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Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference at Leicester, 2011

Author
Category Articles
Date April 21, 2011

The Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference 20111 began April 11 with Steven Curry on Matthew 6, expounding an extract from the Sermon on the Mount.

STEVEN CURRY

In this section Jesus deals with the piety that should characterize those who are in the Kingdom of God. Jesus requires his followers to be different from formal religious men and also from pagans, not so much in what they do, giving, praying and fasting but in the way they will do such things.

1. The description that our Lord gives of hypocritical piety

The hypocrite is an actor who hides behind a mask; skin deep holiness. He takes something that is unreal and presents it to us as reality. We think that something is happening. He persuades his audience of this, and he looks for applause. This is the mark of hypocritical piety. He announces his text in verse 1 practicing your piety before men. For example (in vv. 2-4) he deals with giving, and the trumpets that announced it – that is probably a reference to the collection receptacles in the Temple that noisily told of a giver’s generosity. Then prayer (v.5); by their silver tones they drew attention to their eloquence in praying. Then (in verses 16-18) Jesus deals with fasting, a brokenness over sin and a cry for help in the future. The hypocrites have abandoned fasting. It was for the hypocrite a display of themselves by ash sprinkled on their faces.

All were good activities and their consciences approved of them, and they knew they were obeying Scripture in doing them. Those who received of their sacrificial giving would appreciate it also. How could you disapprove? The flaw was that they were totally man-centred. None of it was done before God. It was the love of men’s praise that moved them. To be seen by men and show it to men was their religion.

We have been preserved from much of this play acting. We are suspicious of show and blarney and the promotion of the individual. We want all the glory to go to God. Yet the danger of a man-centred piety tempts all of us. Impressing by our singing and our praying and our preaching etc. You get the appreciation and that is it. God has nothing to say. Your piety is worthless in his sight because you have sought praise from men.

2. The mark of a true piety

Be careful not to do your acts of piety to be seen by men. The reverse is true for the Christian. He does his acts of piety in secret to be seen by God alone (vv. 4, 6, and 18). Even the humble posture we adopt in public we can take to draw attention to our humility. How difficult in pulpit prayer not to want to impress. There is a propensity in the unsanctified heart for human promotion. Satan can grip us in the moments of highest religious duties. The answer is to be alone where there is no applause, but we secretly worship God. We ought to be satisfied with God as our only witness. We close ourselves in with God. There is no contradiction in our prayer life whether in private or public. The Christian loves to pray. God’s name, his kingdom, his will is the theme of our praying. There are things we cannot do in secret – preaching, evangelizing, pastoral visitation and engaging in corporate prayer. Our piety has to be visible if God is to be glorified – your ‘good works’ cause men to give God glory. But the principle is that the mark of an authentic godly piety is the presence of an authentic piety in secret. The Christian is motivated to glorify the Father in heaven. What of you? What of me? What are we like away from the scrutiny of the public eye? Are you as gracious to your family in the home as to your church members in church? Are you as holy in the house as you are in the pulpit? Hypocrisy is not easy to detect in others. We ourselves can be deceived by our own hypocrisy. We can believe ourselves to be citizens of the kingdom and our Lord introduces a fool-proof test – what are you like in private?

3. The motivating power to a genuine piety

‘Your father who sees’ – that phrase is repeated three times. Nothing can be hidden from him. He will reward on the basis of what he sees, and he sees every action and knows every thought; our hearts are open to him. Some hypocrites deceive all the people all the time, but you cannot deceive God. He sees, he knows and he is not fooled. Tammy Bakker said that her former husband Jim had never seen her without her makeup. God sees us everywhere as we are behind the cosmetics.

Jesus questioned Peter about his love, ‘Feed my lambs, feed my sheep.’ ‘You know all things and you know that I love you,’ said Peter. Here we are in the presence of the omniscient God who can peer through our profession into our hearts. Can we really say, ‘Lord, you know that I love you.’ God loves sincerity and hates hypocrisy. He has called us to such a work and he will reward us for what he has observed.

IAIN MURRAY [1]

John 17:1 ‘After Jesus said this, he looked towards heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.”‘ We have a full account of Jesus’ praying. He prays to the Father but intends that we should hear it. He says that in him we can have peace; this prayer shows how this is possible. It is the fullest account of his praying. Also it is different because here our Lord prays as though he were already through the veil. He speaks in the past tense in vv. 10 & 11; he is praying from the standpoint of heaven, and we are permitted to hear it. He is speaking as a Prince upon his throne. This is the most remarkable portion of the most extraordinary book in the world.

1. Here we have prophecy fulfilled. In the OT they went to God via priests. Their garments told the worshippers everything about their work, e.g. the breastplate and the names of the 12 tribes etc. The High Priest went into the Holy Place wearing that garment. So we understand that this action was undertaken on their behalf. O.T. prophecy taught them this same lesson. This was a type of what was to come. Isaiah 53 describes the intercessory work of the Messiah, and so does Psalm 110. So does Zechariah in 6:12 ‘and he shall bear the glory and he shall be a priest upon his throne.’ Here he says that the hour is come when he entered the holiest of all. The great high priest who has passed into the heavens when prophecy has been fulfilled.

2. This prayer brings before us our Lord’s continuing ministry. He is going away from the disciples and we have here a transition point from his work on earth which is done and finished. He obtained eternal redemption for us. He put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. We need no other sacrifice, but we should make a serious mistake to suppose that our Lord in every aspect of his death is finished. The disciples were alarmed and this discourse and prayer told them that when he went his work was not over and forgotten. He would still have a great work to do, giving eternal life, sanctifying and glorifying them – all here in this prayer. So if we ask what part of our Lord’s work was so ongoing then it was his work of intercession. He also made intercession and that also is amplified here. We have an advocate with the Father.

How can it be that so little of our thought is given to the work of our Lord? Then the answer is that the continuance of his office is his great continuous High Priestly ministry

3. The petition itself. ‘Glorify thy Son.’ One book on the bed beside an old friend helping him as he died was John Owen’s The Glory of Christ.2 What immense work was Jesus doing? ‘Glorify thy Son’ – what does it mean? ‘Thy Son’ refers to the deity of Christ. It had been hidden when he became incarnate. But he is praying for more than the restoration of that deity. The glory of his Godhead was never lost, but it does apply to his humanity. So here are the two natures, God and man in one Person. Glory was to be given to Christ as God-man. He shed his blood as man and rose from the dead as man and was highly exalted. Our Head and Mediator was raised and in a human nature. Christ is at the right hand of God as the God-man in our nature and on our behalf. That prayer was answered for us.

Why does he so pray? For his enthronement in glory in order that he may exercise the ministry that his Father has given to him. His glory is bound up with the fulfillment of this petition. Christ’s glory is bound up with the salvation that is to come. He will see his seed – after he has been exalted. Nations that knew not the Lord shall run unto him for God has glorified him. God has exalted him to the highest place in the universe. That is the fulfillment of John 17 and verse one.

i] We are taught here that believers are the glory of Christ. By them Christ’s glory is manifest. In the Old Testament the High Priest wore garments for glory and beauty. Wearing those names on his shoulder – how can it be to anyone’s glory? Our Lord takes all these names of sinful people – every one a sinner – and he has each of them. One of those wrote ‘My name from the palms of his hands eternity will not erase.’ Every one of them will be fashioned into the likeness of Christ’s own Son. They are all the glory of Christ, called into that glory. The glory of Christ is there in the grace of his subjects. The purpose of every conversion is the glory of Christ.

ii] These verses show us the glorification of mere man is the sin of sins; it is idolatry, and yet it creeps into every part of us. Anything that glorifies man ruins churches – consider Ananias and Sapphira. Also in Corinth they gloried in their leaders and their preaching. It is God who gives the increase. The glorification of man brings ruin into churches. Why was the house of Eli overthrown? Because God emphasizes that those who honour him he will honour. Chalmers warns that we can overlook the idolatrous veneration of men. ‘May I walk softly at the sight of my exceeding sinfulness,’ said Chalmers. ‘Do not look here and there for revival’, warned Archibald Brown, as if they only had some immense personality in the pulpit of the Metropolitan Tabernacle then all would be well. It is the very danger Paul was dealing with in the Corinthian church.

iii] The truth of our Lord’s present intercession is the answer to our unbelief. The disciples were locked into looking back. They thought nothing of his future at all. Once we were at this conference and thinking of the future of the church and we were pretty negative and John Murray was listening and he told us we were speaking as if there were no such thing as the present intercession of Christ. It is not that we first have to do something. John Knox first cast his anchor in John 17 and he had it read to him by his wife on his deathbed – just a few months after the massacre of St Bartholomew’s Day. We survive by a steady look at Jesus Christ.

MARTIN HOLDT [1]: The Holy Spirit and the Preacher’s Personal Life

Spurgeon once said that the grand thing we are in need of is the Holy Spirit. Men think in terms of cosmetic differences but our great want is the Spirit of God and until that happens we may reform but still be the same.

A. It is an urgent need. Our churches are desperate for the movement of the Holy Spirit. We need better days.

B. It is in order that maximal honour be given to the Lord, his name hallowed. If the Holy Spirit does not do it then it is not done.

C. We need to have more effective ministries. Don’t we yearn for a far more effective ministry?

D. The depravity of men and women with whom we have to do makes us long for it. They will not believe. They will not give a serious hearing to the gospel, leaving as they came – unaffected. They attend funerals of people they know, and that is the only time they attend church. Their resistance will crumble when the Holy Spirit works, and only then.

E. We long for a new phase in our ministry when many bow down before Jesus Christ. History needs to be repeated when God glorifies himself under the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Think of Geneva at the time of Calvin preaching the Word by the power of the Holy Spirit. It would be wonderful to see it again in Amsterdam and Glasgow and London. Why not? I am not prepared to be a pessimist. We delight to read about spiritual awakenings and long that God would do it again. It is time for him to act.

F. It is the will of God that men in the ministry should be filled with the Holy Spirit. What does it mean? This is something that should happen every day.

Our relationship with the Holy Spirit

Once you were regenerated by the Holy Spirit. God in his grace sealed you with the Holy Spirit of promise. He baptized you into the body of Christ. Yet you need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. You are duty bound to obey God’s order. You, the church and the world needs it and for God’s glory it is your duty to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

What is it to be filled with the Holy Spirit? The water filling a glass is the common illustration. But that is not helpful. Rather it is speaking of a sacred relationship. The Words of Jesus tell us of his going away that he might send the Spirit and his coming will give us a conscious awareness that he is our Saviour. What is the ‘fellowship of the Holy Spirit’? It is interaction between you and God the Holy Spirit who is there for you in order that you glorify God. We cry in our struggles for him to help us. It is a relationship, a deep, deep acquaintance with the third person of the Godhead.

It is to know how he thinks. How does he think? You find out from the book that has been given to teach us. Its writers were borne along by the Holy Spirit. The Puritans poured out their hearts and minds and then referred to verses from all over the Bible. They spontaneously came to them because they studied the Scriptures constantly. They were acquainted with the mind of the Spirit. They came to know Christ from Scripture by the Holy Spirit. What more do you know of Christ than you knew a year ago?

You will practice what Ephesians 4:1-3 needs to practice, to walk worthy of the manner in which you have been called. There can be tensions between fellow ministers, but being filled with the Spirit breaks down barriers. Are the fruit of the Spirit found in our lives?

Do not quench him. He is eager to shape and mould you and prepare you for glory. How does he want you to spend time? Not quenching him. Walk humbly before him. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Father, let me see myself as you see me. Let me see God’s marvellous grace! If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing he deceives himself. How well do you know him? How much do you love him? Do you realise that the Spirit is the friend of believers and the friend of the ministers of God? Does it move you to think of that as it should? How eagerly do you desire to know him and be as holy as he is holy? Nothing can be as blest as that.

I have said my part and my desire is that you should know God in each of his persons and that you should love Father, Son and the Spirit. When the Holy Spirit speaks to you then listen and obey, and then it shall be well with you, and you will give God the glory. Let us have a few minutes of silence as we respond to God in our own hearts.

LEWIS ALLEN [1]: The Church’s Love (Eph. 6:23-24).

Paul charges the church in Ephesus, finally, ‘To you all grace – with an incorruptible love’ (or however you translate that adjective). What does it imply to love Jesus Christ with an undying love? Hodge says it includes ‘adoring admiration of his person, desire for his presence, zeal for his glory, and devotion to his service. It need not be ecstatic but it must be controlling.’ Four markers:

A] Adoring admiration of his person. Who do you see as you look at Jesus Christ? Why should we adore him? He is the Lord, Lamb of God, our High Priest, bread of life, Shepherd, creator, faithful witness, first and last firstborn from the dead, the head of the church, heir of all things, the judge of the living and the dead, he is God, he is the life, the light of the world, the Lord of lords, the man from heaven, the mediator of the new covenant, our wisdom, righteousness and our redemption, the rock, the ruler of God’s creation, the Son of the Most High, our teacher, our true vine, the way, the wisdom and the Word. He is the one with whom we have to do. What weakness in our leaders, but nothing disappoints us in our Leader. There is nothing in him that makes us wish he were otherwise. There is the work of Christ. ‘In the blood of the cross all our mercies swim to us,’ said Flavel. By this crimson fountain I resolve to sit down. Look at your Saviour; consider his victory.

B] We desire his presence. Christ dwells in our hearts by faith and we can then grasp the dimensions of his love. Three suggestions of what it will look like, desiring the presence of Christ.

I] His truth we will desire. That is one of the reasons we go to church and to conferences.

II] In enjoying his peace. Not the absence of problems, but a consciousness of this peace in the midst of the problems. Are we seeking peace? Do we pray for a sense of peace? When our backs are to the wall do we treasure his peace?

III] In knowing his joy. He promises we will rejoice and no one will take away our joy. Let that presence show, in a transparency of Christian experience. We are kind, warm, gentle, generous . . . God has made us in a certain way and yet we are to live like that constantly. When was your last act of spontaneous kindness? When did you last send a spontaneous e-mail of kindness?

C] We are to be zealous for his glory. Romans 12:11 exhorts us never to be lacking in zeal. Because God is a zealous God and we are to be like him. The disciples saw the zeal of Jesus in cleansing the temple. He is all of zeal for his Father’s glory and the salvation of sinners. We need the grace and power of heaven in our lives and that is why we are saved from hell. Zeal is biblical. It is an essential marker of love for Christ. Would God capture our hearts and make us zealous! Think of Bill Maclaren and his passion for rugby, and can we be less zealous for our subject, the Lord Jesus Christ? We preach to be fresh and clear and memorable.

D] We are to be devoted to his service. It will be costly service; no service without sacrifice is credible. What costs nothing is worth nothing. Look at the devotion of our Saviour in serving us. How zealously he holds on to me because he loves me and stands by me and so I go to his costly love. We are called to be those who love the Lord with an undying love and we can do that as he gives us grace. He will get the glory and those we seek to serve will see and be blessed by him.

IAIN MURRAY [2]: The Life of Archibald Brown

No report, as I was not present at this. A book on the life of Archibald G. Brown, one of Spurgeon’s students, is in preparation.

IAN HAMILTON: Why You Should Read the Life of Hodge3

1. It is an engrossing read. Throughout the 19th century God encouraged Hodge to support the gospel of grace.

2. It is a deeply spiritual read; it is reformed Christianity at its most Christ-centred, and God honouring. The principal motif of Princeton was the glory of God.

3. It is a surprising read; it shows an astonishingly Catholic spirit e.g. in his relationship with Schleiermacher. Hodge heard the German singing hymns of praise to Jesus to his host’s children. He had a large-heartedness, nothing defensive; a doxological Calvinist, with an astonishingly capacious spirituality.

4. An unembarrassed supernaturalism pervaded Hodge’s understanding of the Christian faith. He had experienced a profound work of grace in his heart. He believed in biblical revival and so Princeton produced preachers.

5. It is a soul-stirring read. His life breathed grace and unyielding faithfulness.

MARTIN HOLDT [2]: The Holy Spirit and Preparation for Preaching

That is where the battle for the pulpit really begins. You long to know a burning message to bring to the people as the result of your spiritual preparation. It will be costly, but that is where the battle is won or lost. ‘This is a voice in the wilderness,’ the people say. What are the things we need to take note of?

1. It takes time. Tensions between women occurred in the Jerusalem church. Something needed to be done, but the apostles had no time because they were devoting themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. They took time to devote themselves to those things (and so the deacons, full of faith and the Holy Ghost, were appointed) and so must we.

2. Pray before, during and after the preaching of the Word of God. You will never get to the stage when you no longer need enlightenment. We want to see what we cannot see, what God wants us to see in order to give men the bread of life, and that is Christ.

3. Read Scripture widely and well. Each time you read it with the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment you are bound to see old things and also new. The more you read it you come to the conclusion that you don’t really know it. We have all we need in the Scriptures in order to become prepared for every good work. All we need to know is there – every book in the Bible has a purpose. There is nothing like Scripture; through the endurance and comfort of the Scriptures we can have hope. Never forget Joshua 1 and verse 8 and apply it to your ministry: ‘Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.’

4. Read books too. Their authors read widely, and so must you. Who gave Calvin the brains, and the light with them to do what he did, leaving us such a legacy? If books are to be to us what Philip was to the Ethiopian then your congregation needs you to read those books and to love them. A few years ago I did a speed reading course; it did nothing for me. How much can we read in disciplined blocks of twenty minutes a day. Start reading heart-enriching mind-growing books. All you need is 20 minute periods – if you did that three times a day then that would result in 36 books a year. However, read as many books as you can on the atonement. This is what we ought to be doing all the time. You will never become as effective as you might be without reading.

5. With the help of the Holy Spirit you must prepare yourself adequately so that at the end of the week’s preparation you can’t wait to get into the pulpit and preach the word to the people.

LEWIS ALLEN [2] First Priorities: The Church’s Longing (Rev. 22:20-21)

‘He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.’

When did you last preach on the second coming of Christ, or hear a sermon on this? The silence of our pulpits on this is inexcusable, as is our heart longing for it. It should be our greatest longing.

1. This is the Lord’s promise, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ It is the most important of his promises and it brings closure to all the promises. It is personal . . . visible . . . triumphant . . . transforming . . . unpredictable. All the doctrines find their consummation in his return – judgment is only found in his coming. His redemption means that we are waiting for its completion at the parousia. We live in communities which need to hear this message. Rampant aimlessness and hopelessness are the marks of a perverse ministry, says John Murray. We are preparing sinners for judgment. So we pray for them, visit, encourage them, but we are also getting ourselves ready for judgment.

2. It is the church’s longing for his coming. ‘Amen!’ says the church. She knows who it is who is coming. It is our Lord and he coming for us. Christianity is personal, full of personal pronouns. He makes many gripping promises for us, for the creation and the heavens as to what lies before us. We then need to ground ourselves in the promises of God for that day. As we live on the promises so we are weak or strong. ‘Don’t want to walk or talk about Jesus, I just want to see his face,’ sing the Blind Boys of Alabama. We need grace for that . . .

3. It is the church’s commitment to living by the grace of the Lord Jesus in the light of his coming. Now we know we need God personally working in our hearts. We are saved in hope of this. We live in a broken groaning world and so why are we surprised when things go wrong? The Spirit of God groans within us. Do not mourn but do allow the Holy Spirit to groan within you. Eight of us preachers were sitting in a restaurant and talking to one another. A man came over from a neighbouring table. ‘We have been looking at you for a time and we are wondering what are you? Are you teachers? You look . . . careworn!’

QUESTION SESSION

What lessons could we learn from Dr. Lloyd-Jones for today?

Archibald Brown was the pastor of the East London Tabernacle. Iain Murray had spoken of him the previous night, and has written of him. What sort of ministry did he have there?

Why didn’t the churches see the ‘Downgrade Controversy’ coming before it became the mighty issue that it did?

How can we overcome our resistance to seeking the presence of Christ?

Why is there sometimes a decline in a congregation which has had an influential ministry?

How would you advise a young minister beginning his ministry in a non-reformed church?

Does the Holy Spirit speak to us in ways other than the Word of God? How do we know that it is him?

What is it to be filled with the Holy Spirit?

PHILIP ARTHUR: William Tyndale

He was probably born in 1594 and in southern Gloucestershire. He went to Oxford and experienced there the tensions of the old scholasticism and the new learning. Tyndale allied himself with the latter. There is no certain evidence that he was ever in Cambridge (an easier place to be Lutheran). Thence he went to Little Sodbury as a tutor to the lord’s sons (both under seven). He began to preach in the neighbourhood an evangelical gospel. This also brought him to an examination for heresy but he was protected by the local lord. Tyndale said words very similar to Erasmus, that, ‘The boy that drives the plough can know more of the Scriptures than the pope.’ So he sought a patron to support him to translate the Bible into English. It was illegal to possess a Bible in the vernacular. It was in fact a capital offence. Tyndale asked the Bishop of London if he would support this project. But the resistance resulted in his concluding that he would never be able to translate the Scriptures in England and in 1524 he went off to Hamburg. He never stood on English soil again.

Substantial portions had been translated into old English like the Lindisfarne Gospels. Bede had translated the Gospel of John, but few copies existed and most people were illiterate, and few were Anglo Saxon speakers. The language had gone underground and Norman French was the official language. Lollard Scriptures were widespread in some parts of the country. They were written by hand on manuscripts. 250 Wycliffite Bibles are still extant. Tyndale, though, had not seen one. Catholic revisionists argue that Tyndale need not have bothered to translate as the church was providing devotional extracts of the New Testament for the people, and eventually, if it had not been delayed by reformation upsets, would have provided translation of Scripture.

Then there was the Worms New Testament of 1526. Had Tyndale met Luther? There is a tantalizing entry in a register, but we are uncertain if it meant that Tyndale had gone to Wittenburg. Within a year of leaving England Tyndale had completed a translation into English. Then the Gospels began to appear in paperbacks with woodcuts. But in Worms Tyndale found a printer and he saw through to publication a complete New Testament in English. It was small and portable. Within a month it was on sale in London, cheap enough for people to buy and read it. 3 copies remain today.

The translation was plain, full of monosyllables! The sentences often ended in a word of a couple of syllables. The Worms New Testament is the foundation on which all subsequent translations have been based. The 1611 Authorized Version particularly shows this, 80% of it being Tyndale’s work. Within months there were parallel developments. English Bibles were entering England, smuggled into the country.

Persecutions and polemics

Tyndale was drawn into controversy. A sermon on justification by faith – ‘The Parable of the Wicked Mammon’4 – was printed in Germany (as were all Tyndale’s writings). Bonfires of New Testaments started 6 months after they arrived, and then Protestants who read and preached the New Testament were burned at the stake from 1529 onwards. Then Tyndale wrote ‘The Practice of Prelates’5 commenting on their burning the New Testament. Then he wrote ‘The Obedience of a Christian Man’6, answering the charge that Protestantism furthered anarchy and rebellion. Henry VIII appreciated it – ‘it is a book for me and all kings.’ Tyndale then engaged in controversy with Thomas More and his ‘Dialogue’.7 More answered Tyndale in four volumes.

Tyndale then acquired a mastery of Hebrew (his 8th language). There were scarcely any Hebraists in England. Tyndale first translated the Book of Genesis and by 1530 the Pentateuch. Seven years later, after his death, a complete Bible was produced and Tyndale had translated the historical books. The fact that he was not working through the Latin Vulgate meant that he could tap the riches of the autographa. His translation was vivid, full of lively words.

Tyndale was now living in Antwerp with a leading trader. Then a certain Henry Philips joined them, worming his way into Tyndale’s confidence, a man who had fallen into the criminal underworld. He was used by Tyndale’s enemies and led Tyndale into an ambush and he was arrested, spending a year and a half in prison. He was subject to a lengthy interrogation and trial. He wrote a heart-breaking letter from prison:

I believe, right worshipful, that you are not unaware of what may have been determined concerning me. Wherefore I beg your lordship, and that by the Lord Jesus, that if I am to remain here through the winter, you will request the commissary to have the kindness to send me, from the goods of mine which he has, a warmer cap; for I suffer greatly from cold in the head, and am afflicted by a perpetual catarrh, which is much increased in this cell; a warmer coat also, for this which I have is very thin; a piece of cloth too to patch my leggings. My overcoat is worn out; my shirts are also worn out. He has a woollen shirt, if he will be good enough to send it. I have also with him leggings of thicker cloth to put on above; he has also warmer night-caps. And I ask to be allowed to have a lamp in the evening; it is indeed wearisome sitting alone in the dark. But most of all I beg and beseech your clemency to be urgent with the commissary, that he will kindly permit me to have the Hebrew Bible, Hebrew grammar, and Hebrew dictionary, that I may pass the time in that study. In return may you obtain what you most desire, so only that it be for the salvation of your soul. But if any other decision has been taken concerning me, to be carried out before winter, I will be patient, abiding the will of God, to the glory of the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ: whose Spirit (I pray) may ever direct your heart. Amen.

He was found guilty and handed over to the secular authorities for execution. 6 October 1536 he was strangled and burned. His ashes were tipped into the river and so to the ocean so that the European earth could not be ‘contaminated.’

Why did he risk all? It was all done for love for Christ, his gospel and the Word of God.

MARTIN HOLDT [3]: The Holy Spirit and Preaching

At Pentecost was the first sermon after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Thousands were converted. We know we cannot take the identical sermons of men who across church history were mightily used by God and preach their exact words today. They do not have the same effect as they had when the original man preached them. The inward power of the Holy Spirit needs to be joined to that outward voice in anointed preaching.

I] In Acts 2 we see the confrontation of the fulness of the Holy Spirit and the preaching of the Word of God. It had a profound effect on the church and its expansion. This is what preaching should be. Peter’s heart poured out the Word of God, Joel and the Psalms – ‘David says concerning him . . .’ Peter was using the sword of the Spirit in the power of the Spirit. There was also the Christ that he preached declaring that God has made him both Lord and Christ. Peter also laid their sin on them: ‘with wicked hands YOU have crucified and slain him.’ So they cried out ‘What shall we do?’

II] In Acts 6 we are told of Stephen and the congregation’s inability to resist the spirit in which he spoke – even though it meant he lost his life. Scripture, Christ and sin were the three basic elements in his sermon.

III] In Acts 13 we meet Paul in Antioch in Pisidia reading, and even motioning with his hands. He preaches with the same three elements, the Scriptures, the person and work of Christ, and their sin. He was not a dry preacher; there was holy enthusiasm in his preaching. Then we can plead to excuse ourselves that we are preaching to Christians, to the people of God each week, not to crowds of unconverted people. But read the famous words of Paul recounting to the Corinthians how he went there and preached the crucified Christ to them. Paul brought in Christ in every ethical exhortation, whether it is unity in the Philippian church or in generosity (to the Corinthians), or to a husband as to how he should love his wife (Ephesians). Always Christ is preached to them as the motivational power for a change of life. There is nowhere in Scripture that you cannot preach Christ. The Scriptures testify of him. So let me exhort you . . .

A] Be determined that you life should be lived to the glory of the Lord. The Spirit of God will never flood the life of a man who is not giving glory to Christ.

B] Make a personal plea to God to give you the Holy Spirit. It should be a daily plea and particularly before you preach to them. The power of the Holy Spirit should accompany you. As Cleopas on the Emmaus road urged Jesus to stay with them, so the Lord wants to be entreated for his presence.

C] Also pray earnestly! Agonize! These are Paul’s frequent requests to the churches to whom he wrote requesting that they interceded for him. When churches cease to pray for their ministers then ministers will cease to be a blessing to their congregations.

IAIN MURRAY [3]

At the end of John 17 we have an assurance and an affirmation, an assurance that the prayers he has made will be answered, based on the character of God. Christ has come to bring us to the Father. What a contract between the Lord’s knowledge and the world’s ignorance. All our praying needs to be qualified by the phrase ‘according to his will’ and our knowledge of his will is very imperfect. We know not what to pray for as we ought, but here is intercession based on the assurance that what he asks is God’s will.

Then there is affirmation; Jesus looks back and forward. He immediately confirms that the great Prophet of God has made himself and the name of God known to his people. ‘He will go on declaring his name to his people,’ he affirms. All God’s people shall be taught of the Lord (Psa. 22).

I] The Teaching Work of Christ

Our Lord’s teaching is always effective and successful. He has not merely made the knowledge of God available. They have received it and know Jesus has come from the Father. People can hear us without actually listening, but the ear gate is not blocked to him. When our Lord teaches he puts in the heart a desire for the truth. Only he teaches like that. None of those he teaches is lost. As John leaned on Jesus’ breast he knew he was leaning on the breast of the one by whom all things were made, the Son of God. The one born in Bethlehem was the one who existed before all things. They had learned this. Paul did many things contrary to the name of Jesus and then he was converted and did all things for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord. When Christ teaches men then they are brought to the Father. Our Lord’s prophetic office continues throughout the ages of the church. When the work of God was revived in the 19th century, or when Abraham Kuyper was delivered from modernism, or when Thomas Charles as young man went to a church in west Wales and heard a sermon on the great High Priest from Hebrews then he was transformed. Life was never the same again. He had been transformed and affected by the truth.

II] The Special Purpose of his Teaching Ministry

It is that the love of the Father for Christ might be in them. The petition is that there may be given to every believer the reality of the same love. The Father loves Christ because he lays down his life as our Redeemer, and sin-bearer. The Father’s love for the Son is bound up with his work as Saviour. Where is the Father’s love for the believer? It is in Christ. Nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus. You knock on the door of a man’s heart and you ask whether love is there. If Christ is there love is there.

III] The Relevance of this for Christ’s Ministers Today

The main theme of our Lord’s teaching must be our main theme too. Nothing but Christ or that which tends to Christ is to be preached. What is the main problem in our churches and lives today? It is the gap between the truth we believe and the amazing privileges we have and our impoverished realization of those truths. How can that gap to be narrowed? Some think it is one glorious experience of the Holy Spirit (and let us not demean such experiences), but we need to be knowing this Christ all the time. As that truth is taught of the indwelling Christ then that gap is closed. Isn’t that a truth we need to keep coming back to? Cornelius needs to hear the Word of God. The angel tells him to go to Joppa to hear a man of God. God uses men after his own heart, and men in whom Christ dwells. ‘Let him speak of love who is taken with love’ said John Bunyan. These are the men who ‘sweeten churches.’ It is the Saviour’s presence who makes them beautiful men. If church members are not looking forward to two sermons on Sunday then could the fault be in you and your preaching?

We learn from these words of John 17 that our Lord’s ministry was at no point isolated from prayer. At the beginning, at his baptism, he prayed, and here at its conclusion he is praying again. Our Lord lived in dependence on the Holy Spirit in prayer and we are to put on the same spirit. Prayers and pains through Jesus Christ can do everything. We are called to be in Christ and to know that the great blessings of grace and salvation are being given and will be given until the end of time.

Notes

  1. Recordings by Dr Ian Densham of the conference addresses will be available shortly as Audio CDs and on MP3 CD from www.drimd.co.uk.
  2. Available from Banner of Truth as Volume 1 in The Works of John Owen, and as a Puritan Paperback, The Glory of Christ.
    • Life of Charles Hodge
      price $32.00 $28.80

      Description

      The Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference 20111 began April 11 with Steven Curry on Matthew 6, expounding an extract from the Sermon on the Mount. STEVEN CURRY In this section Jesus deals with the piety that should characterize those who are in the Kingdom of God. Jesus requires his followers to be different from formal […]

  3. The Works of William Tyndale, Volume 1, pp. 29-126.
  4. Ibid., Volume 2 (first part), pp. 237-344.
  5. Ibid., Volume 1, pp. 127-344.
  6. Ibid., Volume 2 (second part), pp. 1-215.

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