Rejoicing and Weeping Together (II): In the Church

The church is family. As every earthly family   and   its   members   experience joys and sorrows, so the church and its members experience joys and sorrows. Previously, we considered what our attitude ought to be towards these joys and sorrows. Our hearts must have the attitude of love towards one another, expressed in the way of rejoicing and weeping with one another.

How are we to rejoice and weep with one another?

The points that follow are more of suggestions than imperatives for us to consider and discuss in our fellowship.

The first two suggestions consider what our initial responses towards our joyful brother or grieving sister should be.

  1. Explicit Joy

Towards our brethren who rejoice: respond to their joy with joy! Do not give a dull response to a brother or sister that exuberates with joy. It may be hard for us to imagine what such a response looks like; but the LORD gives us illustrations of a joyful response, starting with himself. Recall that the LORD calls our attention to His face, that it shines upon us in grace and is lifted up as the expression of peace (Num. 6:25-26). Simply by the look of God’s face, we know His thoughts of love, joy, and peace towards us. So also, by a warm smile or a gentle gaze, we express the same thoughts to our brethren.

Not only facially, but also verbally, we can rejoice with our brother. Think now of John, the apostle of love, who wrote that he had “no greater joy than to hear that [his] children walk in the truth” (3 John 4). A colloquial way to read the verse is: “I am extremely happy to hear that all of you believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ and live in thankfulness for that gospel.” Simple phrases such as, “That’s good to hear” and “Thank God!” go a long way to tell our brethren that we rejoice with them in the joys the LORD has given them.

If the LORD’s own countenance and the apostles’ words are insufficient illustrations, then consider the covenant mother that smiles to her infant; or to the covenant father that exclaims “That’s wonderful!” when his child rambles along about his Sunday in church. The infant that sees his mother’s cheer and the child that hears his father’s enthusiasm knows immediately that his mother and father are happy with them.

  1. Don’t Be Quick to Criticise

Towards the grieving sister (or brother), there is one thing we can consider. Don’t criticise first. That is, when our fellow saint approaches us with a certain sorrow or trouble, do not be quick to criticise that the person is spiritually weak, carnal, impatient, doubtful, etc., so that he or she is merely murmuring about what the LORD has given them. If the first thing we always say is, “Brother/Sister, you are wrong…” more often than not, we turn the brother or sister away from the help and comfort we may bring to them. They will think, “All he ever does is criticise!” Of course, criticism is not our only intent, but it is the impression given.

While there may be a particular weakness involved that affects our brethren spiritually, we must not be so quick to focus in on that weakness. The circumstances our brethren face—the stresses of work, the financial strains of the home, the sicknesses of the body— are often the trigger to their sorrows. Patiently listen for the details of those circumstances. Ask questions to draw out the troubles of the heart. Knowing these circumstances, we can shape our advice to address both the weakness and the proper way to respond to those circumstances that affect our brethren.

  1. Maintaining Confidentiality

The third suggestion considers a specific yet common situation. The brother tells you of a financial crisis he is facing; or a sister tells you of a conflict with another person in the church. You do not know what to say; however, only you know about it. The brother (sister) has told no one else. What may you do?

Confidentiality must be maintained. Solomon’s counsel is the principle to follow: “He that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter” (Pro. 11:13b). The aggrieved person has told you only. He or she (probably) does not want others to know. In other words, the person trusts that you will keep it a secret. Even if the brother or sister has not explicitly told you to keep it a secret, we fall on the safer side to assume that it is not meant to be told.

Furthermore, the nature of our tongue is poisonous; it is full of deadly poison (James. 3:8). If anything, the Bible’s diagnosis of our tongues should have us think twice of breaking a secret.

There are serious consequences when confidentiality is broken. The brother who has confided with us will not trust us. The sister will not share anything else about the matter, even when the matter   becomes   spiritually   harmful to her. The brother or sister, though sinking into spiritual destruction, will not tell you anything.

Especially when the trouble causes great spiritual hurt to our brethren, we must be wary of these consequences. The growing trouble of spousal abuse is a real example, of which Prof. Engelsma writes:

Lack of confidentiality is a grave weakness of consistories in the matter of abuse as in other serious, sensitive matters. That elders or the pastor divulge[s] consistorial matters, especially those of a sensitive   nature   involving   sin and suffering of members of the congregation, to other members of the church, including their wives, is destructive of the pastoral work of Christ by means of the consistory and harmful to the abused woman. The abused woman will not turn to the minister or to the elders for the help she needs. The gossip of the consistory hinders the work of Christ.1

Though other matters may not bear a severity equal to spousal abuse, dealing with these matters uses the same principle: Keep it confidential. Between office-bearers and their wives, as Prof. Engelsma implies, there must be a mutual understanding that certain matters may not be disclosed; likewise for husbands who do not hold office and their wives; and likewise for friends who hold a closer bond. For the sake of the weeping saint, do not have the secret broken.

Is there room to ask others for advice for secret matters? Yes; but we need not share the details with others from whom we ask for counsel. And if the matter deems it necessary for details to be shared, they ought to be shared with the person’s consent. Scripture’s principle does not change.

But if the person would not have us utter a word about the matter, even for advice, what then?

  1. Pray

Make it a point to call upon the LORD for what our brethren need. As we pray, the LORD will grant to us wisdom to counsel and advice the grieving saint according to his Word. As Solomon received wisdom through prayer (2 Chron. 1:11), so we will receive wisdom by the same means.

Prayer towards our brethren that rejoice should not be neglected either. Our example is Paul, who always thanked the Lord when the New Testament saints experienced the spiritual joys of salvation (Eph. 1:16; 1 Thess. 1:3). By such prayers, the LORD will enable us to rejoice with our brethren to a greater extent.

“Practice makes perfect”, by God’s grace. Conscious effort must be placed into practising the proper way of rejoicing and sorrowing with others. As sinful creatures, we habitually practise indifference, over-criticism, gossiping, and worldly-wisdom; but, graciously, God has given us Christ’s Spirit to sympathise, bridle the tongue, and speak wisely according to the Word.

At the same time, if practice makes perfect, practice needs to start from the home. If we want to practice it in the MPH on Sunday mornings, we have to first practice it in the living room of our flats. We cannot expect ourselves to be sympathetic, faithful secret-bearers, and wise, if we behave coldly, unfaithfully, and foolishly at home towards our spouse (or parents) and children (or siblings).

More on the home next time, DV.

1           “Questions and Answers Regard- ing the Speech on Spousal (Wife) Abuse” by Prof. David J. Engelsma (https://www.drop- box.com/s/9q7q3na0p1p08yd/abuse%20-%20 questions%20and%20answers%20-%202017. docx?dl=0). Accessed 24 January 2018

Written by: Lim Yang Zhi | Issue 48

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Scripture’s Covenant Youth (XI): David

David was anointed by Samuel to be king over Israel even though he was still a youth. In Old Testament times, God gave His Holy Spirit to those whom He anointed as prophets, priests or kings. So David also possessed the Spirit from the time he was anointed in Bethlehem by Samuel.

David knew therefore, that he was now Israel’s king and that Saul no longer possessed the right to rule as king. He must often have wondered why God did not give him the kingdom if he was to be king, and the temptation must have been present with him from time to time to seize the kingdom by force. But he never attempted this and was on the contrary, ready to wait for God to give him the kingdom, even though many years elapsed before God made him king; he was then a grown man and the captain of a sizable force of strong and valiant men who had come to join him in his exile.

One of the outstanding features of this period of David’s life was his willingness to wait for God to give him the kingdom. Anyone who knew he was anointed to be the legitimate king in a nation would do all he could to assume that   position.   By   being   anointed, David had every right to claim the throne; and, after all, to be a king over a large nation was a temptation not easily resisted. When David therefore wrote in some of his songs given us in the Psalms, he knew what it meant to wait upon his God (Ps. 27:14). He waited for years and years as he grew from a young boy to an adult. He even waited when he had the chance to kill King Saul and was advised to do this by his companions. He refused for as he said, he would not dare to do anything harmful to the Lord’s anointed.

How often is it not true of us when we anticipate something good, or when God delays giving what we think we need or have coming to us. We are eager and God seems so slow to do what He promised. How necessary it is for us simply to wait upon Jehovah. Especially when we are in danger and we are frightened and cry to God for help, but He does not seem to hear us. We take matters into our own hands to acquire what we want. And that is why in the same Psalm and the same verse in which David urges us to wait on Jehovah, he also tells us: Be of good courage, and He will strengthen thine heart. But wait on Jehovah!

It is not this of which I choose to write in this article. The real important characteristic of David’s life that can teach us many things is found in the history of David’s battle with Goliath. You may read the whole incident in 1 Samuel 17. It is a well-known story, but it is interesting and important enough to be read again.

While we are particularly moved by David’s courage in going to meet Goliath armed only with a sling, and while his victory in the confrontation is exciting to read, I am, in this article more interested in David’s discussion with Saul. You may find that in 1 Samuel 17:31-39. More particularly, verses 34-36, in which is described David’s protection of his sheep by killing a lion and a bear. Why did David tell Saul of this incident in his life as a youth?

Let us be clear on the circumstances. David had been sent by Jesse, his father, to inquire into the welfare of his brothers who were in the army of Saul in a battle with the Philistines. There was no fighting at the moment of David’s arrival in the camp. This lull in the battle was due to the presence of a giant, Goliath by name. We are not told the height, armor and strength of the Philistine, but we are informed of a family of giants in the nation of the Philistines who were all mighty men around nine feet tall, stronger than oxen with weapons of such size that an ordinary man could hardly lift them, but who were killed by David’s warriors. Goliath was sent out of the Philistine’s camp every day to taunt the army of Israel and the God whom they served. It was Saul’s responsibility to go out to fight the giant, but Saul cowered in his tent. Nor was there another solider in the whole army who dared to challenge Goliath.

Except David. A young man; without armour; without weapons; He was not only willing, but was eager and confident of victory over this monstrosity of a soldier called Goliath (verse 46).

But what made him so confident that seemed to border on reckless foolhardiness? He was urged not to go by war-hardened soldiers. He was offered armour and more dangerous weapons than a mere slingshot. Was he stupidly foolish? Was he a daredevil willing to try any hazard? Was he embarrassed by Israel’s refusal to go to fight this giant? Was it the promise of a princess to be his wife that moved him?

None of these. The giant was mocking Israel’s   God   and   it   was   Jehovah’s people that Goliath despised for their cowardliness (verse 43).

That was always the issue in Israel: Was Israel’s God the only true God? Or were the idols of the heathen superior to Jehovah? The cowardliness of Saul and his army indicated that they did not have faith in God’s promises or His superiority over the gods of the heathen. They did not believe that God would care for His church no matter what the strength of Israel’s opponents might be.

And that brings us to David’s story of his victory over a lion and a bear that had come to destroy his father’s sheep.

Once again: Why did he tell Saul of this incident in his life? Was it mere boasting on David’s part? Was it intended to prove to Saul that he was very strong?

None of these was the reason.

David told Saul of these exploits because they were proof to David that he, as Israel’s king, possessed the Holy Spirit of God. There was no way that David could have killed both a lion and a bear with his own strength as a youth. He realized that when Samuel anointed him, he was Israel’s true king. Saul had really been deposed and was only hanging on to his role as king because he wanted to pass it on to his son. Yet he showed that he was not fit to be king, for he was the one who had to go out to fight Goliath, or at least inspire his troops by his own example that he was truly their king. But instead of daring to fight the giant, he let a mere “stripling” go instead while he cowered in his tent.

But David knew he was king even though he had to wait for God to open the way. As king, it was his responsibility to lead the hosts of Israel by his courage and faith in God.

Whatever the “odds” may have been – and they were strongly in favour of Goliath – David knew that he represented the cause of God as Israel’s king, and was ready to show that he desired to do so. He was absolutely confident of victory (verse 47) for God would not allow His name to be blasphemed, and David represented that great name “Jehovah”, the one true God who bore that name.

David was a type of Christ who is the Captain of our salvation and who has crushed the head of Satan and all his vast hosts of demons for us. He leads us (and all the church) from victory to victory. He fights against all the enemies of the church and destroys them: Satan, the world that hates the church, and our own depraved natures. From an earthly point of view, the enemy is overwhelmingly stronger. Our foes number in the billions and they have Satan and his millions of demons on their side. The church is a hut in a garden of cucumbers, a very small remnant, a besieged city, and a little flock surrounded by ravening wolves from whose snarling mouths drips the saliva of the anticipation of devouring the sheep.

The text forces on us the question: Do we have the courage of David? After all we too possess the Holy Spirit and are kings (Lord’s Day 12); we represent the cause of God in the world. What do we do? Shrink back in fear? Talk nice to wicked men to gain their favour? Join them in their evil activities? We find it easy to do so when they are not threatening us. But what about those countless times when they mock our God, twist His truth into their own notions? Poke fun of His great glory and majesty? Do we remain silent? Does it not bother us to hear our God slandered? And what about the times they threaten us? With loss of our jobs? With imprisoning us? With killing us? What then?

May God give us men (and women – who often are more courageous than the men [see the history of Deborah and Barak]) who are so enthralled with the power and faithfulness of the God that has saved them that they will die for the honour of His name. May our God give us the courage of David, the courage of thousands of martyrs whose blood is spilled on the pages of history; the courage to “love not our lives unto death”. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world.

Written by: Prof Herman Hanko | Issue 48

Rejoicing and Weeping Together (I): Introduction

The church is family.

No, don’t think about it doctrinally, as a matter of fact. Sure, we in our heads know the church is our spiritual home. Rather, I am speaking more than matters of fact; I am writing about experience. Is family life your experience in this church?

The experience of family life is an experience of love. The brother listens; the sister understands; the elder cares.

But is your experience that the brother does not take the time to listen; that the sister does not understand what you are going through; or that the office-bearer does not seem to care about you?

Now, stop right there. Do not point the finger; turn the question around: Are you the one that does not listen, does not try to understand, and does not care?

If you answered yes, something is wrong. If we, the church, are family, we should not turn deaf ears to each other. We should listen and put ourselves in others’ shoes; we should love!

That is where our title comes in. God, who eternally loves us, teaches us how we ought to love one another in the church. God, through Paul, says, Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep (Rom. 12:15).

The text has two actions: rejoice and weep. To rejoice means to be full of cheer, joy, and gladness. For a Christian, to rejoice always means to be full of cheer, joy, and gladness in our salvation. We rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, because we believe that Jesus Christ delivered us from all our sins (1 Pet. 1:8). When we hear this good news, we are glad, as the Gentiles were in Paul’s day (Acts 13:48).

At the same time, we have earthly joys that we experience daily. They are the joys of having our physical needs met—food, shelter, clothing, transportation—and having such things in abundance. They are the joys of having a spouse and children and of having friendships in the church. Over these things, we rejoice (see Eccl. 3:12-13).

But there is weeping too. Weeping is the expression of grief, sorrow, and pain. What a stark contrast to our joy! For a Christian, weeping is always rooted in our sorrow over our spiritual depravity. Listen to the cry of Paul: O wretched man that I am! (Rom. 7:24). Or listen to the cry of the Psalmist: When I kept silence [over my sin], my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long (Ps. 32:3). Our sorrow over who we are by nature is deep, and it comes out with a loud, audible cry.

There are earthly sorrows that we experience daily. Sicknesses from flus; stresses from schools and jobs; troubles in making a living—in such events, we experience pain to some degree. We can add here, too, anything we respond to with a negative feeling. A train fault that made us late for work (again); breaking the glass jar in the kitchen; getting your hands soiled with your child’s foul-smelling poop. As insignificant as these things are, they contribute to the emotional sorrow we experience.

All of us rejoice; all of us weep. All of us have joys; all of us have sorrows. Now the calling is to rejoice together and weep together—that is, with others in the church.

To rejoice and weep together with someone means we listen to the brother or sister. What is his joy; what is her sorrow? We listen for the joy when the brother tells us. We give our fullest attention when sister breaks down in our presence. Then we try to understand the brother or sister. We picture the feeling of the brother’s joy in our minds, so that we know what makes him so happy and glad. We let the sorrow of the sister sink into our hearts, so that we know what makes her devastated. When we listen and understand, then we respond with the same joy and the same weeping. Smiling with the brother, we tell him, “Thank God; that’s great to hear!” Weeping with the sister, we gently whisper in her ear, “It is okay; cry your heart out here. I am here to cry with you”.

To rejoice and weep together is the reality of the church’s way of life.

But how often we lose that reality! When I switch off my mind as my brother shares with me about his day—there’s no listening in that! When, rather than giving him my attention, my focus is, “Oh, wait till he hears what I have to say!” I don’t even try to understand what he is going through! And when our brother is finished, we dully reply, “Oh”. Life in the church, then, is not for the brother and sister; but for me, myself, and I.

Paul, under inspiration, would not have us live that way. Through the first eleven chapters of Romans, he exhausts words to describe the love of God for us, the eternal decree of God’s election of His church, and the power of justification that lies solely in God’s grace through faith. Salvation is of God, not of ourselves!

If salvation is not of ourselves, can our lives be about me, myself, and I? Find Paul’s answer in Romans 12. Present your bodies a living sacrifice…unto God: Is that about me, myself, and I? Not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think: Anything about us? Let love be without dissimulation: What about now? The texts speak for themselves. Our salvation from God alone spells out a life that gives itself to God and His people; and a life that gives itself to God and His people is a life that loves God and His people.

And if Paul’s words are not compelling enough, listen to apostle of love, John: If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar (I John 4:20). You and I are liars if we say, “Thanks be to God!” but do not love one another in the church, much less strive to learn to love.

Again, the question is: are you the one that does not listen, does not try to understand, and does not care? Are you, am I, the one that does not love?

The calling in the church is to love. The calling is to learn the proper way to love; and that way to love is to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to weep with those that weep.

How do we do so, especially in our congregation? We have talked about listening, understanding, and responding. But more can be said. Stay tuned, D.V.

Written by: Lim Yang Zhi | Issue 47

CKCKS Camp Review: Examine Yourselves

The annual CK/CKS Camp was held from 19-22 December 2017 (Tuesday to Friday) at Aloha Loyang – Seaview Bungalow 1. The theme of the camp was “Examine Yourselves” and I thought it was something different from the themes we had for the past few years. For the past few years, we focused on learning different aspects of doctrine. But, for this year, the organizing committee decided to have a theme which was more personal and applicatory for the youths. The theme verse was 2 Corinthians 13:5: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”. Psalter 69 was the theme song which speaks for a desire of God to search our hearts and prove that we love to walk in His ways.

This year, there were many new members who served in the camp committee and younger youths who joined us for the first time. Kuang (the camp master), Rachel, Noelene, Meryl and Given were part of the organizing committee this year. Except for Noelene, the rest of the committee served for the first time. We thank God for their willingness to serve in the committee.

The four speeches during the camp were given by Rev. Lanning and three elders. One thing that I noticed was the speakers started all of their speeches with a question. Rev. Lanning started with this question: “Am I doing/ speaking/thinking things that God requires of me?” He gave the first speech on Examine Yourselves and emphasized the importance of self- examination. The speech was especially applicable since Lord’s Supper was on the Sunday after the camp. “Where are you devoting your life towards?” Elder Lim asked with regard to the speech about Contentment. He expressed how godliness is related to contentment and our calling to be always contented. The next question, asked by Elder Lee, was “Do we walk as children of light in this world of darkness? When the people around us see us, what do they see?” He reminded us of the sharp contrast between believers and unbelievers and our calling on the third speech on the Antithesis. The fourth speech on Love for the Church was given by Elder Leong and he caused us to ponder: “Do you ever give a thought to the church of Jesus Christ?” The speech taught us how we ought to love Her and to be a lively stone of the church. I thought the four questions asked by the four speakers were very thought-provoking.

After each speech, we had a profitable time of discussion. The discussion questions were fitting to our different callings in life and to our Christian walk in this world.

Other than the speeches, we had devotions which were related to the speeches and a fun time of games and an outing. For the outing, we headed to The Cage @ Kallang to play Combat Archery and Ninja Tag. Thank God for granting us safety and protection. On the last night of the camp, the parents of the youth were invited for dinner and a night of games. Everyone enjoyed the games very much.

Overall, the camp was well-executed and edifying for all the campers. This was also the last CK/CKS camp for the Lannings (Jessica, Eric, and Emily) before they returned to Michigan. We are thankful to God for the time we had at the camp to fellowship with each other. Pray that God will continue to bless the youths as we apply the lessons learnt in the camp to our spiritual walk with God.

Written by: Nichelle Wong | Issue 47

Scripture’s Covenant Youth (X): David

In out last article in Salt Shakers, I wrote a rather general article covering David’s entire life and his importance in Scripture. We are particularly concerned with his youth.

Saul had forfeited his right to be king over God’s people because he had disobeyed God in two very important matters. He had sacrificed when God had specifically given that calling to the priests. It demonstrated that Saul cared not at all for the offices God had appointed in Israel, something for which much later, Uzziah, king if Judah, had been stricken with leprosy for this very sin. He had showed, while doing it, that he did not believe that God could deliver Israel from the Philistines.

His second sin was the sin of refusing to obey God in destroying the Amalekites. Saul saved the king alive and refused to kill the sheep that belonged to the Amalekites, even though they were all under God’s curse. Although Saul actually was deposed, Saul refused to abandon the office and apparently let everyone know that he would kill anyone who was apparently to take his place. This is clear from Samuel’s hesitation in going to Bethlehem and God’s provision for Samuel to anoint a new king when he was in Bethlehem to sacrifice for the people – as Samuel did regularly when he travelled around in Israel.

Jesse, who was of the promised line, came with his seven sons to the sacrifice and Samuel knew that the Lord would make him a king from Jesse’s sons. But as, one by one they passed before Samuel, the Lord rejected them one by one. When Samuel learned that Jesse had one more son, the very youngest and, in Jesse’s opinion, a son unfit for the position of king, David was called from the pasture where he was watching Jesse’s sheep. In spite of Jesse’s opinion, God had chosen him.

The reason why God’s choice was determinative was found in the Lord’s words to Jesse: “Look not on his countenance, or the height of his stature; because I have refused him; for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, bit the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).

There are two things of note in these words of God, truths that we do well to understand and put into practice. The first is that a person’s outward appearance means nothing to God. Israel’s pleasure in a king was because Saul was taller than all the Israelites and very strong. But that was the people’s choice, not God’s. Outward appearance means a lot to us. While unattractive people are often lonely people, we are quick to make friends with the popular and good-looking people. Even (and maybe especially) young people, in searching for a marriage partner, are quick to consider the handsome and pretty and consider a person’s worth by outward appearance. The Lord does not do that. Outward appearance means nothing to Him.

The second truth of God’s words to Jesse,which we ought to take to heart are these: “But the Lord looketh at the heart”. A godly woman, pretty or not, makes a godly wife; a pretty face does not, in itself, mean that – although some young girls can have both; but their looks mean nothing. An ugly man who loves the Lord is to be preferred as a husband and father rather than the tall, handsome and fun-loving young man who has interest only in worldly things.

And especially when one assumes an important position in the church, God looks at the heart of a person, not his outward appearance: and so ought we. God is not interested in outward appearance of any kind: wealth, oratorical or musical gifts, powerful business magnate, nor high position in government: God looks at the heart, and so must we.

James, in chapter 2 of his epistle, makes this a matter of faith. A dead faith looks at the outward appearance in a church. It fawns over and favours the rich while it despises the poor. A living faith does not do that; it looks, as God does, at the heart, for there lie the Christian virtues.

David in Psalm 119, sings: “I am a companion of them that fear thee”, meaning, of course that he is a companion of them that fear God. In every school there are those who are popular for their athletic or musical or intellectual gifts. There are others who come from poor homes and do not dress well, who have no intellectual ability nor gifts of any kind; they are isolated, ignore, despised. But that is not the criterion when we choose our companions. David says, the one criterion of important is the fear of God. The rest is of no account.

In David’s case, it was a matter of age; he was but a lad, young, of little account in the family – he could not even go to war with his brothers, only worth tending sheep in the work of the farm. How could he be king? King? The highest position in the kingdom? Yet then already God saw his heart, and saw him as a very godly young man. It is not impossible that already at that time he composed Psalm 23 and sang it on a stone in the field. It is a beloved Psalm, often the first covenant children learn when they can only lisp the words. But it is the Psalm that comes unbidden to the lips of aged people who face the last mile in their walk through the valley of death.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

He leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul:

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:

For thou art with me: thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

It is not possible to count the many times I and one dying have recited this precious Psalm together.

Written by: Prof. Herman Hanko | Issue 47

A Difficult Way

Dear readers, what first comes to your mind when you saw the title of this article: “A Difficult Way”? I am quite certain that some of you would be thinking that this article is probably going to tell you how difficult the way of being a Christian is, and perhaps give you some encouragement to help you along the way. This is quite understandable, because from an earthly point of view, living the Christian life often means that you cannot do as the world does, and you will be made to suffer for it.

For this article, I want to call your attention to the words of Proverbs 13:15, “Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors is hard”. Now read that again. The way of transgressors is hard! Not the way of the righteous? Is that shocking to you? Did I type that wrongly? Indeed, the text makes it plain that the way of the evil is the difficult way. Let us examine why this is so.

If you look around at the unbelievers in your life, you would probably find it difficult to believe that their life is hard. Perhaps even, they live lives that appear to be far more comfortable and enjoyable than yours. Think of your classmates, for example, having a day of fun at the water park, while you have to sit in church – twice! Think of your colleagues, who earn more than you do because they get paid more to work Sunday shifts, which you cannot do. The Psalmist in Psalm 73 had these thoughts too, as he envied the prosperity of the wicked, until he realized that these riches were not blessings, but “slippery places” that would culminate in the destruction of the wicked (v.18).

In addition, we are also told that the way of sinners is the way of slavery – not the way of blessing! Romans 6, in explaining our redemption by grace, also establishes that we were redeemed from being servants of sin (v.6, v.20). It therefore follows that the unrighteous, having not been redeemed unto Christ, remain the servants – or slaves – of sin and the devil. In John 8:34, Jesus tells the Jews that “whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin”, and the only way to be freed from serving sin is the truth (Jn. 8:32).

And at the end of a life of service to sin comes something even more terrible. The wages of sin is death, as we recall in Romans 6:23. And this death is not merely the end of human life, when one closes his eyes one last time. When God cursed Adam and Eve (and therefore mankind) with the punishment of death for their sin, it was not only a temporal, but also an eternal death (HC LD4, Q&A10). Revelation 21:8 outlines the terrible judgment that awaits the transgressor: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

The way of transgressors is hard indeed! What is there to envy about the life of a transgressor? A life of slavery, that ends in death, is certainly not an enviable life! Shall we then, as children of God, sin like the transgressors, that grace may abound (Rom. 6:1)?

I think not! Rather, as elect people of God, having been freed from the slavery of sin, we now live to be the servants of righteousness (Romans 6:18). This we do, not because our works of righteousness can earn us merit for our salvation – for salvation is already given, freely – but out of thankfulness to God for redeeming us unto righteousness (HC LD32, Q&A 86).

The way of transgressors is hard, but the way of obedience is blessed. According to our text, the godly, who understand the requirements of God’s law and perform their Christian duties out of both discipline and joy, are given favour. This is not favour that results in salvation, but rather, that their works of righteousness, performed after salvation has been gifted, are “accepted of God, and approved of men” (Rom. 14:18). Matthew Henry calls this favor one that makes the saint “pleasant and agreeable”.

Scripture lists many examples of the favour which our text speaks of. This was the sort of favor that Joseph obtained, when he served in Potiphar’s house (Gen. 39:6). This was the favor that David gained when he “behaved himself wisely” before the nation of Israel when he was made one of Saul’s captains (1 Sam. 18:15-16). This was also the favour that Daniel gained in the sight of his Babylonian masters (Dan. 1:9), so that when he requested not to partake of the king’s meat, his superiors were pleased to consider his request. Finally, our Lord Jesus Christ himself experienced that favour, as Luke 2:52 describes: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man”.

Our good works, performed out of obedience to God’s law, also have the effect of gaining others to Christ (HC LD32, Q&A 86). If you looked again at the examples given earlier, you would notice that in at least two instances, ungodly men – Potiphar and the Babylonians – were so impressed by the godly conduct of the Christian men under their charge. Although we do not know if they were converted themselves, we do know that it was the Christian testimony that they witnessed that led them to take a favourable attitude toward the lowly captives and slaves under their rule. If even a Babylonian – an enemy of the Israelite – could see the Israelite favourably because of his godly conduct, how much more so could those around us also be impressed by our godly conduct, and give God the glory (Matt. 5:16)!

Finally, the catechism also teaches us that obedience and the performance of good works serves to assure us of our salvation. Q&A 86 draws reference to 2 Peter 1:10 “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” What assurance and blessing! Beloved brethren, why would you choose the difficult way? Choose the way of obedience, for it is the easy way. “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30).

Written by: Daniel Tang | Issue 46

Some Thoughts on Dating and Courtship

The Word of God according to Genesis is a revelation about the creation of God, and its focus is about what it was in the beginning or the origins of things. In Genesis 1, we hear the melodious music of how the heavens and the earth were framed by the LORD. When it came to man, man can only in awesome wonder sing, “All that I am I owe to thee, thy wisdom, Lord, hath fashioned me…” (Psalms 139).

As we look at Genesis 2:22, the LORD gave us a first glimpse of how Adam and Eve met. It was not a careless or chance meetup, nor was it an unintelligent or miscalculated move that ended with the meetup. In truth, it had its beginning with the LORD. It is the LORD’s will, ways and thoughts that took a personal interest to consider, and took possession and ownership of the man’s and woman’s needs and relationships in life (Gen. 2:18-25). Therefore, it was by God’s appointment, very objective and purpose driven, and it was the LORD who made the woman, and brought her to the man. It was a match made in heaven and realised in the person of Adam and Eve coming together through the creation and for the institution of marriage.

However, Genesis 2 :22 does not tell us a rich account of their life in courtship, nor is there a clear word about whether they have dated or courted. It is in Genesis 4:1 that we find that their relationship   has   reached   the   point that is reserved for man and woman as spoken of in Genesis 2:24. It is in the bond of marriage that they enjoyed the highest form of intimacy , and we are told that Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived, and bore Cain.

Having said the above, the idea of betrothal or espousal (engagement for marriage) seemed to be a practice of the OT day. In most biblical examples, parental involvement, care, concern and love are expressed for the good of their children. We have examples in Eve when the LORD created her, brought her, and gave her to Adam. Along the line, we have Isaac with Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, and Joseph and Mary. Through these biblical examples, betrothal is taken as a commitment to marry (though sometimes it may change according to the Lord’s will) and often it was with parental blessings in the Lord.

This is where young people who are called to be Christ’s disciples must learn to walk with Christ and in the light of His word. They must wait with prayers upon the LORD to lead and to provide. They must not run before the LORD, and they must consult and communicate their innermost desires with their parents for spiritual instruction and directions in the paths of righteousness for God’s glory.

It is here also that parents must also see the design and calling God has given us in relation to our children’s desires for a helpmeet in life. Parents must urge and encourage their children with biblical perspectives, taking great efforts to impress and to imprint upon them the importance of acting according to the Christian faith, and to look for a helpmeet from within the household of faith.

While the Bible does not speak expressly on the matter of dating or courtship, we find many biblical principles on dating and courtship by way of implication throughout the Bible. Some passages for consideration are: 1 Corinthians 6 & 7, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-10, Romans 13:8-10, John 14:15.

Also, as parents and young people, we sometimes ask:

How must our young people get to the point of engagement and be married?

Is dating or courtship biblical – a stepping stone or a stumbling block? What should be the Christian view on dating and courtship?

What are the duties and responsibilities of young people who are dating or courting?

Let us begin by looking objectively at dating, courtship and marriage and liken it to the life of a man. It begins with the LORD who is the Giver of Life, and he has a small beginning. For he is to grow and to develop into maturity, be spiritually strong, be spiritually rational, and be spiritually sensible – there is the need to nurture and nourish him with much care to ensure a healthy and strong growth from strength to strength through time. So it is with dating, courtship and marriage.

It is with the above understanding that we may relate dating and courtship to the development of a covenantal married life and the family. Therefore, taking away the vain teachings and sensual expressions of the world on dating and courtship, we may talk about the antithetical Christian approach to dating and courtship so that our covenantal young people may learn, embrace, and practice it in their dating or courtship life.

Dating is said to be the coming together of a young man and a young woman for the purpose of exploring the possibility of courtship. It is like the first step in a flight of steps leading to marriage and the family. And the young are those whose age range from as early as sixteen years to their late thirties. One example would be Josiah who is said to be young at sixteen years (2 Chron. 34:3) and Joseph at seventeen and thirty years (Gen. 37:2, 41:12).

Having said the above, it does not mean that young people are encouraged or can rush into a date as soon as they reach the age of sixteen years. At this age, it is more important for them to grow in their faith and to serve the Lord, so that they can be shaped and formed as a vessel that is fitted for God’s glory, and be made ready in later years for dating, courtship and marriage in the Lord. However, if young people should be dating, they must take it as from the hands of God to know how dating must be characterised:

Devotion towards God, a Delight in the eyes of God, and a demonstration of God’s grace and mercy (Rom. 12:1).

All activities and actions in dating must be in grace with obedience to biblical principles, reflecting the relationship between Christ and His church. (1 Cor. 10:31).

Transforming the heart, souls, and mind of the young (Rom. 12:2).

Into the newness of life in Christ (Rom. 6:4).

Nurturing and nourishing.

Godliness or a godly living in Christ’s likeness towards His church. (1 Tim. 4:8).

Now, as we take a step away from dating, we may see that the life in courtship takes a different form as it comes close to a confirmation in marriage, and the establishment of a Christian home. This is where the young Christian couple must act to:

Seek God’s approval and blessings according to the promise of His Word. Seek parental approval, instructions, directions, and blessings.

Hold fast to the Word of God to lay foundations in their home.

Talk about marriage plans, the husband and wife relationships, sex in marriage, children and the bringing up of children, etc.

It is with the above-mentioned that young people who are in courtship need to add grace upon grace to the beauty of courtship, season it with divine loving kindnesses and tender mercies, and as they draw close to take on the realisation of Genesis 2:24 in their life, they must begin to practice good housekeeping behaviours and attitudes towards courtship, marriage and the family. They must now act to:

C- Communicate about the many spiritual needs and support in courtship, marriage and the family; Commit to be equally yoked together as one in the Lord, and consider one another as we are all sinners saved by the grace of God (Heb. 13:16, Eph. 4:32).

O- set in Orderliness the things according to God’s Word from courtship to marriage life (so that sex does not come before marriage) and they must watch and pray against the attacks of temptations or youthful lusts (Matt.26:41, Luke 21:36). That is because God is a God of order and the life of courtship is to follow the order of God’s design.

U- talk about the exercise of Unity of the Christian faith in courtship, in the worship of God, family and family worship, and many other aspects of the life in courtship and thereafter.

R- Relate the courtship to the LORD, and allow Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, to Regulate the courtship through unto marriage (Ps. 119:105).

T–    spend much Time together in courtship to perfect holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7:1).

I- Instruct and Interest one another with the love relationship between

Christ and the church (Songs of Solomon) to draw Inspiration to express love in spirit and in truth for one another.

N- Nurture the spirit of Gal. 2:20, “…I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:’’ so that there can be the exercise of humility, patience, endurance, faith, love and hope, and a readiness to sacrifice for the spiritual well-being of each other nd the good of the relationship.

G- finally, God-centeredness must take centre stage and have the pre-eminence over all things in courtship, marriage, and the family.

In conclusion, whether we take reference from the old testament practice of betrothal, or take on the practice of dating and courtship before marriage, we must know that the chief end of man in life and in death is to glorify the LORD our God. It would cover every aspect of our life and that would include the life of dating and courtship that is given to us by the LORD our God.

So, biblical principles must be applied without reservation to ourselves, so that grace, gratitude, and thankfulness may go up to the LORD our God, as a sweet smelling savour of life unto life through Christ who is the one Mediator between God and men.

Written by: Samuel Wee | Issue 46

Scripture’s Covenant Youth (IX): David

Scripture does not give us more information on any one person in the history of the nation of Israel than it gives to David, the son of Jesse. He occupies a central place in sacred history for he is a special type of Christ. Christ is the Son of David and the fulfillment of David as a type. David points to Christ more directly and clearly than almost anyone else.

Many books have been written about David; many sermons preached on the life of David and many covenant children have been taught the dramatic victory of David over Goliath when these children were barely able to understand the language of their birth. In spite of his sins of adultery, murder and numbering the people, he is called “the servant of the Lord”, “the beloved of the Lord”, “a man after God’s own heart”. He is given a central place in the revelation of Jesus Christ contained in the Scriptures.

It is not our intent in these articles to write a sort of biography of David: that would require many pages to explain his life in the light of the pre-eminent place the Scriptures give him. I will concentrate on David’s youth as a keeper of his father’s sheep and on the thrilling story of David’s battle with Goliath when still a youth, for in it are to be found many reasons why David is a powerful example to the covenant youth of the church in all ages.

The condition of Israel at the time David was born was sad. He was born at the end of the doleful history of the judges when in Israel “everyone did that which was right in his own eyes”. Again and again the nations that Israel did not destroy during the conquest of Canaan under Joshua gained dominance over parts of the nation. These terrible times were sent by God because of the nation’s sin of worshipping the idols of the heathen. After each judge died, Israel returned to the wicked ways of the heathen.

When Israel asked, at last, for a king, they demanded a king like the other nations had. God gave them Saul, but Saul did little that helped Israel escape the horrors of having wicked nations rule over them.

Toward the end of the period of the judges, God sent the Philistines against Israel, a nation that plagued Israel for over a century. The Philistines, at the time of David’s birth had made inroads into Israel’s possession in Canaan and had made the life of the people in the south-western part of the nation miserable.

God had given Samson to the nation. He killed thousands of Philistines, but he could not defeat the enemy alone. It showed the sad state of affairs in the nation of Israel that not only would any in Israel, including his own countrymen, help him, but treacherously they were willing to tie him up and hand him over to the Philistines as a prisoner to do to him what they wanted.

Samson himself was a wicked man who cared for unbelieving women from Israel’s worst enemy rather than faithfulness to God. Yet, the amazing part of it all is that he was still a man of faith and is listed among the heroes of faith.

The Scriptures remind us again and again that there was no king in Israel and every man did that which was right in their own eyes.

Israel was the church of the old dispensation. God gave the church a king of God’s choice even though they were an unworthy people; a king who was a type of the church’s true king, our Lord Jesus Christ. He gave the church David, a man after His own heart.

While we cannot be like David as a type of Christ, we, in the new dispensation, have Christ as our king. We can and must learn that David is our example as well for we live in the end of the ages and are specifically admonished by Paul to follow the examples of Old Testament saints (1 Cor. 10:6).

David was a type of Christ because David was God’s warrior who fought against all Israel’s enemies and defeated them. It was not Joshua who was the full type of Christ to destroy Israel’s enemies; it was David. Under his rule the nation finally, after almost 500 years, extended the boundaries of the promised land to the boundaries promised to Abraham.

Euphrates on the north to the Nile River on the south; from the Mediterranean Sea on the west to the great desert on the east. However, not even David could be the real king the church needs, nor could he even be a full type, for, though he wanted to build the temple, he was not permitted to do this because of his bloody hands (2 Sam. 7:1-17, 1 Chron. 17:4).

There is one point that needs to be made: Because David was the type of Christ, Christ is the true king of the church. He is given authority to rule over all God’s creation in heaven and on earth, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings. But Christ rules over all in two different ‘ways. Usually these two ways are designated as “the rule of Christ’s power” and “the rule of Christ’s grace”.

The rule of Christ’s power is over all the wicked on earth, but also all the devils in hell (Ps. 2). The rule of Christ’s grace is His rule over His church by means of them willing citizens of His kingdom, the kingdom of heaven.

Those who believe in the heresy of common grace confuse this matter: they claim that Christ rules in grace over every man so that He gives every man a chance to be saved. He also gives the grace to them that is necessary to make the right choice. And He rules over every man in His grace so that every man can do good that pleases God.

I have talked about the whole of David’s life, rather than about his youth only. But it is my judgment that we cannot understand how David can be an example to us without understanding the circumstances of his life. Bear with me and we shall come to the latter in our next article, God willing.

Written by: Prof. Herman Hanko | Issue 46

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

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