In the previous article the first part of a lecture given to the Eastern Men’s and Ladies’ League was printed. In that article the speaker emphasized what the strengths of our churches are. He ended that article by emphasizing that those strengths must ever remain our strengths. Here follows the conclusion of that lecture.
We must ever insist that those strengths remain the strengths of our churches. We must do so first of all over against an ungodly world and over against an increasingly apostate ecclesiastical world that tells us that those strengths must not be our strengths. Today as never before the church is being bombarded with the devil’s tool, worldlimindedness. And it is eating away at the church of Jesus Christ like a cancer—so much so that the church today has forgotten about its distinctively Reformed heritage. It has-tossed out of the window the precious time-honored truths of the Word of God. It has dispersed with the preaching, or, if not that, it has so watered down the preaching that you can not tell that it is preaching. It has made elders and discipline a laughingstock. God’s people can do just about anything that they have a mind to do, without any fear that they will be called to task. Covenant homes and schools are that in name only. Covenant youth are not being instructed. That is what is happening in the church today. And as a result of all of that, the church today has given itself over to worldlimindedness: to the pursuit of sinful pleasures, to the social gospel, to making this world a better place in which to live. And God’s people are being destroyed. God said long ago through the mouth of the prophet Hosea, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”; and that is happening. But the point is, we must be on our guard that that never happens to us. If it does, we will not have any more strengths left! Evidently when this topic was formulated, the committee felt that we have as Protestant Reformed Churches, both strengths and weaknesses. But I submit to you, if we allow what I have just been talking about to happen to us, we will not have strengths and weaknesses. We will have only weaknesses! And if we have only weaknesses we have nothing left!
And that brings me to the question, namely, how is it that these strengths are our strengths! And in what way is it that these strengths will remain our strengths? Is that due to ourselves? Is it the case that we are the ones responsible for the fact that we are Protestant Reformed Churches? Is it the case that the distinctively Reformed heritage that we have and the precious truths of the Word of God that we do have is a matter of our doing? Is it the case that the preaching of the Word which we have, faithful ministers of the Word that we have, a faithful seminary, and sound pulpits from Sabbath day to Sabbath day,—is all of that a result of what we have done? Is it the case that our elders and deacons function in their office as they do—dispensing the mercies of Christ, standing upon the watchtowers of Mt. Zion, calling sinners to repentance—is a result of their own skill and expertise? Or the fact that we have covenant families, godly parents and children, covenant schools and teachers wherein the covenant seed is instructed, is that a matter in which we may boast?
Inevitably in the history of the church, and particularly I refer to the history of the children of Israel, when Israel thought so, God took their strengths away from them so that all that remained were weaknesses. When Israel tried to stand in its own strength, boasted in what it had accomplished, when it forgot about God, then sudden destruction came upon Israel. Just read the history of Israel recorded in the Old Testament. When Israel forgot that their strength was altogether rooted in God’s everlasting strength, God sent heathen nations to chastise Israel. Our chairman read tonight from Isaiah 26. You read in Isaiah 26:16, “Lord, in trouble have they (that is, Israel) visited Thee, they poured out a prayer when Thy chastening was upon them.” God chastened Israel. And why? Because Israel had forgotten that their strength was not in themselves; it was not in horses and chariots that they possessed. They had forgotten that their strength was not to be found in the heathen nations round about them or even the idol gods of the heathen nations round about them. They had forgotten that their strength was to be found only in the Lord Jehovah. You read in Isaiah 26:4, “Trust ye in the Lord forever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.” They forgot to sing the beautiful words ofPsalter number 298:
My steadfast heart O God, will sound Thy praise abroad with tuneful string; The dawn shall hear my song. Thy praise I will prolong, And where Thy people throng, Thanksgiving bring.
Thy truth and tender love are high as heaven above; Thy help we crave. Be Thou exalted high above the lofty sky; Lest Thy beloved die, O hear and save.
God’s word shall surely stand; His Name through every land shall be adored; Lord, who shall lead our host? Thy aid we covet most, in Thee is all our boast, strong in the Lord.
They forgot, and Because they forgot, God chastened them.
And the same thing will happen to us, if we dare to think that our strengths are the result of ourselves—what we have done. If we think that those strengths are in the absolute sense our strengths, forgetting that they are not ours but the Lord Jehovah’s strengths, we might just as well close the doors of our churches and go home because there is nothing left but the chastening of the Lord. The point that I am trying to make is that our strengths are all due to the Lord Jehovah. The fact that we are Protestant Reformed Churches; that we have the distinctively Reformed heritage that we do; that we have the precious truths of God’s Word, the preaching, discipline, covenant homes and covenant schools, is all due to this blessed truth: “In the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.”
In so far as we understand and remember that we are strong; in so far as that truth permeates our churches, our preaching and our covenant homes; in so far as we teach that truth to our children, we are strong. But in so far as we forget that truth, we are weak.
And weak we as Protestant Reformed Churches are becoming. Notice, I said we are becoming weak. I did not say we are weak because we are not weak. But we are becoming weak. Weakness and weaknesses are a process. That does not happen overnight. But rather, that takes place over a period of time. And I am convinced that that process is occurring in our churches. There are increasingly appearing flaws, cracks if you will, in the walls of our strong city. And I submit to you that we had better recognize that there are.
What are those flaws and cracks? They have to do exactly with a certain lack of enthusiasm, appreciation, and zeal for our strengths and the Lord Jehovah in Whom is all our strength. Oh yes, we have as I said our heritage, the truth, the preaching, discipline, covenant homes and schools. And too, we even recognize them to be our strengths, and even more, recognize that those strengths come from God. But our weaknesses are to be found exactly in a certain non-appreciation, or rather I should say, a lack of an all-encompassing appreciation for them. And by an all-encompassing appreciation I mean that there is nothing else in all the world that means more to us than our strengths and the Lord Jehovah Who is our strength. And that all-encompassing appreciation would be in having our whole life as churches characterized by the following words found in Isaiah 26:8, “Yea, in the way of Thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for Thee; the desire of our soul is to Thy name, and to the remembrance of Thee”; Isaiah 26:9: “With my soul have I desired Thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek Thee early”; Isaiah 26:12: “Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us: for Thou also hast wrought all our works in us”; Isaiah 26:13: “O Lord our God, other lords beside Thee have had dominion over us, but by Thee only will we make mention of Thy name.” And that all-encompassing appreciation would be to sing, not merely with our mouths, but from our hearts with conviction and enthusiastic zealous appreciation for what God has done for us:
Thy truth and tender love are high as heaven above; Thy help we crave. Be thou exalted high above the lofty sky; lest Thy beloved die, O hear and save.
God’s word shall surely stand; His name through every land shall be adored; Lord, who shall lead our host? Thy aid we covet most; In Thee is all our boast, strong in the Lord.
But for some reason that all-encompassing enthusiasm is not there as it should be. Again, I do not say that it is not there at all. But it is not there as itshould be. Instead we are increasingly becoming enthusiastic about other things, earthly things! If this is not true, you explain to me why we can talk for hours about money, for example, about our homes, about our cars; why we can talk for hours about sports—the national sports teams, and yes, even about our sports program in our own Christian schools. You explain that once. Explain to me why parents and young people—and it is indeed not just young people, but parents too—go to movies and partake of all sorts of other things that have no place in the life of the church of Jesus Christ. You explain to me why even our young children can talk for hours about television programs that they watch. But when it comes to talking about that which we ought to talk about, we have very little time and very few words to say about that. You explain that to me!
And do not say that such has always been the case—that things were that way years ago too. Maybe that is true. I am not in a position either to affirm or deny that. As I said in my introduction, I am young and did not live years ago. But, frankly, I am sick and tired of hearing as a defense for how things are today that things were just as bad years ago, so that we need not worry, for things turned out all right years ago, and things will turn out all right today. I for one will not tolerate such reasoning! And you may not either!
There are cracks in the walls that are ever becoming larger. They consist in a lack of an all-encompassing enthusiastic appreciation for the strengths that Jehovah has given us. I wish that were not so. It grieves me to say that is so. But say it I do.
THE CERTAIN REMEDY
Well, then, the question is: what must be done about that? What is the solution, the remedy if you will, to those weaknesses? For, that something must be done, that some solution, remedy, must be found and applied is certain. Notice, I speak of remedy in the singular. The theme given me for this lecture speaks ofremedies in the plural. I choose to speak not of remedies but remedy. And further, I choose to speak not of possible remedies but of a certain remedy. What is that certain remedy?
The answer to that question is not so difficult. Negatively, the answer to that question is that we not deny the reality of those weaknesses and say that they do not exist. It is not to close our eyes to them and hope that they will somehow go away of themselves. That is not the answer. If your child is sick, you do not say he is not sick. You do not say maybe he will get better of himself. If there are cracks in your walls, you do not say there are no cracks. You do not say those cracks will go away of themselves. I assure you they won’t! They will only get bigger. But rather, when your child gets sick, you give him medicine. When there are cracks in your walls, you endeavor to get rid of them. So too with our weaknesses. We endeavor to get rid of them.
How? What is the remedy? It is this: by saying with the prophet of old, “Trust ye in the Lord forever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.” And not just say it but mean it; live by it in our covenant homes, teach it to our covenant children. That is the very simple remedy. But that which is not so very simple, but rather very difficult, is putting that remedy into practice. That is the difficult part.
Are you willing to put that remedy into practice? Are our homes and churches willing to put that remedy into practice? Only you and I and our churches can answer that question. But answer it we must. If our answer is no, we will be destroyed. If our answer is yes, we shall certainly be blessed. Hear then the Word of God, and with that I conclude, “Trust ye in the Lord forever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.” May God so grant it, is my prayer.