Reformed Congregations of New Zealand

 
Welcome
Our Beliefs
Meditation
Sermons
Outreach
Calender
Questions
Photo Gallery
Links
Contact Us
 


 


Is it common to tell the minister that you appreciated a sermon?


Question: If one truly appreciates a particular sermon, is it common to email the minister and let him know?  Do ministers get a lot of emails like that?
I would email a minister quicker and more often if I knew I was not the only one who did it! But I do not want to make him proud.  And I would really like to do it anonymously.

P.S.: Thank you for this forum, it's the only place we can ask these questions.



Hello Maria,

No it is not common and probably shouldn't be done each time either. Ministers are also sinners and thirsty to feed their ego. After Rev. John Newton came of the pulpit on one particular Lord's day, his elder said to him, "Pastor, that was the best sermon you ever did."  Newton answered, "You are the second person that told me that." In other words, his own heart said it and it isn't helpful in such a case to have praise heaped on you.
Whenever God uses them to bless you, the praise and thanksgiving goes to God and it is much better that you praise the Lord in private for His goodness He passes on to you through your minister.

But that doesn't mean that you can't regularly voice your appreciation for the work that your  minister does.  I suggest that when a particular message is blessed, that you communicate in such a way that the honour goes to God while you acknowledge him.  For example, instead of saying, "Pastor, that was a great sermon..." I suggest you say, "Pastor, I like to let you know how the Lord used your message yesterday to .... and I
really appreciate all the work you put in preparing that message from God's Word." 

One of Satan's most effective tools is discouragement and the work in ministry is often discouraging because the fruit isn't so often seen. Therefore make you sure that your minister hears from time to time that the Lord is using him in your personal or family life.  That gives encouragement.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



Back to the questions page



A question regarding Lord's Supper attendance


Question: What can we as members do when we see our church heading the wrong way in regard to the Lord's Supper?

Back in the days of Rev. Lamain, it was very rare to have new attendants.  (For other readers, Rev. Lamain was a minister in Grand Rapids, MI, during the 1950 – 1980’s. ATV) It was such a sacred thing, that it was whispered from person to person.  Today, we regularly have new attendants every time.

If it were really true, it would be truly wonderful!  However, you don't see a bit of change on most--or any--of these attendants, and most of the women are worldly Jezebels in dress and walk. It feels like a freewill atmosphere.
People have talked to the minister but to no avail.  Some have left the church.  If we talk to anyone, we immediately get accused of judging and "well, why aren't you there?"
We are not judging, per se.  We are seeing the church go in a totally wrong direction and our mouths are tied shut because we are not allowed to "judge."
Besides prayer, what can/could be done?  I realize ministers always go through the judging/tattling of "she shouldn't be there" stuff, and they can't stop anyone from coming, but the Lord's Supper is not a bit holy for many of us anymore.

(Later Sarah wrote me another e-mail to which I was to refer in my answer.  In order to do that, I need to paraphrase the last part of this second e-mail.) One main purpose for my question is to determine whether the way I was brought up was overly strict, too hard, and whether the way is "easier" than I was led to believe.  I know that I am to be blamed for not searching as I should be.  Maybe if the ‘way is not so hard, I would try harder.’  But maybe the devil tells me that.  However, we were always taught you could search the Lord, read the Bible, pray and even be sure you are converted and still not be so.
Sarah


Answer:

Hello Sarah,

Thanks for sharing your concerns about your church.   I hope that these matters you bring up flow from a personal concern about your soul as well as about the glory of God’s cause and Word.  Often I hear people making all kinds of comments (right or wrong) about 'others' that attend while they themselves live on year after year under the external calling of God's Word without heeding God's command to repent and believe (Acts 17:30).  In other words, we can be busying ourselves so much about 'others' who we feel do wrong or the church we fear is going into the wrong direction, while we place the far bigger issue of ourselves into the background.  I hope you are one of those who sigh and cry about your own sins as well as the sins of others within and without church.

You began with making reference to the fact that in Rev. Lamain's days it was 'whispered from person to person when someone attended the Lord's Supper for the first time.'  But was that the right Biblical reaction?  If someone genuinely repents from sin, all of heaven sings!  (Luke 15:10) Why should the church on earth whisper? 

Perhaps you counter that it was such a holy event to attend the Lord's Supper and hardly anyone ever joined those who already attended.   I agree that the Lord’s Supper is holy and that attending the Lord’s Supper is one of the most sacred acts of worship done on earth.  But we also need to be careful not to make attending the Lord's Supper more than what God makes it to be. Let’s be reminded that attending the preaching of God's Word (the speaking of God) is also a very holy act.  When the LORD God commanded Moses to 'sanctify the people' (Ex. 19:10-11) they were coming to hear the speaking of God's law.  Do we consider coming to church or hearing God’s holy law and Gospel in that way?  Is it Biblical to elevate the Lord's Supper above the preaching of God's Word?  What about holy Baptism?  Do we value that sacramental sign as holy as the signs of the Lord's Supper?  We don’t 'whisper' when we share with each other that 'so and so was baptized yesterday?'  Yet it also a very sacred act when a child receives the ‘mark of the covenant, the Name of the Triune God, on the forehead.  Every Sunday we are reminded not 'to take (or bear) God's Name in vain.  Do we realize that when we as 'baptized people' live or act in sinful ways, we also ‘bear the Name of the LORD in vain?’  Or do we realize what a sin it is when God has come so near to you with His merciful tidings of grace and you reject Him?  We can also ‘hear ourselves a judgment’ as others may eat and drink themselves a judgment by attending the Lord’s Table. 

With those few thoughts I aim to correct common thinking or impressions that aren’t right.  Elevating the Lord's Supper above the administration of God's Word or Holy Baptism is unscriptural.   It may even create an unhealthy spiritual life and tends to promote Lord's Supper avoidance among the little ones or babes in grace in the family of the Lord's people.   Even though you may have grown up with seeing only older or few members attend the Lord's Supper, that doesn't make it right.  It is a very sad sign when very few full members in a church attend the Lord's Supper.  That either means many are unconverted and on the way to hell as they have despised and neglected so great salvation.  Or it means that the Biblical requirements of the Lord's Supper are so distorted that only those dare to attend who have received some 'elite spiritual privilege.'  Is that what the Lord Jesus intended when He instituted the Lord’s Supper?

Where the first attendees to the Lord’s Supper men advanced in faith and assurance or babes in grace?  As I understand it, those men were even very unclear about the nature of Jesus’ death and atonement.  But one thing all eleven knew, “Lord, to whom else shall we go; Thou has the words of eternal life.  And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.’

However, it can also be a very sad sign when everyone or very many attend the Lord’s Supper without a serious regard for the ‘Divine right’ of the experiential life of faith or without a due impression of the holiness of communion.  That can be due to a lack of ‘searching preaching’ in which the work of the Holy Spirit within the born again soul is preached.  It is not all ‘gold that shines’ and so also many that may shine with punctual and squeaky clean religious lives, may be nothing more than ‘dressed up dead bones.’  If such searching of the heart is lacking, then often ‘outward membership’ becomes the only requirement churches insist on before one can attend.    

One of the concerns that occasioned your questions is that ‘manner in which many attend the Lord’s Supper’.  The ‘air’ in your congregation is becoming so casual and worldly-looking among those who attend the Lord’s Table.  Of course I don’t know what you exactly define as ‘worldly Jezebels in dress and walk’ but I guess you refer to dress-styles, jewelry, make-up of the female participants.  First, be careful to use such ‘strong and condemning labels’ to describe fellow members of your church.  It doesn’t promote any healthy discussion for with such labels you put someone into a very bad category of women.  I am sure that’s not really what you meant. Yet you are concerned about the way these Lord’s Supper attenders dress?  It isn’t clear in your letter that this applies also to the male attenders.

I am firmly convicted that appropriate dress codes need to be maintained for all church attendance and not just for the Lord’s Supper.  What is fitting for hearing the Word of God or coming to church is also fitting to attend the Lord’s Supper!  Making different dress requirements for attending the Lord’s Supper creates unbalanced thinking.  We need to ‘dress upwards’ to reflect that we attend a very important occasion.  Coming in casual clothing which you wear when you go to school or shop or relax isn’t appropriate for the Lord’s house.  Notice Peter in John 21.  Peter didn’t have a problem laying down his ‘outer garment’ while fishing, but the moment he perceived that the Lord Jesus stood on the shore, he puts on his outer garment again.  That’s showing respect for the Lord before whom we come. We do this also with special occasions like a wedding, out of respect for the couple.  Needless to say, coming to church is far more important than a wedding.  In our clothing style we reflect our respect for the person we meet with.  This applies equally to the Lord’s Supper.  

But we need to remain in balance. When I bow before the Lord in private, I have no problem doing this in regular daily clothing.  Clothing is obviously not a limited issue for God.  He is ultimately looking at the heart. Is the spirit humble, thankful, submissive, genuine, sincere, reverent? 

Often we define worldliness in terms of styles, jewelry, make-up and certain activities.  But be careful with limiting worldliness with that definition.  Using that measuring stick, then many of people in church are super-godly for they dress very sober and stay away from certain activities that the world indulges in.   But Paul defines worldliness in Rom. 12:2 as “And be not conformed to this world: but ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…”  The root sin of ‘worldliness’ is to think, value, feel and act like the world.  It is first of all the issue of the heart.  To God ‘worldly people’ are impious, greedy, unthankful, discontent, selfish, indulgent, haughty, proud, excessive, covetous, materialistic, hypocritical, unrepentant and unbelieving. I need to correct myself constantly on my definition of worldly people.  A young man in his beautiful tie and suit coming to church may appear very nice.  But if you see or hear him during the week at work, among his buddies and how he spent his Saturday evening, then he is utterly ungodly and worldly even though he never misses a church service in his beautiful suit.  The young woman who may herself dress attractive, modest, decorates herself with a piece of modest jewellery, and wear clothing may be more fashionable than some of others in church is sometimes looked upon as ‘worldly.’  But during the week she makes phone calls to encourage fellow members who are struggling, refrains from yakking on the phone about everyone else to share the latest gossip, sacrifices her time to speak to a neighbor about God, makes daily time for personal devotions, wrestles in prayer for the unsaved in her (church) family and takes the time to speak to her children about God and His Word.  She may be far more godly in God’s eyes than the others who hold to all the traditional ways.  The point I am trying to make is that ‘worldliness’ is so much more than what we generally define it.

However God has spoken clearly about His will for clothing.  The principles how to cloth for both men and women are modesty, soberness, concealing (covering), distinct, fitting for the occasion and charitable to our weaker fellow members.  We would do well to discuss these Biblical principles more.  It is the issue of ‘modesty and soberness’ that you find are missing in those ‘new attendees.’  I agree that those issues needs to be addressed. (You can check on this website to see some more in-depth answers on the clothing issues).

I also plead for soberness and for an appearance style which shows that we are clearly staying within the boundaries of God’s revealed will.   And that applies to both men and women.   Though I also think we need to accept the fact that time changes styles and that we don’t need to appear as if we came from a ‘former historical time-zone.’ 

You feel in some ways offended and concerned.  Have you, Sarah, spoken personally to those with whom you feel offended?  Perhaps you object that ‘they don’t know me.’  Indeed, that is a problem.  If there is no personal relationship with the person, it is hard to step up to them.  Still, you have that obligation as you are part of the church family.  I suggest you call one of them and request the following, “ (name), is it possible that we could have a face to face talk together?  What I want to talk about with you is that I feel really concerned about you were dressed when you attended the Lord’s Supper.  I realize that it the heart that matters but I struggle to see how the outside doesn’t matter.  Since it burdens me, I would really like if we can discuss together in friendly way.  What would be a good time for us to meet?”  Using this method allows the other person to know what you want to talk about; gives her/him time to consider your point even though you haven’t stated them (that’s half the work done) and then you both come to the meeting somewhat prepared.  Make sure you communicate your concern in loving and humble way.  If you come with the ‘sledge hammer’ approach you will never build a relationship because you ask any builder what a sledge hammer is good for!  Speaking about the ‘heart issues’ and hearing what actually may live in a person, can be so eye opening.  We so quickly put people in to ‘boxes based on their outward appearances.’  To some extent that is natural because we reflect something of our heart and priorities in how we behave or look.  Still we can be so wrong in our assessment.  I recall the story of a Synodical meeting way back in the 50’s.  One delegate from a Canadian church was very offended with one delegate brother of a church in the USA.  This USA brother was wearing a blue suit and grey/blue tie instead of the ‘all black suit and tie.’  However, after getting acquainted with him, he recognized he was a dear and esteemed brother in Christ.  The clothing color didn’t really matter at all anymore and that is still the truth. 

You made the comment ‘it feels like a free will atmosphere.’  I suppose that you base that on the fact that many and perhaps far younger members attend the Lord’s Table.  But I would be careful to label that as ‘free-will atmosphere.’ Again, it so derogatory to give anyone this label of heresy.  “Free-will teaching” is such God dishonoring presentation of the Biblical truths of God’s sovereignty in a lost sinner’s salvation that I would feel terribly offended and hurt if anyone would label me that.  So I advise you not to use such terms in venting your concerns and burdens with the direction you feel the church is going. 

As I alluded to before, it may be that you grew up in a time that the Lord’s Supper was far too easy neglected and avoided by the Lord’s people because there might have been an unbiblical understanding of the Lord’s table.  Often a very high degree of personal assurance or certain spiritual experience was required before someone was deemed ready to attend.  I am glad that this view is challenged.  None of the first attendees were men that were assured of their personal salvation or forgiveness of sin.  None!  All of them were standing in the ‘baby shoes’ of the Gospel understanding and yet Jesus reached to them the tokens of bread and wine to strengthen their faith in Him and His work.  Attendees at the table of the Lord are to be no strangers of a personal conviction of their misery and of the only One Who can deliver them from such great misery.  Besides that, they should be able to testify before God that they have an inner resolve to live before God and man in all holiness and uprightness.  

Where such inner life is found, it cannot remain hidden in how they value and act within their families, at work, in society and also in church.   It is a great concern when people speak about being saved without knowing they were lost or speak about it as if it is the most natural thing to be saved!  Or when they confess openly that they believe in the Lord Jesus as their Savior but they don’t show this confession in devoted obedience to their Lord. For when we truly love Him, we will keep His commandments; at least, it will be our greatest desire and battle!  

Lastly, your additional paragraph also sheds some light on your inner struggle.  It doesn’t sound like you have much hope for the ‘way to be truly saved is so hard and unreachable!Even if you do all the right things you may still be nothing more than a hypocrite.  Now that is true!  Yet remember a hypocrite is someone who lives a double life.  He is different on the inside than he is on the outside.  And he knows that!  All he does is try to make an impression to gain acceptance.  Though none of us are without the sin of hypocrisy, not all of us are hypocrites in the sense that we really are trying to deceive others or God. We can be genuine while we struggle with the sin of hypocrisy.

So are you really trying to deceive everyone with your walk and talk?  On the outside ‘good Reformed’ but on the inside an absolute idol worshipper in exercise?  That would be terrible and God will one day expose you. Or do you really want to walk in the ways of God, hating and fleeing sin, seeking Him and His Kingdom, obeying Him in private and public?  Is the sin of your heart a hated reality that you wrestle against in prayer?  Are you coming to church as soul that cries, “Lord, visit me with Thy salvation …?”

Yes, but … all that isn’t enough!  True.  You won’t be acceptable with God on basis of any of that.  For if we seek to settle the issue of guilt with God by our own doings, all we try to do is pay Him with debts!  There is but one ground on which you can stand and come to your holy and just God!  That ground is the Rock of Ages, Jesus Christ!  Sarah, all that God asks that we be saved is that you repent from your sins and wash yourself as Naaman in the river of free grace in Jesus Christ.  “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.”  For many that sounds too easy.  Isn’t more needed to be saved?  Don’t I need to have some ‘experience first’ before I can believe that God would be merciful to me? 

No, you don’t need that to qualify yourself for His mercy and grace.  He offers full and instant forgiveness to any sinner that repents.  Former Kalamazoo preacher, Rev. Van Dijk used to say, “It is so hard to be saved because it is so easy!”  So, yes, you may have a wrong understanding of the nature of the Gospel salvation by a prejudiced mindset.  Take the time to study Rom. 10 prayerfully.  It is one of the clearest chapters about the God’s Gospel method of salvation.

Sorry, this took a while to answer and write.  May God bless you and your church.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



Back to the questions page



Praying to God: with Thee or You?


Question:Some people when praying to God say Thee and others say You. Is it wrong to say You to God? And if so why?


Hello friend,

In the original Hebrew and Greek, I understand that there is no distinctive pronouns used in addressing God or people.  There are also no capitals or punctuation marks used as we use them in our language today.
In the King James Version this is consistently reflected.  The translators didn't capitalize each personal pronoun referring to God or to the Lord Jesus.  But they also didn't make a distinction in their address of God, men and devils.

For example, in Matthew 11:25 Jesus prays to His Father and says, "I thank thee, O Father ..."
But a few verses earlier Jesus addressed the people of Chorazin with, "Woe unto thee, Chorazin..."
In Mat. 16:23, Jesus addressed the devil and said, "Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offence unto me..."

Therefore it is impossible to make a Biblical case to assert that someone does wrong when he or she addresses God with you.  The King James Version translators were men of exceptional godliness and tenderness of heart and they didn't make that distinction in address. 

However, to my "ears" it still sounds irreverent.  I have grown up in the Dutch culture where the language uses different pronouns in speaking to adults or to peers.  When I transferred to the English world, I joined a congregation where they used 'Thee and Thou' for the address to God and 'you' when speaking to men, either peers or adults.  So over the years it has been ingrained in my thinking that 'Thee or Thou' is more respectful to use when speaking to God.  I now realize that it is a matter of 'culture' rather than of 'essence.'  I often interact with very respectful Christian people who don't use 'Thee/Thou' and though it still 'sounds irreverent' to me, I need to remind myself that this impression is due to my cultured ears.  God looks at the heart and He can read tender respect or great disrespect behind the words we use.  Ultimately that is what matters most.

Yet I lean toward pleading to retain the 'Thee/Thou' in our address to God.  We live in a day where everything is 'equaled out' and respect for higher authority is waning.  Why not do all to maintain at least these outward expressions of respect that we have available in the Thee/Thou when referring to God?

Pastor Vergunst
Carterton



Back to the questions page



Conversion: The Gospel-way vs Law-way

Question: Can you please discuss the differences between people who are converted through seeing God's love first and those who are converted through seeing their misery first?
Is this difference shown in how they are seen or in how they act or talk? Would it make a
difference in their preaching, if they were ministers?


Dear friend,

The Holy Spirit is free in His manner of bringing an elect sinner to embrace Christ and His teaching of salvation.  Looking back over their spiritual journey, every saved soul will recognize that they have learned to know their sins, their worthiness to be condemned by God, their salvation through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ and an inner desire after holiness.  The classic trio of the knowledge of our misery, deliverance and gratitude as the Heidelberg Catechism teaches is a universal knowledge all God’s children will be able to relate to.

Distinct ways
 
However, there are many distinct ways in which the Spirit draws men to Christ.  It is clearly wrong to insist on one way being better than another as unconsciously is done when we focus too much on any type of conversion.  We all should be aware that the story of a conversion is not important though interesting.  Some spiritual journeys are hardly to be told in a story.  Many fear the Lord from their youth and cannot relate a time when their hearts where changed or when their sins were as Bunyan’s pack! So when you ask them how the Lord brought them on the way, they will struggle to answer for they have always been on the way, at least as long as they can remember.  But ask them about the exercises of their heart and they can share that they are feel spiritually so poor and needy; that they mourn over the sins in themselves and others; that they sense a meekness before the Lord while yet they hunger and thirst after being right with God; that have learned to see that this is only possible through the precious Mediator Jesus Christ; that they long and strive to live holy before God and men in showing mercy and love to their neighbours.  That ‘story’ speaks far clearer than the story of their experiences in how they came to know these matters. In other words, the story of their day to day living is the real story of their conversion!

Ordinary ways

Yet, it is clear that the Holy Spirit has ‘ordinary ways’ in which He draws sinners to embrace the Lord Jesus.  The most common way is by bringing someone through the alarm of the law to the feet of the Lord Jesus.  But equally effective and in many ways far more preferable is when He conquers the heart by love and sweetly brings a soul to surrender himself to walk on the way Jesus Christ.  Let’s call the first the ‘law-way’ and the second the ‘gospel-way.’  I will begin with the ‘gospel-way.’

The Gospel-way

Some of God’s people are brought into the Kingdom through the Gospel-way.  With a few words of love the Holy Spirit disarms the hostile sinner to make him or her follow the Lord.  As Levi was covetously sitting behind his money-table, stealing from the people who came before him, Jesus passed by.  Mark wrote, “And as He (Jesus) passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom.”  Undoubtedly every other pair of eyes looked at this man with intense hatred as they came before him to pay the exorbitant amounts he demanded.  But then Levi looked up to the next person and he looked into a pair of eyes that shone Divine love.  Never did Levi see such eyes looking at him and instantly his heart is disarmed to leave his sinful ways and follow Jesus.  There was no ‘law-work’ needed to make him leave his sinful ways.  Another example would be Zaccheus (Luke 19:1-10).  What drove him to climb the tree to see Jesus isn’t written.  Was it a sense of sin or was it a burning curiosity to see this new Rabbi who was reaching out to the publicans and sinners no rabbi ever did?  But we know when Jesus stopped by his hide-out and called him down, that the words of Christ took such hold of his heart that he instantly with joy accepted Christ’s offer of salvation.  The evidence that this was a genuine conversion is clear in the story of his life after this day.  He didn’t shrink to make confession of his sins before all those present.  Jesus closed the events of this day with His sealing words, “This day is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham.” (Luke 19:1-10) 

If the Holy Spirit has led you to embrace the precious Gospel of the Lord Jesus as Levi or Zaccheus, be not troubled or vexed with hearing of those who have been led through the narrow straits of the thunders of God’s law.  Don’t think a moment that such a way is safer, more desirable or more needed to bring you to the feet of Christ.  The reason the law-way is more common is because we are stubborn resisters of God’s call.  We fight God with every ounce of our soul!   Even though He comes gently and lovingly in His offers of grace to our ear-gate, we bolt the doors of our heart more and more against Him.  Only for that reason does the Holy Spirit need to take out heavier artillery to force the surrender of a rebel. 

Let it be clear though that those conquered with His love to leave the ways of sin and to cleave to this new Husband Jesus Christ, will all learn the same truths.  They all learn to see His necessity as the only Name under heaven; all learn that their sins testify against them; all learn to come with nothing but Christ only at the feet of God;  they all learn to see the fullness and excellency of Christ more and more and this makes them quit all sin and run after Him.  None that the Holy Spirit saves will remain ignorant of their sins and miseries and of Christ’s all and only sufficiency as Saviour of their soul.

The Law-way

It is clear that the Spirit’s ordinary way to stop a sinner is in the way that most criminals are caught.  Not too often is a criminal brought to confession through the way of love.  Hardening their hearts, criminals resist to face their crimes and flee the scenes of their wrong.  But usually the law (police) catches up with them and they are brought to face their crimes. 

As in the daily life, so it is in spiritual life.  We all harden ourselves in our career of sin.   We refuse to yield ourselves up to God Who in Christ comes with His entreaty to return and reconcile.  So through the Word, the Holy Spirit arrests sinners and makes them feel the power of the law.  Conviction of sin is felt as the conscience is raked by the Word in the hand of the Holy Spirit.  This awareness brings a humbling of the pride, a breaking of the resistance, a trembling on account of what is done.  All this together compels the heart to begin to pay heed to God and His Word for now they know that ‘they are the man God has cursed.” 

The variety in which the Holy Spirit accomplishes this varies as the leaves on a tree.  He may do it gradually or through a sudden blast of conviction. But regardless of how He brings all those He leads through the law-way, all begin to wrestle with the question, “What must I do to be saved?”

It is not the scope of this answer to explore all the ways in which sinners wriggle and wrestle to escape the righteous judgment of God as is echoed in the testimony of his own conscience.  But the common end station is ultimately the most important.  The Spirit brings them as a convicted and humbled soul at the feet of God with the petition of the publican, “Lord, have mercy upon me for the sake of Jesus Christ, the only acceptable sacrifice and Mediator.” 

Our forefathers referred to this ‘law work’ as the preparatory work of the Holy Spirit.  He uses it to open our eyes for the absolute need for the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The preparatory law-work is not saving in itself as the arresting of the criminal is not resolving anything of his crimes and guilt.  The law-way is only used to bring a stubborn, proud and guilty man at the feet of the precious Redeemer. Don’t ever think that the Holy Spirit has a joy in taking up the heavy artillery of the law to bring an elect sinner to salvation.  No parent feels joyful when they need to take out a heavier rod to discipline a child into obedience but where there is true love, there will be no sparing of the rod. 

Reflection

It is obvious that everyone who has been saved will share his experience of salvation from his perspective.  That’s also why you will notice a variety in emphasis among the ministers of God’s Word.  It is inescapable that God’s servants will reflect how God has led them personally in the way they preach the Gospel.  The Holy Spirit has led me to Jesus Christ through a very gradual and gentle law-way.  But I know brothers in the ministry who have experienced the deep and dark sloughs of despond and despair.  Others have experienced how their own deceitful hearts may have led them into a by-way that nearly strangled them.  Others have been impelled to leave their careers of sin and self by the glory of God’s love.  Then there are the Samuel preachers who have always loved the Lord and therefore cannot speak out of their personal experience to those who like Paul have resisted the Lord for many years and finally are struck down. 

We preachers need to remain aware of that.  The only way to avoid that is to preach the Word of God faithfully and consistently.  Years ago I did a series of sermons on conversion from the book of Acts and it was an eye-opening exposition for myself and others.  The differences are great but the end result is the same.  For where the Spirit works true salvation we all agree to ‘death in Adam and life in Christ.’

In love,

Pastor Vergunst



Back to the questions page



Concerning the sermons on the law of love

Question: Concerning your sermons on the law of love; maybe you covered this and I didn't understand; can a person weak IN faith ,such as a babe in grace, be strong in THE faith, if so how, and vise versa, can one strong IN faith ,or one led farther, be weak in THE faith if so how? Thank you.


Excellent question. In the sermon discussion after the evening service last night, two questions were asked that deserve more attention.
1.  Is the 'babe in grace' necessarily the 'weak in the faith?'  Or can those who are 'babe in grace' be strong in the faith (understanding the Gospel) while yet struggle with assurance or have an immature faith?
2. Also the question whether one 'strong in the faith' may have areas in his life/conscience where he can be 'weak in the faith.?
Your questions are similar.

I am going to meditating and praying about these questions and will try to include it into next week Sunday's (12th May) evening sermon as I hope to preach once more on this portion of God's will.
As always I covet your prayers that the Holy Spirit may guide me in these studies.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst 



Back to the questions page



At which point were the disciples saved?

Question: At which point were the disciples (John, James, Peter etc) of Jesus 'saved'? Was it when Jesus first called them whilst most of them were fishing? Or was it when they eventually understood the cross and Jesus' resurrection?
Or was it on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was first poured out into their and 3000 souls lives?


Hi friend,

Personally I believe that they were saved when the Spirit of God made them wiling to follow the Lord Jesus as He made their hearts willing to leave all.
Yet Judas also joined them yet he wasn't saved. So it safer to leave this question unanswered as to where exactly the beginning of one's salvation is/was.  We know from the complete story, that the eleven were saved and that they gradually increased in their understanding and faith of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Before His resurrection and also before Pentecost there were many aspects of their Master dark and confusing.
Let's learn not too hastily pronounce someone saved.  Let it 'overwinter' and see what becomes of the initial moves in some one's life.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



Back to the questions page



Question about Philippians 1:6

Question: Philippians 1 verse 6 : Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
What is the 'good work' he is referring to? Does this verse apply only to people that have
faith in Jesus and that know their sins are forgiven them - or can it also apply to people
who have noticed a change in their lives for the better but are still very much in the dark
regarding Jesus and forgiveness of sins?


Hello friend,

Paul was confident of the work of grace in the Philippian believers. He saw the evidences of their salvation in their works.  Often he has experienced their love and sacrifice as they ministered to him in all his needs. He wrote this letter out of the prison where again he has experienced their love (4:10). To him that were the genuine evidences of their salvation.   Yet, he also saw that there was still much to grow in their understanding of the Gospel and the sanctification of their life.  Many details are given in this letter in which
he exhorts but also prays for their progress.  When Jesus comes back on His final day, He will complete (the word is 'perform in Phil. 1:6)  the work of sanctification in His people.  These people are already justified (forgiven) in this life as they have come to repentance and faith in the merits of the Lord Jesus. So Paul is referring to the completion of work of sanctification in this verse.

Those who have observed a change in their life but are in the dark regarding Jesus and the forgiveness of sin should be very careful to claim this verse as theirs.  Many changes come to nothing;  are as morning clouds or as the grain that sprang up quickly but withered away.
If we haven't come to Christ and haven't been able to entrust ourselves to Him as the only Lord and Saviour, we have no ground to rest. The Philippians had come to Christ when Paul wrote these words to them.  

It is dangerous to rest on 'changes in your heart' as a safe evidence of salvation.  The Holy Spirit's work is indeed to change a person's heart (sanctification) but His main mission is to lead sinners away from relying upon themselves of any other persons to the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the only Way and the only Mediator and the only Ground upon which we are to rest.   You cannot meet God with some 'changes you have noticed in your heart.' 

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



Back to the questions page



Question about listening to sermons online.

Question: Hello Pastor. At home we do not believe and we do not go to church so I always listen to your sermons online. I was wondering if you will broadcast the whole sermons when you will move to the USA. I love the sermons, but I also love the singing and the prayers. When I listen the sermons on this website (thanks anyway for having a web
site! ) I can listen the whole sermon. But at sermonaudio.com I can only listen the sermon without singing and praying. So I wondered if it would be possible to listen the whole sermon including prayer and singing when you are in your new congregation.

I also struggle with the question why God would take young life out of a family. (Like the story about that young girl who lost first her mother and then her father.)

I am not a native English speaker so I hope you can understand my question. (I'm Spanish).


Hello Esther,

What a wonderful gift is technology.  The devil uses it often for his dark purposes. When the 'book printing technology' was invented or perfected, God used it greatly to extend the Reformation.  Of course, the devil also used books to further his kingdom.
So also with the internet.  There is much evil on this 'digital library' but also much good and profitable.

Once I move the States I will have to abide by the current rules of that denomination. They have until now not permitted their churches to use the internet for broadcasting sermons or for their churches to have a website.  I hope that will change eventually.

I agree with your comment about sermonaudio.com.  Their rule to cut out the 'singing and prayer' is too bad because that's one half of the church service.
I always feel that it is misrepresentation of the service to omit the worship in prayer and singing.  But for space limitations they don't allow it.

Maybe you can someday leave me an e-mail address and I could forward the messages to you once I am in Waupun so you can still listen to them in your personal situation.

The question about God's providence isn't possible to answer in specifics.  God's goes mysterious ways His counsel to perform.  The clouds we so much dread often break with
blessings on our head.  Those words of a well known hymn sum up the wisdom of faith in dealing with God's providential dealings. Having faced a variety of crisis in my life, and
looking back at them, I can see good in all of them while I couldn't see them at first.  We hope and pray that for the family you referred to in your question this will also be the case.

Well, Esther, Espero que tengas un buen día!  I think that says "I hope you have a good day!'

Warmly,

Pastor Vergunst



Back to the questions page



Is there a problem with using physical self-punishment?

Question: If a Christian (I.E. a saved person striving to live in accordance with God's will) remains aware that God's grace is based on his sovereignty and not on anything they do, including whether they  succeed or fail at their self discipline goals, is there any problem with them using physical self punishment to motivate themselves to attain goals or consistency they want to achieve and think will make them more effective?

To be clear, my question is about if that type of self discipline is appropriate in the life of grace, and is not in relation to obtaining salvation.



Dear friend,

It appears you are eager to make progress in the life of holiness. What a beautiful aim this is if it flows from thankfulness for what the Lord Jesus has done for you.
Paul wrote "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I , but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself from me."  (Gal. 2:20.  I assume that your desire flows from the same source as Paul.

Regarding 'self-punishment' to discipline yourself to live a consistent life of godliness ... I probably don't like the word 'self-punishment' but I am a firm believer in rigorous self-discipline.  Paul laboured to have a conscience void of offense   In 1 Cor. 9:26 he wrote, "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."  What Paul did exactly to keep under his body and push himself to run the race God has called him to, isn't specified.  Was is the repeated fasting that he referred to?  Was is the time he set aside for prayer and reading, disciplining himself not to allow anything to push that away from his daily agenda?

Perhaps everyone will have his own weaknesses or bosom sins to contend with and therefore each of us will differ in what we can do to "exercise ourselves to godliness.' (1 Tim. 4:7)

Here are my suggestions of what is appropriate.
1. Read through 1 and 2 Timothy and observe that Paul counseled Timothy to discipline himself in.  Not all will apply to you unless you are in the ministry but the general principles are universal.
2. Write out your 'methods of spiritual self-discipline' and share them with someone you can trust.
3. Establish an accountability partner who ask you whether you have kept your resolutions you have laid out for your personal situation.
4. Often the Bible saints use fasting as a means to stir themselves to greater spirituality.  To me that appears to be only mentioned form of 'bodily infliction' including the 'fasting' in marriage life as Paul mentioned in 1 Cor. 7.
5. I don't think that a 'self-punishment' is appropriate for then it becomes all very forced and slavish.  To serve God must be a joy and to grow in holiness a goal because it will glorify God.  The only self-punishment that is appropriate is that you deeply meditate what your sins do to God and to Him that suffered and died for the sins of His people.   Denying yourself food or other legitimate things sounds like being your own slave driver.

I know that you reassured me that you are NOT asking this question as one who is seeking salvation (justification) but rather as one who desire to increase in holiness.  Still be watchful in this area. The old leaven of 'work salvation' creeps in sooner than you may perceive.
Lastly, let's also not forget that sanctification is also part of Christ's work within the believer.  We don't have to accomplish a level of holiness in our own strength. Without Him we can bring forth no fruit worthy of the name godliness.  But through Him God's Church will not remain a fruitless branch.

Your question sure made me think and search.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



Back to the questions page



Why is it harder for ministers to preach today than it used to be?


Question: Why is it harder for ministers to preach today than it used to be? We know that Whitefield, and others, would preach every day, all week, in different churches. Their life was spent preaching. They would preach spontaneously, as God gave the words to them.

Many times - or always? - for a Sunday sermon, they would rely on whatever God would give them Saturday night. Sometimes they didn’t have a text until the last moment.

Today, ministers plan their sermons days or weeks in advance. Sermons are well-organized and often in a series. It is more of a chore, and some ministers take a week off for vacation.

Obviously, it makes sense to plan ahead and organize a sermon. But how/why was it so different in the past? Why does not God just "pour it out" of ministers anymore?




Hi Linda,

You have some thought provoking questions.  My answers are just a few short thoughts without any particular research. 

You make a big assumption in your first question.  How do you know it is harder for ministers to preach today than it used to be?  Preaching has never been an easy task and even though in former days preachers may have preached more often, it doesn’t mean it was easier.  But when the Spirit pours, preaching is very easy.  Peter never even prepared his Pentecost sermon in Acts 2 and yet that sermon and the hours of teaching afterwards were blessed to bring 3000 sinners to repentance and faith.  So it has been throughout the history of God’s Church.  In times of revival, the men God called to preach were equipped with extra-ordinary powers of preaching without much or any preparation.  However, Jonathan Edwards, who also was a source of great blessing during the Great Awakening, wrote out his sermons word for word and apparently read them out to his congregation.  He wouldn’t have waited till Saturday evening.  I don’t know whether he ever preached without having thoroughly meditated through his text.

During those times of revival, there were indeed opportunities of preaching every day or even several times a day.  If there were such hungry congregations today, I am sure that God would also provide the food, miraculously multiplying a little preparation into an extensive ministry as He did with the five loaves and two fishes.   I haven’t researched it but it is possible that sermons were repeated or least would very much resemble each other as they addressed new congregations.  If I would have the opportunity to preach three or four times a day each time to a new congregation, I would also repeat my messages although they would never come out exactly the same.   But my congregation wouldn’t like to hear the same message over and over even though the text may differ.  Sadly, that’s what a lot of ministry of the Word is all about.   It is the study of the words etc. that gives the freshness to each sermon. 

If they really always or often didn’t have their text till Saturday night, I don’t know.  But I don’t know whether that is good practice.  It could be laziness or indecision.  Or it can also be a lot of talk.  Ministers remain sinners and it sounds and looks good to say that they didn’t get their text till they walked up to the pulpit.   To be honest, I take those storied with a great grain of salt.  I know my own heart.  Paul exhorted Timothy to study the Word he was to preach and study takes time.  To research the original words, the context of chapter, the purpose of the Holy Spirit in this text takes time and quiet meditation.  That’s my task as a minister of the Word.  Sure, I can easily talk an hour full and say all kinds of truths but that’s not what I am called to do.  I am to expound the Word and teach what God’s Word is saying, line upon line.  I am to seek the applications of this Word and drive those home in the heart as effectively as I can.  All that takes prayer and meditation and that takes time.  Sure there are exceptions when the week is so filled up with needs and demands on the minister’s time, that he didn’t get the time to study till Saturday.  In those need God provides graciously as His servants are called again to labour.  But normally a minister is to be like  a bee:  he is to visit flower upon flower and drawing the nectar of each, make it into a spoonful of honey.  To wait till Saturday night and depend on the Holy Spirit without working with the Word, isn’t not a sound practice.  Rev. Kersten called such ministers lazy. 

How blessed are those congregations who get a regular ministry of the Word, orderly and balanced.  You imply in your question there is something wrong with when a minister plans the series of sermons ahead of time.  I don’t know where you get that thinking but I reject it entirely.  A minister may spend many hours in prayer and meditation before he sets out a series of sermons and organizes them well so that the congregation will get the full benefit of the rich teachings of God’s Word.  In our Reformed tradition we preach from the series of Catechism sermons every Sunday and how richly has God blessed that orderly treatment of His Word.  More and more I am convinced that Calvin’s method of preaching is to be followed more: he preached text after text, chapter after chapter.  Congregations who get this balanced teaching of the Holy Spirit are the healthiest churches for they get to hear all of God’s full and rich teachings. 

Again, ministers are no supermen!  You seem to think it is wrong for a minister to take off a week for vacation.  Well, if it is wrong for him, then is wrong for you and everyone!  Do you think that ministers are angels? They don’t need a rest for their body and soul!  Jesus told His disciples to ‘come away in the wilderness and to rest awhile.’  In other words, He told them to have a little vacation!  Too many ministers ruin their health and sacrifice their family by not taking proper breaks from their demands. 

Why doesn’t God pour out upon His servants anymore what He poured in former times?  I don’t know every answer and therefore I hesitate to answer this question.  God is sovereign and He gives or withholds His blessings according to His good pleasure.  But it sure won’t be cured by ministers waiting till Saturday night to find/get their text or by ministers not taking a vacation to rest their bodies and minds.  What could cure it if there were more hunger for the Word in the congregations?  But also that is a fruit of the work of the Spirit.  Let’s humble ourselves before Him and seek His grace that He would shine His face once more.


Warmly,

Pastor Vergunst,



Back to the questions page



Musical Instruments in the Worship service

Question: Is it correct to use the musical instruments outlined in Psalm 150 in our congregations today? What about singing a "new song to the Lord" as instructed in Psalms 33:3, 40:3, 96:1, 98:1, 144:9, 149:1, if all the songs we sing are songs that we have previously learnt? It would clearly not be a new song if it has been sung even if only once before.

How should we approach:
* Clapping (Psalm 47:1)
* Shouting for joy (Psalm 32:11)
* Dancing (Psalm 149:3, 150:4)
* Lifting up of the hands (Psalm 63:4, 134:2, 1 Timothy 2:8)

All of this, of course, in a reverent and orderly manner, not in the charismatic way of some congregations today.
Hasn't the Holy Spirit made these passages of Psalms part of the New Testament by commanding us in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 to speak and sing the Psalms? How are we to sing these Psalms and not obey them? What is your Bible-based point of view on this?
Evidently, one could say that these were Old Testament customs of Israel. However, since the Psalms have been made part of the New Testament church (as per the previous passages in Ephesians and Colossians) wouldn't the argument of culture be invalid? Because in the same way, any argument (like women\'s head coverings) could be refuted on the basis of "culture" or "tradition".

Warm regards,
Israel


Hello Israel,

I am sure your patience has been tried. But finally let me try to give an answer.

With tongue in cheek, I can say that we use nearly all the instruments mentioned in Ps. 150 in our worship services. At times we make the ground to shake as the congregation sings along with the full scale of our available instrumental ensemble.  Now, before you imagine an orchestra in front of our church, I need to admit that we have combined all those instruments into one digital-electronic organ!  Now this instrument as we know today, was unknown among the Hebrew culture.

Where no organ is available, the use of other instruments locally available may be used within the worship services.  Churches in Africa aren’t in organs or pianos as qua climate and culture they really don’t work or fit.  So they will use their local instruments in a pure and godly manner.  As long at their worship service is orderly and reverent, we must respect their manner of worship.

In Ps. 149 and 150 is spoken about ‘dance.’  The alternate translation could also be ‘with the pipe’ thus making it another reference to an instrument.  But in various places in the OT it is rendered ‘dance’ (Ps. 30:11,  Jer. 31:13.)  David danced before the ark of the LORD on its way to Jerusalem.  (2 Sam. 6:14)  In this instance for sure it refers to David’s measured steps or solemn movement in which he expressed his exuberant joy at the occasion of the moving of the ark of God to Jerusalem.  So such an expression of worship can on basis of such an example not be proved wrong.  But we don’t need to draw the conclusion that it is wise or expedient to introduce such styles of worship into our worship services today.  Unessential customs in worship services change as people and culture changes.  As Barnes commented, “What might be proper in one stage of society, or in one period of the world’s history, though not in itself wrong, might be unadvisable in another. There was much in the Hebrew mode of worship which cannot be transferred to the forms of Christian worship without an obvious incongruity and disadvantage; and because a thing has been done, and is not in itself wrong, we should not infer that it should always be done, or that it would be always best.” There is great wisdom in these thoughts.  Within our western context, and I must add our Reformed and Dutch context, the introduction of various instrumental and physical expressions of worship will not be expedient.  Within African, Middle-Eastern and other cultures, clapping may be a very appropriate expression of joy and it shouldn’t be excluded as long as it is truly expressive of reverent worship.  Having travelled a bit and having attending various worship services, I have come to appreciate the individuality of each culture’s expression of the worship of the heart. 

DeJongste, in a publication in Thoughts on Public Worship shared the thought that sometimes churches adopt new worship styles to be more culturally attractive to the youth or those un-churched.  Though it may make a church temporarily more popular, it clearly has shown that their methods were in vain.  Let’s not make that same mistake.  Adapting to the popular culture of the world in order to make them more comfortable isn’t the same as expression your worship in the cultural manner existing. For example, I have been in India and witnessed their cultural expressions of greeting and thanking as well as celebrating joy and sorrow. It wouldn’t be inappropriate that some of those find their way into the Christian worship service as long as they are proper and orderly expressions of the worship of God.  I can see that many aspects of their cultural expressions could easily become a distraction or a ‘let’s see how well they can perform’ rather than worship.  I know that the Reformed Fellowships there struggle with how to Biblically find their way. 

I appreciate you caution in suggesting that you don’t mean to go into the Charismatic mode where the movement and music leans toward become the worship in spirit and truth. There is always such danger in the ‘put on’ outward expressions that aren’t the expression of our heart.  But looking over our own worship service, I wonder how much ‘spirit and truth’ is expressed in our quiet demeanor and nearly expressionless faces.  God knows the heart and it is the heart that is the heart of the worship.  Jesus taught us that clearly in John 4.  Whether it is in Jerusalem or Gerizim, each with their own styles, wasn’t the point. 

You premised in your question that all the Old Testament manners of worship are transferred into the New Testament and you based that on Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16.  I don’t agree that those two verses legitimize your premise.  Both verses support that our worship should be from the heart and to be expressed in the spirit and truths of the Psalms.  The worship services of the New Testament churches are decisive different than the Old Testament.  The many ceremonial aspects of the OT worship services are put away in Christ.  But singing and praising God from the heart, using even the Old Testament inspired, and therefore eternal, Psalms are time-less requirements. 

For a quite a while after the Reformation, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (and I know that this was and still is the case among the Presbyterian Churches in Great Britain) all musical instruments were banned out of the worship services.  All singing was Psalms only and a-capella (no musical instruments).  But after many years of struggling about whether to use the organ to accompany the singing, ecclesiastical assemblies left it more and more to the individual churches decided whether to use the organ.  That is now the case in every church.  In all honesty, I prefer the way we use the organ within our church.  It is a simple and brief prelude to ready the congregation for singing and most of the organ is played to accompany or lead the singing of the congregation.  I have attended churches where the organ playing takes a far too great part in the worship service.  It is then no more a means to an end and that’s how God meant the use of instruments.

I really don’t know what to say on your question of the ‘new song.’  In the context of deliverance, our singing just become ‘new’ in heart and in the verses you mentioned that may be all that was expressed.  However, David’s Psalms were each time a new additional to the Psalm collection.  Your question is whether such songs may still be added as expressions of our worship.  On private basis, yes, why not.  If you have that ability to express your heart in praises or prayers in a song, then I wouldn’t see a problem.  That’s how we received the great hymns like “Amazing Grace” and “How great thou art!”  I love reading the poems in various hymnals and we sing them at home.  I can’t say that I ever wrote one myself because I don’t have the talent to do that.

But whether to include them in the public worship service in another matter.  Then they become the collective expressions of the believers.  Much strife, unrest but also heresy has been introduced through songs.  Many hymns are also Biblically or theologically unsound.  To avoid that happening, many churches wisely have limited themselves in the public worship services to the songs based on the Scriptural Psalms.  Our church also holds that conviction.

I hope I have been able to give you some directions on these questions.  Thanks for asking as it also forced me to go back to asking “why don’t we do such and such and do this or that?’

God’s blessings,

Pastor Vergunst



Back to the questions page



What happens with the soul of an aborted baby?

Question: What happens with the soul of a baby whose mom committed abortion?


Hi Lynn,

There are questions that the Scriptures do not answer directly.  This question is one of them.  It is clear from the Bible’s teaching that also unborn children and infants are ‘children of wrath’ or people who share in the curse on mankind due to Adam’s transgression.   We are all counted guilty because of our covenant father Adam.  This is clearly taught in Romans 5:12-14.  Other passages add that besides guilty in God’s sight we are also corrupted, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Ps. 51:5; see also Ps. 53:3)  So already at conception they are Adam’s children.

Some maintain that young children aren’t held responsible for sin and guilty before God until they have reached some arbitrary age of ‘accountability.’  But Scripture clearly states that children have a guilty standing before God and a sinful nature that not only gives them a tendency to sin but also causes God to view them as “sinners.”  What we call and consider cute, in God’s holy eyes is a sinner.  

Having stated these bottom line basic doctrines, let’s now consider the question of children that die before birth, either through a ‘natural’ death or abortion, as well as the children that die shortly after birth. This question also applies to those who are mentally handicapped.  I hope you can agree with the statement that if any of them are saved, they would be saved on the exact same basis as anyone else: the redemptive work and merits of the Lord Jesus Christ and the regeneration work of the Holy Spirit within their heart.  Jesus teaching that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission (forgiveness)” and that “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” apply to any person, whether an infant or a grandfather.  Though a pre-natal child or young infant cannot properly repent from sin and believe in Christ, God is able to save any infant in an unusual way, apart from hearing, understanding and responding to the Gospel.   What is impossible with men, is possible with God.

As said earlier, there are general statements made in Scripture about what happens with the soul of babies at are aborted.  Yet there are a few implied statements which give some direction.

1st  Jesus received the children that were brought to Him by the believing parents in Mark 10:13-16.  Jesus took each of these children in His arms and blessed them.   That’s wasn’t just a gesture of kindness but a communication of a blessing.  Wouldn’t He still do that with the children that parents bring today, especially those whom He would take away before birth or as infants?  Several of our fore-fathers would use that Scripture to speak comfortingly to believing parents who have cast their little on from the womb upon the Lord.  They ought not to doubt but that such souls are in His arms.  I wholeheartedly second that opinion.   What about the souls of the children of unbelievers who die at early age which includes those aborted?  The Bible is completely silent about this.  Therefore nothing more definite can be said about this.

2nd God is holy love as well as perfectly just.  In the parable of the servants Jesus made this statement, “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.  For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” (Luke 12:47-48)  That principle of justice is often repeated in Scripture, as in Rom. 2:6, “Who will render to every man according to His deeds.”   What will God do with those who have never been exposed to the teachings, examples or even the testimony of the book of nature such as pre-natal children aborted or children dying in infancy?  I am at peace in my heart with the truth that God will be thoroughly just and holy to those children’s souls as well as those who are mentally handicapped.  He has not revealed to us whether those souls will be gathered into His presence so there is no doctrinal statement to make. 

In conclusion, one can share his own opinion.  I have researched the thoughts of Gill, Hodge, Henry and other theologians on this question.  Their views vary mostly between ‘we don’t know’ to ‘all children dying in infancy are saved.’  Having learned to know God’s character of grace and mercy in beautiful harmony with justice and holiness, I am inclined to believe that all such souls are gathered in His arms of mercy and grace.  But let’s maintain that if they are saved, it will not be because they were ‘innocent children’ for they were not, being Adam’s children.  The only ground of their salvation would be God’s electing grace in Christ Jesus.

I hope this gives some direction and thought.

Warmly,

Pastor Vergunst



Back to the questions page



Can we still listen to your sermons once you are in the States?

Question:Hello, I just read the page "Question about listening to sermons online."
So maybe you can upload the sermons when you are in your new congregation to the Prekenweb site?
I always listen to your sermons and sermons on that site, and it would be sad to not have those anymore.

The Lord bless you when you move to USA.

Greets from
Nagy Annamaria
Romania (Europe)


Hello Nagy Annamaria,

I will do my best for I consider all the listeners part of my ministry and it would be difficult to leave you all 'stranded.'
May the Lord bless you in Romania.  What a blessing that you can in this manner still be part of a church with a Gospel ministry.  I have no idea what the situation in Romania is but we know that God has His Church in all the world.

May the Lord bless you and yours richly.

Pastor Vergunst



Back to the questions page



Where do we draw the line with our children having worldly friends?

Question: Where do we draw the line when allowing our children to be friends with "worldly" people?

For example, it is easy to let our children play with neighborhood kids.  But what if our children are in college, and find friends--decent young people who seem to respect our views; what about going to that other person's house, or being in their wedding, or going shopping with them...?  Where do we draw the line? And how do you explain it to them?

We have not had problems yet, although we have allowed all those things, but don't know if we are going "too far."  Our parents did not let us associate with "worldly" people at all, other than neighbors.  Neither do we want to be
"holier than thou."


Hi  Marissa,

We need to prepare our children for 'real life.'  Real life is that those of us who work in the regular work force, will work side by side with those who are worldly in the sense that God and His Word have no place in their heart.  Once our children enter college or university (unless they have attended a state school), they will work together with
non-Christians of all kinds of shade as well as Christians of all different convictions.  So to shield them entirely from association with the 'other-thinking' people may not be prudent.  Many young people are caught up with the wrong crowd once they leave the safety of the home and church school because they are simply swept off their feet.  So
besides the necessary 'shielding' there also needs to be gradual and guided exposure.  One way is the association with other-thinking children in the neighbourhood.   We need to stay in control, however, of these relationships.  I wouldn't suggest letting my children go to the 'neighbour kids' without having spoken to the parents and communicated what our 'values' are by which we are raising them.  It may make good conversation but it is also our duty in line of the promises we have made to God with the bringing up of our children.  This of course is easier and attainable when they are young.  As they grow older and their social circle enlarges, we need to stay in touch.  Here our 'family time and discussion' are so vital.  Discussing the rights and wrongs with the open Bible is the training our children need. This will prepare them to work together with the gay and lesbians on the work forces (as many young people face in today's society)! That reality is often shocking to us adults but it is a totally different world today in which our young
people study and work. But as the Scripture teaches in 1 Cor. 15:33 teaches, 'Evil communications corrupt good manners."  In other words, evil friendships are as infectious as diseases are.  Health is not infectious and so good morals are not either.   It is therefore very important to discuss and define who I go shopping with, visit in their
homes, spend social time with.  No contact is neutral and it is very easy to stir feelings towards a person with whom we begin to share our time and thoughts.  I would caution the youth against developing 'social relationships' with other minded (nice) young people.

Where to you draw the lines?  That's not easily answered.  Some are just seeking contact with 'worldly' for fun or relaxation.  That is super dangerous.  But others have in their 'social contact with other-minded' a clear 'agenda.'   They want to connect with this person in order to share the Gospel or encourage a relationship to invite them to church. 
Who could disapprove of such an intent?  Yet we need to acknowledge that such good intentions still form great temptations.  If that is really your agenda, you may suggest 'time-limits' on how long or how often you continue to interact with the person for an indefinite period may become an 'evil communication corrupting good manners.'   We simply aren't strong enough in ourselves to withstand the evil of sin and therefore need to put up our 'guards.'  None is so strong spiritually not to fall.

From the above it is clear that parenting in these areas remains a delicate task.  Our only and best recourse is fervent prayer for wisdom for and with our children.  Pray with them and about these matters when they begin to face such social contacts.  Discuss them openly and search together for God's directions.  Be 'partner' with your older children in
these critical developments of their life and share your own experience of the challenges in your work life.

May God bless you.


Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



Back to the questions page



Question about tithing.

Question:I was curious as to your thoughts on tithing. Is
tithing to be calculated on gross or net income?


Hi Jack,

After a personal study on tithing in Scripture, I am convinced that tithing is a Biblical command for all times.  I was not raised with this understanding but once I become an adult earning a yearly wage, I was confronted with the question how much I should be giving to God and His Kingdom.   In my first discussions with people on this subject, I was told that this is not necessary anymore.  It was a Mosaic legislative issue that has ceased with the New Testament age.

That didn't satisfy me for no arguments were supplied.  So, as I should have done right away, I went back to Scripture itself.  In short, here are my findings.
a.  Abraham and Jacob tithed long before Moses legislated it in his days.  So much for the argument that tithing was a Mosaic institution.  From the beginning of time, God's saints have understood that the 'tithe' is God's in every circumstance.  Abraham wouldn't take a dime from the king of Sodom but he wouldn't withhold the tithe from God out of the spoil he took.  Here lies your first hint to the secondarily question you asked: must I take the tithe from the gross or net income?  Abraham gave his tithe from the 'gross spoil'!
b.  Moses indeed regulated the command to tithe as he also formally legislated many others things that were done prior to Moses' days, such as marriage, Sabbath keeping etc. 
c.  In each Biblical revival you see a returning to faithful tithing (Hezekiah, Josiah, and Ezra).  In other words, each time God's nation began to 'love their idol money or luxury above God there was backsliding in the practice of tithing.  We see the same through the history of God's church post Bible times.  I believe we shall see it again and again when God revives His people's faith and obedience.
d.  In the New Testament Jesus speaks about the practice of tithing in the context of hypocrisy in Matt. 23:23.  But notice that after He pointed out that judgment, mercy and faith are the most important aspects of our spiritual devotion to God and moral obedience among men, that He adds, 'and not to leave the other (i.e. tithing) undone.'   In vain will you find a NT reference where tithing is told to be ended.  In 1 Cor. 16:1-2 Paul refers to the collections to be made on the first day of the week and his phraseology is in the spirit of tithing, 'every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him..."  That's exactly how the Israelite would do it each time there was another harvest or further income received.  He would lay in store ... until he went to the temple to pass it on to the Levites.
e.  The OT ends in Malachi 3 with some fierce accusations of the LORD against His people.  One of them is regarding tithing.  Malachi calls it 'robbing God' when we withhold from Him the tithe.  That is how serious God calls it when we withhold from Him what by right is His, even though 'every cattle on the hills is His.'  Note also the promise in Mal. 3:10.  Only three times is that phrase 'windows of heaven' used in the Bible.  (In the Flood; in 2 Kings 7:2 with regard to food; and here in Malachi.)  NEVER has God failed me in this promise.  His windows of heaven have always been opened when I faced needs that were beyond the means He normally would give me or had provided me with. 

This in short my view on tithing.  Just as with every other duty in our spiritual obedience to God, we can make this work holiness.  That God always condemns as hypocritical and useless whether it is almsgiving, prayer or fasting. (see Matt. 6). 

The second question regarding whether we are to tithe from our 'gross or net.'  My conviction is from our gross income.  Taxes are a form of payment for services our government provides us.  Whether we agree with all those forms of service is not to enter into this discussion. Samuel warned that if we would depart from God's system of government (theocracy) and want to follow the ways of other kingdoms, the people would regret it.  The king (government)  would cost them more than what they were paying in tithing.  So it is today.  We may have corrupt systems of taxing or governing, but that doesn't mean we now must tithe God on our net income.  You know the only reason for this may be to feed our covetousness for it means we will have more money in our hand.

My friend, believe God's promise.  The windows of heaven would be opened for you if through your tithing you would not be able to meet your normal, daily financial obligations.  Please, note that I mentioned ‘normal daily needs and obligations.’   To have a budget that includes payments for a luxury item, for an totally oversize house, for exciting vacations and loads of good food, a top line luxury car, etc. is something that doesn't fit in Paul's statement 'having food and raiment, let us be content therewith.'  In other words, we have added so much to our ‘needs to have’ list that are nothing else by luxury items or unnecessary. 

Faithful tithing when the bills mount, when the normal budgetary limits are stretched becomes therefore an act of faith and faith is obedience to Christ's Word.   He has promised to open the 'windows of heaven' to meet every need we face. 

May God bless these few considerations.
Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst 



Back to the questions page



The more I hear and see within our churches

The more I hear and see within our churches the more I begin to think that we know not yet the true and Living Jesus and His Power. Am I wrong? Or is this discovering light?


Hi Lineke,

This question is too vague for me to answer well.
Please resubmit it with more details of what you are trying to suggest
or ask. Let me add that I will not answer every question publicly if I don't deem it constructive for the general public.


Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



Back to the questions page



Question about Hebrews 12 v 5 and 6

Question: My son despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
In what particular ways does the Lord chasten and scourge us? How do you know if this is the case? Is it because of particular sins or at His will? How does Exodus 20 v 5 'visiting the
iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation that hate me' come into it? Does that still apply in this day and age or was it just for back in the old Testament times? So if the Lord does chasten and scourge us how can we know if its from our own sins or from our fathers / grandfathers / great grandfathers sins?


Hi Sharon,

The ways in which God chastises His people are endless in variety and degree.  He always measures the crosses to the need (shoulders) of His people.  He knows what needs to be corrected in their life.  Of He sees a particular weakness in their character and appoints a certain trial or correction to mature that grace in the struggles of life. He may even permanently 'break a leg' (metaphorically) to prevent one of His to run the wrong direction.  A good father doesn't measure out a certain discipline just because he feels like it.  There is a need or an action in His child that calls for his action.  So it is with God's dealings.  See also Lamentation 3: 32-33.

Your second questions seems to flow from the first and did I read you right in that you are worried that the Exodus 20:5 truth is applying to your own particular situation?

To answer that let's consider what God really means in the second commandment and the threat.  The second commandment deals with His demand in how we worship Him appropriately whereas the first is with who we are to worship.
This 'how of worship' forbids us to make a presentation of God that is unworthy of Who He is.  We usually don't make stone/wooden images today and bow down before them.  But it is just as wrong to make a 'mental image' of God and worship a God Who isn't the Biblical God.  Perhaps we present as only 'holy and righteous.'  Or as an indulgently loving God Who really is very 'easy going and accepting.'  Or we neglect to emphasize His justice.  In each case we make a misrepresentation of the Godhead. Or our 'spiritual instruction' to our children is that God is just for Sunday!  In the rest of the week He doesn't really matter.  We do our business and enjoy our pleasures and we bravely begin our week in the Lord's house without really giving Him more than lip service.  Such a life-style is certainly making a mocking image of God and that's poured into the minds of all too many children.  Now let's assume that our father or mother is teaching us by direct instruction or by example this 'wrong image' of God?  What will happen to their children?They will pass on the 'incorrect image of God' in an even more incorrect way.  Once we get to the third  and fourth generation (grand/great grand-children) the damage is usually so bad that those grand children have long departed from the ways of God. That's what God is warning about. He will visit the sins against the second commandment (as outlined above) in such a way that they will show up in their destructive fruit in the third and fourth generation.  It is to make us parents today to realize that what we 'sow' will not fully be reaped till we are in the grave already.  Notice also the encouragement in this commandment.  Parents who do take His service serious and who love Him, though they will never lead a perfect parental home example, He has promised to show 'mercy' to thousands (of generations).  Notice the word 'mercy.'  God doesn't expect anyone to keep His commandments perfectly.

So with that explanation, you ought not to interpret the  chastisements that you experience in your life as an illustration of the teaching in Exodus 20.  Instead, seek the Lord and continue to listen for the answer in His Word on your prayer, "Lord, show me why thou are bringing this affliction or cross in my life?  Show me what Thou sees and I don't see.  Teach me to know what I know not and what Thou are seeing to remedy in me." 

I hope this helps, Sharon.   May the Lord uphold and bless you in whatever troubles you are facing.  Thanks for reminding me of how important parenting is also.

Warmly,

Pastor Vergunst



Back to the questions page



How do we Glorify God and enjoy Him Forever?

Question:The first question in the Westminster catechism is: What is the chief end of man? Answer: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. My question: As this is of utmost importance, as we were created for this, how do we actually glorify God and how do we enjoy him forever?


In one of the Psalms it says 'Praise (glorify) ye Him, sun and moon; all ye stars of the light..." (Ps. 148)
They praise or glorify God when they do what they were created to do. In others when the sun shines and warms the earth;  when the moon reflects and comforts us in the night, then they do glorify God.
What were we created to do? In one word, we were created to serve God with voluntary and joyful obedience, carrying out our task in Paradise.  Adam and Eve were given
custody over the earth and to dress Paradise.  We were given the task to manage God's created world.  If they would have continued to do that, they would have enjoyed Him forever in the daily communion with their Creator.  This enjoyment would have been unending and indescribable.

Applied to our daily life, we glorify God when we serve Him, acknowledge Him, obey His will, recognize His gifts, understand His greatness and respond to this with reverence and thankfulness.  But also when we care for His creation and the creatures that He has made us responsible for.  Paul even mentions that we are to 'eat and drink to God's glory.'  That is eating while recognizing that what you eat is a gift of grace (each crumb) and that He provided it to please you.
When we serve others in love because they are God's creatures, whether they are people or animals or even enemies, we glorify God.

Ever since our 'break-away' from  God (the Fall) we are broken people, unable to do what we were created to do.  That's why mankind is in such a self-centered, sad and struggling condition.  If we don't glorify God with obedience and serve Him we also won't enjoy Him forever.  Instead He will be a terror to us as He is holy and righteous Being.  But great is the Gospel message that Jesus Christ came as the Second Adam.  He did obey His Father's will till the very last moment of His life.  Only when we hide ourselves by faith in
His obedience and merits can be glorify God through Him.  He also alone will be the only way in which we may enjoy again His communion.

Thanks for the great question.  So often we assume such beautiful
statements but little do we grasp what they intend to say.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst



Back to the questions page



Why is it that churches are full of historical believers?

Question: Why is it that churches are full of historical believers?


Dear friend,

Your question is striking. Especially as I read the other day that one of the greatest curses of a church is the great number of historical believers.
They have no heart for God and also not for their lost neighbours because they have really no living heart for themselves.  Sin doesn't bother them as long as it doesn't endanger their reputation. As a fact, it are the 'historical believers' that often are the cause of the all-to-true charge that 'most Christians' are hypocrites.
A church full of historical believers are churches that have a name to live but there is no power of true godliness because there is no true union with Jesus.

Why is this often the sad case with established churches?
1.  Ultimately is is the fulfillment of one of Jesus' remarkable sayings:  Many are called but few are chosen. (Matt. 20:16)
2. That truth is an explanation but not an excuse.  Mere 'historical believers are unbelievers in a religious coat.'  It are the ones Jesus pictured in the parable of sower
with the 'thistle infested ground.'  The cares (business) of this world, riches and pleasures of this life choke the impressions, snuff out the callings, deafen the ears, chill the heart and eventually all you get is 'a stalk, leaves, perhaps even an ear' but no ear (fruit) is brought to perfection (Luke 8:14). 
In other words, the word doesn't bring forth real fruit that bring heart changes.   According to the Lord Jesus, that isn't the fault of the sower, of the seed but of the
hearers.  They make choices that hinder the growth and fruit of the Word.

Let it be recognized that this is not something 'new.'  The Lord Jesus did speak in Matthew 13 of His Church as being 'chaff and wheat.'  The saved and unsaved
will exist next to each other in the visible church.  Efforts to eliminate this situation by limiting full membership to the 'truly saved' may have good intentions but
doesn't solve the problem.  In the NT early Church we had already quickly the presence of historical believers and that reality will continue to exist till the end of time.

There will not be a mixed multitude in the heavenly glory or in the new heaven and earth.

What a prospect!  Will you and I be part of that Church?

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst,
Waupun, USA



Back to the questions page



Do I have to forgive the boy who abused me for years?

Question: Hello pastor,
Do I have to forgive the boy who abused me for years? Does God require that of me? When I cannot forgive him now, is that a sign that I am not saved by God? I really struggle with this question as I always read in the Bible about forgiveness, but I cannot do it. Everything in me screams no when I think about forgiveness.

Regards, Julia


Hello Julia,

Your heart is wounded and pained through the terrible things that you have experienced.
Hopefully you have made an effort to find some help to deal with these matters.
If not, please e-mail me to my private e-mail at atvergunst@charter.net so that I can link
you up with a woman who can help you in this matter as she herself has gone through abuse also. 
If that doesn't prove enough, you really have to find help to deal with you pained and wounded heart.  Let me encourage you, Julia, healing is possible through the power and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I know various persons who have experienced trauma through abuse or other ways and have not lived the rest of their life tormented or caged by their shame, pain, anger, bitterness, insecurity, distrust and difficulty to make relationships.  There is hope, my friend, for with God there are all the resources to heal you from this.

That you struggle with the call to forgive him may not be a sign that you aren’t saved.  But it is sign that more saving is necessary if you have experienced God’s saving grace.  God doesn’t transform His people in one day. 

Let me try to explain my convictions on this subject. There is confusing teaching about the issue of forgiveness, mostly through ignorance or through inaccurate language.  We hear sometimes when people have experienced traumatic loss through violence or abuse, 'But I have forgiven the person(s) who have done this."  They say these things even without ever having met or confronted the person who abused.  Maybe you compare yourself to these persons and you feel how far you are from forgiving them.

But let's get some things straight.  Does God 'forgive' a sinner without repentance and acknowledgement of sin?
Does He simply say to everyone who sinned against Him, "I forgive you?"
No, He doesn't.  He confronts the sinners with their sins and exhorts them to repent. If there is no confession of sin, there is no forgiveness of those sins. 

Would God require us to do differently?  No.
Read for yourself the first verses of Luke 17.  Notice that God commands that forgiveness is to be given when the sinner repents (acknowledges, confesses and seeks your forgiveness).  

What does God require before the person who sinned against us repents?  He requires that we have a willingness to forgive him or her.  We are not to harbour a spirit of bitterness, hatred or refusal to extent forgiveness to him or her.  In other words, even when we confront the person who has done this evil to us, we are to have in our heart the resolution and willingness to forgive when they do repent and confess.

Why is that?  Ultimately it is because God Himself is like this.  In Ps. 86 is reads that He is ready to forgive.  In other words, He stands ready to forgive any sinner to returns to Him. 

The best explanation of that is given by the Lord Jesus in Luke 15.  The father of the prodigal son stood 'waiting and then he ran towards his returning and repentant son.  

You say, "How can I be like to the boy that abused me for years." 
Julia, you cannot muster that strength or even that willingness in yourself.  That is so unreachable especially as you daily cope with the dire results of this abuse.  Your natural feelings are revulsion, hatred, anger, wishing him a 'cookie of his own dough.'  You know that those feelings are not to guide you but they do from time to time stick up their ugly heads and make a lot of noise within our minds.  The Lord requires that we even 'love our enemy and those who have embittered our lives.'  Love is not a feeling; forgiveness is also not based on feelings. It is an act in obedience to God's command.
But how can I do this?  How can I ever forgive him?

Read Luke 17 again. After the Lord in verses 3-4 set out the requirement of His law on forgiveness, the disciples responded with a prayer, "Lord, increase our faith?"  Strange.  You would say that they needed loads of love to be like that.  But they asked for faith.  Why?

Did they realize that how God requires them to be is also how He is Himself?  In other words, even when I sin seven times a day and repent and seek His forgiveness, He will forgive me!   That is hard to believe.
But only when you and I may believe that is how God will deal with my sins, then only can I truly forgive those who repent from their sins done towards me.

My dear friend, may God give and increase your faith in Him.  For true saving faith also saves you from the harbouring bitterness, anger and even hatred that may from time to time surface in your heart.  In that way many abused are continuing to feel the results of the abuse.

One more matter, Julia.  As hard as it may sound, you need to 'go home' and confront the abuser, if you have not done so.  For without that 'going home to face him' you will never be able to be freed entirely from what has happened. 

Again if you would like more personal counselling on this issue, I prefer that it will be done on a private basis.
You are free to e-mail me on my personal e-mail.

You are in my prayers. 
Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst




Back to the questions page



What does following Jesus mean to you?

Question: What does following Jesus mean to you?
Carina

Dear Carina,

To follow Jesus to me means to take up His cross, to deny myself and to obey His Word despite all I may think or feel. It is to sacrifice myself in the sense that no earthly comforts or fleshly reasoning is to stop me from doing His will.
To follow Him is to run counter my sinful desires which are to indulge my sinful appetite.
But it is also to trust Him for everything that I need in this life and for the life to come.  He is my righteousness, He is my ground of acceptance with the holy Father; He is my triumph over all evil;  He is my King who will supply all my needs in this journey of life;  He is my High Priest who will present me faultless at His Father's throne with
exceeding joy.  To follow Him to me is to look for no other in whom I place my trust or hope for this life and the life to come.  To follow Him also is as preacher to preach no other Name than His as the way of salvation.  As Paul, so I am convinced with all my heart, "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me and I unto the world." 

Having said all this, I need to confess that each step or look of following Him is His gracious gift.  To Him be all the glory and the thanksgiving for it is only through His grace that I am what I am. Paul wrote words that express my own confession, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Soli Deo Gloria.

Pastor Vergunst



Back to the questions page



What's a Christian way to teach little children about death?

Question: Hello pastor, Friends of us have lost one of their children last month. The little boy was only 1 year old. We believe God has taken the little boy 'home'. We as adults know what death means. But how should we tell children about death? Others tell their children that the little boy is a star up in the sky now, but we don't think this is a Christian way. So, what's a Christian way to teach little children about death?

Warmly, Henco & Annelies


Hello Henco and Annelies,

Children can handle the truths much better than we adults think. Perhaps they can handle it even better because they deal with the reality in snatches and without all the emotional overload that we add through our 'taking tomorrows burdens on our shoulders today.' They can 'park' the problem and when they have enough emotional energy, they take it out, deal with it till they have had enough, and park it again.  Often they deal with it while they play.  While they play, they process the information that was hard and painful. At least that is with the younger children below five.  Children don't rationalize and analyze like we adults do.  Older children (5-10) begin to be more abstract about the reality and they tend to hide it.  For more information on grieve and how to recognize and guide it, search on this website for the topics I have given on this subject. It is filled with practical guidance on grief.
Telling children about death needs to be done sensitive but factual.  A person that has died is like an house in which people used to live.  The people have moved out while the house is now empty.  So you use that picture to explain to a child that when a person dies, the 'inner person' (soul) moves out and the body (house) remains behind.  This
house is now no more necessary and begins to 'fall apart' and therefore we need to bury it.  Tell children that the body doesn't live; doesn't need to eat, isn't cold or hot and also doesn't know that they are going under the ground. Compare it something they can relate to.  For example, a dead body is like a stone.  They don't feel, eat, drink etc.   It is very educational and helpful if children actually get to feel a dead body.  Never discourage children to touch the dead body of the deceased.  They learn with their fingers.  Make use of the educational opportunities when you see a dead bird or rabbit.  Point out that the reason we bury the body is so that it won't smell. These things are facts and facts if what children need.  If you don't provide the facts and you leave empty spots, they fill it in with their imagination and that's where often the fears come in.

To tell a child that a person went 'to sleep' is not good.  They will have trouble falling in sleep later because what if they never wake up.  Telling them that the soul become an angel or a star isn't true either.  No, tell them that the 'inner person' (soul) has moved to God's world.  That world is either heaven (God's house) or hell (not God's house). There the soul lives on.  The older the child is, the more we may and should share the Biblical details about either place.  How much do you tell?  A good guide is to let your children's question guide you how much you tell.  They will ask, "Where is his soul now? What does he do there?  Will he come back? Does he know about us?  Can he see us? 
..."   Their questions are the guide how much they can handle.  There is also nothing wrong when you tell children that you don't know something.  They will accept that as long as you really don't know.  Withholding information they ask for isn't wise and lying about it is sin.  To say a child became a star is a lie.

My five oldest children have experienced the death of their mother and they have all handled it better than I did.  But from the beginning of the process of her terminal illness, I was frank and open with them.  They knew what the doctors told.  I answered their questions as their Mama became comatose.  They touched her when she passed away.  They were present at the funeral in which we actually lowered the casket in front of them (very un-American) and the only one that struggled for a longer time with the confusion was our youngest who was 2 years old and I thought it better not to take him along to the funeral.  That was a mistake for for a long time he would ask me 'where have you brought Mama?'  I would take him to the grave but that didn't make any sense because all he saw was grass. Shortly after her death we bought two pigmy goats and sadly, one of the died a couple days later.  So we had another funeral in the back yard and this time I made sure that our youngest was part of that. The visual experience did help him to come to terms with the funeral of his mother.

Honestly and factual as much as the child asks to know ... that is in a nutshell my story above.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst




Back to the questions page



Two Doubts about assurance and sin

Question: Dear pastor, I'm happy you still want to answer the questions at this website!     I listened to the sermon of 'Jesus meeting doubters' a few times. It makes many things very clear, but I missed 2 doubts. Can you answer those too? 1. It can't be real with me because I never experienced the assurance in the way the pastors describes it in the sermons. They say you have to have heard His voice, God has to say it to you personal. A text of the Bible has to become so special and it has to be special in such a way that you never can forget it. They mention quite often psalm 56:5 rhymed (Dutch). Do you really have to experiences something special before you can be assured? Can God not simply take away all the doubts that stand in the way? This is the first doubt what always comes when I have a little assurance. What's the biblical way of getting assurance?
2. Can a child of God be so weak even when he or she knows that something is a sin, still do it?
Arianne (Sorry my English isn't perfect)


Hello Arianne,
Sorry it took a while to answer your questions.  Hopefully the patience wasn’t tried too much.
Regarding your first question.  I am always very careful to ‘insist’ on a certain way in which a soul receives assurance of his or her salvation.  God encourages His children to live by faith in His promises.  That can be a real battle as we don’t dare, feel not worthy, aren’t sure the promise belongs to us, or experiences an inability to believe.  These are the normal battles every person who is convicted of sin will experience.  Through these battles we learn very much.  For one, we learn that we need the Holy Spirit for every act of faith.  His work is as necessary for salvation as the coming, suffering and death of the Lord Jesus.   But to insist that you ‘must have heard God’s voice before you can assured of your salvation’ is something I would never say.  Stating it this way is making God the cause of our lack of assurance.  Since ‘He hasn’t spoken yet’ we can’t really help not being assured.  If that is true, it would contradict God’s exhortation to ‘make your calling and elections sure’ (2 Peter 1).  It would also contradict Jesus’ words in John 14-16 in which He repeatedly encourages His disciples to believe in His Word ‘so that their joy may be full.’   I am convinced that is God is speaking in His Word.  Each time we read the Bible, hear it proclaimed faithfully by God’s servants, the LORD is speaking to us.  The problem is with us.  We don’t hear or believe what He speaks.  There are hundreds of promises in the Bible through which the Lord speaks to His people about the certainty, completeness and reality of their salvation.  Gladly the Holy Spirit will aid His people and grant them faith to believe His Word and once a person is enabled to trust the promises, he or she will experience the joy of salvation (assurance).   If you are able to listen to English well, I can link you to my Dropbox and you can download a few sermons I recently preached on assurance of faith, in connection with Lord’s Day 23.  I tried to explain in those sermons what is taught in the Canons of Dort about the assurance of faith.  The teaching given in that pastorally written ‘document’ is so thoroughly Biblical. (You will need to send a personal e-mail to me so I can send you the link to this dropbox;  my email is atvergunst@charter.net)

So to sum up your first question, yes God can take away your doubts and grant you the childlike faith to trust His promises.  Interestingly, I was just reading a comment about a sermon from Rev. Kersten, Jr.  He clearly pointed out that it is the weak in faith who need special texts spoken to them with power.  It is my own conviction also that God has very many special needs children to whom He bows down in His loving-kindness to bring them to the full assurance of their salvation.   I would count myself among one of those. But normally, God calls sinners to trust His promises and the moment we truly believe these promises (and there are hundreds of them), we will experience the peace, joy, rest of assurance of faith. 

A closing comment on the statement: the Lord needs to speak with power.  Don’t imagine an audible voice.  God’s Spirit may bring a Scripture in your mind as you are wrestling with God in prayer and such a Scripture can bring great comfort when you believe it.  God also sometimes presses a Scripture on your heart when you read His Word in such times of intense struggle with your doubts and needs.  But again, never must we insist on this as if this is the norm.  I am still convinced that these cases are the exceptions in which God tenderly condescends like Jesus did with His disciples after the resurrection, especially as He dealt with Thomas.   God is honoured when we believe Him on His Word, as it is written.  Such faith is the strong faith, like the woman in Matt 15.  Even though everything testified her, even though Jesus’ own actions and words placed her ‘outside’, yet she trusted undiminished in what she had heard about Him.  Without a special text and without a special sign she believed and Jesus closed the scene with saying that He had never found so great faith in Israel. 

2.  Your second question is honest.  Sadly, yes, a child of God can know that something is a sin and still do the sin to which they are attracted.  I mean with ‘doing the sin’ not just falling into a sin because of an infirmity.  Peter wasn’t overtaken by infirmity when he denied Jesus with curses.  David wasn’t just overtaken in a moral slip when he committed adultery and tried to cover his tracks with pre-meditated murder.   While their conscience must have spoken, they did continue in their sin.   Sin has a pleasurable attraction to our carnal old man.  And even though in the regenerate a new man is created, the old man is never converted though he is crucified.  Oh what battles are fought with sin in the life of God’s children!  Once they begin to reason or argue with the tempter, it will be a lost battle for his power and the power of our remaining corruption is so great that we can never win this battle unless we instantly flee to the Lord Jesus and by faith in His overcome the world

We hope that you have received some guidance from these answers, Arianne.  May the Lord bless you in His grace.

Warmly, Pastor Vergunst,
Waupun, USA




Back to the questions page



Are people converted in the same way they were years ago? 

Question: Are people converted in the same way they were years ago?  I know the answer is yes, but why then are things looked at so differently?  When I was young, there was so much more doubt; people would say they "hoped" they had been converted.  Rarely was a child of God fully assured.
However, today so many who go to the Lord's Supper are happy, don't doubt, and just don't have the outwardly Godly life that our forefathers did. What was wrong yesterday is OK today?
I know, the main concern is to look at ourselves; I really do, and I don't like what I see.  But settling this contrast between God's people of former days and of today, is of utmost importance to me in determining what is the truth.


Hello Kari,

You have much packed in your questions.  I will try to answer the questions first as short as possible and then try to come to some Biblical conclusions.

1. Are people converted in the same way they were years ago?

When God converts a sinner, they all learn the same things though in vastly different ways.  Paul learned the same as Samuel but their ways were incomparable in how they reached this. Comparing the conversion of John Bunyan (Pilgrim’s Progress) and his wife (Christina’s Journey) introduces you to two entirely different stories.  Yet they all are summed up in the words of Paul in Phil. 3:3, “For we are the circumcision (regenerated/saved) which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”  The three-fold essential knowledge of the misery, delivery and gratitude (as the Heidelberg Catechism sets out) is the essence of conversion.  All of God’s children can find their description in the Beatitudes Jesus gave in Matt. 5:3-10.  So, yes, when God saves a person He teaches us the same things are He has taught the first fallen creature He converted. 

2. Why are things then looked at so different?

You are concerned that we have departed from the truth because the professed children of God in your youth spoke differently about salvation; as a matter of fact, you observe that they rarely were assured of their salvation. There was so much doubt in them even though they attended the Lord’s Supper. They were rarely assured of their faith.  Later in your question you mentioned the ‘fore-fathers’ and with them I am sure you didn’t mean the people of God that you grew up with but godly teachers such a M Henry, S. Rutherford, T. Boston, T. Watson and the like.
However, the comparison between these two groups doesn’t quite stack up as you made it sound like. If you read the personal memoirs of our forefathers you would often read about the assurance of faith and the joy of their salvation.  That doesn’t mean they didn’t have their times of trial and darkness. How else could they preach so pastorally to encourage the pour doubting Christians of their days?    
I agree that many in the former generation as well as many of God’s children today struggle with the doubts regarding their salvation.  I am convinced that this was/is not a Biblical or healthy condition yet often present. We remain strugglers and every believer will have his times of doubt, fears, darkness and trials. Yet the reason that there was (and still is) so little assurance of salvation can also be because there was/is misunderstanding about ‘how a child of God will be assured of their salvation?’  Over the years of study of the Scripture as well as the teaching of our fore-fathers, especially they who were used by God to write the Canons of Dort, has led me to see that many dear children of God walked in darkness because they had an incorrect view about how to arrive at assurance of faith.  If you are interested in this subject, send me a private e-mail (
atvergunst@charter.net) and I will send you a link to my Ministry Dropbox.  Recently I preached two sermons on ‘assurance of faith’ in which I expounded the Biblical teaching of the Canons of Dort on this subject.

You would do well to establish what is right or wrong by Scripture and not by what you necessarily grew up with. The experiences or testimonies of the professed children of God in your youth are not the final answer though they may have been dear children of the Lord.  Scripture is and there you do find expression such as “I know that my Redeemer liveth” and “I am persuaded …” and “When I confessed my transgressions, thou forgavest the iniquity…” I am afraid that some have made assurance of faith unreachable because they have moved it away from personal faith in God’s objective truths and promises as well as the observations of the fruits of God’s election in our life.  Our forefathers warned against seeking your assurance of salvation in some extra-ordinary experiences. The Heidelberg Catechism speaks much about the assurance of salvation and always points to the promises of God which are confirmed by the sacrament and proclaimed to the believers by the preaching of the Word.
Are there then no experiences in the life of grace? Yes, there is the conviction of sin, godly sorrow, humbling of the heart, the surrendering to God, hunger and thirst after righteousness, love to God or the fear of His holy Name; the striving to be holy, burden with the impurity of heart.  They are the genuine experiences Jesus points out in the Beatitude.  If we are strangers to these, we are strangers to His saving grace. It is not always possible for a child of God to see the clear evidences in the fruits of God’s grace in their own life.  But when I hear that ‘each child of God has had many sleepless nights’ I know that Satan will use such statement to terrify or trouble tender and sincere heart who may never had laid awake for a whole night.  Not all of God’s children have had sleepless nights.  But writing or stating such things is making a certain experience of one (or many) the standard of all.  Or when I hear that you only get assurance ‘if you hear the Lord speak to you’ or ‘if a special Psalter or text you asked Him is used in the next sermon’ I object. Such statement lack complete Scriptural basis and cause massive confusion or strive. It is the ‘Thomas way’ of insisting on ‘this or that’ before one would believe (John 21).  Though Jesus graciously condescended to Thomas, and He still does to such like Thomasses, He also rebuked him for not believing His Word.

Must I doubt my salvation because I have never had a sleepless night in my life (though there are plenty times that I had trouble sleeping or struggled with restless and speaking consciences)?  What does it mean to ‘hear the Lord speak to you?’  The Lord speaks to us each time His Word is read but we don’t have ears to hear it. 
The problem, however, is that many seek their assurance of faith in their spiritual experiences. But that is not where the assurance of faith is based on.  What is the assurance that my wife will love me and be faithful to me?  It is not in ‘what I feel or experience’ but in what she has spoken to me!  Her character and her word are my assurance and this word she has backed up with nearly 18 years of absolute faithfulness. Do I need anything else to be assured of her love?  My assurance of salvation is not in spiritual experiences but in the promises of God in Jesus Christ. Lord’s Day 23 sums my personal conviction and in the faith of God’s promise I may live. 
So Kari, I am not ready to agree with you entirely but suggest that you let your questions guide you to read in our ‘fore-fathers.’ One beautiful book I continue to recommend is Thomas Hooker’s The Poor Doubting Christian Drawn to Christ.  A true gem.  J. C. Ryle has also a very readable book on Assurance of Faith.  Scan through John Newton’s letters as I think he also touches upon this subject.  Obtain the books by Brakel and check out his chapters dealing with faith and assurance. 

3. You also share your concern that those who today claim to be saved don’t live the ‘outwardly godly life’ that they did in the days of your youth.

What is ‘godliness?’  To me ‘godliness’ is to be Christ-like in your walk, talk, manners, actions and re-actions.  Jesus sketched godliness in the last three Beatitudes, the merciful, pure in heart and peace-makers. People in whom the Spirit of God lives are people who pursue godliness or seek to live a righteous life before God and man.  Godliness is genuine love to God which is expressed in to my neighbour, friend or foe. Godliness is to deny yourself, sacrificially love another, not be thinking and acting like the world who only care for their own. But godliness is also to separate ourselves from the world and not to participate in the activities and idolatries of the world.  Peter exhorted the believers to ‘be holy as He is holy’ and that certainly included not ‘running like you used to run with the world and their activities.’
I share your concern that it appears that some who profess grace have re-defined the boundaries about where and how we can be involved or participate in the world. That worries me too.  Clothing styles and participation in all kinds of forms of entertainment and even how they talk about their faith etc. are matters that aren’t always in line with what former generations did and did not.
It is not fair to say, however, that is a general pattern.  I see also many very serious-minded single and couples who are diligent and sharing in their Christian walk.  We need to be careful to judge the heart on either side: those who walk very conservative can be as far away from salvation as those who are zealously working hard for the Lord.  Others may be diligent in their ‘cups of cold water and prison visit’s ministry’ for the wrong reasons but there are also such who do it for the right reasons. 
The outward walk is not necessarily a reliable barometer of the heart.

Well, Kari, I thank you for your patience and hope that my answer has given you something to think about.  I am always open to further comments or questions. May the Lord remember us all in His grace and continue to work out His glorious salvation in us and ours.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst
Waupun, USA



Back to the questions page



Is saying "O my Goodness" and "O my Word" taking God's name in vain?

I sometimes hear Christians using sayings like "O my Goodness" and "O my Word" and wonder if they are the same as taking God's name in vain? I cant help but think its wrong to do so. What are your thoughts on this?


Hello dear friend,

I agree with you that such expressions are 'borderline' imitations of the way many use the name of God in vain.  Especially "oh my goodness' is not even borderline but a reference to God's goodness.  Although you can't really say that "O my Word' is wrong it yet has the 'appearance of evil' and therefore I would agree that we should not use such expressions.  Let's steer clear away from the world's ways of dishonouring the Lord, His Goodness or His name.

That we use certain expressions to verbalize a certain surprise, shock or elation is not wrong of course.  But they should stay very clearly away from the sounds the world uses.  So, how about you invent some expressions that are harmless but fulfil the purpose of exclamation and begin to use those around your Christian friends.  Maybe it will catch!

Greetings,
Pastor Vergunst



Back to the questions page


Why do you preach infant baptism?

Question: Why do you preach infant baptism? You say it comes in the place of circumcision, but how? Wasn't that all done away with?
Baptize, in Greek translation, actually means immerse. Romans 6:4. It is a picture of being buried with Him in baptism and raised in newness of life. No where in the Bible can I find where there is an example of infant baptism. Acts 8:35-37. How could a infant possibly believe with all their heart? Philip preached to the Eunuch about Jesus and the
Eunuch believed and was baptized. It is an act of faith.


Hello Emily,


My answer is referring you to a three-series of sermons I preached recently on this subject. After having listened to them, I will gladly answer any further questions on this subject.
You can find the sermons presently on www.sermonweb.org and I preached them around July 2014.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst




Back to the questions page



Do you ever wonder how our modern churches compare to the early church?

Question: Do you ever wonder how our modern churches compare to the early church that began after the resurrection of Jesus?
David


Hello David,

I am afraid that the early Christians would not know what they see. It is the same reaction that you notice when you show the Chinese brothers our houses of worship.  They meet in simple rooms to hold their church services and I think that is what I envision for many years to have been the case in the early Christian Church.  As congregations grew, it became necessary to make bigger houses of worship.  Not long after that the buildings became more ornate. Probably not a positive development.

The early Christians church services would probably also look different than what ours look like.  The essentials of the worship (preaching, singing, praying, offerings) were all there but probably with more involvement of the believers that we generally have today. 
I don't know whether that is positive or negative; just different as the organization
was less formal.  I notice that again as I participate in the services in China.  They have all the above elements but organize it far more member involved.

From the readings on the early Churches, it appears also that they were far more socially oriented than we are.  The churches were making an impact upon their cultural environments through charity and also by being to 'other-worldly.' They shared their resources of love, time, service, sharing and caring to the needy in their world.  In our days we channel this more through organizations, mission boards, disaster committees and home mission work. Again, there is an advantage in bundling the gifts but the danger is that we just 'give money' rather than extend ourselves on a personal level within the community that we can reach.  It will need to be remembered that the early church lived a pre-Christian society.  The social services that we even today enjoy were not available in those days.  In other words, there was a massive field of needs into which the early Christians poured their loving ministry.  The lesson for us is that we must not forget that the needs in our days are also increasing. Perhaps not as much materially but
emotionally, socially and above spiritually.

We would all profit from more study of the books of Acts and labour in prayer for the Spirit's moving us as He moved the living Church in those days.

But I am sure the early Christians will also be amazed to see the great heritage of Christian teaching that we have received through the centuries.  They were mostly living on the 'spoken word' as the completion of the New Testament still took decades and the combining of the books into what we know today as the NT still took longer. Besides, these books weren't owned by everyone.  Add to this the wonderful confessions of faith, catechisms and the vast resource of sound Christian books we enjoy today.  Perhaps they wouldn't be only surprised with the great advantages we enjoy in that regard but also with the even greater contempt of all those gifts seen in general within the Christian world.

So much for a few of my 'off-the-cuff' comments on my thoughts on this question.

All the best,

Pastor Vergunst




Back to the questions page



What are we permitted to do with our tithed money?


Question: Hi Pastor, I have a question about tithing. I have read the question and answer about tithing on gross vs. net income. My question is, what are we permitted to do with this tithed money?  Do we have to give it all in the church sack on Sunday, or can we give it to charities, a friend in need, taking someone out for a coffee and talk, or even in your own savings account for something that is really needed.  Thanks, Jessica


Hello Jessica,

Sorry for the tardy response.  I don't know what happened to my first answer that I passed on but I think somehow it go lost.
The 'tithed money' is by God reserved in the OT to be brought to the temple.  This was to supply the priesthood but also to supply for the poor.  The poor and needy were administered through the priesthood, or at least, that is how it was intended.
Today the deacons fulfil that task and we see in Acts that the member brought their gifts toward the apostles or leaders of the church. Later that was distributed by the appointed deacons.

Does that mean that all the tithed money needs to go to the church? I don't know whether that is necessary.  The lion share of your tithes should go to the church you are part of so that all the expenses of the church are to be taken care of.  However, there are other avenues of Christian ministry that need our financial support. These ministries
do reach other poor and needy people and therefore do fulfil the task of a form of deaconry.

To use God's money to take a friend out for a social time is not something that fits in the tithing. First of all, this is a social ministry rather than the supply for a real need.  Besides, you are using the tithing money for yourself as I don't imagine you sit there not
drinking your coffee.
To place the tithing money into your own savings account is not right. It is God's money and every part of it He expect you to give to Him and His cause.  Read Malachi 3 again.  He promises to open the windows of heaven when we faithfully return the 10 % that is His. Never have I experienced God to fail this promise.  The expression of 'windows of
heaven' is only used twice in the Bible to indicate abundance.  God has assured that He will supply all our needs when we honor Him in obedience and faith.

I cannot repeat enough the truth that this is God's money and we are to 'rob Him' as Malachi so vividly expressed.

Greetings,

Pastor Vergunst




Back to the questions page



What does it mean to seek the Lord?

Question: What does it mean to seek the Lord? How do you know if you are seeking the Lord? Are the promises in the Bible for those seeking - they will find - for saved believers or for those unsaved or both? Does a believer have to seek the Lord if they have already found the Lord?


Dear friend,

My apology for not answering the question earlier. Somehow this and another question go missed. To seek the Lord means several things.

1. It can mean to seek His will on the various choices we are to make. This is done by studying His Word and finding the directions He has given us there. You may of course use those who have studied God's Word to assist you. This search must be in connection with prayer in which you seek His Holy Spirit to guide you in the search, to enlighten your eyes for His will as well as to make your willing to obey His direction.

2. It can mean to seek Him to receive His pardon and mercy. We all need to be reconciled to our Maker and God has opened this way in His Son Jesus Christ. Seeking Him and His salvation would mean that you seek to understand the way by which you can be saved. This is through repentance and faith. To understand where repentance is needed, you need again to seek His Word and pray for His Spirit to know what sins there are in your life that need to be repented of. Seeing your guilt brings to the foreground the need for forgiveness. This is offered to us in Christ His Son. Seeking the Lord would mean that we search His Word for the promises and directions that He gives how we can be reconciled. Again, along with this comes the need for the Spirit of God to enable us to repent and trust in His inviting promises and re-assuring offers of grace.

3. To seek the Lord will be an ongoing thing in the life of God's people. It is easy to wander away from the communion with God and experience the spiritual desertion due to backsliding. Seeking the Lord in that case would be the returning to God with confession of sin and taking our refuge to Him in Christ for the fresh pardon of our sins. Seeking the Lord for a child of God would mean to daily seek the nurturing of this relationship with Him by the reading and meditation upon His Word.

So, you see that the phrase 'seek the Lord' can be applied several ways. Your question is very good; it forced me to detail for myself what is exactly meant with the statements we can so often make. I encourage you to read trace all the references in God's Word that use these words 'seek the Lord' and see whether it confirms what I said above.

Thanks for your patience in waiting for the answer.

Warmly,
Pastor Vergunst


Back to the questions page


 




 

© 2015 Reformed Congregations of New Zealand.  Services: 10:00 AM and 7:00 PM  Map  Contact Us