From the Renovaré Newsletter Archive

The selection below is from a June 2021 Renovaré newsletter. Download a PDF of the original newsletter.

I want to fol­low-up with you on my brief prophet­ic pro­jec­tion in the [Novem­ber 1999] Heart-to-Heart to the effect that we are in the begin­ning stages of a new ref­or­ma­tion; a ref­or­ma­tion I ful­ly expect to deep­en and expand through­out the cen­tu­ry we have just begun. The ref­or­ma­tion I speak of could be called the Ref­or­ma­tion of the Heart.” This ref­or­ma­tion cen­ters on the work of spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion, that is, the for­ma­tion of the human spir­it by the Spir­it of God. It gives focused atten­tion to our

… putting on the mind of Christ in such a way that Christ is ful­ly formed in us (Phil. 2:5, Gal. 4:19)

… pro­duc­ing in thought, word, and deed the fruit of love and joy and peace and patience and kind­ness and gen­eros­i­ty and faith­ful­ness and gen­tle­ness and self-con­trol (Gal. 5:22 – 23

… incul­cat­ing into our dai­ly liv­ing the holy habits of pru­dence and for­ti­tude and tem­per­ance and justice

… becom­ing with­in and with­out a peo­ple of faith, hope, and love. 

    This is the ref­or­ma­tion of which I speak.

    The Cen­turies-Old Dilemma 

    To make a real sub­stan­tive dif­fer­ence on the reli­gious land­scape this reform­ing work will need to break the horns of the cen­turies-old dilem­ma between jus­ti­fi­ca­tion and sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion. Cen­tral to the Protes­tant Ref­or­ma­tion was the con­vic­tion that human beings are jus­ti­fied by the action of God alone who freely imputes to us the mer­its of Christ, and that this jus­ti­fy­ing grace is received by faith alone so that the divine gift of eter­nal life is tru­ly sheer gift. Sola fide. Sola gra­tia. This con­vic­tion, which belongs to the Church uni­ver­sal, must nev­er be compromised.

    Hav­ing said this, I also want to say that the time is right for think­ing through exact­ly how jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, of neces­si­ty, con­nects with the inner renew­al of the per­son brought about by divine grace. The ques­tion is this: How does the alien and imput­ed right­eous­ness of Christ by its very nature effect the for­ma­tion of my life in such a way that I grow ever more ful­ly into Christ­like­ness? And what part am I to play in this pow­er­ful trans­form­ing work? This is an essen­tial task of the Ref­or­ma­tion of the Heart, one wor­thy of our best efforts in the cen­tu­ry before us. And, we have been giv­en a good run­ning start on this task from the Lutheran/​Catholic Joint Dec­la­ra­tion that was signed Octo­ber 31, 1999, the most sig­nif­i­cant sen­tence being, Togeth­er we con­fess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s sav­ing work and not because of any mer­it on our part, we are accept­ed by God and receive the Holy Spir­it, who renews our hearts while equip­ping and call­ing us to good works.”

    Auto­mat­i­cal­ly Inclusive 

    This Ref­or­ma­tion of the Heart will be auto­mat­i­cal­ly inclu­sive in the sense that every­one actu­al­ly formed into obe­di­ence to Jesus Christ will rec­og­nize them­selves as belong­ing to one anoth­er, and this by virtue of their obe­di­ence. Our sim­ple refusal, for exam­ple, to coop­er­ate with the evil around us will draw us togeth­er as surelyas met­al fil­ings come togeth­er under the pow­er­ful pull of the mag­net. The uni­ty of actu­al obe­di­ence to Christ will over­come our dif­fer­ences of denom­i­na­tion, cus­tom, and ritual.

    For the most part we are right now gov­erned by the cul­tur­al, social, and per­son­al forces of dis­uni­ty. But as this Ref­or­ma­tion of the Heart deep­ens, we will dis­cov­er that our actu­al obe­di­ence to Christ will move us toward uni­ty. Like a field of sun­flow­ers that are con­stant­ly and auto­mat­i­cal­ly turn­ing toward the sun, so our obe­di­ence will be con­stant­ly and auto­mat­i­cal­ly turn­ing us toward the Light of Life and we will imme­di­ate­ly iden­ti­fy with one anoth­er because of the rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent kind of life – the eter­nal kind of life – that is flow­ing through us. This will hap­pen first on a grass roots and func­tion­al lev­el but, in time, it will have reper­cus­sions through­out the social and eccle­si­as­ti­cal struc­tures of human life. This will be the ecu­menism of the 21st cen­tu­ry – the great new fact of our time!”

    Auto­mat­i­cal­ly Exclu­sive

    The Ref­or­ma­tion of the Heart (which, once again, is cen­tered on actu­al obe­di­ence to Christ as a result of trans­formed per­son­al­i­ty) will also be auto­mat­i­cal­ly exclu­sive. Those not walk­ing in the life and pow­er of the Spir­it are sim­ply not a part of this spir­i­tu­al fel­low­ship. And this is seen not by what peo­ple pro­fess but by how they live. Jesus Christ alone is able to pro­duce liv­ing exam­ples of his holi­ness, pow­er, and love. Nei­ther ances­tral pedi­gree nor denom­i­na­tion­al loy­al­ty nor creedal con­fes­sion can qual­i­fy us for this liv­ing fel­low­ship. Only changed lives – lives that are for­giv­en by grace and grow­ing in grace – can bring forth the wit­ness of the Spir­it to our spir­it that we are the chil­dren of God (Rom. 8:16). This, by its very nature, excludes all who stand out­side. It mat­ters not whether such per­sons are the dregs of soci­ety or the prim and prop­er of church soci­ety, if their lives lack grow­ing for­ma­tion into Christ­like­ness, they stand out­side this liv­ing fellowship.

    But, and this is the gen­uine­ly good news, whoso­ev­er will may come.” Jesus real­ly is the way, the truth, and the life” which is right­eous­ness and peace and joy in the Holy Spir­it” (Rom. 14:17). Come, you too are wel­come to enter into this of life.

    Grow­ing and Deepening 

    But you say, I’m far from per­fect. A huge amount of trans­form­ing work would need to hap­pen before the things you write about could be said of me!” Yes, no doubt. Paul said much the same thing (Phil. 3:12). But you are on the jour­ney. You have decid­ed to fol­low Jesus and there is no turn­ing back. Jesus, your ever-liv­ing Teacher, will guide you in all things and in all ways. He will give you what you need: dis­ci­plines appro­pri­ate for your own train­ing in right­eous­ness, wis­dom to know what is right and the pow­er to do it, and, above all, grace in all things.

    And, you are grow­ing and deep­en­ing in your dis­ci­ple­ship. You can look back and see areas of your life that have been trans­formed by the pow­er of God and this gives you hope for those areas that still need a redemp­tive touch. You know by expe­ri­ence that growth in grace is actu­al­ly pos­si­ble, even though your progress seems tor­tur­ous­ly slow. Even in the midst of all the ups and downs, the stum­bles and fum­bles of life, you have come to under­stand that Christ can and does trans­form ordi­nary life entire­ly. Indeed, this is a liv­ing real­i­ty in your day-to-day walk with God. This is the Ref­or­ma­tion of the Heart.

    Peace and joy, 

    Richard J. Foster

    From Jan­u­ary 2000 Ren­o­varé Per­spec­tives Vol. 10, No. 1.

    Text First Published January 2000 · Last Featured on Renovare.org June 2021

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