At the Birmingham Conference.
Popular belief is chance. Biblical truth is God’s providence.
But even Christians fail to recognise providence in ordinary events and nature: we say, ‘Really providential’ for great things.
Flavel’s work on this is based on Ps57:3 but how much more needing to emphasise in this say.
‘Seeing beforehand’ and ordering events presupposing wisdom and power to perform them. See the shorter chatechism. Creation, providence and redemption but the latter is part of, the supreme work of his providence.
All is in his care. Individual Christians and as a church, and all cosmos – 3 ‘windows’ or contexts of God’s activity. Paul in Acts 27. All ships are under God’s care, but that ship was preserved. General providence over Paul’s ship and his life in particular. Rom 11:36
Elements of providence: eternal, sovereign (independence is God’s – not a single act of anyone is outside God’s providence). ‘The God who risks’ – denies foreknowledge of God! If he does not know the future, how can he help us?! Providence is also vast, holy, wise and powerful – brings good out of evil.
The observation of providence. God has two ‘books’: His Word and His Providence. Study them together. Providence is God’s word accomplished.
Also in order to avoid His displeasure. Also so as to praise God – Ps107: their plight and deliverance. We are to praise Got for this. Ps 111: we have pleaSure in these things, we marvel at His deliverance. And so that we look for answers to prayer – look for the signature of your own prayers or backsliding on providences. We come to know God better through these providences: discoving himself suitably: high over us. God owes us no explanations. We owe him implicit trust.
It gives certainty to our work: General Stonewall Jackson: as safe in a battle as in his bed.
The seasonableness of a mercy makes it so much flavour to it. Jesse sent David to the camp, led to defeat of Goliath.
Will God cure Naaman via a little maid? Will the Israelites be freed by a heathen king. Blessings come through several iron gates: Boston had so many problems!
So we must recognise the providence. To deny it is the same as denying his existence.
Flavel: so many professing Christians are practical atheists. God-fearing people think of God’s hand when hard things happen. Turning away from God whereas our forefathers would hold days of prayer and everything governed by a sense of God’s providence: saying ‘Lord willing’, or ‘if all’s well’, saying grace before and after meat. Ps 107: God delivered these people and the summons to praise Him: Ps 107:43
Captivity of Jews was for their good. Each providence comes with the love of God, personally ‘wrapped’, not fate or chance or God setting the universe in order. Warfield’s illustration of a lad playing near a windmill.
Everything is now under the feet of Christ: for his church and believers. 1000 friendly hands are working in the favour of the Christian. Rom8:28
Man-centred age wanting a problem free Christianity. Wimber wants power evangelism and faith curing. But raw perseverance in incredible suffering is the real triumph of faith. The pattern is laid down by Christ himself, leading to more use in the life and then in the glory. Spurgeon: God gets his best soldiers from the highlands of affliction. DM Lloyd-Jones: we are on too good terms with ourselves.
We are chosen in the furnace of affliction. Sickness has been of more use to the Christian than health. Workshop downstairs, showroom above (Ferguson). The dark threads are as necessary as the golden.
Birmingham conference Friday afternoon address:
Holiness is what God is. So little deemed by men. 3 times is not repeated about any other attribute. Elect angels had to cover themselves!
God is totally an other.
God makes us holy, by his Word and His Spirit.
Who can preach on this? We in every way are faulty. Shadows afflict our prayer and praises. Only in Him are we accepted 1Pet He cleanses and purifies.
The depth of this truth! Those who claim to be called to this work of the gospel do not reflect this. Life is passing so quickly.
He is our Lord, we are His hosts, we must be like Him. 1st quality in the ministry.
A degree of Christlikeness, more full of the Spirit, more familiar with the Word, more like the Perfect Man – not satisfied with comparing with others. Every morning we must view ourselves in the sight of God. Ministry is not normal work. Holiness sets the tone. Great aim to save men, leaders of God’s people, so should we not have a life beyond the norm! ‘Come up and see Jesus high and lifted up where nought that defiles shall enter’. No ordinary profession! Holy Bible, holy gospel, holy Son, Holy Spirit.
He came to seek and to save that which was lost. We must go beyond.
This holiness is before everything else – before talent, learning (eg. Hebrew roots grow best in dry ground says Spurgeon). Can’t build a ministry upon anything but the Holy God, the precious blood of Christ – the blood of sprinkling that consecrates everything. We tend to get busy. Isiaiah saw this. Godly men: Martyn, McCheyne,
The importance of godliness. Names used by God for his ministers: Pastor, undershepherd – reminds of the One who says he is the Good Shepherd. Same word.
Ambassador: must have been standing in His presence. How much we stand in man’s presence not of God! He cleanses and sanctifies. Entrusted with a message from the holy place, authority from the Holy One. The business is tremendous: message of peace to enemies of God! Need so the clean hands. We the most needy as we serve God!
Stewards: 1 Cor 4:1 of the mysteries of God! ‘Lights’, we are called! Light needs a source. Teachers, witnesses, epistles, ‘that is the minister’, ‘that is his children’, expectation of holiness. Witness in the greek is related to ‘martyr’ – death to self. No regrets on the day – except if we did not die to self more. Can we sustain such names with out holiness?!
What if I upset people? We’re compromising if we stop at that. Holiness in our teaching. Serious business!
We’re speaking about that which is unclean. Mark 1:38-39. He dealt with unholy things. So we must and need to be distinct from evil. Thorough consecration required!
Lives are changed, translated! What should we then be?! A sweet savour of Christ in them that are saved or that perish – who is sufficient? Praise God! Our sufficiency is of God – that He is Holy. We must daily cry and despair of ourselves and go to Christ.
The minister’s work is grandest in the world. None would admit it. But God! The very Son of God came as a minister! Rom 10:14-15
Struggle to keep this before me each day.
Barnabas – such a good man and full of the Holy Ghost. Acts 11:24
For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.
What about these godly men – what was blessed about it? God’s word channelled through a godly man. One reason for the lack of success is a lack of Christlikeness. How is the closet prayer – pleading with God to be more like Christ. Reviewing my life to grow in holiness. Where Christ is they make impact – turning the world upside down.
Isaiah saw a land in stability fractured by the death of the king. He sees the glory of God, in the midst of threatened judgement, God touches his lips and he was a blessing to millions of souls. May God help us. We live in days that kings have died. We want to see people saved, get people in. People fear men. We must take our gaze up to Him. The puritans served the Lord more in prison than when they were free. What you do as a holy person will last.
Paul – in prison – what could he do?
Those bound at home – they feel helpless. But to see this person pray! Busy, not lazy.
Holiness makes a man to be like God who does not sit. Engaged with God we win battles.
Let us go home and seek God about these things. The Holy God blessing a holy ministry…
Mr Thackway’s addresses were upon ‘The Fourfold Profit of the Word’
See the conference website for the Audio. We reviewed the messages in the Doctrine Class of 22nd April 2012. Sadly I have not quite been able to complete transcribing the notes I made, but here is what I have done:
Doctrine class 2nd of October 2011
Mick Harris from Cheltenham, and Richard Clarke from Plymouth spoke on Saturday at the Chippenham conference. The topics were ‘Gospel endeavours’ and ‘Gospel preaching’. I want to review what they said but we only got as far as Mick Harris’ second address.
In his first address Mick Harris talked about foundations. What is evangelism, what the message is, and what the motive is, why should we evangelise?
1. What is evangelism?
Mr. Harris explained the term ‘gospel’ means good news. He wanted to leave the topic of preaching to Mr. Clarke but, of course, there is a sense in which we are commanded by the Great Commission to ‘go into all the world and preach the gospel’ so that anyone sharing the gospel is evangelising, but it is God’s work: evangelism begins in the heart of God the Father.
John 316 – for God so loved the world that he gave. Many go wrong on this verse saying that everybody will be saved, ‘God so loved the world’. But the emphasis of this verse is ethical not numerical – emphasising the enormous love of God for sinners.
2. What is the message of the Gospel?
in Acts 17, Paul preaching in Athens begins with creation. When Philip was preaching to the Ethiopian eunuch, he preached Christ. So there is variation in presentation of the gospel. But what is it essence?
Many start like this: you are sinner – you need to be saved. Christ came to save you. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. What are the problems with that?
1. Starts with man and his problems
2. Assumes Christ died for everyone
3. Faith is merely assenting to certain truths. No real conviction of sin, easy believism: 1983 Mission England – a list of 40 converts were given to Mr. Harris and he visited each one but was disappointed that none of them showed any sign of being saved, they had just ‘gone forward’ at the meeting.
4. This form of the Gospel says nothing about repentance. Now God can work through the weakest means but is that what we should preach? We know better.
So many people over the last 100 years have heard this gospel and responded to it without really being saved, so they drift and fall away from the church, (worse than that, some stayed! Ed.). This new gospel does not produce worship, it it does not replaces man with God in the heart and in the life, our concern is not to give peace and purpose to man. The purpose of the gospel is to glorify God
The true gospel is a summons. The new gospel says God has done his part now you do yours. Mr. Harris quoted Spurgeon who said that if one stitch of the robe of righteousness or one link in the chain between him and God was of his own making then that would be a fatally weak link in the chain and a worthless righteousness. God is holy: that is where you start you must give account to him since his real faith and repentance must be there – which comes first? Siamese twins.
So we must never say we overstep our scriptural authority: if we say Christ died for you pointing to the individual that is for them to work out between them and God. We must give people the bad news before the good news.
3. What is our motive in evangelism?
is it to save souls? No, that is deficient. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.
1 Cor 10:31 – Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
Mick Harris’s second address had three points also: means and methods, the spirit in which we should engage in gospel endeavours, and issues that people commonly bring when we present the gospel.
4. Means and methods:
Mick Harris knew a man who was converted wonderfully out of a life of drug addiction. He used to dress smartly when he visited those who were still bound by drug addiction and other people would say to him you need to dress down in order to get alongside these people. But the addicts knew that he loved them, and it didn’t matter what he wore really, but he wanted to show that he was now different to them, that his life had been transformed by the gospel, by the power of God.
The main means of communicating the gospel is through preaching: holding forth the word of God. But worldliness has led us to introduce all kinds of things. This is man’s wisdom, men’s ‘good idea’ relegates God’s Word to second place at best, can you see what this is saying about their opinion of God’s wisdom – preaching exchanged for puppets!!!??? Acts 13:26, Col 1:5, Acts 5:20. Nor is the gospel to be proclaimed by personal testimony primarily. What is wrong with someone standing up and saying ‘my life has changed’? Cults do that. You can have results, but they are not based on truth. It certainly can be thrilling to see a life overturned but the story often starts with the self. Mr. Harris read a book in the 1950s with many testimonies, 19 started with the self. Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones said ‘God saved me’.
So we ought to seek to bring people in to hear the gospel. Door to door visitation is a very hard work and Mr. Harris still trembles to knock on the first door, but he listed a number of people who had come as a result. Derek Prime said do not despair, yours is the church they will think of if they do think of coming to church, because you were concerned to visit them. So whether you have a book table and open air preaching rallies, using the radio, display literature, always remember God’s glory with due care and reverence, just as is said of marriage: do not enter into marriage without due care and reverence. We need courage, but God can give that he as well : Acts 4: 29
5. The spirit in which we engage in gospel endeavours:
That we should be courteous patient ready to listen with a genuine desire to help beseeching reasoning pleading. Mr. Harris criticised people who stand with a sandwich board and some dire warning of judgement to come. People passing that would not get the idea that they care, it’s just an unpleasant threatening.
We must ask also does our lifestyle contradict. Going back to the first centuries the early church suffered cruel persecution and at the hands of the Romans, but that courage led to conversions. In the midst of a filthy generation their high moral standards, their joy, made the people curious. Are you different from the world? do you dress modestly in an immodest age? what about the music you listen to or what you watch on television. When people are discussing the programmes that they watched the previous night, are you able to join in and what does that tell them about your own moral standards? what about Facebook the things that you ‘like’, the books and films that you list in your interests, the things that you write in your status. Am I being too narrow? Too religious? Did you ever had a Bible reference to your status update, why not? to narrow? do the photos you post contradict the glorious solemn message of the Gospel? and what about your holidays? people say they find it very hard to keep the fourth commandment, they seem to find it okay to break God’s commandments on holiday once or twice a year but they would not say that about the other commandments.
6: issues that we face when engaged in the gospel endeavours
We often face difficult challenges: people become very combative and hang out all their pet theories and old chestnuts.
Science: many are sceptical in this area but there are also many Christian scientists
Jehovah Witnesses: if Jesus is God why did he pray to God? because he came to do his Father’s will John 16. And what about the Great Commission, in the Name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit. ‘Name’: not ‘names’. Or you can refer to the many implicit references to the Trinity. In Genesis ‘let us make man in our image’.
A good tactic is to ask a question in response. There is nothing sinful about this, the Lord Jesus Christ did that himself. How did the eye evolve? if the person is angry because God sends people to hell, ask them if they believe in hell ? probably they do not they are just trying to ‘have a go’. See if you can find their own contradictions? many boast in atheism, but you cannot find many lives transformed by atheism. They will tell you that all roads lead to God, you ask them how did they know that? all roads lead to the top of the mountain, but who knows that better than the one who is above the mountain and can see all roads? all people are essentially good? what about Hitler or Stalin, who decides? only God. They accuse us of blind faith in the Bible – but if you ask them what the evidence is, they are quite likely to have read something having taken it on blind faith!! They say Jesus is a moral teacher, you ask, have you studied him? he said he was God. If he is not that then he is lying and he cannot be very moral! Ask people why they think what they are saying they think. People are being led to believe that homosexuality is completely natural phenomena: do they really think that? people who go after children or beasts have certain desires… are they okay, perfectly natural? Suffering, again asked them why are they asking that? at least make them pause and think, but you could point them to the Cross where the most savage evil achieved the greatest good. We are never aiming to win an argument, we are aiming to glorify God.