Sad to say that is so very, very true.
As far as our flesh is concerned, as far as that which we have from our earthly parents is concerned, we are children of the wicked age in which we live. We are surrounded by those who live according to the evil spirit of that age. But we also belong to that wicked world and are part and parcel of it. When it develops in sin, we develop in sin with that world. When it branches out into a new series of sins and after a new pattern of evil, we go along as much as we dare. And in our hearts we go all the way with the world in its devilishness. Sin is not something strange to us. Walking in obedience before God is strange unto us.
It is nothing wherein to boast to say that we are children of our age. It is not to our credit that all this must be said of us. Shame should cover our faces, and with the Apostle Paul we, ought to cry out, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
Let it be that way.
O, perish even the thought that we should say by word or by deed, “So what?” May it be far from us that we assume a careless attitude about all this and speak of it in a fatalistic way. That is not the idea at all behind these lines that have been written under the headingChildren of Our Age these last two months. Indeed, we tried in many ways to show that we are even as the world and that we find also in ourselves that devilishness whereby we try to defend all this wickedness in which we walk. But our purpose was not to try to salve the conscience and to whittle down the law whereby we must walk. We have no desire to try to, excuse all the evil that still cleaves to us in this life. Such action does not belong under the title In His Fearbut rather under the words: In Hatred of Him.
What shall we then say to all these things?
What is the conclusion of the whole matter? Surely it is not that now you and I should not expect much else and should be far slower in applying the rod of discipline to our children or the keys of the kingdom to the members of His Church.
We are children of our age.
By God’s grace however we can and do say more.
In the wonder of God’s grace we are also children of the everlasting age. We have been born from above as well as from below. We have a carnal and temporal life in us, but we also have a spiritual and everlasting life. (We prefer to say it that way, even though our English translation speaks of eternal life. Only God has eternal life. And by that we mean not simply everlasting but without beginning as well as without end. Our life lasts forever and is therefore rightly called everlasting life. But there is a beginning to it. You cannot come to the end of the measurement into the future: but you can find the beginning from which you would try to measure. But God’s life cannot be measured on either end, for the simple reason that it has no end and has no beginning.)
And because we have that everlasting life which comes to us from out of heaven, we can and we do perform other deeds than those of the flesh. We fight against that flesh. We oppose ourselves as children of our age and seek to walk with all our members as children of the everlasting age.
That everlasting age is the age when the New Jerusalem shall be established on the new earth with which the new heaven shall be united. Then only righteousness and love shall dwell on that earth. The evil doers will all have, been cast into the lake of fire, and God’s people shall fill the earth. Only obedience will be seen on that earth. The love of God shall characterize all that transpires there. No word shall be uttered, no thought shall arise, no desire shall come into our hearts but that which is wholly to the glory of God.
Of that age we are children by virtue of our rebirth. John says of this in I John 3:9, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin because he is born of God.” That is what it means to be children of the everlasting age. It means that we are children of God, children who are, as Peter says in his second epistle, partakers of the divine nature. II Peter 1:4. No, we do not become divine. We are not partakers of the divine essence. But we are partakers of the virtues of the divine nature. Such we were in the beginning. We shone with God’s righteousness, with His holiness, with His knowledge and wisdom. We lost, it and for that reason became children of our age. Our minds became filled with the lie and foolishness. We were unrighteous land unholy, workers of evil enemies of the living God. Thus, the greater percentage of the human race is today. And for that reason the antichrist will soon arise and bring sin to its climax. All the evil that is in man will come out. And that man hates God will become abundantly clear to all. But in a comparatively few God plants the life which is from above, the life of Christ so that these again shine with God’s righteousness, holiness, wisdom and knowledge. These are the children of the everlasting age.
These children do not approve of all that evil which we perform because of our old nature. These children do not laugh at sin. O, the flesh does that: And your and my flesh does that. We can sometimes laugh quite heartily about sins of our youth, about the evil tricks we played, the bold deeds of sin which we committed. We find joy in relating these deeds of wickedness which we committed in the days of our childhood. But that new principle of life that makes us to be children of the everlasting age does not join in that merriment and carnal mirth. We read the testimony of one of those children of the everlasting age in Psalm 119, when in verse 136, he says, “Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not Thy law.” Children of the everlasting age weep about sin. They do not rejoice in it. Children of the everlasting age find delight only in the ethical perfection which will fill the earth when that age dawns upon the new creation.
And you that read these lines, is that also your experience? In the one child of God it is more pronounced than in the other. The one feels it more keenly than the other. The one weeps more often about the evil that surrounds him and is in him. But every regenerated child of God has this hatred of sin and delight in the glory of God to one degree or another. If we do not find it in ourselves, we can only say that we are children of our age and therefore children of wrath. But when we find this hatred of sin and this love of God in us, we know that we are children of the everlasting age and that we shall enter into a kingdom where this love of God will be perfected.
In the providence and grace of God there is one thing that serves to uphold this child of God in the midst of the world that develops in sin. God causes His Church to develop in the truth. Parallel to this development of sin there is the steady growth of the Church in the doctrine and truth of God’s Word. In fact God uses that very world in its development in sin to serve the growth of the Church in the truth. The world persecutes, and the world as it appears in the form of the false church comes with increasingly subtle forms of the lie. The Church is kept alert, and the Church in the grace of God searches the Word more carefully and studies it more thoroughly to combat these new forms of the lie. As a result the Church is led deeper and deeper into the truths of that Word of God.
Such is the clear testimony of history. It is the controversy, it is the heresy that lifts its proud head that God uses to cause His Church to search more deeply and thoroughly. And rather than to deplore the fact that heresies lift their proud heads, we ought to appreciate the fact that through these the Church has come to a richer understanding of the truth exactly because God led His Church in connection with these errors to see some new facet of the truth. The Roman Catholic Church became exceedingly corrupt before to the eyes of men it became plain that this was not the church of God and that the truth of that Word of God was no longer heard. Luther himself tried all the prescribed works to attain to the peace of justification only to find that he found no peace for his soul in this way. But he turned to the Word of God and the truth of justification by faith and not by works came to the fore as the Church had not enjoyed it before. And the same thing is true of all the reformations on smaller scale that have occurred since that time. The Church of today is richer in the truth as the Spirit continues to lead her more and more deeply into its beauty as we approach the days of the antichrist.
The church that does not develop in the truth, the church that does not build on the shoulders of the church in the past, the church that disregards the truth as it was delivered to the Church in the past, will find increasingly that it defends the walk of the children of this age. It begins to see less and less evil in the world. It begins to speak of the good that the evil world is yet able to do. It fails to discipline those who walk as the children of the age and only feebly speaks of the beauty and glory of being children of the everlasting age. Woe unto the church that does not fight the good fight of faith! Woe unto the church that seeks unity for the sake of unity and for the sake of numbers and carnal boasting! Pretty soon you will find in it only the children of this age, and the children of the everlasting age will find it necessary to heed the call of Christ to come out in order that they may have the joy of having Him come in and sup with them.
What shall we say to all these things?
First of all this: Surely it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth but of God who showeth mercy. As children of this age we will sin ands run in the way of sin. No salvation for us then. But in the mercy of God we become children of the everlasting age. We will say then with Jonah: “Salvation is of the Lord,” Jonah 2:9.
Further we will say this: Let us flee to the cross with all these sins we commit as children of our age. And let us as children of the everlasting age flee to God in prayer, beseeching Him in His mercy to strengthen us so that we may more and more live as such children, not being conformed to the world but being transformed to show forth His glory in the darkness of this night of sin.