“I Will Come Again” – Prof.R. Dykstra – August 2015 “Standard Bearer”

SB-Aug-2015-coverThe latest issue of The Standard Bearer has been published and is now available. The August 2015 issue (published monthly in the months of June, July, and August; otherwise bi-monthly) contains a good variety of articles once again – from a meditation on 1 Cor.12:3 to material on Reformed doctrine, world and life view, missions, and family matters (cf. cover image to the left; click on it to enlarge).

Among these is the powerful reminder from the editorial of Prof.R. Dykstra that the Lord’s promise to come again is being fulfilled in many ways – a striking call to us to prepare ourselves for His return. Below is an excerpt from this article.

To receive this Reformed magazine, contact the Reformed Free Publishing Association at the “SB” link above.

“I will come again.” This is Jesus’ word to each and every believer. By this He promises: This world is not your eternal habitation. Your eternal dwelling place is in Father’s house in heaven where I have gone to prepare a place for you to live. It is My good pleasure to deliver you from this world of sin and death in order we may dwell together in blessed covenant fellowship forever. I will come again for you “that where I am, there ye may be also.”

Sad to say, even it is a shame to express it, believers do not often live in the consciousness of this gracious promise. We are so earthly minded that we can scarcely devote an hour at a time to spiritual things. The weekly sermons on the Lord’s day set before us the promises of our crucified and risen Lord, but even that is not enough. We soon return to our work and play, and heaven is far away from our thoughts.

“I will come again, and receive you unto myself.”

There are times when Jesus forcibly reminds us of His promise. He comes. He takes to Himself. An eight year old boy. A new born child. A beloved grandmother or grandfather, full of years. A former teacher. A thirty year old husband and father.

There are times when our Lord speaks very loudly and forcefully. In the Protestant Reformed Churches in western Michigan Jesus has spoken again and again from the end of May on as He came. He came repeatedly. Surely during this year already the Lord came repeatedly to His church all around the world and He continues this very day taking His people to Himself.

Every coming of Jesus – through death—is another reminder: I will come again.

The Lord speaks. How long will we consciously remember His promise? How long will it be before work and play, earthly possessions and pleasures control almost all our thoughts and activities again?

The Reformed Worldview: Some Books are Meant to be Burned – Rev.S. Key

SB-July-2015-Synod-IssueThe July 2015 issue of The Standard Bearer is out and while this issue is the annual PRC Synod issue – complete with a recap of its decisions and plenty of pictures of the men and their work, – there is more to this issue than synodical matters.

Rev.S. Key returns to his rubric “Reformed Worldview” to pen another article on “Truth and Its Consequences, this time addressing “The History of the Concept Worldview.” At the outset he reminds us what the Reformed worldview is:

We last saw that the Reformed worldview is one that has us living in willing subjection to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  He Who has purchased us with His precious blood also owns us body and soul.  There is not an aspect of our lives that falls outside the scope of His Lordship.

But it is His work of grace in our hearts that brings us into willing subjection to Him.  The Lord of glory Who owns us also lives in us!  He rules over us — not by force, but by the impelling power of His love as His Holy Spirit sheds that love abroad in our hearts.  Christ’s rule, therefore, is a rule of grace in us who are His.

That life of Christ in us brings a profound change.

…By “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Cor. 4:6) the perspective of the children of God is changed in every respect.  Their worldview is completely changed under the influence of the gospel of their salvation in Christ Jesus.  Their understanding of God has changed.  Their view of themselves has radically changed, as has their view of the world and their own relationship to the world.  To use the language of Acts 19:20, the Word of God will be seen prevailing over the thoughts that once had governed us and the behavior that characterized our lives apart from the gospel.

And then he takes us to one such example of this profound change – the new Ephesian Christians, who as part of their repentance burned their books that were tied to their former idolatrous life:

A new perspective, a new worldview, marks those who are new creatures in Christ.  So verse 19 records, “Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.”

That we have here evidence of true conversion is demonstrated in verse 18.  The faith worked in them by the Word of God brought the conviction of sin to their hearts.  They were given to see the nature of the sin in which they had been involved.  It was idolatry.  They saw it as the offense against God that it was.  They knew that the kingdom of God was closed to any ensnared in idolatry, and that the only salvation was salvation through the Christ Whom Paul preached, the Lord Jesus, sent from God to pay the

Thus, we read, they “came, and confessed, and showed their deeds.”  Willingly, in heartfelt repentance, they proved the honesty of their sorrow of heart, by confessing their sins.  They acknowledged the folly to which they had given themselves.  They grieved their wickedness, and devoted themselves to renouncing it forever.

But their repentance was not mere words.  They took all the instruments of their sin, the books in which they had invested great sums of money and time, and made a bonfire out of them.  The text tells us that this was an act of great cost.  “Fifty thousand pieces of silver” was the value of those books.  No matter how you count that silver, whether the Roman denarius or the Jewish shekel, we’re talking thousands of dollars worth of books going up in flames.

Added to the price of the books was the cost of their reputation in the eyes of their neighbors.  After all, “magic and sorcery, witchcraft and superstition, charms and incantations, ‘portents’ and the interpretation of dreams were deeply woven into the tissue of Roman life.”[1]  These new Christians, by their actions, were marking themselves in the eyes of their peers as lunatics, crazy extremists.

But that cost was little in their eyes compared to the price that Jesus paid for them.

Consider the testimony that these actions gave in that city where so much value was given to magic and superstition and the worship of Diana.

“What are you doing?  Those books are valuable!”

“No, they’re not valuable to us any more.  We have seen the folly of them.  We now belong to Him Who alone has power over death, and Who alone holds the future in His hands.  His name is Jesus.  Let us tell you about Him.”

[1]Will Durant, Caesar and Christ, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1972, p. 388.

What about our own worldview? Is it Reformed, that is, biblical? Does it bear the marks of these new Christian in Ephesus? Do we have any books that need burning because of the idolatry of which they are a part?

May we think about how our worldview is influencing our own lives.

True Religion Before God and the Father – H.Hanko

faithmadeperfect-hhanko-2015The Reformed Free Publishing Association has recently published a new commentary on the epistle of James by Prof. Herman Hanko (emeritus, PRC Seminary). It carries the title Faith Made Perfect: Commentary on James (RFPA, 2015).

Doing some reading in it this morning led me to these two quotes that are also fitting for us on this Lord’s Day when we are called to practice “true religion and undefiled before God and the Father” (1:27). And that is contrast to a religion that is “vain” because we do not bridle our tongues (1:26).

Here is some of what Prof.Hanko says about these verses in the end of James 1:

The word translated as ‘vain’ [1:26] is not kenos, which means empty, but mataios, which means aimless. It refers to a religion that is without purpose, without fruit, without any goal, when the goal of one’s life ought to be the glory of God and praise to him who is alone worthy of it. Everything he does in the practice of religion is purposeless. His singing in church, his giving alms, and his careful attention to religious practices – all are without purpose, for they are only outward. God is not praised; nothing that man does is of any benefit to himself or to God, all because he does not know how to bridle his tongue. That is a devastating indictment (pp.78-79).

And then on the next verse, v.27, Hanko has this to say:

The addition of ‘Father’ is remarkable. It immediately puts all worship in the context of a father-son relationship. Worship is family fellowship – fellowship between a Father and his children. It is a relationship of love and mutual joy. It is a confession, with all that is implied, that worship is conversation between our Father in heaven and his children. It is conversation between our Father in heaven and his children on earth. Thus true religion before the Father is also religion that preserves the proper ‘space’ between the almighty and eternal God and creatures who are very, very sinful children. True religion is praise to God for his love for us in Christ (pp.79-80)

May 1, 2015 Standard Bearer: Second Helvetic Confession on Holy Scripture – Prof.R.Cammenga

SB-May-1-2015The May 1, 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer, the semi-monthly Reformed magazine published by the RFPA (rfpa.org), is now published and being distributed. This issue too contains a variety of edifying articles – from a meditation on Ps.55:22, to another editorial on “What It Means to Be Reformed”, to matters “all around us” of interest to Christians, to an article on raising children in a covenant home – and an important book review (By Faith Alone).

One of the new series of articles is on the historic Reformed confession, the Second Helvetic (Swiss) Confession. In this issue Prof.R.Cammenga begins to treat the specific articles of this creed, starting with Art.1 on the doctrine of holy Scripture. Today, I take a brief quote from this article to show you how significant a confession this is and why you and I ought to become better acquainted with it.

First, Prof.Cammenga quotes from the first article itself, which reads this way:

We believe and confess the canonical Scriptures of the holy prophets and apostles of both Testaments to be the true Word of God, and to have sufficient authority of themselves, not of men.  For God himself spoke to the fathers, prophets, apostles, and still speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures.

And in this Holy Scripture, the universal Church of Christ has the most complete exposition of all that pertains to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God; and in this respect it is expressly commanded by God that nothing be either added to or taken from the same.

Then he adds this opening commentary:

The Second Helvetic Confession begins its exposition of the Reformed faith with the doctrine of Scripture.  This is altogether proper.  This is necessary.  Everything depends on one’s view of Scripture.  More than anything else, this is what distinguishes the Reformed faith.  What distinguished the Reformed faith at the time of the Reformation was its view of Scripture. This is what set the Reformed apart from the Roman Catholics, on the one hand, and the Anabaptists and enthusiasts, on the other hand.   Both Rome and the Anabaptists erred in their view of Scripture. That aberrant view of Scripture affected everything.  And as different as they were from each other, both Rome and the Anabaptists were alike in that they denied the sufficiency of Scripture, that in Scripture “the Church of Christ has the most complete exposition of all that pertains to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God.”  Rome denied the sufficiency of Scripture by adding to Scripture, as an equal authority alongside of Scripture, tradition. That tradition consisted of the writings of the church fathers, the decisions of the church councils, and the Apocrypha.  The Anabaptists denied the sufficiency of Scripture by adding direct revelations and immediate promptings of the Spirit.  The Reformers said, “A plague on both your houses.”  And they affirmed the sole authority and complete sufficiency of Holy Scripture, with appeal to Revelation 22:18 and 19, where “it is expressly commanded by God that nothing be either added to or taken from” the Word of God.

And finally, he makes this application to us today:

Still today, this is the issue and still today this is what distinguishes the Reformed faith, at least the Reformed faith properly understood.  Scripture alone is the arbiter of truth.  Scripture alone is the authority for faith and life.  Scripture alone is determinative in the life of the church, both the local congregation and the broader assemblies.  And Scripture is determinative for the walk of the individual believer in the midst of the world. The method employed by Bullinger in the Second Helvetic Confession of beginning with the doctrine of Scripture is the distinctively Reformed method.  All the truth that we confess and that is summarized in the confession is revealed in Holy Scripture.  The Reformed view of Scripture is that it is “the true Word of God.”  Fundamental to the Reformed faith is its view of Scripture.

To receive a sample of this Reformed magazine, or to subscribe, visit this SB page on the RFPA website.

New Edition of “In the Beginning God” – Homer C. Hoeksema

In the Beg God - HCH - 2015The Reformed Free Publishing Association has just released a fresh edition of Homer C. Hoeksema’s (1923-1989) In the Beginning God (c.1966; 2nd ed., 2015). The book was the fruit of three timely lectures Prof. H.C. Hoeksema delivered in the old First PRC (Grand Rapids, MI) in the winter and spring of 1966.

The timeliness and importance of this book is noted in the publisher’s description:

The 1960s were years of challenges to the infallibility and inspiration of scripture. These attacks were precipitated by the increasingly popular theory of evolution, which was making inroads into Reformed churches and schools. In contradiction to this creeping heresy and in unequivocal defense of the doctrine of scripture, the Reformed Free Publishing Association published In the Beginning God.

Since then the conflict between creation and evolution as the explanation of the origin of the world has intensified, and the doctrine of scripture is increasingly compromised, even in historically Reformed churches and schools.

God’s people must be knowledgeable regarding the doctrines of scripture and of creation so that they are able staunchly to defend these truths. To this end the Reformed Free Publishing Association is pleased to republish this explanation and defense of these timeless truths.

With the timely reissue of this work we heartily concur, recommending this book to our PRC members but also to the broader Christian and Reformed community. Given the bolder and wider attacks against Scripture, and particularly against the opening chapters of God’s Book, especially now in the most conservative Evangelical and Reformed churches and institutions of higher education, the message of this significant work is important to digest and heed.

And the starting point for any serious discussion of and defense of the origin of the world is indeed where “HCH” placed it – the infallibility of holy Scripture. Listen to these words in his opening chapter:

The scriptures as we have them are the written record of the word of God. This is a great wonder. From among all books and all writings you can single out the scriptures and say about them, ‘This book is the word of God himself.’

…This is important practically with respect to inspiration, infallibility, and the various problems and questions that arise in connection with these truths. I fear that we are sometimes inclined to forget this. When we do forget, we are inclined to take a rationalistic approach and attempt to meet the opponent of the scriptures and of infallibility on his rationalistic ground. When we cannot succeed in overcoming his apparently well-reasoned arguments, we weaken and begin to have doubts concerning inspiration and infallibility, and we become inclined to compromise.

Hence we must remember that the Bible and its inspiration and its infallibility are strictly matters of faith. This means that the truth of infallibility is a spiritual matter: not a matter of the head, but a matter of the heart. The unbeliever cannot recognize the Bible as the inspired and infallible word of God. That is a matter of the heart, a matter of faith. We stand on holy ground when we talk about scripture, and we ought to be deeply aware of this. Faith does not start with the question, is the Bible the word of God? Faith starts with the proposition that the Bible is the word of God.

…The Bible as the word of God in its divinely inspired and infallible character towers far above any human, sinful efforts to contradict the Bible, and it towers above any merely human efforts to defend it. The truth of the Bible depends on neither. It depends on God. God’s word and its truth are not dependent on our understanding, but our understanding is dependent on the word of God (9-11).

Boldness in Prayer – H.Hanko

When-You-Pray -HHankoTonight for our discussion groups we will be treating two chapters from Herman Hanko’s book, When You Pray: Scripture’s Teaching on Prayer (RFPA, 2006). The second of these chapters treats “Humility and Boldness” in prayer. And as Hanko shows, these two are not mutually exclusive but closely related. Both are rooted in the faith that gives us the right and the power to come into our heavenly Father’s presence and ask Him for the things we need.

Here are a few appropriate thoughts from this chapter:

Boldness does not forget the vast chasm between the great God and feeble, insignificant man. It is surely true that there are times, when, in the consciousness of our sin, we dare not lift our eyes to heaven. We can, and must, be like the prodigal son whose feet dragged more and more heavily the nearer he came to his father’s house.

The very texts in Hebrews that speak of boldness speak also of how this boldness is possible. Hebrews 4:14 tells us that we have a sympathetic High Priest who is touched with the feeling of all our infirmities because he was tempted in all respects as we are, though without sin. He understands our struggles with sin, our miserable falls, our waywardness. He knows how we feel, how frightened we can be when the consciousness of sin overwhelms us. He has great sympathy for us and will never rebuke us when we come to God through him. This is a great comfort.

…What I am saying now is that boldness requires that we come to God in the confidence and assurance of faith. Hesitancy, terror, and shrinking fear are all contrary to faith.

…Faith is also assurance. It is a personal assurance that Christ accomplished salvation for me.

…This assurance is necessary for boldness. We are confident that God will receive us no matter how undeserving we are, and that he will, according to his own promise, bless us in Christ.

…Boldness and humility come together, therefore, in thankfulness and praise to God for his mighty works of grace for us. We recognize our sins and the wonder of his grace to us. We humble ourselves before him, confessing that all we receive is by grace alone. In gratitude for such blessings, we confidently come to him, knowing that for Christ’s sake he will surely give us all things, 38-39.

Augustine – Homily on John 10:1-10

SB-Oct15-2014-AugustineThe quotation below is found in the new Reformation issue of The Standard Bearer (October 15, 2014), a Reformed semi-monthly magazine published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association. This special issue is devoted to the church father Augustine, and the opening meditation is an excerpt from a sermon (homily) of Augustine based on John 10:1-10.

Notice how the doctrines of sovereign grace permeate what he says in this section while acknowledging the mixed nature of the church in this present world.

12. You hear, brethren, the great importance of the question. I say then, “The Lord knoweth them that are His.” He knoweth those who were foreknown, He knoweth those who were predestinated; because it is said of Him, “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified. If God be for us, who can be against us?” Add to this: “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how hath He not with Him also freely given us all things?”

But what “us”? Those who are foreknown, predestinated, justified, glorified; regarding whom there follows, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” Therefore “the Lord knoweth them that are His;” they are the sheep. Such sometimes do not know themselves, but the Shepherd knoweth them, according to this predestination, this foreknowledge of God, according to the election of the sheep before the foundation of the world: for so saith also the apostle, “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.” 

According, then, to this divine foreknowledge and predestination, how many sheep are outside, how many wolves within! and how many sheep are inside, how many wolves without! How many are now living in wantonness who will yet be chaste! how many are blaspheming Christ who will yet believe in Him! how many are giving themselves to drunkenness who will yet be sober! how many are preying on other people property who will yet freely give of their own! Nevertheless at present they are hearing the voice of another, they are following strangers.

In like manner, how many are praising within who will yet blaspheme; are chaste who will yet be fornicators; are sober who will wallow hereafter in drink; are standing who will by and by fall! These are not the sheep. (For we speak of those who were predestinated,—of those whom the Lord knoweth that they are His.) And yet these, so long as they keep right, listen to the voice of Christ. Yea, these hear, the others do not; and yet, according to predestination, these are not sheep, while the others are.

For information on how to receive this issue or to subscribe, visit the Standard Bearer website.  Or you may visit this news item about it on the PRC website.

Prayer is “lovers’ talk” – H.Hanko

When-You-Pray -HHankoFrom the first chapter (“The Idea of Prayer”) of Herman Hanko’s book When You Pray: Scripture’s Teaching on Prayer (Jenison, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2006), which our discussion groups at Faith PRC begin studying tonight:

Prayer is to the Christian what breathing is to a healthy person. Without breathing a person cannot live. Without prayer a Christian dies. Breathing is spontaneous; in many ways so is prayer.

Prayer is like a river that returns to its source, for prayer has its power in the Spirit of Christ working life in the heart of God’s child; that life returns again in prayer to God who gave it. It is the expression of the thirst for God that makes a stag panting after water brooks an apt simile (Ps.42:1).

Prayer is lovers’ talk, for it is a holy conversation between the living and eternal God and the redeemd child of God in which both speak to each other in the most intimate relationship of love.

Prayer is a child coming to his Father, knowing that his Father loves him and will provide for him in every need. We must begin our prayers, the Lord says, with ‘Our Father who art in heaven’ (p.1).

At the heading to this chapter Hanko also has this wonderful quotation from Charles H. Spurgeon:

Prayer is the lisping of the believing infant, the shout of the fighting believer, the requiem of the dying saint falling asleep in Jesus. It is the breath, the watchword, the comfort, the strength, the honour of a Christian. If thou be a child of God, thou wilt seek thy Father’s face, and live in thy Father’s love.

Jehovah Our Sun and Shield – H.Hoeksema

All-Glory-HHoeksema-2013Our meditation on this first Lord’s Day of October is taken from the latest collection of devotional meditations by Herman Hoeksema (series: “Reformed Spirituality”, edited by David J. Engelsma) published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association (rfpa.org) titled All Glory to the Only Good God (2013).

The fourth meditation in this book, “Jehovah Our Sun and Shield”, is based on Psalm 84:11, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Today we pull a quotation from the middle of this meditation originally published in The Standard Bearer.

May it be used to renew our faith in the God Who is both our Light and our Protector in this world of sin and suffering.

A sun is Jehovah God. The God of our salvation is also a shield.

At first there seems to be an irreconcilable contrast and antithesis between these two figures.

…How could the psalmist think of his God under the images of a sun and a shield?

What need has he who walks in the light of the protection of a shield?

Yet how real to experience is the figure.

Scarcely have you begun to meditate upon the rich beauties and blessedness of the Lord God, and to rejoice in the privilege of his communion, but you look about for a shield to protect you. For the Lord gives grace and glory. When he does so, he makes you partaker of his light. His light is reflected in your life. With the reflection of his light in your life and walk, you stand for his name and glory in the world. It is true that in the world you are in danger as soon as you bid farewell to the darkness of sin and walk in the light of God, for the world is in darkness and loves the darkness. Because it loves darkness, it hates light, since its works are evil. As it loves darkness and hates light, so it loves and protects its own children and hates and persecutes the children of God’s light. The world battles those who dwell in the tabernacle of God’s light and reflect his grace and glory. It attacks you. It fights with the deceitful weapons of flattery and vain philosophy, offering you all the glory and riches of the world. It shoots the poisoned arrows of reproach and shame or openly threatens its death-bringing sword.

And all the while it aims at the light in us. All the while its purpose is to extinguish the light poured into our hearts and lives from Jehovah God, who is a sun.

But Jehovah is a shield!

A most perfect shield is he. …Jehovah’s protection is perfect. If he covers us, we are safe. If he watches over us, the enemy cannot reach us. For he is the Almighty, mightier than all the mightiest together, supreme in power. There is no sword that he cannot break; there is no hostile attack that he cannot repel. He never fails to watch, for he neither slumbers nor sleeps. Always his eyes are over the righteous. Constantly he watches to protect the children who dwell in his light and whom he made partakers of his own grace and glory.

…How safe, then, are they who trust in him! (24-25)

RFPA Annual Meeting TONIGHT – The Importance of Reading Church History

Reformed Free Publishing Association — THIS WEEK! – RFPA Annual Meeting: The Importance of Reading Church His.

Just a reminder that the RFPA’s annual meeting is TONIGHT in Grandville PRC. Those in the Grand Rapids area – and beyond – are encouraged to attend, whether you are an association member or not. You may always join tonight!

RFPA 2014 Meeting

Certainly part of the interest in the meeting is the inspirational speech. Following up on last year’s great speech on the importance of reading, Rev.C.Spronk (Peace PRC, Lansing, IL) will give a talk on “The Importance of Reading Church History”.

Below is part of the notice of the meeting found on the RFPA website. Visit the link above for more information. But know too, that the meeting will be live-streamed from Grandville PRC via their website.

In the Nicene Creed the church confesses that there is only “one holy catholic and apostolic church.” This means that the Christian faith and life of the true church of Jesus Christ as she is manifested today in various denominations and congregations is rooted in the church of the past. Times may have changed but the church today shares with the church of the past the same Lord, the same faith, the same battle, the same hope, and the same purpose—to bring glory to name of our great God. The church must be conscious of her past history in order to be sure that she is continuing on the right path. In other words the study of church history is important.

The study of church history is all the more important because of the constant attack of enemies who seek to knock her off of the “old paths.” Satan desires that the members of the church be ignorant of their history. Lack of interest in church history plays into the evil one’s hands. Church history can then be distorted and used to spread false doctrine and support wicked behavior, as is often attempted today. The study of church history is an important part of the battle of faith she must wage to remain faithful to God.

Hope to see you there!