“If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (Psalm 130:3–4).
In Psalm 130, the psalmist finds himself in a hopeless situation. We are not told who the writer of this psalm is, but he has sunk into the depths of trouble and woe, as referred to in verse 1. In his utter hopelessness, his cry arises to God for help. As he seeks deliverance from his Lord and God, he finds assurance in the words that we consider for this meditation, the knowledge that God does not count the iniquities of those whom he has chosen, but rather has imputed their guilt to his Son.
“If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” This reflection draws our attention in this meditation. After expressing the extent of the miserable depths in which he finds himself, the psalmist uses this rhetorical question to explain the comfort and the faith that he has in the midst of his suffering.
It is important to understand what is being illustrated when the psalmist speaks of “marking” our iniquities. Marking refers to a process of recording or counting. We can conceptualize God’s “marking” iniquities by imagining a book in which the sinful thoughts, words, and deeds of all men are recorded by the pen of God (we speak foolishly, as men, of course). However, the idea of God’s marking our iniquities is also more than that: it carries the connotation that our iniquities are all continually before his face. Constantly the sinful actions and deeds of every man are preserved in God’s eyes. Though our ability to comprehend this fully is weak, try to imagine your sins forever before the consciousness of the almighty and holy God who can stand no evil. Oh, how the people ought to have trembled in the days of Jeremiah when God prophesied that his eyes were “upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes” (Jeremiah 16:17). How dreadful for us also then to stand before the holiest one when defiled by the filth of one’s own sins.
Consider that the God who has created all things and sustains them by his marvelous power knows your actions, your thoughts, your intentions, and your inclinations on a level that we cannot even fathom with our weak understanding. David, who explores this very topic in Psalm 139, confesses that even before his members were formed God had known them and seen them. This is our God, the God of whom the psalmist speaks here.
Note that the musing of the psalmist is not without hope. He does not say, “Because you do mark iniquities, how can I stand?” No, the comfort of the psalmist is that what he proposes in verse 3 is not true of God’s elect. Rather, the psalmist finds his comfort in the very fact that his loving Father does not mark his iniquities. This is where he can and does find his comfort in his deep affliction. The psalmist’s next thought immediately reinforces this idea: “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” The use of the word “but” creates a sharp contrast between the hopelessness of those whose iniquities are marked by God and those whose iniquities are covered.
However, his iniquities are not removed due to some action that the psalmist has performed. Instead, the psalmist’s words make it strikingly obvious that God alone can forgive. “There is forgiveness with thee.” God alone is able to forgive. This is supported in the rest of Scripture: God’s promise to Israel and us today was and is that he is the one who blots out our transgressions (Isaiah 43:25, 44:22).
The idea of “blotting” is essentially that of hiding, covering or wiping out. Something that is blotted has been fully removed and is no longer visible. God blots out our sins, but it is not the case that God simply makes these sins disappear on a whim. This cannot be the case. The righteousness and justice of our God demands that satisfaction or payment be made for our sin (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 5). Our Savior and head bore the eternal reproach of hell which we ought to have suffered, and thereby redeemed or purchased us. The beauty of our sins’ being blotted out is that the sins that were blotted from our book have been added to the book that belongs to Jesus Christ. Our guilt has been imputed, or transferred to him. Not only that, but in exchange we are also given all the full righteousness of Christ. What an unfathomable exchange! Our rags for Christ’s riches, as it has been said. Psalm 69, in a remarkable foreshadowing of the coming Messiah, proclaimed that he would “restore that which [he] took not away.” Indeed, what a restoration has been made unto us!
The answer to the psalmist’s question in verse 3 is that none can stand if God would mark iniquities. However, knowing that we have been forgiven in the blood of our divine Savior, we are able to stand in the day of judgment. What greater comfort is there than that? This knowledge brings to mind the words of a familiar hymn, “On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.” We can be comforted in the knowledge that when God looks upon his people, he sees us as guiltless because all our guilt has been completely borne by our Savior. We read in I John 4:17 that we may even have boldness in the day of judgment, with firm faith stemming from Christ’s eternal love for us and his righteousness that has become ours.
We are able to stand because the Lord who sees all things has not marked our iniquities. What a comfort we have! This comfort is not some distant, intangible future idea that we hope to experience in the day of the Lord’s return, but not until then. This does not even begin to do it justice. We are comforted here and now. We are assured of an eternal, undying love that is for each of us, even though we all confess that we are the most dreadful of sinners (I Timothy 1:15). When we sin, we can and must come to God for forgiveness, but we need not do so in fear that this time we may not be forgiven. We come in the full assurance of our faith—an assurance we often sorely need when we are plagued again and again by sin. In our every difficulty, we are borne up by the consciousness that we have a faithful high priest who knows our infirmities. “He who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all” will indeed give us all things and will work all things to our salvation (Romans 8:31-39). God in Christ gives us the assurance that we need in this life.
No matter the depth of sorrow or tribulation, our Lord Jesus Christ is with us. He went to the ultimate of depths. And for whom, but us? The filthy, wretched sinners that we are? He bore our shame and reproach? Yes, he did! “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). Notice how emphatically “he” and “our” are used in that text. It could not be any more clear that Christ is the one on whom the unfathomable burden of our guilt has been laid. What comfort that is, young people! The one who loved us with an eternal love strong enough to take away all of the filth of our sins is the one seated at God’s right hand as our Mediator. No matter the day or the hour, Jesus Christ is the same, and his gracious love to us changes not. Knowing this, we can come to him in full assurance of our faith, believing that we will be heard of him.
As young people in the church of Christ, we need this assurance. We know that we are weak; we face many trials and temptations, and we often feel that we fall again and again. How assuring is it to know that we belong to him!
Knowing this, our assurance is undoubtedly rich. But another fruit of considering this deliverance must be humility in our Christian life. We read in the form for the administration of the Lord’s Supper that the result of self-examination is that we “abhor and humble” ourselves before God, when considering the wrath of God against your and my sin apart from Christ. As we have already considered, the fact that God shows mercy to us ought to resonate in our hearts every day. Consider that even the smallest of sins against the most high majesty of God merits for one eternal death, and then think about the sins that we commit with our deeds, hearts, and minds every day. It is frightening to consider one’s plight apart from the mercy of Christ when we think about the depths of our sins. The only thing that separates us from that state is his mercy in choosing us to be his people from all eternity. How is it even conceivable that we could exalt ourselves in pride when we understand the deliverance we have been given?
Consider also the great evil of bearing grudges or of speaking evil of others within the body of Christ. Is this characteristic of those who know that they have been spared from the agonies of hell by grace alone? Often we can make excuses and allow ourselves to walk in these ways of sin. “If it was another sin, I could forgive him, but I can’t ever forgive that sin!” Or we spread a story about something or someone that we know is better left unsaid. Young people, Christ bore the burden of the guilt of all his people. How can we then allow ourselves to mark the sins of others as though Christ has not taken them away? But that is what we are doing when we dwell on the sin of others who have already repented. When we neglect to forgive, we mark again the iniquities which Christ has already taken away. Why would we desire such a terrible thing? Rather, with believing hearts we ought to strive to forgive others and lead them in the spirit of love to the cross, where they can experience the true joy of repentance.
Beloved, our calling is to consider our sins and the curse due to us for them, and in that knowledge flee to the shadow of the cross. In what way can we live a life of gratitude but in the shadow of the cross? Knowing our sin, hating it, and fleeing from it, we will be humbled and will flee from iniquity. We do not lift ourselves up in pride, but rather we run into the arms of our Savior, for, “in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11).
This new rubric, entitled “Hot Topics,” is a new one for the Beacon Lights. Writers are provided a prompt which is drawn from today’s issues. This rubric is also designed to encourage discussion about such issues among Beacon Lights readers. We encourage you to email us your thoughts regarding these issues—we would like to hear your thoughts and feedback. Perhaps enough feedback on one issue, or an especially interesting response, might require further treatment in the magazine. Email Joe Holstege (email@example.com) or Ryan Barnhill (firstname.lastname@example.org) if something sparks your interest or you want to continue the discussion.
Is it OK for a Christian to read books which include violence, inappropriate language, sex, etc.? Why do Christians tend to justify illicit content in books as opposed to movies? Specific authors for such books would include John Grisham and Jeff Shaara. Both of these authors include language, sex, violence, etc. in their books, yet they are read in the PRC. Can we justify reading these books? Can they be beneficial and edifying for the Christian?
Young people, what kind of place does the activity of reading have in your life? Do you enjoy reading? Do you set aside time to read every day? Surely you read the Bible, but what other types of reading do you enjoy? Some of you might be so busy that you can’t really sit down to read anything more than a few texts from friends during the day and your Facebook wall posts at night. Others might especially enjoy a certain subject at school and engage very thoroughly when reading that material. Whatever it is that you read during the day, I think that we can all agree that reading is an important and beneficial means of communication that we all couldn’t live without.
Besides being an important skill to have if only to succeed now in school and Lord willing, in your future professional or home life, reading is a very important activity for the spiritual growth and development of the children of God. The fact that you are reading this magazine reveals that you are interested in reading in order to develop spiritually (hopefully because you desire it, or even just because your parents wisely require it). Look at the vast amount of Reformed literature we have been blessed with, even if you consider only what our ministers and church members have produced. The purpose for the existence of all of this good reading material is the growth and stimulation of your and my faith (which I will remind you is in part a “certain knowledge” of the truths of God’s Word). God is glorified not only when we read good Reformed literature but I dare say even more so when we meditate on these truths and their proper application.
Reading was important for the saints of the Old and New Testament; we see witness of this in Scripture. Paul, while imprisoned, requested of his young fellow-laborer Timothy that he bring with him books and parchments, in order that Paul can continue to dwell on the words which had been written during his time of imprisonment (II Timothy 4:13). In Joshua 1:8, the Lord commands Joshua to read and meditate on God’s law, in order that he can capably lead and direct the people. King David, in the Psalms, speaks of writing down and meditating on the great works of God that had been performed for his people. These few examples begin to illustrate how reading was used by God’s people in both the Old and New Testaments. I hope you will agree with me, dear reader, when I conclude that reading is an important part of the “renewing of (y)our mind” that Paul mandates in Romans 12:2.
- the Issue
How are we, the children of God, then to view the work of authors such as John Grisham, Jeff Shaara, James Patterson, or Stephanie Meyer, author of the ever-popular Twilight series? These authors all have several things in common: they are all extremely popular, very widely read, and frequently appear on the best-seller lists that are produced. Their novels and romances have appeal to a wide audience, though especially to the teenage generations. The themes of the work of these and other similar authors (you may take your pick, as so many of them exist) vary widely: some deal mainly with “love“ and romance, some with life and growing up, others with crime and law, and still others with war and conflict. In what light are the people of God to view works such as these? Can we read these books with a clear conscience, and ought we to do so? Should we encourage our friends to read these books, or should they have no place in our lives? It is exactly these questions that I attend to address in this article (or series of articles). It is my hope that you will read closely what I have written and offer your opinion or response as well.
III. The Viewpoints
In response to this issue, there are several different viewpoints that could be taken. Acknowledging the risk of over-simplifying these viewpoints, I have condensed all different viewpoints into three broad schools of thought, as I outline below. As you read, consider which of these viewpoints you believe is not only the most biblical, but also the most reasonable to you:
The first school of thought would say that Christians ought not to read any fiction that speaks of sex, violence, lying, or taking God’s name in vain with profanity. If one from this school of thought was reading a book and ran into content such as this, they would stop reading that book and or author immediately. This group would likely argue, among other things, that since these sins are specifically forbidden in God’s word, we ought not take pleasure in them or bring them to mind unnecessarily through our reading.
Others might take the stance that we may read books that contain material as listed above, but that the importance lies in our perspective: when we read, we must see the sins that are recounted or committed within the light of Scripture and evaluate them as God commands us to. Individuals in this group would likely contend that it would be harmful for children of God to read these materials unless they keep God’s law in mind while they do so and renew their conviction to not fall into or reproduce these same sins.
A final group, representing the opposite extreme of the first group, would argue that as discerning Christians we have the ability to read whatever we choose. This group would likely point to the reasoning of Christian liberty as permitting this practice (interested readers can study I Corinthians 8:1 –9:6 and Romans 14:9ff for a better understanding of Christian liberty). They would argue that a Christian who is strong in his faith should not have any negative spiritual effects from reading material that contains “objectionable” material.
- Scripture’s Teaching
Understanding these basic schools of thought, I would like to outline further my convictions on this issue and the sources of these convictions in Scripture and our Reformed confessions. I do not claim to have all the answers on this topic, and as this is the case I would like to encourage responses and dialog on this issue from any engaged readers. To set the stage for what I intend to show, however, I will take a somewhat unconventional approach. I think it is meaningful for us to first look at a select few of the truths of Scripture that apply to our Christian walk. With this backdrop in our mind, we can then more easily understand the issue at hand.
It has always intrigued me that when a scribe questioned Jesus in Mark 12 on the first and great commandment of the law, Jesus replied in the most simple of terms that we are to love the Lord our God with all our soul, mind, and strength. This all-encompassing calling is our only command; all the rest of the commandments, including the second great commandment to love the neighbor, flow out of this first commandment. Loving God means that in all that we do we desire to glorify him and do what is most pleasing in his sight. It means bearing up our cross and putting aside all “weight,” or distraction, which would slow us down in the “running of the race” which represents our walk of faith here in this world (Hebrews 12:1).
Further, by the power of God’s grace he has taken those who were dead in sin and made them alive in Christ Jesus; this is the “quickening” referred to in Ephesians 2:1-10. As verses 3, 4, and 5 of this chapter teach, we have been delivered from the power of sin and made holy. Galatians 5:16 -ff contrasts the “lusts of the flesh” in which we walked over against the “fruits of the Spirit” in which we now abide; what a glorious deliverance has been given to us. With this knowledge of what we have been delivered from, and knowing the terrible anger of God against sin (Lord’s Day 4 of the Heidelberg Catechism), we ought to shudder at the very thought of sin. God’s hatred of sin is the driving force behind our hatred of sin; David says in Psalm 139:21-22 that he hates the sinful enemies of God (and by reason, their deeds as well) with a “perfect hatred.” Sin offers no delight to the true child of God, and as I John 2:15-16 explains, the lusts of the world are not compatible with one who loves his Father in heaven.
Understanding what has just been explained, I believe that the chief criteria, or measurement, that we ought to use when judging what is proper reading material is the approach that a book’s author takes when discussing sin. What exactly do I mean by that? One can tell a vast amount about the attitude and purpose of a writer in the way that one portrays and speaks of sin in his or her books. If the writer plays sin up as exciting and harmless, then this author has a fatally skewed perspective on the Christian life. If sin is portrayed as shameful and despicable, as it ought to be, then such a work helps us to better see the glory of God.
This is an applicable point to discuss an argument that is often used when discussing literature and what content God’s people ought to enjoy. Some would say that we ought not put aside violent or offensive content in books because even the Bible contains accounts of such undesirable topics as rape, incest, adultery, extreme violence, and cursing. This argument does not have a basis, however, because the difference between the Bible and other books is the way in which these topics are presented and the reason for their inclusion.
In secular books, often the underlying reason that sin is shown is that this sin can be glorified: in the Bible, the primary reason is radically different. There, the providence of God in controlling even the sinful actions of men for his purpose is most clearly shown, in order that his people might not doubt that he truly is the ruler and creator of all things, and that all events and actions of men serve his purpose (see Lord’s Day 9 and 10 of the Heidelberg Catechism, also Article 13 of the Belgic Confession). One needs to look no further than the lamentable fall of David into adultery with Bathsheba, which God used to continue the royal line to Christ via the glorious type of Solomon. The argument which states that we can’t ban any content glorifying sin because of the Bible has no merit.
Others might claim, as was mentioned in the different viewpoints on this issue, that the concept of Christian liberty can be applied here. One who holds to this view would claim that those strong in faith can partake of these types of books without any detriment to their relationship with God, so long as they do not openly attempt to offend others within the body of Christ who may be “weaker” and cannot do such things because it offends their conscience (look back to the Viewpoints section of this article for a few excellent texts on this concept). Those who hold this are correct in that the concept of Christian liberty applies to areas where the Bible does not speak directly to a topic; however, there are many biblical principles that apply to sin and our hatred of it, as illustrated above. In light of this, we ought to avoid any works that emphasize the supposed “pleasures” of sin and attempt to hide God’s wrath against it.
Finally, and on a very practical level, there is the fact that all men will be held accountable in the day of judgment for the use of their time, just as everything else that God has given to man. We ought to desire then to spend all of our time serving him, and not wasting our days with the vanities of this world (Solomon’s laments of this life’s vanity in Ecclesiastes come immediately to mind). Now, do not take my stance to mean I believe any recreation and activity of this earthly life should not be allowed. It is very possible to find books written by worldly authors that are not at all offensive and that can be enjoyed by the people of God. We are instructed in Scripture that we are to live in the world (though not of it), and this means that we are able to enjoy material, activities and other things produced by the world. However, we ought to always consider whether or not we could be spending our time reading something more profitable than the fluff that the world often puts in front of us.
My intention in this article and in the stance that I believe to be correct on this issue is not to discourage you to read as a young person. As I hope I have demonstrated, I believe reading to be not only a worthwhile but really a blessed activity. Rather, I want to help condition you to use your discernment when you read. Scripture warns us of this; remember the ominous warning of Romans 14:23, which states that “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” The passage doesn’t say that if it isn’t of faith it probably isn’t a good idea, or that if it isn’t of faith we shouldn’t do it too often. No, it goes much farther than that. If we can’t do an activity out of our faith and for the strengthening of our faith, it is sin. How serious that is!
Further, as we have discussed already, our goal ought to be the glory of his name since we truly love our covenant God and desire to serve him more faithfully. That is the sole purpose for which we have been created (Revelation 4:11). Can we grow closer to God when we read material that is partially or completely objectionable? Do we glorify the name of our eternal father when we talk of these books with our friends and family? Do we present a godly witness to others when we read these books in the break room at work or on the college campus?
To help make this difficult topic a little more tangible and to help you in your personal struggle with this (for it is a struggle for us), I propose that you consider a book that you either would like to read or have read and enjoyed. Do the following as a quick test: could you recommend this book to a Christian friend? Would you be comfortable handing that book to your parents and saying “Read through this carefully: you will like it!” (I can assure you, to my shame, that many books that I have read in the past wouldn’t pass that test!) Could you convince an elder at your church that this is a worthwhile book? Think about the plot line of the book and the purpose that the author had in writing it, if it is apparent. What is the book promoting?
Young people, I encourage you to think about these things. It may not be easy to give up a favorite author or series. This issue might not even seem like such a big deal to you that it is worth considering. Remember, however, that we have been “made free from sin” and have become “the servants of righteousness” by God’s glorious work within us (Romans 6:17-18). Our awesome calling is to serve his name with joy!
“For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand…” (Psalm 84:10).
Young people, do you live for the weekend? You might think that a strange question, or one you aren’t quite comfortable answering. We don’t have to answer that for ourselves, though. The Word of our God answers for us that we must live for the weekend. Not to party, not even primarily to relax and enjoy some time away from our earthly cares and duties. No, the joy which we confess to be our greatest joy with the psalmist in Psalm 137 is Jerusalem, or the New Testament church of God. David stated in Psalm 84 that his soul longed and even fainted for the courts of the Lord. This love for the Lord’s house and the worship which we do there ought to be our chief, or principle joy. Can you and I make this same confession with the Psalmist?
What drives this love for the house of the Lord? What makes the brief time we spend there our greatest and most comprehensive joy? The answer is found in the activity in which we engage there. There is nothing special about the buildings to which we go. It’s also not about the man on the pulpit. We don’t even attend primarily to fellowship with others of like faith, though there is some importance in that as well. No, the center, the focus of our time at the house of the Lord is and must always be the preaching of the gospel.
What makes this preaching so powerful? The Heidelberg Catechism rightly states that faith is worked in our hearts by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the gospel, and also confirmed by the sacraments (Lord’s Day 25). The preaching has power that is very real, dear reader. Haven’t you experienced that? How many times haven’t you heard a word from the pulpit that exposed a sin that you feel within your own heart? Or a word that brought you the comfort of the redeemer when you needed it the most? Remember, the word you hear is very really the word of Jesus Christ, though it is brought faithfully by his appointed servants. Christ, the Word of God, speaks to us in the preaching. What almighty power then this preaching has!
The fact that it is Christ speaking in the preaching has great significance; this is the center of our life within the covenant which God has established with us. It is Christ talking. And to whom? To us, people of God. Consider that for a minute in light of who we are.
We confess and know the depth of our sins. As our Baptism Form says, we are “conceived and born in sin.” It doesn’t get much more desperate than that, don’t you think? Elsewhere in Scripture we read that the heart of man is deceitful above all things, so much so that we cannot even know it (Jeremiah 17:9). And then, in spite of all of this, we are the ones to whom Christ speaks? How humbling!
To make this figure even more rich, however, remember that the communion that we have in the house of God is not just Christ speaking the Word of Life to us, but also us responding to him. We pour out our hearts to Christ. We make supplication to him, bringing to him our needs, our cares and our concerns. We cast our burden upon God in his house. We praise his holy name. And all of this praise, adoration, and supplication offered in true faith is heard by none other than the almighty God? That, dear reader, is true covenant life and joy. To be heard and received of our Father, and to speak to him and hear his voice assuring us of his love for us. What more could we desire?
We ought to love the house of our God, for there we find strength for the battle of faith. Our earthly life is very really a battle. This figure is likely familiar to you; it is used many times in Scripture: reference Ephesians 6:10-18, I Timothy 6:12, II Timothy 4:7, and I Corinthians 9:26 just to name a few of the more commonly read passages. The battle we wage is at bottom with sin and the forces of Satan, as stated so plainly in Ephesians 6:12 and Lord’s Day 52 of the Heidelberg Catechism.
What a formidable foe! We tire in our battle often, and we do grow weary. The battle is hard, especially because it is constant. Satan doesn’t play fair; he doesn’t let up once you tire. Instead, as the Heidelberg Catechism says in Lord’s Day 52, the devil, our “mortal enemy,” does not cease in his assaults against us. Not only is this battle unending, but this enemy desires to take our very life! The Catechism doesn’t call him a mortal enemy for no reason; the devil truly desires the spiritual life that is within you and I. He desires to do to us what Jesus warned Peter of in Luke 22:31: Satan desires to sift us as wheat, or to turn our pure hearts of flesh to hard hearts of stone that serve him in wickedness.
Knowing this, then, how ought we to long for the house of our God! Here we find a refuge from the storms of life. Here we hear the word of our Saviour to us. In his house we hear him say, “I love you with an eternal love!” Here he takes us in his arms and gives us the comfort of everlasting life with him in glory; here our faith is strengthened, and we are made alive again; here we are made ready to fight the battle of faith.
And we need this strengthening. Think of our longing for the house of God in this way: imagine the warrior from the biblical times, fighting the enemies of God as Canaan is conquered. Day in and day out, away from home, away from family. Fighting battle after battle, one enemy after another. Violence, terror, death are all around on every side at every moment. Now imagine the joy of this same warrior after the battles are finished and the enemies of God are defeated. What unspeakable pleasure will he have when he is at last able to return to Jerusalem, the city of the church and of his God. Finally, there is a time of rest, a time to recuperate, and a time to regain strength. This, dear reader, is what the house of our God is for us in our very real battle against the powers of sin and the devil.
And yet, in light of all of this, we can still be weak. We can grow lax in our longing for the house of God. Each of us knows our own heart, and knows the weakness of our flesh. We can easily be distracted even when in the house of God. Sometimes, we even go to church with what we think are the best of intentions. We truly want to hear the Word of God, but when it comes right down to it we are distracted and can walk out of God’s house empty. We don’t meditate on the Psalms as we sing them; we don’t focus on the law as it is read. Remember that the devil doesn’t play fair, young people. He doesn’t take time-outs when we step into the sanctuary. No, sometimes it seems like he tightens the bonds of temptation so much tighter. Though we have been redeemed in Christ and have received the new life of Christ within us, we still feel this struggle within us.
Consider the figure of the warrior which we just discussed: remember that he is tired, discouraged, worn out and hungry. What would we think if this warrior did not want to return to Jerusalem, his home and refuge? What if instead he decided that he would remain in the barren desert, where no food, water, or nourishment could be found? How strange would that be!
Or, imagine that this warrior returned home and was greeted with joyous celebrations of the triumph of the battle. However, what if in the midst of all of this happiness the warrior only could think about returning to the barren wasteland? What if he counted the days to when he could leave the shelter of Jerusalem and again set foot on the treacherous battlefield? Wouldn’t you agree that there would be something wrong with such a warrior?
As simple as that may seem, the reality is that we can often be just as irrational as that warrior. In God’s house we have joy and peace, and we find our true Life! But our mind wanders far from the house of God, to earthly cares and concerns, to all sorts of things. We consider the week gone by; we think of what we have to do in the coming week. We replay our schedule and maybe what homework we have yet to do. In the weakness of our flesh, could it be that we even drift off and doze at different times in the worship service? What a shameful confession, young people! Sleeping in the house of our holy God? How dare we do such a terrible thing! So often we can feel like the disciples, whom Jesus commanded to watch in the Garden of Gethsemane. As Jesus warned them, “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
How can we find comfort in the midst of our sinfulness? Only in the cross of Jesus Christ. We do not come to God’s house to testify that we are perfect and righteous in ourselves. No, on the contrary, we come only because of the glorious work of the Spirit within us. That is the gospel, young people! We have been redeemed, not by our own works or our own worthiness. The Almighty strength of our Redeemer lives within us! We can come to our God in his house without fear, for we are assured by faith that he loves us and has loved us from before the foundation of the world itself.
What beauty, then, do we find in the house of our God. What unspeakable joy and life is present there. Our act of worship, as profound as it may be, young people, is and must be the highlight of your week. What do you live for? Our answer: the house of my God. May this truly be our confession.
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As we examined the first eleven chapters of Genesis last month, we took note of the fact that the book of Genesis is theological, meaning it helps us to grow in our knowledge of God. In addition, we noted that the book of Genesis is historical, meaning that the events chronicled in it are the […]
Who am I? What is my purpose on this earth? Why is everything the way that it is? These are the kinds of questions that often trouble young people as they become more independent from their parents, enter the world of college or career, and make major life decisions such as choosing a spouse, a […]
The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon to his young adult son. Solomon’s purpose in writing Proverbs was “that the generation to come might know them [God’s wonderful works]…that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Ps. 78:6–7). Throughout the book, Solomon […]
The group of churches that John writes to in this trio of epistles had recently experienced a split because of doctrinal controversy. We do not know the exact content of the error that these false teachers were spreading, but it is apparent from John’s writing that their teaching somehow denied the truth of the incarnation—that […]
This article was originally presented as a speech at a Protestant Reformed mini convention held at Quaker Haven Camp in August 2021. Jael lived during the era of the judges. Deborah the prophetess was the judge who served Israel at the time of Jael. During this time, the Canaanites under the rule of king Jabin […]
Although it’s been a couple of months since we’ve been immersed in news coming from Japan about the 2020/2021 Olympic games, it’s still worth considering how these events are understood in the modern worldview of our country. The “Top Story of the Day” on Monday, August 9 (at least according to my newsfeed), was how […]
One of this year’s “mini conventions” was hosted by Grace and Grandville Protestant Reformed Churches at Quaker Haven Camp. Located just over two hours away in northern Indiana, the camp was a perfect fit for the 120 kids and 15 chaperones who attended. A total of twelve different churches were represented: Byron Center, Faith, First […]
At the point that this edition of Beacon Lights arrives in the homes of our subscribers, most young people in the Protestant Reformed Churches will have been sitting under the catechism instruction of their pastor or elders for more than a month. If our readers are honest, that observation probably comes with a (quiet) sigh […]
The 2021 Tennessee young people’s retreat was held August 9 to 13 by Providence, Hudsonville, Unity, and First (Holland) Protestant Reformed Churches. The retreat took place at Eagle Rock Retreat Center in the city of Tallassee. It was about an eleven-hour drive, give or take a bit due to stops for food and restrooms. Though […]