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Mr. Huisken is a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Redlands, California.

Yes, you and I and every believer who sits under the preaching have a responsibility regarding the preaching in the church. This is not left up to the elders alone. Those in the pew have a very definite role in regards to the preaching. You see, we are the church. The church preaches. The church administers the sacraments. The church conducts discipline. Ultimately then, we are responsible to judge the preaching. This is not only our right but also our duty.

Our judgment is twofold. We must not only judge the correctness of the preaching, but also how this word applies to us personally.

When we judge the correctness, we must be sure it is authoritative, biblical, and creedal. When we judge for personal application, we must be sure to include ourselves and not be so sure that “that sermon” was for some of those ‘backsliders.” Further, we must judge the preaching to be spiritual food. We must be sure that we are getting real food, and not some substitute. The real Word of God is not to be confused with the philosophy of man. The real Word of God, the Gospel, goes forth even as a two-edged sword. It draws some closer to God, and it hardens the hearts of others. It will convict some of their sin. It will condemn others. It will show us the mercy of God and also God’s justice. When we hear the real Word of God, we will not leave hungry, for we have been fed by Christ Himself. We will leave satisfied, for we have heard our Savior speak to us.

One of the most satisfying and refreshing things we do after a day’s work is to sit down to a truly delicious meal—a meal prepared to satisfy the needs of our body, a meal designed to replenish the energy spent in our daily activity. Without nourishment, we die.

So to, it is true of our spiritual needs. We must be fed with spiritual food. A child of God needs spiritual energy to go out into the world every day, energy to fight off the devil and his host of demons. One does not have to leave his home to be accosted by the world of iniquity. The newspapers, magazines, radios, and televisions which we bring into our homes are permeated with the vileness and sin of man. Adultery divorce, murder, mayhem, lewdness, homosexuality are [shown] made to be normal behavior. To fight this, we need spiritual food. In our family life, we are prone to bicker and quarrel with brothers and sisters. The same is true for husbands and wives. To fight this we need spiritual food.

The work place, the office, the farm, the factory are dens of iniquity. Filthy talk, cheating, lying, theft are commonplace. To fight this, we need spiritual food.

There is only one place to get this food and that is sitting under the preaching. If we leave hungry, we have a problem. Could it be I? Could it be my spiritual condition? Or could it be that I’m being fed stones for bread, skim milk, watered down soup and a meat substitute?

In order to judge the preaching, we must be equipped. A courtroom judge has to spend a good deal of his time learning the law. So too, a believer must spend a good deal of his time equipping himself. How can I judge if this preaching is biblical if I do not study my Bible? How can I judge this preaching to be creedal if I do not know the creeds and that for which they stand. How can I determine if this word is authoritative if I have not taken the time to examine the church of which I am a member? Is it really a church, the manifestation of God’s people with Christ as its head? Or is this a sect with some man as its head? Daily we must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The apostle James says, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (Jam. 5:16). Pray that the minister will be a herald, an ambassador, of Jesus Christ and that the word he brings will be that of Him that sent him.

Pray that you may have faithful elders, as true watchmen on the walls of Zion, men of conviction, of zeal, and of courage, men who will not waver when it comes to the truth. Without faithful elders, the church is in dire straits.

We must pray for ourselves, that the Holy Spirit will open our eyes of understanding and that He will give us grace to apply the preaching to our lives.

We must pray for the church universal, that the preaching will gather the church from every nation, tribe, and tongue.

If we leave the preaching hungry because we do not hear the whole of God’s Word and are being fed man’s philosophy, we have some choices to make. We can go the way of protest, which is open to all members of a “Reformed church” using the Presbyterian form of church government. Secondly, we must be true to the Confession of Faith Article 28 which instructs us to search out the truest manifestation of the church of Christ on earth.

If we look around, we find precious few churches who will be held to their Standards, Confessions, or Creeds, much less to the Holy Scriptures. Protesters are treated as trouble makers and are accused of living in the Dark Ages or lacking the new enlightenment of the Word. Protests are shelved, pigeonholed, or given to some committee to “study.” As the years pass, the protests are forgotten or the protesters leave, frustrated. If we are put into this situation and become a searcher for the truth, we must pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us in finding the truth. Those who are searching for the truth have an appetite for good material, for forthright, clear, concise treatment of the doctrines of Scripture. Many have been brought under the preaching after reading and studying good material.

New converts to the truth, to the Reformed faith as we know it, continually amaze us with their quest for understanding. They put many of us to shame in their grasp of issues. They read, they listen, and they are ready to discuss their newfound faith. Thank God that He continues to gather His church through the preaching from every comer of the world, and thank God that we as churches are able even with limited resources to promote the truth to the ends of the earth.

If we leave the preaching hungry and unfed because of our spiritual condition, we have a problem, mainly because we do not know we are hungry. It may be that our walk may be in sin. Before long we will show some outward signs. We stop coming to the preaching, we stop going to catechism. We do not enjoy the communion and fellowship of the saints. There is always something else we would rather be doing. The elders call this “the neglect of the means of grace.” Before long, they will be at our door with the Word, with prayer, with admonition, pointing us to the error of our way, pointing us to the void in our lives and to our weak disposition because of the lack of spiritual food. They continue in this in love for the sheep over which Christ the Ring has given them oversight. It is with grief and sadness, when there is no repentance, that finally the wayward are cut off from the church. Equally true, there is much joy and rejoicing when one has turned from his evil way and returns to the fold.

“Now that the Lord has fed our souls at this table, let us therefore jointly praise his Holy name with thanksgiving” (paraphrased from the communion form,The Psalter, p. 95). This not only applies after communion but also after every service.

Preaching is the chief means of grace, and prayer is the chief means of thanksgiving. So then, living the Word preached will lead us into true thankfulness. “Therefore shall my mouth and heart show forth the praise of the Lord from this time forth forever more” (Communion form, p. 96).

Living the preaching is impossible without prayer, for we are still in this world and still fight the old man of sin in us. Because of this, the child of God is constantly in the strife, and he will be until death. Therefore, we look forward to each Sabbath, to the preaching, to the food, to the refreshment, to the comforting word of our Savior Jesus Christ. Then we say with the Psalmist, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go up to God’s own house.”

How we show this new life of Christ in us is manifested in all that we do for Christ’s sake. A word, a helping hand, a smile, a prayer, a tear, a gift, a slice of bread, a drink of water, a visit done for Christ’s sake—all of that reveals this new life in us.

This brings us full circle. Yes, you and I, the individuals that make up the church, our lives, must exemplify the Word of God in our actions, our speech, and our relationships one with another. All that we think, say, and do must show forth thankfulness for the great salvation earned for us by the death of Jesus Christ.

Are we then personally affected by the shortage of ministers and missionaries? Are we affected by the opening in the communist block of Europe? Surely there are God’s people there. Surely they are in need of spiritual food. Even in this country, the most prosperous nation in the world, we see hunger, not only physical hunger but true spiritual hunger. Churches that once maintained the sovereignty of God, the inerrancy of Scripture, the practice of pure preaching, faithful in maintaining the sacraments and unafraid to exercise discipline are gone by the wayside. What about God’s people? Have we personally spoken to those we know who are in these circumstances? Have we hidden our light? Are we afraid to speak, afraid to declare? Many of us do not want to rock the boat. Many of us will look the other way. We will rationalize and compromise. Why should I? They will not listen. I do not want trouble with my neighbor or brother or sister. Are we active in promoting the Word of God in our family, our village, our town, our city? We can send men to the far reaches of the earth, but if we fail in being a witness to our neighbor, father, mother, brother, sister, all is in vain.

We think of the early church in Jerusalem. “And the Lord added to the church daily.” Surely much of this was accomplished by activity among the first to believe and those who followed.

Our faith must be active. We may not hide it. We must declare it as an act of faithfulness (H.C. answer 86). “That we may so testify by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God for his blessings, and that he may be praised by us; also, that every one may be assured in himself of his faith, by the fruits thereof; and that by our godly conversation, OTHERS MAY BE GAINED TO CHRIST.”