Banner Of Truth Ministers Conference, Leicester 2006Day Two
“On Becoming a Better Pastor”
– Graham Heaps, Dewsbury Evangelical Church, Yorkshire
I am tied to my notes because I have 10 minutes. It is natural to think that years of pastoring make one a better pastor, but is that necessarily so? My son played the violin and practiced for years and yet he failed his exams. My son did not have the talent to recognize his mistakes and change them. The same thing happens with pastors. We need a clear grasp of what God is looking for and correcting ourselves in the light of it. Paul tells the Galatians in 4:19&20 about those dear children for whom he was in the pangs of childbirth until Christ was formed in them. If we are to become better pastors surely what is vital is to copy the apostle Paul.
Paul had an ambition, that Christ to be formed in them and to be satisfied with nothing else. Our hearers are not to become our supporters, or faithful at the means of grace, or just keep hanging in there in difficult circumstances. Christ-like character is the end for them all. Are you keeping that goal in view? Do the people know that that is the great longing for them and you live a life before them that constantly encourages them? We show the same commitment to them, real affection for the people of God under their care, intense passionate concern for them. Paul uses the image of their being his children. Parents do not give up on their children, and so Paul shows the same concern. Then he uses the image of a woman in labour, in the pains of childbirth again until Christ is formed in them. What anxiety and single-mindedness and indignity until the little one arrive in health. So with Paul; nothing he experiences from them will stop him being passionate about his spiritual progress. Even as he writes he is going through agony of soul and his love for them challenges us deeply. How committed are we to such progress? The Saviour bore all hell to redeem them and are we not going to pray for them, and plead for them, and bring about their spiritual recovery?
We need to use Paul’s methods, constant watchfulness for them from hundreds of miles away, with a profound awareness of their condition. Are we aware how they are dealing with worldliness and unbelief? Do we have superficial contact with them, seeing marks of spiritual danger etc. Wisdom and courage are needed in this work. Soft words will not do in moment of great danger, yet abrasive words are not good. It pained Paul as he talked with them of what they had believed from the Judaizers. He longed for his tone to be different. Note how he longed to be face to face with them to assess them more accurately. He opted for pastoral counsel by letter because he could not see them. Brethren we must seek to know our people with intimate conversation. Many of us have the tendency to turn away.
Nothing should concern us more about them than that they should understand the gospel of grace. It was failure here that made Paul so concerned for them. They are not the last people to misunderstand justification by faith. People lose their joy because they do not understand free pardon. When they see it then timid saints can boast in the cross. Are we coming across to our people by spreading hope and joy in the Lord? Are we putting burdens on God’s people? Every day provides us with opportunity to learn. We can build on every encounter with people and seek to have done it better. We have mighty manual in the Scriptures and in the chief Shepherd. Let us make the words of Galatians be a model for our work. Let us give ourselves wholeheartedly to the work, and use our endeavours for our people and especially for our wives and children.
Keep A Close Watch On Yourself And The Teaching (1)
I Timothy 4:16 “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
I stood here in 1967 and preached 4 messages on this passage. I believed then that there was no other text that so succinctly embodied ministerial duty as verse 16 and now 39 years later I am bringing a message on the same text. I have known many disappointments during this time. My thinking has been modified and altered, yet my conviction is that this text is the most important of all on the work of the ministry.
My 1967 notes are still somewhere but I did not exhume them for these messages. I want to give a richer and more helpful analysis of these truths.
1. Exposition – in the light of the principle of fastening down the cannon before setting light to the powder.
THE LARGER CONTEXT. Timothy was left in Ephesus as Paul went on his missionary journey. So Paul exhorts him not teach ‘different doctrine’. He must arrest doctrinal aberrations which were appearing in the church. Paul had a peculiar delight in Timothy, and deep trust in him to deal with doctrinal troubles. The letter concludes with his charge to guard that which has been committed to him.
Timothy was left also (according to chapter 3:14&15) to know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God. So Timothy was to further a full-orbed God-honouring church order there in Ephesus. Much work was being done but Paul wanted the work to grow in a broad kingdom- honouring prayer life. The congregation is to be a praying assembly – “I will first of all that prayers be made.” Then the relative roles of men and women in the church are dealt with, how women should adorn themselves in the house of God is dealt with first. Then Biblical standards for elders and deacons and widows are dealt with, and then the rich are charged to stop trusting in riches but in good works. Tim’s great task is to further this work of God-orbed living.
If anyone could be excused for giving careful attention to his teaching and himself then Timothy would say “I can’t spend time in word and prayer today because I have so much to do. Paul has told me to do many things in the church.” Yes, that is true, but in the midst of it all take heed to yourselves and the doctrine.
THE IMMEDIATE CONTEXT. Paul turns to Timothy himself and what he has to do, e.g. exercising himself unto godliness. Again he tells him not to partake of other men’s sins. Again he tells him to flee lusts and pursue graces. There are smatterings of exhortation of duties to be done, but in our text is a distillation of his duties. Let no man despise your youth. What is a potential liability of being young can be overcome by exemplary Christian living. Then use your gifts until I come – do not neglect them. Stay focused on what you are supposed to do. Adhere to these directives so that his own advancement in grace will be seen by all. When we are trafficking in the stuff that is designed to bring Christ into our hearers our hearers must see Christ formed in us.
What then do these words teach in our text?
1. There is a dual-pronged imperative – Take heed to yourself, and take heed to your teaching. Fix your attention on these things. What you are as a man, a minister and an apostolic representative constantly, carefully focus your attention on yourself. It is a duty to fix yourself on your own hearts and your teaching. These things command and teach! You articulate Christ’s truth.
2. The charge is to persevere in these duties. Continue in these things. Persist in this calling as the pattern of your life, constantly and relentlessly. Few ministers run well to the end. There have been many tragic falls in the past fifty years because men have not taken heed to themselves or their doctrine.
3. There is the gracious motivational promise. “For,” and Paul thinks how he can move Timothy. There are many ways he could ram home his exhortations, that it would give glory to God etc., but when he thinks of the horizontal level nothing would more grip Timothy to really act than the reminder that by doing this thing, obeying these two imperatives, he would save both himself and those who heard him.”
How will the saving purposes of God be advanced in you and your hearing? How will Timothy save himself? Timothy is certainly not the procuring cause of their salvation. That is the work of Christ alone. He is the Saviour of all men. How will God’s saving purposes in Timothy be advanced? James helps us when he talks of saving a sinner from the error of his ways. Paul also writes of saving some by becoming all things to all men. God alone saves, but his glory is in no way diminished by using men to save sinners. If your right hand offends you then you have to cut it off. If the eye offends you must pluck it out. You have to do it – by the Spirit of course – but you have to do it. We are not passive we are active in this work of saving men by saving ourselves with fear and trembling. As Paul grows older and feels the pressures on his own heart, and weariness settling in, then Paul urges Timothy to save himself. “I will touch Timothy with this word and then I can motivate him to act for Christ.” If you have known the sweetness of God’s love for Christ then you will want to see this delight in others.
Jonathan Edwards And The Atoning Work Of Christ (1)
– Dr. Garry Williams
“Jonathan Edwards is a resplendent intellect gone mad,” said Mark Twain. I set my students an essay on him each year and love to read their responses. What a range of reactions he produces. Mark Twain is mild in comparison to what some of them write. He is demonized by some men as a loveless pathetic sickly angry puritan. Whitefield thought of him as a great Christian, and so did Warfield. We give him the greatest honour said Dick de Witt. He had an uncommon degree of closeness to God said one friend of his. The surgeon who treated him in his last illness spoke of his calmness and peace as he faced death. There is a variety of reactions. Why?
The reason is obvious, it reflects men’s reactions to Edwards’ God and his gospel. If the world hated the Lord Jesus it will hate his servants. That is the reason for the hatred Edwards received – he followed Christ closely. It testifies to his faithfulness.
I encourage all to read Edwards’ biography – by Iain Murray and George Marsden, but read the man himself, especially the History of the Work of Redemption and especially its second part. His Miscellanies are also helpful on this theme (under the title of ‘Satisfaction’ in the 2 volume Works.)
In this first session I will look at the doctrine, and at the next, the use of the doctrine. I need to put in this caveat that I will emphasize the more unusual aspects of his teaching on the atonement. I want to nourish you with the words of Edwards on Christ’s infinite excellency. I want you to see his atoning work.
The words ‘infinite’ and ‘excellence’ come up again and again in Edwards’ preaching. “Christ is infinite and excellent,” – how Edwards repeats this. In his personal narrative he says how God appears to him as an infinite fountain of his sweetness. Again, how excellent is the word of God as the light of life, a life-giving word. Edwards repeats the word ‘sweetness’ or ‘sweet.’
Why did the eternal Son of God become a man in order to do his work? The Substitute for sinful people needs to become a man just like the sinners for whom he makes substitution. The infinity of the Son of God means that as God he cannot make atonement for us. His essence means he cannot as God make atonement for our sins. He was not imperfect or lacking anything; he was too perfect as God to make atonement for our sins. He could not suffer as God. So it was necessary for him to become man.
What time did he do this? When? In two stages, humiliation and exaltation. The humiliation lasted until he rose from the dead. This stage is the supreme period of time in the history of the world. It was a period of intense activity with more effected than in the time since the creation. It is very important when we speak of the humiliation to be clear what we mean . . . it does not mean that he emptied himself of his divinity, i.e. the kenotic theory of the atonement. Then he would no longer be fully God. Could he divest himself of some of his attributes? No. He does not have some optional extras he can divest himself of. So the Lord remains fully God though humiliated. He has assumed to himself a human nature in which he is brought low. How high was Christ before his incarnation? How lofty was he? How exalted was he? He was infinitely high and lofty and his glory was infinite. When he was born as a man how far down did he go? We see he came down from an infinite height.
In one of his miscellanies Edwards contrasts Lucifer and Christ. Lucifer refused his task of serving God and his people Lucifer clung to his high office. Lucifer and Christ are two great contrasts of pride and humility. Lucifer could not humble himself, but Christ stooped so low. No angels or men ever equaled Christ in humility. What temptations to pride he faced. He was infinitely more honourable than they and yet he humbled himself so low. Such was his humility that he did not disdain to be brought so low than ever any elect creature had been. He became the least and lowest of all. None ever stooped so low as him when you consider what was his height and the depth he took. He knew how worthy of honour he was, yet he did not think it too degrading to be bound as a cursed malefactor. He was crowned with thorns and nailed to a cross as an accursed enemy of God not fit to live on the earth. He cheerfully submitted to this abasement. The Lord stooped down to an infinite depth.
When did he do this? Between his birth and the resurrection from the dead. Christ was making satisfaction through the whole course of his life. Edwards is not denying the supremacy of the cross but he is extending the satisfaction of Christ through the whole period of his ministry. All his sufferings were satisfying for our sins – even while an infant. He was humiliated for us by the circumstances of his birth, everything he did was propitiatory – the blood shed in his circumcision was propitiation. Turretin also teaches this with exegetical evidence. It is an expansive vision of Christ’s work. It makes perfect sense; being laid in a manger was extraordinary humiliation. Existing as a man was part of his humiliation. The private life of Christ had a particular kind of humiliation – the God of the universe living a private family life, and not having his glory displayed. Greater in some ways than in his public ministry.
It even works after his death, he is still making satisfaction after he dies on the death. Why was he laid in the grave? What is its significance? Didn’t the Lord cry out Finished! Didn’t his soul go to paradise? Edwards agrees with all of that. No sufferings in hell after the cross. No more penal sufferings after he dies, but the grave is still part of the humiliation of the Son. How? Being in that state, with his body in the grave unnaturally apart from his spirit is a form of humiliation. The soul and the body can exist separately – the Bible teaches that. But we need to remember that the separation of body and soul is unnatural. For the Greeks the soul ought to be separate from the body, but in the Bible it is an alien intrusion. For the Lord Jesus Christ was for him to endure the penal consequences of sin and death. The Lord took the place of his people as he hung on the cross.
Edwards draws attention to what Jesus saw in his mind when he hung on the cross. This is a weighty matter. Should we do it? Edwards means that for the Lord to be our substitute he needed to think certain thoughts as he suffered. He had to have in his mind a clear idea in his mind, a mental perception of something, not necessarily a literal picture, but an idea of something in his mind. What Christ experienced when he suffered on the cross included particular things in his mind. He was infinitely pure and holy; the wicked in hell will suffer for what they deserve especially their hatred to God. All that was impossible with Christ. The odiousness of sin and the wrath of God must have both been in Christ as he suffered. He saw men murdering the Son of God. Is this the appropriate thing to think of?
Yes, if we remember the voluntary nature of his sufferings. We know that it was necessary that Christ must freely choose to lay down his life. In the covenant of redemption he voluntarily established this with the Father. The Son must know what he is to be engaged in when accomplishing our redemption. Voluntariness must know what the undertaking involved or else Christ would have acted blindly and that we cannot accept. His mind was filled with the sight of God’s wrath. He was loved by the Father and he knew this, but at the forefront of the conscious mind of Christ was the loss of the love of God he had to endure.
How then did he persevere and obey his Father? It was the sight of the odiousness of sin that enabled him to endure. He kept on doing what he did to remove sin because he loved his Father and obeyed him. Sin was so bad and it filled his mind and he determined not to sin. Seeing this he resolved to honour and glorify his Father, and he did it all with clear sight, and full knowledge – all that the cross was going to mean for him.
In the obedience of Christ he obeyed as a man, and as a Jew, and as the mediator – most important of all. None ever did such a labour of love to God as he. He gave wonderful submission to the will of God, as he was extraordinarily tried.
How could a man obey with such infinite obedience? The human nature of Christ could not obey infinitely but as God he could. They are two natures in the one divine person. He loves with an infinite love.
Preaching In Pagan Times – The Ministry Of Jeremiah (2)
[I was unable to be present for this session. These are a friend’s notes]
Have you ever felt like resigning, running away or even wished you were dead? There is a cost associated with faithful preaching and the price is worth paying.
Hostility – Jeremiah became a man of strife and contention, even his relatives against him. He was slandered, accused of being a defector, of damaging morale, of being a false prophet. He was put in the stocks, imprisoned, placed in a deep muddy cistern, endured perhaps 50 years of hostility and perhaps stoned to death in Egypt. Hostility increasing in the UK, mood is changing, turning ugly and venomous.
Sensitivity – Jeremiah not thick-skinned, sensitive, a poet, gentle, lonely and single. Insulated from nothing. Most of us are shy and vulnerable. The strength of a good pastor, able to read people, emotional acuteness, leaves us vulnerable to opposition. Yet God made Jeremiah and us like this.
Ineffectiveness – God was free to turn away from judgment if the people repented. Yet after 40 yrs there was no turning, only mocking. Yet God told him at the beginning they would not listen. But we cannot be cold and indifferent to such ineffectiveness, if so we are no real Calvinists. It is painful.
Compassion – Jeremiah loved them with Christ-like grief. Yet no outlet permitted him in intercession. Their sin and the wrath of God more real to Jeremiah than the Babylonian invasion. They were to experience a little of hell and Jeremiah felt that. We must preach tenderly, feeling a little of hell for unbelievers. A price to be paid though psychologically.
God’s calling – Jeremiah had no option and did not run away. God’s calling gave him liberty, necessity was laid on him.
God’s enabling – given a promise of protection from the beginning, a bronze wall etc. God rescued him many times. Also given and enduring inner toughness. Some men are brave but have no imagination, Jeremiah had imagination, was often terrified by the task, but God made him tough.
God’s fellowship – Jeremiah opens up his heart to God – his laments, at times tempestuous, felt as if he had been deceived. Yet in it all he comes to know God, 4x he says in his pain, ‘O Lord, you know’. He came to know God on a new level.
Christ-likeness – in Christ’s day some thought he was Jeremiah because he was rejected, hated, falsely charged, wept, was beaten and killed. Jeremiah is the most Christ-like prophet in the OT. This cup is the new covenant… is Jeremiah language. It is an honour to be like Christ and share in his suffering. God loves his afflicted people, especially preachers who are faithful for God says of us we are like his Son.
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