A. For some time now there has been a popular trend relating to the way in which modern Christians display their faith and advertise Jesus to the world.
1. That is by making use of some of the means of contemporary (“pop”) culture.
a. Walk into any Christian bookstore and you will find the merchandise that can be used to witness of one’s Christianity and make Jesus popular. Everything from T-shirts and baseball caps with catchy phrases on them (“Jesus, He’s the Real Thing”—using the Coca-cola colors and theme), to bumper stickers and coffee mugs (Remember the popular wrist bands “WWJD?”
b. You have probably seen these items worn and displayed by fellow Christians at school, etc. And perhaps you have used these things yourselves, or at least wondered if you ought to.
2. One of the most popular forms of this “witnessing” is CCM—Contemporary Christian Music.”
a. An entire type of “music” has been developed by Christian “artists,” who use all the modern forms of music found in the world—rock, alternative, rap, country, etc.—in order to promote Jesus and Christian faith and “values.”
b. Many Christian young people listen to such music and attend the concerts of such “musicians,” inviting their friends and schoolmates to listen and learn about Christ and the Christian religion.
B. By means of this trend it is now “cool” to be a Christian.
1. Young people are not ashamed of their faith and their Savior.
a. They do not hide Jesus but openly advertise their faith in Him, since these means make them look like and popular with the world.
b. Such openness can make us look weak in our faith and poor in our witness. We feel guilty and ashamed if we do not show our faith in these ways. We feel pressure and wonder if we ought to get “with it.”
2. But our Reformed and biblical “antennae” indicate that something is wrong here.
a. We are uneasy about using these means, and raise questions about whether or not it is valid and proper to witness in this way.
b. Hence the main question we want to face: Is it really cool to be a Christian? What do YOU think? How would YOU answer this question? And why?
II. Let’s face these specific questions together.
A. First of all consider these questions critical of this trend:
1. What do you see wrong in the above-mentioned means of promoting one’s faith?
a. Is the use of popular culture to promote Christianity always wrong? Is this simply worldliness or world conformity? Cf. Romans 12:1, 2.
(1) How do we know which means are good and which are bad?
(2) Where do we draw the line?
(3) Does Christ ever want us to try to make Him and our faith in Him “popular?” Cf. Matt. 16:24ff, John 6:60ff.
(4) Do you see any evidence in the New Testament that the early Christians used popular forms of their culture to communicate the gospel and reach the lost?
b. The area of so-called contemporary Christian music is a highly sensitive one, because this type of music is so popular and so appealing. But be objective.
(1) What do you see wrong with this type of music? Why?
(2) Can we distinguish different kinds within this class? I.e., types that are legitimate and others that are not?
(3) Is it true as M. McLuhan said that “the medium is the message?” In other words, that the very form of music already communicates something bad?
c. What biblical principles reveal the errors involved in these matters?
(1) Does Jeroboam’s use of the golden calves apply to these modern means? If so, how?
(2) Does the antithesis speak to this (“in the world but not of the world”)? Cf. II Cor. 6:14ff, Eph. 5:8ff, I John 2:15-17 (you may find other passages!).
(3) Does the principle of Christian liberty also apply to these things? Cf. Rom. 14.
2. What are some of the practical consequences of using popular culture to advance Jesus and the Christian faith?
a. Do these means make Christ “cheap” and “trivial?” How so?
b. Do these things in fact hide the true Jesus and the true gospel? How so?
c. Will the use of such means make “worldly” Christians? Will they make anyone a Christian?
d. Do such popular means say something negative about you as a Christian if you use them? E.g., that we are proud, obnoxious, insensitive, etc.?
B. Secondly, now consider these questions that guide us in a positive direction:
1. What are proper ways to witness of our faith and bring the gospel to those about us?
a. Is it more our life and walk that must display Christ, or external “tools?”
b. Cf. Matt. 5:13-16; Gal. 5:22-24; Acts 8:4; 11:19; I Peter 3:15, 16.
2. How can we use good Christian music as a means to show forth Christ to those about us?
a. Are biblically-sound psalms and hymns really effective in communicating the gospel in our modern age?
b. Are you embarrassed by such music, or would you invite a friend to one of our services or to a singspiration or a good program?
3. Now a personal question: Are you sure of your faith in Christ, so that you are not ashamed of Him but determined to live unto Him and witness of Him on a daily basis?
Discussion Group Outline for the 2001 Young People’s Convention
A. An area of Christian living and relationships we seldom discuss at length is that of the Christian and politics.
1. Perhaps because the subject is often so controversial, that we think it best to avoid it. Or because we judge politics to be necessarily “dirty,” and therefore believe we must avoid it.
2. And maybe too, because we think this area of life is not all that relevant to us as young people. When we get older perhaps, but not at this point in our lives.
B. Yet we ought to face and discuss this area of our Christian walk in this world.
1. We ought to because there is much confusion and controversy relating to this subject. There are wrong views concerning the Christian’s relation to government and politics.
2. We ought to because God’s Word speaks to it.
a. God tells us that our relation to government and political matters is important.
b. God guides us into a right understanding of our calling. If He speaks to it, we must listen and obey.
3. We ought to because it is relevant to our lives as young people.
a. We confront political issues in the news.
b. We confront political issues in high school and college, as well as in everyday life.
c. This becomes more so the older we become. It is good to lay a good foundation of understanding and action early, so that we may learn to live properly in this area of our lives.
II. The Role of Government and the Calling of the Christian In General Toward Political Institutions and People
A. We believe that government is ordained of God and is His authority.
1. Prov. 8:15,16; Daniel 2:20, 21, 37; Matthew 22:17-21; 28:18; John 19:10, 11; Rom. 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; I Peter 2:13-17; Heid. Cat., Lord’s Day 39, Q&A 104; Belgic Confession, Art. 36
a. What is authority? What basic Reformed doctrine is implied in it? What serious implication does this have for us?
b. In what area(s) does government have authority? Or, what powers does God give to government? Federal level? State? Local?
c. What does it mean that the government has the sword-power? Does this necessarily include capital punishment?
d. What is the basic purpose or role of government?
2. In the light of this truth we must understand our calling.
a. What does God require of us as we live under government? Use the texts above.
b. Are there any exceptions to this calling? I.e., may the Christian ever refuse to do what the government requires? Cf. Daniel 2; Acts 4:18-20; 5:29
c. May the Christian protest government policies and laws? If so, in what way? Letter-writing? Picketing? Lobbyists? Withholding tax money?
d. Do Christians ever have the right to rebel against their political leaders? May we seek to overthrow a government? Again, use the list of texts above.
3. There is yet another calling we have toward government–to pray for our leaders: I Timothy 2:1-4.
a. How should we do this? What should we pray for with regard to them?
b. May we pray for their salvation?
c. May we pray for the wicked to be overthrown? Find examples in Scripture of the church praying for vengeance on her political enemies. cf. Acts 4:24-30.
B. We ought to return to the role of government and consider some specific questions.
1. Specifically, the government’s relation to the church and the Christian faith.
a. Should our government uphold the 2nd table of the law? In what way?
b. Now, should our government uphold the 1st table of the law? In what way? Consider the implications. Read the 36th article of the Belgic Confession again. What did the Reformers believe about this?
c. Now read the footnote to Art. 36. Do you agree with this? I.e., do you believe the separation of church and state? Wouldn’t we want a Christian government? Do we really want our government to tolerate all religions?
2. Consider also the role of government in other areas.
a. What do you think of the government promoting vouchers for people to send their children to private schools, such as our own PR schools? Why or why not? Does the government have any role in the education of its citizens?
b. What is your judgment of Pres. G. Bush’s “faith-based initiatives” program? Should our diaconates accept money to help the poor, etc. among us? Why or why not?
III. The Christian’s Involvement in Politics
A. We need to face the matter of the Reformed believer’s participation in the political arena.
1. We need to discuss whether or not a Christian may serve in government.
a. Is it God’s will that His people hold public office and serve Him and society in this way? Are there examples in the Bible of believers who served in government positions? Do these examples encourage us to be involved or show that it ought not be done? What about the fact that government is usually an instrument of satan and the kingdom of darkness?
b. Why don’t more of our members seek a political office? Are there spiritual dangers in running for and holding public office? Are these so great that it would lead us to say we should not pursue any office? Do you know of any Christians currently in office whose service is commendable?
c. Are there other ways a believer can serve in government? Name some ways.
2. We also need to discuss the Christian’s involvement in the political process.
a. Is it proper for a believer to work for the election of certain candidates for public office? If so, to what degree? And how (i.e., what means are proper?)?
b. Is it proper for a Christian to work for a PAC (Political Action Committee) or a lobbyist group? Why or why not?
c. Is it proper to work for other conservative political groups, such as those who work to defend constitutional rights, tax reform, etc.?
B. Finally, we should discuss the matter of voting.
1. In our constitutional republic we citizens are given the privilege of being involved in the political process in this way.
a. Is it our duty to vote, or is it merely a matter of personal preference? Why or why not?
b. Should we only vote for Christian candidates? Why or why not?
c. What current issues are a “litmus test” for you in determining whom you would vote for?
2. What important truths must we keep in mind while we are involved any area of politics?
a. Psalm 118:9, 10; 146:3-5.
b. II Thess. 2:1-12 & Rev. 13 with Rev. 19:11ff.
This article was given as a speech at the New Jersey retreat.
It falls to me in this series of retreat speeches to address the “How” of letting our light shine. Our focus is actually quite narrow, because we want to look at that little word “so” in our theme text: “Let your light SO shine before men….” That word points us to the “how,” for it means “thus, i.e., in this manner or way.” That “so” points back to verse 15, where Jesus said that we are not to hide our light under a bushel but are to put it on a candlestick, i.e., to let it shine prominently, publicly, and promiscuously. And that “so” also looks forward to the rest of v.16, where Jesus instructs us to let our light shine that men may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. This, then, is how we let our light shine.
- As we consider more carefully this “how” of letting our light shine, we have to look at some of the sins and weaknesses that we manifest with regard to this calling. There’s the negative of the “how,” which is our first point. Then, secondly, we need to look at the “how” positively. How (in what way) exactly do we go about being the light of the world and letting our light shine? And thirdly, we must consider the “how” of possibility. How CAN (is it possible that) we fulfill this calling?
I. How, Negatively—Dealing with Our Sins/ Weaknesses
Letting our light shine has to do with our Christian witness before the world. The point of Jesus’ admonition is clear to all of us. As believers by God’s grace in Christ, we ARE the light of the world. And light exists to shine, to give off its light, to radiate in the midst of darkness. That is evident from any instrument of light we find and use, for example, a lighthouse here on the Atlantic Ocean shore. It is the purpose and meaning and value of light that it shine. Therefore, as the light of the world, that’s what we are in the world for as Christians, to shine in the midst of the darkness.
By our walk (“your good works”) and by our words we are to reveal our Christian identity, showing forth God’s grace in Jesus Christ, the kingdom life we have been given and brought into (the broader context of our passage). In reality, that is simply letting CHRIST Himself shine through us, because He is THE Light of the world (Jn. 8:12) and He is in us by faith. HE is the Light that must be seen in this dark world. HE is the One Who must be evident as we go about our callings in the world.
When we consider the contrast between ourselves and the world (light vs. darkness), it should be an easy thing to let our light shine. The world of unbelieving people is darkness. They live in the realm of sin and under Satan. They are full of spiritual ignorance and immorality, decay and death. They are lost, not knowing the way. They wander about, stumbling and falling down in their willing darkness. And here we are the light of that world. The ONLY light in this darkness that surrounds us. The only people with the truth—concerning God and concerning all things. The only ones who really know who we are, what life is about, and where we are going. The only ones with moral purity and holiness, knowing how to live rightly in every sphere and relation of life. The only people with real life, fellowship with God, eternal life now and the hope of it for the future!
To shine out as Christians, therefore, should be a cinch. Not to be seen and noticed as God’s light in the world should be as absurd as someone not seeing the sun when it rises on the creation! The shining of our light should be as brilliant as the sun in the heavens, so that no one is unclear about who and what we are.
And yet, reality is, that our light is not so bright; our witness is not so clear and sharp, so powerful and bold. The world of darkness cannot always see us; they often do not know we are God’s light. So if we ask ourselves, “HOW are we shining as the light of the world?”, we have to answer honestly, “Not very well!”
To some degree and in many ways we are shining. We do not want to be so negative that we take away from that. I believe that, in general, we are known as Christians. But still, blatant weaknesses and sins are evident in our lives in terms of letting our light shine. We are far too often a city on a hill that is hid, verse 14. We DO hide our light, putting the candle of Christ’s light in us under a bushel, verse 15. Sadly, many people at work and school and in our neighborhoods do not know who we are. They do not know that we are different, how we are different, why we are different!
Why is this? Because we are not letting our light shine, obviously! That is why Christ has to admonish us as He does here. But we need to look at this closer and go deeper into the causes of this sin and weakness. There are many reasons why we do not let our light shine as we ought. We will focus on the major ones.
First, let’s face the fact that we are simply not behaving as we should. We are not being distinctively Christian before the world in thought and word and deed. We have become spiritually complacent and careless, spiritually lethargic and lazy. We have through negligence forgotten who we are—the light of the world! We are not maintaining our Christian worldview and expressing it boldly. We are not exposing the folly and wickedness of the world’s viewpoints and lifestyle. Too often we keep our minds and mouths shut to the blatant darkness about us. Which is to say, we are not living antithetically as we should. We want to blend in, not stand out, so that is how we act—like the world! We dress like the world; we talk like unbelievers; we adopt their work- ethic; we entertain ourselves like they do. Instead of walking in good works, we walk in bad works. We know it, but we must also know this is wrong! In humble honesty, we must confess and repent of these sins.
In the second place, what we have just mentioned is also rooted in certain things, such as FEAR. We are afraid of what people will think of us; we fear rejection and reproach; we are afraid of losing position and favors in the world, maybe even our jobs. And, we are ASHAMED of who we are, ashamed of our beliefs and teachings and practices. Ultimately, we are ashamed of our Lord Himself. These things too are wrong, and must be confessed and repented of.
In the third place, we are also good at making excuses as we try to justify our weak witness. For example, we argue, “I’m naturally shy and reserved; I can’t open up to people.” Or, “My witness is a quiet one,” when we are really hiding behind hiding our light. Or, “I’m living antithetically, and that means I must not talk to people; so I just ignore them.” Or, “I don’t want to cast my pearls before swine.” Do these excuses sound familiar? These too are wrong! We need to quit making excuses! Are we going to shine or not?!
In the fourth place, sometimes we simply do not take advantage of opportunities. We miss out on occasions to witness through sheer negligence. Or we do not feel confident about speaking up to and before people; we are unprepared to witness to unbelievers, so we say nothing. Perhaps we have been sheltered from the real world and do not know how to talk to them where they are at. We need to learn from and correct these weaknesses and strive to do better!
Still more, in the fifth place, the reason why we do not let our light shine is that we are not THANKFUL enough for what we have been made in Jesus Christ. We are not sufficiently grateful for our deliverance from the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light and life. We are not properly motivated by glory for God because of His amazing grace to us, verse 16; I Peter 2:9. We need to increase in gratitude and in the desire to show forth the praise of our heavenly Father. More and more we need to ponder our salvation and the great mercy of God to us in His Son.
Finally, the main reason we are not shining as we should in this world is that we are not living close to THE Light, Christ? Is our light weak and dim because we have not been abiding in Christ and drawing from the Source the strength we need to shine? Do we live close to our Savior? Are we into His Word? Do we pray faithfully? Are we diligent in all the means of grace? We know what the answers are to these questions, and they too put the finger on the problem with our faint lights.
II. How, Positively—Looking at the Way to Fulfill This Calling
Next we must look at the positive of this “how.” And we should remember that Matthew 5:16 is an admonition from our Lord. It is not an option for us, to do or not to do. It is His command to us. The Light charges us as light to shine. Christ leads the “charge of the light brigade!” For as the Light of the world He let His light shine perfectly and publicly when He came into the world. Therefore, we too must let our light shine. This is a matter of being and living in the kingdom of God and heaven. Not to do this is to disobey the King of His kingdom and to expose ourselves as unfit for the kingdom. So we must put away our sins, our weaknesses, our excuses, and let our light shine (Rom. 13:12ff).
Let’s keep before us what this calling means. It means to be a Christian—everywhere, in every way, and toward every one! No matter where we are, what we are doing, whom we are relating to, show Christ! Be yourself! That is, act in harmony with what you are—LIGHT! Manifest the traits of the kingdom as Christ sets them before us in the opening of this chapter! Live thankfully and obediently!
This is where that “SO” in the text is so important. As we already pointed out, that looks back to verses 14 and 15 first of all. There the emphasis falls on fulfilling the purpose of your existence as a Christian. Be a city that cannot be hid! (Like the great city of New York that we toured.) Be a candle set on a candlestick!
We can be more specific. That light in us consists of three things: true knowledge (II Cor. 6:4), holiness (I Jn. 1:5), and new life (Jn. 8:12). If this is what the light in us is, then this is what has to come out in our walk and in our talk. True knowledge of God, holiness, and life in Christ must shine forth at home and work, in school and church, in recreation and leisure. That word “SO” also relates here. It also looks ahead to the rest of verse 16. Here the emphasis is on our good works done before men. That does not exclude the witness of our mouth to people. But Jesus wants to bring out especially our deeds done to and before the people of this world. What deeds? How we go about our work; what language we use when we are around Christians and unbelievers; how we use Sunday; what music we listen to; how we use our leisure time, etc. Every deed we do, every task we perform.
In this connection, we also want to treat the ‘how’ of what MEANS we must be using to let our light shine, the things we must use to have a faithful and strong witness before men. For we must remember that we are not independent lights shining by ourselves. We are not like the sun but like the moon in this respect. Christ is the Sun, THE Light. He is the Source and power of our shining. Therefore, we have to be abiding in Him and walking in Him in order to shine. The Scriptures bring that out in John 12:35, 36 and I John 1:7.
That involves using the means of grace diligently. We must be busy in the Word, preached and read, studied alone and with others. From that Word we gain the knowledge of the way of light; we receive admonitions, promises, and warnings (Ps. 119:105,130). And through the Word we are truly put in touch with the Light, Jesus Christ. Along with the Word, we must be diligent in prayer. Daily we must call upon our Father in Christ, seeking His help and grace to shine powerfully and publicly. And, we need to be fervent in Christian fellowship, seeking the blessing and strength of Christian friends. That’s why a retreat such as this is such a blessing to us who attend and make good use of it. In this way, using these means, we will grow brighter and brighter, even unto the perfect day, Proverbs 4:18.
III. How, Actually—Considering the Possibility
Finally, we also need to consider the other meaning of the word “how.” How is it possible for us to carry out this calling? Together, we concede that this is a difficult calling. We are well aware of our sins and weaknesses. We know that our Lord holds us to a high standard, even Himself and His perfect life of shining in darkness. We must even confess that this is IMPOSSIBLE for us to fulfill in and of ourselves. We can talk about all we must do and ought to do, but all of this is impossible without God’s GRACE, without the saving help of Jesus Christ, THE Light of the world, without the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives.
It is important to remember that it is in the realm of GRACE that Jesus’ teaching puts us here in Matthew 5. He is speaking about life in the kingdom of God. He is describing those who are in that kingdom, how they look and behave, what they believe and practice. But how did these people become such? How did they get into the kingdom of heaven? How did we enter it? Only by God’s GRACE! Not by what we willed and did, but by what God willed and did! In Christ His Son and through His Holy Spirit.
If that is true (and it is!), then how are we going to live in that kingdom and fulfill its responsibilities? How are we going to obey this command to let our light shine? By our own willing and working? By our human grit and determination? There is no question that we must will to do this, and must put forth every effort to shine. But if we do not rely on God and His grace, we may be ever so busy, yet all our laboring will all be in vain.
So, it comes down to this: striving by grace to be faithful to this calling (Phil. 2:12, 13). Seek that grace in prayer daily; ask God for the help you need, the specific help and strength. Continue to follow Christ as your Light. Then we will shine, brightly and boldly in this dark world. Then men will see our good works, and God will be glorified in and through us. ❖
What is proper self-esteem? How should I regard myself as a person? Should I think highly or lowly of myself? What am I really worth? When we began to answer that in our last article (October, 1997), we started with the negative aspects: what is unhealthy self-esteem, i.e., what is the wrong way to regard ourselves and what is the wrong basis of our worth. At that time we basically said that true self-esteem is not a proud but humble estimation of ourselves. Proper self-esteem must not be self(man)-centered but God-centered. That means that in order to have a proper estimation of myself and a true sense of my worth, I must first of all know myself to be a sinner. That may seem ironic, even contradictory, but that’s the teaching of the Bible. I must know that I (be sure to make that personal, young people!) am a person who is guilty and wicked before God, worthy of being cast away from Him in this life and in that to come. I must know that in and of myself I am not a beautiful and wonderful person, but an ugly and wretched person. I must know that I am not a great, significant individual with high potential and endless powers to make something of myself and my life, but a small, insignificant person who is totally lost in sin and whose only potential and power is to corrupt everything good and make an utter mess of myself and my life. When we grasp that, then we are on the road to gaining a proper self-esteem.
For then we go on as believers to see what we are in Christ and to value ourselves based on what God has made us and given us. We don’t simply esteem ourselves sinners, but we esteem ourselves sinners saved by grace. We don’t simply confess our lowliness and worthlessness in sin, but we confess our exalted position and worth in Christ. Our salvation from God, in other words, gives us the proper estimation of ourselves. We say with humility yet confidence, “I am a precious person in the sight of God because He loved me and chose me to be one of His children even from eternity! I am of great value because I was purchased by the blood of God’s own Son at Calvary! I have amazing worth because Christ gave me His Spirit to dwell in me and make me His temple and to apply His saving blessings to me.” Are you able to say that in true faith, young people? Do you realize your real worth as a saved child of God? Is this what you base your self-esteem on?
As Reformed Christians we may also judge our worth from the perspective of God’s covenant of grace with us in Christ. We may say, “l am precious to God because He revealed His friendship to me; He pledged Himself to be my Friend and He took me in as His friend. I am of exceeding value because the living God is pleased to fellowship with me, to walk with me and talk with me in life. And He allows me to walk and talk with Him. I have such amazing worth because God wills that I live with Him forever in heaven someday, to be His everlasting friend and to enjoy unending fellowship with Him.” Can you say this too, young people? Is it from this that you gain a high-estimation of yourself? This is proper self-esteem; this is our real self-worth. It is really God’s esteem of us; it is really Christ-worth. Which is why healthy self-esteem is humble—it is all of God and His grace.
Further, we may gain proper esteem of ourselves from an even more basic truth concerning God and ourselves: He is our Creator and the God of Providence to us. We believe that though we are sinful creatures, we are still the special handiwork of God. He planned in His eternal counsel that He would make us and form us to be exactly what He willed. And in time that’s what He did. He formed us in our mother’s womb by a miraculous work. He gave us our own unique personality and character. He gave us our physical traits, our looks, our shape and size. He gave us all our abilities and skills, physical and mental. Each of us is a special work of God, even from a natural point of view.
When we realize this, then we also may have a proper estimation of ourselves. Then we don’t proudly think too much of ourselves because we believe we are self- made persons, but we humbly acknowledge that all that we are and have we owe to God (Remember Ps. 139 and Psalter #383?!). Then it doesn’t matter to us what others may think of our looks or how some may judge our personality or abilities. God has made us just the way we are, and from that we may judge our worth.
This implies that we are content with how God made us. If we are not satisfied with the way in which God made us, if we are discontent with who we are and how we look and what level of abilities we have, then we are not going to have a healthy self-esteem. Is that after all, why many young people do not have a healthy view of themselves? Are you content with the way God made you? And do you then have a healthy (and humble!) estimation of yourself? Or are you dissatisfied with the way God made you, so that you have an unhealthy (really proud!) estimation of yourself? Because God is God, and we but creatures, we must rest content in how He made us and from that draw proper esteem of ourselves.
So too, when it comes to God’s providence at work in our lives. We believe that our sovereign God guides us and provides for us in this world by His almighty and everywhere-present hand. Let’s make this personal also. The God of heaven and earth watches over me, takes care of me, protects me, gives to me my daily bread, my strength, my work, etc., feeds me by His Word and Spirit with all the grace I need, guides me through this world and preserves me unto my heavenly home. And He does this to me in His love because I am one of His children! You believe that, don’t you, young people? Then from that special, providential care of God for us we may also gain a rich and healthy estimation of ourselves. If I am so loved and cared for by the Almighty God, then surely I am precious to Him; I have value and worth beyond description! If this is how the heavenly Father treats me, then with what confidence may I live and go about all my tasks?!
Do you see how this all works? Only a God-centered perspective can give to you and me a proper view of ourselves, can give us true self-worth. The world does not and cannot have proper self-esteem, because it does not have a believing view of God. It is lost in itself. But you and I are found in God. We have a believing view of God; He is the center of all we are and have and do. And therefore we may have, and by grace do have, a proper view and estimation of ourselves. Keep that Godly perspective as you go through these years of your life. It will keep you from the false and destructive self-esteem of the world. It will keep you humble before your God, which is the principle of true self-esteem. ♦
What do you think of yourself, beloved young people? What is your estimation of yourself? What worth do you believe you have? Do you have a high or low view of yourself? Do you believe you have great worth or little worth? Do you love or hate yourself? Are you satisfied and happy or dissatisfied and unhappy with who and what you are?
And along with these questions, answer these: From where do you get your view of self? On what do you base your worth and value? Do you get your self-image from yourself? your peers? Your parents? from the world? Or from the Lord? Do you base your worth and value on your popularity, intelligence, athleticism, or other abilities? on what you have done or will do? on what you hope to be? Or on what God says about you in His Word? on what you are in Jesus Christ?
The answers you give to these questions are truly important. Your self-esteem (healthy or sick) affects what goes on inside your soul and what goes on in your whole outward life. It affects the way you work and how you handle your studies; it affects your decision concerning whom to date and whom eventually to marry; it affects your choice of friends and recreational activities; it affects your life in the church, how you relate to others and what activities you get involved in.
With this in view we want to examine this matter together in a couple of articles (I will try to keep them short so as not to lose your interest and attention!). Follow along as we learn about healthy and unhealthy esteem of ourselves. Since it is critical that we contrast true self-esteem with false self-esteem, in this article we will spend some time on unhealthy esteem of ourselves.
There is an unhealthy esteem we can have of ourselves. It takes on various forms. The unbelieving world is sick and dying with one form of it. It is called “NARCISSISM”, excessive love and admiration of self. Narcissus was the young man in Greek mythology who was so in love with himself that he refused to return Echo’s love and caused her to die. Following that Nemesis caused Narcissus to become so infatuated by his own image in a pool of water that he pined away and changed into the flower that now bears his name. The wicked in our day are narcissistic, obsessed with self. Their self-esteem is also called “EGOTISM,” the idea that everything and everyone ought to serve “the big I” (Man’s trinity of “me, myself, and I”). The world has deified self; it’s philosophy is “I am god”. Just witness its advertising; it caters to this evil esteem of self (“Have it your way! You deserve a break today! Grab all the gusto you can!”). There’s even a magazine for young people entitled Self. This ungodly self-esteem is at bottom nothing but devilish PRIDE, the exalted esteeming of self above everyone else, including God.
We ought not be surprised that this proud estimation of self exists in the world. It is, after all, rooted in the Fall. When our first parents fell into sin, they did so because they believed the devil’s proud lie that they could become as God! Ever since man’s heart is filled with this wicked over-estimation of himself. In addition, the Holy Spirit has given us a prophetic description of our egotistic times in 2 Tim.3:1, 2: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud….”
I trust that you young people know the evil and error of this view of self. I know you do, because we have within ourselves a sinful nature that is narcissistic and egotistic and proud. We have experienced firsthand this worship of self and have suffered from its evil fruits. We ourselves have been burned by this idol and we have hurt other people by it. I also believe that you know the error and evil of this view of self because the grace of God dwells in you. That has taught you how wicked this unbelieving self-esteem is and has delivered you principally from it. It has taught you and given you the healthy way of self-esteem—seeing yourself in Christ as loved, forgiven, and accepted by God.
In order for you to be lifted up in self-worth, you must humble yourself under God’s almighty hand! In order for you to love yourself, you must love God! Another form of unhealthy self-esteem in the world consists of an estimation of self that is based on how much money and material things one has, on one’s fame and popularity, on one’s worldly success and promotion, on one’s mental abilities, athletic skills, and physical attractiveness. This too is prominent. The worldly person has a high view of himself because he is rich, famous, popular, successful, athletic, and good-looking. And the rest of the world feeds this mentality by fawning over those who have these qualities. They idolize the wealthy real-estate magnates, the prominent sports figures, the glamorous movie stars and beautiful models, and the powerful politicians.
Sad to say, this wrongly-based self-esteem is prevalent among us too. How many of us think highly of ourselves because of these things? How often have we not based our judgment of others on these external things? But what then is the person to think of himself who is not rich, not popular, not gifted intellectually, not successful, not athletic, and not good-looking?! That he is utterly worthless?! What if you are not rich, etc.? Does that make you a no-good-for-nothing?! You see how flimsy a basis these things are for our estimation of self? We must recall what grace has taught us, that our view of self is not founded on such things but on our standing in Christ. If we are in Him, we are rich and beautiful and gifted, no matter what we look like to the world.
Because also worldly people recognize that not all are rich, famous, successful, athletic, and good-looking, they try to find their estimation of self in still other things. They want to feel good about themselves in some way and to some degree, so they turn to other solutions to the “problem” of self-worth. Perhaps they base their worth on their work and so engross themselves in it. Or they turn to other people’s estimation of them and so strive to become men-pleasers. Or, because they cannot find self-esteem in any of these things, they turn to drugs and alcohol, over-eating and sex, thinking that these things will make them feel good about themselves.
Have you too sought to find self-worth in these ways? Would you too try to gain self-esteem by your work, by pleasing others, by indulging in drugs, drinking, food, and sexual promiscuity? How would you judge your worth if you did? Did you really feel good about yourself? You know, don’t you, that this is not the answer. You know, don’t you, that this is not how healthy self-esteem is gained. How could these be the way when they are contrary to God’s Word and to every principle and precept of Christian living?!
Which points to yet another unhealthy estimation of self in the world. As strange as this may seem, it is actually such a wicked self-love that it is hatred of self. Even those who have a high (proud) esteem of themselves are haters of themselves. If the carnal mind is enmity against God as Romans 8:7 teaches, then the unbeliever is also a hater of himself. If he does not love God, how can he love himself as a creature of God? He cannot! And that is why there are many in the world who have such low self- esteem. They hate what they are, hate what they have, hate what they look like, hate the work they do, hate everything about their lives. They are depressed over everything and unhappy with everything because they have no love of God and no true love of self. And that self-hate leads them to do what they do to their bodies and souls, namely, destroy them with drug and alcohol abuse, with fornications and rock music.
What about you, reader? Are you suffering from low self-esteem because you hate yourself? Are you abusing your body and soul because you despise yourself? You must know that such self-enmity is enmity against God! Do you hate the way you look? You are walking in hatred toward the God Who gave you your looks! Do you hate yourself because your mental or physical abilities are limited? You are hating the God Who gave you the gifts He willed for you! Do you hate yourself because you are “stuck” in a low-profile, low-paying job? You must know that you are rebelling against God’s providential hand in your life! In order for you to be lifted up in self-worth, you must humble yourself under God’s almighty hand! In order for you to love yourself, you must love God!
One other unhealthy form of self-esteem we must mention. It is promoted not only in the world but also in the church-world. It is rooted in a denial of man’s inherent sinfulness and makes much of his natural goodness. It despises the traditional Christian view of man as a wretched sinner worthy of eternal condemnation. It condemns the Biblical confessions of Job (“I abhor myself.”) and of Paul (“O wretched man that I am.”). It talks proudly of human potential and possibility thinking, such that man can do what he wants to do and overcome what he needs to. This high estimation of man and self is taught in the secular universities and schools of our land; it is advanced in the counseling rooms of worldly psychologists; and it is preached in the modernistic pulpits of churches, even in some Reformed pulpits.
But it is a rejection of God’s revealed truth and must therefore be rejected by us as well. Any view of man (self) which does not reckon with sin is bound to lead to a false and destructive esteem of self. Any self-estimation which does not begin with confession of sin and therefore with self-abasement cannot give healthy self-esteem. In our own view of self and in our own esteem of self we must start with this: I am a wicked sinner before God, whose worth before Him is such that I deserve to be punished everlastingly in hell. Only when we begin with this can we go on to see our true worth in Christ and thus be led to true self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem is always humble. Have you learned that too? ❖
My dear friends in Christ, you are learning this week of convention that God wills and calls you to be courageous young people, spiritually strong and brave and confident in the face of danger. And you are learning what this means and how to be this by looking at aspects of the life of the godly man Daniel.
There are many important parallels between the life of Daniel and your own. Daniel had to live as a stranger in a strange land. As a Jewish captive in Babylon, he was a believer in a hostile environment. And he came to Babylon as a young man, so that his faith was challenged and tested at a young age. The nature of his life called for courage and he showed it.
This is the nature of your life too. You are covenant youth in the Babylon of this world; you are strangers in a strange land. You stand as the friends of God among people who are enemies of God and who hate you and are determined to destroy you. Because of this, there are countless challenges to your faith and Christian walk, so that the nature of your life and the times in which you live demand that you too be courageous. “Dare to be a Daniel” is more than a Sunday school song; it is God’s call to you. It is a motto to live by, a theme for your entire life.
Last night you learned one of the secrets of Daniel’s courage in Babylon, he was a man of prayer. Pastor Mahtani showed us how prayer was such an important part of Daniel’s life and how in this way he gained strength to stand strong and firm in the midst of his testings. From that you learned what you must be doing if you are to become strong and remain brave in this life of constant testings. You must stay close to your God and be in constant contact with Him, so as to draw from Him the grace you need in this dangerous world.
This evening we are going to consider another prominent aspect of Daniel’s life, his bold witness. Daniel gave a powerful witness in the wicked land of Babylon, a witness to God, a witness to Christ, a witness to God’s grace as it had saved him, a witness to the church and kingdom of God. No matter where you turn in the book of Daniel you find this man of God testifying to and of his Lord. He did this not only by words, but he also demonstrated this in deeds. And his witness was bold; it was forward and open. Daniel did not hide his faith and his God; he put them out for all to see. He made his witness before an unbelieving and hateful world; before mighty kings, leaders of the world-powers of that day, knowing full well that it would cost him. He was bold; that was his courage too.
Tonight I want to show you that this bold witness is what you as courageous youth must also have and show. There is a stanza in the song “Dare to be a Daniel” which goes: “Dare to have a purpose firm! Dare to make it known!” That is what we will see in Daniel, and what we will learn to do by the grace of God. I call your attention to: “DANIEL’S BOLD WITNESS.”
HOW HE DEMONSTRATED A BOLD WITNESS
When we speak of witnessing, we usually put it in the realm of evangelism. We speak, for example, of “personal witnessing.” But that tends to restrict our idea of what it means to witness. We think it is only a special activity, something we do at certain times. But I want you to think broadly when we speak of witnessing tonight. I want you to see that witnessing is a way of life for the Christian, not a special activity. It is something we must always be doing.
Witnessing has to do with testifying to the truth of something based on what you’ve seen or heard or experienced. It has a legal connotation. A witness in court has to give testimony based on the evidence he’s seen or heard or experienced. Think of all the witnesses who have been involved in the O. J. Simpson trial and the variety of testimony they have had to give. The important thing in such
witnessing is that one testifies to the truth; he has to witness concerning what he truly knows has happened. A false witness who lies (perjury) is a great evil and a serious offence.
The Bible tells us that in a spiritual sense God’s people are His witnesses. “Ye are my witnesses” Jehovah said to His O.T. people in Isaiah 43:10. Don’t let the cult of “Jehovah’s Witnesses” take that beautiful name away from you. As Christians who have the truth of His Word, you are the Lord’s true witnesses, not they. They are the devil’s false witnesses. That we are the Lord’s witnesses means that, as we live in this world, we must view ourselves as being constantly in court. We are at all times called by God to take the witness stand and testify on His behalf. We must defend Him and His cause before men. And that means that we must tell the truth; our witness concerning God in this world must be true.
That true witness is found, first of all, in God’s Word. We testify to and of God based on what we’ve heard and seen from God’s own revelation in His Word. This whole book of truth is the basis of your testimony and the content of your witness. And secondly, that truth is found in your own heart as a saved sinner, because that is where God’s grace has worked to teach you the truth of His Word and make you know it and believe it personally. As saved, covenant young people, you can testify of the truth because you have and have experienced God’s truth in your own hearts and lives!
This testimony you give both by your talk and by your walk; by your lip as well as by your life. That’s why we say you are always giving it. Whatever you do, wherever you go, you are giving a witness to and of God, as a professing Christian. And that witness is either true or false. You are either speaking and living the truth according to God’s Word and grace, or you are speaking and living the lie contrary to God’s Word and grace. Daniel gave a true witness in the land of Babylon, and that is a powerful example for you.
Let’s look at some of the specific examples of his bold witness, so that we may learn from it and gain courage to have it. We don’t have to go far in the book of Daniel because already in chapter 1 we have an illustration of his bold witness. Daniel was confronted right away with a temptation, to eat the king’s dainties, his meat and wine. And notice what he did. First, he purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself. That’s courage enough. But then second, he went right to the prince of the eunuchs and made his bold request: “. . . Therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself,” v. 8. He didn’t hide his opposition to this; he didn’t make up some excuse. No, he openly told the man his position. He witnessed of His God and His way of holiness in a land of unholiness! He had a purpose firm and he dared to make it known!
That’s the witness you must have and give in this tempting Babylon you live in; Daniel is our example in courage and boldness. How many times are we not faced with defiling sins? How many of the world’s “dainties” are not set before you day after day, that you may “eat” and be corrupted?! You know what they are: the world’s fashions and music and movies, with its message of sexual pleasure and material pleasure. You know the defiling sins you confront when you are on your dates, both in terms of where you will spend your time and how you will end the evening. What testimony are you giving in these matters? Are you witnessing of God and His grace? Are you telling the truth according to His Word and His work in your hearts, or are you declaring the lie according to the devil and your own sinful nature? Dare to be a Daniel, and let this be the bold testimony of your heart and mouth, “I will not defile myself with Babylon’s sins!”
A second example of Daniel’s bold witness is found in the accounts of his interpretation of the two dreams of Nebuchadnezzar and of the handwriting on the wall during the feast of Belshazzar. As Daniel served in Nebuchadnezzar’s court as one of his wise counsellors, he was challenged by the dreams of this king. Without going into all the details, notice what Daniel did when the first dream concerning the image Nebuchadnezzar saw was revealed to him (chap. 2). He asked to be brought to the king and when he appeared before him, he boldly told him how it was that he knew the dream, “The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days,” vss. 27, 28. Then he testified boldly by telling the dream and its interpretation, v. 37ff (you may read this). Openly before this mighty ruler Daniel showed God and His sovereignty, Christ and His kingdom.
We find the same thing in chapter 4 with the second dream of Nebuchadnezzar, vss. 19ff (that of the great tree cut down). The interpretation of this dream was a hard thing to tell the king, but Daniel boldly testified to the truth. God is the sovereign King and Nebuchadnezzar must be humbled before Him to know that He rules!
And again, we find this courageous witness of Daniel in the interpretation of the handwriting on the wall during Belshazzar’s feast, chap. 5:17ff. (You may look this up.) Notice how Daniel plainly witnesses of God and how he rebukes this wicked man for his sin. It was a bold witness! In all of these cases he did not change and compromise God’s Word, but bravely spoke the truth.
In this respect also Daniel is an important and necessary example for us. God has revealed His truth and kingdom to us too, not by dreams but in His infallible Word, the Bible. He has made clear to us that He is the sovereign God Who rules in the nations of men. He has revealed that Christ is at His right hand and that He is soon coming to perfect His kingdom. He has told us that He is absolutely sovereign in salvation. He has made Himself Lord of our lives. What are we doing with this revelation? Is it our bold witness to tell the world this, and other Christians who question this? Are our mouths open, or shut? Are we openly telling all, or hiding the harder parts of the truth? Do our lives show plainly that we humbly yield to the sovereign control of God? Dare to be a Daniel and make known the truth that the Lord reigns!
Thirdly, Daniel witnessed boldly in one more way, during the reign of Darius, chapter 6. It was in the matter of prayer. He was put to the test again, this time with regard to his prayer practices, his devotional life. A law was made against his faith and practice. But boldly he went and did as he always did, testifying to His God and to His grace in his heart: “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime,” v. 10. He would not change his godly habits, hide his faith, compromise his stand, though he knew it would bring him suffering. And notice his testimony afterward, “My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me . . . ,” v. 22. What a faith! v. 23. What a bold testimony!
Daniel’s example in this respect too calls us to a bold witness. God has given us the great privilege and duty of prayer. Out of love for God and gratitude to Him, out of longing for His fellowship, out of sheer need of Him and His grace, we ought to be in holy conversation with Him daily. And we don’t have to worry about the lions’ den, at least not yet. We have freedom to call upon God, privately and publicly. How is the witness of your life in the matter of devotion to God? Do people at school and work know you as a devoted Christian? Have they seen or heard you in prayer to your God? Or are you a best kept secret? Do you shrink lest others think you odd, pious? Are you willing to die for this witness? Keep in mind that the N.T. word for “witness” is literally “martyr!” Dare to be a Daniel! Dare to have a purpose firm, dare to make it known! Dare to stand alone, if need be!
HOW HE OBTAINED AND MAINTAINED A BOLD WITNESS
But how did Daniel get to be so bold? How did he maintain this witness while being tested and challenged over and over? What the book of Daniel reveals concerning this is also instructive for us.
Let’s begin by being sure we know this was not something Daniel had of himself. His witness was not anything natural in him. The strength and boldness of his testimony didn’t come from some human tap within himself; his courage to testify of the truth wasn’t obtained by human resolve and endeavor. Daniel knew that well. And we must understand that too. We don’t have and reveal this kind of testimony of ourselves. According to our human nature we are all spiritual “chickens,” afraid and ashamed to speak of God and His Son.
This bold witness was the fruit of God’s grace and saving faith in Daniel. God gave it to him and enabled him to be bold and brave in using it. Daniel was a believer, and he put his trust in the Lord for his strength to be a faithful witness of the truth by his lip and life. It is and must be the same with us.
But now, we know that God uses means to give us this strength and courage, and as His people use these means, they gain this strength and maintain this courage. That’s the way it was with Daniel. Let’s see how.
First, to be a bold witness you have to have a solid foundation. To be able to witness to the truth you have to know the truth, and that means a good training in it. Daniel had a good, covenantal education when he was a young man in Israel. He was trained in God’s Word and in God’s ways. And he embraced this training in the truth with a believing heart. That served him well when he got to Babylon and had to attend school there. And he continued to grow in that knowledge through the Word in Babylon. He revealed himself as a man of the Word, both in special revelations and in written form, cf. chap. 9:2. He had a heart to understand, a teachable spirit, cf. 10:12. That was the basis of his courage (courage comes from the French and Latin words for ‘heart’).
You have been given a good foundation too— your own educational training in the covenant, in home, church, school. If you have received that spiritually by faith, you are equipped to be God’s witnesses in Babylon. Have you? Do you really know and believe God’s truth? Are you standing strong in knowledge and conviction? Now, what are you doing with this spiritual training? Are you using it to be strong and brave in your witness in this world? Are you still seeking to grow in it? Are you hungry for the Word and do you use it daily to gain a stronger and bolder witness? (cf. Daniel 10:19 and 11:32).
Secondly, Daniel obtained and maintained his bold witness through the means of prayer. He was a man of faith, and faith is trust in God. He knew that he depended on the Lord for his knowledge and wisdom, for his strength to testify boldly, and therefore, he took his need to God in regular prayer. Three times a day was his habit. He lived close to his God; that was the secret of his bold witness.
Let me assure you that prayer is the second key to your obtaining and maintaining a strong and brave witness. Do we fully realize our dependence on God? Are we trying to live by ourselves? How is our prayer life? The strength of our witness is directly proportional to our prayer life. I believe you will agree with me that we need a greater devotion to God; we need to be diligent in seeking His help and strength. Private prayer leads to open witness. Use the means Daniel did, and you will be bold in your testimony!
Thirdly and finally, Daniel obtained and maintained his bold witness by being a sin-conscious man who repented of his sin and who committed himself to walk in a holy way. Nothing weakens and ultimately kills a Christian’s witness faster than sin. If we are not conscious of it, if we are not avoiding it, if we are not repenting of it, it will put an end to our testimony to the truth. No matter how much we witness by our talk, if we do not deal with sin and put it away in our lives, our witness will die, and the world will mock.
Daniel knew this, and lived accordingly. Immediately when he got to Babylon he took a stand to be a holy man, to reject sin, whatever would defile him. That made him strong for the rest of the tests; that preserved his witness. So too in chap. 9 we find him confessing his sin, cf. vss. 3ff.
How about us? Do we have a concern to be holy? Have you resolved to fight sin and not let it rule you? Are you resisting anything that will weaken your witness? Are we sin-conscious? Do you confess your sin and turn from it? This is the way to have a strong and bold witness.
HOW HE RECEIVED GOD’S WITNESS FOR HIS BOLD WITNESS
I want to close with a serious note that will also encourage you. That is that God has a witness concerning us too, a witness concerning our witness. He is our Judge and He gives a testimony regarding our life and walk in this world. He witnesses the truth based on what He has seen in our lives. He witnesses everything, remember. If we have testified well of Him, He gives us a good testimony. But if we have not, then He testifies against us. Hebrews 11 speaks of this witness of God concerning His people. It tells us that Abel and Enoch and the other fathers of faith had a “good report” from God because of their faithful witness to and of Him in their lives.
Daniel understood this, for his name means “God is my judge.” And as one of the heroes of faith who testified boldly of his Lord, he received a good report. God testified well of him and gave him his reward, eternal life. That’s what he is now enjoying in the presence of his God.
What would God say of your witness tonight? How would He judge you? What testimony would He give? A good report? Or a bad one? What will be your reward, heaven or hell? I want you to hold that in your mind and on your heart. Witnessing of God is serious. But that must not put you in fear in a bad sense. Knowing this, let godly fear call you and encourage you to faithfulness in your witness. “Dare to be a Daniel. Dare to have a purpose firm. Dare to make it known.” The church today needs such young people.
Rev. Terpstra is pastor of the South Holland Protestant Reformed Church in South Holland, Illinois.
Pastor Cammenga has laid a good foundation for us in reminding us of what it is to be Reformed as far as our belief is concerned. In this second speech, we want to examine together what it means to be Reformed in life. This is what we sometimes refer to as the practical side of our faith, Christian living or sanctification. There are a couple of things I want to bring out before we get into the subject of the Reformed life itself.
The first thing I want to bring out is the truth that there is such a thing as living a Reformed life. The Reformed faith does impact our lives. It does include godly, holy living.
As you know, the enemies of sovereign grace have always accused the Reformed faith of being opposed to sincere Christian living. They contend that the doctrine of salvation by grace alone without human works and merit kills a godly life, and makes one irresponsible and careless. It is said that the Reformed faith does not do justice to man’s will and man’s working, and so it makes him licentious. The ancient objection of Romans 6:1 is raised, “Let us sin that grace may abound!” (cf. also the Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 64).
But this charge is false. The Reformed faith has always taught and stressed the necessity of living a Christian life, of being godly and living holy, of doing good works. In fact, Calvinism has always taught that this life is included in grace itself. God’s sovereign grace working in the sinner includes regeneration and conversion and sanctification, the making of the sinner to be new and holy and the turning of his heart and life from what is evil unto what is good (cf. Rom.6:3ff.; Heid. Cat., A. 64; Belg. Conf., art.24).
Further, because the Reformed faith is explicitly biblical in its approach, it has always taught what the Bible teaches about Christian living. It has taught and stressed holiness and obedience from the law of God. It has given full force to the practical admonitions of the Word of God and called redeemed sinners to obey them according to the grace given them. It has called believers to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ and to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.
Plainly therefore, the Reformed faith teaches that the doctrines of grace have to do with your life, that they do impact your conduct in this world, and that you do have a responsibility to live holily.
The second thing which needs to be stressed is that this Reformed life is inseparable from the doctrines we hold by faith and is in fact based upon them and flows from them. There are two extremes we must avoid in this connection.
One extreme is to cut a Reformed life off from Reformed doctrine. This would be to say that you believe all the doctrines of Calvinism, but then stop there and never live a Christian life. That is to have the root and trunk of the Reformed tree but without any fruit. This position is called sometimes called “dead orthodoxy”, but it is really no orthodoxy at all. It is just plain deadness. A person who thinks and acts this way shows that he or she is really not a Reformed tree at all.
The other extreme is to cut Reformed doctrine off from Reformed living. There are some professed Christians who do this. They are very much concerned about living a Christian life, but they minimize and even ridicule sound doctrine. They are very busy acting like Christians, but do not know why they are doing it. This is to pretend to have the fruit of the Christian life without any root and trunk. This kind of Christian quickly withers and dies.
Rather must we see that doctrine and life go together, and that the Reformed life and practice is based on and flows from the doctrines of the Reformed faith. If we think of the Reformed Christian as a tree (and the Bible speaks of him and her that way), then the doctrines of the Reformed faith comprise the roots and the trunk of the believer, and the godly practice or the holy living comprises the leaves and the fruit of the believer. Where you have soundness of doctrine (good roots and trunk), you will have soundness of life (fruit) And where you have soundness of life, you may be sure that underneath it is soundness of faith.
The truth of this is easily demonstrated from Scripture itself. In Paul’s epistles, for example, we find this pattern: first he sets forth the sound doctrine the believers must hold, and then he sets forth the godly life which follows and flows from this. The books of Romans and Ephesians especially show this pattern (see chapters 12 and 4 respectively). So true is this relation, that in Titus 1:1 the Bible calls the Christian’s faith the “acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness.”
With these beginning points in mind, we want to examine in further detail some principles of living a Reformed life, and do that by considering certain young adults and saints in the Bible who exemplified these principles.
II. SOME BASIC PRINCIPLES
There are two general principles about living a Reformed, Christian life which we ought to pay attention to first of all.
The first one is that leading a truly Reformed life is living out of the knowledge of our SIN and of God’s GRACE in Jesus Christ. No doubt this is basic, but this is so crucial to true Reformed living. As Reformed Christians, we believe that of ourselves we are totally depraved and hopelessly lost. It is God’s free and sovereign grace in His Son that has saved us.
What I am stressing is that the knowledge of this truth must be the governing principle of our Christian lives. This must not merely be a doctrine we are convinced of when we first come to salvation. It must not be a doctrine we put on the shelf once we come to faith in Christ. To the contrary, this must be the guiding and governing principle of our whole life. Always we must live out of the knowledge and experience of our sinfulness and of God’s saving grace to us.
B.B. Warfield, the great Presbyterian theologian of the previous age, wrote this about the Reformed Christian:
“The Calvinist is the man who has seen God, and who, having seen God in His glory, is filled on the one hand with a sense of his own unworthiness to stand in God’s sight as a creature, and much more as a sinner, and on the other hand, with adoring wonder that nevertheless this God is a God who receives sinners.”
Such is the kind of Calvinist we must be. The apostle Paul was a saint who lived out of this principle. Throughout his epistles, he testifies to the fact that he is a believer who continued to live out of the knowledge of his sin and of God’s grace to him (cf. Romans 7: 7ff.; I Cor. 15:9,10; I Tim.l:15).
Why is this so crucial? Because if we do not continually live out of the knowledge and experience of our sin and of God’s grace, we will soon become complacent and proud and self-sufficient. We will fall into work-righteousness and/or legalism, and thus into bondage. Only the constant knowledge that of ourselves we are lost sinners and that it is God alone who saves us will keep us on the right course in our Christian lives. The theme of our lives must be that found in the words of John Newton: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!”
The other basic principle relates to the Scriptures. That is, that to live the Reformed life, we must be Reformed according to the Word of God. This was what the name “Reformed” originally meant. The Reformers were men who “reformed” the church according to the Scriptures. They acknowledged the Bible to be the only authority for the church’s faith and practice, and realizing that Rome had departed from this, they strove to restore the church according to this rule.
The same principle applies to the individual Reformed believer. He or she is a man or woman of the book, a person whose life is formed according to this Scripture. Our lives in all of their aspects are to be regulated by this infallible rule. That is a principle we must live by as Reformed Christians. That implies that the Bible has a dominant place in our lives – that we read it, study it, search it, follow it. What place does the Bible have in your life? Are you using it and are you following it?
There are a couple of young men in the Bible who understood and lived by this basic principle in their lives. The first is the psalmist of Ps. 119. Read just vss. 9-16 to find out how important the Word of God was to him. The second example is Timothy. Read II Tim.3:14-17 to discover what critical place and role the Scriptures had and would continue to have in his life. This too is being Reformed in life, having a life formed according to the Word of God.
III. SOME SPECIFIC AND DISTINCTIVE CHARACTERISTICS
Let us consider next some of the specific characteristics of a Reformed Christian. What are some of the spiritual marks that single them out as distinctive in their living?
The first and dominant thing is that he or she walks in the FRIENDSHIP OF THE LORD. As Reformed believers, we put a lot of emphasis on the truth of the covenant. We believe that when God saves us, He sovereignly makes an unconditional relationship of friendship with us through Jesus Christ. He becomes our Friend-Sovereign and He makes us His friend-servants. And the fruit and blessing of that relationship is fellowship. God draws close to us and takes us into sweet communion with Himself.
This is more than just an objective reality for the Reformed believer; it is also a subjective reality. And it has very practical implications too for his life and practice. It means that we live close to the Lord, that we walk in daily fellowship with Him. He is our best Friend in life. Listen to how David spoke of this fellowship in Ps.63 (read it!). Listen to how Asaph described his relationship to God in Ps.73:23-28 (read it!).
This friendship and fellowship with God is not something mystically experienced. It comes through the use of prayer and the Word and worship. Hence, the Reformed Christian is diligent in the use of these means. Are you? How close is your life to the Lord as your Friend?
This friendship with the Lord also translates into friendship with the Lord’s people. And that is the second thing which is distinctive about the Reformed Christian’s life. As he has the Lord for His friend, so he has the Lord’s friends for his friends. As he abides in fellowship with the Lord, so he abides in fellowship with fellow believers. We call this the communion of saints, and it is tremendously important for young adults to realize and practice. Probably the outstanding Biblical example is David and Jonathan, I Sam.18: 1ff. (read it!). Their relationship was special but it is nevertheless a pattern for us.
This has implications for your whole Christian life. Friends make you or break you, the saying is. Evil friends can corrupt you and ruin you for life. The wrong marriage partner can bring untold grief into your life. Strive to make this spiritual friendship a distinctive part of your life. Make Christian friends and build the relationships you have. Seek a true covenant friend of the Lord for your mate. That will serve you well in all of life.
Another distinctive characteristic of the Reformed Christian’s life is HOLINESS. The Reformed man and woman are holy in heart and life. They are sanctified persons, through the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ, and thus lead sanctified lives.
And holiness is first of all SEPARATION FROM WHAT IS EVIL. We know this as the truth of the antithesis. It is rooted in our view of God’s particular grace and our rejection of common grace. And it is good to remember that this is the negative aspect of sanctification. This is why holiness is a battle, because we have to reject and turn away from sin in ourselves and in the world. The Bible repeatedly points to this distinctive: Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 6: l4ff; Col. 3: 5ff.; Ja. 1:27; I Jn. 2:15—17.
Daniel is a good pattern for us. As he lived in a godless environment intent on making him conform, he lived in holiness. He refused to defile himself with the king’s meat, and in that way of rejecting sin he prospered (cf. Dan 1). This is the Reformed Christian’s ‘world-flight’ – not escaping the world, but fleeing it spiritually.
And then secondly, holiness in the Reformed Christian’s life is PURITY and CONSECRATION to what is good and godly. The Reformed believer is a person with a washed heart, a cleansed mind and will, and therefore is a person devoted to what is pure and clean in his daily living, cf. Phil. 4:8. He sets his heart on what is pure; he thinks what is pure; he wills what is pure: he is devoted to what pure. He loves what God loves, and consecrates himself to doing what pleases God. And so, he strives to keep the law of God, which is his standard for holiness. Does holiness mark your life? If it does not, you have no right to call yourself a Reformed Christian.
IV. THE ESSENTIAL MOTIVES
Last of all, there are a couple of great spiritual motives from which your Reformed life must spring. The Reformed life is not lived by coercion from without, but by spiritual motives arising from within. It is always a danger that we live out of force and compulsion. Then we fall into legalism and even worse, into hypocrisy.
This must not be. And grace will not allow it.
No, the Reformed Christian lives first of all out of the motive of LOVE FOR GOD. He loves God because God has first loved him and has spread His love abroad in his heart. And so, this love is the inner spring from which his whole life of conformity to the Word of God and his fellowship with God and with His people and his holiness arises. With an overflowing heart, he seeks to thank the Lord and please Him.
Further, the motive from which the Reformed Christian lives is the GLORY OF GOD. The Reformed believer knows that God is the reason for all he is and has. He knows that God’s glory is revealed in the salvation of his soul. He knows that God’s glory is the purpose of his salvation, Eph. 1:6. He knows that he is to live to the glory of God, I Cor 1:31; 10:31.
And because he knows the greatness of God and His saving grace, the Reformed Christian wants to glorify God in all he does. He does not need to be told; he is motivated to do it. It is spontaneous. That is, if we truly know our sin and truly know His grace.
May we strive to be Reformed in our lives, to live out of these Biblical principles, to be distinctive, and to live by these motives. Then we shall have the Lord’s blessing, and we shall receive His reward.
Let me begin by thanking the host society and church here at Redland for having us all here, and for giving me the privilege of being one of the speakers. This is a first for me, and I am grateful for this opportunity. I also commend you for the theme you have chosen for us, “Love: the Bond of Perfectness,” based on the Scripture in Col. 3:14. This is and ought to be a vitally important subject for you believing young people of Christ’s church. God’s love is the ethical source of and spiritual reason for our salvation. It is the heartbeat of the Christian’s life. What is it that brings you young people together for this convention? It is the bond of love! What is it that we are here to enjoy and have enriched? It is the bond of love with God and with one another!
The aspect of the theme which I have been asked to speak to you on is love as the gift of God. This is the proper starting point, for all true spiritual love is of God; there is no love apart from Him, as says the Scripture in I John 4:7, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God….” The love we have is a gift from Him. But when we talk about love being the gift of God, we do not merely mean that the love we have is from God; we also mean that He loved us first, before we had any love for Him or anyone else. His love for us is preeminent and foremost. Of this we read in I John 4:10, 19: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. We love him, because he first loved us.”
That is a blessed beginning – God’s love for us. Someone has well said that to know God’s love for us is heaven on earth. I hope that you count it so, young people. There is nothing greater for you to know and be assured about than the love of God for you. If you have that, you have everything. Yet to speak of the love of God is to enter the realm of the sacred and profound. Someone else has written that when we look at God’s love, we look into His heart. That makes me tremble and makes me want to say, “What can I say about the love of God?” Well, we can say something about it because God has told us about it in His word. In His love letter to us, He has opened His heart and showed us what His love is.
Such is a passage as Col. 3:14. I want to make just a few introductory comments about this text before we delve into our subject. Paul is not as such talking about God’s love for us here. He is talking about our love for our fellow believers. Yet as we said because all love is of God and since His love for us is first, we may apply this passage to God’s love for us. But what we want to point out especially is that something is said here about the very nature and character of love. Love is said to be the bond of perfectness. That’s almost a definition of love.
That is quite a bit different from the popular idea of love. Usually love is defined in terms of its emotional nature. Love is said to be a strong feeling of attraction to something beautiful. Now it is true that love, also God’s love has this dimension. But this is not the heart of it. The heart of God’s love is that it is a bond, the bond of perfectness. That word “bond” comes from a root that means “to tie together, to fasten on all sides.” That is the nature of God’s love – it ties us together in an intimate bond, in an unbreakable union. Hosea 11:1, 4 says it well: “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love….”
That is a very beautiful concept. It implies that love is basically a covenant concept. In loving us God establishes a personal relationship with us, a relationship of friendship! We find that beautiful idea expressed in I John 4:16: “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in him.” That’s the perspective we want to take in this speech.
II. ROOTED IN ETERNITY
The love God has for His people is rooted in eternity. This is the wonder of God’s love – He loved us before time, before the worlds were made, before we had any being or existence! His love does not just begin in time, when we were born or when we were converted. No, it is from eternity; it extends back into the eternal heart of God. Jeremiah was given a vision of this truth, “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore, with loving kindness have I drawn thee.” Jer. 31:3.
This implies the great and precious truth of your election. From eternity in His perfect plan of salvation God determined to make you an object of His love. He wrote your name in the Lamb’s book of life. He engraved you on the palms of His hands. But besides that, that choice of you on God’s part was itself an act of love. You were elected in love. This is what Paul says in Eph. 1:4, 5: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world,…in love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself….”
That ought to make you and me fall down before God in humble adoration, that He would so choose us in love and determine to make us know His love. Remember, He didn’t do that for everyone. Election is discriminatory, particular. God didn’t choose all men to know His love. Just as He singled out Jacob and loved him, but hated Esau, so He has singled you out, believing covenant young people, and loved you. And what did He see in you that would make Him love you? Did He look ahead and see you giftedness, your beauty, your love of Him, your faith in Christ, your good works? No, none of that. There was nothing in you and me to attract God’s love to us. In fact, as sinners we are wholly unloveable. God loved us simply because it was His good pleasure. That is humbling, isn’t it?
But perhaps you ask at this point: What is so important about the fact that God’s love for us is eternal and rooted in eternity? Isn’t it more important to know that God loves us in time, right now? And besides, isn’t this whole idea rather impersonal? If love is the bond of perfectness, how could God love us before we had any existence? How could there be a personal bond before we were real beings?
In answer to these questions, let it be said that your election in love and to love is far from impersonal. Not only did the personal, living God choose you, but He also chose you as a person. You see, He foreknew you and thus chose you. That foreknowledge of God means that He knew all about you; He knew your person, your makeup, your life. To the mind of God therefore, you were a real person. And thus the bond of love between God and you was also real as far as God was concerned. But what about that first question? How important is it to know that God loved you from eternity?
There are a couple of reasons why I believe it is vitally important to know this. In the first place, because it shows us that God’s love for us is sovereign. It is not that we loved God and therefore He loved us. No. He loved us first, loved us sovereignly. And so, you see, that also means that we are not loved with a weak, human love, but with the mighty love of God. And therefore in the second place, this is important to know because it shows that this love of God for us is sure. Because it is God’s eternal love, it will not die out as temporal human love does. Because it is from eternity it will extend to eternity. We have an eternal bond with God! Nothing can break that bond, nothing can pull us apart. Now that’s comfort, comfort for you young people who live in a world of fickle, uncertain human love!
III. MANIFEST AT THE CROSS
Let’s go on now to ask the question: How does the love of God manifest itself? We may certainly say that the very desire on God’s part to bind us together with Himself in a personal relationship of friendship manifested His love. That He would even want to do that, considering the fact that He already had fellowship within Himself and was perfectly happy, shows His love for us.
But the Word of God drives us to a more concrete manifestation of the love of God – I John 4:9, 10: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
Love, as you know is often measured by what it gives to others and what it does for others. That’s the way we measure love and that’s the way the Bible talks about the measure of God’s love, too. True love is in its nature sacrificial; it gives. True love manifests itself in deeds; it does something for its objects. How did the love of God manifest itself with regard to these two things?
Scripture is very plain on what God’s love gave to us. We already read from I John 4:9, 10 about that, but perhaps the most familiar verse is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God gave what was most precious, most dear to Him – His own Son. You remember how the Bible speaks of Abraham giving up Isaac? Well, that’s just a faint picture of what God did when He gave us His Son. What a sacrifice! What a love!
Scripture is equally plain on what God’s love did through that gift of His Son. We already read from I John 4:10, where mention is made of the fact that God gave His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. But let us quote an Old Testament passage – Is. 38:17: “Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.” That’s what God’s love did – it delivered our souls from the pit of corruption – that’s death and hell, and gave us life with Him, everlasting life. What an act! What a love!
But now I want us to see the absolute necessity of this gift and act of God’s love in order for that love to be complete. I mean complete from the viewpoint of what Col. 3:14 says about love. God’s love toward us is said to be the bond of perfectness. That means that for the tie of love to be made, there must be a perfect subject and a perfect object. In other words, for there to be a personal relationship of friendship between God and us, both God and we must be perfect. God’s love cannot operate in any other sphere than that of perfection. Only in holiness can it be completed and a bond established.
But now we know that while there is no problem with the subject of love being perfect, namely, God, there is a problem with the objects of love, namely, ourselves. God is perfect and holy; there is no sin in Him. But we are sinners, not perfect, but full of sin. We are dead in sins; we are in the pit of corruption, impure, vile. How then can the love of God be shown to us? How can He love such sinners as we? How can He tie us to Himself in the strong bands of love and have fellowship with us?
The answer is that He cannot – except He deliver us from sin and make us holy and perfect. And that is what He did in giving His Son to the death of the cross. This is the amazing nature of God’s love. It went to this extent to bind us to Himself in the cords of friendship. And now let’s turn to one more Scripture that speaks of this marvelous work of God’s love – Romans 5:6-8. Here we find God’s great love for us sinners contrasted with the greatest manifestation of human love. “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
This then is how and why the bond of perfection has been made between God and us. God sees us in Jesus Christ, free of sin, perfect in holiness, and He draws us to Himself in the bond of holy, divine love. What wondrous love!
IV. POURED OUT UPON THE CHURCH
Having reached this point in this message, you may be ready to ask: But how do we know that we are loved by God? How do I know personally that God loves me? How do I know that the love of God manifested at the cross is for my benefit, so that I am fastened to God in a covenant relationship? After all, God chose me in eternity and the cross took place nearly 2,000 years age!?
That is a good question and deserves a good answer. And from the Scriptures that question receives a good answer. You must know that God has taken care of that, too. Rom. 5:5 tells how: “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” God has given us another gift – the Holy Spirit, and by that Spirit who comes to dwell in our hearts by faith the love of God for us is worked in our hearts, so that we know it and are assured of it. By the work of this Spirit we are able to say with Paul in Gal. 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
But perhaps you still say: How do I know that I have the gift of the Holy Spirit so that I know that I am loved by God? The answer is, by your interest in God and in Jesus Christ. The Spirit not only works in the elect person’s heart the knowledge of God’s love for him, but He also works in that heart a love for God on the part of the saved sinner. And what is more, that Spirit also works in an elect person’s heart a saving faith in Jesus Christ, such that one believes in Him and embraces His work on the cross.
And so my questions to you are: What is your interest in God? Do you love Him? Do you find in your heart and life a desire to be in the presence and fellowship of God? And, what is your interest in Jesus Christ? Do you believe on Him? Do you embrace what He has done for sinners? If you do, then you also know that God loves you. That is the way of personal assurance of God’s love.
Do you see how fully God’s love is a gift to us? Our Triune God has taken care of every aspect of it to make it a reality. God the Father chose us in love to be the recipients of it. God the Son came and died to lay the foundation of that love. And God the Holy Spirit applies it to our hearts so that we have the knowledge and assurance of it.
What does that make you do? How do you respond to that love? You are filled with awe and praise, such that you say, “O my God, how great is thy love to me!” And you respond with the words of the hymn writer: “Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.” May God bless you young people with the knowledge of His love for you, and may you by the power of the Spirit keep yourselves in that love.
I. Specific Principles of Scripture concerning work or vocation.
A. Work is necessary and noble, for God Himself is an ever-active God.
1. God created man to work, to be active and productive, and not to sit contemplating or be inactive, Genesis 1:28; 2:15.
2. Man’s fall into sin did not change God’s purpose to labor, nor did it change God’s command to work. The fall only changed the nature of the work, so it is with sorrow and sweat (Genesis 3:16-19). None of man’s inventions are capable of removing this sorrow and sweat, for it will be “till thou return unto the ground” (Genesis 3:19).
3. God further showed the necessity and nobility of work by including the command to work for six days of the week in the Fourth Commandment. True Sabbath rest is impossible without knowing the activity and productiveness of work. So it was with God in His creating. So it certainly is with man.
4. Solomon gives his inspired wisdom concerning the matter of work by condemning slothfulness and the sluggard and by commending the diligent.
5. Jesus and Paul are proper examples of the necessity and nobility of work.
a. Jesus was known to be a carpenter (Mark 6:3) sweating and toiling in manual labor for well over ten years.
b. Paul set his own working “with his hands” as an example to the saints at Corinth and at Thessalonica (I Cor. 1:12 with Acts 18:3, 1).
6. Work is seen as so noble that one who persists in not working is condemned as worthy of excommunication (I Thess. 3:9-16).
B. Therefore, work is honorable and also desirable for the Christian.
1. Work is not something to be avoided as a necessary evil, nor is it to be sought merely as an inescapable reality.
2. Every lawful vocation is honorable, whether it be blue or white-collar, in or outside the home.
a. Legitimate labor is that which is not in itself or in its context in violation of God’s law, e.g. being a locksmith is legitimate, but not when it is used to steal.
b. God made Adam to be a “common” gardener and Jesus was a carpenter. Both performed what today’s society might call menial, manual labor.
3. Every lawful vocation is honorable because it can be means with which the Christian glorifies God.
II. In finding our life’s work we have to keep in mind what was said in general above.
A. There are no quick, easy ways to know what God wants us to do.
1. God’s will in vocation does not “drop from the sky” nor does the Bible have any clear commands: “Do this work!”
2. Rather do we have to be guided by the general principles taught in God’s Word and by prayer, as well as by the knowledge of ourselves. Then we make rational, wise choices.
B. Sinclair Ferguson in the book mentioned above (pp. 75-89) gives us four basic things to consider in determining what God’s will is for us in vocation:
1. Mark out the possibilities; narrow the fields in which we can and may labor.
2. Consider your gifts. Are we more intellectually inclined? Do we have communication skills? Are we suited for manual labor? Seek the counsel of others in this, especially your parents, but also teachers, pastors, friends, etc.
3. Consider the needs. We are to serve God and His cause in our work. What needs are there and how can we best meet these needs with our gifts. Consider your personal desires. What careers interest us and are appealing to our natural dispositions?
C. Above all, take to heart the words of Proverbs 3:5, 6, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”
III. Questions concerning seeking vocations.
A. May all occupations be considered “callings” or do only teachers and ministers have “callings” while all others are just “jobs.” Why or why not?
B. Are there careers we know we may not pursue and hold – that God’s will specifically prohibits? What would these be?
C. What ought to motivate us in considering our life’s work? What must not motivate us?
D. What things should we look for in ourselves that may help us determine what vocation we should seek? Does the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:11-30) have anything to do about this?
E. What role does our education play in determining our calling? If after high school we are unsure of what we ought to do, should we go on to college, and if so, what kind of college – liberal arts, etc.?
F. What role ought the influence and work of our parents, brothers/sisters and friends have in finding our life’s calling?
G. Do need (e.g. the need for ministers, teachers, doctors, etc.) and personal interest (“This career looks challenging to me”) alone determine whether we should enter a given field of work?
H. Concerning the ministry. Someone has said that every young man should consider the ministry first and foremost ahead of all other vocations. Another has said that if you cannot be anything else, become a minister. Which do you think is more correct? Or are they equally true?
I. What factors and considerations should determine a young woman’s pursuit of a career? Should (or even may) a young woman who plans to marry and be a homemaker even pursue a career as a teacher, nurse, etc.?
J. Discuss Ferguson’s four considerations for discovering what vocation to pursue.
K. Discuss Ferguson’s six principles of conduct that must govern our minds and wills as we seek a calling.
L. What comforting truths must we keep in mind as we seek to discover God’s will for our lives?
(Dating is a relatively new, cultural innovation of the last century in the Western world. As a result, the Bible has no explicit commands on how to date. Therefore, we learn God’s will about dating by considering what the Bible says about marriage and about healthy relationships.)
I. What the Bible says about marriage leaves implications for dating.
A. Consider that God’s creation of the first marriage was occasioned by the need to overcome man’s loneliness.
1. Am I preparing myself to be such a partner as to have Christian fellowship?
2. Is the one to whom I am attracted suited to me in this way?
B. What should I look for in a husband or a wife?
1. Is this the kind of person who will provide a protecting fellowship when my needs are exposed?
2. Is this the kind of man that I can respect so fully that I want, with God’s help, to be his submissive wife?
3. Is this the kind of girl to whom I, with God’s help, would be able to give a Christ-like love?
C. Because marriage is exclusive (no parents and no other people) and permanent, is your relationship with this person capable of this quality of devotion and commitment?
II. What the Bible says about healthy relationships.
A. Learn to communicate. If two cannot discuss what they think and feel about life, God, and each other, their relationship is on shaky ground.
B. Learn to share: what you think and feel; what you have and do. Learn to make mutual decisions.
C. Get to know each other and each other’s parents.
D. Read the Bible and pray together. If you cannot, then your relationship is unhealthy!! If each is not willing to obey God’s Word now, then trouble lies ahead!
E. Realize that each is an individual as well as the two being a couple before God.
A. The powerful, ennobling, happy emotion of “being in love.”
B. The trap of sexual desire.
IV. Dating Guidelines.
A. Consider whom you date. Never date someone who clearly differs from you in core values of religion and morals.
1. Reason: friendship is mutually influencing (cf. Gen. 6).
2. Reason: dating is the first step in a process which can lead to marriage.
B. Plan your dates and activities together.
1. Set moral standards. As you date more frequently, talk about your moral standards.
2. Pace your relationship, by being realistic and careful about the powers of sexual desires (no Christian young person thinks they will have pre-marital sex, but…). Avoid deliberate temptation!
C. Prayerfully study the principles of God’s Word alone and together.
D. Examine whether you are meant for one another, by considering the questions under #I above. Also in this regard it is the wise child who consults with his parents.
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Although it’s been a couple of months since we’ve been immersed in news coming from Japan about the 2020/2021 Olympic games, it’s still worth considering how these events are understood in the modern worldview of our country. The “Top Story of the Day” on Monday, August 9 (at least according to my newsfeed), was how […]
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 […]
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 […]
The 2021 Tennessee young people’s retreat was held August 9 to 13 by Providence, Hudsonville, Unity, and First (Holland) Protestant Reformed Churches. The retreat took place at Eagle Rock Retreat Center in the city of Tallassee. It was about an eleven-hour drive, give or take a bit due to stops for food and restrooms. Though […]