Online Text Sermon - Guidance for Covenant Youth, Psalm 119 v.9
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||Guidance for Covenant Youth|
|Text||Psalm 119 v.9|
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"Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word" (Psalm 119, 9).
Now that's a rather long word: 'wherewithal'. It means the same as 'how'. How shall a young person make his way clean? And the answer is by taking heed to his way according to the Word of God. Will you notice first of all, in this text there is a question and then there is an answer. It begins with this question: How can a young person cleanse his way? And then there's an answer. Now why does God give us this question? Why does he not simply give us the answer? Why the question first? Well I'm going to tell you. I believe it is this: You will never know the answer to a thing unless you first of all ask the question. If people don't ask the right questions they will never know the right answers. The first step to becoming a Christian is to ask a question. I don't know whether you've noticed that when you're reading the conversion stories of people like Paul and others in the Bible? But if you do see their conversion stories you will notice that they begin very often with a question. I'm going to remind you of this in the case of Paul.
Do you remember how the Lord appeared to Paul in a bright and glorious vision? Paul fell down and Christ said to him: "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" (Acts 9, 4). What did Paul say? He said: "Who art thou, Lord?" (Acts 9, 5). He asked a question and then Jesus said: "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest" (Acts 9, 5). Then he said something else after which Paul said: "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9, 6) - a question. So you see, those are the questions and I say again: when people are beginning to be serious about becoming Christians it always begins by their asking questions. The same will be true when you turn to Acts 2 - the wonderful Day of Pentecost when all those thousands of people were converted under the sermon that Peter preached. Recall what happened when Peter had finished this marvellous sermon? They all asked a question: "Men and brethren," they said, "what shall we do?" (Acts 2, 37). You see? It was the same with the Philippian jailor in Acts 16: he sprang in trembling and said, "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16, 30) - a question. You will never become a Christian until you have started to ask a few questions. I think that's why this text begins with a question. Let me read it to you again: "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word" (text).
Tonight I want to speak especially to the young people. We don't have hundreds of them in any of our churches any more. The day was when there would be dozens and scores, even hundreds of young people, but that's not the case any more. Our young people and our children are very, very precious to us and here, in this verse, it is very obvious - young people - God is speaking especially to you. Of course, what is said to young people can be said to older people too because we all need the same message. Tonight, however, I make no apology for speaking especially to the children and to the young people, because that is what my text is doing. How can a young person make his way clean in this world? The answer is, "by taking heed thereto according to thy word" (text).
1. GOD DESIRES YOUNG PEOPLE TO BECOME CHRISTIANS
My first heading then would be this: God desires young people to become Christians. He is deeply interested in young people. I am going to prove that is absolutely true from the Bible. God desires young people to be converted and he is very interested in them. Let me take a moment just to prove that very point.
First of all, you have it in the words of Jesus Christ. He said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God" (Mark 10, 14). We're not talking about people in their twenties or teens, but about young children. Of course, it would be true for all the children and older young people. On that occasion young people were being brought to Christ and the disciples wanted to stop this happening; they wanted to say to Christ, 'Don't waste your time on these children; they're not important; they're too young to be bothered with.' Our Lord was much displeased; he didn't agree with that view. That wasn't his view of the matter at all, and he said so. He said, 'Allow these young people to come to me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God.' By that, he means that children can be converted as children - and many of them are; he means that in heaven there are many children - many, many of them. There are some who take the view that all children dying in infancy go to heaven. It may be so, I don't know. It would be a beautiful thought and a lovely thought to think that all children dying in infancy go to heaven. I would love to believe that; I can't prove it; I have to take it as a thing that we don't know for sure, but it may be so. It may be that all the aborted children - aborted in the wombs of their mothers in this country and in America, and all over the world - it may be that they all go straight to heaven, saved by the blood of Christ. I can't say that dogmatically, because I don't know for sure; the Bible doesn't make it clear, but it may be so! God is interested in children, even the youngest; He cares for them. That's one reason why this must be so.
Let me give you another reason: it's because the Bible very often talks about children. We have quite a few chapters in Genesis dealing with the birth of children - Isaac, and then Jacob, then the other children? A lot of time is spent in Genesis just talking about the birth of these children, descendants of Abraham. So it goes all the way through the historical portions of the Bible. Then you come to the books of Kings and Chronicles. It's very interesting when you hear mention of some king the Bible usually tells us, 'and his mother's name was so-and-so.' That is very important because a child's life is very much conditioned by, and affected by, its mother. God tells us the mother's name - King so-and-so, and his mother's name was so-and-so. You see, God is interested in children, and in the upbringing of children, and in the mothers of children. You don't need to go farther than the Bible to find out how God honours the woman; Christianity and biblical religion give great honour to the woman. The woman is not swept aside in Christianity as in some other religions and made to be something inferior - no, a mother's place in bringing up the children is most important.
The Bible addresses children and speaks to children and to young people. Listen to this: "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth" (Ecclesiastes 12, 1). There it is - young people and children - 'in the days of your youth.' You are being commanded by God to remember your Creator. Or, let me give you another text. Very often in the Book of Proverbs God speaks to young people like this: "My son, give me thine heart" (Proverbs 23, 26). God is speaking kindly to young boys, and of course by implication to the girls as well, because God cares for children.
One of the amazing passages of the Bible is when Sarah cast out her maid, Hagar. Hagar had a little child and she had to take her child into the wilderness. We are told Sarah drove her out and that Hagar couldn't bear to see her child die of thirst in the wilderness so she put the child down and walked away. The Bible says that when the child cried, the Lord heard. Now that's astonishing because He wasn't a Christian and he never became one. Ishmael never became a man of God but God, in his grace and his mercy, heard the cry of the child for food and water in the desert. There's the evidence: God cares for the young.
If you are a young boy or girl, God is deeply interested in you and in your life, in your soul, in your future and in your eternity - God cares for you! He wants you to know that from his Word. How shall a young person cleanse his way? A young person! You see, God is giving advice to the young here. Of course, it applies to all, and if you happen to be an older person it applies to you by implication; but the young are in the centre of this text - there under the microscope, especially with this text.
Let me give you another reason to make it clear that God is interested in youth and the young people. It's because most people become Christians when they are young - most of them do. This can be shown statistically. You can do this mathematically. You can find out by asking questions when most people are converted; and most of them are converted round about the age of 20 - many of them much younger than that. Fewer are converted at 30; fewer still at 40; fewer still at 60; very few at 80. The reason for that is that youth is the best time to come to God, because you've got the whole of life in which to serve God. If the Lord converted people only after the age of 60, where would the ministers come from, the elders and the deacons? If they were only converted at the age of 65 and 70 they would have no time to be trained; they'd be in their graves before they got into the pulpit. So God saves them young.
There's another way of looking at it too. Boys and girls, when we're young our heart is tender, but as we get older our heart gets harder. By the time we get to the middle years of life our heart is not so tender as it was. When we become old people, if we're not Christians already, our heart becomes as hard as stone. People don't become holy because they're old - they become worse than ever! You go to an old people's home where people are not godly. You'd think as they get nearer to the grave that they would be more interested in how to be saved, and you'd think that old people's homes would be full of people reading their Bibles and trying to find out how they can come to Christ and asking questions about salvation. It's not true, because as people get older their hearts get harder and harder, and harder still! A lot of old people - those who are not Christians - get old in their sin. What do they want? - drink, drink and more drink, and things of that sort - not all of them, but many of them do. They become as hard as nails.
So you see, God is speaking to young people, and he's saying to them, 'I'm going to train young people how to live a holy life.' Many of the greatest people in the Bible became believers when they were very young. You could all give me examples if I asked for hands up. Samuel, someone would say. Samuel was still a boy in the tabernacle, serving the old priest, Eli when he heard that wonderful call. Isn't it a wonderful story? More than a story of course - it's solid truth. A wonderful thing; he was in his bed and he heard a voice crying, "Samuel, Samuel" (1 Samuel 3, 10). He thought it was the old man Eli calling him but eventually he discovered it was the Lord. Eli wisely said to the boy, 'If you hear the voice again, say, "Speak Lord; for thy servant heareth" (1 Samuel 3, 9). He did, and Samuel that day came to know the Lord. Oh, it's wonderful to see a young person converted. Indeed, it's wonderful to see anyone converted, but it's especially wonderful to see a young person converted because they've got the whole of life spreading out before them, God willing, in which they can serve the Lord.
And you, boys and girls, if you give your heart and life to Christ, I can guarantee you, you will lead a blessed and a happy life; and when you come to the end of your life you will thank the Lord that your life was rich and full and fulfilled; whereas the lives of worldly people, on the whole, are pretty empty and pretty vain.
I'll never forget, once, years ago in another congregation. I was preaching like this to the young and to the old. There was a young woman whom I went to visit, her and her parents. To my astonishment, the teenage girl - of about sixteen or seventeen, who had now become a member of the church - said to me, 'You know what I used to do, Mr Roberts, every time I went home after the evening service? I used to go into my bedroom and shut the door and cry my eyes out," she said. Why? - because she wanted to find Christ. She was only a young girl, and she did find him. Those who cry out to Christ find him, I can assure you. Those who want him that badly will get him, I can promise you.
Oh, dearest friends, Christ is interested in the young and in those of a tender age. So, young boys and girls, do you realise that God here has a message with your name on it? This is for you! Oh how happy your parents would be if they heard you tell them, "Father, mother, I have become a Christian. I have known the change of God's grace in my heart. I know it for myself. I heard about it before, but now I know it for myself." Oh, how can we get that wonderful change which we call 'becoming a Christian'? That brings me to my second point.
2. HOW CAN YOU BECOME PURE, GOOD AND HOLY
The second point is this. The question in my text to young people is asking how they can become pure, good and holy. Let me read the text again: "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?" (text). The word 'cleanse' has to do with making something clean - we talk about cleansing a pan or cleansing a bucket. Today we sometimes say 'to clean it' but cleaning and cleansing is exactly the same thing. It has to do with our way of life, our style of life, the sort of people we are. Putting it simply, it means this: how can young people get a clean, pure heart? Now that is extremely important; that's the source of all that's important to you and me to know. You don't have to get a university degree in order to become a holy person. University degrees are very good things and I recommend them if you can get them, but not everybody can. It's very good if we can earn a lot of money in life and become very important, but you can do without all that. However, there's one thing you can't afford to do without - it is a pure heart. You've got to have a pure heart if you want to get to heaven. Nobody gets into heaven but those that have a pure heart. That's why God is putting this question to young people: how can young people get a pure heart?
Let me just in passing say this: there are plenty of people today who would like to tell you that the Bible is out of date. There are plenty of people who foolishly say the Bible is old fashioned. It certainly is not! The Bible is as relevant and up-to-date today as ever it was, because if there's one thing young people need to know today it is how people can get a pure, good and holy heart? There's nothing at all in the Bible which is out of date; it's all very much up-to-date. The Bible gives this answer: "by taking heed thereto according to thy word" (text). By taking heed to God's Word - that's part of the answer.
If you want to get a pure and holy heart you must pay attention to the Bible. Nobody ever became a Christian without reading the Bible and listening to sermons. When I say 'listening' I mean paying attention to them: to the meaning of these sermons, and to the meaning of the Word of God. Oh, there are lots and lots of people, here in Inverness and everywhere else, who would like to ruin your lives, young people. They would like to ruin every young person they can lay hands on, and I'll tell you how they'd like to do it. They would like to sell you drink - plenty of it; and they would like to say to you, 'If you come into my public house I'll make you happy, I'll give you drink. You can be happy with the drink, and you can go home singing merrily all the way, and you can forget your cares.' But what they are really trying to do is ruin your life, and I'll tell you why. They want your money! They don't care about your soul; your money is what they are looking for. They want you to pay for this drink; they don't give you drink free, you know, in public houses; you have to pay for it. I sometimes notice public houses that have the name 'Free House'. I assure you, what you get inside is not free, and I can assure you that people who are slaves to what's inside are not free either. Oh no, the devil is full of words that don't have a meaning. Drink is one way in which the world would love to pull young people down.
And these drugs we're hearing so much about! They are just ways and means of pulling young people down. Gambling, that's another way to take your money off you. I am one of these unfortunate people that has to read emails, and the older generation doesn't know much about them. You wouldn't believe the number of times I get an email which tells me that there is somebody in Africa offering me $10million; or the next time maybe ?15million. All I have to do is to simply write my name and send it to them by return email. They'll put my name with others and I might be one of the lucky ones that get the millions of dollars. Of course, it's all a trick - they just want to know my bank details. Once they get those they can take money out of my bank - it's all very crafty, it's lies, lies and more lies! They don't want to make me rich; they want to make themselves rich and to make me poor - and that's the way the world is.
My dear friends, young people, take heed to your life - that's what is being said. Take heed to your life! Take heed to your soul! Take heed to your heart! Isn't that good advice? Oh, I wish young people in this town would listen to us when we try to tell them that in the open air and give them leaflets. They don't want to know. They want to go into these terrible places of drink and drugs and all that goes with it. They don't realise that in a few years' time their lives will be going down and down and down and down. They'll end up selling these wretched magazines which people try to push under your nose in the High Street - poor things; they're badly dressed; they haven't had a proper wash in many days. You feel terribly sorry for them, but that's the way down! Maybe there are exceptions, but generally speaking that's the way down. The Bible tells us that drink, and drugs, and sin take you down to the gutter, and a man will come in the end to a piece of bread. Sin brings people to rags, and to a smelly life, and to a piece of bread. There are many like that in this town. Alas, alas! Would to God we could help them and many others in all the other towns and cities of the land.
We have to take heed. What do we take heed to? We take heed to the Word of God. The Bible - the Word of God - has a message; it has something to say to us which will help us to get through this world. It's only fools who scoff at the Bible. 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge' (Proverbs 1, 7); 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom' (Proverbs 9, 10). That's what this Book tells us. My excellent young people - boys and girls - it would break all our hearts to see any one of you drifting into the world. It would break your minister's heart; it would break your parents' heart; it would break the heart of all here that know you to see you drifting into the world and going away from God into the far country and there ruining your soul.
The Bible gives you wise advice as to how your life can be kept pure. I'm going to give you four or five quick points on this subject.
(a) Watch The Way You Think
The first thing the Bible says is: Watch the way you think. When you are lying in bed at night, be careful what you think about. When we're in bed at night and thinking, there's nobody else in the world can see our thoughts. It's possible to let our thoughts go into bad subjects and bad ideas - we call it 'fantasising'. It's possible to get into a world of fantasising in which you do a lot of very wrong things in your imagination. You allow it to happen, and you begin to enjoy it - like a kind of soap opera which you're doing yourself in your own mind. The Bible says don't do it! 'Filthy dreamers' (Jude 8) is the word the Bible uses about that. We are not to have filthy ideas; get them away! When they come into your mind - and they will, because they come into all our minds - we say, 'Get thee behind me, Satan' (Matthew 16, 23). We don't think them; the Bible makes it clear we mustn't think these thoughts.
(b) Make sure you choose the right friends
The next advice is this: Make sure you choose the right friends. Be careful the people you make friends with; and of course that becomes especially true when we become old enough to think of getting married. The day will come when young people - as they are well, and spared - will probably want to get married; that's a good thing and a right thing. However, if you're a Christian, marry nobody apart from another Christian. I wonder if you know this story - it's true.
There was a great man in London called Spurgeon - a very great man of God. One day a young woman in his church came to him and said, 'Mr Spurgeon, I want to marry a man.' Mr. Spurgeon said, 'Is he a Christian like yourself?' 'No, sir, he's not. But,' she said; 'I want to marry him because I want to make him a Christian.' 'Oh, do you?' said Spurgeon. 'Right, come into my study,' he said. 'Now,' said Spurgeon, 'you stand on the table and I'll stand on the floor.' So she climbed up on the chair and onto the table. Spurgeon put his hand up and said, 'Now pull me up onto the table!' Of course, it was ridiculous; she wasn't strong enough to do that. 'Try harder,' said Spurgeon; 'pull me up onto the table!' She couldn't do it. 'All right,' said Spurgeon, 'I'll see if I can pull you off the table' - which he quickly did of course, and she jumped down. What was the lesson from that? Mr. Spurgeon said to the young woman, 'It's much, much easier to pull someone down than to lift someone up. If you marry a non-Christian you could spend the rest of your life regretting it. You won't lift them to God.' There are very, very few times when people do do that, but most of the time it doesn't work. Make sure that the man or the woman you marry is a Christian. That's one lesson.
(c) Watch the way you talk
Another one is this: Watch the way you talk - your conversation. The Bible gives us a beautiful text: "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Philippians 4, 8) - and talk about these things. Gossip can do endless harm in this world; speak the truth with kindness. There's another way the Bible helps us.
(d) The way you face up to your life
Let me give you another one: The way you face up to your life. I don't think any young person would do their homework on the Lord's Day, do you? I don't think any young person here would do that. Nevertheless, there are young people in some places who do it when their parents aren't looking. They go upstairs to a room, shut the door and do their homework on the Sabbath Day. They say, 'Well, my parents don't know. They can't see. They're not aware of it.' So they do it. My dear friends, whatever your parents can see or not see you doing, the Lord sees and knows; He will take a judgement of what you are doing. Order your life according to his Word: six days of labour and one day of rest and worship - isn't that fair? God has given us seven days every week. It's not too much for God to say, 'Six days are for you to use, and one day is for Me to have.' That's not too much. 'A Sabbath well spent brings a life of content', - and it's true. That's something else the Bible tells you.
(e) If you have a television set, be very careful what you watch
Let me quickly come on to another thing and that is: If you have a television set, be very careful what you watch. I don't say it's a sin to have a television set but I do say the television set is a very good way to get involved in sin. I don't say you should necessarily do as I do - I never had one in my house and I don't think I ever will as long as I live - but I don't say you shouldn't do it. It's entirely up to you; it's a matter of liberty, freedom and conscience. It's not for me to lay down laws which God hasn't laid down - but I would say that if you have one, know when to switch it off. If you hear the name of God blasphemed, it's time to switch it off. If you see something which is not right, switch it off. Don't allow these things to get into your mind.
My dear young people, this is the way God speaks to us. There is nothing in the entire world as important as the Bible, nothing as important as knowing the Word of God. Listen again: "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy [God's] word" (text).
How do I know the Bible is so important? I know it because God only had one Son and he made him a preacher of his Word. Doesn't that prove it? The Word of God can save our soul - nothing else can. Doesn't that prove it? The Word of God is inspired, divine! Doesn't that prove it? Take heed to your life, young man, young woman, according to the Word of God.
Before I close, I just want to say something else. Church children we call by the special name 'covenant children' - maybe you don't know that phrase. Have you heard it before? Covenant children. We use the term not very often in this country but it's used very often in Holland and America. Covenant children. It means children who are brought up in church, with Christian parents or parent. Boys and girls, I think all of you here are covenant children. That is to say you've got a mother or a father who believes in Jesus Christ as Saviour. What a blessing! Covenant children have a head start over other children in the things of God, and you should never cease thanking the Lord that he made you a covenant child. I say that because I'm not a covenant child. My father and mother were not Christians when I was your age. Thank God they became Christians later, and my child became a covenant child because I and my wife were Christians when she was born. You who have a mother or a father, or both, who are Christians - you have a wonderful start in life; and yet, sadly, there are some covenant children who turn their back upon everything their fathers and mothers have told them, and they end up like others, in the gutter of life.
As I close today, I want to say to every boy and girl here, 'Why don't you give your life to God?' Right now, even in the quietness of your own heart, say to the Lord, 'Oh Lord! Make me a true child of God!' Why don't you say in your heart of hearts, 'Oh Lord, teach me how to keep thy Word! Oh Lord, give me a heart to love thee, and a heart to trust in Jesus who died for me.' Pray that prayer, and pray every day that God would keep you in the way of righteousness and truth. Then when you become old - as some of us here are - you'll be able to say, 'Thank God, he had mercy upon me in my childhood. Now, Lord, I have another prayer, "Lord, prepare me for death, for judgment and eternity."' These two are connected.
How shall a young person cleanse their way: by taking heed according to God's Word. Those who walk with God and believe in Christ, when they come to the end of their life, will have the joy of knowing, like Paul, they have kept the faith. Soon they're going to leave this evil world and they're going to see the angels and all those saints - like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; they're going to mingle with them. They're going to see the archangel Gabriel; they're going to see the Holy Spirit; they're going to see Jesus their Saviour; they're going to see the face of God the Father. That is their eternal destiny - to get home.
As I close, young people, here's my word to you: Oh, take the Lord for your God and trust in him with all your heart and he will certainly bless you, for time and for eternity. Amen.
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