From a Pastor to His New Congregation (Kuyper)

When Abraham Kuyper arrived in Amsterdam in August, 1870, he gave an inaugural sermon to the Reformed congregation that he had been called to shepherd. This sermon is called “Rooted and Grounded” and it is found in the volume On the Church by Abraham Kuyper. In this sermon Kuyper talked about how the church is an organism and institution. Near the end of the sermon he appealed to the congregation in a wonderful and pastoral manner – I’ve quoted some of his words below. (Note: when Kuyper mentions a “sword” he’s speaking metaphorically, referring to “the sword of the word” which he referenced earlier in the sermon.)

I offer you my heart and my hand. I pray only this: do not demand that I ever lend my hand to an external building that lacks the inner rootedness of the heart. As minister of the Word, I have to preach that Word to you, and my strength lies in that alone. What you recently sang to me: “Do not conceal from us what has been commanded to you, for the congregation is listening,” I will in God’s strength accomplish, even if I have to flog you in your conscience, even if people will leave because of the harshness of my words.

Indeed, permit me to conclude, congregation, by declaring that what I am pursuing is not simply the restoration of the church; what I intend is not simply doing battle with whomever dislikes my efforts. No. What moves my soul, what I beseech from my God, is that he may grant me to shine before your eye a single ray of light from that eternally rich, never exhaustively adored mercy that is in Christ Jesus. What arouses my zeal is simply this, that I may dip the tips of my fingers in that Fountain of eternal Love, in order to lay a few drops of those cool waters of grace on the burning lips of your heart. And if I then also seek the restoration of the church, if I then also reach for the sword—it is only because, congregation, I am convinced that the minister of Christ may not sit idly by while the access to those waters of life is barricaded for the Lord’s congregation.

Abraham Kuyper, On the Church, from the chapter called “Rooted and Grounded.”

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

“The Mighty Lesson of Dying” (Kuyper)

  In his devotional called To Be Near Unto God, Abraham Kuyper wrote a great meditation on Hebrews 11:21 which says, “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff” (NIV). The title of the meditation is “Dying He Worshiped.”  The whole devotional is very much worth reading. I won’t quote the whole thing here, but I did want to share one part where Kuyper talks about different ways to die: in faith or in unbelief.  Here’s what he says about dying “quietly and peaceably” without faith in Christ:

Of those who die without Christ it is continually said, that they died equally quietly and calmly; even perhaps with less perturbation of mind, than many a child of God that is harassed by anxiety and doubt. Nothing of a serious nature was said to them. They themselves made no reference to anything. The physician assured them that there was no need of alarm. And so the patient passed quietly away, without having known any terror of death. And others, seeing this, were impressed that there is really nothing to dying; it was all so quiet and gentle. Then came flowers to cover the bier. Visits of condolence are no longer paid. In this way nothing connected with death is spoken of. And when the funeral is over, ordinary matters form the topic of conversation, but not the things that are eternal. And thus the mighty lesson of dying is lost. Death ceases to be a preacher of deeper seriousness. And the Lord of life and of death is not remembered.

This is so true! How many of us have been to funerals where the reality of death is for the most part avoided? How many of us have been at a funeral where nothing deep, significant, or eternal is touched upon, and as Kuyper said, “the Lord of life and of death is not remembered?”  It’s true: in these situations “the mighty lesson of dying is lost.”  Here’s how Kuyper went on:

We, Christians, should not encourage this evil practice. And yet, we do it, when imitating the way of the world we say of such dead that they “peaceably passed away.” Not calmly and peacefully, but fighting and conquering in the Savior, should be the dying bed in the Christian family. He who has not the heart for this, but is careful to spare the patient all serious and disquieting thought, is not merciful, but through unbelief he is cruel.

In other words, when the Christian is talking to people in the context of death, it is cruel unbelief to avoid mentioning the Lord of life and the reality of what lies beyond the grave – eternity.  I’ll end with this next paragraph in the devotional:

In dying Jacob has worshipped. On the death bed one can pray. One can pray for help in the last struggle. Intercession can be made for those that are to be left behind and for the Kingdom of God. By itself such prayer is beautiful. On one’s deathbed to appear before the face of God. This last prayer on earth, when every veil drops away, and the latest supplication is addressed to God, who awaits us in the courts of everlasting light. Such prayer teaches those, who stand by, to pray. Such prayer exerts an overwhelming, fascinating influence.

Abraham Kuyper, To Be Near unto God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans-Sevensma Co., 1918), 286–287.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

No Lone Christian: Kuyper on the Fellowship of the Saints

One of the most dangerous situations a Christian can find himself in is isolation: isolation from God’s people. If you read the New Testament and think about the community of believers (the church) you won’t find good stories about great Christians purposely following Jesus alone, solo, by themselves. It was just the opposite: the disciples were devoted to fellowship (Acts 2:42) and were called to not forsake the asssembly (Heb. 10:25). Abraham Kuyper explained this in an outstanding way in chapter 37 of The Work of the Holy Spirit. Notice how he wove together the blessing of spiritual gifts and the rich history of Christ’s church:

It is wrong, therefore, to consider the life of individual believers too much by itself, separating it from the life of the Church. They exist not but in connection with the body, and thus they become partakers of the spiritual gifts. In this sense the Heidelberg Catechism confesses the communion of saints: “First, that all and every one who believes, being members of Christ, are in common partakers of Him and of all His riches and gifts; secondly, that every one must know it to be his duty readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts for the advantage and salvation of other members.” The parable of the talents has the same aim; for the servant who with his talent failed to benefit others receives a terrible judgment. Even the hidden gift must be stirred up, as St. Paul says; not to boast of it or to feed our pride, but because it is the Lord’s and intended for the Church.

…The Church of to-day is the same as in the day of the apostles. The life lived then is the life that animates it now. The gains of two centuries ago belong to its treasury, as well as those received to-day. The past is its capital. The wonderful and glorious revelation received by the Church of the first century was given, through it, to the Church of all ages, and is still effectual. And all the spiritual strength and insight, the inward grace, the clearer consciousness, received during the course of the ages are not lost, but form an accumulated treasure, increasing still by the ever-renewed additions of spiritual gifts.

He who realizes and acknowledges this fact feels himself rich and blessed indeed. For this apostolic view of the matter causes us to be thankful for our brother’s gift, which otherwise we might envy; inasmuch as those gifts do not impoverish, but enrich us. In one city there may be twelve ministers of the Word, all gifted in various directions. According to the natural man, each will be jealous of his brother’s gifts and fear that his talents will excel his own. But not so among the Lord’s own servants. They feel that together they serve one Lord and one flock, and bless God for giving them together what the leading and feeding require. In an army the artillerist is not jealous of the cavalryman, for he knows that the latter is for his protection in the hour of danger.

Moreover, this apostolic standpoint excludes isolation; for it creates the longing for fellowship with distant brethren, even thoough they walk in more or less deviating paths. It is impossible, Bible in hand, to limit Christ’s Church to one’s own little community. It is everywhere, in all parts of the world; and whatever its external form, frequently changing, often impure, yet the gifts wherever received increase our riches…

Abraham Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit, p. 184-186.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

The Standard for True Piety and Godliness (Kuyper)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes when one Christian sees another Christian’s practices of piety he or she thinks, “That’s a good practice, I should do it.” At one level, this isn’t a bad thing. Those who follow Jesus in faith and obedience should be good examples for others who follow him. On a different level, however, this can be dangerous since the ultimate standard for piety and godliness is not found in one person’s specific practices, but in Scripture. In other words, if one Christian wakes up early to pray for an hour each day, while that’s a very commendable practice, it’s not binding on other Christians. Furthermore, other Christians should not feel badly if their practices of piety and godliness don’t match up with other Christians’ practices of piety because Scripture is our ultimate standard.

Abraham Kuyper addressed one aspect of this topic quite well in a chapter of his devotional, To be Near unto God. Here’s a section from it:

There is an evil among devout friends of the Lord, which must be resisted. In spiritual things each desires to impose a law of his own upon the other. Piety is said to be bound to a given form. One’s own way of piety must be the standard for every one else. Minor differences may be tolerated, but in the main the same sort of piety must manifest itself in all God’s children alike. And so it follows that the piety which they practice is the standard for all their spiritual examination and criticism.

…Our fathers used to say, that this is putting oneself in the place of the Word of God. Not from oneself, nor from any saint whatever, but exclusively from God’s Word the standard must be derived which determines geniune childship, and the true gold of our godliness. These censors did not deny this; only they tried to show that God’s Word posits the claims and marks of true grace, which they themselves imposed upon you, and which they sternly applied in their own circle. But one thing they forgot, and this became the cause of all this injurious spiritual unnaturalness; they did not see, that God’s word, as in every thing else allows play-room in the spiritual life for very great diversity, and in this very diversity seeks strength.

If now the spiritual life of piety is forced into a selfsame mould, the work of man counteracts the work of God; then there ensues spiritual unnaturalness, painted flowers, but no real flowers; then no virtue goes out from it, and this sort of imprinted piety does not bring one nearer to God, but rather builds up a wall of separation between the soul and God

…As God clothes the lilies of the field differently, so he weaves an own spiritual garment for each one of his children.

Abraham Kuyper, To Be Near unto God, ch. 88.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Don’t Forget about Satan! (Kuyper)

Abraham Kuyper, “To Be Near Unto God”

For various reasons, sometimes Christians forget that Satan and his demonic horde really exist.  We know the stories in the Gospels where Jesus sent the demons running, but we sometimes forget the fact that Satan really prowls around like a roaring lion seeking to devour us (1 Pet 5:8).  We know that the NT epistles tell us to watch out for Satan’s schemes and attacks, but it’s not always on our minds (Eph 6:11, 2 Cor 2:11, etc.).  No doubt Satan loves it when Christians forget about him and his demonic ways.  I appreciate how Abraham Kuyper put it:

It should be carefully observed, that like a thief, Satan is most pleased when his presence and his work are not noticed. In circles where his existence is denied or ridiculed, his hands are altogether free to murder souls according to his liking. But that he can be so strangely forgotten by those who are more inclined to believe the Gospel, offers him the finest chances to poison souls. We may be sure that in all this denial and in all this forgetting of the actual existence of Satan, a trick of Satan himself operates. When the mighty spirit of Christ moved the waves of the sea of life in Palestine, Satan did not succeed with this for a moment, and Jesus compelled him to show himself. But now he succeeds in keeping himself in hiding, and unseen and unnoticed, from the ambush, to inwork his character, and consequently with better effect.

Abraham Kuyper, To Be Near unto God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans-Sevensma Co., 1918), 553.

Satan is crafty in his evil and even disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:4).  This isn’t to say that Satan is behind every door and every bad thing that happens, but it is to say he’s real, he’s on the prowl, and he’s trying his demonic best to wreck the peace and purity of the Church and the life of the Christian. Be on your guard, brother or sister!

Thankfully, Christ is on the throne and not even Satan and the hordes of hell can separate us from our Lord (John 10:28).  Satanic attacks may be real and fierce, but just as Jesus prayed for Peter, he’s praying for his people today, that their faith will not fail (Lk 22:32).  In Christ, and clothed with the armor of God, we can do all things through his strength – including resisting the devil or fleeing from him (depending on the circumstance).  The victory belongs to the Lord – and those who are in Him!

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015