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Banner Of Truth Ministers Conference, Leicester 2006 Day Three

Category Articles
Date July 11, 2006

The Life of John Knox – Iain Murray

John Knox was born around 1514 at Haddington. At 12 an unknown book arrived in Scotland, Tyndale’s Bible. Thirty years later the first Scottish martyr was to be burned at St. Andrews. Knox was ordained a priest in the Scottish RC church in 1536. In the 1540s he had his first taste of the Word of God through Thomas Gilyem, and his eyes were further opened to the truth through the influence of George Wishart who was the one burnt at the stake in 1546 in St. Andrews. The castle there was taken over by Protestants for a period. He was teaching some pupils and the people of the castle compelled him to take up the ministry. He was sober and sad for days after their call. The professing church was deeply corrupt; it had taken the place of Christ. The church was deeply worldly. The bishop of St. Andrews had 10 children. The French had great influence in the land. This was the situation when he began his ministry. The French captured the castle and Knox became a galley slave for a year – 6 men to an oar which was 40 feet long. Then the English released him in 1549 and he preached in London during the reign of Edward 6 and married an English woman.

Then Mary Tudor came to the throne and the persecution erupted with 273 evangelical Protestants burned to death. In 1554 he went from England to Frankfurt and then to Geneva the following year. He was away from Scotland for 12 years and during this period God was preparing him for his return to his homeland. In all his trials he became a man of prayer. Jesus’ apostle Peter was allowed to sink in the waves because he had too much self-confidence. Knox became an international man, working out scriptural principles for the reformation of the church, and increasing in zeal for the glory of God. The mark of the true church is that Christ is its living head.

There were no open church in all of Scotland and so an underground church came into existence. In 1560 the parliament declared Scotland a Protestant nation. Mary became Queen of Scotland and the next year she fought against Bible faith and churches. In the end she fled to England in 1568 and was arrested. Knox had to leave Edinburgh and go to St. Andrews in old age and there he preached with much power.

In 72 the year of his death he returned to Edinburgh and in October he preached for the last time. Then he became increasingly confused and on a Friday he insisted on going to church because he thought it was a Sunday. A few days later he died.

He would tell us he was a weak man but God gives his Spirit to simple men in great abundance. All we need is the Bible, believed and obeyed, and we don’t need anything else.

When the French overcame Scotland he preached on Psalm 80 and the hearers were like men being raised from the dead, saying, “He puts more life into us in one hour than a thousand trumpets sounding in our ears.” So never let our confidence in the Word of God be shaken. It will pull down strongholds. Read John Knox’s History of the Reformation (Banner of Truth); it was the only book which he wrote.

Keep a Close Watch on Yourself and your Doctrine (2) – Al Martin

Turn to I Tim. 4:12-14

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.
Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

Yesterday we examined that larger context of this passage and then we looked at it more immediately with brief exegesis and an exhortation to look at ourselves and our teaching and continue in them. If this is faithfully done it will result in the entire salvation of both you and your hearers. The primary duty of the ministry of a new covenant minister is to save his own soul – especially in the light of the parallel passage in Acts 20 with Paul’s farewell to the elders. He is conscious that there will be wolves who will lead men astray, so he warns them to take heed, and to pay close attention to themselves and the whole flock of God.

So now we will address this theme of the salvation of our own souls.

1. Take heed to yourselves to ensure that you yourselves are in a state of grace. I know many of you personally and also this ethos of this conference, and so I cannot preach to you as a group of graceless self-deceived hypocrites. I don’t believe that that is the reality of those who are here, but also it would be presumption to think that everyone here is automatically in a state of grace, truly converted sinners living in vital life union with Jesus Christ.

Surely the words of our Lord in Matthew 7 are salutary, that “not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will inherit the kingdom of heaven.” We are told that Jesus will say that to many. So take heed to yourself that you are in a state of grace. Baxter in The Reformed Pastor bases that work on the Acts passage to take heed to yourselves. See that the work of grace is thoroughly wrought in your own souls – that is the theme of first 8 pages of that book. Beware of the possibility that we who go after others might not have been saved ourselves. Spurgeon too begins his Lectures to My Students with ‘The Minister’s Self Watch.’ It should be one of our first cares that we ourselves are saved men. So I can hide behind these two men. As they warned preachers so do I.

How do we do this? Two things

  1. For ever settle it in your heart that no amount of gifts and success are in themselves proof of saving faith. Gifts can bypass the deepest recesses of our own hearts as we preach and others are saved.
  2. The presence of certain marks indicate the presence of saving grace in our lives. For example the words of Paul in Philippians 3 that those are true believers who worship God in the Spirit, glory in Jesus Christ, and have no confidence in the flesh. Again, if we have not love it profits us nothing, or compare the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, or again Romans 14 which exhorts us that the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink but righteousness peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. Spending an hour with God confessing your sins and praying to God is worth more than a 1000 hours of leading public worship. True praying to God is worth more than a thousand pulpit prayers. Read those eight pages of Baxter again. The real suffers nothing from close scrutiny.

2. Take heed to yourself that you are growing in grace and maintaining a healthy vigorous walk with God. Never forget that these are specific words to preachers, but I am not exempt from those exhortations addressed to believers. So when Peter says “Grow in Grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” we must do such things as,

Maintain with consistency those means of spiritual growth – reading the Bible, praying and keeping a good conscience. Our most fierce battles are ever in these areas. The ongoing battle is with these basic disciplines. They are ordained of God for increasing spiritual vigour.

There must be a structured, prayerful, self-reflective assimilation of the word of God. I mean by that not exegeting it for helping others but to focus it on the feeding of our own souls. By assimilating the word of God into his heart they were the joy and rejoicing of Jeremiah’s life. It became a part of him, and so there must be an interaction with the word of God. As it were, we open our mouths wide and we pant for the truth. Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. The primary emphasis of the word to Timothy is that the complete word makes a complete man of God. Many a man falters, and there comes a lack of freshness in his praying and preaching. His own soul is not assimilating the Bible week by week and year by year. So even when we are going through sections of Scripture that are not seeming to be helpful to us we are building up material from the Word of God and so developing our God consciousness and Christ-likeness from every part of the Bible over the years.

This doesn’t just ‘happen’; it requires discipline. We are determined to find and eat the word of God because we are called by his name. I am a sinner in saving covenant with the God who has put his name on me. There has to be prayerful assimilation, never losing the conviction that unless God teaches me I gain nothing. “Open my eyes to behold wondrous things from thy law.” So I am pleading for a prayer assimilation of the word, pausing over words and asking God to help me to know what it means.

Also there must be self-reflection so that the eyes of our souls are looking to the Saviour and the reality of his presence as we are broken in sadness for our sins. The souls of others are raised when our souls are first raised by the truth. Let me ask you if you have the experience of structured, prayerful, self-reflective assimilation of your Bible? If not why not? We have many duties, yes, yes, yes, and yet we have to have a place to go to feed ourselves from the Word. That is a different place from the desk and the laptop, indeed we must test ourselves as to why we are going straight to the computer and not going to the chair where I read the Bible.

There is also to be the discipline of structured, Spirit assisted, secret prayer. Enter your closet and pour out your souls before God – it is very different from praying with our wives. These prayers should be disciplined. Each day we will kneel and pray like Daniel and the psalmist did at set times. ‘In the morning you are going to hear my voice,’ we say to God. Peter goes up to pray at the hour of prayer and God meets with him. There are also ejaculatory prayers as through the day we talk to the Lord, mumbling away hour by hour, as I did during my first year of being a widower.

But the kind of praying we are emphasising is when we know we have met with God, and prayed in the Holy Spirit. God has heard and helped our infirmities. We don’t know how to pray but we come to seek God and he gives us prayers to pray and he opens up the channels of our own hearts. We may have a deep inward grief, and we will also praise with an exultation of the soul. We will acknowledge out sin without it becoming a brief closing phrase concerning ‘the pardon of our many sins.’ In the secret place we will pray and confess our sins specifically – things we would not even tell our wives – the remnants of pride and lust and self-pity and cry out for specific mercies. Without that our dealings with God are superficial. The man ravished with new sights of the glory of God will set forth new dimensions of grace to his people. If we are growing in grace than we are bound to maintain the word and prayer.

Again there must be the discipline of the ruthless maintenance of a blood washed conscience before God and men. The conscience is the divine monitor which says, “Wrong or Right.” Conscience has no other words, no third choice. He excuses or accuses and he refuses to do anything else. Consider two passages I Timothy 1:5 “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith,” and then Acts 24:16 “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” So Al Martin came to an end with the words, “I will cut the baby here.”

Jonathan Edwards and the Atoning Work of the Lord Christ (2) – Garry Williams

What are the uses of the doctrine of the saving work of Christ? Consider Christ’s infinity and excellence, especially towards the Father. Consider our own love for God; the more we see of the infinity of Christ the more clearly we will see the love we ought to have for him. How much love should we have for an infinitely glorious being who has stooped down an infinite distance for you? The answer is that we should have an infinite love for him.

Edwards has that emphasis especially in the work he has written on the universality of sin. The blinding effects of sin are such that we cannot judge accurately one sin that is markedly sinful; we think wrongfully about our sins. King David realised that he had unknown sins.

What is required of us? That we will know how we have fallen short of God’s glory. If we think that there is a single moment when we did not sin how wrong is our thinking. The chief of the commands is that we love God with all our hearts etc. That is plainly to be manifested with all that is within us, with the utmost capacity of our nature, of heart and soul and mind and strength. Our love to God is to be such that all the springs of our nature flow to him in all our energies and capacities. Why does Edwards argue this? It is in the context of an appeal to the infinity of God, the divine claim on us and the divine love. God is in himself worthy of greater love than any creature can show to him. Even if we had loved with all our being God is worthy of more love than that – an immeasurable love – more love than everything we could possibly give him. He is worthy of love equal to his perfections and they are infinite. We can give God no more than we have.

It is in the saving work of God that he shows how he merits all our love. Think of all that God has given to us, and how great should be the gratitude that God receive from us. Think of the love that conquered those mighty agonies of his, but O what poor returns from us, how little gratitude, how cold the affection in the best compared to the obligation.

“Behold the benefits,” Edwards is saying, and see what love it requires. Imagine we were dealing with an important man, and then see how poor is our response to an important dignified man who had died for us. Then think of the love of the Father for the Son, and what about your love to Father or Son? How weak it is. You cannot compare an infinite being with a finite. Think of a series of numbers that are infinite, going on and on, and then by comparison think of a number of 10 digits in length. Anyone can measure to the sequence of the 10 numbers, but you cannot find the end of the sequence of infinite number. It is a non starter. Then apply that to your love for the Lord. Think of your words and deeds which express your love for the Lord. Not one of which, mind you, has been unaffected by sin – but go ahead and take that small wobbling tower of your love and set it alongside the vast tower of love of Christ for you. We simply cannot give him infinite love, even if we had it. How poor our love.

The next use is to see from the work of Christ the dangers of self-righteousness. Edwards brings this in within the context of the 17th sermon on The Nature of Redemption. There have been 170 pages dealing with the preparation for the coming of Christ, and it is followed by 50 pages of his saving redeeming work. What we are saying when we display self-righteousness is that we are able to undertake that work for ourselves, “All of that I can do, I take it upon myself.” What I say when I trust in myself is, “I am my own redeemer.” This is very common. Edwards is speaking to the non-Christians in his congregation.

As Christians we will struggle until we die with our self-righteousness. None is immune from it. “There may be some who struggle with self-righteousness . . .”? I am being ironic! We face new temptations, more than we did before we became pastors. “Have you not given up much to serve the Lord Christ? Are you not theologically more advanced than many in the congregation? They are more materially better off than you but you serve without complaint and that is real righteousness in your heart. You can look down on your fellow Christians can’t you?” We mock such thinking, but it is there in our hearts, Satan seduces ministers by stirring up thoughts of self-righteousness.

How does Edwards explain what is happening when we do this? He presses home the folly of self-righteousness. “Your are taking on the folly of saving yourself. You are such worms and yet so arrogant that you take on yourself the foolishness of saving yourself – work which Christ planned before the foundation of the world. You think that your prayers and exercises are sufficient? How vain is such thought! How arrogant it appears in the sight of Christ when it cost him so much in our salvation – he waded through a sea of blood and entered the furnace of God’s wrath. How arrogant you appear in the sight of God.” It boils down to this. When I am self-righteous I am saying, “I can do what he did. I can be the Christ.” This is what you say! Stupid, stupid, polluted worms of the dust we are. It is worse than this. I am making the true Christ vain! If you can do this by your prayers then Christ might have spared his pains and stayed in the bosom of the Father. What greater folly can you have devised to have charged on God this – that Christ did so needlessly, for he might have called on you to do this work! God is a fool if this is so. God is guilty of the greatest folly, we say. That is what self-righteousness does, it charges God with utter folly. Self-righteousness makes all that Christ did from his incarnation folly, and even what God was doing from the beginning of time – all becomes a scene of transcendent folly!

Edwards also makes this point thus, that if we can redeem ourselves it is like claiming we can create the world ourselves. Redemption is greater than creation. The lesser ability is shown in creating the universe. Then what a figure you would make if you, a poor worm, said you had made a world as great as God did calling a world out of nothing, “Let there be light . . . let there be . . . let there be . . .” You creating the world! Impossible! But consider you think yourself sufficient for redeeming yourself.

Imagine with me that you are standing in your study and you draw yourself up and with concentration you focus your mind and speak the worlds, “Let there be light . . .” You open your eyes and absolutely nothing has happened. What an idiot! Isn’t your folly so transcendent? Who will come here to the front today and say “Let there be light” What would happen? Nothing at all.

When we trust in our own righteousness we are more foolish than trusting in our own works. We are so stupid who would toy with this temptation. We are the fools who succumb to it. Edwards launches a devastating attack on this self-righteousness.

If you came here with a sense of inadequacy from many failures then you are seeing that so much is due to the paucity of your love to God. What is the answer? Not to deny the paucity of your love, and not stressing yourself out in self-righteousness (Edwards was not one who lacked all love for humanity) rather he lifts our thoughts to Jesus Christ. We see how finite and small is our love in order to appreciate how wonderful is the love for God in Jesus Christ and his love for us. The odiousness of sin was seen and known by Christ – how fearful it was to him and yet he willed to remove it from his people. He loved his people so much that the more he saw how dreadful sin was the more his heart was engaged in taking away this odious thing.

But also Jesus knew the wrath of God against sin. His love and pity meant he would deliver us from that wrath. We would shrink from it, but not him, the more he resolved to bear it in the place of his people. This is the force of considering with Edwards what Jesus had in his mind. The same ideas that distressed the soul of Christ and brought his own sufferings yet engaged him to go through with them. The more acute his agony the more determined he was to accomplish it.

We can grasp how Christ saw in his mind’s eye the vile nature of sin and how he determined to deliver us from it. He saw the terrible wrath of God against it and resolved to bear it in the place of his people. This is our comfort, that in the very demand of God for our love we find forgiveness for our lack of love. God’s love requires our love and at the same time swallows up and erases our love. His love covers a multitude of our sins. Because it is infinite it hides all our lovelessness.

Remember that fragile swaying tower of all your good works and deeds and thought – that fragile tower – and see it standing next to the vast infinite love of Christ without any summit. Now meditate not on the smallness of your tower but turn your gaze to the infinite tower of the love of Christ, dwarfing your love, and let his love for you lift you up. Feel the cleansing of your conscience by his infinite mercy, and your sin and punishment are all gone! We rest in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. In him we find pleasures at the right hand of God for evermore.


Panel: Al Martin, Edward Donnelly, Iain Murray and Garry Williams.

Ted Donnelly, by way of introduction told the conference about a discussion session held in his home after the evening service with Al Martin. He said “So the 15 or so young people gathered and I urged them to ask him any questions. I was looking forward to this as I had a good group. After the introductory words I handed over to them, and there was a long, long silence. Eventually one person put up his hand, asking ‘In Albert N. Martin what does the N stand for?'” (It stands for ‘Newton’)

Ted Donnelly was asked a question about taking judgment passages on Israel in the OT and applying them to the UK or USA today. Jeremiah was told to preach judgment on the covenant people of God for breaking the covenant. Nations today are not covenant people. The NT analogy is the church, Yes, that is so, and so the question is saying does Jeremiah’s judgments apply only to the church. No. Jeremiah was also given by God an international ministry – over kingdoms and nations. Jeremiah focuses on Israel in chapter 25. Then there are a series of judgments on the nations especially in chapter 46 where the prophet stands in the streets of Egypt and preaches there the message of the judgment of God. Here is the prophet declaring the Lord’s judgment on the heathen for their wickedness. So there is warrant in Jeremiah to use the Book to proclaim God’s judgment on unbelievers and nations. There are of course different categories of people. Those who are in revolt against a God they know about. There are also pagans and we deal with them as such.

2. The second question was about gospel preaching and Al Martin answered it. How much is gospel preaching an every member activity taking place outside the church? There is a concern to go out and reach people with the gospel. There is also a contempt for the office of the gospel ministry. “By way of answering I say that everyone ought to be ready to give an answer for their faith, and seek opportunities to share their faith with all kinds of men. Not all believers have been given the gift of gracious confrontational evangelism. It is not true that if only every Christian worked on it they could all become those who exercised that gift. Those that God has gifted and sent have a peculiar authority to speak the word.

3. The third question was addressed to Garry Williams. How do we understand the atoning work of Christ in the light of his two natures? Both natures are testified to in the NT and it is clear that there is only one Lord Jesus existing in two natures. God does not sleep, but Jesus slept. God is immortal, but Jesus died. When you compress the two natures into one there is danger or when you separate the two, for example, if you said that it was the man Jesus Christ who died, yet he did not have a separate existence apart from his divinity. God died but not as God but according to his human nature. So you preserve one Lord Jesus Christ and also his true properties of his deity and humanity. The eternal Son of God assumed his humanity at the incarnation.

There was a discussion about the humiliation of the life of Christ as being part of his propitiating work. Sin was imputed to him from the moment of his conception and so during his whole life he was taking responsibility for our salvation.

4. How do we get the message to the world around us? Our church knows it but the world doesn’t hear us. We need to get into the public square and let the world know our message. I have promised not to be silent concerning Christ’s public cause. How can we use the media? Are we thinking of how we can get involved in that? Are we writing books that people will read? Are we facing up to these challenges and our people being salt and light in the world?

5. Gary was asked if it were humiliation for the Son of God to take human nature and if he retains it now in heaven how has the humiliation ended? He replied that Jesus Christ is now glorified in heaven, and his heavenly human nature displays the glories of his divinity.

6. Is a sense of fellowship with God a regular feature of your life Ted or are there seasons? He replied, “I wish I could say that it were more frequent than it does occur. The lack of it was almost paralysing me a few years ago and I had to say to myself as I went into the pulpit that I knew that it was true and that the congregation needed to hear this message whatever my state of heart was. I will have to learn to deal with that after. The devil had me in a headlock over this. You can almost come to a point when you say that Jesus is the Saviour and I am going to preach him with all my heart. If that unction is not granted to us we don’t let it stop us. There are seasons of blessing to us. As the conference progresses we get increasingly weepy and the springs of emotion bubble up. The benediction of God makes me more childlike and loving. There are such seasons.”

Al Martin’s experience is that there are rare times that he feels God’s presence so near that he can hardly wait to preach. “I don’t have those feelings very frequently, especially when I begin to preach. There are times when it was nothing but coming with fear, and ploughing on grinding through the gears from beginning to end. That was awful, but I came to see that God wasn’t giving me my goodies because of my inward petulance, and my pride had been damaged. Whatever was of sin needed to be cleansed from me and then I got on with the next Lord’s Day preaching. We are not the best in judging the real things that are going on in our souls. We are not aware of our frame, but our Father is. We leave it with him.

It is a wonderful thing to preach the Word of God and be carried along by God’s Spirit, but so much of Scripture has come to us during the depths of God’s servants. We are never the best judges of what our sermons are like.

Iain Murray said that Rowland Hill was always better in the morning than the evening because he came from the presence of the Son and his apostles in the morning but from the presence of his friends for the evening sermon.

Have we lost sight of the reality of hell? Al said he did not know every heart here but from our experience hasn’t there been an erosion of the felt reality of hell? “I feel that it happens to me and needs to be resisted. You seldom hear “hell-deserving sinners” – that phrase on our lips.” Gary said that Jonathan Edwards had a very acute awareness of the torments of hell and it preoccupied him. “When I preach on ‘judgment’ and fail to follow it up with ‘punishment’ then I am not being faithful to Scripture. Ted said that he did not feel the reality of hell as he should, but we couldn’t cope with much more reality and we must not throw pious phrases around. Hell is not a disaster or a mistake; it was made by Christ for his glory and the redeemed will praise God for hell. It is not an unfortunate entity that God will push away to a corner of the universe. Life would stop if we saw more of its horror and God wants us to be at home with our wives and families. We are not intended to be one theme men.

Preaching In Pagan Times – The Ministry Of Jeremiah (3) – Edward Donnelly

Jeremiah and his Hope Jeremiah 31

Jeremiah 31:31-34 “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more”

Sometimes we think that Jeremiah is a gloomy book and the world is a gloomy world. Then in this book, you meet 4 chapters called the ‘book of consolation’ 31-34 – all the blessings the people of God have ever wanted are here. It is thrilling to read. It is placed in the prophecy at a time when the Babylonian army was at the gates of Jerusalem and they were entering destroying all before them. Their lives are about to collapse and in this hour of darkness shines out the gospel of God. We may be passing through such times and the gospel comes most brightly to it. The deeper the darkens the more we love the light. These verses are in the heart of this book. They are profound. The longest Old Testament quotation in the NT is found in Hebs 8. It is from this part of Jeremiah and is the only passage in the OT with the words ‘new covenant.’ “I will make a new covenant,” says God. Let us think first . . .

Our need of a new covenant.

It was not to be like the covenant made with their fathers. They broke their covenant, and the fault lay with the people. As Hebrews 8 says, ‘he finds fault with them’ – they broke the covenant as soon as it was established. Moses was on top of the mountain while the people below were making a golden calf; they were rebels ever since. Don’t minimize this covenant; in many ways it was a gracious covenant. God defines it as the covenant by which be led them out of Egypt by redeeming power. In Exodus 2 Moses talks of God remembering his covenant with Abraham. Don’t drive too big a wedge between the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants. It was a covenant to stand by and they broke it. How can subjects break a covenant made by their sovereign? Their disobedience invalidated the blessings he has promised. They broke God’s covenant and every generation of Israel’s history was one of breaking the covenant. He sent his servants the prophets day after day and they stiffened their necks.

The exile was a hugely significant moment in the history of redemption. We are at fault if we concentrate on the external. The exile was the final moment of the death of Israel’s hope. It had been growing for years and they thought they were going to enjoy God’s blessing and rule over them making them mighty. God brings them into the promised land. It gets nearer and nearer; David and Solomon have such blessings and a huge temple is erected. “It is near! It is near!” they cry but that dream is now shattered for ever. It is not going to happen; king, temple, city and land are all gone and lost. The very calling of Israel to be reversed. God took Abraham out of a heathen world and now God throws them back into a heathen world. “I am throwing you away from myself.” The old covenant has failed and the godly among them are so distraught – utterly devastated. They could remember the great promises of covenant love and protection – and ever

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