Dear radio friends,
In two previous messages we have dealt with the biblical truth of the perseverance of the saints, the calling of each believer to endure even unto the end. And we have seen that this endurance can take place only by God’s grace through the Scriptures, for Jesus said, “Search the Scriptures, for in them we shall find eternal life, as they testify of Him.”
Today we want to look at the truth of the perseverance of saints not so much from an individual point of view, of the calling of each believer to persevere in his own life of faith, but the perseverance of the saints from generation to generation. When God has brought you to salvation in Jesus Christ, brought you into a covenant of His love and fellowship, you will also desire that His ways and truth and salvation continue on earth from one generation to the next. You will be concerned about your own generations, and you will also be concerned for the continuation of the church, that it endure from one generation to the next. There must be persevering from one generation to the next.
We read of this in Psalm 145:4: “One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.” The covenant, that is, that bond of blessed fellowship with God and the church, is continued in the way of one generation faithfully teaching the next generation the wonderful works and mighty acts of God.
Psalm 145 is the last psalm that was written by David. It is a monument of praise to the majesty and splendor of God. It is David’s psalm of praise. It is written after a lifelong endurance of trials and sorrows, thirsting after God. Finally, all of these things come to a crescendo in David’s heart and he glorifies God in this psalm. This, then, is what is left in the soul of an old man, an old child of God. What is left? Praises to God.
David begins in the psalm by saying that God is his King and he will praise Him as the almighty Ruler and faithful Protector who has created loyalty in David’s heart. He goes on to say that every day he will bless God. Whatever the circumstances of the day, the conditions of the day, every day he would glorify God. In verse 3 he states that “great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.” As great as his God, so great, says David, are to be the praises that we give to Him. His greatness is unfathomable. So praising of God must go on and on and on. The praises of God must know no period, no end, no conclusion on earth.
Then it is as if in David’s soul he asks the question: “But how shall that be that the praises of God shall continue after me, after my death? How shall it be that those praises do not die, do not cease, and are not forgotten from the earth?” This is how: “One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.”
It is the calling, then, of each believing generation to praise God to the next, so that the next generation may praise God and that the praises of God endure on this earth, even unto the end.
That is a tremendous calling, is it not? Every generation of Christians is to see to it that the next generation following them hears about the mighty acts of God. You might note that in the verse that I read it is not commanded, but it is stated as a fact, an assertion. This will happen. One generation shall praise Thy works to another. In other places of the Scriptures God commands this. For instance, in Psalm 78, we read: “For he established a testimony in Jacob; he appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers that they would make them known to their children.” This is not a command in Psalm 145, but an assertion, an assertion of what grace will do. When a generation truly lives in wonder and in awe and in love for God’s work, they will praise those things to the next generation. What did Peter and John answer when they were commanded not to speak in Jesus’ name? They said this: “For we cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard.” When you and I stand in the wonder of God’s marvelous acts and grace, it is inevitable that we praise His works to the next generation.
God does not start all over with each generation. God does not drop a new Bible from heaven on every generation. He continues from generation to generation. He lays the foundation, and He builds on that foundation from generation to generation. He intends that the older generation teach the newer generation to trust and to obey, to rejoice and to love, to praise God. We are to do this, not in a mere formal way, as the passing on of meaningless dead traditions. But each generation must passionately, lovingly impart the knowledge of the truth. Through the biblical truth that you have learned from your God, you must maintain that, and you must pass that on to the generation following you. The way that God’s truth is imparted into the fabric of the next generation, into their minds, into their hearts, into their lives is that the generation that is before them teaches them, imparts to them in love the truth of God. We are to praise His works. We are to declare His mighty deeds, says the psalmist. His wondrous works, His awesome, stupefying works, His terrible deeds, His deeds that cause astonishment and wonder.
What are those works that we are to impart to the coming generation? They are as broad as eternity, they are as deep as God’s heart, they are as beautiful as God, they are as many as the sand on the seashore that cannot be counted. And all of these works say, “God is excellent. God is mighty.” “O LORD, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches” (Ps. 104:4). They are the works of God in the creation; when God spoke all things into existence so that books and books can be written on God’s creation and the half has not been told. The great Creator: God.
There is the work of God’s salvation that surpasses in wonder the work of the creation, the salvation that flows from the eternal heart of God, out of His own will and election to give His Son for rebellious and vile sinners in order that His great and glorious name might be known.
There is the work of God’s providence. That is God’s rule over all things right now, to lead to the glory of His name in Jesus Christ.
All these works, these mighty acts of God, and so many more, testify that God is great. Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.
We do not study the works of God as an end in themselves. But the works of God point to God Himself as the glorious One. We speak of His greatness. The works of God tell us about God. The heavens, Psalm 19, are telling the glory of God. The work of salvation, the cross, tells you about God. It tells you about the unsearchable, deep, deep love of God. They tell of His great and glorious acts for you and for me. They tell us what God has done for us.
We, then, are to tell the coming generation of all the marvelous acts of God as they speak of God and as they are all done for us. We have to tell them to the coming generation. That is our tremendous calling, that is our duty. God’s ordinary way of shaping children into radically committed, self-abandoning, wise, thinking, loving, mature Christians is through parents who teach and model a God-centered, God-awed, Bible-saturated world-view to their children. That is the ordinary way, yes. God does fit for His service those taken right out of the dens of wickedness. Not every great leader of the church was brought up by a devoted mother. Not every elder came from a solid Christian family. But ordinarily God uses parents who teach their children. And in this way of instruction God molds the generation to come to be a God-centered, God-awed, Bible-saturated generation of holy Christians.
It is out of this conviction that believing parents organize Christian schools. It is out of this conviction that we join in biblical, Reformed churches. It is out of this conviction that fathers do not relinquish their calling but see themselves as the primary teacher and shaper of their child’s mind and heart. We teach them a God-centered, Bible-saturated life. That is our calling as never before. And that means, fathers and mothers, that we must fill our mouths with the Word of God. We must bring God’s wonderful works to bear upon all of life: upon sex, upon sports, upon work, upon attitudes, upon marriage.
You need to think about this when you are dating. In your marriage, when God gives you children, and that is why He brings you together in marriage — to have children (that is an important reason of bringing you together at least) — then you are called to transmit biblical truth to your children. So, as you date someone, you need to ask the question of each other: “Are we together on this? This is going to be our job.” You need to say to her: “Are you with me on this?” You need to say to him: “Are we together on this? Do we see eye to eye? Is the same truth burning in our souls? Do we know what our calling is? Our calling is to bring up our children in the way of the Lord. Do you see that?” If they do not see that, no marriage!
Not only are we told that this is our calling, but the Word of God tells us also how to do it. Note what we read: “One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.” We do this by exalting, praising God’s works to the next generation. Our praises are to carry the truth to the next generation.
The Word of God is saying that the way we bring God’s truth to our children must not be in a dry, unemotional, dead, indifferent way of teaching about God. We must understand that we are not simply trying to stockpile knowledge in the brains of the next generation. The text says that one generation shall praise Thy works to another. It does not say “teach,” although that is true enough. But it says praise. Why does it say it that way? To praise is to exalt God. So the idea is this: Out of exalting God, exalting the truth of God, the truth is brought to the next generation. Transmit the truth through praise. A high calling rests upon those who are called to transmit the true knowledge of God to the next generation. Our goal is not the imparting of mere facts. Our goal is that their hearts might explode in love to God. That they might not just know the truth but that they might praise God in the truth. If that is not our goal, then we are wasting our time. Yes, we know that this praise of God in the coming generation cannot happen apart from their heads. We cannot do an end run around the brain. No. There must be the true, solid, biblical, Reformed truth that becomes tender, that becomes wood to produce the fire of praise to God. But praise to God is our goal!
How is that done? God says, “Praise it into their life.” Exalt in the works of God. Exalt God before them. Praise God before them. God says, “Beware of speaking the truth of God to your children in such a way that contradicts the value of God’s truth.” Do not talk about the most glorious things the soul can ever know as if they are nothing. When you talk of something you love, then you talk of it in such a way that the value and the importance of that thing is transmitted in the way that you talk about it.
We are praying for a generation to follow us, a generation to stand in awe of God, a generation that will exalt their God. Then we, as their elders, as their parents, must exalt in God.
Our way of educating is to praise God’s work to our children, to speak of God’s works with awe, thrill, love, and the ring of sincerity and conviction. Otherwise the next generation says, “Well, they’re not excited about it. Why should we be? They’re bored. Why should not we be? They don’t really prize it. They’re not willing to sacrifice for it. No, not really. The church budget — that’s not first in our Dad. If it’s not such a great thing to them, why should it be to us?” If we parents teach the things of God coldly and indifferently, without love and awe of God in our souls, we are lying about the truth of God. Yes, we are! The content of our instruction might be as orthodox as it gets. But if we do not do it in love, humility, and awe of God, then we are lying about the truth that we transmit to them.
What do we want for the next generation? Do we want that their thinking is saturated with God’s truth; that their hearts are committed to His kingdom; that their godliness exceeds ours; that their obedience is steadfast regardless of the cost; that they truly love, serve, and glorify God? That should be our goal. It is what Jesus said — that they be infatuated with Him, with His kingdom, and with following Him, so that all other allegiances become as though they were not. “For Christ the King forsake the world and every former friend.” Jesus said, “If any man come after me and deny not himself, does not take up his cross, does not follow me, he is not worthy of me.”
We train them so that all of their boasting might be in God. But where will such God-glorifying, such God-boasting, such God-exalting children and young people come from? Well, you say, they will come from God. Yes, that is true — from God alone. God must shine His glory on them. And He will do so. And He will do so upon whomsoever He will. We know that. But this is the means, His usual means: One generation shall praise Thy works to another. Parents saturated with God’s truth, whose hearts are committed, whose obedience is steadfast, who themselves are so saturated with the kingdom of God that all other allegiances fall away; parents who exalt in God; parents who are thrilled in God so that the clawing values of the world are done away with. If God is not your praise, then the clawing, gnawing values of this world will hold you. And a generation will arise will not know the mighty deeds of God.
If our confession of God is word but not heart, then we will find a generation following us that will say finally, “Leave me alone. I want to watch my things. I want to do my things. Don’t bother me with spiritual things like that.” The history of the church tells us that this happens. We want a generation of young men and women who are burning in love for God and who will give up all for the kingdom of Christ. But where will they come from? From God, yes — from God working through a generation that did more than just teach, a generation that praised God’s works to them.
We look at ourselves today and we humble ourselves before God, for we are not able. We sin, we fail. We reflect the praises of God to our children so weakly. God has promised us grace. God has promised us, in the blood of Jesus Christ, that He will be faithful to us and that by His power this shall be accomplished. We also comfort ourselves in the words: “Weakest means fulfill Thy will; mighty enemies to still.”
But we must be faithful. That means that we must take heed to our hearts and we must know this powerful God. We must stand in awe of Him and we must live a holy, devoted, exemplary life before our children. Not just our words! It must be our manner of life. Important, of course, in our task will be the church — the church that preaches the praises of God’s mighty acts and words. Certainly we must be in a true church, that is, a church that preaches the Word of God without blush. But in that church, we understand, we need to attend and we need to attend twice on the Lord’s Day, because there are certain aspects of God’s character and God’s majesty that can only be caught in church-worship. The things that children have not known can be learned only in the gathering of God’s people under the preaching of the Word.
We must see to it that the church does not become shallower and shallower in the reservoir of the truth, so that when we go there we cannot drink anymore. But we must see to it that the church of which we are a member loves and keeps that truth, so that the reservoir is full and deep and our children can drink deeply. Then a generation arises that worships Jehovah. We must see to it that we praise His works to our children.
Then, by His grace alone, His truth endures from generation to generation. Then the ages, with David, go to their graves in peace, knowing that the high praises of God that thrilled their heart and have been their comfort and song throughout their days will not cease from off the face of the earth. But they shall be carried forward and onward by the generation to follow. God grant this.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. Apply it to our hearts through Jesus’ name, Amen.