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David is a fourth-year student in the Protestant Reformed Seminary and is a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The chief task of the Christian instructor of children is to “teach Christ” to his students. This is true both with respect to the minister of the gospel who teaches the children in the catechism room and the Christian school teacher who teaches in the classroom. Both instructors have much material covering a broad variety of subjects and topics, to which to introduce the students. But the heart of it all and that which is most essential is that the instructor “teach Christ.”

The primary reason why this is so essential is found in Who Christ is. For Christ is the One anointed by God for our benefit, for our salvation. This is the teaching of our Heidelberg Catechism in Question and Answer 31. Here we find that Christ is anointed to be our Prophet, Priest, and King. As High Priest, Christ “by the one sacrifice of his body, has redeemed us” and in each of the three offices Christ works to cause us to enjoy that redemption as the One Who reveals it to us, intercedes for us, and governs, defends and preserves us.

The Belgic Confession, in Article 21, also makes known the identity of Christ. This article appropriately focuses on Christ’s work as High Priest. We confess in this article that Christ is the One Who has appeased the wrath of God “by his full satisfaction, by offering himself on the tree of the cross, and pouring out his precious blood to purge away our sins.” Later, in the same article, after a listing of the sufferings of Christ, appears the phrase, “and hath suffered all this for the remission of our sins.” Here we come to the essence of who Christ is. He is the One Who suffered for us in order to take away our sins. In Christ we have forgiveness of sins and having this we are able to enjoy the covenant friendship of the Triune God. Christ is our salvation in that He took upon Himself the guilt and punishment of our sins so that we may be declared righteous before God and believing in this righteousness, we may by faith enjoy peace with God and therefore also covenant fellowship of friendship with Him.

This is the essential truth regarding Christ and it is this truth that must be taught. In whatever sphere the instructor finds himself, it is this truth that must be the focus and heart of all the instruction he gives. For this truth is at the center of all knowledge, fact, and existence, and apart from it all, is vanity and emptiness. Simply put, knowing Christ gives meaning to all knowledge and purpose to all learning.

The second reason why it is so important that Christ is always taught in catechism and classroom, is found in the identity of those who are taught. The children in catechism and in our Christian schools are God’s children. They are as certainly included in His covenant as are adults and must be taught as such. The children of the covenant are (according to the very essence of the covenant, which is loving friendship) God’s friends and God loves them for Christ’s sake Who took away their sins. This we must teach them. If we teach them nothing else, this we must teach them!

This must be taught to God’s children constantly, repetitively, and from every perspective possible. The truth that Christ has taken away our sins so that now we are the covenant friends of God ought not be limited to Bible class or the particular catechism lesson that expressly mentions it.

The instructor must bring this truth into every lesson in as far as he is capable. The reason for this is that Christ cannot be learned merely as a fact to be intellectually grasped, for Christ can only be learned by faith. Those things learned by faith are food for our souls and so must be constantly presented to us and constantly grasped by us for our spiritual edification and health. Viewing the children of the covenant as those who have the gift of faith, the Christian instructor can joyfully and without despair teach Christ to these children confident that they can and will learn the glorious truth of their salvation in Him.

But how can this be done? How can the Christian instructor teach Christ as He stands in relation to all things? There are no quick easy steps to take in order to begin suddenly to do this masterfully. There is no secret technique that if discovered will ensure success in this area. Instead, the instructor himself must be living in and growing in the knowledge of the truth of Christ. The instructor himself must not be content with being able to recite various doctrines concerning Christ, rather he must be “abiding” in Christ as Jesus explains in John 15. This means, at least in part, that the instructor must always remember that Christ is the One Who has forgiven his sins and the One Who has given him access into covenant communion with God. And he must make it his business to enjoy that communion with God, studying His word and praying to Him. In this way the instructor will find that God will reveal Christ to him in more and more richness and diversity, and in connection with more and more aspects of the body of knowledge which he is called to teach.

But also the instructor will only effectively teach Christ if he himself demonstrates and exhibits Christ. Not only is it important what one teaches, but also how one teaches. God does not only tell us about His love for us, He demonstrated it in the cross of Christ (Romans 5:8 and John 3:16. Be like Him! Demonstrate the love of God to the students as their instructor, show them and tell them that God has forgiven them all their sins and loves them as their covenant Friend. And teach them that this is because Christ the Anointed One of God, has died for them to take away their sins. Teach them this, in as far as you are capable, in every lesson and in connection with every truth.

1998 Scholarship Essay

 All Christians desire to be godly. Every believer longs to see Christian attitudes within himself and to manifest these attitudes clearly and consistently before God and man. Therefore, a Christian’s chief hope regarding his attitude is that it may be like Christ’s. He greatly desires to imitate and reflect his glorious Redeemer’s perfect attitude.

However, a Christian is one who also sadly observes that he does not imitate his Saviour to the degree that he would like. In fact, he sees in himself only a “small beginning” of the reflection of Christ’s attitudes. Even worse, he sees so terribly much of the exact opposite. He sees his sin. In disgust, he sees his rebellion, his pride, his hatred of good things, his earthly-mindedness, his unmercifulness, his impatience, his lust and intemperance. Of how un-Christian these attitudes are, he is painfully aware.

And so he must grow. He must less and less display these un-Christian attitudes in order that he may more and more grow in the display of Christian attitudes. Submission, humility, meekness, patience, hope, contentment, and sobriety must more and more grow to a greater dominance of expression in the believer’s life.

Of course, a child of God is not naturally born with these Christian attitudes at all, nor is he naturally born with the ability to develop or “grow into” the display of these attitudes. Instead, he must be born again, he must be born spiritually. But still, a Christian is not even spiritually born with these attitudes in full, perfect, complete expression, nor is he at his spiritual birth given the power to develop himself and to produce within himself a growing display of Christian attitudes. Even as he is spiritually born by a spiritual seed in a spiritual way by a spiritual power, so the Christian needs a certain spiritual power to continue to come to him and work in him to progressively change him and to progressively produce in him a growing display of these Christian attitudes.

This spiritual power that continues to come to him is the nourishment whereby Christian attitudes are nurtured within the believer. In order to grow, then, a believer needs to be nurtured. He simply cannot dispense this spiritual power to himself. But strictly speaking, no other believer either, can impart this power to him and thereby nurture Christian attitudes within him. God alone is able to do this, and therefore, God alone is the only nurturer.

This is absolutely vital to remember. Any other teaching robs God of His glory and the Christian of his comfort. God receives all the glory when one remembers that it is only “God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). In addition, the Christian takes great comfort in knowing not only that he is “created in Christ Jesus unto good works,” but also in knowing that “God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Only God can carry out his sovereign counsel. God alone will nurture us so that we display Christian attitudes.

But how does our Lord do this? How does God without any help from the believer himself, other creatures, men, or angels, so work within the believer that he actually displays and grows in the display of Christian attitudes? Amazingly, the Lord works by speaking. God efficaciously causes the Christian to have Christian attitudes by talking to him. The believer, by hearing the very voice of God, is moved to desire to be characterized by Christian attitudes and even actually moved to display those attitudes (John 6: 63).

God speaks to the believer, however, by means. He does not any longer call to us in the still of the night as He did to the young Samuel. Neither does He speak from the heavens while directing a blinding bright light to shine down upon us as He did to Paul as he journeyed near Damascus. No, God speaks now though means, and the main, fundamental means through which He speaks is the Scripture. God nourishes the Christian with spiritual power by speaking to him through the Word.

This Word then is the “food of the soul” which God uses to nurture within us Christian attitudes. The Canons teach that even as God uses means (natural food) to support our natural life, so also does He use means (the gospel, Word, sacraments, discipline) to feed us spiritually and to support our spiritual life (Heads III/IV Art. 17) This same idea is of course presented in Scripture. In I Peter 2:2 we read, “desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby.” Also, the Psalmist exclaims “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103)

The chief means that God uses to speak His Word to His people and thereby to nourish them is the preaching (Romans 10:14). We receive the spiritual food for our souls by means of the preaching. In addition, God uses the means of men (preachers) to accomplish this end. This is true only in so far as the preacher preaches the Word of God. The important thing to remember here is that it is God that speaks and therefore it is God that nurtures us. The preacher is merely an instrument in the hand of the Lord.

What is it then that God says to the believer through the preached Word that is able to nurture, and support a believer’s spiritual life to the end that it so wondrously produces Christian attitudes? The content of God’s speech is Himself. He tells us about Himself! Christ prays to his Father in John 17:26, “And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it, that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” The declaration of God’s name here and elsewhere refers to God’s attributes (who he is) and His work (what He does). Therefore the message of the Word from God is “the gospel of peace” and “glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15) If one is to be nurtured to display Christian attitudes, God must speak to him the doctrines of election and all the other doctrines of grace which are dependent upon election, such as calling, justification, faith, and sanctification, as listed in the Canons, Head I, Art. 7. To nurture a believer, God tells him of His love for him and about what He has done for him because of that love. Centrally, God nurtures Christian attitudes within a believer by telling him about the work He has done for him in and through Christ. He tells us about the Cross!

Christian attitudes, therefore, are not nurtured by the exhortations of men, no matter how enthusiastically or emotionally these exhortations may be presented. Christian attitudes are not nurtured by hearing a great list of things we ought to do. Christian attitudes are only nurtured by hearing God’s voice alone and hearing him tell us what He has done for us! This alone has the spiritual power to produce in us the attitudes of Christ and thereby to make us true imitators of Him.

Throughout the ages false teachers have complained about this way of God. They have argued that if a believer hears too much about what God has done, and not enough about what he should do, he will become lazy and careless about good works and will not display Christian attitudes. The historical Reformed church has responded to this in her creeds in a most clear and emphatic way. For example, the doctrines of what God has done are explained in the Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Days 5 through 23. In Lord’s Day 24, the church confesses that although in 19 previous Lord’s Days the believer has only heard of God’s works and even that the believer’s “best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin” and only rewarded of grace, still this “by no means” makes the Christian “careless and profane,” but rather makes it impossible that he “should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.”

In the Belgic Confession, Art. 24, the Church confesses that she believes true faith is “wrought in man by the hearing of the Word of God” and again that “it is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man.”

The Canons also speak the same way throughout. The glorious doctrine of God’s work of election is described as “the fountain and cause of faith and good works” in the Conclusion. And the First Head states that “the consideration of this doctrine of election is so far from encouraging remissness in the observance of the divine commands, or from sinking men in carnal security…” (Art 13). Also, the Fifth Head, Art, 12 describes the certainty of God’s work of preserving His saints as “the real source of humility, filial reverence, true piety, patience in every tribulation.. ..”

Hearing God speak about His gracious work causes all believers both to desire to be godly and to actually display Christian attitudes. Feeding upon that Word of God, a believer grows spiritually and thus Christian attitudes are nurtured within him. God speaks and we are changed into imitators of Christ! His speaking about His work! God our only nurtured His Word our only nourishment! ❖

Public worship today comes in a wide variety of forms and substance. A quick glance at the “Religion” section of the newspaper on any given weekend reveals some of what goes on in churches on Sunday mornings. We are aware of worship services which are comprised of and include plays, films, bands and choirs and even the viewing of sports events. The variety extends from churches introducing praise worship (rhythmic clapping while singing hymns) to churches promoting the outrageous practice of “holy laughter.” Are these practices acceptable to God? How do we know? Also, how do we know what proper worship is?

Being familiar with our Bibles, we know that not all worship is acceptable to God. We know that the Lord did not have respect unto Cain’s offering (Genesis 4), and we know how Israel sinned against God by attempting to worship Him through the golden calf in the wilderness (Exodus 32). Also, both of these instances of improper worship were punished severely by God. Cain’s improper worship led to jealousy, anger, and murder of his own brother, and he was punished by being made a “fugitive and a vagabond” (Genesis 4:10-12). Israel’s sin with the golden calf led to the deaths of about 3,000 of the worshippers that very day by the sword of the Levites, “and the LORD plagued the people, because they made the calf.” (Exodus 32:35) Improper worship is a serious offense and is not viewed lightly by God.

We also understand the seriousness of worship when we realize that all improper worship is idolatry and as such is prohibited by the second commandment, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them…” (Exodus 20:4, 5) Lord’s Day 35 of the Heidelberg Catechism teaches us that the second commandment requires “That we in no wise represent God by images, nor worship Him in any other way than He has commanded in His word.”

The positive statement of the catechism then is that we must worship God only as He has commanded in His Word. This is known as the Regulative Principle of worship and is the principle to which we as Protestant Reformed churches hold. The Belgic Confession also support this principle in Article 29 when it says that the true church is recognized “in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected…” This summary mark of the true church must certainly include its public worship.

Scriptural support for this confessional, Regulative Principle is found throughout the Word of God, but to point to only a couple here will be sufficient. First, in Deuteronomy 9:16, Moses reminds the people of their sin with the golden calf and says, “And I looked and, behold ye had sinned against the LORD your God, and had made you a molten calf: ye had turned aside quickly out of the way which the LORD had commanded you.” According to this verse, Israel’s sin was that they had introduced some new element into their worship which God had not commanded them to use. They worshipped God other than the way that He had commanded. They violated the Regulative Principle.

Second, Deuteronomy 12 speaks at length concerning proper Old Testament worship regarding offerings, tithes, and sacrifices, but God ends this section of His Word with the principle: “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it” (vs. 32). Again, we must worship our God only as He has commanded in His Word.

Looking to Scripture then, we find that only a few spiritual activities are explicitly commanded as fitting activities for the believer in the worship of His God. These elements of worship along with their accompanying proof texts are listed in the pamphlet, Public Worship and the Reformed Faith1, and read as follows: “Singing of the Psalms (Col. 3:16, Eph. 5:19,20); offering of prayer (I Tim. 2:1-8); reading of Scriptures (I Thes. 5:27, I Tim. 4:13); the preaching and hearing of God’s Word (Rom. 10:13-17, II Tim. 4:1:2); the administration of the two sacraments (Matt. 28:19,20, I Cor. 11:23-29); and the giving of our offerings in the support of the ministry and the relief of the poor (I Cor. 16:1,2,1 Cor. 9T1-14)”1

Simply performing these external activities however is, of course, still unacceptable to God. Jesus teaches us that “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24) In this passage He instructs us that we must take heed to worship God in the right spirit or with the right attitude.

It is this spirit of worship also that is being corrupted today. In the filling of the worship service with unscriptural extras, many have forgotten the plain and simple worship of the heart, and with it have gained a casual and irreverent attitude in worship. What kind of spirit then is pleasing and acceptable to God? What is the correct attitude with which to approach the Almighty King?

John Calvin, while commenting on the previously mentioned passage in John 4 states, “as we cannot ascend to the height of God, let us remember that we ought to seek from His Word the rule by which we are governed.”2 So again we turn to the Scriptures to answer our questions. In Psalm 89:7 we learn that “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints and to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him.” Psalm 5:7 reads, “and in thy fear will I worship…” We must not worship God (publicly or privately) with a casual attitude or a flippant spirit, but instead with fear and reverence. If we go to draw near to God, we must approach Him only with repentance and humility (James 4:8-10). We can be sure that God who dwells “in the high and holy place” will only dwell “with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit” (Isaiah 57:15). “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17). We must only come into God’s presence with this spirit (rare though it may be today), and then through the singing of the Psalms, the hearing of the Word, the offering of prayer, giving charitably to the causes of God’s kingdom, and the administering of the sacraments, our hearts will be lifted up into the deep and powerful joy of our salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Observing the abuse of worship in the church world today, we ought to be moved to pray that God will restore those who have strayed and are in error. We must humbly thank Him that He has preserved us as Protestant Reformed Churches in the proper Biblical form of worship and pray that He will continue to preserve us in the future in the way of His Word. Each of us individually, also must pray that He will teach us to worship in spirit and truth. We ought also to come before our God with humble and joyful sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, thanking him for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, for only in Christ is any worship acceptable.

“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,… Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…” (Hebrews 10:19 & 22a) ♦

1Public Worship and the Reformed Faith, by Rev. B. Gritters, Byron Center P.R.C. Evangelism Society, 1990.

2Calvin, John. Calvin’s Commentaries, Volume XVII.

I have always enjoyed the natural world. From as far back as I can remember until today, my childhood and my young adulthood have consistently been colored with the delight of nature. From this personal perspective, the topic of Environmentalism is for me especially interesting.

Indeed, I am only one of many to whom the enjoyment and preservation of the natural world is important. Throughout history, people have been moved, sometimes very deeply, by nature. Also, today there is a growing minority concerned with the preservation of the environment and with sensitizing others to this responsibility. As Christians, we need to work out not only a defense against the errors of the world with regard to their largely inappropriate relationship with the natural world, but even more importantly, we need to formulate and give attention to a correct and positive system of thought regarding our natural environment as our Father’s creation.

Although Christians are the only people who can view the creation correctly, many others have viewed it positively. Often this positive attitude has become extreme and people have deified the natural world around them. Most, if not all, pagan religions include some element of nature worship. Ancient “uncivilized” cultures frequently held to Animism, the belief that all living phenomena have souls and need to be worshipped, placated, or dealt with in the proper manner. So-called “civilized” peoples such as the Egyptians, Aztecs and Incas worshipped a host of creatures and other natural objects including hawks, jackals, bulls, jaguars, rivers, seas and the greatly respected sun and moon. Even within the more familiar cultures of the Greeks and Romans, nature-based fertility cults were very common, particularly among the lower classes. In Western civilization, nature worship was gradually replaced by Christianity, rationalism, the worship of man and his advancements, and in turn, nature was gradually seen as something to overcome, domesticate and control rather than worship.

In the nineteenth century, however, the Romantic poets again began to bow before the altar of the Natural world. Wordsworth, for example, referred to nature as “The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul of all my moral being” and openly referred to himself as “a worshiper of Nature.”l

The Romantic spirit has not disappeared today. The modern world has not rejected as erroneous the ideas of men like Rousseau, Wordsworth, and Thoreau. Instead, these ideas have been modified and coupled with elements of thought from Eastern religions, science (or pseudo-science such as the growing field of parapsychology), the occult, and Native American spiritualism. It is not then the political agenda of the “environmentalists” against which we must defend the proper view of the creation, but the powerful, growing, conglomerate world view that is this agenda’s matrix.

It is also this nature-idolizing world view, both historical and modern, that is not difficult to prove wrong. We find in Romans 1 a description of those who “became vain in their imaginations” and “worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator.” This passage further speaks of the guilt of those who do such things and the judgement to which God gives them over.

However, instead of entering into a lengthy discussion of the faults and untruths of this nature-based, spiritualistic and unchristian world-view, it would be more productive to explore positively the Christian’s proper view of nature. After all, with the cognizance of the truth is the lie exposed.

There are then, many different perspectives of the natural world that the Christian must keep in mind. For example, we must always remember that the natural world is the Lord’s and is cared for by Him (L.D. 10). We must also remember that this creation will some day be made new (Romans 8:19-22). Also, nature provides a way of knowing God.

With regard to the last idea, we can picture the creation as a book of which our God is the author, because He made it and wrote it. We can read this book with the eye of faith and comprehend it with believing hearts and minds. The Belgic Confession in Article 2, supplies this picture of creation as a book and states that one of the ways in which we can know God is “by the creation, preservation and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most elegant book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many characters leading us to contemplate the invisible things of God, namely His power and divinity.

Before we go any further, however, we must understand that nature only functions fully in this way to those who are believers and who already know God through other means. The unbeliever can only read on the pages of creation the words: “There is a God.” They can see in the creation some of the “invisible things” of God, “even His eternal power and Godhead” (Romans 1:20) but they cannot witness Jehovah as a covenant God and all this implies in mountains and meadows unless first the gift of faith is present.

Another pitfall that we need to avoid is the misconception that we can lay our Bibles aside and replace the study of God’s Word with the study of His creation. Nature does not teach us about salvation, God’s will, the Trinity, or the Church. Nature can only supplement our Biblical knowledge by giving us pictures and showing us a little about what these things mean.

Although nature can reveal to us an idea of the glory of God, we must remember that it can not do so perfectly. All the limitations placed on creation’s revelatory message are due to the Fall. When Adam fell into sin he no longer was able to view God’s hand in nature as he once could. He went from a 20/20 vision in this respect to near blindness.

Also, because of the Fall the creation itself was no longer perfectly able to reveal its Maker, for the curse also fell upon the natural world. In Genesis 3:17 and 18, God informs Adam, “cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee…” No longer was this creation the ideal habitat for Adam and Eve. Because of their sin, the natural world became for them (and us) a hostile environment. Perhaps the greatest measure of this hostility was the profound silence of the creation that the banished couple experienced. When they were in the garden they daily heard the sweet serenade of all creation as it lifted up its voice in praises constantly glorifying its Maker, for which purpose it was created. After the Fall, however, nature too served to ostracize man from the blessed communion of the Holy Trinity. Now Nature’s song was reduced to a barely audible whisper. Nature no longer taught man about his God as it once had. We have fallen and therefore need something more than the creation to teach us about God.

Although we do not learn our doctrines and theologies from nature, we do stand to benefit greatly from turning an attentive eye of faith upon the wonderment of nature, remembering all the while what Rev. H. Hoeksema wrote: “Creation is, therefore, a thought of God, a creative Word of God; and all creatures are individual thoughts, words, together revealing the perfect and infinite wisdom of the Most High.”2

When we view nature in this way, then we respond as Job did when God showed him His greatness through the creation. We also respond in awe to the Lord, “I know that thou canst do everything, and no thought can be withholden from thee.” We answer in this way when we also witness in nature, “things too wonderful for me, which I knew not” (Job 42:2 & 3c).

Augustine, too, spoke about these “things too wonderful” in his wise and eloquent way. He wrote, “Ask the earth and the sea, ask the plains and the mountains, ask the sky and the clouds, ask the stars and the sun, ask the fish and the animals—and all will say, ‘We are beautiful, because God has created us’. This beauty is their testimony to God.”3

When we, as so many before us, turn intent and observant eyes on nature we also cannot help but be stunned by the beauty of our Father’s World. Augustine continues for us with a word of caution in this respect, “Yet the soul must not simply enjoy outward beauty, feasting its eyes on what God has made. For outward beauty fades and decays, it is constantly changing. The soul must understand all creation as a sacrament, an outward sign of the inward love of God.”4 With this in mind, he says we must treat the creation “with respect and honor, with praise and adoration, but not as the first object of our love. The first object of our love is not the creation but the Creator.”5

The Psalms give us perfect examples of the nature- observant child of God responding in love and praise to the Creator. Many of the wonders of the creation that the Psalmists refer to are also very familiar to you and me, and so these Psalms also reflect our response to the Creator. We also exclaim, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained, What is man that thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:3 & 4). We, too, have heard the voice of the Lord in the thunder and seen His “lightnings lighten the world” (Psalm 77:18). We, too, with the writer of Psalm 147 have seen our God cover the heavens with clouds sending torrents of rain to the earth, causing the grass to grow. We, too, have seen Him send “snow like wool” and have exclaimed, “Who can stand before His cold?” We have seen Him return the springtime, melt the snow, causing “His wind to blow and the waters flow” again. We have heard the birds of the heaven “sing among the branches” and we know of the innumerable creatures of the “great and wide sea” (Psalm 104). We with the Psalmist instruct all these things to praise the Lord. Let all things praise their Maker! “Fire, and hail; snow and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling His word; mountains, and all hills, fruitful trees and all cedars, beasts and all cattle, creeping things and flying fowl… Let them praise the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 148).

When we see the creation we cannot help but see through these things the great wisdom and glory, power and beauty that belong to the Creator. Then we can do no other but joyfully declare, “I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being…Bless thou the Lord, O my soul! Praise ye the Lord!” (Psalm 104:33 & 35). “For His name alone is excellent; His glory is above the earth and heaven.” (Psalm 148:l3).

Creation, then, provides for us in part a way in which we can know God. As we gaze on our Lord’s magnificent creation we gain a more clear knowledge of His awesome wisdom and glory and by such are moved to praise and to a deeper and more fervent love for our God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.

 

1William Wordsworth from Lines Composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey, taken from Great Poems compiled by Louis Untermeyer; pages 638-641.

2Rev. Herman Hoeksema from Reformed Dogmatics, RFPA, l966; page l76.

3-5Augustine from Sermons taken from Selected Readings from Augustine of Hippo, Fleming H. Revell Co., N.Y.; page 35.

By the grace and direction of God, Paul established some of the first Christian churches in Asia Minor. Some of the letters that he wrote to these churches (at Ephesus, Collosse, and in Galatia) we have today as a part of our Holy Scriptures. This area, modern-day Turkey, which at one point in history was a land scattered with thriving Christian churches and from which Christianity spread, is now known as a country in which 98% of the residents are Muslim. The residents of Turkey are not the only ones who have been swallowed up by the menacing monster of Islam. In fact, today, approximately 900 million people world-wide are Muslims. Yet the monster is not satisfied. At the present, Islam is a steadily growing religion and it is projected that by the year 2000 there will be more Muslims in the world than those who call themselves Christians.

Because it posed as an enemy of the Church of the past and because it is still a menace today, we should understand what the religion is. The November issue of the P. R. Theological Journal quotes Bassam M. Madany as saying, “Never has the world known a more anti-Christian faith, and never has the church of Jesus Christ encountered a greater challenge to everything which is dear to its heart!” We must be knowledgeable about this our enemy that we may be prepared and armed to defend ourselves, stand against its lies in an age of religious tolerance, and warn others also to beware.

We cannot begin a study of the Islamic religion without at least a brief introduction to the man with whom it all began, the “Prophet” Muhammad. This false prophet lived approximately 600 years after Christ, and was born in Mecca near the western coast of Arabia. To dispel a fairly common misconception, we must understand that Muslims do not view Muhammad as a savior and do not worship him. They do, however, view him as a man who lived a superior and exemplar life, and one who had a special relation to God. This special relation led to a series of visits by the angel Gabriel who recited his message to Muhammad. Muhammad, in turn, wrote down the words of these recitations in a book which became known as the Koran, or Qur’an, and which is a source of ultimate authority for all Muslims.

Soon after these visits began, Muhammad started to proclaim his message and revelation in Mecca. He was not received there, however, and so fled the city and migrated to Madina (Arabic for the Illuminated City.) This migration took place in 622 A. D. This date marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar. Within two years, Muhammad became the leader of Madina and soon after also succeeded in asserting his authority over Mecca.

Before we continue with the spread of Islam from these initial cities, it must be mentioned that this early community founded by Muhammad in Madina and Mecca plays an important role in Islamic religion even today. Muhammad’s life and the community which he organized have been studied in-depth by Islamic scholars. Together, these are viewed as an important source of authority and guidance to be used alongside the authority of the Koran. The concept of an Islamic community is an integral part of the religion and is largely why so often in the news we hear about Muslims in connection with politics and often violent political protests. In fact, religion and community are so closely connected that the religion and the culture share the same name of “Islam.”

Returning now to the spread of Islam from this early community at Medina and Mecca, it is interesting to note that Islam, like Christianity, is one of the few “missionary” religions in world history. However, whereas the Apostle Paul was able to witness conversions through the simple preaching of the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of the elect, Muhammad resorted to the force of arms. He began the practice of raiding and conquering territories in the name of the new religion and justified his militant attitude and practices by declaring it a “holy war,” or “jihad.” (The reader might recognize the term “jihad” as it has been used frequently in the past years by the News media when reporting on the Middle East.) Within a decade after Muhammad’s death, this tactic had resulted in the Muslim possession of Persia, Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Arabia. By 720 A. D. they controlled an expanse of territory from India across North Africa to Gibraltar.

Having explored the role Muhammad played in the founding, the practice, and the spread of Islam, we turn now to the basic teachings set forth in the Koran which he wrote. Some of these teachings include the belief in the Koran as the final revelation of God, a high regard for showing mercy to all, and a particular emphasis on submission to God’s will in all areas of life. That the concept of submission is so important is realized when one understands that the very word “Islam” means “submission” in Arabic, and the word “Muslim” means “one who has submitted.”

The supreme way in which one can demonstrate his submission to God is by performing the five best works, or the five pillars of Islam. These five pillars are actually often viewed as four pillars set on one. This sole pillar being the most important of all good works that a Muslim can perform. Therefore, the most fundamental good work is to bear witness to the oneness of God and the truth of the final revelation. This is done by reciting: “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his prophet.”

The second pillar is the requirement of all Muslims to pray facing Mecca five times a day. These prayers are often memorized formal addresses to God and involve a series of standing, kneeling, and bowing. The third pillar involves giving alms to the poor. As with all of the pillars, there are qualifications to this requirement. For example, if one is poor himself then he is exempted from having to give alms. The fourth pillar is the discipline of fasting. All Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk for one month each year. The fifth and final pillar is the requirement of pilgrimage. Again, there is one month every year in which all Muslims are expected to do their religious duty. During this month, if it is at all possible, a Muslim should make a pilgrimage to some holy site, preferably to Mecca and Medina.

In summary then these are the most basic deeds that all Muslims are expected to perform. The last four are done only if no other obligations are pressing. However, the first pillar, that of reciting: “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his prophet” is absolutely mandatory and must be recited faithfully throughout a Muslim’s life.

The most important point about all of these requirements is that Muslims believe that God judges a person based on how they have performed and have balanced out the performance of these obligations. In other words, one earns one’s salvation based on how well they have lived in submission to God’s will as revealed in the Koran. It follows, then, that Muslims feel no need for a Savior outside of themselves. Each individual is responsible for his or her own salvation. In order to escape hell and gain heaven one must simply perform enough good works done at the right time and in the right way and subsequently earn the favor of God.

This is possible because in Muslim doctrine there is no concept of the depravity of man. In other words, a person can sin (by not submitting to the will of God) but has no innate, pervasive sinfulness that needs to be atoned for. Muslims not only deny the divinity of Christ, His role as Savior, and His crucifixion, they even deny their need for Him.

In this light, it is interesting to note that some medieval Christian theologians regarded Islam as a Christian heresy rather than as a new and distinct religion. May we now and in our generations know the Scriptures well enough that we never make such a mistake. As the Islamic religion continues to spread we will very likely find ourselves coming into contact with Muslims more and more frequently. It is our duty then to be both well-versed in the Scriptures and knowledgeable about the Islamic belief system. In this way we will be able to expose the lie of Islam and bring the truth to those who walk in darkness.

Throughout medieval and modern history, Islam has stood as a powerful and hate-filled enemy of the Church of Christ and the Truth she proclaims. Even today, however, as the Church seems to grow weaker and Islam seems to gain strength, we do not fear but look the more eagerly for the Second Coming when we shall have the victory even through the very Christ that Muslims deny.❖

It is not my aim in this essay to bore the reader with needless historical details nor to overwhelm with an abundance of names and dates. Instead, it is my goal to show Constantine the Great as an individual personality in a particular, specific culture and to discuss the significance of his “conversion” as it relates to early Christianity.

First, however, we must understand the story of Constantine at the Milvian Bridge. Briefly then, we enter the scene as Constantine and Maxentius, two powerful sons of former emperors of the weakening Roman Empire prepare to engage in a decisive battle just to the west of Rome near the Milvian Bridge. Constantine had soundly defeated Maxentius at two previous encounters and now entered this battle confidently expecting a third victory.

Constantine’s optimistic hope of victory sprang from the fact that he had been sent a vision from God just the day before. The vision had appeared high in the sky before him and consisted of a cross of light and the words “conquer by this.” Many of the men in Constantine’s army also witnessed this amazing apparition. During the night, Christ Himself appeared to Constantine in a dream and instructed him to make a replica of the cross-shaped figure he had seen in the vision and to use it as protection against his enemies. The very next morning Constantine instructed artisans within his camp to exercise their skill and now his troops marched forward proudly carrying replicas of the visionary figure and bearing shields freshly decorated with the mysterious cross-like emblem.

During the course of the ensuing battle Constantine began to gain the upper hand and Maxentius and his army began to retreat. As the retreating troops fled across the Milvian Bridge the entire structure suddenly gave way beneath them and the shocked soldiers found themselves struggling for their lives in the powerful river. That river was the last enemy Maxentius ever fought, he died while trying to swim to safety. The victory was Constantine’s.

As the river carried away the body of Maxentius, so the river of History carried in an era of tolerance to Christianity such that the world had not known before. Constantine was convinced that his victory over Maxentius was due to the power of God and reflected an attitude of Divine favor toward himself. Constantine, therefore, considered himself a Christian for the rest of his life, becoming the first Roman Emperor who was a professed Christian. From his seat of almost absolute power, Constantine was able to favor Christianity politically in a way no Christian had done before. Constantine’s rule marked a turning point in History in which Christianity gradually increased in popularity and acceptance.

Having said all this, it would be easy to over-simplify the situation and assume that the Church now entered into a trouble-free period of idealistic peace and to view Constantine as a Christian Hero and Warrior of the Church. However, both of these assumptions could be disputed.

First of all, Constantine was not a model of ideal Christian behavior. The list of victims that were murdered by him is a long one. One of the names on the list was Sopater who was a good friend and advisor of Constantine but was killed by the emperor because it was believed he had practiced magic and changed the direction of the wind. Far worse than the murder of Sopater is the glaring fact that Constantine executed his own eldest son, Crispus. In the same year that he executed his son, he also killed his wife, Fausta. Constantine was not a hero in his roles as friend, father or husband.

Further investigating the image of Constantine as hero, we turn to his attitude of tolerance. It is a well- known fact that in the year 313 A.D. Constantine passed the Edict of Milan proclaiming a tolerant attitude toward all religions and a restoration of confiscated property to Christians. Less known is that there had been several other edicts of toleration to Christians passed by previous rulers. In fact, such an edict had been passed only two years earlier by a ruler who had previously persecuted Christians. Constantine was not unique in tolerating Christianity politically.

Finally, we need to examine Constantine’s “vision” on the day before the Battle of Milvian Bridge. For one thing, this was not the only vision Constantine claimed to have had in his lifetime. His life both before and after the Milvian incident contained a series of visions. Also, we must remember that this was a historical time period very familiar with visions. They were a common experience for both leaders and commoners alike and it was even expected that great leaders would have visions on a somewhat regular basis. Also keep in mind that the full story of the Milvian vision complete with written message in the sky and nigh-time dream did not come out until considerably later in Constantine’s life. In addition, none of the men who were reputed to have shared in the sighting of the vision left any written record of their experience. At the least, Constantine’s vision experience seems dubious.

Despite these considerations, Constantine’s favorable attitude toward Christianity did bear fruit in many positive ways. The previously mentioned Edict of Milan allowed Christians to openly practice their religion without interference from their pagan neighbors. Constantine also appointed many Christians to positions of political power (although he never relinquished his own position of absolute power over both Church and State). He decreed that Church lands were not subject to tax and he supplied labor and materials for church building. He even donated free gifts of food and money to the clergy and needy Christians. In fact, Constantine was so generous that the subsequent ruler cut his allowances to the clergy by two-thirds.

Constantine’s political and financial backing of the Christian religion caused many opportunists to seek church membership. This led to problems both then and in the future. Philip Schaff writes in his History of the Christian Church, “From the time of Constantine church discipline declines; the whole Roman world having become nominally Christian, and the host of hypocritical professors multiplying beyond all control” (Vol. Ill, p. 5).

Constantine’s rule did much to benefit the Christian Church. However, the good he did was marred both by the poor example he gave through his own personal life and by the infiltration of the church by those who were merely seeking advantage and opportunity.

Because he was the first Christian ruler of the empire, the legends about Constantine are many. It should be our objective not to perpetuate the legends and make him a hero but instead to realize that the spread of Christianity throughout Europe was inevitable and Constantine was only a man used by God to achieve this end.

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water; he turneth it whithersoever He will” (Proverbs 21:1). The hearts of kings and the mighty river of History are both as easily and completely directed by our omnipotent Lord. He alone is King!

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David is a member or First Protestant Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan.

The challenging but rewarding task of the college student is to take what is taught in one’s classes and test the validity of the material by comparing it to biblical truth. By making this statement, I do not mean to exclude those who are not college students. All of God’s children, whatever their position, are called to place the teachings and philosophies of the world under the light of Scripture in order to clearly see the flaws and imperfections of these teachings. College students, are however, with more frequency than any other group within the church, exposed to unbiblical ideas. As a student myself and a history major in particular, I have been introduced not only to the facts of history but also to the secular view of the field of history in general. This has forced me to define and refine my own understanding of history by heightening my awareness of the revelation of history found in the Bible. Briefly then, I would like to first comment on the world’s limited and distorted view of history. One of the clearest and most precise books on the subject of history as a field of study that I have come across is written by Edward Hallet Carr, a Professor of History at Cambridge University and is entitled What Is History? In it Carr denies any belief in divine providence “or any other of the abstractions which have sometimes been supposed to guide the course of events.” By attempting to remove God from the picture, Carr leaves an opening for an alternate view of history which he immediately fills with a quotation from Karl Marx:

History does nothing, it possesses no immense wealth, fights no battles. It is rather man, real living man, who does everything, who possesses and fights.

Carr is not satisfied, however, with merely quoting Marx. Later in the book, he offers his own suggestion of the purpose of studying history. He writes “To enable man to understand the society of the present is the dual function of history.”

In a certain respect this is true. We are to seek to understand the past in order to more wisely proceed through the present and gain direction for the future. This is in part the purpose of the Old Testament. We read in I Corinthians 10:6 that we are to learn from the examples of the Israelites. In verse 11 of this chapter, we read that these things “are written for our admonition” that we may be instructed from history and through this instruction seek to avoid falling into the same temptations as the Old Testament Church.

Job also, in his anguish, was instructed by his friend Bildad to “enquire, I pray thee, of the former age” (Job 8:8). Bildad here is attempting to comfort Job with the knowledge that God helps those that seek Him and he encourages Job to look at God’s faithfulness toward their fathers for evidence of this fact.

Not only do we learn from biblical history, but we can also learn valuable lessons from historical happenings that are not included in the Bible. Negatively, we learn of the heresies and vain philosophies that become prevalent in the past and even found their way into the Church. By a study of history, we can be forewarned of these things and more knowledgeably guard against them in the present and future. Positively, we can see throughout history God’s providence as He has raised up men who loved and defended the Scriptures and the truth that they contain. We think of men such as Martin Luther, John Calvin and more recently, Herman Hoeksema. We agree then with secular historians that part of the usefulness of history is that from an understanding of it we can more adequately face the challenges of the present and future.

We disagree, however, with the ridiculous assumption of Marx that there is no controlling power behind the course of history and that it is “man who does everything.” We also disagree with Carr’s limited idea that the function of history is to merely increase man’s understanding of and mastery over society. Instead we believe that not man but God is sovereignly in control of history and that He directs all things so that His Name is glorified and His church is gathered in time. Therefore, we believe that history is not an endless repeating cycle to learn from, but a divinely controlled continuous development. This field of study is not man’s story but His story.

We denounce the “wisdom” of secular historians as they in their pride seek to elevate man to the throne of God. Instead we listen to the voice of the Lord as He speaks to us from Isaiah 44:25, “I am the Lord that maketh all things…that turneth wise man backward and maketh their knowledge foolish….” Truly, the knowledge of knowledgeable men becomes foolishness when they use their knowledge in the service of man rather than God.

A knowledge of God’s Word causes us to shudder at the plight of wicked man as he remains in his foolishness. For they are blind to one of the greatest promises of the Bible concerning world history—that it will end! They are willingly ignorant that earthly history will come to its awesome conclusion when our Lord returns with fire and judgment (II Peter 3).

Yet it may be asked, why does God reveal His glory and sovereignty through time? Why does He work through history to gather His Church? Why did He not do this immediately or at least in a much shorter time span? I can only answer that God, in His goodness, chose to work in this way. He chose to wait several thousand years before He sent His Son the first time to redeem His children and He has chosen to wait at least another couple thousand years before He returns for the final harvest.

Peter reassures us, however, that this apparent delay from our perspective is not slackness on the part of our Lord, but an evidence of His longsuffering as He through time brings all His children to repentance (II Peter 3:9). We are satisfied with this and joyfully exclaim “How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33).

There are many things about this world that we do not understand. There are the mysteries of history as well as riddles in every field of study. It is a good thing to educate ourselves and to learn about this great creation of our God but we must always balance our study of the world’s wisdom with the study of God’s Word wherein lies the highest wisdom. As dutiful children of the Most High God we seek to gain our ultimate wisdom not from the world but from the Word.

 

David is a member of First Protestant Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan.

I think I can safely say, that as young people we think of the future more than other age groups in the church. We may think of college, of getting a job, some of us may even wonder what high school will be like. We sometimes look a little farther down the road of life and wonder who we will marry, how many children we might have and maybe even where we will live.

But how often do we consider the future of our churches, and the inevitable final battle against the world that we have ahead of us? This should be of extreme concern to us as we now draw nearer and nearer to Christ’s return. We are the church, we are God’s people, we are the lights in the midst of dark­ness. As God tells through the writing of the apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 5:5 & 6, “Ye are all children of the light and children of the day; we are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.”

But are these really the last days? Definitely. We are told in II Thessalonians that, “That day shall not come except there come a falling away first.” And in Matthew 24, we learn that “iniquity shall abound.” Iniquity is indeed abundant and sin is progressing rapidly. If sin and worldliness are the enemies that we must make war with on the battlefield of life, then it seems that technology and so-called “progress” are their horse and chariot. In other words, the more advanced that technology becomes, the more sin there is also. And today’s technology is certainly advanced to life 1000 or even 100 years ago.  1000 years ago, the world was in what is now known as the “middle ages”. The western world then was built largely of wood, the fastest you could travel was by horseback and only the rich could afford a horse. The majority of the pop­ulation lived in simple huts which they shared with their animals. Abortion was considered homicide by all. Illness and disease was always a constant threat. Famine, rotten flour, and vitamin deficiencies afflicted huge segments of society with various malformations and physical weaknesses. A man was happy to survive 30 years and 50 was a ripe old age.

Looking back through history, from the time of the flood till the time of the Middle Ages, we realize that life was not always such a grim struggle. Take the period of the Roman Empire for example. This was a time of comparative ease for most people and just as today, art and inventions began to abound and increase. Progress was being made. But the time had not yet come in God’s plan for the progress that we see today so God in His control stopped it with the destruction of this mighty empire by the barbarians, and progress even seemed to move backward for a time. History is filled with countless such exercises of God’s control over man’s progress. Another example would be the Tower of Babel; and perhaps the most obvious would be the destruction of all the wicked at the time of the Flood.

Just as life in the past was not always as grim as it was in the Middle Ages, neither has it ever come close to what we experience now in the twentieth cen­tury. Quoting from Time magazine in an article enti­tled, The Astonishing Twentieth Century; “No one could have guessed then that, in the century just dawning, new ideas would burst upon the world with a force and frequency that would turn this stately march of progress into a long-distance, free-for-all sprint. Thrust into this race, the children of the twen­tieth century would witness more change in their daily existence and environment than anyone else who had ever walked the planet.”

At the beginning of this century, in-house electric­ity was a luxury, cars were nothing more than curious machines, and recreation was a trip to a concert or a play. Now, not even a hundred years later, electricity has gone from being considered a luxury to a bare necessity; who, nowadays would buy a house if it did not have electricity? Now also, every family has at least one car and many have two, and the means available today for recreation are countless. It took less than 30 years after the Wright brothers flew their first flight until the first large airliner was launched; and approximately 66 years from that day at Kitty Hawk to the day that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Consider this fact for a moment; for more than 5,000 years, the idea of flying in a plane was no more than a fantasy, and then in one-person’s lifetime it went from being a mere fantasy to a possibility for the elite, and then to a very real possibility for the com­mon man.

Relief from the ever-present list of countless dis­eases through numerous techniques drastically changed human existence. During the span of a single lifetime, science learned to cure or prevent a stagger­ing list of plagues. This triumph of science was a major contributing factor to the pride of man in his apparent control over his environment.

After the end of World War II in 1945, technology also contributed to the birth of mass entertainment through film, TV, radio, records and many other inventions. This mass entertainment spawned an age of rebellion against authority (especially among the youth) like never before. In the past century, the entertainment world has probably used technology in the service of sin more than any other.

The progress of technology has given birth to many other firsts in the twentieth century, among them are: space travel, computers, satellites, refrigera­tion, microwaves, lasers, nuclear power, and atomic bombs to name only a few.

If this much change has taken place in just the past 100 years, imagine the possibilities for the next 100 or even just the next 50 years. The speed also of these changes has been phenomenal and all we see is an increase in this speed. Keeping this in mind, the projected achievements of the 21st century do not seem at all impossible. Some of these projected possi­bilities are: virtual reality, cloned spare body organs, genetic engineering, robots in everyday life, and com­puters with human-like personalities. All of these technologies have already been started to one degree or another but the progress that they could make is almost unimaginable. The future of virtual reality for example could enable you to don an elec­trode-filled body suit and goggles containing a com­puter screen with graphics so realistic that your mind will believe that you are actually witnessing a genuine object, situation or event. In other words, you could plug yourself into a virtual reality machine and take a walk through the jungle, experiencing all the sights, sounds, and smells of a real jungle. It might also be possible to go canoeing or play ping-pong with a celebrity of your choice. I don’t think it’s too hard to imagine the dangers of a machine like this.

On the subject of genetic science, biologist Leroy Hood of the California Institute of Technology predicts that in 15 or 20 years, doctors will be able to extract DNA from a blood sample of a newborn infant and insert it into a machine that will then convey to the doctors the genetic profile of the infant. By studying this genetic profile the doctors will be able to discern if the child is predisposed to certain diseases. This test could also be performed on unborn children thus detecting serious genetic disorders before birth, enabling parents to opt for abortion.

These are only a couple examples of technology that is entirely capable of happening in the not too distant future. These are also prime examples of how the devil uses progress for his own advancement of wickedness. These inventions in themselves are not wrong but we must beware, for they can be misused by us and will certainly be used by the world in sinful ways.

In the dictionary we read that the definition of progress is, “to advance toward completion or fuller development.” Looking back through History and now into the future we see that this is indeed the case with the progression of sin. The wickedness of this world is certainly nearing completion.

We do not know how long it will be yet until God halts this development of sin, but we can see that these are the last days and that we certainly do have a long and hard battle ahead of us. The war for the Church has been going on since the beginning of time, but I believe that this final battle which has already begun, will be the most heated struggle that the Church will ever fight. We can consider ourselves some of the first warriors to participate in this final battle and if we want the Protestant Reformed Churches to remain in this battle till the end then we must prepare ourselves. Undoubtedly, we will not face the same level of difficulty in the challenges that lie ahead of us as our children and grandchildren will. But how can they be strong in facing these difficulties if we do not teach them, and how can we teach them if we ourselves are not strong? And how can we be strong if we are not prepared to fight?

There are two ways in which we can prepare our­selves. Number one, we must watch. We must be aware of these new inventions that the world is dreaming up every day. We must know which ones we may use and which ones are dangerous to us and that we may have no part of. We must know all the “signs of the times” and recognize them for what they are. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:13, “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh.” And in Matthew 24:33 we are told “So likewise ye when ye shall see all these things know that it is near, even at the doors.”

The second way in which we are to prepare our­selves is the most important. We must make ourselves strong spiritually. We must study the Word of God and know the truths contained in it. This point is best explained in Ephesians 6:10 & 11, “Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” And in verse 13, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day.” If we are to fight, we must have armour. It is impossible and foolishness to go out to fight in a war carrying no weapons with us. In the spiritual war against sin we must gird ourselves with truth, and put on the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of our salvation and the sword of the spirit.

We now realize that we definitely have a hard bat­tle ahead of us and we know how God instructs us to fight in this battle but we must also know that we cannot lose; that we are already the victors. If we were to try to fight with our own strength alone, we would certainly fail, but all our strength comes from God. If God is on our side, we cannot lose. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than con­querors through Him that loved us.” Let us constantly pray that God gives us the strength to continue in the fight against the steady progression of sin and that He gives us the comfort of knowing that we will win and will someday live with Him in the new heavens and the new earth where there will be no sin. Let us also always remember the comforting words of Jesus in John 16:22, “And ye now therefore have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”

 

*Holland Young People’s Society forwarded this after-recess paper for publication. They found it enjoy­able and stimulating for discussion. Feel free to use.

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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 […]

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Jael: An Example of Christian Warfare

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Indiana Mini Convention Review 2021

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 […]

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Editorial, November 2021: Catechism Season

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 […]

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