Reformed Theology in a Nutshell: God acts first and we respond.
God acted first in Creation, and we are given the joyful responsibility of living in God’s world, with others in God’s creation, on God’s terms. God’s desire for our lives is that we care for creation, enjoy the abundance and beauty of it, and live within the bounds of God’s caring covenant (Genesis 2:15-17).
The rebellion of humankind in the Garden reveals that God has given us the freedom to choose life on our own terms (Genesis 3). But life on our terms – seeking to know, touch and do things God has not given us to know, touch and do – this brings consequences of pain, loss, brokenness and death, for us and for all of creation.
Reformed theology affirms that sin is a powerful force in creation – crouching at the door of our hearts, desiring to rule us (Genesis 4:7). But God has also charged us to rule it rather than let it rule our lives. The reality, of course, is that often we are unable, on our own strength, to keep sin at bay.
So, God acts to redeem us. God gave the covenant law to Moses, that God’s people would know God’s desire for their lives – to love God and neighbor. But laws can only point to our sin, not save us from it. So the Holy One of Israel became incarnate – put on flesh and blood – in Jesus Christ, and lived a holy, obedient life, an obedience that led to his death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead (Philippians 2, Romans 8).
In Christ’s death, we are given a new covenant in his blood for the forgiveness of our sins. And in Christ’s resurrection, we are given new life and the promise of our own resurrection. (Luke 22:17-20, Acts 2:36-41, John 11:25-26, Romans 4:12-20).
God acts in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And we respond out of gratitude. We do not earn salvation by obedience; rather, we obey because we rejoice that we are saved in Jesus Christ and because he has claimed us for his own. Reformed theology claims that God’s law is not the avenue to salvation, but it shows us God’s desire for our lives and so we gratefully follow it, seeking with our whole lives to love God and neighbor. (Ephesians 2:8-10, Philippians 2).
God acts through the Holy Spirit to point us Christ. We believe the Holy Spirit acts in the sacraments of baptism and communion to seal the truth of Christ to our hearts and mark us for his work of reconciliation in the world (2 Corinthians 5:18). And we believe he will receive us in eternal communion with him. We are his in life and in death.
Reformed Worship is marked by the Centrality of the Word of God – the Word written (the Bible), the Word Incarnate (Jesus Christ), and the Word proclaimed (sermon, song, prayer, church mission). We prepare to hear God’s Word through praise, adoration and confession. We hear God’s Word through sermon, song, and creative interpretation. And we respond to God’s Word in prayer and offering our lives in tithe, commitment and service. God acts and we respond!