Boldness in Social Settings

Mary pushes “Send” and leans back contentedly in her computer chair. She has made all the necessary plans, the invites have been sent out on Facebook messenger, and the only thing left now is to prepare the food for the social gathering on Sunday evening. She is excited about the young adults coming over; she enjoys hosting and is comfortable conversing with people. If Mary were to complain, which she is very hesitant to do, it would be that she can feel overwhelmed at times. It seems like she always must do all the work for social settings. If she does not do the work of hosting, then who will? But she keeps these thoughts to herself and consoles herself with the fact that she is doing a good work, promoting unity and fellowship among the young adults of the church. Someday, perhaps, someone else will take over the work of inviting others to social settings.

What has been described in the above paragraph is a hypothetical scenario, not intended to call out any specific “Marys”, but to call to mind the idea of “social settings”. What are social settings? Who is to set them up? Should Christian young people feel obligated to RSVP positively to invitations to social gatherings? And finally, how can Christians be biblically bold in social settings?

A social setting is a gathering of people who   interact   with   each   other   with the purpose of enjoying each other’s company. They are not gathered with any explicit religious, political, or financial motivation. In other words, Mary is not having people to her home to worship God, nor to select the next ruler of their nation, nor to make money by working. Instead, Mary has arranged this social gathering in order that she might enjoy the fellowship and company of other people.

We who are Christians have an important motivation to be active in Christian social settings, because we believe God is a covenantal God who is jealous for fellowship with His people. The primary way God fellowships with His people is on the Sabbath day, in the official act of worship. But God’s fellowship with people is not limited to the Sabbath day; He lives in and with His people at all times.   2 Cor. 6:16, “Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people”. Immediately after giving the covenant formula, God gives a command that has important application for social settings: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord” (2 Cor. 6:17a).

We see that God’s word has important commands regarding fellowship with Him and with His people. But we also know that the devil goes forth as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. The devil will use any tool he can to prevent God’s people from speaking and fellowshipping with each other and with their heavenly Father. In the beginning, the devil used a lowly serpent as the means by which he pitted husband against wife and mankind against God. Let us examine several ways we can be biblically bold in social settings.

The first way we can be bold is by taking the initiative to host, or at least contribute to, a social event. Especially the young men do well to remember this. If Singapore is similar to America in this regard, then it is generally the young women who take the initiative in setting up social events. I am thankful for the young women’s willingness to do this. But young men, I encourage you, step forward. Prepare to be a leader both in marriage and in the church by being a leader now, taking a role in organising social events. Do not be not like Barak, who hid behind the skirt of Deborah while she led the men of Israel into battle.

Another way in which we can be biblically bold is by putting forth effort to attend the good social events which have been planned. If a man wants to have godly friends, then he must show himself friendly to godly people. Proverbs   17:18,   “A   man   that   has friends must show himself friendly”. The individual who lives on the edge of the church, rarely attending social functions with other church people, may not expect in return that the people of the church will go out of the way to be kind to him. If you want friends and the benefits of friendship, then show yourself friendly.

But there is another important aspect regarding the RSVP to social functions, and that is the ability to say “No” to ungodly invites. There are certain times when the child of God must be bold to decline an invite, because he knows that being in that social setting will tempt him to sin. When your secular work colleague invites you to come to the bar with him after work hours, ask yourself, “Is this something that the antithetical child of God should attend? Will it build me up in holiness? Will my eyes be tempted to lust after that which God has not given me? Will my hands be tempted to touch things that should not be touched?” The same questions must be asked as you consider joining online social gatherings. In today’s world, one does not even need to leave the bedroom to attend a social gathering; they can join groups and communities and games right on their smart phone. Say “No” to online invites that will tempt you to disobey God’s holy law.

But now you are at the social gathering, and the environment is a good one. Mary has sent out the invitation, the date has come, and the people have arrived. What does the Bible say about boldness at the event itself?

First, pray that the Lord give you boldness to set a watch on your mouth. Psalm 141:3, “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips”. The tongue is a little member, but it can work so great an evil. One particular way the lips can work a great evil is by being continually argumentative and schismatic at social gatherings. The cantankerous individual ceases not to complain, whether it be about politics, the weather, the minister, personal difficulties, or family struggles. Proverbs 18:17 calls such a man a fool: “A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes”. Before you go to the social setting, pray that God will give you boldness not to speak about contentious matters which only stir up strife and controversy.

Another way in which the lips can work a great evil is by gossiping. The gossiping individual is generally insecure in himself, so he consoles himself by degrading others. Sometimes he tells the truth, other times he does not, but always his stories have this intended effect: make the other person look worse, while making himself look better. The biblically bold Christian who is making plans to attend a social gathering must pray for boldness not to gossip or slander, but instead to speak the truth in love, to defend and promote the honour and good character of his neighbour, as much as he is able (H.C., L.D. 43).

If the thought of attending a Christian social function fills you fear and anxiety, then remember that true, biblical boldness is not natural to fallen man. Feelings of anxiousness at the thought of attending or hosting a Christian social function is quite normal. But what must not be normal is how you respond to the anxiety. Instead of responding by clamming up and refusing always to attend, respond by lifting up your supplications to God in prayer. Ask Him for a rich measure of the Holy Spirit, who is able to empower and comfort His people.

For those who tend to be more outgoing but who struggle to control their impulsive tongue, continue to seek the forgiving grace of Jesus Christ. We all are sinners, and we all behave at times like the impetuous Peter, who, in light of social pressure “began… to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man [Jesus Christ]” (Matt. 26:74). When we deny Christ with our words or our actions at social settings, and consequently we feel shame for our sinfulness, then be bold to go to God’s throne of grace. And as you confess your sins to God, be assured that He is faithful and just to forgive you your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Written by: Stephan Regnerus | Issue 45

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Public School Christian Organisations

While walking around my university campus recently, I noticed many posters promoting various events of campus para-church organizations (CPOs), such as teas, talks, and Bible studies. These posters flash titles like “God is Calling You”, “Permission to Dream”, and “Celebrate Christ”, with the hopes of attracting Christians from all denominations to their events. This situation is not unique to my university. Most of these CPOs operate branches in the other tertiary institutions in Singapore, and organise similar programmes for the students of those institutions.

If you are a student, you too may have been approached to attend a CPO activity, or even to join the CPO itself. Or perhaps you may one day be approached by a CPO. As Reformed Christians, what should be our view of these fellowships? Should we join them? Before we answer these questions, we must understand the missions and purposes of these CPOs.

Their Mission

For this section, we will examine the stated missions of some prominent CPOs in Singapore, including the Navigators, Cru (previously called Campus Crusade), and Varsity Christian Fellowship. While the precise missions will differ among individual CPOs, and we cannot analyse every single CPO’s mission here for lack of time and space, we can notice that at least among the few prominent CPOs, there are certain similar overarching messages that they wish to bring forth through their activities.

The one most similar goal among all CPOs is evangelism. Their goal of evangelism is advertised through statements such as “to know Christ and make Him known” and “reach, build, and send Christ-centred multiplying disciples who launch spiritual movements”. The CPOs hope to achieve this through events such as tea sessions, summer camps, and talks. Some also organize campus evangelism efforts like giving out snacks and offering to pray for other students. Some even try to be “a blessing beyond borders” by participating in overseas social mission trips.

At first glance, this may sound like an excellent way of fulfilling the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19, where Jesus commands “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations”. However, we must understand these CPOs’ bases for their evangelism efforts. For example, The Navigators quote 2 Corinthians 5:14 as their motivation, stating that “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that Christ died for all” (emphasis mine). This is a clear expression of the Arminian doctrine of universal atonement, in contradiction to the Reformed and biblical truth of limited atonement. While this does not necessarily mean that everyone in the CPO holds to an Arminian viewpoint, from the organization’s own statements, it   is   clear   that   the   organization’s efforts are founded on false Arminian teachings.

To be in a supposedly “Christian” organization that holds to doctrines contrary to the Reformed faith, especially contrary to a doctrine that is a cornerstone of the Reformation, is extremely dangerous for a Reformed young person, especially in his youthful years when he can be easily swayed by compelling mentors who disagree with the Reformed viewpoint.

In addition, one must ask if he can truly support the activities of an organization when they are clearly grounded on a basis that we cannot agree with. An evangelism effort grounded in Arminianism fails to give God the glory that is due, since it now shifts the emphasis to man’s work. If we were to join such an effort, would we not be – at least implicitly – supportive of this false basis?

Furthermore, let us not be tempted to forget the rest of Matthew 28:19. After “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” comes “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”. This demonstrates that the calling to evangelise is given to the church, because after preaching the Word comes baptism, and from there, church   membership.   An   individual can share the gospel, but he may not preach, and neither can he baptize. In their evangelism efforts, CPOs neglect the importance of church membership, choosing to focus only on the process of individual conversions, with no thought for what happens afterward. In addition, when CPOs think to convert men through their personal evangelistic efforts, they go against God’s will for man to be saved through the preaching of His Word in the worship service, through the ordained minister.

Another common mission of these CPOs is to foster growth and maturity among their existing members. They seek to “help believers mature in their relationship with God so that they can in turn reach the lost and help others mature in Christ”. Bible studies, quiet time sharings, prayer meetings, and testimonial sharings characterise the weekly sessions among the disciple groups (DGs) of the CPOs. Fellowship and fun are also encouraged through sports activities, potluck dinners, camps, and vacation training programs.

Once again, this sounds exactly like what is taught in Scripture. Does not Proverbs 27:17 say that “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend”? Surely, this must mean that we must help our fellow believers along in their walk with God. In fact, even our own CK/CKS constitution states a similar purpose: “To assist the young people as they grow in the knowledge of Christ to be godly, Reformed men and women, integrated into the organic life of the church.”

However, we must note that the attendees of the CPOs’ activities include Christians from any church and denomination. Unlike in CK/ CKS, where we have a common doctrinal ground, in the CPO there will be those who hold to erroneous teachings including common grace, universal atonement, the conditional covenant, pre- and post- millennialism, or even charismaticism and tongue- speaking. When people from such diverse backgrounds come together for a Bible study, it is inevitable that differences in scriptural interpretation will surface. Who, then, has the right interpretation? Is it not very confusing for a young man or lady to come to a Bible study and hear several different explanations of the same text, and leave without knowing which is the right one? Or worse, adopting the wrong explanation? This is no help at all to the growth of a fellow believer.

The other alternative, as some might advocate, would be to go the way of   having   “no   creed   but   Christ”, an attractive proposition that in reality preaches tolerance rather than the defence of the truth. To avoid confrontations   with   others   in   the group who hold to different beliefs, a Reformed Christian in a CPO may be tempted to keep silent in the face of incorrect doctrines, choosing simply to bury the differences and enjoy the company of fellow Christians, rather than incur the ire of the group by speaking out.

Our Differences

These organizations proudly announce that they are inter-denominational. They welcome Christian youth from all churches, all distinctives, and all beliefs. They encourage each other with their mutual love for Christ and evangelism.

Here is where we ought to be careful of the dangers of a false ecumenism. In our earlier discussion about the Bible study sessions organised by CPOs, we have highlighted how the differences in our doctrines could make it difficult for us to have truly fruitful meetings. By welcoming Christians of every background into one big fellowship, despite the differences, CPOs really leave no choice except to send out this message: it does not matter if we differ on doctrine. As long as we love Christ, let’s come together and do things together.

This is in contradiction to Scripture, which asks the question: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). What basis is there for unity if we cannot agree, especially on such important things as doctrines? If we choose to persist in remaining in a CPO, chances are we will choose to remain silent, rather than defend our faith and offend.

While unity is important, the basis for unity is founded solely on the truth – the truth taught in Scripture and expressed in our confessions. We do not seek unity at the expense of the truth, covering it up and smoothing out the sharp edges so that it will not offend.

To join or not to join?

So, should I join my campus’ Cru or Nav? While there are no hard and fast rules, perhaps a young person should consider some of these factors when deciding whether to join a CPO.

Firstly, what is your purpose for wanting to join a CPO? Are you joining to make friends? If you are, then remember the words of Amos 3:3. It is not wrong to be friendly to people, including those who participate in CPOs, but there is no true unity if you cannot be agreed. Are you joining to share the Reformed truth?

While that may be a noble motive, you would do well to reflect if that is the best way to do so, considering you will be severely outnumbered by those who do not share the same views. Perhaps it would be more fruitful to use your time to privately share the Reformed faith with those who show interest, rather than attempting to fight for change in an entire organization.

Secondly, consider that our time and energies are limited. While we are called to serve God and His kingdom, this is primarily through membership and service in the local church. Will your participation in a CPO cause you to become so busy that you no longer have time to attend CK/CKS or other church programs? Will you be so burdened with your duties in a CPO that you cannot serve on committees in the church? Or will you end up with no time even to meet and commune with the saints in CERC? If your membership and participation in a CPO is causing you to neglect your church, then you should seriously reconsider if you should be devoting that much time to the CPO over the church.

Finally, while we may generally disagree with the purpose of CPOs, there are nevertheless lessons which we can learn from them. For example, their zeal for evangelism is one trait that we can emulate, albeit in the correct, biblical manner. God is pleased to use His church as the means to call His people to Him, and as a church we would do well to be zealous in promoting the gospel. We may also learn from how the members in the CPOs take great interest in communing with and encouraging   their   fellow   members. As brethren, we too would do well to remember that our Christian walk is not done alone, but that we ought to lead each other along, because “iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Prov. 27:17).

Written by: Isa Tang | Issue 45

BRF Review

The British Reformed Fellowship (BRF) Conference is a Reformed conference that is held in the United Kingdom biannually, for a week. This year, it was held from Saturday, 16 July to Saturday, 23 July, at Castlewellan Castle in Northern Ireland.

The theme of the conference was “Behold, I Come Quickly: The Reformed, Biblical Truth of the End”. There were six speeches on that topic, given by Prof. David Engelsma and Rev. Andy Lanning. In addition, there were three special speeches by Rev. McGeown (“Disorderliness and the Second Coming of Christ” [2 Thess. 3]), Mr. Pete Adams (“The Renaissance and the Reformation, Highlighting the Eschatological Implications”), and Rev. Stewart (“Dispensationalism, J.N. Darby, and Powerscourt”).

The first speech by Prof. Engelsma taught us about the signs of Jesus’ second coming and that He returns quickly. Rev. Lanning’s first speech dealt with the subject of premillennial dispensationalism, especially the views of premillennial dispensationalists about the rapture and antichrist. Against those views, he stated the Reformed belief about being “caught up together…in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1Thess. 4:17). Prof. Engelsma’s next speech was entitled “The Coming World-Conquest of the Beast from the Sea”, taken from Revelation 13. In the fourth conference speech, “Jesus’ Coming as a Thief in View of Abounding Lawlessness and Great Apostasy”,   Rev.   Lanning   explained what it means that Jesus comes as a thief and how that is connected to the signs of apostasy and lawlessness (Matt. 24:11-12). The last two conference speeches were given the day before the conference ended. Prof. Engelsma gave a speech on “The Two Witnesses of Revelation” (Rev. 11) in the morning. Later that day, Rev. Lanning gave the last conference speech, “Called to Live in the Expectation of a Final Judgment and in the Hope of Life Eternal”.

On the Sunday of the conference we had the church services at the castle. The morning sermon was preached by Prof. Engelsma on “The Hope of Creation for Christ’s Coming”, his text being Romans 8:19-22. The evening worship service was led by Rev. Lanning, who preached about Methusaleh, with Genesis 5:25-27 as his text.

During the conference there were two day trips. One of them was on Monday, 18 July. That trip was to Hillsborough Castle, where the queen and other British royalty stay when they come to Northern Ireland. We got a guided tour of the castle and then got to spend some time outside in the queen’s garden. The other day trip was on Thursday the 21st to Boyne Valley, a 1690 battle site, and Trim Castle. In the town of Trim we also had time to walk around the town next to the castle and fellowship with each other.

At the BRF Conference there were people from many different countries: Australia, Canada, England, Hungary, Northern Ireland, the Philippines, Ireland, Singapore, the United States, and Wales. Psalm 22:27-28 talks about this: “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the LORD’S: and he is the governor among the nations”.

Every morning and every night there was devotions, led by different people attending the conference. Devotions included singing from the Scottish Psalter, which the church in Northern Ireland also uses for its worship services. We used this Psalter before and after each speech as well.

There was also free time every day, when we could talk, walk around a lake by the castle, cycle, kayak, go to one of the world’s largest hedge mazes, sing with people at the conference, and many other activities.

We are thankful for the time we could spend with God’s people at the conference.

“I love Thy saints, who fear Thy name And walk as in Thy sight; They are the excellent of earth, In them is my delight” (Psalter 27, stanza 2).

Written by: Jessica Lanning | Issue 41

Another Year

Introduction

“Why weren’t you at CK/CKS (CERC’s youth group meeting) yesterday?” Does this question sound familiar? Have you asked this question before? Been on the receiving end of it? Or, has asking (or being asked) this question become a thing of the past, especially when it has become a norm for a fellow youth (or for yourself ) not to attend CK/CKS, such that a surprised ‘What brings you to CK/CKS today?’ becomes the more appropriate question to ask?

Asking and receiving such a question is important, for it expresses a care for each other’s spiritual well-being, and provides us with a measure of accountability to each other. It is part of the admonition to “look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Phi. 2:4). We are concerned that our fellow youth is unable to make time to attend CK/CKS, which we recognise is of tremendous spiritual benefit for us, and genuinely want to find out why he or she is unable to do so. We hope to provide a listening ear if necessary, and cannot wait to share what we learnt the day before about the exciting truths of God’s Word.

If you are a CK/CKS youth, I especially ask that you read through this article to the end, so that we may briefly recap the activities of the past year, be reminded of the purpose of CK/CKS, and do a little reflection together.

A Recap

For the benefit of all, Covenant Keepers/Covenant Keepers Senior (CK/CKS) is the youth group of CERC, with youths aged 13-16 for CK, and aged 17 and above for CKS. We meet an average of three times on various Saturdays in a month, typically for a workshop, Bible Study, and outing.

Workshops: In the past year, for workshops, we finished up the series on the seven churches of Revelation, and are currently continuing our series on church history. We covered the history of the PRCA and CERC. It was extremely exciting to learn this recent church history, and the speakers did a fantastic job making it come to life, allowing us to relive past days which happened before we were born, or went by as we lived in oblivion. We were given a glimpse into the struggles of the church in her defence of the truth. Above all, it was a timely reminder of the providence of God in preserving His church through the many controversies which threatened to wreck and swallow her up. It was amazing to learn of how, at many crucial junctures, God used the power of a single vote to preserve His truth in His church.

Bible Study: We also continued our Bible study in the book of Genesis. We learnt about the wickedness of man in the pre-diluvian period and the tiny remnant of the seed of the woman. We learnt about the prophetic significance of Methuselah’s name given to him by his father Enoch. We learnt about the swift and violent judgment of the flood, and how eight souls were saved by water. We learnt about God’s covenant made with Noah and the creation, and His promise of salvation. Once again, we were richly blessed to be able to delve into the riches of God’s Word in Genesis, which sets the stage for the great drama of sin and salvation through the seed of the woman.

Outings: We also had many fun outings, including cycling, a tree top walk, a session of kickball, and an excursion to Trampoline Park! Above all, it was the opportunity to spend much time in fellowship with one another which proved the main highlight, at least for me.

 

Why did we come for these activities? Or, perhaps a better question: why should we, as CK/CKS youths, come for our youth group activities (whether we have been coming or not)? Let us explore that next.

A Reminder

Origin and Purpose of CK/CKS: CK/ CKS is part of the organic life of the church, as all societies are. It is not something commanded by God for the church to have, but is something voluntarily   created   and   maintained by all the youth of the church – and not merely by a single committee. It is created and maintained as a response to the preaching, as we grow in our knowledge and love for God’s Word, and also in our love for our fellow saints. As the chief means of grace, the preaching works in our hearts an ever greater zeal for God’s Word, such that we cannot rest content hearing it only twice on Sunday – we simply must study it personally during the week, and also look forward to meeting up with our fellow saints to study God’s Word together. The preaching also works in our hearts an abounding love for our fellow saints – we want to spend more time in their company than those brief hours on Sunday would allow us. We want to discuss God’s Word together not merely for self-benefit, but also for the benefit of our brothers and sisters in Christ, that we may provoke one another unto love and good works.

Thus, CK/CKS is formed and maintained, as it allows us to do just that. Bible Studies, workshops, and even exhortations during outings are opportunities to hear God’s Word taught by a speaker, and also to ask and answer each other’s questions. Sharing with each other the time spent with one another discussing God’s Word, and playing sports allows us to know each other personally, form and develop lasting friendships. As we grow in our love for the truth, we cannot help but grow in our unity which is founded upon the truth we love.

Importance of CK/CKS: Studying God’s Word together and enjoying blessed fellowship amongst fellow saints – these make CK/CKS so important and dear to us. But perhaps a factor that underscores its importance, and highlights the urgency for us as youth to be active members of CK/CKS, is that we have precious little time outside of Sunday to study God’s Word together and to fellowship. Many of us do not get to see each other much at all – during the weekdays, we are busy with school, homework, and CCAs. Many (though not all) of our classmates in school are unbelieving, or ‘Christians’ who put Christ’s name to shame. We receive so much ungodly influence and teaching from the public school throughout the week. CK/CKS then becomes something of a relief, something to look forward to when the weekend comes. It is a spiritual oasis in the desert of the world and we come to find rest in God’s Word and sweet communion amongst fellow saints. It is a huge blessing for a church to have such a youth group. Do you view your youth group with such importance?

A Reflection

Now is the time for a little reflection. Where have we found ourselves over most of the Saturdays in the past year? Were we at CK/CKS meetings, whenever they were held, or were we elsewhere? Can you identify with the activities listed out in the ‘Recap’ section, because you attended most of them? At the beginning of a new year’s worth of CK/CKS activities, it is a good time for us to pause and reflect. We shall revert to the singular person as each of us undertakes this reflection. Looking Back: Do I place CK/CKS as a priority to attend? If I do, is this reflected in my regular CK/CKS attendance? If I claim that CK/CKS is a priority for me, yet I do not find myself attending activities often, am I not acting according to my priorities?

Perhaps it could be worthwhile to examine some activities which take away my CK/CKS attendance: (i) Busy with school work/CCAs. (ii) Work during my school holidays. (iii) Fill in your own reason. When I am actually free from all these, do I then find myself attending CK/CKS regularly? If I still find myself not attending CK/ CKS regularly, are any of the listed reasons really the root reason for me not attending CK/CKS, or are they just excuses that I use to justify myself to others? (Note: this exercise is for us to reflect, nor to justify our non- attendance to others.) If they are just excuses, what then is the root reason?

Even if I do not attend only due to those listed reasons, are they really reasons for which I ought not to attend CK/CKS? Am I prioritising spiritual things if I choose to focus on those at the expense of CK/CKS attendance?

Perhaps I do not place CK/CKS as a priority to attend anymore. If so, why do I not? Perhaps I recognize that CK/ CKS is spiritually beneficial, yet other factors have made me not want to prioritise CK/CKS attendance: (1) I have no friends in the church. (2) My friends do not attend CK/CKS. (3) The activities are boring.

Regarding (1): Am I simply resigned to having no friends, or do I view continued CK/CKS attendance as a means of making friends? Do I have an entitled mentality that others have to always approach me? Or, do I also seek to reach out to others, to put in effort and build friendships? Am I willing to try again to make friends even if I have not succeeded in the past?

Regarding (2): Do I view CK/CKS as important enough for me to encourage my friends to attend it when they may not feel like doing so? Should my CK/CKS attendance really be dependent on whether my friend attends, especially if my friend may not seem very spiritually interested? By my actions, am I positively influencing my friends to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, or am I being influenced away from that?

Regarding (3): Do I make the effort to inform the committee of this, as a youth who is interested in and feels responsible for my youth group, or do I not really care anyway? Do I make the effort to prepare for activities and participate in discussions or do I merely sit back and let others make things work?

Looking Ahead: How can I work on being more spiritually minded in the year ahead? I recognise that I must be always growing spiritually, continually sinking my roots into Christ and being built up in Him (Col. 2:7). I also recognize that CK/CKS is a tremendous blessing and a means to help me grow spiritually. It provides me with an opportunity to learn God’s Word and to fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ, which I have precious little time to do throughout the week. I want to make CK/CKS a priority for myself to attend! I am not going to wait and see whether I happen to be free on that Saturday before deciding whether to attend – I am going to make it a point to attend as many CK/CKS activities as I can, and even be willing to cancel other appointments which clash with them.

I recognize that it is by God’s grace alone that I am able to seek things that are spiritual, while my sinful flesh always craves the opposite and comes up with excuses to justify itself. Despite my new resolve to grow spiritually, and to seek CK/CKS attendance as a means to this end, I also recognize that I can easily fail and quickly lose my resolve. I must then constantly look to God for grace, for He alone can sustain me and grant me the required strength.

Conclusion

“Why weren’t you at CK/CKS yesterday?” Our motivation for coming to our youth group must not be merely to avoid being asked this question. What then is our motivation? A love for God’s Word, a desire to grow in it, and a love for our fellow saints. Oh, how we long to see one another, and to gather together to study God’s Word! The next CK/CKS activity cannot come soon enough.

 

REFERENCES

Dykstra, Russell (1989). Our Chief Joy. Standard Bearer (Vol. 65, Issue 20), retrieved from http://standardbearer. rfpa.org/articles/our-chief-joy?keyword

Written by: Marcus Wee | Issue 41

Endeavouring to Fellowship in the Light

Dear fellow CERC Saints,

Even as we rejoice in another CERC anniversary, I am constrained by the love of God and for CERC to write a bit more soberly and with an increased measure of gravity regarding the present state of our fellowship. Why now and especially for a Salt Shakers issue that celebrates our church anniversary, you may wonder? Well, apart from offering praises and thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father for preserving CERC thus far, I believe that we must also take stock of where we are – spiritually, that is; so that we may know how and what to commit to the Lord in prayer, plan to move forward for His sake, and further the cause of the Gospel.

I would like to refer us to God’s Word in 1 John 1 and the article’s key text in verses 6 and 7 – “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” The focus of this writing is – Endeavouring to fellowship in the Light: Are we doing it rightly before God? (Biblical references drawn from 1 John)”

When we fellowship in Christ, we do it ‘in the light’ – as sinners saved by grace. To further expand the meaning of ‘fellowship’, it must cover all manner of life including our dealings and relationships (1 John: 1-4). These latter aspects are what I hope to draw members’ attention to. Surely, all of us know that fellowship is not confined to only church lunch or a CK/CKS barbeque dinner, and the like (even if there is an exhortation or devotion included in the programme). Fellowship must also happen in the course of doing the Lord’s Work together and in counselling and building up of the personal Christian walks of our family members as well as fellow saints, all in the fear of the Lord.

If we agree on this, then allow me to express a concern – that is, if we are not sober and watchful at this point in time of our church building (which I believe is at a high point), we may gravitate towards a lackadaisical attitude of the heart in how we come together to serve our Lord God. As a church, we may unwittingly allow those ‘Me, Myself and I’ worldly inclinations and indifference to fester in our hearts, so much so that we may not even realise that spiritual darkness has set in for some time already, even as the light in us dim ever so subtly.

Let me elaborate by relating an activity that we do together every Lord’s Day – participate in the lunch-fellowship ‘ritual’. If we fellowship in the light, having lunch with fellow saints should not be a problem. Am I right? When we begin to queue, we will want to esteem fellow saints   higher   than   ourselves.  When we are served food by fellow saints, we are thankful to God for them to have the heart to serve us, and therefore we humbly accept what is served. When we take the food to the table, we are even at ease when we lunch with saints whom we usually are ‘most uncomfortable to be with’. At the slightest opportunity, we may even want to help him clear his plate and cutleries after the meal.

But, if we are not in the light, we let our guard down. Our carnal mind may get the better of our spiritual heart and it dims that light. We will begin to consider “What’s for lunch?” rather than staying focussed on the prayer meeting, fellowship meeting, or CI class that we are still in the midst of, and which precedes lunch.

At the risk of unintentionally offending some, let me suggest these other possibilities that our hearts may be dangerously inclined toward. When we are not in the light, we may even consider “jumping queue” or asking someone to queue for our own meal, just to avoid queuing like every other saint would be doing! When we are not inclined to fellowship in the manner that Christ would want us to, we would have already decided whom we would not sit with, let alone engage in Christian conversation. When we begin to consider ourselves above other saints who have been on duty preparing, serving and washing up after lunch, we may even knowingly leave an empty cup or cutlery unattended on the table as we leave our lunch table.

When we read 1 John, we will begin to be convicted in our hearts that in everything that we do together to further the cause of Christ (and not just fellowshipping over a Sunday lunch), we cannot but want to ‘shine’ for Him and His Church; or otherwise, we would grow dim and deteriorate into spiritual darkness and deceit. We will not want to be indifferent towards any saint. By which time, we may have grieved the Holy Spirit, stumbled and even wounded our fellow saints. This in turn breeds mistrust, betrayal, and as it is written in 1 John – lies and hypocrisy. While I pray and hope that each one of us, including myself, will not regress to that, I am also burdened to want to express a word of caution now. It is not my intention to ‘pour cold water’ during our celebrations. On the contrary, I pray that we do not even become ‘lukewarm’.

By walking in the light, we are always conscious that being in our flesh, we are no better than the other fellow saints. Therefore, we will want to endeavour to humbly acknowledge and accept the other saint, no matter how unseemly that brother may appear to us. As we are in the light, we will constantly strive to avoid ‘taking cover’ and instead move away from those dark corners that deny God and His saints when they seek us out to do His Will.

When we walk in the light, that light will shine forth and drive away the darkness in our hearts, so much so that those excuses of the need to attend to a chore or to attend to some work in office or church, may just give way to really doing what is right before God and His people. This shining forth may well include bonding in the most unearthly hour or dealing with a difficult issue a fellow saint has been facing for some time already.

Essentially, even as we receive hard (yet truthful) biblical doctrines through the preaching of the Word and from the many bible study sessions, devotions, etc., a heart that is in the light must also want to deal with all saints (regardless of spiritual maturity and character) to edify them. You will want to build him up to the next level of Christ-likeness. That heart of light will also be confident and fearless in engaging fellow saints on difficult issues; be they church or family matters. Be careful – as those who merely profess to be in the light, may do the former (only hearers of the Word) but will have neither the conviction nor even the inclination to do the other! I write this not of my own opinion or values, but of the Lord’s.

I urge us to heed God’s Word with gravity and consider 1 John 2: 8-11: “Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.”

So, dear fellow CERC saints, let us be reminded, that we do not unwittingly allow darkness (and therefore hypocrisy and lies) to dim that light in our hearts. The consequence can be disastrous to us, our loved ones and His church. Let us therefore remain watchful and continue to deal with one another only in His truth, His counsel and His love – never ours or each other’s. Let us dwell in His mercies and grace, knowing that we are always as much a sinner (saved by grace) as other fellow saints. Hence, this truth must surely convict us to show Christian charity and compassion. Just as we are called to love God with all our heart, mind and soul, we are to make every effort to ‘reach out’ to our fellow saints, instead of remaining (or worse, walking) in the dark.

In walking in the light, we cannot help but want to ‘shine’ for Him through sharing of our personal testimonies – both blessings and admonishments from the Lord. When we shine forth, we are delightfully constrained by His love to want to engage others and show Christ’s love to our family and fellow saints. When we fear the Lord, we are persuaded by the Holy Spirit and His Word to want to take a step lower and slower in order to serve and learn from the other ‘sinner- saint’.

In so doing, opportunities will abound and doors will be opened for us to submit to one another in His love. In so doing, we truly fulfil the law of Christ. If anyone fears that he may be taken advantage of (or lose out), let us look no further than Christ as the one to emulate: allowing Himself to be disadvantaged, cheated and betrayed – just to do His Father’s Will. Yet, Christ has prevailed and fulfilled the Gospel for us.

In closing, I wish each and every saint in CERC a very blessed anniversary, and that we may continue to be blessed richly, preserved for yet another year by His mercies and grace, and loved dearly by our Heavenly Father. As we celebrate our church anniversary, let us fellowship and reach out to one another; even as we are promised in His Word that our joy will be full. That fullness of joy, in turn, will no doubt cause us to draw even closer to each other in Christ, His Son, can give.

Written by: Andrew Tan | Issue 10

Remembering the Lord’s Day

On 11 May 2010, the Reformed Reading Book Club met to review and discuss the pamphlet on ‘Remembering the Lord’s Day’ written by Prof Engelsma of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. Though this is only a ten page pamphlet, Prof Engelsma has concisely pointed out the essence of keeping or remembering the Lord’s Day.

In his introduction, Prof Engelsma equated the Lord’s Day to the dikes in Netherlands that keep back the threatening seas and preserve the Hollanders from destruction by the seas. In his analogy, he explained that the Lord’s Day holds back the raging waves of materialism, earthy mindedness and pleasure-madness that threaten to engulf the Church and the Christian.

In the subsequent three sections, Prof Engelsma stressed and elaborated the one and fundamental truth of Sabbath- observance – As of today, or in the present time, and according to the Fourth Commandment, Jehovah God still sets apart one day of the week as a special day and requires His people to remember this day by ceasing from their secular work and play, in order to devote themselves to worship Him. He also gave both the Biblical and confessional proof to show that remembering the Lord’s Day is the will of God.

In the last three sections of the pamphlet, Prof Engelsma gave some ideas on how we can go about remembering the Lord’s Day.

Prof Engelsma emphasised the urgency of remembering the Lord’s Day and he gave three reasons for his emphasis:

•First, keeping the Lord’s Day is a commandment that belongs to the first table of the Law.
•Second, the ‘Lord’s day’ belongs to the risen, glorious Lord Jesus Christ. It is not our day.
•Third, by the Lord’s grace, we receive the greatest benefit of rest, by remembering the Lord’s Day, because the Sabbath was made for man.

In our discussions, we asked ourselves these questions:
•What does the Lord’s Day mean to you and me?
•Does keeping the Lord’s Day still apply to Christians today or is it only valid in Old Testament times?
•Does keeping the Lord’s Day require Christians to cease from work and play on that day?

We concurred with Prof Engelsma that the Lord’s Day is still applicable to Christians today, and of the importance and urgency of keeping the Lord’s Day. The Lord’s Day is a sacred day, out of the seven days of the week, set aside for God and for our spiritual rest.

The Lord’s Day is a day where we come to meet God, worship Him, sing praises to Him and enjoy fellowship with the saints. The Lord’s Day is a time when we hear the preaching of the Word of God as we have been hearing the preaching of the world and the lies of the devil for most of time during the week. As faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom 10:17), we come to receive the Word of God on the Lord’s Day. Through receiving the word of God, we will learn more of God, understand more of His will for us and be reminded of the blessing of the forgiveness of sins. The Lord’s Day is a place where we can have a foretaste of heaven; entering into the heavenly kingdom and having a glimpse of heavenly worship. While most of the time in the week, we are subject to the unrest in the world, the Lord’s Day brings us into His sanctuary where we can find peace and rest in the presence of God.

As those in the office of believers, we are always on the receiving end on the Lord’s Day; however, for the office of the pastor, instead of receiving, he gives the word of God to the people through the preaching from the pulpit.

Lastly, we all recognised that to be in church the whole day on the Lord’s Day takes effort. We can do our part by encouraging each other, out of love one for another and love for God, to keep the Lord’s Day holy, as a whole day.

Written by: Lim Seow Thong | Issue 4