25 December 2006

The Significance of the Incarnation

The Word of the Father, by whom all time was created, was made flesh and was born in time for us. He, without whose divine permission no day completes its course, wished to have one day for His human birth. In the bosom of His Father He existed before all the cycles of ages; born of an earthly mother, He entered upon the course of the years on this day.

The Maker of man became man that He, Ruler of the stars, might be nourished at the breast; that He, the Bread, might be hungry; that He, the Fountain, might thirst; that He, the Light, might sleep; that He, the Way, might be wearied by the journey; that He, the Truth, might be accused by false witnesses; that He, the Judge of the living and the dead, might be brought to trial by a mortal judge; that He, Justice, might be condemned by the unjust; that He, Discipline, might be scourged with whips; that He, the Foundation, might be suspended upon a cross; that Courage might be weakened; that Security might be wounded; that Life might die.

To endure these and similar indignities for us, to free us, unworthy creatures, He who existed as the Son of God before all ages, without a beginning, deigned to become the Son of Man in these recent years. He did this although He who submitted to such great evils for our sake had done no evil and although we, who were the recipients of so much good at His hands, had done nothing to merit these benefits.

Augustine, Sermons on the Liturgical Seasons

17 December 2006

Love One Another

Those that are at peace in their own consciences will be peaceable towards others. A busy, contentious, quarrelsome disposition, argues that it never felt peace from God, and though many men think it commendable to censure the infirmities of others, yet it argues their own weakness; for it is a sign of strength, where we see in men anything good, to bear with their weakness. Who was more indulgent than Christ? He bore with the infirmities of His disciples from time to time; therefore we should labor to carry ourselves lovingly towards them that are weak. Nothing should raise us so high in our own esteem above others as to forget them to be our brethren, inasmuch as those infirmities that we see, shall be buried with them.

--Richard Sibbes

13 December 2006

Was the Master There?

It is said that among Church people the prayers are the main thing, and among Dissenters the sermon. I believe that in both cases this would be a fault. Praying should not eclipse preaching; for to preach or to listen to preaching, is as true an act of worship as to pray.

We never worship God better than when we hear his Word, reverently receive it, and are moved thereby to love and gratitude. To hear preaching is, in a sense, praying; since the true effect of all preaching that is worth the listening to, draws us into a spirit of devotion, and makes us ready for prayer and every other form of worship.

But what do we come here for? I am afraid there are some who come merely because it is the time to come, because the hour of worship has come round; and others come only because a certain preacher happens to stand upon the platform.

Ah! this is not how God’s own beloved ones come up to his house ! They desire to meet with him. Their prayer as they tread the hallowed courts of God’s house will be “My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.”

There is no hymn sung so well as when we really do praise Jesus in it. No prayer is so true as that prayer which really comes to the mercy-seat, and spreads itself before the all-seeing eye. There is no preaching like that which is full of Christ, which gives forth a savor of his good ointments.

Worship is not to be commended because of the glorious swell of a Gregorian chant, or because of the equally majestic volume of sound which this great assembly may send forth from that sweet instrument, the human voice. A service is not to be commended because of the eloquence of the preacher, or because of the display of learning which he is able to make in expounding his discourse. No, to the Christian it is, “Was the Master there?”

C. H. Spurgeon, MTP vol. 10

12 December 2006


God sets a high estimate upon the righteous, and that appears by bestowing more excellent titles on them than upon others.

1. God calls them His jewels. He laid His best jewel to pawn for them. They are jewels for their sparkling quality. They shine in God's eye. The saints have a kind of angelic brightness, as one of the ancients expresses it.

They are jewels for their price. Diamonds, said Pliny, were not known a long time but among kings and emperors. The price of a saint is above others, "Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that perverteth his ways, though he be rich", Proverbs 28:6.

2. God calls the righteous "hidden ones," Psalm 83:3. They are hidden, first, for their invisibility. Their excellence is not known to many. The world can see their infirmity, not their eminence. A saint has that eternal glory which cannot be beheld by a carnal eye; the fair face is hid under a veil Second, righteous are hidden for their safety. Diamonds are hid in the rock, so the saint's life is hid in Christ, the Rock of Ages, Colossians 9:5.

3. God calls the righteous "the excellent of the earth," Psalm 16:2, or 'the magnificent, " as Junius renders it. They are the spiritual phoenixes; they are the cream and flower of the creation; they are the purer part of the world, doubly refined, Zechariah 13:9.

4. God calls them "vessels of honor, 2 Timothy 2:21.Though they are earthen vessels, yet they have heavenly treasure in them. They are filled with the wine of the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18 Though they are scoured with affliction, yet it is to make them brighter, Daniel 12:10.

5. God calls them the apple of His eye Zechariah 2:8. The apple of the eye is the tenderest part of the eye, to express God's tenderness of them, said Salvian God cannot endure to have His eyeball touched.

6. God calls them "His portion, " Deuteronomy 32:9. As if riches lay in them. As a man seals a hag of money for his use, so the Lord seals His people as His portion with a double seal, one of election, 2 Timothy 2:19, the other of assurance, Ephesians 1 :13.

7. God calls them His "plant of renown. "Ezekiel 34:19. He hedges in this noble plant with His protection, waters it with the silver drops of His ordinances, blesses the springing of it, adorns it with fruit, and transplants it into the heavenly paradise where it grows continually in the sweet sunshine of His favor.

8. God calls them "joint heirs with Christ, "Romans 8:17. Jesus Christ is a rich heir. He is Lord of all. and the saints have shares with Christ.

9. God calls them the luminaries of the world. They give light by their precepts and example. "Among whom ye shine as lights in the world," Philippians 2:15, Lot was a bright star in Sodom. The world would be dark were it not for the children of light.

10. God calls them a "peculiar people," 1 Peter 2:9. He has taken them out of the world as out of the wild forest, and enclosed them to Himself by a decree. They are a purchased people. The righteous are the purchase of Christ's blood, and He will not lose His purchase.

11. God calls them a kingdom of priests. They are kings. They have their throne, Revelation 3:21, and white robes, Revelation 6:11, Robes signify their dignity and white their sanctity.

11 December 2006

Once Dead Now Alive Sermon Notes

Our Condition: dead

Romans 6:16 (NASB95)
16Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?

Romans 6:21 (NASB95)
21Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death.

Romans 6:23 (NASB95)
23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 7:5 (NASB95)
5For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.

The verse that best sums up what it means to be spiritually dead is this:

‘the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned’ (1 Cor 2:14).

They are dead to God and insensitive to Him, but full of life toward everything contrary to the law or the holiness of God.

Spurgeon said:

We were dead, all of us; and yet we were not all like on another. Death may be universal over a certain number of bodies, and yet those bodies may look very different. The dead that lie on the battle-field, torn of dogs or kites, rotting, corrupting in the sun, what a horrible sight! The corpse looks like life still; yet is your beloved one in the coffin as dead as the mangled bodies on the battle-field. Corruption has not yet done its work, and tender care has guarded the body as yet from what will surely come to it; yet is there death, sure, complete death, in the one case as well as in the other.

So we have many who are lovely, amiable, morally admirably, like him whom the Savior looked upon and loved; yet they are dead for all that. We have others who are drunken, profane, unchaste; they are dead, not more dead than the others; but their death has left its terrible traces more plainly visible.

But dead we were, most certainly. Even though trained by godly parents, though well instructed in the gospel scheme, though saturated with the piety that surrounded us, we were dead, as dead as the harlot of the street, as dead as the thief in the jail.

Our Conduct: under sway of world, flesh and devil

Those who are spiritually dead are under the sway of the world, the Devil, and the flesh:


Regarding their domination by the world, he says in the first part of verse 2, “in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world.” The word translated “world” (kosmos) is used 186 times in the Greek New Testament, and virtually every instance has an evil connotation.

DEFINITION: To be of the world is life lived apart from God, in attitude and action. It is an attitude towards everything, towards God, towards ourselves, and towards life in this world; to be of the world is to view all these things apart from God.

To be of the world—and this is repeated by the apostles—means that we are governed by the mind and the outlook and the way of this world in which we live.

The Devil.

Paul describes the Devil as “the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (v. 2). Satan is described in Scripture as “the prince of this world” (John 12:31), “the prince of demons” (Matthew 9:34), and, a sobering title, “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4). This Devil dominates and energizes the spiritually dead.

The flesh.

“All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature [the flesh] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath” (v. 3). The dead are corrupted from within too.

. The general description is ‘the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life’ (1 Jn 2:16), and that is a perfect analysis.

Bunyan described it all in his picture of Vanity Fair:

Then I saw in my dream, that when they were got out of the wilderness, they presently saw a town before them, and the name of that town is Vanity; and at the town there is a fair kept, called Vanity Fair: it is kept all the year long; it beareth the name of Vanity Fair, because the town where it is kept is lighter than vanity; and also because all that is there sold, or that cometh thither, is vanity. As is the saying of the wise, “All that cometh is vanity” (Eccl. 1; 2:11, 17; 11:8; Isa. 40:17).
This fair is no new-erected business, but a thing of ancient standing; I will show you the original of it.
Almost 5,000 years agone, there were pilgrims walking to the Celestial City as these two honest persons are: and Beelzebub, Apollyon, and Legion, with their companions, perceiving by the path that the pilgrims made, that their way to the city lay through this town of Vanity, they contrived here to set up a fair; a fair wherein should be sold all sorts of vanity, and that it should last all the year long: therefore at this fair are all such merchandise sold, as houses, lands, trades, places, honours, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures, and delights of all sorts, as whores, bawds, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and what not. And, moreover, at this fair there is at all times, to be seen juggling, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind.

Condemnation—under wrath and liable to judgment

Colossians 3:6-7 (NASB95)
6For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote:

Let us make no mistake about this. If you and I go out of this life belonging to the world, and of the world, we have nothing to look forward to but wrath. I do not know if you can tell me of a sadder statement in Scripture than John 17:9: ‘I pray not for the world.’ Those who are of the world are under the wrath of God until they come out of that position, until they believe in Christ and until they are saved and reconciled to God. He does not pray for them, they are just left, and it is an appalling thing to think that people who go out like that go to nothing but the wrath of God. Oh the folly of being of the world! For, as John tells us, the world passes away and the lust thereof. Is it not astounding that everybody does not realize that? Let us pay heed to the warning of things that happen. The world is passing away. Your pride in your appearance, in your life and position, all you have and what you are, my friend, is decaying and rotting even as you are boasting of it. And a day will come when it will be useless and your naked soul will be there alone. ‘The world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever’ (1 Jn 2:17).

Saved by Grace: BUT GOD (Divine Initiative and Intervention)

God has called us

out of death and into life (John 5:24-25),
out of darkness and into light (1 Pet. 2:9),
out of Satan’s kingdom and into the kingdom of his Son (Col. 1:13),
out of shame and into his wonderful glory (1 Pet. 5:10).

Salvation is initiated by God:

For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:3–5)

Jesus: He is full of grace.

Phil and Darlene Johnson joined Royale and me on a visit to Hampton Court. There we saw among this grand place, the King’s Chambers. The entrance to these chambers brought us into a large gathering room with a grand staircase, rising up to meet the king. The walls were lined with huge murals meant to impose and astound. The top of the stairs opened into a large guards quarters, surrounded by weapons. One could feel the strength of these images of grandeur, wealth, prestige and power.

Are you dressed properly? Do you carry the right credentials? Is your business pertinent? Do you deserve to demand the king’s presence?

But think of the Lord in his exalted place. Higher and higher we go, until all human ability to connect departs and we are left speechless, with no mental capacity to take in the vastness of God’s glory. Awe, wonder, are all we can say of that grandeur.

Dare we go in? Are we dressed correctly? No, all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags in His sight. Are we positioned well enough? No, we are a son of Adam, who disobeyed at the first and ran from His presence when invited back. Are we powerful enough? Only a fool would think that possible. And so here we are, outside. Outside where we deserve.

But wait, what is this? A message from the king….In its first statement, it calls “Sinner, Come In!” O, that is a hopeful sound! A sinner can come in. But what about me?

Then, by the mercy, here the words change---Chris, Dave, Sheila, Sue, Bob—we are called by name. “Come in.”

How did this entrance happen—through the death of Christ, bearing your punishment. Through His blood which stands as the basis for your forgiveness.

He is set forth as betrayed, apprehended, condemned, spit on, scourged, buffeted, mocked, crowned with thorns, crucified, pierced with nails and a spear,
to save the soul from being betrayed by the devil and sin;
to save it from being apprehended by justice, and condemned by the law;
to save it from being spit on, in a way of contempt, by holiness; to save it from being scourged with guilt of sins, as with scorpions;
to save it from being continually buffeted by its own conscience;
to save it from being mocked at by God;
to save it from being crowned with ignominy and shame for ever;
to save it from dying the second death;
to save it from wounds and grief for ever.

Do you understand? He wrestled with justice, that you might have rest; He wept and mourned, that you might laugh and rejoice; He was betrayed, that you might go free; was apprehended, that you might escape; He was condemned, that you might be justified; and was killed, that you might live; He wore a crown of thorns, that you might wear a crown of glory; and was nailed to the cross, with His arms wide open, to show with what freeness all His merits shall be bestowed on the coming soul; and how heartily He will receive it into His bosom?

(3) Salvation brings a new orientation. We now enjoy the things of God, rejoicing in his glory, preferring his people, affirming his laws, and seeking his counsel.

We should in our conversation adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.

It is a great word of the apostle, “Only let your daily living be as it becomes the gospel of Christ,” which is the gospel of the grace of God (Phil 1:27). God expects that there should in our whole life be a fragrance of the gospel, or that in our life among men there should be preached to them the grace of the gospel of God.

07 December 2006

How England Was Revived in the 18th Century by J.C. Ryle

That a great change for the better came over England during the 18th century is a fact that I suppose no well-informed person would ever attempt to deny. You might as well attempt to deny that there was a Protestant Reformation in the days of Luther, a Long Parliament in the time of Cromwell, or a French Republic at the end of the 18th century. There was a vast change for the better. Both in religion and in morality, the country gradually went through a complete revolution. This is a great fact that even the irreligious cannot deny, however they may attempt to explain it.
But, by what means was this great change effected? To whom are we indebted for the immense improvement in religion and morality that undoubtedly came over the land? Who, in a word, were the instruments whom God employed in bringing about the great English reformation of the 18th century?

The government of the country can lay no claim to the credit for the change. Morality cannot be called into being by laws and statutes. People have never yet been made religious by acts of government. In fact, the parliaments and administrations of the 18th century did as little for religion and morality as any that ever existed in England. Nor did the change come from the Church of England as a body. The leaders of that venerable institution were utterly unequal to the times. Left to herself, the Church of England would probably have died of pride and inactivity.

Nor did the change come from the independent churches of the dissenters. Content with their recently won freedoms, that worthy body of men seemed to rest upon their oars. In the general enjoyment of their new rights of conscience, they forgot the vital principles of their forefathers as well as their own duties and responsibilities.

Who, then, were the reformers of the 18th century? To whom are we indebted, under God, for the change that took place? The men who wrought deliverance at this period were a few individuals, most of them clergymen of the Established Church, men whose hearts God touched about the same time in various parts of the country. They were not wealthy or highly connected. They had neither money to buy adherents nor family influence to command attention and respect. They were not put forward by any church, party, society, or institution. They were simply men whom God stirred up and brought out to do His work without previous concert, scheme, or plan.

They did Christ’s work in the old apostolic way by becoming the evangelists of their day. They taught one set of truths. They taught them in the same way, with fire, reality, and earnestness. They taught them in the same spirit, always loving, compassionate, and like Paul, even weeping, but always bold, unflinching, and not fearing the face of man. They did not wait for sinners to come to them, but rather they sought sinners. Instead of sitting idle until sinners offered to repent, they assaulted the high places of ungodliness like men storming a breach, giving sinners no rest so long as they held to their sins.

The movement of these gallant evangelists shook England from one end to another. From the beginning, people in high places made it known that they despised them. The educated class sneered at them as fanatics.

The humorists made jokes and invented sarcastic names for them. The Church of England shut her doors on them, and even the dissenters turned the cold shoulder on them. The ignorant mob persecuted them. But the movement of these few evangelists went on and made itself felt in every part of the land.

Many were aroused and awakened to think about religion. Many were shamed out of their sins. Many became frightened at their own ungodliness. Many were converted. Many who declared their dislike of the movement were secretly provoked to imitation. The little sapling became a strong tree; the little creek became a deep, broad stream; and the little spark became a steady, burning flame. A candle was lighted of which we are now enjoying the benefit.

The feeling of all classes in the land about religion and morality gradually assumed a totally different complexion. And all this, under God, was effected by a few unpatronized, unpaid adventurers! When God takes a work in hand, nothing can stop it. When God is for us, none can be against us.

The Sword of Preaching

The instrumentality by which the spiritual reformers of the 18th century carried on their operations was of the simplest description. It was neither more nor less than the old apostolic weapon of preaching. The sword that Paul wielded with such mighty effect when he assaulted the strongholds of heathenism 1,800 years ago was the same sword by which they won their victories.

To say, as some have done, that they neglected education and schools is totally incorrect. Wherever they gathered congregations, they cared for the children. To say, as others have done, that they neglected the sacraments is simply false. Those who make these assertions only expose their entire ignorance of the religious history of that period. But beyond a doubt, preaching was their favorite weapon. They wisely went back to first principles and took up apostolic plans. They held, with Paul, that a minister’s first work is to preach the gospel.

They preached everywhere. If the pulpit of a parish church was open to them, they gladly availed themselves of it. If it could not be obtained, they were equally ready to preach in a barn. No place was too unworthy for them. In the field or by the roadside, on the village grass or in a marketplace, in lanes or in alleys, in cellars or in attics, on a tub or on a table, on a bench or on a horse block, wherever hearers could be gathered, the spiritual reformers of the 18th century were ready to speak to them about their souls. They were instant in season and out of season in doing Christ’s work, and crossed sea and land in carrying forward their Father’s business. Now, all this was a new thing. Can we wonder that it produced a great effect?

They preached simply. They rightly concluded that the very first qualification to be aimed at in a sermon is to be understood. They saw clearly that thousands of able and well composed sermons are utterly useless because they are above the heads of the hearers. They strove to come down to the level of the people and to speak what the poor could understand.

To attain this, they were not ashamed to sacrifice their reputations as learned men. They willingly used illustrations and anecdotes in abundance and, like Jesus their Master, borrowed lessons from every object in nature. They carried out the maxim of Augustine, “A wooden key is not so beautiful as a golden one, but if it can open the door when the golden one cannot, it is far more useful.”

They revived the style of sermons in which Luther and Latimer were so eminently successful. In short, they saw the truth of what the great German Reformer meant when he said, “No one can be a good preacher to the people who is not willing to preach in a manner that seems childish and vulgar to some.” Now all this, again, was quite new in their age.

They preached fervently and directly. They cast aside that dull, cold, lifeless mode of delivery that had long made sermons boring. They proclaimed the words of faith with faith, and the story of life with life. They spoke with fiery zeal, like men who were thoroughly persuaded that what they said was true and that it was of the utmost importance to your eternal interest to hear it.
They spoke like men who had a message from God for you, who felt that they must deliver it, and that they must have your attention while they delivered it. They threw heart, soul, and feeling into their sermons, and they sent their hearers home convinced that the preacher was sincere and wished them well. They believed that you must speak from the heart if you wish to speak to the heart, and that there must be unmistakable faith and conviction within the pulpit if there is to be faith and conviction among the pews. All this was a thing that had become almost obsolete. Can we wonder that it took people by storm and produced an immense effect?

The Substance of Preaching

But what was the substance and subject matter of the preaching that produced such wonderful effect in the 18th century? I will not insult my readers’ common sense by only saying that it was simple, earnest, fervent, real, genial, brave, lifelike, and so forth. I would have it understood that it was eminently doctrinal and distinct. The strongholds of that century’s sins would never have been cast down by mere earnestness and negative teaching. The trumpets that blew down the walls of Jericho were trumpets that gave no uncertain sound. The English evangelists of the 18th century were not men of an uncertain creed. But what was it they proclaimed? A little information on this point may be useful.

For one thing, the spiritual reformers of the 18th century constantly taught the sufficiency and supremacy of Holy Scripture. The Bible, whole and unmutilated, was their sole rule of faith and practice. They accepted all its statements without question or dispute. They knew nothing of any part of Scripture being uninspired. They never flinched from asserting that there can be no error in the Word of God, and that when we cannot understand or reconcile some part of its contents, the fault is in the interpreter and not in the text. In all their preaching they were eminently men of one book. To that book they were content to pin their faith, and by it to stand or fall. This was one grand characteristic of their preaching. They honored, loved, and reverenced the Bible.

Furthermore, the reformers of the 18th century constantly taught the total corruption of human nature. They knew nothing of the modern notion that Christ is in every man, and that all possess something good within that they have only to stir up and use in order to be saved. They never flattered men and women in this fashion. They told them plainly that they were spiritually dead and must be made alive again, that they were guilty, lost, helpless, hopeless, and in imminent danger of eternal ruin. Strange as it may seem to some, their first step toward making men good was to show them that they were utterly bad, and their primary argument in persuading men to do something for their souls was to convince them that they could do nothing at all.

Furthermore, the reformers of the 18th century constantly taught that Christ’s death upon the cross was the only satisfaction for man’s sin, and that Christ died as our substitute, the just for the unjust. This, in fact, was the cardinal point in almost all their sermons.

They never taught the modern doctrine that Christ’s death was only a great example of self-sacrifice. They saw in it something far greater and deeper than that--they saw in it the payment of man’s mighty debt to God. They loved Christ’s person, they rejoiced in Christ’s promises, and they urged men to walk after Christ’s example. But the one subject concerning Christ that they delighted to dwell on above all others was the atoning blood that Christ shed for us on the cross.

Furthermore, the reformers of the 18th century constantly taught the great doctrine of justification by faith. They told men that faith was the one thing needful in order to obtain an interest in Christ’s work for their souls. They declared that before we believe, we are spiritually dead and have no interest in Christ, but that the moment we do believe, we live and are entitled to all Christ’s benefits. Justification by virtue of church membership - justification without believing or trusting - were notions to which they gave no merit. 'Everything if you will believe, and nothing if you do not believe': this was the very marrow of their preaching.

Furthermore, the reformers of the 18th century constantly taught the universal necessity of heart conversion and new creation by the Holy Spirit. They proclaimed everywhere to the crowds whom they addressed, “You must be born again.” Sonship to God by baptism or while continuing to do the will of the devil they never admitted. The regeneration they preached was no dormant, motionless thing. It was something that could be seen, discerned, and known by its effects.

Furthermore, the reformers of the 18th century constantly taught the inseparable connection between true faith and personal holiness. They never allowed for a moment that any church membership or religious profession was the least proof of a man being a true Christian if he lived an ungodly life. A true Christian, they maintained, must always be known by his fruits, and these fruits must be plainly manifest and unmistakable in all aspects of life. “No fruits, no grace” was the constant tenor of their preaching.

Finally, the reformers of the 18th century constantly taught, as equally true doctrines, God’s eternal hatred against sin and God’s love toward sinners. They knew nothing of a heaven where the holy and unholy are both able to find admission. With respect to heaven and hell, they used the utmost plainness of speech. They never shrank from declaring, in plain terms, the certainty of God’s judgment and wrath to come if men persisted in impenitence and unbelief - and yet they never ceased to magnify the riches of God’s kindness and compassion, and to entreat all sinners to repent and turn to God before it was too late. Such were the main truths that the English evangelists of those times were constantly preaching.

These were the principal doctrines they were always proclaiming, whether in town or in the country, whether in church or in the open air, whether among the rich or among the poor. These were the doctrines by which they turned England upside down, made farmers weep until their dirty faces were streamed with tears, arrested the attention of peers and philosophers, stormed the strongholds of Satan, plucked thousands like brands from the burning, and altered the character of the age.
Call them simple and elementary doctrines, if you will. Say, if you please, that you see nothing grand, striking, new, or peculiar about this list of truths. But the fact is undeniable that God blessed these truths to the reformation of England. What God has blessed, man ought never to despise.

06 December 2006

The wise still seek Him

Are you following the guidance of the star of Bethlehem through the dark wilderness of life? If you are, you will be led to the Sun of Righteousness; you will find Jesus; and your heart shall rejoice; and your joy no man can take from you. And in a little while, your eyes shall behold the King of Zion, your exalted Savior, in the heavenly mansions, where his glory will be no more veiled as it was on earth. This blessed vision may be very near.

The sight of your Father's house above, may be ready to open upon your enraptured view. Angels may be waiting to conduct your happy soul to the glorious presence of King Jesus, who now reigns on heaven's highest, brightest throne. You may be about to sit down among that ransomed throng, who are now beholding the glory of Him, who was born in Bethlehem, and crucified on Calvary. You may be about to gaze upon that countenance which now shines as the sun- to see those hands which were for you nailed to the cross- to hear that voice, which alone can speak pardon and peace to the guilty, troubled soul. Oh, let us be thankful for that spiritual light which points us to such untold blessedness: and let our joy increase more and more, as by faith we see the Star of Morning, guiding us to glory and immortality. 'Exult in his holy name; O worshipers of the Lord, rejoice!'

When the wise men find the Savior they fall down, and worship Him. Notwithstanding the low and unhonored condition in which they see Him, they at once prostrate themselves in His presence with grateful hearts, paying homage to His name, and presenting unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. What a noble example is here presented to us! When we find the blessed Jesus, we should acknowledge His majesty, worship Him as our divine Savior, while, at the same time, we should give Him the strongest affections of our hearts, and the best services of our lives. We should present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto Him, which is our reasonable service. We should honor Him with our substance, and with the first-fruits of all our increase. Counting nothing too valuable to be withheld from Him, we should be ready, if necessary, to part with life itself for the sake of Him who, in His incomparable mercy, laid down His own precious life for us, that we might never experience the second death- that we might be crowned with a blissful immortality.

Thomas Brooks, The Star of Bethlehem

Preparing the Heart for Christmas

Hark, the glad sound! the Savior comes!
The Savior promised long!
Let every heart prepare a throne,
And every voice a song.
He comes the prisoners to release,
In Satan's bondage held;
The gates of brass before him burst,
The iron fetters yield.
He comes the broken heart to bind,
The bleeding soul to cure,
And with the treasures of His grace
To enrich the humble poor.
Our glad Hosannas, Prince of Peace,
Your welcome shall proclaim;
And heaven's eternal arches ring
With Your beloved name. -Doddridge

04 December 2006

Oratory not a substitute for Truth

Table Talk No. 3975: Church Fathers Do Not Adhere to Scriptures August 24, 1538

Then there was talk about the writings of the church fathers on the Bible and how these left the reader in uncertainty. He [Martin Luther] responded,

“I’m not allowed to make judgments about them because they’re writers of recognized authority and I’m compelled to be an apostate. But let him who wishes read them, and Chrysostom in particular. He was the supreme orator, but how he digressed from the thing at hand to other matters! While I was lecturing on the letter to the Hebrews and consulted Chrysostom, [I found that] he wrote nothing about the contents of the letter.

I believe that as the greatest orator Chrysostom had plenty of hearers but that he taught without fruit. For it ought to be the primary and principal function of a preacher to reflect upon the substance, contents, and sum total of the matter and instruct his hearer accordingly. Once this is done the preacher can use rhetoric and exhort.”

Luther, M. Vol. 54:304 Luther's works, Table Talk

01 December 2006

Forgiven and Forgiving

Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." –Luke 23:34

If the Christian precept of FORGIVENESS be estimated by the magnitude of the injury forgiven, then these words of Jesus present to our view a forgiveness of an inconceivable and unparalleled injury. The greatest crime man ever committed was the crucifixion of the Son of God; and yet, for the forgiveness of that crime, the Savior prays at the very moment of its perpetration, fully persuaded of the sovereign efficacy of the blood His enemies were now shedding, to blot out the enormous guilt of the sin of shedding it.

This interceding prayer of Jesus for His murderers was in the sweetest harmony with all He had previously taught. On no gospel precept did He seem to lay greater stress than the precept of forgiveness of injury. "FORGIVE, and you shall be forgiven." "When you stand praying, FORGIVE, if you have anything against any." "But if you do not FORGIVE, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive you your trespasses." "How often shall my brother sin against me, and I FORGIVE him? Until seven times? Jesus says unto him, I say not unto you, Until seven times, but UNTIL SEVENTY TIMES SEVEN." Where shall we find any Christian precept enjoined in our Lord's teaching so lucidly explained, so frequently enforced, or so impressively illustrated, as the forgiveness of injury?

Thus, what Jesus taught in His preaching, He embodied in His example. In addition to this prayer for His murderers, uttered amid the insults and tortures they were at that moment inflicting--see Him healing the ear of one of the band sent to arrest Him; see Him turning a look of forgiving love upon the penitent dying at His side; listen to the charge He gave to His apostles after His resurrection, to 'begin' their work of unfolding the message of salvation 'at Jerusalem,' whose inhabitants were to be the first to drink of the Rock they had smitten, and the first to wash in the blood they had shed. Oh, was ever forgiveness of injury like Christ's? My soul, sit down at His feet, yes, beneath His cross, and learn the lesson now so solemnly taught, and so touchingly enforced, even the lesson of forgiving and praying for your enemies, and for all who despitefully use you--"Father, forgive them!"

We cannot pass through an ungodly world, nor even mingle with the saints, and not be often unjustly misrepresented, strangely misunderstood, and unkindly wounded. The lily grows among thorns; the lamb goes forth among wolves. So Jesus reminded His disciples. And yet it is the saddest thought of all that, our deepest wounds are those which we receive in the house of our friends. There are no injuries so unexpectedly inflicted, or so keenly felt, as those which we receive from our fellow-saints.

But, oh, the blessedness of writing as Christ did, those injuries upon the sands, which the next flood-tide of forgiving love shall instantly and utterly efface! Standing before this marvelous spectacle of forgiveness--Christ on the cross praying for His slayers--what true believer in Jesus can think of the wrong done to himself, the injustice inflicted, the pain produced, and yet harbor in his heart a revengeful, unforgiving spirit? My soul, go to the brother who has offended, to the sister who has wounded you, and say, "In lowly imitation of my Savior, I FORGIVE you all that wrong." "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Col. 3:12-13

Octavius Winslow. Consider Jesus.

“Make a Way for the King” Isaiah 40

Isaiah lived in momentous days, in critical days of international upheaval, and he wrote what many consider to be the greatest book in the Old Testament. In our present troubling times, Isaiah is the prophet we need to hear when he cries out God’s message, “Comfort, comfort my people!”

Here's an outline of promises of comfort--promises realised in the coming of Jesus:

Comfort One: Pardon instead of sin (vv. 1–2).

Comfort Two: Obstacles removed; Glory displayed (vv.3-5)

Comfort Three: God’s Word remains forever (vv.6-8)

Comfort Four: The Lord helps and heals His own (vv.9-11)

28 November 2006

A favourite picture of salvation

Some books are worth reading, and far fewer are worth reading twice. Charles Spurgeon read Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress over 100 times, always with profit. The following, a favoured section, pictures the simplicity of salvation by faith in Christ and the joy that comes when the knowledge of forgiveness is realised:

Now I saw in my dream, that the highway up which Christian was to go, was fenced on either side with a wall, and that wall was called Salvation (Isaiah 26:1). Up this way, therefore, did burdened Christian run, but not without great difficulty, because of the load on his back.

He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.

Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said with a merry heart, "He hath given me rest by his sorrow, and life by his death."

Then he stood still a while, to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden. He looked, therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks (Zech. 12:10).

Now as he stood looking and weeping, behold, three Shining Ones came to him, and saluted him with, "Peace be to thee." So the first said to him, "Thy sins be forgiven thee (Mark 2:5);" the second stripped him of his rags, and clothed him with change of raiment (Zech. 3:4); the third also set a mark on his forehead (Eph. 1:13), and gave him a roll with a seal upon it, which he bid him look on as he ran, and that he should give it in at the celestial gate: so they went their way. Then Christian gave three leaps for joy, and went on singing,

"Thus far did I come laden with my sin, Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in, Till I came hither. What a place is this! Must here be the beginning of my bliss? Must here the burden fall from off my back? Must here the strings that bound it to me crack? Blest cross! blest sepulchre! blest rather be The Man that there was put to shame for me!"

27 November 2006

Living Like Jesus--a call for unity of relationships

The Atlantic Monthly (11/94) told about superstar tenors Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti performing together in Los Angeles. A reporter tried to press the issue of competitiveness between the three men.

“You have to put all of your concentration into opening your heart to the music,” Domingo said. “You can’t be rivals when you’re together making music.”

That’s also true in the church.

The foundation for believers’ oneness is the unity God granted in answer to Jesus’ prayer that His people “may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21).

God’s Interest in our Unity

Comfort in Christ

Comforting is God’s proper work, for he turns earlier desolation into perfect consolation for individuals. This encouragement in Christ is the support Jesus gives to his followers.

Consolation of love’. The basic sense of the verb in classical Greek was ‘to speak to someone in a friendly way’

Where as once our consciences spoke accusingly to us and about us, now the sweet words of love settle our hearts by their soft, gentle expressions.

Companionship of the Holy Spirit: Participation in His gifts and influences

Concern and Compassion

There is this great experience of mercy from God. If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, then you have experienced God’s compassion. You deserved hell, yet he loved you and died for you. He leads you in this life and will yet lead you to heaven. You have known great mercy.

God’s Instructions for our Unity

Since we have been blessed with such riches in a magnificent way, let us hear Christ’s exhortation through His own example:

Submission (a bow)

Servanthood (a towel)

Suffering (a cross)

Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.
A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

God’s Involvement in our Unity

Final Glory; Humility for a time, honour for an eternity

22 November 2006

A Thanksgiving Reflection

"He has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” (Acts 14:17 NIV).

We glimpse God’s reality and goodness in and through simple activities of life--He has designed time around a bountiful table with friends and family as an example of His goodness to all.

For twelve successive years, our family met with another to share Thanksgiving Day together. Tomorrow will be our first year of absence—London is just a bit too far from Los Angeles. Those twelve gatherings are cherished memories. Nothing unique, nothing overly exciting happened. We met, shared laughter, stories, poetry, a sumptuous meal, a brief post-meal nap during the football game, and later in the evening, a documentary or old movie.

Yet, in all those simple things something profound happened; we found our lives had been nurtured with gladness and we were made more grateful to God. Each gathering cemented into the core of our hearts this focus—that there is little more precious in life than to receive and appreciate the goodness of God in friends.

Thank you Garry and Elizabeth. Those times together we hold precious.

May the Lord grant us a greater ability to see and appreciate this expression of His goodness to us every day, in every relationship He's given us.

20 November 2006

5 Characteristics of a Healthy Church Abbreviated Sermon Notes

5 characteristics of a healthy church

The study of human growth is known as auxology. Growth and height have long been recognized as a measure of the health and wellness of individuals, hence part of the reasoning for the use of growth charts. For individuals, as indicators of health problems, growth trends are tracked for significant deviations and growth is also monitored for significant deficiency from genetic expectations.

Height is determined by the complex interactive combination of genetics and environment. Genetic potential plus nutrition, minus stressors is a basic formula.

Diet (in addition to needed nutrients; such things as junk food and attendant health problems such as obesity), exercise, fitness, pollution exposure, sleep patterns, climate and even happiness (psychological well-being) are other factors that can affect growth and final height.

What does Christian maturity look like?

The words “still more and more” indicate something of the Philippians’ present yet partial enjoyment of the graces for which Paul prays on their behalf. The subsequent clauses express, with progressive significance, the goals that the apostle sets before his readers.

I. Increasing in love which is insightful (v. 9)

This is a prayer for maturity, and Paul begins with love. After all, if our Christian love is what it ought to be, everything else should follow. He prays that they might experience abounding love and discerning love.

It was Paul’s prayer that the Philippians’ love for other believers would abound, run over as a cup or a river overflows.
Donald W. Burdick gives three characteristics of this godly sort of love:
It is spontaneous. There was nothing of value in the persons loved that called forth such sacrificial love. God of His own free will set His love on us in spite of our enmity and sin. [Agape] is love that is initiated by the lover because he wills to love, not because of the value or lovableness of the person loved.

It is self-giving. [Agape] is not interested in what it can gain, but in what it can give. It is not bent on satisfying the lover, but on helping the one loved whatever the cost.

It is active. [Agape] is not mere sentiment cherished in the heart. Nor is it mere words however eloquent. It does involve feeling and may express itself in words, but it is primarily an attitude toward another that moves the will to act in helping to meet the need of the one loved.

This sort of God-given love is not easily counterfeited. Look at all that is involved:
love for God Himself (1 Cor. 16:22);
love for the brethren (1 Jn. 3:14);
love of truth and righteousness (Rom. 6:17–18);
love for the Word of God (Psa. 1:2); and even
love for one’s enemies! (Matt. 5:44).

The true test of genuine Christianity is how believers “love,” the generous, warm, costly self-sacrifice for another’s good.

John’s epistle makes godly love a kind of litmus test for the true Christian: “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (4:8).

With regard to that statement, Martyn Lloyd-Jones observed,

John does not put this merely as an exhortation. He puts it in such a way that it becomes a desperately serious matter, and I almost tremble as I proclaim this doctrine. There are people who are unloving, unkind, always criticizing, whispering, backbiting, pleased when they hear something against another Christian. Oh, my heart grieves and bleeds for them as I think of them; they are pronouncing and proclaiming that they are not born of God. They are outside the life of God; and I repeat, there is no hope for such people unless they repent and turn to Him. 7

Ephesians 4:25-5:2 (NIV)

25Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold. 28He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. 29Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

II. Investigating liberties to focus on excellence (v. 10a)

The idea of testing is clearly in view in the Greek word dokimaz┼Ź, translated “discern.” The testing is with a view to approving. The word was used in testing metals and coins, to determine whether they met the specified standards.

Life is filled with choices:

British prime minister Herbert Asquith once spent a weekend at the Waddesdon estate of the 19th-century Rothschild family. One day, as Asquith was being waited on at tea time by the butler, the following conversation ensued: “Tea, coffee, or a peach from off the wall, sir?”
“Tea, please,” answered Asquith.
“China, India, or Ceylon, sir?” asked the butler.
“China, please.”
“Lemon, milk, or cream, sir?”
“Milk, please,” replied Asquith.
“Jersey, Hereford, or Shorthorn, sir?” asked the butler.
Today in the Word, May 5, 1993

Possessing abounding love would enable the Philippians to give approval to things of the greatest value and importance. Conversely they would disapprove things of lesser significance. Most of the choices that a spiritual believer faces are not between morally good and morally evil things but between things of lesser and greater value. The things that we choose because we love them reflect how discerning our love really is.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).
Ephesians 5:8-10 “walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph. 5:8–10),
Thessalonians 5:21 “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good”

Our heart condition is a key factor in the choices we make:

A Sunday school teacher asked if any scholar recollected an instance in Scripture of anyone making a bad choice through lack of discernment:
“I do,” replied a boy, “Esau made a bad choice when he sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.”
A second said, “Judas made a wrong choice when he sold his Lord for thirty pieces of silver.”
A third replied, “Ananias and Saphira made a bad choice when they sold their land and then told Peter a falsehood about it.”
A fourth observed. “Our Lord tells us that he makes a bad choice who, to gain the whole world, loses his own soul.”

What value do you place on things?

Jesus put it this way—where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Where’s your treasure? Look at your life and ask what you emphasize in life, in energies, in finances, in time, in discussion. Measure that up with the revelation of God’s word and ask if those things are God’s priorities.

Years ago the son of a wealthy American family graduated from Yale University and decided to go out to China as a missionary for Jesus Christ. His name was William Borden. Many of his friends thought him foolish to give up so much of this world’s goods and his future to go there. But Borden loved the Lord Jesus Christ, and he wished to serve him. After only a short time on the field, and before he even reached China, Borden contracted a fatal disease and died. He had given up everything to follow Jesus. But at his bedside his friends found a note that he had written as he lay dying: “No reserve, no retreat, and no regrets.” Borden had given up everything, but he had found a treasure that was beyond words.

III. Integrity of life that passes test of scrutiny from God and neighbor (v. 10b)

Paul also prays that they might have mature Christian character, “sincere and without offense.” The Greek word translated “sincere” may have several meanings. Some translate it “tested by sunlight.” The sincere Christian is not afraid to “stand in the light!”

When there was a crack in a statue or a vase, a dishonest dealer would fill it in with wax so that one couldn’t tell that it had been broken. Then he would sell it as a genuine, perfect piece. An unsuspecting man would buy it, take it to his villa, and display it in his garden. The next hot day he would walk out and, lo and behold, the wax would be running out of a crack in that lovely art treasure! Finally the reputable art dealers began to put on their material the word sincerus, meaning without wax. In other words, they guaranteed it was a perfect piece.

The renowned nineteenth-century Scottish preacher Alexander Maclaren wrote, “The world takes its notions of God, most of all, from the people who say that they belong to God’s family. They read us a great deal more than they read the Bible. They see us; they only hear about Jesus Christ” (First and Second Peter and First John [New York: Eaton and Maines, 1910], 105).

IV. Intense holiness derived from a vital union w/ Christ (v. 11)

Paul prays that in the hearts and lives of the Philippians there may be a rich spiritual harvest, consisting of a multitude of the fairest fruits of heaven; such as, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:22, 23), and the works which result from these dispositions.

V. Intention to direct all efforts to God's glory (v. 11)

Philippians 3:7-14 (NIV)
7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

18 November 2006

The Lion and the Lamb

Well, the following won't be the easiest thing you've ever read, but the contemplation of Jesus' glory and humility as expressed here by Jonathan Edwards is sure to repay your efforts:

There do meet in Jesus Christ infinite highness and infinite condescension.
Christ, as he is God, is infinitely great and high above all. He is higher than the kings of the earth, for he is King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is higher than the heavens, and higher than the highest angels of heaven. So great is he, that all men, all kings and princes, are as worms of the dust before him; all nations are as the drop of the bucket, and the light dust of the balance; yea, and angels themselves are as nothing before him. He is so high, that he is infinitely above any need of us; above our reach, that we cannot be profitable to him; and above our conceptions, that we cannot comprehend him. Prov. xxx. 4. “What is his name, and what is his Son’s name, if thou canst tell?” Our understandings, if we stretch them never so far, cannot reach up to his divine glory. Job xi. 8. “It is high as heaven, what canst thou do?” Christ is the Creator and great Possessor of heaven and earth.

He is sovereign Lord of all. He rules over the whole universe, and doth whatsoever pleaseth him. His knowledge is without bound. His wisdom is perfect, and what none can circumvent. His power is infinite, and none can resist him. His riches are immense and inexhaustible. His majesty is infinitely awful.

And yet he is one of infinite condescension.

None are so low or inferior, but Christ’s condescension is sufficient to take a gracious notice of them. He condescends not only to the angels, humbling himself to behold the things that are done in heaven, but he also condescends to such poor creatures as men; and that not only so as to take notice of princes and great men, but of those that are of meanest rank and degree, “the poor of the world,” James ii. 5. Such as are commonly despised by their fellow-creatures, Christ does not despise. 1 Cor. i. 28. “Base things of the world, and things that are despised, hath God chosen.” Christ condescends to take notice of beggars, Luke xvi. 22. and people of the most despised nations. In Christ Jesus is neither “Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free,” Col. iii. 11. He that is thus high, condescends to take a gracious notice of little children, Matt. xix. 14. “Suffer little children to come unto me.” Yea, which is more, his condescension is sufficient to take a gracious notice of the most unworthy, sinful creatures, those that have no good deservings, and those that have infinite ill-deservings.

Yea, so great is his condescension, that it is not only sufficient to take some gracious notice of such as these, but sufficient for every thing that is an act of condescension. His condescension is great enough to become their friend; to become their companion, to unite their souls to him in spiritual marriage. It is enough to take their nature upon him, to become one of them, that he may be one with them. Yea, it is great enough to abase himself yet lower for them, even to expose himself to shame and spitting; yea, to yield up himself to an ignominious death for them. And what act of condescension can be conceived of greater? Yet such an act as this, has his condescension yielded to, for those that are so low and mean, despicable and unworthy!

Such a conjunction of infinite highness and low condescension, in the same person, is admirable. We see, by manifold instances, what a tendency a high station has in men, to make them to be of a quite contrary disposition. If one worm be a little exalted above another, by having more dust, or a bigger dunghill, how much does he make of himself! What a distance does he keep from those that are below him! And a little condescension is what he expects should be made much of, and greatly acknowledged. Christ condescends to wash our feet; but how would great men, (or rather the bigger worms,) account themselves debased by acts of far less condescension!

16 November 2006

No Better Representative

Ever need a lawyer? When we do, they are more dear than our closest friend. And only a fool will try to stand without one.

John Flavel takes out his full-hearted pen and eloquently describes Christ as the advocate of His children:

1 John 2:1, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the Propitiation."

Christ pleads the cause of believers in heaven, appearing for them in the presence of God to prevent any new alienation, and to continue the state of friendship and peace between God and us.

In this relation Christ is altogether lovely. For,

1. He makes our cause his own, and acts for us in heaven, as if for himself, Heb. 4:15. He is touched with a most tender understanding of our troubles and dangers, and is not only one with us by way of representation, but also one with us in respect of sympathy and affection.

2. Christ our Advocate tracks our cause and business in heaven, as his great and primary design and business. For this reason Hebrews 7:25 says he "lives for ever to make intercession for us." It is as if our concerns were so attended to by him there, that all the glory and honour which is paid him in heaven would not divert him one moment from our business.

3. He pleads the cause of believers by his blood. Unlike other advocates, it is not enough for him to lay out only words, which is a cheaper way of pleading; but he pleads for us by the voice of his own blood, as in Heb. 12:24, where we are said to be come "to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than that of Abel." Every wound he received for us on earth is a mouth opened to plead with God on our behalf in heaven. And so in Revelation 5:6 he is represented standing before God, as a lamb that had been slain; as it were exhibiting and revealing in heaven those deadly wounds received on earth from the justice of God, on our account. Other advocates spend their breath, Christ spends his blood.

4. He pleads the cause of believers freely. Other advocates plead for reward, and empty the purses, while they plead the causes of their clients.

5. In a word, he obtains for us all the mercies for which he pleads. No cause miscarries in his hand, which he undertakes, Rom. 8:33, 34. what a lovely Advocate is Christ for believers!

15 November 2006

Hallelujah, What a Saviour!

Jesus is a delightful Saviour. His righteous life and death on behalf of sinners, when considered, brings our hearts to realms of praise and gratitude like nothing else could ever do. C.H. Spurgeon reflects,

How often do we set forth the truth, which is ever fresh and delightful to believers, that Christ Jesus, on the tree, took all the sins of all who believe in him, — took them to himself literally, and carried them as though they had been his own, and suffered for those sins, upon the cross, all that ought to have been suffered by us on account of those sins, enduring that which his Father accepted as an equivalent for all the agony which ought to have been endured by us because of those iniquities.

We believe, brethren and sisters in Christ, in the literal substitution of Christ for his people. Christ stood in the sinner’s place, and suffered what was due to the sinner, even the curse of God, and the wrath of God. And now he has so suffered for sinners that those, for whom he died, can have no sin laid to their charge so as to involve them in punishment, since it is a maxim of all courts of justice that the law cannot first punish the substitute, and then punish those in whose place he stood. Every honest man admits that a debt, once paid, is settled for over; so, as Christ paid the debt that his people owed: to infinite justice, it is far ever blotted out, and our obligations to divine justice are obliterated.

This is the joy of joys, this is the doctrine, that makes the gospel to be God’s good news to guilty sinners, this is the glorious truth that sets the bells of heaven a-ringing with their loudest and their sweetest music, — that Christ has made the sin of his people to cease to be. Thus is fulfilled that ancient prophecy, “In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.” The work of Messiah the Prince is “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness;” and this work was fully accomplished when “this Man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.”

O beloved, herein is bliss indeed for us if he did really die for us! your question and mine must be this, “Did Christ die for me?” To answer that, I must ask, Am I trusting in him?” If I am, then he did die for me and all my sins are gone because he was punished in my stead. My demerit was imputed to him, and he died to put it away; and, now, his merit is reckoned as my merit A wonderful transfer has been made by means of the death of Christ He has taken all the consequences of our guilt, and borne them all, and ended them for ever; so was he not indeed glorified in his death?

And thou, believer, mayest sing this sweet song, on earth and in heaven too, —

“In my Surety I am free,
His dear hands were pierced for me;
With his spotless vesture on
Holy as the Holy One.
“Oh the heights and depths of grace!
Shining with meridian blaze;
Here the sacred records show
Sinners black, but comely too.”
(MTP, 3024)

13 November 2006

The Jubilation of Heaven

This past Lord's Day, we remembered those who gave their lives to secure our peace. At Trinity Road Chapel, we looked together at Revelation 5 and the investure of Jesus, the Lion and Lamb, who brings ultimate peace to this existance and to His own. In recognition of His right to rule, a crescendo surrounds the throne in praise of Jesus. Note the connection of that wondrous transendant scene to this first-hand account of the night before VE day in London:

VE Day was officially declared on the 8th of May 1945 but the war in Europe was definitely over on that magic night before when London surged into life. My mother said to me: "Let's go to the West End Joan and join in the celebrations." So we jumped on a train from our nearby Clapham Junction station to Victoria and were astounded to see such huge, swirling crowds. We tried desperately to make our way to Buckingham Palace and staggered shoulder to shoulder with the crowds. What an incredible sight. A wave of humanity confronted us. Impassioned emotions would never be as high again. London was aflame with human exhilaration. Bonfires blazed continuously over London and the sky was alight with the glow of victory. No more suffering and hardship; peace had finally descended upon us and everybody was at one with each other regardless of race, creed and status. Survival and freedom were all that mattered. We had waited so very long for this and in our wildest dreams had never envisaged a night like this.
Mum and I finally reached Buckingham Palace with much effort and laughter and joined in the masses converging on the Palace and celebrating outside. Hundreds of people all waving flags were crowding in front of the Palace and drifting in from Piccadilly and Regents Street and thronging down the Mall. They sang their hearts out with many of the war songs particularly the Vera Lynn favourites and London was deafened once again, not from the bombs and artillery fire, but from the depths of human feeling in utter, utter relief that their beloved city of London which had endured so much was free. Dear old London; this was its finest hour. Fireworks streaked through the sky instead of searchlights and bombers. The pent up spirits of the long, weary war burst out and the whole of London was ablaze with celebration.
No more suffering; peace at last!

5 Characteristics of a Healthy Church

Phil 1:9-11
17 Nov 2006
Trinity Road Chapel
Sunday AM Sermon Outline

I. Increasing in love which is insightful and engaged in service (v. 9)

II. Investigating liberties to focus on excellence (v. 10a)

III. Integrity of life that passes test of scrutiny from God and neighbour (v. 10b)

IV. Intense holiness derived from a vital union w/ Christ (v. 11)

V. Intention to direct all efforts to God's glory (v. 11)

10 November 2006

Looking to Jesus

After reading the following quote, give time to consider what makes Jesus so compelling to you:

The object of sight is JESUS. "They shall look upon ME." It is the most lovely, winning, wondrous object upon which the intelligent eye ever rested. There is nothing in it terrifying or repelling, nothing to raise a thought or impart an emotion anything other than the most tender, holy and subdued. Trace the points of attraction which meet in Jesus, and marvel not that when the eye roams over them, the heart is irresistibly won, the soul is instantly dissolved, and the believer prostrates himself at the foot of the cross in the profoundest sense of his vileness before God. All loveliness, all excellence, all glory meet and center in Jesus the Crucified. He is the most wonderful, as He is the most beauteous and attractive being in the universe.

Octavius Winslow. The Foot of the Cross.

09 November 2006

Jesus, My All

"Sweeter sounds than music knows,
Charm me in Emmanuel's name
All her hopes my spirit owes
To his birth, and cross, and shame.
When he came, the angels sung
'Glory be to God on high!'
Lord, unloose my stammering tongue;
Who shall louder sing than I!" -John Newton

Setting Your Affections on Christ

From my early days as a believer, I've found great help in reading the puritans. Much of who I am theologically and devotionally has been formed by their influence--I never fail to profit from reading them. For example, the following remarks by Thomas Brooks puts me right in the centre of who I am:

If the Lord Jesus Christ is a believer’s life, then this serves to emphasize that all believers should highly prize the Lord Jesus.

Oh, it is this Christ that is your life; it is not your husband, it is not your child, it not this or that thing; neither is it this ordinance or that, that is a believer’s life. No; it is the Lord Jesus Christ who is the author, who is the matter, who is the exerciser, who is the strengthener, who is the completer, of a believer’s life.

You prize great people; the Lord Jesus Christ is great—he is King of kings, and Lord of lords.

You prize others for their wisdom and knowledge: the Lord Jesus has in himself all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, Col. 2:3.

You prize others for their beauty: the Lord Jesus Christ is the most beautiful of ten thousand, Song of Solomon 5:10.

You prize others for their usefulness: the Lord Jesus Christ is the right hand of a believer, without which he can do nothing.

The believer may say of Christ as the philosopher said of the heavens, Tolle coelum, nullus ero—Take away the heavens, and I shall be nobody; so take away Jesus Christ, and a believer is nobody—nobody to perform any action, nobody to bear any affliction, nobody to conquer corruption, nobody to withstand temptation, nobody to improve mercies, nor nobody to joy in others’ grace.

Oh, prize Jesus Christ!

07 November 2006

Showers of Blessing

Sunday, November 5 will be long remembered with joy by the folks at Trinity Road Chapel. A baptismal service was on the books. We made it a family service so all the children could be in to hear the testimonies and witness three ladies being baptised. We also prayed earnestly that God would bless these three baptismal candidates with family members to come with them to church.

When the day arrived, the Lord did abound in giving us His favour. The lower chapel was filled to capacity as was the upper balcony. We were all amazed. The friends and family of the candidates came, but so too did a number of individuals that no one had invited or expected to come. We were grateful for their presence with us in the service. One deacon remarked to me later that when he looked out on the congregation after coming in from the vestry, he could see no wood--the pews were full.

The testimonies of the three baptised will long be remembered for their clarity in detailing Christ's saving power. Of special note was a young lady's named Becky. The Lord visited the singing as the people were quite moved to praise. My sons had an extended conversation later about how powerful the singing sounded to them that morning. And several said they were encouraged by the clear gospel preached from Titus 3. The church was abuzz with encouragement and joy. The church is now busy praying for those yet without Christ who attended, that they may come to a saving knowledge of Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

Coming close to celebrating 20 years in full-time ministry, I know these days deserve remembering and called to mind during other, less encouraging times. So please indulge me as I set out a marker declaring that God visited us with His blessing and favour. May He in His goodness and mercy continue to do so, and may He be pleased to favour your congregation with a similar refreshing! And let us be careful to remember Him with praise and thanks for the things He does among us.

Flavel:Christ Altogether Lovely

"There's not a friend like the lowly Jesus, no, not one" rings a phrase from a song sung in the church I attended as a new believer. There is great benefit in bringing one's heart before that truth. A consideration for you from the puritan John Flavel:

There are certain things in which one friend manifests his affection and friendship to another, but there is not one like Christ. For,

1. No friend is so open-hearted to his friend as Christ is to his people: he reveals the very counsels and secrets of his heart to them. John 15:15. "Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knows not what his Lord does; but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you.

2. No friend in the world is so generous and bountiful to his friend, as Jesus Christ is to believers; he parts with his very blood for them; "Greater love (he says) has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends," John 15:13. He has exhausted the precious treasures of his invaluable blood to pay our debts. O what a lovely friend is Jesus Christ to believers!
3. No friend sympathizes so tenderly with his friend in affliction, as Jesus Christ does with his friends: "In all our afflictions he is afflicted," Heb. 4:15. He feels all our sorrows, needs and burdens as his own. This is why it is said that the sufferings of believers are called the sufferings of Christ, Col. 1:24 .

4. No friend in the world takes that contentment in his friends, as Jesus Christ does in believers. Song of Songs 4:9. "You have ravished my heart, (he says to the spouse) you have ravished my heart with one of your eyes, with one chain of your neck." The Hebrew, here rendered "ravished," signifies to puff up, or to make one proud: how the Lord Jesus is pleased to glory in his people! How he is taken and delighted with those gracious ornaments which himself bestows upon them! There is no friend so lovely as Christ.

5. No friend in the world loves his friend with as impassioned and strong affection as Jesus Christ loves believers. Jacob loved Rachel, and endured for her sake the parching heat of summer and cold of winter; but Christ endured the storms of the wrath of God, the heat of his indignation, for our sakes. David manifested his love to Absalom, in wishing, "O that I had died for you!" Christ manifested his love to us, not in wishes that he had died, but in death itself, in our stead, and for our sakes.

6. No friend in the world is so constant and unchangeable in friendship as Christ is. John 13:1, "Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." He bears with millions of provocations and wrongs, and yet will not break friendship with his people. Peter denied him, yet he will not disown him; but after his resurrection he says, "Go, tell the disciples, and tell Peter." Let him not think he has forfeited by that sin of his, his interest in me. Though he denied me, I will not disown him, Mark 16:7. how lovely is Christ in the relation of a friend!

06 November 2006

The Boiler Room

When providing guests a tour of their home, most of us pass by the boiler to show off the more attractive features of the house. Yet, without the boiler’s influence, the house in winter would be quite uncomfortable to live in. The boiler supplies necessary warmth and creates a welcoming atmosphere. At many churches, there’s a boiler. And I’m not referring to the heating system of the building, but to the communal prayers and their warming, invigorating effect on the church.

God uses prayer to provide essential spiritual vitality to the ministries and members of churches. How is prayer so vital? In prayer, we openly acknowledge our utter dependence on God and show our sincere desire that Jesus Christ be Lord over us. Through prayer, the Holy Spirit works, exalting Jesus and instilling in us obedient desires and dedication to God. The Lord is pleased to move us to pray and to act through prayer in answer to our requests.

And so where there is regular, sincere and earnest prayer, one can be assured that God is at work, making His glory known among those people. I’ve been very pleased to discover that the “boiler” at Trinity Road Chapel is in constant operation--there are many places where prayer occurs.

If you haven’t made prayer a priority yet, let me give you an encouragement to open the door to the “boiler” and join in with others stoking the fire where you worship and serve the Lord. If at all possible, find some person or group to pray with regularly. Our spiritual life is nurtured and strengthened through prayer. You’ll become more aware of the effect of God working on behalf of your church. Remember too that at any time and in any place, you can enjoy the pleasure and privilege of communion with our Lord in prayer. I guarantee it will warm your heart.

05 November 2006

02 November 2006

A Joyful Prisoner of War

What follows was my first letter as pastor to Trinity Road Chapel, the dear folks under my care as their pastor. May we in leadership see ourselves more and more in the light of Ephesians 4--only servants.

I vaguely recall hearing as a boy the radio and television reports of the last years of the United States involvement in the war in Vietnam. It was a tumultuous period in the history of the country, with antiwar demonstrations and draft dodging common in the news. Yet, even though protests were being made against the war, in the town where I lived, just outside a military base, nothing but the strongest support was given. Of all my boyhood memories of the early 1970s, one thing that distinctly stands out is the interest that town showed for prisoners of war and those missing in action.

As the war ended, the men who had been held captive, the prisoners of war, were released. Images of these men walking off planes, falling to their knees and kissing US soil, even before hugging and kissing family, are indelibly imprinted in my mind.

In time, many told their stories, sharing their accounts of imprisonment and torture under the control of their wartime enemy. I read and listened with keen interest as each related their struggle to survive, their will to live and longing for freedom from their harsh conditions. For them, liberty could only come by being released from the control of their captors.

Hearing the experiences of those prisoners of war instilled within me a strong will to live in freedom. Even death was preferred to any sort of captivity. That is, until I became a believer in Jesus Christ.

No one had to tell me before I was converted that I was an enemy of God—I knew it instinctively. There were things I wanted to do that He disapproved of—my conscience told me that—but I did my best not to allow guilt or any fear of judgment to invade my freedom. I wanted to do as I pleased and for a season, I felt the freedom to seek out my desires without restraint. I was free, or so I thought.

Thankfully, at the age of twenty-one, the Lord demonstrated His conquering grace in my life. I was brought to see myself as a sinner and under condemnation. And in broken, trembling words, I begged God for forgiveness. Instead of receiving the punishment I deserved, the Lord mercifully forgave me and changed me.

Ignorant as I was of the scriptures, it took time to discover what all had actually happened to me. In reading the Bible after becoming a believer, especially in the sixth chapter of Romans, I discovered something that startled me—I had been living my whole life in captivity as a slave to sin!

Even more startling, I learned that being saved meant continuing life as a servant, under captivity to Jesus and His will. I discovered I was now His, and not my own. But there is something completely different about this captivity—this captivity is freedom! Galatians 5:1 says that “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” And in this freeing captivity, I found a life of joy and gratitude in fistfuls. Never would I have thought myself to be so glad a captive!

Understanding these metaphorical connections of our sin and salvation to slavery and freedom has proved a rich experience for me, and I look forward to declaring to you those truths more deeply and to our rejoicing together in the liberating life of service we have in Jesus Christ.

In this month of beginning my service (there’s that word again!) as pastor of TRC, there is one more captivating passage I wish to share with you. It is a passage that has become central to my thinking about my role as a pastor and it is a fitting introduction for this, my first article in “The Witness.”

Ephesians four is a familiar place of study for church leaders as they understand the Lord’s framework for congregational life and growth. I’ve examined the passage many times and will soon embark on a detailed study of it here at TRC. But as with many, I typically began my study at verse 11, “It was he who gave some to be apostles…”

It wasn’t until I looked at verses 7-8 that I understood the context of God’s gifts to the church of apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers. The image presented in those verses is of a conquering Jesus who has proved victorious at war. His victory came through the ironic shame and suffering of the cross and was made manifest in His resurrection and ascension. Though once despised and thought defeated in death, He is alive, exalted and reigning over everything!

The warrior imagery continues in verse 8 with an allusion to Jesus taking the spoils of war. The warriors and wealth of His enemy are now His, and under His will to dispense. And that is precisely what He has done. As a good king, He has taken His captured captives and sent them out into useful service to provide help and development to His people.

That is why verse 11 says Jesus “gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.” These men, gifted as they are, are in essence, prisoners of war, captives set aside for service. These servants are given to the church so that it might develop in the grace and knowledge of Jesus and thus, serve also, bringing about growth and unity within the body of Christ.

In my boyhood imaginations, I feared ever becoming a prisoner of war. Nothing other than death could have been dreamed worse. Now I gladly own that role. It is with great joy that I assume this month my active duties as pastor—prisoner of war—of Trinity Road Chapel. I am at your service in tribute to our King Jesus.

30 October 2006

Ensuring God Speaks to His People

The leadership of TRC has recently embarked on an extended reading of Mark Dever's book Nine Marks as part of our elder/deacon development. As I was contemplating mark one: expository preaching, I was struck by a thought in a different book about the importance of expository preaching--it is a clear channel for God's voice to be given to the church. Here's an edited version of the quote:

The preacher does not have the license to express any and every private opinion about whatever happens to be of personal interest. Luther argued the case rigorously:

If any man would preach, let him suppress his own words. Let him make them count in family matters and secular affairs. But here in the church he should speak nothing except the Word of this rich Head of the household; otherwise it is not the true church. Therefore this must be the rule: God is speaking.… That is why a preacher, by virtue of his commission and office, is administering the household of God and dare say nothing but what God says and commands. And although much talking is done which is outside the Word of God, yet the church is not established by such talk, though men were to turn mad in their insistence on it.

From Luther's quote, we can see that the best pastoral preaching is clear, forceful, relevant exposition of the texts of scripture. That is what distinguishes the ministry of the Word from editorial opinion on economics, politics and domestic affairs.

The amount of true authority in any sermon is in direct correlation to how much of the Master's voice is contained within it. May our hearer's hear His Word and not ours.

24 October 2006

Monarch of the Glen

Why did my ancestors ever leave this place?
From Monarch of th...

My Eileen Doonan Photo

Eillen Doonan, situated on the mainland of Scotland just opposite the Isle of Skye, was one of those places Royale and I had always wanted to visit, but never had the opportunity. After speaking at the 2005 Berlin Shepherds' Conference with John MacArthur, Steve Fernandez and John Glass, we headed to Scotland to visit our ancestral home area west of Ft. William.
We enjoyed a delightful week traversing the area and enjoying magnificent scenery on the Isles of Skye, Mull and Iona. Eileen Doonan was a fun stop and this picture commemorates our visit and one of our family's finest vacations.

23 October 2006

Picture of Peonies at Reiman Gardens, Iowa State University

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Several months ago, my friend Phil Johnson visited my home and noticed a picture I took in Scotland of Eileen Doonan Castle, which I'll publish on this blog soon. He was taken by the photo and remarked that he didn't know I was artistic.

I felt somewhat awkward by his remark since artistc isn't a term I feel worthy of owning. There are others far more capable.

When a boy, I learned ceramic painting from my mom and dad. They were both certified teachers and several pieces of my mom's work grace various homes. As a boy, I entered ceramic painting competitions and won several awards at the shows. I even made some good pocket money selling my work. But upon leaving home for the military at seventeen, I haven't painted.

Recently, I've begun to focus more on photography. I'm far from adept, but learning. Interspersed with other posts, I'll publish photos I enjoy and feel deserve shared.

The first is this photo of peonies. In 2003, My son Ben competed in the Odyssey of the Mind World Championship at Iowa State University in Ames after winning regional and state competitions. Proud parents, we spent the week in Ames to cheer Ben and watch the competition. Ben's team placed 18th in their class.

While in Ames, we enjoyed meeting a distant relative, as well as seeing the sites in and around Ames. We were quite pleased to discover Reiman Gardens, a beautiful gathering of lush plants, wonderful flowers and stunning butterflies. The picture is my favourite peony shot. Enjoy.

15 September 2006

C.H. Spurgeon and Sons influenced Trinity Road Chapel, Upper Tooting, London

During a recent dinner, a long-time member of Trinity Road Chapel handed me a stack of old hardbound copies of the church’s magazine The Witness. They’ve given me a wonderful introduction to the church. Within their pages, I’ve discovered Spurgeon (C.H. and sons), Graham Scroggie, F.B. Meyer, C.T. Studd, J. Frank Norris, T.T. Shields, Earnest Kevan, and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones all preached here. Of particular interest is the influence C.H. Spurgeon and his family had on Trinity Road Chapel.

William Winsford, a member of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, moved to then rural Upper Tooting and soon met a few others with a desire to see an evangelical church established there. Three Sundays after services begun, C.H. Spurgeon invited Winsford to his nearby home, relayed his approval of the work, and generously offered to help. His engaged involvement in the early days of TRC set the trajectory of the church—an influence that lasts to this day.

When it was clear the growing church needed larger accommodations, Spurgeon came and preached, and issued an appeal to other churches to provide financial help for the church’s building project. His interest in TRC is clear when he wrote, “Our friends have made a good beginning, and if my purse holds out I will double all they can raise in the next year up to £250..I wish the friends every success." The money was soon raised, Spurgeon kept his promise, donated the £250, and offered to preach at the stone-laying.

The preacher Winsford purchased the property but soon fell ill and couldn’t conduct the services. Spurgeon heard of the church’s need, surveyed the property, and encouraged the church to get on with building the chapel. On June 6, 1877, Spurgeon laid the memorial stone and gave what was described as “a wise and happy address.” That evening, his sons joined him. The elder son, Charles, led in prayer and the younger, Thomas, delivered an address.

On Thursday, September 27, 1877, the new building opened with Spurgeon preaching from Eccl. 8:4 “Where the word of the king is.” The sermon is found in volume 28 of The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (sermon 1,697). He closed with this charge, “Preach the King’s word, for it will give you power in private prayer, power in the Sunday School, power in the prayer meeting, power in everything that you do; because you will live upon the King’s own word, and his word is meat to the soul.”

Spurgeon’s mark on TRC continued long after his death. One pastor had been a student at his pastor’s college and another, Henry Oakley, had supported Spurgeon through the Downgrade Controversy.

Oakley served TRC in its longest pastorate—a ministry of nearly fifty years. He influenced the church significantly and with the help of the deacons, steered it safely through doctrinal storms and around rocks of error that shipwrecked many other churches.

Oakley’s mark on the church came primarily through two means—his preaching and his writing. He maintained Spurgeon as his model for biblical, Christ-centered preaching and saw the Lord bless the preached Word with many conversions.

His writing ministry in the church’s magazine The Witness continues to hold a wide influence. Two authors, Iain Murray in The Forgotten Spurgeon and John MacArthur, in his Ashamed of the Gospel, quote a May 1934 article of The Witness that Oakley wrote as a part of a special celebration to commemorate the 100th year since Spurgeon’s birth.

In the 1940s, Earnest Kevan kept the church closely in line with its past by writing an article on the church’s faith and practice as set out in its trust deeds. Explaining that document, Kevan wrote, “The accurate interpretation of these requirements with regard to the life of the Church and the character of its ministry seems to be summed up by saying that as a Baptist Church, it is required that the minister who is called shall be a convinced Baptist, and that his views shall be Calvinistic, or, rendered in more modern terms, along the lines of teaching such as we have come to associate with the name of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.”

C.H Spurgeon’s son, Charles, frequently attended TRC after retiring from full-time ministry. In a January 1927 issue of The Witness, Henry Oakley mentioned the passing of son Charles Spurgeon and said this of him, “it has been one of the assurances of my later years that he could come and come again to our services, and to know that he felt there was ‘the right atmosphere,’ as he put it, at Trinity Road.”

I am fully committed to ensuring the right atmosphere continues at TRC. And a quote of Spurgeon in an article of The Witness, another place Oakley kept Spurgeon’s influence alive at TRC, best summarizes what that atmosphere is, “As the hammer comes down on the anvil ever with the same ring, so we will preach Christ, Christ, Christ and nothing else but Christ.” May God empower me to do just that!