The Carey Conference
THE CAREY CONFERENCE: January 8 – 11 Swanwick.
God uses that which the world despises to know God through his Son
Over 100 people gathered for the annual Carey Conference at Swanwick from January 8-11. The first evening speaker was Earl Blackburn of Los Angeles who spoke on the Theology of the Cross.
Earl Blackburn spoke on the Theology of the Cross, saying that he was convinced that when we as Reformed Christians come to the Scriptures and all its demanding imperatives we long to see them lived out in the lives of those we pastor, and the unconverted too. To save us from despair are the divine indicatives that tell us what God in Christ has done, what he worked out in all eternity and applies to us in time.
In all of Paul’s writing you find nothing like the emphasis on the atoning work of Christ. In all of his writings the cross was integral. Everything pointed to the cross or derived from the cross. When he exhorts us to prayer, holiness, or service he does so based on what God has done on the cross.
What took place there where Christ was crucified? It was:
1. A place of suffering in the body and soul of Christ.
2. A place of sin-bearing.
3. A place of judgment.
4. A place of punishment.
5. A place of obedience.
6. A place of the death of the life-giver – “in him was life and the life was the light of men.” 7. A place of transaction and substitution. 8. A place of reconciliation. 9. A place of redemption. 10. A place of love and forgiveness. 11. A place of foolishness.
I. AN ASSERTION RELATED TO THE CROSS.
“for Christ did not send me to baptize….” That is, “Get your emphases straight.” Paul is prioritising redemptive centralities. So he expands this theme in verses 10-16.
II. THE POWER OF THE CROSS IN PAUL’S THEOLOGY.
In v. 18 there is “the word of the cross” – he had been sent not to preach with “wisdom of words,” but with this word. There are two kinds of people – those who are continuing to perish, and there are those continuing to be saved. There are two kinds of responses – he speaks of the foolishness of the world and then he speaks of the power (not wisdom ) of God. It takes more than wisdom to save us. To raise us from deadness and sustain us through severe difficulties takes divine power. There is a power resident in the message of the cross to save vile sinners, and any success is dependent upon this.
III. THE CONFOUNDING WORK OF THE CROSS. (19-21)
The word of the cross confounds people. He quotes Isaiah where the prophet warns the people not to seek to counter the plain word of God. The false prophets were saying that Judah will not be overthrown. Paul takes that warning and he quotes it here against those who think they know better than God. The ‘wise’ in the world are going to be expunged by God. Where are the philosophers, the scribes, the disputers of this age? Where are they in God’s economy? God has made foolish the wisdom of this world by an assertion of an act of God.
IV THE SCANDAL OF THE CROSS.
The world by its human wisdom knows not God but there is a way that man can know him. God uses that which the world despises to know God through his Son. The world wants a sign, a feeling, a tingle, some intellectual expansion, but God gives them something that is calculated to offend them. A cross was where criminals were punished and died. That word is the power that makes men alive in Christ. Paul had pressures brought on him to give men what they wanted. But Paul would only give the world the message of the cross, and then God will give the increase, and strengthen the people of God.
The second speaker from overseas was Tedd Tripp of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, the author of “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” and he spoke on the theme of that best-selling book on two occasions. The first occasion he spoke he said the following:
As pastors we try to make ourselves accessible to the children of the congregation, know their names and special dates, and make the truth apply to them too. Beyond all that the most profound ministry we have to them is the ministry to their parents as we equip them to have a vision for their calling to be Dads and Moms. They are more intimately involved with the children than we will ever be.
One of the saddest passages in the word of God is Judges 2. Go back a few years to the incident recorded in Joshua 24 – Joshua’s great charge to the people and affirmation, “As for me and my household we will serve the Lord.” All the people say the same thing – “far be it from us to reject him. We too will serve the Lord.” That is the background of Judges 2 which tells us how these people forsook God and served the Baals. God handed them over to the raiders and sold them to their enemies. The hand of the Lord was against them in whatever they did. The very next generation after Joshua grew up not knowing about the Lord. It seems unthinkable. Where was the failure? In the priests of Israel? No, in the homes, to do what they promised Joshua they would do. They failed to do what Psalm 145 tells parents they must do. “One generation will tell your works to another.” We are uniquely designed as worshipers and yet we fail to worship the living God and then we worship that which is not God. We love to be dazzled and if we wont be dazzled by God we will be dazzled by something else. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made by mortal men and birds and reptiles. We cannot avoid worshipping. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie.
Children cannot help worshipping. We are designed for God to be in awe of him. Men love to watch their heroes doing extraordinary physical feats and so multitudes spend hours watching sports programmes on TV. We are made to worship. Human beings alone are worshippers. We have worshipers receptors all over us. When Christ comes we will marvel at his coming. The most important calling we have is to hold before our children the glories and excellencies of the God we worship. In Psalm 145 he says God’s greatness no man can fathom. Children are all worshipers. They will worship power and influence. A girl might take control of a class in her lust for power, and she dictates to the class what they would all wear the next day, and that they would all have braided hair etc. Our children are going to serve some idol or power, and so we in the Christian church need to set forth the great glories of our God, as we see it in Psalms 4, 16, 17, 27, 36, 63, 81. “Children, you are made for God. Love and serve him. The most delicious pleasures in this life are fleeting at best.” Modern evangelicals have truncated the glory of God. “Declare his glory among the nations!” “Children, have you beheld this glory?” The kingdom of God is like a man discovering treasure in a field and selling all he has to get it. Can you imagine a man grumbling that he has found treasure. “Now I suppose I have to sell all I have to buy that stupid field.” No! That would be impossible.
Why is this so foundational for children? We do not live from the facts of the circumstances of our existence, rather we live out of the interpretation of them, and our interpretation determines our response. How can we interpret things properly until we see that all comes from the Lord whose hand none can resist? Until they see who God is they cannot interpret life properly. Think of Joseph’s circumstances, the stepmother, the dreams, the special coat of authority, the plot, the Egyptian slavery, Potiphar wife’s seductions, the prison, Pharaoh’s dreams, the exultation, the arrival of the brothers. Then, not revenge, for Joseph is interpreting everything in life from the glories of God. God meant it for good.
Tedd’s observations after six years of traversing the USA and seeing the state of the churches are not simply that Christian parents fail to show their children the glories of God, the professing people of God are actually feeding our children’s idols. We fill their lives with stuff. We take pleasure in their pleasure in things – sports and theatre and music. The children arrive at church in their sports gear, and they leave before the end to be there in time for the soccer – they desecrate the Lord’s Day, not fearing God but they would not cause any anger in the soccer coach.
Gary Brady of Child’s Hill Baptist Church in London spoke on “Preaching from Proverbs.”
I. Why should I preach from Proverbs?
A. Fundamental arguments
1. Because it is part of Scripture
2. Because it is part of the Old Testament
3. Because it is a distinctive part of the Old Testament
4. Because of the perennial interest in proverbial wisdom.
B Arguments drawn from our contemporary situation
1. Its approach is not a pronouncedly legalistic or authoritarian one
2. In some ways its argument is non-linear and intuitive
3. It chimes in with the current penchant for potted wisdom
4. It is particularly geared up for the youth market.
C. Arguments drawn from the book itself, that is, the opening verses
of chapter one.
For attaining wisdom and discipline.
For understanding words of insight.
For acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is just and right and fair.
For giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young (and the wise).
For understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.
2. How should I preach from Proverbs?
A. The textual method B. The systematic method
C. The thematic approach D. A modified systematic
3. Can you recommend any literature that will be a help in preparing
to preach from Proverbs?
Many good commentaries were listed.
4. What things are worth bearing in mind if I am going to preach from
A. Bear in mind the structure of the book
B. Bear in mind that you are dealing with a collection
C. Bear in mind the proverbial nature of the proverbs
D. Bear in mind the need to transculturise many of the proverbs
E.. The proverbs proper can be divided into a number of general types
1. Antithetical 2. Synonymous and synthetic 3. Simile
5. Can you give me some ideas on preaching from Proverbs?
A. A sermon outline on Proverbs 7 ‘Choose wisdom, flee adultery,
1. The prologue 1-5 A. The subject B. The command C. The
2. The drama 6-23 A. The victim B. The huntress C. Her
tactics D. The kill
3. The epilogue 24-27 A. Follow wisdom B. Avoid adultery C
Warning of where it leads
B. A sermon outline on Proverbs 13 1-14 ‘Righteousness and wisdom
not riches and wealth’
1. Riches and wealth are not what we financially need.
2. But wisdom and righteousness are what we need
i]. Wisdom – how to gain it.
1. Listen and take advice (1 and 10)
2. Respect God’s commands (13)
3. Recognise that it as a matter of life and death.
Righteousness leads to honesty, integrity and joy.
Wickedness to shame, overthrow and misery.
Righteousness also leads to Diligence and careful speech.
C. A sermon on Proverbs 31:10-31 ‘At home with wisdom.’
1. Her desirability 10-12
a. Her great rarity and innate worth b. Her power to provide complete
confidence and everything of value
c. Her power to be a constant source of good and not harm.
2. Her character 13-27
A. Careful. B. Diligent and hardworking C. Generous and loving D. Attractive and creative E. Honourable
F. Enterprising G. Dignified and confident H. Committed to teaching others.
3. Her Glory 28-31
A. Those nearest to her gratefully praise her B. She shows that
charm is deceptive, beauty fleeting and the fear of the Lord
pre-eminent. C. She is the source of many great works for which she
should be praised..
PETER PARKINSON “Ministering to Refugees.”
Peter Parkinson is the minister at Leeds Reformed Baptist Church. He was once uninvolved in Muslim evangelism, ignorant of this problem of refugees, with only recent experience of it. A perspective for us is the Lord’s saying that his food is to do the work of him that sent Jesus. Open your eyes and see God’s blessing. While we have been working in one field God has been producing a crop in a field behind us, and God is saying that we should go for it. How much easier it is to feel envious of people’s blessings and not rejoice with them, while we find it easier to weep with them that weep.
“Is this of the Lord?” we ask. Sometimes we can lean hard on a door and if it opens we assume that it is the Lord’s doing. There are other times when the openings are presented to us. They are so widely open they are clearly of the Lord. We never sought to help asylum seekers in Leeds, but it came from him. We also had the right personnel to do the work. A Christian from one middle east country was with us, coming from a family there who had suffered for the faith there. He has been in the UK for 37 years. A scientist who was made redundant 7 years ago he found it hard to find another job. He did some translation work and then was told of the need for translators for asylum speakers from that country. One of the first people he spoke to was a Christian refugee, and he brought him along to the church. Also the next five he interviewed were all Christians. Of course, many later on were not. Now he has become a full-time worker amongst refugees from that nation in Leeds. So his background was ideal. He had links with all the churches in that country, and he could confirm whether a person was a believer or not, from the leaders there. He also knew the leaders of that country’s Christian church in London.
Sudden Flow and Steady Trickle.
The people from that country asked if they could use the property for one of their meetings. We gave permission as long as we could explain who we were at LRBC. 97 of them turned up. Some were big-style anti-Christian – “if LRBC thought they could make Muslims give up the faith in exchange for the meal they ought to think again…” Peter said that he would look forward to going to the mosque as they had intimated. There were many at the meeting deeply embarrassed by the criticism. They urged Peter and Erroll to stay for the whole evening. Three more meetings have taken place. Of the original 50 who came along many have been sent on by the Home Office to other cities in the UK. New folk have joined.
It has meant that the sermons are translated into that nation’s language. This has irritated a few in the LRBC. “We determined we were not going to have a national middle east church in Leeds. We shall adapt to you,” we said. We all need new blood and new life coming into us all the time in a church. There had been a challenge when Caring for Life handicapped and young criminals and prostitutes first began coming to the service with their swearing etc. That was a challenge, but now we have a greater challenge with bilingualism introduced. “I have lost members, even an elder over this.” We tell the newcomers, “Be with other people from your country, but let this be your spiritual home.” We yet hear grumbles that the translation hinders the flow of the sermon and service.
In our Christian caring enterprises we never mention in our letters that we minister to certain girls from their faiths. If we did they would be dead. We have never been able successfully to evangelise one of them. But since Christmas even that door has been opened by one who is now a Christian.
We are now having a steady trickle of people from that nation coming to church and to baptismal classes. We decided that any asylum seeker who could pretty well guarantee a residence permit if he or she became a Christian, so we encouraged them to become secret believers until they had been granted a residency permit. We did not want them to use a new religion as the basis of applying for a permit.
We saw fruit in strange places. We have seen 12 of a different faith in the past year becoming Christians, 8 of them secretly, and 4 along with others being baptized at LRBC soon. Others who have professed faith have been temporarily moved by the Home Office to other parts of the UK but they plan to return when they get residency permits.
There is a range of people from the middle east – some are aristocrats and wealthy, while others are fishermen. There are divisions and pastoral differences but they are being overcome slowly. Some are being dealt with head-on. Some are very mature Christians. Dangers and demons face them. There is the threat of infiltrators coming under false pretences to the seekers’ service. When one Christian wept over the beauty of the Lord Jesus some such men invited there witnessed it and within a few days that man’s family were thrown onto the streets back in their home country “because of this son becoming a Christian in Leeds.” Other tales were told of threat, torture and death.
Women envy the lot of women here, and of Christian women especially. They are used to being told dogmatically what the truth is, but not people loving them and caring for them. The subject that enthrals them the most is the subject of God incarnate. These are the subjects that they ask about in the seeker services. One said, “The humanity of God has blown my mind.” Now they have a God who understands what it is like to be weak and suffer.
They think now that Islam is very anti-christian, and phrases like ‘Christian Muslim’ is awful to them or Christians keeping Ramadan is blasphemous. They don’t like noise in the sanctuary before or after the service because they think Sunday worship must be reverent. “Why do they come so late to the services? Have they been praying?” one asked.
There are Muslims coming to faith in Christ all over the world. There is a harvest coming and we now must reap it.
TEDD TRIPP on “The Importance of the Heart”
Proves 4:20 states that the centre of all living is from the heart. It is the well-spring of life or the artesian well from which everything emerges. The heart does so much : we think with our hearts, and remember, know, store, see, hate, fear, grieve, are proud, turn to and away from God, meditate, love God, faithful, upright and righteous, deceive, become hard, are idol-factories (Stephen Charnock), and repent. God writes the new covenant on the heart.
There is a weight of biblical data about the heart as one sees in that suggestive list. This truth is not obscure; it is everywhere in the Scriptures. When Samuel goes to David’s home and meets the other brothers first, he is impressed with some of their attributes – height and appearance etc. – but God is focused on the inner man on another. The world today is concerned about ‘fashion statements’. “It’s almost enough to make you want kids,” the man said to his wife seeing a young teenage mannequin in a window. We like to dress our children. But God is not concerned about these things, but with the heart. The heart thinks, and God even examines the motivation of the hearts. It is from within the heart that all our sins come forth. When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees of adultery and anger coming from the heart. Afterwards the disciples told him how unhappy the Pharisees were with what he had said: he had trod on their toes. Did Jesus say, “O dear, how can I make it up to them”? Not at all.
So in dealing with our children we must know the importance of the heart. No good tree bears bad fruit etc. You judge a tree by its fruit. The application is that a good man brings good out of those good things stored up in his heart. With many children parents are hanging apples on the barren tree of their lives, and not changing their hearts so that natural fruit is produced. We get our children to say Sorry! And to say sorry with a smile, then we tell them to go and play. We are hanging apples on a tree. We put them to bed in the same way, coaxing and threatening, but not dealing with their hearts. Such things we do to control and constrain their behaviour but we never touch their hearts. What is the basis of the heart in biblical ethics and vision? We cannot console ourselves that it is better to offer prizes than to bring threats. They are both side of the same coin.
In Mark 7 Jesus says that it is what comes out of a person that makes the person/child. If you see greedy behaviour, or deceit, or the lewd giggle, it is from their hearts – and they are all attorneys. So behind behaviour there is the heart. It is easy for us to focus on behaviour but the Bible requires a more rigid approach. The child is caught up in self-preservation, fear, revenge behaviour (“he hit me first”), hatred, approval of men, etc. and they drive the child. The correction must come from within. We are failing in trying to change the behaviour rather than change the heart. There are many bribes and punishments that are attempts to manipulate behaviour without touching the heart. “First clean the inside of the cup” Jesus said. Behaviour is not the problem; it is the heart.
Of course you immediately constrain and control violent behaviour – like preventing a brother hitting a sister with a baseball bat! But do I have to have a bigger vision? If you don’t you will say such thought-less words as, “I can’t believe that you are so selfish.” What hypocrites! Who am I kidding? What selfishness do we ourselves show. If I deal with heart issues I can get alongside the child. “That grace can change Daddy and you.” I can understand myself and my child when I deal with the heart.
The world has nowhere else to go except to constraint and change. We can go to the God who changes the heart.
MOSTYN ROBERTS “Thinking as a Christian.”
Many definitions of the mind. It is the non-physical part of man. Thinking is the link between external stimuli and inward response. There is the realistic thinking – creative, directive, convergent thinking. There is the autistic thinking – fantasy, free-association, almost day-dreaming. The functions of the mind are fourfold – perception, judgment and evaluation, argumentation reaching conclusions, disposition (putting the arguments into order).
Man is the thinker. You are made in the image of God and so you think, cp Rodin’s “Thinker.” There is the possibility of communion with God. Gen. 1:28 man is given dominion and rule. He uses his mind in naming the animals as he categorised and understood them, not giving them labels. They could not name him.
Related to that is the whole idea that the very task of thinking presupposes God. In our thinking there are certain presuppositions which are related to the nature of God. How do you know something is true when you experiment? Believing in a God who makes ‘nature’ you can trust his laws.
What is the effect of sin on the human mind? Man took the serpent’s angle on things. So we don’t understand God’s word. We don’t understand God on anything. Nothing can be fully known if God is not known. We know little of the creature if we do not know the Creator, said Baxter. We can see the parts, but not the whole. Regenerate knowledge is all one and through our knowledge of the universe we know God. God in common grace works in the world, and tremendous things are achieved by men outside of Christ. “The most holy men are the most excellent students of God’s works.”
THINKING AS A CHRISTIAN.
What are the qualities of the Christian mind?
1. It is spiritually renewed.
2. It is dependent. We are dependent beings living by communion with God, leaning on him willingly and gladly. The ground of our thinking is faith, we having trusted ourselves into a God who has become our Saviour. Prayer is the first rule of our domestic life. We pray as the root of our being and thinking. 3. Relational. All human knowledge comes back to commitment to God. To fear him is to begin to be wise. The openings words of the Institutes talk of the sum total of knowledge residing in knowing God and man. Loving God is the other aspect of our commitment to God. Humility also is a consequence of this. We deserved hell, but God saved us. It is also a loving mind for God and the people of God. So everything is in relationships. 4. Purposive. Thinking is always purposive. What is your mind committed to? The mind cannot be neutral. When Peter rebukes the Lord and is rebuked in
turn: “Your intellectual commitment is not with God. You are not thinking as God would have you think.” Let us ask, “How can this study I am involved in here be to the glory of God?” 5. Biblical. There is no other source of saving truth. It is authoritative for us. It is sufficient for us. It is also evangelical, and gospel-centred. So Paul often uses the word ‘reckon’ in his letters. You know what the cross is and make deductions from it. You think about whatsoever is good. You reckon yourself to be dead to sin. You are passionate about objective truth. You will love the truth in order to do it, because you are passionate about holiness. The Christian mind is also systematic. There is a unity to truth. 6. It is a disciplined mind. You preach to yourself, entering into serious debate with your heart. Think hard; don’t just read! We should love the truth for what is reveals of God. 7. It is obedient and integrated. If anyone thinks he can know the truth while living in sin is in error. “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” 8. It is practical not detached. You will act in accordance to what you dwell on. Such things, as contemplating whatsoever things are true, will result in action. So Christians thinking not speculative.
9. It is confrontational. We live in a fallen world and we confront sin and capture strongholds. Pastors must be particularly aware that we confront for Christ’s honour not our own. We do not merely demolish strongholds but spread Christ’s reign. We fight today’s enemies not yesterday’s. For example, rationalism which is still everywhere. Post-modernism is in some ways a logical conclusion of modernism. The mind cannot provide a meta-narrative. All beliefs are equally valid as long as they do not insist that they are exclusively true. Openness in culture is actually closedness. If you cannot challenge anything else as someone moving toward some absolute you commit a society to being closed to change. Pragmatism – what works rules. If Scripture normative on methods or simply message? Mysticism – what you feel is actually right. It is in our worship. Do not analyse, only receive, someone has said. We need not mysticism but mystery. God’s revelation to the mind and for the mind actually transcends the mind. How do we receive God’s revelation? By humbly receiving what God says. The amusement culture. There is a tendency to making Christianity light and amusing because the culture wants it so.
EARL BLACKBURN “The Theology of the Cross.”
Nowhere does Paul deal with the atonement as he does in I Corinthians 1. The power of the gospel resides in the message of the cross.
1. The effects of the Cross.
“Think of what you were when you were called.” (v.26) writes Paul, referring to the irresistible saving call of the elect, and connecting it to the cross. None of them were the intellectually powerful class, or in the military, or in the upper crust in society. But God chose the foolish things of the world. You let people stand before you and preach boring stuff to you. You are the weak and base things of the world who by God will put to shame the achievements of t
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