One of the greatest concerns we have as young people is that we must have friends. To find ourselves without friends often makes us very troubled, and causes us to spend much time trying to determine what is wrong with us. And not only do we desire friends, but we want their approval. Sometimes this desire for peer approval is so great that we will for the sake of friendship do things that are against our convictions and that we know are wrong. We will, for example, smoke or drink to prove that we are “big” enough to be in the group. Or we will join in loose and immoral talk to prove that we too are wise in the ways of the world. And some of you girls when not dating regularly at age sixteen or seventeen will decide that you must use enticements to attract the boys, and in so doing cheapen yourself and regret for years your actions.
Often times when caught up in the activities such as those mentioned above we will use as an excuse the fact that it wasn’t really we who were to be blamed, but the group that we were in. We will answer to those in authority that they are not “to be on our case” but it is the fault of the group with which we associate. Some of us as parents, too, fall into this trap when we always refuse to see that it is our child who is guilty too because he is a part of the group. I say “trap” because using that excuse is merely a way of excusing ourselves, just as Adam did, when he said, “The woman Thou gavest me…”. Throughout history there have been those that insisted man is born perfect, and it is those evil companions round about him who lead him astray. We, just as Adam, do not want to look into our own hearts and admit that we are sinful and in need of cleansing. We find, however, that we must go to God for forgiveness of our sins.
Then when thinking back we realize that we may have chosen the wrong companions. The words of Solomon in Proverbs 13:20 come to our mind, where he tells us that “He who walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed”. We realize then that the companions we choose will always exercise some formative influence on us, even though at the time we aren’t always conscious of it. Their thoughts, their words, their conduct, and all their deeds will make a lasting impression on our minds, especially when we are young and impressionable. We find too that these companions with whom we sin are not always those outside the sphere of the church, and this troubles us. We fail to heed the words of the apostle Paul when he writes, “If we live in the Spirit, let us walk in the Spirit”. If we would remind each other of this often, we would not have such difficulty in our lives together. The Holy Scripture condemns keeping silence when we know there is wrong being done by those about us. Romans 1:32 states “…Who, knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them”.
Let us consider some guidelines we may use when choosing our friends. In the first place, we must never forget the importance of prayer in this respect. We should make a prayerful choice when seeking friends, and should let the Word of God lead us. When we find ourselves outside the select group of those who are popular, we should not always assume that we must change, but must heed the Word of God, even if this means we have no dates, or that we stay outside the “in” group.
Secondly, we should pay particular attention to the moral character of those whom we contemplate as our friends. We should understand that moral character is of far more consequence in this respect than physical or mental ability. Above all, we should choose as our friends those that fear the Lord. If this was done by all of us, we would together build one another up and be an influence to each other for good. Those who walk in ways of foolishness would soon realize that they are the ones who are without friends, and by God’s grace would see that they are the ones who are to change, because they need friends too, just as we do. We must sometimes realize too that there may be those with whom we must not associate because of their walk, even though they may nominally be in the covenant. It is not our place to judge them as standing outside the household of faith. God will do that. But, if they live as fools, we are not to have any part with them.
And finally, we should not be afraid to consult our parents and other older acquaintances regarding our choice of friends. We can be quite sure that they have gone through these same difficulties and are able to give us guidance in this important activity. Then we can sing together the words of David as given us in Psalter number 15:
“Who, O Lord with Thee abiding,
In Thy house shall be Thy guest?
Who, his feet to Zion turning,
In Thy holy hill shall rest?
He that ever walks uprightly,
Does the right without a fear,
When he speaks, he speaks not lightly,
But with truth and love sincere.
He who slanders not his brother,
Does no evil to a friend;
To reproaches of another
He refuses to attend.
Wicked men win not his favor,
But the good who fear the Lord;
From his vow he will not waver,
Tho’ it bring him sad reward.”
If you’ve ever taken the time to read bumper stickers on cars and trucks today, you will have been amazed, as I’ve been, at what seems to be a growing trend. It seems that no subject is too sacred or too private, and that anything can be said nowadays on a bumper sticker. Not only have the messages become more lawless and profane; but many of them are catchy “religious” slogans of the church world of today which uses bumpers for its bulletin boards. I saw one the other day which went something like this: “Christians; not perfect-just forgiven”. I’d like to share a few of my thoughts about this particular slogan with you.
In the first place, this statement does have much more to it than “Honk if you love Jesus!”, or some of the other blasphemous types like the one about the car being unmanned if the rapture occurs. These are not only ridiculous, but to me are sickening. In the second place, I was struck by the fact that the statement on the bumper sticker is basically true. After all, Christians are not as yet perfect on this earth, and we believe that they are surely forgiven. There were, however, many negative thoughts I had, and these prompted me to use this subject for this article.
First, the underlying message here seems to be, “Look! Christians aren’t perfect, and aren’t expected to be. We’re just forgiven”. Or, it seems to imply, “You don’t have to be perfect to be a Christian, because we really aren’t that different from you”. And further, “We can have a good time in this world too, but we are forgiven. So don’t look down on us. Join our ranks! ”
Secondly, I don’t like the last part of the slogan, “Just forgiven”. The beautiful gift of God’s free grace to His chosen people is preceded by the adverb “just”. The word seems to give to forgiveness a casual flavor, the idea that forgiveness is not that much wonder, but is perhaps incidental.
I’m afraid that many of us, and especially we younger people, unconsciously share some of the attitudes portrayed by that bumper sticker. For example, we are sometimes afraid to let it be known that we are different in our life style, that we live antithetically in the world. We desire that others consider us to be among those who can live comfortably with them, and that really we have few differences. I think that sometimes we are ready to say to those about us that there are many similarities between us. We all have our pet sins and our weaknesses, and the only difference is that we are forgiven and you are not, we say to them. We certainly say this clearly when we join with worldly acquaintances in evil activities, and live as those who are characterized by Paul as men who “sin that grace may abound”.
We often forget, I think, that we are to strive for perfection. The Holy Scriptures proclaim to us that we are to be holy, for our God is holy. We are, as Rev. Hoeksema writes in The Triple Knowledge “imperfect, perfect Christians”. We are in principle perfect. Through Jesus Christ, sin has been made dead within us. We are born again and old things are passed away. When we live close to the world, we live far from God and that principle of the new life is not displayed in us when we fail to strive daily against evil. Read Rev. Hoeksema’s treatment of Lord’s Day 44, and read the epistles of John and Peter. You will find that there can be no concord between Christ and Belial, and that we are to strive to live lives which are sanctified.
Let us resolve together to work daily to know God better by studying His Word and by being constant in prayer. Let us live close to Him, antithetically, and work with all that is in us to live the life of thanksgiving to God for His forgiving mercy.
Young People, take a walk with me, please-a walk through our church and high school parking lots, as they are filled with the various modes of transportation before Young People’s Society and church itself, or the daily schedule of classes, or a walk through your own private rooms where homework is done and hobbies are worked on, or a walk to the local pizza shop where all the guys and gals gather after the basketball game. Notice with me the tapes and records lying on the front seats, or on the bed, bookcase, desk, or in the playing machines of the eating places. Now notice the titles on the various tapes and records as they lie strewn around in careless abandon. There’s one of the “Beatles”, another by “Chicago”, one by John Denver, and yes, one by “Kiss”, too.
Now listen with me as many of these cars leave the parking lots to drive along to their individual destinations. With those Jensen speakers in the back, or those grotesque homemade boxes sticking up on the rear deck, the private auto becomes an exclusive concert hall; exclusive because all else can be tuned out except the sounds of the music from the tape deck. Even as the homework (catechism. Y.P.S. studying) is being done, “outside” noises can be shut out easily with the use of the head phones. Exclusive concerts “‘off limits” to all who are concerned with what sort of things young people listen to. Exclusive concerts because it is a way of not really letting others know exactly what is being heard.
And just what is being listened to? As we listen closely to the lyrics, we discover that those singers really tell it like it is! They know the true meaning of love. Love is never saying you’re sorry. Love is meeting a stranger in the night. Love is that head-long tumble of passionate embraces, and that desire for someone else’s wife or husband. A sweet angelic voice sings out for months on end in #1 spot, “How can it be wrong when it feels so right?”. And what about the establishment? Here too, they tell it like it is. Our parents hang on to us too rigidly. Our church life holds us back from experiencing life in all its fullness. Our materialistic world exploits us.
And what are we to do? The lyrics tell us to rebel. We are to seek out those who really understand our problems, even though it means throwing away all we have learned. Listen again to the effeminate painted guys sing of the joys of drugs. Forget the misery of today, they tell us, and turn to true joy.
What has happened to the truth that God has prepared a mate for each of us to marry in the Lord? What is put across about finding our friends of like background, experience and faith? The music of today has that thrown so far out, it’ll never come back, and it laughs in our faces with mocking words against these principles. What about the commands to obey for God’s sake, when every other song urges us on to rebellion? If ever any of these things were true, they aren’t any more. If ever Christ was the answer, He isn’t any more today.
What is happening to us-those who listen openly to, shake with, and sing along with this modern melee? What is happening when parents confront us with a stand against the powers of hell as they are seen and heard in the contemporary music? Look and listen to the majority of the tapes and records that are played. Really look and listen! I think one would be absolutely amazed if he took a moment to really hear the words. And it is so easy to just sing along with those words and ideas, building them up inside us as insidiously as a disease spreading unnoticed for a while. Young people, how can God be pleased with WLAV? How can He be pleased with the majority of those $8 tapes in our collections? How can we possibly imitate Christ in our joining in the spirit of the “rock groups” we follow? Only a fool would imagine that can be done.
After really looking, really listening, it is high time we stop! If the listening is just because others do, stop! If it’s because that sort of thing is actually craved and looked for, stop!! It is time to get rid of the addiction to today’s music. And in stopping, then look for a use for those tape decks in which God’s name is not blasphemed, and the breaking of His law is not advocated. Certainly the filling of that void is harder than the actual throwing away of those tapes. But it can be done! Perhaps in the next few months more can be written concerning this question.
The word “Incarnate” came up in my English class recently when we were studying Greek and Latin prefixes. One student thought it meant something like “incarcerate’’ – something to do with a putting away. Another thought it was something evil because she had heard of a book with that word in its title, and that book was not an acceptable one. We discovered that the meaning was “embodied in the flesh” or “existence in bodily form.” Some of my students were surprised when it was pointed out that the incarnation is the central idea of Christmas. Christ made flesh; Christ dwelling among us. Christ the Promised One now becoming Christ the man. God with us!
I thought later that the concept of the incarnation is probably the one key to the idea of what Christmas is all about. We hold as an article of our faith that Jesus, the Son of God was “conceived by the Holy Ghost” and was “born of the Virgin Mary.” The fact of the virgin birth already leaves out a great share of the people about us who ‘‘know” that to be impossible. But the idea of God becoming man is even more incomprehensible to an unbelieving world. But again, this beautiful fact is the core of God’s plan of salvation.
Think of your instruction in catechism concerning God the Creator, and concerning man who was a disobedient creature that rebelled and became dead in sin. The only satisfaction for that sin, we believe, could be made by one who is truly God and truly man. So God, in His Sovereign plan, sent His only Son Jesus into the flesh to atone for that sin and make us right with God. To us His children and to the church of all ages He promised in Isaiah 7:14b, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Later in Isaiah we find the beautiful declaration in chapter 9:6. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” This Christ is spoken of again in Titus 2:13 & 14 where we have the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies summarized by Paul when he writes; “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men…Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the Great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
Young people, rejoice with me today; for we are that people. We are that people who are the adopted sons and daughters of our Father in heaven. He sent His only begotten Son into the flesh to redeem or buy back His chosen ones. And our elder brother Jesus Christ gave himself willingly to the death on the cross to accomplish salvation for us. GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST! O, how we must sing that with the angels of Judea!
Let us be jealous of our heritage of knowledge concerning the incarnation of our Lord, guarding, preserving, and savoring the knowledge we have concerning God’s grace to us. And let us through all our lives worship and adore Him, Who is Immanuel, God with us!
When I lived near the Rocky Mountains I looked forward to my occasional fishing trips in the mountain rivers of Colorado. Although I never caught many fish, I enjoyed the quiet beauty around me, and often fished on a large rock in the middle of a mountain stream. I often thought of all the years that rock had been ravaged by the elements, and yet had stood steadfastly unmoved. I noticed that the rock, even though smooth and worn because of the constant pounding of the water, was the one stationary object amid all the motion of the river. This was especially impressed on me when various things like minnow buckets or packages of fish hooks would slip off the rock, and to my dismay quickly disappear. Along with the leaves and pine cones they rushed madly in the current until they either sunk or were flung up on the river bank.
I thought how this picture could be applied to the lives of men in the world today, and especially to the lives of young people. There are “currents” in the world today — the current of lawlessness, the currents of fashion, the current leading away from the churches of our fathers to the “churches” of the world today, the current away from the institution of marriage — to name just a few. We can find today those who stand solid in the midst of these currents, and regrettably, those who are swept away with them as the leaf.
Young men and women of God, which are you? Are you as the rock, grounded on your faith in Christ and His Word, or are you as the minnow bucket, being tossed about in the current on your way to ruin? When you are confronted with these currents, do you drift along with them? If you do, you find that soon you are rushing along wildly with all the other rubble in the river, and that you cannot easily escape those turbulent waters. Then in the middle of trouble, you long to be as that rock which stands unhurt by those waters.
Oh, how clearly God can speak to us in His creation! We see in our picture that there are but two possibilities — utter ruin, or safety. We all, whether young or old, are called upon to stand everyday as the rock. We find that this is so hard to do, because when we do not join those who are swept along with those currents we are ridiculed and scorned by those about us. And sometimes we are faced with this even when we are with fellow members of the church. How we are hurt if even they scorn us for not following along! We feel for a moment a little of the despair that Elijah felt when he said, “It is enough, now let me die”.
Remember though the answer of God to Elijah that there were yet seven thousand in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal. Perhaps we like Elijah must seek those people of God for our companions. Then too, we better leave those who desire the music of the world, or who live the life of the drunken fool, or those who leave their homes to live in “freedom” away from the restraints of parents and church. But leave them with the figure that we have illustrated here, and show them that unless they change, they are on their way to ruin. And seek those, who, even when faced with the currents of the day, can stand, grounded firm and deep as the rock. Then, walking in the fear of the Lord, and being constant in prayer, you will be blessed, and God’s name will be glorified.
“Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away.” How often we sing this song, young people! How often don’t we observe that “time flies.” And yet, how often do we really stop and think about that creature–time?
The word time, you know, refers to a period, or an interval, an interval between a beginning and an end. There are limits to time-day time, night time, lunch time, exam time. All of us on earth too have a time, a life-time. That time begins at conception and ends when God calls us home, when time for us is to be no more. God gives to you and to me, according to Solomon, a time to be born, and a time to die. He gives time to rejoice and a time to weep.
Both in the Old and New Testament we are instructed concerning time and our duty to “redeem” that time. According to Ecclesiastes 3:1, we are given “a time to every purpose under heaven.” In verse 13 we are instructed that we should eat and drink and enjoy the good of our labor, for it is the gift of God. There is, however, to be judgment concerning our use of that time, for we read in verse 17 of the same chapter, “I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked; for there is a time for every purpose and for every work.” A sobering thought, isn’t it? God, the righteous Judge, looks upon us, His creatures, and judges concerning our use of His time. Sometimes as young people we find it difficult to imagine that we who have “so much time” ahead of us have to nevertheless redeem every moment of that time. We forget, until we see the coffin of a young friend or of an aged loved one, that time does bear all its sons away.
Did you ever think that you were going to die? What did you think about time then? Your view of your life and God’s time was quite different then, wasn’t it? At that moment, all those visions of time, your past joys and regrets, but especially your thoughts concerning things (usually noble things) you had not done in God’s time, flashed by your consciousness in an instant. You were shaken, and yet in time you forgot.
We need to be reminded that redeeming the time means that we are to conduct ourselves wisely in our daily walk and conversation. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:15 and 16: “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” But how foolish we often are in the way we walk. Paul says we are to walk “circumspectly,” within boundaries, the boundaries of that liberty wherewith Christ has made us free! Only the fool goes outside that line. Perhaps Solomon sums up this idea the best when in his final words in Ecclesiastes he writes, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment…whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Striving to obey that command to walk as required by God is a lifelong struggle.
Each of us can perhaps think of many examples from our own experience, when we ignored God’s command concerning time. We rebel against God who gave us our life, and we show that we want time for ourselves, for our own pleasure. We find that the wrong use of even a few moments of time has terrible consequences in our lives. These consequences are with us for the rest of our lives, whether only in our own memories, or whether obvious to all. A “good time” often is in reality a “bad time.” A careless word results in the loss of respect which our Christian friends previously had for us. Those worldly friends we chose to associate with dragged us down with them to the exact opposite of what we knew to be a Godly walk. Sometimes, in our pride, saying we are weary of well doing, we desire to “let our hair down,” saying “just this once.” As a result, we may end up bearing dire consequences of a moment of wordly lust or passion for all our lives. We cannot call back time, not even one moment in our everyday lives.
Young people, pray with me for wisdom from above that our time may indeed be valued as God’s gift to us, and that we may be stewards of that time. Then we will not walk as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time God entrusts to us. Then, too, in our prayerful seeking for guidance regarding our proper use of that time from day-to-day; we will truly experience the joy of abiding in Christ, now in time, but soon in that timeless abiding with God and the saints in perfection.
By July and August, the 30-foot-wide Big Thompson River flows quietly in its rocky bed. Here and there along it, the trout fisherman has trouble finding enough water into which to cast his fly. On this weekend of the Colorado Centennial, hundreds of picnickers, sightseers, and campers find their ways up and down the narrow, picturesque, quiet canyon. Children play in the stream, jumping excitedly from rock to rock, occasionally slipping a foot into the icy cold water. By now, young people “tubing” this river must walk hundreds of yards to find enough water for their sport. Gone is the swiftness of the springtime Rocky Mountain stream; and this is not surprising for every summer, as the snow disappears from the mighty peaks, the river dwindles to almost nothing.
As late afternoon approaches, the usual frequent mountain showers begin to fall, lightly in some places, more heavily in others. Picnickers along that gentle stream seek temporary refuge in cars or shelter-houses to wait out the brief lull in their happy activities. Campers go inside, visitors begin the long winding ride down the canyon. Nothing seems unusual on this ordinary summer afternoon. People in Loveland wonder at the strong east wind blowing. And as evening draws near, the foothills are lost in the misty rain that falls to the west, though it never approaches the plains. To the north of Estes Park the higher mountains are getting drenched with 12-18 inches of rain. Three elk scouters pitch tent in that slipperiness rather than head for the truck and horse trailer that would take them through the canyon and home. Picnickers pick up their gear and head through the Narrows as darkness falls.
By Sunday morning, as daylight breaks over that once gentle canyon, a scene of mass confusion reigns. Gone is the trout stream and its stepping stones. Shelter-houses. cottages, homes, businesses, dams, power plants, campers, trailers, cars, and people which yesterday were there are no more. It slowly dawns in the minds of people that tremendous disaster has struck. Estes Park and Loveland are now disaster centers, stations for the helicopter pilots flying in disbelief over the devastated area, picking up close to 900 survivors the first day. Organized groups of deputies hike into the once beautiful area marking bodies and helping survivors out of the canyon on foot. The elk scouters determine unknowingly to truck out and down the road along the river. The picnickers pause to reflect that they had left their fun and games only a half hour before the dreadful rush of water came through. Beautiful US 34 in many places is gone, peeled back by the force of the water. Scores of unrecognizable hulks of twisted, mud-filled steel is all that remains of the automobiles which had been in that canyon. The nine foot diameter siphon high over the highway at the mouth of the Narrows lies crumpled up against a house. Area residents, in a state of shock, listen to radio reports of carnage beyond belief, of anguished survivors who watched their families disappear into the wild 20-30 foot wall of water, of desperate relatives waiting to know if loved ones would let them know of their safety. Discussions carry on of the “100 year flood,” the heavy rainfall that fell by chance in a certain area, Mother Nature’s strange quirks.
A few older people recognize the fact that it was only with God’s help that they could manage to climb the cliff behind their home to escape the water. One family exclaims over the fact that their family Bible remained in a clean spot on a table in the living room, while the rest of the house was literally destroyed. One young man acknowledges that he learned “something never to be forgotten” as he listened to the screams of a friend, pinned against a tree in midstream before being swept away to his death. God was there! “God’s hand swept down that canyon,” a minister exclaims. God spoke in that flood; this is a fact that was accepted by but a few in the weeks that followed. The three elk scouters, air-lifted out twenty-four hours later gave thanks to God for their rescue as did the picnickers who traveled out just ahead of that wall of death.
God speaks every day to all of us. How terrible when we fail to acknowledge this, when we fail to hear Him. It takes something of the magnitude of the Big Thompson flood to drive the fact home, and that to only a few. It makes us, the people of God, stop and pause before going on in our daily way.
God also speaks to us when He takes from us a loved one or when we see a young friend in a hospital room critically injured in an automobile accident. God speaks to us through experiences of others, and when He does, we sometimes shrug it off and think that such a thing could not happen to us. Or we try to say to each other that “the world had better take notice now, for God has sent judgment on the wicked.”
We try to separate ourselves from tragedy and heartbreak because we fear these things, and then only because they may affect us. But the fact is, God’s people, too, are killed in tornadoes and floods. Young friends of ours die violent deaths, often called by us “premature” deaths. We must see that God speaks to us in these things. We behold with the Psalmist “what desolation He hath made in the earth. Psalm 46:8.” We in Loveland saw literally “how the earth was removed,” and how the “waters roared and were troubled. Psalm 46:2, 3.” We were reminded of Psalm 144:7 where God’s Word speaks to us, “Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob…” How wondrous are the ways of Almighty God, and his ways past finding out. This must be our response. And further, we must heed the Word of God in Psalm 46:10 where we are told, “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen. I will be exalted in the earth.” Although the wicked fail to heed to His voice, and refuse to see God as the ever present God, we must know that God speaks to us each day, sometimes through what we call trouble.
But we have a refuge, “a very present help in trouble.” “Therefore,” the Psalmist continues in Psalm 46:2, “will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea…” Three times in Psalm 46 we are assured that “the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” In the middle of trouble, “natural” catastrophes, wars, and revolution — God is our refuge. We can be assured of this, and say with David that “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them. Psalm 34:7.” We look to God then, and say each day, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done,” concerning us and our loved ones too.
Graduation! What an exciting thought! Immediately we are aware that another important milestone in our growth has arrived. When I think back to my three graduations I remember mostly the mixed feelings of pride and accomplishment on the one hand, but also the feelings of regret that many of the activities and relationships I had grown to know and enjoy would be no more. You who graduate probably will experience some of these same feelings.
But there is much more to the significance of graduation than just these subjective thoughts. I hope that you graduates can see more in this than I did when I was your age. Oh yes, part of the significance is that the authorities in the school declare that you have successfully completed a prescribed course of study. This is reason for pride. Some of you had to work very hard to accomplish it. But of tremendous importance, too—and this is stressed especially in our own schools — is the fact that you as graduates have been instructed up to this point in the “Fear of the Lord”. From you, therefore, a measure of wisdom is expected. That Fear of the Lord in which you have been instructed is the foundation and the beginning of true Wisdom.
Read Proverbs 4 in this respect to find out the aim of all education. We are to “Get wisdom, get understanding…” and “…forget it not” (verse 5). We are instructed to love wisdom and not forsake it, in verse 6. In verse 7 Solomon says, “Wisdom is the principal thing: therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” We are to have a “love affair” with Wisdom — a lasting one. We are not to let Wisdom go or forsake her. With Wisdom as our constant companion we are to walk, and thereby receive on our head an “ornament of grace” and a “crown of glory” (verse 9). We are instructed to keep her, for she is our life (verse 13).
To walk in the Fear of the Lord is to follow a particular path. Whether we continue our education, or take up a different calling in this life, we are to follow that way only with Wisdom. We are not to seek other lovers and companions. Listen to the Holy Spirit in verses 14 and 15: “Enter not into the paths of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.” We have here the explicit warning that we are to walk in the right path, in the path lit up, according to Solomon, by a shining light that shines unto the perfect day. This is in direct contrast to groping in the dark ways without our companion, Wisdom. Solomon here is very sharp concerning this antithesis, as are many other places in Scripture regarding this same contrast. What a difficult calling! How can we ever heed it?
Beloved young people, thank God that Solomon answers this for us, too. He instructs us in verse 23 that we are to be diligent in this calling. Diligence isn’t something that we leave behind in the classroom or on the shelf somewhere. It is work, hard work. Read with me verses 23 – 27 and you will find the following. We are to speak the truth: we are to look straight ahead and not be turned aside by the “Sirens” of our present day. Perhaps we who are weak will have to put wax in our ears and be tied to the mast like Ulysses was, but we are not to turn aside to a way of destruction. We are to ponder our path, and we are to let our way be established, turning not to the right or to the left.
I have confidence, graduates, that you and I, too, can do this with God’s help. We know better; we have all been taught. But again, what a difficult task! We are, for example, to sell used cars or real estate and speak the truth always. If that is to be your vocation and you never thought that those jobs and truth went together, they had better now. Some of us, perhaps, will continue our education in a secular institution or one controlled by apostates. Protestant Reformed youth, turn not to the right or to the left, but walk in Wisdom and in the Fear of the Lord. Or perhaps, some of us may have the privilege of teaching children in the home or in the school. Let’s teach those children the right way to go. Let us pray that we may not be unfaithful to Wisdom, and by our errant and wicked way lead others to darkness. These are just a few of the implications we can take from this wonderful instruction in Proverbs 4.
In closing I say, “Congratulations, Graduates!” You have earned your diploma. But don’t forget that you have been given this strength from God, and from Him alone. Look to Him now and in the future for strength and guidance in your calling. Then, and only then, will you be blessed. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct thy paths.
At the time of the writing of this article we are in the middle of what is called the “Christmas Season”. Newscasters are heard proclaiming holiday truces in various trouble spots of the world, and bemoaning that this spirit of peace and joy cannot be with us all through the year. The Salvation Army bells are ringing, beckoning the 11 ½ month “Scrooges” to share now in the Christmas spirit. And recently I heard a minister of the Word bemoan the fact that now we have to return to our “drab existence” seeing that Christmas is past.
Christmas now is past. Do you have a drab existence now, young people? Have you lost the “spirit of Christmas”? As students, are you suffering through the new term with your only hope the coming of the spring vacation? Those of you with other occupations, have you lost your holiday cheerfulness? What happened to your willingness to help others and to speak to your aged acquaintances? Don’t you wish the kindness and consideration associated with Christmas time was yet with you? What about your existence? Is it aimless? Do you experience a lack of direction and an absence of purpose in your life now that Christmas is past?
For you, Protestant Reformed youth, and for me, the answer to all these questions better be different from the answer of many of those around us. How in the world can we who by faith see Christ as our Saviour go about aimlessly without hope or purpose in this world? Even more, how can we who confess Christ as our Lord go glumly about that calling which God has given us to do?
We are told in the Scripture what the calling of each of us is in this respect. We are to return, as did the shepherds, glorifying and praising God. Our existence then will not be dull and drab, but will be a happy, busy one. The Holy Spirit through Paul tells us in I Corinthians 6:20, “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s”. Through the glorious work of Christ we have in principle eternal life. This Christ Himself tells us in John 17:3: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent”. Each one of us must live in the constant knowledge that we have been delivered from the deepest depths of sin and misery, even though daily we flee to the Cross asking anew for forgiveness. Listen to Ephesians 5:8-10; “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of the light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth) proving what is acceptable unto the Lord”. And finally we are instructed in Romans 14:7,8: ‘For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord, Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s”.
How then will we glorify and praise God in our lives? As students, we will cheerfully and diligently do the work required, not only the first week but all through the year, giving all glory to God the Creator of all things. As Young People Society members, we will gather faithfully each week instructing and being instructed in our mutual study of God’s holy Word. As singers, we will glorify God through song all year long in the church and in the home. When we go, praising God as did the shepherds, our choral societies and radio choirs will not suffer from half-hearted or lagging memberships, for God will be praised. In our work, we will for Christ’s sake do diligently the tasks assigned to us. As Christian stewards, we will give liberally of our time and money all year long. Let us then “in all our ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct our paths”. Then we can say with the Psalmist, “Happy is that people whose God is the Lord”.
One of the popular musicals from some years back has an often-repeated line which goes as follows: If you have leisure, follow pleasure; Let not an hour of joy pass by. This was the advice given in the musical to the young man of the world. The language of today puts this philosophy more briefly and more provocatively in the form of the bumper sticker – “If it feels good, do it!” Studies have been made and many novels written on the so-called pleasure seekers of the day. The wartime uncertainties of the past and the present fear of nuclear extinction, along with the economic uncertainty of today, once again brings the age old saying, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” back to us today.
Even though the Holy Scriptures tell us, “from such turn away,” all of us, whether we will admit it or not, are caught up in this mad pursuit of pleasure and carnal joy. The delight of the roaring “396” and the screaming tires become the most important thing in the life of many of our young men. In fact, many a youth will give up all to buy those wide tires and racing cams. Covenant young people wear the “Love” T-shirts and bracelets along with the pleasure seekers of today. The Cedar Points and Elitches attract many of us – we find great joy and pleasure in whirling around upside down on a machine, or riding screaming on a roller coaster. Some of us get our joy from the fellowship around four or five six packs of beer, and the subsequent “joke” sessions which invariably follow. Then, of course, there are those who find “joy” with their date by holding hands at the X-rated movie or by attending the weekend rock concerts. And, probably the most tragic example is how young men and young women of the church seek pleasure with the wicked, worldly young people who are completely caught up in and committed to this pleasure craze.
Don’t misunderstand me, young people. Most of our parents have their televisions, stereo sound systems, and expensive sports equipment. We of the “older generation” are also caught up in the fun of the world. The question we must ask is how our joy and pleasure relates to the Biblical concept of joy – that of giving worthy praise to God in thankfulness for all His benefits to us. The earthly joy of which we have been speaking is that joy of which Job speaks in chapter 20:4-7: “Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon the earth, that the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment? Though his excellency mount up to the heavens…yet shall he perish like his own dung.”
Joy, according to Scripture, is not that carnal pleasure in which we violate every law of God, but on the contrary, it has its source in God Himself. Ecclesiastes 2:26 tells us that God gives to those whom he loves wisdom, knowledge, and joy. We also learn from Scripture that joy is an expression of thankfulness by the child of God with other children of God. See II Chronicles 15:25, 29:17, and Ezra 3 and 6 in this connection. Isaiah 52:9 states, “Break forth into joy…for the Lord hath comforted His people.” And in Isaiah 12:1-3 we find a similar passage: And in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise Thee; though Thou ast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortest me. Behold God is my salvation…Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. Sanctified joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit which will find its ultimate expression in perfection in the presence of God. Psalm 16:11 teaches this when the Psalmist confesses, “Thou wilt show me the path of life; in Thy presence is fullness of joy, at Thy right hand there are pleasures forever more.” Paul in I Thessalonians 2:19 expresses this same truth when he says, “For what is our joy, our crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?”
Is there perhaps a period in our lives – say from age 14-21 – when we have the right and must be allowed to seek our own brand of pleasure and joy, when we can for a time live a life of joy apart from God? Is there a time when we leave the sphere of the covenant home and church, and seek our “growth” away from God? Our experience has shown that the words of that song. “To live apart from God is death” is only too true in this respect! Youth is transient. We soon become adults and live the rest of our lives with the memories and sometimes horrible consequences of the sins of our youth. The words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 11:9 and 10 are graphically clear regarding this. Read what he tells us here: Rejoice, O young man in thy youth; And let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: But know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. Therefore, remove sorrow from thine heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity. You all know Ecclesiastes 12:1 which immediately follows the above words. Here we are told, “Remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth.” This is an urgent command of Jehovah God! Solomon then closes the book with these powerful words: Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
Covenant young people, there are many of God’s people, both young and old, who do not seek the “joy” of the world, who live and die happily in the knowledge that they belong to Jesus Christ. The joy in our hearts too, must be that joy which is expressed as praise and thanksgiving to God. Our lives must be a joyful, living sacrifice to God our Creator and Sustainer. Every moment in our work and our play we are to live through Him, and unto Him. Let our song not be the songs of earthly pleasure, but let us instead sing these beautiful words:
What shall I render to the Lord
For all His benefits to me?
How shall my soul by grace restored
Give worthy thanks, O Lord, to Thee.
Whithin His house, the house of prayer,
I dedicate myself to God.
Let all His saints His grace declare
And join to sound His praise abroad.
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