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Hopelessness in Salvation

Question: I thank you and your church for having a website to visit.  I wish more of our churches had this. Could you please answer a question for me that has been on my mind much of the time lately?  I have been struggling with it a lot.  If a person has noticed a continual change in his/her life, without having a feeling of absolute hopelessness first and such a deep deep sense of misery, can that person still be saved?  I must admit, I cannot feel hopeless, because there is ALWAYS hope in Jesus Christ.  However, what is preached in the church is that you first have to come to a place of complete and utter hopelessness first, and THEN you can be saved. Could you please give me your insight on this? Thank you so much and all the best in the New Year to you. 

Answer

Hi Michelle,

Thank you for your encouragement about the website.  It has been a great means of communicating and also answering questions.  I also wish you a blessed New Year.  May you experience the personal grace of God in your life.

 Your question is not an uncommon one.   I struggled with the exact same issue many years ago.   I assume you will agree that without a real conviction of sin no one will really become interested in salvation in Christ.  It is not until I feel sick that I am paying attention to notices about capable and willing doctors.   Therefore it is correct to say that no one will seek for salvation who hasn’t first been somehow convicted of his or her sins.  In our natural and fallen state we are actually indifferent to the sinfulness of our sins and the dangers of sins.  Thus the teaching of your church is correct if they teach that a sense of conviction and misery about who you are and where you are in relationship to God is experienced prior to the knowledge and experience of salvation through Jesus Christ. 

 Will everyone sense a complete “hopelessness” before they come to a measure of hope by faith in the Gospel message of the Lord Jesus?  That really is the heart of your question.  I rely in my answer on the helpful book The Way of Life by Charles Hodge. I highly recommend that book. His chapter on “conviction of sin” is extremely good and helpful. Conviction of sin includes several aspects.  First, God’s Spirit works a deepening knowledge of the nature of sin and the extent of our sinfulness.  How much of this is necessary:  enough to bring our hearts to consent to God’s declaration about our guilt and His justice in punishing us.  Secondly, along with this conviction, comes a deepening sense of our personal unworthiness.  This sense of personal unworthiness is the main part of someone’s real conviction of sin.  A sense of shame is sensed; along with sorrow about all the offences we have committed.  There will also be a fear, a dread that we have offended God as well as a fear that we will not be forgiven.  Think of how Job put it, “The arrows of the Almighty are within me…”   It is interesting to see that no matter how many years apart such convicted sinners have lived, they all express themselves similarly before God.   However, be careful to think that such conviction is salvation.  It only will make us more ready to receive what God has been telling us all along and we weren’t interested in but in itself it doesn’t save us. Only true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is saving. Thirdly, conviction of sin includes a conviction of our condemnation before God.   Along with this conviction often the feeling is felt that our sins are so great that they cannot be forgiven.   Indeed, when there is a clear discovery of sin and guilt, without an understanding of the plan of salvation, despair is felt.   When someone sees God as just in condemning a sinner and when that someone sees himself as a condemnable sinner, than he or she cannot hope for mercy.   A sense of despair or hopelessness is experienced.   I like to quote, however, a paragraph that might help you.

 In a Christian country, however, the knowledge of the plan of salvation is so generally diffused, that is seldom fails, even when imperfectly understood, to calm or restrain the apprehensions of God’s displeasure.  It is known that God can pardon sin; that there is salvation at least for some, for some have been saved.  And although the sinner is often disposed to think that his is an exceptional case, or that there is some peculiar aggravation in his guilt, which puts him beyond the reach of mercy, yet he cannot be sure that this is the case.  And in his darkest hours the belief in the possibility of salvation is not entirely destroyed.

 I agree with him.  Those who have been raised all their life under the message of the Gospel; who have heard over and over that there is forgiveness; that God is the God of Manasseh etc. will always know in the back of their mind that God is a God of love and pardon; that he who forsakes his sins and thoughts and return to Him, He shall abundantly pardon.   I vividly remember to sense that “I stood outside everything – had no right to anything but His holy and just displeasure – He would do no wrong if He passed me by with His grace – that I was no more than a dead dog etc.” yet never could I let go of that truth in Ps. 130 … but there is forgiveness!  That truth always drew me back to Him Who I felt I had deeply offended and wronged.  

 I hope this answers your particular question.  Feel free to react to this if you have more questions.

 Warmly, Pastor Vergunst



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The Salvation of infants or young children

Question: My wife and I have a question regarding the salvation of our two year old. I was raised to believe that children who are not able to understand and comprehend what Jesus did for us would be saved by Him on resurrection day. We both agree that we are born sinners. She defends that if he were to die today he would spend eternity in hell. Please help us understand better.

Answer

Dear parents,

The question regarding the salvation of 'infants or young children' is a very delicate question. This is not a theoretical or doctrinal question either for many couples do face the reality of these struggles.    Added to this is the reality of the millions of aborted children. So the issue raised is very sensitive.  How many parents don't struggle with the torn and pained feelings about their children they needed to bury.  Besides the sensitive feelings and needs of the parents is the important question of God's honor and glory. To 'theorize' about little infants going to hell or heaven does involve the decree of God.                      Scripture teaches about 'election and reprobation' and that also includes children. Yet the thought that God would sent the 'unborn or still born' or the 'infants that die' to hell becomes therefore a very  sensitive issue.  It concerns the glory and character of God.  Mostly because of this issue did our forefathers at the Synod of Dordt have lengthy discussions on this issue. These discussions resulted in the 17th article in the first chapter of the Canons of Dort.

Where the souls of children go that die infancy is not answered in the Bible.  There are a few examples of children that were saved in infancy, such as John the Baptist.  The child of David and Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:22-23) and Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:13) do appear to be saved.  Yet the Bible doesn't speak anywhere else about the subject of the children that died in their infancy.  If that's the case, how then could our forefathers write this article in the Canons in which they wrote that 'godly parents have no reason to doubt of the election and salvation of their children whom it pleases God to call out of this life in their infancy'?

First of all, they are writing about children that belong to God's church.  Nothing is said about the 'heathen children' because, as said earlier, the Bible doesn't speak about it.  The article wisely stated in the opening sentence, "Since we are to judge of the will of God from His Word ..."  His Word doesn't speak about the children of heathen parents.  But it does say something about the children of believers. They are 'holy' or 'set aside.'  Our children are spiritually just like any other children, inwardly corrupt, children of wrath, under the curse of God, lost in Adam.  Yet they are called by God to be part of this Church. They are placed in the 'garden of the administration of His covenant.'  That privileged position doesn't change the spiritual state of our children.  Clearly, Scripture teaches that 'not all Israel is Israel.'      Except a man be born again, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  That is also true of our infant children. Yet this position is of great advantage.  It brings them nearer to Christ than other children.  Our children are 'elected head for head to be placed in Christ's nearness.'  They are not to be considered as 'saved'  unless there are evidences of that in their life.

However, children that die in the womb, or shortly after birth,  or as young children, what about them?  Then the instruction in the Canons becomes 'pastoral.'  They don't teach an automatic salvation of infants.'  But they do insist that godly parents don't need to doubt the election and salvation of their child who dies in infancy.  Why may only 'godly' parents have that hope?  What about 'ungodly' parents?

Godly parents are parents who wrestle with the souls of their children before God.  They seek the best for their children even before birth already.  From the moment they know that the child is conceived, they are lifting up their little one in the arms of faith to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Godly parents realize that although their child in the womb or as young infant isn't committing actual sins, he or she is still a child of wrath, laying under the curse of Adam.  With that reality they are exercised before the Lord.  They are like the parents in Mark 10:13-16 and are bringing their children to the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ so that He would bless them.  If it now pleases God to remove such a child from this life, godly parents may be comforted by the words of the Lord Jesus that He took those children up in His arms and putting His hands upon them, blessed them.  You can also take example of Job.  What an exercised man he was with the souls of his children (see Job 1:5)!

Neglectful parents, even though their child has been 'set aside in Christ' don't have that comfort. They cannot rest on the Scripture in Mark 10:16.  That's doesn't mean that the children of neglectful parents' aren't saved.  God hasn't given us a straightforward answer on this in the Bible.  But neglectful parents don't have the comfort that godly parents may have.  For the Bible is not silent about what the Lord Jesus will do with those children that are brought to Him when they are too small to come to Him themselves.  The Lord Jesus is the same today as He was then.  How eager and desirous He was to receive and embrace these children!  So He is today.  When we bring our children in prayer before the Lord and wrestle for their souls as they are too young to do that themselves, we may be assured that He is as ready to receive and bless our children as He was then.  So if God now takes the children in infancy of such parents, then they are not to doubt but that their child is well off.  Such parents may pray, as I read somewhere, "Lord, we have in Thy name brought forth this little one, and we received it with thanksgiving from Thee. To Thee we have devoted our child from the day we knew he/she was conceived that it may be Thy child, by grace.  It has now pleased Thee to remove this child from life.  Therefore in the same faith whereby we received this child from Thee and dedicated it to Thee, we rest satisfied in Thy way, without being filled with fearful doubt about the salvation and election of our little one.  We know that thou does according to Thy good pleasure which by faith we acknowledge to be good.  We trust Thy promise that Thou would be a God of grace to us and to seed."

That leaves us the question yet if there will be 'little children in hell?"  Will the souls of the 'murdered children' (abortion) go to hell because mostly these children are born outside the covenant?  Or what about the souls of children with 'believing parents' (those that belong to the covenant) who have been neglectful parents in not bringing their child to the Lord Jesus? As said earlier, there isn't a clear answer on this question.  But there an implication we can draw from God's character.  God is a just God. This attribute of God isn't a negative attribute but a positive. He is just in that He 'doesn't reap where He hasn't sown.'  He judges according to the measure of light and opportunity giving to each individual.  Children that die before infancy and young children that die in their infancy, haven't sinned as we older ones sin: consciously choosing to go against what we know is God's will.  God will therefore not punish them as He will punish those who have broken His covenant in personal and conscious choices.  Therefore in the light of this justice of God along with His attributes of mercy and grace, I can find myself completely siding with the opinion of John Gill, who spoke about the children dying in infancy or before birth, "Now though their election is a secret to us and unrevealed, it may be reasonably supported, yea in a judgment of charity, it may rather be concluded, that they all are chosen than that none are."   Let it be noted however, that this is only a conclusion drawn from various observations about God's character and dealings with sinners in general.  So such is only an opinion.  The safest position therefore is to stand with Paul, "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God."  (1 Cor. 4:5)

Let's us seek to be a parent for our children as Job was for his!  How he wrestled for each of them bringing their names along with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ before God's throne.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



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I cannot find the "total depravity" in me!

Question: How come I cannot find myself as all that bad?  I mean, sure, I say the not-so-nice comment to my sister, or I grumble about the doing the dishes.  But I cannot see myself as all that bad. Why? I look very hard, but I cannot find it. I cannot find the “total depravity" that Calvin talked about.

Answer

Dear friend,

I appreciate your honesty.  The teachings from Scripture, as they are reflected in statements like “total depravity” don’t always seem to line up with how we experience it.  So you struggle to see yourself ‘totally depraved’ as Calvin taught.

First, let me remind you that Calvin didn’t teach that but that Calvin reflected what the Bible teaches.  But then what does that phrase “total depravity’ mean?  It means that we have completely lost the holiness, knowledge and ability we once had before the fall.  Now we are capable to all the evil human nature is found capable of doing. That means, if the Lord doesn’t restrain us, you and I would do the things we naturally shutter to do.  One of the earliest references to this condition is Gen. 6:5 where it says, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”  I have highlighted the words which indicate how total this depravity is.

Now ‘total depravity’ does not mean that every person will live as evil as he possible could.  God’s restraining grace holds most us back from living out the terrible sins of our heart.  I don’t think we will even know how terribly bad we really are. Many people who are not even Christian are still very nice people as far as we can see. But God looks inside these ‘very nice people’ and sees their pride (Look at me!), selfishness (Everyone will think good of me!) or hypocrisy (I do it only because it makes me look good).   Now that ‘nice’ person isn’t so nice anymore.  All he or she cares about it themselves!

By nature we are blind for ourselves but also feel not how bad sin really is.  A ‘not-so-nice comment to a sister’ doesn’t seem too big of a deal.  Or grumbling about doing the dishes isn’t a crime, is it?   Yet both of these actions are transgressions of God’s law.    We may not think it a big deal but to Him it is an offense of the His law. He requires us to be like Him in that we are to love Him and our neighbor as ourselves.  The ‘not-so-nice-comment’ hurts someone He cares about: your sister!  The grumbling about doing the dishes is hurting someone He cares about as well and someone who cared enough about your to prepare a meal!  They both are opposite of God’s most glorious nature: love. Though among us such little actions aren’t too bad, in His sight they are bad. 

Let it be your prayer as in Job, “Teach me what I see not.”  When God does that we will even see our sins in the nicest actions we do.  The harder we will try not to sin, the more we will find that we are totally depraved.’ 

Eichmann was a SS officer in World War II.  This doctor did all kinds of horrific experiments on Jews and war prisoners.  After the war he captured and tried for crime.  They placed him in a bullet proof glass cage during the trial.  Survivors of the camp would testify against him.  One man, who bore the torture marks of Eichmann on his body, broke down in sobs when he saw him sitting in that glass cage.  After the trial, reporters cautiously approached him with the question what made him cry so intensely when he was in the court room.  One ventured, “Was it the revived memory of what he did to you that caused you to break down like that?”  His answer was stunning.  “No, that didn’t cause me to weep.  As I saw him sitting there in the glass cage, I realized that we are like Eichmann.  He lives within us.  Only grace keeps us like the glass cage kept him.”   Now this was indeed received a striking inside in the ‘total depravity’ of our human heart.  May God keep us from living out the sins that Eichmann lived out but may He also keep us from thinking that our human hearts aren’t as bad as his. 

Warmly,

Pastor Vergunst



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How can you tell difference between heart and mind?

Question:
How can you tell the difference between your heart and your mind? How can you really know that it is your heart that is telling you/believing? What if it is only your mind that believes? How can you tell the difference (with anything) that it is really your heart? and not just your mind?


Answer


Dear Maria,

In the Bible the word 'heart' describes the entire person. It is who you are! That includes your mind, your will and your affections. All three are to be involved if we are believing with our heart.  You have heard undoubtedly about historical faith (mind mainly) temporary faith (affections mainly) and miraculous faith (will mainly). True saving faith includes all three aspects.

For us it isn't always easy to separate or distinguish them.  They mostly merge together.  If you love someone, you love him with your mind, your will and your affections.  Likewise if we love the Lord.  It is a love that is based on what I know of Him (mind).  Through the power of the Holy Spirit that knowledge influences my will and my feelings. It makes me willing, it humbles, it draws, it stirs, it wants me to do things for Him.  In other words, it is living power of His Word and Spirit that we experience within our heart. For many Christians all the knowledge of God and His Word doesn't change their inner person.  They easily live on without a real and close relationship with God.  In that sense it only 'mind' (historical faith).  But where God's Spirit is working, what I know and learn about God affects my inner being so that my life will change in direction and quality.

May I liken it to human relationships.  I use my own example.  For several years I lived in the same congregation as my first wife.  I knew her, did things in youth-group together, saw her at church. But she never meant anything more to me than any other girl in  church.  Until there came a day that I 'noticed' her and within my heart a spark began to burn.  I wanted badly to know her more and be close to her.  Getting to know changed me completely and influenced me for the better.  Now I not only did have a 'mind knowledge' but my will and affections were greatly affected. I certainly knew then that I wasn't just loving her with my mind.

In similar ways the Holy Spirit changes us our entire attitude, commitment, feelings, understanding when He draws us to God. It will not only be 'mind' but it will be everything of you.  Later the intensity of the feelings etc may ebb away and become more settled, just as in human relationships.  But the commitment, will, affections ... so the entire heart is devoted to God.

I hope this will shed some light on your puzzle.


Warmly

Pastor Vergunst




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How do you know for sure that you are saved?

Question: How do you know for sure if you are saved? How do you know that you are not deceiving yourself? How can you be absolutely sure?


Answer


Dear friend,

Important question.  Assurance of salvation isn't not something to take lightly especially when we know we can deceive ourselves in this aspect. In Matt. 7 the Lord warns about those who come to heaven's gate without the spiritual relationship with God through Christ.

To answer your question I will make use of a portion of the rich heritage of our Reformed writings.  This time let me use the Canons of Dordt.  These articles deal with many different subjects of doctrine but one of them is also about the assurance of faith.  I assume  you have access to the Canons of Dordt so I don't have to write out the entire article.  If not, I am sure you will let us know. You can find the Psalter on-line on our website and in the back part, pages 96 and onward, you will find the Canons.

Let's first go to Art 12 of chapter 1 (page 99). There is stated that God's elect shall find out in different ways and different strength the assurance of their salvation.  Not everyone will be equally assured of their salvation. The reason one will be saved is because of God's election, a deed of God's will from all eternity in which He has determined who will be His people.  This is completely hidden from our sight.  Yet one will know his/her election by the fruits of this election.  In other words, by God's work within the heart will you know whether He has chosen you.  One way of assurance is therefore by "observing in yourself the unmistakable fruits of election."  What are those fruits?  Notice that they list a few of the saying of the Lord in Matt. 5. In that chapter the Lord Jesus gave us 7 personal-descriptive characteristics of someone who is born again.  Now meditate or study these seven characteristics of God's heart-renewing grace.  Compare yourself with those seven marks.  You can never go wrong with these marks.  No matter what kind of conversion experience you have had, these seven statements are to be reflected in your life. Paul and Samuel would recognize each other in these sayings though both of them had such a different conversion story to tell.  I always say that your "conversion story isn't the proof of being saved."  It is the marks of the Lord Jesus which you are to find in your heart. If you have access to books, pick up Thomas Watson's book on the Beatitudes.  Otherwise, I did preach a series on these verses and so you can check the archives of our website on that.  If they aren't there, let me know and I see if they can still be added on there.

The next article that deals with assurance is in Head 5, art, 10 (page 113). Notice that in this article we are taught that assurance doesn't come through some spectacular revelation of God. Some people may speak about visions and voices or other unique events in their life by which they are assured of their salvation.  The authors of this article didn't go that way.  They again lead us back to the Scripture.  God uses always His Word through His Spirit to assure His children of their salvation.  He kindles faith in the promises of the Gospel.  There are plenty of them in the Bible given for our comfort.  However, so often we don't dare to believe those promises.  But the Spirit will kindle at His time and His measure a faith in those promises.  The more faith in those promise, the stronger our assurance will be. Especially when the Spirit joins His testimony to our spirit.  In the first point we notice that 'our spirit' can observe the very marks or characteristics that I am alive.  At this moment, my own spirit testifies that I am alive: I am breathing, typing, thinking, talking!  So also spiritually our own spirit or soul can testify, "One think I know, once I was blind but now I see."   Yet when the Spirit bears witness through the Word, under the preaching or your personal reading or even meditating on His Word, then our assurance of salvation will be the stronger.

That article then also point out that the desire and effort to be holy is an indication that there is spiritual life in you.  Man hungers for happiness;  renewed man hungers for holiness and will never feel happy except they are holy.  So if you find in yourself the inner desire to be holy and strive for that day after day, looking to Christ and using His means of grace, you have a spiritual mark of being born again.  See also question 86 of the Heidelberg Catechism (page 66).

Lastly, in the Canons after Head 5, you find a section of 'rejections.'  Let's go to rejection nr 5 (page 115).  In this rejection the Synod men torpedo a sentiment that you can only be assured of your salvation if you have indeed some great and wonderful special revelation.  They mean with that a 'revelation' that is without the Word of God and consist of some mystical experiential event. Their answer is so Scriptural.  Notice how they again point to the marks of grace.  They use the word "deduce."   That is conclude. If I can find in myself those marks of God's Spirit's gracious renewal, I may draw the joyful conclusion that His work is in me.

Hopefully this will give you some direction in searching for this answer.  The work of the Holy Spirit within us is the 'spiritual forensic evidence' that He is working and living there.  People are put into prison because their 'fingerprints were found at the crime scene.'  Likewise, when I can find or trace the fingerprint of the work of the Holy Spirit within me, I am to thank the "Father that He has made me meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light."


Warmly,

Pastor Vergunst



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Is it possible for a person like me to be saved?

Question: Is it possible for a person like this to be saved?
- one who has confessed his sins before God
- one who has said "Amen" to God's justice if He would never look upon him anymore
- one who still stands outside without a promise and hope
- one who makes each day his sin greater and each day must pray for forgiveness
- one who then experiences himself as an hypocrite (for how close can real and almost be)

When sinners are invited to come to the Lord's table, then I would be able to go on first but the elders will come to ask for fruit and then I have to acknowledge that there are only stinking fruit;  for out of me there shall be no fruit till all eternity.


Answer


Dear Hans,

This is one of the easiest questions to answer!  Not only does God's Word answer it numerous times.  Multitudes without number will be able to answer your question from their own experience.  The reason that you can be saved has nothing to do with any of the reasons you listed about yourself.  But the answer is that "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners."  Even if you would feel yourself the chief, even then there is that hope that He not only is able but also willing to save you.  "All that come unto Me I will in no wise cast out." (john 6:37) To the very murderers of Christ, God sent Peter with this message, "Unto you first, God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away everyone of you from his iniquity." (Acts 3:26)

Never doubt whether that you are welcome at the feet of the Lord Jesus.  Never!  Even if all the world and every demon would say so.  Because there is but one mouth you never need to doubt and that is God's mouth as He spoke through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ask any of God's children, and ask them about their fruits.  If you find anyone that answer you in the positive about his or fruits, hurry on to find a real believer.  Then if you find the most advanced in the life of grace, he will still say that "all his fruits are as filthy rags." Paul, who I reckon advanced in grace, never got beyond 'wretched failure' that I am. 

If so your experience is as you stated, I don't think you have any reasons to fear a conversation with your elders.  A poor sinner and a rich Christ belong together!

May the Lord remember you.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



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How could Judas be appointed to preach the Gospel?

Question:
In Matthew 10:1 is written: "And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease." And in verse 4: "and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him." How is that possible? Judas got an
appointment to preach the gospel?


Answer


Hi James,

The reason that God gave his twelve disciples this authority to preach and even do miracles had nothing to do with the persons themselves.  It was to give testimony to the claim of Jesus to be the Messiah and to introduce Him and His message to the people.  In other words, they were His instruments to advance God's Kingdom in and through His Son Jesus Christ.  God has often used various instruments.  Often people that were very wicked.  Think of the Babylonians and Assyrians. In Ps. 17:13 David calls the "wicked, which is thy sword."  He even used the Jews to fulfill His hidden will. Peter said in Acts 4:27-28, "For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus ... the people of Israel were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done." In the OT He even used Balaam to make some beautiful prophecies of the coming Messiah.

So back to Judas Iscariot, God used Him in His service even though He knew that although Judas Iscariot began to follow Him, he eventually would betray Him. In John 6:70 Jesus even said, "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?"   At first Judas Iscariot was undoubtedly sincere about his intentions to follow Jesus.  His understanding of Jesus Christ was, however, completely earthly.  In all fairness, the other disciples also did have this expectation at first as most of all the Jews did.  But throughout the years of Jesus' ministry, Judas more and more hooked off.  Jesus' kingdom was not the kind he desired.  This caused a great anger and hatred within Judas' heart.  It led finally to his act of revenge in which he betrayed the Lord Jesus. 

Did Jesus then make a mistake in allowing Judas to be His preacher and even sending him out with the others to preach the Gospel?  Or did the Lord Jesus send him purposely even though He knew that Judas was fake?  Perhaps neither one is correct.  I think the Lord Jesus sought Judas' repentance all along. Throughout the three years, in which Jesus knew the inner motive and thoughts of Judas, He never gave a single clue about what He knew Judas was all about.  He showed him the same genuine love and care that He showed to the others.  Judas received all the teachings and sermons the others did receive.  He even entrusted Judas with the bag of money as the treasurer.  Till the end He continued to heap coals of fire on Judas' head to seek his repentance.  When finally Jesus announced that 'one of you is going to betray Me,' nobody concluded immediately, "Oh, that will be Judas Iscariot."  They had no clue it was him but neither had the Lord ever given a clue in His dealings with Judas what He knew about him.  Would you act the same to one of your 'friends' when you knew he was setting the net to kill you? 

So to sum up, Jesus wasn't at fault that the preacher He sent out wasn't sincere.  Judas had come and joined himself to Jesus.  When Judas preached, he would have preached the truth, "Repent ye and believe, for the Kingdom of heaven is near."  We may assume that he also did miracles.

Paul wrote about 'preachers who also didn't preach Christ out of the right motives.  In Phil. 1:15-17 he refers to believers who were preaching from selfish ambition, envy and strife.  But notice that Paul rejoiced nonetheless.  Why?  Because the teachings of Christ were spread around and that's what rejoiced Paul. 

For certain, Judas wasn't a believer and therefore this passage doesn't completely apply to him.  Still, he was used by God and what how much he had to answer for, when finally he hastened himself through suicide before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ.

Warmly,

Pastor Vergunst




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There are many sick people. Is God angry with us?

Question: In our congregation there are many people who are very ill. Several persons have cancer, a very young boy of 19 years old has leukemia. Since January 4 persons have died.
In 1 Corinthians 11:30 Paul writes: "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep (I suppose: die)." Is God angry with us (as in the case of the Corinthians)? How can we know that?


Answer


Dear Jacob,

Paul indeed alerted the congregation of Corinth to this judgment of the Lord.  Due to their irreverent manner of celebrating the Lord's Supper, God placed His severe judgment upon that congregation. Many of the Lord's people in that congregation were sick and dying as a direct result of the Lord's judgment.

The Bible does lay a direct link between sin and God's judgments in sicknesses.  In Ex. 15:26 God says, "If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee."  Again, in Deut. 28 God details His judgments of all kinds of sicknesses when the people disobey His holy laws (see especially vs. 21-22; 27-28). I feel that we don't often enough lay this link anymore.  Paul did and so did James in James 5:15-16. 

Those are God's general principles and we would do well to acknowledge them in our thinking about sicknesses.  However, we must not make the mistake that Job's friends made when they saw Job's affliction and immediately conclude that he had done some great sin.  We know that God in his case wasn't affliction Job for a particular sin issue.  Therefore we need to be very careful when we draw our conclusions.  God can afflict someone for personal sins but also lead His people through the tribulations to mature their faith and image of Christ. (Rom. 8:28-29; Heb. 12:5-11)

In the case of your church family, it is impossible for me to give a clear answer on your question.  Yes, it is possible that there are particular sin issues in your church family that aren't dealt with properly.  God will not bless a congregation where sin issues are ignored.  His Spirit will be grieved and withhold the blessings of the Word ministry. The 'weak' that Paul spoke can also refer to the weakness in spiritual life.  But it is also possible that God would proceed with the judgments of physical sicknesses as well as death as the Corinthians experienced. The Lord hasn't changed from what He said to Israel in Ex. and Deut.

My advice is to wrestle with God in prayer on this particular verse in Corinthians. Maybe you can share your concerns with your pastor/elders and ask them also to pray that the Lord would make that clear to your spiritual leaders.  God raised up Paul to address this issue among the Corinthian church and so God can do among your church family.  

May the Lord uphold your church as they face such serious trials of sickness and death.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



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Does God answer the prayers of the unsaved?

Question:
Does God answer the prayers of the unsaved? Because in James 4:3 it says "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your own lusts." If you are
unsaved, then it is inevitable that you are going to ask amiss, yet God invites us to come to Him and ask Him for help etc.


Answer


Dear friend,

Are there examples in the Bible of God answering prayers of the unsaved?  If we can find even one example of that, your question is answered.  In Gen. 4 I do find an example already.  God did answer Cain implied prayer when he responded to God's curse, Gen. 4:13-14.  Cain's prayer was even completely selfish.  Later in 1 Kings 21 we meet with ungodly Ahab.  After Elijah brought him God's curse, Ahab humbled himself before God which undoubtedly included prayer.  He heard it and granted him a delay.

How often doesn't the Lord answer prayers like that in our daily life?  People who don't really serve the Lord out of love ask God for help, protection, jobs, spouse and how often doesn't the Lord answer those prayers.  It speaks about God's infinite goodness that He is willing to hear and answer our prayers.

The verse that you quoted is dealing with a specific situation James perceived taking place. The people were fighting and arguing with each other. In that context they were also praying, perhaps that God would bring the other down their enemies.  Instead of 'praying for their enemies that they be saved or changed' they prayed that their enemies' cause be defeated so that they themselves would look good.  God rejects such prayers because the only thing they desire is to triumph at the expense of the other.

Again, God calls us to use our mind to pray to Him.  Read Prov 1:20-33. How can He rebuke them for not having prayed to Him earlier?! That can only mean that God expects us to seek Him, even when we are unconverted. Besides nobody's prayers will ever be pure or perfect.  That's why He has given us a Mediator in His Jesus Christ.  Through Him alone can He hear any prayer.

Warmly,

Pastor Vergunst




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God's care for His Church in the dark ages

Question: I was once a very avidly Reformed person. I used to love the Reformed tradition, and the Puritan model...that was until I began to see the holes and inconsistencies in the positions held (e.g.the "regulative" principle is more regulative for some than others). My struggles with these things has caused me to seriously re-examine many things,including authority in the Church...

You mentioned in your Belief Statement that the Bible was surpressed for centuries after the Early Church and substituted for fables, etc.
(I am assuming that you mean by the Catholic Church). I was wondering how this could be the case when it was the same Catholic Church that affirmed the Canon, and preserved the Scriptures through the centuries. It is also interesting that the Reformed Churches "traditionally" hold to infant baptism often using the argument of the Early Church together with the Scriptures to make their case. However, the argument from history only goes back to the 4th century – a time when the Catholic Church was already supposedly imposing all sorts of fables for people to believe.

If the Church was in darkness for the many centuries between the time shortly after the Apostles and the Reformation, how do you interpret the promises of Jesus that (a) He would be with His Church always; and (b) the Holy Spirit would lead the Church into all truth? Did Christ leave His Church for those
many centuries when it was in darkness, or was He still there? If He left the Church, did He break His promise? If He didn't leave the Church, why did Luther, Calvin, leave?  


Answer


Dear friend,

My apology for the late response.  An overseas trip put everything back. 

Perhaps the  difficulty you experience regarding the statements about the ‘church in darkness’ is that you fail to distinguish that there is a ‘visible church’ (all formal church members) as well as an ‘invisible church’ (all true, regenerated believers).   Or simpler, a ‘church with a small ‘c’ and the Church with a capital ‘C’.  These phrases capture the Biblical teaching that there is ‘wheat and chaff’ in the earthly phase of Christ’s Spiritual kingdom.   With that teaching (see Matt. 13) the Lord taught that there will be believers and unbelievers within that which He called ‘the kingdom of heaven.’  That is clearly reflected witnessed at every stage of the history of the church.  In the ages after the Apolostic Church, the formal Western Church (Roman Catholic) continued as the church.  Less and less, however, were God’s true people (the Church) found among them.   I am convinced that God has reserved his ‘seven thousand’ among them as well.  In the centuries before the Reformation you can read about many who were true Gospel believers and teachers.  Since the political power of the Roman Catholic Church was unchallenged, these lights were snuffed out.  However, God was at work in the rising nationalism, increased learning etc to break the power of the Roman Catholic Church.  Unable to quench the light of men like Luther, Calvin etc. because of their curtailed political power, they were forced to leave the Roman Catholic Church.   Neither had the intention to leave but to reform and return to the pure teachings of God’s Word. 

With that short survey I answer your questions.  God was always, and never left, His people, the Church, even though the visible or formal church did so deeply corrupt itself.  Even today, there may be true believers found in Biblically and doctrinally unsound churches.  He never leaves His people as He has indeed promised.   But we may never make “His people” or “His Church” the same as church or denomination.

I hope you will return to the teachings  God revived through the Reformation and later the Puritan teachings.  You discovered holes in it and we will probably always meet with inconsistencies and failures in any interpretation of God’s Word.  But let that not drive you away from Scripture and from the God of Scripture.   I maintain, however, that the pure Reformed teachings are an accurate reflection of what God teaches us in His holy Book.

Warmly,

Pastor Vergunst



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Women to be submissive.

Question (1):
I have been reading through Paul's first epistle to Timothy, and have a couple of questions about some of the ideas Paul sets out. 1)1 timothy 2: Paul is writing about how the  women have to be submissive and modest etc. I understand all that, it's quite clear cut. But verses 13 to 15 don't make any sense, especially verse 15,  "notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing it they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety."   Does that mean that to be saved you have to have children?  Because that would mean that unmarried or barren women couldn't be saved?

Question (2): Then in chapter 5 it is talking about widows re-marrying and how their age makes a difference. I was wondering if you could explain what he actually means, who does or doesn't get married and why, and also if that should still apply to us today. (after all we still keep to the clothing issue, women's authority, among others) so why is this not a common issue?


Answer


Hi Jane,

I am taking the time to answer your first question today and the other one a bit later.   I am glad that you are clear about the first part of Paul's instruction and I am not surprised that you have a few questions about the last verses in that chapter.  They look a little puzzling at first sight, don't they.  Obviously, Paul couldn't mean what you suggested in the last part of your question (do I need to have children in order to be saved).

The verses 13-15 are to be seen in connection of what goes before it.  Paul is building his case for his teaching in vs. 11-12.  He has you already so convinced that he could have omitted vs. 13-15!   But there might have been a few women in Ephesus who weren't agreeing that quickly.  So Paul made his case, as God's spokesman, of course.  There must be a reason why the women's place in the teaching position within the church was placed off-limit.

There are two unchangeable facts upon which this exclusion of the women in the teaching position is based.
1.  God's creation order.  God first made the male and after that the female as his helper.  In other words, he made man to lead and women to follow.  This tendency to follow was imbedded in the soul of Eve by the Creator as well the quality to lead in the soul of Adam.  This order God placed in His creation should not be reversed or encouraged to be reversed in the public roles of men and women in the public worship.  It is interesting to note that only when the woman recognizes this basic distinction and gladly accepts it as God's ordinance, that then she will be a real blessing to her husband and even will have the beautiful task of shaping and helping her husband in his task of leadership.  Without the wife's involvement, a man or husband couldn't do his task well.  That doesn't mean that unmarried people are failures or won't be able to fulfill a meaningful role in life.  Yet, it is undeniable that there is something missing as also is keenly felt;  it was even experienced by Adam before the Fall as he doing God's task of naming the animals.  For I am sure that not only God remarked that it wasn't good for man to be alone but that He also caused Adam to feel that as he completed God's task of naming the animals.

2) The fall of Eve.  After having described this original creation order, Paul goes on to show what happened when Eve rebelled against this order for her to "follow" and instead began to "give leadership."   Her fall into sin occurred because she ignored her divinely ordained position.  She chose to lead Adam and she promptly led him into sin.  The first statement "Adam was not deceived" isn't meant absolutely.  In some way Adam was also deceived but he wasn't deceived like Eve was.  Adam, as a leader with whom God had made the covenant of works, knew full well what he was doing but choose to follow his wife who had overstepped her position at that point.   What before was a blessing (i.e. to follow a sinless husband) now is no longer a blessing.  As one said, "Now she has to obey the creature of her own designing, a sinful husband."  Paul is arguing from this fall that the women should not seek to reverse or ignore the order of God as established in creation within the church context.  It created huge problems then and it will do so now as well. So let's continue to obey this Divine order.

In the last verse Paul is still making his case to the women that they should aspire to teaching position within the church.  It will not be a way to happiness and neither will it be the way to be most useful or successful as a woman.  A woman will not attain to real happiness by forcing herself into a position that God didn't make her for but by assuming the position and pursuing the task that God has created her for.  If she may continue to live in the life of faith, love and holiness as a woman or wife, taking her position and devoting herself to the task God has called women for (childbearing and child-rearing), then this will not hinder her salvation.  Sometimes super busy moms have hardly time to do anything else but caring for their busy and demanding families and they may feel they miss out so much.  Yet God encourages even the "stay-home" mothers that if they pursue their task as women, this will never hinder their personal salvation.
The path of obedience is always the way to blessing.  Therefore the best way for a woman to feel useful and even experience the joy of "leading" (because that is joyful and privileged task) is by "leading" their children to the Lord in their daily walk and talk at home.  God has given women the task to "teach" future men from the "bottom up."  In other ways, by means of the upbringing of the child or children that she may bear, she can be greatly used for the prospering of God's kingdom. Let no mother think that they are "burying their talents" when they devote themselves to the bringing of their children, the keeping and managing of the "home-base" (family) and creating the "harbor of safety and nurture" each home is to be.  That's where the men, as they lead and combat for their families, is to be able to return to and from there they are to be able to go forth again in the task God assigned them.  Perhaps you may think that this is "demeaning" the women's value.  Far from it.  Read Prov. 31 and observe what a multi-sided and influential woman this virtuous woman is.  There is nothing wasted when the woman devotes herself to her husband and family.  What a school also is the family life to our personal life!  A busy mother I know once shared an interesting thought on this verse: being a full-time mom of a large family had certainly made her feel her selfishness, rebelliousness, etc. That made her feel the need for the salvation of Jesus Christ more than anything.  So God used her daily family problems and demands as a way to teach her spiritually.  I don't think that's exactly what Paul had in mind but it is true.

In the context of the question, it doesn't fit to dwell upon the husband's task and his absolute vital role in making his wife or woman feel valued and important.  Prov. 31 woman is an ideal picture; no man is will find such a woman!  Indeed, they only become that way by the loving ministry of husbands.   But that falls outside the scope of your question.
For time sake, you need to wait for the second half of the question.  Thanks for your patience.

Pastor Vergunst




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The Trinity

Question:
Hello there, I have been struggling lately with the trinity doctrine. I realize that this makes me a heretic but I have lost faith in it almost completely. I know vaguely about the history of his rather large controversy and I can't quite understand something. The Athanasian Creed states; Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;  which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved. Please, if you would, explain to me from your point of view why the belief that Jesus is God' is necessary for salvation when from my perspective belief that Jesus is God Son is enough. He still has been vested with all power and authority in heaven and earth. (that is except over the one who vested Him such powers) as the scripture states  "The head of every woman is the man, and the head of every man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God (the Father).' If he truly has all authority who is able to stop Him saving one who believes that his is the messiah, The final revelation of the Father, the Son. Yet still preserves for the Father a separate and Higher and the only  true eternal existence? (The word 'one' meaning in this context  only that Jesus represents his Father perfectly in Thought and Word and Deed.


Answer


 
Dear friend,

Struggling with understanding the Trinity ... that' nothing too  uncommon!  Augustine, one of the greatest Bible students, wrote a long row of books about this subject, probably more complicated that God Himself wrote about it in the Bible.  At the end of the study, he still didn't understand it.  One day, as goes the story, he walked along the beach and saw a little boy walking with a small cup from the ocean to a little hole he had dug.  Augustine, observing the lad, asked him, "What are you doing?"  He answered, 'I am emptying the ocean into my little hole!"  Augustine took that as an answer on a different issue.  Never are we able to comprehend the things of God with our little puny minds.
The subject of the Trinity is not something God expects us to understand.  He knows that is beyond our comprehension. I also don't understand how God existed for always.  Or how He could make a material universe out of nothing.  Or how He could so love that He sacrificed Himself in His Son for enemies and attempted murderers of Himself.  The list goes on.  We aren't able to understand these things.  Let's acknowledge that and let the thought liberate you and me that we also aren't asked to understand it. That doesn't mean we can't talk or think about it.  To have an inquiring mind is healthy;  to think beyond what you know is stimulating for that's how you learn more.

Yet God ask us to believe in what He has revealed to us.  He asks us to believe His explanation about the origin of the world.  He created it, He said.  We can't prove that although there are enough evidences to support this revelation of God.  Search on your internet to "creation international" or Creation Research Institute" and enjoy learning about those evidences.  Yet, no one can fully comprehend it even thought God's fingerprints are everywhere to be found.  From a "detective viewpoint" nothing is easier to prove that "God has had His hand in the every aspect of the creation (design, order, beauty, organization etc.)."With the Trinity it gets more difficult because it deals with the Person of God Himself.  Creation is His work, something we can see and relate to; even explore or research.  With the Trinity you can't do that.  However,  there are some theologians-scientists who find evidences within Creation of the Trinity.  The universe, so they say is composed of a trinity: past, present, future;  matter is composed of a trinity: solid, liquid, gas;  space is measured with height, breath and depth.  Take those thoughts for information. I find it difficult to use them to support the "personalness" of the Divine Being, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Yet, the Bible clearly teaches the Trinity.  There are enough resources available for you to find out where and how the Bible teaches about the Trinity.  That's wasn't so much your question.  I take your question to be, "Why is it necessary to believe in the Trinity for me to be saved? "  Your quote of the Athanasian Creed is significant.  A person needs to believe in a personal Father, Son and Holy Ghost, three distinct Persons in the one God.  One reason for stating this is that evidently Jesus Himself believed in the Trinity!  Unless you can disprove from the Gospel records, especially from John, that Jesus Christ Himself didn't think that the Son was equal to the Father as a personal God as well as  His clear faith in the "another" (a different One though similar) Comforter, the Holy Ghost, then you might have a point.  Rarely do I see this question discussed from this angle.  Jesus spoke as the Son of God, Whom He claimed to be and for which assumption He was finally condemned to die because it was considered blasphemy.  Yet He spoke about His Father and Him sending forth the Holy Spirit to this earth.  He equalled His Father and His love; His Father's sovereign right to judge and He confessed His own sovereign right to judge.  From those statements and assertions I can only make one conclusion:  Jesus Himself clearly considered the Father and Son as two distinct Persons and later clearly revealed the third Person of the Trinity.  That forms then enough foundation to require His followers to believe and confess the doctrine of Trinity. He even claims Himself to be "Jehovah."  One of the most shocking moments of self-revelation we often miss.  It was upon His arrest in Gethsemane.  When they answered Him who they were seeking, He answered, /I am!/  Upon those words, they fell backwards!  Ever wondered why?  Jesus used there the very words that refer to Jehovah's name in Ex. 3;  the most sacred name to the Jews.  The awe and impression that this temporarily made upon those about to arrest them is pictured in their falling backwards!  For Jesus to make such claim and to accept the confession of Thomas, "My God and my Lord" in John 20 clinch the point.  He considered Himself God!  That's why you and I should if we want to be His followers.

Why do we have to hold that Jesus is God?  Because it takes a Divine mind and Person to rule over the entire earth!  You acknowledge that He has received all power and authority in heaven and earth.  Unless that One has a divine ability to rule such a large place and hear the millions of prayers, rule over the myriad of details, even the hairs on our head and the sparrow on the housetop, who could do that unless you have a Divine ability.  No human person, no matter how exalted his position be, is capable of maintaining and governing this world.   His authority doesn't mean that He change things at His will.  Your suggestion that "no one is able to stop Him from saving one who believes that He is the Messiah but not God" gives me an uncomfortable impression of your view of the Lord Jesus. He is no way is a "independent-minded Child" Who will do it His way even though His Father may not agree with us.  Let's never think of Him in such a light.  "I rejoice to do thy will" was the motto of His heart. And I am sure it is still that way. You are right that the Son is the highest and fullest revelation of the Father.  Heb. 1:1-3 will support that view.  Also other Scriptures from  John 15-16 can be used to support that view. Those Who have seen the Son have seen the Father, He said.  That's because the Father is an invisible Spirit and He has made Himself visible in the incarnate Son of God, Who assumed a human nature.  The incarnation is one the greatest mysteries of the Scripture.  How can God and man become the God-man. Let's adore the Being God, trust in Him and leave the questions which we can't possibly grasp to Him. I hope I have assisted you somewhat.
Warmly,
Pastor Arnoud Vergunst




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How do I get rid of an internet addiction?

Question:
How do I get rid of an internet addiction?


Answer


Dear friend,

With any addiction, at least in my former experience with smoking, it doesn’t seem to work to limit yourself to ‘some slots’ of time when you allow yourself to be involved in the activity you are addicted to.  In your case of ‘internet addiction’ the easiest is to get rid of the internet so that the temptation isn’t there for you.  This is even more important when you live alone and therefore has no accountability.

If that is not possible, for various legitimate reasons, I suggest that you need to establish an accountability system where each day you are going to be in touch with someone about this issue.  If your problem is ‘time waste’ then you need to establish what is a reasonable amount of time to be on the internet.  Each day you need to give account about that to the person with whom you have made the agreement and establish consequences about your choices, both positive and negative.

If your problem isn’t only time but content of the internet sites, then in some sense the same agreement of accountability and supervision needs to be made.  But depending on what you are addicted to, you may need special counseling to deal with the addiction and above all with the sin-issues.

For, lastly, the addiction problem is above all a sin issue.  Both in time and content we can waste what God gives and walk into areas that God has clearly forbidden.  To give a few thoughts and suggestions from this place looks simplistic and therefore I suggest you get into touch with the people in your church that can help you.  It is important to be open with them and seek their help in a genuine way.

In conclusion, only God can truly change our heart so that the sin-addictions will be broken and we come to a complete repentance of that which we have done wrong.  Seek Him therefore together with the use of the means in those God has placed around you: parents, spouse, spiritual leaders etc.

Warmly,

Pastor Vergunst



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Differences in Reformed Churches

Question:
Where I grew up, there was an NRC, CRC, FRC, Canadian Reformed, Reformed Church of North America, etc. A LOT (not all)of people from the NRC would not step foot inside any of those other reformed churches because they believed they were all easy-believers. Each of those reformed churches uses the exact same catechism and essentially believes the same things. However, there is a different emphasis in each church. It is true that the CRC, for example, believes it is ‘easier' to be saved than the NRC; however, they do NOT believe that they are going to heaven because they are good people. They believe that they need to be converted (although that word is not commonly used in the other churches). They believe that they need to accept that they are sinners, that they need a saviour, and that Jesus died for their sin if they will accept that. The difference comes that they are more willing to accept it than the NRC people are - the NRC sees this as easy-believism and that is what is extremely confusing to non-NRCers. Non-NRCers believe that we have a responsibility and the ability to make a choice (just like Adam & Eve did). The NRC also will say that we have a responsibility, but that is where I get confused because I not sure what the responsibility is if we don't have a choice? As I read through the new Testament, I don't know of any stories where Jesus left somebody confused about whether or not they were saved and yet I know many NRC folk who are just that. Or they just decide they aren't but they're going to keep going to church because maybe God will speak to them one day? Maybe you could clear up some of my confusion.


Answer


Dear confused friend,

 It is easy to get confused about the many different churches which in theory all hold to the same doctrinal statements (such as the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession and Canons of Dort).  Still there are subtle or great differences between the churches’ emphasis or application of those doctrines;  too many to discuss in the scope of this article.  As you indicated in your question, we do easily stereotype certain churches and put labels on them that aren’t always accurate.  When you then confront or discuss those finer points of doctrine with the members of those particular churches, you will discover what you have discovered, i.e. that the differences aren’t quite that easy to pinpoint in some of the denominations that are standing quite close to us.

 My intention isn’t to answer the statements you made about the extent of the differences between the churches but focus on the heart of your question: what is our responsibility with regard to salvation?  I agree that many are very confused and your analysis of “that they just decided to keep going to church with the hope that God will speak to them one day” is to the point.

 Our responsibility is to repent from the sins God identifies through His Word and believe in His message that He will abundantly pardon us when we return to Him.  (Is. 55:7; Mark 1:15;  Acts 13:21) (Did you look up those verses?  If not, do that first!)

 There are thousands of sins in our life we don’t even see or feel but God declares His utter displeasure and anger about them in His Word.  Also in your life He sees day and even at night sins and sins.  Sin is transgression of His holy standards and He is “angry with the sinner every day” (Ps. 7:11)  As God points these sins out in His Word (and I assume you are reading His Word every day not just for information; conscience soothing but for listening to what He is saying about you and to you!).  When we see those sins what does God require from us to do?   He expects us to get on our knees and to confess those sins to Him.  If we don’t feel our sins, He expects us to be on our knees begging Him to show us our sins, “that which I see not teach thou me;  if I have done iniquity, I will do no more.” (Job 34:32)   Simply because we are dead in sin, blind for sin, deaf to His voice, doesn’t mean we are “off the hook.”  It condemns us that we are like that: insensitive to this great and holy God!

 The moment I see sin to be sin, I need to get back to God in confession and seeking for His pardon on all those sins.  Do you ever come out of church condemned by the Word you heard?  How foolish to ignore such a summon by the Judge!  You would declare those people a fool who ignore the flashing lights behind them as they have broken the traffic laws!  They won’t escape by ignoring it.  Or those people who refuse to come to court when they are summoned to do so. They only make things worse.  Yet that’s how we are all the time when it comes to God.  Yes, some people say, I haven’t felt it deep enough and therefore I don’t think I need to respond.  How foolish is such a response!

 Our “respond-ibility” is to respond to God’s call as Judge and turn ourselves in before His throne as the guilty one.  Each time we feel our conscience speak;  each time the Word condemns us … each time!  Even if it a hundred times a day! (Luke 17:1-4)  Delaying returning will only make it worse.  When the prodigal son came to himself, would it have helped him to delay to return to his father?  No, he resolved to return and did return in confession (he even rehearsed it all the way). That’s exactly what David did in Ps. 32:5.  When God brought home his sin (which he trying hard to ignore for a while) he resolved “I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD.”  (Ps. 32:5)  He didn’t only resolve it;  he did do it.  In Ps. 51 he has recorded how he did it.  I have used that Psalm countless times to confess my sins to God again and again.

 But God doesn’t only bring the message of the Law to us!  He also extends a personal golden scepter to us that He is “a gracious God, ready to pardon.” (Ps. 86:5)  It is impossible to believe without God’s divine aid that this is true.  To think that God is “ready to pardon” me, after I have sinned so enormously over and over!  Yet He is and He declares it over and over to us in His holy Scriptures.  He has written it personally on your forehead when you were baptized:  I am the GRACE-GOD and I promise you that if you will return in the way of repentance and faith I will abundantly pardon you.   Multitudes of people struggle to believe this;  they conclude that God is only willing to pardon “good people or His people.”  For sure, God speaks about His people in the Scripture but in the general call of the Gospel He extends to every hearer of the Gospel in this world His golden scepter of pardoning love. 

 Many people think they have somehow to overcome God’s unwillingness to save them so they work hard, try to do better, be humbler and holier etc.  But isn’t grace sovereign?  Sovereign means that He didn’t take either merit or demerit in consideration when He declared I will be merciful to whom I will be merciful.  (Rom. 9)  Friend, God is speaking to us in His Word and through the preaching of the Word every time when you read it or hear it.  And He is saying, “Return, oh children of men, return!”   Deep down many people think that God is somehow “hostile” to them and therefore they have to win Him over.  The thought is blasphemous!  It our unwillingness and hostility that is the problem.  As He calls us and assures us in Is. 55 that when we return to Him and will abundantly pardon, do you think He means it? 

 The prodigal son didn’t know his father when he thought that he could never be son again and therefore begged to be “servant.”  In that parable the Lord Jesus exposes exactly our darkness of understanding about God!  We don’t know God either and can’t believe that He would pardon and reinstate us into the very position as sons and daughters we once enjoyed before that dreaded Fall in Paradise. 

 Our responsibility is therefore not only to repent but to “believe the Gospel message.”  And what is that message:  that He will abundantly and instantly pardon all my sins when I may exercise trust in Him.  John wrote, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)  God requires us to act as He acts.  When someone comes to us in repentance, we are to forgive him, even if he comes seven times a day. (Luke 17:3-4).  So He will also forgive even if we come seven times a day.  The disciples couldn’t believe that and therefore asked, “Lord increase our faith.” (Luke 17:5) 

 Too many people who struggle under the burden of their sin;  under the sense of the separation from God’s favor;  under the condemning sentence of His holy law linger and linger before they respond to God’s call of grace.  Why?  Ultimately it because of unbelief in the message that He is really ready to pardon them!

 You mentioned that “many people come to church hoping that God would speak to them one day.”  I hope you are not one of those but let me assure you, the Lord is speaking to you each time you are in the house of God.  He speaks through His servants and we are called to “hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.”   Never walk out of church again thinking that God didn’t speak to you.  Instead ask “Now what did He speak to me about this morning?”   Never close your Bible saying, “It wasn’t for me; there is nothing in there for me.”  You may not have heard it but He spoke and spoke to you!

 Our responsibility in no way implies your ability;  neither does your inability to respond favorably to God’s law and Gospel in any sense diminish you responsibility.  Instead, focus on your responsibility while you confess and bemoan your inability.  A church is erring when they teach that we have the ability to respond to God.  But a church is as much in error when it diminishes our responsibility!   God grant that the sharp edge of His Word is never blunted in your church by a vain appeal to God’s sovereignty.  The Lord is holy and just and righteously maintain His demands.

Warmly, Pastor Vergunst



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Conscience Issues

Question: My husband is from a very conservative family. They find things to be very wrong that I was not brought up to be concerned about. Examples: women don't wear necklaces, you don't discuss business on Sunday, females absolutely do not wear pants for any reason, etc. To some extent I am OK with beliefs like these, as they are probably supported in the Bible, but I don't feel as strongly as he does; it's like his family bases conversion on these ideas. (Although I know they don't.) And, almost every other family must think differently--guys are always coming up to him with a "business" question on Sunday that they need a quick answer on.  In other words, I don't like women wearing pants either, but I don't have a fit because someone wears them to a car wash, or when they're working in a garden, etc. And I think necklaces are OK if they aren't your source of pride. etc... I also realize that if we are brought up to think something is wrong, it is wrong for us even though it might not be for another. The questions I have are these:

(1)How do you, yourself, as a minister, explain in your mind the differences between people's convictions: how one person who goes to the Lord's Supper has no problem doing something, but another one who goes thinks it's absolutely wrong to do that same thing?

(2)In the Bible there are those with "weak faith"--who are afraid to do things that God might punish them for--and those with "strong faith"--who are not held back by "do's and don'ts". In our NRC church, of course, we are brought up to think differently! The more do's and don'ts you have, the stronger and better you are! (or so we seem to think) Please explain this more. 

(3)When do we know if something is REALLY TRULY against the Bible? Those who are against pants, necklaces, hair cuts, etc., can find a verse for anything they want. They will say, See--the Bible PROVES it is wrong to do such-and-such. But--When do we really know it IS wrong?

(4)How do I know what is my conscience and what is just a "guilty" feeling? For example, suppose in my mind I was never brought up to think playing CDs of Psalter music on Sunday was wrong. But my husband isn't comfortable with  it. So, now suppose I am home alone and put such a CD on. To me it is OK, but I am feeling guilty because I feel I am not supposed to do it...and if I know it's time for him to come home, I quickly turn the CD player off so he doesn't catch me. You can develop a "conscience" without really being "God's voice." How do we know what is REALLY GOD's voice?

I know this is long, but thanks for any response, Linda


Answer


Hi Linda,

Thanks for your patience.  I was overseas for a few weeks and so everything is catching up.  You have brought up a host of issues which in someway all boil down to one issue:  How do I know what is right or wrong in things that aren't black of white in Scripture?   It is clear that we don't have to discuss what God's will is in issues that He clearly spelled out in His Scriptures, such as the ten commandments.  Yet there are endless areas of every day life where we need make applications to how we are to live.  You mentioned many little details in which we can differ, such as listening to CD's on Sunday; wearing necklaces, dress-codes, etc.  It is also very true what you observed that God's people don't always see the same on particular issues.  I personally grew up with a father who displayed the tender fear of the Lord and yet didn't have any difficulty with particular things that I myself today find questionable.  Yet not for a moment do I doubt my father's relationship to the Lord.  As a child we used to play soccer on the street with the neighbor children.  One time a child of God from within the congregation called on my father and shared how he was bothered by the fact that he allowed us children to play soccer on the street.  Yet this person used to be in professional soccer which had become an obvious sin issue to him.  All soccer, even children playing it, was in his view sin!  For him indeed it was, as it reminded him of his former idol.  But for my father and us kids it obviously wasn't loaded like that.

That's also how you are to consider the various differences between the children of God.  According to Rom. 14 there are differences in degree and understanding of one's faith.  The "weak ones" felt tremendously burdened with particular actions (in Rom. 14 it had to do with eating certain foods and keeping certain days) while the "strong ones" didn't see any sin issues.  In the end God reveals that the weak aren't to "lord over" the strong while the strong aren't to 'despise" the weak.  We need to learn to accept differences in areas that are so-called "grey,"  areas where God has given us allowance to make individual choices.  The issue of wearing a necklace is one of those.  The Bible doesn't condemn necklaces but does condemn the excessiveness, the pride-issues, the worldliness aspects. Yet some who may have been excessive and sinful with ornaments, may upon repentance adopt a very narrow view and seek to enforce that.  Their "narrow view" isn't wrong if it is one of a tender conviction before the Lord but to enforce it upon others is.  So it is with many issues.

Indeed, our consciences are somewhat "shaped " by our upbringing.  If you have always grown up learning that "driving a car on the Lord's Day is sin" than you probably will experience driving a car to church on Sunday as a sin.  Yet, there is absolutely no Biblical basis for condemning the use of a car to come to church on Sunday.  But again, rather than condemning the "weak conscience" we are exhorted to show charity and deny ourselves the use of our liberty.  So if some church would be offended if I would come on Sunday with my car, then I would come on Saturday.
How far do you go to give in to all the various demands or views people around you have?  That's is tough question.  It is my observation that the "shallower the spiritual life becomes, the more the rules multiply in a church."  That was already in the Bible times.  The Pharisees had an exaggerated amount of rules but their religion was ultra-shallow; basically they had no true devotion to the Lord.  Sadly, we see that today again, even in our own churches.  People live by certain 'rules' but have no idea why (as you indicated in your letter) and still they feel somehow better or good because they at least keep the rules.  It is hard to live with such people and then your question, how far do you go to please them, is best answered with another question, "What would the Lord Jesus do in such a case?"  Interestingly, He usually denied Himself His liberty and accommodated Himself to the current expectations.  Yet He also purposely exposed their shallowness and insincerity, hypocrisy and partiality.  He did that through teaching as well as through living.  Eventually He caused the Pharisees so much discomfort, as His works and words testified that all their religion was evil, that they crucified Him.  So what application to your case?  Since you have promised to be under the headship of your husband, you also are to respect him in that and deny yourself the liberties that you may feel you have personally.  That doesn't mean that you have to agree with him in every aspect and I encourage to discuss with him the Biblical basis that we need to establish for what we do.  It is absolutely not enough to say "We do or don't do this because my family always or never did."  We need to be able to formulate our convictions for why we do certain things on God's Word.
For example, your Lord's Day keeping.  Go to Nehemiah and study the last chapters to glean something about the question of discussion business issues on Sunday;  study Is. 58 to consider what God's will is for the Sabbath day;  trace all the instances of Jesus' actions and activities (He went for a meal in a Pharisees' house on the Sabbath day!) and distil from it how He kept the Lord's day; etc.  After all such study, you need to reflect and formulate together how you both will fill in your Lord's day.  Nobody can exactly dictate the details but God has given us the broad principles that are to govern the Lord's Day.  The same goes for dress-code issues; ornaments etc.  I refrain from sharing my personal convictions on these matters because it is you both that need to define the Biblical positions you are to make.

With regard to the "guilt feelings" you may have, again Linda, you need to examine those against God's Word.  Some guilt feelings are unreasonable.  I sometimes feel guilty to take off some time for relaxation but that isn't reasonable because God even patterned the whole cycle of days and nights, seasons as well, for times of rest and refreshments.  Yet our culture can make one feel guilty when one chooses not to be so busy with business, work.   You shared feeling guilty because you listened to a CD on Sunday while your husband isn't home;  you felt sneaky.  That guilt is real because you are in somewhat disregarding the will of your husband (even though your husband may be unreasonably).  If you do it behind his back, I suggest you don't do that.  Rather, share that you respect his opinion but would like to review it Biblically and that you both need to come up with a different solution both can be happy with.  But never go behind your husband's back.  It creates a rift in your relationship and erodes trust. So, I hope I have given you a few guidelines and thoughts.  It is complex  and the issues you raised aren't simply to be answered with more rules.  Some years ago I preached through the Biblical principles about dress-codes.  One member responded with sharing the appreciation but also shared that is much easier to have defined rules given by the leadership.  Yet, the Scripture's principles are clear but the details aren't specified.  This makes God's Word applicable to every culture where the Lord brings His Word.  That's God's wisdom.  What works in the West wouldn't necessarily work in the East.

May the Lord bless you both with wisdom.

Warmly,

Pastor Vergunst



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Women's Clothing

Question:
In our community the difference in men and women's clothing has become of so much of an importance the wearing of pants is often seen as a reason women should not be allowed to go to the Lord's Supper. (In the community's opinion) Though I realize that in Deuteronomy 22:5 "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God." Yet in the same chapter concerning dress code it mentions "Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woolen and linen together" (Deuteronomy 22:11) I would like to know why we adhere to the one and not the other since there is no direct command given in the New Testament about either of these issues? The only caution in the New Testament concerning dress code I can find is to dress decently, which I find can often be found in woman wearing pants as well as skirts, so why has this clothing issue become such a big deal in our community?  Janet


Answer


Dear Janet,

It seems clothing always continues to be a very contentious subject.  I am afraid far more contentious than the Lord would want to make it for us.   It is obvious that clothing styles keep changing with the ever restless minds of mankind.  However, God's principles laid down in Scripture are not changing.  From Scripture I have gleaned the following principles that should guide us in clothing ourselves. 1.  It needs to be concealing our nakedness and sexual attractiveness to the other race rather than revealing.  In Gen. 3 Adam and Eve made themselves loin cloths but the Hebrew indicates that God made coverings that covered the body from neck to lower legs.  So when we choose our clothing, we need to keep this principle in mind, both men and women.  Tight clothes, skimpy coverage and sensually stimulating aren't according to God's fashion.   We need to clothe so that we help the other person not to sin by being sexually stimulated in their thoughts.  Don't forget to include this principle also when you think about the issue of the women's slacks because (tight) slacks are sexually tempting to males.  Yet, in all honesty, there are also activities in which a regular dress would be immodestly revealing and then you could say that slacks are better again.  Most of our people would hold that opinion when it comes to yard work, or helping on the farm, or even those women-nurses who work in an ambulance.
Here is nice quote from a Puritan:  /If the women don't do their best to avoid being a snare, then they are somewhat responsible.  You must not lay a stumbling block in their way nor blow up the fire of their lust.  You must walk among sinful person as you would do with a candle among straw or gunpowder or else you may see the flame which you did not foresee when it is too late to quench.   /I know families where the girls are never allowed to wear slacks but they are allowed to wear short skirts, tight blouses, low-neck lines etc.   They may feel good about nor allowing slacks but they certainly miss the point! 2. It needs to be gender-distinctive.  The verse in Deut. 22 you quoted is not always well understood.  Notice that God adds to this verse the word "abomination."  In Scripture this always refers to something of horror, detestation, loathing. It is used 117 times in the Bible.  God has marked the following sins with this word: idolatry (Deut. 7:25), sexual perversion (Lev. 18:27), occult and witchcraft (Deut. 18:9-14), human sacrifice (Deut. 12:31).  Looking at those passages, it seems clear to me that far more is meant in this verse than a female putting on a male clothing or vice versa.  Comparative study of the words "that which pertaineth" reveals that it is used to refer to the "things of a man or woman" such as armor, instruments, weapons, tools and clothing as well.  Thus it seems to point to the various things used in different occupations.  Therefore I agree with those who see this verse as forbidding the sex-role reversal and even more, transvestism.  Transvestism is when a male begins to act and live like female and vice versa.  Today even surgeries are performed to make such reversal even more physical.   Mostly this was associated with homosexuality, fertility rites and idolatry.  Seen in that light, it is clear why the Lord adds the word "abomination" to this practice.  God has stamped upon human nature a definite distinction in the different sexes and has created "feminine and masculine" (as it literally states in Gen. 1).  This uniqueness of the male and female personhood is also expressed in various occupations, use of tool and equipment (some need great use of muscles) but also in clothing style.  That doesn't mean, however, that this verse has nothing to say about the differences of male and female clothing.  Our clothing should remain gender distinctive in such a way that it always clear whether you are a male or female.  Erasing those distinctions would be a transgression of this commandment.  The common argument used that today's women's slacks are totally different than men's slacks isn't the point.  In the Bible times there was probably less distinction in the male and the female robe.  To maintain, however, that the wearing of slacks by a woman is breaking this commandment, seems also unrealistic.  Our clothing should never cause "confusion," or hinder the identity of the male or female;  we should never seek to blur the line of distinction.  The way this is done is somewhat culturally bound.  When Moses wrote Deut. 22, the people were wearing skirt-type of clothes yet both were also wearing distinctive ornament of head-dresses, jewelry and especially the males would have beards!  So Deut. 22:5 forbids creating such confusion in clothing, occupation, roles which would lead to a sex-reversal, thereby overturning God's created order.
3. Clothing should be sober and functional to the occasion (1 Tim. 2:9-10;  1 Peter 3:14)  The priest wore special clothing while serving in the Tabernacle;  he didn't wear this at home however.  So there is clothing fitting for work, weddings, funerals, offices etc.  Yet of course, they are to agree with the first two principles.
4. Clothing is governed by the law of charity (Rom. 14:13-17)   Most people have a hard time obeying this command of God.  Scripture doesn't always define exact lines of acceptable and unacceptable. That's also true in the clothing issues.  Yet charity will do everything not/never to grieve or offend a weaker brother in the faith.  Charity will impose a severer law upon self and allow larger indulgence to others.  So sometimes I need to deny myself a right in order to serve others.  So if in your church family community slacks remain an hot issue, then you owe it to your church family to not push your own point.  I don't mean to say with this that female-slacks isn't a real issue but that you are also to be guided by your surroundings.  In Fiji-culture, all men walk with some long skirt while women wear a different type of skirt.  If in that community it would be an offense if I would walk with normal slacks, what do you think I need to do if I live among them? So, these are a few thoughts on this difficult area.  Your question about the different textiles, and later about the different sorts of seeds that couldn't be mixed, isn't clear.  In the seeds mixing, the Lord may have cared about the development of hybrids but I don't really know.  Yet is noticeable that the "abomination" isn't added to either of these commandments.  What was an abomination to God in the OT is still an abomination because it deals with the laws of holiness.

Warmly,

Pastor Arnoud Vergunst




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What is the background for the "leprosy laws"?

Question:
In Leviticus 13 God is giving the laws concerning leprosy to Israel. But instead of talking about leprosy it talks about a leprosy (v 8,15). Does that mean that leprosy is a synonym for disease (i.e. a generic term for unclean scabs/boils etc)? But then it also talks about a plague of leprosy. Does that mean that there are different types of leprosy? And what was the difference, why sometimes they had were unclean, and sometimes they weren’t? What is the "background" for these laws?


Answer


Hello Naomi,

I don't profess myself an expert on any of these detailed laws of leprosy and the many other Mosaic details on diseases.  Yet as there are many varieties of cancer which ultimately are still all the same disease, so there may have been different forms of leprosy.  At least it appears that there were different stages of development in leprosy. From what I have read elsewhere, I don't think you must consider  leprosy' as a generic term for boils and scaps, warts and other skin irritations.  Leprosy was definetely a disease on its own.  It is still very found in countries like India where there are leprosy colonies.  Modern medicines has diagnosed it but I don't think has found a definite cure for it. Recently I read a book by a late leprosy doctor who did have quite a succes rate in treating and helping leprosy sufferers. God chose leprosy also for spiritual reasons. The disease makes a person's body  'slowly rot away.' It cause ligaments to fall off, noses to be eaten away and the leprosy suffers smells like death.  Perhaps because of the nature of the disease did the Lord select this one as a spiritual representation of what sin does to us.  Eventually the leper was excluded from normal society, even separated from wife and children.  Isn't that a picture of what ultimately sin will do to us? It will bring us into hell where we will share the same fate in the same place without any real connection or comfort.  The only way a leper could completely be cured was by God Himself;  a miracle would have to take place. Jesus healed many lepers and that was clearly a message in itself also. Again, that illustrated the message of the Bible!  Only God is able to cure the sinner; nothing of man comes into this.  It is all His grace, His power, His Spirit, His blood and His thought!  Soli Deo Gloria.

What is interesting about these leprosy laws is something that we didn't discover till the late 1800's!  How did Moses know that leprosy is contagious but only 'airborne.'  Not by touch but through the sneezing or even breathing.  God told the leper to cover his mouth and nose with his hand and cry 'unclean' when someone come too close!  You know why God commanded that.  Moses had no clue that there was a medical reason to this hand!   It provides us with another powerful proof of the Divine inspiration of Scripture.  God's Word is about 3500 years ahead of modern science!

Warmly,

Pastor Vergunst




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The Love of God

Question:
Just was wondering after your sermon on the love of God, how can he, being such a loving God, let so much misery be in the world, i.e.: child abuse. B/c these children are brought into this world as victims of abuse... living with it all their lives? Also if God loves everyone. How can this love flow over to these abusers?


Answer


Dear friend,
What a tough question you asked! Still, I understand these questions. They come up in my heart also. There are many things that "don't seem fair" in this life. You mentioned one little aspect (though not at all a little issue) of the many aspects where such like questions can be stirred up. The list is endless (hungering children, dying of AIDS, living and dying without hearing the Gospel etc.). Naturally, when we look at these things from our "human perspective" then the question you asked seem so right. Years ago someone asked the question from the other side: how come there is so much good in this world? Let's face it, in many lives the good outweighs the evil things in life (or did I grow up in too limited a circle!?) Yet nobody seems to sincerely question that aspect of our reality but almost take it for granted. However, in the light of the sin and rebellion which fills this world, isn't that actually a greater wonder. I know that doesn't really answer the question as yet, but it does bring in another angle to the our thinking. The Lord's tender mercies are multiplied to such a larger extent than His acts of justice in this life. The prophet Habakkuk begged the Lord to "remember mercy in His wrath." (Hab. 3:2) The Lord is doing that. His acts of mercies outweigh His acts of righteous and holy displeasure. He is a long-suffering God which means that He, humanly speaking, will suffers long before He acts. God doesn't love "abusers" or even "sinners" but He loves His creatures. That sounds like the same and yet I think it is different. He hates sin; is angry with the sinner everyday and will punish any sinner who doesn't repent from his or her sin with punishment, in this life and the after-this-life. Still He cares and loves in His general love all His creatures. I can be livid with my child when he or she does something abominable yet I love my child intensely though I will never approve or condone bad behavior. I will punish it severely if it is necessary. The Almighty acts like this in perfection where we as humans may ultimately totally fail as sometimes parents can't say anymore that they love their own misbehaving or rebellious children.

When it comes to all the suffering, and especially such suffering which is imposed by adults upon children or those in power pon the weak and poor, it is easy to question God's ways. Why would He allow an adult to mess up a boy or girl through sexual abuse? Indeed, such an abused person often is too weak to resist perpetual abuse and even may marry an abuser or become an abuser. The cycle seems so endless and the question so natural, "Why doesn't the Lord of love stop this or prevent this?"

Is it because He is justly punishing this creation for rejecting Him? We tend to forget that this world is cursed because of our rebellion in Paradise. We are living in a world which *we *have destroyed and we continue to destroy through sin. God's judgments are revealed against sin and one way His anger is revealed is that He allows people to sin. In Romans 1:18ff Paul indicates that the Roman society is so lewd and evil because God gave them over to do such things after they have rejected the obvious. It is His act of justice gives a society over like this. So ultimately we are to be blamed for causing our own problems. Our sins also affect our children and those around us. Does that mean that He is neutral to such actions? Far from it! His displeasure and His anger will be felt by those who have committed sin and in His way He will visit their iniquities upon them. If not in this life, it will be in the after-this-life.

God sometimes allows sins to bring out a greater good. He permitted Adam and Eve by His decree to sin. Yet it formed the occasion for Him to reveal His greatest glory in the love of the gift of His Son. Could He have thought out a different way? Paul confronted such reasoning or questions with "Nay but, O man, who are thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?" (Romans 9:20) God can use the terrible pain of abuse to bring a person to Himself. I know a few cases where such pain has been blessed spiritually. Without pain we will ignore the dangers we are in and isn't that also true spiritually. In no way does that make the evil of abuse any less; never must we lean toward minimizing the evil of certain deeds by the good that comes out of it. Yet there are people who "bless the Lord for the affliction He send them or allowed to take place" for it was His way of teaching them.Your last question isn't very clear (How can this love flow over to these abusers?). I assume you meant "How are we to show love to these abusers?" then my answer is by 1) confronting them with their horrific sins (Luke 17:3) and 2) if he or she repents, we need to show forgiveness in word and deed. God pardons sinners and put their sin away. He will never forget it but He doesn't dwell on it anymore; He cast those sins into the ocean of His love. It is very difficult for us to do that, especially in cases of abuse. Still, the only way to heal the abuser is to lead him or her to the cross and to show that love in our own actions. Many abused continue to harbor hatred and anger. Does that help? It continues "abuse" in a different form and makes for bitterness. It doesn't resolve anything. Therefore the Lord directs us in His Scripture to deal with it and to pray for the exercise of love. These are some of the initial thoughts I like to share upon your questions. Feel free to respond with other questions.

Warmly,

Pastor Vergunst



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Why Don't we know when we will die?

Question:
Why did the Lord did not say in the Bible when we are going to die?


Answer


Dear friend,
There might be several reasons why.  The Bible would be huge if all the people's names and details of birth and death would have to be recorded.  Secondly, if He would tell you that you are going to die on September 9, 2045, how do you think would that improve your life?  I think you would be very careless and be entirely self-focused instead of mindful that you are here only briefly and that this life needs to be lived to His glory.   Notice what the absence of many deaths did to the first world (before the Flood).  Since so few people died (as they all became so old) there was very little impression of God and our purpose left.  The world became very evil. 

Therefore it is better that we don't know when we are going to die but that it is possible that today it may the last day.  You might say, "That spoils my day as I dread dying."  Indeed, most people think that so they drown out the thought of dying by busily living, partying, amusing or simply denying the reality.  Others are frantically seeking to appease the anger of God they may feel in their heart because of their sins.  Such focus on pleasing Him to earn His favor.  That's also a dead-end street because we can never earn God's favor.  The only way that the dread of death can be taken away, which also enables us to truly enjoy each day that God gives us, is to be reconciled with God through faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul, the apostle, knew that death was going to be gain for him, instead of loss.  The reason: because for him to live was Christ!  (Phil. 1)   John Mason commented, "Death for a Christian is putting of the rags for robes"!
God hides the exact date of your death so that you will use each day to be prepared.  If you are not prepared today, it will not help you to be prepared if you would know when you would die.  It would only make you careless and procrastinate. Therefore death will be terrible for him who doesn't die daily in his thoughts.  In other words, when we don't live consciously knowing that this could be our last day, than we live very unprepared. 

Someone remarked, "Though you may have been nearer death (in your own understanding; because of a close accident) than you are now;  yet it is certain death was never so near to you as it is now!"   So let us think of death not as though we were living but as though we were dying, for that is actually the reality.

Am I morbid (i.e. preoccupied with death)?  Far from it.  I enjoy each day as I receive it from the Lord.  He calls me to use this day for His glory and for the service of those around me.  I must focus on what is right and may enjoy the things He gives us so richly and abundantly.  Still, it is good and profitable to remain mindful (and God surrounds us with those reminders) that we are not here to stay forever.

Warmly,

Pastor Vergunst




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How does a calling for the ministry come?

Question: How does a calling for the ministry come? Can you have a calling for the ministry when you are not saved? If I do not deceive myself I may believe the Lord has done something in my life but I can not speak of a Christ knowledge, how can I then teach people with such little knowledge of the way of conversion?


Answer


Hello Joe,

God calls His servants to the work of the ministry by drawing the heart to this work as well as giving them the direction from His Word.  Besides, there also must be an 'aptness to teach' in other words, God will equip His people with the abilities necessary to do the work of the ministry.   Not everyone who may possess saving grace, is necessarily fitted to be an office-bearer within His visible church.

So the desire for the ministry is something that the Lord lays in the heart of His people.  Without that inner conviction and longing to give yourself for this task, there would be something vital missing.  Paul wrote to Timothy that "If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work."  (1 Tim. 3:1) Not only is it a good thing but also a necessary thing.

However, everyone who has experienced the grace of God may feel this desire in his heart.  Even female believers may experience a desire for this but know that this isn't God's will for them as He hasn’t reserved that task for them.  Therefore God's servants also can relate that God spoke to them about this calling through His Word. To go without such a Divine direction, we may be running without a warrant.  Therefore in one way or other God will through His Word either direct or confirm that this heart's desire is His calling.  Let this be your chief business therefore at the throne of grace.  Never place yourself into this way until you are fully convinced that it is God's will for you and your life.  I will never forget how my pastor directed me at the time that I struggled with knowing if this was God's will.  After having related to him my feelings and struggles, looking at me calmly, he said nothing.  I asked him, "What do you think?" and his answer was basically, "It doesn't matter what I think!  You have to convince me that you feel that God has called you to the ministry.  It is not my task to convince you that it is."  With that I could go home.  To be honest, I was very upset with him and didn't think he was good pastor.  Later I learned that his answer was the best and wisest.  This calling is something between you and the Lord.  Therefore, Joe, you need to be assured in your heart that God has called you and is sending you forth to seek to attain to this office.

Lastly, God speaks through His providence.  If He has destined you to be a 'pastor and teacher' He would also have given you the certain abilities to take up this task.  Not everyone has the qualifications of character to be a pastor.  I am going to refer you to Brakel's books, entitled The Christian's Reasonable Service. He has a very instructive chapter on the calling to the ministry.

Lastly, your question about a "Christ knowledge." From what I understand of your question is that you have hope that a work of grace has begun in your heart. Yet you feel yourself so poor in the understanding and assurance of the work the Lord Jesus.  That is the heart of the Gospel message.  Therefore I suggest you to 'set yourself at the feet of the Lord Jesus as Mary of old.'  Let it be your specific prayer that the Lord would reveal Himself more and more to you personally. The Lord made His apostles "witnesses" and only 'witnesses' can give a more trustworthy testimony of the message they must bring.  That doesn't mean that all God's servants need to have an experiential knowledge of every aspect of what they preach about.  But to preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and His great work of atonement etc. cannot be missed in the personal experience of the preacher's heart. Paul's prayers in Eph. 1:16-23 and 3:14-21 are beautiful prayers to be exercised with as it regards exactly your need.


So dear Joe, wait on the Lord in fervent prayer, listening for His answer in the Word preached and read. 

Warmly,

Pastor Arnoud Vergunst




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Why congregations?

Question:
I saw that the name is Reformed Congregations (plural) know that there is a church in Carterton. My question is: are there also other congregations in New Zealand within this denomination? Do you try to start up something else? Mark


Answer


Hi Mark, You observed this very well.  About 25+ years ago, when they decided on the name of this church, it was decided to put into the plural as an expression of the faith that the Lord would use this congregation as a means to plant other like-minded church fellowships within NZ.  To this date that hasn't happened but we recently we have had a survey within our congregation and a good follow-up discussion about this.  As a congregation we are convinced that there is need for us to evangelize and have given that a form in various ways.   One of the suggestions at the meeting was to schedule a Sunday service in an area, advertise it and lead a worship service to see if there is any interest.  Personally I don't think that is the most effective way but I am willing to try this.  Perhaps in the future several of our families can be nucleus of a new fellowship in a certain area; or we can actually support someone to do church planting work as an evangelist.

I hope this answers your question. Have a wonderful day!

Pastor Arnoud Vergunst




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How to deal with prejudices

Question: I had my parents listen to Dr. Murray from Scotland one night to see what they thought of him. Our sermon was on Why it's good to go to a Funeral. It was a very serious sermon and it seemed to be based on the NRC truth. The only thing my dad could get out of the sermon was that the minister didn't speak enough about the work of the Holy Spirit. My mom who walks the life of a believer liked the sermon and would love to hear more from him. I'm wondering what to say to my dad. He cuts down ministers from the NRC constantly. The only thing he can get out of sermons is to find something wrong. What do I say to him when he cuts another minister down with out being disrespectful to him? And WHY does he do this? Shouldn't we be listening to a sermon to get something out of it instead of cutting it down?
I listen to a sermon to try to get something out of it and when I listen to Dr. Murray I try to apply it to my life, but every time my dad slams him and all ministers I get discouraged and do NOT know what to do. Please help!


Answer


Dear Lynelle,

How difficult to have your dad react like that.  Ultimately only one Person can cure him from his hyper-critical attitude. Many people listen through their own filters to God's Word rather than in the Berean attitude of searching the Scriptures whether the things they heard were God's truth.  The "mental filters" are prejudices.  Even Nathanael had one, "Can anything good thing come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46)  By that attitude he nearly lost the opportunity to meet with the Lord Jesus Himself. But notice how Philip responded to this put-off attitude?  He appealed to Philip with "Come and see."  There is no point arguing with your dad.  The more you argue and debate, the more he digs in his heels to maintain his position.  Only sharing with him "Come and see" as you did by inviting him to listen to the sermon of Dr. Murray.  Undoubtedly Philip prayed that Nathanael's heart would be changed when he would meet the Lord. Only the Lord Himself could do it and He did it! 

Mental filters became part of us from the day of our fall into sin.  Our minds are darkened to the truth of God's character and to the value of His Word.  Education (which preaching is) can strengthen that kind of prejudice.  Every unregenerate mind will make misapplication of the best sermons.  Even Jesus' sermons were rejected by the unregenerate mindset of the hearers!  Those regenerated also continue to struggle with various 'mind-sets" that may take years to undo. I don't know whether your father knows of saving change of heart but if he doesn't, than that explains the major reason of his attitude. 

Another fact is that many people love the sermons that focus on the description of the work of the Holy Spirit because it leaves them rather undisturbed.  The sermons of the prophets, as well as the Lord Himself and His apostles, is essentially very confrontational.  It is a hammer  and a fire as Jeremiah mentions.  When well and truthfully preached it hurts and pierces.  Hosea speaks about the "hewing of the hearers with the Word."  (Hewing is what you do with an ax!). That kind of a message makes the unconverted very uncomfortable and therefore the only way to remain 'comfortably unconverted" is to choose to listen to sermons that are "descriptive of the work of the Holy Spirit."  Now, don't take me wrong, such sermons in which the essential work of the Holy Spirit is traced and we are examined as to whether there is a saving work within us, are very important.  We are easily deceiving ourselves and building our hopes on sandy foundations. But such sermons aren't to be preached every Sunday.  Our guide for preaching is God's Word and the balance within that Word is to be balance of our messages.

Back to your question, keep doing what you are doing.  God's Word and Spirit are the only way your father's heart can be changed.  Pray that the sermons he hears may be blessed; his eyes be opened; his prejudices taken away;  his heart be humbled to acknowledge that he was/is wrong. 

You are right in your attitude of listening to learn instead of to criticize.  The critical attitude of always finding what is wrong or missing will make one entirely miss the blessing.  No minister's sermon is ever going to be perfect or says everything there is to say.  A sermon is the expounding of one passage of Scripture and the Holy Spirit can use a sermon on how to parent children to convert a man and convince him or her of her sins.  Too many people think that only when the work of the Holy Spirit in how God converts His people is going to convert people.  Such a mindset is extremely narrow and indicates a great misunderstanding of the work of the Holy Spirit.  Your poor father misses many a jewel of truth brought out in the sermons because of that filter.  God alone can take that filter away from him.  So, keep sharing but also keep praying for him.

Regards,

Pastor Vergunst




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Problems about the Lord's supper

Question:
In my church we had Lord's Supper recently.  Usually I wear a sober dress and straw colour hat.  As I was preparing for the Lord's Supper, I was thinking about the expectation there is in our congregation to wear black, especially when we attend the Lord's Supper.  I decided not to because the Lord's Supper isn't a sad but joyous occasion.  Still, someone afterwards made a nice comment about it to me and pointed out from a Dutch book that we should wear black during the Lord's Supper celebration.  What are your thoughts about this?


Answer


I don't personally know what the reason is that our Dutch fore-fathers stressed the necessity of black. In one of the Dutch Psalms it uses the word "black" where our English uses "mourning."  Ps. 42:9 "Why go I mourning (Dutch, black) because of the oppression of the enemy?"  Perhaps that is the Scripture background of their emphasis on black.  Black is my least favorite colour!  Yet that's what we are expected to wear since it is a colour of dignity which to some extent is so even in the general public's eye.

Does that mean, however, that we need to wear "black" as believers, especially at the occasion of a joy?  For you are right that the Lord's Supper is the pre-marriage supper.  The Puritans referred to it as the "engagement meal" of Christ and His people.  That is an occasion of joy;  not a funeral or a time of mourning.  Therefore I don't agree that we need to wear black at the Lord's Supper as if we are to emphasize that we are mourning.  The death of the Lord Jesus is a cause of joy, rather than grief.  Our sins are the reason we need to mourn but isn't the Lord's Supper emphasizing the forgiveness of these sins?  Isn't that an occasion of joy? The joy I am speaking about it not a trivial or jovial joy;  it is the spiritual joy which flows from feasting on the truth that He gave His life for my sins and also that He is committed to love me in spite of all my shortcomings. That's no reason to hang down the head but to "be glad, ye righteous, and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart" (Ps. 32:11).

Therefore it is not necessary to change your hat to black when it comes to the Lord's Supper time.  Isn't every church service "holy" as we are in the presence of God and His angels?  Is the Lord Jesus "nearer" in the service where the sacrament is administered than in the service where it is not?   Do we also wear a black hat when it is baptism?  The answer is obvious.  He uses the sacraments to visibly display what He audibly makes known through the preaching.  Therefore I find it objectionable when people change their clothing habits when it comes to the Lord's Supper.  I know that people don't mean it hypocritically but for "outsiders" it does seem like that.  It can also contributes to an unhealthy spiritualism surrounding the Lord's Supper which often becomes a hindrance in the celebration of the truths which are there displayed and sealed.

That doesn't mean to say that we shouldn't have "Sunday clothing."   Farmers wear overalls on the farm; police have their uniform for their job.  We don't wear a three-piece suite when we go on a hike.  Each occasion has its own appropriate clothing.  Therefore I think we need to emphasize that a church service calls for appropriate clothing which shows respect, an understanding of the sacred nature of the place and being in God's presence.  When we visit an important person, we clothe for the occasion; therefore when we meet God in His house, we also are to meet for the occasion.  Your choice of clothing, however, doesn't need to change from the "regular" Sunday when it the Lord's Supper.  It should be appropriate each church service.

The principle which you are to live by is also charity.  When people are offended at your "freedom or liberty" Rom. 14 instructs us how we are to act.  What you did was in my opinion not wrong but if many people are going to be upset about this, you are to restrain your freedom and not to offend them.  So you might want to ask a few other people within the fellowship on how they felt about. If people do think you did something wrong, then be patient with these "weak believers" (as Rom. 14 refers to them) and gently instruct them in the right principles.

I hope that this answers your question somewhat.  Thanks for you question.

Warmly, Pastor Vergunst




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Circumcision vs Baptism

Question: Where in the Bible can you find support for the idea that baptism is the NT equivalent of circumcision in the OT? You can find a lot on support for infant baptism, but not much on that particular point, and if you can't prove that baptism follows on from circumcision, it makes it a lot harder to support the infant baptism, because the main arguments for it rest on the assumption that baptism follows on from circumcision.


Answer


Dear Christina,

Though the reasons to baptize the children of the covenant-church are various, one of them is indeed that in the NT we find no more the requirement to circumcise believers and their children.  In the OT any male non-Jew who desired to join Israel, needed to be circumcised to receive the token of his surrender to the covenant revelation of Jehovah.  Think of  how God came against Moses and was ready to slay him because he had omitted to circumcise his own children for many years to avoid war with his wife.

In the NT we find the example of Cornelius in Acts 10.  He was a "god-fearer" which meant that he worshiped the God of Israel but hadn't become a formal Jew through circumcision. He didn't follow the Jews in all their rituals.  If he had lived earlier, maybe eventually he might have because not being circumcised stood as a barrier between him and the God of Israel. Only those circumcised were regarded as being full members of the covenant community.  But in his case he didn't because Peter preached to Him the Gospel.  After having been filled with the Holy Ghost, he is baptized but not circumcised.

In the NT meeting in Acts 15, we don't read that Gentiles who repented and believed the Gospel needed to be circumcised.  From other church history sources we can observe that circumcision entirely disappeared from the early Christian church.  In Galatians Paul opposed false (Jewish) teachers who were insisting that Gentile believers had to be circumcised.  Especially in Gal. 5:6 and 6:15 the apostles finishes off with this Jewish demand.  Also in the letter to Colossians, where the same pressure was placed on believers by Jewish teachers, Paul wrote Col. 2:11-12.   (I trust you have looked up the verse...) Paul actually tells them, "You are already circumcised in your heart (the dying of the old man and the rising of the new man) which is pictured beautifully in your baptism." 

Another line of reasoning is that the "blood sacraments" of the OT are entirely fulfilled in the blood of the Lord Jesus.  Both the circumcision and the pass-over looked ahead to Christ's shedding of His own blood to atone for sins.  As this has taken place, we now commemorate His sacrifice sacramentally without the actual shedding of blood.

The fact that in the NT both male and female are equal in the participation of NT blessings is another argument for the abolishing of circumcision.  Women were not circumcised in the OT but are baptized in the NT.  I don't know exactly the reasons for that but have a few interesting thoughts.  But that's not part of your question.

Lastly, there are many ways in which circumcision and baptism are alike.  I found this helpful comparison in the book by Robert Booth showing that although there was a change in outward form, there was no change in meaning when baptism replaced circumcision as the sign and seal of the covenant of grace.

Circumcision and Baptism                                References
♦ both are initiatory rites                                   Gen. 17:10-11; Matt. 28:19; 

                                                                        Acts 2:38-39;  8:12-13

♦ both signify an inward reality                          Rom. 2:28-29;  Col. 2:11-12;  Phil. 3:3

♦ both picture the death of old man of sin          Rom. 6:3-7;  Col. 2:11-12

♦ both represent repentance                              Jer. 4:4; 9:25; Lev. 26:40-41;  Acts 2:38

♦ both represent regeneration                            Rom. 2:28-29;  Titus 3:5

♦ both represent justification by faith                  Rom. 4:11-12;  Col. 2:11-14

♦ both represent a cleansed heart                      Deut. 10:16;  30:6;  Is. 52:1; Acts 22:16; 

                                                                        Titus 3:5-7

♦ both represent union and communion with God       Gen. 17:7;  Ex. 19:5-6;  Deut 7:6;  Heb. 8:10

♦ both indicate citizenship in Israel                      Gen. 17:4; Gal. 3:26-29;  Eph. 2:12-13; 4:5

♦ both indicate separation from world                 Ex. 12:48; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; Eph. 2:12

♦ both can lead to either blessings of curses        Rom. 2:25;  1 Cor. 10:1-12; 11:28-30

 

Warmly,

Pastor Vergunst



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Election and God's promises

Question: After listening to your sermon about election on 11-4 I am a bit puzzled. Doesn't Jesus promise that those who seek Him early shall find Him? But if you are not elected how can He than fulfill this promise?


Answer


Hi Jacob,

Yes, Jesus has indeed promised that and will keep His promise. God points out our duties in His Word and calls us, invites, allures and seek us even long before we seek Him. (John 4:23). The reason that there is any hope for any of us to seek Him with confidence is because salvation is completely a gift of His sovereign grace. God reveals a glimpse of His secret will from all eternity in the Scripture. In that glimpse we discover that He has predestinated from all eternity. Who that will be is not known to any of us. But the rest of the Scripture is God's revelation of His will for our life as well as His promises toward us. We are to give heed to that part of His will.  He promises that those who seek Him shall find Him.

Compare it to a house. There is door that gives access to all the beautiful benefits of being in the house. That door is Christ and He is through His Word calling you to enter into the house of 'salvation.'       The foundation of this house is God's sovereign election.  Without that foundation not only there would be no house but also nobody would come into that house.  Now our focus must not be on the 'foundation' but on the door of the house and how to enter into it.

God's sovereign election of sinners is the only hope for us sinners.  If we have to qualify or make ourselves somewhat worthy, there would be no hope for any of us.  Even if it was dependent on our seeking, again, there would be no hope.  We are depraved and as Paul said in Rom.3, "... there is none that seeketh after God."  God makes us seeking and God leads us in our seeking till we become finders.   The comfort (election) doesn't cancel our duty (to seek).  But it encourages us to seek Him.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst




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How to put your mind on the Word of God.

Question: How do you put your mind on good things of the Word of God?


Answer


Dear friend,

Let me begin with another question:  When in school or study, how do you put your mind on the valuable teachings of the science book or history text?   The answer is that you make a choice to pay attention, or set yourself down with a book and discipline yourself to focus on those things.  If you at that time have a radio blaring in your one ear, your little brother pulling on your arm you probably be very distracted.  So you pack up your stuff and find a quiet room.
When it comes to focusing our mind on the good things of God we encounter even more opposition and obstacles.  Satan will marshal all his devices together to discourage, hinder, distract and plug up our
minds.  Our own hearts also can feel like lead and will absolutely resist to even think about the things of God.  Yet as Paul used the example of the athletes in 1 Cor. 9:24-27, so I would like to do that also. People in various sports push themselves beyond their limit; discipline themselves to exercise, place all kinds of restrictions upon their bodies in order to obtain a corruptible crown.  Listening to their stories, you hear how their muscles object, scream for rest and often they don't feel like doing one more push; yet they maintain their mind focus on the crown.  In that sense, the children of the world are wiser than the children of light.  The world realizes that nothing will come without  effort.   Do we also realize that in the spiritual aspects of life nothing will come without effort?  The Lord Jesus admonished to
labor not for the perishables of this earth but rather to labor for such things that endure.

In the parable of the sower was a section that was "the wayside."  The seed of the sower bounced off and went nowhere.  Jesus described in that soil (hearers!) a person who has a heard that is "packed down by many footsteps."  That's the person who immerse his mind the whole day to the stream of "footsteps" of information coming through the various communication sources.  It will be very hard to concentrate such a mind that is daily immersing itself in such activity on God.  Let me add that an over-stuffed agenda with all kinds of commitments, many which are voluntary choices, is another way to pre-occupy our mind with the things of this earth.  How hard to pull away our thoughts and focus them on God!  So, take a good look at your daily agenda as well as to what information you expose your mind all day and everyday!   Not too many veggies are going to grow in my plot if I allow everyone to walk over it all the day.

The way we need to keep our minds focused on God is by disciplining ourselves to the reading and studying of His Word: /daily sitting at His feet/.  That means we need to schedule the time slot somewhere in our day, each day for a start.  Without that discipline of making an agenda point to read and study the Bible, it will be pushed off.  Secondly, meditate on John 4:23, the last part.  It is an astounding revelation the Lord Jesus gave.  The Father is actually seeking such to worship Him!  He is the first for sure.  Therefore carry in mind that majestic saying of Luther, "We don't need to overcome God's unwillingness but are called to lay hold of God's willingness."   He seeks you as sinner that you would worship Him.  How often don't we come dreamily and drearily to the use of the means of grace instead of anticipating the meeting with a great God.  He may for many wise and just reasons keep Himself distant from us.  Mostly because He sees sins we aren't dealing with.  That always destroys relationships and certainly between a holy God and we unholy creatures.  Lastly, remember that God is seeking such that will worship Him.  We are always out to "get something out of it."  Yet our focus ought to be "to give God what He deserves, and that is worship."  Worship is expressed in various ways as singing, praise but also in repentance and obedience to His holy will.

Hope these thoughts answer your question.  May God bless you richly.

Pastor Vergunst




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Eating With Sinners

Question:
In 1 Cor. 5:11 Paul writes "But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat." That sounds strange to me. What does he mean? Jesus eats with sinners, publicans and tax collectors. (Luke 15:1-2; Mark 2:15-16) What's the difference between eating in 1Cor. 5:11 and Jesus' eating?


Answer


Dear friend,

You have to see that direction in the context of the chapter.  There is church discipline case in view.  A member of the congregation (a brother) is living a gross sin (vs. 1ff). Paul is directing the Corinth church to act Biblically. A person who lives in open fornication cannot be treated with the same privileges as another brother.  We cannot maintain the same 'friendship level interaction' with such a person as if nothing is happening.  Paul said that clearly in vs. 9, "I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators."  We are not to maintain a friendship relationship with sinners.  Meals were and in some ways are privileges you share with friends.  Yet he adds in vs. 10 that we should not carry this into the extreme.  There are people you work with who are not Christians.  They are thus not brothers or sisters. They may live worldly as fornicators.  Can you share your lunch with them or have other types of association with them?  Absolutely, for that is exactly what Jesus did also. The Lord Jesus didn't eat and drink with the publican and sinners because He approved of their lifestyle.  He sought to evangelize them. So likewise Paul cautions not to stop that type of interaction in vs. 10, "Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for them must ye needs go out of the world."
Paul finalizes to point out again (vs. 11) that with 'brothers who are living in sin' this approach should not be followed.  They should not enjoy the privileges of friendship (though we always need to remain friendly) in order that this person may feel how much he is losing by living ungodly.  Paul exhorted like this also in 2 Thess. 3:6 and 14-15.

Hopefully that answers your question.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



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Suitable dress sense

Question:
Hi.  I have a colleague who is getting married next year.  She is having problems finding a suitable dress, because from her church she is not allowed to wear white, and she has to wear a hat, not a veil.  She can't wear cream either, or any light colour.  I was wondering what your position on this is?  I realize that white is a sign or symbol of purity, and that no-one is pure. But if it's not ok to wear white on our wedding day, then why is it ok to wear white any other day?  And what is the difference between a hat and a veil?  they are both coverings for the head. If anything, I think a veil is better, the Israelites never wore hats! What do you think?


Answer


Hi ,

You are asking for my position on the colour of the wedding dress.  I have no difficulty with a white dress as it is fitting the occasion of the wedding.  Of course, someone could argue that nobody is pure and therefore nobody should wear white but that's an endless discussion that goes nowhere.  The colour of clothing, or even clothing itself, was never meant to be an expression of one's standing before God. The choice of  colour is also somewhat culturally dictated.  What is acceptable in one culture isn't in another.  In our Western culture, white has been the traditional colour for weddings and black for funerals.  God never dictated  a colour of clothing in the Bible. Of course, as the Bible is written in the culture of those days, you will also find reflected their culture in the Scriptures.  We would think it `quite` inappropriate to swaddle babies at their birth.  Yet is was very common in the Bible culture.  Also, people wailing around the funeral procession would be frowned upon in the Netherlands;  yet it would be frowned upon if missed in the Bible times.  The Bible's principles about clothing are in brief 1) concealing rather than revealing (that's also true for wedding dresses and true for males and females)  2) sober rather than extraordinary (clothing is a badge of our fallen condition)  3) fitting the occasion (sackcloth wasn't usually worn to a wedding feast!)  4) sex distinguished (there need to be difference between male and females expressed in clothing)  5) subject to the law of charity (don't offend your weaker brother with your liberty).  Colour is never dictated anywhere.  The reference to "zwart" in Ps. 42 is a reference to mourning, grief rather than to the exact color. Therefore I don't think I agree at all with the position that brides have to be in black or dark clothing.  However, I would respect it if that is an important issue within that particular church your friend hopes to be married in.  Rom. 14 tells me that I need to deny my liberty and in this case, your friend would do wrong if in that church she would provoke brothers and sisters to anger with pursuing her liberty in this matter. If she doesn't want to conform, she should find another church where God's truth is preached and where this colour of the dress isn't an issue.

Regarding the head covering.  That's not a cultural issue but clearly a part of the expression of obedience to God's order of creation as reflected also in the church setting.  Study 1 Cor. 11 (there has been an excellent series of articles about this in the NRC Banner of Truth by Rev. Sonneveldt during 2007).  My opinion is that the head coverings in our churches have in general become a fashion item.  The simplicity is gone and, I am afraid, for many it hardly an expression of faith and obedience to God;  rather a form.  Indeed, in Scripture they used a veil which was a sort of "hoofd-doek."  I am not sure but we must not imagine them to be the ones you see enforced in the strict Muslim world.   It is curious that on the wedding we still see the veil on the bride even though even that one isn't quite like in the Bible times but it tries to reflect that somewhat.  You are asking for my opinion.  It doesn't matter to me as long as the head is a covering, non-provocative, affordable and modest. All these things are outward things. The most important part of the wedding is not the clothing of the bride but the spiritual attitude of the both the bridegroom and bride.  Let's not forget that we are seeking the Lord's blessing on our marriage when we gather together in church.  Let there be preparation for that as well.

Sincerely,

Pastor Vergunst




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Tattoos

Question: My husband and I are trying to find out what the biblical view of tattooing is. Could you please help us out with clarifying the text in Leviticus regarding them? Some info we've read states that when Jesus died the OT laws regarding some Jewish traditions were done away with, allowing them to wear mixed fibers in clothing and have tattoos as forbidden previously. The website was www.clarifyingchristianity.com.


Answer


Hi Sally,

The verse in Leviticus 19:28 is clear.  I would agree with Matthew Henry that many of the commandments in this chapter are not ceremonial or social but applications of the moral laws and therefore permanent.   Especially consider the verses around the one on cutting the flesh and tattoos, you cannot simply lift out vs. 28 and claim that this one isn’t applicable any more in the NT times.   Observe that vs. 28 is in connection with enchantments, observing of (astrological) times;  the rounding of corners of the beard was in connection with idolatry.  In vs. 28 the Lord is still dealing with practices which were very common in the surrounding nations. 

 The “making of any cuttings in your flesh” was clearly associated with the dead.   Blood letting was a common ritual to unleash the demonic and supernatural powers.  Because the Lord says that “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Lev. 17:11) therefore blood remains highly valued in the occult world as a power source.  As the Scripture next moves to tattoos, the implication is that tattoos may also be connected to the evil practices in connection with paganism.  Every historian will trace tattoos to religious paganism.  Even today tattoos are heavily found in idolatrous people and always in connection with false religions.   Undoubtedly because of that association with heathenism and devil worship God forbade tattoos to put on the bodies of His people.   To enforce the obedience God added the words, “I am the LORD.” 

 Did you know that even today, the most common theme in tattoos is death.   The symbols of the skulls, snakes, demons, spiders and spider web, flames and fire are the most popular symbols. 

 The argument is sometimes raised that tattoos are only forbidden if associated with death or religious themes.  Non-religious tattoos are falling under this category, such as flowers, names and other rather innocent pictures.  My conviction, however, is that Lev. 19:28 does forbid any tattoo.  If you read the verse then you notice that God connects the cutting of the flesh “for the dead” but He doesn’t limit tattoos to that but simply states “nor print any marks upon you.”  He doesn’t limit it to association with the dead but extends it as a general principle.   Unger remarked that in Lev. 19:28 there are two prohibitions regarding the disfiguring of the body.  The latter refers to tattooing and has no reference to idolatrous usages but is intended to inculcate a proper reverence for God’s creation.  I agree with that position even though many tattoos have religious connotations.

 Another argument is raised by quoting Is. 44:5 and Ezek. 9:4.  It seems that God there speaks about “marks on the body.”  However, the examination of the original Hebrew reveals that in neither verse tattooing is meant.  The word “printing any marks” in Lev. 19:18 is the Hebrew word “k’thoveth qa’aqa” which literally means writing that is stuck in.  Tattooing is done by sticking needles into your skin and inserting ink.  In Is. 44:5 the Hebrew is “yichtov” which means will write  like someone who signs a contract.  In Ezek. 9:4 the Hebrew for mark is “tav” which means writing a mark with ink.  So neither Isaiah nor Ezekiel is referring to tattoos.

 There is another element to consider.  God knew what the medical dangers of tattoos were.  We didn’t know this till about 3500 years later!  But do you know that tattoos have been proven to increase the risks of Hepatisis B & C, tetanus and HIV and even various sexually transmitted diseases.  Even in today’s modern tattooing places, the risks of contracting infectious diseases is significant.  The ultra liberal city of New York banned all tattooing from their city from 1961-1997 for that reason!  The Red Cross will not accept your blood as a donation for 12 months after you have received a tattoo.  Their guidelines state, “Wait 12 months after a tattoo.  This requirement is related to concerns about hepatitis.”   The Red Cross knows that there are very few strict guidelines and no supervision on commercial tattooist about sterilization of the equipment they use.  Those dangers of infections were of course many times more in the days of Moses.  So besides God’s intention to keep us from associating ourselves with the culture of death, occult, demonic powers, He also wanted to protect His people Israel from all the possible sicknesses they could bring upon themselves.   How good is the LORD!

 Lastly,  over 50 % of all those who received a tattoo regret.  Among those who are married, that is 70 %.  The cost to remove a tattoo are nearly prohibitive with the result that many people walk with the visible reminder of their backsliding and disobedience the rest of their life.

An excellent website to check out is  www.biblebelievers.com/watkins tattoo/bible.htm

 I hope this will help you know that tattoos is not something a Christian should place on his or her body.  Our bodies were and are to be a “temple of the Holy Ghost.”  In that light we are to treat it like His temple. 

Warmly,

Pastor Arnoud Vergunst



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Difference between Samson and Muslim extremist?

Question:
What's the difference between a Muslim extremist and Samson in Judges 16:28-30? Why God gave him his strength back while Samson wanted to avenge HIS two eyes (and not the honour of God)?


Answer


Hi James,

Good question!  There is much difference between the 'Muslim extremist' and what Samson did in his last act of 'redeeming' his nation as judge. Muslim extremists sow terror to advance their agenda and have absolutely no difficulty justifying killing innocent bystanders and children.  They also do so without any provocation. When Samson did his last act he was already for some time the target of mockery.  In vs. 25 it says that they took him from his prison "that he may make us sport." In other words, they wanted to have some fun with this blinded giant. Since he was helpless they didn't fear him. Perhaps they hit him, pushed him around, made him stumble.  In short they were abusing him playfully. Did it occur to you that this was a 'worship service' of their Dagon who was mightier than the God of Israel?  (see vs. 23-24) 
That means that the contest here wasn't between the Philistines and Samson but between Dagon and Jehovah!  We tend to forget this ceaseless wrestle through the history of time.

Samson in this setting comes to his last and probably his most courageous act as judge of the nation of Israel. He sacrificed himself for a nation that has basically abandoned him.  In that sacrifice he took down the "top brass" of the Philistines as they had all gathered there in temple of Dagon. By that 'military self-strike' he crippled the nation of the Philistines for decades to come and in that way paved the way for their eventual overthrow under leadership of king David.

Did he commit suicide? No, I don't think we should look upon his sacrifice as a revenge act or a suicide exit from the misery he was in. It appears that 'revenge' was a motive (see vs. 29b) and maybe it wasn't altogether absent in Samson's thoughts.  This OT hero of faith wasn't without some glaring faults.  They are not to be glossed over but it only magnifies the grace of God also evident in his life.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst




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List of classic books

Question:
In regards to your sermon on “Discipline on Learning", you mentioned “religious classic" books, can I get a list of these books?


Answer


Hi,

I went through the shelves of my library to select a few of the "religious classics." Some are harder to read than others but with practice, any sound mind should be able to master reading the Puritan authors.  Here is suggested list.

- Archibald Alexander: Religious Affections

            ♦ very useful book in speaking to the many questions surrounding the spiritual
               struggles and variety of leading in the life of grace;  very readable with useful
               anecdotal illustrations.

- Joseph Alleine, Alarm to the Unconverted

            ♦ Alleine really pressed the point that we shouldn’t delay coming to Christ

- Isaac Ambrose: Looking unto Jesus

            ♦ a precious volume of mediations about the work of Christ and how it should

               affect us;  a gem for daily devotion

- Horatius Bonar: The Way of Peace and The Way of Holiness

            ♦ both volumes ought to be read for the balance of the whole truth

- Brakel: The Reasonable Service (4 vol.)

            ♦ Brakel’s systematic theology is unique in that it masterfully makes the doctrines
               of Scripture spiritual nourishment. Not every part of each chapter needs to be
               read by the layman as Brakel also wrote to instruct instructors.  He spent pages
               on defending certain doctrines, exposing errors and answering objections. That
               can be tedious and can be skipped if you are looking for spiritual instruction of
               your soul.

- Thomas Brooks: A Poor Doubting Christian Drawn to Christ

            ♦ precious remedy for a fearful soul seeking for salvation

- Thomas Boston:  Human Nature in Its Fourfold State and Beauties of Boston
            ♦ both excellent;  the “Beauties” is the cream of his writings; highly recommended

- John Bunyan: Pilgrim’s Progress;  Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ; etc.

            ♦ any of John Bunyan’s writings are good;  John Owen heard him preach and would gladly
                give all his learning to preach like John Bunyan.  His grasp of Scripture is superb.  

- John Calvin: Institutes of Christian Religion

            ♦ This book looks impressive but is surprisingly readable.  It is a gem and well worth your effort.

- Jonathan Edwards: His Collected Works; Religious Affections

             ♦ Edwards is a challenge to read but well worth any effort

- John Flavel: The Fountain of Life, Method of Grace, Christ Knocking

            ♦ Flavel is easy to read;  his collected works are well worth searching.

- William Guthrie: The Christian’s Great Interest

            ♦ beautiful book in explaining God varied ways in leading His people to salvation

- John Owen: The Forgiveness of Sin

            ♦ Mostly rooted in Ps. 130, this book sets forth so much beautiful Gospel teaching
                and sheds tremendous light upon the way of the Gospel.

 - A. Pink: The Attributes of God

            ♦ Though Pink isn’t an official “old father” his writings are searching and meaty. 
               I found his book on God very refreshing and challenging.

- J. C. Ryle: New Birth; Holiness;  Expository Thoughts on the Gospels;  Old Paths
            ♦ J. C. Ryle had the gift of writing simply about great and important truths. If you
                are not much of a reader, begin with Ryle.   His expository thoughts make
                wonderful daily devotion in the family circle

- Thomas Watson: Heaven Taken by Storm

            ♦ This book is a powerful exhortation to seek the Lord.  Anything of Watson is
                well worth reading.  He is one of the easier Puritans to read as his sentences
                tend to be shorter than some of his fellow brothers.  I love his Body of Divinity
                It is “catechism style” book covering the whole of truth with question and
                answers, many of them very pastoral and experiential.
      
Well, this is for a starter.  May God bless the reading to your heart.

Warmly,

Pastor Vergunst




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Humor

Question:
In the Bible, weeping and mourning is often mentioned. Joy and gladness are also mentioned, but never humor. Jesus wept, but I never see an occasion where Jesus laughed. What do you think  of humor in regards to the Bible?

Andrea


Answer


Hi Andrea,

Your question is a good challenge.  It is true that the Bible doesn’t say that the Lord Jesus ever laughed.  He had little reason to laugh.  As the God-man He perfectly understood every thought and need of those around Him.  The world for the Lord Jesus was like a hospital ward with dying, suffering people on the one hand and a war-zone of rebellion, disdain and unbelief on the other hand. Besides the prophet wrote that “He was afflicted, smitten of God” and Matthew added, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.” (Matt. 8:17) There are people who have gone through such terrible ordeals that they have never been able to laugh again. The Lord Jesus walked with so many sad and grievous things on His mind that it would have tempered His emotional mood so that laughing was probably not something He would even have felt like doing.

That doesn’t mean of course that the Lord Jesus never laughed or smiled.  From the Scripture’s description you can notice that even children were never afraid to be near Him.  To me that means that He was lovely in His dealings, no doubt greeted them or looked at them with a smile of friendliness and inner joy. 

Moving to our life, aren’t there thousands of reasons to smile?  God surrounds us with His mercies every day in so many ways and a sour look isn’t something we should ever have on our faces!  It would be an offense to look like that when you are receiving a constant flow of gifts of mercies and grace.  Personally I can’t stand those grim faces of those who greet the day with growl or a sour look.  Besides, God commands us “to be kind one to another” (Eph. 4:32) and one way to communicate kindness is with a smile.

Now let’s think about your question about humor.  Humor I define as something that brings laughter and relaxation.  Some people have the ability to say something in such a way that you feel like smiling or laughing in response.  It is the ability to make a point in an entertaining way.  It can be used to break the ice (relieve an uncomfortable tension), or to lift someone’s spirit, 

Humor isn’t simply telling jokes. Humor can be constructive or useful even. Children sometimes can say something in a humorous way that brings pleasure or a good laugh. A father can use humor to make a point never to be forgotten.  I read once a story of a father who served his children some very special “brownies.”  After a discussion that it was ridiculous rule not to watch certain movies because most of it was good and only here and there was something offensive, the father delayed the final resolution.  He prepared some “brownies” for the children. Besides the regular ingredients he added a bit of dog poop.  Before he served them he told his children, “I have made these special brownies for you tonight.  I have used the freshest eggs, fine sugar, good quality white flour, sea-salt and cocoa.  However, there is one ingredient that is not the best quality. I added some dog-poop.”  None of the children even touched the brownies! 

Such use of humor I think is very legitimate and useful.  Looking through the book of Proverbs, in which more is said about the use of tongue than in any other book, I came across the following verse.

 Prov. 12:18 There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but

            the tongue of the wise is health

Prov. 12:25 Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good

                   word maketh it glad.

Prov. 14:13 Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful: and in the end of

                   that mirth is heaviness.

Prov. 15:23 A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word

                   spoken in due season, how good is it!

Prov. 15:30 The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart;

Prov. 16:24 Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and

                   health to the bones.

Prov. 17:22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken

                   spirit drieth the bones.

Eccl. 3:4   A time to weep and a time to laugh;  a time to mourn and a

                   time to dance.

 When you review these verses, it must be clear that God doesn’t condemn laughing, joy, cheerfulness or fun. He built into His creation various components that are there simply for our joy. How wonderful He created our taste buds, colors and eyes to enjoy it, wonderful vistas in nature and even the joy of marriage life!  All these things were created to give us various pleasures of enjoyment. Why did God create us with the muscle ability to produce a smile?  In order to use to His glory and to serve our neighbor! 

 Likewise, the ability to add in your speech some humorous expression to bring a smile or lift a down cast heart is to be used for that end.  Not to bring attention upon ourselves but to love our neighbor as ourselves.  In Prov. 14:13 I was struck with the word “that” in the phrase “the end of that mirth is heaviness.”  That means that there is a mirth (joy, fun, happiness) that is not heaviness.  Good and clear humor fits into that category. 

 Yet Prov. 26:18-19 gives a caution against the inappropriate use of humor, As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death, so is the man that deceiveth his neighbor and saith, “Am not I in sport?” How often doesn’t it occur that someone has to respond with, “Oh, I was just joking!” Their use of “humor or jokes” obviously went too far. Aren’t we all guilty of that?  

 Today humor has invaded many pulpits.  Many preachers are trying to make their congregations laugh by spicing up their message with humor.  We ought to radically distance ourselves entirely from that method.  As Eccl. 3 says that there are times to weep and times to laugh, so there are places where humor should never be used.  That’s why you look in vain for “humorous” expressions in the Bible.  Scripture is never meant to be entertaining or to be used for entertainment.  It is confront us with the giant truths of God, sin and salvation. 

 Hopefully this gives some direction on your question.  Thanks for asking it!  It made me do some thinking also.

 Warmly, Pastor Vergunst



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Why not to build an altar from hewn stone?

Question:
In Joshua 8:31 I read about an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron. And in Exodus 20:25 I read also of an altar of stone, with the commandment "not to build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. My question is: why only whole stones?


Answer


Hello Joshua,

In both cases you referred to it is theological reason.  God by that commandments simply reinforced that salvation through the mediatorial and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ is ENTIRELY His work and His provision.  Repeatedly the LORD instructed Moses to make the tabernacle precisely after the patterns He has shown him in the mount.  Not a stitch or hook was left to Moses' imagination.  This also was symbolized in the fact that the stones weren't cultured or hewn by men.  The stipulation that it only were to be 'whole stones' could be reference to the fact that Jesus Christ was unblemished as a Lamb but also that none of His bones were broken.

As an extension of your question, isn't it beautiful how God provided this 'altar' in Ex. 20 (which functioned as the temporary tabernacle)!  The people felt that they couldn't have communion with the Lord directly and feared that if He would speak again, they would die.  The LORD's answered them by providing them an altar through which He would draw near to them and they could draw near to Him.  This "altar" we just paused at when we commemorated the birth of Jesus Christ!  Through Him we can have communion with the Lord.

May God bless us with that.

Pastor Vergunst




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Administering Communion to known unbeliever

Question: It is the elder's and minister's responsibility to abstain from administering communion to a known unbeliever. Jesus gave Judas of the sup. Please explain.


Answer


Hi Jack,

It is a bit questionable whether Jesus actually gave the cup to Judas; I can't decide whether he actually partook or not but perhaps it doesn't matter for us to know.  However, if I knew that a man is an unbeliever (either because he confesses himself to be so or if his life is clearly contrary to God's law) I would not dare to take the responsibility to administer the sacrament to him or her.                   According to Matt. 18 a person living in sin needs to be under discipline and that effectively rules him out of the privilege of communion.  To be a confessed 'unbeliever' is also sin.  So, yes, I am convinced it is the elder's responsibility to exclude such a person from the communion.

Respectfully,
Pastor Vergunst



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Is it right for a newly-wed couple to use contraception?

Question: Is it right for a newly-wed couple to use contraception?


Answer


God’s command for newly-wed couples is: “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth …” Gen. 1:28.  Therefore it would be disobedience for a newly-wed couple to use contraceptive means to prevent a pregnancy.  If a couple realizes that they will not be ready to have a family, then they should realize that they aren’t ready to marry. The mindset of humanism is that ‘we please ourselves’ first while we shirk the responsibility that God gives us.  Isn’t that often also the very mindset that makes newly-wed couples use contraceptive means to prevent children from being conceived?  Years ago, I was listening to a ‘Christian’ couple explaining why they didn’t have any children.  They first wanted to enjoy married life without the ‘clutter’ of children.  Then there were big bills to pay on the house;  they wanted to travel, etc.  So  they decided not to have children for a few years!  They reasoned they were still young enough and so had plenty of years ahead.   I was deeply shocked by this utterly humanistic reasoning.  If I would paraphrase that sentiment, it would read something like this, “God … well,  He needs to wait on us before we decide to obey Him!”  Hmm, does that sound right?   The tale of their life story isn’t uplifting. The couple experienced major troubles when they finally decided to have children.  The first one was still-born;  the second was a special needs child.  I still wonder whether that was God’s answer!

So, let’s be clear about this.  If you want the privilege of marriage, then you also need to submit to God’s call to be fruitful and multiply.   Young couples should spend as much time together in that first year of their marriage to get to know each other better and to share this special time of their life before God blesses them with the responsibility of raising children.  God allowed the young men in Israel one year reprieve of military duty after they were married so they could deepen the relationship by having much time for each other.  So if you are not ready to accept the responsibility of children, then you really aren’t ready to get married yet.

“But we have been courting each other now for so many years already and we really can’t contain ourselves anymore.  Didn’t Paul write that is better “to marry than to burn?”  Yes, you are correct about what Paul wrote.  It is indeed not healthy and wise to have a long courting period in which you stir each other’s sexual desires without having the ability to satisfy them legally and purely as is done in marriage life.

The need to be married because we can’t contain ourselves any longer begins with starting the courting relationship far too early or with courting in an unbiblical way.  It is not wise to start a courting relationship when you know you have several long years ahead of you yet.   Additionally, you make it even harder when you transgress God’s directions about how to court each other.   Spending time together in cuddles is something God reserved only for the marriage context!  Let’s not quote Paul partially.  He also wrote that ‘it is not good for a man to touch a woman.’  (1 Cor. 7:1)  The Greek word ‘touch’ is linked to the idea of ‘kindling a fire.’  Physical touch kindles fierce fires in our bodies.  There is nothing wrong with that ‘fire,’ for that is part of God’s beautiful creation.  But there is something very wrong with the ‘kindling’ of this fire outside the marriage context.  Therefore couples that are dating or courting should begin their relationship with obeying God’s commandments not to touch each other and to keep their nakedness concealed to each other.   Those couples who have faithfully walked according to God’s rule in this area have experienced the blessings of obedience as they walked toward marriage!  Many struggle with remaining pure and have fallen into the continued soiling of themselves in sexual activities God clearly has reserved for a married couple.  

Lastly, the question of the use of contraceptives in marriage life,  needs a Biblical answer as well.  Yet since that’s another subject, I will leave it with this for now.

Warmly,

Pastor Vergunst



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Does it have to be Jesus Who is made lovely?

Question: Does it have to be Jesus Who is made lovely?  Can’t it be that we feel the need for a relationship with God so we see God as whole as lovely?  I know I need Jesus for salvation but my love and devotion is to God in general, rather than Jesus specifically.


Answer


When God’s Spirit opens our eyes, He makes God desirable and lovely.  To have a relationship with Him is now what you truly desire.  Even though you are surrounded with loving family and all other kinds of blessings, you will sense that the most important aspect of your life is missing.  God’s fellowship is the ‘hidden treasure’ or the ‘precious pearl’ you will now seek for with all your heart.  Nothing will be too great to sacrifice in order to obtain Him as your God and Father.

Yet in that search for God you will also see that you and God are infinitely apart.  He is holy and just but  everything in you is unholy.  Never can these two come together.  God cannot be yoked ‘unequally’ with a sinner.  It is easy to fall into the thinking that God may be quite pleased with my devotion and love.   Looking back you can see how you used to think and live;  that is now all different.   Yet we can’t base our relationship with God on anything we are or do because it is still sin-soiled.  On that basis God can never have a relationship with us.  Only on the basis of perfect obedience and perfect love is reconciliation between God and us possible.   That discovery is so necessary and it is the Holy Spirit Who works this in a saving manner.

But that’s where the Holy Spirit will also reveal to us the significance and provision of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the LORD our righteousness;  He is only Mediator between God and man;  His merits alone can be the basis of my reconciliation with God;  His sacrifice alone can satisfy God’s demands for justice. His constant intercession in heaven is the only way that keeps the access to God’s heart open.

Perhaps you have not seen much of this significance of the Lord Jesus.  But the more God will lead you to see the love and importance of the only Prophet, Priest and King, the more also your devotion and love to the Lord Jesus will increase. 

Yet it also true that we can’t separate our love to the Three Persons in the Trinity.  When we love God, we love Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Though each has a unique role in the work of salvation, they are always together and also need to be worshipped together.  Even though Jesus Christ is the Mediator Who sacrificed Himself willingly to take the curse for His people,  it is still the Father who gave His only begotten Son and it is the Spirit Who made the Father and His Son precious to our hearts. 

Warmly,

Pastor Vergunst



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Is it right to have unconverted consistory members?

Question: Is it all right if a church has consistory members who are unconverted?


Answer


Hi Mark,

According the Scriptural guidelines, all consistory members should be men of God, believers in the Lord Jesus.  How else can they represent Him in the various offices if they don't have a saving relationship with the Lord Himself.  When you read 1 Tim. 3:1-13 you cannot come to a different conclusion.  In Acts 6 the apostles appointed deacons who were filled with the Spirit.   It is sign of incredible poverty when a church needs to put into office men who aren't confessing their hope and salvation in the Chief Office Bearer, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Yet that may at times be how low a church gets.  In reality there aren't always men who have the grace and skill to lead in the offices within the church. If that's the case, then sometimes there is no other choice but to put forward the names of them who are members in good standing but have not the liberty or clarity regarding their personal salvation. 
However, these people ought to show a seriousness about their spiritual life.  Men who are 'just members of a church in good standing' but who do not at all appear to take their spiritual condition serious should never be placed on the ballot for offices within the church of the Lord.

I leave you with a question:  is it right for anyone to be unconverted? 
To be unconverted is disobedience to the call of God!

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



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Will everyone be converted who asks to be converted?

Question: I have had arguments with my friend because we don't agree on something. She believes that everyone who asks to be converted will be converted. But is that really true because if everyone in the world were to ask to be converted not all of them are going to be converted. Only God's elect. So I said that and then she said well it says in the Bible "Ask and it shall be given unto you" and then she says God is not a liar. But isn't that because we have to ask with a true desire to be converted and none of us by nature truly have that desire?


Answer


Dear friends,

Sometimes arguments are great!  They help you think better.  It is not going to help you that I agree with you both on nearly every point you raised!  The one who said that 'everyone that seeks the Lord shall find Him and be saved' is right.  The one who said that 'our seeking needs to be the right kinds of seeking' is also right.  The one who said that God saves His elect and not one of them shall be left behind, is right also.  Now, to top it off, the one who said that God is not a liar wasn't lying either! 

The only thing that was a bit weak is that everyone who asks to be converted will be converted.  The reason why that is not true is because many people don't even want to be converted and are asking it only because it sounds good to ask that.  God knows exactly whether we are sincere.  When I ask the doctor, 'Please, help me to get better" and then I ignore his advice, don't eat the pills he gives, then I am not really serious about being helped.  So it with many that 'pray that they may be converted.'  They never seriously listen or seek in God's Word.  Praying for salvation while neglecting diligent use of the means of grace is not called praying but tempting God for we separate what He has joined together.

God has taken the divine initiative to redeem sinners and He is calling us in His Word directly each time when we hear or read His Word.  His election guarantees that His Word will be fruitful in bringing sinners to salvation. But we are never to take God's sovereign and hidden will as our starting point.  We are to listen and obey what He calls us to do.  His call is clear.  Jesus began His preaching ministry with the truth, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of is at hand: repent ye and believe the Gospel." Mark 1:15  The Gospel is the message about what God is doing in His Son Jesus Christ.  He is opening the door; He is paving the way; He is making the provision in His sacrifice and blood so that the hell-worthy sinners can be saved; He even makes sinners willing in the day of His power for without that no one would even seek Him.  To encourage us to seek Him He says 'seek and you shall find.'   Is He mocking?  Is He encouraging us to seek Him only to turn us away when we do so because 'we are not in the Book of election?'  Let's not have such unworthy thoughts of Him.  In Luke 11, where you can find this text about seeking, He told this parable about the man seeking for a loaf of bread at his neighbor's house.  At the end of the story the 'friend' in the house finally gets up and gives the man a loaf of bread.  Why did he give that?  Only because he wanted to get back to sleep and the only way to get rid of the fellow at the door was to give in.  Then Jesus makes several applications. And notice that all these are in answer to the question, "Teach us to pray." One of the things Jesus taught is,  "Don't think that I or my Father are like that 'friend!'  You fathers given to your children bread even though you are evil.  That friend finally got up and gave bread to his needy neighbor only for a selfish reason.  Don't ever conceive of God the Father in that way.  He is eager to give;  He stands ready to pardon;  He delights in showing mercy;  He encourages us to seek Him because He is ready to bless you."

Do you doubt that?  Then turn to Acts 3::26 and really ponder what Peter said that to those men and brethren who had participated in the murder of God's Son!  "Unto you first (!!) God [that gracious Father], having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you in turning away every one of you from his iniquities."  Did you notice that?  Can you conceive any earthly Father sending a  message to the murderers of His Son like that!?

So friends, seek the Lord with expectation.  He is more eager to receive sinners than any sinners are eager to seek Him. 

Thanks for posting the questions.  I hope you will have a good talk (no arguments!) together.  End it though in prayer seeking the Lord's direction!

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



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The use of contraceptives for married couples with children

Question: You recently applied scripture to the use of contraceptives by newly-weds, thank you. At the end of your response you said the related topic of the use of contraceptives by married-with-children couples still needed an answer.  Could you please apply scripture to this topic as well?
Specifically, when are we using Godly wisdom and when are we lacking faith by using contraceptives.  Is there a point where we can have too many children (aren’t they still a blessing from God)?  What about if a pregnancy has a high possibility of conceiving an additional special needs child?  Our Lord’s grace will always be sufficient, but even when we completely trust God, are there instances when it is the Lord’s will for us to use our reason?


Answer


Dear friends,

It is a difficult area that you are asking about. What is the use of contraceptives by married-with-children couples?  God’s basic command to a married couple is to be fruitful and multiply.  That doesn’t mean ‘have as many children as possibly you can get.’  We are to use also our discretion and remember that every child that is conceived also needs to be parented and cared for. Some would argue that we are to live by faith and God will provide us with everything we need.  I will never dispute that truth.  God has always kept His Word. But that doesn’t mean we are not to use common sense when we are married and forming a family.  God’s design was that no conception would take place as long as mother was breast feeding the baby.  The hormones triggered or released through the breast feeding stops the ovulation cycle and thus acts like a contraceptive.  For some reason this mechanism often doesn’t work in our western civilization anymore. Yet God designed that purposefully to provide the ‘field of the womb’ a needed rest to recuperate.  It is certainly true that there are many women who can cope quite well when they have a child every year or shortly beyond that.  But there are also many women who don’t cope well with that and in that case, the children themselves end up suffering as well.  That truth is also true for the father.  All children need a father and a mother to educate and nurture them towards adulthood.  From the Bible we know that weaning the child didn’t take place sometimes till the third birthday of the child!  Clearly that was purposefully done.  I have raised eight children from birth but all my children were on solids even before the year one was past.  In other words, the Bible moms did this purposely to prevent another pregnancy and not because Bible babies didn’t get teeth till they were three!  I don’t know whether all mothers did this but I don’t read of a disapproval of the practice.

From that fact I feel convinced that ‘spacing’ your children isn’t wrong if the motive is right.  If a mother feels too overwhelmed with the children she has to care for at present, there is nothing unethical to prevent a pregnancy to take place.  Often as the years of ‘rest’ have been given, the natural desire for another child awakens again.

The question is urgent when it is likely that there are dangers involved for the life of mother. Common sense would suggest that the life of mother is more important as she has other children dependent on her as well as a husband. If God’s providence has allowed circumstances to arise in mom’s body that would make it dangerous to have a child, the couple should indeed not have a child.  If someone is half-blind, would it be wrong for him to drive a car or be an airplane pilot?  Would he do wrong if he laid down his job as a pilot in case he was a pilot before his blindness developed?  Likewise, when the circumstances develop or appear that another child would bring danger to mother, we should not be wiser than God.  He is directing us clearly ahead of time to prevent another pregnancy.

In general I would draw the same line when it comes to genetic disorders that could arise from another pregnancy.  Yet that case is more difficult because we don’t know exactly what the genetic make-up of the child will be.  I have dear friends who have had two seriously special needs children in their marriage which were caused by a genetic match both parents were carrying.  However, they have had several healthy children also.  If they would have drawn the line after their first special needs child because of what the genetics suggested, they would have missed all the other children.  Ultimately, God is the Creator and He clearly states in Ex. 4:11, “And the LORD said unto him (Moses), Who hath made man’s mouth?  Or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or seeing or the blind?  Have not I the LORD?”

Yes, God’s grace is sufficient and never can I confess differently in my life. In all the circumstances and demands that large families have brought (we have had nine children in total and eight are still at home!) God has never failed to help us.  Yet it is a struggle to give each child the attention they so need, especially in the surrounding pressures that they experience in our days.  However, that must never encourage us to have no children.  Moses was born in a dangerous age because his parents trusted God!

At the place I will not discuss the various pros and cons of contraceptives in use.  In the first place, because I don’t know if I am complete capable for doing that but secondly, because this is public site and I don’t know how many children will read these answers.  You can always ask me ‘privately’ and I gladly share my thoughts that way.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



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If someone is divorced, is it right for them to get re-married?

Question: What do you believe about divorce and remarriage? If someone is divorced, is it right for them to remarry?


Answer


Dear friend,

What I believe isn’t important but what does God’s Word teach.  From what I understand the Scriptures to teach on this, I conclude the following,

a.  Marriage is for life. What God has joined together, let not man separate!  Therefore we better think seriously before we enter into marriage.  There is not backing out of this relationship unless God ends it with death.  This taught in Gen. 2:24 with the Lord’s commentary on this verse in Matt. 19:6.

b. God allows a divorce only in the case of an adultery.  The sin of adultery is the most serious breach of the marriage intimacy.  Because this is so sensitive, the Lord leaves it up to the individual who has been betrayed, whether to continue the marriage.  In no way does the Lord encourage the divorce but He allows it knowing how difficult this breach of trust is.  Adultery is as an act of sexual intimacy with either male or female other than your spouse.  This deed is ground for divorce as taught in Matt. 19:9.  In this case, the innocent spouse is free to remarry.

c. A marriage ended for other reasons than adultery is an unbiblical divorce.  Divorces have always taken place in this broken world but are in the last decades on a dramatic increase.  This hasn’t bypassed the church doors and sadly many church members are involved in unbiblical divorce situations.  The bottom line, however, remains that Jesus clearly has stated that “except it be for fornication” (Matt. 19:9) a marriage cannot be broken.  Therefore those who are involved in an unbiblical divorce are not free to re-marry.  If you read Mark 10:11-12 you notice that Jesus didn’t refer her to the putting away of the wife because of an act of adultery.  That is the only ground on which He could accept the dissolution of the marriage. 

These three statements will not provide every answer. There are so many complicated stories to which there can’t be done full justice in such a short discussion.  One book I like to recommend is Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible, by Jay E. Adams.  It does justice to the various complexities which are faced in this area of discussion.   If you can’t find this book locally and you live in NZ, I will be glad to lend it out to you.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



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Women's head covering in the worship service

Question: Please explain 1 Corinthians 11 concerning the necessity of women wearing a head covering in church services. According to this chapter why is a women's long hair not sufficient?


Answer


Dear friend,

This subject is large and I won’t do full justice to it in this answer.  But the ‘head covering of the women in the worship services’ is not a cultural or old-fashioned remnant of the old days. It is clear part of the revealed will of God as recorded in 1 Cor. 11.  Years ago I preached a sermon on this subject and tied it in with the fifth commandment.  The relationship with that seems remote yet it is intimate. Christ’s great mission is the restore the kingdom of God which is the authority structure where God is King and we are His joyful subjects. One place where this future kingdom is mostly to be reflected is the congregation of believers, especially in the context of the worship services which brings them all locally together. One expression of this authority structure God designed to be reflected in the head-covering of the women in that setting.

The background of the problem in Corinth isn’t simple.  The Gospel was liberating for many people.  Consider yourself a slave in the Roman civilization. You weren’t counted and considered a nobody.  But within the Christian church you were a brother or sister with equal status in salvation.  For in salvation there is neither male or female, master or servant.  The social distinctions common in the society do not exist in God’s household.  As females were also largely suppressed, you can see how the Christian Church was liberating.  This radical social departure was in some taken too far in Corinth.  The women folk aspired to a positional equality within the church family. But that has never been God’s order.  Even though He created male and female equal yet He placed Adam above Eve in positional authority.  Adam was the head and, as popularly said, Eva was the neck; very connected and very much interdependent yet distinct.

Satan was trying to bring disunity in this church by upsetting God’s order of position in His creation. The issue wasn’t so much the ‘head covering issue’ but the underlying issue of order and position.

Now you can see that Paul begins right there in vs. 3.  God has established an order and has ordained ‘heads.’  This reflects God’s pattern in every relationship.  God is the head of Christ; Christ is the head of man; man is the head of the woman and both man and woman were the head over the animals.  In Gen. 3 Satan makes his assault to upset this order from the bottom up. He uses the animal to bring Eve to fall and via Eve he launched his assault on man.

Within God’s Church there is to be restoration. Christ is owned by His people as the rightful head but the women are also joyfully to own and submit themselves to their head: man.  It is God’s will (not Paul’s idea) that this act of submission by the woman is symbolically expressed in the ‘head covering.’ (vs.4-5)  I don’t know whether the thought is valid but I have noticed that the angels ‘cover themselves’ in the presence of their head, the LORD in Is. 6.  In the worship within the church setting, God’s will is that the women reflect their submission in the head covering in the presence of their head: man.  There are Christian circles where they take this position further into the social setting at home or outside the home as well.  Personally I don’t think God intended that because 1 Cor. 11-14 deals with issues that relate to the worship services.

In vs. 8-12 Paul reinforces this established creation order of God.  The woman is of the man (vs. 8)  and was created for the man (vs. 9). In other words, God designed this order and this He wants to be reflected visibly within His kingdom (church) on earth. Yet before men run away as if they are superior, the apostle balanced it with vs. 11-12. Man can’t do without the woman and isn’t complete without her.  It is like in the army.  The captain is above the soldiers but a captain without soldiers is little good.

Toward the end, Paul appealed to something we can all observe.  He doesn’t even argue it or support it but basically states it as a general truth.  “Nature” teaches us that long hair belongs to women while short hair belongs to men.  The word “nature” is used 16 times in the NT and 15 times it refers to an ‘unchangeable created reality.’  Check for yourself the use of this word in Rom. 1:26; 2:14-15; Eph. 2:3. Clearly, God ultimately decides what is ‘natural and not natural’ because He is the designer of the Creation. The word ‘shame’ that Paul uses in vs. 14 is not the ‘shame’ one ought to feel when he does something dishonorable but ‘shame’ as having to do with one’s status or position.  Man’s honorable position is dishonored when he has long hair.  Equally, the woman dis-robes her honor when she cuts her hair short.  That brings me to vs. 15 which you included in your question.

Here again ‘nature’ continues to be our teacher. The long hair is a glory to the woman.  “Glory” means honor. God, the Designer, gave (it is a gift!) her long hair as a honorable covering. It has nothing to do with fashion.  Just as the woman is the glory of man by creative design (7) so her hair is her glory by the same design. (15)

Every woman who joyfully and willingly accepts her position, carrying out her God-ordained role, she is the glory of man. Maintaining her long hair is a symbol of her agreement with that role. Clearly in vs. 5 God states that it s shameful thing if the woman would shave her head.  In other words, when a woman would discard her nature’s (Creator’s) covering in any context she would bring shame upon her head.  She would show a rejection of the authority structure.

But it still seems that Paul taught that her hair is the ‘covering.  The interpretation of that has much to do with the meaning of the (second) “for” in the text, “for her hair is given her for a covering.” Does Paul mean that “her hair is given in place of a material covering or is he saying her hair is a gift corresponding to the covering referred to in the earlier verses?

If first one is the case, then re-read vs. 5-6 and let’s substitute ‘short hair’ for covering. It would read something like this and it makes totally no sense: “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth having short hair dishonoreth her head: for that is even all one as if she had her hair shaved off.  For if the woman have not long hair, let her also have her hair cut short: but if it be a shame for a woman to have her hair cut short or shaved off, let her long hair.”  That makes no sense. The conclusion then must be that Paul isn’t teaching that the ‘long hair would be the covering needed in the worship service.” Instead, her long hair is a gift corresponding to her womanhood. It is noteworthy that Paul also used a totally different word in the Greek in this verse (vail) than in vs. 5-6.

Finally, why then ought men to keep their head uncovered and the women covered in the worship service?  This brings us to verses I have so far skipped. In vs. 7 God teaches us that man is the image and glory of God. Yet the woman is the glory of man and she is reflect that by the token of her head covering. God expects that to be obeyed joyfully, willingly and thoughtfully.  I wonder how many women and girls are actually thinking of this act of obedience when they don their heads with the hats each worship service.  God is looking at the heart and not at a customary dressing up.  For the same token, are we men realizing what an uncovered head actually means?  Are we taking this headship over the women seriously?  Is our example the life and walk of Christ?

As an appendix, isn’t interesting that Paul didn’t say anything about what kind of hat, what color, size etc. It was something that should ‘cover’ the woman’s glory of her hair.  We need to watch that it doesn’t become a fashion statement because that has nothing to do with its ultimate purpose.

In my answer above I have gleaned ‘unacknowledged’ from the book The Head Covering in Worship by David Lipsy.  It is one of the booklets that I recommend on this subject.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



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How to profit from the Word of God

Question: A few years ago on a youth camp you had a topic on daily meditation. You supplied us with a list of questions that you should try to answer after reading a piece of scripture. This would assisting reading and remembering what we read. I have lost the questions since then. Could you post them on the website?


Answer


Dear friends,

Below the requested questions.  You can print them off and make them into a bookmark. Indeed, it is very good exercise to seek to answer these questions.  I am leading at the moment a Bible study on the prophet Nahum in which I am going to use this approach as a practical illustration.  You can listen to these topics as they will be listed on our website.

Profiting From the Word of God

MEDITATION QUESTIONS

1.  What does God reveal of Himself in this portion? How should I respond to that?

2.  How does this portion reveal something I should praise or thank or trust God for?

3.  What sins does this portion speak of, illustrate, warn against?  Are those sins in my life?

4.  How does this portion reveal something of the Lord Jesus Christ? What does He mean to me?

5.  What promises does God state here?  To whom are these promises addressed?   What must I do with such promises?

6.  What inspiring example – warning example does Holy Spirit set before me?  How can I obtain – avoid this?

Reading and meditation are the parents of prayer!


Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



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Biblical guidance on makeup


Question: Aside from Jezebel, is there any mention (positive or negative) in the Bible about women using makeup? Until recently, it was frowned upon, and I would prefer that my daughters refrain from it, but I would appreciate some Biblical guidance on the issue.  Mrs. S.


Answer


Dear Mrs S,

Indeed in 2 Kings 9:30 we read, “And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her face, and tired her head, and looked out at a window.” The reason she applied her makeup and did up her hair was to try to allure Jehu into different actions. Jezebel’s use of makeup shows us one negative reason for wearing makeup (it was meant to help her in seducing Jehu), and Jezebel herself is set before us in Scripture as the extreme of a negative role model, one of the most ungodly and grossly wicked women in the Bible, who led both her weak husband and her children into sin and forsaking God.

 As far as I can see, there are no other direct references to the use of facial makeup. However, there are various references in the Bible that teach us clear principles about our outward appearance, and these principles can certainly be applied to our use of makeup today.

 Peter speaks plainly to women about making themselves attractive (1Peter 3:3-4): “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair [to put it in modern terms—hair styles], and of wearing of gold [jewelry], or of putting on of apparel [clothes]; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”

Is Peter saying that doing up your hair is sinful? Are women allowed no jewelry at all? One might think so until we read “putting on of apparel.” Obviously women were allowed to put on clothes, and by inference, we can conclude that he was accepting the fact that women wear clothes, style their hair and wear jewelry. (Note that makeup is not part of this list, however!)  He was describing the entire appearance of a woman. Peter is not saying the three items he listed are wrong; he is saying, Let your adorning—your making yourself attractive—not be focused on the outward appearance, but focus your attention on your inner attitude and spirit. And what attitude and frame of mind should the woman put on which is very pleasing and very attractive to the Lord? “A meek and quiet spirit.”

A meek and quiet spirit does not seek to draw attention to itself. Does your outward appearance—your choice of clothes, jewelry, hair style—reflect that mindset of not attracting attention to yourself? How does makeup fit in with that mindset? Are you using makeup to attract attention to your eyes, lips, flawless skin? Are you using makeup to enhance your outward appearance in order to tempt others? The Bible tells us this is wrong.

 “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shame-facedness and sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” 1 Timothy 2:9-10. Again, clear principles about women’s dress: modest, not calling attention to itself, sober, simple. Above all, it is the inside that really matters to God, and that will reveal itself in our actions. Do we spend precious time adorning our bodies, or going about doing good to others?

Modesty in clothing and appearance is commanded. What are the motives for wearing makeup? Is it to make oneself more attractive to men? Is it to make oneself more beautiful in order for the men to notice you or admire you (lust after you)? Perhaps the answer is given that “I don’t use make-up for that reason at all. I simply use it because I like to make myself look better.  Isn’t that allowed?  Didn’t God even create the desire in women to be pretty?”  Without judging anyone’s motives for using makeup, the question that Christian women should first ask themselves, “What does my makeup (and also clothing style and jewelry) do to the men folk that see me?”   I am convinced that the vast majority of women have no clue what their efforts to make themselves look attractive do to men.  The Lord Jesus touched on a very common area in which men fall into sin when He said, “…that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”  But that Scripture isn’t only spoken to men.  Women should also read this and ask themselves, “Have I in any way encouraged or caused him to lust after my beauty by not concealing my beauty or by sending him the message with my looks or my mannerisms that I desire his attention?”  If so, even though the woman did this unintentionally by a dress code or use of make-up and/or jewelry, she is also guilty of leading the man into adultery.

Another principle is given in 1 Cor. 6:12-20.  Our bodies are not for fornication or any other sin but are for the Lord and the Lord for the body.  Paul even mentions the grand truth that “our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost.”  That’s what they were created to be and upon salvation, they again have become so.  What a weighty truth this is!  Our body was made to be the temple in which the Holy Spirit would dwell.  Both men and women are to remember this in the way we display our bodies in public.  In 2 Cor. 6:16-18 Paul brought out another application of this truth.  Again, referring to the fact that our bodies are (or were meant to be) the temple of the living God, he made the application, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.” When people see us, do they see this difference in how we display or decorate our body?

“But I have such ugly blemishes on my face.  Is it unacceptable that I use some moderate ‘touch-up makeup’ to hide that?”  The best answer I can think of is asking a few other questions, “Would any object when I touch up my clothing when it is dirtied so I look acceptable?  Is there any objection when I tidy up my hair so it doesn’t look as if I just came out of bed?  Is it wrong to wear a long-sleeve shirt to cover up an ugly scar on my lower arm?”    Subtle use of concealing makeup is totally different from makeup used to draw attention to oneself, to make oneself more attractive, or to look like the world.  Let’s be clear about this: adding colors to eye lids that God never put there, accentuating eyelashes to draw attention to yourself and drawing attention to your lips is actually an offense to your Creator as if He didn’t make us good enough without it.

So to sum it up:

1. Do not focus on the outward appearance, but rather the inner attitudes of heart. True beauty in a woman is a meek and quiet spirit. Do not try to enhance or adorn the body. Dress simply and moderately. Does the world’s makeup fit these guidelines?

2. Modesty is commanded. In no way is a woman to try to entice a man, or cause him to lust after her in his heart. Does the use of makeup make you more or less modest? Does it call attention to desirable or enticing features in your appearance?  Who are you trying to please?

3.  As a Christian, should you try to look just like the world looks? Can it be seen that you belong to God’s church? Would you glorify God by wearing makeup?


Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



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Living sober as a Christian


Question:
The Bible never says we should live simply as Christians. There are plenty of examples in the Bible of godly men that did not live simply. Think of Abraham, Job, Solomon. Could you please give some guidance on this issue?


Answer


Hi Josh,

In some way you are right in that assertion.  The Bible admonishes to soberness in many places though: "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end ... (1 Peter 1:13); Teaching us  that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. (Titus 2:12).  In other places this exhortations are repeated in different settings or to different groups of people.  (1 Thess. 5:6. 8; 1 Tim. 3:23) To live soberly doesn't mean we need to live in poverty or below the standard of living that is common in our surroundings.  Christians don't have to live in poverty when everyone around them lives in comfortable dwellings.  But also the other way shouldn't be: when there is poverty around us, we should not live lavish.  God giveth us all things richly to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17), however, in the next verse God adds, "that we are to be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate." (1 Tim. 6:18).  Scripture is always balanced.  We may enjoy God's gifts while we also remember the poor, especially those whom He places within our reach.  

You mentioned a few Bible saints that were rich.  Many could be added, for example, Joseph of Arimathea who gave the Lord his grave etc.  Yet with the exception of Solomon, I don't have the impression that they lived lavish or extra-ordinary.  Solomon did go beyond what seems necessary.  He spent more time in the building of his own palace then in the temple and we can be sure that no expense was spared. Yet this went at the expense of his people who were heavily taxed to finance it all.  That's where Solomon went overboard and the people rebelled against his policy after his death.
 
In Acts we read about the early Christians who shared their 'extra' resources.  That is still our calling.  We should be aware that whatever God gives us He expects us to become channels of what He gives to others.  There are still plenty of people around that have barely enough to survive and that should always engage us to remain sober in how we spend on the unnecessary things that we add to our live.  Sure, it is great if you can afford a BMW for your vehicle but if a lesser fancy vehicle is suitable  for your needs, then we shouldn't splash out on the unnecessary luxury for that only serves ourselves.  Settling for the lesser fancy car and using the extra unspend money to support mission programs that help people with their economic needs would be the Kingdom spirit Jesus teaches.

Lastly, in James 5 we read a condemning portion of God's Word about the rich.  James pictures the judgment seat and refers to 'riches that are corrupted (rotten) and clothing that is moth-eaten and gold and silver that is rusted' and they all shall be a witness against you and eat your flesh like fire.'   What are all those things?  They are the 'extra' that were left behind by the rich when they died.  Unused it goes to waste.  It wasn't meant to be unused.  It was meant to be spend on those that needed it.  I fear that many of us are in for some unpleasant surprises on this issue unless we repent of these sins of materialism and hoarding unnecessary riches.

Hope this helps you in your thinking about this subject.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



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The difference between knowing Jesus and accepting Jesus


Question: What is the difference between knowing that Jesus is the only way for me to be saved and actually accepting Him as my Saviour? And if I don't feel love toward God, can I ask Him for that love?


Answer


Hi Will,

Let me begin with the last question.  Of course, we may ask God everything that we really need and which is according to His will.  We don't need to prove to each other that to love Him is His will.  That's clear from all Scripture. Consider then God's own promise in Ps. 81.  "Open thy mouth wide and I will fill thine every need."  He rebukes His people Israel in the last part of the Psalm about their terrible disregard for not asking Him for the blessings He is so ready to give.  Give the Lord Jesus ALL your needs in prayer.  David did ask Him to 'incline my heart to Thy Word' which means that he didn't quite feel so inclined when he prayed that.  We often think we have to come to God 'worthy or good or bettered' but Jesus has come to save sinners, lost, unworthy, unholy, wretched, guilty, filthy, lepers etc.  Isn't that a wonderful good news?  Never do I need to make myself better than I am.  For one, it is impossible and secondly, it is dishonorable as He alone is God and there is none beside Him that is Saviour.

The next question I would love to hear your answer on is 'what is the love?'  I notice that you wrote that 'love is a feeling.'  How common is that opinion.  I like to point out to you that love has feelings but actually it is an act of the will.  When I am to 'love my enemies' the Lord doesn't expect me to have all kinds of warm feelings towards those people who treat me like dirt and make my live miserable.  But I am to show love to them.  I need to act in love by being kind, helpful, serving, humble myself to even wash their feet (as Jesus did with Judas Iscariot's as well!)  So it is with our love to God.  It is an act of my will in which I make choices, make confession, verbalize my convictions, cut out the things that dishonor Him, honor Him with my time and devotion, do the things that promote His name even though it my cost me my life or my reputation etc.  I would be lying if I told you that each time I show my love to my wife that I am overcome with feelings of love.  Don't take me wrong, the actions are the expression of my deep and committed love and often are more or less accompanied with feelings.  But feelings do not define my love;  they accompany more or less my loving deeds.  So also in our love to God. This 'will' to love God is the fruit of God's Spirit.  He makes His people willing in the day of His power. (Ps. 110)  This is essence of the new birth.  In the Canons of Dort (which I hope you know where to find) it is beautifully explained that "the Spirit opens the closed, and softens the hardened heart and circumcises (cut away) that which was uncircumcised (sinful aspects of our heart/life), infuses new qualities into the will, which before was dead, He now quickens (makes alive), from being evil, disobedient and refractory (stubborn), He renders it good, obedience, and pliable;  actuates (activates) and strengthens it, that like a good tree, it may bring forth the fruits of good actions (one of them is LOVE!)' Canons III/IV, 11.  I hope you understand these words.  So, ask yourself, is this willingness in me: this willingness to do the things that are described as love in God's Word? We struggle with the inability to do this of course.  The more we try to overcome the inner depravity, the more hopeless we feel.  However, that's God way of discovering to us that we need Another.  And He stands ready to be there for you!

That leads me to your third question.  Is the Lord Jesus the only way?  Absolutely.  There is no one Who can reconcile God Who is holy and you who is unholy?  Who else can do that but He Who is God and man?  His sacrifice satisfied the just requirements of an infinite God but also the needs of a lost man.  No Will, there is NO OTHER NAME given under heaven.  Besides, not only is He the only Way but He is also the only Savior that can change your heart!  Solomon was the wisest man on earth but he couldn't change hearts, open blind eyes etc.  Only the Lord Jesus can sanctify your heart that it would love Him and love your neighbors. No one else can invade the inner spirit of you and renew it in holiness and righteousness.  But He can, Will.  He has changed my heart and millions and millions of other people.  Before they were addicted to self, sin and the world and under the cover of piousness all of us are monsters!  But in His almighty and good grace, He changes people from self-lovers to God-lovers by giving them a new nature!  How wonderful His Spirit is to renew the hearts of men.

God indeed brings Him before us in the message of the Gospel preaching.  We are to 'receive or accept Him' by faith.  John 1:12 says that 'as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God."  God expects us to receive Him but He doesn't expect us to receive Him by our own strength.  He is also the author of faith and so seek Him daily for the faith which YOU have the exercise.  If your heart has been made willing to place your trust in Him alone, then do place that trust in Him alone.  God expects that. If you have seen that there is no one Who can reconcile you with your holy and righteous Creator, then confess Him in your prayer as such.  David confessed, "I will make mention of no other righteousness but thine only."  Is that also your desire?  Do you see that there is no other righteousness then Jesus only? Has your heart begin to hunger and thirst after righteousness (being right and doing right in the sight of God and men!) and having failed to find that in your own heart, have you learned to see that in Christ God provided the righteousness that you need?  Then fail not to receive Him by faith?  What does that mean?  That means you may confess in your prayer, "Lord, in myself is only guilt, sin, unworthiness, unrighteousness.  But I have learned from Thy Scripture that thou has provided in Christ all my needs and that He is freely offered to me also.  Lord, I desire to trust alone on His work and His merits and His sacrifice to make it right between me and Thou my Creator God.  Receive me graciously for Christ sake in whom alone I trust."  God expects us to respond to His call and through His Word and Spirit He also makes willing AND able to respond in repentance and faith. 

I hope you may come to that saving faith and learn to know Him more and more and experience the power of His blood on your conscience and the power of His resurrection in your heart leading you on the pathway of the just that shineth more and more until the perfect day.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



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Will there be recognition in heaven?


Question:
Will there be recognition in heaven and will we remember our life here on earth. Will we know of our loved ones we left behind on this earth and do we have any share in their life.


Answer


Dear Bert,

That's a difficult question to answer because none of us have been in 'heaven' to verify the answer on this question.  So all we can do is 'reason' a bit on a few tidbits that the Scriptures give.  Peter and the other two disciples knew that Elijah and Moses were present on the Mount of Transfiguration.  However, that couldn't have been recognition for they had never seen either of them.  I suppose that the word here is 'revelation.'  God made it known to them that those two were the two main leaders of Israel.  John did see Jesus in His glory in Revelation.  Did he recognize Him as the Jesus he had seen after the resurrection?  Or did God reveal it to him that He was the Lamb of God now glorified?  I lean toward the second opinion.  Then the last reference is found in a parable the Lord Jesus spoke.  The 'rich man' recognized Abraham and Lazarus in heaven as he looked from hell.  However, it was a parable Jesus spoke to illustrate a spiritual lesson.  The spiritual lesson He intended was not to make doctrinal statements on the question you asked and we must therefore be careful not to read too much into that.

So, in conclusion, I can only offer you my thoughts and what are they worth on such a question.  Personally I think the Lord will introduce us to every saint in heaven.  That may take a long time but eternity is long time.  In this life we have many brothers and sisters in our family, fellow believers all over the world now but also many we have never met.  As I meet believers in foreign countries were communication is difficult, I often feel very sad that I can't really converse with these men.  Besides there are so many sisters with whom we cannot have a close relationship for obvious reasons.  That will all be over in heaven.  At present I may believe that my first wife is in glory.  But I have received a second wife who also is a sister in the Lord.  You can see where my thoughts are going, right?  Will I know both in heaven if I may also arrive there?  Undoubtedly but we will not be wife and husband anymore.   Would I recognize them as Melanie and Michelle?  I would not know why not because each is so uniquely created by God.

Will we remember our life on earth?  I hope not, or at least, not entirely.  There are many memories that are bitter even though I may believe that my sins are forgiven. So, in other words, there are things we don’t to remember.   Yes, there are many dear memories we would love to hold on but it could be that would belong to the ‘natural body’ (1 Cor. 15:44) rather than the ‘spiritual body’ with which the saints are raised.  A spiritual body is not a body without flesh and bones but a body adapted to the life on the new earth.  For example, since there will be no marriage God will therefore adapt the body to live in such state without the need of a marriage relationship.  I don’t really know what other changes there will occur.  One thing that I think we will remember is the depth of God’s grace.   Eph. 2:7 read that ‘in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  Will God shows His people more and more what He in His grace has done?  It would certainly deepen the worship of this awesome God of grace.

Your last question about what do the people in heaven know about their loved ones that are left behind?  I have struggled in a very personal manner with that question but have concluded that they do not know anything about their life here on earth.  It would mar the beauty of their joy when they know our grief or struggles.   So God must hide that from them as they are in a different realm of existence than what we are.   In various places it is said that the angels will hear things about the individuals who confess Christ on earth but whether the glorified saints do also share that, I doubt because it says specifically ‘angels.’

One author summed up all these questions well.  He said something like this, “After we have learned everything the Scriptures reveal about the life-after-death, we have only read the title page of that eternal glory God makes His people inherit.”  All questions we have now will be more than amply answered.


Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



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Immortality of the soul in the OT


Question: What support in the OT is there of the immortality of the soul.  My question arises from quite widespread academic claims that the Christian teachings about the immortal soul were adopted from the teachings of Plato.   D.


Hi D,


Good challenge.  I suppose that you have already opened up your OT and began to search the various passages that speak about the soul.  So let’s review a few of them that deals with the soul.

Gen. 2:7: Clearly teaches that God created the soul as something distinct from the body.  In the OT the soul generally refers to the whole person but is definitely something that cannot be defined materially.  Other passages in the OT distinguish between soul and body, such as Is. 10:18.

Gen. 35:18: It teaches again the distinction between soul and body.

Job 19:15-27: Job confesses his faith that with his death he hasn’t come to the ‘end’ of his living.  Even though worms shall destroy his body, yet in his flesh he shall see God.  For that to take place, Job must have believed that his soul part is immortal and would one day again be joined to his body.

Ps. 16:9-11 & Ps. 17:15: David here confessed his hope in God’s care for his spirit and his body.  He clearly expects to see God in righteousness and to be satisfied when he awakes.

Ps. 31:5: What is the point of doing that if you don’t believe in the immortality of the soul?

Eccl. 3:19-21:  Solomon is dealing with the truth that everything living dies, both man and animals.  Yet he indicates a different destination for the souls of men when he mentions that the spirit of man goes upward.

Hos. 13:14:  Paul quotes these verses when he speaks about the resurrection of the body in 1 Cor. 15. Again, the truths here prophesied do imply that the soul continues to exist.

So, in summary, I don’t think it is correct to assert that the OT doesn’t speak about the immortality of the soul and that therefore the Christian teachings on the immortality of soul comes from Plato’s philosophies.   It is true that the teachings regarding the soul are somewhat indistinct in the OT compared to the new.  But that is true also for the teaching on the Trinity, the way of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice and the Holy Spirit.   There is clearly a development of the doctrines as the revelation of God expands throughout the ages but that’s always God’s method in dealing with sinners.  

Hope this helps.  Stay close to your Scriptures as you study.  Besides the Scriptures, I like to highly recommend to those of you who study and get immersed with the various anti-Christian teachings to read Calvin’s Institutes or Brakel’s The Christian’s Reasonable Service.  Read the ‘classics’ in God’s Kingdom as you study.  They are not as difficult to read as you expect.  With Brakel you can get discouraged real quick in the earlier chapters because he delves deeply into all kinds of arguments and counterarguments etc.  When I read through those chapters, I realize that I can skip those portions unless I am answering a question like this.  But his devotional and doctrinal combinations make his writings a blessed anti-dote to all the challenging teachings.

Warmly
Pastor Vergunst



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Divorce and remarriage


Question: If a person becomes divorced while a non-believer, then later becomes a Christian, it is OK for them to remarry?  And is it OK for the person (never been married) who is going to marry them.  I have heard the opinion that it is OK because of the text in 2 Cor. 5:17 – at the time of salvation all things are become new and such divorced and subsequently saved people are permitted b God to marry with His blessing. But the new spouse should be a believer … 1 Cor. 7:39.  What are your thoughts?   S.


Hi S,

First I will make a comment about the question.  The second sentence of your question I understand to ask whether it is fine for someone to marry such a person who divorced prior to becoming a Christian. 

Secondly, I don’t think that the Scripture of 2 Cor. 5:17 is related to this question as a support.  Indeed, once someone becomes a Christian his or her entire heart and life will change in direction and content.  But that Scripture is not giving any direction regarding this particular question.   Let’s be careful not to seek for ‘any text’ to support your conclusions.  Sound exposition begins with the text and its context and then formulates what it teaches.

The bottom line of God’s will is that marriage is for life (Matt. 19:1-6) yet God allows one ground for divorce, i.e. when one of the two breaks the marriage union through adultery.   Allowing, however, is not commanding it.  Yet one who divorces his or her spouse on the proven grounds of adultery needs our full support.  He or she is not doing anything wrong by ending the marriage.  I mention this simply to help us to reach out lovingly and supportive to those who have gone through divorced.  They are not ‘second-rate’ Christians because they are divorced and therefore need to be avoided.  They need our love for their pathway is difficult, in some ways far more difficult than one who has lost their spouse through death.

In your case, the person divorced before he became a Christian.  Among non-Christians divorces take place for generally two reasons.  One finds their spouse cheating on them (committing adultery) or they conclude their relationship is incompatible and they simply end it.

I am assuming that the person in your question didn’t divorce on the ground of adultery for then the issue is already answered. 

But if that marriage was ended because of other reasons, the first step is to seek reconciliation.   Their marriage is still the marriage and God didn’t allow such a marriage to end. For what God has joined together, let not man put asunder. 

If such reconciliation is not possible (either the former spouse has moved on to a new marriage or simply refuses to reconciliation), we need to accept this reality as unchangeable.  Since this divorce happened prior to being a Christian, I personally don’t believe God would disapprove the re-marriage of this person.  In our denomination we have allowed such people to remarry, even though it would be advisable and proper that such a person would make a confession of guilt.

I realize that it will be difficult to support this directly from Scripture.  God’s Word doesn’t speak directly on a situation like this.  That makes these types of questions always issues of controversy because one’s opinion may be different than another.  Also, in the scenario you sketched are so many unknowns that would need to be investigated before you could really make a definitive statement on this.  That would be the task of each consistory before a church would seek the Lord’s blessing on the new union.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



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Unbiblical vs Biblical Parenting


Question: What does the church think of emotional and mental abuse that is used in homes to control children. Is it ever justified? Would a member of the church confront another member if it was found to be happening or does the church let parents decide to treat their children unfairly and crush their spirit, even though the measures they use are extreme in 2011?
Ernestine


Dear Ernestine,

For clarity, let me define what I mean with emotional and mental abuse of children in order to control them into certain behaviors.  There are many ways that parents use this ‘tool.’  I took these examples from Dr. Dobson’s book Parenting Isn’t for Cowards but edited them a bit.

1. Emotional Blackmail:  Do what I want or I’ll get very angry and would loose control.

2. Guilt trip: How could you do this to me after all I’ve done for you?

3. Foreclosure or Bribe: Do what I want and I will give you supper.

4. Raw Power threat: If you don’t listen to me, I beat you up with a belt.

5. Humiliation:  Let me see you do that again and I will embarrass you before the whole family.

6. Self-pity: Don’t upset me; can’t you see how difficult I am having it.

7. Appeal to the dead: You dear father or mother would have agreed with me when still alive.

8. Seduction: I make you an offer you can’t refuse.  You do this for me and I take to the zoo.

I am sure we could think of a few more examples. But all these are examples of manipulation through the emotional gate.  The entire purpose is to have power over the others and force them into compliance. 

None of these methods are acceptable or justified yet every parent knows that there are times we might have slightly strayed into one of these categories.  But if these are the common methods used in the raising of our children, we are deeply wounding the spirits of our children and raising them to rebellion. God’s will is clear, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.”  Children are provoked to anger by injustice, loss of temper, undue severity, cruelty, favoritism, suppression, sarcasm, ridicule and any other misuse or abuse of authority and power.  A parent’s task to rule in God’s name and we must use God’s methods of “parenting” His children.  None of the above methods are used by God and therefore shouldn’t be ever used by us as parents.  Your comment about ‘2011’ seems to suggest that certain methods were acceptable in former years.  That’s not the case.  What is not acceptable today was also not acceptable in 1800 or in 2060!

If you know that a parent is using these methods, you should confront them and point out that it is sin when they parent their children in such ways.  But be sure to be ready to support these parents with help on how then to do it.  It is the poorly equipped parents who resort to these methods to coerce their children into compliance.  We all know if we are parents, how frustrating and taxing it can be to lead your children into the right paths.  If we grew up with poor or bad role models or lack of straightforward education, parents fall into this task completely unprepared. 

One of the reasons we should do all we can to stop unbiblical parenting styles is because it damages the children.  They are the victims that are helpless.  Many adults struggle all their life because in their childhood years they have been wounded and neglected by their parents.  This can lead to a host of personal issues later in life such as difficulties making relationships,  various character weaknesses, insecurity, fear, lack of confidence, anger and rebellion.

If your personal contact isn’t making a difference, you should share it with your spiritual leaders and enlist their help.  Hopefully together you make a difference both for the parents and the children.


Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



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Intimacy


Question: Dear Pastor. As a single I am struggling with the desire of intimacy.  How do I have to handle this?  I am not focussed on intercourse, but the natural feeling of intimacy like a hug or an arm around the shoulder.  What is the limit between healthy Christian intimacy and homosexual tinted intimacy?


Dear friend,

I have long puzzled over how to answer this question and to be honest, I still don’t know exactly what to say.  You are a single person and desire the closeness of physical intimacy.  At the end of the question you bring in the homosexual nature of this desire as well.  It is always easiest to tell a person ‘how to play a better game’ while standing on the side-lines.  Or, to say it in cynical way, ‘The best sailors stand on the shore.’   I am a married man and may enjoy the close intimacy with my wife. 

We all receive, if good, our first intimacy from our parents.  As our parents cuddled us in our baby and toddler years, they kept our tanks filled.  In growing into childhood and teenager years, this contact with parents usually decreases over time.  In the period of our teenage life the desire awakens to share intimacy with someone else.  This desire and need for intimacy is not sinful.  It is part of our creation.  God has made us ‘social beings’ and even said about Adam before the fall that ‘it was not good for man to be alone.’   The natural urges that biologically are awakened as our maturing bodies and mind is part of His good and beautiful creation.

However, God has instituted marriage life (Heb. 13:4) as the only setting where physical and sexual intimacy between a male and female may be experienced.  So for you to seek the satisfaction of the physical intimacy outside the marriage relationship would be contrary to God’s expressed will.  Of course, I can understand your desire to be held, or for someone else to share physical intimacy with you, but God has only created the marriage relationship as the safe and permitted setting for that interaction between males and females.  

So you focus and prayer should be to seek a marriage partner.  One of the Lord’s servants, Robert Murray M’Cheyne wrote a journal.  One day he entered this question in his personal journal, “What must I do to fight sin?”  He didn’t specify the sin this young and unmarried minister struggled with but his answer does shed much light on his struggle.  His first answer was “Get married.”  He never did marry because he died while young.  But he realized that ‘healthy physical intimacy’ can only be experienced within the safety of a Christian marriage.

Now, I realize that you may not be single by choice. Maybe you have been praying about getting married. Let me assume you ask the Lord that every day, confessing especially the growing desires and needs within you that can’t be met by being alone.  But prayer is not a ‘magic button’ that solves all things.  God has taught to pray for our daily bread.  But He still expects me to work for it, earn the money or even bake the bread.  So you also are expected to ‘do the right things’ to obtain a person with whom you may marry.   Perhaps you are shy to approach someone or open a conversation with someone.  But at least begin to do that.  You didn’t learn to bike on the first try.  So you also don’t get comfortable speaking with others until you have tried it.   Visit places where young people come together and prayerfully use these means, asking God to bring someone into your life with whom you may share the intimacy.

What if God doesn’t bring you a spouse?  Yes, that’s hard; that’s a cross and a big one.  One single person will experience that more than another. But God’s grace is sufficient to help you with that ‘thorn’ in your life.  Others have lived functional and fulfilled lives without being married.  That is attainable.  Let that be the focus of your life now.  Rather than focussing on what you have not focus on the opportunities God allows you in being single. 

If you struggle with homosexual tendencies, your needs are greater yet.  I am not ready to answer this need this stage, friend.   God’s will for the closest possible relationship between adults is and remains a male and female within the marriage relationship.   Any other relationship is not acceptable to Him no matter what the current world opinion and sadly also many “Christians” hold.   But how to deal with a homosexual orientation is something that I rather answer at a later stage after having done some more reading on this.  Perhaps you can post another question on this if this is indeed what you are struggling with. 

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst




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Burial or Cremation


Question: Burial or cremation.  more and more Christians are opting for cremation for various reasons, such as more economic, easier etc.  What is the Biblical viewpoint?


Dear friends,

In deciding any question with ethical aspects, our first question should be whether God’s Word has anything to say on this subject.  Our western society doesn’t ask those questions anymore.  Everything has to be practical, simple, economical or useful.  But we as Christians are to be obedient to the Word of God. 

Genesis is the book of ‘beginnings.’ It is the book that introduces many ‘firsts’ or ‘beginnings.’  It is therefore not surprising to find many references to the burial of the body. The only piece of land Abraham legally owned was the cave where he buried his wife and was later buried himself.  Jacob gave command to be buried and so did Joseph, giving command that his bones were to be taken to Canaan. (Gen. 50:25) Although the Scriptures don’t specifically tell us, the burial of the body in those days was unique.  The surrounding civilizations, with the exception of Egypt and very distant China, all burned the body of the deceased.  Clearly, God’s people were distinct in this practice.  In the time of the wilderness journey we read of Aaron’s burial (Deut 10:6).  God buried Moses (Deut 34:5-6). So very consistently were people buried in the nation of Israel.  On the other hand, God’s Word speaks about a judgment if someone wasn’t buried (Num. 25:4;Jer. 25:33).

Also in the NT, burial was the norm for believers. We don’t read in any of the Gospels about the burning of bodies.  The Lord called Lazarus out of the grave and the young man of Nain was raised while on the way to his burial.  Eventually the Lord Himself was buried. In the rest of the NT many references can be found to burial.  Paul in 1 Cor. 15 speaks only about burial. When Paul uses the analogy of the seed cast into the ground, then this entire image doesn’t fit burning.  A seed ‘burned’ will never germinate into a ‘new body.’ Lastly, the NT refers several times to the resurrection of the body of the believers. (Phil 3:21) 

From this sketchy overview it is clear that burial is the accepted and sanctioned practice of the respectful disposal of the deceased bodies.  There are times when bodies were burned or left unburied.  But that was always in the context of a judgment. God burned up many disobedient Jews a few days after leaving Mt. Sinai (Num. 11:1-3).  After Korah’s revolt, two hundred and fifty men were devoured by fire (Nu 16:35). Several severe offences were punishable by burning (Lev. 20:14;  21:19).  In Joshua we read about the burning of Achan and his family after they were stoned to death.  Later Jeremiah spoke the judgment of remaining unburied. (Jer. 16:4-6;  22:18-19)  All in all it is clear that burning or cremation is associated with the curse.

Cremation isn’t a recent invention of a Western society.  Prior to Christianity cremation was almost universal among Indo-European people and in North America.  Hindus have burned their dead for centuries;  it was common and fashionable among ancient wealthy Greeks and Romans. The main argument among the Romans was economical or convenience.  However, in most ancient races cremation was for spiritual reasons.   There was a fear that the spirit would return to the buried bodies to plague and terrify the living.  For others the burning of the body would bring freedom for the spirit to enjoy the ‘after-life.’  As Christianity spread over the world, everywhere cremation ceased among the believers.  One historian noted that you can trace the spread of Christianity in Europe by studying the cemeteries.

Already in 177 AD Christian martyrs were burned to mock their belief in the resurrection of the body. Somehow the heathens believed that by destroying the body they could prevent the resurrection.  It needs not to be said, but it is clear that the resurrection of the body is in no way affected by the manner in which the bodies of the dead are disposed.  Some have been eaten by sharks or burned as results of accidents.  But that never stands in the way of God’s power. 

After nearly 1800 years, in the countries where Christianity had entered, cremation was never considered as the way to dispose of the body.  It is only in the late 1800’s that the voices for cremation are heard.  Beginning with Italy, the practice slowly spread to other countries within Europe.  It is noteworthy that the cremation practice reared itself always in the context of strong assaults upon the Christian faith from secular philosophy and scientific materialism.  As the liberal theology invaded the church and the faith in the resurrection of the body decreased, so the acceptance for cremation grew. 

Another aspect to consider is the dignity of our body. We have been created in the image of God.  Though fallen, there still is ‘enough dignity’ left that God instituted the death penalty for anyone who took the life of a fellow human. The reason is that “in the image of God made he man.” (Gen. 9:6) The body of the believers will be raised in a perfected state.  That truth gives a dignity to the body in life and in death. It should also guide us in taking respectful care of the body of those who have deceased.  Cremation is by definition a violent process of destruction.  Incinerators in crematoria are fuelled up to reach temperatures between 800 and 1000 degrees Celsius.  The left over bones are then broken down in what is effectively a tumble dryer with large steel balls. 

In some way cremation is an attempt to escape the grim reality of death.  All kinds of practices within our Western culture around the funeral are geared to hide the reality and smooth out the roughness of a death and burial.  It can be argued that also cremation fits into this attempt to soften the reality of death.  Yet it needs to be pointed out that all these attempts to ‘escape’ the reality do nothing to help the healing process; it rather complicates or hinders the proper healing. 

In conclusion, all other pragmatic reasons and economic considerations have no ground.  God’s will matters above all.  Cities that cope with shortage of land because of their large populations will need to make critical choices to keep land plots available for burying the dead.  It always strikes me how easily huge golf courses are built in new neighbourhoods. There seems to be no lack of land for that!  In the end, it is all matter of priority.  Our priority, however, needs to remain, “What will Thou have me to do?” 


Pastor Vergunst



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Can someone be forbidden to attend Lord's Supper?


Question:
Can a full member of the congregation, who apparently lives a decent life and is not in open sin or under censor, be forbidden by the consistory to attend the Lord's Supper?  If so, then for what reasons?  Linda


Hi Linda,

If all the 'conditions' you have stated are correct, then he or she can't be forbidden to attend the Lord's Supper.  Only if there is a sin issue known to others or an obvious doctrinal error he or she is holding, then a consistory has the duty to withhold the privilege of attending the Lord's Supper. One item in your question is the statement 'who apparently lives a decent life' and that could mean that the consistory knows things about this person that you don't know. So be careful to make a judgment if you don't have the 'inside information' the spiritual leadership in the church may have.  We as leaders also have no duty to disclose the information on which we would make such a decision to protect the individual member.  So I caution you to be careful in making your judgments. It is possible and even pastoral to advise a member not to partake of the Lord's Supper if it is clear that a person is deceiving himself spiritually.  But ultimately the decision to partake rests with the person.


Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



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What is the point of doing good?


Question:
I have heard that what ever we do, even if it is 'good', are just like dirty rags in God's sight. Is this true? If it is true, what is the point of trying to do good?


Dear friend,


God created us to do good: to love Him and our neighbor as we love ourselves. The obedience to that command of God will also bring you the greatest amount of happiness.  I assume you know that already by experience, don't you?  Each time you do something loving, like serving your neighbour, you will experience that law of happiness.  Jesus Himself has said after He washed His disciples' feet, "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." (John 13:17) So, to answer your question in reverse, the point of doing good is first, because our Maker expects this from us for He made us for that purpose.  Secondly, obedience to His command does create the greatest amount of happiness for others which you will share yourself as well.

However, the sad truth is that our 'best' is core-ruptured with pride, selfishness, impure motives etc.  I assume that you know that yourself as well for who doesn't read his own thoughts or gauges his own feelings after you have done something extraordinary.  We crave the praise as much as the dry deserts crave for water and we gobble it up as fast as our sinks swallows down the water. So in God's eyes, Who sees every inner motive and personal reflection of even our best-looking deeds of sacrifice and service, it is completely rejected because it is sinful. He cannot accept that because He is holy and just. No matter how well we try, sin attaches itself as a leech to every good deed we done, making it guilt in God's sight.  Therefore the Scriptures tell us that regarding our 'justification before God' none of our works will do anything else but charge us with more sin. The only hope is therefore in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He is the only One who could offer to His Father and Judge works that were perfect and therefore acceptable to God.  How beautiful is the name Jeremiah was inspired to give to Him, The LORD our righteousness.

Friend,  have you learned to loathe your own righteousness as dirty rags? Let me direct you again to Him who said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden with the realization that whatever you do will never measure up! And I will give you rest as you rest upon my obedience and my sacrifice."  The Saviour Jesus Christ is pointing out to you that in Him is your hope.

But then what about the 'trying to do good?'  Well, even though God doesn't need them and will never accept them because their imperfections, your neighbors still need them!  Let them enjoy your good and loving deeds but never built your hopes for heaven on it!

Warmly,

Pastor Vergunst



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Can a couple get married in church if one is not a member?


Question: Can a couple get married in a Reformed church when one of them is not a member of that church (or even a member of a different church)? Maybe that couple feels like needing God's blessing for their marriage. Or can't you ask for God's blessing when you, as a couple, are not on the same line in religion (even though you're both very understanding to each other)?


Dear Jane,

Each congregation may have their personal guidelines so I cannot speak for a specific situation.  Some congregations require both persons to be a full or confessional member of the congregation but in our congregation that is not the policy.
If one of the couple is a member and he or she marries with an non-member, then there would be a few issues to consider,
a.  is this non-member a committed Christian?
b.  is this non-member committed to become a member of the church?
c.  is the relationship between the two of such a quality that the leadership feels comfortable to officiate the marriage. 
This last aspect is applicable to any marriage and not limited to this scenario you asked about.

It is always good to seek the Lord's blessing on the marriage but you can only seek that blessing if you are walking in His revealed will.  In other words, it is impossible to ask the Lord's blessing on an 'unequal yoke' such as a relationship between a committed Christian and a non-believer.  In that case, a Christian church would do wrong in
officiating at a marriage ceremony.

I hope that this provides you with the guidance you were looking for.

Pastor Vergunst



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Is everyone allowed to trust in God? Or saved people only?


Question:
I was wondering if you could tell me some more about trust in God? It is not quite clear for me whether everybody is allowed to trust God or is that only for God's children? And is an not-convicted person able to trust God in a right way? I look forward to your reply.



Dear Olivia,

Let me begin with the last part of your question.  Nobody is able to trust in God in the right way.  Unbelief reigns within our heart as a power which controls us.  Bunyan refers to unbelief as Captain Unbelief holding supreme sway over fallen man soul!  This supported for example by Paul's words in 1 Cor 12:3, "Wherefore I give you to understand ... that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost."  So we need the Holy Spirit to enable us to put our trust in Him for trusting is an act of faith which we are impossible to do exercise with God's Spirit.

But our inability isn't our excuse.  When the Lord calls us to believe (which is to put our trust in Him) He doesn't make that an advise or suggestion but a command.  Our inability doesn't take away His demand but brings us into a spiritual bind.  "Without faith (trust) it is impossible to please God" but we cannot believe in our own strength (Eph. 2:8).  This impossibility from our side should not drive us to despair, though it may feel like that.  It should drive us on our knees in prayer crying to the Almighty to work in us what we cannot work in our own heart.  Hasn't He promised, "Call upon my in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me." (Ps. 50:15) What a day of trouble is it when we can't trust in God!  Do you see it that way also?  Isn't it then a wonderful encouragement that God stoops down to us in such a promise?

Now your last question: is everybody allowed to trust God? Oh, my friend, let me ask you a question.  Am I allowed to trust you?  Am I allowed to trust my father or mother when they promise something even though I am unworthy or undeserving or untouched by their love?  I am sure your answer would be "No, I am still allowed to trust them."  So you are wrong for not trusting God.  When God speaks "Trust in him at all times: ye people, pour out your heart before Him: God is refuge for us" must I read that as saying, "Ho, ho, only people who are the Lord's people are allowed to pour out their heart before God!" Or, "Only the Lord's people are allowed to pray!"  If you don't agree with those two last statements, then you have answered your own question.  All people are allowed to trust in God at all times!  The problem is that most don't trust in Him at any time! But that is not because God didn't invite or call or encourage them.  It is because they refused to do it.

May the Lord enable you to place all your trust for body and soul, for time and eternity on Him Who is so trustworthy.  Never has the Lord broken any of His promise.  Be like the man who answered Jesus question in Mark 9, "If thou canst believe [trust Me], all things are possible to him that believeth" with "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."  And that's exactly what the Lord Jesus did.


Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



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Essential and Nonessential things in Conversion


Question:We were taught that there are "essential" and "nonessential" things to be concerned about when discussing conversion. For example, it is essential that everyone who professes to be a converted person believes in the Trinity, believes the Ten Commandments, believes he is a miserable sinner before a holy and righteous God, etc.  Nonessential things include the "petty" things we argue about--whether you can do this or that on Sunday, whether women must have long hair or not, etc.
My question is, how do you know exactly what is included under the "nonessential" things? You can't use the Bible, because for ANYthing, there will be a text somewhere--at least that someone will pull up--to prove it. For example:  the Sunday thing.  My in-laws (now you see the source of my questions!) do not allow certain things on Sunday that most other people do.  I call that a "nonessential".  But they will say very strongly, that anyone who is truly converted will NOT do such and such a thing on the Sabbath, that he will feel it in his heart that it is not right. (Things like using a curling iron, taking a bath, etc.) They will be very sure about it.
Or: the Lord's Supper. In our church, women will go who wear things or style their hair in a way that we were brought up to think was wrong. Or the pants issue: This girl/woman cannot be a true child of God, because she wears pants. I agree.  Yet, I wonder--are these only nonessentials?  You can prove (somewhat) from the Bible that pants for females are wrong, just as you can prove almost anything from the Bible.

So the question is:  How do we know the difference between a "nonessential" and an "essential" thing? 


Dear Linda,

Thanks for your amazing patience.  Your questions are related to Paul's teaching in Rom 14 and part of 15.  Clearly he teaches that believers don't always think or live alike on issues not clearly defined in the Scripture.  On the major doctrines of the Bible regarding salvation there has to be absolute unity.  But even on some doctrinal issues there can be disagreement.  Those known with the writing of Rev. J. C. Philpot love his experiential knowledge and teaching of God's precious truths but within our Reformed circles we reject his view of infant baptism of the children of the church.  But on the doctrines of man's total sinfulness and lost condition, God's sovereignty in salvation, the way of salvation through Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, the Deity of the Lord Jesus and of the Holy Spirit, etc. are all subjects on which we cannot disagree.  But on the matters not defined in Scripture as 'black or white' and that therefore have no immediate bearing on salvation, there can be disagreement.  Popularly said, we are to agree on the majors but may disagree on the undefined minors.

However, the matters of 'things indifferent' aren't a matter of indifference to the Lord.  Isn't it remarkable that the Holy Spirit has given more attention to this issue which divides and strains relationships between believers that to the very creation of the universe?  Besides these chapters in Romans, 1 Cor. 8-10 and Gal 5 deal with this subject as it were subjects that brought great division in the first NT churches.   Now many interesting and worthwhile things can be said about these chapters but I will limit myself to your question.  If you are interested in this subject, you can always listen to the three sermons I have devoted once to these chapters.  They may still be available on Sermonaudio.com.

What are now the matters of indifference and how do we go about to determine that?  It is all those issues relating to our daily life which are not clearly prohibited or commanded in God's Holy Word. What is 'black and white' in the Bible is beyond discussion.  It simply is the will of our God and since He has spoken about it, we have no other choice but to obey Him.  So the 'head covering of a woman in the public service' is not just a habit in Corinth or an old-fashioned custom of our forefathers!  It is written in God's Word as a legislative portion of Scripture.   But whether I need to wear a curly wig (as our venerable forefathers did) is (gladly) not written in the Scripture as God's will but was a social-status thing in those days as much a suit and tie are today a display of respect.  Other 'black and white' issues of God’s will in our daily life are pre-marital or extra-marital sexual activity, the keeping of the Lord's Day holy, the attendance of congregational worship.  These matters can all be backed up from Scripture.

But what are not always defined are the precise details.  For example, what you can or cannot do on the Lord's Day?  Here is where difference exists depending on your culture.   Am I allowed to use my car to go church on Sunday?  If you recently grew up in the USA or NZ, you might react quite surprised!  What is wrong with that?  Yet I know serious-minded and sincere people who consider it is a sin to use the car on the Lord's Day and they will walk to church.  Who is right or wrong?  In cases like this, they are wrong who violate their own convictions and conscience and don't act in faith before God.  That's what Paul taught in Romans 14:23.   I was raised not to go for lunch at another family’s house on the Lord’s Day.  At least, it never happened in our home.  For many years I felt very disinclined to do that until I noticed that the Lord Jesus honored an invitation to eat at the Pharisee’s house on the Sabbath Day. That all of a sudden really challenged my thinking and actually violated my conscience-code.  Obviously, the Lord Jesus wasn’t wrong in what He did.  My conscience was ‘weak’ while His was ‘strong.’  

Other matters in which sincere Christians who would agree on all the major doctrines and show evidences of a genuine life of faith may differ are in the use of alcohol, jewelry, insurance, vaccination, whether to celebrate Christmas or Good Friday, clothing styles and colors.  God has provided in His Word His principles on all these issues and these principles are to guide us in the choices we make in these areas.  For the one that choice may be influenced by a different cultural upbringing or by a personal experience.   For example, playing a game of soccer with a group of friends will be judged entirely different by one who has been delivered from the idolatry of sports than by another who has always been hopeless in kicking a ball around.  The 'idolatry' is wrong and the one who has been living in that sin, even a friendly game of soccer will feel like a huge temptation and so he has drawn his lines completely different.   We need to be very careful not to judge carelessly and thoughtlessly when others draw their lines different than us. There is usually a history before such a decision that we aren’t aware of.

It is therefore impossible and unwise to issue my judgment on the questions you raised whether 'Is this allowed and that allowed?'  If God hasn't said anything about it in His Word, we can't categorically condemn it as wrong or immediately approve of it as right.  Each of these cases needs to be judged individually as we bear in mind the personal uniqueness or cultural setting around you.

I often admire the Lord’s wisdom in this aspect of His Word.  As the same Word is His Word to all the different cultures in our vastly different world, the Lord has written it so that it will be a sure and steadfast guide in all those different settings in history and nations.

May the Lord bless us with the wisdom and grace that Paul concluded with, “Let every one us please his neighbor for his good to edification.  For even Christ pleased not Himself.” (Rom. 15:2-3a)

Warmly,


Pastor Vergunst




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What does it mean to fear the Lord?


Question:What does it mean to fear the Lord? How do we
fear the Lord?


Dear Sharon,

The fear of God is used in the Bible to describe the tender esteem, regard and love for the Lord as the Almighty and Good God.  It isn't the same as the 'fear' as being afraid.  Adam and Eve feared God after they heard Him approach in the garden but that was a deep dread to meet Him.  But the 'fear of the Lord' that filled the heart of Abraham when he offered his son Isaac expressed his deep devotion and love for the Lord that he was willing to sacrifice his only son. (Gen. 22:12)  In Ex 1:17 we read about the Egyptian midwives who 'feared God' and therefore refused to obey the orders of the king.  Again, this fear of the Lord was their deep awe for the LORD whose anger they feared more than the wrath of their Pharaoh. It is hard to know whether there was love in their heart for the LORD God but we know for sure that the Lord blessed them for their actions.

So let me try to define the ‘fear of the Lord’ as the affectionate reverence with which the soul humbles himself as well as denies himself and carefully walks according to God’s revealed law out a deep love for Him.   This essential ‘heart attitude’ is, I am afraid, often missing in so much religion today.  If I meet people who constantly challenge the way we are living and what we are doing in terms of our behavior before God and men and seem to hold that we aren’t living in the 1800’s, I am afraid I meet someone who doesn’t really fear the Lord.  Because if you fear the Lord, wouldn’t you want to stay away as far as possible from those things that displease or dishonor Him?  Those that fear the Lord will be like Joseph, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9) Or take the example of Daniel, “He purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat…” (Dan. 1:8)  For many ‘food and drink’ is neutral but that wasn’t the case for Daniel.  He felt tender about offending God and drew his boundary line clearly.   When God stopped Saul on the road of Damascus, he was undoubtedly filled with both fears at first.  But the question “What wilt thou have me to do?” became the prominent question of his life and prayer. It revealed his deep reverence for the majesty of King Jesus and His holy will.

Even though the New Testament doesn’t mention the ‘fear of the Lord’ as often as the Old Testament, you can still find it.  Check for example Heb. 12:28-29.  There it is defined as ‘reverence and godly fear.’   Perhaps the more common word in the New Testament that corresponds with the fear of the Lord in the Old is ‘love.’  True love esteems, denies itself, seeks to please and holds the loved one dear. 

If the fear of God is truly alive in our heart, it will also influence every department and aspect of your life and living.  It will governs you in what you choose to do with your free time; what calling you will pursue in life; with whom you want to build a life-long relationship; how you will order your family life; in how you deny yourself also in the area of liberty.   It becomes a life-motto that breathes through everything we do or are.

Lastly, many blessings are promised in the Bible to those that fear the Lord.  Take the time (and use a concordance) to check all the references to the fear of the Lord in Proverbs.  It truly is one of greatest blessings to have such a fear of the Lord in our life.

May I end with pointing out that the poet in Ps. 86 prayed, “Teach me thy way, O LORD;  I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.”  Let it be your prayer.


Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst

Carterton, New Zealand



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John the Baptist rebuking Herod

Question: When John the Baptist told Herod "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife." (Mark 6 v16) was he rebuking him for adultery or for incest?
Andrew.


Hi Andrew,

He was rebuking him for adultery for he had a relationship with Herodias who was his sister-in-law, his brother Philip's wife. (Mark 6:17)


Pastor Vergunst



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What is a Biblical view of Fasting today?

Question: Dear Pastor Vergunst, What is your/a biblical view of fasting today, particularly before the Lord's Supper is to be held?


Hi friend,

Fasting is ignored too much in our days.  When is the last time you heard a sermon about it or a reference to it in a sermon?  Yet when we read the Scriptures, it is referred to abundantly.  In the same chapter that the Lord Jesus spoke about prayer and almsgiving, He spoke about fasting (Matt. 6).  The same warnings are given about all three activities but we don't conclude that praying and almsgiving should be omitted because it can so easily be done without a heart for the matter.  Yet we tend to make this unspoken conclusion about fasting.

Fasting is done in the Bible in a wide variety of ways.  But true fasting has the same intention:  it is an earnest addition to an expressed need before God.  In other words, the matter which you are bringing before God is so weighty and important to you that you are adding a fast to it to indicate how weighty this matter is.  That's one of the main purposes of fasting.  It is not meritorious because like all we do, it is as a filthy rag in God's sight.  But through my fast I am telling the Lord, "Lord, this is so important to me that I am willing to give up my food and drink to bring this need before Thee."   If  you take your Bible and check all the references to fasting then you will come to the same conclusion that it was always added to prayer.  

Another benefit of fasting is that you will often be reminded to pray about the matter.  You body will send signals that there is need of food or drink.  This works as a physical reminder to come before the Lord in prayer.  Let's say there is a particular need bound on your heart but you are having a busy day ahead where you will be so often distracted, fasting will help you to pray about it during the day as your body keeps sending you a message.  Please, know your own limits.  Some people get real faint when they fast and feel too weak or jittery to do anything.  That usually indicates an addiction to sugar in healthy people.  So it may take some re-training your body to be able to fast for a length of time without feeling physically weak.

You specifically asked about fasting in connection with the Lord's Supper.  I think fasting could be a very good way in time of preparation.  The prayer we ask the Lord is that He will search us and show whether there are any sins that need to be repented of.   Or perhaps you have great struggles to know whether the Lord has worked in your heart and whether you are permitted to make use of the sacrament.  Setting aside a time of prayer and fasting to bring these matters before the Lord is very valuable.  

May the Lord revive us more and more so that God's people also begin to feel the need for fasting again.  We talk much about the great needs of our day and age.  But besides talk, not much else is happening.  Are we really that sincere when we sigh about these matters?  Are we willing to deny ourselves the comforts as we wrestle before God?   Where are the Anna's who departed not from the temple with prayer and fasting?  Where are the Daniel's who fasted from the dainties to devote himself to prayer?

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



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