Bonhoeffer uses a similar phrase 'worldly Christianity'. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.

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Sadly, I had to leave before the final session at Banner, when Mark Johnston preached. I understand he was looking at trembling at God's Word. I'm sure it was fine. I also missed the question session yesterday which was a pity.
It has been a very good conference. Garry Williams two contributions were outstanding. It has all been pretty good, although some wouldn't have liked certain elements. I stayed up rather late each night (with Martin Downes, Jeremy Walker and others), which made getting to the morning prayer meetings rather difficult. It's lovely to chat though at night and through the day. On Wednesday afternoon I forsook the football field and headed off to nearby Bosworth Field in Gary Benfold's car. Brian Ellis from the Philippines, Mark Fisher from the Heath and Phil Arthur were with us. After a little drive into the countryside we came to the site, which is fairly well marked out but not as well as in the past according to Phil, the expert on all this. Anyway when we got back to the Visitor Centre a very helpful guide explained that archaeologists have been at work and major doubts had now been cast on the traditional site of Richard III's death. There are basically three theories and the jury is still out. Things are often more complicated than they appear at first.
On Wednesday night there was a gathering of the Taffia and co. There were so many crammed into Guy Davies' room that some sadly decided the heat was too much. Geoff was interviewing Sinclair Buchanan Ferguson. It was mostly an update on
the great man's current very encouraging situation. He has just begun preaching through Romans in the ARP church he pastors in S Carolina (this a man who owns over a hundred Romans commentaries - he's currently on Origen which he's reading along with the letters of Ronald Reagan). Fascinating time.
My early departure was because I wanted to get down to South Wales. A bonus feature was meeting up with John Nicholls heading north to Cumbria for the weekend. He bought me a coffee (have I ever paid for my own?) and we had a nice half hour before parting.

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Derek Thomas's final paper was different to the others in that it was dealing not with Calvin's preaching but with his theology, Calvin as theologian. Again we sometimes had that rather staccato style that Dr Thomas uses but he seemed a little more at home with this topic.
Calvin was referred to as 'The theologian' by Melanchthon (Gregory Nazianzen's title) and much later 'The theologian of the Holy Spirit' by B B Warfield. His chief work, of course, is the Institutes.
After giving us a brief history of the publication of the work by this man who lacked a seminary education and alluding to some of its strengths Dr Thomas went on to point out that it is
1. A Catholic work - an apologia for the Catholic church of his day
2. An occasional work shaped by the writings of various contemporary opponents.
3. An unabashedly systematic theological work
4. Despite efforts to show otherwise there is probably no one key theme in the work but there are several key concepts. The book is very much shaped by Romans which Calvin produced a commentary on quite early on.
1 Knowledge and the knowledge of the God is more than propositions. It must lead to piety. The Institutes is a sum of piety. 2 The knowledge of God is twofold - Creator and Redeemer.
3 There is a fundamental difference between God as he is in himself and as he revealed himself to men. He famously speaks of God's accommodation - his lisping, prattling to us as to babies.
4 God's work is revealed to us not just in creation but also in Christ's redemption. Calvin made a particular contribution in speaking, as he does, of Christ's threefold office. He also spoke to the subject of the Trinity and what the ancient creeds really meant. There is a suspicion of ontological subordinationism in the Fathers and Calvin undergirds and strengthens our understanding by making clear the full and absolute Godhead of Christ.
5 This knowledge of God can only be received through the work of the Holy Spirit. Without the inward witness of the Spirit the work of Christ can do us no good.
6 This knowledge of God is mediated through the Scriptures. Scripture is self-authenticating. It is the God breathed Word. Perhaps more clearly than any before him he established a right hermeneutic.
7 This knowledge of God involves union with Christ. This is fundamentally important and denies the idea of legal fiction and of necessary antinomianism.
8 Election. Calvin famously moved what he had to say on election from Book 1 to Book 3 (this matches the way Romans 9 is where it is). It is when we understand what God has done that we see election (pastorally). Calvin was a pastor first.
9 The sacraments. Again a unique understanding.

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On Wednesday evening Garry Williams gave a second paper on Calvin. Geoff Thomas chaired saying that today was the fortieth anniversary of the death of one of his heroes, John Thomas, Port Talbot.
In the paper Garry Williams focused on two works by Calvin - his Reply to Sadoleto
and his Antidote to Trent. He sought to show that Calvin in both works proved to be a courageous advocate and a careful analyst. We too need to do both. In both of the works Calvin opposes the writers cite the Day of Judgement. Calvin is willing to accept this scenario.

Courageous advocate
Calvin (like Sadoleto) saw the doctrine of justification by faith as a heaven and hell matter. Because he saw this was such a central matter, he was able to be courageous. Though courageous Calvin is never harsh. Even heaven and hell matters demand gentleness from ministers.

Careful analyst
Calvin saw that although justification is quite straightforward yet it is made complex by man's sinful denials. He seeks to make the truth plain and clear. Garry gave us three statements and asked whether they were distinctly and exclusively Protestant:
We are justified by faith alone
We are justified by union with Christ
We are justified by the imputed righteousness of Christ alone
The first statement is found in Sadoleto (at this point Garry used a projected slide containing the quotation - a Banner first). The second statement also does not say enough.
By the time of Turretin a Jesuit called Vazquez was even saying that there was imputation but again redefining it. Turretin defined it as mediate satisfaction and exposed its weakness. This is mere evasive talk.
This sort of evasion will not do on the day of judgement. That is why we must engage in careful analysis.
Courageous advocacy without careful analysis will lead to misdiagnosis and butchery of the sheep.

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Our second morning paper on Wednesday was by Lyndsay Brown on Calvin and mission. He began by noting available articles on the subject. These have come chiefly since the 1970s.
Lyndsay referred to Ralph Watson's thesis that there have been great periods of mission – Carey, Hudson Taylor, Post WW2, taking opportunity to refer to the great growth going on today in some places.
Watson (Stephen Neil is the same) says nothing about Calvin and mission. Others too say that Calvin said little or nothing about mission. In all the Calvin celebrations going on there seems to be little reference to evangelism and mission.
However, Calvin certainly does have a coherent theology of mission and was involved in mission. It is true he was very busy with challenges from without and within and perhaps there was a lack of organisation in the early Reformed churches.
It is said that apart from the abortive mission to Rio Calvin showed no interest outside Europe but the rest of the world was very much unknown and exploration was chiefly in the hand of Romanists.
1. A coherent theology of mission
His coherent theology centred on the sovereignty and providence of God. He was not embarrassed at all at the free offer of the gospel. He often wrote about the need to reach all sorts of people, without exception. He was convinced of God's desire for the salvation of all sorts and urged going out.
Some misunderstand his exposition of the great commission, where he seeks to deny the continuing apostolic authority of Rome, not denying the importance of the church taking the gospel to all places.
Convinced of the sovereignty of God in election Calvin still taught that God uses the means of preaching.
2. Ways and means of putting this into practice
1. Preaching
2. Prayer
3. Emphasis on the Word
4. Emphasis on a gentle manner
5. Training
6. Use of literature
7. Concern to reach out to magistrates and rulers
8. Public debate with his opponents
The Reformation has been described as a great missionary movement, which it was. Geneva was very much a centre for missions. In a six year period some 2000 went out altogether, chiefly to France. It has been described as one of the greatest home missions ever. Calvin also had an impact on the Netherlands, the UK (Knox, etc), Hungary, etc.
Calvin was passionate about mission – so should we be. He wanted the gospel to go to all.

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The first main session of Wednesday was Derek Thomas on Calvin's preaching on the pastoral epistles. He told us that Calvin preached just over a hundred sermons on the pastoral epistles (55 on 1 Timothy, 31 on 2 Timothy and 17 on Titus). He preached these mainly in 1554 and 1555. These were Sunday sermons. In the week he was on Job and Deuteronomy. A commentary on the pastorals had appeared six years before. Two lone sermons appeared two years after. In 1579 an English version of the sermons was published (republished by Banner). There is also a collection of about 20 sermons in modern English (Forbes SDG) and another slightly different one by EP.
In a serendipitous look, Dr Thomas went on to point up these five things
1. That Calvin took an organic view of Scripture
It is human and divine. There is asymmetry, however - the divine being predominate. He was aware of the charge of bibliolatry but denied it. He also taught the infallibility of Scripture and its self-authenticating character. He encourages us to develop a taste for Scripture. He masterfully teaches the profitability of reading Scripture.
He has a very high view of Scripture and so of preaching. He sticks very closely to the text and scarcely using an illustration or topical reference.
2. The way that Calvin preached the gospel
Calvin complains in one place that people want music rather than preaching. We need to hear the gospel every day, however. We need to see that salvation is in Jesus Christ. He sees the OT and NT gospel as one. He preaches the gospel not only to sinners but saints too. When he talks about justification he often goes beyond what we think of as such. We need to continually hear the gospel. It occurs again and again in these writings.
3. Some issues peculiar to Calvinism
He talks about the apparent double will in God in one place. He rebukes believers for their lack of evangelism. He raises the subject of why some are converted and others not. He particularly denies universalism and understands the all of "God wants all men ...." as meaning all kinds and conditions of men. God's desire does not imply ability in all. We must distinguish God's desire and will. God accommodates our understanding in speaking of this. He is very positive about election, of course, and sees it as there for the comfort of believers.
4. His emphasis on the majesty of God
He speaks of the unique unborrowed immortality of God. He talks of the incomprehensibility of God and the depths in him. Such considerations leave us in awe, our mouths closed. We know God only because he reveals himself. "He is not a draught half drawn".
5. His recognition that the Christian life is a fight
Good Christians are good soldiers. Calvin leads the charge that is followed by Bunyan and other Puritans later, who saw the Christian life in these terms. Calvin speaks often of union with Christ and sees it in terms of fighting the good fight he fought.
This was again a very competent and interesting look at Calvin the preacher.

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Our brief preliminary session on Wednesday was an exhortation from Alun McNabb to give ourselves to preaching for Holy Ghost conversion - the most glorious thing in the world. He drew attention to the story of John Ashworth, an 18th Century preacher who knew great blessing in evangelising the poor in lodging houses in the north of England. He started a chapel called The Chapel for the destitute. If the angels rejoice over conversions then so should we. Too often we miss opportunities to preach the gospel. Like Paul we should see such preaching as the crown of our ministries. We should pray for impossible cases. Do read the chapter Conversion as our aim in Spurgeon's lectures.

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Tonight (Tuesday) we heard the second of Sinclair Ferguson's addresses on union with Christ. He began by saying that we are not united to a mystical Christ but to the incarnate Christ. This is the only place we will find blessing.
He went on to speak of how the union is worked out in communion with Christ. We are united to him not only in his exaltation but also in his humiliation - especially in his death as well as his resurrection.

1. Outward
There is a twofold mortification and vivification. The death and resurrection of Christ is to be seen inwardly in the believer. As well as this internal mortification and vivification there is an outward partaking too. Our growth an usefulness is not only connected to the internal mortification and vivification but also to the outward. Perhaps the pattern of building churches with the ground plan in the shape of a cross reflects the suffering that the people of God must expect.
Paul writes to the Colossians as those who are suffering outwardly and so he speaks (Colossians 2) of his own filing up of the suffering of Christ - not in order to atone but as part of his own sanctification and the fruitfulness of the glory of the name of Christ. He often sees his imprisonments and other sufferings as part of his fruit bearing in Christ. It is important to understand this. These troubles are not just to be got through but they are the ongoing pattern for believers. Cf 2 Corinthians 1 and 13. He is not saying here that we are weak but Christ is strong but that we are weak in him. Real apostleship is death in us that life may be seen in others. We are, as it were, miniature servants of the Lord. His pattern will be ours.
When we preach the people are to learn not only from what we say but from our lives. That is why Paul is not only willing to suffer but glories in it. This is the normal mode into which ministers are to be squeezed.
By way of parentheses Dr Ferguson suggested that Stephen and Saul were in the same synagogue and that why Paul struggled with coveting was because in Stephen he had met his match. That is why Stephen had to die. Our lives often make their impact in just five minutes - Anna is an example.
2. Internal
In Colossians 3 he comes to the internal mortification and vivification. No doubt we could preach on the detail. Let's concentrate on the how to. It would be easy to say read John Owen. However, that is to forget the Apostle Paul.
Negatively
How important to recognise the spheres in which sin operates
A dentist spoke of treating each tooth as an individual. We must do something similar with sin. Paul divides up between sins that are private and hidden, that are public and those that even destroy the church.
We need to see sin for what it is. We need to say it and slay it. It can make a difference.
We need to see sin as God sees it. These are things against which God's wrath is coming - what caused the cross.
We need to see who we are.
We need to remember that Christ is in us.
We need to at decisively.
We must not separate the putting off of sin and the putting on of Christ. They go together.
There is a story of Augustine going to hear Ambrose. What impressed Augustine was his kindness not his rhetoric. The importance of love must not be underestimated.
"All Englishmen look the same" a man once said. We see what unites quicker than we see what divides.
Positively
The positive side involves
1 Letting the Word of Christ dwell in you richly
2 Giving ourselves to worshipping Christ so idolatry is destroyed
3 Let thankfulness dominate
4 Delight in Christ in everything

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The final segment was taken up with a discussion of preaching. We began with a call from South African Martin Holdt (above) to enthusiasm, hard work and saturation in Scripture. He was followed by Simo Ralevic from Serbia who also spoke of the need to work hard and to be filled with the Spirit. He also spoke of the literature ministry in Serbia.

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Next we had three older men speak to the current situation

1. Peter Beale. He highlighted the present lack of pastors, how few people read seriously, the lack of studiousness among ministers and the emphasis on holiness of the past.
2. Alun McNabb. He spoke of the number of small struggling churches there are and the joy of preaching. We must not be too distracted by the empty seats but encourage people.
3. Stuart Olyott. Greatest encouragement - young people. Hundreds and hundreds. Discouragement - old Lutheran idea very much alive - that salvation is mediate (by the Word) but it is immediate (by the Holy Spirit). This wrong mentality is ruining things all around. Lydia's heart was opened directly by God.

Iain Murray also spoke about some of the books available here.

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After lunch I did something I hadn't done for a while and played football (or tried to). About 18 of us gathered to play a good natured game. After a cuppa and a shower I headed to the prayer and share. Right at the beginning there was a terrific hail storm so loud on the copper roof that we could not hear the speakers at the front. Thunder followed.
We eventually got under way. Iain Murray chaired and first the following people spoke:Link
1. A Reformed Baptist from Slovakia introduced by Brian Freer
2. John Nicholls on the work of LCM
3. George Curry on the work of the Christian Institute
4. Gurnam Singh who is based here in multi-cultural Leicester and is co-pastor with Paul Bassett. (Gurnam, a former Sikh, lived with me many years ago as a single man).
5. Iain Murray himself mentioned the deaths in the last 12 months of Leslie Rawlinson, Alistair Johnston and Sir Marcus Loane.

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Garry Williams, the new director of the John Owen Centre, was the second speaker of the first morning. He began by describing Calvin as the colossus that we think of him as but then pointed out that the main characteristic of Calvin's life was suffering. Taking us to the Book of Job and the references to a protecting hedge and then a restricting hedge he said that this was Calvin's life too.
Using many well chosen quotations Garry spoke of Calvin and
1. His troubles
1. Death Death pressed in on every side. 2. Being a refugee Twice over at least. 3. The work of preaching and the pastorate He was phenomenally busy. Even when he had assistants they proved unsatisfactory. 4. The political situation and the conflicts it brought
He was opposed by old Geneva libertines and refugees and asylum seekers. Geneva had a reputation for being a magnet to all sorts of evil people. There were many to contend with, who brought in all sorts of heresies. Meanwhile the old guard strongly opposed him. He tried his best to resign but was not able to. He often wished he were elsewhere. Things came to a head over the issue of who could be excommunicated. It was many years before such things were resolved.
5. Personal sufferings
There was the adultery of his brother and the death of his wife as well as 3 or 4 children.
At Idelette's death in 1549, Calvin wrote, “Truly mine is no common grief. I have been bereaved of the best friend of my life.” He was often ill too and went through much suffering.
2. How he coped
Garry went on to consider how a man facing such constant afflictions was able to survive. In short, Calvin was a Calvinist! There is a common view that suffering leads to unbelief. Calvin is a great example of that not happening. His key beliefs include the following.
1. Calvin expected suffering
This is an implication of union with Christ.
2. Calvin is encouraged by God's providence
In a letter he wrote “Seeing that a Pilot steers the ship in which we sail, who will never allow us to perish even in the midst of shipwrecks, there is no reason why our minds should be overwhelmed with fear and overcome with weariness.”
Garry took opportunity here to oppose the arguments of open theism. Calvin very often conjoins Lord and Father, emphasising that God is both sovereign and loving.
Eg "Yet, when that light of divine providence has once shone upon a godly man, he is then relieved and set free not only from the extreme anxiety and fear that were pressing him before, but from every care. For as he justly dreads fortune, so he fearlessly dares commit himself to God. His solace, I say, is to know that his Heavenly Father so holds all things in his power, so rules by his authority and will, so governs by his wisdom, that nothing can befall except he determine it. Moreover, it comforts him to know that he has been received into God's safekeeping and entrusted to the care of his angels, and that neither water, nor fire, nor iron can harm him, except in so far as it pleases God as governor to give them occasion."
Again, it was a blessing to be reminded of such things.

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Our main morning message was by Welshman Professor Derek Thomas, on Calvin's sermons on Jeremiah.
He began by explaining how Calvin preached a large number of sermons week by week. From September 1549 the sermons were recorded in some 44 volumes that in the 19th Century were distributed across Europe for the cost of the paper. Some 2,300 appear to have been written down and about 1500 are extant. The opera contain 872 and a supplement of 618 also exists. Calvin only published some 4 sermons himself but was willing at times to see his sermons published. Not all versions were official. Calvin was not entirely happy with this process, fearing he could be quoted, the sermons being given without the usual care bestowed on other works. He felt it was all done too hastily, he felt. Examples of sermon sets appearing include those on Job.
Only 27 sermons on Jeremiah exist today (2 are on Lamentations). The sermons were preached from October 1548-September 1550 and so there must have been around 300 altogether. These few are in the supplement to the opera and are in French. Calvin deals with about 5 or 6 verses each time in the lectio continua style.
There was also a five volume commentary on Jeremiah (published posthumously just after 1564). This grew out of his lectures. Students would make notes and compare them. Calvin was much less reluctant about these as although they were still very much unprepared they were given in an academic context.
Two main points were made from the sermons.
1. They give us an insight into what preaching is
Derek pointed for example to the way Calvin speaks against the lack of attention to preaching that was a problem in Geneva. He also speaks against false teaching and stresses the need of preachers to warn people.
2. They give us an insight into what preaching does
Here we chiefly just give the headings
1. For Calvin preaching is always in the context of tribulation
The sermons show a great deal of sensitivity to a suffering congregation and often speak of the troubles of life. We should not be surprised at such things.
2. For Calvin one of the main themes in the prophets is idolatry
Calvin often speaks against idolatry in its various manifestations. He is preaching to hearts idolatrous by nature. People often misconstrue - that is why Calvin strove for simplicity.
3. Calvin employs a redemptive-historical approach
Calvin saw prophecy as having relevance to the contemporary situation, predictive of Christ's coming and referring to the whole history of mankind until the end. His hermeneutic is amazing. He saw a line of continuity in the days of the prophets and of the apostles. He was very much aware of the pattern of dark days followed by restoration. His emphasis is on reformation rather than revival, reformation of worship in particular - this relates back to his opposition to idolatry.
4. Calvin employs a gospel hermeneutic
His ability to find Christ in a passage is not wooden (indeed shortly after his death he was taken to task by a Lutheran writer who did not think he found Christ enough).
5. Calvin uses a homilectically experiential approach
He anticipates the Westminster Directory in his awareness of different kinds of hearer.
This was a fine message on unknown material well suited to its audience.

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In recent years it has been the practice to have a short item before the main morning one. This time Jonathan Watson spoke briefly on the 1859 revival in Ulster. He focussed on the way various aspects of life were affected by the revival, quoting from original sources. He highlighted the dearth of drunkenness and of sectarianism, the refining and elevating of the people in home and family. There were also many social improvements - people learned to read, profanity became rare, the criminal courts had little to do, drunkenness and violence receded, prostitution became very rare and many were converted.
He urged us therefore to pray. Who knows what God may do?
He mentioned inclosing the coming reprinting of John Weir's history of the revival.

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After an excellent supper, Sinclair Ferguson gave his first address on Union with Christ. The text was Colossians 3:1-17. Dr Ferguson explained that the idea for this theme grew out of a recognition that this a great (though not the central) theme in Calvin's writings. However, it is above all a key to living the Christian life in many places in Paul. See Romans 5, Philippians 2, etc, etc. The other apostles also make use of this great theme that Christ himself taught them (see eg John 15). It is summed up in Paul's expression that Christians believe into Christ.
He noted that this is a key part of Paul's answer then to the Colossian heresy, whatever it was. Paul answers the talk of fullness of the heretics by pointing to the fullness that is in Christ. It is in this letter that he speaks most often of this subject of union.
1. A brief visit to the architects office the basic pattern, the structure of Paul's thinking, his theology of the gospel
1. The grammar
The order of the gospel is that faith is founded on grace. The divine indicative is the basis for all the divine imperatives. The imperatives are safe and secure only when founded on union with Christ. Otherwise we preach mere morality. Every imperative must be grounded in the indicative of union.
2. The chronology
Everything about the present is guaranteed by the past as is everything for the future. No appearance in glory until the elect are all gathered in.
3. The geography
Here we are on earth but our lives are hidden in Christ, in heaven. We are aliens here. This is not our home. He illustrated this amusingly, by his devotion to Scotland, though living in America.
4. The rhythm
There is putting off and putting on. Mortifying sin is only part of sanctification.
We need to see these patterns then. We need to understand these things fully. Preachers should understand the anatomy of salvation very clearly (as one would expect a good doctor to know human anatomy). This knowledge should inform our pastoral theology.
2. A brief visit to the building site. What does it mean practically to be united to Christ?
1. Person
We live in two dimensions and so trials and tribulations are to be expected. Paul explains in Chapter 1 that they are united to Christ and explains who he is. It is too much to take in. Paul wants them nevertheless to see what a glorious one they are united to, the one who saved them and will bring them to glory. What a totally stunning thing.
2. Manner
He goes on to speak of the manner in which we are united to Christ. He speaks of how we are not only in Christ but we are also in him. He introduces it with great acclaim. By faith we embrace Christ but he also dwells by his Spirit in us. That is why Jesus had to go away. It seems to us that we would be better off with Christ but he says it is better to have the Spirit.
3. Extent
Everything that Christ ever did or will do was done for his people. He quoted from a book written by a man who lost his son and says there that the experience now defines him. So the believer is one who above everything is united to Christ. We only get glimpses of it here but it will be fully revealed one day. I am someone without whom the King of heaven will not go to glory. What a glorious thing that is. I never knew you loved me so much! We are dead men brought to life. We have been crucified with him and we rise with him. This is why we must set our hearts on things above. Jack Niklaus would go to his first coach and take the first lesson again each year. Without the fundamentals we will get nowhere.
It was a delight and a blessing to hear this excellent treatment, so warm and so theological.

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Our first speaker was Lyndsay Brown. Lyndsay was the travelling secretary for UCCF when I began as a student in Aberystwyth. He has gone on to work with IFES in various capacities. He spoke on the phrase so great salvation from Hebrews :2:1-3. It was a great opening message, full of anecdotes.
Well, it was like going back 25 years for me. In no time he was referencing Marx, Freud and particularly an Ingmar Bergman film.
Seeking to encourage us, he spoke of the temptation to lose our sense of wonder at the gospel. In order to counter this, he drew our attention first to various sources – the hymns (eg Wesley O for a thousand tongues), church architecture, the history of science (see Richard Hookyas and Kepler's idea of thinking God's thoughts after him), Michelangelo's diaries, Rembrandt's putting himself at the foot of the cross in his paintings, Handel's sense of the majesty of God, etc.
The modern world is taken up with other things but we ought to be taken up with the wonder of the gospel. Three reasons it is a great message:
1. The Author. It is the message of the Creator, the God of the universe. He illustrated his point by referring to the importance of an author as seen in the pre-publication sales of J K Rowling and the recent discovery of a Caravaggio among the Queen's collections.
2. What it saves from. The gospel provides eternal salvation. He illustrated this from the power of antibiotics, a story from Africa of a woman who had left her husband for another but went back to him and so found freedom, another from a Dutch pastor used in revival in Irian Jaya even though he had once been in the Hitler Youth and done terrible things.
3. What it saved us for. Illustrated from the fictional story of Ben Hur, including the doctrine of adoption. He quoted hearing humanist Marghanita Laski saying on the BBC World service that she knew no-one who could forgive her. He also spoke of hope and added a whole load of quotation from Sartre, etc.
Great start.

Up to Leicester


I travelled up to Leicester by bus today for the Banner Conference. I hope to do some fairly live blogging. The first person I met was Sinclair Ferguson who had stepped out to clean his shoes. I was fairly early so enjoyed settling in to my room. No coffee before the first session. Not good. Nice to see everyone from Wales and other places.

Second Sidcup

So on Sunday it was back to Sidcup, this timei n the car with all the family (except Rhodri). We left early in case we hit the London Marathon. We did see some runners but it wasn't a problem for us. Sad to see the Lord's Day used for this.
I preached to about 70 in the morning (from Ezekiel 1:1-3:15) and around half that in the evening (on the red heifer mentioned in Hebrews 9). The sixties chapel is quite large and so the people are dwarfed rather. I am not used o being so far from my congregation. You have to be a little less interactive in such circumstances. The congregation is on the older side but active older rather than decrepit older. There were a few children and I spoke to them referring to what I'd read about Gavin Peacock the day before. Another peculiarity was the use of GEORGE to accompany the hymns. I've done that once before. It works okay. Another oddity that morning was the presence of on duty community police officers - something they like to do from time to time.
We had lunch and tea with our good friends the Barns. They were members with us for years. They chose to move to Sidcup for more affordable housing but with a fast train route to London Bridge (for Rick's work). I really admire the way they have got stuck in there, even though they would not see eye to eye on several things (they are postmillennial and he is premillennial for a start). The pastor Stuart Pendrich and his wife Jean joined us for tea and we enjoyed chatting. Both Scottish, Jean is a swimming instructor. Their oldest daughter and her husband are adopting a child and they were explaining the whole difficult process. Another couple in the church gave up the process was so difficult. They also spoke about their son who has been studying for some years in the States in Baptist University and that was interesting too.
And so home to bed after a long but very enjoyable day of Christian fellowship.

Gavin Peacock


There was an interesting article in the Times today. See it here.
It includes these quotations

“Up until then football was my God. Suddenly, everything fell into its proper place. I realised who Jesus was and what He had done on the cross by dying for my sin.”

“When you score a goal you never feel more alive,” he says. “But that’s just a momentary high, it’s not reality. It’s not the truth, it’s just a glimpse of something. In the big picture my reality is my walk with God and it’s eternal and everlasting.”

“I feel that I could go into an inner-city area and speak to kids or adults belonging to a football club and feel connected. And say, ‘Your hope is in football, but there’s something that can give us hope and joy beyond that.’ I want to say to young kids, in a country that says success is fame and having ambition and money and cars and beautiful women and sex, ‘That’s not it, you hit the ceiling and there’s something else instead.’ ”

“Are we radically living for Christ or are we living in a lukewarm, plastic kind of Christianity?” he asks when we speak at his house after the service. “I don’t think people are radical enough, I don’t think they really are on fire and have it in their hearts.

We’re preaching a man-centred, therapeutic gospel now. It’s a make-you-feel-good gospel and it’s a small gospel. I see a lack of respect for the authority of scripture. We need to see who He really is and we need to live in response to that.”

Outside, the light fades and unseen in the distance skiers and hikers make their way down from the mountains. Tomorrow the sun will burn off the morning fog and wash the Bow Valley with a brilliant clear blue. “People worship the beauty, but they don’t worship the creator of the beauty,” Peacock says. “It’s not to be found in the mountains themselves but in the creator of those rivers, valleys and wildlife. They’re just an echo, a display.”

“Fans join together and experience it just for a moment with the player who’s scored or with the team’s victory. We want to partake in something of beauty, of glory, to take us out and up. Our souls were made for the majesty of Christ,” he says, not watching the screen. Voice calm, clear and certain, eyes ablaze.

Stairway to Heaven



Evangelism has been the theme today (Saturday). In the morning three or four of us went out with a tract into Golders Green. By the time we headed out the early rain had passed and some people at least were willing to take a tract. We also had a book table but there was not too much interest – it needs perking up.
Then tonight I travelled down to Sidcup in Kent where I was the speaker at an evangelistic meal in Days Lane Baptist Church. I have known the pastor Scotsman Stuart Pendrich for many years through the Westminster Fellowship, Banner and preaching in Trafalgar Square. The real connection, however, is the Barns family who were with us for many years but have latterly moved to Sidcup in order to accommodate their large family.
South and North London are quite different and so are the two churches in some ways (size, make up, some few theological issues) so I felt a little out of touch but they are friendly people and I was warmly welcomed. I spoke at a houseparty for them a few years ago. A group has left since then but they still seem a very good number.
Days Lane has excellent facilities and they put on quite a meal, paid for partly by a ticketing system. Around a hundred, including plenty of outsiders, were present with little room for more. The evening (a three course meal and coffee followed by a talk) was conducted efficiently without too many frills and was an excellent opportunity. I sat with Stuart on one side and a charming 8 year old girl on the other who was there with her mother (the father is unwell). I was opposite an Ulster man and his wife. His testimony was to a godly start in the Bible belt, the ensnarement of alcohol and then 21 years of sobriety.
I spoke on a stairway to heaven, using the Led Zeppelin number as a starting point. It also formed the basis of the tract we used this morning. It was mainly material that I had prepared some years ago and had stumbled across again recently. I very simply spoke of the fact of heaven, its desirability, our inability to get there by ourselves, the need to look to God and the fact that Jesus is the stairway to heaven. One hopes it will have its impact by the grace of God.
I am preaching in the meetings in Days Lane tomorrow too, God willing. It is teir 72nd anniversary. We have an LTS student preaching in Childs Hill.

Visiting Dad 01




I was down in South Wales again this week visiting my dad in hospital after his recent operation. I headed off on the bus quite early then spent a while having lunch. I then spent two hours with my dad in the hospital. He seemed quite a bit better than when we had seen him last Friday and it was nice time. His scraggy beard is looking more like a full beard now too, which helps.
We talked about old times. I asked him about when I was born (1959) and how he met my late mother. They both worked in Weston's (now Burton's) biscuit factory and so connected at a social function (I worked there one summer myself). They were both in a choir together and both loved dancing. I asked him his earliest memory and it was his sister Elsie being born. We talked about death bed conversions again and he was more amenable this time. As I've heard him say before he's always believed. By that he means that he's always believed there is a God. We pray.
Anyway, I left him then for two hours and headed over to look at the Transporter Bridge, which was closed. I saw a man fishing off the main road nearby.
I had another hour with my dad later before getting the bus to Cwmbran. I went into the MacDonalds to use the wi-fi (it wasn't working in Newport for some reason). My sister then gave me a lift to my dad's flat where I slept, leaving the next morning.
Quite how it will work out I don't know, of course, but I guess I'll be visiting South Wales regularly for a little while at least. I always feel strange visiting on my own. It's like you belong but don't at all. Always quite traumatic for me. It takes me a day or two to recover.
I didn't speak to anyone really on the coaches. I did speak to a schoolboy called Oliver from Llanwern who I met in Newport. Once we got onto religion he decided he was an atheistic evolutionist. I encouraged him to do some critical thinking and not just follow what the teachers say. Back here in London I chatted to a Turkish girl, Nihal. She said she'd been invited to church last week but had overslept I urged her to go and to read the Bible too - both will help her English and a whole lot more. When I got off that bus across town I bumped into homeless Peter, who grew up in a children's home in Hastings (he said). I bought him sandwiches and a cuppa. I asked him if he could guess why I did so. He guessed I was a doctor or a vicar.

Bloggy Special 39


Bunny saga ends

[Welsh Rabbits]
Avid readers of this blog (whoever he is) will recall the purchase of two rabbits last Autumn. Both females we were assured but earlier this year first a litter of five then another of four appeared before we were able to get the proverbial stable door closed. The phrase 'like rabbits' is no longer a mere phrase to me (nor is 'rabbits are burrowing animals' for that matter).
We have been busy commending the keeping of rabbits to family and friends and this week we managed to pass on the final two of the nine (two pairs are in South Wales and two pairs and a single white one are settling into hutches in London).
So just two now. It seems so easy. What fun we've had.

RnR01 Woodland Rock


(Watch out for Laurel and Hardy)
I was thinking about doing a series on Rock'n'Roll numbers (yes, I know) and wrote one thing. Then someone mentioned this track (Woodland Rock). Though from the seventies it's straightforward Rock'n'Roll but with a parody twist (I think the guitars are going backwards too). I think it was on the 'b' side of the hit single 'Hot Love'.

There's a man on the corner
got his head in his hat
he dances like a gypsy
so he must be where it's at.
Do the rock, do the woodland rock
let it all hang out ev'rybody shout
do the rock, do the woodland rock.
The wind is the thing
that makes the body swing
it brings you up and takes you down
and treats you like a king.
Met a little Momma
she was sweet,
she was gone
she's got legs like a railroad
face like the sun.
Wind is in the willows
my house is up a tree
the seas of change are flowing
I want everybody free
to do the rock, do the woodland rock
let it all hang out ev'rybody shout
do the rock, do the woodland rock.
Met a little Momma, etc
Ally bally bash bam rock-a billy boom
Do the rock, do the woodland rock
let it all hang out ev'rybody shout
do the rock, do the woodland rock.

Wonders of blogging


One of the great things about blogging is the way you get to "meet" people you never would otherwise. It has happened to me two or three times now. The latest episode involves a man called Kjell from Norway. He is a similar age and like me he is a Focus fan. We enjoy each other's websites on the subject. (For mine see here).
We recently had some email correspondence and Kjell has very kindly sent me a pile of CDs containing rare and even obscure Focus material. It would be of little interest to most people but to fans like ourselves it is full of interest. I was particularly impressed by Kjell's unwillingness even to let me cover his costs. What a kind fellow. Thanks mate and tusen taak!
It is pretty obscure stuff. An example can be found here and another here.

Banner

I'm hoping to be at the Banner Conference next week so this caught my eye from here. Thanks Martin.

"Conferences are a great opportunity to sin." So says my good friend Steve Casey. And he is right. They are an opportunity to let sins grow in the dark. Cynicism, pride, jealousy, ingratitude, grumbling, and hard heartedness all have occasion to grow in the solitude of our own reflections.
Then there are sins that germinate and flourish out in the open. Some will be the maturing of those private sins that were never repented of. Unkind words, harsh criticisms of other, the bearing of false witness, and so on.
Thankfully conferences are a great opportunity to know that God is able to make all grace abound to us, and to rejoice in the riches of his grace and kindness expressed to us in Christ. They are also an opportunity to speak kind words to build others up, as good stewards of God's varied grace, and with the strength that God supplies.
These are weighty matters to ponder before setting off to a conference.

Pray for the Banner of Truth Ministers Conference to be held in Leicester next week
* Pray that the Lord will meet with us through his Word and that we will be good hearers, like this:
Q. 160. What is required of those that hear the word preached?
A. It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the Scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the Word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.
* Pray that we will have a fresh realisation that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in Christ.
* Pray that men will seek to be encouraged in the Lord whose work they have been called to.
* Pray that men will return to their work refreshed by the gospel, with a renewed sense of the gravity and urgency of preaching Christ crucified.
* Pray that we will not lose sight of Christ in the ministry.

Things Seen 04

I am sat in MacDonalds in Newport.
Three lads of about 16 or 17 enter. They sit down near me but are oblivious to others. They have a project on.
They have just bought an inexpensive earring - from one of the cheap jewellers nearby, no doubt, Gus Jones or some other. The boys have short quite blond hair. Two of them already have earrings in both ears but the third does not.
One of the earringed boys takes the new earring out of its packet and puts the sharp part of it into the hot flame of a small disposable gas lighter that he carries.
He then accurately sticks the mint green earring that he has heated up into the earlobe of the boy with no jewellery. He appears to feel no pain. Indeed, he smiles.
They all think it is good fun and so off they go, the task completed.

Hymn of the Week 33


We haven't had one of these for a while. We sang this fine hymn by John Fawcett last Sunday. I liked the final verse in particular.

1. How precious is the Book Divine,
By inspiration given!
Bright as a lamp its doctrines shine
To guide our souls to heaven.

2. It's light, descending from above
Our gloomy world to cheer,
Displays a Saviour's boundless love
And brings his glories near.

3. It shows to man his wandering ways
And where his feet have trod,
And brings to view the matchless grace
Of a forgiving God.

4. O'er all the straight and narrow way
Its radiant beams are cast;
A light whose never weary ray
Grows brightest at the last.

5. It sweetly cheers our drooping hearts
In this dark vale of tears,
Life, light, and joy it still imparts
And quells our rising fears.

6. This lamp through all the tedious night
Of life shall guide our way
Till we behold the clearer light
Of an eternal day.

LTS

Building work at the LTS continues apace. They have also recently appointed new administrator. I'm sorry to say though that the drinks machine is playing up!
It was good to be involved in interviews there on Monday. There were several candidates, all good men and all with interesting stories of how they were converted and have come to a conviction that God wants them to prepare for Christian ministry.
All based in the UK, there was great variety in these men in all sorts of ways – age (24-44 I think it was), background (3 were oriental, one was from Wales, one Afro-Caribbean Londoner and 2 quite different Englishmen), profession – some growing up in Christian homes some having no background at all, convictions about baptism and church order, way of speaking.
I was struck by two particular things – the involvement in various sorts of Pentecostalism that has marked several of them before turning from it and the Reformed influence the internet is having on people – particularly through John Piper, Tim Keller and others (John MacArthur, Paul Washer, etc). Indeed, the importance of the internet is clearly not to be underestimated.

52 JC No 15

Christ all in all (Institutes)
If we seek salvation we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is “of him” (1 Cor 1:30). If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purification, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects (Heb 2:17) that he might learn to feel our pain (Heb 5:12). If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross (Gal 3:13); if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if new sense of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgement, in the power given him to judge. In short, since rich store of every kind of goods abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.

Days in Devon 04/5


On Thursday (our last full day) we did Barnstaple and Bideford, two small towns without so very much going for them. Bideford looked like it had the edge to me being a little smaller. I liked the statue of Kingsley. We enjoyed the market and shops. I bought a Watership Down DVD for Owain, which he’ll love. We went to Pizza Hut in Barnstaple for lunch and enjoyed stuffing ourselves. We also had a proper Devon tea with clotted cream, strawberry jam and scones, back here. To compensate for all that stuffing we played rounders and soccer again in the fading sunshine. There was a brief shower but as the day wore on it had got warmer and warmer.
Before that we had our regular Bible study. Ian led that one on David and Goliath. We trooped out into the hall to get an idea of Goliath's height at one point. Vivid.
A lot of videoing went on through the day and we watched the playback later. We also enjoyed watching a documentary on C S Lewis's Narnia The Narnia Code. A scholar called Michael Ward has written a thesis claiming that the Narnia stories are all based round a Medieval 7 planet scheme (Sun, Moon, Jupiter, Mercury, Saturn, Mars, Venus). They tried to sensationalise it a bit but it was well presented with the talking heads integrated well with the acted parts, etc. It was particularly good to hear so much about God on the BBC and to actually hear a reference to Romans 8 (from John Polkinghorne). More here. I'd missed that the director was Norman Stone, which now all makes sense.
It was another late night after a very pleasant few days in the country. On Friday we all headed off before 10. We went home via South Wales where we went to see my dad in hospital. He is recovering well from the op but there are concerns for him. He is due to turn 80 next month.

Days in Devon 03


Wednesday was a less successful day in some ways, with the weather still not too bad but not great either. As on other days the children were up first for a bit of telly followed by the adults one by one. All up before 9.30 am. Geoff or someone else heads off for the papers around eightish and returns with the Mail, Telegraph and Times. We all enjoy being together in the large kitchen until 10 or so.
Today we headed off to Westward Ho! (named from a Kingsley novel, the only place in Britain with an exclamation mark in its name). It was rather different to what most of us expected I think. I thought it would be more like Clovelly but it was more like Margate or Rhyl or somewhere. The dull weather didn’t help. We went on the beach nevertheless and enjoyed throwing stones and working on a quiz that Geoff had found in a charity shop. The IT shop was closed and so hopes of an internet connection that some of us would like were dashed. We’ll cope.
We headed on then to a retail park just outside Bideford we had visited briefly on the way down. It had an Asda and several other shops including an M&S outlet and a remaindered books shop. There was also a nice park with various activities for kids (bouncing, panning for gold, etc) that all the younger ones enjoyed.
Back here there were more old videos to see. There are 15 one hour tapes (not all full) that will hopefully be transferred to something more accessible at some time. There was one clip from 1994 of a school concert with Rhodri in, followed by Christmas Dinner with my parents. That was interesting. Later we played consequences together - the kids love it. We had a hilarious moment when Owain tried to read back what he'd written. His writing and reading skills are quite minimal. We also played an urban myth team game that Rhodri had brought later. None of us proved very able at discerning truth from myth.

Days in Devon 02


The weather was pleasant enough throughout our stay in Devon (the playground of England and the third largest county). We headed out fairly early to nearby and picturesque Clovelly. We enjoyed the steep cobbled streets and the little harbour. Like the streets the entrance price was rather steep (Geoff was very kind). The kids made pots on a wheel and Owain sat on a donkey, which he loved. We enjoyed the quaint cottages including that of Charles Kingsley who grew up there. Geoff bought a copy of the Water Babies, which I have actually read but don’t remember much of.
Back at base we played soccer and rounders and lounged about, enjoying one another’s company. We had some old technology videos from the nineties that someone had found a way of showing again so on most nights we enjoyed seeing the kids a way back, things that we had either forgotten about or never seen. There was an interesting one that Rhodri had made when he was 9 with Dylan and Dewi. First he directed them in a football game with a large Teddy (dubbed Teddy Sherringham!). Then Dylan played impromptu jazz on piano while Dewi did a mad dance. Fascinating.
We also watched Chelsea play Liverpool on TV. Only Dewi and I were pleased at the result. Great game though - with 8 goals you can’t complain. My sister 'phoned to say my father was to have a big op the next day. My mother died in an op so one’s mind was concentrated and set to prayer. Thankfully he came through but things are uncertain.
Owain and the others found frogs in the garden so they had great fun. There are also chipmunks on site but Owain had his eye on two ponies in a stable nearby that he wanted to get closer to.
We had any number of computers and cameras and phones among us so we’re enjoying those. The boys made some little songs on Rhodri’s garage band facility on his (Sibyl’s) Mac.

Sermons GB

Readers of this blog may be interested to know that easily accessible mp3 recordings of sermons at Childs Hill Baptist Church, chiefly by myself, are currently available at our church website. See here.

GT on the ministry

I noticed this nice link to my father-in-law on preaching here. These seven points on ministry are worth noting.

1) The work of the ministry will only be achieved by unfeigned belief in truthfulness of the Bible.
2) The work of the ministry will only be achieved by enduring tough times.
3) The work of the ministry will only be achieved by toil.
4) The work of the ministry will only be achieved by dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
5) The work of the ministry can only be achieved in the defence of the gospel.
6) The work of the ministry will only be achieved by discriminatory preaching.
7) The work of the ministry will only be achieved by applicatory preaching.

Days in Devon 01




We're just back from a few days family holiday in Devon. We managed to leave the house around 8.30 am on Monday and headed west on roads that weren’t at all busy. Everything beyond Bristol is unfamiliar to me so it was fun driving through Avon and Somerset into Devon. We'd arranged to meet Eleri’s sisters and families in Tiverton at noon. They were coming from Cardiff and Trowbridge. We were a little ahead of schedule and thought of coming off the main highway and visiting the Clarks village to check out the shoes. It was further off the beaten track than we realised, though, so stopping at a tiny village called Cossington briefly, we headed back and reached Tiverton, where we had a nice picnic lunch with the others by the canal.
We headed in convoy to our holiday destination, which we found fairly easily (Ian has a satnav). We stayed in Alminstone House, Alminstone, a very small village near Woolfardisworthy - not much bigger.
The house was unimpressive from the outside but a very large kitchen and a decent living area - all we wanted really so everyone was quite content once we'd allocated rooms. Eleri and I got the en suite but not a four poster. The boys were disappointed that there was no games room and only 4 TV channels.
Anyway we had a nice relaxing evening. We played soccer and sat about a bit. Some of us tried to watch the film King Arthur but it is as bad as the critics say. Nain and Taid arrived about 10.30. Geoff had been preaching at big meetings in Maesycwmmer as Scotsman Kenny Stewart had had to pull out last minute. Lovely to be together. We haven’t holidayed like this for three years now.

The resurrection

One does not cheer everything Tom Wright says but this is good in today's Times

Private Eye ran a cartoon some years ago of St Peter standing in front of Jesus's Cross and saying to the other Disciples: “It's time to put this behind us now and move on.” It was a satire not on Christian belief, but on politicians and counsellors, and their trivialising mantras. It depended on Jesus's death being not just an odd, forgettable event - and that it was His Resurrection, rather than a shoulder- shrugging desire to “move on”, that got the early Christians going.

Easter was the pilot project. What God did for Jesus that explosive morning is what He intends to do for the whole creation. We who live in the interval between Jesus's Resurrection and the final rescue and transformation of the whole world are called to be new-creation people here and now. That is the hidden meaning of the greatest festival Christians have.

This true meaning has remained hidden because the Church has trivialised it and the world has rubbished it. The Church has turned Jesus's Resurrection into a “happy ending” after the dark and messy story of Good Friday, often scaling it down so that “resurrection” becomes a fancy way of saying “He went to Heaven”. Easter then means: “There really is life after death”. The world shrugs its shoulders. We may or may not believe in life after death, but we reach that conclusion independently of Jesus, of odd stories about risen bodies and empty tombs.

But “resurrection” to 1st-century Jews wasn't about “going to Heaven”: it was about the physically dead being physically alive again. Some Jews (not all) believed that God would do this for all people in the end. Nobody, including Jesus's followers, was expecting one person to be bodily raised from the dead in the middle of history. The stories of the Resurrection are certainly not “wish-fulfilments” or the result of what dodgy social science calls “cognitive dissonance”. First-century Jews who followed would-be messiahs knew that if your leader got killed by the authorities, it meant you had backed the wrong man. You then had a choice: give up the revolution or get yourself a new leader. Going around saying that he'd been raised from the dead wasn't an option.

Unless he had been. Jesus of Nazareth was certainly dead by the Friday evening; Roman soldiers were professional killers and wouldn't have allowed a not-quite-dead rebel leader to stay that way for long. When the first Christians told the story of what happened next, they were not saying: “I think he's still with us in a spiritual sense” or “I think he's gone to heaven”. All these have been suggested by people who have lost their historical and theological nerve.

The historian must explain why Christianity got going in the first place, why it hailed Jesus as Messiah despite His execution (He hadn't defeated the pagans, or rebuilt the Temple, or brought justice and peace to the world, all of which a Messiah should have done), and why the early Christian movement took the shape that it did. The only explanation that will fit the evidence is the one the early Christians insisted upon - He really had been raised from the dead. His body was not just reanimated. It was transformed, so that it was no longer subject to sickness and death.

Let's be clear: the stories are not about someone coming back into the present mode of life. They are about someone going on into a new sort of existence, still emphatically bodily, if anything, more so. When St Paul speaks of a “spiritual” resurrection body, he doesn't mean “non-material”, like a ghost. “Spiritual” is the sort of Greek word that tells you,not what something is made of, but what is animating it. The risen Jesus had a physical body animated by God's life-giving Spirit. Yes, says St Paul, that same Spirit is at work in us, and will have the same effect - and in the whole world.

More here

Bloggy Special 38

Bible Club Day 3

Our final day went well with the best turn out of the three days in the daytime. Altogether some 50 different children must have come over the three days. In the evening we had a final prize giving and I spoke about the Passover. Around 10 parents or carers came and about 25 children.

Sovereignty Responsibility 06

(Final post in this short series)
So the fact of human responsibility rests on our natural ability, is witnessed to by our consciences and is insisted on throughout the Bible. The ground of man’s responsibility is that he is a rational creature capable of weighing eternal issues and that he possesses a written Revelation from God, in which his relationship with and duty toward his Creator is plainly defined. We can add that the measure of responsibility is different for different individuals. Some have more light (increasing their guilt) and some have less. What we all need to do is to make the use of means and avoid a fatalistic inertia gripping us.
“The same God who has decreed that a certain end shall be accomplished, has also decreed that that end shall be attained through and as the result of His own appointed means. God does not disdain the use of means, nor must I.” (A W Pink, who I have relied on heavily for this message).
*
The example of Acts 27 is often cited. God made known that he was going to save everyone who was with Paul on the ship but Paul did not hesitate to say to the centurion and the soldiers at one point, Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.
Perhaps the best text to bring the subject into sharp relief, however, is Philippians 2:12, 13 and I want us to close with this. There Paul writes
Therefore, my dear friends (my beloved), as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence - continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act (or do) according to his good purpose.
He is writing to the Philippians here and urging them to continued godly living. On the one hand, he stresses human responsibility very clearly telling the believers to continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Yet, when he comes to motivation it is all on the other side - for it is God who works in you to will and to act (or do) according to his good purpose.
When a minister wants to encourage believers to live the Christian life and be holy then he must stress their responsibility to do this. He will encourage them, if he can, by noting how they have been obedient in the past, but he will urge them to continue in the right direction and keep working out their salvation with diligence and hard work, making the most of the opportunities they have. He will want to call them to reverence and care not becoming lazy or presumptuous. He will want to keep them from complacency.
I want to stress that. I would say to every believer – are you working hard at being a Christian? Don't get complacent. Fear and tremble before God. Are you taking every opportunity to grow in grace? Are you at the meetings on the Lord's Day and in the week? Do your read the Bible at home? Are you prayerful? Do you endeavour to lead a holy life? What are you doing to let others know about the Saviour?
Yet, at the same time, a faithful preacher will want also to stress the sovereignty of God. He will want to remind every believer that it is God who works in you to will and to act (or do) according to his good purpose. His will is bound to prevail, however weak and wayward we may be.
Again I want to stress that too. Ah, believer, you are aware of many troubles and difficulties but don't forget that God is in control. He is working his purposes out in your life and though some things do not seem to make sense to you – do not be afraid. He is in control. His purpose will prevail.
I think there are at least three great dangers that often beset us as Christians and a right understanding of these doctrines and how they relate will help us to avoid them.
1. Laziness. We can grow lazy about serving God as believers and we can even misuse the doctrine of God's sovereignty to excuse ourselves. We must not make any excuses. Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. It is God's command.
2. If we are not lazy then we face two other obvious dangers. If we work hard and well we can begin to be proud. Whenever that danger comes we need to remind ourselves that it is God who works in you to will and to act (or do) according to his good purpose. Without him we can do nothing.
3. The other danger is the opposite one. When we see how little we have done we are tempted to despair. Once again the answer is to remember that it is God who works in you to will and to act (or do) according to his good purpose. Never forget (1:6) that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. We must still fight the good fight and serve him but he will make sure that we complete the task in him.
Amen

Sovereignty Responsibility 05

Four Questions (3, 4)
3. How can God decree that men should commit certain sins, hold them responsible for committing them, then judge them guilty for doing so?
Here we can think of the extreme case of Judas. It is clear from Scripture that God decreed from all eternity that Judas would betray Jesus. The prophecy about the 30 pieces of silver in Zechariah 11:12, for example, shows that. So the next question is, was Judas a responsible agent in fulfilling this decree of God? He was. Responsibility is to do mainly with the motive and intention of the one doing something. This is generally recognised. The law distinguishes between a blow inflicted by accident (without evil intent) and one delivered with malice aforethought. Think of Judas then. What did he design in his heart when he bargained with the priests? He was not conscious of fulfilling God's will. He did not know it. Yet that is what he did. His actual intention was only evil, and so, though God had decreed and directed his act, yet because of his own evil intention he is surely guilty. He himself says afterwards I have betrayed innocent blood.
Something similar can be said about the crucifixion. Again the Bible is clear that Jesus was handed over to his killers by God's set purpose and foreknowledge. The kings of the earth took their stand and the rulers gather(ed) together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. ... Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in Jerusalem to conspire against God's holy servant Jesus, whom he anointed. But as the early church confessed to God They only did what God's power and will had decided beforehand should happen (Acts 4:26-28). Yet at the same time the guilt of those who crucified the Saviour is not in doubt. You, says Peter to the citizens of Jerusalem, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
It is wrong to say then that because these things were pre-ordained by God that the perpetrators are not guilty. That is a false logic. God is never the author or approver of sin in the absolute sense. As Augustine long ago well put it “That men sin proceeds from themselves; that in sinning they perform this or that action, is from the power of God who divides the darkness according to his pleasure.” Proverbs 16:9 is similar In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.
4. How can the sinner be held responsible to receive Christ, and be damned for rejecting him, when God foreordained him to be condemned?
This question has really been answered but we can identify certain things that we need to keep in mind.
1. No-one in this life can know for certain that he is damned. Such things are hidden in God's secret will. Only his revealed will is known and that is that all men everywhere should repent and turn to Christ. All who do that will be saved.
2. It is the duty of every sinner to search the Scriptures which are able to make him wise to salvation (2 Timothy. 3:15). God blesses the use of means and those who will study God's Word and do what it says have good reason to hope that they will be saved.
3. But people come back and they say but isn't it still true that the non-elect are unable to repent and believe? The answer is yes, of course, but then no sinner has the power to come to Jesus of himself. We're all the same on that score. We not only cannot save ourselves but we do not want to be saved. Nevertheless God commands us to obey him.
This brings us to the question of why God demands from us what we can't do. With Pink, we answer, firstly, that God is not going to lower his standards just because of sin. God is perfect and so he sets perfect standards before us. Further, we are responsible to acknowledge before God our inability and to cry to him for help to find grace.
Pink uses the illustration of a slip on the ice. A man slips and breaks his hip. He is unable to rise but if he remains there he will freeze to death. What, then, should he do? If he's determined to be rescued he will cry out for help. In a similar way, the sinner, unable to get up himself and take the first step to Christ, is responsible to cry out to God for help - and if he does (from the heart), God will hear him. God is not far from any one of us (Acts 17:27). But if we refuse to cry to the Lord, then our blood will be on our own heads.

Sovereignty Responsibility 04

Four Questions (1, 2)
A W Pink helpfully boils the main question down to four subsidiary ones and this is the first
1. How can God bring his power to bear on people in such a way that they are either prevented from doing what they want to do or compelled to do what they don't want to do and yet still hold them responsible?
If God uses his power and exerts a direct influence on a person doesn't that interfere with their freedom? Pink takes us to 3 or 4 OT texts to look at the problem.
In Genesis 20:6 we are told that God spoke to the Philistine king Abimelech with whom Abraham had sought refuge. The King had been tempted to have Sarah for himself because of Abraham's lies. God says Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. Then in Numbers 22-24 we have the story of Balaam the prophet. He is clearly willing, indeed keen, to accept Balak’s offer of money for cursing Israel, a sin against God and his people. But, he says (22:38) I must speak only what God puts in my mouth. In 23:20 he says I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it.
So how should we understand things in light of such verses? There is no question that both Abimelech and Balak were still responsible for their actions. God can clearly prevent people from doing things without reducing them to mindless robots. We ask, of course, why didn't he stop Adam sinning? And why didn't he stop Satan tempting Adam or falling in the first place? Such questions cannot properly be answered, however. There is a mystery at least at this point.
An obvious area where God sovereignly overruled and yet allowed freedom within that is the construction of the Holy Scriptures. We teach the children that the Scriptures were written by holy men (yes human beings doing as they intended but) as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. God sovereignly superintended the whole thing from beginning to end.
One of the problems here is a general failure to understand freedom properly. True freedom is not the power to do as you please but to live as you were intended to live. The illustration is often used of a railway engine – true freedom for an engine is found on the track not in a field. That's why it is true to say that the only man who ever lived a truly free life on earth was Jesus Christ, who always did his Father's will. Or think of it this way. Here is a horse in a large field. The owner has constructed a fence around the property on which the horse roams, but the fence can't always be seen because the property is so large. Now, the horse belongs to its owner and is "fenced in" (whether it realises or not!). At the same time, the horse has a great deal of freedom within those parameters. He can run freely from here to there. He can jump or play. He may also choose to attempt to jump over something, miscalculate its height and fall - even be injured. He may choose to wallow in a mud hole for a time. The owner may have granted the horse a great deal of freedom within the parameters of where he has placed the horse. But the horse is still fenced in - this was the owner's choice. All illustrations fail at some point but they can help us.
2. How can the sinner be held responsible for doing what he can't do anyway? And how can he be justly condemned for not doing what he can't do anyway?
As creatures we are all responsible to love God and obey and serve him. Sinners have a duty to repent and believe the gospel. However, sinners in and of themselves are unable to do these things. That is clear from John 6:44 where Jesus says No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.
By nature our hearts are desperately wicked and left to ourselves we will never come to Christ. John 8:34 I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. First, by nature, we don't realise our danger, so we are unconcerned about our souls and about turning to Christ. By nature, we are unwilling too to admit that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. Further, we will not trust in Christ but would prefer what is false and contrary to God. This is why Romans 8:7, 8 says that the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
But how can God hold a sinner responsible for failing to do what he is unable to do? To answer that we have to be quite clear about what we mean by "unable". It is not, as is sometimes claimed, that people want to come to Christ but are kept away. No, they don't want to come to Christ in the first place. Pink cites Genesis 37:4 where it says that Joseph's brothers hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. They could speak all right and they could have spoken kind words to Joseph but they were unwilling. It was their hatred that drove them.
This is the inability of man then – what makes him sin. He is separated from the life of God and full of darkness and sin. Why can't he come to Christ? Because his wicked heart loves sin and hates Christ. It is because people's hearts are calloused so that they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and Christ would heal them.
Though the sinner is morally or spiritually unable to come to Christ he is nevertheless responsible to do so. Our inability does not absolve us or mean we are not accountable to God. Rather it serves to increase our guilt. If I lose my temper and break something I can't excuse myself by saying "ah but I lost my temper". If I break a law because I'm drunk do you think the magistrate will let me off? He may well take it into account but it will not mean that I am not guilty.
Man's responsibility is clear from Scripture and our own consciences testify to it too. Pink uses an illustration at this point. He imagines a man who owes him $100. The man says he can't afford to pay back what he owes. However, he seems to find plenty of other things to spend his money on. So what's his problem? “I would say” says Pink “that the only ability that was lacking was an honest heart.” It would be unfair to take that to mean an honest heart is what is needed to be able to pay the debt. No; the ability of the debtor lies in his power to write a cheque and this he has. What is lacking is an honest principle. It is his ability to write a cheque that makes him responsible. The fact that he lacks an honest heart doesn't destroy his accountability.
People don't lack what we may call the natural ability to love God and serve him but they refuse to do so. For this they will have to give an account. We may have lost our power to do good but God hasn't lost his right to expect good from us. A drunken servant is still a servant and it is against all sound reason to suppose that his master loses his rights because of his servant’s failure.