Toward the end of the three months that my wife and I recently spent in Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland, we had the opportunity to accompany Rev. Ron Hanko on one of his missionary trips to Wales. As most of you know, Rev. Hanko has been making regular visits to Wales in order to pursue contacts with various individuals who are interested in the truths of God’s Word as we have come to understand them in our Protestant Reformed Churches. These visits involve preaching, lecturing, leading Bible studies, and visiting with the interested individuals and families.
In writing about our recent visit to Wales, it is my hope that all of you will be able, first of all, to understand more clearly the nature of the work that is being done in Wales. This is important. Since the missionary labors being done in Wales are a work which we are doing as churches, it is good for each of us to be aware of and to show an interest in what is being done. Then, too, we can pray more meaningfully for God’s blessing on His people and on the work there.
Secondly, I hope that you all will appreciate more what God has given us as churches. While God’s people in lands such as Wales are starving to receive sound, Reformed preaching and teaching, it seems at times that we can easily take for granted the heritage of the truth that God has given us and preserved for us.
The country of Wales is a part of what is known as Great Britain. Located to the west of England, Wales borders England on its north, south and east. The west coast of Wales borders the Irish Sea. It is a land which has a beauty of its own — being rugged and mountainous, and receiving a good quantity of rain which keeps things beautifully green.
Concerning our mission work there, there are especially two small groups of saints with whom Rev. Hanko has contact. The one group is in the north of Wales, near the city of Bangor. This group consists of one or two families, and a few individuals. Recently a few others have also shown interest and have attended the worship services, lectures, and Bible studies when Rev. Hanko is there. This group worships together every Sunday in the home of one of the families.
One interesting aspect of the work in North Wales is that the people, in many ways, have retained their Welsh identity and culture. They have done so especially through keeping the Welsh language. In fact, in many schools the children are educated in Welsh. Most people, however, are able to speak both Welsh and English, but this is not always the case. Because of this it may be profitable for a missionary to know this language.
The other group with whom Rev. Hanko has been working is in South Wales, in the area of the city of Swansea. There are in this area especially two families with whom Rev. Hanko has had contact for a number of years. During the recent visits of Rev. Hanko, others have also been coming along and showing interest in the truth. An example of this interest is the fact that one man, who recently attended one of the lectures, took with him close to half of the pamphlets and literature that Rev. Hanko had brought along for distribution. This man lived in one of the valleys just north of Swansea and was eager to pass the literature around to other members of the church of which he is a member.
Perhaps you are wondering whether these two groups, the one in the north and the other in the south of Wales, could get together, or at least meet together. What makes this difficult is that it takes around six to seven hours to cover this distance on the small and often overcrowded roads.
It is important for us to remember a few things about the character of the work in Wales. One thing we must note is that the saints there feel rather isolated. The reason for this is not only the distances in miles from each other, but also the fact that religion (and especially a love for the Reformed faith) is all but dead and gone in Wales. There is barely any concern shown for the truth. This means that those with whom we have contact find it extremely difficult to find others who are of like faith— even within the few “conservative” churches of which they are members. Our work, therefore, involves bringing the Word, not to large groups of people, but to various individuals and families who are unhappy (and understandably so) with the state of things within the churches in Wales and are seriously considering leaving these churches. In many cases these people feel “cheated,” for now that they hear the faithful exposition of the truths of Scripture, they sense that in all their years they have been taught very little.
This has to be taken into account in the preaching and teaching that is done there. While we ourselves have been privileged to be taught the truths of the Reformed faith from childhood up, many of the saints within Wales have just begun, in the last few years, to hear of and to come to grips with these truths. And yet they show a keen interest which we often lack. It is obvious that they love the truth and have grown in their knowledge, not only through the preaching and teaching they have received through the missionary work we have been doing, but also through their own diligent study of the Word of God, and their own interest in reading Reformed literature.
One must not forget either the work that has been done in Wales (as also in other parts of the British Isles, including Northern Ireland) by the British Reformed Fellowship. This organization, not only through its publishing “The British Reformed Journal,” but also through its organizing conferences and lectures, has helped much in the spread of the Reformed faith in the British Isles. It has often been through the work of this organization that individuals have initially heard of the Protestant Reformed Churches and their labors in the British Isles.
It seems clear that the Lord has a work for us to do in both these areas of Wales. Although at this point the numbers in each area are still small, there is definitely a hunger after the truth by those with whom we have had contact. It is certainly a great privilege to have this opportunity to bring the blessed gospel to God’s people in this part of the world.
Through our contacts with and knowledge of such scattered saints in the British Isles, let us learn to appreciate more the fact that from week to week God has given and continues to give us the sound preaching of His Word and the blessing of fellowship with like- minded believers. May we thank Him for His faithfulness as we see that in the work of the seminary and in the blessings that we have in our churches. And may we never forget to pray for, and to help as much as the Lord enables us, those who do not have such blessings.
I have a question for you, young people. So I want each of you to take the time to ask yourself this question and to consider the importance of it. It is essential that you do so, for one’s answer to this question demonstrates whether or not he is living as a true Christian should.
The question is this: “Do you visit the elderly?”
That this question is important is not simply because I might think so. NO! Rather, God’s Word points out why it is that you and I must consider this question. In James 1:27a we read: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction.” Scripture here tells us that when one visits the “fatherless” and the “widows” he is showing that he is a true Christian. The fatherless and the widows are those who are lonely. And this is so often true of the elderly, too, for they likewise live a lonesome and quiet life. Each of you is called therefore, as a child of God, to visit those who are lonely: the fatherless, the widows, and the elderly.
But let us be more specific with our question. Ask yourself the following: “When was the last time that I visited an elderly saint?” Or even: “When was the last time I visited my own grandparents?”
There are a number of reasons why we should be actively involved in visiting the elderly.
As already mentioned, we should do so because it is our calling to do so. God commands us to do so. You and I must love our neighbors as ourselves, and this does not mean simply to say that we love them, but to show that we love them. By visiting the elderly we show that we think about them, that we love them, and that we are concerned for their physical and spiritual welfare.
This means that you and I must visit the elderly for their benefit. Elderly saints live a lonely life. Loneliness is part of the “affliction” they experience. This is especially true of orphans and widows, but it is true also of elderly saints. And so they need our visits. They need to know that you and I, as fellow believers, love them and care for them. And not only do they need our visits, but they enjoy them.
Just take the time to imagine, young person, what it would be like if you yourself were unable to go outdoors each day. I am sure you would find it extremely difficult. Maybe some of you have even experienced that feeling when you have been in hospital or sick in bed for a time. After sitting or lying there for many long and lonely hours, you really look forward to and appreciate a visitor. And so do the elderly. So, for their benefit, take the time to visit them. Do this especially for those who are unable even to attend church on Sunday.
However, we do not visit the elderly just for their benefit. It is certainly true that we must endeavor to make our visits beneficial for them. But if that were the only reason why we visited them then very soon we would be filled with pride and think to ourselves that we are doing a great work and service to these people. This must never be our attitude. To keep us from becoming proud we must realize that our visits to the lonely and elderly are also for our own benefit. But how is this so?
I am sure you have all been told at one time or another: “You can learn so much from old people.” I often wondered what that really meant, and sometimes I even doubted that it was true. And I am sure that many of you did or do. In sinful pride we think that we know so much more than our grandparents or than other elderly saints. We think that because we have had more education than they did we are better equipped to face the world and life. So we wonder, therefore, how the elderly could possibly teach us anything.
But our doubting the truth of that statement is a serious error. I have learned from experience that I was so wrong. I will tell you how.
For the last three or four years of their lives my grandparents lived next door to us. Because we took care of them, we saw them every day. It was through that daily contact with them that I realized how much I could learn from these dear elderly saints. They had been through life, they had fought life’s battles, they had experienced all sorts of hardships and troubles and had learned how to face them in the strength of the Lord. All of these experiences had strengthened their faith and their trust in God. Because of these experiences they were filled with wisdom, and even without setting out to teach me something, the stories of their lives taught me so much. It was not the case that “Opa” and “Opoe” (Dutch for “Grandpa” and “Grandma”) preached to me every time we visited. Not at all. They would simply tell stories about their experiences in life and my brothers and I would listen and learn.
There is an important lesson here for you, young people. If only you would take more time to listen to the experiences of elderly saints then you yourselves would be better able and equipped to face the difficult circumstances in life. Perhaps you would even learn how to avoid certain pitfalls.
So do you visit the elderly?
Perhaps your response to this question is: “Who, me? You expect me to visit the elderly? I wouldn’t know what to say. I couldn’t communicate with them. Isn’t it better to leave that to others who are themselves older and who are better able to talk with elderly people? I’d probably be more of a hindrance or nuisance to elderly people if I visited them, than a help.”
The fact is that usually you do not have to say much at all. Just your being there means a whole lot to the elderly, for you show that you have a Christian love and concern for them. You are there because you care for them. They sense that, and if you show an interest in them they will enjoy relating their experiences to you. And even if they are failing physically, you must still respect them, and you will soon learn to do so on account of their wisdom. Give them a listening ear, and do not be in a hurry to leave. Listen and learn!
There are also valuable spiritual benefits which come from visiting the elderly.
When you visit with the elderly you will come to realize that our life on earth is indeed short. Elderly saints will make you see this, for they themselves are looking forward to their eternal and heavenly home and you can sense that the things of this world are not as important to them as they are to you. Sometimes they are not important at all. And so you are confronted with the reality that our life here on this earth is just a pilgrimage. We do not seek an earthly life, we seek a heavenly, spiritual and eternal life with God. What a great benefit to be reminded of this, for we are so inclined to forget that fact. So easily we get caught up in this world and love it and act as if the chief purpose and goal of life is this earthly life. We need to be snapped out of such dangerous thinking.
The wisdom that the elderly will impart to you also concerns our own history as churches. These saints have lived through the bitter struggles that we as Protestant Reformed Churches have faced. They realize, therefore, the importance of the truth for which we stand, something which many of us, to our shame, do not. And therefore I say again: “Listen and learn!”
So visit the elderly. Take the time to talk to them at church. Visit your grandparents regularly. Visit other elderly saints. For “pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction.”
And do not say to yourself: “I do that at Christmas time, so that is enough.” No! It is commendable that you do it at this time of year, but it is just as important, and perhaps even more important, that you do it year around, for the elderly are lonely year around.
Do this, young people, and by God’s grace your visits will be a blessing, not only to the elderly and lonely whom you visit, but also to yourself.
For most of us the first thing that comes to mind when we think of witnessing is that it is what one does when he tells others about God and about being a child of God, a Christian. That is certainly true. But witnessing is more than that.
Witnessing begins, not with telling others about God and the salvation that we have in Him (though that certainly is a very important part of it), but with our personal behavior and conduct. Our actions are the most important part of witnessing.
In all our witnessing there are only two possibilities – we are either showing ourselves to be children of God or children of the devil. We are each confronted, therefore, by an important question: “Do I show by my actions that I am a child of God, or do others see me and think that I am a child of the devil?”
Examples of godly witnessing abound in Scripture. Many of God’s people, in both the Old and the New Testament, were faithful in their witnessing and showed clearly that they were children of God. Perhaps you could sit down and come up with a list of such men and women. Let us for now, however, turn our attention to the example of Daniel. By looking at Daniel we will find out what true witnessing is and involves.
The specific incident of Daniel’s life to which we will turn is the well-known story of Daniel in the lion’s den. Daniel, as we all know, was a godly man who loved God and strove to serve Him. But certain men hated Daniel and desired to kill him. These wicked men devised a plan so that Daniel would be thrown into the lion’s den. Daniel knew about this wicked plan, but yet he served God before he obeyed the wicked and ungodly rules of men. In spite of the king’s command, Daniel continued to pray to God three times a day.
We see four very important parts of witnessing in the example of Daniel. If we remember this story and remember what Daniel did, then we also have a guide for godly witnessing.
First – Daniel acted according to God’s law and did what was right in God’s sight, and not what man said was right. Daniel knew that he would be thrown into the lion’s den, but he went and prayed to God as he always had done. Daniel did what was commanded by God.
This is what you and I should do. God says to us that we must obey Him and so we must. Either we act as children of God or as children of the devil. Whenever we disobey God we are acting as children of the devil, as those who are on the way to eternal damnation in hell.
Just as Daniel obeyed God by praying to Him three times a day, so we also must obey God by always doing as He commands.
Second – The second thing that we notice from the example of Daniel is this: when we obey God as we should, then others, both Christian and non-Christian, see how we act and see that we are children of God and not of the devil.
In Daniel 6:1-3 we find that Daniel was made a ruler over King Darius’ kingdom. He was not made a ruler because he made himself friendly with the king and sought fame and glory. No! Daniel acted as a child of God. And the king, seeing that Daniel was an honest man and faithful in all that he did, appointed Daniel as ruler because he knew that he could trust Daniel.
You and I must also act as did Daniel. When others see us they should be able to tell that we are Christians. Each of us must be a godly witness. This does not mean that we have to go down the street and talk about the things of God to people that we meet, though this certainly is a good and important thing to do. But it means that we must witness by our actions.
This is always easier to do when we are seen and observed by our parents and others in authority, for then we know that we will get into serious trouble if we don’t do the right things. But what is more important is that we act this way when we aren’t seen by those in authority.
What is even more difficult than being a good witness when we aren’t seen by parents, teachers, elders, etc., is being a faithful witness when we are with those who are unbelievers and who show themselves to be children of the devil. These people are always ready to laugh at us, to mock us, to hurt us, and even to hate us if we don’t do things their way. But we must never give in to them nor join with them in their evil actions. We must never think we can get away with sin. We must always act so that they look at us and see that we are those who love God.
It is here that we see the truth of that well-known saying: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” By our actions, which are like a picture to those who see us, we must show that we love God and that we are children of God and not of the devil. It is when others see that we are Christians that God is glorified. We are then able to tell others about God and to witness not only by our actions but also by our words.
Third – The third thing we notice from the life of Daniel is that he was persecuted, for he was thrown into the lion’s den. Because he obeyed God and was a godly witness he had to face certain death by being eaten by the lions. Daniel realized this, but what did he do? Did he disobey God so that his life would be spared? No! Daniel did not even hide, but he opened his windows and prayed to God as he always had done. The threat of death did not stop him from being a faithful child of God.
You and I also face this. If you are a true witness you will be mocked and laughed at. This will certainly happen, for the world sees us and hates us. The world never wants to be friends with us. The world always tries to make our lives difficult. And sometimes even those who are our own Christian friends will treat us this way. This is difficult, but still we must witness by acting as God commands. Even if we know that we will be mocked, ridiculed, and punished, we still must do what is right. Scripture teaches us this, for we read in I Peter 3:17: For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well-doing, than for evil-doing.”
So what about you? Are you afraid to serve God because you might be laughed at and mocked? The threat of these things is never a reason for not being a good witness. You must always obey God, no matter what the cost may be.
Fourth – This brings us to the fourth and final thing that we see from the example of Daniel. What happened to Daniel in the lion’s den? Did the lions kill Daniel? No! Daniel was still alive the next morning when the king went to the lion’s den. Was that because the lions weren’t hungry? No! The only reason why the lions didn’t kill Daniel was because God cared for him. God was with Daniel and saved him from harm and danger and death.
And this is what God will do for you and me too. God has promised to care for us. He loves us who are His children. God controls all things, even the dangers that we face in our lives, and God will care for us when we faithfully witness for Him. Even though we may lose our earthly life, God will care for our souls and bring us to glory. We never need to worry about what others think when we show by our actions that we love God. We must only be concerned about what God thinks. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).
Let us remember Daniel and what he did. Remember that he obeyed God. Remember that others could see that Daniel obeyed and loved God. Remember that Daniel was not afraid of what his enemies would do to him. And remember that God took care of Daniel. Be a godly witness. Be like Daniel.
Were you shocked when you heard that a gunman opened fire in a train and shot thirty-three people, killing six of them? Did it disturb or upset you when two ten-year old boys beat to death a two-year old? Or are such murders not close enough to home to horrify and affect you?
What is your reaction, then, when you hear of violence right in the city in which you live? A young pregnant mother stops to help some youths – they shoot her down dead. A young girls walks from the living room into the kitchen to get a drink – a shot gun fired through the window kills her. A husband is unhappy with his wife and family – he shoots them all to death and then kills himself. An employee has recently lost his job – he returns to his work-place and murders his boss and a number of his fellow workers.
Violence is on the increase. Each day the Press and the News Broadcasts report shootings and killings such as those just mentioned. People think they can solve life’s difficulties by murdering others, by “getting rid of” those who offend them. If they are upset with someone, they kill him.
As Christians, we too often respond to these murders by thinking or saying: “Yes, that’s awful, but it’s the world’s problem, not mine,” or even, “That’s really bad, but at least it doesn’t affect me.” We see and hear of so many murders occurring every day that they no longer shock us – we become hardened to them. Thus we even lose sight of the serious sin of killing others, for every murderer breaks the sixth commandment of God’s law and should be punished with death.
There is a grave danger in this kind of response on our part. Being hardened to violence and to murder in this way is the first step toward becoming involved in them. If we think lightly of violence and murder, we will soon forget that God also forbids, in the sixth commandment, all “envy, hatred, anger, and desire of revenge” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 106). Eventually we ourselves will resort to these sinful means in order to deal with our own problems. It is important, therefore, that we guard against becoming hardened to this serious sin. We must respond with abhorrence to all violence and to every murder which we either see or about which we hear.
However, another question which is important to us is: What is the source of the problem of violence and murder? Why do people murder each other? Why, Why, Why? It is only in understanding the source of this problem that we are able properly to guard against it and to deal with it.
Many different answers have been given to this question. Some attribute it to childhood abuse. Some blame racism. Others believe that discrimination is the cause. Some find the fault in lack of education. But all of these answers are purely worldly, and not one of them even gets close to the real cause, the only cause.
The answer to the question is really very simple – SIN! Sin is the root cause of all violence, of all the killings and slayings that occur. It is because of man’s sin that he is so quick to pull the trigger of a pistol or gun. It is because of sin that man turns to violence in order to try to solve his problems.
All men, because they have sinful natures, are naturally inclined to do wickedly, but our sinful natures are also fed, and therefore led into sin, by what we see and hear. Thus, a contributing factor in today’s violence is that the use of guns is often portrayed as the acceptable means of dealing with those who upset you or whom you hate. Nearly every movie, both on television and at the theater, involves violence with guns. At first one is perhaps shocked to see fellow human beings being shot. But this soon wears off. After only a short period of time those who watch such movies grow accustomed to the shootings and expect violence to be a normal part of every movie. Parents and children alike, we have a powerful reason here to oppose movies and television, for the sins portrayed feed our sinful nature and lead us into sin.
However, it is not only television and movies that feed violence, but also many computer “games.” Computers are capable of producing real to life graphics, and many games have been developed and are sold in which one is involved in shooting other people. The effect of this is worse than watching a movie, for the person playing the game is actively involved in shooting others. He not only watches others get shot, but he himself pulls the trigger that shoots the other person. One is also led to believe that shooting and getting shot isn’t all that serious, for you have more than one life, right! These computer “games” undermine the seriousness of violence and murder.
I am reminded of a saying that a pastor of mine often quoted: “Given the right time, place and circumstances, there is no known sin which anyone would not commit.” How true! Do not, therefore, feed your sinful inclinations so that you are hardened to the sin of violence and of breaking the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”
The solutions of the world to the problem of violence and murder are and always will be useless, for the world never gets to the heart of the problem – Sin! Gun laws are the supposed solution. If we have a five-day waiting period before anyone can purchase a firearm, this will enable us to do a check on criminals and also provide a “cooling down” period for would-be murderers who are seeking immediate revenge.
The world also deals wrongly with offenders. Murderers are not called murderers; they are simply persons who have problems. With some treatment, usually psychological, these problems are ironed out and “murderers” are allowed back on the street. The world does not deal with the sin of killing and with the just punishment of it – death. Hence, all these and many other measures taken by the world are futile. For the facts stare us in the face, violence is still on the increase!
As Christians, we must realize that the solution to the problem of violence and murder is only to be found in treating the source of the problem – sin. This is something that man cannot do. Only God can enable man to control his sinful nature. Many are deterred from violence because of the consequences they might suffer. But it is only the work of God’s grace in one’s heart and life that keeps him from resorting to violence and murder (both externally in his actions and inwardly in his heart).
So how must we deal with this problem which is becoming worse in society, and which will no doubt affect even us in the future?
We must see that the existence of violence is part of God’s curse on the world and upon all men. Sin develops and becomes worse and worse. As the Scripture teaches us in Matthew 24, violence is a sign of the times. As the end of the world draws nigh, we will see and hear wars and rumors of wars, nations rising up against nations, kingdoms against kingdoms. Violence is a sign that the end of the world is near.
Do we therefore despair at the hopeless plight of the world? No. We must seek comfort in the truth of God’s sovereign control over all things. Even the violent events that occur are according to God’s plan and purpose, though they may not seem to be and though we may not in this life see and understand God’s purpose. Christ Himself told us: “And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:6). We have the promise that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
We are not here in this world in order to make it our home, for we seek a heavenly home. Our life here is a pilgrimage. We must seek the heavenly rest which God has prepared for us and which awaits us. This does not mean that we are not concerned by the problems of the world. We are. We should be. But we do not live in the false hope of the world becoming a better place. “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse” (II Timothy 3:13). Daily seek, therefore, and pray also, that Christ will come quickly so that we and our loved ones will be delivered from this wicked world.
Only the elect are saved. But does article 3 of the Canons of Dordt, Head II mean that Christ’s death and suffering paid for the sins of all the people in the world? If it does, then why are not all people saved? If it does not, then what was the necessity in Christ suffering sufficiently to expiate their sins, since this did nothing for their salvation?
Before answering this question, perhaps it would be useful to state what Head II, Article 3 of the Canons of Dordt says.
“The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin; and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.”
As we can see from reading this article, our questioner raises an important point, for at face value the article seems to indicate that Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world. However, this is not the teaching of Scripture, nor do the Canons of Dordt teach this concerning the suffering of Christ.
In order to understand the statement made in the Canons of Dordt, it will be useful to understand why this specific article was written and included. As we well know, the Reformed faith, in the doctrine of particular (or limited) atonement, has always maintained that Christ suffered only for the elect, not for the sins of all people in the world. The Arminians believe in the doctrine of general atonement. This disagreement, which originated in the 1800’s, spawned the writing of the Canons.
In Head II, Article 3 of the Canons of Dordt, the Reformed were answering the accusation of the Arminians that the doctrine of limited atonement makes God a limited and stingy God. The Arminians accused the Reformed of denying the infinite value of Christ’s death and suffering. In response to this, the writers of the Canons affirmed that the death of the Son of God “is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate (i.e. to pay the penalty of) the sins of the whole world.”
But what did they mean by this statement? Did they mean, as our questioner asks, that Christ’s suffering and death “paid for the sins of all the people in the world?”
No. Christ’s suffering and death was not for all men. Christ suffered and died for the elect alone. Scripture clearly teaches this truth. And Head II, Article 8 of the Canons of Dordt also beautifully expresses this truth, as follows: “It was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross . . . should effectually redeem … all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation.”
Rather, the statement in the Canons means that if we consider Christ’s death by itself, it would have been sufficient to expiate the sins of the entire human race. Christ’s death and suffering was so great that it would have been sufficient to save all men, if that was God’s eternal good pleasure.
We must be careful to take special notice of the wording of the Canons. They state that Christ’s death “would have been sufficient,” not that it “was sufficient.” Christ did not actually suffer and die for all men.
We may better understand the infinite worth of Christ’s sacrifice by taking note of the following. Sin was against God’s infinite majesty, and therefore the infinite wrath of God for sin had to be satisfied. This could only be satisfied by Christ’s sacrifice being of infinite worth.
For a more detailed explanation of this article, please refer to H. C. Hoeksema’s exposition of the Canons of Dordt, The Voice of Our Fathers.
*Brian Bosveld is a member of tire Southern Presbyterian Church, in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
Sport pervades and dominates our society. Every newspaper and every news broadcast devotes great amounts of space and time to what is happening in the latest basketball, football, and baseball games, as well as to what is going on in the numerous other sports both here in the U.S. and around the world. Sport is no longer simply a recreational activity, an activity which provides relaxation and fitness. Instead, sport has become a god. The non-Christian world lives for and worships sport – it is “sports crazy”.
But is the Christian world any different? Have you ever asked yourself whether you, as a believer in Christ, are just as wrapped up in the sport of this day and age as is the “sports crazy” world? Do you, when reading the press, turn first to the sports section? Do you find that you can’t do without watching sports events either daily or weekly on television? Do you spend too much time in actual participation? Do you find that a great part of your conversations with family, friends, and work mates revolves around certain games which you either played, saw, heard about, or read about the night before?
If you, through honestly answering these questions, find that you said “Yes” to one or more of them, then you will recognize that a definite problem exists in relation to sport. Maybe you will even have to consider the possibility that you also are “sports crazy”.
The problem that we confront is that too much emphasis is placed on sport, and sad to say, even by many who profess to be God’s children. Too much time, money, and effort is expended in the pursuit of sport.
For many of us, the fact that we consume too much time and effort in sport does not arise from our being ignorant of the proper place and emphasis that sport should have. We know that sport should be kept in the proper perspective. We know that we mustn’t get all wrapped up in it. We know that sport should not even be at all important in our lives, for “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever” (Westminster Confession, Shorter Catechism 1).
Yet many of us still seem to find sport essential and are unwilling to admit that we make it important in our lives.
What each of us needs to do, therefore, is to ask ourself, “How significant do I make sport in my life?” We need to take a serious look at how much time, money, and effort we devote to it. We need to do so because of God’s command to live antithetically – we must not be like and become a part of the “sports crazy” world in which we live.
Young people, is sport so prominent in your life that you are more keen to know player and game information than you are to know your catechism or Bible memory work? Is this also true of some not so young people – of some adults? And parents, do you allow your children to devote too much time and attention to sport? Are you and your family as eager to spend time reading and studying the Bible as you are to watch a game on TV? Are you able to speak easily and frequently concerning sport activities but not concerning spiritual things?
Are we as keen to go to church activities, such as worship services, societies, and lectures, as we are to travel many miles in order to go to a sports event? Why was it that attendance at a basketball final in Detroit a few months ago was in the “thousands” whereas attendance at a conference on Christian Witnessing was only in the “hundreds”? And why is it that sometimes church activities are either postponed or canceled because of certain sports activities?
When we evaluate our involvement according to time, it is not simply the case that as long as we spend more time involved in spiritual things than in sport then all is okay. The whole purpose of our life is not the enjoyment of the things of this world. God has given us life so that we seek and serve Him in all that we do and busy ourselves in His work. Our life in this world is a pilgrimage in order to prepare us for our eternal home in glory. Our greatest concern must therefore be our spiritual welfare. If we keep this in mind, then, and then only, will we be able to realize that sport should not be an important part of our life on this earth.
Now I am not saying that sport is bad in itself, for it can have a place in a Christian’s life. In a Christian atmosphere, sport can be useful, worthwhile, and advantageous. In such a setting, there is opportunity for Christian fellowship, for relaxation, and for caring for our God-given body.
But I believe it is wrong to say that sport is a vital part of a Christian’s life. And it is wrong to make sport so important in our life that God’s kingdom suffers because of it.
Another problem with sport is that it can be very expensive. Not only is it often costly to participate in sport, but it can also be very costly to travel to games and to buy tickets for them. Because of this, involvement in sport can draw on funds which could be better used for more profitable causes. Perhaps if less emphasis were placed on sport and on the need for modern equipment, the financial burden of running our schools would be lightened.
Finally, we should also realize that when we follow and attend the sports of this world, we are associating ourselves with the “sports crazy” world and not living an antithetical and godly life – a life of separation from this world. Many of us even make the greedy, worldly ballplayers our heroes. Clearly this is wrong, for many of these “heroes” lead immoral lives, a fact of which we are all aware when we hear about men such as Magic Johnson and Mike Tyson. And all of them desecrate God’s holy sabbath day, for they play their sports on Sunday. Shouldn’t we be afraid to allow ourselves and our children to idolize such ungodly people?
We would do well to learn, remember, and use as our guide the words of Christ in Luke 16:15b; “for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” Examine your devotion to sport, and ask yourself whether or not you are seeking and following after something which is hateful and detestable to God!
Q • In connection with the issue of euthanasia, recent studies have shown that at least 80 percent of a person’s total health costs are spent on him/her after he/she reaches the age of 80. This means that this money is being spent to prolong the life of an elderly person who normally has only a few years to live anyway. Doesn’t this fact provide a justification for euthanasia?
A • What exactly is euthanasia? Euthanasia can be defined as putting a person to death either by withholding or removing what is necessary to prolong life, such as medical care or food, or by administering something which will bring about death, such as a lethal injection.
Financial questions should never determine the legality of euthanasia. God’s word is our only standard for deciding whether anything is right or wrong, and God’s word tells us plainly that we are not to kill ourselves or others.
Euthanasia is immoral because it denies that God is the only one Who has the right to give and take life. Man wants to decide when to die. And not only does man believe he has the right to determine this for himself, but he also wants to determine this for other people. In both instances man is breaking the sixth commandment.
We may never argue, therefore, that euthanasia is wrong for most people but okay for old people because they do not have long to live and because it often costs so much to keep them alive. The life of an old person is just as precious as that of a young child or a baby or even an unborn child.
There are, however, other questions associated with euthanasia. For example, if someone is being kept alive by artificial means through life support equipment, is it wrong to “pull the plug”? Should this person even be put on this life support equipment in the first place? Another problem is defining when a person is actually dead – is it to be determined by heart activity, or by brain activity, or by both? There is also the question of whether we must, in all cases, use every medical means available to prolong life?
It is impossible to answer all these questions now. However, if anyone is interested in a detailed discussion of these questions and of the whole issue of euthanasia Professor Hanko has written a series of articles on this ethical issue, and they can be found in volume 64 of The Standard Bearer.
Perhaps even some of our readers have ideas concerning these questions and the issue of euthanasia. If this is so we would welcome your contribution to the Beacon Lights.
Q • Are those who ask Dr. Kevorkian to assist them in ending their life justified in doing so because of the pain and suffering they live with?
A • Those who are asking Dr. Kevorkian to assist them in ending their life are committing suicide. They are no less guilty than persons who commit suicide without the assistance of a person such as Dr. Kevorkian. They, as well as Dr. Kevorkian himself, are guilty of breaking the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”.
Now it is true that these people are experiencing much pain and suffering. Those who have committed suicide in this way have done so because of the ailments of old age, or because of sickness, such as cancer, which has given them great pain. This does not mean, however, that they may put an end to their life.
God is the giver of life, and the only one Who has the right to take life away. Job confessed this when all his children died, for he said, “the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Those who take their life with the aid of Dr. Kevorkian are denying and undermining this idea of the sanctity of life.
Man has no right to decide when he wishes to end his life. When a person does so he sins greatly, for he is no different from the one who commits suicide by taking a gun and shooting himself. God alone is the one Who has the right to end our earthly life. The sanctity of life has already been denied through the issue of abortion, but sad to say it is also becoming denied through the issue of euthanasia.
Another problem with those who end their life through assisted suicide (as well as through any other form of suicide) is that they are being ruthlessly selfish. All they think about is themselves. They have no thought for the family they leave behind. This family has to live with the fact that their loved one committed suicide, and this causes great anguish and much hurt. The person committing suicide thinks only of relieving himself from the pain and suffering of this earthly life.
Those who commit suicide do not acknowledge that the pain and suffering that they are experiencing are a result of sin. They deny this and selfishly think that by ending their life they can put an end to their suffering and pain. But God will hold them accountable for this great sin. Will they really escape suffering and pain by ending their earthly life?
The answer in the March issue was written by Daniel Kleyn.
In discovering God’s will for us, how much emphasis can we place on circumstances in our lives? If, for example, I was contemplating a large change in my life which involved moving to another part of this country, would the quick sale of a piece of real estate be an indication to me that it was God’s will that I move?
I think it is true to say that each of us face this same sort of question in our own life. We often wonder, when faced with decisions and choices, what God’s will is for us in these situations. We confess and believe that God is sovereign, and that it is His will, not ours, that determines all things, but yet it is difficult to know at times what the will of God is. I think, therefore, that this is an important question, and that it will be useful to all of us to know both how we should and how we should not go about discovering God’s will for us in the many different circumstances and situations of our lives.
To begin with I wish to point out that determining the will of God is a subjective exercise: it is something that is between the individual and God alone. It is also something that involves many factors. Our questioner, for example, would need to consider such things as church, family, and his occupation and calling in life, and often God reveals His will to us through all of these aspects, and not through one single circumstance. I therefore feel that it is not possible for me to answer my questioner directly, but simply to give guidelines which we can all use.
Firstly, we will consider those things which we should not do.
The chief way in which we do wrong is when we determine how God should answer our prayers and show us His will. We do this when we decide on the means that God should use to show us His will. We should not set up the circumstances which show us God’s answer, we must leave it up to God to reveal His will to us in His way.
We must also guard against becoming mystical. Some do this by letting their Bible fall open to a text of Scripture, believing that this text will show them God’s will. This is wrong, for when we do this we are trying to force God to answer our prayers, instead of exercising patience and trust in Him.
So how does God show us His will, and how should we seek to know God’s will?
God does reveal His will to us through the circumstances in our lives, and often this can be in the way that our questioner mentioned, or in some similar manner. However, we can also discover God’s will through other means, such as a sermon that we hear or through reading and meditating upon Scripture. God shows us His will in many different ways.
Therefore, when we seek God’s will for us we must first of all pray to God to show us His will. We must then be patient, trusting that God will show us in His time, not our time, and in His way, not our way. And we must always be ready to hear God’s answer, for quite often we do not want to accept God’s will for us, just because it is not the answer we want or because it does not suit us. God is a gracious God to His covenant people, and He will not only show us His will, but He will also make it possible for us to do His will.
Hopefully these few thoughts are useful, not only to our questioner, but also to others of us as we seek to understand and know the will of God for and in our lives.
Christ! Yes, this is the “kingly” name of our Savior. It means “the anointed one”. This title signifies to us that Christ was anointed as King. Christ, the eternal Son of God, was King from all eternity, and He came into this world as King and now lives and reigns as King forever. But do we always acknowledge that Christ is King? Do we always keep in mind, when remembering His incarnation and birth, that He always was, is and shall be King?
As we now again remember the birth of Christ may we not only consider the importance of Christ’s incarnation, but may we also consider his life, death and resurrection, and look forward from all of this to His second coming. For it is to His second coming that we now look. At His second coming all the misery and suffering of this life will be ended, and we who are His shall be raised to glory to praise Him to all eternity. But it is also at His second coming that Christ will finally be acknowledged by all to be King of the heavens and the earth.
Let us therefore consider Christ’s first and second comings, and notice the similarities and differences between them. As we consider these things we will be able better to understand that Christ was King as a babe in Bethlehem, and will show Himself as King when He comes again.
The first similarity that we notice between Christ’s first and second comings is the fact that the Old Testament Scriptures prophesy of both. The Old Testament does not only point to Christ’s coming in the flesh as David’s royal seed, but it also speaks of His second coming when He shall come as King in power and glory.
Another similarity is the fact that just as the church of the Old Testament looked forward to Christ’s first coming, so we, the church of the New Testament, eagerly await His second coming. God had given the promise of Christ’s coming already to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15
immediately after the fall, and He reminded His people of this promise when He renewed it with Noah, Abraham, David, and all His saints throughout the Old Testament. They knew that Christ would come, and they yearned for His coming. The New Testament church does likewise. We have the promises of His coming, and the assurance also that He will come, and we pray earnestly with the Apostle John in Revelation 22:20, “Even so, come Lord Jesus.”
A further significant similarity is that just as the true Church, the remnant, was small at the time of Christ’s first coming, so the church will be small and seemingly non-existent at His second coming. When we read of Christ’s first coming we see that the true Church barely existed. We only read of a few who still faithfully worshiped God, such as Simeon and Anna. These are the only two who are mentioned in the New Testament as recognizing Christ when He was brought into the temple, the center of worship for the Old Testament Church. The remainder of those who called themselves the Church were profane and irreligious, and were caught up in worshiping ordinances rather than God.
This will also be true at Christ’s second coming. The remnant will be few, the Church will be hidden, and the majority of those who call themselves the Church will be servants of Antichrist and his kingdom. “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Romans 11:5).
Let us now consider the significant differences between Christ’s first and second comings.
What we notice about Christ’s first coming is that He came quietly. There was no loud trumpet for all the world to hear and know that Christ was born. No, His coming was not noised abroad, but was inconspicuous.
At Christ’s second coming, however, there will be a great noise, and all the world will see Him coming on the clouds of heaven. For there will be a great shout, and the angels will be sent forth to sound the trumpet, and every eye shall see Him, including those who pierced Him. (I Thessalonians 4:16, & Revelation 1:7) All who have ever lived and all who are living will see and know that Christ has come again.
As we have already noticed somewhat, at Christ’s first coming He was acknowledged by very few. We could count on our fingers the number of people recorded in Scripture who acknowledged Christ as the Son of God when He was born into our flesh. There were first of all Mary and Joseph, and Mary’s cousin Elizabeth. There were also the shepherds to whom the angel appeared, and the wise men who “saw his star in the east”, and came “to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2) As we mentioned earlier there were also Simeon and Anna. The great majority of mankind failed to acknowledge Him as Christ, the King, the Son of God. Even though John the Baptist witnessed and preached concerning His coming, and even though the whole Old Testament pointed to this coming, yet only a handful of men acknowledged Him.
However, this will not be the case at Christ’s second coming. For then all will recognize Him as the Son of God, and all will acknowledge that He is Lord and King. Even the wicked will recognize Christ as the Son of God, and even all those who rejected or ignored Him at His first coming will be forced to confess that He is Lord indeed. There will not be a single person who has ever lived that will not confess that Christ is Lord, and even Satan and all his hosts will be made to kneel before Him. For every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, in earth, and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11)
We see another difference between Christ’s first and second comings when we consider how Christ was persecuted and how He suffered in this life. The world was full of disharmony and friction, but yet it could agree on one thing, and that was to oppose the Son of God – something which is also true today. We see this immediately after Christ was born when Herod sought to kill Him, and this opposition and suffering continued throughout His whole life. Many times the crowds picked up stones to kill Him, or used other means in order to put Him to death. And they finally succeeded when they judged, condemned and crucified Him on the accursed cross.
But will this be a characteristic of His second coming? No, the tables will be turned. For then Christ will come to bring justice and judgment on all His enemies. Christ will not be the suffering lamb spoken of in Isaiah 53, but He will come to exercise judgment on the earth, and will judge and punish all those who are not His people, and will cast them and the devil into hell, into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. (Revelation 19:20, & 20:15).
Perhaps the most important difference between Christ’s first and second comings is that His first coming was in humility, but His second coming will be in power and glory. At Christ’s birth, all refused to give Him and His parents lodging in an inn, and so he was born in the lowly manger. He was thrown into a stable and refused a place of lodging among men. He was as one of the outcasts and street people of our present day cities. It is difficult to see Him as a King in this condition.
But Christ is King, and at His second coming He will come so that all will see Him as the King of heaven and earth. He will come in glory and power. He will be triumphant. He will have the victory over all His enemies. And every eye will see that He is King. And every mouth and tongue will confess that He is King. He will not come as a humble babe born in a manger among cattle, but He will come as the triumphant Lord and Christ of the heavens and the earth and all that is in them.
And this great King is our King. He will be triumphant over all our enemies and will bring us into His glorious kingdom, so that there we will live and reign with Him to all eternity. Christ is King!
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