Blessed Are the Meek – Rev. C. Haak

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This week’s message on the Reformed Witness Hour radio/Internet program (Sunday, June 17, 2018) was “Blessed Are the Meek” by Rev. C. Haak, pastor of Georgetown PRC.  Radio pastor Haak is currently doing a series on the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:3-12, and this past Sunday he spoke on the third one as recorded in Matt.5:5, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”

The audio file of the message is linked above on the PRC website and it may also be found on the RWH’s website and on her Sermonaudio channel.

Tonight I post a portion of the transcription of the message, finding it fitting for our reflection today.

 Meekness is the result, it is the fruit, of being poor in spirit and of knowing what it is to mourn before God.  It makes one receptive in his heart before God.  In one word:  meekness is the absence of pride.  A meek heart is the antithesis, the opposite of pride.  It is the opposite of stubbornness and fierceness and vengefulness.  Meekness is the dethroning of sinful pride and making us now teachable of God, gentle toward one another, submissive to God, confident and strong in God and in His faithful love to me.

Not only does one not assert himself, but he also sees the sin of that.  A meek person does not glory in himself.  He is not always interested in himself.  He is not watching always after his own interest.  He is not always on the defensive.  He is not always saying, “What about me?”

Beloved, by nature, we spend our whole life watching out for ourselves.  We worry about ourselves and what others are going to say about us.  We talk to ourselves.  We say, “You’re having a hard time.  Too bad people don’t understand you.  How wonderful I am and if only people would give me a chance.”  That is pride.  The meek are self-emptied people.  They are not defending the citadel of me.  They are lowly before God.  They are ready to leave everything in the hands of God, to leave themselves, their rights, their cause, their whole life, in the hand of God.  Meek.

This meekness will be seen in the attitude that we carry.  The fruit of meekness is, first of all, seen in an attitude toward God, an attitude of submission and quietness.  How often do we not struggle with the sovereign ways and the sovereign will of God?  I am not talking, now, of accepting our sinful ways or being indifferent.  But I am referring to the fact that God sovereignly appoints my portion in this life.  He arranges my life, personally and in my family, and economically, in all the details of my life.  Very often we struggle with that.  We find it very hard to be submissive to the way and to the will of God.  That is our pride.

Meekness, now, is submission, submission to the great God of heaven.  And, thus, meekness is strength!  The meek person is strong because he knows that God is holding him up.  We read in Psalm 147, “The LORD lifteth up the meek:  he casteth the wicked down to the ground.”  In meekness we are able to bear God’s chastenings in quietness and hope.  We are able to do that with a meek and a quiet spirit.  There is an example of this in the Bible.  I bring to your memory the high priest called Aaron.  Aaron’s two sons had been killed by God for offering strange incense in the tabernacle.  They had worshiped God in a manner that He had not prescribed.  And God consumed them in fire.  God, then, told Moses to tell Aaron that Aaron could not mourn over his sons.  He had to submit, in his grief, to the hand of God.  And Aaron did.  Now Aaron was far from perfect.  The Bible makes that plain.  The Scriptures tell us of all of his faults.  Yet God gave to Aaron a meekness.  He suffered quietly before God.

…The second fruit of meekness is our attitude toward others.  Meekness makes us the most approachable persons on earth.  Not bristling in pride, not sharp, cruel, spiteful.  It is the meek in Christ with whom you feel a great kinship.  Meekness attracts others.  Meekness is mildness of manner, gentleness, harmlessness.  Remember what we read in Matthew 11:28.   The Lord said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden.”  Why?  “For I am meek and lowly in heart.  You are safe with Me,” said Jesus.  “Because I am meek, you may come to Me.  I’m not dangerous.  You may set your heart upon Me.”

Still more.  In meekness, we will bear patiently the insults and the injuries that we receive at the hands of others.  In meekness we will not become inflamed, vindictive.  In meekness we will not assume a demeaning attitude toward those who differ with us.  We will not show ourselves to have a harsh, censorious temperament.  We will not enjoy finding fault in others.  Meekness will be seen in gentleness, humility, and patience.  It is the absence of retaliation.  It is the absence of paying back.  It is the absence of saying, “They’re gonna get theirs.”  No, it is longsuffering and patient, especially when we suffer wrongfully.  Then we will be meek.  Listen to Galatians 6:1.   “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”  The Word of God is saying that only a spirit of meekness qualifies you to deal with another who may be embittered and resentful, to deal with someone who has fallen away.  You can deal with such a person only in the spirit of meekness.  Meekness means that you are emptied of yourself.  You are dependent upon and submissive to God.  You are gentle and you are teachable.  Blessed are the meek, said Jesus, for they shall inherit the earth.

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The Law in the Psalms: “It is grace to know God’s commands.” ~ D. Bonhoeffer

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The three Psalms (1, 19, 119), which in a special way make the law of God the object of thanks, praise, and petition seek to show us, above all, the blessing of the law. Under ‘law,’ then, is to be understood usually the entire salvation act of God and the direction for a new life in obedience. Joy in the law and in the commands of God comes to us if God has given the great new direction to our life through Jesus Christ.

…It is grace to know God’s commands. They release us from self-made plans and conflicts. They make our steps certain and our way joyful. God gives his commands in order that we may fulfill them, and ‘his commandments are not burdensome’ (1 John 5:3) for him who has found all salvation in Jesus Christ.

Jesus has himself been under the law and has fulfilled it in total obedience to the Father. God’s will becomes his joy, his nourishment. So he gives thanks in us for the grace of the law and grants to us joy in its fulfillment. Now we confess our love for the law, we affirm that we gladly keep it, and we ask that we may continue to be kept blameless in it. We do that not in our own power, but we pray it in the name of Jesus Christ who is for us and in us.

Psalms-prayer-book-BonhoefferQuoted from Psalms, The Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Augsburg, 1974), a translation of Das Gebetbuch der Bibel (the 8th ed. published in Germany in 1966). These thoughts are found in the eighth section, “The Law” (pp.31-33), where the author continues to treat the Psalter according to classification by subject.

How does God’s garden grow? “By ordinary, daily, habitual practices.” – M. Horton

Even the ordinary disciplines of family devotions seem to be vanishing. For centuries, believers were raised with prayer, singing, instruction, and Bible reading with the family each morning and evening. The Reformers and their spiritual heirs not only wrote catechisms for this purpose, but books with each day’s readings, prayers, and songs. They knew that, as central as it was, the public ministry was weekly, and it needed to be supplemented and supported by daily habits.

As church and family disciplines were subordinated to private disciplines, the burden of growing in the faith was placed almost exclusively on the individual. If do-it-yourself discipleship was the order of the day not that long ago, what is striking today is the extent to which even personal disciplines seem to be receding. It seems to me that there is increasingly less interest in personal prayer and meditation on God’s Word than in any time since the Middle Ages. It suggests that when public disciplines (especially the weekly service) lose their hold on us, family and private disciplines are sure to follow.

We need to rethink our priorities here, and recovering an appreciation for the ordinary is at least one step in that direction. We grow by ordinary, daily, habitual practices. The weekly service of the Word and sacrament, along with its public confession of sin and faith, the prayers, and praise, are the fountain that flows into our homes and private rooms throughout the week. It is all of these disciplines – public, family, and private – that we need to recover. They seem so ordinary. In fact, they are! But that is precisely how God’s garden grows each day.

ordinary-MHorton-2014Taken from chapter 9,  “God’s ecosystem,” (p.181) of Michael Horton’s Or-di-nar-y: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014), which I continue to read with great profit and deep appreciation.

In this chapter, Horton teaches and applies the beautiful organic idea of the church (especially as God’s living, growing garden) found throughout the Word of God. In the section from which I quote above, Horton is treating “Personal Disciplines.” But, as you will see, he ties together the vital public means of grace (in our public services) with the vital private means of grace (what we practice in our homes).

And we should be able to see how they feed off one another. Stop worshiping at home and in private, and soon your desire for the house of God on the Lord’s Day will dry up. If we don’t have time for God and His Word at home, we won’t take time for them on Sunday either. But conversely, if we stop attending the public worship of God with His people on the Lord’s Day, we will soon stop our times of family and private worship too. If we don’t value time with God on His special day, we won’t value time with Him each day either.

I trust we are committed to God’s ordinary public means of grace in His church each week. But how committed are we to those ordinary private and personal disciplines each day? Are you and am I seeking to grow by God’s “ordinary, daily, habitual practices” of reading His Word, singing His praises, and praying?

Perhaps, we too need to “rethink our priorities here.” Good food for thought once again. It’s only Monday. Not too late to reset those priorities. You do remember how vibrant you felt yesterday in God’s house, right? Let that feed our souls at home the rest of this week.

Pentecost 2018: The Spirit as Teacher

Pentecost-John14-16On this Pentecost Sunday 2018 we post another prayer/devotional from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, edited by A.Bennett (Banner of Truth, 1975).

This one is titled “The Spirit As Teacher,” and is a fitting prayer for us to make personally and collectively as we remember our Lord’s gift of the Holy Spirit to His church and people.

O GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT,

That which I know not, teach thou me,
Keep me a humble disciple in the school
of Christ,
learning daily there what I am in myself,
a fallen sinful creature,
justly deserving everlasting destruction;
O let me never lose sight of my need of a Saviour,
or forget that apart from him I am nothing,
and can do nothing.
Open my understanding to know
the Holy Scriptures;
Reveal to my soul the counsels and works
of the blessed Trinity;
Instil into my dark mind the saving knowledge
of Jesus;
Make me acquainted with his covenant undertakings
and his perfect fulfilment of them,
that by resting on his finished work
I may find the Father’s love in the Son,
his Father, my Father,
and may be brought through thy influence
to have fellowship with the Three in One.
O lead me into all truth, thou Spirit of wisdom
and revelation,
that I may know the things that belong unto
my peace,
and through thee be made anew.
Make practical upon my heart the Father’s love
as thou hast revealed it in the Scriptures;
Apply to my soul the blood of Christ, effectually,
continually,
and help me to believe, with conscience
comforted, that it cleanseth from all sin;
Lead me from faith to faith,
that I may at all times have freedom to come
to a reconciled Father,
and may be able to maintain peace with him
against doubts, fears, corruptions, temptations.
Thy office is to teach me to draw near to Christ
with a pure heart,
steadfastly persuaded of his love,
in the full assurance of faith.
Let me never falter in this way.

 

How Not to Read a Secular Classic

GuidetoClassics-LRykenAs we continue working our way slowly through Leland Ryken’s recent book, A Christian Guide to the Classics (Crossway, 2015), we are up chapter 9, where he treats “secular classics” (pp.80-90).

The next section has the heading “How Not to Read  a Secular Classic,” and tonight let’s take a look at his thoughts on this. Ryken has three points on this subject – three “errors,” as he calls them. I will list them and then we will let him expand on them in his own words.

  • “The first is the error of avoidance.” He simply means that we would exclude secular classics from our reading material, and in that way waste a good opportunity for learning and growth.
  • “A second way not to read secular classics is to read with what scholars call ‘a hermeneutic of suspicion’ – looking for trouble at every turn.” Ryken has this in mind: “To read with suspicion means to presume that an author ‘got it wrong’ and that the only possible function of a book is to prompt us to disagree with it.” I think we can understand why we would easily fall into this when reading a non-Christian writer. That is not to say, however, that we must not “be wary and on guard, but we can be alert without assuming that an author or work is our opponent on every count.” That’s good counsel for us to remember.
  • “A third error is the exact opposite of the second. It consists of giving automatic preference to non-Christian writers, on the assumption that they can be trusted to be more truthful than Christian writers, at least in the portrayal of human experience.” The argument is that unbelieving authors know evil character and conduct better than Christian writers, because they write from an unregenerate experience. But, as we well know, Christian writers know evil too, from their own experience as well as from the revelation of God in the Bible, where the truth about all evil is set forth, including the only answer to man’s evil – the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Is there anything you would add to these three “errors” in reading secular literature?

 

The Deficits of the iPhone Generation | Public Discourse

Members of iGen suffer from serious intellectual and moral deficits: they are ill-informed, uninterested in pursuing relevant information, passionate without being active, afraid of debate with those who disagree, and uninterested in learning or exploration.

Such is the summary of this revealing book review posted yesterday on The Witherspoon Institute’s website. The author introduces us to the book he reviews in the opening paragraph:

“iGen” is both the title of Jean M. Twenge’s most recent book (subtitle: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy, and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood), and the name she has coined for the generation succeeding the Millennials. Twenge, who has been studying generational differences for a quarter century, includes within iGen those born between 1995 and 2012, plus or minus a bit. What ties this generation together? It is their hitherto unknown relationship to social media and its technological platform: they are “the first generation to enter adolescence with smartphones already in their hands.”

Today’s parents and educators must pay attention to what Twenge and other social and cultural critics are now saying about this “iGen.” It is troubling, showing again the harsh reality of what Marshall McLuhan said years ago (1964!) when he wrote, ‘The medium is the message.”

Here is just a small part of the troubling fruits of what smartphone technology has done to our generation:

Mental Health and Meaninglessness

First, as Twenge argues extensively, there is a mental-health deficit, one clearly correlated with screen time: “teens who spend more time on screens are more likely to be depressed, and those who spend more time on nonscreen activities are less likely to be depressed.” This, in turn, leads to a higher risk of suicide. One reason for the connection between smartphone/internet use and depression is the predominance of cyberbullying. Another is the negative impact that excessive smartphone use has on sleep. And surely yet another is the simple disconnectedness from real things and real people that is experienced by those whose primary forms of personal interaction are mediated by a screen.

Twenge’s advice in response to this is admirably direct: “Put down the phone.” This is exactly right. But this will never happen unless parents are smarter about when to introduce smartphones in their children’s lives. I was interested recently to hear of a “Wait Until 8th” movement, attempting to convince parents not to allow their children to use smartphones until at least eighth grade. That is a start, but what eighth-grader really needs constant access to the internet? “Nein until 9th” or “When? 10th” would be even better.

And this:

Second, there is a deficit of meaning. This deficit shows up in several places in Twenge’s book. The smartphone and its virtual spaces seem to be the primary place where teens spend time together. Their capacity for and interest in serious personal relationships with others is deeply impaired. Another example: Twenge devotes a chapter to the declining religious participation of iGen. According to Twenge, by 2016, “one out of three 18-24 year olds said they did not believe in God.” Twenge attributes this in part to “American culture’s increasing focus on individualism,” and this seems plausible.

Are we still living with the illusion that all our technology has no effect on us and our children? Think again. Better yet, read on at the link below and learn the dangerous effects of the tools of our age. And then commit to using today’s technology in moderation, without having it control you and your life. And, finally, return to the “quiet” life of reading and reflection. That is much better for the soul – and for the body.

Source: The Deficits of the iPhone Generation | Public Discourse

Help and Hope for the Bullys and the Bullied – The March 2018 “Beacon Lights”

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As we pointed out in a post a few weeks ago, the March 2018 issue of the Beacon Lights (the Protestant Reformed youth magazine) is devoted to the subject of bullying. Now that it is out and available, we can encourage you to get it and read it so as to benefit from its timely theme.

This is not an easy subject to treat. Not least of all, because it convicts all of us of the sins of bullying that we have committed. And that exposes us in the sins of hating our neighbor and of hating the God who made our neighbor, as the editor and other writers for this special issue point out.

But is there hope for us? And is there hope for those who have experienced the painful reality of this sin? Yes, indeed there is. And, as we might know, it is found alone in our Savior, Jesus Christ and in His sin-crushing, peace-making, love-producing cross.

The editorial by new editor Dewey Engelsma, “Delivering the Helpless,” is as significant as his story that precedes it, “Murder on a School Bus.” Read the latter first and weep, for yourself and for those we have hurt in such a way. And then read this from Engelsma’s editorial:

Where then for relief, for the bullied, the bully, and bystander alike? For that we must look to the one of which Job was merely a type. And it is that someone greater that not only provides a perfect example of a holy life, but himself gives courage to the redeemed bystander, so that they no longer stand idly by, but jump up to the defense of the bullied person, and show “mercy and compassion every man to his brother” (Zech 7:9).

Where else for relief but the cross that stands at Calvary? At the foot of that cross three parties come together in peace at last, the bullied, the humbled oppressor, and the repentant bystander, all clinging to the One crucified. For it is the bullied child herself, the reed that was not broken, and the flax that was not extinguished, who finally by the grace of their Savior experienced “judgment unto victory” (Matt. 12:20). It is the bully himself who is transformed by God into a blessed peacemaker, and who now is at peace with his God through the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).

And for you, the young person who doubts they have the strength to stand up for the bullied person? You are right. When God’s people rely on their own strength, “even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall” (Isa. 40:30). You don’t have the strength. You will fail time and time again. Until you finally find your strength in the Son of God, the Son who not only stood up for you, but gave himself for you (Gal. 2:20). This is the one who empowers you courageously to defend the weak and powerless, so that when you have against all odds delivered “him that had none to help him,” your victory cry will be, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).

In that light we can weep for joy, even as we seek the joy of those wounded spirits among us.

Shall we fight the sin and find the joy in Christ alone?

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If you are not yet a subscriber, visit the Beacon Light’s subscription page where you will find information on how to become one. Now would be a good time to join the ranks of young (and old) Reformed readers.

A Whole Issue on Bullying?! Yes, and Necessary – The March 2018 “Beacon Lights”

Anti-Bully BL-ad-2018

Soon the March 2018 issue of the Beacon Lights will be out (the Protestant Reformed youth magazine), and it is an entire issue devoted to the subject of bullying.

Yes, bullying, that subject which has received so much attention in the world about us and which is now also being confronted in the church of Christ and kingdom of God. Bullying, that hateful, shameful, powerful conduct that has such tragic consequences in the lives of children and young people – covenant, Christian children and young people too. Perhaps all the more so because it has been carried out by fellow professing covenant, Christian children and young people. Indeed, it is time for this conduct to be called out and confronted, confessed and killed – with the sword of the Spirit and the blood of Jesus.

Are we ready to face the sad sin of bullying?

In this special March issue you will read the subject introduced by managing editor Ryan Kregel. Part of what he has to say is this:

Today, the violence of bullying exists in homes and workplaces. Bullying happens in schools, public and Christian. Bullies come in all ages, male and female. Bullies use many means to accomplish their goal of dominating another person. Sometimes physical abuse is the method, whether a violent, even bloody assault at one time or the daily slapping, spitting, and tripping of the victim. Bullying is also manifest in words. Sometimes the victim endures a barrage of insults day after day. Other times the words are written in notes passed around the classroom, sent as text messages, scratched into the wall of the bathroom stall, or posted on social media. No matter their form, they are meant to hurt, cut down, and kill.

Maybe you have witnessed bullying at school or elsewhere. You probably noticed that the victim didn’t go on the defensive because most victims do not. So did you do anything about it? Did you make their unspoken voice heard? Did you defend the victim or did you join in? Keep in mind that helping a victim of bullying must go further than just “telling off” the bully. Helping ought to include befriending the victim. Through this action we show an awareness of how we ourselves have been befriended by God through Jesus Christ.

From the editor, Dewey Engelsma, you will read about “Murder on a School Bus” and “Delivering the Helpless” (more on these in another post). You will also find articles on “The Offense of Cyberbullying” and “A Letter of Comfort for the Bullied Young Person.”

Yes, the sin of bullying is exposed in this BL issue. It is a painful matter.  But the marvelous mercy of God is also laid bare. Mercy that leads to confession and prayer for help. Mercy that forgives and heals. Mercy that makes us merciful to confront the bully and to help the helpless. As Mr. Kregel adds at the end of his introduction,

Thanks be to God that there is comfort for the
victim of bullying. God promises to “give his angels
charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways” (Ps.
91:11). He also says of the one in need of help, “He
shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be
with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor
him” (v. 15).

BL-logoWatch for this issue, and when it comes read it carefully and prayerfully. If you are not yet a subscriber, visit the Beacon Light’s subscription page where you will find information on how to become one. Now would be a good time to join the ranks.

Abortion: The Infamous Decision, the Prolonged Sin, and the Steadfast Christian

Psalm139-14Today marks the 45th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Woe v. Wade, the infamous ruling legalizing abortion on demand in our country (Jan.22, 1973). It is a day that most Christians and most Christian churches (except the most liberal) rue. On that date our state sanctioned the murder of the unborn, contrary to the law of God and its testimony in the conscience of the human soul (cf. Romans 1:18ff.).

Since that day Christians have consistently protested that decision and in opposition proclaimed a pro-life message. While the specific grounds for that pro-life message may vary among Christians, they are united in their conviction that life is the gift of God alone and that death too is in His hands, so that the senseless taking of the life of the unborn is murder, plain and simple. Abortion is man taking to himself the prerogative of God, bringing on himself the judgment of the very One he pretends to usurp.

Today our pro-life president Donald Trump declared this to be National Sanctity of Human Life Day. While we can easily criticize such declarations, we ought at least recognize the attempt to set things right in terms of life and death with regard to the unborn and many others whom our society judges unfit or unworthy of life. Here is part of what President Trump said today:

Reverence for every human life, one of the values for which our Founding Fathers fought, defines the character of our Nation. Today, it moves us to promote the health of pregnant mothers and their unborn children. It animates our concern for single moms; the elderly, the infirm, and the disabled; and orphan and foster children. It compels us to address the opioid epidemic and to bring aid to those who struggle with mental illness. It gives us the courage to stand up for the weak and the powerless. And it dispels the notion that our worth depends on the extent to which we are planned for or wanted.

Science continues to support and build the case for life. Medical technologies allow us to see images of the unborn children moving their newly formed fingers and toes, yawning, and even smiling. Those images present us with irrefutable evidence that babies are growing within their mothers’ wombs — precious, unique lives, each deserving a future filled with promise and hope. We can also now operate on babies in utero to stave off life-threatening diseases. These important medical advances give us an even greater appreciation for the humanity of the unborn.

Today, citizens throughout our great country are working for the cause of life and fighting for the unborn, driven by love and supported by both science and philosophy. These compassionate Americans are volunteers who assist women through difficult pregnancies, facilitate adoptions, and offer hope to those considering or recovering from abortions. They are medical providers who, often at the risk of their livelihood, conscientiously refuse to participate in abortions. And they are legislators who support health and safety standards, informed consent, parental notification, and bans on late-term abortions, when babies can feel pain. These undeterred warriors, many of whom travel to Washington, D.C., every year for the March for Life, are changing hearts and saving lives through their passionate defense of and loving care for all human lives. Thankfully, the number of abortions, which has been in steady decline since 1980, is now at a historic low. Though the fight to protect life is not yet over, we commit to advocating each day for all who cannot speak for themselves.

But, of course, as Reformed Christians we go deeper and further in our evaluation of abortion. In a Standard Bearer article penned in August of 1994, 21 years after Woe v. Wade, Prof. David Engelsma wrote an editorial with the title “Some Other Thoughts on Abortion.” Here is part of what he had to say in his important message on this subject:

From this world, the Reformed believer is called to separate himself by the Word of God. Abortion is an urgent reminder. For there is divine wrath upon this wickedness. An impenitent Justice Harry Blackmun, main framer of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, lauded upon his recent retirement as a great jurist, will shortly stand in judgment before the Judge of all the earth. The sentence will be the everlasting death due a man who has done evil, not only in decreeing the death of scores of millions of boys and girls but also in betraying his office as minister of God, charged to punish evildoers and protect well-doers.

Wrath falls upon the nation. Every storm, earthquake, and natural disaster; all the social and economic trouble; and, particularly, the increasing violence are God’s punishments of the nation for the national sin of abortion, as for its other transgressions. In the end, the nation will perish, perhaps in a judgment of God in history, certainly in the Day of Christ.

Abortion makes loud to the Reformed ear the call of God in the gospel, Come out, my people, and be separate, “that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Rev. 18:4). This call the Reformed believer obeys, not by any physical removal to a remote place or to another country, certainly not by any revolutionary behavior, but by living antithetically in the power of the Holy Spirit. He refuses to amuse himself with the world’s pornography; he keeps himself from the television programs, movies, and books that entertain by means of violence; he will not allow the state’s schools to teach his children the goodness of adultery, the lawfulness of abortion, and the necessity of the deifying of man; he sees to it that his thinking on sex, marriage, children, state, justice, killing, and bearing (rather than escaping) responsibility is formed exclusively by Holy Scripture; and he most assuredly leaves, indeed, flees, the church that is unable unequivocally to condemn abortion, as well as the sexual unchastity for which abortion is the world’s panacea.

In this separation is nothing of pride. “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures . . . .” (Titus 3:3). Resentment of our own children, when they come, is heart-abortion. Reformed Christians who now vehemently (and rightly) condemn abortion will soon be put to the test concerning the genuineness of their abhorrence of the destruction of the unborn. When the pill is marketed in North America that enables a woman to destroy the unborn child soon after conception in the privacy of her bathroom, without any trip to an abortion clinic, the Reformed young woman who has sinned and is sorry, but dreads being found out, and the Reformed couple who have convinced themselves that they cannot bear the responsibility of yet another child will be tested whether their hatred of abortion was rooted in the love of God.

Grace rescues us from this present, evil, aborting, heaven-storming, perishing world.

Only grace.

In its own way, abortion brings home to us Reformed Christians the reality of the grace of God to us and our children.

The world butchers its own offspring.

Reformed believers obediently have children in marriage; thankfully receive them; gladly rear them; and joyfully fellowship with them in the family.

The grace of God in the covenant with believers and their children makes the difference.

This is the difference. Either parents bury their children in the blood of Christ in baptism, or they choke them in their own and their mother’s blood in abortion.

We have it so good in the covenant. The covenant means life for us and for our sons and daughters.

We must be thankful.

Outside the covenant, it is horrible: grisly death for unbelievers and their children.

Well may we pray the petition of Psalm 74:20: “Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.”

In humility, may we all repent of our murderous sins and seek refuge in that sin-removing, guilt-covering, and wrath-sheltering grace of God.

Wielding the Sword for Our Fellow Soldiers

Tonight our monthly discussion groups from Faith PRC met, and our group gathered at our home to discuss Chapter 10 of the book Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical and Balanced Perspective by Rob Ventura and Brian Borgman (Reformation Heritage, 2014). This chapter treats Eph.6:17, where we Christian soldiers are charged, “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” It is that “Sword of the Spirit” which is the subject of the chapter that we discussed.

In the course of explaining this defensive and offensive weapon, the authors lay down six (6) principles for “wielding the sword” properly. Among those principles is this important one, one we admitted that we often neglect:​

“3. Wield the sword of the Spirit to strengthen our fellow soldiers.

We do not fight this battle in some kind of individual, Rambo-style combat. As we mentioned in chapter 4, we are in this war alongside our fellow believers. We need to strengthen and encourage each other (1 Thess. 5:11). The powers of darkness are not only assaulting me, they are assaulting my brothers and sisters. Satan is working hard to tear down God’s people, drawing them away from the faith, weakening them through his lies. How we need to speak truth to each other in love (Eph. 4:15)! We not only wield the sword of Spirit against the enemy, but we also wield it as we help each other, especially in the context of the community of believers in the local church. Paul reminds the Roman Christians, “Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another” (Rom. 15:14). A timely word from the Word may be exactly what our brothers or sisters need to help them stand firm in their evil day.”

So, what can you and I do this week to “strengthen and encourage” one another in our spiritual battles? What Word of God do you have for your fellow saint?