In our previous article, we looked at the purpose of marriage for the glory of God and his covenant. The second reason in the marriage form speaks of the calling to bringing forth covenant children. We do not minimize the struggles associated with child rearing and the responsibility of large families.
Again, we need to get at deeper questions. What are you and I here for? What is your calling on earth and your purpose before God? Are you here for pleasure? Are you on earth for your own entertainment? Hear the word of the preacher in Ecclesiastes 12:13, “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Deuteronomy 10:12 states: “And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” Genesis 1:28 states, “Be fruitful and multiply.” “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully” (1 Tim. 5:14).
God may be not pleased to give you a spouse or children, or God may give you only a limited number of children. You are to use your time and talents for the benefit of others. God calls us to service. We need people in the church who are willing to help others. Give generously to the benevolent fund so that the deacons will have sufficient money to care for those who have heavy burdens.
The principle of God’s word is clear: Seek first God’s kingdom by marrying, living godly in marriage, and by bringing forth a godly seed.
“Third, that each of them avoiding all uncleanness and evil lusts, may live with a good and quiet conscience.”
We live in a fallen world, and as a consequence, we sinners struggle with temptation. The struggle against sexual sins is real, and God provides a practical help for Christians as they struggle with lust, fornication, and adultery. That help is sexual activity with a spouse.
As young people and young adults, you need to realize that God has given the gift of marriage as a way to satisfy those good desires that he created you with. You must keep yourselves pure until God is pleased to give you a husband or a wife. For you to pursue sexual relations outside of marriage is for you to violate the 7th commandment. There will be no joy or pleasure or delight but only guilt and shame as you use your body for something God did not intend it for. God intended the intimacy of the sexual relationship to serve your spouse.
Within the sexual relations the same principles apply that we’ve been noting. This is not primarily about you and your pleasure. You seek the pleasure of your wife or your husband. 1 Corinthians 7 speaks of the fact that your body is not your own, but belongs to your spouse. You therefore must seek their pleasure and their enjoyment through it. We are more blessed to give than to receive. You need to learn what lovemaking means to your spouse. God made men and women very different. When it provides only gratification for you, it will be followed by guilt and it makes mockery of what God intended it to be. Within the realm of marriage the innocence of the conscience is preserved and the relationship is used to God’s glory.
A tragic study was recently done demonstrating the effect of pornography on sexual relations within marriage. If you are struggling with intimacy, is it because you are addicted to the use of porn? Wives, ask your husbands if they are finding their sexual fulfillment in places other than with you. If you are making use of pornography, you need to confess that sin to God and your spouse and seek help from both to overcome. If you need to make use of pornography to get into the mood to have sexual relations with your wife, you have a serious problem. You need help! God calls you to look to him to give grace to overcome this sexual sin. God calls you to be satisfied with your wife! Drink of your own cistern. This is the way of blessing, and this is the way of marital bliss.
God calls some to live as spiritual eunuchs. He does not give a spouse, or he takes that spouse through death or divorce and requires that you live in chastity. The same God who preserved Jesus so that he never had an expression of his sexual urges, is the God who will preserve and give you grace to be faithful. Jesus was no less a man, and neither are you.
God intends the intimacy of the sexual union for marriage alone. In all of life’s experiences and activities, you as a couple are sharing one another. Those who work with your husband are sharing in his skills and abilities. Those who have the opportunity to see your wife and benefit from her hospitality share the enjoyment of her good looks and cooking skills. But, behind the closed bedroom door, a couple experiences covenant oneness uniting them in an intimacy not shared with anyone else on earth.
The glory of God is the purpose of your marriage. Seek God’s glory by serving one another, bringing forth and raising the children he is pleased to give you, and living faithfully in the intimacy of marriage.
May God grant us faithfulness as we seek to be faithful in our marriages to his glory.

The purpose of marriage is the glory of God. This is crucial for a couple to understand in order that they enter into marriage with the right perspective. Marriage is not about me and not about you. Marriage is about God.
Reformed churches since the time of the Synod of Dordt in 1618–19 adopted a form to be read during the marriage ceremony. This form outlines three reasons why God has instituted the bond of marriage. “First, that each faithfully assist the other in all things that belong to this life and a better.”
It is very striking that the first reason has to do with God’s covenant. The foundation of marriage is covenantal—living in a relationship of friendship and assisting one another in that bond. Our triune God is a covenant making and keeping God. He has chosen marriage as a picture of the covenant that he has established with his people in Jesus Christ.
A marriage covenant of unity, understanding, and love is not rooted in romance but in worship of this great God. Romance is the result of a good marriage. The cause of that marriage is the fact that God has taken two sinners and joined them to Christ and given them fellowship in the cross. God takes selfish sinners and gives them new hearts and lives so that they live for him and for the neighbor. The only solid foundation of marriage is the love of God in Jesus Christ. Where that love is present in each individual, their bond is a living union that will bring glory to God.
As soon as you lose sight of God and begin focusing on yourself, you will experience problems. And, those problems are not the fault of your spouse. You need to admit that you are the biggest problem to your marriage. Your selfishness rises up and you become self-absorbed and self-focused. Sin is anti-social. Sin is anti-covenant. Sin causes me to seek the good of my spouse no longer, but to seek to use him or her as my vehicle to make me happy and to get what I want.
This life will never be about you. The whole of life is a celebration of Another.
God calls you wives to seek the spiritual well-being of your husband by helping him be the most godly man he can be for God’s glory. As husbands, we seek the good of our wives, that they might be the most godly women they can be. God’s glory is the focus of our marriage covenant.
“Second, that they bring up the children which the Lord shall give them, in the true knowledge and fear of God, to His glory, and their salvation.”
God created marriage for the purpose of establishing his covenant in the way of procreation. Genesis 1:28 is the word of God to Adam and Eve who had just been joined in marriage by God and to whom God had given the sexual relationship: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” This command of God was repeated several times in Genesis 9:1 and Genesis 35:11. In Matthew 19:1–9, Jesus admonishes the wicked Pharisees to go back to the beginning for their instruction regarding marriage and divorce. The same admonition applies to the purposes of God regarding marriage. Bringing forth children and raising them in the fear of God is the will of God for married couples. Those who have no desire for children ought not to marry. Those young men who are not prepared to support a family ought not marry. Young women who have their hearts set on a career ought not marry. They try to separate the sexual pleasures of marriage from the calling to bear children, separating what God has joined together. Such is sin against the God of marriage.
“Suffer the little children to come unto me,” said Christ in Mark 10! Do not keep them from Christ! Allow the little ones to come! The disciples held the children at a distance. We live in a day when Christians seek to keep children from Jesus in terms of keeping them from even being born! They don’t want children to bring to Jesus. They don’t live in the consciousness of God’s command to be fruitful nor in the marvelous blessing of covenant children. Don’t abort them! Don’t try to avoid having them! Don’t keep them from Jesus once they are born! Present them for baptism and raise them in the fear of God.
The people of the world enter into marriage for selfish reasons. God is not in their thoughts. Marriage and children are for their own pleasure.
It is difficult to have a large family. There is tremendous cross-bearing required of both the husband and the wife. There are many tears and sorrows and challenges. The mother must give up her life for the sake of her husband and children. The husband must give up his desires for the sake of his wife and children. God blesses them, not in the way of removing the struggles, but in the way of giving grace to bear those struggles, and knowing peace with God’s will. God gives that blessing in the way of prayer and submission to God’s will.
What is the solution for the believing wife? It is not in escaping this calling. It is not in seeking fulfillment outside of the home in other vocations. Contentment and happiness come only in the way of obedience and clinging to the grace and strength of Jesus Christ to bear the burden of motherhood. Though the Fall imposed painful aspects on the woman, God sanctifies childbearing in the church, so that through it, women are saved (1 Tim. 2:15). The sorrows and struggles of giving birth and raising sinful children are very real. For the redeemed woman, they are not a curse, but a chastisement God uses to sanctify and draw her closer to him. The answer is not the worldly wisdom of family planning. The answer is in Jesus Christ, our compassionate Savior whose grace is sufficient to bear all our burdens.
(To be continued)

It is tempting for believers to doubt God’s favor and love and to think it is not worth living as a Christian.
The main theme of Psalm 73 is the truth set forth in the first verse: “Truly God is good to Israel.” The final verses of the Psalm involve a renewed commitment to focus on God as the true treasure.
Draw near to God! Put your trust in the Lord God!
All the things of earth will fail. Friends, family, and spouses will forsake. Your health will deteriorate. Your strength will diminish. But, God will not fail!
There is nothing as desirable as God. The closer you are to God, the less you will be affected by the distractions and attractions of the world. It is good for you, me, and all saints to draw near to God.
Drawing near implies distance.
By nature, there is a chasm between God and us. The fall of man into sin cast all men away from God. Not only are sinners far from God, they don’t even desire to be anywhere close to God. The wicked try to get as far away from God as they can, like Cain who “went out from the presence of the Lord” (Gen. 4:16).
Rather than draw near to God, every morning after we wake up we are tempted to run away from God. We are selfish, and we pursue our own desires. The prodigal son went into a far country and tried to get as far away as he could from his parents. The prodigal of Luke 15 is a picture of the sinner running away from God. We fill our minds and our days with all kinds of activities, and we try not to think about God. We draw near, not to God, but to all kinds of wicked things.
We draw near to the world and the ways of sin. Think of Demas whom Paul mentions in 2 Timothy 4:10, “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.”
The wicked think it is good to be far apart from God! The Psalmist starts thinking that way as well. “So foolish and ignorant I was,” says Asaph (Ps. 73:22).
What you need to realize is that the further you are from God, the closer you are to hell!
If God is truly good to Israel, then it is good for his people to draw near to him, as verse 28 states. God calls us to repent and to draw near to him.
How do we draw near to God?
We draw near to God only because he drew us to himself first! By virtue of his wonder of election and his work of grace in my life I am drawn to him, and I draw near to him.
What a wonder of grace! He drew you and me before the mirror of his perfect law, and he gave us eyes to see ourselves in our sin. He caused us to stand in shock before that mirror as we saw the folly and misery of our image by nature. We see the chains of sin binding us. We see the bonds of hell wrapped around us. We see ourselves enslaved to sin. We thought we were free, but now we see that we are bound. God works a wonder in our hearts by which he draws us to himself with his cords of love. His cords break the chains of bondage to sin and set us free!
He draws us by the power of his everlasting word to the cross and shows us the wonderful love by which he loved his people from before the foundation of the world.
We draw near to God only through Jesus Christ. Jesus is our Mediator through whom we are able to come to God. “Having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:20).
We read here literally, the nearness of God is good! This is a marvelous confession. God’s everlasting love in Jesus Christ draws us to himself and gives us to know and believe that he is our God and we are his children. He gives you to know that you are free from the bondage to sin and death. You are free to draw near to God and his life and light and love. You experience peace and joy and the goodness of God’s presence. O how good it is!
But, we worry still and are inclined to depart from him. So ungrateful we are! With the Psalmist, our feet are sometimes almost gone, our steps slip (Ps. 73:2).
But, God is always near! He never fails even though we fail him. He never forsakes or lets us go.
There is only one place that is good for the child of God—to be near to God!
“They that are far from thee shall perish” (v. 27). As we are tempted to draw near to all kinds of things other than God, we constantly need to remind ourselves of the warnings of God’s word. I can not trust my own will and desires.
How must we draw near to God? By faith. Trust that his will is good for you. That involves self-denial. You belong to him, therefore what matters is not what you want, but what would he have you to do.
“I have put my trust in the Lord God” (v. 28). Renounce your own weak judgment of things. Trust that although the way seems dark and wrong and destructive, nevertheless, all will be well and God will work all things together for good to them that love him (Rom. 8:28).
We draw near to God through his Word. The Word of God is the revelation of God to us as his children. God reveals himself through creation, but that testimony is not able to be understood apart from the word. We draw near to God by reading and searching his word as his letter of love to us as his children. We not only view his glory in creation from afar, but we draw near by coming to his word.
As you read the scriptures, what will be the fruit? At least these four things: First, we will stand more and more in awe of the greatness and glory of God and his wonders. Second, we will see God’s grace manifest toward his people in treating them not how they deserve, but in love. Third, God’s faithfulness will be more and more seen as God does not forsake his promises. Fourth, you will more and more see your own sinfulness and unworthiness as you stand before the will of this great God who is the searcher of hearts.
The fruit will be seen in our worship and prayer. “That I may declare all thy works” (v. 28). We gather in worship to declare the great and glorious works of God. Prayer is a coming to him to glorify him and to make known our needs to him. The whole of our lives becomes a confession of the intimate covenant friendship with God, a communion of life concerning which David says: “I have set the Lord always before me.” We delight to go to his house to worship him Sunday after Sunday. We draw near to him in worship, confessing the greatness of his glory and bringing our sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving
“Thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee” (v. 27). There is nothing about the world and their lives that we ought to envy. Pray for them! Witness to them of the greatness and glory of God and the peace and joy that is in Jesus Christ.
Nearness to God does not mean the end of earthly troubles. Nearness to God is not first of all about my comfort and encouragement, but it is about God and his glory. The life to which God calls his people is a life of suffering with a view to final glory. God often does not change the circumstances of our life but gives us grace which changes our attitude and response to those troubles.
For the first time in this psalm, the Psalmist confesses God as his covenant God, Jehovah! Jehovah is the covenant-keeping God who works all things well and performs everything for his glory and his people’s good. He is our refuge and our strength! He bears our troubles and will preserve us in his great glory.
“It is good for me to draw nigh to God, that I may declare all thy works” (v. 28).
Your calling as you go to work and school is to declare all the works of God. Show forth his praise! You have been drawn to him and you have seen his greatness, his glory, his love, and his faithfulness. Your life is not about yourself, but it is about God and his glory. Be guided by him. Draw near to him and show forth his works!

Joseph appears in Scripture as a great example of God’s sanctifying power in his people. His godly response to sufferings, fleeing fornication, and forgiving his brothers, reveal God’s work of grace in his heart. For us as young people, it is easy to look at the life of Joseph and to try to distance ourselves from Joseph. We say—but that was Joseph! My situation is far different. This attitude reflects a low view of God and a minimizing of the work of God’s grace in your heart. We know that Joseph was a sinner, but the Bible intentionally does not reveal any blatant sins of Joseph. This is remarkable! God uses this history to show his power of grace in the lives of his people.

This history is not about Joseph. This history is about God and his marvelous work of sanctification. Before God created the world or time, God had ordained all the good works that he wanted performed on earth for his glory. He decided to create each of you so that you will do those good works. The works are God’s which he creates us to carry out by his Spirit. He ordains the works, he chooses us to do them, and he works in and through us to do his good pleasure. This is humbling and glorious. God rewards his works in us by his grace. This is why the history of Joseph is your history. This is the history of God’s dealings not only with Joseph, but with you personally.

Justification is God’s declaration that we are righteous in Christ. Sanctification is the work of God’s grace in making us holy. There is a difference between sin surviving in us and sin having the mastery over us. It is one thing for sin to live in you, it is another thing for you to live in sin. Sanctification means that sin is more and more put off and holiness is increasingly cultivated and put on.

The Holy Spirit alone is able to work sanctification. Never forget that you are totally dependent on the Holy Spirit and the grace of God. Self-confidence promotes pride and ungodliness. If Joseph would have walked in self-confidence the result would have been far different. God uses means in sanctification and makes it so that sanctification is a process in which we are active. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12, 13). Because God is at work, we work. All the working is God’s work in us. The more active we are in working, the more we realize that all the power is of God and his Spirit of grace.

You need to work to concentrate your thoughts, actions, heart, mind, and will on the prize of the high calling of living unto God in Jesus Christ. You need to work to direct all of your life to God and his glory. We want to be holy, as God is holy. God gives us means—chiefly the preaching of the pure gospel and the sacraments, but also prayer, the reading of the Bible and singing of the Psalms, trials, admonitions and discipline.

What does it mean to you to be holy? You all know that God has called you to be holy. What does that mean?

We are going to look at three aspects of Joseph’s life which are daily reflected in our lives in which it is necessary that we walk in holiness.

First, we need to maintain holiness when we face suffering and trials. At issue is not this question—“how much suffering do you have in your life?” No, the question is this—“how are you responding to that suffering?” You can’t control the actions of others, but you can control your own response. Joseph lost his mother at a very young age. Joseph was surrounded by godless brothers who mocked and picked on him. Some of you can relate to both of those struggles. Then, as he got older those brothers conspired against him to throw him into a pit and to sell him to the Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt. Then, he found himself in a far away land as a slave to people he didn’t know. Joseph was wrongly accused of sin and put in prison. He did not deserve to be in jail at all. Don’t ever say that your situation is too great for you to handle. Do you really have it worse than Joseph did? How did Joseph respond? It would have been easy for him to spend time in self-pity. It would have been easy for him to turn his back on God and claim that there must not be a God if this is how much suffering I need to endure. Don’t despair if life is not as you would desire. Whatever the future holds, you know that God controls it and that the outcome will be for your good and God’s glory. God gave Joseph a remarkable ability to focus on God’s perfect plan rather than to focus on his present distress. The theme verse of our convention is Genesis 50:20 “Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good.” God works the same grace in you. Focus on God and his faithfulness and trust his perfect will.

Second, Joseph was faithful in temptation. All of us face temptation. And, again, the question we face today is how will we respond to those temptations? You are all familiar with the wicked attempts of Potiphar’s wife to seduce Joseph. He was not her first attempt at an affair, nor would he be the last I’m sure. She was lying in wait for him, waiting for her opportunity to seduce him. Imagine how difficult this had to be for Joseph! What is the first thing we usually think of when we face a temptation? Will we get caught? Joseph’s chances of getting caught were slim. He did not have any family around to know what he was doing and Potiphar was in a far country. Joseph could enjoy the pleasures of the moment without fear of being punished. Even more, the immediate consequences of refusing the temptation were greater than going along with it. We have that often—it is easier to go along with the temptation than to try to stand up against it, especially when our friends or someone we are close to is involved. We are at a party and someone brings out the wine coolers and beer. They offer it to us. If we refuse, they will mock us. Joseph could even have argued—this would be a way for me to increase my influence and opportunity in Egypt through this powerful woman. I can help God along perhaps. This was acceptable and normal behavior in Egypt. And, remember, Joseph was the brother of Reuben who had defiled himself with his father’s concubine. He was the brother of Judah who gave his body to someone he thought was a prostitute, but ended up being his own daughter-in-law Tamar. This kind of sin was present in Joseph’s own family.

We live in a wicked culture. Sexual temptations abound. It is normal for couples to live together before they get married. College students leave home, move to college, and soon are living with their boyfriends or girlfriends. They would never think to do that at home, but they get away from home, and they give in to the temptation. The devil is tempting us with pornographic literature which has never been easier to find. He is using the internet, television, movies to try to de-sensitize us to sexual sins. Most young men and women now lose their virginity long before marriage. They don’t view their bodies as belonging to Christ nor save themselves for Christ and for their spouse as God requires. The devil is working hardest among the people of God. He wants to destroy our families through sexual sins and wants to mess up our lives. We can be forgiven, yes, but we will have to live with the consequences of those sins—the guilt and shame, the unexpected baby that is ours, and the sexual diseases which plague us. There is the dissatisfaction of sex in marriage because it was “fun” before marriage and not viewed as intimate love. We can be such fools! We put ourselves into situations of temptation.

What would you have done if you were Joseph? An attractive woman or good looking man wants your attention, your love, your passion. They are eager to please you. Your parents will never find out. You will not get caught. The excitement of the moment overwhelms you. What would you do? What should you do? Joseph said no, and fled temptation. He resisted temptation as a faithful child of God. Joseph showed that he was a slave of God. He would not be a slave to sin! As a servant of Jehovah God, he had to serve his master. And, notice the motivation that Joseph had, a motivation that shames us. Genesis 39:8 reads: “Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand: There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back anything from me but thee, because thou art his wife; how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

Joseph did not consider the consequences, instead his concern was to love his heavenly Father. His relationship to God was more precious than any pleasure he could experience. He was not saying—but maybe I’ll get you pregnant, so we better not do this. He was not thinking, but we might get caught, so we should not do this. He did not say, but I don’t think I’m ready, and maybe we should get some condoms or something so we can have safe sex, as if there is such a thing outside of marriage. There is a place for warnings and fear of the consequences, but neither will keep you from sin. Your encouragement is God’s faithfulness to preserve his children in his love. When you love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, then your main concern is that you not do something that would stand between you and God. You want to please God, not grieve God.

Three lessons come out of this history. First, you need to love your neighbor like God commands and like Joseph did. Joseph loved Potiphar. Potiphar was a wicked man, but out of love for Potiphar, Joseph would not touch his wife. You need to love the parents of the girl who is making eyes at you and trying to seduce you to go to bed with her. Love your boyfriend or girlfriend so much that you view defiling him or her as an act of hatred against your neighbor. Second, Joseph’s love for his neighbor flowed out of his love for God. Joseph was walking close to God. Everyone else had forsaken him. He did not have anyone to go to. Would he now forsake his one true faithful friend and Lord? Would he depart from God to walk alone? Joseph loved the fellowship he had with God. So great was that love that the idea of yielding to temptation was not even an option for him. Finally, notice that fornication is great wickedness. Just because others are doing it, does not make it right. Sin is sin, regardless of the cloak that the devil gives it. You can’t hide that sin from God. He sees sexual sins as great wickedness.

God works in our hearts a power so great that it is able to move us to make tremendous sacrifices for his sake. God is able to make us turn away from our own pleasure in order to walk with him as our covenant friend. Never say—I can’t resist! The temptation is too great! That reveals a low view of God. The grace God gave Joseph is the same grace God gives you in Jesus Christ. That grace is sufficient to preserve and keep you faithful. Your relationship to God is the only thing that can keep you faithful until marriage! Remember I Corinthians 10:13 “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

Finally, notice the power of sanctification in Joseph’s life that led him to forgive his brothers. Joseph did not hold grudges nor did he lord things over his brothers. His brothers rejected the son of their father’s love. They sought to destroy him. Later the Jews would do the same. They rejected the Son of the Father’s love and sold him for 30 pieces of silver to be crucified. Joseph did not turn away from his brothers. As a matter of fact the history teaches that Joseph was looking for his brothers. We read in Genesis 42:6 that he, the ruler of Egypt, was personally selling corn to all who came. God does not turn away from his children who come to him with humility of heart and confession of sin. Joseph knew his own sin to such a degree that he was able to know the forgiveness of his heavenly Father. Knowing and confessing that forgiveness, God gave him the grace to forgive others. All who have tasted the wonderful grace of God in Jesus Christ will forgive one another. Joseph did not get to the point where he could forgive his brothers in a matter of days, but prayed constantly through all his years in Egypt for his brethren and for the grace to forgive them their sins. Don’t think that was not a difficult battle! Joseph battled every day to see God, not man, behind all that he was experiencing. Are you praying for that grace—the grace to see that it is God, not man, behind all your struggles? Do you pray for grace to overcome your own selfishness? Years of self-discipline, self-condemnation, and self-abhorrence lie behind Joseph’s forgiveness. The spirit of God was in him.

Imagine how humbling and painful it must have been for Joseph then after his father died when his brothers came to him implying that he had not fully forgiven them. For one who is holy, upright, and praying for grace to think no evil, this was a tremendous blow. By all his actions, Joseph demonstrated that he was one with the brothers, but regardless they were suspicious of him. They thought he was treating them kindly only to regain the respect of his father. More seriously, the brothers did not understand the character of God’s forgiveness. They continued to beat themselves up over the sins they committed. They could not see God’s wonderful, marvelous, undeserving forgiveness. Joseph asks in Genesis 50:19 “Fear not, for am I in the place of God?” God showed that his will was to bless the brothers in the benedictions Jacob pronounced on them in chapter 49. Joseph says- am I in the place of God to change his will and punish those whom God has blessed? Fear not! Joseph has the power to make their lives miserable, but he is not seeking revenge. The work of God’s grace in him moves him to look away from himself and his situation and to God and God’s grace. When it is in your power to seek and attain revenge, do you? Joseph reassures them with one of the most beautiful passages of scripture, parallel to Romans 8:28 in Genesis 50:20: “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass as it is this day, to save much people alive.” God gave Joseph the grace to make this remarkable confession. The more one walks with God, the more God works the reflection of Christ in him. He begins to think, speak, and act like Christ.

God uses means. What means did God use in Joseph’s life? God used first of all a close relationship to a parent. Joseph and Jacob had a close relationship due to their spiritual union. Jacob’s other sons did not share that relationship. You need your parents. You need to tell your dad and your mom how much you love them and you need to spend time talking with them. You don’t know how long you will have them.

Second, Joseph had a close relationship to God. When he could have fellowship with no one else, Joseph was able to walk with God. Joseph knew two things about God. First, God is sovereign and nothing happens to God’s children outside of God’s divine working. There are no accidents. Second, God works all the things in life for the good of his people and for his glory. Not just the dream of Pharoah, but also the terrible act of betrayal by his brothers and being falsely accused. All was for good. This confession comes in the way of walking close with God in his Word and prayer.

Finally, Joseph loved the church, the people of God. This is evident in his willingness to forgive. Joseph could have taken the position that he did not need his brothers or family any more. He did not go that direction. Joseph loved his brothers who constituted the church of that day, and showed his love for the people of God by insisting that his bones be buried back with those of his brethren. You need to see your need for the church and you need to live your lives as living members of that church.

Joseph walked close with his parents, his God, and his church family.

Some of you have had a very difficult life. God’s grace is at work when you can confess—nothing in my life has been an accident. All has come from God and all is working together for my good. God ordained who my parents were, whether I knew them or not, where I was born, my education or lack thereof, the classmates he put on my path, my teachers, my siblings, my pastor, my church. God ordained that I would be short or tall. He ordained that I would not have skills in basketball, but would instead have skills in chess and checkers. He ordains my looks and hair color and everything! He gives grace to go forward by faith.

You have been sinned against. But God calls you to forgive and go forward, trusting his grace. Don’t dwell on the past. Don’t hold grudges against others. Pray for the grace God gave Joseph.

Faith does not need to know all the answers. Faith believes the promise. Faith sees Jesus in Joseph and cries out to God to make us more and more like our Lord.

“Not my will, Thy will be done.” That prayer cost Jesus the cross and experience of hell. That prayer will cost you and me much as we sacrifice our own desires for the sake of our Lord. It will not cost you hell, as Jesus earned everlasting life for you. Do you desire to live for God and his glory?

That confession is the fruit of God’s work of sanctification in your life.

By God’s grace and power, walk close with your parents. Respect them and talk with them and obey them. Walk with your God in prayer and read his Word. And, don’t think you can go through life alone. You need the church. Through these means God powerfully will preserve you in sanctification and godliness.

I would like to thank the host societies for the work they have put into this convention and for the privilege they gave me to address you this evening. Our prayer is that God may use these few days as a means to strengthen and encourage our young people to run the race that is set before them. Last night we looked at the course that is required for us. Tonight we look at the discipline required as we set on that course.

The saints have been running this race through all the ages. In many regards it is the same race. The same discipline is required today as was necessary years ago. In other regards this race is becoming more and more difficult. I know from talking with many of you the struggles that you face. The further the world progresses in sin toward the return of Christ, the more difficult it is to remain faithful to Christ.

This evening we face the question: Are you really interested in this race? How are you showing that interest in your life?

The discipline required is that we must lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us.

You are all familiar with athletes and the extensive training that is demanded. When watching the Olympics, I recall them doing special features on various athletes explaining how they attained the prominence they were enjoying. Often their parents started them at a very early age with intense training. Already at the age of 4 or 5 they were in the pool training for the swimming competitions, or they had skates on training for hockey or figure skating. From that time forward the athletes spent hours each day honing their skills and getting their bodies into shape. You don’t just decide to run in a marathon one day, and do so the next. A week or month is not even enough to prepare. Intense preparation is required. That intense preparation involves tremendous sacrifice. Rather than pursuing the things you would prefer, you give yourself to the stringent workout schedule required. Rather than eating the foods you would prefer, you have to maintain a special diet. The whole of your life is focused toward the goal that you have in mind. A website that informs individuals how to prepare for the Olympics includes: “You will have to teach yourself to ignore all distractions: flashbulbs, the roar of the crowd, the footsteps gaining on you as you approach the finish line. This is where your level of discipline in training will determine your success as an athlete.”

The level of your discipline in training determines the success of your athletic achievements.

The level of your spiritual discipline will determine the joy and the blessedness of your life as a Christian.

By God’s grace you have been disciplined spiritually already. You have been raised as a spiritual athlete. From early on your parents had as their goal that you would be godly children who would walk in holiness and godliness. With that in view they have been training you from a very early age. They have put you through a rigorous course. They insisted that you pray and that you learn to listen to the Bible reading. They made you go to church and taught you to listen to the sermon. They required of you intense training from early on, training in the home, in Christian schools, and in the church. That training required discipline for them as well as for you. They have made tremendous sacrifices to direct your focus toward spiritual things. They have been preparing you for the spiritual race. They have spent countless years praying for you. They have spent hours wrestling with how to discipline and correct your bad behavior. They have shed many tears over you. Your parents have been carrying and pushing you through this race.

Now, you have reached the years of discretion. You are teens whom God has given brilliant intellects and strong bodies. God calls you to not merely rely on your parents but to be disciplined yourself. You can’t be carried along in the race, but you need to run yourselves. You need to be preparing yourselves for a lifetime of service to God on behalf of His kingdom and covenant.

What kind of discipline does that require? How are you disciplining yourselves? Tragically, by our lack of discipline we often reveal that we are not interested in running God’s race. We reveal that we are on the devil’s course instead. Listening to rock music is not preparation for the spiritual race. Drinking alcohol and doing drugs and partying will not help you on that spiritual course. The materialism of our day which includes all the toys-your motorcycles and skidoos and 4 wheelers, grand wardrobes, etc. are not going to help you on that course. How are you running? How are you preparing yourself to run?

The text talks about laying aside every weight. This was an important principle in the Greek games. Every bit of extra weight had to be laid aside. The runner did not want heavy bulky shoes. He did not wear a heavy coat. He had to strip down to the least clothes possible. You did not see 300 pound men running the races. They had to lose every last extra pound. They did not have an extra ounce of fat to carry with them.

This points us to the necessity of giving up everything in our life that would burden us. You need to put aside everything that would keep you from running the race with diligence. Is there anything slowing you down? You need to be concerned about that. Is it a friend who is pulling you away from your parents and church and God’s word? Is there a young man or young woman whom you are dating who does not share your conviction to run faithfully the race of God? Is it the one who is not committed to holiness and is constantly tempting you to disobey? Is it the music you are listening to? Lay aside those weights! Throw the CDs away! Get rid of the computer programs. If you can’t control your internet surfing, get rid of the internet or get a filter. Each of us has weights that are holding us back. Sacrifices must be made. Discipline is required.

Don’t lay aside these weights in order to get saved! You know your theology better than that. You lay aside these weights because you are saved. That is the point of Colossians 3 which was read this evening. You who have been raised in Christ are to live your lives to His praise and glory by putting off the old man and being renewed according to the new man.

Sometimes that weight is mental. We have a low esteem of our accomplishments and abilities. Or, we are filled with fear, a fear that paralyzes us and keeps us from being faithful. There are doubts. There is depression. These are mental burdens that keep us from running the race as we ought. You can’t run with all those weights! All that hinders must be cast off.

You know what Jesus said in Matthew 5:29, 30 in the Sermon on the Mount. If your eye or hand causes you to sin, you are better off without it. It is better to go through life with one eye and one hand and go to heaven than to go through life with two eyes and two arms, but then end up in hell.

But, there is more. The sin that so easily besets us is noted. There are specific sins that you and I fight every day as were listed in Colossians 3. I want you to think about your sin for a moment. I know this is not a popular thing to do. I don’t want you to think in generalities. I want you to think about specific sins that face you that are keeping you from running the race as you ought. What specific sin is there that is slowing you down? What specific sin is keeping you from running? You know what it is! You know what sin is keeping you from living a godly life as you ought. Is it pride or fornication or a sin of the tongue? Is it covetousness or greed? You know what sins are creating in your mind and in your life great shame and guilt. God says- resist the devil! Condemn the world and your lust. Put off your old man and be renewed according to the new man. Follow God and His Word. Don’t make excuses to keep the weights and to keep the sins. Those sins are hindering you. Put them off! Lay them aside without hesitation.

That requires discipline and sacrifice. I want to stress what you need in order to be disciplined runners in this spiritual race. You need the faithful church of Jesus Christ and you need to be reading God’s Word and spending time in prayer. Again, here is an area where your attitude is exposed. Are you interested in the race or not? Are you running on God’s behalf or not? Do you really think you can run this race without the church? I am shocked at the attitude of many young people of our day. They think they can run without the church. What foolishness! Do you think you can run without reading God’s word and without spending time in prayer? I have great concern about our families today. We are not reading the Word as much as our parents and their parents. Many of them were able to gather around the table three times a day and enjoy family devotions more than once. Today it seems more and more the Word is not read at meal times and the result is that family devotions are held only a couple of times a week, chiefly on Sundays. This is tragic! How do you expect to run the race without being in the Word? That is like a marathon runner saying that he is not going to practice before the marathon. We all know about personal devotions. We all know we should be doing them. How many of you are doing personal devotions?

An antithetical walk and life is required. The discipline involves walking according to the antithesis. We live in the world and we use the good things that God has given us in the world. But, in this world we fight against everything that opposes God and we promote everything that glorifies God. We say no to everything that is evil and we say yes to everything that is good and upright. The discipline and sacrifice required to run this race mean you say no to the dancing and the movies and the gambling and drunkenness of this world. You say no to doing your own pleasure on the Lord’s Day. You say no to all that which would take you off the course. You say yes to all those things that glorify God and praise Him.

This is humbling dear young people is it not? We stand before the Almighty God and hear His commands and we cry out: “How will I ever be able to be faithful?”

There is only one way, according to this text. We are to be: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” You can never run the disciplined life that is required of you by yourself. You don’t have the strength. You don’t have the stamina. You don’t even have the desire to do it. The race is by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. The Lord willing we will look at that more in depth tomorrow as Rev. Overway leads us to consider the strength that is ours for the victory.

Even the great cloud of witnesses spoken of in verse 1, which are a wonderful inspiration, cannot give you the grace and strength you need. Contrary to Roman Catholic doctrine they cannot earn or merit any grace or favor for you.

You need to take your eye off yourself and keep it focused on Jesus Christ. Take your eye off that which would hinder you. Put your eyes on Jesus Christ alone! Consider Him.

In the races they would have the course clearly laid out with a huge pillar that was raised up at the end so that it would be in sight during the race. The runner would focus on that huge pillar as he ran. This is very practical. If you are running a race and you concentrate on your breathing or your pain in your side or anything about yourself, you will soon have to give up the race. Why is it that you get discouraged in your spiritual race? Why do you get to the point of giving up? It is because you are focusing your attention on yourself instead of on Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is the one upon whom you are to focus your attention. He is Jehovah salvation. In all His suffering He made the sacrifice that took away your sins. The suffering of Jesus Christ was the atoning sacrifice by which you were once for all cleansed. He is your high priest. He gives you grace to continue the race. Faith looks to Jesus and lays hold on Him.

How will you do that? Again, especially two things are required of you. First, you need to be members of a faithful church of Jesus Christ where you will hear Christ preached in all His power and authority. You need Christ set before you weekly through the preaching. Second, in order to be disciplined you need to be in the Word. The Bible is the Word of God.

Being a member of a faithful church of Jesus Christ and spending time in the Word will involve you in shame.

Notice Hebrews 12:2 when it says that “He despised the shame.” He bore shame instead.

He made a decision. He saw the difficulty of the race. He saw the shame that would come upon Him. He despised that shame. He disregarded it. He had a holy contempt for it. He did not allow that shame to determine His course of action. Notice that! He would not allow the shame that was heaped upon Him to change His course of action.

There is shame for you. I know a bit of it from talking with some of you. The pressure and shame are greater today than they were for me when I was your age. It is shameful to be a member of the Protestant Reformed Churches. But, what is even worse, even within our churches it is viewed as shameful to listen to godly music. The young person who seeks to keep himself pure by avoiding movies and drama is heaped with shame from his own peers. In the broader church world it is shameful to say that homosexuality is sin. It is shameful to insist on membership in one church because that church is most faithful to the truth. It is shameful to teach that marriage after divorce is unbiblical. We are to be tolerant of everyone and everything. This age of tolerance results in great shame being placed on those who seek to maintain the truth. Can you overcome that shame? Do you allow that shame to overcome you? You must make a decision. In the strength of Jesus Christ and by the power of His Spirit you decide to expect that shame, to face it squarely and to despise it. You won’t allow it to affect you adversely. Don’t allow that shame to determine your course of action. Face that shame and despise it for the sake of Jesus Christ. He did it for you, even to the cross. He took the horror of the cross upon Him in the face of the devil’s attempt to shame Him. He did it for your salvation. Out of thankfulness to Him you now face that continued shame and you despise it so that Christ be glorified.

As is true of all analogies in Scripture, this analogy of the race breaks down in the face of the truth that it represents. First of all, as Rev. Key set forth last night, you are not competing against your fellow Christians. We are not running against each other. We are running with each other. We encourage one another to faithfulness. You need godly friends to encourage you. You need your parents. You need elders. Membership in a faithful church of Jesus Christ is necessary for that spiritual encouragement. Second, we are not running to attain the victory. We are running because we have the victory through Jesus Christ. You have the victory by the grace of God. God chose you in Jesus Christ and sent Jesus to die on the cross in your place. You are blood bought children of His. You have the victory. You run not as though the victory is in question. You run as those who know your victory is certain and sure. Now, you look forward to the full experience of the victory. That joy will come in the way of running the race with our eye on Jesus Christ.

May God give you the grace to be disciplined spiritual runners in this spiritual race!

I was born on December 26, 1968, in the hospital at Pipestone, Minnesota just after a severe blizzard left behind snow piles that were higher than the telephone wires. Thankfully, my parents, Allen and Sharon Brummel who are members of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Edgerton, Minnesota, were able to get to and from the hospital without difficulty. I am the oldest of five children. My siblings are Rev. Nathan (Paula) Brummel, Jodi (Jeff) Baker, Shari (Randy) Vaalburg, and Tiffany (Eric) Van Baren.

I grew up in Edgerton, Minnesota, just across the street from the church and one block east of our Free Christian School. Our family’s business, Brummel’s Sewing and Shoes, was just three blocks west.

I attended the Free Christian School, our Protestant Reformed grade school in Edgerton, Minnesota, which was a two-room school. I was the smartest student in my class, but that was not difficult seeing I was the only student in my class through ninth grade. After graduating from ninth grade, I faced a major transition now having 40 students in my class at Southwest Christian High School, the Christian Reformed high school in Edgerton. After graduating from high school, I went on to Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, which was just an hour south of home. I lived on campus, but made regular trips back home to work on weekends. I was able to finish my four years of pre-seminary studies at Dordt because during that time the synod of our churches discontinued the pre-seminary program.

It was during my years in high school that I began to feel God’s hand leading me to the ministry. The response of those around me was encouraging, but very low key. I never felt any pressure or any high expectations from others. I did not so much desire the ministry and did not think that I had the necessary gifts for the work. Although I contacted the seminary while in high school and began taking the necessary courses to prepare for seminary, my heart was not fully in it and I must confess that I resisted the call. I loved to read and loved the truth for which our churches stood. But I found physics, chemistry, and biology much more appealing than history, philosophy, Greek, Dutch, Latin and English grammar. I enjoyed fixing sewing machines and small appliances, repairing shoes and tarps, working outside doing cement work and caring for livestock during my high school, college and seminary summers and, in some ways, learned more during the summer months than in the classroom. The life of a stock farmer raising hogs, cattle and maybe some purebred dogs, as well as doing construction work on the side, looked appealing to me. Or, at the very least, it seemed appealing to keep the sewing machine business and the shoe store in the family. But God increasingly caused the burden of the ministry to weigh heavier on me and I continued preparing for the pastorate with a special interest in the work of missions.

I still enjoy getting my hands dirty once in a while, but I don’t miss trying to keeping track of the fluctuating prices of feeder pigs and pork bellies.

After my first year of seminary, on August 14, 1992, I married Crysta Bonestroo, the daughter of Howard and LaJean Bonestroo, from our Doon, Iowa, Protestant Reformed Church. Although we knew of each other from combined chapels between our Protestant Reformed schools, we met at Dordt College while she was in her first year preparing for a degree in special education and I was in my last year. God has blessed our marriage richly as we have grown closer to God and He has used us for the sanctification of one another. In our eleven years of marriage God has entrusted us with seven children—Dean (10), Allyn (8), Ethan (7), Brandyn (5), Steven (3), Crystal (2), and Darren (6 months). From the beginning, Crysta was a great source of strength and support in my studies. She was a farm girl who loved her horses and found rural life very appealing, but she realized that the call to the ministry was an important calling that could not be resisted. Her selfless nature and whole-hearted devotion to her family and friends has been a great blessing to me and to our children as well as to the congregations we have served.

The most memorable event of my years in seminary would have to be when the four of us (now Rev. Doug Kuiper, Rev. David Higgs, Rev. Chris Connors, and myself) presented our exegesis to the professor on I Thessalonians 5:19; “Quench not the Spirit.” Once we were finished, there was a long silence, and then the professor gave us a lecture that introduced us to a new heresy that we had just been guilty of promoting. He made very clear that he did not want to have to sit at a heresy trial for one of his students in the future. We did that exegesis over, but I don’t think I’ll preach on that text for a while yet.

Thankfully, God developed the gifts necessary for the ministry and caused me to grow in my desire for that work. In my last year of seminary, the churches began something new with a six month internship. The faculty opened the door for me to serve my internship in Singapore under Rev. Kortering. My wife, six-month-old son Dean, and I were introduced first-hand to life in a different culture. I was able to join the first delegation to Myanmar and labored beside an experienced elder teaching classes to some office bearers in those churches. The experience confirmed a burden for missions, but God in His wisdom has guided me differently until now. Upon graduation from seminary, I moved to Edgerton, Minnesota, with my expectant wife and oldest son in order to fill their pulpit until they would get a minister or I would receive a call. In God’s good providence, the summer went well and Edgerton ended up surprising me with a call to be their pastor. I accepted the call in the fall of 1995. The first baptism that I administered in Edgerton was to my second son.

Thankfully, our stay in Edgerton proved false the proverb: “No prophet is accepted in his own country.” Our years in Edgerton were too short from an earthly perspective. Not only was the Word preached well received, but we enjoyed a privilege few ministers experience in that we lived across the street from my family and from my grandmother, and I served in consistory with my father and uncle. My wife got to know and love my parents and they got to know my family very well. My father and Aunt Judy, as Emergency Medical Technicians, were able to help the night when our third child, Ethan, was born at home. I served as Edgerton’s pastor until the summer of 1998, when I accepted the call to be pastor of our South Holland congregation where I currently serve. A highlight of our stay in South Holland has been my sister Tiffany and Crysta’s sister Cassie moving in with us and each eventually marrying men from our church and living in the area. When a daughter congregation, Cornerstone Protestant Reformed Church, was formed from South Holland in 1999, my brother Nathan received the call to serve as their pastor. Again, we are blessed with family nearby and in the church.

The elders that God gave me in Edgerton and in South Holland were and continue to be a great blessing of God to me as a young pastor. God gives elders to ministers as precious gifts for the development of their gifts and abilities. My goal is to be the best pastor that I can be with the gifts that God has given me. God has given me very good elders to whom I give credit for helping me attain that goal.

One of the most rewarding things as a minister to witness in the life of the church is the strength of God’s grace in preserving His children in times of trial and giving them such a beautiful witness. I marvel when I see the peace and the contentment that God gives to those who face serious surgery or even death. God’s covenant faithfulness and His promises to His children are not hollow promises, but are very precious. I find a great reward in bringing the promises of God to His people in their need, and in preaching Christ crucified from the pulpit and in the catechism room.

Often the most memorable experiences in teaching children are the questions that are raised. There are always the challenging questions like that of one young person: “What is circumcision?” One time I tried a simple response: “the cutting off of the foreskin,” but did not expect the response of one student: “I know what that is. It happened to my sister last week when she lost the skin from the tip of her finger.” Further explanation became necessary to my chagrin. Or, the heart-breaking sincerity of a little first grader when we were talking about heaven and hell: “Why can’t everyone go to heaven?” he said with tears running down his cheeks.

Since I have been in the ministry, there has been a lot of controversy that has surfaced within the meetings of Classis West. Our agendas have been lengthy, but God has guided us through it and we must be thankful that the issues that concern God’s people are being addressed and not simply being swept under the rug. We are reminded through such controversy that God is Lord of His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against her.

While I was growing up, I enjoyed fishing, hunting, reading and fixing almost any appliance that was not working. I have tried to maintain those hobbies, especially making time for reading. When opportunity arises, I do some fishing and occasionally climb back into a tree stand with my bow and arrows in pursuit of a white tail deer for the freezer. Unfortunately, I now have far more pressure on me as seven little expectant faces will be waiting for me in the window when I get home to see if I have anything to show them. During the past year, my bow and arrows have been most helpful in protecting our pet rabbits from wild dogs that roam into the area looking for an easy lunch.

There are always a lot of pressures to walk in sin and to live for the things of this earth. I experienced them in my youth and continue to fight against them today. Our young people, as well as all of us, need to be reminded that we are pilgrims and strangers on this earth. We must seek the things of God’s Kingdom by spending time in His Word and in prayer. In the face of temptation, Jesus Christ is our sympathetic High Priest and He alone is the source of our strength.

I thank God for the privilege He has given me to be His servant, and I pray for the grace to be found faithful unto the end. God has given me a wonderful eight years in the ministry, and I pray that He will be pleased to give me continued growth so that I might continue to be used by Him for the good of His church.

The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon to his young adult son. Solomon’s purpose in writing Proverbs was “that the generation to come might know them [God’s wonderful works]…that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Ps. 78:6–7). Throughout the book, Solomon […]

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The Christian is placed in many different circumstances while on this earth. Some are characterized by hardships and trials, and others are full of joy and peace. How should the Christian respond? Throughout the Bible there are numerous times where God’s people sang in response to their various circumstances. Singing in response to God’s ordering […]

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The group of churches that John writes to in this trio of epistles had recently experienced a split because of doctrinal controversy. We do not know the exact content of the error that these false teachers were spreading, but it is apparent from John’s writing that their teaching somehow denied the truth of the incarnation—that […]

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Jael: An Example of Christian Warfare

This article was originally presented as a speech at a Protestant Reformed mini convention held at Quaker Haven Camp in August 2021. Jael lived during the era of the judges. Deborah the prophetess was the judge who served Israel at the time of Jael. During this time, the Canaanites under the rule of king Jabin […]

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Indiana Mini Convention Review 2021

One of this year’s “mini conventions” was hosted by Grace and Grandville Protestant Reformed Churches at Quaker Haven Camp. Located just over two hours away in northern Indiana, the camp was a perfect fit for the 120 kids and 15 chaperones who attended. A total of twelve different churches were represented: Byron Center, Faith, First […]

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Editorial, November 2021: Catechism Season

At the point that this edition of Beacon Lights arrives in the homes of our subscribers, most young people in the Protestant Reformed Churches will have been sitting under the catechism instruction of their pastor or elders for more than a month. If our readers are honest, that observation probably comes with a (quiet) sigh […]

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