Richard Baxter: Reformation and Blessing

Home » Meditations » Meditations » Richard Baxter: Reformation and Blessing

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. Matthew 16:25

“How long have we talked of reformation, how much have we said and done for it in general, and how deeply and devoutly have we vowed it for our own parts; and, after all this, how shamefully have we neglected it, and neglect it to this day! We carry ourselves as if we had not known or considered what that reformation was which we vowed.

As carnal men will take on them to be Christians, and profess with confidence that they believe in Christ, and accept of His salvation, and may contend for Christ, and fight for Him, and yet, for all this, will have none of Him, but perish for refusing Him, who little dreamed that ever they had been refusers of Him. And all because they understood not what His salvation is, and how it is carried on, but dream of a salvation without flesh-displeasing, and without self-denial and renouncing the world, and parting with their sins, and without any holiness, or any great pains and labor of their own in subserviency to Christ and the Spirit.

Even so did too many ministers and private men talk and write, and pray, and fight, and long for reformation, and would little have believed that man who should have presumed to tell them, that, notwithstanding all this, their very hearts were against reformation; and that they who were praying for it, and fasting for it, and wading through blood for it, would never accept it, but would themselves be the rejectors and destroyers of it.

And yet so it is, and so it hath too plainly proved: and whence is all this strange deceit of heart, that good men should no better know themselves? Why, the case is plain; they thought of a reformation to be given by God, but not of a reformation to be wrought on and by themselves. They considered the blessing, but never thought of the means of accomplishing it.”

Richard Foster (1615-1691) in The Reformed Pastor (Grand Rapids: CCEL) 109-110.

When we think about practicing disciplines in Lent, we realize that practicing self-denial is hard. Only in the doing do we discover that it is a means for our good.

The irony that Baxter points out is that those who, using the language of Jesus, aim at saving their lives or we might say prioritize their comfort or self-preservation, will actually lose them, and those who lose their lives for Christ will actually find them.

Praying and fasting are the means through which we lose ourselves and find how God transforms us into useful vessels for His purposes. Is your heart against being reformed? Consider the implications for your generosity.

We will never sacrifice until we realize that having Christ exceeds all the treasures of the world. We will never do it with kindness until we discover that God never ceases to direct His love and kindness toward us.

Only when we discover this, through practicing disciplines, do we find ourselves. Don’t be one of those people who prioritize their comfort or self-preservation. Lose your life for Christ and you will find it.

Hat tip on this note to my grown son, Sammy. Today he turns 23 years old. He grasped this early on. Upon learning that we fast from lesser things to feast on greater things, he would leap at any challenge.

Some Lenten seasons he would exchange junk food items, movies, video games, and other earthly things for life-giving foods, learning worship songs on guitar, and other heavenly practices.

As our children are both launching this year, we ar thankful to God that they grasp that reformation, while it is really uncomfortable, is the pathway to abundant blessing. Happy Birthday, Sammy.

And thanks for your prayers. Yesterday, the CONFIABLE event (pictured above) in Guatemala City celebrated standards of responsible stewardship for churches and ministries in Guatemala and made a last call for founding members. Participants responded with enthusiasm and support.

Today, I have another full day. I will speak at a morning conference on governance linked to The Council: A Biblical Perspective on Board Governance and at an afternoon conference related to generosity and Good and Faithful: Ten Stewardship Lessons for Everyday Living.