Thoughts for the New Year

We are living in an age where Hol­lywood permeates the modern mind and holds all things holy in disdain. Public education disre­gards the Triune God altogether while flaunting the blasphemous theory of evolution. Throughout the nation laws are being passed protecting evil while our Lord is being banned from all places pub­lic. The preborn babes shudder in the womb.

The filth of homosexuality is flaunted far and wide.  Many, if not most, of the marriage vows being made today are set aside almost at the moment they are uttered.  Sexual immorality and the perversion thereof is paraded daily before all upon screen, stage, and scandal sheet. Every­one is clamoring for their rights; few are talking about their re­sponsibilities.  Much of this men­tality has crept into the modern churches, and at times, even de­fended by its leadership.

Church after church is falling into the trap of modernism. One is hard pressed these days to find simple faith in our Lord. The I’m OK, You’re OK mentality is per­meating much of modern church life.  Many of the once conserva­tive Reformed churches have been slipping into the morass of complacency; many are but a mere shadow of their recent past. Sad to say, frequently even here one must look far and wide to see the true Christ.

Self sacrifice is dead; self indulgence is king. Many are preoccu­pied with their pension plan; few are concerned about their eternal retirement. “Here am I Lord, send me,” is heard far too infre­quently. The distinctively Re­formed practice of Family Visita­tion in many of our congregations is practically at a stand still. Inter­estingly, the Great Synod of Dordt determined that every family should be visited both before and after each celebration of Holy Communion. (Art. 23, Synod of Dordt 1618–’19)

Many modern day ministers view their office more often as a ca­reer rather than a calling. Elders are being elected because of their personality rather than their quali­fications. Newly elected officers regularly sign the Form of Sub­scription, but would be hard pressed to articulate the five points of Calvinism.  Some have never even attended a serious Bible study, let alone a carefully applied examination of the Re­formed tenets as set forth in our three Forms of Unity.  These leaders are in a position of awe­some responsibility to Christ and His people; few seem to realize the gravity of their situation. When blind watchmen are put upon the wall, the city will surely fall!
Many a modern congregation is preoccupied with entirely too much facility and not enough Church. Everybody is talking about the love of Christ, few about the fear of God.  The ‘make no waves, the Lord loves you’ mentality predominates. A faithful and dedicated former pas­tor of mine recently related to me that he sees the churches of the land, if not of the entire world, sinking very fast and that they are in dire need of nothing less than another Reformation.

Even in the more conservative churches, to get folks to attend any kind of a serious Bible study is like pulling teeth. Too many of the modern day church folks are somehow unwilling to think, to reason, and to search the Scrip­tures daily and be more noble (Acts 17:11).  It has been said that 85% of the people do not think, 10% think they think, but 5% ac­tually do.  There may be some Biblical basis for this concept if we look at how many folks were thinking the right thoughts prior to the flood, or in Sodom and Gomorrah, or of the twelve spies. The fast, computer-dependent pace of this modern life causes many of us to become downright lazy spiritually.
However, to be sure, it is in this very society our Lord yet intends to have His Church! Not too long ago a concerned preacher ad­dressed some of these problems within the church.  His advice for his congregation was: “The prob­lem with the Church of today that it is overburdened with too many nice guys, and not enough real men who will take an unwavering and strong stand for the Christ and all things holy.  You can not ride into heaven on the coattails of these nice guys.” By real men he meant those who know their Lord and are able to  articulate intelligently and strongly concerning His commandments. Too many elders today are very nice guys, but ultimately only mere ‘rubber stampers’ for their preachers.

However, I hasten to add that there are yet many faithful preachers and elders, who often stand alone and consequently are frequently faced with difficult situations.  May the Lord continue to bless them.  They are in need of much prayer!

For the Church, the Bride of Christ, to survive she must have a strong, faithful, well informed and dedicated leadership. She must be led by committed and well in­formed elders who are able  to teach, and do it well (2 Tim. 2:2). This is a requirement, not a sug­gestion.  Indeed, it is a command! There must be harmony, not the “peace at any price” sort of har­mony; but the God honoring har­mony, with one accord, focused on the Christ. (Acts 1:14, 2:1, 4:26, 8:6, Phil. 2:2).  There must be a constant searching of the Scriptures by all members, but es­pecially by the leadership. There must be a system of checks and balances.  This is often as difficultto find in the Church as it is in secular government. No one of us is sinless, all of us need re­evaluation from time to time. The Reformers were very concerned about many of these potential problems. The natural tendency to gravitate towards self-will is found in all of us.

Much of the Reformation was about the evils and inherent cor­ruption of the system of one-man rule into which the papacy had developed over the centuries.  As a consequence, as a preventative measure, as a checks and bal­ances system, the Reformers introduced the concept of Church Visitors, not only for the entire consistory, but separately as well, the minister alone, the elders alone.  The minister was ques­tioned concerning the perfor­mance of the elders, and the el­ders concerning that of the preacher.  This practice too has been largely lost.

The training of potential future leaders, according to the Scrip­tures, must begin in the home, early in life; indeed, from the cradle (Prov. 22:6). This training, obviously, should involve all be­lievers.  It must be continuous; it must be a lifelong occupation. But for those entering office of minis­ter, elder, and deacon it is doubly important.  It has to be viewed as an absolute must for these candi­dates to have a  thorough under­standing of what the requirements are.

Particularly elders and ministers are to be a special people; they are appointed by God Himself to govern, to train and to direct their respective congregations towards a Christ honoring and Spirit driven life.  Their offices are solely and strictly spiritual in nature. (Acts 6: 2-3, 1 Tim. 3:1 & 8, 5:17, 2 Tim. 2:2 & 14-16, 3:14, 4:1-5). In Acts 17, we read about the teachers who “received the Word with all eagerness, examining the Scrip­tures daily to see if these things were so.”

 Here are demonstrated, in but one sentence, all the required in­gredients of the true Church of Christ; receiving the Word ea­gerly, and examining for them­selves, if what they were hearing was in accord with the Scriptures!

Ideally, each believer today should see it as their duty to study the Word diligently, continually to in­crease in wisdom, know their teachers, know what they are being taught, and see to it that the things being taught are pure and in accord with the Scriptures. Therefore, each believer should be concerned about the men pre­sented to the congregation for election to the offices, deacons as well as elders. Especially where the elder nominees are concerned, the general membership should examine these candidates person­ally; they should check them out, see where they stand.  Find out from these men themselves what they know; indeed, if are they able to teach!

After that, they are to vote intel­ligently! After all, would any of us even think of going to a medical doctor who smiles a lot but has never been properly trained? Ac­tually before a candidate is even considered for the office of elder, he, according to the Scriptures, must have well established  cre­dentials as being qualified for this high office.  His reputation must be of good report with all men. He must have good reputation even with outsiders. (Ex. 19:21, 1 Tim. 3:1-7).  Idealistic? To be sure. But isn’t this exactly what is advocated in Acts 17:11? If this were the mentality of every be­lieving family, indeed every con­gregation, imagine were we would be today. But alas, the devil is hard at work!

The falling away, the decline into modernism of the Churches has been blamed on many things such as affluence and the softness of life that goes with it, the leading away from the truth by those in positions of power in our Church affiliated institutions of higher learning, or just plain old apathy and laziness. These are merely symptoms of something far deeper, something that has been coming for a long time: the loss of serious spirituality.

But not all! The Lord will always maintain a remnant for Himself. His Church cannot die! It appears that a very active group of con­cerned Christian Reformed Church members has been formed, led by young preachers, calling themselves “The Returning Church”  who are earnestly seek­ing to return to the true, Bible based tenets so long the hallmark of that denomination. A statement recently issued by that group in­cludes the following:  “......We have considered and have re­jected the option of leaving the denomination for three reasons: (1) We believe that the denomina-he, according to the Scriptures, must have well established  cre­dentials as being qualified for this high office.  His reputation must be of good report with all men. He must have good reputation even with outsiders. (Ex. 19:21, 1 Tim. 3:1-7).  Idealistic? To be sure. But isn’t this exactly what is advocated in Acts 17:11? If this were the mentality of every be­lieving family, indeed every con­gregation, imagine were we would be today. But alas, the devil is hard at work!

The falling away, the decline into modernism of the Churches has been blamed on many things such as affluence and the softness of life that goes with it, the leading away from the truth by those in positions of power in our Church affiliated institutions of higher learning, or just plain old apathy and laziness. These are merely symptoms of something far deeper, something that has been coming for a long time: the loss of serious spirituality.

But not all! The Lord will always maintain a remnant for Himself. His Church cannot die! It appears that a very active group of con­cerned Christian Reformed Church members has been formed, led by young preachers, calling themselves “The Returning Church”  who are earnestly seek­ing to return to the true, Bible based tenets so long the hallmark of that denomination. A statement recently issued by that group in­cludes the following:  “......We have considered and have re­jected the option of leaving the denomination for three reasons: (1) We believe that the denomination has many members and churches that are dedicated to God’s Word and who value the confessions. (2) We believe that other denominations have prob­lems as well. And (3) We feel that God is calling us to exercise our faith and use our spiritual energy to bring about renewal in the Christian Reformed Churches so that the power of Scripture will be the primary influence within them.  We are dedicated to the catechism instruction of our chil­dren that reflects the continuing importance of the Reformation tradition.  And  we are dedicated to evangelism and missions built on biblical principles” The beauty of this is that they are led by young preachers. Young preach­ers dedicated to serving their Lord, yes indeed, our Lord. Not all watchmen are blind!

Let us pray that the Lord will con­tinue to provide us with many “real men” such as these young ministers, men who will stand for the faith, staunchly defending the Word. What many of us tend to overlook is that, here and now, we are part of the Church militant, by God’s grace, headed for the Church triumphant. Let’s pray for this, and other such groups, and for their supporters who continue to stand for the Christ of the Bible and His holy tenets!!

Mr. Nicholas Lindemulder is a member of the Preakness Valley  United Reformed Church in Wayne, New Jersey.

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