Since you are to remember your Creator, Covenant Youth, it follows that you are to learn to know Him as fully as you possibly can.
One of the irksome things in your young life as youth is what you perhaps call that “necessary evil” of “going to catechism.” In our churches we call it that. Others call it Bible Class. Sad to say, still others have no such program for training and instructing the youth. But we call it catechism because of our method of instructing. We give you a book with questions and answers to commit to memory. Yes, the questions as well as the answers must be committed to memory. The only way to benefit from the answer is to know the question to which it is the answer. Do you remember the time you or one of your fellow catechumens asked the question, “Is that the third question?” You knew the answers but did not know to what question it was the answer. And when the questions were asked out of the order they appear in the book, you were lost and did not know what answer to give. This is not good. You do have one advantage, however, in that the question is given to you; you are not asked to give it. But you ought to know the question whose answer you have more fully committed to memory.
Quite quickly you draw the conclusion that your pastor is unmerciful, a crab, a perfectionist, or some such obnoxious person when he insists that you learn the answers and not simply have a general idea of what the answer has to say. But, believe me, he is seeking your good. You are not asked to learn all this for his sake. I am sure that if this were the case, he would say to you, “Give me a night off, and let me stay home. I know these truths, and it does me no personal good that you know that answer so thoroughly that you can rattle it off in no time flat.” O, no! He is eager to have you know this truth and to have it written in your mind where no man can take it from you. Be wary of the man who lets you get away with it. He, too, is forgetting that you must remember your Creator. You must have something to remember. And it had better be the truth of God’s Word.
Your catechism class is the means of grace for you. Since you were very small you were taken to church; but it did not mean much to you. You sang along when you knew the words. You bowed your head when the congregation prayed. But a lot of words were spoken that simply went over your head. Now and then you caught a familiar name; and a sentence here or there had some meaning for you, but for the most part it was just too “heavy.” This is as it should be. The preaching of the Word is the means of grace for the adult, and for you when you arrive at that point of physical and mental development that you can understand it. But meanwhile we do not neglect you, and have arranged for you the means, of grace of the catechism class. Here the instruction is designed for your level. And from age to age we bring you a little more deeply into the truth. For you catechism is as important as church attendance on Sunday. Your Creator demands—not your parents and your consistory alone, or in the first place—that you make use of this means which He has provided for your instruction. And remember what we wrote last time, you can get away with it before your parents and the elders, when you skip for this or that reason, but you cannot get away from the searching eye of the Creator. And your parents had better not ask to have you excused from this means of grade. Imagine that! Excused from the means of grace! That man who excuses you has not the last word in the matter, and he certainly errs when he does excuse. Remember your Creator Who demands it, and if you must have an excuse, be sure that you get it from Him—if you can.
Then, besides the Sabbath attendance and careful listening to receive as much from the sermon as you can, and the catechism class that is conducted for you, there are other helps which keep that Creator before your mind, such as your society for the study of God’s Word and post-confession classes of instruction. If you remember your Creator, you will make good use of these and faithful use of these; and in doing so you will be strengthening your position of remembering Him and your calling before Him.
That means, of course, that you prepare thoroughly and carefully both for the catechism class and the society discussion. So often we “get nothing out of it” exactly because we did not come prepared to get anything. And that holds true for the sermon on Sunday as well. You know ahead of time what Lord’s Day of the Heidelberg Catechism is going to be treated; and the chapter and text of the evening sermon is also before you. But sometimes you do not so much as follow the reading of these during the services, and are hardly acquainted with what is going to be treated. Come, come! In the days of your youth there is no time for idleness, but the opportunity for action.
You see, Solomon addresses you in the days of your youth exactly because now you have so much going for you. These are the days of your strength. As we already pointed out, the time is coming when you will find it necessary to take a nap, to slow down, and the time when your memory will fail you. Then it is too late to try to learn and to commit to memory the truth of God’s Word. You have seen, or will see, your grandfather or grandmother, or one of a friend, who tells you the same thing every five minutes, or has hardly received the answer to a question, and then asks the same question. That seems, or may seem, amusing to you now, and you cannot imagine that all this is going to happen to you. But it will come soon enough. And if you are to do as the saintly people of God in their last few days on earth have done, that is, sing the praises of God on your death beds, now is the time to learn those songs and the Word of God on which they are based.
If, and things are going fast today, you live in those days when the antichrist is here on this earth, and closes our churches, takes away our Bibles and religious magazines and books, you will have to rely on what you learn today. You will be able to take with you only what is indelibly written in your mind. And at the moment your mind is clear to receive the truth. We do not all have the same ability to memorize and to learn, it is true. But regardless of what your capacity is, now that power is the strongest within you. It will begin to fade with amazing speed. And once you are on that decline, there is nothing you can do about it.
Now is also the time when temptations are so powerful, which makes it all the more urgent that you give time to the spiritual matters and learn to know your Creator so that you can remember Him in these moments of trial. O, do not have the idea that you will outgrow temptations. We never outgrow sin or the desire to sin. And that God’s children persevere to the end does not mean that they actually overcome any sin in their lives. It means that they keep on fighting that sin. That is the perseverance of the saints. They do not give up the fight, and do not give in to sin. They fight. And they have to fight, because that old nature is there with them till the day of their death. But as we walk down the pathway of life, and presently our feet are heavy so that we soon amble along instead of walk, and then later on put one foot only an inch or two in front of the other—whereas our gait before was a good thirty inches at a stride—the appeal of certain items wanes. That does not mean that we conquered that sin. It simply is a physical matter and not a spiritual matter that we cannot do this sin anymore. Our capacity for sin becomes smaller, but with the old nature we still sin as fully as we can at the moment. The serpent’s fangs may be broken, but the heart still hates man. So, we may not be able to commit certain sins outwardly, but the heart still beats only with hatred toward God according to the old nature. It is important then that now while temptations are so powerful and manifold, you build yourself up in the truth and learn what your Creator demands of you.
And in conclusion, now are the carefree days of your life. I mean that in a good sense. Remembering your Creator, you will not be careless and indifferent. But in the days of your youth you do not have the cares and anxieties that are going to be yours in a short while. Now you have no family, no wife, no children to support. You are free to go here and there, and have not family responsibilities to tie you down. Yes, the day will come when your church attendance will have to be cut down to once a Sunday, because of little children to tend. You do not have that now. You have no sick child to cuddle, or with which to walk the floor all night. You put your head on your pillow, and you are asleep, and tomorrow with your tremendous recuperative powers of youth, you are as fresh as a daisy. Well, all of that strength of yours must be used redeeming the time, buying out of it everything that you can get, in order to serve your Creator fully.
And, by the way, now when you have this freedom from cares, and I mean particularly from financial cares, you had better remember your Creator as you spend it. You better do that when the collection plate is passed by you on Sunday. You had better do that when the causes of mercy and of Christian instruction are made known to you. That is God’s money that you have in your hand, pocket, bank account. He gave it to you, and the employment whereby you attain to it; and He demands that you give it back. You need not give it all back in the collection plate. And I do not say that you should. But you will have to give it back to Him in wise use of it.
You can afford to give more than your parents give, who perhaps have a very high school tuition to pay, besides the medical expenses and the general cost of feeding and clothing your brothers and sisters. And if you fail to remember your Creator, and look the other way when the expenses of His cause here below are presented to you, so that you can buy that new car, that fur coat, take that expensive trip, follow that expensive hobby, and all the rest, be sure, as Solomon says, that He will not forget. “Know thou,” Solomon says, “that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.” Ecclesiastes 11:9. And Malachi chides the Israelites and tells them that they have stolen from God, when they withheld their offerings, or brought polluted and defiled sacrifices. Malachi 3:8.
You are sometimes called the Now Generation. And there is that impatience of youth that causes you to want everything RIGHT NOW! But right now your calling is to remember your Creator. Right now is your calling to serve Him with all that you are and possess. Right now you are to begin a life that will be filled, till your last breath, with deeds of love to Him. And then, when you come to those days in which in all sincerity you have to say, “I find no pleasure in them,” you can look back on a life that clearly indicates that you are spiritually different, because of cross and Spirit of Christ, and can add, “But I look forward to days that shall be full of pleasure at God’s right hand and hear Him say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.'”
May you have that joy and confidence in that way of faithfulness.