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Banner Of Truth Ministers Conference, Leicester 2006Day One

Author
Category Articles
Date June 29, 2006

Opening Sermon: The letter to Jude
-Maurice Roberts

I take two texts from the epistle, verse 3, and then the closing verse, “Now unto him who is able to keep you from falling . . .” The work of the minister is both the best and worst work in the world. Best because of what he is called upon to be and do – immersing his heart and soul in the most precious subject in existence – the glories of God and the saving work of Jesus. Our task in secret prayer, is to be studying the truths of God and seeking to master the Scriptures filling our minds with them, teaching men and being examples to men. There is also the duty to watch our own hearts and consider the winds of doctrine that blow from the right or from the left. Also we stand before men and we show to them the privileges of salvation. All this is heaven before heaven, preparation for heaven, serving the best of Masters and knowing joy in heart and soul.

Then, looked at from another perspective, it is the worst of work. Woe betide us if we turn aside or are unfaithful! Woe to us if what we teach the people is no true word from God. Have we been flattering men for their corruptions? Will we hear, “Depart from me . . .”

So we are compelled to look at two things – ourselves and our times. The very title of this conference reflects the needs we have – ourselves and our age. We do not live as islands insulated from this modern world; even we are affected by the decisions of politicians. The Lord said because iniquity abounds the love of many waxes cold. There are times when sin flows along gently like a river in summer, within its banks, and threatening no one in particular. It is sometimes like this, but there are other times when iniquities abound and the river overflows its banks like the Danube today. It seems to me that iniquity abounds, and that is one reason I have chosen to speak to you from Jude.

Who was this man Jude? The brother of James, and they are blood brothers of the Lord who were converted after his resurrection. They were men of stature in their day. James writes his most practical letter to us with its stress on works. He writes a frank and practical letter urging us to defend the gospel and be on guard. False doctrine will always threaten the church. So earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.

What do these words imply? There are 2 different views. The older scholars who comment on this letter – Manton and Jenkyn etc. – say of verse 3 that Jude is teaching that he has set down an epistle in which the doctrine of our common salvation is set out. This older view is that what Jude set out to do was actually done and Jude proceeded to write the doctrines of salvation.

The newer view is slightly different, Michael Green, Donald Guthrie etc. say Jude was saying in v. 4 – “I originally had that intention, but I have had to drop my purpose because error has spread among you, and so I have abandoned it. I come now to warn you to do something else, to contend for the faith because it is the common faith of God’s people in every generation.” The new men write that Jude never intended to write this letter as we have it before us, but when he heard of a dangerous heresy he took up his pen and urged his readers to watch out and be on guard.

Maurice Roberts has come to think this second view is correct. Jude is not writing about our common salvation, he is blowing the trumpet of warning because error was coming in.

I want to give you three points from this epistle.
1. Our danger.
2. Our duty in the light of that danger.
3. Our glorious hope at the end of the letter.

1. Our danger.

To contend for the faith is our duty because false teachers are coming into the church. So we warn men and tell them of the dangers that are on every hand. Men have crept in unawares. They don’t come in by the front door, and they deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Every error that will exist is a denial of the character of the true God; every cult denies the character of God and our Lord Jesus. That is eminently borne out in history – the doctrine of Father and Son. At the Reformation it was the same – are we saved by baptism and the church? These are still the great issues and they ever will be so.

In Dr Lloyd-Jones’ Volume 2 of Studies on the Sermon on the Mount on Matthew 7 he says that the false prophet is a man who has no strait gate or narrow way in his gospel. He is in sheep’s clothing, so nice, he pleases everybody. He is never persecuted for his preaching. He is praised by the liberals and evangelicals. He is all things to all men. There is no strait gate; none of the offense of the cross is mentioned. That is the danger of our times. Men speak sweetly and all the world talks well of them. We cosset the truth in cotton wool so that faith is mentioned, but not repentance, heaven but not of hell; God is spoken of as love but men ignore his holiness. The effect of that imbalance is catastrophic.

Now I want to remind you of a great statement of the doctrine of God from the Westminster Confession, and I read it to you because the people creeping in deny it. “There is but one only, living and true God, most pure . . . without body and parts, incomprehensible . . . most free working all things according to the counsel of his own will . . . loving, gracious, merciful and longsuffering, forgiving iniquity, hating all sin, and who will never pardon the guilty . . .”

If you alter the truth Jude says you will fall and he sets out in vv. 5,6, & 7 what will happen. For example, Israel is an example of people being delivered but who perished in the desert, out of Egypt but not reaching the promised land. That is a warning to us. The angels are his second example concerning how they sinned (v.6) and they were put in darkness. That to us is a warning. If they fell then what about us? Then he gives a very contemporary reference to Sodom and Gomorra – they are set forth as an example of the judgment of eternal fire. It is not politically correct to say what Jude is saying, but these unhappy men of Sodom and Gomorra because it is the vengeance of eternal fire. Men are being led into dangerous ways. A father will take his children by the hand and show them the precipice and the bones that lie at the bottom as a warning to his children.

2. What is our duty?

We are being told today by some that our children must be regarded as members of the church if they have been baptized. No! They must be evangelized and told they must be born again, a spiritual change needs to take place. There is a hyper covenantalism entering our churches and we must resist it. Nicodemus needed to be born again. Five things are said by way of exhortation
a] building up yourselves v.20. Are you studying the great books and discussing them with your people?
b] praying in the Holy Spirit – not tongues but praying with not mere words alone but praying until we pray! We know at times when we have really prayed – poured out our souls to God and he helped us.
c] keeping yourselves in the love of God – and so that means the moral law has a place for believers.
d] looking for the second coming of Christ. Watch and pray the Saviour says.
e] not neglecting your own souls as you pull people out of the flames – like the air hostess telling passengers before the plane takes off that in case of an emergency to put on our own oxygen mask first.

3. Our Great Hope

It is the only wise God who will present us before his glory with exceeding great joy. How will I ever look Christ in the face? What shall I say to him? What words are sufficient to express my gratitude?

God can keep us from temporal falls, but Jude is not referring to these, but rather to outright apostasy and that we add to our faith every grace on every day we live. Many men who used to come here are at this conference no longer. They have fallen away, so watch lest we fall. He is able to keep us from falling. Watch lest we trample on the Son of God and put him to open shame and we end up in hell. You have today one foot in heaven, but make sure both your feet will be in heaven.

He will present you in heaven to sin no more and he will do this with joy. He has loved us with an everlasting love and given us the privilege of serving him in the gospel. God Almighty had only one Son and he made him a minister.



Preaching in Pagan Times – The Ministry of Jeremiah (1)
– Ted Donnelly
Jeremiah 1:9&10

My purpose is to persuade you to do something you will not enjoy and which will seem pointless and counterproductive. For all of us in the western world in the 20th century here is something so reliable, to preach the judgment of God, not exclusively of course, and to focus on Christ crucified. We preach in a specific context, a time and a place, and that may require certain emphases in our ministries. Men have a certain tone and accent. The men of Issachar had understanding of the times. What do our times require of us? Jeremiah was told that his message was to be predominantly one of judgment, “to destroy and overthrow . . .” etc. Four of the six verbs describing his call were negative. Jeremiah was uprooting and smashing . . . and our task is similar, to preach the judgment of God, perhaps even predominantly the judgment of God

1. OUR AUTHORITY FOR PREACHING THE JUDGMENT OF GOD

What a message of doom and death and destruction and the prophet recoiled from it – “Ah I am only a youth. I do not want to do it.” God said, “Don’t say that, and to all I send you, you shall go and speak.” God’s sending and God’s words are the double authority. He sends and he gives the prophets words – always both. The same thought is given in reverse when the Lord touches his mouth – “See I have set you this day over nations and kingdoms.” He puts his words in the mouths of the prophets and commissions them. God identifies himself with all that Jeremiah said. As the promise was made to Moses of one being raised up and God’s words being put in his mouth so this promise was fulfilled in Jeremiah.

We live in a world that marginalises us; it hears us with contempt seeing us as warped men, and we need to be alive to the fact that we are ambassadors from God. He makes the rulers of the earth as nothingness. We have a message from heaven, and that is not our own assessment. We bring the mighty world, so powerful and living and everlastingly true. We are not to be shrill, nor apologetic, nor timed. We are to speak with a calm assured conviction that we are giving the word of God. “I have put my words in your mouth . . .” – that is our warrant for bringing this terrible message.

2. REASONS FOR PREACHING JUDGMENT AT THIS TIME

a] The crisis in society. At the end of king Manasseh’s reign of 50 years we have this dreadful king who had introduced rampant immorality and idolatry. The nation went into free fall out of which it never recovered. Jeremiah preached for over 40 years. He saw 5 kings; 2 were nonentities and there was one good king and Jeremiah went on preaching. He began to preach as his own nation was going down. The old lion Assyria was dying and young Babylon was prowling the middle east. Jeremiah’s nation was rotten to the core. The reformation of Josiah was top down. It did not spring from the hearts of the people and soon they were back to their idolatry again. Jeremiah brought the message of the curse of the people – the boiling pot – his 2nd vision – scalding disfiguring disaster poured out on the land – that is what is happening. The land was invaded and ravaged, the city was leveled, the temple destroyed, the people enslaved. There was blood and flames. What other sort of message could he bring? This is the judgment of God.

Are we living in such a time? We could argue how Christian our country was but it is undeniable that it is certainly not Christian now. It is not that I in my 60s am a grumpy old man. There has been a quantum shift in the life of our nation, a gadarene rush into hell, and our country is in its death throes. There is the sheer decadence and vulgarity of our popular culture. Health and education in deep decline, policing is disintegrating; families are destroyed. There is abortion, the neglect of the old, casual violence on our streets, the mania for pleasure, the moral vacuum, the thought that there is nothing true, and our leaders are too characterized by deceit. We would be blind if we were not aware that we are in the midst of the judgment of God. It is unfolding in front of our eyes.

b] Their confidence in human ability. The nation in Jeremiah’s time was gripped with blind optimism. Norman Vincent Peale would have been proud of them! The false prophets thought there was going to be peace and no judgments. God says in Jer. 2:36 that “however much you are changing your way you’ll be destroyed by Egypt as you were by Assyria.” The people thought they could. “We are in a mess and we don’t know what to do.” When did you hear a politician saying that? Politicians always know what to do. Technology is going to help us, they believe, and in time we will solve all our problems on our own. We preachers are called to puncture that blinkered self-confidence.

c] Apostasy was in the church. Jeremiah was a lonely figure in the religion of his day. Some had gone into multi-faith religion, ashtoreths were on every high hill and there they played the harlot. Ritual and sacrifice was another thing they took refuge in. “What use to me is it?” says God. They were unacceptable. But the worst curse was their liberal theology, the denial of the coming wrath of God. It was a Zion-centred theology that God was bound to bless them; his own covenant had determined it. The temple could not be destroyed. God had promised, as 100 years earlier Sennacherib had threatened and God had kept them safe and swept that leader out of existence. These theologians were saying that God was bound to do this always. “Wrath? That isn’t our God,” they said. Peace, peace, peace – but there was none.

Do not listen to them, Jeremiah said. I have not spent them declares the Lord. Isn’t that exactly where we are? Isn’t that where our greatest guilt lies? Our nation has a special burden of guilt. We have been blessed as few other nations with the riches of the gospel and we have repudiated it. Britain of course is not Israel. We are not the chosen covenant people of God but we still have a message and the responsibility for preaching it rests squarely on the church. Today there is no sin preached from the pulpits, no wrath, no hell and so nothing to alarm or disturb. The evangelicals? How do you describe them? Happy-clappy. If there were a chorus of voices proclaiming judgment then we might think that we could concentrate on something else. Who will preach the wrath of God if we don’t?

3. THE WAY OF HIS PREACHING THE JUDGMENT OF GOD

Jeremiah started by spelling out particular sins and telling people that these things were wrong. Jeremiah analyzed them and told them that they were wrong. He named names. He said that this man was a false prophet. He named kings who were false. Are we too namby pamby today? Our preachers are silent. My pastor as a boy denounced the Duke of Edinburgh for carriage driving on a Sunday. The Chancellor said last week that the judges are not to use the word ‘homosexual’ any longer as it is offensive. “Some other words must be found,” he said.

But denouncing by itself leads to judgmentalism. Schaeffer said he would spend 40 minutes of an hour showing a man that his world-view was false, exposing their gods and their impotence. The prophets did that in denouncing idols. When Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones went to Aberavon he started his sermon with the man with questions and objections. For example, a man will say that he got more walking along the beach than in going to church, and Lloyd-Jones said, “Fine, and when your wife dies go for a walk on the beach. Don’t come to me and ask me to bury her.”

Most of all we preach judgment by proclaiming God. The first sin mentioned in Jeremiah is in verse 16; it is ‘forsaking God’ – that was the nub of the whole thing. They did not honour him as God nor were they thankful. God is . . . God is . . . what is he like? Infinite, eternal, unchangeable . . . The awareness of God is being lost. In the church the sense of God is being lost. Luther went to find such divinity within the church, but he found the church had lost it. How many people have an overwhelming sense of the reality of God? David Wells writes that the public problem in the evangelical world is that God rests too lightly on us, his gospel being too easy etc. It is easy for us all to get affected. Ted Donnelly wrote to the BBC about them screening Jerry Skinner Opera. Then I thought what a poor letter I had written in telling them that the Opera offended me. That is insignificant. God himself is angry. I was arguing at the protest level. We need to argue their weighty glory level.

In chapter 4 Jeremiah tells them what is going to happen in the judgment that is to come. It is like creation being reversed. What is coming is so apocalyptic that God is showing his fury with what he has made. In recent years we have tried to be too clever in presenting the gospel to the unbelievers. Flee from the wrath to come! How often have we preached that?

4. THE PURPOSE IN PREACHING THE JUDGMENT OF GOD.

“How primitive it all is – this preaching on the judgment of God” – so says the Church Growth man. But what have we got to lose? They are not listening now to us. What have we got to lose by preaching the judgment of God? We can bring glory to God by preaching his holiness. That is supremely worthwhile, getting glory for God and his righteousness. We rest in his authority even with no hope of success. We will confirm the faith of those who pass through the judgment. Jeremiah did achieve much – more than any other man he kept the faith of Israel surviving this disaster. “He told us. He said it would happen. The false prophets were wrong. God has punished us for our sins. We are indeed able to worship God without a temple or priests or a king. He will bring us back again. God gave us a word,” they will say. Jeremiah ruthlessly demolished false hope and he gave the tragedy an explanation in advance in terms of rebellion and faith. So he prevented them from destroying the faith.

If dark days are to come whose ministries will stand? Not the ‘peace, peace’ men but those who honestly declared God’s righteousness and grace. We have taught and equipped them and by God’s grace they will stand. By preaching judgment we will produce conviction of sin leading to salvation. The theme of this book is in the six verbs in the initial call of Jeremiah, and then it is found again and again throughout the book. You are going to be judged – but God is going to bring you back – down and up. That is the pattern of the work of grace in the human heart, pulling down and then building up. You preach Christ by first preaching the law, that he is the Physician by preaching the illness. It is idle to attempt to heal those who are not wounded. We shall need the Holy Spirit as Convincer as well as Comforter. Are we flinching from the law work? It may produce a harvest of conversion if we preach judgment.

To preach judgment is to preach Christ. Compare Philippians 2 and the going down and then the exaltation. He himself was broken down and destroyed and then he was built up. He once spoke of destroying the temple and in three days raising it up – his body – and those words are in the very call of Jeremiah. The disciples remembered his words when he was raised from the dead. When we preach judgment we preach the cross of the one who bore it for us, and the grace that delivers us freely. We are back where we started. Why do we not preach Christ crucified? Because the judgment of God is its foundation. We preach Christ crucified in all its folly, for the foolishness of God is wiser than men.

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