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Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference, Leicester, 2008 (2)

Author
Category Articles
Date April 18, 2008

Day Three

JOEL BEEKE (3) – PREACHING CHRIST’S OFFICES

Luke 22:31 – The temptations of Peter.

The threefold office of the Lord Jesus Christ is to be applied to our hearts by the Spirit. Our Lord is the only one who can meet our needs, and he does so as prophet, priest and king. As we preach him we see prophetic admonition, priestly intercession and kingly commission.

1. PROPHETIC ADMONITION

The context is an argument amongst the disciples as to who is the greatest. It took place just after the Lord’s Supper. Peter is taken up with his own leadership. Jesus realises the danger Peter is in and warns him of the sifting process that lies ahead. Peter saw no danger before him and that in itself was dangerous. Peter was ready for prison and death but not for Satan’s devices. Jesus gives him a triple warning. When you say something twice to a child he knows he must sober up and listen. ‘Martha, Martha!’ ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem!’ ‘Wake up Simon; see where you are heading.’ What a solemn prophetic admonition. We need such warning because we are the primary target of Satan. He’d got Judas and now he was going after Simon.

Satan is using all his power and moving every stone for our fall. Think of how Satan would rejoice if he could destroy you or me. He wants you – you had better believe it. Ministers are his prime target. He knows how to attack us at our weakest points. Sometimes we stumble so easily. How embarrassing it is! Satan catches us on his hook so easily with a little worm, and we are ambassadors of Jesus Christ. All such temptations are billboards on the road to damnation. Satan wants you and he will overturn every stone to get you, and his favourite way is to get you from within, just like the Trojan Horse filled with Greek soldiers took Troy. That is how Satan works with us.

Simon Peter was so complacent. Take heed lest you fall! Satan wants to sift us like wheat. When we should be showing the brightness of our faith we will rather be stumbling and falling when we don’t fly to Jesus. There was a farmer who warned people stealing water melons ‘One water melon is poisoned.’ That solved the problem for a while until he saw another sign had been put up: ‘Two water melons have been poisoned.’ He had to get rid of his whole crop.

2. PRIESTLY INTERCESSION

However, Jesus has a better claim on us than Satan, and he says to Peter, ‘But I have prayed for you.’ He is able to keep us. ‘I myself have prayed for you,’ he is saying. He wants us much more than Satan wants us – thank God for that. His love is superior and his grace guards us. Christ was going into the biggest sin any enemy of Satan has encountered and it is to him we go for redemption and release. ‘Father, keep them,’ he prays.

What a theme, the intercession of Christ! How little is it expounded or understood. Jesus is there remembering us. ‘I pray for thee that thy faith fail not.’ He is not praying that we won’t go into the sin, or that Peter will walk tall and strong. He prays that Peter’s faith will not be eclipsed but will persevere to the end. While darkness was everywhere Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would stand. Our self-righteousness needs to fail. So he allows Satan to shake us up so that our faith will not fail. Jesus so overrules Satan that sometimes he makes Satan a good doctor for us, giving us good medicine. The waters of affliction become good therapy for us, through the intercession of Christ. We go together through everything ahead of us, leaning on him communing with him. We cannot go on for long without flying to his blood. The moment Peter falls Jesus comes by and gives him one look; Peter is broken.

3. KINGLY COMMISSION

‘When restored strengthen thy brethren,’ said the Lord to Peter. He comes with authority to Peter and Peter repents. Jesus’ strength is made perfect in his weakness. How strong Peter is in his letters. He speaks of his faith and he gives such wise warnings to his readers. God uses him to strengthen his brethren. The way to be a strengthener is to be a prophet, priest and king, restored by Christ. We are to be interceders in the flock of Christ. His kind of intercession teaches us how to feed the flock itself. He meets every one of our needs as believers, but as ministers too – or whatever our office might be.

Are we exercised in these three areas? Do we confess his name in every pastoral visitation? Do we leave something of the savour of Christ behind? We become too casual and do not get to Christ in our visitation. We have to be living sacrifices for the Lord’s glory. Do they see you fighting against sin? A poor listener means that in pastoral visitations the conversation is about the shepherd and not of the sheep. It ought to be almost all about the sheep. However low we fall then the arms of Jesus are lower still.

If your congregation are talking together about your preaching would they be able to say that he is a ‘Christ preacher’? Do you bring Christ into every sermon? Do you love to preach him? Can he be seen in the congregation Sunday by Sunday and so you are developing a church of Christ lovers?

STUART OLYOTT (2) – RAISING UP LEADERSHIP IN THE LOCAL CHURCH

After Moses came Joshua, and after Elijah came Elisha, and after our Lord, the apostles, and after Paul, Timothy was in place. To Timothy Paul spoke in 2 Timothy 2:1,2 – ‘You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.’

1. SOME THINGS TO NOTICE

Men of God live and die. We must make sure that the gospel never perishes from the earth. So Paul exhorts Timothy to train the next generation. The gospel will be preserved by preachers who live and die, by publishers and printers and writers of books, and by those who record, make copies and distribute CD’s and MP3’s.

We are to maintain a four generation mindset – as in our text (Paul – Timothy – faithful men – others). Who went before me? Have I kept their faith?

2. OUR TASK IS CLEAR

We know what to pass on. The gospel in biblical, theological and doctrinal truth. We make mistakes, develop skills, and we homiletically improve so that we preach better. But that is not what we pass on. Experience and expertise are not what we pass on. The old hymns are not what we pass on. We have a history and heritage, but that is nothing without the gospel and that is what we pass on.

We know to whom we have to pass it on. To ‘men’ that is, to the leadership which is masculine in the church, believing, converted, reliable, honest, principled, upright men. They will be able to teach others also.

How we are to pass it on? By ‘committing’ it to them. Timothy must do it. Paul does not dole it out hoping someone or other will pick it up. He commits the treasure to someone else. So we teach someone so that they don’t just learn it and it stays with them but that they in turn can teach others.

3. HOW THIS CAN WORK OUT IN PRACTICE

Redefine our role as ministers. In prayer, preparation, preaching and pastoral work. Any more? What of the evangel? So you add proclamation. And then what of writing? So you add publication. Then you add another ‘P’, passing on to others. So, my fellow officers, do we see this as part of our role?

We must identify the right men. We do this with prayer, and also practically, getting to know the men of your church well. Watch their lives, listen to their conversation, Look out for godly men with teaching gifts. Get into their company. Constantly ask these questions about a man – does he give evidences of a godly life, self-discipline, integrity, purity, uprightness, punctuality? Who are his friends? Get to know those men well. There are countless churches where no one is looking out for young men. So get to know the teenage lads, and then the boys who will become teenagers. Be at the children’s meetings, the Young People’s meetings, to get to know them. The greatest joys in the ministry are found in this work. We have to be looking out for godly men all the time. Encourage them to speak in the mission hall nearby, or in the evening meeting.

Then we teach them to teach others. Have a pulpit style which teaches some to teach others. Read together. Know your man and so choose a book that will help him. Take initiatives. Why not invite any man to come to preaching seminars. The Lord meets some men in preaching seminars. Announce leadership training for those in the 18-30 years of age bracket. The cut-off point is 30 or older ones will dominate the 18 year olds. There are countless things we can do.

DR. JOHN AARON – THE FOUNDERS OF WELSH CALVINISTIC METHODISM

CAN A NATION BE BORN AT ONCE?

The prophet Isaiah says, yes a nation can be born at once. There are lessons from these Calvinistic Methodists to explain their remarkable success. They had distinguishing characteristics. Their beginnings were similar to the English revival but as it progressed there were differences.

The early 18th century was an especially dark period in Wales where about half a million people lived. Various spiritual awakenings in the previous centuries during the Reformation and the Puritan period had not touched Wales largely because of the language barrier. There were three Marian martyrs in Wales; all had English names. There were a few Puritans in Wales, but not many and they were predominantly middle class. A few thousand people attended the nonconformist churches but toleration, theological quarrels and a dry spirit weakened them further so the Principality was a deeply superstitious people. Then in 1735 in the providence of God Daniel Rowland and Howell Harris were converted independently of one another. So too was Whitefield and three years later William Williams of Pantycelyn, and the two Wesleys and others.

The ministry of these men was an itinerant one and not for 70 years were congregations settled. Open air preachings, and a gathering of converts in the local ‘societies’ from members of the Established Church were the means by which the lambs were nurtured. In South Wales there was severe persecution of the preachers and it even spread to North Wales. The overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit characterized these decades. Howell Harris preached and as he toured Wales thousands came to hear him. From 1760 onwards for 80 years there was hardly a year which did not witness a revival somewhere in Wales. In the years 1778 through 1782 all the land was affected. At other times particular counties were affected. In 1826 there was an awakening in the town of Caerphilly and by such kindness from God the whole nation was affected. In 1851 for the only time in its history the National Census asked the population what church they went to on Sundays.

There were 2,088 congregations of dissenters in Wales compared to 60 a century earlier in 1730. All the Baptists and Congregationalists were evangelicals. Half a million of the million population (to which the population had grown in a century – it is today almost three million) were hearing gospel truth on Sundays. The nation had been transformed; a new nation had come into being. The congregations and denominations were the flowing streams born during a sustained period of revival and filling the land. Those to which the revivals came were characterized in the following ways:

1. A deep experience of the reality of the being of God leading to a sense of sin.

2. They had a deep experience of what was offered to them in the gospel, that sins could be forgiven through Christ and so fellowship with God could be experienced. There was the joy of the gospel. The history of Thomas Charles’ conversion demonstrates this. Again Howell Harris said in his Journal in scribbled notes in Welsh and English describing his early experience: ‘I had light that I never had before . . . so that I despised myself because of my sin.’ These experiences were the same for every believer and yet in intensity they far surpassed what we have known. Their doctrines would not be different from ours in any way; we would agree with their preaching, but the difference lay in the depth of experience of their beliefs, and the subsequent behaviour.

What was the pattern of life that emerged?

Constant preaching to satisfy the desire of many people for the Word; Ebenezer Morris attended Association Meetings, the seiadau, preaching three times on Sundays. He preached in funerals and to every boat that came to shore. He preached six thousand times, 300 times a year, travelling both on foot and horseback.

Howell Harris was the greatest itinerant of them all. Preaching sometimes seven times in a day it was unbelievably tiring, praying and struggling against his sins. He often found his time of departure to be near. He would return to Trefecca for a few days, write some letters and then go off again and this pattern he maintained for 15 years in the first period of his itinerary.

Their worship was centred at the Association Meetings, with many young people meeting them, occasionally singing and praying as they journeyed there. Finally in centres such as Bala they met with a multitude of the same mind. There was sobriety and decorum in the streets and occasionally remarkable times.

Dafydd Cadwaladr became a great man of prayer in public prayers and his private prayers were more remarkable still, with the whole nights spent on his knees. One evening as he went to feed the cattle, he lost all sense of time, the dawn was about to break when he ceased praying. He had spent the whole night in prayer. What must have been the prayer life of this man? He was one of those men who were strong and did exploits because they knew their God.

They had a deep experience of the Holy Spirit and his use of them as preachers. Howell Harris preaching in Groes Wen described when the Lord came down upon them there. Words are nothing without God’s presence. There was this recurring pattern over a hundred years of dependence on the Spirit. Harris often said, ‘I had a deep longing in my heart for the Spirit. O that I might have thy Spirit. What am I without him? What can the church do without him?’ Thomas Charles later said the same thing; ‘Without the Spirit I might as well be silent. . .’

In conclusion I want to say three things:

1. They were Trinitarian. There were these three characteristics, the reality of God, the reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the reality of their experience of the Spirit. They dealt with Father, Son and Holy Spirit each day. They were deeply Trinitarian. They worshipped the members of the Godhead, and they had no fear at the end of their lives when death came to them.

2. To them their preaching was their life’s calling. Their preaching was to be in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. They were convicted of lifelessness and longed for life. The immediate help of the Spirit was their portion as they went to where crowds gathered and their words fell on their hearers. 2000 would stand in the rain to hear Harris. He had a message to deliver from God to men. At times he ventured his life on the Holy Spirit as a mob faced him. Many times Harris was trampled under foot, and so this sense of the Spirit was particularly necessary to sustain him in his calling. ‘You need two faiths, faith for your soul and faith for the work,’ Harris said to his fellow exhorters. He was the pioneer of the great Welsh awakening and as these Welsh peasants grew in the knowledge of God his sermons changed. Over 120 years their sermons were increasingly expository as these men sought to present to their congregation exposition in a word that came in the power of the Spirit. John Elias was described as sifting a congregation, from his deep meditations, prayers and strong cries and tears. He wrestled for a message from God longing for the verse to open to him. Elias used the story of a man who entered a room on a hot day and was perplexed to see a fire, but then he checked it again and it was a painting of a fire. That story of the vivid painting of flames Elias used to describe ineffectual preaching.

3. These men had a constant sense of the need for revival. They were familiar with it and wanted it. John Aaron ended with a quotation from Dr Lloyd-Jones preaching at the 1977 Bala Conference.

Day Four

IAN HAMILTON (2) – THE MINISTER’S CHARACTER

The preacher is more than the sum of his sermons. All he says is tinctured by what he is. The sermon is the overflow of his life. The sermons cannot rise above the man. E. M. Bounds said such words. Everything depends on the spiritual character of the preacher. God can use anyone to spread his truth, but what you are fits you as nothing else can fit you. What you are and what I am fits us for ministerial usefulness. Your character will either give weight to what you say or undo what you say. The crowds were astonished at the Lord’s authority. What our Lord was gave weight to what he said. The Christian ministry is much like an iceberg. The little that people see must reflect a much greater depth. What we are will undo or add lustre to the sermons we preach. We are not to neglect the discipline of the inner heart.

Ministers are to be like Christ. As the prophet Isaiah recorded, ‘Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged.’ (Isa. 42:1-4).

In these verses God speaks of his servant, Christ the suffering one, and how he entered on his ministry. He outlines for us his character that will punctuate and permeate everything as he seeks to become the obedient one of the Father. What the Spirit first produces in Christ he reproduces in the people of Christ. Our Lord is the model for ministerial character. There is no other ministry than that of servant ministry because the great minister of God was the great servant of God.

The context of these words is interesting. There is a triad of the identical word ‘Behold’ found in the previous verses, and the third occurrence is at the beginning of our text. ‘Behold the vanity of idols, he has said, but now, Behold my servant’. God’s remedy for a world gone wrong is God’s servant addressing the darkness and emptiness of this world. This one will serve him as Adam failed to serve him. He is the one who will perfectly model true servanthood. It will be placarded before us in him.

When Paul writes to the Philippians he tells them that the mind that must be in them was first found in Christ. The mind was defined in humble self-denying suffering. We are above all servants. First we are servants of God, given wholly to him, and answerable to him, but to his grace, come what may. But our servanthood is double-edged. We are servants also of the people of God. ‘And ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake’ In Mark 10 Jesus rebuked his disciples telling them that the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and give his life. In John 13 he takes off his outer garments and washes the feet of men who will shortly desert him and leave him all alone. He is the great proto-typical servant.

Paul illustrates that in Philippians 2 telling us something of Timothy. He will elsewhere tell him to preach the Word, but in Philippians 2 he says he has no one like him, and Paul commends the servant character of this man to whom he later gave the charge to preach. If your hearers and mine do not feel that they matter to us above life itself then our preaching will have no effect on them. Our ministry is carried on in a tender love for them, like a parent for a child. Neither wealth nor liberty nor life matters to us as much as their salvation. When you preach poorly and you stumble or stammer do your people know then that this man would lay down his life for them? ‘Behold my servant!’

What is it that the Lord wants us to behold about him?

1. BEHOLD HIS COMPLETE DEPENDENCE ON GOD.

‘Whom I uphold . . . I will put my Spirit on him.’ There is a moment by moment upholding by the Lord, and he will need that. It was by the Holy Spirit that he offered himself unblemished to God. There is a Trinitarian cast to all that the Saviour is and does. He will need the upholding of the Spirit. His servanthood will never be effortless; he will always be dependent on the Spirit given to him and on the Spirit succouring him. Christ will not cruise to his goal. When Paul tells the Philippians to have the mind that was in Christ he was saying that he lived in humble dependence on the Father.

How will that manifest itself in our own lives? Just as it manifest in Jesus’ life. In constant prayerfulness. Christianity on its knees is Calvinism. Our whole work must be carried on in a deep sense of our insufficiency. We must go in our weakness to him who sends us to the work. If we prevail not with God to give us faith and dependence then we will not prevail with them to believe.

2. BEHOLD HIS UNYIELDING FAITHFULNESS TO GOD.

‘He will bring justice to the nations . . . He will not falter or be discouraged.’ Nothing will deter his servant from completing his mission until he accomplishes it, even the sin-bearing wrath of the cross. Even in the Garden as the weight and enormity of the cross crushed him he did not falter. There was unyielding faithfulness woven into his character. The Lord’s Servant is faithful, and we have been called to a great work that made an apostle cry, ‘who is sufficient for this work?’ We turn aside and give ourselves to the work entrusted to us. Williams Chalmers Burns was an astonishing model of faithfulness. When he was contemplating going to China he wrote to Morrison about the Chinese language and got a daunting reply of the difficulty of learning the Chinese language. Burns said, ‘Bring it on.’ God had called him to the work.

Maybe you are returning to situations you want to turn from. This great Servant once said, ‘Let this cup be taken from me, nevertheless . . .’ Luther once said, ‘Those who are in the office of teacher should expect to be killed by the world, trampled underfoot and despised by their own.’ When Eric Alexander was waiting in a line to meet the Doctor he overheard him tell all those before him the same thing, ‘Go on!’ We could say nothing better.

3. BEHOLD THE PERSONAL HUMILITY OF THE SERVANT.

He did not raise his voice in the street. He would not shout others down and promote himself. There is an un-self-advertising dynamic in the servant. You cannot be clever in the pulpit and persuade men that Christ is mighty to save. It is never enough to speak the truth. The way you speak it is as important as the truth you speak. He was clothed in humility, and that mind must be in us. He humbled himself and he laid aside the insignia of his glory, becoming obedient to death. There is nothing more dishonouring in the service of the Lord than self-advertising ministers.

4. BEHOLD HIS UNIMAGINABLE GRACE.

Here is the animating pulse-beat of the servant’s ministry. He was gentle with the weak, kind and forbearing. Fierce to the enemies of God but kind to the flock of God, carrying them in his arms. He is gentle with the weak, fragile and useless.

We are never fit to say a word to sinners except when we are full of brokenness and our hearts are full of pity. We get annoyed with some in our congregation because the wonders of grace have not affected our hearts.

Many of the sheep are just poor needy souls who need a kind shepherd to come alongside them and bear with them and help them see that the heart of the eternal is most wondrously kind to those who fall. One thing above all that our churches should be noted for is the practice of grace. It is easier to preach it than practice it. This man welcomes sinners. He runs after them. ‘I leave the 99 and go searching for the one that was lost.’ That mind is to be in us. Who would ever have conceived that the everlasting blessed God would come into our world wrapped in meekness and weakness, stooping down to our sin and rebellion, washing feet and ultimately dying abandoned on the cross, for love of a world stuck in the mire of its rebellion against him?

Union with this Servant initiates us into sharing with his servanthood. Notice here how the Lord expresses his personal delight with his servant.

What is it that delights Jehovah in his servant? That he would become obedient unto death. That is the theme of the voice at the baptism. Is the Lord well pleased with us? As we reflect, however poorly on the character of his Servant Son he will be pleased with us. That is why as we prepare to preach we cry, ‘Make us more like Jesus.’ All I ask, throughout life’s journey, to be like him.

STUART OLYOTT – CLOSING SERMON

The closing sermon was on I John chapter one

That is the message we always need to hear, every day and everywhere.

1. WHOSE MESSAGE IS IT?

John is bursting to tell us the message, starting with that strange word ‘it’, something which was from the beginning. It cannot be an angel, man, mountain or animal. It is the Word who is from the beginning, God expressed in God. All other life proceeds from him and there is no other life anywhere at all. He is eternal life and our ears have heard the Sermon on the Mount and the Parables and the words from the Cross from him alone. We have heard his parting words from the mount of ascension. We have seen the transfigured Christ, Gethsemane, the cross and the resurrection. We have looked up seeing something deeper, and we have handled him – didn’t they once carry him into a boat when he was tired? We declare this that you may enjoy fellowship with us. Nothing could make you more joyful than having fellowship with us. This is the message we have heard from him.

2. WHAT DOES IT SAY?

That God is light. Later he will tell us that God is love. But you will not appreciate that unless you first know that he is light. How can you say that you are in fellowship with him and walk in darkness? But if the light is shining into your life and you are open before him than we have fellowship with one another. It is not that we do not have sin. That is a dangerous claim because the Christian religion is a religion of sinners. It heaps dishonour on Christ; we are making him a liar. Confess your sins and be cleansed from all unrighteousness.

In Chapter 2 and the opening verses know of this Advocate with the Father. Before him is the righteous Christ who acknowledges the guilt of all his clients. He who is righteous is our propitiation. What a marvellous exchange; his righteousness is put to our account, and our sin and guilt to him. We are from all over the world and we have the same propitiation, and that is Christ. There is no other in the whole world.

3. WHAT POINTS IN THIS MESSAGE SHOULD WE PARTICULARLY TAKE TO HEART?

A] One thing spoils communion with God. John is writing to Christians about sin and blood and cleansing. Why? He remembers, as we remember, that Jesus said that he who is washed is completely clean. There are two sorts of people in the world, the dirty and the clean. You are completely clean but you still need to wash your feet. It is a theme in the gospels and in the epistles. Are you conscious you are unblest by God? You cannot blame the family, church, environment. It is sin that spoils communion with God. The NT says it is our only problem. The plague of plagues. Search it out, for it is the one thing that spoils communion with God.

B] One thing can deal with sin, only one. If we solved the problem of the church and the family and the environment and the culture was changed then still you would carry this sinning heart with you. It is Jesus who improves things. He lived and died and his blood cleanses us from all sin.

There is one thing only for us to do constantly, and it is not to protest our innocence, but to call sin ‘Sin.’ Confess it to the Lord. Be honest with God and face up to him. Take off the mask and tell him everything. The first thought that comes into your mind is how it affects you. It is sin.

When you preach well then you are tempted to feel good about yourself. When things go wrong do you pity yourself and grumble? Do you boss the people when they don’t behave as they should? Resentment is murder. Touchiness is self-idolatry. Impatience is not to be like God. Being irritated by others is self-worship. Fear can be sinful. He tells us not to be afraid. The Bible does not say that exaggeration and deceit are errors of judgment. I am called before God and man to say that nothing good dwells in me. ‘My sin is ever before me.’ That is the way to renewed fellowship with the Lord by humbling ourselves. Down is up and abasement is exaltation. I am preaching this message that you may know peace and joy renewed in the Lord. I must go to God as a sinner.

The message ended with Stuart quoting Horatius Bonar’s hymn:

No, not despairingly come I to Thee;
No, not distrustingly bend I the knee:
Sin hath gone over me, yet is this still my plea,
Jesus hath died.

Ah! mine iniquity crimson hath been,
Infinite, infinite – sin upon sin:
Sin of not loving Thee, sin of not trusting Thee
Infinite sin.

Lord, I confess to Thee sadly my sin;
All I am tell with Thee, all I have been:
Purge Thou my sin away, wash Thou my soul this day;
Lord, make me clean.

Faithful and just art Thou, forgiving all;
Loving and kind art Thou when poor ones call:
Lord, let the cleansing blood, blood of the Lamb of God,
Pass o’er my soul.

Then all is peace and light this soul within;
Thus shall I walk with Thee, the loved Unseen;
Leaning on Thee, my God, guided along the road,
Nothing between.

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