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Covenantal

Protestant Reformed young people, the precious doctrine of the covenant is one of the first things that should come to our minds when we speak of friendship. God in his infinite love has established and maintains a relationship of friendship, fellowship, and communion with his people. “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me“ (Jer. 32:40).

The covenant determines the boundaries of friendship. The Holy Spirit creates a spiritual bond of friendship, fellowship, and communion among God’s people in the covenant (Eph. 4:3). True friendship or oneness is a spiritual bond: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all (Eph. 4:4–6).

The wonder of God’s grace is manifested in that he makes a physically diverse church one in Christ: male and female, rich and poor, old and young. You and I have a spiritual bond of friendship with the youngest child or the most aged saint in the church. Young people, do you step outside “your group” at church to talk with the young children or even the aged saints?

The temptation, young people, in establishing friendships is to look at ourselves or even our neighbors to find common ground on which to build friendships. How often has the thought crossed your mind at school or at church, “I have nothing in common with that person.” Perhaps they have no interest in sports and the latest game scores. Perhaps they do not have a similar level of athletic ability.

Perhaps they do not have a similar sense of style or any style at all. Perhaps you do not share common friends with them, and they are not in your social circle.

Do you think spiritually and covenantally when you think about friendship, or has the thinking of the world influenced your thinking? God has established a relationship of friendship not only with you, but also a relationship of friendship among all those in the covenant. God has sanctified you, made you holy, and set you apart from sin, the devil, and the wicked world to live in covenant fellowship with him and his people. Walk as children of the covenant.

Antithetical

The covenant determines the boundaries of friendship. The covenant determines who our friends are and who our friends may be. The doctrine of the covenant means all those who are in the covenant are our friends. The doctrine of the covenant also means that those who are outside the covenant cannot and may not be our friends.

Young people, friendship with those outside the covenant is a futile and destructive effort. The Holy Spirit not only creates true oneness, but also creates separation or an antithesis between those who are not spiritually one. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). The doctrine of the antithesis is intensely practical especially when it comes to friendships. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14).

Communion in the light

The positive calling of the antithesis is to be equally yoked with believers, to have fellowship with those who have been made righteous by the blood of Christ, and to have communion in the light of the truth. Christian friends are accountable to God and his law and accountable to each other. God has given us his law as a guide for a thankful, holy life in the covenant. Does God’s law guide your behavior and the behavior of your friends? Do you discuss how God’s law applies to situations you and your friends find yourselves in?

Undoubtedly a very difficult requirement of love and Christian friendship is to receive admonition from a friend when you are not walking according to God’s law. Perhaps an even more difficult part of accountability in friendship is to admonish a friend who is walking in sin. Sometimes, it is hard for us to remember that admonishing a friend who walks in sin is true love—love for his soul. “Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).

Young men and women, do your friendships glorify God? By the grace of God, may we strive to glorify our God and covenant friend in our relationships. John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

 

Originally published August 2020, Vol 79 No 8

1 Corinthians 14:15

Praise and worship music has become very popular in the church world at large. Recently I heard this song sung at a Protestant Reformed gathering.

It’s About The Cross
It’s not just about the manger
Where the baby lay
It’s not all about the angels
Who sang for Him that day
It’s not just about the shepherds
Or the bright and shining star
It’s not all about the wise men
Who travelled from afar

It’s about the cross
It’s about my sin
It’s about how Jesus
Came to be born once
So that we could be born again
It’s about the stone
That was rolled away
So that you and I could
Have real life someday
It’s about the cross
It’s about the cross

It’s not all about the good things
In this life I’ve done
It’s not all about the treasures
Or the trophies that I’ve won

It’s not about the righteousness
That I find within
It’s about His precious blood
That saves me from my sin

The beginning of the story
Is wonderful and great
But it’s the ending that can save you
And that’s why we celebrate
It’s about the cross
It’s about my sin,
It’s about how
Jesus came to be born once
So that we could be born again
It’s about God’s love
Nailed to a tree
It’s about every
Drop of blood that flowed from
Him when it should have been me
It’s about the stone
That was rolled away
So that you and I could have real life someday
So that you and I could have real life someday
It’s about the cross
It’s about the cross.
The Object of Worship
The object of Reformed worship must be God, and God alone. “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:10). The focal point of our worship may not be the manger or the cross, but God alone.
The Purpose of Our Worship
The purpose of worship is to glorify God. “He is thy Lord; and worship thou him” (Ps. 45:11). This truth stands in direct opposition to the praise and worship movement. The humanistic philosophy of the praise and worship movement is that worship is about man. The goal of worship is not the glory of God, but what man and his senses can get out of worship. This whole song focuses on man and his experience. I ask you to compare this praise and worship song to Psalm 22 to emphasize this point. The focal point of Psalm 22 is not man, or even the cross, but Christ.
The Manner of Our Worship
We must not attempt to dethrone God in worship and bring him down to the level of our senses that we can touch, taste, and handle, as it were. This is will worship, and God abhors will worship. Worship is not “celebrating,” but kneeling and lying prostrate before the God of heaven and earth. “And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them (Nadab and Abihu)…the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified” (Lev. 10:2–3).
Worshiping God In Spirit and Truth (John 4:24)
Relativism
We as Reformed Christians are not ruled by relativism, the spirit of the age, but by the truth of the word of God. Praise and worship songs reflect the ambiguity and relativism of the age. This ambiguity and relativism are shown in words and phrases such as “real life.” What does “real life” mean? Does it mean anything at all? Can anyone interpret it as he or she would like? In contrast, the Bible talks concretely of eternal life as life with God. In sharp contrast to the ambiguity and relativism of the age, we must worship in truth. This includes singing.
Error
The lyrics of this song are not only ambiguous and relative, but promote the lie. To illustrate this, let me quote a few phrases:
“It’s not all about the good things in this life I’ve done.” This song is about the cross; this song is about our salvation. The implication of this statement is that even though our salvation is not all about the good works we have done, our good works do play some part in our salvation. This song teaches the false doctrine of works righteousness. The Bible is clear: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8–9).
“The beginning of the story is wonderful and great, but it’s the ending that can save you.” So that you and I could have real life someday.” This song is about the cross; this song is about our salvation. This song makes Jesus a powerless Savior who “can” or “could” save you. In the end, there is some condition that has not been met at the cross. The bottom line is this: salvation depends on man, either through the work of accepting Christ or performing good works. This song is about a cross that does not atone for sin. Then we are of all men most miserable (1 Cor. 15:19). In contrast, scripture clearly states that Christ fully atoned for our sins on the cross (Heb. 9:28) and that we have a powerful Savior who saves us to the uttermost (Heb. 7:25.) This is the comfort of the child of God.
Truth
The content of what we sing is so important because we worship God. The content of what we sing is also very important because it is a powerful means to teach one another (Col. 3:16). This is one of the main reasons for singing scripture, especially the psalms. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…” (2 Tim. 3:16). We pray for the grace to sing with understanding.

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