22 October 2009

A Passion for Life in Southwest London

Trinity Road Chapel is one of a network of churches in Balham, Streatham, Tooting and Wandsworth Common that are PASSIONATE about Jesus Christ.

Our desire is to CONNECT people with Jesus and we are working together to organise a week of events to help do this in Easter 2010. Our week of events is running from 14th to 21st March 2010 and is part of the national church-based initiative, A PASSION FOR LIFE, which is about proclaiming Christ’s PASSION in Easter 2010.

The churches in our local network:
Christ Church Balham
Holy Redeemer Streatham
Shofar Tooting
St Nicholas Tooting
Summerstown Mission Evangelical Church
Trinity Road Chapel

19 August 2009

Good and Encouraging Reminders

Throughout the book of Acts, we learn about God’s determination to bring sinning, undeserving people into a forever-forgiven relationship with Himself through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. As we participate in the plan of God to save, keep in mind these several practical truths that Acts provides. As we do, these truths will encourage all of us in our witnessing for Christ.

1. God is patient with lost sinners. The leaders of Israel had rejected the ministry of John the Baptist (Matt. 21:23–27) and the ministry of Jesus, and yet God called out to them with another opportunity to repent and be saved. They had denied and slain their own Messiah, and yet God patiently held back His judgment and sent His Spirit to deal with them. People today need patience as we witness to a lost world.

2. True witness involves the bad news of sin and guilt as well as the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. There can be no true faith in Christ unless first there is repentance from sin. It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to convict lost sinners (John 16:7–11), and He will do this if we faithfully witness and use God’s Word.

3. The way to reach the masses is by helping the individual sinner. Peter and John shared the good news with a crippled beggar and his transformed life led to the conversion of 2,000 men! Let us treat each person with grace and mercy, sharing the good news with them. Who knows who or how many they might reach!

4. A great defense of the truth of the Christian faith is a changed life. The healed beggar was “Exhibit A” in Peter’s defense of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

5. Whenever God blesses, Satan shows up to oppose the work and silence the witness. The same crowd that opposed the ministry of Jesus Christ also opposed the work of the Apostles, and they will oppose our ministry today. Expect it—but don’t let it stop you! The important thing is not that we are comfortable, but that the name of the Lord is glorified through the preaching of the Gospel.

6. God has promised to bless and use His Word. And so let’s be faithful to witness. Jesus even prayed that our witness would have success (John 17:20), so we have every reason to be encouraged.

There is power in the name of Jesus, so we need not fear to witness and call sinners to repent. We can preach the “remission of sins” in His name (Luke 24:47) so that people might believe and have “life through His name” (John 20:31). We can give someone a cup of cold water in His name (Mark 9:41), and we can receive a child in His name (Matt. 18:5). These ministries may not seem spectacular, but they are still important to the work of God.

Yes, the name of Jesus Christ still has authority and power. Let’s go forth in His name!

18 June 2009

A Better Messenger than John the Baptist

To the crowds gathered in the wilderness, John cried, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” His whole life’s work culminated in that phrase. After Jesus came and John fulfilled his duty of pointing others to Him, the Baptiser happily announced his retirement—“He must increase, and I must decrease.” The forerunner had faithfully prepared the way for the Messiah; the time had arrived for the attention to fall on Jesus.

We live on the other side of Christ’s life, yet our message and determinations are quite similar, though better informed, than those of John the Baptist. Our message still points out the glorious truth that God has provided for Himself a sacrifice for sin, Jesus, the one and only Son. Whereas mankind could in no way save themselves, God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, and condemned sin in the flesh.

Our testimony is both factual and personal. We testify to the truth that God judged Jesus, Who had no sin, as a sinner so that in Him believers might be covered by His righteousness. And we testify of the power of God’s salvation happening within us; a message of personal forgiveness, personal reconciliation, personal transformation and personal glorification. Our words and changed lives bear witness to what Christ has done, is doing and will do for us. John the Baptist could only point with the finger toward Jesus; we direct people with the whole person. Each part of us bears witness, not one area of our lives misses Christ’s mark.

John contented himself in the knowledge that Jesus received the focus. We can and should too. A believer’s witness is about Jesus; not about how bad we were, or how good we are, but about how great and good God is to save us. The world will naturally seek to explain things in human terms, but one gripped by heaven’s hand of deliverance knows Who it is that saves and Who deserves the credit; Jesus the Lamb of God.

Our Lord Jesus told us who we are when He declared that we are His witnesses. We are world changers, left on earth to testify among our generation and in our neighbourhood the message of grace. One man, gripped by that truth, changed his generation when he cried out, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

And we can change ours by doing the same. In fact, we can do it better.

27 May 2009

Interviewing John Calvin

My evenings of late have been occupied with preparation work for a church history class I'll be teaching in Sicily at the end of June. While looking through some old files, I came across a paper my son, Matt, wrote for his high school history class. I thought you might enjoy reading it--a mock interview with John Calvin:

Interview with John Calvin

Q1. I’m here now with John Calvin in Geneva, Switzerland. Mr. Calvin, I have several questions to ask you. Perhaps we can start by asking who taught you Greek. Why was that important to you?

Well, before I learned Greek I was taught that the Greek language was dangerous. One guy even said, “We are finding a new language called Greek. We must avoid it at all costs, for this languages gives birth to heresies. Especially beware of the New Testament in Greek; it is a book full of thorns and prickles.” With that “pricking” my interest, I just had to know why Greek was supposed to be so dangerous.

When my dad made me change schools to study law, I ran into a teacher named Wolmar who taught me Greek and law at the same time. Later in life I dedicated one of my commentaries to him. In my dedication to him in my 2 Corinthians commentary, I wrote, “One of the most important things that happened to me was in those early days when I was sent by my father to learn civil law but, under your instigation and teaching, with the study of laws mixed Greek, of which you were then professor summa cum laude. . . . To you it is, however, that I not a little owe it that I was at least taught the rudiments; and this was afterwards a great help to me.”

Q2. What happened when you heard that your close friend, Etienne de la Forge had been burned as a seditious man?

I had already left the country of France for Basil after the affair of the placards. The king of France, Francis I, was very angry over the many handbills denouncing the Roman Mass that had been placed all around France. He arrested over 200 people and burned my friend, Etienne. I had stayed in his house often and it really bothered me. I realized when he died that I could not be silent. And so I wrote my Institutes with greater passion.

Q3. Wow, that leads right into what I was going to ask next. Calvin, why did you write your Institutes?

In my law lessons, we had to become very familiar with the Corpus iuris civilis; the Body of Civil Law in your tongue. This was made of three parts: Codex, Digesta, and Institutiones. The Codex contained the authoritative statement of Roman law. The Digesta contained the legal opinion of ancient lawyers and the historical commentary on the Codex. The Institutiones was a basic but authoritative textbook of law students. I used this as a model for writing a basic textbook of the Christian faith. I even called it the Institutes of Christian Religion. Even right after I became a follower of the truth proclaimed by the Reformers and felt like a learner myself; many sought me out for answers to their Bible questions. And so I wrote the Institutes for these who loved and wanted to know more about the truth, but something else happened that added to the reasons why I wrote the Institutes.

Q4. What was that?

Well, it goes back to your earlier question about my friend, Etienne. He and many others were burnt to death. As new Protestants, we expected persecution from the Roman Church. But people in the King’s court had persuaded the King that these people were seditious men who wanted to do no more than destroy the government. If I could explain who these people really were, then maybe the king would stop his burnings. But even if he didn’t, then the rest of the surrounding nations would know the truth about these people and what they actually believed. I was really disturbed about the lies I heard when I lived in Germany. The French court was telling the Protestant Germans that the executed men were political prisoners. But I knew the truth and so made that public in my letter to Francis I in my prefatory address of the Institutes.

Q5. This is fascinating stuff! But tell me, why did you continue to include your letter to Francis I in your Institutes even after he had died?

My first title to the book explains that I had two reasons for writing. First, I wanted to give an instruction of the basic beliefs necessary for knowledge of the doctrine of salvation. But I also wanted the writing to be a defense to the King on behalf of my persecuted friends and fellow believers. My address to the king explains both these purposes very clearly. Since many Christians continued to struggle after Francis I was dead, I thought keeping the prefatory address to him in my book would help people to use the Institutes for both of the purposes for which it was written.

Q6. The Renaissance was a rediscovery of Greek and Roman literature. How were you affected by it?

In many ways, in fact I would have a hard time telling you where the Renaissance did not influence me. If I had to pick one area to talk about, I would say my learning Greek was a prime example of how the Renaissance influenced me. The learning of Greek under Wolmar was most important to me. In my debates years later, many people were amazed at my ability to quote Greek and Italian writers.

Q7. Calvin, you may be surprised to know that in the country where I live, United States, we have complete freedom of religion and a separation of church and state. How does that compare with your time?

Wow! That is amazing! In my day, the king of France controlled the religious affairs and the Pope of the Romanist Church controlled the king. In fact, the Pope freed the king, Francis I, from prison and secured his allegiance, to be sure. Even in Geneva where I ministered, we had no concept of a church entirely divorced from the state and the state removed from church matters. I would be most interested to know how that works.

Q8. What caused you and your associate Farel to be banished from Geneva?

Ah yes, I was wondering when that would come up. And it ties with what we were just talking about. You see, the city council was trying to tell the church leaders what to do in their churches—including Farel and me. They told us to use unleavened bread in our communion service, but Farel and I ignored them. The next day they ordered us to use unleavened bread and threatened to banish us if we refused to comply. That next Lord’s Day, we didn’t have a communion service, and that infuriated the city council. They told us that as soon as they found our replacements, we would face banishment from the city. They tried unsuccessfully to find replacements for two days, but their anger overtook them and they banished us anyway. Farel and I went to different cities and told people we had been mistreated by the Geneva city council, but Geneva denied our charges. One of the cities came to our defense, but by that time we had already packed and left.

Q9. I notice Reformers Luther, Bucer and Melanchthon influenced you. Did you have any direct influence on any other Reformers I might know about?

Yes, there is one other Reformer I had contact with that I haven’t mentioned yet. His name was John Knox from Scotland. We met when I was in Geneva. Around that time many English puritans were dissatisfied with the Great Bible forced on them by the Church of England. And so when they fled to Geneva from persecution in England under Mary, they began a translation of the Scriptures into English with a series of study notes and helps. John Knox, others and I all contributed to the Geneva Bible. I tried hard to help these struggling English believers to see what a truly reformed church looked like.

Q10. Tell me more about your schooling. Where I live, we have levels of advancement called grades. We go through grades 1-12 before we head off to college or into a trade. What was your education like?

Nothing like that! I was twelve when I entered college. Due to my father’s career and connections, I attended school with the sons of noblemen. Many of them were my friends. When I was twelve I attended the College de la Marche. There I had to study Latin since all my lectures and reading at university would be in that language. After that, I went to the College de Montaigu for my Bachelor of Arts degree. The studies there were divided. I studied what we called the trivium: grammar, logic and rhetoric. I also studied the quadrivium: arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy. One thing I found helpful in my studies was to repeat everything I had learned that day before going to sleep that night. And to call to my mind the previous day’s lectures when I awoke the next morning.

That sounds helpful; I should try doing that. Well, Calvin, we seem to be out of time. Thank you for giving me your time and telling me so much about your life and the time in which you lived.

Books consulted:

Estep, William R. Renaissance & Reformation. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986.

Hillerbrand, Hans. Ed. The Reformation. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972.

Lindner, William. John Calvin. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1998.

Editorial comments and research assistance provided by Douglas and Royale McMasters

© 2001 Matthew McMasters

24 March 2009

More on The Art of Billy

Billy posted a report of the exhibition we held at Trinity Road Chapel featuring his art. What an encouraging time it was, as you will discover in his article.

14 March 2009

The Art of Billy

A few weeks ago, Trinity Road Chapel welcomed artist David "Billy" Bill to assist us with an art exhibition. He brought several pieces of original art and gave an excellent talk on Saturday which we titled "My Failures in Art."

Today, upon returning from an open house at London Theological Seminary, I found an envelope containing the original pencil drawing of Charles H. Spurgeon--a preacher special to both me and Trinity Road Chapel. I am delighted to welcome this special gift to our home. It will always remind me of a special artist and a special preacher--both committed to making Jesus Christ known.

13 March 2009

Filling the Mind and Heart

The Lord has blessed our church with the ability to take on two full-time pastoral trainees for a period of two years: Barney Jones and Gareth Russell. In addition to being stuck into the work of the ministry in very practical and helpful ways, these two, along with our assistant pastor Stuart Davis, are meeting with me on Fridays at the manse for theological and ministerial reading and reflection. Below is a sample of our theological reading, which we are doing alongside other works we are reading and discussing:

Reading Schedule for Bavinck Reformed Dogmatics
Volume One, Prolegomena

Part I Introduction to Dogmatics

Chapter 1 - Completed
The Science of Dogmatics
Chapter 2 - Completed
The Method and Organization of Dogmatic Theology

Part II The History and Literature of Dogmatic Theology

Chapter 3 – Completed
The Formation of Dogma: East and West

Chapter 4 - Completed
Roman Catholic Dogmatics

Chapter 5 - Completed
Lutheran Dogmatics

Chapter 6 - March 13
Reformed Dogmatics

Part III Foundations of Dogmatic Theology (Principia)

Chapter 7 - March 20
Scientific Foundations

Chapter 8 – March 27
Religious Foundations

Part IV Revelation (Principium Externum)

Chapter 9 - April 3
The Idea of Revelation

Chapter 10 - April 17
General Revelation

Chapter 11 - April 24
Special Revelation

Chapter 12 - May 1
Revelation in Nature and Holy Scripture

Chapter 13 - May 8
The Inspiration of Scripture

Chapter 14 - May 15
The Attributes of Scripture

Part V (Principium Internum)

Chapter 15 - May 22
Faith and Theological Method

Chapter 16 - May 29
Faith and Its Ground

Chapter 17 - June 5
Faith and Theology

28 February 2009

The Day of the “No More”

Today, we have sorrow.

Psalm 31:9-10 “Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.”

Today, we grow frail.

2 Corinthians 4:16 “....outwardly we are wasting away....”

Today, we have pain.

1 Peter 2:19 “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.”

Today, we have hardships.

2 Corinthians 1:8 “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.”

Today, we struggle with sin.

Romans 7:18 “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”

Today, we face death.

1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die....”

But one day, these things will be no more.

One day, there will be no more sorrow.

Jeremiah 31:12 They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord— the grain, the new wine and the oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more.

One day, we will possess a new body.

Romans 8:23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

One day, we will never suffer pain again.

Revelation 21:4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

One day, there will be no more hardships.

Revelation 22:2-3 On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.

One day, we will have no sin.

2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

One day, we will never die.

1 Corinthians 15:26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Today will close, and become tomorrow. But one day, there will be no more today or tomorrow, but only the day that lasts forever—the day of the no more.

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, “they are before the throne of God....Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:13-17)

20 January 2009

Blessed are…

Who are the most favoured people on earth? Jesus answered that question in His first recorded sermon in Matthew. He said that it is:

Those who go to heaven, who live under the reign of God, who are not the great ones, but rather the humble, who are broken before God, who are poor in spirit.

They are the ones that understand they are sinners who have received mercy and who demonstrate mercy to all others.

They are those who don’t play at religion, they are not those who need tickled or teased to come to church, because they are the ones who hunger and thirst after righteousness.

They take advantage of opportunities to make peace.

They are concerned about the purity of their hearts.

They are ones who find themselves at odds with the ways of the world, often to such an extent that the world turns against them.

These are the ones upon whom God’s favour rests. They aren’t great—and they aren’t asked to be great—they are humble, meek and seek heavenly things. They are people concerned primarily with the condition of their own heart.

In Jesus’ kingdom the least are greater even than John the Baptist (Matt. 11:11). They are characterized in Jesus’ sermon as being humble, compassionate, meek, yearning for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers and persecuted for the sake of the very righteousness they practice.

In the world’s eyes those characteristics are the marks of losers. The world says, “Assert yourself, stand up for yourself, be proud of yourself, elevate yourself, defend yourself, avenge yourself, serve yourself.” Those are the treasured traits of the world’s people and the world’s kingdoms.

But the blessedness Christ offers is not dependent on self-effort or self-righteousness, but on the new nature God gives. In God’s Son, humanity comes to share God’s very nature, which is characterized by true righteousness and joy. That is the kind and the extent of the contentment God wants His children to have—His very own peace and happiness. The good news is that of blessing.

May God grant you His blessing and that blessedness and joy.