Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Installation Service: Pastor L.W. Bilkes

Written by Rev. C.A. Schouls
On Wednesday, the 25th of August, Grand Rapids, Michigan, after nearly a two-year long wait occasioned by Òthe new reality of post 9/11 life,Ó saw its pastor elect become its pastor when Dr. L. W. Bilkes was led into this charge by his son, Pastor L. J. Bilkes.

The younger Bilkes had chosen Isaiah 55:10 & 11 as his text and dealt with the theme, ÒThe Lord promises success upon the ministry of His Word,Ó dividing it into these points: 1. by reason of its divine origin; 2. by way of its powerful operation; 3. unto a blessed effect. A few representative thoughts follow, gleaned from notes submitted by the consistory and checked by the speakers.

The preacherÕs task is not in vain because it is GodÕs Word that must be heralded. Although through the fall into sin we called a famine of the Word upon ourselves, God in His sovereignty gave the Word, even made flesh. The word preached is like rain that causes seeds to germinate--the effects are not seen immediately. Rain brings life to a dry, buried seed with the promise of blossoming and more seed. This is a picture of the powerful Word of God. Sinners come to church and go home seemingly unaffected but something of great significance has taken place (v.10). Life comes to a dead and dry heart. Regeneration or life begins in the heart. Desire for the Word increases. Ears become attentive to the Word. Do you know this new life? Growth occurs. What characterizes a people who have begun to ÔbudÕ? They begin to pray--to plead GodÕs promises such as Hebrews 13:5. They become a people of holiness--hating sin--desiring to become like Christ Jesus. Has this begun in you? Seed and fruit are brought forth, bread broken and distributed; spiritual gifts are shared--everyone receiving their portion. Are we acquainted with this operation of the Word of God? Is there life here? Pray that this ÔrainÕ would fall and do its life-giving work.

ÒMy Word shall prosperÓ--unto a blessed effect. It shall accomplish that which I please.Ó Pastor L.J. Bilkes at this point had some personal comments from a son to his father. God promises to accompany His Word. It will not return to Him void. Be encouraged. Plead this Word of promise. Application is made to the congregation. May your desire that the LordÕs Word would prosper. Pray for the opening of the floodgates of heaven to affect your hearts. Pray for the Word to be a blessing and not a curse. Pray for GodÕs reviving work making you hungry and thirsty for the Word. God has promised to bless His Word. It shall prosper. Why can this be? Isaiah 55 is grounded in Isaiah 53. It is because of Christ. The promises of the Word are yea and amen in the Lord Jesus Christ. Do not despise His Word to your eternal woe. God says hearken to Me and live! Do not harden your heart. Pray for the Ôrain,Õ the Word to fall upon you from His mouth.

After our new pastor had responded with, ÒYes, truly, with all my heartÓ to the well-known questions in the form for ordination, the congregation rose to sing Psalter 428:2.

Pastor L.W. Bilkes then occupied the pulpit to bring GodÕs Word in his inaugural sermon. After reading Romans 10:4-15 he began with some personal thoughts and reflections. He reflected on the fact that we had just celebrated our sixtieth anniversary as a congregation. He has become our sixth serving minister and he has known each of the previous pastors. This evening was a reminder of a similar occasion for our pastor. He was thirty years old when he installed his sixty-year old father into the ministry of his last congregation. Tonight his thirty-year old son installed his sixty-year old father.

Pastor Bilkes introduced his sermon by stating that there is a road from heaven to earth. That road was travelled by the Word become flesh--see verses 9 and 10. Because of this Christ, there is a day coming when GodÕs people may be with Him in heaven (vv.13-15). The text for the sermon is verse 8, ÒThe Word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart: that is the Word of faith which we preach.Ó The theme was, ÒThe Word is nigh thee.Ó There were three thoughts: 1. The preacher brings the Word near; 2. He speaks the Word as a Word of faith; 3. He does this by way of preaching.

The preacher brings the Word close. Do we understand the seriousness of this fact? It concerns matters of life and death--blessing and cursing. DonÕt presume that you can just reach out and take it. DonÕt deny that it has been brought nigh. What is happening under the ministry of the Word? What do we do with this Word that has come nigh?

Preaching must be understandableÑnigh--hidden in the heart. This requires that we pray over the Word and keep it in our minds. We ought to memorize the sermon texts. We have grown up with the Word. It is in our homes. Our calling is to acquaint ourselves with the Bible. Read the Bible daily. It is more important than any college course. The text speaks of the Word of faith being nigh thee even in thy mouth and heart. It is the Word of faith. It is the Word of Christ--see verse 4. Christ is the end of the law. Through faith this Word is nigh. It is impossible to reach heaven or to close the door to hell through the keeping of the law. The Word, Christ, is indispensable.

How can it be that God uses a man to bring the Word? This is only possible because of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. All His benefits come through Christ in the preaching. The minister is to preach Christ only in all His sufficiency and all His glory.

The Word is nigh thee by preaching. What is a sermon? It is bringing the Word of God--everything is focused on the Word of God--our singing, our praying and preaching. What happens when the Word is preached? GodÕs Word comes with authority. Pastor Bilkes recalls the story of Martin Luther appearing before the Diet of Worms, when Luther exclaims, ÒHere I stand. I can do nothing else. God help me. Amen.Ó A sermon is GodÕs Word expounded and applied. Who listens the best in church? God does. Is My Word being preached? God is judging us according to His WordÑsee Heidelberg Catechism, LordÕs Day 31. That is what a sermon is. God is listening and God will judge the preacher according to His Word. The Word will cause us to pray. Thou art nigh to all who see Thee. Draw me for JesusÕ sake. We confess our alienation. We plead GodÕs promises, His Word, His Christ, His mercy in preaching. Consider how nigh God has come. We confess that God has come with power because it is GodÕs Word.

This event marked the end of a three-year vacancy for the congregation. It was attended by various pastors from other churches (Dr. J. R. Beeke, Dr. Norman Shepherd, Rev. R. Lanning) as well as Rev. J. Koopman and Rev. Schouls Many churches had sent notes of congratulation. May, indeed, the ministry of our brother prove that the Word of God always succeeds in what He sends it out to do.

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