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

Scripture’s Covenant Youth (VII): Samuel

Among all the many faithful people in Israel of whom Scripture speaks, and even among all the covenant youth that are mentioned in Scripture, Samuel is unique. He was unique in several respects, but the most important characteristic of this great man of God was that he alone came closest to holding all three offices in Israel: prophet, priest and king, something no man ever did in Israel, in fact, might not do. He was prophet to whom the Lord spoke and who brought the word of the Lord to the nation. He was priest and often sacrificed for the people – as he did, for example, when he went to Bethlehem at God’s command to anoint David king in Saul’s place. But he was not king. Yet he was numbered among the judges who fought for the nation and judged them while Israel did not yet have a king. Samuel even served in that transition period when God gave Israel a king to take the place of judges. Saul was deposed from office by God himself for the sin of disobedience. Saul was the choice of the people; David was God’s choice.

You probably know the story of his birth. His mother Hannah was the wife of a man named Elkanah. But Elkanah had two wives, and was, we may conclude, a rather prosperous man. But, as was always the case in families where a man had more than one wife, in this home too, there was trouble between the two wives. God tolerated families with multiple wives during these Old Testament times, because godly marriages are a picture of Christ and his church, and because the picture was dim, blurred and unclear in the time when Christ had not yet done His great work of making His bride a pure and holy bride. God no longer will tolerate such marriages for Christ has come and He has one wife and one only, the church. He loves her and none other (1 Tim. 3:2, 12). Nor can He love any other for He died only for His bride.

The spiritual condition in Elkanah’s home was not the best. It is true that Elkanah did take his family to the tabernacle once a year to make their sacrifices to God as the law required. And it is also true that Elkanah loved Hannah in preference to Peninah (1 Sam 1:4-5). Hannah was the God- fearing wife of Elkanah. I doubt whether Peninah even loved the Lord, for she provoked Hannah “sore” because God had not given Hannah children (1 Sam 1:6), while Peninah had sons and daughters (1 Sam. 1:4). She mocked Hannah’s longing to have children.

Hannah was very sad that the Lord had not given her children, but Elkanah, it seemed, did not understand what was the reason for Hannah’s sadness. He thought that extra gifts to Hannah would cure her of her sadness. But, it seems, he was too lacking in any real spirituality in his inability to understand that Hannah’s sorrow was not so much the mere fact that she could not have children, but that she could not share in the blessing that most godly mothers possessed: to be a part of the nation of Israel and so to have a part in bringing forth the Christ, the Seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent and bring deliverance from the tyranny of sin (1 Sam. 1:8).

How do we know that her inability to have children was her great sorrow?

The answer is the fervency of her prayer for a child along with her promise that if God would give her a child, she would dedicate the child to the Lord (1 Sam 1:16-18). And even more powerfully, the song that Hannah sang when the Lord gave her a son (1 Sam 2:1-10) has many similarities to the song that Mary sang when she knew she was pregnant with Christ (Luke 1:46-55). It seems to me that Mary had Hannah’s song in her mind when she sang the song recorded for us in Luke. It was as if Mary, in her astonishment that the Lord had done what he said he would do, spoke in her song of and to all those godly women in the old dispensation who eagerly longed   for   the   coming   of   Christ, and found their joy in bringing forth children of the covenant who would bring into this world of sin the Christ himself. Mary collected all these songs and prayers of covenant mothers and said, as it were: God is faithful. I am to bring forth the hope of Israel’s mothers.

And so it is yet today even though Christ has brought salvation.

Throughout the entire new dispensation, the church of Christ has been blessed with such mothers as Hannah. These mothers live and die with two great truths in their hearts that lead them to understand Hannah’s sorrow in not having children.

The first is this: They are given the blessedness of bringing into the world God’s elect, for God’s promise is that he will save his church from believers and their seed. These covenant mothers bring forth the church of Christ itself.

Second, they know that Christ will come only when the last elect child is born and brought to faith in Christ. They have a part in bringing about that glorious day when Christ, the hope of the church, will come to take His people to glory. It is as if every covenant mother has her eye on and her heart aching for her Saviour who shall presently come to take her and her children to be where Christ is. They understand Hannah’s prayer. They will say when they stand before Christ: “Here am I, Lord, and the children thou has given me (Isa. 8:18, Heb, 2:13)1.

I know I have not yet written about Samuel, but I will – in the next article, God willing; but all these things are necessary background. Samuel was, in the words of Hannah, lent to the Lord as the living expression of Israel’s hope. This so permeated Samuel’ life that all his work was to bring Israel to a stronger hope for the coming of their Saviour.

 

1 We must not conclude that Christ must wait to come again until godly mothers have had their children as they planned to have them. The date of Christ’s coming is eternally fixed. But because the text from Isaiah that I quoted above is applied to Christ himself in Hebrews 2:13, the glorious idea is that Christ assigns to each covenant mother what children of God’s covenant they must bring forth, and to them He gives this great privilege. Christ determines His “children.”

 

Written by: Prof. Herman Hanko | Issue 44

Media Piracy: A Dire Temptation of Our Day

Introduction

Piracy originally was used to describe something that happened at sea and involved the robbing of ships, but the word has taken on another meaning in today’s context. Today, piracy is also used to refer to the unauthorised use or reproduction of another’s work. For this article, we will be limiting the scope of our discussion to digital piracy, which basically refers to the illegal downloading and usage of games, software, videos, music, etc.

The Law

In order to identify digital piracy correctly, we must first understand what the law says is wrong. And what the law says is wrong will also play a part in what we consider as stealing. Singapore has in place a Copyright Act, which was revised in 2006. Whenever someone creates and expresses a piece of original work in a tangible form (such as in writing or recording), he enjoys copyright protection without the need for registration. An original work means that there is a degree of independent effort that was put into the creation of that work. With copyright protection, the author of the work enjoys certain privileges such as deciding how to distribute, sell or use his work. The author may also choose to sell or give the copyright to another party.

Copyright infringement occurs when one or more of the copyright owner’s rights are violated. This happens when someone copies or distributes all or part of the copyrighted work without permission from the owner. Note that even if it was never viewed or used, just by obtaining a copy of the work without permission constitutes an infringement.

The Problem

The problem today is that proof of infringement lies with the copyright owner. He has to show in court not only that he is the owner of the material, but also produce evidence that the other party has copied his work without permission. This is done to prevent a misuse of the law but the flipside is that this makes it a relatively hard and tedious process for copyright owners to protect their work. Most copyright owners feel that it is not worth their effort and there is also the risk of a public backlash as well.

This, combined with the advancement of the internet and technologies that make use of the internet, has made digital piracy so common today. The law cannot effectively regulate what the general public practices. The chaotic and anonymous nature of the internet has made it such that it is practically impossible to put a stop to digital piracy.

But what does all of this that mean for the Christian? When society practices something that is at odds with the law, how is a Christian supposed to react? What are the principles that we should base our decisions on?

Lord’s Day 42

Q. 110. What doth God forbid in the eighth commandment?

A. God forbids not only those thefts, and robberies, which are punishable by the magistrate; but he comprehends under the name of theft all wicked tricks and devises, whereby we design to appropriate to ourselves the goods which belong to our neighbour: whether it be by force, or under the appearance of right, as by unjust weights, ells, measures, fraudulent merchandise, false coins, usury, or by any other way forbidden by God;, as also all covetousness, all abuse and waste of his gifts.

Q. 111. But what doth God require in this commandment?

A. That I promote the advantage of my neighbour in every instance I can or may; and deal with him as I desire to be dealt with by others: further also that I faithfully labour, so that I may be able to relieve the needy.

Lord’s Day 42 in explaining the eighth commandment on stealing touches at the heart of our discussion and sets forth the principles that we should follow. In Q&A 110, the explanation given is that not only outright stealing is forbidden, but also all other forms where we short-change the neighbour. To put in the words used by the Heidelberg Catechism: “whereby we design to appropriate to ourselves the goods which belong to our neighbour: whether it be by force, or under the appearance of right”.

The Heidelberg Catechism was written in a time where the common form of stealing would be at the market, through the use of something like false weights or coins. Times have certainly changed since then. Today, there are much more sophisticated forms of stealing, some of which can even seem legitimate. Nevertheless, the principles that are laid forth in the Heidelberg Catechism still stand. Digital piracy is basically still stealing because we are using or viewing something without giving due compensation to the creator, thus short-changing the neighbour.

Technologies that enables Digital Piracy

We first need to be aware of some of the technologies that have made digital piracy so easy today. The underlining technology is the internet. The internet has allowed people to download illegal content easily with a high degree of anonymity.

But there are some specific uses of the internet that has enabled digital piracy to become so common. One such use is by something called BitTorrent. What BitTorrent does is to allow the easy sharing of content, be it software, games, videos or music. All it takes is for one person to upload the pirated content and everyone who wants to download will share it with others as well. This P2P (Peer to Peer) technology that is used by BitTorrent requires those that download the content to automatically upload and share it with others. From a legal point of view, torrenting is against the law as one not only makes an illegal copy but also shares that copy with others. There are legitimate content that can be downloaded through BitTorrent but most of the content available is pirated.

Another way is through streaming which is used for videos and music. The content is generally hosted on a website where others are able to view. Once again there are content that can be viewed legitimately through steaming, but other content actually constitutes digital piracy when viewed. We will discuss more about this later in the article.

Software and Games

Digital piracy can take many forms. For software and games, that is a little more straightforward. Using a software or game without paying for it when it is supposed to be paid for is digital piracy. We are stealing from the developer of the software or game when we use their work without paying them. Of course there are those free software which can be used without paying but it is digital piracy if we deliberately find ways to use them for free when we know that it actually requires payment. It sounds very straightforward because it actually is! But because it is relatively easy to get a pirated copy and relatively hard to get caught, using pirated software and games becomes almost a norm today. Once again, we need a reminder that just because everyone does it does not make it right. It is not right in the eyes of the law but more importantly, it is not right in the eyes of God.

Video Streaming

For the sake of simplicity, when videos are referred to in this article, it would also include all movies, TV shows and music. This article does not go into whether it is right for a Christian to consume such content in the first place and only focuses on whether it is digital piracy.

A video that is downloaded without the permission of the creator is digital piracy because we have obtained an unauthorised copy of the video. But when we stream a video, one might argue that we are not actually downloading the video and we are just watching it online. But actually, when we view pirated videos through streaming, our computer stores a temporary copy of it on the hard drive and this is illegal according to the law because we are still making an unauthorised copy of the video.

One of the one the most familiar platform that does streaming is YouTube. Content that is placed on YouTube is generally legal because YouTube actively removes pirated content. But there is bound to be some illegal content, which we must be careful of. Other streaming sites do not police what is uploaded as much as YouTube does and as a result, much more pirated content can be found.

There are legitimate ways to watch videos through streaming. Platforms that require a monthly fee to access paid content are one legitimate way. There are also creators that allow their videos to be watched for free so that they gain publicity or earn through advertisements. Some signs which can help us to identify illegal videos are when we realise that we are paying nothing to watch content that we know should be paid for, or if the video was not uploaded by the original creator.

The Difficulty

The problem is that sometimes it can be very tricky to differentiate between what is legal and illegal. One such example is something like though a software called Popcorn Time. What this software does is to allow one to watch all sorts of paid content for free. On the surface it mimics legal platforms that require a monthly fee, but it relies on P2P technology to offer the content for free. It is basically torrenting, as was described earlier, but done in a very subtle way. When you watch the content, it is downloaded through P2P and stored in a secret folder on your hard drive. This content is automatically deleted on a system reboot.

Technology is constantly changing and the world is getting better at making something illegal seem legal. But when we consider what the Heidelberg Catechism says in QnA 111: “That I promote the advantage of my neighbour in every instance I can or may”, it helps us to see though their schemes. By using the software, game or video in such a way that the creator is not properly compensated, we are not promoting the advantage of our neighbour.

Because digital piracy is so common and could very well be considered to be a norm today, we have not really been forced to consider this issue carefully. We might also hesitate to consider this issue carefully as it could have deep implications on the activities we enjoy. It might even mean more trouble for us, as sometimes obtaining a legal copy could prove difficult or almost impossible, while an illegal copy is just a few clicks away. There are excuses that we might give, such as “I only want to try it out before buying”, or “everyone is doing it”, or “the company is already earning so much money”, or “if I like it after I use it, I will buy more” and others.

Christian Stewardship

We need to consider if what we do is pleasing to God, when we look at it in light of what the eighth commandment really means. The principle of Christian stewardship is that God owns everything. God has given to each person his share of earthly possessions and our calling is to use them wisely and for the glory of God. Part of it is to be contented with what with have and not steal from our neighbour.

What we have discussed in this article is stealing. It does not matter if everyone does it and very few people are actually caught and punished. As long as it is against the law, it is stealing. And even if it is not against the law, as long as the neighbour is not properly compensated, it will still be wrong. The eighth commandment is very strict in its instruction. And one of the implications is that we are to consider the good of the neighbour and to deal with him in a way that we would wish to be dealt with if our positions were reversed.

Because of how quickly technology advances, it is impossible to discuss all the ways that digital piracy can take place. But by asking some simple questions such as:

  1. Is it against the law?
  2. Is the creator properly compensated?
  3. Am I using it in a way that is beneficial to the creator?
  4. Am I using it in a way that the creator intended?

We can accurately determine whether what we are doing is legitimate or is actually digital piracy. May God grant us the wisdom and the conviction to do what is pleasing to Him.

Written by: Deacon Cornelius Boon | Issue 43

Dare to Stand: Bold Against Asherah

Greetings, fellow young adult Christian Singaporeans! I recall with fondness the brief time I spent in Singapore almost two years ago, and I was glad when recently the Salt Shakers committee asked if I could contribute to your magazine. I thank you for this opportunity to communicate with you and pray that, if God wills, this article and the magazine as a whole may be blessing to you.

The topic at hand is biblical boldness. My intention is to write several articles on boldness, so a lengthier section in this article will be devoted to a broad, biblical introduction to the subject. True boldness may be defined as an unnatural confidence in the strength of Jesus that generally reveals itself in godly speech. Let us note several important aspects of this definition:

  1. Boldness is not natural to fallen man.
  • The natural man behaves like Peter, the close disciple of Jesus, who at the end of Jesus’ ministry “began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man” (Matt. 26:74).
  • The person who has confidence in his money or athleticism or good looks must hear the admonition of Scripture, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
  • Because boldness is not natural to man, we must wait on the Lord for strength. Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord”.
  1. The source of boldness is the strength of Jesus Christ.
  • Eph.     3:11-12     demonstrates that boldness is found in Jesus: “According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him”.
  • Satan and his demons might appear bold, daring even to enter the lair of the enemy. Job 1 tells us the devil marched into God’s presence and requested permission to persecute the upright Job. However, the devil is not truly bold, for his apparent bravery is motivated by abhorrence of Jesus, not love.
  • In the New Testament, Jesus gives boldness to all saints through His poured-out Spirit. Peter, who had earlier denied Jesus three times, was suddenly bold to preach as he received the Spirit of Christ (Act. 2:14ff). The crowds marvelled at such boldness: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Act. 4:13).
  • The person who does not have the Spirit of Christ is not bold but frightened, even afraid of imaginary troubles. “The wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Pro. 28:1).
  1. As a general rule, boldness reveals itself in godly speech.
  • “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings, and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word” (Act. 4:29).
  • For more examples of boldness in speech, one might look up Act. 4:31, Eph. 6:19, and Phil. 1:14. There are more!
  • There are exceptions. Joseph of Arimathea “went in boldly unto Pilate” to ask for the body of Jesus (Mark 15:43). But even here, the true character of Joseph’s boldness was not that he went into Pilate’s presence but the message Joseph delivered: “Give me Jesus”.
  • Oftentimes, bold speech takes the form of preaching. Jesus preached with boldness: “For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the Scribes” (Matt. 7:29). The apostle Paul desired boldness in his preaching; “[Pray] for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the Gospel” (Eph. 6:19).
  • At other times, bold speech takes the form of prayer. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
  • The devil hates godly speech, for “he is a liar, and the father of it”. He will use whatever means possible to prevent bold speech, for “he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth” (Jn. 8:44).

Now, let us look more closely at how we might be bold in an age of sexual immorality. To do this, we will look at a familiar Old Testament figure: Elijah, a powerful and Spirit-filled prophet (Lk. 1:17). Most of us have heard the story of Elijah on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18), where Elijah held a “competition” with the prophets of Baal. The rules of the competition were simple. Both Elijah and the false prophets were to prepare an altar, but neither side was to light a fire under the altar. Then, Elijah and the false prophets would each pray to their respective gods, and whichever god sent fire would be recognized as the true God.

What is less commonly known about this account is that the 450 prophets of Baal were not the only false prophets who participated in the event on Mt. Carmel. Also present that day were “the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table” (1 Kings 18:19). The “prophets of the groves” were those prophets who worshipped Asherah. Asherah was the goddess of sexual pleasure. Worship her, and she would fulfil the base desires of man’s heart in the way of sexual promiscuity, in adultery and whoredom and even same-sex relationships.   Asherah’s followers were jealous for the goddess; she alone was to be worshipped. Her faithful adherents brought her images into the house of God (2 Kings 21:2-3 & 23:4), so that instead of worshipping the holy Jehovah God, Asherah alone would be worshipped!

In 2017, Asherah is not dead. And her followers have no less shame in worshipping her. From my experiences in America, I can testify that one does not have to look hard to find the goddess Asherah. She displays herself with the bright lights on the billboards and in the flashing images of TV programming and commercials. Asherah has become well-acquainted with social media, using Facebook and the “Featured Stories” of Snapchat to keep her followers faithful. Asherah’s worshippers are jealous that she alone be worshipped. To fulfil this desire, they have taken her into God’s house, and many churches now place their blessing on pre-marital intercourse, divorce and remarriage, and even homosexuality!

The prophet Elijah, in response to the widespread worship of Asherah (and Baal), was bold to confront the enemy. Ahab accused Elijah of troubling Israel, but Elijah replied with bold words to wicked king: “I have not troubled Israel, but thou and thy father’s house!” The altars of the contest were set up, and the false prophets went first, praying to their god for fire to come down. When nothing happened, Elijah was not afraid to show their utter folly in worshipping a false god: “Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud, for he is a god, either he is talking…or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked!” (1 Kings 18:27). After several hours had passed by and no fire consumed the altar, it became evident to all who were watching that Asherah was not god, nor was Baal.

But who was the true God? And would that God be bold to demonstrate in front of the crowds of people that He was the God? Elijah, filled with the Spirit, went boldly unto the throne of grace and prayed for help in time of need. He prayed to God that He would “let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant…and that thou hast turned [the Israelites’] heart back again.” The faithful Lord heard Elijah’s bold request, and He sent fire from heaven, consuming the wood and stone and even the water in the trench surrounding the altar. The people responded with one voice, “The Lord, He is the God!”

Let us be like Elijah, emboldened by the Spirit to confront the immoral Asherah. When Asherah deceives the young man so that he thinks he can resist by his own strength, let him be warned! “For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her” (Pro. 7:26). Like Elijah, we depend on God’s divine intervention to refute Asherah’s seductive advances. If Asherah has already broken down your defences and made you spiritually sick, even addicted, then “call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over [you], anointing [you] with oil in the name of the Lord” (Js 5:20). Asherah and her demons are no less progressive today than they were in Elijah’s day, but at the same time, Christ and His Spirit are no less powerful and faithful. Seek Christ’s strength in time of need, “so that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:6).

Written by: Stephan Regnerus | Issue 43

Scripture’s Covenant Youth (VI): Moses

An elder with whom I was speaking to said to me in the course of our conversation, “When young people come to the consistory to make confession of faith, all I want to know is whether they love Jesus and sincerely confess him as their own”. I was a little taken aback by this and insisted that this was not enough. I told him that I wanted to know why a person wanted to make confession of faith “in this church”. I pointed out to him that if a prospective member wanted to make confession of faith and all he had to do was say that he believes in Christ, then he could make confession of faith in nearly any church around. He would be accepted anywhere on the basis of such a confession.

But, I added, I want to know why an individual wants to make confession of faith here, in this church, and not elsewhere. The applicant for membership in the church must answer this question: “Do you acknowledge the doctrine . . . taught here in this Christian church to be the true and complete doctrine of salvation?”

If one who is baptized as an adult also makes his confession of faith, he too must answer in the affirmative, “Dost thou assent to all the articles of the Christian religion as they are taught here in this Christian church according to the Word of God. . . ?

What Hebrews 11:25 calls Moses’ choice for the people of God is Moses’ confession of faith. It was more an action than a verbal confession, but the action showed clearly that in his heart he had made a decision concerning the burning question: To what people do you wish to join yourself? To Israel or to Egypt? That is, to the church or to the world? That is what confession of faith is all about: the church of Christ or the world? Where do I belong?

It is profitable to compare our confession of faith with that of Moses. We will compare the two by following the order of the questions that are asked of those who make confession of faith in the PRC and their sister churches.

Moses made his choice when he “came to years”. The same is true of us. When we “come to years” we are mature adults, no longer dependent on others (parents, teachers, elders) to teach us what is true; we have reached the point in our lives when we are able to make our own decisions. So it was with Moses. He was older than us, but circumstances were different now than then. Moses was in the courts of Pharaoh for forty years and we do not know if he had any contact with the Israelites during those years. But he knew enough about both Israel and Egypt to make his choice.

Moses expressed his choice by “refusing to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter”. He had to make his choice known in some way to those in the court of Pharaoh and to God’s people. He found what he thought was the ideal way to do this when he killed an Egyptian who was fighting with an Israelite. Our confession of faith is a vow that we publicly make before the church of Christ. Both are confessions of faith. Hebrews 11 tells us that very thing: By faith Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter… Our confession is a confession of what we believe by faith and how we will be faithful to what we believe.

A vow is a promise before God to do something. We say, as it were, if we do not keep this vow we make, may God bring His wrath and judgment on us. It is my judgment that this vow is more important (as it was for Moses) than the vow I make at marriage and the vow I make when I bring my children to the church for baptism – although, of course, every vow is important.

Just as we do, Moses expressed the fact that he believed all that God had said in His word. Moses was the very first to write part of the Bible, and so he knew the truth only through the tradition of a people who cherished it. The people of God had preserved that tradition through the flood, through the disruption of the people on earth at Babel, through the lives of the patriarchs, and during the four hundred years Israel was in Egypt. It was a miracle of the preservation of the truth through the traditions of God’s people.

At the heart of that tradition was God’s promise to His church to send the seed of the woman who would crush the head of Satan to deliver His people from death and hell.

So we confess our faith in the Scriptures; we confess that the Scriptures are true in all they teach, and that the Scriptures in their entirety give us a portrait of Jesus Christ as the only one through whom we have salvation from sin and death, and who will surely come to save us.

Moses was deeply conscious of the fact that the truth of Christ came to him by tradition. While it did not come in the form of written creeds, it did come to him as the one faith all the people of God confessed since creation and those revelations of God in creation. That tradition was constantly enriched by additional works of God: the gospel preached after the fall (Gen. 3:15), the murder of Abel because he looked to Christ when he sacrificed a lamb, the flood, the new creation after the flood, the division of the people at Babel, the call and obedience of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the miraculous birth of Isaac, and all the revelations of the truth given before Moses’ time and preserved through tradition.

So it is when we make confession of faith that we too confess the truth as held by our fathers since Pentecost and contained in our confessions. We confess that we believe that the truth is contained in the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene creeds, the Symbolum quicunque, sometimes called the Athanasian Creed, the Creed of Chalcedon, and the Three Forms of Unity.

It is at this point that the confession and vow which we make becomes very particular: we also confess that we believe the doctrine taught in “this Christian church” as the true and complete doctrine of salvation.

Moses made that his confession of faith when he cast his lot with Israel and was willing to suffer severe persecution for the sake of that truth. He turned his back with a shudder on all the treasures of Egypt.

Today it is somewhat different, for there are many, many churches, and among those are to be found churches in which there are also people of God and where the truth is still preserved in some measure. That part of our confession that speaks of the truth as taught in the church of which we are a member really makes us sit up and think.

To confess this means basically to confess that the church in which we make confession of faith teaches only the truth and teaches it in all its fullness and purity. This church (along with other churches who believe what we do) in which I make confession of faith is the true church of Christ and the purest manifestation of Christ’s body found in the world. One says, as it were, “I believe this church is the clearest and purest manifestation of the body of Christ in the world, and I want to be faithful to what I confess in Article 28 of the Belgic Confession, namely that I must in obedience to Christ the head of the church, join myself to that church, even though the edict of princes oppose it. Other churches may have the truth in part, but the error(s) they hold will develop into worse errors.

That is what Moses confessed when he chose to cast his lot with the people of God.

Finally, he promised to be faithful to that people and to reject the treasures and pleasures of Egypt. We can’t have both, you know. It is always one or the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. The child of God who believes the truth taught in his Christian church must live an antithetical life. He must say NO to the world and YES to God’s people.

Faithfulness! That is our confession! So faithful that if I err, I will submit to the government of the church. That too I vow before God. The church is my mother. When that church tells me I am wrong, I hear the church as the word of Christ Himself to me. That mother feeds me with heavenly bread. That mother shelters me from the storms of life. I am taught by that mother all my days. And when I do wrong, that mother chastises me to teach me to be faithful.

I pray for the faithfulness of the church in which I confess my faith, because I want a true church for myself, my spouse, my children, my grandchildren and my great grandchildren until the Lord Himself returns.

Written by: Prof. Herman Hanko | Issue 43

The Sin of Silence

Ezekiel 3:17 Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.

18 When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

19 Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

20 Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling-block before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

21 Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.

Dear Covenant Youth,

Although this passage concerns the calling of the watchman or the minister of God’s flock, it is not contrary to the principles of God’s Word that I apply this Word of God to your lives, for all of God’s people are called to be “watchmen” over the lives of our brethren or to be our brother’s keepers (Gen. 4:9), and even to admonish them if we see that he is overtaken in a fault (Gal. 5:1-2).

Whenever I come across this passage of God’s Word, it never fails to bring a chill to my spine, and I am sure you will have the same reaction. This is perhaps one of the most serious, frightening, awesome word of God in the whole of Scripture. This text together with the title of the article has to do with our awesome responsibility in the sight of God.

What is it about this text that causes one to sit up and pay attention to the message? It is this: we are responsible for the blood of our brethren if we do not bring the Word of God to warn them when we know they are walking in sin.

God does not allow us any excuse for not bringing a word of warning from His Word to them. Perhaps, we say in our hearts, “oh, they ought to know – no need for me to remind them”, or “I don’t wish to rock the boat and cause my brethren to dislike me”. This Word of God does not allow us to be delinquent in our duty.

There is not a more straightforward and direct word of God than this text. What does this text teach me? First, it is our solemn responsibility to warn those who belong to the instituted church of God who sin against Him. In it, there are both the wicked and the righteous – who have departed from the way of God and live a wicked life outwardly. Then, there are those who seem to be righteous but have been overtaken in sin. Both of these groups belong to the household of God. To both groups, we must warn them of their sins and waywardness. Then, it is a fearful thing that God in sovereignty places a stumbling block in the lives of the wicked. Such a stumbling block causes one to fall and sin. It is the result of God’s judgment upon the person who has hardened his heart and refuses to turn from his sins.

Whatever is the situation, our calling is to warn him of his sins, and if he repents from his sins, we have not only saved a sinning soul from death but also our own soul. But, second, if we do turn a blind eye to his sin and fail to warn him of his sin, then when he dies in his impenitence, we are responsible for his sin, simply because we have failed in our duty to warn of his sin. Third, if we warn him of his sin, and he ignores the warning, then our soul is saved but the one who refuses to listen to our admonition will be damned.

Now, practically, what are the sins of our brethren? Let me name a few: not keeping the Lord’s Day holy, failure to attend to the chief means of grace in the preaching of God’s Word and partaking of the Lord’s Supper, living a double life, worldliness, materialism, spiritual adultery and others. It is important that our brethren turn from their sins because they will incur God’s hottest wrath and displeasure. God will not wink His eye at sin and let the sinner go. Our motivation to warn them is the love of our brethren and our desire for their eternal good and blessings to come upon them. Their good that we seek is greater than their displeasure and anger that we may experience from them as a result of pointing out their sin. Ultimately, our greatest motivation is to please God, to conform to His law, and to see to it that His creatures abide by His Word and reflect His glory.

The positive teaching means that in our lives we are always testifying about God – His honour, name, good pleasure, sovereignty, and will. However, whenever we see God robbed of His glory, we cannot be silent but must speak up. This is the reason why silence is sin when sin is committed, especially when we have witnessed it. If we could prevent sin being committed, we will by warning against it. But most of the time, we cannot not prevent it and are witnesses of the sin. Then, our calling is to call the sinning brethren to repent and turn from his wicked ways.

But, we must never admonish our brother is a haughty way, as if we are higher and know better. We could be the ones who have been overtaken in our faults. Thus, we come in the spirit of humility, realising that we could have fallen in the same sins. Furthermore, the timing of that admonition is also very important. We must pray that God give us the grace, wisdom and the humility to confront our brother with love.

Dear Father in heaven, forgive me for being silent when I ought to speak – to speak of your goodness, beauty, grace, and love. Forgive me of the fear of men – what they think of me but not concerned what thou wouldst think of me. Forgive me for the sake of Jesus, who died for my sins on the cross. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Written by: Paul Goh | Issue 42

A Reformed Man’s View of National Service

Introduction

God, in His sovereign counsel, has tasked Singaporean young men to give two years of their time to “National Service”. This article aims to give readers a brief overview of National Service, some of the struggles that the servicemen may face, and a Christian’s response to National Service.

Singapore is a young and tiny country that gained her own independence after separating from Malaysia on 9 August 1965. Singapore had to develop her own armed forces to maintain her sovereignty and to deter possible invasions. Thus, conscription was introduced in post-independence Singapore through the National Service Act of 1967. All Singaporean males and second-generation male permanent residents who reside in Singapore are required to undergo a period of two years of compulsory service when they reach eighteen years of age in either the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), or the Singapore Police Force (SPF). In layman terms, they will either be a soldier, a firefighter, or a policeman. National Service is compulsory and those who fail to comply will be seen as deserters, and will be severely dealt with in the military court. National Service is commonly spilt into three different phases – the Basic Military Training Phase, the Active Operations Phase, and the Operationally Ready Phase (ORD). All who go through National Service will have to go through basic military training in training institutes, which will range from 9 weeks to 30 weeks, before going into the active operations phase where they will be enrolled into an active unit and spend the remaining time of national service there. The serviceman will complete his two years of National Service in the first two phases, after which he will be finally declared as “Operationally Ready” and enters into the ORD Phase, where his National Service temporarily ends.

It Is Not Easy

National Service is not warmly welcomed even among Christians in Singapore. A life of routine and regimentation is not easy to get used to. However, God foreordains every unique circumstance in our lives and National Service is no different. National Service is a calling from God for every young man in Singapore. To be a soldier is not something foreign to a Christian, after all, for we have been trained as soldiers for Christ.

Outfield operations and exercises are the bread and butter of a serviceman, especially those who serve within the SAF. Often, we would hear that they are required to be away for extended periods of time to train in camp or to be overseas for exercises. It is not uncommon to hear that these trainings and exercises take place multiple times a year and as a result cause many Christian young men to miss church and Sunday worship. This can be frustrating because they usually have no say in their training or exercise schedules. If they were given a choice, they would definitely not want to train and work on Sundays, but frequent the house of God and worship Him on Sundays. In frustrating times like these, we have to remember that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isa. 59:9), and be wary and not allow discontentment to breed in our hearts due to the unhappiness we experience for being away from church, and then turn into unmotivated workers. God dislikes discontented and unmotivated workers, for He reminds us in the Bible, “whatsoever we do, we do it heartily as to the Lord and not unto men” (Col. 3:23). Our God is a great and all- knowing God. He knows what we need more than we think. Therefore, His ways are far higher than our ways. We also confess that that “He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1). We are God’s children and He watches over us as His own, so much that without the will of our Father, not a hair can fall from our head, and this applies to us during our National Service as well. All things (including National Service) work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28).

Remember the Sabbath Day

Through the course of National Service, it is inevitable that servicemen will miss church and Sunday worship. God commands us to remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy, and this command has one of the greatest importance. He created the heavens and the earth in six days and rested on the seventh day. He designated the Sabbath Day for His people to rest (Deut. 5:14). The Sabbath Day was also given as a covenant sign to identify those who are the people of God. Exodus 31:13 says, “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you”. After knowing all these, the important question that we have to ask ourselves this: can we keep the Sabbath Day when we are not in church worshipping God?

Even though we may be away from the church, we are still called to remember and keep the Sabbath Day and preserve our identity as a Christian with great care and consciousness. Being away from church and in an environment that does not promote the sanctity of the Sabbath Day, we should be even more mindful and diligent in keeping the Sabbath Day. We fail to keep the Sabbath Day when we forget the Sabbath Day itself. Therefore, it is crucial to remember the Sabbath Day, and to keep it holy (Ex. 20:8). That day is important and precious to a Christian. To keep the Sabbath Day holy means to consecrate the day to the worship of God. So, remember your devotions! The Word of God is life! Read the Bible whenever you have the opportunity to or even talk to your fellow serviceman about spiritual topics. Text a church brother or sister or tune in to the online sermons on your phone if possible. Let all these be to the honour, glory and devotion of God. Nevertheless, all these are only possible with time. But more often than not, we know that most of the time it is not so. Therefore pray for grace to remember the Sabbath Day even when you are busy. Remember the Lord even on that day, and do all things to the worship of His holy name. God is our helper. He will sustain our soul (Ps. 54:4). Crave and long for the day when you can be back in God’s house worshipping Him together with your brothers and sisters in Christ again.

Friends Matter!

Not only will the young Christian men be away from church, they will also be placed in a godless environment where the majority of their peers will be of a different faith. They speak a different language, they think and behave differently. This calls for great attention as you young men will be spending a large amount of time with them and potentially be influenced by their ungodly beliefs and behaviours.

We do not want to sit “in the seat of the scornful” (Ps. 1:1b) unknowingly. The Bible warns us: “He that walketh with wise (men) shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Pro. 13:20). Therefore, we have to exercise our wisdom in the choice of acquaintances we allow into our lives because once we allow them in, it will be hard to get them out. Serving in National Service is not easy and one may also say that inevitably some form of comradeship will be formed after going through thick and thin together. This can be true. However, the Word of God reminds us that we are a holy people and may not be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14). This is a command for us as Christians to live antithetically, a life of spiritual separation from the wicked world. We do not have to physically separate ourselves from our non-Christian servicemen but it all boils down to saying “no” when sin is involved. And when you have time, spend it with your church friends! “He that walketh with wise (men) shall be wise” (Pro. 13:20). Church friends are a great source of spiritual support when your spiritual life is challenged. They are able to give wise counsel from the Word of God because they know and love God.

Conclusion

National Service is a path our Lord has ordained our young men to go through. They may experience varying good or challenging times. Let us always seek God in prayer to aid and preserve our spiritual brothers in Christ in these times. Do not be discouraged for our God is good! Press on! Remember, Everyday Requires Prayer! (ERP!)

Written by: Paul Ong | Issue 42

Catechism and Memory

Introduction

Dear young people, you and I can be very thankful to our covenant God that He has preserved the practice of catechism instruction and learning for you and our children in our church. This practice is an ‘old path’ that goes all the way to the beginning of the church in the Old Testament.1 Though it languished for a while in the Middle Ages, it was restored during the Reformation. But alas, this heritage of the Reformation is all but lost in modern Christendom today. The concept, much less the practice, of catechism instruction is hardly known in the church world today. This is undoubtedly one of the main reasons why many churches are weak in doctrine and do not know the basics of the Christian faith. The truth of the Bible is not systematically taught to covenant children and new adult believers to ground them firmly in the faith. Doctrine is glossed over, decried as divisive, and downplayed in favour of a teaching that is man- centred, minimises sin and focuses on universal love and ecumenical union. God’s Word is not taught, but man’s godless philosophy. Unless a church returns to the old path of faithful catechism instruction, she will not maintain the truth of the Scriptures in her generations.

The inestimable value of faithful catechism instruction cannot be overstated.   It   will   take   a   separate article (or even a book) all by itself to underscore this point. In this article, this fact will be assumed. We then move on to discuss the practical aspect of catechism and memory. A few words about the importance of memorising catechism ought to be said so that you have the proper motivation in memorising your catechism. Then we’ll look at some ways to help you in your practice of catechism memorisation.

Why

Why must you memorise your catechism each week before you go to class? Why do your minister and parents require it of you? Because your parents and this church take our calling and baptismal vow to instruct you in the doctrine of the Scriptures to the utmost of our power seriously. We know that the tried and tested way of ‘sounding down’ the truth to you and have you ‘echo back the truth’, is one of the best ways, if not the best way, for you to learn and remember the grand, biblical truths of the Reformed faith. Memorising the catechism questions and answers will fix the truth in your minds.   When as young children, you memorise the Bible stories, you inscribe biblical history and facts deep in your young and absorbent minds. As the doctrines and truths of Scripture are taught to you and woven into your lives from as young as you can remember, they shape your thinking and mould your character, so that you grow up to be God-fearing young men and women. And by God’s grace, you will one day confess publicly before the church that precious faith you’ve been taught and have come to love.

As you grow into adulthood and face the trials of life, as you certainly will, then having the catechism in your memories will enable you to draw strength and find comfort to go through those difficult times. The beautiful language of   our   Heidelberg   Catechism   will come to you as you lay hold, by faith, of the glorious truth of our certain preservation as God’s children unto the end, assured that “I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ…yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation”. Thus strengthened, you persevere in your pilgrim’s pathway, looking for the city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God.

And if the Lord leads you to find a godly spouse and enter marriage, and give you children, then you will also teach   them   the   catechism,   require that   they   memorise   the   questions and answers, and explain to them the inestimable spiritual value of doing so by your own experience. In this way, the church, through you and other godly families, will raise up another generation who knows the Lord. And the cycle continues from generation to generation. Thus, God by His sovereign grace is pleased to preserve His truth among us and His church in our generations until the Lord Jesus Christ returns.

How

I hope you see why it is important that you memorise your catechism, and you are now properly motivated to do it. So how can you better memorise your catechism? Here are two ways I have found helpful for myself and my family.

First, Memorise the overview or big picture of the catechism. For the younger children’s catechism, memorise which main sections of OT or NT history the various stories fall into. For the older children, memorise the overall structure of the Heidelberg Catechism (Introduction : Q&A 1-2; Sin : Q&A 3-11; Salvation : Q&A 12-85; Service : Q&A 86-129). Having this big picture constantly at the back of your mind would not only help you to memorise the specific questions and answers better, but also helps you appreciate how a particular truth fits into the overall biblical narrative or the entire body of faith. For example, when the HC deals with the requirements of the law commandment by commandment, it does so under the 3rd section of the catechism on ‘Thankfulness’, showing that the 10 Commandments continue to be relevant in the life of a child of God as a rule for thankful living. So, as you memorise the questions and answers to each of the Commandments, you are always mindful that you obey them not to earn any favour or reward with God, but to express your deep gratitude for His sovereign grace in saving you from all your sin and misery.

Second, make catechism memory part of your daily routine. Parents, make it part of the daily routine of your child. Perhaps during lunch or dinner time, you could take out your catechism book (or an electronic version on your mobile phone) and memorise the questions (you have one week – so you don’t have to memorise everything in one sitting!). Parents can go through the catechism with their children before or after family devotion times. Just like we do for our personal and family devotions, build catechism memorisation into your daily routine. Once you establish the habit, it will become easier. Perhaps initially the daily memorisation feels onerous.

Some days you would probably miss doing it. Many times, you might feel like giving up. But don’t! Pray and ask the Lord for strength. Persevere, for in the long term, not only does it become easier, but you will also begin to enjoy it and realise how much you’re learning each day! The benefits far outweigh any difficulties you may encounter, for you are building up an entire storehouse of the knowledge of the truth of God’s Word. That is priceless!

Conclusion

Catechism instruction and memorisation is one of the greatest blessings for the church. It is part of our rich reformed heritage. Let us treasure it and preserve its practice in CERC.

Parents, be not weary in the well-doing of having your children memorise the catechism, week in and week out. For in due season, you shall reap. This is the Lord’s promise: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Pro. 22:6). Young people, memorise your catechism! It will do you, and the church of which you are a living member, great spiritual good – now and in the generations to come.

REFERENCE

Engelsma, David, (1997). Catechism! Michigan, USA: RFPA, Standard Bearer, Vol 73, Issue 21. http:// standar dbear er.r fpa.org/ar ticles/ catechism-1

Cammenga, Ronald, (1984). Catechism. Michigan, USA: RFPA, Standard Bearer, Vol 60, Issue 21. http://standardbearer.rfpa.org/articles/ catechism-0

Gritters, Barry, (2008). Catechism: The Old Path, the Good Way (1). Michigan, USA: RFPA, Standard Bearer, Vol 84, Issue 20.

Gritters, Barry, (2008). Catechism: The Old Path, the Good Way (2). Michigan, USA: RFPA, Standard Bearer, Vol 84, Issue 20.

Van Dyken, Donald, (2000). Rediscovering Catechism: The Art of Equipping Covenant Children. New Jersey, USA.

Written by: Lee Kong Wee | Issue 42

Scripture’s Covenant Youth (V): Moses

After my discussion of Joseph as an example of a very godly covenant youth, I consider with you Moses, an unusual child of God, who lived about 400 years after Joseph. I have written about Moses in the forum articles, and do not intend to repeat what I said in those articles. In fact, most of what I discussed in those articles were events in Moses’ life as a grown man. And this series of articles is about youth.

In Exodus 2:2 we are told that the parents of Moses saw when he was born that Moses was a “goodly child”, and so they hid him for three months rather than give him to Pharaoh’s police to have him killed according to the king’s command. The mention of Moses as a hero of faith in Hebrews 11 repeats what Exodus says: the parents saw that he was a “proper” child. But “proper” is the same as “goodly”, and the Revised Version translates the word in Hebrews as “goodly”.

Many guesses have been made about the meaning of “goodly”. Some say the meaning is that Moses was an exceptionally beautiful baby. Others say that at his birth Moses already possessed abilities that could only be done by children older than he. They speculate that Moses was already able to walk, or to speak; or that his understanding was beyond that of a baby. Some even speculate that he had a halo above his head.

The Bible does not tell us and we may not speculate or curiously inquire into what God has chosen not to reveal. It is, however, clear from the actions of Moses’ parents that something about the baby made them sure that this child had a special work in God’s covenant.

There is one expression in the narrative of Hebrews 11 that has struck my attention and forced me to ponder why it should be included in the Biblical narrative. The text in Hebrew 11 tells us that Moses’ choice for God’s people was “when he was come to years”.

The expression most probably did not refer to Moses’ physical and mental maturity. In our churches, generally, young people, born and raised in the church, make confession of faith when they “come to years”. That is, they have come to physical and mental maturity. We interpret that expression to mean, therefore, that God has so determined that covenant children come to years when they are physically, mentally, and spiritually mature. They are adults because they are ready to leave father and mother’s sheltering care. They are adults because they have attained such maturity that they are able to think and act for themselves without the guidance of covenant parents.

The spiritual development of a covenant child is a wonderful work of God. It comes with physical and mental maturity.

In the first five years of a child’s life, he is so dependent on his parents that he can do nothing by himself and needs constant help. Also, he depends on them to teach him what he has to know. And, in the child’s mind, what the parents say is truth, not to be challenged. When little children are taught to pray, the parents tell them what to pray. When they ask, “Why must we speak to someone whom we cannot even see ?”, the parents assure them that God, though invisible, hears what they say. They accept that without question.

This continues when they start school, for whatever their teachers say has to be true, because “Teacher said so”. The parents have a greater task if their children have to go to public schools, for teachers tell children things that are not true. Parents must know what their children are learning and must correct any wrong ideas by pointing to what God says.

As they develop into their early teens, most children begin to think that they can now make their own decisions and no longer need the guidance and discipline of parents. But deep down in their hearts children of the covenant know they need parents yet for a while. And while they may argue with parents and claim to be “old enough to decide for myself ”, they know they are not, and the struggle to be independent when they are still dependent is a large part of the difficulties early teenagers have. I have always found the most difficult catechism classes and children at home to teach are those in their early teens.

But by mid-teens young people come to a point of maturity. Maturity means that in their development spiritually and intellectually, they receive and examine what they have been taught, not mechanically, but because they have thought it over, compared it with Scripture and come to their own conclusion as to whether what they are taught is true or false. In the church, they are ready to make confession of faith. They not only believe what they do because they were taught this by parents and teachers, but because they have found what they were taught as true. They themselves have compared their knowledge with the Word of God. They know it is true, not because mom and dad have said so, not because the preacher has said so, but because they have compared it with Scripture and found that it is taught in the Bible.

So, by the time young people reach their late teens or early twenties, they are physically, mentally, and spiritually ready to make confession of faith and take their place in God’s church as responsible and eager contributing members of the church. We could say, “When so and so came to years he made his choice for the people of God – as Moses did”. Moses made his choice for the people of God when he came to years. So do we!

Confession of faith is a very important event in the life of a Christian youth. It is so important that I would like to discuss it in some detail. But it is better to do so in another article.

Written by: Prof. Herman Hanko | Issue 42