What Does It Mean to be Reformed?

Let’s say you have a cousin from Atlanta, Georgia, and one from Brooklyn, New York.  One of them calls you on the phone. Can you tell which one it is just by how they say, “Hi there. How are you doin’ today?”  Of course you can! That’s because even though your cousins both speak English, they each speak it with a different accent. 

That’s a good comparison to use when talking about different groups of Christians. We all speak the same language in many cases, but we speak it with different accents or emphases. Here at Illiana Christian High School, we speak with a Reformed accent. And, if you’ve wondered what “Reformed” really means—and if you’ve felt like you needed a translation—here are some things about just what that word means for Illiana Christian High School. 

Reformed Christians emphasize the Bible as the foundation of all we believe and all we do. That means that we are reshaped (or re-formed, get it?) by what God’s Word says, not by someone’s opinion or by what modern society says is a good idea. The only opinion that matters is God’s, and we learn about what God says in the Bible. From that holy Book, we can learn about God, ourselves, the world, and the relationship between God, ourselves and the world. 

The Scriptures tell us many things about God: how He has worked in the past and how He works today.  Reformed Christians read that word and see a theme: God is in control! He is the sovereign God: the One who is ruling and the One who is in charge. That means that no matter what the front page of the newspaper says, our world is not spinning out of control. God has all things in His hand, and He will work them out according to His divine plan.

One of the most important things that is under God’s control is salvation. God does the work of saving us, providing a Savior while we were yet sinners. We can’t save ourselves. We don’t earn or deserve eternal life with God in heaven. Our salvation is a gift—by grace through faith—because of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. God’s control over our eternal destiny is the source of great comfort! It doesn’t depend on my good works (which are never good enough) or my feelings (which are bound to vary). Salvation depends on an all good, loving, merciful, sovereign God who never changes. 

When Reformed Christians look at the story of the Bible, they notice another thread running through the Old and New Testaments: the idea of covenant. God makes covenant promises with Noah, Abraham, David, and the children of Israel. Even when the human parties don’t hold up their end of the agreement, God is faithful.  Amazingly enough, God wants to include us in His covenant as well!  God promises to be our God and we will be His people, and He makes that promise to us and to our children. 

That’s why Reformed Christians believe so strongly in Christian education. Illiana Christian High School partners with Christian homes and churches to work together in the important task of raising children to know and follow Christ. But Reformed Christian education is about so much more than chapel and Bible class. It’s about how the Lordship of Christ affects every area of life, every subject, every action, every recreation. So Illiana Christian High School emphasizes that science and history, business and band, lunch time and basketball practice all have to do with our faith in God. There’s no area that’s not sacred; there’s no part of school life where we can hang up a “Keep Out” sign for God.

Education from a Reformed perspective often uses the idea of Kingdom—God’s Kingdom. That’s a Kingdom which is already here, but is not yet fully realized. God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is still working today to redeem the world He created and loves, and He asks us—His creatures—to join Him in that redemptive work. That means we don’t run away from this world or hide from it just waiting to go to heaven. No! God calls us to work for Him and His Kingdom today to redeem all aspects of life:  movies, music, politics, Power Point. 

That opens up an exciting world of possibilities for Illiana Christian High School students; God can use them in a wide variety of jobs in the future. Our job today is to help them learn, so that they will be ready when God calls them into service.

One way to explain what Reformed Christianity is all about is to go back in church history and explain the connection between churches on the family tree of denominations. But Reformed ideas aren’t really just associated with one church; the word “Reformed” is a way of explaining and acting on faith that crosses denominational lines. This emphasis on the Word, a sovereign God, salvation by grace alone, God’s covenant faithfulness, His Kingdom and our role in it, is just one way of speaking Christianity with a particular accent. And at Illiana Christian High School, we hope that’s coming through loud and clear.

— Mary Lagerwey, Teacher
January, 2006