The Installation of Dr David Murray in Grand Rapids
Having been vacant since June 2010 with the emeritization of Dr. L. W. Bilkes, the Free Reformed Church of Grand Rapids was privileged and blessed to install Dr. David Murray as a Free Reformed minister labouring in our congregation.
Synod 2013 of the Free Reformed churches unanimously approved Dr. Murray to be called as Free Reformed pastor, to which call, afterwards, the voting members of our congregation gave unanimous approval.
Dr. Jerry Bilkes preached the installation sermon from James 5:19-20. He began by reviewing the amazing power of the Word of Christ displayed in the apostles in the early church. The introductory question, which stirred anticipation for the sermon was, ‘What is more glorious than the conversion of a lost soul?’ The sermon, entitled ‘Shepherd of Souls’ had three focal points: the target, the manner, and the reward. With loving passion the preacher asked the congregation to consider what we were before conversion — the humbling answer — erring from the truth. What a desperate state is the condition of the lost soul! We need a shepherd of souls to aim at the erring hearts. ‘Congregation, you are in the crosshairs of this pulpit!’
Explained in the sermon was the manner of shepherding souls. Pastors are soul seekers. Yes, the Holy Spirit is the soul Finder and Converter, but he uses the instruments of truth-bearers, the love of Christ constraining them. Jesus asks his pastors, ‘Lovest thou me?’ and says, ‘Feed my sheep.’ We need Holy Spirit conversions!
The reward of the shepherd of souls comes in three ways — the sinner is found, converted from the error of his ways, and a multitude of sins are hidden forever. Pastor Jerry Bilkes’ brief but impassioned conclusion was, ‘Let him [that is the pastor] know!’ This was a stirring message for us all.
The Form for the Installation of Ministers was read, concluding with Pastor Murray’s vow, ‘Yes, truly with all my heart.’ During the signing of the subscription to the Three Forms of Unity and the presentation of ministerial credentials within the Free Reformed Churches, the congregation sang Psalter 368:3-5.
Pastor Al Martin, who was used by the Lord as a great and early influence on our new pastor, brought a special text for Pastor Murray — Acts 20:28. Pastor Martin emphasized the sequence in the text: take heed to yourself and to the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseer. He had a special text for the congregation — 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 — know your pastor, welcome him into your homes, receive his admonishments, esteem him for his work’s sake, and be at peace among yourselves.
Dr. Joel Beeke spoke words of encouragement on behalf of his federation of congregations, his local Heritage Netherlands Reformed congregation and Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. Dr. Beeke reminded the congregation of how eminently privileged we are to have the ministry of Drs. Jerry Bilkes and David Murray in our midst. He admonished the congregation to not waste this bounty of the Lord. His text for Pastor Murray was 2 Timothy 4:1-2. He shared three thoughts: Pastor Murray, preach the Word; be faithful in and out of season; congregation and Pastor, remember eternity. What will the minister say of the members of his congregation before that great throne of judgment? Will we be his joy and crown? What will the congregation say of their pastor on that great day? Will the testimony be that he was a faithful minister of the Word to us?
The vice-chairman of consistory, elder Peter Van Kempen, spoke words of warm welcome to our new pastor and his dear family. He read letters from our counselor, Pastor David Kranendonk and from Pastor Murray’s father and mother who were not able to be in attendance. Acknowledgement was also given to letters from some of our Free Reformed congregations, from Pastor Maurice Roberts, and from Pastor William Macleod from Scotland.
In conclusion, Pastor Murray briefly thanked the congregation for calling him, thanked the ministers who had spoken, and his dear wife, Shona, and their children Allan, Angus, Joni, Amy, and newborn Scot for their support in coming with him to our congregation. Pastor Murray closed his comments with the words of 2 Corinthians 2:16 which exclaim, ‘who is sufficient for these things?’ The blessed answer comes from 2 Corinthians 3:5 — ‘our sufficiency is of God’.
The evening service was Pastor Murray’s first opportunity to preach to the congregation as our own pastor. The text for this first sermon as official minister of the congregation was from 1 John 4:10, ‘Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.’
The sermon introduction listed many important and essential biblical themes that need to be preached. He gave his sermon the title: ‘The Primary Theme of the Gospel’. The text proclaims God’s love as primary, and Pastor Murray opened the text by focusing on two truths: mad hatred – ‘Not that we loved God,’ and Mysterious Love – ‘He loved us so much that he sent his Son who absorbed our sins and took them away.’ This incomprehensible love was displayed at the cross. God poured out his immeasurable anger upon his Son while at the same time he poured out his unfathomable love for sinners. His people are forgiven all sin! Truly, God is love.
The next verse asks, ‘Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.’ Christian, if you do not love the brethren, either change your name or change your character. Every failure to love is a failure to understand the cross. The sermon concluded with the gospel invitation, ‘Come and enjoy this love, sinners. This love is not understood until it is experienced. Pray for faith to believe the love of God and embrace it.’
Dr. Jerry Bilkes remarked in the consistory room after the service, ‘Tonight we have heard Pastor Murray. It is such preaching that the Lord uses to convert sinners. Let us pray earnestly for the work of the Spirit among us.’ Lord’s Day, July 7, 2013 was a blessed day at the Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church.
Henk Kleyn and David Faasse are elders in the Free Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan. This article is reprinted with permission from The Messenger, September 2013.
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