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As a boy I recall that from time to time my pastors, H. Hoeksema and C. Hanko, would preach on the last things. They would preach about the signs of Christ’s coming and about the Antichrist and the persecution during the great tribulation. And I was frightened by it all. Rev. Hoeksema used to say from the pulpit that he hoped he would still be living in those days but I fervently hoped I would not! I dare say you share some of those same fears. That’s why I’m glad for the opportunity to speak on this subject. Jesus knows our fears. That’s why he said: “See that ye be not troubled.” We have nothing to fear and every reason to rejoice.

The occasion for these words of Jesus is found in verses 1-3 of Matthew 24. Jesus and the disciples are near the temple when Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple. Then they went to the Mount of Olives. The disciples ask: “When shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming?” The rest of the passage is Jesus’ answer to their question. Jesus explains that the destruction of the temple is a picture of the end of the world. What we have then in this chapter are the signs of Christ’s coming and of the end of the world. We shall consider the beginning of those signs, those which occur in the world. They are wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famine, pestilence and abounding lawlessness. The Lord speaks of these in verses 6-8 and 12.

Let us consider first what these signs are. Jesus tells us they are wars and rumors of wars. It was a time of peace when Jesus spoke these words. It was a peace enforced by Rome’s military might, but peace nonetheless. Jesus said that’s going to change. The disciples were on the verge of hearing of wars and rumors of wars. In the very near future they would hear of these. How true these words of Jesus are. There have been thousands of wars since that time. In Europe there have been three hundred wars in the past three hundred years. The world of the twentieth century witnessed two terrible world wars in which millions were slaughtered. Six million Jews died in the second world war alone. Then there were the Korean and Vietnam wars. And we hear of wars and rumors of wars today. Ireland is wracked by conflict, Russia invaded Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq are at war. There is revolution in Poland. The Arab-Israeli world is a virtual time bomb which could explode at any moment and at the slightest provocation. The world is simply an armed camp. The world is armed to the teeth with all kinds of sophisticated weaponry, to say nothing of the utterly fearful nuclear weapon. The world has the capability of destroying itself with the push of a button in a matter of moments.

But there’s more. Wars will continue and increase. Nations shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. War has characterized the entire history of the world. That will continue and increase. Jesus said so. And our Lord told us these are a sign of his coming and of the end of the world.

But there are more signs in the world. There shall be famines. Thousands die from starvation. Children with bloated bellies go to sleep hungry every night. A recent newspaper reported that ten thousand people, most of them children, die of hunger per day. There shall be pestilences. Think of the destruction of crops by insects. There are diseases of every sort. Heart disease and cancer kill thousands every day. There are earthquakes in diverse places. How true! They cause untold damage to property and loss of life and injuries. Scientists predict many more and worry about the severity of them. Jesus spoke too of abounding iniquity. Iniquity is literally lawlessness. The word refers to contempt for the law, willful violation of the law. That abounds and increases. This too is perfectly obvious in today’s world. Prisons are filled to overflowing and they can’t build new ones fast enough. In Michigan the problem is so severe that the state wants to release prisoners early. Crime in spite of men’s best efforts increases. When we lived in South Holland the Chicago police called the Cabrini-Green housing project, “the war zone.”

Many streets in our cities are unsafe at any hour of the day or night. But there’s still more! How many thousands of babies are murdered in cold blood before they see the light of day!? Think of the pornography, prostitution, gambling, and homosexuality in our world. It’s enough to make the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah blush. Drug addiction and drunkenness are problems of huge proportions.

How are all these to be explained? Not as natural occurrences. They don’t just happen. They are not to be explained in terms of Political Science or the principles of Sociology. There is no natural explanation which accounts for them.

That’s what sinful man thinks. He thinks that man is in control. He measures the force of earthquakes with his seismograph. He forecasts volcanoes like Mt. St. Helens. He spins his theories of world economics to prevent famine and has all kinds of measures to prevent pestilence. With his diplomacy, man attempts to end the wars and tensions among the nations. None of this is the answer. At bottom it’s utterly futile. Wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes and lawlessness continue and abound.

But Jesus has the answer! “All these things must come to pass.” Literally Jesus says: it is necessary that these things become. That’s a divine necessity. No matter what man thinks or does these things must happen. Nothing will stop them or even cause them to slow down. It is necessary that these things become. God said it is necessary. This is divine necessity. God brings these things. God has determined that his kingdom will come in the way of all these things. That’s his eternal counsel in Christ Jesus.

What must be our attitude towards all these things? Jesus tells us, and he uses very strong language. “See!” He says. Take note of this! Know this! Our Lord means to emphasize this very, very strongly. One commentator put it nicely when he wrote: “Look out for wars but do not be scared out of your wits by them.” This is what Jesus is saying to us. “See, that ye be not troubled.” To be troubled is to be alarmed, to be paralyzed with fear and to cry out in terror. The Lord says: “See that ye be not terrified by these things.”

Make no mistake these things are terrifying! Think of the terrors of war. Who knows the terror of many millions of war victims and soldiers since these words were spoken? Who can measure the screams as troops and tanks and guns roar through village and countryside or as the bombers devastate cities and towns. Think of the screams of a mother who has just seen her child burned to a crisp or blown to bits! That’s war. Go to the hospital and hear the moans and cries of the sick. Witness the fears of the dying. The examples could be multiplied. There is no way one can calculate the terror caused by earthquake and storm. The suffering caused by all these things is simply beyond comprehension. In the face of all these things Jesus says: “See that ye be not troubled.”

Why not? The answer is all these things must come to pass but the end is not yet. These are signs of the end of the world. But there’s more that has to happen before the end comes. God has determined these things as signs of the final revelation of his glory in Jesus Christ. We must know that. We must be sober and watch and pray. When we see these things we must realize our God is at work bringing the coming of Christ and the end of the world.

All these are the beginning of sorrows. Literally Jesus says these are the beginning of birth pangs. The end is not yet but these signs tells us that the beginning of the end is at hand. Other signs must follow until finally Antichrist comes. And when the gospel shall have been preached to the ends of the world then shall the end come. But these signs: war, earthquake, famine and the rest are the beginning of birth pangs. Just as birth pangs tell us that the birth of the child is very near so these signs tell us that the end of the world and the birth of the new world are very near.

Therefore do not be terrified! Rejoice and be very glad! Christ is coming in great power and glory. We are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

Peter and Dorothy (Jansen) Decker, Jr. became the parents of Prof. Robert Decker on August 10, 1940. Prof. Decker was born in East Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was baptized by Rev. Herman Hoeksema in First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Prof. Decker attended Baldwin Christian School (1945-1951) and Adams Street Christian School (1952-1955). He then went to Grand Rapids Christian High School where he received his high school diploma in 1958. After he graduated from high school, Prof. Decker studied at Calvin College where he received his Bachelor’s Degree in 1962. After this, he attended the Protestant Reformed Seminary.

As he was growing up, Professor Decker enjoyed playing softball, tennis, and basketball. He also played the baritone and liked gardening. Now he enjoys boating, traveling, reading and yard work.

Although there were pressures to be accepted and liked by his peers and to do well in high school and college, these pressures were not a problem for Prof. Decker.

In leading Prof. Decker to consider preparing for the ministry, the Lord blessed him with a love for Him, His Word, and His church. During a Young People’s Convention, Rev. Marinus Schipper took Prof. Decker aside and told him that he ought to prepare himself for the ministry. When he graduated from high school and was considering the course of study to pursue in college, the Lord led him to ask himself the question, “How can I best serve the Lord in my work?” He was faced with the choice between becoming a Christian school teacher or a minister. After much prayer and thinking, the Lord led him to pursue the ministry of the Word. Rev. C. Hanko was an excellent example for Prof. Decker of a faithful minister of the Word. Prof. Decker’s family, and especially his wife, was very pleased and supportive when they learned of his desire to prepare for the ministry.

While he was a high school student, Prof. Decker met and began dating Marilyn K. Poelstra. They were married on August 18, 1961, while Prof. Decker was still a college student. Without his wife’s help, Prof. Decker feels that he could have never become a minister of the Word. The Lord has richly blessed them with one daughter and three sons who are all married to godly spouses and all are members of the Protestant Reformed Churches. Prof. and Mrs. Decker have been blessed with nine grandchildren. They have experienced the blessing of which Psalm 128 speaks so eloquently.

As a seminary student, Prof. Decker remembers Prof. Herman Hoeksema’s lectures on G. C. Berkouwer’s book, Divine Election and Prof. Hoeksema’s fine lectures in his Old Testament History classes. Prof. Decker also remembers the sheer agony of Practice Preaching.

Prof. Decker served as pastor of two congregations before he took up his labors in the Seminary. He was ordained in 1965 and his first charge was in Doon, Iowa. He labored in Doon until 1969 when he was called to labor in South Holland, Illinois. He served in South Holland until 1973 when he was appointed Professor of Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Theological School.

Prof. Decker enjoyed teaching children of the church in catechism. He says that he is impressed that most parents do a very good job of preparing their children for catechism. This is a strength of our churches and a reason for profound gratitude to God.

As a pastor, Prof. Decker has memories of the joy of preaching along with “vivid memories of God’s grace, given by means of His Word causing the sick, the dying, the bereaved, the anxious and despairing among His saints to triumph, sometimes in very tragic circumstances.”

At the time of the split of 1953, Prof. Decker was 13 years old. In June, membership of First Church went from over 500 families down to 196 families. He still remembers arriving at the chapel of Grand Rapids Christian High School that first Sunday morning after the split and Prof. George Ophoff was the first person to greet the families. They worshipped at Grand Rapids Christian High School for a few years until they were given back their church building on Michigan and Fuller. There were 34 students in Prof. Decker’s 8th grade class at Adams and only 15 students in his 9th grade class. Adams’ total enrollment dropped from around 350 students to 115 students.

Prof. Decker remembers other controversies that we as churches have faced. In First Church, several families left because of the controversy surrounding the last months of Rev. Herman Hoeksema’s life. Prof. Decker also remembers the controversy between the South Holland and Oaklawn, Illinois churches over school issues.

In his over 35 years of labors, Prof. Decker sees that “serving the Lord in the ministry of the Protestant Reformed Churches has been and continues to be a blessed experience.”

Prof. Decker has advice for young men considering the ministry to be their calling. This advice was given to him in a letter from Rev. Gerrit Vos. “Of all the things I counseled you, remember this, be humble. There is a humility that is feigned. That is abominable in God’s sight. Be humble from the heart and God’s people will bear you up in their arms.” Prof. Decker has found this to be true.

Regarding the lives of our young people, Prof. Decker is encouraged to see a goodly number of them remain in our churches, marrying in the Lord, and establishing good covenant homes.

The following is the text of a lecture given in the First Protestant Reformed Church, Holland, MI, November 6, 1998.

 Last month we ended with the following paragraph: “This then is the threefold calling of the Christian with regard to the civil government. We must be subject to the superior authorities, not resist, but obey them. We must pay our tribute or taxes to support and maintain the government. And, we must pray for those in authority over us.”

What is the reason for this calling? Why this threefold calling?

The first reason why we must obey, pay taxes to, and pray for the civil rulers is they are “ordained of God.” Note well, how strongly this is emphasized in Romans 13:

  1. “There is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God” (verse 1).
  2. If we resist the authority we are resisting “the ordinance of God” (verse 2)
  3. No less than three times does the passage refer to the superior authorities as “ministers of God” (verses 4- 6).

The meaning is plain. God has ordained, determined in His counsel or decree, that there should be the institution we call the civil government. God has also placed the authorities in those offices. Through whatever means, free elections, dictatorships, or what have you, God has put the rulers in authority over us. They are God’s ministers, literally, God’s servants. Whether willingly or in spite of themselves, they are God’s ministers/servants. “By me,” the Lord says, “kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth” (Proverbs 8:15-16). According to Isaiah 45:1-6, God raised up Cyrus to free the captives of Judah in Babylon.

Because they are ordained of God the authorities are accountable to God. They must bear the sword. “Bearing the sword” is a figurative expression for executing judgment. They must bear the sword fairly and justly. They must be a terror to evil works, not to the good. They must be revengers to execute wrath upon them that do evil. Again, whether they know this, whether they exercise their authority consciously as God’s servants, makes no difference. Someday they will render account to God for their ruling!

For this reason we must be subject to them (verse 5). “Wherefore there is necessity to be subject” This is divine necessity. We’ve no choice in the matter; we must be subject to the authorities.

“Not only on account of wrath,” must we be subject. The ungodly are subject on account of wrath, if they are subject at all. They fear the punishment of evil doing and so to avoid the consequences, they outwardly obey the authorities. We, God’s people, obey “for conscience’ sake.” “Conscience” means “to know with” According to his Spirit-filled, sanctified conscience, the Christian knows with God the truth of His Word concerning the superior authorities. He knows that the authorities are God’s ministers and that as such the rulers have authority from God to maintain good order in society. They have the right to execute God’s judgments on evil doers. Thus the Christian obeys, not because he fears the punishment of evil doing, but because for conscience sake he fears God. He obeys for God’s sake and because he loves the Lord.

This biblical truth is summed in our Reformed Confessions. The Heidelberg Catechism teaches that God governs all things, nothing happens by chance, all things come by God’s fatherly hand. We can trust Him since nothing so much as moves without His will (Lord’s Day 10). The Catechism explains that we must show all honor, love, fidelity to our parents and to all in authority over us. We must submit ourselves with due obedience to their instruction and correction… since it pleases God to govern us by their hand. The Belgic Confession likewise teaches that God, because of mankind’s depravity, has appointed magistrates so that the world should be governed by their hand, for the external restraint of evil, for good order in society. And because God did this, we must obey the authorities (Article 36).

The only exception to this is when the authorities demand that which is contrary to God’s will as revealed in Scripture and summed in His holy law. The Old Testament Scriptures give several examples of this. The Hebrew mid-wives, because they feared God, refused to murder the male babies of the Israelites as Pharaoh had commanded (Exodus 1:16-22). Daniel and his friends in Babylon are outstanding examples for us. They refused the king’s meat and wine because it involved idol worship and eating that which was unclean. They refused to bow before Nebuchadnezzar’s great image though it meant a burning, fiery furnace. And, Daniel prayed to the Lord as always in spite of the king’s decree and the lions. In the New Testament, according to Acts 4:19-20 and 5:29, the apostles, Peter and John, testified, “we ought to obey God rather than men” and they continued to preach even though forbidden to do so.

Note well! We may not revolt against the government. We may not try to overthrow the government. We obey always, except when we need to obey God rather than men, and, then we suffer the consequences. We might be imprisoned, perhaps tortured, perhaps put to death.

But what about times of scandal and persecution? That there’s scandal is obvious. Our president has admitted it. He ought to repent and resign. He is not worthy of the office. Failing this, he ought to be impeached and removed from office. But until this happens, he’s still the president of the United States, and we the citizens must be subject for God’s sake. We obey knowing that God will hold Mr. Clinton accountable for his sins. But we are subject.

Should we find ourselves, as many Christians in other lands do, persecuted for the faith, what then? Still we obey unless the government demands of us something contrary to God’s will. And again, we do so knowing that the persecuting rulers will one day give an account to the Lord for all their wickedness.

Do you believe this? Perhaps you object and say, this holds, but not in times of scandal and persecution. Do you know when the Apostles were inspired to write the New Testament? It was written in the latter half of the first century A. D. The Epistle to the Romans was written during Nero’s reign which was from A. D. 54- 68.

Two things characterized this period. The first was terrible immorality. Prostitution was legalized and rampant. Both female and male prostitutes abounded as did homosexuality and lesbianism. Nero himself kept a castrated slave as a lover. Adultery and divorce were as common as marriage. Interestingly enough, most women worked outside of the home and were involved in the professions: law, medicine, business, etc. The games were numerous and unbelievably cruel. Gladiators fought with other men or animals to a bloody death

And all of this was especially true of the authorities, the wealthy, the senators, and the military leaders, and the emperor himself. Murder, intrigue, sexual immorality, gluttony and drunkenness; all these were the order of the day among the leaders and authorities.

There was cruel persecution of the Christians. They were imprisoned, tortured, starved, and put to death. So cruel were the tortures and persecutions inflicted at Nero’s orders that even the ungodly enemies of the faith called for a halt to it.

In such times as these were the Scriptures inspired by the Holy Spirit. The New Testament with its account of our Savior’s atonement and resurrection, the apostolic era and the Epistles and the gathering of the church out of the nations, when the apostles wrote, Let every soul be subject to the higher powers, honor the king, obey magistrates, pay tribute, pray for those in authority over you, Nero was on the throne, the worst of them all.

May God give us grace to be subject to the superior authorities, to pay them tribute, and to pray for them; now and in the future with but one exception, viz., when obedience to the ruler involves disobedience to God. In that case we obey God rather than men. For the rest, we leave all in the hands of God Who judges righteously and before whom all, also the superior authorities, must render account.

The following is the text of a lecture given in the First Protestant Reformed Church, Holland, MI, November 6, 1998.

 The question before us tonight is occasioned by the scandalous behavior of our nation’s president. For the second time in a little over twenty years the House of Representatives is considering whether to impeach our president. There’s no disputing what the president did. He admitted finally that he repeatedly transgressed the 7th commandment of God’s Law and that he had lied to the nation.

It is my opinion that his behavior renders the president unfit to continue in the high office of the presidency of the United States. He ought to resign. If he does not resign, the president ought to be impeached by the House of Representatives and put out of office by the Senate.

But, the question is what must be our attitude toward Mr. Clinton? Must we still honor and obey him?

This is a real and serious question also in countries where saints are persecuted. Must the persecuted saints be subject toward their persecuting government?

In regard to the Christian’s calling toward the civil government, the Bible speaks clearly. In Romans 13:1- 7, Scripture requires that we obey the government. There can be no doubt about the fact that this passage speaks of the civil government. The passage speaks of the “higher powers.” “Powers” is really “authorities.” And, authority has to do with the right to rule or govern. “Higher” means to be superior in rank, to stand over others. That these superior authorities refer to the civil government is obvious from the reference to their bearing the sword (verse 4). And they are called “rulers” (verse 3). It is obvious as well from the fact that we need to pay them tribute, i.e. we must pay taxes to them (verses 6 and 7).

In this connection we note too that Scripture nowhere sanctions a particular form of government: an oligarchy, a monarchy, or a democracy. Hence, regardless of the form of government, every soul must be subject to the superior authorities.

The Christian, therefore, must not resist the authority! To resist is to range in battle against, or to line oneself up against the authority. It’s to oppose the authority. We may not do this. To do this would be just plain disobedience to the clearly expressed will of God.

Positively, the passage says, “Let every soul be subject to the superior authorities. To be subject means to arrange under, to be submissive to another. In plain language it means to obey the superior authorities. We must live our lives in harmony with the laws which the superior authorities promulgate and enforce. This is true for “every soul,” i.e., for every person, every citizen. No one is exempt. But, especially does the inspired apostle mean every Christian. He’s writing to the church in Rome. Of all citizens it is especially important that the Christians be obedient to the superior authorities.

Being subject, obeying the superior authorities means we do not do evil. If we do evil we have every reason to be afraid of the authorities, for they must avenge evil and they bear not the sword in vain. Rather we do good: out of faith, according to the law of God, and to God’s glory. That’s doing good. This is obeying the authorities.

This is God’s command. Here we have no options. We must be subject, submissive, obedient to the superior authorities. This is a divine imperative! God requires this of us.

That this is the case is emphasized in Scripture. Titus, the preacher in Crete, is instructed to remind God’s people to be “subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates” (Titus 3:1). In I Peter 2:13-17, God’s Word demands that we submit “to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king, as supreme or unto governors sent by the king to punish evildoers,” and we are to, “fear God and honor the king.”

This, first of all, is the Christian’s calling with respect to the civil government. We are to obey the superior authorities.

Second, Christians must pay their taxes. Holy Scripture is perfectly clear on this matter. Verses 6 and 7 of Romans 13 clearly state that we must pay tribute to the authorities. Tribute is tax. And, we must render to all their dues (what is owed them) tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, and honor to whom honor. Both tribute and custom are forms of taxes. Jesus taught the same. The Savior instructed Peter on the necessity of paying tribute or tax (Matthew 17:24-27). Jesus also told the wicked Pharisees, “Render, therefore, unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:15- 22).

Scripture tells us why we need to pay taxes. The authorities are God’s ministers/servants who “attend continually on this very thing.” They work full time at maintaining good order in society, at ruling. For this reason they deserve our support. We pay tribute or taxes to maintain the civil government which God has ordained.

Thirdly, our calling as Christians is to pray for those in authority over us. This is the teaching of I Timothy 2:1- 4. The inspired Apostle writes, “I exhort,” in other words, this is a command from God to Timothy. This is what Timothy must do. He must make supplications or entreaties, prayers (a more general term, all types of prayers), intercessions, i.e., he must ask God to help and guide those in authority. And, Timothy must do all this along with “giving of thanks.” Thanksgiving is part of all true prayer. This Timothy must do “for kings and for all in authority.” Still more, the passage says that Timothy must do this, “first of all.” This is a priority! So important is it that it’s first!

We in the Protestant Reformed Churches are not very good at this. We need to take this to heart and do it. In our congregational and other public prayers, in our family devotions and in our personal prayers, we should pray for those in authority over us.

Why do we need to do this? Because God demands that we do so. “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” And, we must do this for the sake of the church, “That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” Everything exists, also the civil government, for the sake of the church and her salvation.

This then is the threefold calling of the Christian with regard to the civil government. We must be subject to the superior authorities, not resist, but obey them. We must pay our tribute or taxes to support and maintain the government. And, we must pray for those in authority over us. (cont.) ❖

Thank you for the privilege of speaking to you.  It has been a number of years since I have spoken at a Young People’s Convention.   And I am grateful for the opportunity to address you tonight.

Christians, you and I too, know a SECRET: it’s the secret of being content not just when things are going well for us—then it is easy to be content.  But we can also be content when things are not going so well; in fact, when things are going badly: we know the secret of being content even in suffering!

Unbelievers don’t know that secret.  They are never content.  When they prosper, when things are going well, when they have wealth and health, they are covetous.  They always want more.  And they are never satisfied, never do they have enough; and at the same time they refuse to acknowledge God.  They boast in their own accomplishments.

When things go badly, the ungodly grumble and complain.

I once met a man in the hospital on my way to visit a sick member of my congregation.  He must have seen the Bible I was carrying for he asked: “Are you a minister?”

“Yes,” I answered, thinking I would have opportunity to talk to him about God and Jesus and His Word.

Do you know what he said to me?  He snarled: “Go to hell!”

Far from being content, that man was rebelling against God!

The Christian is content; he knows that secret.

Let me tell you a true story.  There was a wealthy businessman in Chicago; a Christian man who had four beautiful daughters.  He gave them a trip to Europe and they traveled by ship.  The ship ran into a terrible storm and sank.  All were drowned, including the man’s four daughters.  The same day that the man received this tragic and terrible news he learned that he had lost all his money through a bank failure.

That night he wrote these words:

“When peace like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

That man was able to triumph over the worst and most tragic of life’s circumstances.  Why? Because he knew the secret of being content!  Do you?

 

CONTENTMENT IN SUFFERING

I. Suffering, the Lot of Christians

II. Being Content in that Suffering

III.  How that Contentment is Attained

 

Suffering, the Lot of Christians:

There is the suffering of persecution.  Think of the church and the saints of the Old Testament.  Adam and Eve were attacked by Satan when he tempted them in the very beginning.  Their righteous son Abel was murdered by his own brother Cain.  What a grief that must have been to Adam and Eve.

A little later, Enoch, who walked with God and who prophesied of the coming judgment upon the wicked, was delivered by God from his persecutors when he was translated to heaven.

And there is Noah, a preacher of righteousness.  He and his family (8 people in all) were all that were left of the church.  God saved them from their persecutors with the waters of the flood!

The patriarchs suffered persecution.  Abraham was a stranger and a pilgrim in the land of promise.  Isaac had two sons, twins in fact—Jacob and Esau.  And Esau was reprobate.  Jacob finally died in Egypt, far from Canaan.

Think of the terrible persecution the Israelites suffered in their long history.  In Egypt, in the wilderness, and even in Canaan there was persecution.  Then they were carried away captive by Babylon where they wept when they remembered Jerusalem.  The faithful remnant, which returned to Canaan, had to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other.

And Hebrews 11:35-38 sums up the suffering and persecution of the Old Testament saints.  We read: “Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

Things are no different in the New Testament.  John the Baptist, in Herod’s prison, lost his head because he loved his Lord.  Jesus was hated, mocked, rejected, opposed, and finally nailed to the cross.

Jesus warned us repeatedly that we would be hated of all men and made to suffer as His followers.  But the Savior also encouraged us.  He told us not to fear for it is His Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom.  And He told us that we are to rejoice and be exceeding glad for so persecuted they the prophets who were before us.  Jesus promised that those who suffer with Him will also be glorified with Him!

The apostles suffered persecution.  They were mocked, whipped, put into prison, exiled on lonely islands.  And many of them suffered a martyr’s death.

That has been the case ever since.  Many saints have had to worship in secret in the catacombs, yet thousands died during the persecutions by Rome.  More thousands died for their faith at the hands of the Roman Catholics during the Reformation.  Guido deBres was hanged on the last day of May, 1567 because of what he had written in the Belgic Confession!  Our Dutch fathers (Van Raalte) came from the Netherlands and settled just 25 miles from here in what is now Holland, Michigan so they could worship freely in 1847.  That same year, Rev. Scholte led his followers to Pella, Iowa (city of Refuge) for the same reason.

There are many Christians suffering persecution today in China, Romania, Malaysia and elsewhere.

And the Bible promises there will be a Great Tribulation just before Jesus comes again!  How true are the words of Scripture in II Timothy 3:12, “All who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

In addition, there is the suffering which is the result of sin.  All kinds of sicknesses and diseases are prevalent: physical diseases—heart disease, cancer, and others with terrible pain; emotional/mental illness—depression, anxiety.  And all of us, sooner or later, will face the last enemy, death.  Death means the end of all our earthly relationships.  It means sorrow and loneliness.  All of this suffering and more is the experience of every child of God!

 

Being Content in that Suffering:

Our calling is to be content in this suffering.

Contentment is the opposite of the reaction or attitude of unbelief toward suffering.

The ungodly avoid the suffering of persecution.  One of the reasons they reject the faith is that they do not want to suffer for Jesus’ sake.  They are of the world, and, as Jesus told us, become the very ones who persecute the church and make God’s people to suffer.

But, the ungodly do experience the sufferings that result from sin—sickness, sorrow, depression, pain, anxiety, and the rest…ultimately death, eternal death.  And they manifest various attitudes in that suffering.  Some show stoic acceptance; whatever will be will be; just take the bitter with the sweet.  They are defiant in the face of God.  Others get depressed, bleak, black discouragement, anxious, uncontrolled grief, hysteria.  Still others openly rebel, like Job’s wife: “Curse God and die!”

The Christian is content in suffering.  And to be content is to be perfectly satisfied with one’s lot or circumstances.  It is to say: I have enough, no lack.  My needs are met.  It is to confess that God is good always.  It is to say: All is well with my soul.  To be content is not just to accept and bear whatever the Lord sends.  To be content is to be satisfied with our circumstances, even thankful for them, and even to rejoice in them.  In one word: it is to triumph over even the most tragic and worst circumstances in life!

This is true even in suffering.  It is easy to be content when there is no suffering, when things are going well with us.  It is easy to rejoice, to be thankful, to be content then.  But we are to be content also in suffering—when we are on a bed of pain, when we have cancer or some other disease; when we have to watch a loved one suffer and then die; when we are mocked for the faith and our way is made very difficult; when life is full of dashed hopes, unfulfilled dreams, disappointments, and crushing burdens.  Are we content in those ways?  Can we be?  Have we learned the secret?

 

How That Contentment is Attained:

How is this possible?  The answer is found in Philippians 4:11-13.  There Paul says, “I have learned…to be content!” To learn something is to increase one’s knowledge.  Paul says, I know how to abound and to be abased, to be humbled and brought low…I have learned to be content in whatsoever state I am!  So, we have to learn to be satisfied, to rejoice in suffering, to be thankful and content always.

How do we learn that?  God must teach us this!  That is what Paul says in Phil. 4:12: I am instructed both to be hungry and to be full.  That word “instructed” means that I have been taught the mystery or the secret.  God taught Paul and He teaches us the secret of being content!

And what is that secret?  It is to know that God loves us in Jesus Christ and has saved us from sin and death through Him.  It is to know that nothing comes by chance, nothing just happens.  Everything, all our life’s experiences are in God’s all-wise plan.   And thus they work for our good and salvation, even suffering!

That is the secret we and all Christians know!  And knowing that, we are content.  And that is only through the grace of God in Christ Jesus.

That is why Paul says in verse 13: “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” All things!  Not just some, many, or even most things—but all things I can do.  Through Christ.  Not through myself, not by my own strength.  I cannot do a thing by myself.  But only and always through Christ!  Through my Savior I can do all things!  He is the One Who strengthens me.  Literally, He pours power into me!  And through that mighty power I am content, satisfied.  I can rejoice even in suffering!  I have learned that secret!

And God teaches us that secret.  He gives us the grace to be content, pours that power into us.  He does this chiefly by the preaching of the word.  But He also uses godly instruction of our parents and Christian school teachers and the reading of His Word and praying.  Has God taught you the secret?

Are you content?

Thank you for the privilege of speaking to you. It has been a number of years since I have spoken at a Young Peoples’ Convention. And I am grateful for the opportunity to address you tonight.

Christians, you and I too, know a SECRET: it’s the secret of being content not just when things are going well for us — then it is easy to be content. But we can also be content when things are not going so well; in fact when things are going badly; we know the secret of being content even in suffering!

Unbelievers don’t know that secret. They are never content. When they prosper, when things are going well, when they have wealth and health they are covetous. They always want more. And they are never satisfied, never do they have enough; and at the same time they refuse to acknowledge God. They boast in their own accomplishments.

When things go badly, the ungodly grumble and complain.

I once met a man in the hospital on my way to visit a sick member of my congregation. He must have seen the Bible I was carrying for he asked: “Are you a minister?’’

“Yes,” I answered, thinking I would have opportunity to talk to him about God and Jesus and His Word.

Do you know what he said to me? He snarled: “Go to hell!”

Far from being content, that man was rebelling against God!

The Christian is content; he knows that secret.

Let me tell you a true story. There was a wealthy businessman in Chicago; a Christian man who had four beautiful daughters. He gave them a trip to Europe and they traveled by ship. The ship ran into a terrible storm and sank. All were drowned, including the man’s four daughters. The same day that the man received this tragic and terrible news he learned that he had lost all his money through a bank failure.

That night he wrote these words:

When peace like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

That man was able to triumph over the worst and most tragic of life’s circumstances! Why? Because he knew the secret of being content! Do you?

CONTENTMENT IN SUFFERING

I.  Suffering, the Lot of Christians

II. Being Content in that Suffering

III. How That Contentment is Attained

Suffering, the Lot of Christians

There is the suffering of persecution. Think of the church and the saints of the Old Testament. Adam and Eve were attacked by Satan when he tempted them in the very beginning. Their righteous son, Abel, was murdered by his own brother Cain. What a grief that must have been to Adam and Eve.

A little later, Enoch, who walked with God and who prophesied of the coming judgment upon the wicked, was delivered by God from his persecutors when he was translated to heaven.

And there is Noah, a preacher of righteousness. He and his family (8 people in all!) were all that were left of the church. God saved them from their persecutors with the waters of the flood!

The patriarchs suffered persecution. Isaac had two sons, twins in fact — Jacob and Esau. And Esau was a reprobate. Jacob finally died in Egypt, far from Canaan.

Think of the terrible persecutions the Israelites suffered in their long history. In Egypt, in the wilderness, and even in Canaan there was persecution. Then they were carried away captive by Babylon where they wept when they remembered Jerusalem. The faithful remnant, which returned to Canaan, had to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other.

And Hebrews 11:35-38 sums up the suffering and persecution of the Old Testament saints. We read: “Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yet, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

Things are no different in the New Testament. John the Baptist, in Herod’s prison, lost his head because he loved his Lord. Jesus was hated, mocked, rejected, opposed, and finally nailed to the cross.

Jesus warned us repeatedly that we would be hated of all men and made to suffer as His followers. But the Savior also encouraged us. He told us not to fear for it is His Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom. And He told us that we are to rejoice and be exceeding glad for so persecuted they the prophets who were before us. Jesus promised that those who suffer with Him will also be glorified with Him!

The apostles suffered persecution. They were mocked, whipped, put into prison, exiled on lonely islands. And many of them suffered a martyr’s death.

That has been the case ever since. Many saints had to worship in secret in the catacombs, yet thousands died during the persecutions by Rome. More thousands died for their faith at the hands of the Roman Catholics during the Reformation. Guido deBres was hanged on the last day of May, 1567 because of what he had written in the Belgic Confession! Our Dutch fathers (Van Raalte) came from the Netherlands and settled just 25 miles from here in what is now Holland, Michigan so they could worship freely in 1847. That same year, Rev. Scholte led his followers to Pella, Iowa (city of Refuge) for the same reason.

There are many Christians suffering persecution today in China, Romania, Malaysia and elsewhere.

And the Bible promises there will be a Great Tribulation just before Jesus comes again! How true are the words of Scripture in II Timothy 3:12, “All who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

In addition, there is the suffering which is the result of sin. All kinds of sicknesses and diseases are prevalent: physical diseases – heart disease, cancer, and others with terrible pain; emotional/mental illness – depression, anxiety. And all of us, sooner or later, will face the last enemy, death. Death means the end of all our earthly relationships. It means sorrow and loneliness. All of this suffering and more is the experience of every child of God!

Being Content in that Suffering

Our calling is to be content in this suffering.

Contentment is the opposite of the reaction or attitude of unbelief toward suffering.

The ungodly avoid the suffering of persecution. One of the reasons they reject the faith is that they do not want to suffer for Jesus’ sake. They are of the world and, as Jesus told us, the world loves his own. These, in fact, become the very ones who persecute the church and make God’s people to suffer.

But, the ungodly do experience the sufferings that result from sin — sickness, sorrow, depression, pain, anxiety, and the rest…. ultimately death, eternal death. And they manifest various attitudes in that suffering. Some show stoic acceptance: whatever will be will be; just take the bitter with the sweet. They are defiant in the face of God. Others get depressed, bleak, black discouragement, anxious, uncontrolled grief, hysteria. Still others openly rebel, like Job’s wife: “Curse God and die!”

The Christian is content in suffering. And to be content is to be perfectly satisfied with one’s lot or circumstances. It is to say: I have enough, no lack. My needs are met. It is to confess that God is good always. It is to say: All is well with my soul. To be content is not just to accept and bear whatever the Lord sends. To be content is to be satisfied with our circumstances, even thankful for them, and even to rejoice in them. In one word: it is to triumph over even the most tragic and worst circumstances in life!

This is true even in suffering. It is easy to be content when there is no suffering, when things are going well with us. It is easy to rejoice, to be thankful, to be content then. But we are to be content also in suffering — when we are on a bed of pain, when we have cancer, or some other disease; when we have to watch a loved one suffer and then die; when we are mocked for the faith and our way is made very difficult; when life is full of dashed hopes, unfulfilled dreams, disappointments, and crushing burdens. Are we content in those ways? Can we be? Have we learned the secret?

How That Contentment is Attained

How is this possible? The answer is found in Philippians 4:11-13. There Paul says, “I have learned… to be content!” To learn something is to increase one’s knowledge. Paul says, I know how to abound and to be abased, to be humbled and brought low… I have learned to be content in whatsoever state I am! So, we have to learn to be satisfied, to rejoice in suffering, to be thankful and content always.

How do we learn that? God must teach us this! That is what Paul says in Philippians 4:12: I am instructed both to be hungry and to be full. That word “instructed” means that I have been taught the mystery or the secret. God taught Paul and He teaches us the secret of being content!

And what is that secret? It is to know that God loves us in Jesus Christ and has saved us from sin and death through Him. It is to know that nothing comes by chance, nothing just happens. Everything, all of life’s experiences are in God’s all-wise plan. And thus they work for our good and salvation, even suffering!

That is the secret we and all Christians know! And knowing that, we are content! And that is only through the grace of God in Christ Jesus.

That is why Paul says in verse 13: “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” All things! Not just some, many, or even most things — but all things I can do. Through Christ! Not through myself, not by my own strength. I cannot do a thing by myself. But only and always through Christ! Through my Savior I can do all things! He is the One Who strengthens me. Literally, He pours power into me! And through that mighty power I am content, satisfied. I can rejoice even in suffering! I have learned that secret!

And God teaches us that secret. He gives us the grace to be content, pours that power into us. He does this chiefly by the preaching of the Word. But He also uses godly instruction of our parents and Christian school teachers and the reading of His Word and praying. Has God taught you the secret?

Are you content?

Editor’s Note:  The title on the cover ought to bring a lot of questions into your mind. What has the title “The Proper Use of the Present Life” to do with me? What do we mean by “proper use”? And, how does this relate to the rest of the title?

A few months ago, I encouraged the Beacon Lights Staff and the Young People’s Federation members to pro­vide our magazine with topics that our various writing departments could write about. The response to this encouragement was excellent. The next step was to appoint a committee of three to take on the task of organizing the topics for use in our magazine.  After an evening of discussion, the appointed committee came to the July meeting of the Beacon Lights Staff with two special issues for January and March, focusing on the life of the covenant child today.

Each rubric was assigned a partic­ular subject area to write on.

I have also included an article by Mr. Mitch Dick on Bible study which fits in with the emphasis of Part I.

 

 

Young people have a calling with respect to the mission task of the church. If fact, it may very well be that God has blessed some of our young men with gifts which He wants them to use for the ministry of the Word! Capable young men in the churches ought prayerfully and seriously face the question whether God is calling them to be ministers or missionaries of the Gospel. Aside from this, however, all young people have a calling to be involved in the mission work of the churches.

Christ calls and ordains mission­aries and sends them out to fields both at home and abroad. Christ does this through the office of believer. It is the church, believers as the Body of Christ, that preaches the Gospel in all the world. The church does this through the office of believer. This is the way Christ works. According to Acts 13 the Holy Spirit said to the church at Antioch, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” After fasting and praying the believers then laid hands on Barnabas and Saul and sent them away on the first missionary journey. In close connection with this is the fact that through the consistory the believers supervise the work and life of the missionaries. Apart from this rule of Christ the missionary cannot and may not function.

Believers, also young believers, have the calling to support the missionaries. Believers are called to provide liberally for the earthly needs of the missionary and mission. God calls all believers to do this. Apart from this there can be no mission work at all. Believers must also support the mis­sionaries in prayer. The Apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesians to pray for him

so that he might have boldness to open his mouth to make known the mystery of the Gospel. He made the same request of the Thessalonians that the word of God might have free course. To the believers at Colosse came that same request. It ought to be obvious that apart from the support, encour­agement, and prayers of the believers’ missionaries cannot labor. This calling does not merely come to the older members of the church. It is the calling of youthful believers as well.

All believers, also young believers, have the calling to be living witnesses of the gospel. The New Testament is simply full of this. I Peter 2:12 exhorts us to have our conversation (manner of living) honest among the Gentiles. The purpose is that they may see our good works and glorify God in the day of visitation. According to I Peter 3:15 we must be ready always to give an answer to every man who asks a reason of that hope that is in us. The purpose is that unbelievers who falsely accuse our good conversation in Christ may be ashamed. I Corinthians 10:31-33 teach­es whether we eat or drink or whatever we do we must do all to the glory of God. We must not give offense either to the Jew or the Gentile or the church. We must follow the Apostle’s example who sought not his own profit but the profit of many that they might be saved. And, to cite no more, Acts 8:4 tells of the Jerusalem Christians who were scattered abroad by the persecu­tion which followed Stephen’s martyr­dom. They went everywhere preaching the Word. Literally they were “evan­gelizing” the Word, announcing the good news of Christ.

This is the calling of believers. They must witness by means of spoken word. They are called to evangelize, to speak of the Wonder of God’s Grace in Jesus Christ. They must call people to faith and repentance. They must not keep still about God and His Christ and Word. Always they must be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks a reason of the hope that is in them. Believers are also called to witness by means of their actions and life. They must always live in every sphere of life in obedience to the will of God. Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, single members of the church, young and old, all must witness to God’s glory. This must be done in the home, at work, while on vacation. Always and everywhere be­lievers all are called to live their lives in such a way that Christ is seen in them. This witness will have its fruit. It will provoke the hatred and persecution of the ungodly. It will render them without excuse and they will be ashamed in the day of visitation. This witness will also be God’s means to bring His elect into the church where they will hear Christ through the preaching of the Word, believe in Him, call upon His Name and be saved. This truth is beautifully summed by the Heidelberg Catechism when it teaches that one of the reasons the Christian must do good works is that: “. . . by our godly conversation others may be gained to Christ.” (cf. Lord’s Day 32)

This calling of the church is rooted in her eternal election in Christ Jesus. God’s purpose in electing His church in Christ is that His praises may be revealed by the church. In I Peter 2:9 the Scriptures teach that believers are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people. The purpose is that they might show forth the praises of Him Who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light.  This means that God has set apart the church for Himself in the midst of the world. That the church is elect in Christ, therefore, implies a serious calling and that calling is to manifest God’s praises. The church does this by the preaching of the Word and the witness of believers. By that mighty power the elect are gathered out of the nations, the ungodly are condemned, and the Kingdom of God comes in Christ in all its glory.

This is the calling of all believers. Let youthful believers know this is their calling. Our prayer is that their youthful zeal and energy may be channeled into a living, powerful witness of the great things God has done for them in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

In addition, there are specific ways in which young people can be involved in the mission work of the churches. They can, for example, offer their time and gifts to the Evangelism or Church Extension Committee of the church of which they are members. Young People can assist in the mailing of tracts, pamphlets, and other printed mater­ials. They can distribute these mater­ials themselves among friends, co­workers, and/or fellow students. They can place suitable materials in doctors’ offices, hospitals, and other places. These are just some of the ways in which the youth of the church can be actively involved. They can volunteer similar services to the Domestic and Foreign Mission Committees of our churches.

Young People ought also to cor­respond with our missionaries. Wheth­er a missionary labors in North America or in a foreign country the work is difficult, lonely, sometimes even frustrating. It is encouraging to him and his family to receive evidence of the love, concern, and prayerful support of the youth of the church “back home.’’ Young people can also correspond with young converts with whom the missionaries are working. This would be encouraging to the young converts, foster the communion of saints among the youth, and be helpful in building up new and youthful converts in the faith. Such practice would also yield increased awareness on the part of the youth of the specific needs and concerns of the mission field. Thus too the youth would be enabled to pray for missions more knowledgeably.

These are just some of the ways in which young people can be actively involved in missions. No doubt the readers can think of many more! Talk about these things among yourselves. Discuss these matters in your Young People’s Society. Speak to your pastor and/or elders and your parents about this. Above all remember the word of Jesus which, though spoken to the twelve disciples, also applies to all of us: “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.’’ (Matthew 10:32, 33)

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unright­eousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:12-14

What are we doing with our bodies? A great deal of attention is paid to the human body in our day. There is much emphasis on physical fitness, proper exercise, and diet. There are many warnings against drug and alcohol abuse and smoking. This is all well and good. We certainly ought to take good care of our bodies. There is also a great deal of emphasis on human sexuality, a euphemism for lust. Publishers of magazines like Playboy and Penthouse make millions display­ing nude women. Prostitution, homo­sexuality, sex outside of the bond of marriage are all common and accepted. One half of the marriages in the United States ends in divorce. The blatant, overt lust and passion of our day make Sodom and Gomorrah appear as child’s play. This is the world in which we live and are called in newness of life. There are two things that need to be said about this. We are affected. We do not live in isolation. We are tempted by the lusts of the world. God is not mocked. God is coming in fiery judgment and holy wrath to destroy this sin-cursed world and make all things new. The question is urgent: what are we doing with our bodies? Are we using them as instruments of unrighteousness, obey­ing sin and lust? Or are we yielding ourselves and our bodies to God?

This passage begins with the word, “therefore.” This means that this text follows upon what Paul wrote before. We are in Christ, dead to sin and alive to God. For this reason we must not let sin reign in our bodies. This is precisely how our walking in newness of life becomes manifest. We do not let sin rule. We do not obey sin by allowing our lusts to run wild. We do not yield our members as instru­ments of unrighteousness. Positively, we yield ourselves to God and our members as instruments of righteous­ness unto God. We are able to do this because we are not under the law but under grace. By grace alone sin shall not have dominion over us.

What does it mean to yield ourselves to God? This means that we are alive from the dead. By nature we are dead in sin. This does not mean that we are merely sinners with a natural tendency to sin or merely have developed sinful habits or even that we do a great deal of sinning. It means this too but so much more. We are dead in sin. We are dead to God. A dead person cannot speak or act. All fellowship is lost. This is the way we are spiritually by nature. We are dead in sin so that all we can do is sin. It is impossible to please God. This is what the Bible teaches in Romans 8:7: “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” This means we cannot please God, we cannot come to Jesus, we cannot do one thing to save ourselves. All we can do is to increase our guilt and add to our condemnation. By nature we are worthy of eternal death and hell.

But we have been made alive. This is what God did for us in Christ. God chose us in Christ before the founda­tion of the world. God sent Christ into the world to suffer and die for us and be raised again from the dead. God poured out His Spirit into our’ hearts with all the blessings of salvation. Now we are alive from the dead. Christ has given us life out of the death of our sin and depravity. We have but a begin­ning of that life. Daily we must struggle with sin. But we are alive. Now then, the Scripture is saying to us, act that way. Live as those who are alive from the dead. This does not mean that we can sin all we wish because we’re saved by grace. As those alive from the dead we must yield ourselves to God.

What does this mean? To yield means to present or give ourselves over to God. The text says: keep on yielding yourselves to God. This is an ongoing activity. We must yield ourselves to God. God does not want some of our time, some of our abilities and gifts. God doesn’t want most of these. God wants our very selves. And again: God doesn’t want part of us, not even a large part of ourselves. God wants all of ourselves. All that we are and all that we have been given are of God and must be given over to God. Jesus put the same truth a little differently when He said: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) We must press our very selves, all that we are and have, into the service of God. All of the time. And this is either-or. Either we yield ourselves to God all of the time or we are yielding ourselves to the service, or better, the slavery of sin. Either-or. There is no place in between. Our calling is plain. Keep on yielding yourselves to God.

How must this come to expres­sion? Not by yielding our members as instruments of unrighteousness. By “members” the text means the parts of the body, organs, limbs of our body. “Instruments” is better translated “weapons”. “Unrighteousness” is very simply all of that which is not right with God, all evil and sin. That which is opposed to the will of God as revealed in His Holy Word is unrighteousness. Doing this we live and walk in sin. We are not to yield the members of our bodies as weapons of unrighteousness to sin. When we do that we are using our bodies in the service of sin and as weapons with which to fight against God. This is very serious! Very foolish! Fighting against God we cannot win. We will surely go down to destruction.

What are we doing with the members of our bodies? What do we do with our eyes? God gave us eyes to use in His service and for His glory. Are our eyes ever toward the Lord as the Psalmist of Psalm 141 confesses? Or are they blind to God, Christ, and His Word? Do we use them to satisfy our evil lusts? Do we use our eyes to look at a young woman or a young man to lust after her or him? That’s how the ungodly use their eyes. As Proverbs 16:30 teaches: they shut their eyes to God in order to devise froward things. What about our hands? Do we use them to work the thing which is good so as to be able to give to the needy? (Eph. 4:28) Or do we use our hands to steal, to work evil, as weapons to fight against God? How about our mouths? Do we use them to speak evil, to backbite, slander, to lie, to curse and swear, to spue filthy jokes. Or do we use those mouths to speak good, to edify one another, to speak God’s truth to His praise? These same questions may be asked concerning all the members of our body. Do we use them as instruments or tools to produce unrighteousness and sin, as weapons against God? That can only mean we are still dead in sin and not walking in newness of life.

This has devastating results. Then sin reigns in our mortal body. We are obeying our lusts and they run wild and we are consumed by them. Sin is our ruler. Sin rules and dominates us. We become slave to sin. To walk in sin is to be its slave. The devil likes to present the way of sin as good, as the way to be free from the restrictions of the Christian faith. The devil wants us to think that the way of lust is to be free and happy. That’s the lie! Don’t believe it! Walking in sin and lust is to be the slave of sin. Sin rules and sin is cruel. It’s a horrible slavery. Whatever the particular sin or lust, alcohol or sex or love of money, makes no difference. Sin becomes our master and it drives a person right into hell. That’s the judgment of God. The wages of sin is death.

Positively, we are called to yield our members as weapons of righteous­ness. To be righteous is to be right with God. It’s to be in harmony with God’s will and law. It’s to speak and do and think and will that which is right in God’s sight. Yield your members as weapons of righteousness. This means we yield our hands, eyes, ears, all the members of our bodies as weapons to fight sin. We hate sin. We say no to the devil, the world and our sinful flesh. In this way we give ourselves into God’s service and we are to His glory.

And in this way, only in this way we are truly free. We are free from the terrible power and lordship of sin, free from the power of death. We are free to love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength. We are free to love the neighbor as ourselves. And that, only that is blessed. That spells happiness for us, a joy which can never be taken from us.

How is this possible? Verse 14 has the answer. We are not under the law but under grace. That we are not under the law does not mean we can just ignore God’s law. It does not mean we can disobey the law and live as we please. Never! God’s law stands forever. It reveals His will for us and it demands that we love God and the neighbor. But we are not under the law in this sense: we are not under obligation to do the law in order to be saved. If that were the case we would be damned forever.

We are under grace. God’s grace! Salvation is never by works. Salvation is always by grace. By grace, God’s free, unmerited favor and blessing in Christ, God’s almighty power to save us from sin and death. By grace we are saved, through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. (Eph. 2:8) By grace we yield ourselves to God. That’s why we need to go to Church and come under the preaching of the Word. Preaching is the means of grace by which God bestows His saving grace upon us.

Because we are under grace, sin shall not have lordship over us. God’s grace is infinitely more powerful than sin and the devil. By grace God instructs, guides, comforts, and pre­serves us in His service. By grace we are free. By grace we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. Have you been touched by God’s wonderful grace in Christ? Then you are alive from the dead and your calling is to use your bodies as weapons of righteousness in God’s service. God says to you in His word: Give yourselves over to God.

As a boy I recall that from time to time my pastors: H. Hoeksema and C. Hanko would preach on the last things. They would preach about the signs of Christ’s coming and about the Antichrist and the persecution during the great tribulation. And I was frightened by it all. Rev. Hoeksema used to say from the pulpit that he hoped he would still be living in those days but I fervently hoped I would not! I dare say you share some of those same fears. That’s why I’m glad for the opportunity to speak on this subject. Jesus knows our fears. That’s why He said: “See that ye be not troubled.” We have nothing to fear and every reason to rejoice.

The occasion for these words of Jesus is found in verses 1-3 of Matthew 24. Jesus and the disciples are near the temple when Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple. Then they went to the Mount of Olives. The disciples ask: “When shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming?” The rest of the passage is Jesus’ answer to their question. Jesus explains that the destruction of the temple is a picture of the end of the world. What we have then in this chapter are the signs of Christ’s coming and of the end of the world. We shall consider the beginning of those signs, those which occur in the world. They are wars and rumor of war, earthquakes, famine, pestilence and abounding lawlessness. The Lord speaks of these in verses 6-8 and 12.

Let us consider first what these signs are. Jesus tells us they are wars and rumors of war. It was a time of peace when Jesus spoke these words. It was a peace enforced by Rome’s military might, but peace nonetheless. Jesus said that’s going to change. The disciples were on the verge of hearing of wars and rumors of wars. In the very near future they would hear of these. How true these words of Jesus are. There have been thousands of wars since that time. In Europe there have been three hundred wars in the past three hundred years. The world of the twentieth century witnessed two terrible world wars in which millions were slaughtered. Six million Jews died in the second world war alone. Then there were the Korean and Vietnam wars. And we hear of wars and rumors of war today. Ireland is wracked by conflict, Russia invaded Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq are at war. There is revolution in Poland. The Arab-Israeli world is a virtual time bomb which could explode at any moment and at the slightest provocation. The world is simply an armed camp. The world is armed to the teeth with all kinds of sophisticated weaponry, to say nothing of the utterly fearful nuclear weapon. The world has the capability of destroying itself with the push of a button in a matter of moments.

But there’s more. Wars will continue and increase. Nations shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. War has characterized the entire history of the world. That will continue and increase. Jesus said so. And our Lord told us these are a sign of His coming and of the end of the world.

But there are more signs in the world. There shall be famines. Thousands die from starvation. Children with bloated bellies go to sleep hungry every night. A recent newspaper reported that ten thousand people, most of them children die of hunger per day. There shall be pestilences. Think of the destruction of crops by insects. There are diseases of every sort. Heart disease and cancer kill thousands every day. There are earthquakes in diverse places. How true! They cause untold damage to property and loss of life and injuries. Scientists predict many more and worry about the severity of them. Jesus spoke too of abounding iniquity. Iniquity is literally lawlessness. The word

refers to contempt for the law, wilfull violation of the law. That abounds and increases. This too is perfectly obvious in today’s world. Prisons are filled to overflowing and they can’t build new ones fast enough. In Michigan the problem is so severe that the state wants to release prisoners early. Crime in spite of men’s best efforts increases. When we lived in South Holland the Chicago police called the Cabrini-Green housing project, “the war zone.” Many streets in our cities are unsafe at any hour of the day or night. But there’s still more! How many thousands of babies are murdered in cold blood before they see the light of day!? Think of the pornography, prostitution, gambling, and homosexuality in our world. It’s enough to make the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah blush. Drug addiction and drunkenness are problems of huge proportions.

How are all these to be explained? Not as natural occurrences. They don’t just happen. They are not to be explained in terms of Political Science or the principles of Sociology. There is no natural explanation which accounts for them.

That’s what sinful man thinks. He thinks that man is in control. He measures the force of earthquakes with his seismograph. He forecasts volcanoes like Mt. St. Helens. He spins his theories of world economics to prevent famine and has all kinds of measures to prevent pestilence. With his diplomacy man attempts to end the wars and tensions among the nations. None of this is the answer. At bottom it’s utterly futile. Wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes and lawlessness continue and abound.

But Jesus has the answer! “All these things mast come to pass.” Literally Jesus says: it is necessary that these things become. That’s a divine necessity. No matter what man thinks or does these things must happen. Nothing will stop them or even cause them to slow down. It is necessary that these things become. God said it is necessary. This is divine necessity. God brings these things. God has determined that His kingdom will come in the way of all these things. That’s His eternal counsel in Christ Jesus.

What must be our attitude towards all these things? Jesus tells us, and He uses very strong language. “See! ” He says. Take note of this! Know this! Our Lord means to emphasize this very, very strongly. One commentator put it nicely when he wrote: “Look out for wars but do not be scared out of your wits by them. ” This is what Jesus is saying to us. “See, that ye be not troubled.” To be troubled is to be alarmed, to be paralyzed with fear and to cry out in terror. The Lord says: “See that ye be not terrified by these things.”

Make no mistake these things are terrifying! Think of the terrors of war. Who knows the terror of many millions of war victims and soldiers since these words were spoken? Who can measure the screams as troops and tanks and guns roar through village and countryside or as the bombers devastate cities and towns. Think of the screams of a mother who has just seen her child burned to a crisp or blown to bits! That’s war. Go to the hospital and hear the moans and cries of the sick. Witness the fears of the dying. The examples could be multiplied. There is no way one can calculate the terror caused by earthquake and storm. The suffering caused by all these things is simply beyond comprehension. In the face of all these things Jesus says: “See that ye be not troubled.”

Why not? The answer is all these things must come to pass but the end is not yet. These are signs of the end of the world. But there’s more that has to happen before the end comes. God has determined these things as signs of the final revelation of His glory in Jesus Christ. We must know that. We must be sober and watch and pray. When we see these things we must realize our God is at work bringing the coming of Christ and the end of the world.

All these are the beginning of sorrows. Literally Jesus says these are the beginning of birth pangs. The end is not yet but these signs tells us that the beginning of the end is at hand. Other signs must follow until finally Antichrist comes. And when the gospel shall have been preached to the ends of the world then shall the end come. But these signs: war, earthquake, famine and the rest are the beginning of birth pangs. Just as birth pangs tell us that the birth of the child is very near so these signs tell us that the end of the world and the birth of the new world are very near.

Therefore, do not be terrified! Rejoice and be very glad! Christ is coming in great power and glory. We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.

Point I

A. The First Point of Common Grace, as adopted by the C.R. Synod of 1924:

“Relative to the first point which concerns the favorable attitude of God towards humanity in general and not only towards the elect, Synod declares it to be established according to Scripture and the confession, that apart from the saving of grace of God shown only to those that are elect unto eternal life, there is also a certain favor or grace of God which He shows to His creatures in general. This is evident from the Scripture passages quoted and from the Canons of Dordt, II 5 and III IV 8,9, which deal with the general offer of the Gospel, while it appears from the citations made from Reformed writers of the most flourishing period of Reformed Theology that our reformed writers from the past favored this view.”

  1. The teaching contained in this first point:

 a. There are two kinds of grace: Saving grace shown only to the elect and a “certain favor or grace of God” shown to His creatures in general.

 b. Assuming the Gospel to be an offer to all the first point finds evidence of this common grace in the general offer of the Gospel.

  2. Scripture passages quoted in support of common grace:

 a. Psalm 145:9.

1) Does the word “all” in this text mean all men?

2) Are God’s tender mercies shown also to the ungodly reprobate? (Study entire Psalm, but especially verse 20.)

b. Matthew 5:44,45: (See also Luke 6:36.)

1) Those who teach common grace say this text says that God shows favor to the ungodly by sending them rain and sunshine.

2) Question: Does God show wrath then to His people when He sends floods, tornadoes etc.?

3) What from a positive point of view does this text teach?

 a) Does loving our enemies mean having fellowship with them? Study: Col. 3:14, I John 2:14ff., James 4:4.

  b) How do we reveal the love of God to our enemies?

4) Consider also this question: Is the grace of God in things? Or are things a means to an end? What end?

5) Study: Romans 8:28-30; Psalm 84:11; Psalm 73; 5:4,5ff.; 34; Prov. 3:33;Romans 1:17ff.; Lord’s Days IX, X.

B. As is evident from the last part of this first point Common Grace also teaches that the Gospel is a general offer to all.

1. Common Grace teaches that in the preaching of the Gospel God is gracious to all the hearers.

2. Scripture passages used in support of this error:

a. Romans 2:4, This text is interpreted to mean that God intended in His goodness to lead man to repentance but man despised the riches of God.

   1) Notice the text nowhere speaks of God’s intention, but of what His goodness accomplishes. It leads men to repentance.

     2) This is true of elect man.

b. Ezekiel 33:11 is said to teach that God has no pleasure in the death of all wicked men, but desires that they turn from their evil ways and live.

c. Other passages often cited in this connection are: II Peter 3:9; Matt. 11:28; Rev. 3:20; Rev. 22:17.

 3. The Truth is that the Gospel is grace to the elect only.

 a. In brief the truth may be summed as follows:

1) God from eternity sovereignly loved and ordained to eternal life a people in Christ.

2) For these and in their place Christ made atonement by His death on the cross as sealed in the victory of His resurrection.

3) By the Spirit of Christ the elect are regenerated, called efficaciously, upon them is bestowed the faith to believe in Christ.

 4) By grace the elect are preserved unto final salvation so that they can never fall away.

5) Therefore the preaching of the Gospel is never either in God’s intent or in actual fact grace to all the hearers. It is grace for the elect whom God calls in the preaching unto salvation.

b. Scripture proof: Romans 8:29,30; Rom. 9:13, 16, 18; Eph. 1:3,4; John 6:37,29,65; John 10:26-30; I Peter 1:4,5.

c. What do the following passages have to say concerning the Gospel and the reprobate?  II Cor. 2:15,16; Mark 4:11; Matt. 11:25,26; John 12:39,40; I Peter 2:7,8; Isaiah 6:9ff.

d. Is it important that we maintain the truth on this point?

Point II

A. Point II of Common Grace reads:

“Relative to the second point, which is concerned with the restraint of sin in the life of the individual man and in the community, the Synod declared that there is such a restraint of sin according to Scripture and the confession. This is evident from the citations from Scripture and from the Netherlands Confession, Art. 13 and 36, which teach that God by the general operations of His Spirit, without renewing the heart of man, restrains the unimpeded breaking out of sin, by which human life in society remains possible; while it is also evident from the citations from Reformed writers of the most flourishing period of Reformed theology, that from ancient times our Reformed fathers were of the same opinion.”

1. We certainly do not deny that the wicked are controlled, limited, and even restrained in their outward actions so that they cannot always realize to the full their evil intentions. God controls them and all things by His providence so that they accomplish nothing against His will.

2. The second point, however, teaches more than this in that it refers to: “the general operations of His Spirit, without renewing the heart of man…” This implies:

a. There remains some “good” in fallen man.

b. The Holy Spirit preserves this “good” thus restraining the process of sin making human life and society possible.

B. Confessional and Scriptural passages cited as proof:

1. From the Confession of Faith:

a. Article XIII. What does this article teach?

2. From Scripture:

 a. Genesis 6:3:

1) Does this teach restraint of sin? See verse 5.

2) The word “strive” does not mean restrain, but means “to oppose or fight against.”

3) In what way did the Spirit of God fight the ungodly? See Jude 14,15.

C. The Bible teaches the opposite of Point II. Cf. Ps. 81:11,12; Romans 1:18ff.

Point III

A. Point III of Common Grace reads:

“Relative in the third point which is concerned with the question of civil righteousness as performed by the unregenerate, Synod declares that according to Scripture and the Confessions the unregenerate, though incapable of doing any saving good, can do civil good. This is evident from the quotations from Scripture and from the Canons of Dordt, III, IV, 4, and from the Netherlands Confession, Art. 36, which teach that God without renewing the heart so influences man that he is able to perform civil good; while it also appears from the citations from Reformed writers of the most flourishing period of Reformed theology that our Reformed fathers from ancient times were of the same opinion.”

1. Does Canons III, IV, 4, teach this? What does the Article in fact say?

2. What is the teaching of Art. 36 of the Netherlands Confession?

B. Objections to this third point:

1. It blurs the Biblical distinction between good and evil, righteousness and unrighteousness.

a. There is “civil good” and there is “saving good.”

b. Hence the absolute standard of good, the Law of God, is really denied.

c. It means there is an area where there can be fellowship between the reighteous and the wicked.

 d. What are the practical implications of this?

2. Our principle objection is that the third point is Pelagian in that it denies the truth of total depravity.

C. Scriptural and Confessional references against this point:

1. Scripture: Psalm 14:1-3; Rom. 3:9-18; Matt. 7:16-20; I John 2:15-17; Eph. 2:1ff.

2. Lord’s Day III, q. 8; Lord’s Day XXXIII, q. 91; Lord’s Day XLIV, q. 114; Belgic Confession Article 14.

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