Reformed Polemics (III): Reformed Polemics for the Youth

Reformed polemics for the believer has been the subject of two previous articles in the Salt Shakers. Now we come to the polemics for the believing youth.

STOP: Do not skip this article. Yes, polemics seems quite far off for youths, doesn’t it? What does it have to do with youths? Perhaps you do not see yourself doing polemics in your life; and, I sense some of you might think that you do not have the intellectual ability for polemics.

Any of us (adults included) may have these thoughts, because we think, to condemn the lie swiftly and decisively, polemics merely involves an elite level of writing, speaking, and intellectual gifts; all of which can only be found in professors, ministers, and a few men in the congregation that will probably be office-bearers.

I beg to differ. Polemics does involve good writing and speaking skills, as well as intellectual ability; but those do not define polemics. What makes polemics, polemics, is love for the truth. When we love the truth, we condemn the lie to preserve the truth.

Therefore, any expression of that love for the truth by going against the lie is a form of polemics. That expression is polemics for the youth; I give three examples of that expression.

Personal Polemics, First

Rev. Langerak wrote about this in the previous article: He must first all be engaged in the battle with sin in his own heart and life…. Daily the believer must put off the old man and put on the new man, a kind of personal polemics.

Why is personal polemics, polemics?

Personal polemics — putting off the old man and putting on the new man — involves the heart. Only a heart that loves the truth will submit to the truth that teaches us to mortify our sins and yield ourselves to God (Rom. 6:13).

As we said earlier, all polemics involves the heart: we will defend the truth and condemn the lie only when we love the truth in our hearts. Notice in both polemics the love for the truth in condemning the lie, which includes the sin of our hearts. Therefore, personal polemics is polemics.

Notice, too, how one cannot be without the other; how attempting to engage in polemics but hardly engaging in mortifying our old man and yielding ourselves to God does not work. Doing one without the other is what Jesus calls noticing that speck of dust in a person’s eye (the lie) when you have the giant beam in your eye (your old man) — hypocrisy, in other words (Matt. 7:3-5).

The call to youths, then, is to be polemical within ourselves. We have already described this polemics as mortifying our sins and yielding ourselves to God. This polemics is also self-examination, something we discussed in last year’s youth camp. Think about the areas we learned to examine ourselves; have you been examining those areas?

Also, our spiritual disciplines — devotions, prayer, reading, and memorization — teach us to discern what is right and wrong. That discernment will help us when we meet Christian classmates who practice an ungodly lifestyle. Do you discern? DV, we will discuss these disciplines in our workshops this year.

Not least among these personal polemics is the instruction of our parents. How many arguments we had with our parents are about our sins in the home? Do we listen to our parents, apologise to them, and change for the better (spiritually)?

Personal polemics is polemics; personal polemics is your polemics as youths.

Polemics in Witnessing

 There is polemics in your heart; and there is polemics in your witness.

The very nature of witnessing requires polemics. Witnessing is bringing the gospel to unbelievers. Of course, the gospel brings the good tidings of salvation through Jesus Christ alone. But no one can bring those good tidings without showing the need for it — the need being our unbelief and wickedness. If we do not identify and strike down the unbelief and spiritual corruption of the unbeliever to whom we witness, the heart of the gospel would not be conveyed to the unbeliever. Witnessing involves polemics.

Witnessing is also bringing the Reformed faith to other Christians who hold to a corrupted version of the truth. What would we say if our Christian colleagues and classmates notice in us the Reformed distinctives we hold to and ask, “So you don’t believe in ____?” (Think contemporary music in worship, evolution, pre-millennialism, etc.)? Either we ignore the question, or we say, “No I don’t; I believe these are unbiblical. Let me explain why.” Witnessing involves polemics.

The call to youths is to be polemical in your witness. Of course, that means first of all you must witness. Don’t shrug your shoulders when classmates ask you why you live this or that way or believe in God. Be ready to tell them plainly you believe and live this way because God says this is what we must believe and do. When such conversations begin, be prepared to tell them about what you believe is wrong and why you believe it is wrong. Peter was ready to condemn the Jews for crucifying Jesus (Act. 2:23); so was Stephen (Act. 7:51-53). Are you?

To be ready to give proper polemics in our witness is not easy. The questions asked by unbelievers and other Christians will catch us off-guard: What would you do if your son decides to be homosexual? I was caught off-guard with this question in the army. How would you answer? Are you ready to do polemics in your answer?

Polemics in our Public Confession

Polemics in our hearts; polemics in our witnessing; and now, we find polemics in our public confession of faith.

Have you noticed it in the second question: Have you resolved by the grace of God to adhere to this doctrine; to reject all heresies repugnant thereto; and to lead a new, godly life? In other words, the question is: Will you be polemical?

Notice that the question asks about being polemical doctrinally. Will you study the Word and Reformed faith (this doctrine), so that you know what the lie (heresy) is and be ready to reject it? Notice, too, that the question asks about being polemical practically. When you lead a new, godly life, you destroy that old, ungodly life first. So, really, the question is asking: do you practice personal polemics?

Will you be polemical? Polemics is for the believing youth. As shown, it is required in our daily lives, whether or not you write or speak well, and whether or not you have intellectual gifts likened to ministers.

We said at the beginning that to be polemical starts first with love for the truth. I add to that what the second question says: to be polemical starts with that love, by the grace of God. To be polemical takes the grace of God; it is a resolve by the grace of God, as the question states.

So, be polemical, in these ways and more. Do it by God’s grace, to God’s glory.

 

Written by: Lim Yang Zhi | Issue 49

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The Abuse of Christian Women by Their Christian Husbands

Introduction

            Reformed Christians, both the laity and the officebearers, must become aware of the evil of abuse in marriages in their fellowship. They must judge it to be the gross, destructive sin that it is. They must deal with it in the right way, delivering the abusive husband from his sin and delivering the abused wife from her misery.

I address the abuse of wives by their husbands. This is not because there are no instances of the abuse of husbands by their wives. There are. But women are far more likely to be abused by their husband. The experience of every pastor will confirm this. Besides, what is said about abused wives will apply also to abused husbands in most respects.

There may be disagreement with aspects of this article. There should be no disagreement with the assertion that abuse is a real problem in the Reformed community, including those of which we are members. It is killing some wives, as also the children in these homes. There are abusive husbands who are under the wrath of God at present and who will be damned, if they do not repent.

The evil is not only a concern to other churches, but also to our own.

The Nature of Abuse

            Abuse is a husband’s deliberate, continuing, systematic, relentless destruction of his wife, whether her soul or her body, and usually both. Abuse is not necessarily physical, although invariably there is at least the threat of physical abuse. Often, abuse takes the form of the psychological and emotional destruction of the woman by name-calling, criticism, and belittling.  Such is the unrelenting degradation that it convinces the wife that she has no redeeming quality, whether in the kitchen or in the bedroom.

By abuse, I do not mean, and no one means, the occasional outburst of anger, or other unkind treatment of one’s wife. These actions are sinful, but they do not constitute abuse. Abuse is a pattern of marital life.

Verbal abuse destroys the woman, even when there is no physical abuse. It is sin, and the sin is murder. It is violation of the sixth commandment of the law of God, “Thou shalt not kill.”  Lord’s Day 40 of the Heidelberg Catechism explains the sixth commandment thus: “that I neither in thought, nor in word or look, much less in deed, revile, hate, insult, or kill my neighbor”. The positive requirement is that we “love our neighbor as ourselves, to show patience, peace, meekness, mercy, and kindness towards him [or her], and, so far as we have power…prevent his hurt”.

The biblical basis of the Catechism’s inclusion of reviling and insulting words — “verbal abuse!” — in the sin of murder is 1 Corinthians 5:11 and 6:1. According to 1 Corinthians 6:10, no reviler, that is, verbal abuser, “shall inherit the kingdom of God”.

Because the children witness the abuse of their mother, and are terrified by it, the abusive husband on his part is the murderer of his entire family.

What folly! For “he that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hateth his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church (Eph. 5:28, 29). The explanation of this folly is that the husband, at least, the husband in the church, confuses his headship with absolute lordship as though he is entitled to his wife and may do with her as he pleases.

The truth is that the husband is “head,” not dictator, or tyrant. He may not treat his wife as he pleases but as Christ treated, and treats, His wife, the church (Eph. 5:25). This is love — a love that gives oneself to and on behalf of the wife. This is love that not only does not abuse, but also that does not even use. It nourishes and cherishes.

The Calling of the Church

            The church must treat the sin of abuse, as it treats all other sins, by strong, sharp, pointed preaching. This preaching exhorts the positive calling of the husband in marriage, but also exposes and condemns the sin of abuse. It promises the reward of grace to the man who lives with his wife in love. It also threatens hell and damnation to the impenitent, abusive husband.  Such preaching will hold before the husband the behaviour of Christ towards His church, which marriage is the real marriage and the model for our own marriages (Eph. 5). It will call the man to speak lovingly to his wife, as Solomon spoke to his wife: “Thou art fair, my love” (Song 1:15, 16). The believing woman will gladly submit to such a husband. The Christian husband does not abuse his wife into submission; he loves her into submission.

The Reformed institution and practice of family visitation is another means by which the church discovers abuse and deals with it. The elders must make inquiry into the condition of the marriages in their fellowship, by pointed questions about headship and abuse, about submission and rebellion. Where necessary, they must resolutely follow up on instances of weaknesses.

In the church, all the members have a calling to help with regard to abuse that comes to their attention. Often, an abused wife will first reveal her distress to another female in the congregation. This female must exercise the office of believer and help her sister. Likely, she will call on the pastor for his aid. The pastor must then take hold of the sin, comforting the abused woman, which includes believing her, and confronting the abusive husband. He must see to it that the husband does not punish his wife with an increase of abuse, because of her call for help to another member of the church or to the pastor. The refusal of a member or of the pastor to give help, perhaps out of fear of the consequences for himself, is despicable cowardice.  Refusing to help the abused woman, he refuses to help Christ Jesus (Matt. 10:40-42).

 Deliverance

            Important as deliverance of the abused wife is, prevention of abuse is equally as important. Even though she dates a young man in the church, a young woman must be on her guard against marrying an abusive man. He will show himself to be abusive by attempting to control her, by speaking cruelly to her or about her, and simply by not being loving to her. He may even hurt her physically in anger: hitting, pinching, becoming enraged, threatening violence.  If she sees signs of abuse, she should break off her relationship with him. Quickly!

Parents must carefully scrutinize their daughter’s suitor with a view to spotting abusive characteristics. Marrying in the Lord includes more than marrying a boy from the church.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

For the woman who finds herself married to an abusive man, there is deliverance. There is also deliverance for the abusive husband. If he is to escape damnation for hating his nearest neighbour — his wife — and if he is to live the basic Christian life of loving his neighbour — his wife — he must be brought to repentance. The elders of the church, as well as fellow believers, must admonish him. If necessary, the elders must discipline him, to the point of excommunication.

Deliverance of the abused wife consists of compassionate help by the church, usually given by the pastor. He must listen to her; he must believe her; he must encourage her with the gospel of Jesus Christ. If her husband is also a member of the church, he must guide the consistory in firm admonition of the abusive husband, which is more than a brief rebuke in order to send the man quickly back to his wife, so that he can continue his abuse, and probably increase its severity.

In some cases, the evil behaviour of the husband has contributing psychological causes that require the ministrations of a competent counsellor, preferably a Christian.

Spousal abuse is an abomination to God and the church!

 

This article is, in the main, a summary of a booklet on the subject of abuse by myself presently being published by the Byron Center PRC and by the RFPA.  Copies of the booklet are available from the Byron Center PRC c/o Harlow Kuiper at hkuiper44@msn.com or c/o Sid Miedema at sid@1800lastbid.com and from the RFPA at www.rfpa.org

 

 

Written by: Prof. David J. Engelsma | Issue 49

 

Daily Honouring

Who is the first person that comes to mind when you need help or a listening ear? Of course it is your parents! They are the only ones who can understand you, having brought you up from the moment you were born. They are the only ones who truly love you (not your friends, though they might love you in a different way), because after all, you are in the same family. Even worldly philosophy understands that blood is thicker than water. Having experienced such love from our parents, are we then becoming ungrateful and selfish, taking them for granted?

Yes, I know there are cases of abusive parents, hitting their children for no good reason, but even then, we are called to honour and love them, not only the good and gentle, but also the froward (1 Pet. 2:18). Having said that, there are also true stories in which the love of a mother caught the world’s attention. During the aftermath of an earthquake, the body of a woman was uncovered in an awkward position, as though she intentionally moved herself in that position for a reason. Yes, that’s right, huddled in her arms was her infant, and she sacrificed herself while using her body as a shield to protect her baby from the falling debris. Her efforts were not in vain, as her child was kept alive because of the mother’s heroic act. Or in another case, a sick mother refused to undergo treatment because doing so would result in the termination of her pregnancy, and in the end she sacrificed her own life after the baby was born because her love for her child moved her to take the risk of a much needed treatment at a later date. However, such acts of love are not true love and not acts of good works, because they are done not to glorify God. They are in vain in themselves, done merely out of human affection but not out of the love of God.

Therefore, the most important way to honour our parents is to love Christ and be rooted in Christ’s love. This is, in fact, the only way. There is no other way. “But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (I Thess. 5:8). To love and honour our parents, we first of all must have faith in Jehovah, knowing that it is Christ who first loved us, giving us everything we have, including our parents, to guide us along in our pilgrim’s journey to heaven. We must obey and love our parents, knowing that God has placed them in our life’s journey as a picture of our heavenly Father’s tender love for us. Psalm 103:13 says, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him”. Proverbs 3:12 says, “For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth”.

To honour our parents means that we  take heed to their admonitions, chastisements, and words. We obey them not grudgingly, but with delight, even if it means doing things that we dislike to do. How often do we drag our feet when our parents instruct us to do our homework or our daily household chores and have to be scolded for not obeying immediately. We must pray to God for the grace to remove any bitterness in our hearts, because it displeases God when we disobey our parents. When we disobey our parents, we are in fact disobeying God and dishonouring our parents. We must also take heed to our parents’ advice seriously, because they are much wiser in their years of age and have a lifetime of experience to share with us. We will benefit both spiritually and physically when we listen to their advice. For example, I am sure your parents advised you to eat your vegetables when you were young, even though you disliked them, and to finish your bitter medicine when you were sick. How much it benefits us. How much more so if they advise us on spiritual things. Proverbs 1:8-9 says, “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck”.

One of the most important things to do to honour our parents is to daily pray for them and their well-being. We too, of course, must also take care of their well-being and honour them. For example, in our daily lives we must encourage our mother or father when they are feeling down and let them know how much we love them and cheer them up. Even a simple “I love you” or “I will be praying for you”, or reciting your favourite Bible verse to encourage them, will definitely lift their spirits, because it is God’s way, and God will definitely work in their hearts and our hearts to comfort us even in the most painful times. You may also like to ask your parents if they need anything to make their lives easier and save up money to buy the things that they need, or maybe even surprise them if you already know what they need without asking. Thoughtfulness is an attribute you must have to honour your parents. It also goes without saying that we must help out in the household chores and do additional ones without being told to ease their burden. Helping your parents to buy groceries and carrying stuff for your parents works fine too. We can also save the best dishes for our parents during meal times and buy their favourite food using our own pocket money when they are too tired to cook, or maybe even make their favourite hot/cold drinks on a daily basis.

In conclusion, we must honour our parents by first of all honouring God and showing the fruits of the Spirit in our lives. Also, with the spiritual advice given by our parents, our lives may be prolonged if it be God’s will, based on God’s Word in Exodus 20:12: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee”.

Thank you to all the parents and my own as well. God bless.

 

Written by: Marcus Boon | Issue 49

Thoughts on Travelling

The June holidays are just round the corner, and many of us will be making (or have already made) plans to travel. With the increasing affluence of our society, it is not uncommon for families and individuals to take one, two or even more holiday trips each year. In light of these, perhaps it would be worthwhile for us to consider what the Bible says about travelling and some of the issues pertaining to it. As far as possible, I will attempt to shed the light of Scripture on this topic, but some of the writings will also include my personal views and inclinations. Hence I have titled this piece: “Thoughts on Travelling”.

At the outset, it would be appropriate to assert that to travel or take a vacation is not evil. The apostle Paul declares: “Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4-5). The child of God may legitimately go on a holiday and enjoy the good gifts of God in His creation. Solomon too, in his wisdom, writes, “And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God” (Ecc. 3:13). Man may truly enjoy the fruit of his labours (including travelling), using it moderately and receiving it as from the hand of God. Unfortunately, as with many other good gifts of God, sinful man is inclined to abuse the gift of vacation and engage in it wickedly. As children of a holy God, we do well to examine ourselves in some of these areas concerning travelling.

Motive(s) for Travelling

Ponder for a moment: why do we travel? We live in a society that is pleasure-crazy. A society that pursues pleasure as an end in itself. To what extent have we been influenced by such a life-view? If travelling consumes us and we divorce it from our Christian calling to serve and glorify God, then we are guilty of immoderation and excess. If we seek travelling for travelling’s sake and not as a means to help us in our pilgrimage, then we abuse God’s gift to us. We are warned that in the last days — “men shall be lovers of their own selves” (2 Tim. 3:2). It is easy for us to get carried away with pursuing travels merely to gratify ourselves.

To guard against such a pitfall, let us take heed to our calling to perform all things to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). In travelling, do we seek to use the break so that we may better serve God upon returning? Or to help us grow in our walk and relationship with God? Is it intended to lead us to praising our Creator as we enjoy the marvellous sights on earth? Do we acknowledge Him as the giver of this gift and duly afford thanksgiving? May we have the glory of God at the forefront of our minds as we make travel plans.

Communion with God

In our vacations, we may take a break from some aspects of our earthly callings, as, for example, studying or working. But are we also sometimes inclined to take a vacation from God? To take a vacation from our eternal calling to be citizens of the kingdom of Heaven? On a holiday, our daily routines are disrupted and this could interfere with our quiet times of devotions and prayer. There may be a certain haste to visit the many attractions and places of interest, or we may be excessively wearied by travel and all its excitement. And so the temptation to take a vacation from communion with God presents itself. When travelling with believing friends and family, a delightful remedy is to plan for group devotions. A roster could even be drawn up ahead of time so that different individuals may prepare to lead. Group singing, meditation on God’s word and sharing of reflections are a wonderful way to fellowship.

That being said, personal devotions ought not to be neglected either, certainly not even at youth retreats or church camps. We may not simply drift along with the spiritual activities that have been planned, giving no heed to our personal walk. There is no other way around this apart from faithful diligence. Get up earlier, or start the day’s events later; it must be worked into our schedules. The psalmist’s experience is instructive: “Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word” (Ps. 119:148). Rising early, he gave himself to the meditation of God’s Word. Let us strive to emulate such behaviour.

Sabbath Observance

Sabbath desecration is oftentimes a snare for us who travel. It is a subject of much contention and debate, but let us be subject to the instruction of Scripture regarding this. Is it necessary to attend church while on vacation? A resounding yes! The words of the prophet Isaiah cut at the heart of the matter: “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, and holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thy own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, not speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD…” (Isa. 58:13, 14). So do the words of our Heidelberg Catechism: “…that I, especially on the sabbath, that is, on the day of rest, diligently frequent the church of God, to hear His word, to use the sacraments, publicly to call upon the Lord, and contribute to the relief of the poor…” (LD 38, Q&A 103). I believe these quotes are also adequate responses to whether or not listening to recorded sermons or worshipping God in creation are appropriate substitutes. Often, the excuse is heard, “Oh, but it’s only for one or two Sundays of the year; I can be found in church on the other 50 Lord’s Days”. Really, would we say anything similar with regard to the 3rd or 7th commandments? This implies then, that in the planning of our travels that span over a Sunday, we actively and deliberately work our schedules around church attendance and Sabbath-keeping.

Then follows the question, may we only attend churches from the same denomination? I hesitate to make a rule out of this, but I draw the reader’s attention to a few considerations. First, consider why we have our membership in the church that we do. Is it not because we believe that it has the purest manifestation of the three marks of a true church (Belgic Confession, Art. 29)? And because we are best nourished in this church and affiliated ones? And it is where we may best glorify God in our Sabbath worship? Second, consider how our sinful natures will react once granted some leeway in this matter. As with so many issues in our Christian life, it is akin to opening the gates for our feet to go sprinting towards that which is clearly sin, all the while screaming at the top of our lungs, “Christian Liberty!” At first, a somewhat faithful church. Then perhaps, any church will do. And then, perhaps just a recorded sermon if attending a church does not fit with our travel plans. And soon, what is prolonged absence from church attendance in order to “travel the world”? Let us be wary.

For the Christian traveller, the Sabbath day shapes our vacations. It rules out certain vacation spots. It limits vacation time. It disrupts our plans. And yet, I think to myself, when we get to Heaven, we will be witnesses of beauty so wonderful that nothing on earth can compare with. Will we then pursue the beauties of this temporal earth to such an extent that we “give up” on the true beauty that will be present in Heaven?

Conclusion

The Lord has blessed us with the enjoyable gift of travelling. Let us seek to use it for His glory. On vacation or not, we are the children of God and must live as such. From this calling there is no vacation.

After-note: It is of the author’s opinion that visits to sister-churches or their events (e.g. British Reformed Fellowship Family Conference, PRCA youth retreats) make splendid vacation plans. They allow for proper Sabbath observance, while serving to strengthen the bonds of unity. CERC is also welcoming of friends and visitors to our church and the various activities planned throughout the year.

 

Written by: Cheryl Lim | Issue 49

Honouring God in Music

Music is one of the creations of God that brings great pleasure in its engagement. Most people would associate it with entertainment today, but as Christians, we know that the main purpose of music is to glorify God. However, in spite of that knowledge, the way we steward the gift of music is often riddled with sin because of our sinful natures. The consequences of this imperfect stewardship can be far-reaching not just for ourselves, but for others as well. It is thus necessary to look at how we can honour God in music for the sake of our testimonies, our spiritual health, and our neighbour.

It is clear from the Bible that music’s main purpose is to bring glory to God. There are many passages that illustrate this, but the idea is most prominent in the book of Psalms — it is a songbook in itself. The fact that God has graciously given us the words which we can use to praise Him says much about the way we are to worship Him. The church was exhorted to sing psalms (Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16, James 5:13), and Paul and Silas were noted to have sung to God even in jail (Acts 16:25). Since music exists primarily for His sake and not ours, we really ought to worship God with music in the way He has prescribed. The Reformation restored psalm-singing from biblical days to the church through the Psalter, and we should honour God by continuing in this tradition, never to allow hymns or contemporary Christian songs into the worship service. It will also be beneficial to sing psalters in one’s personal devotions as well.

Apart from the singing of psalms, instruments are also featured in the worship of God in the Bible. The harp and psaltery are frequently mentioned, and there is even reference to a ten-stringed instrument (Ps. 33:2). This indicates that the use of instruments in worship is not wrong, and there are practical applications for us in this respect. If one has musical talents, one can play the piano or organ for worship services and also provide the music for a church wedding for the edification of the church.

So far, music for worship in our church is Reformed and informed by the Bible. However, our personal use of music is not regulated and needs to be discussed. Enjoying music personally is not wrong, even though music in the Bible is mentioned in the context of worship. However, it is susceptible to external influences and is an area in which our testimony can be harmed.

It goes without saying that the bulk of mainstream music with lyrics is dishonouring to God in its content. Just as the Psalms are vehicles of God’s Word, mainstream songs are carriers of the world’s philosophies. Catchy tunes and beats are used as hooks for the listener, so that even if he is not drawn to the often repetitive lyrics, he becomes agreeable to its message through the music. In fact, it is common for one to hate the lyrics to a song and yet continue to listen to it because the music is too attractive to ignore. Also, many people today listen to songs passively, without thinking deeply about the messages and whether they align with their beliefs. As the redeemed people of Christ, we must not allow such behaviour to affect our testimony.

Some may argue that they listen to such music without actually processing the meaning behind the lyrics, and are just in it for the music. However, while this may not have any direct effect on your spirituality, this behaviour bears the appearance of evil to others and may stumble those who listen to lyrics. Since we are explicitly commanded to avoid the appearance of evil (1 Thess. 5:22) and to not stumble our brethren (Rom. 14:13), we ought to avoid music with anti-Christian lyrics. The case is the same for music with foreign lyrics. While one can listen to a song with ungodly lyrics without actually knowing the meaning, a brother may witness one’s enjoyment of that piece of music and be tempted to do the same, though he already knows the lyrics. Here, the principle of restraining one’s liberty to avoid stumbling a brother must be applied. Pastor Lanning once said in the confession of faith class that even if one did not know that one has caused a brother to stumble, that person has sinned and must repent of it once he realises it.

When it comes to instrumental music, one also needs to practise discernment. Some would argue that it is abstract and should be all right to listen to, but I would argue that precisely because it is abstract, it can mean different things to different people, and to some, it will not be beneficial. For example, trance music can cause an altered state of consciousness in the listener due to its inherent musical properties. It is often associated with drugs because it was developed in the 1990s to replicate the effects of ecstasy without any side effects (Ori Uplift). There is also music that evokes a certain mood or encourages sensuality, like club music. Such music is not beneficial for listening, whether or not one is tempted to behave inappropriately. Thus, when it comes to the personal use of music, we must examine our hearts and see if we are negatively affected, and also take care not to hurt our testimony or stumble another.

In all, we must seek to honour the Lord in our engagement with music in church or at home. It is easier said than done, and we cannot do it with our own strength, but we can ask God to give us grace. May the Lord grant us discernment and humility in this area.

 

Bibliography

Ori Uplift: Beautiful Uplifting Trance, Vocal Trance, Progressive, Balearic Trance, & Chill-out w/ Biblical Lyrics. Trance & Ecstasy: Why the Association? http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/uri/abouttrance/ecstasy.php

 

Written by: Lim Ruo Xi | Issue 49

Book Review: Less than the Least

Who is Cornelius Hanko?

Yes. Most of us know him as the father of our dear Professor Herman Hanko.

What do you know about him?

Like me, you probably do not know much  about him, until you read this book—which is the fruit of the editing of his prepared memoirs, and tape-recorded interviews with the editor, Karen Van Baren, Professor Hanko’s daughter, whom some of us personally know.

Chapters 1-6 of the book help you get acquainted with Reverend Cornelius Hanko, and give the backdrop of the history of the Protestant Reformed Churches as well. You’ll find many interesting incidents and anecdotes recorded, often with dry humour. The Dutch culture is clearly manifested in the lives of the pioneers of the Protestant Reformed Churches of America.

What is the value of reading the story of Reverend Cornelius Hanko?

The preface by Professor Herman Hanko puts it this way:

“…his ministry spanned almost all of the sometimes turbulent history of the Protestant Reformed Churches…He was deeply involved in the controversies over common grace, which formed the occasion for the beginning of the Protestant Reformed Churches. He was also in the troubled controversies of the 1940s and 1950s when the denomination was split over the question of the conditional theology.”

As you read chapters 7-10, you understand better the controversy of 1924, and what it means to our fellow saints in America. Chapters 22 and 23 record the painful schism of 1953, and its aftermath. Having gone through the divorce and remarriage split in our denomination, I can weep with our American brethren who wept. Many of us have gone through at least one split, and still bear the scars from the controversies. But God ordains all things for our good. As a result of such controversies, we grow in a better understanding of the truths of God, and hold dearly these truths, even as we struggle to defend them. We faltered, often, and God taught us, ‘My grace is sufficient for you”. We experienced what it felt like to be forsaken, alone, and in turmoil. Yet, through it all, we experienced a deeper sense of the presence and upholding grace of our sovereign Almighty God.

It strikes me as I read the book that in so many ways, we share many similar life stories and experiences with the saints in the PR churches, and so we can learn much from what they have gone through and learnt.

As Reverend Hanko chronicled the ups and downs in his life, against the backdrop of world events and schisms and troubles in the churches, you will see God’s sovereign and particular grace in his life, and in the life of the churches, and be greatly encouraged. At the same time, we are reminded of the fact that this world is not our home, and we are but pilgrims in this valley of tears.

Many of us have heard or read Reverend Herman Hoeksema, but we do not know him as a person. This book gives you a different perspective of one of the founding fathers of the PRCA, and helps you understand why he was so loved and respected.

The other chapters of the book each has its unique value.

In chapter 14, Reverend Hanko wrote of the difficulties, problems and sudden deaths in the congregations. It was during the Great Depression, and the people, including the pastors, suffered financial difficulties. There were also the drought and dust storms in 1934, followed by the grasshoppers, which devoured the entire crop, then torrential rains which caused  a great deal of destruction. There are times in our Christian life that trials and difficulties come in waves, one after another, and we wonder when we will see the light at the end of the tunnel…

Reverend Hanko embarked on a World Tour in 1975, during which he visited Singapore. You can read of his experience in chapter 27.

Chapter 30 is written by Karen Van Baren, in which she completes the life story of Reverend Hanko, faithful and struggling, as he finished his race. Many photographs are included, which greatly enhance the value of the book, for a picture is worth a thousand words.

I enjoyed the appendices at the end of the book too, especially appendices 2 and 7, and am greatly edified by them.

May our LORD bless and edify you, as you read ‘Less than the Least’.

 

Written by: Tang Jee Fung | Issue 49

Grandparents in the Covenant Home

Grandparents have a significant role in the covenant home. Those who are come to this stage of life ought to realize this. This role can be the source of great blessing and joy. It also involves a serious calling and responsibility. God’s covenant mercy extends farther than only one generation. God is pleased to continue His covenant to succeeding generations. The covenant family in the church of the New Testament sometimes has present in it at one time three or even four generations. This is an amazing thing! On the day of Pentecost it was declared that God’s promise is to believers and their children even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

The Word of God has many passages in it that allude to the succeeding generations in the covenant among the God-fearing. After its beautiful description of the covenant home, Psalm 128 concludes with the promise of God: “The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion (the New Testament Church): and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel.”

In Psalm 78, the inspired Psalmist exhorts fathers (and grandfathers) to instruct their children in the fear of the Lord. New generations arise in the covenant home and they must be instructed. “We will not hide them (the commandments of the Lord) from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done… which he  commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments” (Psalm 78:4-7). Count if you will, the number of generations mentioned in this passage.  After these words the Psalmist warns about the serious consequences which follow when fathers and grandfathers fail in their God-given calling. God’s chastisement will fall upon His people. They will be cut off in their generations. Yet the Lord will surely preserve His covenant with His elect people.

In the New Testament we also have examples of the so called multi-tier family in the church, where several generations live together. The family where the evangelist Timothy was raised included a godly grandmother as well as a godly mother. It seemed that the father was either absent or pagan. In spite of this, God’s covenant was preserved by the Lord in a wonderful way. See 2 Timothy 1: 5 and 2 Timothy 3:14-17.  Timothy inherited spiritually by the grace of God the legacy of the faith of his mother as well as his grandmother.

In Titus 2, the various generations are instructed. The aged women are exhorted to teach the younger women to love their husbands and to love their children. The aged men are to be held in high regard by the children; and their godly instruction and discipline are to be submitted to.

According to the natural instinct which God has put in man from creation, men and women love their own children in a very special way. They take pride in their children more than in anything else in the world and are greatly offended when their children are judged and condemned by the world in which they live. It is common that this natural affection extends to grandchildren. But because of man’s depraved nature, this natural affection is thoroughly carnal and worldly and motivated by sinful pride and ambition. According to God’s law, He visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children unto the third and fourth generation.  The failure of man in raising a new generation contributes greatly to the evils of society among its youth. Society as a result loses all of its cohesion between the generations. In the nominal church, God’s covenant is forsaken and forgotten. Man is self-centered and proud and egotistical and consumed with concern only for his own welfare and personal enrichment and glory in the world. His days are cut off by God. He is destroyed in his generations. Therefore, every generation grows worse and worse.

No church in this world will ever continue to be spiritually strong when there is no concern about coming generations.  The boating of vast world-wide evangelism campaigns will come to nothing when there is neglect of the new generations that arise. The church that does not repent of this evil will soon be in the state of spiritual decline and apostasy. After a wave of excitement and enthusiasm and numerical growth it will decline and soon disappear from the earth. Very soon those who attend the worship services will only be the gray-headed. Children and young people will be gone. Their joy and laughter will no longer be heard. They will be lost to worldliness of life and ungodliness and even to total agnosticism. How very serious this is!

In the faithful covenant home and with the blessing of God there must be and will be a great difference. Godly married couples to whom God graciously gives covenant children must be concerned not only about their own homes but the homes and family which these children will establish in later life for themselves. Grandparents will be concerned about their children’s children and assist in teaching them the fear of the Lord and the knowledge of His truth. The Lord will pour out His blessing. There will be the great joy of the play and the laughter of covenant children. Few things in this life give greater joy and pleasure.

Psalm 128 speaks of the blessedness of the covenant home as culminating in the great joy and blessing of seeing one’s children’s children and peace upon the Israel of God. The apostle John in one of his letters says it in this way: “I have no greater joy than to see that my children walk in the truth”.

The senior generation in the church must guard against the sins of self-indulgence and self-pleasure. For the God-fearing, senior years are for more than endless vacations and world cruises, and visiting exotic places before one dies. It will be a generation that does not spend hour after hour and day after day sunbathing on the beach. This kind of life is worldliness, no less than the worldliness that destroys the youth in the early years of their lives.

Grandparents have a great calling in the church. It should be the case that they have gained spiritual wisdom and strength in the years of their life. They have learned even from their own falls and sinful weakness in the battles against sin and apostasy in the church. This wisdom must guide them in their lives and be evident in a life of holiness and devotion to God and the cause of His kingdom to the very end of their lives. Godly grandparents must support parents in the home in warning about the power of sin and the great temptations of the world. Grandparents must be an example of unwavering faithfulness and steadfastness in the truth of the Word of God for the great benefit of succeeding generations. In the times of many afflictions which often come with old age, they must show their genuine and sincere faith in God. They must be examples of trusting in the mercies of God and testifying of the strength of the Lord in their lives. This is not an easy calling. It takes a lot of grace. Old age in the church should be a time when grandparents live in such a way that they are worthy of honour and respect.  This is the time for them to leave a legacy of faith.

Sometimes by this time of life people have been able to amass large sums of wealth in the providence of God through retirement programs and annuities and such like. Those who have been able to do this ought not to proudly imagine that they have gained their wealth by their own wisdom and power. Rather they must give God the glory as the One who gave them power to get wealth in this world. Godly grandparents will not imagine that they have the freedom to spend their monies as they please. Grandparents, especially those entrusted with great wealth, have a special calling to contribute to the church and to Christian education for covenant children as well as to the evangelism of the church. They must be willing to make personal sacrifices and to give liberally, cheerfully and joyfully. This is more important than merely passing down material wealth to children who may or may not benefit spiritually from the inheritance of their parents. Remember that our Lord used the example of the widow’s mite who was probably aged and destitute herself. Yet she cast in all her living to the treasury for the support of the church and of the poor.

Grandparents must be around to help practically in the homes of their children with the raising of their grandchildren. They must joyfully give of their time, talents and remaining energy to help with the raising of the covenant family. In Bible times and in other cultures than our own, grandparents often lived with their children and their grandchildren in the same house. In these homes, by the grace of God there was care for each other, from one generation to the others. Even from a practical perspective, raising a covenant family is a daunting task. It can be wearying and exhausting to young mothers. Fathers often need to work long hours to earn enough to maintain their homes and pay for Christian school tuition. Therefore in the course of daily life in the home, many opportunities will arise for grandparents to help in practical as well as spiritual ways. In this way children will learn to honour and respect their grandparents. Grandparents have a deep sense of purpose in their lives in the days of their old age when perhaps they have retired from their full-time earthly occupations.

God-fearing grandparents must love their children and their grandchildren fervently and sincerely. They must seek to be of great influence in the lives of their children even after these children have grown up and married and have homes of their own. Grandparents can be the source of great encouragement to young mothers in that they do not forsake their duties in the home for secular careers of the world. The calling of grandparents continues even unto the day of their death. They have great influence through their tender loving embrace and sober godly example in their lives before their grandchildren.

After many years of enjoying the underserved faith and blessing  of God merited by the Lord Jesus Christ, what reason we have accumulated for a life of thankfulness. We have the solemn calling and obligation to speak of the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord in our whole life from our youth to old age. By doing this, we encourage new generations and our lives will be an occasion for the praise of God and thanksgiving to Him. Listen once more to the words of one of the Psalms that speak specifically of old age and the later years of our life and pilgrimage on this earth. After the Psalmist has testified of the goodness and mercies of the Lord from the days of his youth and his strength in old age, he utters this earnest prayer: “Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.” (Ps. 71: 18).

 

Written by: Rev. Arie Den Hartog | Issue 49

Fellowship in Singing

What is biblical singing? What is its purpose, and what benefits does it bring to God’s people? This article hopes to address these points.

What is Singing?

The verb “to sing” is defined as “to produce musical tones by means of the voice”. In the context of biblical singing, that would also include words. The activity of singing is deeply intertwined in the lives of God’s people, and the Bible is full of examples of it. A search of the word “sing” brings up 102 distinct verses, and if we include the various tenses “singing”, “sang”, and “sung”, the number rises to 144, 59 of which are found in the Psalms alone! The list goes on if we include other descriptions of singing in the search criteria. It is evident that the Old and New Testament church sang — plentifully!

Biblical examples of singing are divided into two main categories. The first is in the corporate worship of God (e.g. Ps. 95:1 — “O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation”.) The second is in a personal capacity, whether as an individual or as a group. Some examples are the Israelite women singing about David’s valour (1 Sam. 18:6-7) and Paul and Silas singing in prison at Philippi (Acts 16:25). Songs were sung in thanksgiving, to give praise to God for His various attributes, out of joy, to comfort, and to confess and express sorrow for sin and seek forgiveness. One question we can ask is — why?

Why Sing?

Why does the child of God sing? Does he or she even need to sing? After all, we have the preaching of the Word as the means of instruction, and prayer as the means by which we communicate with God.

The answer is a resounding “yes”. We sing because we have to and because we want to! Singing is a necessary element in corporate worship, which God Himself commands in Scripture. In Psalm 111:1, God through the psalmist commands, “Praise ye the LORD. I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation”. In the New Testament, Paul in Colossians 3:16 calls the church to sing in worship: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord”. Singing in corporate worship is not optional or a matter of preference; the Word of God requires it.

We also want to sing. Singing can have many purposes, but its primary purpose is to praise God with the intent to glorify His Name. The words “sing” and “praise” are often put together in the Bible, especially in the Psalms, as if praise is itself the definition of singing. One example is Psalm 47:6: “Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises”. The child of God wants to sing praises to God — he who has tasted the goodness of God in salvation; does he not want to burst out in joy and exultation, glorifying God for His mercy and grace? We think of Moses’ song in Exodus 15 after Israel’s deliverance through the Red Sea, and Mary’s song in Luke 1 after realising her child was the promised Messiah. We think of the many Psalms that David wrote exulting God’s Name in his deliverance from his enemies. There is indeed much reason to sing!

You may be wondering what the difference is between singing and prayer. Prayer can also convey praise, sorrow for sin, thanksgiving, and other similar expressions. In fact, both are elements of worship by which we respond to God speaking to us in His Word. One difference is that the melody in songs conveys the emotions of the words to a greater degree than prose can. This is not to say that singing is in any way superior to prayer — both are ordained means by which we worship God. But there is something unique in the ability of songs, set in appropriate tunes, to combine ideas and emotions and heighten them, which make it a unique, poetic, and powerful way of praising God.

We have to be careful though, because songs are prone to abuse. There is the danger of emotionalism, when singing becomes purely an emotional release. A person can feel “touched by the Holy Spirit” and that he is praising God even if he sings heretical words. The emotion may be genuine; however, it is not of the Spirit, as the Holy Spirit always uses the truth of God’s Word. A poetic, well-written, doctrinally sound song with an appropriate melody brings about healthy emotions that the Holy Spirit uses to fill the mind of the singer, enabling him to praise God with his whole heart (Ps. 111:1).

Singing as Fellowship

Last, we deal with the subject of singing as fellowship. Singing is first and foremost fellowship with God. In corporate worship, it is a form of spiritual dialogue with God in response to His Word. Singing is a response of praise, and we have examined that in the earlier section. But as we sing, we are also singing to each other. For example, in Psalter 255 (versification of Psalm 95) we sing:

Now with joyful exultation

Let us sing Jehovah’s praise,

To the Rock of our salvation

Loud hosannas let us raise;

Let us sing praise to Jehovah, the Rock of our salvation! We exhort one another to sing, even as we direct this praise to God. We rejoice together as a congregation, and as we hear those in the pews behind us singing with gusto, we are reminded that indeed, let me sing praise to God; and the whole church rings with the beautiful voices of the congregation!

There are many other examples of singing as fellowship. We sing to instruct, to admonish, to encourage, to rejoice, to express sorrow… the list goes on. This is always primarily for the praise of God and for the edification of our fellow saints.

The child of God is one who sings. Let us use our voices to praise His Name, for He is the Rock of our salvation.

 

Written by: Matthias Wee | Issue 49

Holiness as Young Adults (II)

In the last article we have established that the reason and motivation for one to live a life of holiness is primarily from the admonition given by the Apostle Peter in 1 Pet. 1:15 and 16.  It is because God is holy that we are called to be holy. As obedient children, we are therefore expected to live a holy life as unto the Lord. However, we realize that we are unable of ourselves to live a holy life. We need the power of His grace alone to live such a life.

In this article, we shall discuss some of the challenges faced by young Christian adults today in living a life of holiness. What I am going to discuss is by no means an exhaustive list of challenges which I had gathered from some young adults in our church.

Social media / e-commerce/ computer gaming / digital marketing

Social media is ubiquitously used by young adults these days to socialise and keep up with their friends. Many young adults spend quite a sizeable proportion of their time socialising on various social media platforms. Much time is spent each day reading posts, posting and commenting, liking, meeting people, or just saying “haha” or “lol”.

Young adults also spend much time browsing and shopping for items on the e-commerce websites. Online shopping is the rave of the time, spurred on by easy connectivity, convenience, cheap delivery charges and same-day or next-day delivery promises. Some, who are more entrepreneurial and internet savvy, would even set up their own e-commerce websites to earn a few bucks through sale of their own crafts and trinkets, etc.

Computer gaming has been a bane to many parents of school-going children. It can be a big problem for some young adults who spend much time playing computer games. The problem is not in playing some innocent games for relaxation. Some experts have blamed computer gaming to gender violent behaviours in some young adults. These people say that some games, where the gamer literally chooses the weapon and prowls from room to room seeking to ‘kill’ the enemies, have violent effects on the mind, especially when the actions of killing are done repeatedly. The portrayal of the gory scenes, through the animated killing scenes with blood splattering upon impact of shooting, can desensitise and embolden the gamers to commit physical violence in real life! Besides the potential problem of committing violence, there is the problem of ‘not properly redeeming’ one’s time. Gamers usually spent much time playing with other cyber players over the internet. Given the nature of the game, there is always an ever growing challenge to ‘better’ the previous scores, thus spurring the gamer to keep practicing until a state of near perfection is attained. To attain this state, many hours have to be poured in to achieve gaming mastery.

Be it socialising on social media, browsing on the e-commerce websites or computer gaming, young Christian adults who spent  a great amount of time on these activities would very often have a sense of guilt for not spending time wisely, especially when there are deadlines to meet or at the expense of reading the Bible, preparing for Bible studies or for a church meeting. There may be other areas that you have been spending much of your time . As a general guide, even though the activity is a neutral one, spending inordinate amounts of time on an activity on a regular basis without self-control would usually render the activity to be an idol, replacing God as the centre of your life. You could be so absorbed by the activity that your first waking thoughts would be to participate in that activity. Or sometimes, the thought of doing the activity keeps plaguing your mind until you lay hands on it … such is the strong magnetic pulling power that one may succumb to. Young people, beware of Satan’s ploy to distract you (especially the young men) to get you so engaged in gaming or some other activities, so much so that you can become enslaved to them and do not have much time for the Lord or to grow spiritually! Satan’s strategy is very simple … it is not to distract you entirely from your calling to live a life of holiness, to grow spiritually and to serve God. His ploy is to render you ineffective in your Christian life and service so that what you do for the Lord is done with minuscule effort and not to the best of your ability. As a result, the Lord’s work inevitably suffers. Is this happening to you?

Through the world of the internet, social media and digital marketing, where one is constantly bombarded by its worldly philosophies and sexual content, young adults are not only challenged to re-examine their Christian values, but are tempted to become promiscuous. The generally tolerated soft pornographic content portrayed in articles and pictures depicting the opposite sex in sexually-charged and lurid poses would tempt young adults to fall into the sins of the lusts of the eyes and flesh; and commit adultery  in their hearts, breaking the 7th commandment.

Conformance to peer pressures

Young Christian adults also face with a lot of peer pressures to conform to the lifestyle of the world, such as clubbing, worldly entertainment (watching movies and TV, dancing, listening to worldly music), worldly pleasures, etc. The acceptance of clubbing and a worldly lifestyle as a social norm amongst many young Christian adults has become a source of pressure for conformance. Through relentless bombardment of the social media and internet, young Christian adults are also tempted not only to conform to the values and lifestyles of their friends but also to pursue worldly things and pleasures at the expense of spiritual things. It is good to take heed to Rom. 12:2 which tells us “not to conform to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind …”, and 2 Cor. 6:17 exhorts us to “come out from among them, and be ye separate”.

Working life

Eking out a living is by no means easy as young adults find out when they step into the working world. Besides the pressures of work, there are many challenges faced by young working Christian adults.

Work can become an obsession, especially when one is very career-minded and aspires to climb the corporate ladder. Sometimes it is difficult for one to ‘turn down’ the bosses’ demands so as to be seen in a good light. This can become one’s preoccupation. As a result, it can become a temptation to want to please the boss at the expense of one’s Christian principles in order to get better bonuses or have better promotion prospects. At times, there are tempting career development offers to work in another country where there is no Reformed Church. To succumb to the company’s pressure to take up the offer would have detrimental consequences on one’s spiritual and family well-being. There are also pressures to break the Sabbath day and work on Sundays to please the bosses or to advance in one’s career.

Work can also affect young Christian women especially if they are career-minded and have the capacity for career advancement. It can be difficult for her to quit her job when her first child comes along. It is especially so if she likes her job. When the reality of having to change diapers, put up with the physical demands of a helpless baby, care for the family, loss of income, etc., start to sink, she can be tempted to disobey God’s word to be a keeper at home (Tit. 2:5). Without her husband’s active support and affirmation, she can easily compromise her calling and remain in the workforce.

In some instances, your colleagues or even bosses may ask you to lie to get out of a certain sticky situation. This can be very challenging for a Christian worker, especially when you are the most junior in the team/office. The situation is made worse if there are Christian colleagues who are willing to compromise their Christian principles. The temptation is to take the easy way out and break the 9th commandment so as to be seen to support the team.

Sometimes, the work culture in the office is to take shortcuts and do the minimum to get by. As Christians, it is not right to follow this kind of work culture, and yet there is the pressure to conform or be left out of the group or be ostracised. The Christian worker finds it difficult to live antithetically in the midst of ungodly company at work where people backbite, gossip, refuse to submit or are disrespectful to authority.

As Christians, our calling as workers in our workplace is to be good employees, always subjecting to our employers with all fear, not only to the good and gentle but also to the froward (1 Pet. 2:18). We are to serve our employers as obedient servants, as unto Christ (Eph. 6:5). We are to exert ourselves to work and always do our best as unto the Lord. In no circumstance should we be blamed for slothfulness or cheating our employers of their resource, money or time. This is not only sinful, but it also tarnishes the name of our God. But giving in to the afore-mentioned pressures or temptations in order to be in the bosses’ good books is certainly not our calling as Christians. We must always do what is right and pleasing in God’s sight. As we advance in our career, we must not forget that we are first the servants of the most high God and then servants to our bosses. We are to please God rather than men. At any point in time when our bosses’ demands go against the grain of our calling/conviction, we must re-examine our situations and seek to obey God. Never should we allow our calling at work to override our fundamental calling as Christians.

To be continued…

 

Written by: Wee Gim Theng | Issue 49

 

An Example of Holiness

I am writing this for a youth magazine. Yet this article has special reference for those who are older in the church. These are those who are mature in the faith. They have learned much by experience and by trials which God has led them through in their lives.  They also have been given an opportunity to show themselves steadfast in the faith through continuing for a number of years in the faith.

The book of Titus in the Bible has much to say about the subject of this article. “The aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity and patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women (Tit. 2:2-4).

The children of the church are watching us. They must not only be instructed by the words of their teachers but also by their example of godliness and holiness. This is especially true of our life in the covenant home. These children are often our own covenant children in our own homes.  Besides our spouses in marriage and of course most of all, besides God who knows our hearts, our children know us better than anyone else. From day to day they live with us in our home. They soon will detect the sincerity of our godliness and whether our daily walk is truly holy as it should be as saints of God.

Aged saints of God in the church have a tremendous calling to the youthful members of the church. Inevitably, young and new members of the church will learn from the more senior members of the church. If the aged in the church are worldly and ungodly in their daily lives the young will (though wrongly) make excuses for their own personal sin and compromises in Christian living.

Holiness is one of the greatest virtues of God Himself. He has chosen us to be His people that we should be holy before Him. When we live a holy life, we glorify God and our Lord who has saved us at the great cost of His great sacrifice on the cross.  In our life of holiness, we reflect the virtues of Christ in  us.

When we think of holiness, we think first of all of perfection and goodness. No man can ever be holy except by the grace and Spirit of God. Holiness is love for God. Holiness is consecration and devotion to God. Holiness is separation from sin and worldliness. The apostle John writes, “Love not the world neither the things in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in Him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 Jn. 2:15-16). These are strong but absolutely true words, the judgment of God Himself who is the holy one.

Love for God arises from true godly humility in regards to the attitude we have concerning ourselves. This attitude is shown in that we hate and flee from sin. This will be evident in our personal and especially our home life. It will be obvious. Our children will see us regularly reading and studying the Word of God and taking the time to meditate on it. By the time we are mature saints of God we should have an established order in our life to make room for times of studying the word of God. Our children will see us often on our knees. In times of trials and sorrows they hear us crying earnestly to the Lord for help and hope and comfort. This is true holiness.

Holiness must be manifest in many ways in our lives. If we love God, we will also love His truth. We will then constantly be engaged in learning more and more of the truth of God through reading the Word of God, meditating on its truth, and striving to live according to it. Holiness is a principled life of godliness.

Holiness certainly includes love for the church. Aged saints have a profound love for the church. They know that the church is the house of God. They have learned what fountains of blessing are opened in the house of God through the preaching of the gospel. They yearn for the house of God as also the aged Psalmist did for the house of God. “One thing have I desired of the Lord that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to enquire in His temple” (Ps. 27:4).  Likewise the aged saint Anna, mentioned in Luke 2 at the time of the presentation of Jesus in the temple. It is said concerning her that she departed not from the temple, serving the Lord day and night. What devotion to God!

The aged saints reveal their holiness and godliness by demonstrating what is the absolutely most important thing in their lives.  They are not part of a sad group of confessing Christians in Singapore who have devoted themselves to pursuing careers, success and riches in this world as the most important thing in their lives. All they talk about is nice cars, beautiful apartments, well furnished, making more and more money and sacrificing even time for the study of God’s word and worship in the house of God and the exercise of works of Christian charity.

How easy it is for elderly saints to teach the younger by the daily example of their lives to be carnal and worldly and materialistic. The scriptures warn that the love of money is the root of all evil. How sad when those who have been Christians for many years of their life already, by the grace of God, and contrary to this show the younger members of the church that money means everything in life and all kinds of compromises of Christian living and time for active involvement in the church have to be sacrificed for the pursuit of riches and glory in this life.  They will sadly by their example teach the younger members of the church and even their own children what is most important in life.

We have seen young people joining the church in the days of their youth in America and well as in Singapore.  They are full of enthusiasm and excitement because of confessed love for the Lord and for His truth. They seem to show the beauty of holiness in their lives. But in the course of the years of their life when they get older, the pursuit of the riches and glory and glorious careers in their lives takes over, and their love for God grows dim. And if there are children around and young people in the church that see them, they will because of the sinful nature of these young people be tempted to follow their example.

In Ephesians 5, Paul warns us that covetousness is a form of idolatry. We have seen older Christians who by the wonderful grace of God were delivered from the folly and darkness of pagan idolatry.  These in later life have forgotten the blessedness and glory of their salvation and have returned to an idolatry of a different sort, the idolatry of covetousness. How said this is. Sometimes the greatest motivators which drive the trend to this kind of idolatry are parents of covenant children who are teaching their children perhaps not by words but definitely by their example to be materialistic and covetous in the whole of their life.

Sometimes God by His grace gives the children an understanding of the vanity and hypocrisy of the lifestyles of their own parents. May God forbid that this kind of thing should happen in our own families. What an awful judgment of God follows this when children leave the church and the Lord Himself in the days of their youth.

Holiness is manifesting the virtues of God of love and goodness and mercy and kindness and compassion and self-sacrifice in our daily lives. Do we show these in our attitude to our spouses and children in our homes? What an influence the daily display of fervent and sincere Christian love and good works can be in our homes on our children by the grace of God.  What powerful affects can such life styles be on the youth in the church especially when they are going through trials and confused in their own lives.

May God help us to remain steadfast in His truth and in a life of holiness. And may our life of godliness be used in our homes and in the church for a mighty influence on new and young and dear saints of God.

 

Written by: Rev. Arie Den Hartog | Issue 49