The Application of the Reformed Truth in Our Lives

Thank you, Bob. Several times this evening I have heard comments that rather worried me. Someone told me that the first speaker said he was thankful to be the first so that no one would steal his thunder. That is alright for the first and maybe the second and the third speaker, but for the fourth? I don’t know. Also, this evening, several times I have heard it mentioned that our speeches heretofore have been marked with excellence. I don’t know whether I should go home or speak to you.

Protestant Reformed Young People from far and near, you have asked me to address you this evening for your last convention speech. I am very thankful that you asked me and I am honored that I have this opportunity to speak to you. But more importantly, I appreciate this occasion to address you because I enjoy very much speaking to you as Protestant Reformed young people. The reason for that is this. I am very much concerned about you. I am very vitally interested in you. Because as Protestant Reformed young people, you represent a token of God’s covenant blessing unto us as churches. You are the church of tomorrow. And you have the awesome calling and the responsibility to take your place in the midst of the church and in the midst of your respective congregations as leaders and to take up the task that we have as churches in the midst of this world, distinctively to preserve the truth of the gospel. I was much impressed by the theme of your convention. As you well know, that theme is very unique. That theme is rather out of place in the theological atmosphere of today’s world. You don’t read very much, nor do you hear very much, about an appreciation for the Reformed Truth. I read and I hear of a scorning of the Reformed truth on every side. I see that there is a lack of appreciation when it comes to the truth which we call a distinctively Reformed truth, that is, the Scriptures as they have been developed and articulated by the Spirit through the church. That is why I am very happy that you have chosen such a unique convention theme – “An Appreciation of the Reformed Truth.”

It is my task this evening to address you from the viewpoint of the application of that truth to our Christian walk in the midst of this life. That means that I will not make it my business this evening to reduplicate that which has been told to you already. I am going to assume that you know what is the Reformed tradition, and what is the Reformed truth. The former speakers have told you that the foundation of the Reformed heritage is scriptural. That the development of that Reformed heritage you can find in the creeds. They are there preserved for us to use, to consult and to apply to our life. And you were admonished to adhere to the old paths. I will make it my business this evening to admonish you to walk according to that truth which has been so explained to you.

In order to do that, I would like to familiarize you with a portion of Ephesians, Chapter 4, and I want to read just a short portion of that chapter before I get into my speech proper. Beginning at verse 17, Paul tells the saints at Ephesus this:

“Now this I affirm and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; they are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart; they have become callous and have given themselves up to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness. You did not so learn Christ! – assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus. Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

You say to me, but we are not converts from heathenism, as were the Gentiles who were converted at Ephesus. And I grant you that we are not converts from heathenism. We stand upon a rich Reformed heritage that has been preserved for us by our forefathers, that has been given unto us through diligent teaching and perching. Yet, I would like to call to your attention that we, just as the Gentiles, have the old flesh that we must struggle against. To this Paul refers when he talks to them about their former conversation as it was in the midst of the world. Experiencing the old man of the flesh, we understand what the Apostle Paul is talking about. Because we feel the power of that old nature and we know the power of the flesh in the old man. And we know that is a factor in our conversation in the midst of the world. Paul contrasts for us in this particular passage that which he sees in the world and that which ought to be true of the children of God as they walk as children of God in the midst of the world. It is very interesting that the Apostle Paul looks at them, he makes this observation. He says to the Ephesians, “You have not so learned Christ, if so be that you have been taught by him as the truth is in Christ Jesus.” Now the Apostle Paul says some very bold words here. He says you have been taught by Him. You have heard Him, and he is not referring to his own preaching, but to hearing Christ and to being taught by Christ. That means, of course, that Paul tells us that the preaching of the Word as it comes to us through the servants of Jesus Christ from the pulpit is the teaching of Christ. When you sit in church and when you are under catechetical instruction, you hear Christ, you learn about Him and you learn Christ. Paul knew exactly what the Ephesians had learned about Christ. As you know, he preached to them for over two years. He made Ephesus the mainstay of his labors for over two years. He preached to them Christ crucified and when he looks at the walk of the Gentiles, the walk of the world, then he says to them “and you have not so learned Christ.” That means that the Apostle Paul implies that that which they have learned in Christ Jesus through his preaching and his teaching has affected their walk in the midst of this life. Paul says, look at what the gentiles do. They walk in the deceitful lusts of the flesh and in the pride of their life as you walked before you heard the Gospel, and were touched by the spirit of grace. You have not so learned Christ. That is, what you have learned about Christ has demonstrated to you a walk which is wholly distinct; a walk which is wholly different; a life style which is very unique in the midst of this world. Paul without a doubt, preached unto the Ephesians the whole counsel of God, from regeneration all the way through glorification, and that most certainly implied sanctification. The Spirit of Christ that dwells within us demands of us that we walk a wholly unique lifestyle; that we are wholly separate from the world; that we are different in the whole of our conversation, life and in all of our walk and activity.

I want to reiterate those words of Paul to you this evening. As I look at the world and as I see what the world does and what the world enjoys, then I say to you, Protestant Reformed young people, you have not so learned Christ. You have not so learned Christ! I know that. Instead, you have learned the truth which is in Christ Jesus. The Lord has given unto you the privilege to be brought up in the sphere of the covenant. I mean by that, that you were born into the church; you were born into the Reformed heritage. Your parents presented you for baptism, vowing before God and the congregation to bring you up to the utmost of their ability in that distinctively Reformed truth that has its basis in the scriptures. And ever since you can remember, before you could read, you were fondled on the knees of your parents and taught familiar Bible stories. As soon as you learned to sit still and not to wiggle too much you were sent to Sunday School. And when you started Kindergarten, you were shipped off to catechism class and you learned Bible stories. Year after year, you were instructed in a distinctively Reformed heritage and truth, from Bible Stories 1, 2, 3, all the way through the Essentials of Reformed Doctrine. Yeah, in your pre and post confession classes you delved into the confessions that we hold so dear and Sunday after Sunday you sat under the preaching of the Word.  You heard Christ speaking to you and you heard Christ teaching you. You have learned Christ! The Reformed heritage is a precious truth. And not only have you learned Christ intellectually, not only do you have your head swelling with knowledge about Reformed doctrine, though that too, but you have come to know Christ. Paul does not say you have learned of Him or about Him, but you have learned Him. That’s true. Many of you already have and many of you are contemplating making confession of your faith. Then you say before God and the Church, “I know Christ,” not just, “I know all about Christ”, but “I know Christ; He is my Redeemer; He is my Savior; His Spirit dwells within me; I want to live unto Him, and out of Him.” Young people, when you look in the world outside the church and when  you see what they are doing, then I say to you and I testify in the Lord that you, Protestant Reformed young people, have not so learned Christ. In fact, I would go beyond that. You are unique in this sense of the word, that you, more and better than any other group of young people on the face of the earth, know the Reformed truth. You have been privileged to sit under the purest preaching of the Word that you can find anywhere and you have so been instructed. That is a lot to be thankful for.

Having pointed that out to the Ephesians, Paul says, “You must not walk as the Gentiles.” That is, he draws a contrast between the walk of the gentiles and the walk of a child of God. That is the heart of my speech this evening, “Our Walk”. What do we mean by that? Your walk or your conversation is the whole of your life. It is the whole and the entirety of all your personal activity, whether it be in your eating; in your drinking; in your work; in your recreation; in your sitting down; in your standing up. The activity that you do within yourself, and by yourself, with the two of you or in company of your Christian friends, or in the midst of the world. Whether it be in relationship to your parents, your teacher, your preacher, a date, a boyfriend, girlfriend, your courtship; whatever it may be, your walk is the whole of your personal activity, as that is determined by time and space in this world. That’s your walk. There is absolutely nothing excluded from that term.

Paul says, “I want to show you how the Gentiles walk.” And I want to show you this evening how the Gentiles walk in the world. Not because I think you don’t know that, but I want to put that in perspective this evening. I want it clearly understood what the walk of the world is – for the purpose of telling you in the end, that you have no business walking that way, that your walk must be wholly distinctive from that of the world. There are several things that Paul mentions in this particular passage. First of all, he says to us, “They walk in the vanity of their mind.” The world walks in the vanity of their mind. That means that in all their planning, in all their desires, in all their striving toward accomplishment, they are empty, totally empty. When Solomon, the preacher, talks about that he uses this figure. He says, “As many rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full.” That’s the world. You can look at them to verify that. God ahead. They strive after notoriety and wealth, yet, they are never satisfied. They do away with all standards of morality, engage in all kinds of sexual debauchery, yet, the lust of their flesh is never satisfies. There is no satisfaction in all that the world does – none whatsoever.

So, young people, don’t ever think that you can find any satisfaction in the ways of the world. They are total vanity. Do you think you can enjoy yourself in the world, or by compromising your distinctively Reformed principles to the philosophies of the world? That’s vanity. It’s total emptiness. The world is never satisfied. And our old man of the flesh and the old evil nature will never be fulfilled in this activity. There is always the longing for more, more and more. That’s the world. There is no satisfaction in the midst of the philosophies and the activity of the world. Furthermore, says the Scriptures, as they go about their business and exercise themselves in the vanity of their life, it is quite plain to us that their understanding is darkened and they are alienated from the life of God. Because they stand in the blindness of their hearts; they are ignorant. You have not so learned Christ!

In the world you see no respect for God or His precepts. That’s not because they don’t know it. Paul says that their conscience continually excuses them. They know the law of God. They know there is a God. They have a responsibility to serve, worship, and honor that God; but, you see, in the blindness of their own understanding and in the hardness of their heart they steep themselves in total ignorance and their under understanding is darkened, so that the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven and the truth of the Word of God, or more particularly, the Reformed heritage that you have been taught and learned, is not spiritually discerned by them. Oh, they know it, there are some very unreformed men who know Reformed theology better than you or I know it, but they don’t spiritually discern that the Reformed tradition is the truth of the Word of God – the Spirit-led truth of the Word of God as represented in our confessions, as you Protestant Reformed young people have learned it. You see, you have learned Christ. He spoke to you from the pulpit. He taught you. You know the truth, as I said, better than any other group of young people. You can defend the Reformed heritage. You can stand fast in that profession. You know the Scriptures. You know that they are foundational to the whole of Reformed theology and living. Let it never be said of you, Protestant Reformed young people, that you walk as those who are ignorant. Let it never be remarked about you, “He or she knows nothing about Christ or Him crucified, look at their walk.” May it never be on account of you that scorn is heaped upon the Church of Christ, because you act as if you are blind, groping in the lust and in the greed of the world. You have no business there because you have learned Christ. Furthermore, when you look at the world, says Paul, you can see that they are past feeling and being calloused; they have given themselves over unto lasciviousness to work all manner of evil out of the lustful greediness of the flesh. Again, I say unto you, that’s not because the world doesn’t have a conscience. They know they stand responsible before God, but they make themselves calloused in their sin. They are past feeling, that is, there is no sensitivity in the world about that which is right or that which is wrong. They can engage in the wrong and in all kinds of transgressions against the precepts of God, but they are calloused against that sin. They are past apathy about those things which are common and descent and orderly in the midst of society. They are totally apathetic. They just don’t care, there is not sensitivity there. But you have learned Christ!

You and I are spiritually sensitive, when it comes to the Reformed truth; when it comes to the Scriptures and what is contained therein; are we not? It hurts when someone takes the name of our God in vain. We are spiritually sensitive. It aggravates when someone underminds and defamates the Reformed truth. We are sensitive to the infallible Word of God, and to the confessions. We stand up in horror when men play fast and loose with those Reformed principles, that truth which we have learned, as we were taught in Christ Jesus.

Sometimes I am afraid that even we lose our sensitivity. I don’t mean when we are in the world, but among ourselves. It takes a lot of guts to stand up and to say, “You have hurt my God”. “You have trampled the Scriptures under foot, and I object.” “You tamper with the truth that I love, and I don’t like it.” Let it never be said of you, young people, the future of our churches, that you are apathetic when it comes to the truth of the Scriptures; when it comes to our Reformed heritage. Whether you stand in the midst of your friends, or in the midst of the world, or in the midst of the theological climate of this world, let it not be said of you, Protestant Reformed young people, that there is apathy in your midst. You have heard the story, no doubt, of that Spartan youth, who after he had stolen a fox, while hiding it underneath his robe, instead of letting that fox go and confessing to the sin of stealing, he let that fox eat our his vitals. Let it never be said of you, young people, that under the cloak of piety or Christian liberty used as license, that your spiritual vitals and insides are being destroyed.

Apathy is a terrible kind of a disease. It spreads. Don’t let it get a foothold among you in the midst of our churches. You must walk, not as the world walks, but you must be renewed in the spirit of your mind. I want to tell you this evening, that as you apply that Reformed heritage – that Reformed truth – to your walk, there are enemies. Enemies! And the greatest of those enemies dwells right inside yourself. The greatest enemy that you have to combat when you are applying the Reformed truth to your life and to your walk and when you are attempting to the best of your ability to live as you have learned Christ, is your own flesh. I am not telling you anything new. You know the power of your flesh, you know that. You know the struggle that you have. The old man right within us continually murmurs and every chance that he gets he gainsays the Reformed truth and the Scriptures. The old man says, “You know that Reformed truth is so narrow, so structured. Let’s be open minded. That Reformed heritage that we have been taught makes us confined so that we can’t have any fun in our life. It’s full of you mayn’t do this and you mayn’t do that, and that Reformed heritage is so demanding of us. It is such a narrow way in which we have to walk.” And the flesh says, “Forget about it.” Protestant Reformed young people, your flesh and my flesh, the old man of sin, hates the Scriptures and the principles of the Word of God as they are articulated in the confession and been taught to you since you were very young. And to aggravate that situation, there is the devil, who is a liar from the beginning, who stands opposed to that truth and who used all that he can muster to fight against that truth. The truth of the matter is that you as Protestant Reformed young people, unto whom that Reformed heritage has been so carefully articulated and so strenuously taught, are the chief objects of the devil. You think the devil worries about a group of young people who are far removed from the truth of the Scripture? His legions make you, as Protestant Reformed young people in the midst of this world, the sole objects of all their endeavor. Particularly you, because the closed you stand to the truth and the fiercer you defend that truth, the harder the devil is there to combat that defense. And he lies! He uses all that which is pretty and tantalizing in the world and holds it before your eyes and he says to you, “Don’t you see how narrow that Reformed heritage is? Don’t you see that you don’t have to be so strict? Don’t you see that you can compromise your principles a little bit, and you can get away with it?”

There is another enemy, one that is becoming increasingly prevalent. I am afraid of this enemy, for your sake, young people. That is the enemy of dead orthodoxy. What is it? It is having a knowledge about Christ, having a good command of the Reformed tradition, sitting in church twice on Sunday, being very pious, but in your everyday life, forgetting all about that Reformed tradition. Lip service unto God, but a walk that hardly shows the same. You see the Reformed tradition is a very vital and lively tradition. It is not dead doctrine. There is no such thing as dead doctrine, doctrine is life. When we talk about the Reformed heritage, and we mean by that the tenants of Calvinism and that which is often called the tulip doctrine in our midst, the five points of Calvinism, and more particularly the distinctively Protestant Reformed heritage that belongs to you as you were taught in synopses form in the Essentials of Reformed Doctrine. Those truths are not just intellectual. Those truths are living. They are to live in our life and in our walk. They are to reflect themselves in all that you do. It means that the child of God knows that by nature he is totally depraved and he lives knowing that old nature, struggling against it in the whole of his life and walk. You and I know that the election of God is unconditional, no matter what men may say. We are His peculiar treasure and how can we ever show enough thanks in the life of sanctification for that peculiar privilege of being His young people. And we know that the death of Christ, contrary to all theological winds that blow today, is limited, because otherwise there is no atonement, and that I belong to Christ because He atoned for me. You confess that the grace of God is irresistible. It’s not what you do, it’s not how I preach, it’s only by the power of grace that he shows unto us the truth of the Scriptures; that we can spiritually articulate the rich Reformed heritage that we have. And we know that we are preserved as the saints of God. That doesn’t give unto us license to do whatever we will. Rather, that gives unto us confidence whereby we know that the work which He has begun by his grace within us, He will finish until the day of our complete redemption. Young people of our churches, the heritage that you and I have is beyond comprehension in its beauty. The distinctive truth that stands before you, that you have learned and that you must carry on in our churches is important, and the only truth that can possibly stand. It is your calling to know it as you have heard Christ and learned of Him and learn Him, and so to walk in the midst of this life. That’s not going to be easy, because the world increasingly is an evil and a perversed generation that hates those who stand up for that truth. Look at the world, young people. It may seem, oh, so pleasant, to you and oh, so satisfying, but, it is not! I testify in the Lord and I say unto you, don’t compromise your Reformed heritage; stand as distinctively Reformed young people in the midst of the world because there is nothing in the world that can satisfy, there is nothing that has any lasting value, except the truth of the Word of God. That which our fathers have stood upon years back; which they have died for; which they strove to maintain; which our forefathers separated for; which you and I have been taught as we sat upon our parent’s knee; which we have heard from the pulpit; which we have confessed before God and the church or will confess; is the guide, in our life and in our walk. That’s your calling. May God by His grace and by His Holy Spirit grant you as young people what you stand in need of, to continue your appreciation for the Reformed truth, the grandest of all, the only truth there is.

I thank you for your attention.