by Robert Letham, Mentor/Christian Focus, 2007, 320pp
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Through Western Eyes by Robert Letham
by Robert Letham, Mentor/Christian Focus, 2007, 320pp
Friday, September 26, 2008
The end of the world?
Muse tapped into this sense of unease in their song, “Apocalypse please”, singing,
It’s time we saw a miracle
Come on, it’s time for something biblical
To pull us through
And this is the end of the world.
The other week our children came home from school asking, “Is the world going to end today, dad?” It was the day when the Large Hadron Collider at Cern was switched on. Apparently, the collider was going to re-create conditions moments after the Big Bang. There was a danger, it was reported, that the experiment could have created a super massive black hole which would have swallowed up the whole universe. Well, that didn’t quite happen like that did it? Responsible scientists said that the end of the world scenario was highly unlikely anyway. But just in case you are still worried, you can sleep easy in the knowledge that the £5bn machine has developed a fault and won’t be operative again until Spring 2009. Perhaps the end isn’t quite so nigh?
But I don’t believe that the world will end because of a scientific experiment or anything like that. God made this world and he upholds it by his power. The destiny of the universe is in his hands. The Christian faith is all about having a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. But there is more to it than that. In Jesus, God has acted to rescue the world from evil and suffering. What we look forward to is not in fact the end of the world, but the renewal of creation when Jesus returns. Of that new creation it is written,
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4).
If you share that hope, then don’t worry. It’s not the end of the world!
You can listen to recordings of this week's breakfast show here. I'm on about 40 minutes into the programme.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
The Greatest Love of All
An edited version of my Morning Thought, for BBC Radio Wiltshire
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all
Is that right? I don’t think so. True love is about reaching out to others rather than self-fulfilment. We all know what love is, but it is difficult to define it in words. The family paper we had when I was a lad carried the “Love is” cartoon strip. Some of them were quite good, with things like, “Love is… wanting to give her the moon and the stars.” And “Love is… a feeling to treasure.” Well, that’s all very nice and romantic, but there’s more to love than that. On yesterday’s show Graham was talking about acts of kindness. He spoke to a “secret millionaire” who had helped people in need. That kind of generosity which seeks the good of other people is getting close to what love is all about.
According to the Christian faith, love is the chief virtue. The apostle Paul spoke of “faith hope and love, these three, but the greatest of these is love”. (1 Corinthians 13:13). Without love faith, charitable giving and even martyrdom are totally without profit. John wrote in one of his letters, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8). Did you catch that? “God is love.” The one God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit exists in an eternal union of love. He loves us too. Do you doubt that? Then consider this display of God’s love,
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8).
Now, is easy to love our friends who are kind and generous to us. It is not so easy to love our enemies. But God loves his enemies, “sinners” like you and me who have turned their backs upon him. To receive God’s offer of new life in Christ is to immerse your soul in love.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10).
Now that’s the greatest love of all.
You can listen to recordings of this week's Graham Seaman breakfast show here. I'm on about 45 minutes into the programme.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
The idea of debt features in the Lord’s Prayer, which famously begins,
“Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name”
As a child, I had to recite the Lord’s Prayer every day in school. It didn’t mean a lot to me then. Perhaps familiarity had bred contempt? But it really is a wonderful model of true prayer. In it, Jesus instructed his followers to ask God for many things like, “Give us this day our daily bread.” He also said that we should pray,
“And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.”
Now, Jesus wasn’t talking about finance here. He was suggesting that we are morally and spiritually indebted to God and we need him to write off the debt. What’s all that about? Well, God made us for himself, and he calls us to live for his glory. If we live as if he did not exist, and disregard his pattern for our lives, then we are getting ourselves into a spiritual credit crisis. We are “in the red” as far as our relationship with God is concerned. But Jesus tells us to pray that the debt will be cancelled. Can God just do that? He can, but there is a price to pay. As I said, it will cost a staggering 700 billion dollars to wipe out the bad debts of US banks. But the price of our forgiveness is much higher. God bore the cost of our “toxic assets” in his own Son, Jesus Christ. The Christian can sing,
On the cross he sealed my pardon,
paid the debt and made me free.
That’s gospel economics.
Mumbling thoughtlessly through the Lord’s Prayer never did anybody any good. But if you would know the God whose grace is free of charge, then try praying,
“And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.”
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Creation the Bible and Science Conference: Day Two
Jason Ramplet, Stephen Lloyd & Stuart Burgess. (John Currid absent).
Dr. Stephen Lloyd
1. Agony and death in the story-line of the Bible.
Romans 8:18-22 tells us that the non-human creation was subjected to futility and entropy as a result of the fall of man. With the fall of man, disease, corruption and death entered the world. In the Bible, death is not a biological necessity, it is the punishment for sin. Some who wish to reconcile the Christian faith with Darwinism argue the fall did not bring physical death, as death is a natural part of biological life. For them, man may have died spiritually when he sinned, but this had no effect upon the physical world beyond man's "bad stewardship". Since fall man has failed to properly fulfil the "cultural mandate". But many important Scriptures stand against the "bad stewardship" reading. Romans 5:12 & 14 and 1 Corinthians 15:21 tell us that physical death came into the world because of sin. Jesus' death was physical as well as spiritual. Arguing from solution to plight, we can see that Christ's death dealt with both the spiritual and physical aspects of death. Death is "the last enemy" (1 Corinthians 15:26), which will be destroyed when Jesus returns. The Bible's story becomes incoherent if death is simply "natural", as Darwinian evolution demands.
Lloyd did not develop the point, but he said that animal suffering and death were also due to the fall, rather than being natural phenomenon. God declared the pre-fall creation "very good". In the evolutionary story, things like death, disease, and earthquakes are just the way things are. But it is hard to see how God could regard such a disordered world as "good". In reality, such things are part and parcel of his curse upon a fallen world. Salvation has to do with the restoration of the physical as well as the spiritual realm. Christ healed the sick as an anticipation of the renewal of creation. On the cross he wore a crown of thorns, signifying that in him, God's curse upon creation will be removed. Christ's resurrection - a physical event was the first installment of the renewal of creation, Romans 8:23, Revelation 21:4.
The Bible's story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration cannot be reconciled with Darwinism.
2. The flood
The flood of Genesis 6 to 9 was an act of judgement that "de-created" the world because of man's sin. The subsidence of the flood waters was an act of re-creation that points forward to the new creation, 2 Peter 3:3-10. Darwinism cannot accommodate a global flood. But a global flood is a major element in the Bible's story. Noah was a kind of new Adam, Genesis 9:1. The global claims of the gospel arise from God's global promise after the flood, Genesis 8:22. After the flood, life was more suited for sinful man with human age span drastically limited. The flood inaugurated an era of grace, 2 Peter 3:9. Prior to the flood, there were only eight righteous persons on earth - Noah and his family. After the flood multitudes of people have been saved.
3. Adam and the Bible's story
Key biblical passages insist that Adam was an historical figure and that he was the head of the human race - Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:22. According to the Bible, Adam was specially created in the image of God, Genesis 1:26. Darwinism contradicts this by insisting that human life evolved around 100,000 years ago from pre-human hominids. But if a some point, human beings evolved from Neanderthals then Adam cannot have been the biological ancestor of all mankind. He was just one of the lucky ones who evolved from a pre-human to human state. How, then can Adam have been the representative head of all human beings, so that his sin meant sin and death for humanity? Darwinism makes a mockery of the Bible's account of the federal relationship between Adam and the human race.
Lloyd showed convincingly that the acceptance of Darwinian evolution is a huge theological liability for those who wish to hold to the integrity of the Bible's story.
Design Arguments - Stepping Stones or Stumbling Blocks?
Prof. Paul Helm
In a well-argued, robust and sometimes humorous address, Paul Helm distinguished between a theology of nature, that takes into account the witness of Scripture and natural theology that seeks to argue from nature up to God. He criticised William Paley's design arguments for failing to take into account things like disease and suffering in nature. God does reveal himself in creation, Romans 1:20, Acts 14:15-18, 17:22-31. But we have to be careful in using intelligent design arguments to refute the theory of evolution by natural selection. Helm's emphasis on the "weirdness" of creation ex nihilo gave pause for thought. Creation as described in Genesis 1 is a singularity. God is now resting from his unique work of creation. In his providential dealings with the world, he respects the integrity of secondary causes. Genesis 1 is an historical account of origins. But we cannot reconstruct what happened back then from scientific principles. Creation ex nihilo is the ultimate singularity where the laws of science as we currently understand them break down.
In summing up, Helm argued that we need to be flexible and gracious in our apologetic approach, as we seek to win a hearing for the gospel. In his address, the Prof offered some important correctives to some evangelical approaches to apologetics. His proposals are well worth pondering. You can read this excellent paper on his blog, here.
Authority: the Bible and Science
Dr. Jason Ramplet
As Ramplet, Research Associate at The Faraday Institute pointed out, in life we are constantly pondering the demands of different authorities. Authorities from the rules of the road to cultural conventions call for our obedience. Both the Bible and science have some authority. God the creator us also the one who made the world for us to investigate and subdue. His truth is one.
1. The authority of the Bible
Some would seek to use science to undermine the authority of the Bible. Others compartmentalise Scripture and science saying, "Science tells us how the heavens go, the Bible tells us how to go to heaven." But Genesis 1 has something to say on how the heavens go, as God made the stars. It was God's authoritative speech acts that called the world into being and that summoned Adam from the dirt.
2. The authority of science
The Bible is authoritative but its scope is not exhaustive. We cannot look to Scripture to tell us how to make a cake or manufacture a clock. Extrabiblical knowledge is important. The cultural mandate of Genesis 1 demands that we "subdue the earth" and that involves some scientific activity. The authority of science arises from four principles:
1) The repeatability of experiments.
2) Experimental data is superior to theoretical speculation.
Theories must answer to the world. Darwin was an experimental scientists before he was a theoriser. Multiverse theory is sheer speculation.
3) Science is a corporate endeavour.
Research is a social activity. Scientific communities peer review new proposals. At this point Ramplet suggested, "the devil is a blogger". I 'm not sure what exactly he meant by that. Does he have any peer-reviewed experimental data to prove his case, I wonder?
4) Nature is set against us.
It is by the sweat of our brow that nature reveals its secrets. We also have to take into consideration the epistemological effects of the fall. Unbelieving scientists have to assume God even to deny him.
3. The supreme authority
Under this heading, Ramplet argued that we must try to keep the scientific consensus on Darwinian evolution in tension with the biblical doctrine of creation. Both science and theology have their own integrity. We know nothing as God knows it. We are his vice-regents with finite secondary knowledge. We must accent the value of science and theology.
This last point was most controversial when it came to discussion. Some scientists in the congregation cast doubt on the so-called "Darwinian consensus", suggesting that it was a forced consensus that subjected dissenters to bullying and intimidation. [See here for Paul Helm's thoughts on Micheal Reiss' dismissal from the Royal Society for suggesting that creationism be taught in science lessons]. Others expressed concern that Ramplet had overly compartmentalised the Bible and science. One pastor asked how the speaker would advise a teenage girl who said that the teaching on evolution in school was different from what she had been taught about creation in church. Ramplet seemed to argued that biblical creation and Darwinian evolution were both valid and should be held in tension. I think that in accepting theistic evolution, Ramplet has allowed the authority of science to trump the authority of Scripture. He has failed to take on board the incompatibility of macroevolutionary theory with the Bible's basic story line, as demonstrated so ably by Stephen Lloyd. It was good to have an opportunity to discuss Ramplet's proposals. But his equivocation on this vital point made for a less than rousing end to an otherwise exceptionally helpful conference.
The conference was held under the auspices of the John Owen Centre. CD's of each address and a nifty MP3 CD containing all the addresses can be ordered here.
An edited version of my Morning Thought, for BBC Radio Wiltshire
You may be shocked to hear me say this, but the Gospels record that Jesus was sometimes provoked to anger. He was angry with the religious establishment’s cold hearted indifference to human suffering. He was so angry at the commercialisation of God’s house, that he turned the money changers out of the temple. Now, Jesus never “lost his rag” out of personal pique. Unlike some of us he wasn’t grumpy or irritable. But Jesus cared too much about human beings to shrug his shoulders and walk away when he saw the vulnerable exploited or oppressed. Anger, then can be a fitting response to wickedness and injustice. Anger in that sense is compassion with teeth.
But, we cannot ignore the dark side of anger. One of the Bible’s many wise proverbs says,
A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.
We can allow anger and resentment to burn in our hearts. That is what wreaks lives and ruins relationships. There is a far better way, the costly way of forgiveness. This is not easy. But it is not easy for God to offer forgiveness to people who have turned their backs upon him. He offers us forgiveness because Jesus willingly died on the cross for the wrong things we have done. The forgiving God calls those who trust in him to be forgiving people,
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Eph 4:31& 32).
It is far better to forgive than to rage.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Monday Morning Blues
Now, some people have very interesting and fulfilling jobs like brain surgeon, radio presenter, or preacher! But many of us have more humdrum work in offices, factories and shops. Some try to find a way off the treadmill with dreams of fame and fortune. They buy lottery tickets, promising themselves that if they win, the first thing they’ll do is jack in their job. My daughter tells me that I should try and get on X-Factor. Suffice to say that I have a brilliant face for radio and you don’t even want to hear me sing! Many who audition for that show tell us that there must be something more to life than what they are doing at present. They want an exciting new career as a pop star.
I’m reminded of some words from a song by The Smiths,
If you must go to work tomorrow,
Then if I were you I wouldn’t bother.
For there are brighter sides to life
And I should know because I’ve seen them,
But not very often.
I can understand how people can reflect on life and think, “Is this all there is, slaving away to earn a crust?” But there can be more to life than this. God made us for himself, that we might live for his glory. Living for the glory of God gives life meaning and purpose. The humblest task then becomes an act of worship and praise. The Christian faith gives us the ultimate answer to Monday morning blues. “Why bother?” Listen to this,
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23 & 24).
With Jesus, what we do in work echoes in eternity.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Cool new Bible reference widget
The Lloyd-Jones Memorial Lecture by Philip Eveson
No one made the eternal God. He simply exists - Psalm 90:2.
Contatry to the Gnostics, he did not use intermediaries or demigods. "God created the heavens and the earth".
Multiverse theory is nothing but postmodern speculative nonsense.
He used no pre-existing material in the original creation. Creation is not an emanation from God's being. Having been made ex nihilo, the creation is dependent upon God, yet distinct from him. This rules out pantheism and the Gaia hypothesis of extreme environmentalism.
"In the beginning God created...". Creation was made with time. God worked in time to form the earth in six days.
Matter is not evil. God declared the completed creation "very good" (Genesis 1:31). The Bible warns against false asceticism 1 Timothy 4:1-5. God has richly given us all things to enjoy. We should give thanks to the Lord for the provision of our bodily needs.
The Lord reigns over all. "Everything under heaven is Mine." Says the Lord to Job (Job 41:11). Nothing is off limits for him.
The Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck is especially strong on this in his Reformed Dogmatics. Creation is the work of the one God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, John 1:1-3, 1 Corinthians 8:6. Creation does not reveal the Trinity of the godhead, but creation presupposes the action of the Triune God. The unity in diversity of the Trinity is displayed in creation. Islam with its monadic conception of God cannot cope with the sheer diversity of life. Postmodernism tends to fragmentation at the expense of unity. But the God who is one in three has made a Universe that is teeming with diversity. God did not need the creation to complete himself, for he is eternally complete in the rich communion of the persons of the Trinity. Creation exists not necessarily, but according to God's sovereign will, Revelation 4:11. It displays his glory, Psalm 19:1, Romans 11:36. Creation is the free expression of the Triune God who is love.
We are made in God's image (Genesis 1:26) for fellowship with God and with each other.
There are no intermediaries between God and his world.
God rested on the 7th day from the work of creation (Genesis 2:2-3). Providence is God's work of upholding, directing and renewing creation. Providence is Trinitarian. The Father upholds all things by his Son through the power of the Spirit. A biblical doctrine of providence rules out a "God of the gaps". There are no gaps where God is not at work in sustaining and guiding the Universe. The distant god of Deism is not the God revealed in Scripture. He is active in the historical process, directing all things in accordance with his will.
The final glorified state will include a renewed creation. The world was subjected to God's curse because of sin, Genesis 3:17-19. Creation has been subjected to vanity, Ecclesiastes 1:2, Romans 8:18-23. With the resurrection of the believing dead, creation will be liberated from bondage to decay. The new creation will not replace the old world. Jesus, the last Adam who will bring the creation to its intended goal in God's purposes.
He was an active agent in God's creative work, Hebrews 1:2, Colossians 1:16.
He upholds the universe and brings it to its grand conclusion, Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:17. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega of creation.
Jesus, the image of the invisible God was made in the image of God when he became man. In Jesus the Creator became a creature. He is the last Adam, the head of God's new humanity. The first Adam brought sin and death into the world. Christ came to atone for sin and destroy death's power (1 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 2:14 & 15). Jesus was fully man, sharing our humanity. He came to re-establish man's dominion over the world - Hebrews 2:5-9 cf. Psalm 8.
The resurrection of Jesus - 1 Timothy 3:16 - affirms that matter matters. Jesus rose bodily from the grave. The last Adam is a life giving Spirit, the man from heaven (1 Corinthians 15: 45, 49). We shall bear the image of the risen Jesus, 1 John 3:2.
He is the beginning of the creation of God, Revelation 3:14. In Colossians 1, Paul teaches that Christ will reconcile to God the world that was made through him. When Christ returns, the dead will be raised and the whole creation will be renewed, Philippians 3:21. This will not mean the destruction of the world, but its glorious liberation by the power of Christ. Then we shall have spiritual bodies, bodies renewed and transformed by the Spirit and fitted for life in the new heavens and the new earth (2 Peter 3:13).
2. Appreciate the kindness of God, Psalm 145:9.
3. Administer creation's resources wisely, caring for the environment.
4. Ache for the renewal of creation.
5. Anticipate the glory to come.
6. Act by spreading the message of creation and the gospel.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Creation the Bible and Science Conference: Day One
Dr. John Currid
The conference kicked off appropriately enough with a consideration of Genesis 1 & 2. In his opening remarks, John Currid, Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Virginia made mention of alarm in the UK media concerning "noisy American creationists". Currid is certainly a creationist, but is not of the strident, shouty variety that seem to do so much damage to the cause. Currid pointed out that the Reformers rejected the allegorising tendencies of the medieval church in favour of sober biblical interpretation. The main point of Reformed interpretation of Scripture is to discover the authorial meaning of the text rather than read hidden meanings into Scripture. Essential to responsible exegesis is the identification of the literary genre of a particular biblical text. This is especially important when approaching Genesis 1 & 2. It is often said that the opening chapters of Genesis are "poetry". But Currid sees no evidence of this in the text. The two key features of Hebrew poetry are absent namely: Line parallelisms e.g. Psalm 19:1 and figures of speech e.g. Psalm 42:1. Moreover a device invariably present in Hebrew narrative prose writing - "vav consecutive plus imperfect" is used again and again in Genesis 1 & 2. Passages of the Old Testament that make reference to these chapters seem to accept them as historical narrative rather than poetry, e.g. Exodus 20:8-11 and Psalm 104. Currid rejected the "framework hypothesis", which tries to accommodate Genesis 1 & 2 with theistic accounts of evolution. This view, associated with Meredith Kline amongst others tries to read our chapters as poetry. But what we have in fact is a highly structured, exalted prose narrative that is suited to the unique event of God's original creation.
Dr. Robert Letham
Prof. Stuart Burgess
Friday, September 12, 2008
John Owen; Reformed Catholic, Renaissance Man by Carl R. Trueman
The Great Theologians Series, Ashgate, 2007, 132.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Word and Spirit in three Confessions
Monday, September 08, 2008
Creation the Bible and Science Conference
Interpreting Genesis 1 & 2 - Dr. John Currid
Genesis 1 & 2 - the History of Interpretation - Dr. Robert Letham
Genesis 1 & 2 - a Scientist’s Perspective - Prof. Stuart Burgess
The Martyn Lloyd-Jones Memorial Lecture: The Gospel and Creation - the significance of a theology of creation for preaching - Rev. Philip Eveson. This lecture will be held in Kensit Evangelical Church and is open to everyone.
Tuesday 16th September
The New Testament and Creation - Dr. Stephen Lloyd
Design Arguments - stepping stones or stumbling blocks? - Prof. Paul Helm
Authority: the Bible and science - Dr. Jason Rampelt
Looks interesting eh? You can find more info here.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Being Born Again by Gary Brady
Issues surrounding the new birth such as when it happens and how we can tell if we are born again are faced with pastoral sensitivity and wisdom. The reader is urged to soberly examine his life in the light of Scripture, especially the "tests of life" in 1 John. A concluding chapter issues a final plea to those who are not born again to seek the new birth. I agree that the non-Christian seriously needs to be born again. Regeneration is not a spiritual luxury. As Jesus said, "You must be born again". But it seems to me that the New Testament encourages the unbeliever to repent and believe the Gospel, rather than pray for the new birth. After all we will only know that we are born again when we believe that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 5:1).
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Aber 08 Report - Evening Meetings
Monday, September 01, 2008
Aber 08 Report - Main Addresses by Art Azurdia III
For nigh on twenty years we have made the annual pilgrimage to the Welsh seaside town of Aberystwyth for the Evangelical Movement of Wales' English Conference. This year the main speaker was Art Azurdia III. With his quickfire preaching style, coupled with rapid hand movements, he was bound to make something of an impression. But what endeared him to the congregations that packed the University Great Hall was his evident passion for vibrant, gospel-centred Christian living. His theme for his four conference addresses, delivered each morning from Tuesday to Friday was "A clarion call to a Worldly Christianity". The textual basis for his messages was John 17:17-19 and Hebrews 4:14-16. In the first address, Art asked the question, "Why has God left Christians on earth rather than taking them straight to heaven?" He suggested that believers face two dangers when it comes to relating to the world. We may so disengage from the world that we become "culturally anorexic" or we may gorge ourselves on the pleasures of the world and become "culturally obese". Neither alternative is the biblical. God has sent us to bear witness to him in the world and that means we have to engage with the world without becoming like the world (John 17:18). His catchphrase was "You cannot be authentically Christian without being meaningfully worldly." The preacher told us that he was alarmed to see believers retreating into a cultural ghetto where contact with non-believers is minimised. He revealed that he and his wife had taken their children out of a Christian School and placed them in the State sector in order to make contact with the non-Christian world. Their decision brought with it fresh challenges, but also new opportunities for the family to bear witness to Christ in the community. Art modestly suggested that his American background did not qualify him to speak to the UK situation with any authority, but his emphasis in this first address on meaningfully worldliness hit the nail right on the head. He avoided the temptation to reduce worldliness to a set of arbitrary evangelical taboos. He emphasised that God made the body as well as the soul and that the Christian hope is that of bodily resurrection in the new creation. Worldly Christianity does not mean asceticsm. Believers are free to enjoy the riches of God world, sport, literature, music etc.
In the second address, Art Azurida addressed the matter of sanctification. We can be authentically Christian and meaningfully worldly only because God sanctifies in answer to Jesus' prayer. There is too much talk about mission that is not grounded in the gospel. But we cannot be truly missional without being theological. Sanctification is God's work of setting believers apart for himself via the truth as it is in Jesus. We need this sanctifying work is we are to face up to the problems of false teaching and poor conduct in the the church and the opposition of the world. Emphasis was laid on the importance of the instrument of sanctification - "the truth". In conclusion Art pointed out that we have so many different Bible versions and editions today: KJV, NKJV, NIV, ESV, MacArthur Study Bibles, Reformation Study Bibles, black leather, brown leather etc. But is the Christ-centred Word really having a sanctifying effect upon our lives?
On Thursday morning, the speaker drew attention to the sacrificial work of Christ. The sacrifice of Jesus was voluntary. He "sanctified himself" - set himself apart for the work of the cross (John 17:19). Jesus' life was not taken. He gave himself for us. The sacrifice of Jesus was specific, "for their sakes I sanctify myself (John 17:19 cf. 14, 15, 16, 18). Christ died specifically for the church, his people. In doing so he has redeemed a vast multitude out of every tribe, tongue and nation. The sacrifice of Jesus was purposeful. On the cross, Jesus cried out "It is finished!" (John 19:30). Redemption has been accomplished. In this powerful address, Art placarded the cross in all its effective glory. In closing, he told us that not to engage in mission is to negate the purpose of the cross. The atonement itself a call to meaningfully worldliness.
In his final message the preacher based his sermon on Hebrews 4:14-16. We are utterly dependent on need Jesus, our great high priest as we seek to bear witness to the gospel in the world. Art had four things to say about the text, 1. Jesus has accomplished what all other priests could only prefigure. He has sat down at the right hand of God, having completed the work of redemption. 2. Jesus possesses a stature that qualifies him as the ultimate priest. He is the Son of God who took human nature. That is why he is the uniquely qualified at act as mediator between God and man. 3. Jesus endured the full force of temptation's power. He was "tempted on all points as we are, yet without sin". We all too quickly give in to temptation, but Jesus endured the worst that the devil could throw at him. He had to fight to maintain his sinlessness. Jesus is therefore able to help us in the battle against temptation as we seek to be in the world but not of it. 4. Jesus supports his people with everything necessary to persevere in the world. With him there is mercy and grace to help in time of need. Our great high priest will enable us to be authentically Christian and meaningfully worldly.
All four addresses were delivered with power and punch. The preacher's prayers evidenced his dependence upon the empowering presence Holy Spirit. May this clarion call to a worldly Christianity continue to ring in our ears! CD's and DVD's of these addresses are avaliable from the EMW office.
See here for report of evening meetings.