This speech was given by Rev. D. H. Kuiper at the 1967 Young People’s Convention Outing at Newton Hills, South Dakota.
Why should young people praise God, and God alone? Why should theology, and especially Protestant Reformed theology, concern itself with the honor and glory of God? Why do you as young people devote an entire convention to this subject? In the answering of these questions, we will at once produce the ground or basis for our doxology. There are, I think, primarily two.
In the first place, it is incumbent upon us to praise God, our Creator, due to our very creation. To see this clearly we better go back 6000 years to Paradise. Adam and Eve, in the state of rectitude, made in the image of God, possessing and enjoying true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, did nothing but raise one continuous anthem of praise to God. That was altogether proper for them. God placed Adam in Paradise to rule, and to be servant. Standing at the acme of creation, he was the mouthpiece through which the entire creation expressed the praise of its Maker. To this task he was totally consecrated in the perfect service of love. That was his task, his mandate. All this because of the position in which he, the creature, stood in respect to God the Creator. This applies to us of course. Sin and the fall did not change that. We as well as all rational, moral creatures must serve, and laud, and adore the one Almighty God of heaven and earth. We are His creatures; it is His prerogative to determine what we shall do. And according to all Scripture, He had determined that the works of His hands shall praise Him. So it is the very purpose of our existence to be vessels of praise unto God.
In the second place, and for us tonight, much more to the point, the basis for the ascription of praise to God is the work of the God of all grace, that is, the work of God through Jesus Christ. Undoubtedly it is the work of God in Christ that Peter has in mind in verse ten. And it is the consideration of that work which causes him to end on the high note of verse eleven, which Rev. Vanden Berg called to our attention last night. Further, it is exactly the work of Christ as He preserves us that we must notice tonight. Hence in the consideration of our preservation as the basis for our doxology, I call to your attention: Our Frightening Adversary, Our Gracious Preservation, Its Glorious Purpose.
I want to begin with a quote from Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, a book that many of you have read. Screwtape, an old experienced devil, is writing to Wormwood, a rookie devil, instructing him in the skills and intricacies of swerving a Christian from the faith. He is making the point that it is of great advantage to the devil if the Christian be not too convinced of the reality of devils. So he writes to Wormwood: “If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and then persuade him that since he cannot believe in that, he therefore cannot believe in devils either.” So the idea of this advice is that if the Christian is not convinced of the personal reality of Satan and his devils, then Satan’s battle is more than half won. Do you believe in devils, young people? Are you convinced that they are just as real as you are? Or the person sitting next to you? Are you accustomed to think of him in very concrete terms? You should be, and you must be! The text speaks of the devil as something very real. And so does all of Scripture (recall the temptations of Adam and Eve, of Job, of Jesus Himself). A rather well established legend has it that Martin Luther once threw a bottle of ink at the devil in his study, Now, I don’t recommend that we start throwing things around, but Luther was greatly concerned about devils, sin, and the matter of justification. And so must we be! Remember, the devil is personally real.
Secondly, I want to point out briefly that our adversary is powerful. He is a spirit which gives him great advantage over us. He can come and go without detection. He can approach us without our knowledge. And not only can he approach us, but he can even enter into us. Because he is a spirit he has access to our hearts. He can penetrate our thoughts, and even control them to a great extent. Furthermore, he is not alone, but Satan the Adversary is captain of legions of devils. When he fell from heaven, he took with him a large number of fallen angels. These he directs as a master general. He sends his troops where the battle is the hottest. And where is that? at the United Nations, the World Council of Churches, at the universities and public schools of our land? in Hollywood and Paris, perhaps? Don’t you ever think it. In all these places things are well in hand — he needs only to look in from time to time to check the regress and the development of sin. But as Satan well knows, the battle is the hottest and the most difficult where the Truth is to be found. And there he sends his devil hosts. I shudder to say this, but it’s true and needs saying, you find the greatest concentration of devils in the Protestant Reformed Churches, and in its seminary and schools. And at this convention! I would even say that there has been assigned to each one of you for the duration of the convention a special devil. All because the adversary hates the Truth.
Thirdly, our adversary is pernicious and diabolical. The name Satan means slanderer; all he does is lie and falsely accuse. He slanders the church before the world, and he accuses us before our own consciences. He loves to remind us of our sins. To tell us that we are no better than anyone else; that we have no right to be saved, he wants to turn our eyes from the cross, don’t you see? And once we lose sight of the cross, of course, we’re miserable. Then his accusations seem to contain truth.
Fourthly, he is practiced. Practice and experience make finite a difference in most every area. In driving a car, playing various sports, dealing with people, doing our work, it is experience that separates the beginner from the expert. We are up against an expert who has practiced for 6000 years. He has made an extensive study of human nature. Generally, he knows all the quirks and idiosyncrasies and weaknesses of the human race; specifically, he knows you and your weaknesses. He knows when to be subtle, when to be bold, when to flatter and when to seek compromise. He is like a giant computer who has stored up all this information and has it all at his finger-tips, ready for immediate use. So the devil as such is personally real, is terribly powerful, is thoroughly pernicious, and is well practiced.
This adversary Peter calls “a roaring lion who goes about seeking whom he may devour.” What a fitting picture! The king of the beasts, covered with sinew and muscle, strong of tooth and claw! The lion whose roar is enough to stop the heart, who is filled with cunning, and who is able to do pretty much as he pleases. And notice he roars. That roar indicates both fierce anger and enormous appetite. He is angry because he has been cast out of heaven and must now limit his nefarious work to the sphere of this earth. He has suffered one defeat after another — his massive pride is hurt. He is roaring mad! And hungry! His appetite will not be satisfied until he has devoured all the sheep of Christ. Oh, I know, the devil will eat most anything he can get his hands on, but over the years he has developed a special appetite for spiritually healthy, Christian young people, for young people such as you. You he seeks to devour.
You know, it wouldn’t be so bad yet if Satan always roared. The text does not mean to say that his method is always that of a roaring lion. The Dutch have a saying something like this: the devil doesn’t come on wooden shoes. You don’t always hear him clumping up to you. He also knows how to tip-toe. He knows, does this devil, how to appear as a lamb. Imagine! The father of the lie can appear as truth; the prince of darkness as the light. But nevertheless, the overall effect and net result is that he is a roaring lion.
The question that we must now face is; why is he our adversary? That question takes on added significance when we remember that he is the prince of this world, and we are of this world. Due to the fall and our sin, we are his rightful and loyal subjects. As you and I are by nature, we are of our father the devil. Don’t forget that. But why then is he our adversary, and why should he seek to devour us? The text says, “But the God of all grace Who has called you. . . .” That calling has established the adversity between the devil and us. As we were by nature, we were in the dark jungle with the roaring lion, we ran with him and delighted in his strength. We wallowed in the dark, miry swamps of sin. That was our natural habitat, and we loved it. But the God of all grace called us! Out of that jungle of sin and death, He called us into His eternal glory. That is, by His Word, out of pure grace, and through Jesus Christ, He actually moved us; He called us into His marvelous light. Do you see the picture? The picture is that of a great, dark, dense jungle. In the midst of the jungle is a little clearing, and that tiny clearing is bathed in light. In the beautiful, dazzling light of God’s eternal glory! In the light of Truth, and of His revelation and fellowship! In that bright circle of light stand you and I. The calling has placed us there. And all around us? Darkness, and the roaring of the lion. That is always the picture of the church in the midst of the world. Therefore it is because of the calling, that gracious act of God in Christ that illuminates our hearts and minds and places us in the light of God’s presence — it is because God has set His love upon us—because He has formed us for His peculiar people — that the devil esteems us as most delectable food. He is our adversary because He hates God, and he hates Christ, and because he sees in you the life of Christ.
That’s the enemy. Certainly nothing that we can take lightly. A roaring lion is not something that you play around with, not if you have an ounce of sense. Lions, and devils, play for keeps. For the devil knows that he has but a little while to win you over. He knows that the end is near when his defeat shall be total and absolute. I have purposely sketched this dreadful picture of the adversary at length in order that we might see our gracious preservation for what it is. It is from that enemy that we are kept safe! What does that mean?
Does it mean that the roaring lion has no access to us? That he cannot touch us at all? Don’t you ever believe that! It is certainly the experience of every child of God, and of young people especially, that the devil is able to touch us and affect us. To continue in the language of the figure, the lion is able to claw us a bit, to put his teeth marks on us. He is able to tempt us, and to cause us to fall into sin temporarily. That’s just what he wants you to do here at Hull. He doesn’t want this convention to be a spiritual mile-post in your lives, but rather a time of empty fun. So he places in your minds the idea that now that we’re away from Mom and Dad we can kick up our heels a bit. Those thoughts are of the devil! He doesn’t want this convention to be a demonstration of the unity of faith and lose which we possess together, hut rather he is working in you to cause division and heartache and pain. He wants you to shun certain people, to be a respecter of persons, to make a few feel like outsiders. That too is of the devil! Just let me remark here that if there is one person that comes to this convention and is left out in the cold, is ignored, is not caught up in all the activity and joy and fun, then this convention is a failure. And Satan’s purpose will have been accomplished.
Further, that devil may be able to cause our faith to waver in its consciousness. He might even be so successful that we begin to ask ourselves the questions: Do I have faith? Am I in Christ? Do I belong to Him? Have you ever asked those questions? I have. That devil can touch us.
But, young people, that’s as far as he can go! Oh, he is powerful, but he is not omnipotent. There is one infinitely greater than he. That is the God of all grace and all glory! All power and dominion is His! By Him kings rule and princes decree! And by Him the devil roars and seeks to devour! The God of our text, our God is in sovereign control of every person and event. And thus Satan himself, unwilling servant though he be, can only serve the purpose of our Father’s will. What frustration that must cause the devil — no matter what he does or what stratagem he tries — he fails, and he serves God’s purpose. No wonder he roars! And what blessed comfort this truth presents us! Our Father Who loves us controls the roaring devil!
How does this preservation come about? in order to reveal His grace, God has given all authority in heaven and on earth to Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Thus it is Christ that sustains us in the faith and keeps us. He is the Lord from heaven. He is greater than every foe. He dwells in us with His mighty Spirit so that our faith in its essence never fails; we are not devoured. And that Spirit is never taken away from us! So we never plunge ourselves to everlasting destruction, as surely would be the ease if we had to meet the accuser alone. We never commit the sin unto death. But rather, time and time again, we are renewed unto repentance and sorrow over sin. And finally, because that Spirit of Christ is in us, the roaring and the attacks of the devil can only serve to drive us closer to Christ and closer to God! The more the devil seeks to swallow us up, the more we are driven into the arms of Jehovah! Jehovah, who is a strong tower into which the righteous may run and be safe! What a blessed truth that is! I thrill every time I think of it! God uses Satan to bring us close to Himself. That’s His grace and His wisdom . . . and His glory!
To us that might seem like a strange way to work. But that’s because we don’t understand God’s thoughts — they are too high for us. Nevertheless, God uses the devil, temptations, all these bloody encounters, in order to perfect the work which He has begun in us. He uses all these to beat down our pride, for we are proud, until finally and at long last it has been reduced to nothing. Then we cry out: the God of all grace is All and I am nothing! When we ourselves are weak, and when we see ourselves to be nothing, then is our faith strong! And then is God glorified!
Which is, of course, the glorious purpose. The purpose of our whole lives, of everything. Every step of the way through which God leads us affords us abundant reason to glorify Him. He has called us into His eternal glory and caused us to taste the blessedness of His covenant. He works in us to perfect us, to stablish, strengthen, settle us. Even the devil himself must serve that work. Again and again we are made to see that we cannot stand on our own two feet, but that we need Him! Every experience of life is designed to teach us that.
As we see that, and as we learn that, then the doxology Soli Deo Gloria becomes our doxology. For then we see that God is God, that He has done and is doing wondrous things! For even though we must suffer for a while, yet in the way of that suffering He is leading His church into the perfection of His covenant. What then is the basis for our doxology? The grace of God, as it is revealed to us in Jesus Christ our Lord! He is worthy of all praise both now and forever more! I thank you.