Over the past few months we have examined our Reformed heritage. We have seen what it is. We have also seen ways it might get buried. Now we look at our calling in regard to this heritage: To develop in it, to thrive in it, to value it, and to delight in it.
Let’s take a look at why we must develop in the first place. God has given us a portion in his church. That portion is different for all of us. That portion might be just how we conduct our own lives. That might include being a student in high school and the demands that brings. Our portion might be in single life after high school and college. Our portion might be as fathers in the workplace or mothers in the home. That portion might include the responsibilities of being an elder or deacon or pastor in the church. In these things we have our portion, or eventually we will have our portion in them. No matter which portion we are dealt as Reformed believers, we are the future of the church. The older members of the congregations will pass to glory, having served faithfully in marriage, in single life, as elders or deacons. Who is going to take their place? Ours is the next generation. Will our generation be one “which knew not the Lord” (Judges 2:10)? Young people, we are the future elders and deacons and fathers and mothers of the church. I include myself because I am still young. And then when it comes time for our earthly sojourn here to end, what will be said of our children? Not just our own children, but all the children in the next generation, for we as a church body have a responsibility for all the children of the church. Will those children know the Lord? We are the weak means that God is pleased to use to instill in them a godly fear. Consider how many times such passing down is spoken of in the opening verses of Psalm 78:
I will open my mouth in a parable…Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob…a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God…
The reason we stand today as Reformed believers is that we inherited this truth from the previous generation. This has been happening from the beginning. God has preserved his church from the beginning, even when for the most part his bride forsook him. He still preserved a faithful few to continue passing on knowledge of the truth. One of the beautiful characteristics of our Reformed heritage is that we can trace it back to the ministry of Christ. Look at it broadly. We are Reformed because the Reformed fathers realized that much of the church was going apostate. By the Spirit working in them, they took the church back to the tradition of the apostles, which they knew was true. They held to the truth that the apostles taught, which they learned from Christ.
Now it is our turn. We are called to develop in this truth now, so that when it comes time to pass it on to the next generation, we will be willing and able to accomplish this great task. There is even more urgency added to this when we realize that we may already be in a position to pass on the truth to the next generation. How many of you have little nieces and nephews that look up to you and try to imitate you? How many of you have younger siblings who do the same? Your younger siblings are not the next generation after you, but the same still applies. Some young couples reading this might have children of their own who look up to them. If we have not yet made it a priority in our lives to develop, the time is now.
The church is to be characterized by growth and development in knowledge. We cannot sit back and say, “I have the truth, so I can relax.” There are always new errors that threaten to creep in. To combat this we don’t create new doctrine, but we refine old truths that we hold so dearly, because most of the “new errors” are merely the same old errors in new clothing. In order to be able to do this, we must know what these truths are. They must not be merely a list of definitions that we memorize in Essentials catechism class, but we must see how these truths guide us day by day, how they shape our lives, how we grow within them.
Growth in doctrine often is not the direction many in the church world want to go. Doctrine is viewed as cold, dry, stale, unimportant, and uninteresting. Many even say that preaching doctrine is harmful for the church, and they devalue preaching in general by giving five minutes of fluff to tickle ears instead of strengthening and encouraging God’s people. How are the sheep in the church instructed and built up, but by the faithful preaching of the gospel? Men immersing themselves in a text for a week, and then by the Spirit working in them giving a faithful and true explanation of it. The Spirit uses this faithful preaching to enable faithful living from week to week.
As believers in Jesus Christ and the promise of salvation, and as representatives of the church of Christ, we are called to behave in an exemplary way. If you died tomorrow, what would be said of you? Would people uncomfortably give their condolences to your family, or would they have many good things to say about you? “That young man was faithful to his Lord,” or, “that young woman lived in modesty and purity.” Our lives are to be reflections of the glory of God that is in us. It must shine forth in such a way that those around us notice that we live in accordance with God’s law and with a hope of eternal life. Then they in turn will glorify not us, but the one who works in us day by day to make us shine forth as lights in a dark world.
This is a lot to live up to. How can we possibly live this way, weak as we are? The Spirit enables us and uses means to help us develop in the truth and delight in it. We already mentioned one of those means: the preaching from week to week. But what about in between Sundays? There are many things we can do. One of the most important things we can do is read—not just being in the word from day to day in our personal devotions, but reading good Reformed literature. There is a lot of good stuff out there that we can read. You are reading Beacon Lights right now. That is good. What about our other church magazines? Remember also that there are decades of material available in the archives of these magazines and on our Protestant Reformed denomination website as well. But don’t stop there. The Protestant Reformed Churches do not stand as the lone defender of the Reformed truth. There are countless other good magazines and books available to Reformed believers, young or old.
Through all our development we learn to value our inheritance as something so precious that we would never give it up. Through our development in the truth we learn to delight in it as well. I doubt our parents looked at our Christian upbringing as a boring task that they felt they probably should do. No, they joyed in our coming to the knowledge of the truth and our expressions of truth faith. Our development in the truth is a part of their development as well. As they bring us up in truth and encourage us in our sanctified walk, they are developing in their walk of sanctification before God as well. They rejoice to see us walking in truth. Part of that excitement for the truth “rubs off” on us, and we in turn delight in the wondrous works of God as we develop in the truth he has preserved from the beginning. Develop in the truth and knowledge of God’s guidance with the words of Psalm 16:11 in mind. “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”