A few months back, I taught a few adult Sunday school classes on a Reformed approach to Christian piety. In doing so, I tried to focus on the fact that when we become Reformed, we don’t cease to practice piety; rather when we become Reformed, we cease the individualistic piety of mainstream evangelicalism and instead practice the corporate, eschatological, and gospel-centered piety of the Reformation.
I came across this great quote by Scott Clark which I wish had been at my disposal back in June, seeing as how I labored long and hard to say the same thing without nearly the concision and cogency of Clark:
The question is not whether we shall have a piety. Rather, the question is, which piety shall we have? With its emphasis on the ordinary, the confessional Reformed theology did produce a vital personal and profound piety grounded in the objective saving work of God in Christ and empowered by the Christian’s union with the ascended Christ wrought by the Holy Spirit. The very structure of the HC [Heidelberg Catechism], as indicated in the second question, is indicative of the confessional Reformed approach to piety. From God’s holy law we learn first the greatness of our sin and misery and our need for a Savior. From the gospel we learn how believers are redeemed from sin and misery. Following from our redemption is the Christian life, that is, how we ought to be thankful for such redemption.
Recovering the Reformed Confession: Our Theology, Piety, and Practice, pg. 110
Thus Reformed piety is Gospel centered, i.e., it springs from the finished work of Christ on our behalf – the same absolutely finished (and guaranteed) work that caused the hypothetical objector throughout Romans to accuse Paul of teaching people that it was appropriate for a Christian to not seek to live according to God’s law. Because it is gospel centered – and thus not motivated by fear of consequences and hope of rewards (as Michael Horton put so well) – Reformed piety does not work itself out with fear and terror (a wrong reading of Paul’s “fear and trembling”), but works itself out with reverence and awe – what John Murray described as a “reverential awe that elicits confidence.”
Would that our Reformed churches ditch the attractive looking “new measures” of evangelical pietism (rooted in nothing less than the two great awakenings’ search for an unmediated encounter with the living God apart from the ordinary means of word and sacrament) and return to the hope-filled and thankfulness-motivated piety of the Heidelberg Catechism!