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Facebook? Yes, Facebook. This 77-year-old great-grandfather has a page on Facebook. And he’s a preacher, besides. Facebook is no longer only for children and young people.

One discovers that there are many useful ways to profit from this Web program. Pictures can be made available to any who wish to see them. One can post information of various sorts that all can read—and, if one wishes, the people who read, are able to post their answers or arguments. It is a tool of communication such as has never been available before the invention of computers and the internet. On Facebook, groups have been formed which are limited to family members; others, of all church members of a congregation; others, of entire denominations. Communication is limited then between members of a group. However, anyone within any group can copy what has been written, and pass it on to others outside of the group. More often the “pages” are open to all who wish to read and contribute to them.

In spite of the advantages of this means of communication, a warning must also be sounded. That was impressed upon me last week (week of Sept. 13). I heard the warning given by President Barak Obama, our president, to school age children. He reminded them that what they post on one of these Web programs, including Facebook, will likely remain available forever. Prospective employers in the future might check out by name an individual applying for a job. The prospective employer might much later discover foolish and indiscreet writings which would disqualify him from a job. Politicians as well as criminals have discovered that their e-mails or other Web postings can be uncovered to incriminate or condemn them—leading even to prison. His instruction: be careful what you write or what pictures you might be inclined to show. That same week a similar warning was given in an editorial of the Grand Rapids Press.

There are at least three Facebook pages identified as “Protestant Reformed.” Protestant Reformed church members can write or debate issues on these pages. But some of the debate on discipline/doctrine is disappointing to say the least.

But need a Christian who is Protestant Reformed have any warnings concerning the abuse of what is in many ways a wonderful invention? I am convinced that some guidelines must be followed. There are, of course, many innocuous statements expressed which are a waste of time in their posting and a waste of time for any who reads them (something like: “Guess what: I’m wearing my old blue jeans today.” Well, wonderful—but who cares?). There might be opportunities to discuss properly various issues of interest and concern. And one can do that with members of the denomination across the nation. Others, world-wide, can join in as well.

But in discussing certain subjects, especially those of a disciplinary character or disagreements on the Creeds or Church Order of the denomination, one must carefully consider whether the contributions are not in violation of Scriptural or confessional truths:

1) One must be sure that what he writes does not promote schism in the church. According to the form for the Lord’s Supper, such a one is admonished that he ought not to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

2) The Reformed Creeds (Three Forms of Unity) and the minor creeds (baptism, etc.) mark the difference between what is “Reformed” and what is not. Creeds are not infallible, but they remain binding in the church that is called “Reformed.” They are binding on all members until or unless the Synod changes them (according to the rules in the Church Order). These express what Reformed churches are convinced are the teachings of Scripture. One does not deliberately deny or ignore these creeds—as long as he is “Reformed.” Whatever he writes, must agree with that.

3) The “constitution” of Reformed churches is their “Church Order.” The Church Order is not merely “advice,” but is likewise binding on the churches and must be honored and followed until such time as Synod decides to change this. One must reflect this in his writing as well.

4) One must not backbite, slander, nor lie about brethren in his writing (cf. the ninth commandment).

5) One must respect and honor those who have the rule over you (Heb. 13:17 and the fifth command). One must post nothing in disobedience to that command.

6) What is written must meet Scripture’s demand to love one another.

But, one other matter remains very troubling. What about Christ’s instruction in Matthew 18:15-18? That treats of “private” sins. The principle Christ emphasizes is that in treating real or imagined sins, the Christian makes every effort to keep this as private as possible. Our churches treat “open” or “public” sins according to this principle (see Church Order, Art. 76-77).

On “Facebook” one has the opportunity to broadcast over the whole world what one considers to be the “sins” of others—or the sins of the denomination as a whole. Those inside as well as outside of the denomination can “make their own judgment.” Some outside of the denomination have been reading what has been written—and have joined also in making comments. We must abide by Scripture and follow Christ’s instruction. This is stated not to stifle proper discussion, but to conduct it within the confines of Scripture, the Creeds, and our Church Order.

Some cautionary remarks have been posted on the Facebook site as well—one striking statement comes from an individual living beyond easy traveling distance to any of our churches. He has listened for years to Protestant Reformed sermons on the Web and followed the activities of the churches. This all makes his statement more poignant:

For those of you who are considering departure from the PRCA because of this very difficult issue, I hope that you will take the time that you need to become refreshed, and be thankful for the sound, biblical doctrine, the precious treasure that your standard bearer, the PRCA, protects and defends for the glory of almighty God alone.

I am an outsider, looking in, and, as an outsider, I know how difficult it is to find a church, not to mention a united denomination that truly represents the revealed will of almighty God, even at the personal expense of its members. I know of no other denomination of churches where I could find such a thoroughly biblical position on the unconditional covenant, such an historic view of Genesis on creation, and such a godly and unselfish representation of marriage, divorce, and remarriage.

On May 3, 1932, Rev. Gise Van Baren became the son of John and Grace Van Baren. He was born at home in South Holland, Illinois.

As a boy, Rev. Van Baren attended South Holland Christian School. When he started attending this school, it was a two-room school with eight grades. It had outhouses for toilets, and a pump was used on the school grounds for their water supply. After grade school, Rev. Van Baren attended Illiana Christian High School in Lansing, Illinois.

While he was growing up, Rev. Van Baren’s hobbies were collecting coins and postage stamps. Today he still has these collections, but his biggest hobby now is working on the Internet and the PRC web site.

Rev. Van Baren believes that the peer pressure he experienced as a teenager was not much different than the peer pressure young people experience today. There are just so many other evils available to young people today. Peer pressure can lead young people to do things which were not even available when Rev. Van Baren was a young person.

During high school, the Lord led Rev. Van Baren to begin to consider preparing for the ministry. After he graduated from high school, Rev. Van Baren enrolled in the pre-sem course at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

After he graduated from Calvin College, Rev. Van Baren continued his education at the Protestant Reformed Seminary. His parents were pleased when they learned that he desired to enter the Seminary. He was a student at the Seminary at the time of the split of 1953. The most memorable events of these years were the debates and discussions which centered around the issues of the split.

During the time of the split, Rev. Van Baren remembers hearing Rev. De Wolf’s sermons which caused much debate in the churches. He also was able to hear the court trial concerning the property of First Church in Grand Rapids.

On January 25, 1956, Rev. Van Baren married Clara Buiter. They were married in South Holland, Illinois. The Lord has blessed them with four sons and four daughters who are all married. They also currently have twenty-four grandchildren.

Rev. Van Baren was ordained in October, 1956. His first charge was in Doon, Iowa, where he labored for 5 1/2 years. When his work in Doon was finished, the Lord called him to labor in Randolph, Wisconsin. After 3 1/2 years of preaching the Word in Randolph, the Lord called Rev. Van Baren to labor in First Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After 12 years of labor in First, the Lord sent him to Hudsonville, Michigan. He served the church in Hudsonville for 17 years. His last charge was in Loveland, Colorado, where he labored for 5 1/2 years until he became a Minister Emeritus in 1999.

One of Rev. Van Baren’s most memorable experiences in teaching the children in catechism was teaching the very young children. He was teaching them how Abraham and Sarah did not have Isaac until Abraham was 100 years old. He remembers: “One little boy pointed out that they had a cow which had a calf every year. Quite a comparison!”

During his ministry, it has been very rewarding for Rev. Van Baren to hear the young people make confession of their faith and also marry in the Lord.

After the split of 1953, the Protestant Reformed Churches faced other controversies. Rev. Van Baren remembers the controversies regarding the care of Rev. Herman Hoeksema. He also has memories of the questions concerning divorce and remarriage.

Rev. Van Baren has advice for men considering the calling to be ministers of the Word. “They should think and pray carefully about this. It is a blessed calling, but involves also hard work and oftentimes great strife.”

Rev. Van Baren feels that the young people should consider Scripture and the confessions more and place much less emphasis on sports. He is encouraged to see the young people attending church faithfully and learning their catechism lessons well.

This article was first presented as a speech by Rev. Gise Van Baren at the 1998 Young Adult’s Spring Retreat in Loveland, Colorado. The retreat occurs in March of every year. Young adults of high school age and older are encouraged to attend.

 

The second battle plan of Satan can be found in connection with the temptation of Christ. It is rather striking that the two major temptations in Scripture are the temptation of Adam and Eve, and then the temptation of Christ Himself. Satan is directly involved in tempting our first head, Adam, and then our second Head, Christ.

When Satan came to Christ, what was his plan of attack? He didn’t ask the question, “Yea, hath God said.” But now he posited alternatives to the cross. In effect, Satan said to Christ, “You don’t have to go to the cross! You don’t have to die there to establish a kingdom with people who serve God.” Satan presents alternatives: “Turn these stones into bread. People will follow after an individual who can change stones into bread! You can establish a kingdom on that basis.” (That’s how politicians are elected—those who can promise prosperity to the nation are the people’s choice. Then it doesn’t matter what he does as long as he makes us prosperous.) Satan says that to Christ. “Change stones into bread and the nations will honor you.” There need be no cross, no death, no suffering, no pain. Christ can receive His honor and glory in a kingdom on this earth. Along the same line, Satan says, “Cast thyself down from the pinnacle of the temple.” Satan even quotes Scripture: “He will give his angels charge over thee lest thou dash thy foot against the stone.” Christ can throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, and just before He is dashed to pieces on the stones beneath, while the people stand watching, God’s angel would come and snatch Christ from death! (Didn’t God say that in the Psalms?) Why, the people will accept him as the promised Messiah! They will place Him on the throne of David so that He can reign in Jerusalem. Thus He would fulfill all of the promises of Old Testament Scripture. There need be no death on the cross but Satan provides another way, apparently a better way.

Then Satan comes with the final temptation: “Bow down to me and I will give you all of the kingdoms of the earth.” What a promise! Neither suffering nor death are necessary to receive the kingdoms of the earth.

That’s the second line of attack by Satan. It has proved very effective in our day and age. Satan does not tell us to deny Christ. He seeks to influence the theologians and the preachers of our day, and the people within the church, into thinking that the historical cross has nothing to do with atonement. It was not necessary in order to deliver a people from sin and death. Perhaps the cross represents the death of one for principle’s sake. Christ merely serves as a good example. Many today present Christ precisely in that way.

So Satan has two clear means of attack. First: he would have us question the Word; secondly, he would have us question the power of cross for salvation. This is the history of heresy within the church. Arminianism questions the Word—and questions the efficacious cross. Roman Catholicism would add to the Word—and presents the cross as an incomplete work unto our salvation. Satan uses these very clever means of attack against the church of Jesus Christ. It would seem as though that church can not possibly survive the viciousness of such an attack.

All of this is recorded in Scripture. Satan’s battle plans have been clearly revealed there. It isn’t so that we are an ignorant people who wonder what Satan has done in the past or will do in the future. It’s all laid out in the Bible! One might say that it is rather stupid on the part of Satan and his followers to follow a course of attack that’s written out so clearly and plainly in Scripture. Why continue to attack in that same method today as he did already in Paradise?

The answer is two-fold. In the first place, Satan’s attacks seem to have proved very successful through the ages. When an enemy has devised successful methods of attack, why change strategy? Any army that has successfully used a specific strategy, will continue to use that in future battles. Satan understands that well. Why change strategy when it has apparently been so successful in the past?

And the second factor is that few bother reading Scripture anymore. Who knows the Word of God? Satan’s strategy is all outlined in the Bible, but who has time to read or study the Word, which is the “armor of salvation?” Many do not know even what it teaches.

So Satan’s deceptions seem very successful especially when children of God simply close that Word and put it somewhere on the shelf. These may speak religiously and piously, but do not know what the Word of God reveals.

There are many people today who don’t know what their Bible says—and that is even true with us to a certain extent. I have known people who don’t know where Matthew 1 is found in the Bible. Obviously, they must not have used the Bible very often. We admit that we must read the Bible regularly. We are told from the pulpit to read and study Scripture. We agree wholeheartedly—yet we hardly find time adequately to search out Scripture or read it regularly. Satan rejoices in that sort of thing. Why should he be concerned with the fact that Scripture details the method of his attack if “Christians” are not going to read it anyway?

Finally, we must note the dangers we confront with respect to this enemy. These dangers oftentimes are minimized. That’s the emphasis of the apostle in this chapter. We talk about “flesh and blood;” we talk about people persecuted in China by the leadership of that country—and they are. We can talk about that. Flesh and blood are persecuting those that serve God. That can soon happen here too. And sometimes rather boldly we insist that we dare face “flesh and blood” for Jesus’ sake. After all, these are mere men—flesh and blood. We are not that afraid of flesh and blood are we?

But you understand, the enemy is not just flesh and blood. We face Satan and his hordes of fallen angels. They are all around us. I know that we can’t see them. But they are all around us. How many are here? I don’t know. But they must be here (as well as the angels of God too). The fallen angels are here. These try to fool, to deceive and mislead.

Perhaps the greatest danger which we face is that Satan seeks to generate, in-so-far as that is possible, complacency within us. If you can see the enemy in front of you, flesh and blood, then you would be ready to fight. But we can’t see Satan. We can’t see the hordes of angels which he controls. We can read of and see evidences of persecution elsewhere, but we have religious freedom. No one interferes with our worship. We can listen to the preaching of the Word of God and learn of that each Sabbath. No one puts us in prison. We also live in an age and a country of affluence. We have all of the material things we need. We have far more than is necessary for our physical existence. We have our homes; we have bank accounts; we have our insurance policies. We will be provided for in our old age. We have protection against sickness. We have an easy life on this earth. We can enjoy many kinds of entertainment: some proper, much of it sinful. It’s not wrong to have “fun.” Yet we are living in an age in which we place too much emphasis on these kinds of activities: sports, television, movies (which we commonly condemn), and similar things. We have so very much available.

The result can so easily be complacency. No one stands at our door and says, “Are you a Christian?” No one tells you, “You may not go to church today. You may not worship God anymore.” So with all that we have, and with all of the available entertainment, we soon become complacent. The church may be attacked, and many Christians may suffer for Jesus’ sake, but in some faraway place. Satan wants us to let down our guard by making us think that we are not under attack.

Then, when we least expect it, Satan strikes. He does this in many different ways. That attack comes with devastating effect upon those who are not ready, who are complacent. These ignore the dangers. These know that Satan would have the rulers of the world to persecute the church. But we tell ourselves, “We are not under attack.” For us, Satan uses prosperity, entertainment, lives of leisure to draw us away from the Word. When we fail to read and study the Word (we are too busy doing so many other things), then Satan can more easily cause us to doubt the Word of God and begin to doubt the atonement of the cross.

That’s the battle you face today. In the years remaining until Christ’s return, you will face that spiritual battle increasingly. That’s not merely “flesh and blood” against which we fight. We fight against spiritual wickedness in high places. Are you ready to fight such a warfare? Are you ready? Is your sword burnished? Your armament, I trust, is not put in some closet, out of the way, but it is worn. ♦

This article was first presented as a speech by Rev. Gise Van Baren at the 1998 Young Adult’s Spring Retreat in Loveland, CO. The retreat occurs in March of every year. Young adults of high school age and older are encouraged to attend.

 

I come as a messenger with a very serious message. That message is: the enemy is here. He is not far out in the distance, not even just at the gates, but here with us in our gathering! This enemy you can’t see, but nevertheless he is very real. And though it sounds perhaps silly, one might say that we can tell that he is here by the stench of hell which accompanies his presence. This enemy is Satan and his hosts. These represent an enemy that is intent on destroying us and all of the church of Jesus Christ.

Probably you would prefer not to speak of such an enemy at the close of a day in which we have enjoyed wonderful fellowship together. We’ve had a good time today snowshoeing at Bear Lake. We hardly thought about enemies. We’ve rather rejoiced in our friendships: old friendships renewed, and new friendships made. We have had our physical activities—and now we are asked to consider an enemy! It seems almost too much for a day such as this.

My speech tonight is going to be largely negative. Normally one ought not to be mostly negative in a speech. There ought to be something largely positive in it. But tonight this speech will be rather negative. In fact, I’m going to try to make it as negative as I can. I want to impress upon each of us the seriousness of this enemy we confront. The enemy is Satan and his fallen angels.

Whenever any army confronts another, it is imperative that it recognizes precisely who the enemy is. He must know the area of the enemy’s strength, but also his weaknesses. If he knows the enemy and recognizes his battle plan, he is more able to prepare for the battle. And so it is true of the child of God.

Christians would be fools to fail to recognize who the enemy really is. We think that we have no real enemies at present since we live in a land with religious freedom. Or we think of our enemies, when they show themselves, as Paul describes them: flesh and blood. These can put us in prison or kill us. We are concerned about such enemies—but by God’s grace we believe we shall be able to maintain the faith in spite of persecution. However, do we realize that the enemy we confront is far more dangerous than mere flesh and blood?

We face spiritual entities, fallen angels, whom we cannot see. The apostle emphasizes that in verse 12 when he states, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood (which doesn’t strictly mean that we never wrestle against flesh and blood, but this is not the basic enemy), but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” There’s an array of fallen angels, a hierarchy: spirits of all different kinds, in different positions. And these are all united in a single purpose: to destroy the kingdom of God including the church of Jesus Christ. The enemy is Satan and his hordes of fallen angels!

Such an enemy can do things that, perhaps, we can’t fully understand. These fallen angels have some access into the mind of a person. In the days of Christ there were those who were demon possessed so that a demon could even take over a human body: speak through him and perhaps work through him. You have read about those in the gospel accounts. With respect to Judas Iscariot, we read that when Christ tells Judas to do what he intended to do, we also read of the fact that Satan entered into Judas to move him to do this very thing.

This enemy, these spiritual entities, have the ability to influence our thoughts. Satan and his cohorts would direct our thoughts into paths of sin. However, we must not say, “The devil made me do it.” That’s a popular bumper sticker. We may not first blame the devil. When we do evil deeds, it’s because we desire to do it. We provide openings for Satan to affect and influence our thoughts. But we must be aware that the enemy seeks to attack the church of Jesus Christ by affecting our thoughts. We face that kind of enemy.

The Word of God tells us that we have to be mindful of that enemy. We have to watch for him. In fact, in the Old Testament one reads oftentimes of the watchmen on the walls of Zion. Ezekiel 33:7 says, “So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.” The watchman stood on the top of the wall. He would overlook the whole of the valley. If an enemy would approach, he would see them in the distance. He must shout his warning to the army within the walls of the city. But if that watchman fell asleep on the job, and didn’t warn the people of the city, and the enemy approached, and perhaps even entered into the open gates of the city, many would be destroyed. Perhaps the city would be captured. But the blood of those who were slain would be placed upon the watchmen on the walls of Zion. He didn’t warn when it was required.

That’s what the Word of God demands too. Today there are watchmen on the walls of Zion. First of all these are the preachers who have to proclaim the Word of God from the pulpit. Also the elders who have to rule in the midst of the church are the ones that must shout out the warning. “There’s the enemy! He is not just far in the distance, but nearby!! Here!!” These must warn the people of God of the dangers that the church faces from that enemy. Eph. 6 reminds us of that fact. In verse 12, especially, we are told that this enemy represents a hierarchy of fallen spirits who through devious and clever means would seek to destroy the faith.

We have to note too the tactics of such an enemy. If an army is to confront an enemy, the general must be aware of tactics the enemy will likely use. If the enemy might use biological or chemical weapons, the general knows what he must do. He will make sure that there is a gas mask for every soldier. He will provide every soldier with an inoculation against biological weapons. Of if the general anticipates that bombs are to fall, he would provide some sort of shelter. There must be a defense against the attack of the enemy.

So it is with the child of God. Satan is indeed clever.  And yet in all of his cleverness, he has not been able to hide the method of his attack. Knowing this, one can be properly prepared and protected.

There are two principal tactics that Satan inevitably uses very effectively. We must know what these are. They are so obvious, perhaps, that I hardly need mention them. Many, however, ignore or overlook Satan’s battle-plans. The Bible exposes and explains these.

In the first place, we go to Paradise where Satan sought to deceive Adam and Eve. He came in the serpent and spoke first to Eve. What was his modus operandi there? Mind you, he was trying to attack perfect people. One might say that Satan must be extremely clever in order to get them to fall. So what did he say? You’ve heard it often. In essence Satan says this, “Yea hath God said….” He questioned God’s Word. He did it in such a way that Eve first, and then Adam, listened—and disobeyed. Eve ate of the forbidden tree. He had created doubt in her mind about what God said: “Yea did God say they might not eat of all of the trees of the garden?” And after Satan created doubt, Eve begins to question God’s Word. She responds, “God said we may not eat it, nor touch it (God had not said that), lest we die (God did not say that; ye shall surely die, God said).” It was truly a clever and deceptive attack: “Yea, did God say?”

I want to emphasize that this is the basic attack that Satan uses, not only in Paradise, but throughout the ages. Remember that!

Allow me to give you some examples of the methods Satan uses along the lines which he used first in Paradise. You all know that there are all kinds of religions in this world: Mohammadism and their Koran, the Jehovah Witnesses who have their own variation of the Bible, and the Mormons with their Book of Mormon. Each of these have a “bible.” It is in some ways a bible that resembles the Bible we have. Satan would not have us throw away our Bibles—but will provide many other “bibles” to create confusion. Doubt arises: “What did God really say? Which “bible” accurately expresses the will of God? There are many today who say, “Yes, these all are religious people: Muslims, Mormons, and others are all serving God too. Some call Him by a different name: Allah, perhaps; but they are serving the same God. Satan seems so to affect even those within the churches with this line of reasoning that many say that Christianity is not the only way of salvation. Christ and His cross are not the only way of saving people. Satan would display a variety of religious products which in some ways resemble the original. Before long the claim is made that these products may differ slightly, but are all equally legitimate ways to God.

Satan has created confusion in the church with the introduction of all kinds of translations of the Bible. One isn’t enough. King James is outdated, obviously, with all of its archaic words. So we need new translations. So now one person quotes from the NIV and another from the King James, another from the American Standard, or the New English. Increasingly the question arises, “Did God really say this?” Comparing the different translations, one recognizes that passages are omitted from some, important truths are distorted. Satan does not need to say, “Throw aside the Bible,” Satan says in effect, “Here’s a large number of different translations to help you understand what God said.” There is created confusion, doubt, and ultimately unbelief within the church. One asks, “What did God really say?” Increasingly, Scripture itself is questioned. Satan succeeds in creating doubt about what Scripture really said.

Consider all of the issues which have divided the churches in recent years. There is the question concerning creation. Did He really create all things in six days of 24 hours? There is doubt concerning the miracles:  “Did He really mean to tell us in the Bible that the walls of Jericho fell down after the people marched around it seven days and seven times the seventh day? Did that really happen?” There is growing doubt about the historical accuracy of Scripture! You, young people, are going to face that sort of attack. One still has the Bible, but which one must we believe? “Yea, hath God said…” That has proved to be a very effective attack of Satan.   (To be continued) ❖

The two have frequently been confused. “Liberty” is often taken to be the right to do what ever one pleases. After all, is not “liberty” to be understood as “freedom”—freedom to do as one wishes? Does not liberty imply that one is not bound by laws and regulations?

No wonder such conclusions are drawn! Much is made in our own country of the cry of one of the “patriots” at the time of the American Revolution: “Give me liberty or give me death!” It was a cry against established authority in violation of the teaching of Scripture in Romans 13.

So some Christians insist that they have “liberty” in which they are freed from the requirements of God’s law. For such the law has no significance anymore. These are “antinomian” in outlook.

Scripture, indeed, speaks exultingly of the Christian’s liberty, calling it the “glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). One is not freed from the law of God, but from the condemnation of that law. He is freed from sin and death. But the Apostle Paul insists that we can not therefore “sin that grace may abound” (Rom. 6).

One recalls from Scripture how the Apostle Paul complained of those who judged his liberty, i.e., condemned him in doing the very things which he believed to be permissible. In I Cor. 10:29 he states, “…for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?” Again, Paul complains in Gal. 2:4, “And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage.”

On the other hand, Paul issues warnings about the abuse of “liberty.” In Gal. 5:13 he states, “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” And in I Peter 2:16 we read, “As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.” Again, in II Peter 2:19, the apostle warns of those who while they “promise… liberty,.. themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.”

“Liberty” has an important part in a Christian’s life. We are told in II Cor. 3:17, “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” We are reminded in Gal. 5:1, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” It ought to be very clear that liberty follows out of Christ’s perfect work on the cross. He merited liberty for His people. That liberty is also the fruit of the work of the Spirit of the Lord in His people.

The question is, of course, “What is then this liberty which is now ours?” Does “liberty” mean that each individual can have his own peculiar interpretation of Scripture? Does it mean that each can determine for himself what his “life-style” ought to be? Does this “liberty” allow two equally legitimate, but opposite, views concerning “women in office?” Does one have the “liberty” to attend movies if he believes it does not violate his conscience—or can another for himself say that it is wrong and a sin? Can one hold to abortion and another condemn it—all under “Christian liberty?” It comes down to this: is one’s own conscience to be his guide concerning what is right or wrong? Does “liberty” allow one to do whatever he pleases?

The question is especially important for the covenant youth. Are they to have another “judge” their liberty—or are they to determine for themselves what they may do? It should be obvious that the law of the land necessarily restricts one’s liberty. One has said, “My liberty to swing my fist stops at the point where your nose begins.” One can not plead “liberty” when he is brought into a court for deliberately harming another.

The Bible itself makes very plain what Christian liberty is not. It does not give one the right to sin if he pleases. Gal. 5:13 states, “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” Or again, I Peter 2:16, “As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness….” In fact, “liberty” is contrasted with the “yoke of bondage” in Galatians 5:1. Our liberty, therefore, is not a license to sin. One is warned of those who promise liberty who themselves are “servants of corruption” (II Pet. 2:19). Scripture clearly recognizes the danger of abusing liberty. The danger is real. Satan himself would convince God’s people that they have a “freedom” or “liberty” to do as they will. In fact, with this very idea he approached Eve and convinced her to eat the forbidden fruit.

But our liberty is godly, spiritual, and heavenly. It is that which is possessed only by children of God. In Rom. 8:21 we read of those “delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” And in II Corinthians 3:17: “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Those who are not children of God, remain in the “bondage of corruption.” These might boast of liberty, while they are in fact bound by sin and death. These are not free at all.

Liberty does not free one from the law of God. Liberty exists within the bounds of the law. In James 2:12 we are reminded that we are judged “by the law of liberty.” And in James 1:25 we read of the “perfect law of liberty.” That law is the law of God. It serves to mark the bounds of true liberty. But the law no longer condemns.

Our conclusion must then be that Christian Liberty demands obedience to God’s law—not an ignoring of that law. Liberty is not to live as one pleases, but an ability to live as God commands. It is “liberty” to serve God and honor His commands. It is “liberty” exactly because one has been freed from the bondage of sin and death through the perfect work of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. His “liberty” is that he is able and free to serve God perfectly.

The whole concept has been compared to the restrictions of “freedom” within the realm of creation itself. A fish is free to swim as it will through the water. But should it decide that its “freedom” ought to allow it to jump to the shore, it has not continued freedom but death. A person who would swim underwater can not remain there. He may insist that he is free to do as he will, but to disobey the physical laws of God can only result in his death.

So also we are to regard our spiritual freedom. The blood of the Lamb of God delivered us from the condemnation of the law. We are freed from that. The result is that we can begin to serve God—which alone is liberty. As soon as we insist that our “liberty” ought to allow us to escape the bounds of God’s law, we are not free but once more under the “yoke of bondage.”

Ours is indeed a blessed liberty. It is not license. It does not allow any activity in which we would engage ourselves.

It is the freedom and liberty we enjoy perfectly in glory. The liberty of heaven is not, again, to do whatever one wishes contrary to the righteousness of God. It is a liberty in Christ whereby we perfectly and forever will be able to serve Him. Anything else would be death.

Let us, then, use our liberty in the service of God’s Name and to help the church of Jesus Christ. ❖

The four horsemen of Rev. 6:1-8 are familiar, I am sure, to all of our readers. These four horsemen have been running through all of the New Testament age. We see them running not just in one part of the earth, but over the whole of the earth. We have definitely seen them running in the recent war with Iraq—but we hear of their effect in many other nations as well.

Briefly consider the four horsemen. The first rides a white horse. The rider has a bow, and a crown is given to him. The bow indicates the spiritual warfare in which he is engaged; the crown shows that victory is his. He goes forth “conquering and to conquer.” This horse with its rider represents the spread of the gospel over all of the earth. Generally, this horse and its rider have traveled from Canaan westward until today virtually all the nations of the world have heard the gospel. By means of this horse and its rider, God has been gathering His people from the whole earth. God does this through the labors of His church to send forth the Word to bring in His elect.

The second horse is red. Its rider has a great sword and is given power to take peace from the earth. This horse represents warfare as this is conducted through the ages. There is killing and destruction. The great sword shows this. The horse portrays what is obvious: throughout history there have been wars and rumors of wars (Matt. 24:6)

The third horse is black and its rider has in his hands a pair of balances. He is to measure out the barley and wheat but is instructed not to touch the oil and wine. Black portrays famine. The measure of the necessary grain for breads pictures the fact that many receive only the barest essentials. A “penny” is a day’s wages which could purchase only enough grain for one day. The “wine and oil” reminds of the luxury in which the rich revel. While the poor suffer and die of famine, the rich continue to enjoy their prosperity and abundance. This horse too can be observed as he runs through all nations and in all ages.

The final horse is “pale,” i.e. a pale green. Its rider is identified as “Death.” Hell fol­lows after. The color of the horse is the color of death. The rider indicates also that we have set forth here the deaths which occur over all of the world and through all of time. None live forever. All must die and enter “hell” (which in this instance refers to the grave).

Concerning these four horses, let it be noted that they are part of the seven seals (fol­lowed by seven trumpets and then by seven vials) The seals (and horses) affect one fourth of the whole earth (trumpets affect one third, and the vials affect the whole). These represent the average—that destruction which is seen and heard throughout the history of the world.

One other fact ought to be noted. In each instance the horses with their riders are called forth “Come” (not “Come and see” as the KJV) One of the four beasts gives the command. That these go forth is, therefore, under the direction of God and at His command. This is true not only for the first horse, the preaching of the gospel. The other horses as well go forth at His com­mand. There is not war, famine, death by acci­dent—but this is under God’s Sovereign control. We must remember that when we hear of those things which take place about us today.

About a year ago, we were fascinated with the “Gulf war” that took place in Iraq. We heard of and saw the bombings—some directed with pin-point accuracy. We were amazed by the 100- hour battle in which the Iraqi positions were overrun. We could hardly understand the mini­mal amount of casualties that “our side” sus­tained.

The horses of Rev. 6 were running in Iraq. It is true that they are always running through the whole New Testament time. But we saw them run, shown in living color on televi­sion, when Iraq was defeated. We ought to have been fascinated not so much by the modern inventions used in warfare as by the fact that God’s Word was being fulfilled.

The first horse had run his course through that region many generations ago. The gospel had been proclaimed in Iraq and neigh­boring areas as well. There are, so we are told, churches and Christians in the land—though these consist of only a small percentage of the population.

The last three horses were (and are) run­ning there in the service of the white horse which continues to run through the nations of the earth today.

The course of the last three horses is clearly seen in Iraq. War was carried out there with a vengeance. Hundreds of thousands, civil­ians and soldiers, were evidently killed. The final count has never been released. The red horse ran through Iraq.

The black horse is running there even now. We hear of reports of scarcities brought on by the war and by the oppressive regime of Iraq. There is an embargo upon trade with Iraq. The reports that come out of that land indicate that the citizens continue to suffer greatly. However, those in power live in luxury. Clearly the “wine and oil” are not hurt there. We are even told that the present embargo helps Hussein to remain in power–because the general populace is too poor and weak to rebel or object.

The pale green horse continues to run in Iraq too. Death has been seen there in all of its awfulness. There are the war deaths not only, but now those brought on by shortages of many vital materials.

One might even wonder if what is seen in Iraq does not indicate that we have an increase of all of these adversities from the fourth to the third mentioned in Rev. 8ff.

These horses are not only running in Iraq. We hear daily of their effect in Africa with its wars, famines, and drought. We hear of it in Yugoslavia and in the former U.S.S.R.

All of this tells us something. The mes­sage to the Christian is not that the U.S. is now the supreme power in the world—victor in the “cold war”. Whatever the case may be concern­ing this, we must recognize the realization of the counsel of our God. His Word is being fulfilled. We must not be taken by surprise by the events of our day. Rather, we are to look up and desire the return of our Lord.

There is too the call to diligence and faithfulness. When clearly the end of time approaches so rapidly, we ought to be faithful in life and walk. There ought to be the desire to search out the Word; to teach and preach that Word.

What effect are these world events having in your lives?

KNOWING ABOUT THE END

Were I to tell you with absolute certainty, and were you to believe me, that Christ would return this week Saturday at twelve o’clock noon, what difference would that make in the way you live?  Would you talk differently than you normally do?  Would you do some things for which usually you do not find time?  Would you be found in a movie theater or dance hall during the time until Saturday noon?  Would not one be ready to “clean up his act?”

Always ready:

We do not know the day and hour of Christ’s return.  There is reason for that, too.  Now we ought to be ready for His return whenever that might be.  I read an interesting anecdote of a wealthy man who visited the neighborhood school.  That man promised to give a horse to the person who had the neatest desk when he unexpectedly would return.  One young lady in the class, the messiest of the lot, loved horses and was resolved to have a neat desk when the man reappeared.  She told her teacher that every Friday she would see that her desk was spotless.  The man, after all, probably would return on a Friday, at the end of the week, when children possibly would least likely have their desks cleaned.  “But,” said the teacher, “he did not say he would return on Friday.  Perhaps he will come on a Monday, the beginning of the week, when children might least expect his appearance.”  The girl thought about that for a time, then said, “Well, I’ll have to clean my desk on Monday, then, too.”

The teacher reminded the girl that the man had not said what day he might return.  Possibly it would be one of the other days.  After giving that serious thought, the girl concluded with a sigh, “Well, then, I guess that I’ll have to be sure my desk is spotlessly clean every day of the week.”

So it is with Christ’s return.  Were we to know the day and hour of His return, we might tend to become careless.  When we know neither the day nor the hour of the return, we are to be ready always.

It is this truth that I would emphasize to you today.  You gather at this convention for fun, but more especially for spiritual refreshment and Christian fellowship.  At this convention you must remember the reality of Christ’s coming again—and, soon.

THE END OF TIME

One can find among the scientists of this world a general agreement that there will be an end of this earth sometime in the future—probably millions of years in the future.  Possibly the earth will be destroyed by a collision with a meteor or some other heavenly body.  Otherwise, it will be destroyed when the sun burns itself out.

The end of which Scripture speaks is God-ordained and occurs at the appointed time—surely not millions or even hundreds of years hence.  Scripture speaks of the catastrophic end of all things.  The earth, we read in II Peter 3:10 shall melt with a fervent heat.  Then will be ushered in the new heavens and new earth (II Peter 3:13).

In speaking of the “end,” we must, however, remember that this represents a blessed milestone.  It is not only the destruction of time and matter as we now know it, but it is the bringing in of the new.  When one comes to the end of a stay in the hospital that “end” is not reason for sadness, but for joy.  It means a return home again.  So the “end” of the age represents the time when Christ returns.  He will gather His people into the new heavens and earth.

Nearness of the end:

Many scoff when there is mention of the nearness of the end of time.  Did not people think the same thing over all the last two thousand years?  Some claim that Paul himself thought Jesus would return in his lifetime (Rom. 13:12).  Others remind us of the attitude of many at the time of the Reformation.  Was not then the Pope the antichrist?  Would not Christ return within their lifetimes?  Some did think so.  Today also there are many, including ourselves, who believe that Christ will return soon—likely within the lifetimes of many living today.

Yet many today also claim that the end may be thousands of years hence.  The signs in creation (storms, earthquakes, etc.) have occurred throughout all time.  Wars and rumors of wars have always taken place.  There has always been development in the area of science from the beginning of time.  Persecution has occurred periodically through all the ages.  So:  what’s new?  What’s different?

Jesus did teach us not to try to determine the day nor the hour of His return (Matt. 25:13).  There was good reason for that.  We may not quit our jobs—because Jesus will be coming back in a short time.  We may not quit building schools or training ministers because of the shortness of the remaining time.  We are not either to become fearful because of the end-time events.  We know that what must occur is good and proper—for it is the unfolding of God’s great plan of salvation.  Yet, in all of our labors, we are to be waiting and watching for the return of our Lord.

The clear signs:

That we live in a different age today than the church ever has in the past, ought to be evident to all.  Not only are there still wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, volcanoes—but these we observe within our living rooms via TV and radio.

We especially can notice the rapid changes in the realm of science and medicine.  One can recall that only 112 years ago the first incandescent light bulb was invented by Edison.  Only 109 years ago the first electric power station was built in New York City.  Only 102 years ago the first mass produced automobiles were sold (425 Oldsmobiles).  The first radio transmission was made only 96 years ago.  Within the last 100 years we have had radio, television, phones, planes, computers.  Within the last 100 years we have seen the erection of all the skyscrapers in the cities; all our modern highway systems have been built.  Modern medicine developed within this period—and the nest 20 years, we are told, will mark greater development than all past ages.

Imagine this world without the changes of the past 100 years!  Take away all planes, cars, television, radio, telephone, roads and modern cities—and what would be left?  If anything reminds of the return of Christ, this ought to do so.

We observe today, then, three things:  first, we see NEW signs that were never seen before (as the developments mentioned above).  Second, we see the increasing intensity of the signs that were always present.  Third, we observe those signs via TV and radio more easily than ever before.

THE APPROACH OF THE END

How do we know that the end is rapidly approaching?  Scripture tells us of the specific signs of the end.  Jesus spoke of these in Matthew 24.  The book of Revelation tells of this.  Other passages make reference to that end as well.

What signs  are:

Signs are visible reminders of what remains invisible.  This is true of signs generally.  One can see a sign along the highway.  It tells of what we would not otherwise know (speed limits, curves ahead).  So it is spiritually.  Though we do not know the day or hour of Christ’s return, the signs serve as reminders of that unseen event.  Signs of Christ’s return are as the sounds of an approaching train.  First, rumblings can be heard if one puts his ear to the track.  Soon, one hears the faint sounds of the whistle and then the noise of the approaching train.  Then the train comes roaring to its destination.

The signs of Christ’s return:

There are those signs Christ mentioned in Matt. 24 within creation.  We read of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes.  These have occurred through the ages.  Yet we hear of them more and hear of more of them than has ever been heard before.  Just recently I read that last year (1990) there were more tornadoes in the U.S. than ever recorded before—and in 1991 that record may be broken.  One hears of the world-wide effects of volcanoes as that in the Philippines.  There are forecasts of greater and more devastating earthquakes.  The California area is long overdue, so we are told, for a major quake.

We hear of the AIDS virus that leads to certain death.  There are those who foretell that it is only a matter of time that other viruses develop that will cause diseases unknown before and for which man now has no cure.  These diseases could devastate the earth.

The new world order:

The vast increase of knowledge over the whole earth is another indication of the end.  I have mentioned the great inventions and rapid changes made in the past 100 years.  The sum total of man’s knowledge is increasing so fast that it is impossible to keep up with it all.

With these inventions, and through the recent developments among nations, the “new world order” appears likely.  We have seen the crumbling of communism.  We have seen the breaking down of the Berlin Wall and the uniting of Germany—and increasingly, the uniting of the nations of Europe.  We have observed the prominence of the United States after the decline of Russia.  All this has occurred in a matter of years—and some of this within the last year.

Obviously a “new world order” is possible.  This sounds like the kingdom of the antichrist.  With a uniting of nations, the persecution of the church will take place.

There are signs of the return of Christ in the changes evident in the churches.  Most of these no longer believe in the complete infallibility and inspiration of Scripture.  The literal account of the origin of the universe, presented in Genesis, is questioned or denied.  Homosexuality is condoned and even encouraged.  Women occupy the offices within the church in spite of what Scripture teaches.  Miracles of Scripture are denied.  Even the atonement through the shed blood of the Son of God in our flesh is repudiated.  The churches would rather emphasize a “social gospel” where works for the poor and deprived become substitute for the preaching of the cross.

Perhaps the most striking of all the signs is that the gospel has been sent virtually to every corner of the world.  The Bible has been translated into all the major languages of this earth.  Segments of the Bible will be translated, we are told, into all the dialects and languages by the year 2000.  The gospel has gone forth to the ends of the earth through missionaries sent from the churches.  That same gospel is broadcast on the airwaves to the ends of the earth.  The sign of the white horse of Revelation is almost fulfilled.  When all God’s elect are gathered in, Christ shall return.  That point when all of God’s elect are gathered in is near at hand.

THE NEED FOR THIS KNOWLEDGE

There ought to be no doubt about the NEED for a knowledge of the nearness of the end.  This is a matter that involves our life—and our life-style.

Whenever one goes anywhere, if he is wise, he makes preparations.  If one intends to vacation in a certain area of the country, he makes a point of knowing about that area.  He is careful to choose his route of travel.  He determines in advance the points of interest he will visit.  He would know what type of clothing he is to take.  So it is for the child of God who is “of the day.”

Preparation for the journey:

We are on a pilgrimage on the earth.  It does not always appear to be so.  The Christian can so easily have his heart fixed on earthly things.  This earth, its possessions, its entertainment, can be too often the center of interest and concern.  We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

The whole of our earthly lives represents a journey.  We are traveling to that heavenly Canaan—our homeland.  We need a guide, a map, for our journey through this life.  Not a day can go by but that we are concerned with and interested in our homeland.  We must know what goes on about us.  We must recognize the trials of the journey.

Therefore, we are seriously involved in this question of the “end.”  This is not just an intellectual exercise, but a matter of deep personal interest and concern.  We seek that heavenly land.  We desire Christ’s return.  We then are interested in the details of events preceding that return.

We look for the Beginning—not merely the end:

We are not interested in having an easy and simple life here on the earth.  There are those who seek the “wide way” that, said Jesus, leads to destruction.  Such concentrate on the ease of the journey—not considering the end.  These are like the couple that decided to take their boat trip down the Niagara River.  The boat ride was lovely.  The scenery was spectacular.  The weather was perfect.  They ignored the growing thundering noise in the distance.  Only too late did these realize that their pleasant journey would end in certain destruction as they went over the falls.

We know that the wide way leads to destruction.  We consider rather that “narrow way” of life.  Scripture speaks of those things we must expect along the way.  As we near the end of that path, we recognize the evidences of the end.  It is a path well marked.  Its end is the beginning of eternal and heavenly life.

Many laugh at those who are interested in these things.  Some give nasty names to any who are this spiritual in attitude and walk.  That ought not to concern us unduly.  We know that our Lord shall soon come again.  We are ready at any time for that return.  Nor will we, by His grace, forsake the good way though opposition and persecution arise.

Be sure you, young people, remember the testimony of Scripture about the end.  Notice for yourselves how near that end is.  Then live as children of the day.

When I was a boy, I recall that the grocer made his appearance at our back door once a week, to bring last week’s grocery order, and to take the order for the following week. Rinkema, I believe, was his name. He had a very small store in South Holland. But soon telephones were used more extensively to place orders and people became accustomed to picking up their groceries directly from the store. Cars made travel to the store easy.

That little grocery store was soon replaced by other, larger stores. The number of brands increased on the shelves. One could choose and pick. It was still a neighborhood store where one knew the clerks and perhaps the owner of the establishment.

This changed too. Soon there were the large supermarkets. Neighborhood stores remained for a time, but the competition was too great. Large stores with huge inventories and unimaginable varieties attracted people from over wide areas by offering lower prices. That’s “progress”.

All of this came to mind as I sat down to write this article. I was asked to write about the changes taking place in the realm of entertainment — specifically with the movie. What effect is all of this having on the young people of our churches? Surely progress and development are seen in the world of entertainment. Is this making it easier to sin without a guilty conscience?

It would be pointless to go into great detail. But one can recall, if not from personal experience, then from reading literature on the subject, how the movie industry developed and grew. First there was the silent screen. Men had managed to invent a machine to flash pictures in succession, giving the impression of movement. The invention was quite a hit. And before long, some had managed to present a story on film — usually accompanied by piano music. The plots were predictable: villain captures girl; hero rescues her after enduring many hardships; girl and hero marry and live happily ever afterwards. Churches, having long condemned drama on the stage, usually condemned these movies as well.

But more was to come. Speech was added to the film. Now the actors and actresses could speak. The plots became more complicated. The scenes were sometimes lewd. All manner of sin was portrayed — though not with that open disregard of the laws of God as is true today.

Then color was added. Soon it was a wide-screen and stereophonic sound. Hollywood became an important entertainment center. Many found this very attractive.

Together with the above, there was added the drive-in theater where one could attend in relative privacy. With this, there was the growing influence of a new invention: television. First with its black and white presentation, then later color, the movies and dramas could come into one’s living room. With cable t.v., the variety and choice increased. There were those who earlier had refused ever to attend movies, who would now watch the soap-operas during the day and even the late-night movies in the evening.

The presence today of video recorders and players has further affected this whole picture. Now one can purchase, even through vending machines, the latest movies — in fact, movies of the most pornographic sort. In the privacy of one’s home, these can be seen.

We have truly reached a position where we have “supermarkets of sin”. The variety and availability of all of this corruption has made the world in which you, the teen-ager live, far different than the world in which I was a boy. Sin is sin in whatever age it manifests itself. But the means to sin, the inventions used to enjoy this sin, have increased greatly.

All of this makes it so easy for young people to take advantage of this easy access to corruption. In the past, young people might be able to sneak to the movies. Today they can see these in their own homes.

And who has strength to resist all these temptations? There is the problem of “peer pressure’’. Other young people seem willing enough to enjoy these sinful activities. Their conversation is often about the television programs they have watched the night before — and not news broadcasts either. These can visit the movie theater and encourage others to join them.

Besides, do not even some parents see these movies on television in their homes? How can parents watch that at home while forbidding their children to attend movie theaters? Children soon recognize the inconsistencies in the lives of their parents!

Possibly most difficult to understand of all of this, especially for young people, is that churches which formerly condemned movie attendance (when movies were not nearly as evil as today), now approve of the “good” movies and speak of the “film arts’’. Almost all are approved because it is “art”. And, so the Christian Reformed Synod pointed out, this “art” is the fruit of the common grace of God upon the wicked sinner. So, if very many Christians can attend these “film arts”, why can we not do so?

The temptations to join others in using these “film arts” are great and becoming ever greater. Then, because so many succumb to the temptations, some perhaps in our own churches, ought we simply to ignore what was taught in the past on the subject — and have each do what is right in his own eyes? Can we not enjoy all of this — and be Christian too?

But we might rather ask: if a thing was so wrong 40 years ago, and condemned even by most churches, how can it now be approved (when admittedly there has been deterioration over the years)? If attendance of movies was so wrong in the past, it is surely more so in our own day.

Can young people resist the temptations? Is not peer pressure just too great? If young people would think to resist by their own strength, or determine the right or wrong by their own reasoning — they would not stand.

But we have weapons which must be used to resist all evil. Especially we have the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17) whereby only we can “resist the wiles of the devil”. The “wiles of the devil” confront every one of us, but especially you. young people, face that. The devil, through all of the wonderful inventions of our last days, has more means to trick and deceive than ever before. Believe me, he makes excellent use of these inventions.

But we have a weapon against which the devil cannot succeed. That Word of God causes him to flee even as he did when Christ repeated that Word at the time of His temptations. Use that Word as sword against the many temptations of today.

Sadly, even as the evils of this age multiply, there seems to be a declining interest on our part in the study of the Word of God. Societies are not attended as they ought to be; lessons are not studied. When our “sword” ought to be burnished and bright through constant use, it often seems to grow rusty through disuse.

Young people must realize the urgency, the absolute necessity, of study of Scripture. One ought to have a set time every day for private devotions and study of the Word. There must be faithfulness, diligence in this. One ought not dare to have one day go by without turning to our “sword”. That, together with daily prayer, equips young people to resist the temptations of the devil in these last days. Young people: hold on to that sword and be sure it is sharp and ever ready for use.

 

The subject of “relationships” in the home is rather broad. It does, however, point out an area of concern both for parents and their children. What these relationships are, and what is demanded of each in these relation­ships, is not difficult to determine.

One might mention first of all the relationship which exists between par­ents: your mother and your father. The Bible is clear when it speaks to this relationship. Of wives, we read in Eph.

5:22, 23, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body.” And of husbands that same chapter declares in verse 25, “Hus­bands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it.”  Scripture, then, admonishes wives to be “obedient” and husbands to “love”. These two admonitions point to the problems which often arise in the marriage relationship. Where the wife refuses the Scriptural admonition to obey in the Lord, and where the husband refuses to rule in love, there one finds marital problems —with con­sequences for the children as well. Where Scripture is obeyed, there is unity and harmony in the home.

There is also the relationship between children and their parents. Of this too, Scripture clearly speaks. In Eph. 6:1, 2, we are told, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father and mother which is the first commandment with promise.” Here, obedience is deman­ded in harmony with the fifth com­mandment. There are no qualifications given. Parents are to demand that this command be obeyed. Children are required by God Himself to obey. Where one does not heed the com­mand, there is trouble and disruption in the home. Where the command is obeyed, there the blessing of God rests.

Parents, too, have the reminder not to “provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4). Rule, then must not be arbitrary nor unfair —which provokes to wrath, but rather must be proper and in harmony with the demands of Scripture.

Finally, there is the relationship between brothers and sisters in the home. The Bible also here is very clear. All of the passages which demand that we love one another, that require us to seek the other and his advantage, that require that we do not betray nor speak evilly of one another, apply to this area as well. Envy and jealousy have no place in this relationship.

There is seen strain in the relation­ships within the home. That strain is seen differently in different homes — but some is always seen. That is true because we are each still sinners who struggle with that old man of sin.

Children see often the strain which exists between father and mother. Arguments, disagreements, are not always hidden from children. Possibly the mother works —and tries to take care of a family at the same time. Perhaps father puts in many hours of labor in order to support his family. There is little time for each other—and little time to help their children or establish close bonds with them. There might be disagreement about spending of money. There might be disagree­ment as to how one would seek entertainment. There is often disagree­ment with respect to life-styles. Poss­ibly drinking is a problem. On occasion, there is disagreement on church mat­ters. All of this makes life difficult for growing children. Have you observed some of this too? What ought children or young people do when this kind of trouble arises? Is it possible to talk with parents about this? Might it be necessary to talk to the minister or elders about the difficulty?

Then there are strains in relation­ships between parents and children — especially when the children become teenagers. Young people become in­creasingly independent. Rules and restrictions are considered oppressive. Parents appear to be unfair and arbitrary in their rules. Other young people seem to have greater liberty than yourselves. What must be the attitude of young people against their parents? Are parents always right? If they are not, what ought one to do —disobey? What does the Heidel­berg Catechism say concerning this in its treatment of the fifth command­ment? Ought parents to establish the time when one must be in at night? Must parents know where we are going and what we will be doing?

How important is it that young people establish a trust-relationship with their parents? If one is caught doing what he is not supposed to, or going where his parents would not approve—can parents still trust that young person in the future?

What sort of punishment is appro­priate for young people who disobey their parents? Is it fair or right to be “grounded” for a time? If you were in the shoes of your parents, how would you deal with a disobedient teen-ager?

Finally, strain exists within families among children. There is, of course, the normal bickering and arguing. But beyond that, there is the envy and jealousy which exists because one child believes himself unfairly or unequally treated. Do parents sometimes treat one child differently than another? Do you ever believe that you yourself were not always dealt with properly —that a brother or sister was favored above yourself?

There must be a proper solution for the Christian to all problems which result in family strain. The heart of the problem, surely, is that there is not spirituality present as it ought to be. It is not just a question of “relation­ships”, but all this comes down to a matter of the condition of the heart. It is a “heart-problem”. To the degree that strain exists, sin is involved: sin which must be confessed and forsaken.

Though often minimized, the an­swer to problems for the Christian can be found in the Word of God. The more he knows the Word, all other things being equal, the less are his problems. What might cause strain in the home, is resolved when principles of Scripture are applied. There must, then, be a regular study and searching out of Scripture. That is done in connection with societies (where often not a great deal of effort is put forth), that is done in our private devotions. The Word, as preached each Sunday, serves also as guide for us in our lives. He who heeds the Word, experiences the blessings of God.

Prayer too is essential. To tell God of our difficulties, to confess our own sins to Him, to ask His guidance and blessing —all this is essential unto the resolution of our problems. This also results in a blessed unity and oneness within the home.

When difficulties arise, there must be the effort to work out problems and find the Scriptural answers. Perhaps weekly “conferences” could be held by families to encourage this sort of effort. “Communication” is essential for good home relationships. Talking promotes closeness. Where there is mutual concern about spiritual matters, there the love of God will show itself in our actions.

What effort ought young people to put forth in order to encourage unity within the home? Is this only, and exclusively, the responsibility of par­ents? How can each work towards a proper relationship with parents and siblings? How much value do young people place on Scripture and prayer? Sometimes there appears to be a lack of interest in spiritual responsibilities. How can this change? Or, is it simply not “cool” to be spiritual? Proper spiritual attitudes alone result in good home relationships.

The so-called “Cultural Mandate” can be found in Genesis 2:28, “And God blessed them and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” The “mandate” is twofold: to multiply and to dominate creation. This “ mandate”, given to Adam in paradise, is a command of God. It, therefore, is not something which may or may not be observed; it must be obeyed. Nor is man excused from this command because of the subsequent fall into sin. He is required still to deal with God’s creation properly to God’s glory.

However, let it be noted immediately, that after the fall, man is no longer able to obey and serve God. He will ignore God’s commands and walk contrary to them. Even the regenerated Christian still possesses a sinful flesh. Though he does obey God’s commands in principle, still he does not perfectly obey.

The “Cultural Mandate” is, however, taken today to mean that man, by virtue of the common grace of God in him, can still carry out much of what this mandate requires. He can subdue creation correctly. He can make use of art forms to produce what is good and pleasing to God. He can make of this world a utopia where there exists peace and harmony among men. If the church helps and cooperates, this world can be made to be a beautiful place. Thus the “mandate” is observed.

Or, it is maintained that the church is called to fulfill this “mandate” on the earth in order to establish a glorious world order. The “mandate” is taken to mean that if the church tries hard enough, it will be able to “Christianize” all things: labor organizations, political parties, news media, entertainment, etc. Because of the “mandate” a postmillennial approach is taken. The church, thus, can and will improve this world so that Christ can return.

The “Cultural Mandate” was indeed a wonderful command to Adam in paradise. He could obey with a willing heart. He could bring forth children of God’s covenant, children without sin who could serve God also in perfection. Adam could work within God’s creation, subduing it properly. Surely, in subduing creation, Adam would not have destroyed, polluted, or corrupted that creation in any way. Adam, in perfection, would have known what to do in creation and how to govern it. What a glorious place could have developed—had Adam remained in the state of righteousness! Present-day scientific developments, likely, would have been nothing compared to that in paradise!

All that was the blessing of God upon Adam. God would have man, the highest of the earthly creation and head over it all, to reflect His own perfections. And God had given to Adam everything necessary to fulfill the “ mandate”. He had perfect knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. He had the intelligence which he could rightly use. He was in the ideal position to observe God’s demands correctly in every respect.

However, this cultural mandate” must not become some sort of idea upon which a system of doctrine or life is built today. A post-millennial idea of end-time can use the “cultural mandate” in its system of teachings. One can soon direct the church in the wrong way if this “cultural mandate” becomes the governing principle of the church. Then, soon, the effort of the church becomes not the preaching of the gospel and conversion of sinners, but of providing social reform and change in this world. Thus the “cultural mandate” has often been misapplied to our situation today.

There are several facts which must be borne in mind in connection with this “cultural mandate”. First of all, there is the entrance and effect of sin in this world. Man himself, because of Adam’s transgression, is dead in sin and misery. This means that man is not in a spiritual state necessary to observe the command properly. Man will have dominion, all right; he will multiply all right—but in sin and for self. Thus, man twists the mandate that himself becomes the goal which it must serve. But also, sin has affected the creation itself. The perfect harmony and unity within creation does not now exist. That too affects the carrying out of the “mandate”

A second factor which enters into the question of keeping the mandate is that which is presented in II Cor. 6. There may be no union between light and darkness; between Christ and Belial. The wicked and the Christian have different points of view; different goals; they have different life styles. These two cannot cooperate in order to carry out a certain “mandate”. Thus, the notion that this “mandate” can somehow be fulfilled if we gain the cooperation of unbelievers is nonsense.

A third factor to bear in mind is that a misunderstanding of the “cultural mandate” after the fall might easily lead into an ignoring of the Scriptural truth concerning the new heaven and earth which we are to seek. The desire of the child of God now is the return of Christ and the establishment of the new heaven and earth. One must not allow his attention to be diverted from that glorious objective.

The child of God does have a calling and has God-given duties on this earth. One may never destroy nor misuse that which God has entrusted to man’s care. The earth is not ours to abuse in our generation as we see fit. One has a calling to recognize that God created the earth for man’s sake—not just for those men who live in our generation, but for mankind who must live on this earth through the ages.

The Christian must, then, use the earth and all that it contains to the glory of God—but also as those who seek the new heavens and new earth. He does not now seek to obey a “cultural mandate” as one who only sees a continuation of this earth—but as one who understands that a new heaven and earth shall come.

If we recognize all of these things which have affected the earth since the fall, if we confess that there shall be the new heavens and earth—then we can perhaps properly obey a certain “mandate’ concerning the present earth too. But be sure that we understand well how everything has changed since that “cultural mandate” was first given.

Questions:

  1. How have the views of “common grace” and the “cultural mandate” been related?
  2. What has affected this “cultural mandate” since it was first given to Adam?
  3. What might be wrong with the claim that the wicked in some ways can fulfill this “cultural mandate”—and therefore we can enjoy what they have done?
  4. Are not the various environmental movements a part of man’s attempt to fulfill the “cultural mandate”?
  5. Are Christian young people not obliged to use this creation rightly and not pollute it—because of this “cultural mandate”?
  6. What kind of “mandate” do Christians have with respect to this present creation?
  7. Why can, or cannot, Christians cooperate with the wicked in this “mandate”?

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