The old and the new.
We are at the end of one year and taking our first steps in a new year. Looking back, the past year has been special for us. This is true in many ways, but especially with respect to our anniversary as churches, the highlight of our convention this past summer. Looking back makes one nostalgic, but looking ahead makes one apprehensive. It always seems easier looking back than ahead. There were great difficulties, hardships, testings of faith then, but we look back and see them as completed victories. Who looks back at the history of the church and says, there, at such a time, the church suffered defeat? It’s a little harder to look to the future and say with conviction, the church of tomorrow will not suffer defeat! The perspective is different.
The fear of the future is aggravated by the fantastic speed of change. The wind-up Victrola has evolved into the hi-fi, stereo, and quadraphonic sound of today. The old Ford has become the super-charged turbo. The first daring surgical procedures performed on patients restrained with ropes have now become the highly skilled “operations” of transplanting organs and repairing others—something never dreamed possible. The B-29’s have become the I.C.B.M.’s. All this is measured in decades not centuries.
One could go on and on.
This change has affected our lives. As kids we used to go to the local dump to shoot rats. Many a time we would discover some “treasure” and haul it home. Even the dump would reflect the times. During good times there were all kinds of cast-offs still usable; during bad times there was only junk. Our refuse today reflects our times; we live in the throw away generation: use it once and discard it. Much of what is thrown away today would be considered a real “find” in days gone by. But, alas, today it is compacted in the kitchen or at least compressed in the packer only to be buried in some landfill. We don’t even have dumps today.
With the industrial revolution we shifted from a rural America to an urban society. Industry produced every sort of convenience. People’s incomes increased, the purchasing power of the average consumer grew by leaps and bounds. A maddening spiral of getting “things”, success in business, finding one’s place on the totem pole of economic wealth has produced a spirit of materialism. How this has changed our lives. The hard working days of manual work, walking behind the plow, have been replaced with the roar of the diesel and the electronic calculator. Physically we work less but worry more. Mothers have all sorts of push-button conveniences in the kitchen, but now we hear that most women are bored with being at home and need fulfillment in the market place. It becomes rather blase to fill one’s day. with watching soap operas on television. Our progress has created a whole set of new problems in today’s living.
Would we want to go back? No way! We have to learn how to live in today’s world. In this world there seems to be little if anything that has not undergone change in some way.
That brings me to my main point.
What about religion? What about spiritual values? What about faith?
Little wonder that most religious leaders today insist that we need a new faith that fits our changing world. We need a faith that tits the changed person of today! We just finished mentioning how we have changed. Don’t we need a new faith to meet the needs of modern man? Just think, we are now living at a faster pace; speed, speed, speed! Ours is the instant society; rip open a frozen dinner, toss it into the micro-wave oven, eat it on the run. We have to be on the links for a game of golf or at the courts for tennis. Timmy is in the little leagues; Dave is on the church softball team. Seldom is a meal eaten quietly. Television begs our attention almost every moment we are not away from home. Who quietly sits down to read and study? Who enjoys evenings home with families today? Perhaps dad even has a job that either requires long hours, or change in shifts. More disruption. Sometimes the whole family has to move from one city to another because of job demands. Our society is shifting and mobile to the extreme. People don’t sit very long, don’t think very deep, don’t pay too much attention to long discussions, don’t read very much before falling asleep.
Don’t such people need a different emphasis in religion and instructional methods to fit the change?
Some say yes.
We can discard the far-outs who come begging for support and are growing in numbers. There are more and more new cults, taking advantage of our disoriented society. The occult, Satan worshippers, T.M.s, and what have you are always ready to move in and sooth a nerve-racked people with promises of peace on earth. The devil knows when to move.
Closer to home, however, the devil uses a more sophisticated approach, at least in terms of us. He reasons this way: we are more educated today than ever before. Spiritual truths that fit grandparents in their generation do not necessarily satisfy today. After all, we all change. Science has come up with new ideas, man has within his grasp heaven on earth. What must we say and do to people like this. Here’s what we need. We need a new Bible (King James is out of date; we need a paraphrased Bible in today’s language); we need a new method of interpreting this Bible (we must not draw out the meaning of the message by studying the words and ideas presented in the context; these are culturally and linguistically conditioned by different times, we must read into these words meanings that tit our generation). We need a new theology; ideas of a personal God, sovereign and holy, predestinating people to heaven and hell may have been all right for our Dutch forefathers, but today we need to emphasize a God of love that fits into the needs of a society that has to learn to love; Finally, we also need a new morality: old teachings about laws and commandments, simply don’t speak to people today; it’s too much “authority.” We need to speak of lovingly obeying God’s will; that is easier to take. Of course, all that is done lovingly is approved, whether it breaks the commandments or not.
There is one more thing. The method which must be used in getting this message across must not conform to that of our previous generation. Long-winded sermons, careful exegetical preaching making up the heartbeat of dignified worship adorned with solemn singing and reverent praying, is out! No, most agree this was all right for a quiet, sober thinking, slower acting generation of years gone by. Today we need instant messages, short and to the point, perhaps even adorned with a blast of rock music from the built in speakers, or blinking lights, or visual aids to punctuate the “sermon” and give it an additional dimension. Better yet, we should experiment with our services by allowing membership participation.
It all sounds so logical that we might even stand back and say, when do we start!!
There is one thing wrong with all this reasoning. These people put faith and the preaching of the gospel in the same category as scientific knowledge, historical facts, salesmanship, teaching, etc.
And it isn’t.
The gospel is entirely unique.
Its message and method are divinely appointed, and woe be to us if we think we are wiser than God.
Listen to God tell us this Himself. “Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16. God isn’t saying to us “Be old fashioned.” Just having the old is not in itself good. Change is part of our life and we must accept it. One thing does not and must not change and this is ourfaith. Jeremiah was concerned about that. Judah had forsaken the God of their fathers and replaced Him with idols. They had gone after a new life-style which included abominable immorality. Jeremiah preached to them and warned them that they had to go back to their God, for God walked with them only on the old paths, those which He appointed for them according to the prophets.
My youthful readers, we need to be reminded of this today. Everything may change, but God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, Mal. 3:6. His Word never changes, I Peter 1:23, 25. This is the truth written upon the pages of Holy Writ and preached by faithful ministers throughout the ages of the world.
The old paths that the believers walk upon are old because they are God’s paths and He is as old as eternity. They are old because the church of all ages walked upon those paths. Isn’t this a fantastic thought. The figure is plain. The paths mentioned in Jeremiah have direction. They lead somewhere; they lead home! On those paths Adam and Eve walked; and Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob trod to glory on them. Our blessed Lord Jesus walked upon those paths. So did the holy apostles and faithful martyrs in the history of the church. Our Reformed forefathers loved those paths and gave us three beautiful confessions that express the faith of all truly Reformed believers. So our grandfathers and grandmothers walked before us upon those paths. They are old and well worn by the faithful believers of all ages. Each generation in the church could well say they lived in a “new generation,” and many could have clamored for a “new faith.” What we see today is not really new; it is just that it is now being popularly accepted by those who we would think should know better and understand what is taking place.
Yes, sometimes it gets lonely on that path. Sometimes the conflict becomes bitter. On the old paths, however, we always have our God in blessed friendship with Jesus Christ our Lord.
The preaching of the gospel has distinguished the church from all sects and vain philosophies. The power of preaching is Christ Who calls by His grace and Spirit. The Bible has been the citadel of truth for believers of all ages. Doctrine and morality have been determined by the pages of Holy Writ and not by the changing whims of fallible man.
Young people, don’t be influenced by the clamor for change in the realm of the church. The enemy of God’s people likes to come disguised with silver-tongued oratory and convincing logic. They want to take from you the Bible, the faithful interpretation of its pages, sound doctrine, and godly living.
All is done under the guise of necessary change.
Supposedly it is for the better.
It is sad to read in Jeremiah 6:12, “But they said, we will not walk therein.” History tells us that the majority in Judah never changed, and God had to take them to Babylon. The ungodly were destroyed, and the faithful had to be purified in the way of affliction.
We look to the future with confidence. The church will always be preserved and God will never allow the enemy to destroy the path or keep those whom He loves from walking on it.
Our duty is to heed His Word, “Stand ye in the ways,see, and ask for the old paths and walk on them. Stand in them, see them, ask for them, and walk in them.”
They are the good way, and on that way one finds rest for his soul.
Rest in this life and in that to come.
That way leads home.