There was just one occasion on which my wife and I attended Westminster Chapel during the ministry of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones. It was on Whit Sunday in May 1965. Thus it was with the greatest interest that we noticed that in the newly published volume of sermons on the book of Acts the very sermon we heard that evening had been printed. The text was Acts 3:19, Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.”
To a preacher the one word that stands out in that text is the word ‘refreshing.’ That was the section of the sermon we never forgot, sin being compared to oppressive humidity and all men’s efforts to relieve the heaviness failing. I even remembered his reference to a humid summer’s day in Boston. I looked eagerly for it and came across these paragraphs:-
Do you know what civilisation is ? Have you ever been in the conditions that I am describing to you? Have you ever been in some of those cities in America where there is terrible humidity? In America they not only measure the heat, they measure the humidity; and they are quite right. Have you ever been in the city of Boston, say, on a hot August Sunday afternoon when it is not only very hot, but very humid as well? No sun to be seen, but it is there above the clouds.
The whole universe seems to be pressing down upon you, hot and humid. And you are tired, and you sit in a room and what can be done? Before they had air conditioning, people used to put on electric fans. The electric fan causes the air to circulate and while you are sitting somewhere near this fan you feel a little cooler. You are quite convinced that the fan is cooling the atmosphere. But you are wrong. It is actually increasing the temperature because the energy of the electricity is adding to the temperature. You have the impression that it is cooling the air, because there is a movement, but the fan does not bring in any fresh air at all. It makes the same air go round and round. You merely get the illusion that the position is being dealt with.
That is all civilisation does. It does not touch the problem. It does not make any difference to the real condition of men and women. We change this and improve that, and there is a sort of movement, but nothing new is brought in. Let me use a medical illustration. You cure one disease and you say, ‘Now we shall be all right.’ Then you suddenly hear that another disease has come. Penicillin cures some of the most terrible diseases, yes, but that, in turn, produces certain germs that are resistant to penicillin and they are the real killers.
A few years back there was a great outcry because hospitals had become dangerous places. The talk was of a penicillin-resistant staphylococcus which was unknown until penicillin came in. You see what happens? You circulate the same fetid oppressive atmosphere. The same heat remains, it is even increased, but you are under the illusion that things are better. They are not. You are simply moving round and round in exactly the same condition.
Here is the message of the New Testament. Humanity has shut itself in. It has shut the windows to heaven and it cannot open them. It has been trying to desperately, but it cannot do it and the more it tries, the more exhausted it becomes. But here is one who can bring us seasons of refreshing – this is the whole message of the gospel of salvation. All the Old Testament prophets had been looking forward to him. They had said, ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God’ (Isa. 40:1). There is one coming who will set us free. Christ came into the world to open a window into heaven (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Authentic Christianity” pp. 306 & 307).
I do believe that I appreciated reading that sermon this month more than when we heard it over 35 years ago. It is amazingly energetic and vital. Dr Lloyd-Jones is encountering the congregation, challenging them, exhorting them, inviting and beseeching them to believe. You can see him moving about the pulpit dynamically. The sentences are brief and fresh. It is terribly humiliating as a pastor to hear a man then 65 years of age still utterly consumed by his message, and every minister ought to search himself and ask whether the passage of the years has not cooled his ardour and made him more a diplomat than an advocate.
This book is unique as being one of the first to be published that represents Dr Lloyd-Jones’ evening evangelistic sermons. Is it possible to preach an expository series of sermons and at the same time be consistently evangelistic? Read this marvellous book of sermons which are on the first three chapters of the book of Acts, and marvel at what you discover.
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