How important is our calling to remember our Creator, Who created us, also distinctively, with all our own gifts and talents! Whatever vocation in life we choose, it was chosen for us and created in us. And to remember our Creator implies, negatively, that we must never be motivated by ourselves, our own personal gain or material advancement. And, positively, we must always be prompted by the love of God and do all things unto the glory of His Name.
I have been asked to call your attention to this subject as it applies to the sphere of the church. I consider it an honor to have been selected as one of your speakers. We now call your attention to the following aspects of this subject: I. Who You Are; II. Your Distinctive Calling; III. The Fulfillment of your Calling
I. Who You Are
Who and what are you? We ran into this question while conducting church visitation last May in our church in New Jersey. Our people there have the problem of choosing between three Christian schools and decided to send their children to the Netherlands Reformed school. In this school, the teachers would ask the children: “Who are you?”, and the children were instructed to answer: we are unbelievers.
Now this is in harmony with the view of these churches. They believe that one can have the assurance of his salvation only when the Lord speaks to them, even apart from the Scriptures in some dramatic way. They advocate sudden conversions, to be converted in some sudden and dramatic way. Only they have the boldness to attend the Lord’s Supper. Now it is a fact that Scripture does not speak too often of these sudden and dramatic conversions. We do read of King Manasseh, the murderer upon the cross, Lydia, the Philippian jailer, and perhaps Saul who was named Paul. Why is this? Because it is the most characteristically reformed truth that the Lord realizes His covenant in the line of successive generations. Indeed, we must be regenerated and converted. Of course! But the Lord usually changes His elect people during their infancy. It is then that He regenerates them. And our conversion is something which we usually experience, not suddenly, later in life, but gradually, from our early childhood on.
Who and what are you? You are covenant youth. What does that mean? Does this mean that we presuppose all the youth in the church to be true children of God? That we must view every child as God’s child until he or she proves himself or herself to be the opposite? This cannot be. And the reason is simple: all is not Israel that is called Israel. The line of election and reprobation runs right through all the children of believers.
You are called saints. That is your name, the name of every one of you. Even as carnal, reprobate Israel was also called Israel. When the apostles address the churches as saints, believers, children of God, etc., he addresses every one of them. Only, why are you called a saint? Is this your name simply because you are organically connected with the people, having been born in the sphere of the church? A tomato plant, for example, has vines that bear fruit and it also has vines that do not bear fruit. But, the entire plant bears the name of what it essentially is. This also explains who you are. We know that among the children of believers are the people of God. Now the same labor is bestowed upon all the children, but for the positive purpose of the elect seed. If you had a tomato plant with no fruit-bearing vines, you would pluck it out and destroy it. The farmer also has weeds in his garden and chaff among the com, but his positive purpose is the com, his crop. That is his purpose. And when our children reveal any desire, apparently real desire, in the things of God’s Word and covenant, we will believe such a one to be a child of God until he or she shows it to have been a sham. That person need not have a sudden, dramatic conversion. God usually changes His elect sinners in their infancy. But we must have an aversion to sin and a delight in God’s commandments, and this is possible also among children and the youth, and must be present in them if the work of God’s grace has been begun in them.
Now, what are the implications of this? This explains all the work and activity within the home and church. There are really only two agencies of instruction: the home and the church. The school is merely an extension of the home. Even as the farmer cultivates his soil because of the seed in it, so all the instruction in the home is geared to feed and nourish the seed of God’s covenant. We instruct them, admonish them, chastise them, all for the purpose of the proper growth and development of the seed of God’s covenant. This also explains why we have Christian schools. O, it is not true that all the children are unbelievers. We do not have our own schools as mission stations, to form God’s people, change, mold them into God’s people, but because they are God’s people, as represented, of course, in the elect. This is also the purpose of the church. The preaching of the Word, but also all catechetical instruction has for its purpose of the church. The preaching of the Word, but also all catechetical instruction has for its purpose the training, growth, edification, building up of the church of God, that it may grow in all the knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
This also explains what prompts me now. I am interested in the question how you may advance materially in the midst of the world. Of course, we will be called to work and to earn money. But all this is only secondary. And when I say “secondary”, I do not mean that this is second in importance, of less importance, but also therefore of some importance. There is only one goal. Only one thing is important: the glory of God’s Name. And what we do has importance only in the measure that it serves that one goal. If we fail to serve the Lord, whatever we do has no importance whatever; in fact, it will testify against us eternally, and it were better had we never been born.
II. Your Distinctive Calling
The youth has many characteristics. The characteristics of a child are different. A child is characterized by receptivity. A child receives. It is strictly dependent upon another, for all its food, physically and spiritually. Secondly, a child is characterized by submission. A child must be docile, silent, willing to learn. Some children can act as if they know it all; you can enter some homes where the children monopolize the discussion. They are little “wise acres”. One feels instinctively that there is something wrong in such homes. Thirdly, a child is and must be obedient. This is undoubtedly the most important characteristic of the child. Moreover, a child does not concern itself with the future, but with the present. A child lives by the day, although it will long for the day when the drudgery of school will be over. A child does not concern itself with marriage, with one’s vocation, with what he will do later in life, how he will earn his weekly wage, etc.; he is concerned with, lives in the present.
The age of youth is different. You begin to take inventory of yourselves, inquire into and concerning the talents the Lord has given you. You begin to think of a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Your do not live in the present anymore; you begin to live in the future.
What is the one characteristic of youth? Let us pinpoint it. What is the one thing that dominates this age? Indeed, a wonderful age it is. It is the age of little concern. You are not troubled with the thought that life is transitory. You view all of life as lying before you. The old realize that they are approaching the end of their days. But, this does not concern you. Why not? Why is it that you have little and few troubles? Why is this characteristic of your age? Why did the Lord give you such an age? In order that you may concentrate upon the one dominating characteristic of your youth. And, what is this characteristic? This: the youth is the period of preparedness for your position in life. Upon this you will and must concentrate all your thoughts and all your inclinations. And, of course, you will do this as covenant youth, Christian youth. You must not be dominated by worldly, carnal materialism. You will and must be controlled by the will of God, by that petition: Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. You will be controlled by this: how can I do the will of God, in that place which my sovereign God and Creator has assigned to me? And we must understand this from a two-fold point of view. In my youth, I must prepare myself for my place in the midst of the church. I must take my place in the ranks of the church of God. I must prepare myself to receive the means of grace, the preaching of the Word and the sacraments, to fight as true soldiers of the cross. And this becomes all the more urgent and serious as we are aware of our present day and age, that we are hastening to the end of the ages, to the time when the days will be shortened for the sake of the elect, when persecution will break loose in all its unprecedented fury. And, in my youth, I must also prepare myself for my place in the midst of the world, to occupy in that world the place my Creator has assigned to me.
III. The Fulfillment of your Calling
You must be prepared for your place in the midst of the church. First, there is your calling in re marriage. I recommend to you the articles of Rev. C. Hanko in re these things in our Beacon Lights during this past season. Of course, you must marry in the Lord, and this means in the truth, and this means in the truth as set forth in our churches, because we surely preach and teach the true and perfect doctrine of salvation. To seek and find your life’s mate is such a serious matter, because it is for life, and also because this institution of marriage has become a laughing stock in our present day and age. And, be clean, sexually clean in your friendships and courtships. Girls, do not sell yourselves, make yourselves sexually attractive. If, so doing, you “get” somebody, you will not get much. And I assure you that he will not get much either.
Then, there is your calling to make confession of faith. Confession of faith does not mean primarily that then you confess your love of God and of Christ and your faith in Christ Jesus. We must always be on guard against this conception. The principle question then is not: do you love God and the Lord Jesus? Of course, this question is important. Of course, you must make confession of faith truly and sincerely. Of course, it is an abomination to the Lord merely to make confession of faith with the mouth. Hypocrisy is always an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. However, we must bear in mind the following. On the one hand, the Lord usually regenerated His people in their infancy. If the primary question were merely: do you love God and Christ, what would prevent a little child from making confession of faith? Besides, this is not asked at our public confession of faith. We ask then whether one believes the doctrine as taught in this local Christian church to be the true and perfect doctrine of salvation, and also whether they will fight and oppose every heresy repugnant thereto. One would not ask these questions of a little child, say of one five years old. According to the reformed conception, this one making confession of faith has been a child of God from his infancy on, generally speaking. Public confession of faith means that you are willing and ready to assume your place in the ranks of the people of God, to assume an active role in all the activities of the Church of God. Unto that end, you must submit to all catechetical instruction, be trained in all the fundamental truths of the Word of God, and also in all heresies, in order that you may fight the good fight of faith. Unto this end, you must be faithful in all society life, and attend it spiritually, receiving instruction and contributing to the welfare of your society. What a task belongs to the home and also to the church!
You must also be prepared for your place in the midst of the world. Be ready to serve God antithetically in the midst of the world. Consider your gifts and talents, and develop then. Be equipped naturally. Develop your gifts and talents with respect to body and soul. Do not waste your time. Be leaders, workers, not loafers. Be ready to serve your Creator to the best of your ability. Do whatever you do ably, to the best of your ability. Be also and especially equipped spiritually. Study the Word of God, familiarize yourselves with it. Know the will of God, what He requires of you. Be able to distinguish that will of God from whatever is opposed to it: be able to distinguish the true from the false, the truth from the lie, the friend from the foe. Understand the world, be not led astray by the theory of Common Grace, which would lay a bridge between the church and the world. Be equipped with the truth, with the whole armour of God. And as you prepare yourselves, do so earnestly and prayerfully, knowing that the time is short and you cannot afford to waste it.
Indeed, remember your Creator, also as in the Church. And may the Lord be with you, and make you strong, through His Word and Spirit.