to participate in it. And, unfortunately, it has achieved success. The church has suffered great loss for giving in to the enemy’s attacks. We have not repelled it with “it is written,” as Jesus did. In this solemn time of sealing, our minds are absorbed in secular matters. The apostle John warns us: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

“Intense worldliness has been one of Satan’s most successful temptations. He designs to keep the hearts and minds of men so engrossed with worldly attractions that there will be no room for heavenly things. He controls their minds in their love of the world. Earthly things eclipse the heavenly, and put the Lord out of their sight and understanding. . . . Men are charmed with the glitter and tinsel of the world. They are so attached to the things of the earth that many will commit any sin in order to gain some worldly advantage.”10

Clothing

One of the main evidences of our religion is our appearance—the way we present ourselves. The Word of God reveals how a true Christian should dress. But the desire to be like unbelievers has led the children of God to dress according to the world. They ignore the instructions that God has left for us and decide to follow their own taste. Like Eve, they disbelieve the Word of God in favor of the words of the enemy.

“Many dress like the world, in order to have an influence over unbelievers; but here they make a sad mistake. If they would have a true and saving influence, let them live out their profession, show their faith by their righteous works, and make the distinction plain between the Christian and the worldling. The words, the dress, the actions, should tell for God. Then a holy influence will be shed upon all around them, and even unbelievers will take knowledge of them that they have been with Jesus. If any wish to have their influence tell in favor of truth, let them live out their profession, and thus imitate the humble Pattern.”11

“Self-denial and sacrifice will mark the Christian’s life. Evidence that the taste is converted will be seen in the dress of all who walk in the path cast up for the ransomed of the Lord.”12

Protection against immorality

Fig-leaf garments are not pleasing to God. Moral protection is a virtue of Christian dress. Sensuality is a trap that Satan has set for us. And the children of God must be protected from falling into that temptation by being constantly connected to Christ. He who does not have his feet planted on the rock will not be able to resist temptation. Not only that, whoever provokes temptation in others through any attitude—such as inappropriate clothing—will be equally guilty as the one tempted. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).

“The world must not be introduced into the church, and married to the church, forming a bond of unity.”13

It is time for us to be true reformers! Our clothing must be of good taste, of durable quality. But that which displeases God—lack of modesty, sensuality and “fig leaves”—must be rejected by Christians.

“Be not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Fashion is deteriorating the intellect and eating out the spirituality of our people. Obedience to fashion is pervading our Seventh-day Adventist churches and is doing more than any other power to separate our people from God. I have been shown that our church rules are very deficient. All exhibitions of pride in dress, which is forbidden in the word of God, should be sufficient reason for church discipline. If there is a continuance, in face of warnings and appeals and entreaties, to still follow the perverse will, it may be regarded as proof that the heart is in no way assimilated to Christ. Self, and only self, is the object of adoration, and one such professed Christian will lead many away from God.”14

Examples of true reformers

Elijah was a true reformer. He put principles above everything else. At the risk of his own life, he led the people to a decision to abandon idolatry and return to God. The Bible mentions him as a symbol of the work of restoration in the last days (Mark 9:12; Malachi 4:5, 6). The faithful who do not bow the knee to Baal are those whom God can count on now.

John the Baptist, in the spirit of Elijah, also preached unpopular truths, calling sin by its right name, thus preparing the way for the Messiah. He lost his life for fulfilling his duty as a reformer. However, his name is among the greatest in the kingdom of Christ, who declared of him: “Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist” (Luke 7:28).

In the Middle Ages, valiant reformers rose up in defense of biblical truths. Luther and others were used by God in the great work of uplifting the principles of His Word; he was often exposed to death by his persecutors, but he never shied away from the clear duty to speak and live the truth found in Christ. On one occasion, when advised not to appear before the authorities who accused him, Luther declared: “If there were as many devils at Worms as its tiles on roofs, I would enter.”15

This courageous spirit, characteristic of all reformers, was also found in the pioneers of the Reform Movement. In the face of scorn and accusations, they stood firm in defense of the truth, even at the cost of their lives. And, due to the efforts of these brave warriors of faith, we are here today.

The Spirit of Prophecy emphasizes the importance of a Christlike character in the work of reform for today.

“Reformers are not destroyers. They will never seek to ruin those who do not harmonize with their plans and assimilate to them. Reformers must advance, not retreat. They must be decided, firm, resolute, unflinching; but firmness must not degenerate into a domineering spirit. God desires to have all who serve Him firm as a rock where principle is concerned, but meek and lowly of heart, as was Christ. Then, abiding in Christ, they can do the work He would do were He in their place.”16

We cannot afford to mar the work by “a rude, condemnatory spirit,” this “is not essential to heroism in the reforms for this time.”17

By God’s grace, we can have His character implanted in our hearts. And when that character is fully fixed in our lives, we will be reformers like Christ was. We will have divine wisdom to apply the right words to the sinful woman or to rebuke the impetuous Peter. We will succeed in both blessing the people and overturning the tables of the moneychangers. But we will never be true reformers without the Spirit of Christ. We live in the time of restoration of all things, and Christ must dwell in us to fulfill what He expects of us.

Conclusion

Elijah was chased and hunted everywhere, yet God hid him. He was sentenced to death by the idolatrous queen when he called the people to reform. After fulfilling his ministry, he was elevated to Heaven without seeing death.

John the Baptist was mistreated, defamed and imprisoned. His short and blessed ministry ended when he was arrested and beheaded.

Most reformers in the Middle Ages were persecuted and executed for fulfilling their call to reform the cause of God. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

It doesn’t matter what happens to us as a result of our profession of faith. Before us is one of the darkest chapters in earthly history. We will be brought before the authorities, tried and unjustly condemned. However, what is more important? Jesus bids us, “be thou faithful unto death, and I will thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). The promise for the true reformers, who live in the last days, is: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Revelation 3:21). Isaiah 51:11 shows that the reward of the faithful reformer will be incomparable and eternal.

A true reformer will suffer persecution, rejection, and offense. But the work needs to be done. I have been called to fulfill this mission. You have been called to fulfill this mission. What are we waiting for? May the Holy Spirit guide us to be true reformers!

References:
1 Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 45.
2 The Great Controversy, pp. 338, 339.
3 The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 313, 314.
4 Ibid., p.239.
5 Christian Experience and Teachings of Ellen G. White, p. 156.
6 Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 306.
7 The Great Controversy, p. 438.
8 Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 350.
9 Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 255.
10 Ibid., pp.254, 255.
11 Evangelism, p. 672.
12 The Acts of the Apostles, p. 523.
13 Testimonies to Ministers, p. 265.
14 Testimonies, vol. 4, pp. 647, 648.
15 Bullock, Thomas A., The History of Modern Europe, p. 44, British Library, 1871.
16 Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 151.
17 Ibid.