Monday, 11 December 2017

Preaching and appreciating the Bible as Storytelling

How many of us love to listen to a good story? Have you ever considered how much of the Bible comes to us as storytelling? I am currently preaching on the book of First Samuel and despite snow disruptions yesterday, I preached on the 19th Chapter of 1 Samuel. I doubt that many could tell me what it is about, and yet I was greatly encouraged to hear people saying to me how much this chapter ministered to their soul.

I guess that if a preacher was considering to select a passage to minister to the church, that 1 Samuel Chapter 19 would not be an obvious "go-to" chapter. Incidentally this chapter is about Saul trying to kill David, who then flees for his life and it is full of unexpected twists and turns in the unfolding drama.

Some years ago a friend and fellow minister recommended a book to me called "Storytelling in the Bible" by Jacob Licht. He is Jewish, he is not a Christian, but he brings out many salient and exciting points about how the LORD has revealed so much truth through divinely inspired storytelling.

How many books come to us as storytelling in the Bible?

Genesis
Exodus
Numbers
Part of Deuteronomy
Joshua
Judges
Ruth
Samuel
Kings
Chronicles
Esther
Ezra
Nehemiah
Job
Parts of Daniel
The Four Gospels
Acts

The use of repetition is a common tool in these stories, as well as a fourfold repetition in order to build to a climax. Have you ever appreciated that divine revelation communicates truth in such an aesthetically appealing and intriguing way?

What is more is that according to 1 Corinthians chapter 10, there are Old Testament Bible narratives which reveal types of Christ (water from the rock or the brazen serpent, king David), as well as instruction and admonition for the church today.

Over this Christmas period, why not take extra time to read Old Testament Bible narrative to search for Christ on shadow, to learn from the examples and admonitions and to grow in your understanding of the Living God by reading more widely and gleaning from "all of Scripture"?

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work".
2 Timothy 3:16-17

Monday, 4 December 2017

The Greek New Testament Produced by Tyndale House, Cambridge

Tyndale House in Cambridge have been working hard in recent years to produce an updated Greek New Testament. You may ask "Why?" if a New Testament is already available in Greek. Dirk Jongkind, Peter Williams, Peter Head and Patrick James have given their rationale at the back of this edition in their introduction. This work combines up to date scholarship and the publishers Crossway have made it into an attractive layout, which makes reading inviting and easy.

I have read the Preface and Introduction (which is interestingly at the back) and I am now working my way through Matthew's Gospel. It is too early for me to give my full thoughts thus far, but this edition is a welcome development and I am very thankful for the work of Tyndale House for their work on this project.

We need a recovery of the love of biblical languages by working pastors and ministers. We need to overcome the fear factor of Greek and Hebrew, to learn to persevere and to use the biblical languages daily and weekly to enhance the quality of our ministry and preaching. I hope that this Greek New Testament will help to this end.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Evolution is Outdated and in Crisis

The Bible is timeless. The Bible is inspired by the Eternal and Almighty Holy Spirit. At the time of Moses, he was led by the Holy Spirit to write the Book of Genesis and by divine revelation he penned the first three chapters to record the Creation and origin of everything. These chapters

Genesis 1:1-3 "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light".

We learn from the First Chapter of Genesis, that God created everything in six literal 24 hour days and then on the Seventh day he rested. The Seventh day teaches us that Creation is created for a 7 day cycle and one day is for rest and worship of the One True and Living God. This God is approached through the One Mediator who is the Lord Jesus Christ. This Day of rest and worship is now called the Christian Sabbath, something observed by the true church. This is the First Day of the week and it is the day upon which Jesus Christ was raised from the dead.

However, evolutionary theory opposes the idea of the origin of all things being by the God revealed in the Bible. Despite 150 years of discussion, Charles Darwin's Victorian theory still has not produced a definitive answer of the origin of things. In recent times, people are becoming disillusioned with evolution as a plausible answer to explain things scientifically and philosophically. I contend here that evolution is outdated and also in crisis.

Recently, A. N. Wilson has written a book called "Charles Darwin: Victorian Myth-maker" and the Times Newspaper carried a two page article promoting the ideas in the book. Charles Darwin's book written in 1859 "On the Origin of Species" may well have become a very influential piece of literature, but 150 years later with close reflection, we cannot call this book high level science. It is basic, it is flawed at a simple level and it is insupportable in its thin evidence of its findings.

There is an excellent DVD called "Unlocking the Mystery of Life" which provides a documentary whereby recent scientists observe "intelligent design" within Creation. Intelligent design contradicts evolution. These scientists observe cell structures which have a complicated design which cannot be explained by evolutionary development. This observation opposes Darwin's ideas that everything advances by undirected natural processes. These observed cells are fitted with an intelligent "out=board motor" system, one which can never have developed by random processes.

Evolution is in crisis! I have been persuaded scientifically for 30 years that evolution does not fit true science, it does not provide evidence based solutions, it is a theory that is bunk, out-dated, one to fit Victorian ideals. It may have been a theory that supported extravagant Victorian living, one which aids the suppression of the conscience's of sinful people, but it does not provide good scientific explanations.

I continue to maintain the truth of the Bible regarding the origin of all things, but academics and others who may not be Christian, also by the simple force of logic are coming to similar conclusions: Evolution is a theory that is out-dated and it is one that is in crisis.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

God's Ambassadors by Chad Van Dixhoorn

Chad Van Dixhoorn has done us a service with this new book. It offers refreshing insights into 17th Century history and on preaching. This is a great book, most especially for preachers. Any preacher "worth his salt" will constantly be working to improve his exegesis, his communication, his explanations and pastoral helps for the flock of God.

What is to be the overall theme of preaching? It is the knowledge of God. Listen to the words of wisdom in Proverbs 2:1-5. This book will help those called of God to better communicate the Triune God through Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.

"My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God".

I warmly commend this book and its author.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Christ, the Trinity, and Saving Faith

The various aspects of the benefits of redemption are inter-connected to assurance of salvation in a range of ways. Assurance is a far too neglected topic in the church in general. Paul writes that we are to examine ourselves (2 Cor 13:5), but also there is the necessity for strengthening the faith and assurance of the elect of God in the church of God at the same time.

Chapter 14 of the Westminster Confession of Faith is concerned with the subject of saving faith.

Here are seven basic truths concerning true saving faith.

1. It is gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-10)

2.We should use the phrase more often “the grace of faith” (Hebrews 10:39). This would place emphasis then on a God-centred aspect of faith, rather on presenting a man-centred concept of faith. It is the grace of God which gives us faith in Christ Jesus.

3. Faith is strengthened through the means of grace; the Word, the sacraments and prayer

4. The Christian believes in the authority of God revealed in the written Scriptures.

5.The authority of the word of God is from the whole Trinity and the Christian has faith and confidence in the revelation of God.

I. The Scriptures are from God the Father: John 17:17
II. The scriptures are from God the Son: John 1:1 The Son is the Word
III. The Scriptures are from God the Holy Spirit: John 16:12-15 and 2 Peter 1:21

6. Marks of true saving faith are:
I. A yielding obedience to the commands of Scripture (Romans 16:26)
II. Trembling at the threatenings (Isaiah 66:2)
III. An embracing of the promises of God for this life and that which is to come (1 Timothy 4:8)
IV. Accepting, receiving and resting in Christ alone for salvation (Acts 15:11 and John 1:12)

7. Faith can be in degrees of weak and strong, it will be attacked but true faith will get the victory (1 John 5:4-5), Hebrews 12:2 looking unto Jesus.

I hope that this little study could provide some people a brief outline for 30 minutes of personal Bible study in order to strengthen your faith.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

9th November 1989: On this Day the Berlin Wall Came Down!

One of the great symbols of change and answered prayer in my lifetime was the end of the Cold War. The East German government agreed on this day that the Berlin wall could come down on this day. This symbol of separation and division. This icon of atheistic communism. This wall that seemed to be of iron came down virtually in a day.

Christians around the world had been praying for years about the Cold War and the collapse of the Berlin Wall ... and then it happened. It was momentous, but the reality is that a whole generation have passed who almost have never heard of communism.

This answered prayer should be something of an "Ebenezer" monument to remind the church that "Till now the LORD has helped us" (1 Samuel 7:12) and to expect great things from the LORD. To walk by faith with godly expectation is the fruit of a truly reformed life. Our doctrine and faith are both to be shaped by a living reality of leaning upon the covenant LORD.

Since the Berlin wall came down, sadly much atheistic materialism from the West has engulfed former communist states. There have been advances in places like Albania and other countries but much mission work is needed. Do you pray for the strengthening and growth of the church in Poland, Former East Germany, the Balkan countries, Romania and so forth. If not, the do so.

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38.

Isaiah prayed also "Here am I send me!"
We need Christians and ministers to offer themselves again in large numbers to serve the LORD in our own generation.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Concordances, computers and the church

This may seem like an odd blog post title. Well, if you are thinking that, then at least I have got your attention. My involvement in writing this blog a few years ago, began with a desire to simply encourage Christians to move along a more doctrinal and reformed understanding of Christian things. Quite often, people do not know where to turn to get answers to their spiritual questions. Interestingly, there is a search engine on this blog and if you want to get answers on something specific, such as the Trinity or whatever, just use the search engine for your profit.

However, back to our subject; one of the blessings, but also dangers today for Christians can be computers and the internet. Through the internet you can gain access to resources that are simply amazing. Many people move along a biblical, reformed and doctrinal pathway with the help of computers. However, many people come to a reformed understanding of things through self-study and then they think, either consciously or sub-consciously, that they do not need the church or that the church simply supplements their pursuit for self-study.

Here lies an ever-present danger. Self-study is often without people and the challenge of living in relationship with people in the church. Books and blog posts do not argue back, or you can close them if you get fed up. You cannot do that with the church and people in the church, or at least you should not if you are a genuine Christian.

On a different note, I would like to commend something for personal Bible study for everyone. This is a concordance, hard bound copies are the best. I was given a Young's Concordance as a newly converted Christian many years ago and going through key topical themes was a source of huge delight and spiritual growth for me personally. Do you have a concordance? Strong's is another popular one. It may seem slightly antiquated, but one of these would be a great present for someone at Christmas or a birthday. With an open Bible and the concordance, along with a sheet of paper or a laptop, you could spend an evening researching a given topic such as the fear of the LORD, waiting on the LORD, or the imagery of the lamp stand in the Bible for example, and have a wonderful evening of spiritual profit.

Personal study of the Scripture is invaluable, especially in an age of distractions. However, in all of your personal study, do not neglect the church. Do not neglect praying with the saints in prayer meetings, do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together and in sitting under biblical preaching. Preaching is intended primarily to be a "face to face" dynamic. Be encouraged and keep running the Christian race!

Hebrews 10:24-25 "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near".

"The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord" (Acts 13:44).

Friday, 3 November 2017

Pro-life Awareness and Information Meeting in Sheffield

Psalm 139:13-16

"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them".


This Psalm plainly teaches that a baby is knitted together in the mothers womb. Yes, it is a baby and not an impersonal mass of cells as is often assumed and deliberately projected. From the age of at least 12 weeks everything is there in miniature for the baby. And yet, since 27th October 1967, over 50 years now, millions of babies have had their little lives terminated in the UK alone. It is now accepted by society in general that it is fine to terminate a baby's life, if any sign of defect is found, but what authority is there for such screening and such action. Imagine that baby with a defect was you! The Bible says plainly that "you shall not murder".

Yes, we need loving compassion and clarity to tackle this matter. In one of many steps being taken around the world right now, tonight (3rd November 2017) at 7.30pm at Hill Top Chapel, Sheffield, there is a pro-life awareness and information evening. This will cover matters theological and practical. We need the Bible to undergird us, but for Christians to take responsible action to save the lives of babies, to minimise regret among women, and to present a Christian worldview for life.

Please check out website. This website is for women who need advice and do forward it to people who may need to access this loving service:

http://sheffieldpac.co.uk

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Book of Titus: A fitting Tribute to the 500th Year of the Reformation

What is the day today? "It is not ground-hogday". Nor should we want it to be, that is in reference to the 31st October 2017. This day marks 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg. Under God, this became the fuel for the long awaited work of church reformation. Bringing the church back to its biblical foundation and a biblical pattern.

There is no book of the Bible more fitting, in my view, to recommend, than Paul's letter to Titus which he was to take on his mission to Crete to set things in order among the groups of believers (1:5). This is needed in every generation. Paul wrote to Titus, an experienced co-labourer: "But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine (2:1)". He taught sound doctrine in terms of salvation, church government, order in the family and in discriminating between those who had a genuine profession of faith and those who did not.

There is so much more in this gem of a Bible book.

Furthermore, there is a book published by the Banner of Truth recently called John Calvin's Sermon on Titus. This includes seventeen sermons by Calvin on this book. As Paul wrote Titus towards the end of his life, so Calvin preached on the Book of Titus toward the end of his life. Both give insights into mature Christian thought. I commend them both.

How about reading the Book of Titus either today or this week? How about praying for the help of the Holy Spirit to understand the truths in that book and how they need recovering again in our generation. We look backwards to church history but we also look forwards in expectant prayer for a further work of reformation and revival around the world.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Humility, first, second, third, and always!

John Calvin wrote in his second book, two of four, in “The Institutes of Christian Religion” about "The Knowledge of God the Redeemer in Christ". In Book 2:2:11 he expounded concerning true humility that gives God alone the honour and he wrote:

“A saying of Chrysostum has always pleased me very much, that the foundation of our philosophy is humility. But that of Augustine pleases me even more: ‘When a certain rhetorician was asked what was the chief rule in eloquence, he replied, ‘Delivery, delivery, delivery’; so if you ask me concerning the precepts of the Christian religion, first, second, third and always I would answer ‘Humility’ ”.

1.Humility (at home)

We need to display humility in the home and among our family.
Colossians 3:19 “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them”.
Loving our wives as Christ loved the church requires humility, first, second and third in the home. A man who is willing to admit he is wrong and says sorry is indeed to be respected. 1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant”. Pray for humility in your life at home.

2. Humility (in the congregation)

We need to learn to practice humility in the congregation where we are planted. Nothing is more dis-tasteful than pride. The proud person is often the last person to see their own pride, because their personal pride blinds that individual's discernment to their own problems. Have you ever heard a proud Christian saying that my problem is my own spiritual pride? No, because their pride cannot stoop so low, because such an individual wants to project something of grandeur and apparent spiritual success, instead of giving the Covenant LORD the honour and glory.

James 4:6 “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Philippians 2:8 “he [Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross".
Our Christian lives should reflect the humility of the crucified Christ in our receiving the preached Word, in our prayer lives and in living as part of the flock with other Christians.

3. Humility (with the elders)

Humility needs to be displayed in the way we relate to elders in the church. The Scripture requires humility by elders and humility and godly submission by church members as well.

Acts 20:18-19 “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me”.

We need to pray to walk in all humility before your elders and with fellow Christians, but most of all before the LORD. Humility needs to be a lifelong pursuit.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Remembering the Reformation in its 500th Anniversary Year

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; Psalm 78:1-7


It is remarkable how silent the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church are this year, regarding the anniversary of the 500th year of the Reformation. That is, since Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Saxony. There are five principles of the early Reformation which are called the five Solas meaning "alone" in Latin. There are that salvation is:

Scripture Alone
Faith Alone
Grace Alone
Christ Alone
To the Glory of God Alone

However, the further work of the Reformation in the succeeding generation was far more than that. John Calvin and others sought to work out the early implications of the Reformation, which then led to the church's worship, doctrine and church government being subjected to the scrutiny of the Word of God. Psalm 78 as cited above, exhorts us to pass on the history of the church as revealed in the Bible, to future generations. This also includes the history of the church from the last 2000 years.

One of the momentous events that was guided by the Holy Spirit, occurred 500 years ago. This Reformation has not led to the perfection of the church to bring in her into a perfect state in this world; that will have to wait until heaven. But, the gospel has been liberated and taken out of the hands of the Roman Catholic Church. Everyone who professes Jesus Christ, then needs to be guided by "Scripture Alone", and not simply holding a bunch of private interpretations. This was the purpose of the Westminster assembly, in order to pen down precise statements of doctrine, for the church to subscribe to uniform doctrine.

For those who may be interested, there are some very helpful talks/lectures on the Reformation from a recent UK based conference called Ref500. Here is the link to them: http://presbyterianseminary.org.uk/resources/reformation-500-lectures/

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The Bible is One Book!

It is amazing how a single page inserted by publishers has had a significant impact. It is the page between the so called Old Testament and the New Testament. In my Bible it is a single page entitled "The New Testament". However, we must remember that the Bible is one book and there are two covenants; The covenant of works before the Fall of Adam and the covenant of grace unfolded thereafter. Yes that covenant of grace varies in its administration and it is consummated finally by Christ and his shed blood, but it is the same covenant of grace.

When we think of the Scripture as being one book it begins to change our perspective upon many things. Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:14-17:

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work".

The Scriptures that Timothy learned from were Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Micah and Malachi. In thinking of the prophet Malachi, it is amazing how Mark's Gospel just continues where Malachi leaves off.

Malachi 3:1 "Behold, I send my messenger [John the Baptist], and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant [The Lord Jesus Christ] in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts".

Mark 1:1-4 "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’ ” John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins".


I would encourage all of us to reconsider and meditate upon the reality that the Bible is one book. This should enhance our appreciation of all the Books of the Bible and then to seek to understand all of them and to ask how each fits into the Lord's plan of redemption so that the church can grow in her knowledge of all Scripture.

Monday, 25 September 2017

The Privileged Planet

The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 7:1 "Of God's Covenant with Man".

"The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition [enjoyment] of Him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God's part, which He has been pleased to express by way of covenant".

Recently, a Christian friend of mine recommended a documentary DVD called "The Privileged Planet". What a great DVD it is and I am so thankful that I have now watched it twice. It is also available in book format.

Hollywood's movies have made the quest for extra-terrestrial life a given that such life exists. Not only do they assume it exists, but that it is abundant in the universe. Since the 1960's millions and millions of dollars have been spent on monitoring the airwaves coming into earth and there has been no sign of complex life that can communicate thus far.

The scientists in this DVD explore what factors are necessary for complex life to exist on any planet in the universe. There are many factors, of which earth fits them perfectly and obviously. However, the statistical chance of all these factors coming together to make this happen are virtually impossible. We know it is not by chance, but this DVD reinforces for us, that the fingerprints of the God of the Bible are all over this universe. From the mathematical laws to the force of gravity, to solar eclipses to the place of the earth in the Milky Way, it is all orchestrated by the Living God.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day (Genesis 1:1-5).


Day Four of Creation:

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. Genesis 1:14-19.

In closing, did you note the tiny part of the sentence in 1:16 "and the stars". There are billions of them, but for the LORD God it is a single work of his fingers in one single day. This God sent his son, who took the name Jesus to save sinners from sin. Hallelujah, what a Saviour!

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The Word and the Spirit

The necessity to understand the Word and the Spirit from a biblical perspective is most necessary. Today, there is a general mis-understanding among people, as to how the Word of God and the Holy Spirit work in the church and in the world. The second question of the Westminster Larger Catechism is most instructive on this point. What does it say?

Q. 2. How does it appear that there is a God?
A. The very light of nature in man, and the works of God, declare plainly that there is a God; but his word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal him unto men for their salvation.


This key phrase here is delightful and instructive: "his word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal him [God] unto men for their salvation". This means that the work of the word and the Holy Spirit are inseparable; they distinct, but without division. The latter is a key theological principle. For example the Three Persons of the Trinity are distinct, but without division.
1 Corinthians 2:10 "But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God".

It is both the Word and the Spirit who reveal the truth. The truth of salvation is dependent upon both sources of revelation or should we say those of revealing power. Let us look at both aspects briefly.

1). The Word of God
A Protestant truth is that the Word of God is restricted to the written holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. The divinely inspired 66 books of the Bible. This truth alone is one that is departed from, by many. The Roman Catholic Church do not restrict the Word of God so narrowly and they permit other sources, which they claim to be the Word of God, such as their own tradition. We believe this to be false. The section of the church who have been led astray by so-called Charismatic influences, they believe that the Bible forms part of the Word of God, but that God speaks in many other ways, such as prophecies, dreams, visions, angels and such like. These supposedly, add to the way of revelation, however, this is more unstable and misleading than the Roman Catholic position. This position opens the door to widespread error.

Therefore, I contend on the basis of Scripture itself, that the written Scriptures are the only source of infallible revelation for salvation, for the church.

2. The Holy Spirit
This question two of the Catechism asserts that the "word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal ... ". The written Scripture alone is not sufficient for revelation to man according to this question and answer. It is this part of the catechism's answer which also needs addressing. The necessity of the Holy Spirit to reveal is often a truth neglected and little spoken of. Why is that? I do not know why. Perhaps for some, it might be for fear of being unbiblical, in thinking that if one emphasises the Holy Spirit that it may appear Charismatic or for some other reason.

However, on the basis of Scripture and the historic teaching of the church, we must contend for the co-equal necessity of the work of the word and Spirit in the church. We must pray that the written word of God would be unashamedly displayed through public reading and preaching, but also that we would be pray for the help of the Holy Spirit to reveal that truth from Scripture. May our Lord help us in this pursuit by His grace.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Praying for Spiritual Discernment

Philippians 1:9-11 "And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God".

Do you note Paul's primary threefold cord of requests in prayer for this church at Philippi? He prays for:

Love
Knowledge
And Discernment

It is the need for spiritual discernment that I want to emphasise. It is the great need for spiritual; discernment that I want to urge us auto pray for as individuals, families and also congregations/denominations. Do you pray for this and how often? If you do not then we can be assured that your spiritual discernment will be weaker than the Lord intends it to be.

There are many spiritual snares, temptations and pitfalls and the church desperately needs an increase in spiritual discernment. Philippians 1:10 "... so that you may approve what is excellent ...". This means to know the difference between what is spiritually right and what is spiritually wrong!

Discernment means a "capacity to understand". A capacity to understand is vital to the spiritual life and witness of the church. We need discernment regarding doctrine, Christian morals, what should and should not take place in public worship and so forth. Perhaps someone should write a good book on discernment from an Evangelical and Reformed perspective.

I hope that this blog post exhorts us to action to pray for spiritual discernment on a regular basis.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Covenant Faithfulness

It has been my joy to write this blog for a number of years. My aim is to encourage "whosoever that would read" to move towards a Calvinistic and Reformed path. One that honours the written Scriptures and the truths therein, so that reform takes place in our ideas, regarding the doctrine of God, our thoughts about the church and public worship, the doctrine we hold and the way the church should be governed under Christ.

Once bad habits set in, it can be hard to change them, but if the Holy Spirit is at work then a change of direction, in our thinking and action is more than possible. We are living at a juncture in the West, where the church is largely in a state of spiritual confusion. Due to wrong teaching, many churches have no moral compass, other than what the consensus thinks is morally right. Without a robust love of the Ten Commandments, this is no surprise. Quite often I hear the phrase in discussing biblical truth: "I do not agree" or "I cannot accept that ... " or "I have a different opinion". These comments may be valid, but often they underlie a thought pattern that we can all believe what we want rather than being submitted to the right interpretation of Scripture. Romans 4:3 is crucial as Paul asks: "What does the Scripture say?".

Simply put, the Book of Deuteronomy offers many valuable lessons for the church today. Why? The message is the same as for the New Testament church as to what the Covenant LORD expects from his people in every age, in every continent. It is this. He expects Covenant faithfulness. But, what does that look like in practice?

Deuteronomy chapters 4, 6 and 8 are helpful to summarise what covenant faithfulness is to look like among the people of God.
4:1-2 “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.

4:4-5 "But you who held fast to the LORD your God are all alive today. See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.

4:9 "Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children—".


How may we summarise these truths? The people of the Covenant LORD are to walk in covenant faithfulness by:

*Listening to the statutes and rules
*To do these statutes and rules
* Not adding or taking away from the commandments, that you may keep them and obey them
* Hold fast to the LORD and do the LORD's commandments
*Take care and keep your soul diligently
* Teach your children and your children's children to do the same

In essence, covenant faithfulness means to hear and listen carefully to the Scriptures being faithfully read and taught faithfully publicly. The Bible is not primarily a private book, but the possession of the whole people of God. We are to do then the commandments and to keep the teaching faithfully. As the Lord Jesus said in John 14:15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments"; John 14:21 "Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me"; John 15:10 "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love". Here Christ Jesus is effectually summarising the same teaching that is found in Deuteronomy.

Covenant faithfulness is what the LORD requires of his people. Let us pray that the whole church would desire to walk in covenant faithfulness by his grace.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Let's Study the Westminster Larger Catechism

The Westminster Larger Catechism contains 196 questions and answers. It is in my view one of the best documents to teach the church her doctrine and duty, that has been produced in the history of the church. Why then you may rightly ask is it so little known and used? This is a fair question and one that is not easy to answer.

In an age when an appreciation for history is quite low, never mind church history it is not surprising that little attention is given to historic documents such as this Larger Catechism. There is always the constant pursuit, by sinful man, for the new methods or the novelties as well. We must not pander to this lust in the church. Solomon rightly taught that: 'and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us' Ecclesiastes 1:9-10.

None-the-less I would like to contend that people begin to read and study this document. If you are an elder, how about teaching it in Adult Sunday School class or the midweek meeting?

It is easy to find this Catechism on the internet, just put it in the search engine. There is a new book coming out also by Evangelical Press in September/October this year which is called "The Westminster Standards in Modern English with Essays". It will probably be in hardback and this will make this an enduring contribution to the church for the coming years. This book could be used to study this Catechism.

My conclusion is: Let's study the Westminster Larger Catechism!

Monday, 14 August 2017

The True Israel of God

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 1 Cor 3:16-17.

There is much confusion today about the biblical place of modern day Israel as a nation. Some believe that the emergence of Israel on the world map has huge significance biblically. Some Christians believe that the rebuilding of a third temple in Jerusalem will be one of the major signs of prophecy before the return of Christ. But is this the case?

The Bible verse from 1 Corinthians teaches us that the church is the temple, not Jerusalem's temple, one which was destroyed in AD 70. Even if this temple was rebuilt, the LORD God would not be present there, in a Redemptive sense. It therefore would have zero prophetic significance.

Fresh questions need to be asked polemically, in order to answer false claims that are made by dispensationalist Christians. However, we need to go further than simply answering false claims; we desire to know also the truth of the Scriptures more clearly.

There are two resources that I would like to point us to, in order to help us on this subject of the true Israel of God.

1. O. Palmer Robertson's book called "The Israel of God: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow". This is a gripping read with many fresh insights into the types and shadows of Old Testament promises.

2. A sermon by Rev Nick Batzig called "Jesus, the True Israel of God" (https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=726171058490) is excellent. This wonderful sermon goes further than giving apologetic answers. Nick expounds that the Son of God is the fulfilment of Israel's promises. Israel is a person. Listen to it and be blessed, as well as having meaningful answers to spiritual questions.

When we are the point that much money is wasted on Israel dispensationalist projects, such as rearing red heifers in Texas because they are supposedly needed for future temple sacrifices, then we need to teach Christians properly. False doctrine, leads to false ideas of how to serve the Covenant LORD, which can then lead to disaster.

Let's pray for a recovery of biblical truth regarding the true Israel of God.

Friday, 4 August 2017

There is the need for prayer for the recovery in the church of ...

The Summer time affords the chance, for me at least, to step back and reflect. In my assessment there is the need for urgent prayer for the the professing evangelical church on a number of fronts. I will make a list of these points for further consideration and I intend to blog on them. My small contribution, is intended to stir and stimulate a biblical interest in truth. I continue to be discouraged as a Christian at the lack of lively interest and attention given by many professing Christians in the Bible and the truths contained therein.

Here is a list of points which need further elucidation from Holy Scripture and prayer for their recovery in the church.

1. The Lord's Supper.
Perhaps top of the list is the right administration in the church of the Lord's Supper. The elders are supposed to guard the Lord's Table to ensure that only those who are worthy partakers, do indeed partake. The amount of confusion in the way the Lord's Supper is administered in many places, leaves a question open. Can a church be a true church, and not administer the Lord's Supper in a biblical and reverent manner?

1 Cor 11:27-29 "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself".

2. Reverence in public Christian Worship.
Hebrews 12: 28-29 "Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire".

The order of the day in most professing circles is to consider, how can we be contemporary in worship? The Bible asks a very different question, which is: How does the Covenant Lord require to be worshipped? The high point of public worship should be the reading and the preaching of sound doctrine out of Scripture, so that the hearers can draw near to the Living God with "reverence and awe" (Hebrews 12:28) and in "Spirit and truth" (John 4:24).

3. The recovering of a love for preaching.
Preaching is the "backbone of the church" and the church cannot survive and thrive without. No amount of Christianity Explored courses, evangelism or music driven worship can replace it. Professing Christians may not desire preaching and when this happens it is a symptom of spiritual illness; something that the people themselves may not realise. Paul the apostle corrected the Corinthians and he taught them: "For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles" ( 1 Cor 1:22-23). "We preach", Paul said, but it was the non-Christian Jews who sought signs instead, and not the true church.

4. The rejection of the obsession with extra-biblical revelations.
The so-called Charismatic movement with its many tentacles has been one of the most damaging movements in the late 20th and early 21st Century's. Why? Despite the Scripture's warnings that nothing is to be added or taken away from Scripture (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32, Proverbs 30:5-6) and Revelation 22:18-19), this movement has displaced the pre-eminence of the Bible in the church with its quest for extra-biblical experiences and revelations outside of the Bible. "There is nothing new under the sun" with this quest, because the Quaker movement did the same thing, yet today the Quakers are a barren, fruitless and unbiblical monument to warn us. The warning "Remember Lot's wife" could be said of the Quakers to warn Charismatics and stop their wrong pursuits: Remember the Quakers.
To bring someone back out, of Charismatic chaos and confusion is often very difficult, because it is now a new and deeply ingrained tradition. When its claims are challenged by the Bible, Charismatic adherents defend their position using unbiblical arguments and opinions, and they often do not realise they are doing it. John MacArthur has done the church a service with his books called "Strange Fire" and "Charismatic Chaos".

Charismatic heresies need addressing with clarity, boldness and persistence to rescue people from this mass of false teaching.

5. Love for the laws and commandments of Scripture; Too often there is a rejection of the commandments of God in favour of a rule-less religion
Have you ever heard a professing Christian say "I am under grace not law. Holding to the Ten Commandments is legalism!". This statement has a ring of plausibility for many, despite the fact that it reveals a completely false message and a false gospel. The Lord Jesus stated clearly: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" John 14:15. A gospel presentation that talks about revelling the grace of God, and yet holds to a message that never mentions the Covenant Lord's commandments, imperatives and rules, is a false one.

6. For fresh clarity on eschatology: the common notion around is a two-stage rapture theory or a theology which replaces the church with the State of Israel (Christian Zionism).
This dispensational approach to the Bible, instead of a Reformed covenantal approach to Scripture, must be challenged. What often begins with a seemingly innocent desire to study the "end times" often ends up in a quagmire of flawed propositions, one's which are not supported by Scripture. We need to hold all truths in balance with Scripture. An obsession with so-called end times events replaces the whole panorama of biblical truths for a fascination with a handful of ideas. I have never met a Christian who holds to dispensational teaching and yet remains balanced.

7. A clear understanding of biblical church government: Feminism is now gripping the church
The rise of women teaching in the church and their holding office to lead men and women in the church is revealing and fast-paced. The Holy Spirit has spoken that women are not permitted to teach or to exercise authority over men. Women are not permitted to hold the office of elder, minister and deacon. There are ample opportunities for service for men and women, but only qualified men may hold public office.
What does this yielding to feminism reveal? It shows a desire in part of the church, to be like the world and that they will substitute a desire to be like the world with Scripture. It is a trade-off and one that grieves the Holy Spirit. 1 Timothy 2-3. Titus 1 and the whole of Scripture teach that qualified and godly men only are to rule, lead and teach the church.

8. Covenantal baptism
Any approach to baptism which negates the teaching of the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, needs to be brought under scrutiny. Such approaches to baptism, opens the door to relegating the 39 books of the Old Testament to a lowered position. This is dangerous. Paul instructed Timothy that "All Scripture is inspired of God and is profitable ..." (2 Timothy 3:16).

9. A love of and the pursuit of personal and corporate holiness.
It seems as if the talk of holiness is "out of fashion", but it is in fashion in the eyes of heaven. Without holiness no one can see the LORD. Holiness is not an optional extra for Christians it is the very essence of Christianity. Do you agree and have you thought about your personal holiness in recent times?

Each of these points needs unpacking in order to help Christians to navigate their way of out these spurious teachings and if need be, out of churches that promote such teachings. It is the duty of Christians to be loving, but they must also seek out churches that hold to historic and biblical truth.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

"The Christ of Wisdom" by O. Palmer Robertson

Palmer has done it again! This book is a continuation of a number of fine theological books he has produced in recent years. The first was, I believe, "Christ of the Covenants" (1980), a book that has helped many Christians, seminary students and ministers to better understand the biblical covenants. This has been followed up with his book called "The Christ of the Prophets" (2004) and now with "The Christ of Wisdom"(2017).

This latest book is wonderfully researched and it offers rich insights into five biblical books: Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations and The Song of Songs. I take a different line to Palmer on the Song, I believe it teaches about Christ and the Church and not simply about human love, but that aside, this book is excellent.

Here are the main chapter headings:

Proverbs: How to walk in Wisdom's Way
Job: How to Puzzle
Ecclesiastes: How to cope with Life's Frustrations
Lamentations: How to Weep
The Song of Songs: How to Love

There has also been Palmer's book on "The Flow of the Psalms" (2015) published as well on the arrangement of the Psalms in the Psalter. One can hope that Palmer will continue this series and include some presentations on NT books as well. Let us pray and give thanks for this author, for wisdom, strength and insight in these writing projects which are enriching the body of Christ.

Ps Another valuable book by Palmer is called "The Final Word". This deals with the doctrine called the finality of Scripture. If you are thinking through the matter that the office of Apostles, prophets and prophecy have ceased, then this book may well be what you need.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The Fight for the Lives of Unborn Children: Green Shoots in Sheffield

Can you believe that there have been over one billion abortions worldwide?1 This year marks the 50th anniversary of the legalisation of abortion here in the UK. More than 8 million abortions have taken place here since then. The latest figures available demonstrate that more than one in five pregnancies end in abortion meaning that on average 523 abortions are carried out every day in England and Wales. It is truly shocking but how do we even begin to respond to this?

A Response
We must pray. We pray to a God who is omnipotent. He can turn situations very quickly, if he so chooses. Many of us can take encouragement from events in the recent past. The ‘Iron Curtain’ fell almost overnight, after many people prayed for decades. Suddenly, there were many opportunities for the gospel. Similarly let us pray that there would be a wholesale change in attitudes to the value of human life.

We must teach people the truth on these matters. Many in society do not know their right hand from their left and some in the wider church are not as strong as they could be on this issue. Yet God’s word is clear: The Bible states that life begins at conception, every human is made in God’s image, and the deliberate taking of an innocent human life breaks the sixth commandment: ‘You shall not murder’. We must stand firm on these truths even when society (and some in the church) accuse us of lacking compassion for not allowing abortion in some ‘hard cases’. This is not merely an ideological issue – abortion not only results in the death of a child, but also many women who have an abortion deeply regret their actions. In 2008 a study found that women who have an abortion are 30% more likely to develop a mental illness. So we must teach with compassion, but also without compromise.
We can also seek to intervene. Is there anything we can do to make a woman reconsider having an abortion? Perhaps many of these women will react with fear on discovering that they are pregnant. Perhaps the baby was conceived in a situation that a woman would not have chosen. These women are now vulnerable – what will they do with the life within them? What options are available to them? It is ironic that those who are overtly ‘pro-choice’ do not offer pregnant women many choices at all – mostly they want a woman to choose abortion. Sadly, also, a woman’s own doctor may recommend an abortion.

Many women will not be offered an alternative or any material to make an informed decision. For instance, last December it was reported that a lady considering abortion felt she was simply on a conveyor belt to end the life of the child after arriving at a Marie Stopes clinic.
However, another choice is available for these women. A number of ‘pregnancy awareness centres’ have been opened across the UK. These offer woman confidential counselling and the opportunity to have a free ultrasound scan. Women going to one of these clinics may change their mind about having an abortion. They can hear about the other options (perhaps of adoption or how to manage the situation) and they can see, through the ultrasound scan, that there is a real baby within them and not a mass of impersonal cells. An ultrasound programme operating in the United States of America estimates that 370,000 lives have been saved since 2004.

The Story So Far
Over the last three years, Kevin and Maria Bidwell, along with others, have been working to establish a Pregnancy Advice Centre. The ethos is to provide wise and directive advice for pregnant women. Our aims are three-fold: to save the lives of babies; to minimise regret among women; and to present a Christian worldview for life. We now have premises and people are being trained so that ultrasound scans can also be offered. We are refurbishing the unit that we have and are setting up a website. We will potentially open initially to offer advice and then in the coming months offer ultrasound scans. Remarkably, the Lord has been answering prayer on many fronts. We have an ultrasound machine, with a couch; it is exciting to see the Lord’s hand upon this, even though we often feel ‘out of our comfort zone’. This work is vital and yet it requires perseverance, patience, faith and trust in the Living God. Will you join us in prayer?

Pregnancy Advice, Sheffield: How you can be involved
The website currently being constructed has an address (www.sheffieldpac.co.uk) but this will be a front for pregnant women coming to the centre. We are conscious that we need to actively build awareness among Christians and to raise funds to run the centre each month. If you would like to be added to the email database then contact us at kevinjbidwell@gmail.com and we will send brief bite-sized updates. Of course the need for prayer almost goes without saying, but also if you are in Sheffield you might like to visit us. The centre is five minutes from Junction 34 off the M1. Do contact us in advance (appointments would be needed for this to make sure we are available).

This year, sadly, marks the 50th year since abortion legislation was passed in the UK. On Friday 3 November we will host an evening to increase pro-life awareness. It will be held at Hill Top Chapel, Attercliffe Common, Sheffield S9 2AD (just three minutes walk from the centre). Kevin Bidwell, the minister of Sheffield Evangelical Presbyterian Church will speak on the biblical theology of pro-life and Chris Richards will speak on ‘Putting the ethics into practice: experiences from the centre in Newcastle’. The Newcastle centre (http://www.tyneside-pregnancy.org.uk) are planning to extend their service also to Sunderland in the near future.

Kevin J Bidwell

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Are you interested in training for the ministry within a confessional framework? Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary is the only Presbyterian seminary in England and we are growing.

We have flexible options for studying for a MDiv or a Masters course to suit the needs of the student. Our aim is simple. To train for the work of pastoral ministry to serve as a teaching elder in a confessional Presbyterian church.

Here is the website link: http://presbyterianseminary.org.uk

If you are interested in knowing more then please contact me through the Sheffield Presbyterian Church contact page and we can talk. Do pray for this seminary as England urgently needs men for the ministry who are called, competent, equipped and godly. The church website for contact is: www.sheffieldpres.org.uk

"You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything". 2 Timothy 2:1-7

Monday, 3 July 2017

Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth".
2 Timothy 2:15


A minister who teaches the church MUST be equipped in sound systematic theology. Why? How else can he rightly divide the Word of God if he does not comprehend the unified system of truth, as presented in Holy Scripture? A minister has to preach the whole counsel of God and systematic theology provides the tools for such a man to do this. A man in the pulpit without training in systematic theology is like a plumber working on a boiler without a tool bag. It is that serious!

Many men who are allowed into pulpits with no theological training; but would you allow such a man to function as a primary school teacher, an electrician or a nurse to work without formal training? Of course not. So why do we place the bar so low at times for the minister serving in the church of God?

I have several book shelves with various authors presenting their systematic theologies. One that has remained a faithful friend to me over many years has been Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology (in one volume). Furthermore this work comes in three sizes.

A Summary of Christian Doctrine: This is the slimmest of the three possibilities. It is published by the Banner of Truth and it provides a succinct summary of Christian truth.

Manual of Christian Doctrine: This is the medium size book and it is most useful to train a man who needs to be further equipped for Christian ministry at the early stages.

Systematic Theology (one Volume): This is the full work comprising some 738 pages without the index.

This work is highly reliable, doctrinally stable and it equips the church in what is known as the analogy of faith. We must interpret Scripture by Scripture. The Westminster Confession makes this plain in its first chapter, 1:9.

"The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly".

Friday, 30 June 2017

Theology and Ecclesiology MUST be part of preaching!

There is a certain mood in our day which suggests "drumming things down". A minister friend of mine was criticised once for using too long theological words in his sermon and explication. Perhaps this could be wrong in some circumstances, but my friend rightly explained that if you are ill then you quickly become familiar with difficult words from your Doctor. We must not unnecessarily over-complicate things in the church and neither should we over-simplify things either. The latter is mainly the problem in British evangelicalism! The church needs a full-bodied recovery of theology and ecclesiology in its preaching.

We cannot preach Christ, without also preaching the doctrine of the church! Why? It is because the LORD Jesus Christ is the head of the church and He died for the church. Rev Brian Norton, a friend, mentor and faithful pastor in Durham Presbyterian Church, is now in heaven. But he modelled as a minister an attitude of pouring out his life for the church. Why did he live in this way? It is because Jesus died for the church, and not for projects, he lived as a minister for what primarily counts, the health of the Christian church. We must live for the upbuilding, strengthening and equipping of the true church. Do you live like that as a Christian? Selfishness is culturally acceptable and it is a part of our decadent British; it is an accepted cultural norms. But, we should not be living a selfish life as a Christian, this should not be so amongst the church and professing Christians. Let us live godly, self-effacing and with a servant heart to support the church.

Colossians 1:18 "And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent".

Ephesians 5:22, 24-27 "Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Saviour ... Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish".

Many Christian ministers and churches never mention ecclesiology in their preaching and they show no interest in it. That is often, until problems arise. And problems will indeed arise if the doctrine of the church is not opened up, because spiritual darkness will be tolerated in the church. Ecclesiology is part of the whole counsel of God and it must be preached. One of the best books I have ever preached on was the Book of Titus: a book full of ecclesiology and doctrine. When it is opened up for the people of God it is like "smelling salts".

Let the full light of ecclesiology shine in the church so that Scripture guides our view of church government, our practices in worship (and not our preferences) and our doctrine. This is why we cannot allow women to hold church office as elders, ministers or deacons. Why? The Scripture forbids it. Period. End of discussion, except that we will explain why God teaches thus and so, but we must submit to the Lord's wisdom and not push forward our own wisdom upon the church where it contradicts the plain teaching of Holy scripture.

What about theology? Theology means the study of God. The church must preach God and then we can rightly understand man. The church should fill our thoughts about the Triune God. Where else can this knowledge be found? The Lord Jesus Christ is the theologian par excellence. Why do I say that? Just read the Gospel of John. It is full of theology and the church needs this.

Let us pray for a full orbed recovery of ecclesiology and theology in all facets of the life of the church. So that the life of God can be visibly seen in the church's love for the Triune God.

Monday, 19 June 2017

O for a Closer Walk with God

The title of this blogpost is taken from the opening line of hymn by William Cowper (1731-1800). Here is the first verse:

O FOR a closer walk with God,
a calm and heavenly frame,
a light to shine upon the road
that leads me to the Lamb!


And the last verse, verse 6.

So shall my walk be close with God,
calm and serene my frame;
so purer light shall mark the road
that leads me to the Lamb.


I love Reformed theology, Reformed ecclesiology, systematic theology, the whole of the Bible and my historic biblical and Reformed heritage. However, the crucial part of it all, is that we cultivate a loving communion with the Triune God. Our prayer postures in the "secret place" of prayer should include at times kneeling as an act of submission or being prostrate before the Lord as a sign of submission at times and a heart being poured out before the throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16, Psalm 62:8, Ephesians 3:14, Deut 9:25). Look at Moses on Mount Sinai in Deuteronomy 9:25-26 "So I lay prostrate before the LORD for these forty days and forty nights, because the LORD had said he would destroy you. And I prayed to the LORD ...".

How is your communion with the Living God? We need Christians to be refreshed and revived in their personal communion with the Covenant LORD. This does not replace the public means of grace, but it should supplement and undergird the public means by the private means of grace.

Listen to the Lord Jesus Christ: Mark 6:30-32 "The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves".


We need to come apart from the distractions of the internet, TV, sports and so forth, in order to be renewed in our communion with the LORD. Oh to be restored in our first love!

We often talk of revival, but our own lives need to be revived before the Living God with renewed holiness. Holiness meaning being set apart for the Lord Jesus Christ. Iain Murray wrote this in his recent book "Seven Leaders" in reference to the life of John Elias.

"Thomas Charles and John Elias were of one mind on the remedy for this [a spiritual dullness with a loss of vigour in the church]. It is not speaking more about revival or the Holy Spirit, but renewed faith and renewed communion with the Lord Jesus Christ" (page 41).

Oh for renewed communion with the Lord Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit lead and guide the church into renewed faith and renewed communion with the Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

What's missing in English Evangelicalism?

It is indeed important for every church in different countries, to critically examine themselves, including their own congregation and/or denomination. A minister friend who is from another country remarked to me how few English ministers he has met, are interested in theology! As I asked him to explain more, he did. He seemed to "hit the nail on the head" in my view in that theology is not on the radar for ministers, elders and churches in England. We have ideas, doctrine and preaching without theology. A theology-less church leads to a downgrade in who God is, what is salvation and a host of errors enter in to the church when this happens.

What is missing in the English Evangelical Church? In my view it is theology and ecclesiology. One of the principles of interpreting the Bible is to compare Scripture with Scripture. This leads the church then, to a body of theology, known as the Reformed understanding of Scripture. When theology is not mentioned, never mind ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church) as well, in the church, two huge "puzzle pieces" to rightly understand the Lord, salvation and other matters are then missing.

What is the answer to this problem? Someone once said that the first step to solving a problem, is to acknowledge that there is a problem in the first place. Once we recognise this significant theological problem, we need to repent, if this problem includes ourselves. We should pray for a recovery and a love for, the theological doctrines presented in Holy Scripture.

The Seven churches in Revelation present the critique of the Lord (chapters 1-3), of those churches falling short. With the state of the nation in the UK, it is not a surprise that the church is falling short in many areas. In each letter to each church the answer is to repent and for them to amend their ways.

Revelation 2:5 "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lamp-stand from its place, unless you repent".

Revelation 2:16 "Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth".

Revelation 3:19-20 "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me".

For people reading this blog who would like to become more theologically informed, here are some resources for you to make a start.

Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology

Louis Berkhof, A Summary of Christian Doctrine

J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Seven Leaders: Preachers and Pastors by Iain Murray

"So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, behold, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha, and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet" 2 Kings 13:20-21.

This story is apt for this book. The author hopes that by putting our generation in contact with an array of godly men and their convictions that new life may to come to the church. This book is outstanding!!!

For the author who is now in his 80's to produce another fine quality book can only be attributed to the grace of God.

The seven leaders are:

John Elias
Andrew Bonar
Archie Brown
Kenneth MacRae
M L Jones
W. J. Grier
John MacArthur

For some reason John Murray was missed out but none the less the book says enough. Each chapter is short enough to maintain one's interest and a lifetimes experience and conviction oozes out of each page. I hope the Lord would use this book to stir in our hearts a number of things.

A zeal for genuine revival
A love for sound reformed doctrine
A passion for ecclesiology
An understanding that public worship should be sober and reverent
An appreciation of church history and the present state of liberalism often working under the guise of the label evangelical.

Above all, I hope this book moves all readers to their knees to call upon the name of the Lord for a recovery of truth and preaching in our own day.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Where are the Lord's Mordecai's?

"And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him" (Esther 4:12–17).

I almost gave this blog post the title, "what happens when good men remain silent?". Mordecai is one supreme example of a man who would not be silent in the midst of compromise and the threat against God's people. It seems that at one stage, that Esther was keeping her head down hoping for a quiet ride, but Mordecai gave this vital warning to her, one which we Christians need to hear today:> "For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place ...".

Therefore, it is possible to keep silent for the sake of man pleasing and for a life of comfort and ease. Now I am not exhorting divisiveness. Some people are plain divisive and they seek to work for Satan in causing chaos in the church. Note the warning in Romans 16:17-18: "I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive".

If you associate with people who do not follow due process, those who seek their own agenda in the church rather than the cause of truth, you need to separate yourself from such people. However, there is the need for men especially to stand up for the truth. What are some the issues today that require men to stand up for the sake of truth?

1. The truth of 1 Timothy 2:12 "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man". Worldliness and compromise has entered into parts of the church, one which is promoting women to teach men and also for them to exercise authority over men. This is not permitted by Scripture. Paul writes as an apostle, something representing the whole counsel of God; "I do not permit". The answer according to Paul is that in the church, that women are to "remain quiet". Now this will confront the feminist spirit of the age. The question is, will we bow before the truth of Scripture or not?

2. The matter of a silent genocide called abortion requires the church to "break the silence". The 6th Commandment plainly states that "you shall not murder", yet over 200,000 abortions continue every year in the UK alone and the church remains virtually silent on this matter.

3. The introducing of worldly methods into public worship. The Lord is to be approached with 'reverence and awe' and our hearts are to be filled with gratitude (Hebrews 12:28-29). I suggest reading "Seven Leaders" by Iain Murray, a new book which is published by the Banner of Truth.

May we join in prayer for the Lord to raise men like Mordecai in our generation. They can provoke and exhort us all, including exhorting women like Esther who are in positions of prominence to do the right thing.

Monday, 22 May 2017

"Unordained women can do everything, that unordained men can do in the church": Is this true?

Every now and again, new phrases arise in the church. The validity of such catchy phrases vary in their helpfulness; sometimes they are helpful and sometimes they are not. One's such as "once saved always saved", is one that needs unpacking, before it can be taken on face value. A new slogan has emerged in the last couple of years, one which underlies a push for the much greater involvement of women in the life, organisation and ministry of the church. It is this phrase: "unordained women can do everything, that unordained men can do in the church". It is catchy, well thought out, and it is intended to neutralise opposition to suggested changes against the greater involvement of women in the church's ministry and worship. But, what does the Scripture teach?

There are significant pushes from many quarters for change on the role of women in the church. While there are denominations who have pushed for the ordination of women as elders and deacons, contrary to Scripture, some slightly more conservative denominations do not want to follow the liberals that far, but instead they push for a similar agenda with a different strategy. One example of a wholehearted and an open approach to ordain women is the Church of England; they have actively ordained women ministers for the last 25 years and now they ordain women bishops. It is only a matter of time before they install their first woman archbishop. Other denominations who are more conservative, they know that it would not go down well to suggest that women can be ordained ministers, but instead they seek ways to achieve the same goal, but by a different route.

In what way is Scripture plain on these matters?

1. Only qualified, called and gifted men can be elders to oversee the public worship and the work of the church. Titus 1:5-6 "This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife ...". Scripture discriminates against women from holding this office but also against 98% of men in the church. Not all men can hold this office either.

Although an elders wife has an important role, the wife does not hold the office of elder along with the husband. It is not uncommon today to see photos of the husband and wife, both of them called pastors, but this is not biblical.

2. Only qualified, called and gifted men can hold the office of deacon. 1 Timothy 3:12 "Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well".

3. Women cannot exercise authority over men in the work of the church. 1 Timothy 2:12-14 "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor".

I have heard teachers in the church, seek to explain away this summary statement given by Paul the apostle, one that summarises the whole position of Scripture from Creation onwards. Why would professing evangelical teachers seek to explain away such a text? It is because they have an agenda to create space in the church for women to teach, exercise all kinds of ministries and so forth, without them being ordained. However, we must return to Scripture and to first principles to examine such a position.

A push for women to exercise all kinds of roles in public worship, one's such as the leading of the worship, the reading of Scripture, the serving of the Lord's Supper, and the preaching of the sermon, is contrary to Scripture. Therefore the ditto phrase that "unordained women can do everything unordained men can do in the church" is a spiritually unhelpful and a muddied phrase, one that probably masks an agenda to promote women exercising authority over men in the church.

The issue at stake is the matter of the authority of Scripture. Do we accept and submit to the plain teaching of Scripture or are we going to throw off the yoke of the Lord and walk contrary to his will?

John the apostle instructed the church in 1 John 4:1 "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world".

Friday, 19 May 2017

Matthew Henry, "A Way to Pray".

This hardback book, now published by Banner of Truth has been edited and reviewed by O. Palmer Robertson. What a gem this book is! It is the only book I know of, apart from the Bible, that I would recommend it should be used on one's knees. I do not say the Bible should always be read on your knees, but this book is best used in prayer on your knees.

The first four major sections are prayers founded on Scripture on four main headings. These are:

Praise
Confession
Petition
Thanksgiving

I suggest getting on your knees in prayer, putting pieces of paper inside each section, then taking a portion of each of these sections in order in prayer. It will warm your heart as you approach the Living God. This book as you use it prayer, may so warm and soften your heart that you may even rise from your knees without dry eyes. We need helps in prayer and this book is about as good as it comes.

Palmer Robertson has used this book his whole life in his personal communion with the LORD. This indicates the ongoing usefulness of its biblical content in this book. There are many other prayers provided, one's based on Scripture, one's which you can expand, but it gets you started in prayer. There is an expanded directory for the Lord's Prayer as well.

Robertson writes in his introduction: "According to his own notations, Matthew Henry considered another work of his to be so important that he interrupted the writing of his commentary and as a consequence never completed it. That other work was his laying out a method for prayer altogether based on the expressions of Scripture.

I wholeheartedly commend this book to you, as indeed I commend people to take some time to pray on their knees. This follows the example of the Lord Jesus Christ and Paul the apostle.

'And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” '. Luke 22:41-42.

"For this reason I bow [bend] my knees before the Father ... " Ephesians 3:14.

Friday, 12 May 2017

"Preaching made Practical" by O. Palmer Robertson

A new book published by Evangelical Press has come out on preaching. It is by O. Palmer Robertson with a forward by Ian Hamilton. Ian Hamilton writes that this book "could well become a standard text used in seminaries and Bible colleges to help equip men become preachers of the word".

This is a welcome publication. In an age where preaching is so little found and where propositional preaching is not the flavour of the day, this book could help men already called to preach and those considering the call to preach and pastor. Really, preaching and pastoring go "hand in hand". Every pastor has to be a preacher, though he must be more than a preacher.

Listen to Paul the apostle instructing the Corinthians:

1 Cor 1:23 "But we preach Christ crucified"

1 Cor 9:16 "For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!".

Monday, 8 May 2017

The Foolishness of Preaching

1 Cor 1:18 "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God".


Paul knows that that the preaching of Christ crucified is foolishness in the yes of the world. Indeed it always was, is and will be. Therefore, we must cease seeking cultural relevance at the expense of presenting the truth. The means of preaching and the content of the message of the crucified Christ is foolishness. BUT. But this is what the Lord has promised to bless and use for the extension of the church.

This does not mean then, that those who preach should not work at their preaching. Far from it! A new book on preaching has come out by O. Palmer Robertson called "Preaching made Practical" and it is published by EP. I recommend it. Palmer says on page 14 "If God has called you to preach, don't dare do anything else".

If you are a man who has a desire to preach and to be trained to preach I would love for you to contact me. We must have our gifts tested out but the church needs a whole new generation of preachers. Let us all join together to pray for labourers. preachers who will stick to preaching and to preaching the message of the cross, apart from all the other duties of pastoring.

Matthew 9:37-38 "Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest".

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Run from Pride as from a Bear

Pride is a spiritual disease which is a killer. Every true Christian must wage war against the sin of pride, yet pride comes in so many forms.
James 4:6-8 "But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you".

2 Corinthians 2:11 "so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs".

We must ensure that we are not unaware of Satan's scheme of pride. There are few better than William Gurnall to unpick the lock of secret pride. In his book "The Christian in Complete Armour" he exposes the sin of pride most helpfully. On pages 187-213 he undoes the sin of spiritual pride. Pride of grace, pride of gifts, pride of privileges .

How would you respond if you were walking in the USA and a bear appeared? The natural instinct would be to run. How much more we must run from pride. Also we should NOT sit with professing Christians who persist in pride either, lest they infect our soul with this dreaded disease. Some diseases are contagious and such is pride. Our pride tells us "no, I can handle it. Their pride will not affect me". Are you so sure O Christian?

Joesph fled from Potiphar's wife so why do you stand gazing at sin and consider yourself lest you also be tempted? I commend this book by Gurnall again, even if you simply open a few pages. I read this morning Mark 13 and it was a reminder there by the Lord Jesus. He emphasises the need to "be on your guard" and to "be alert". May God help us by his Holy Spirit for us to walk in genuine humility.

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” Mark 13:32-37.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

O. Palmer Robertson Preaching at Sheffield Presbyterian Church

We are thankful that O. Palmer Robertson will be preaching at Sheffield Presbyterian Church on the Lord's Day of the 7th May 2017. Palmer spends 6 months of the year in Cambridge and the other 6 months in Uganda. Palmer has written some fine books such as Christ of the Covenants, and his latest book on the Psalms called "The Flow of the Psalms".

In England and especially in Sheffield, we need as much help as possible to expose people to solid biblical and reformed ministry. Yorkshire is very thin in terms of churches who openly hold to Reformed confessions and a Reformed understanding of worship. Therefore, we are thankful for Palmer visit, a minister who is firmly anchored in reformed truth, while being joyfully committed to the great commission. If you would like to come then you are welcome, but also you can listen to his sermons which will be on our website as well. The website is www.sheffieldpres.org.uk

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Knowing Christ by Mark Jones

A friend of mine recommended this book to me and it has just arrived. The contents list looks promising with 27 chapters on Christ. Each chapter is called "Christ's ..."; for example we have Christ"s Prayers and Christ's Sinlessness, his Exaltation and so on. The foreword is by J. I. Packer with a play on words with PAcker's book called Knowing God.

It is published by the Banner of Truth and looks promising. 250 pages to warm the heart and inform the mind. I have not read it yet, but that is my thoughts as I am on the verge of beginning to turn the pages.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Religious Hypocrisy does not only affect Liberals and Roman Catholicism!

In recent times, it is well documented of the hypocrisy that has been uncovered among the Roman Catholic fraternity. The outstanding movie "Spotlight" (2015) records the expose of the child sex-abuse scandal in the Greater Boston area. With a priesthood who are forbidden to marry, such sinfulness working in darkness is no surprise to believing Protestant evangelicals. Paul warned Timothy: "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth" (1 Tim 4:1-4).

Similarly, among liberals, those who do not believe in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus or the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, we may well expect double-standards and hypocrisy. However, a prideful self-deception emerges when Christians think that because a church community holds to Reformed Confessions and the authority of the Bible, that hidden sin must be a rarity or that hypocrisy is not our primary concern. This is not biblical thinking.
Three teachings by the Lord Jesus Christ come to my mind for us to freshly consider this subject.

1. Matthew 7:1-5 "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye".

This is not a call to lay aside good discernment with the phrase "do not judge", but rather it is a call to examine oneself against hypocrisy. What is remarkable is that hypocrites are able to talk of this subject, while living in hypocrisy. Spiritual blindness hinders our spiritual vision and pride is the root of this problem.

2. Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness' ".

An evangelical Christian religion that refuses to exhort all professing Christians to self-examination is failing the people of God. Here, the Lord Jesus teaches that is absolutely possible to outwardly teach, preach and do mighty works, and yet to not be one of the Lord's people. It is not by might, gifts, eloquence or outward success that we know who are Christians, but by their fruits, we shall know them.

3. Matthew 15:7-9 "You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”

In musing on this blog post, let me put forward a number of signposts that may identify a Christian hypocrite. Someone who believes themselves to be a Christian, and yet they may not be the Lord's.

* Pride is the most obvious. When trials come, do such people respond in pride or in humility and teachability? If there is one mark of true Christianity, it is the willingness to be corrected and to be taught (Matthew 28:18-20).
* Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Religious hypocrites never talk of their personal spiritual struggles, instead they want to keep up false religious appearances. This is the result of pride and deception.
* Over the years, I have noticed some people after worship services, they never talk of the Lord, or of how the Lord has blessed them through the sermon, or of what the Lord has been teaching them in their personal devotions. Why is this?
Enjoying communion with the Lord in public worship and through our personal communion and prayer is an important means of grace and sign of being sanctified. There needs to be more than a burst of enthusiasm for these things but sustained long term, growth in knowing the Lord. Those who hear from Christ "I never knew you" could say the same of themselves of their knowing Christ, if they were honest they would acknowledge "I do not know Christ". They could then ask the church "will you please help me to know Christ Jesus personally?". Does this describe you as you read this blog? Be honest with yourself, because the gospel calls you to submit to Christ and to plead for mercy that you may be born again (John 3:1-8).
* A mark of some hypocrites is that they thrive on gossip, division, controversy and problems.
* The primary aim of this blog is pastoral. I want to win people to Christ for those who may not really know Him and yet think that they do. Also, I hope that this article is pastorally helpful, because it is perplexing when people profess to know Christ and yet their heart is in reality, far from Him.

We all need a fresh return to Paul's exhortation in 2 Corinthians Chapter 13. Why? The last thing we want is for people to falsely assume they have a good confession of the Christian faith, only to find out on the day of judgement that they have been kidding themselves and then to hear the words of the Lord Jesus "Depart from me, I never knew you".

"Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for (2 Cor 13:5-6)".

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

"The Christian in Complete Armour" by William Gurnall

It is beyond doubt that this is a Puritan and Christian classic: "The Christian in Complete Armour" by William Gurnall. It is 656 pages long, and I have put off reading it, that is until recently. I have now decided to dip into it and to read a portion of it, rather than attempt the whole book. We must use this strategy more often when tackling writings by Puritans. We must not hold back reading the Works of Puritans, in thinking that we must read everything. Let our appetite be whet and then we can come back for more.

A ministerial friend recommended to me the section in this book, one which expounds Ephesians 6:12 "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against ... the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places". This section by Gurnall is terrific and how we need to be warned of the many stratagems and methods of the enemy of our souls, the devil. It is sheer unbelief to live as a Christian or as a church, as if the devil does not exist or that his work is irrelevant. This attitude is to leave ourselves open for deception. William Gurnall explains here (pages 177-213) on this single proposition given by Paul that:

"As spirits, they are invisible and their approaches also. They come and you see not your enemy" (page 178). Now this is sobering, therefore we must remain alert against the wiles of the devil, because we cannot see our enemy coming!

Ephesians 6:18 "praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints".
Here is another sobering gem from the pen of Gurnall, from page 181:

"Seest thou the monstrous pitch and height of wickedness that is in the devil? All this there is in the heart of every man. There is no less wickedness potentially in the tamest sinner on earth, than in the devils themselves, and that one day thou, whoever thou art, wilt show to purpose, if God prevent thee not by his renewing grace."

Why not get hold of this book and read a section? J. C. Ryle and Charles Haddon Spurgeon were both big supporters of this work. In fact, every Christian who has read it has raved to me about it. The church needs to be armed and equipped against Satan's constant attempts to deceive, discourage and wear us down.

Pick up and read! In the section I have mentioned above, Gurnall unmasks the sins of pride; pride of gifts, pride of grace and pride of privileges and how we all need to pursue humility and renounce all forms of hidden pride.

1 Peter 5:5-9 "Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith ...".

Friday, 14 April 2017

The Sin of Murmuring: Thomas Brooks expounds against this sin

In the essay by Thomas Brooks, Volume 1 Works, Brooks expounds about this sin in "The Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod". As part of the valuable treatise on Psalm 39:9 he expounds the sin of murmering and complaining. Paul wrote to the Philippians: Do all things without grumbling [complaining] or disputing [quarrelling] (2:14). I have added the square brackets.

Which is easiest? To give thanks or to complain and grumble. The latter comes natural to us as sinners. What is more, we have many records in the Old Testament where the people of God grumbled against the Lord and Moses and the Lord judged his people. Note that grumbling is often directed to the Lord's elders. Religious professors get dissatisfied and they feel they have to target their grumbling somewhere and it often at God and his leaders. Such persons rarely think to examine their own sinful heart and work to take the beam out of their own eye (Matthew chapter 7). Which best describes you? Are you willing to humble yourself before the Lord concerning this sin of murmuring?

The Lord does not care much for false religious profession, hypocrisy or sedition. May we walk by God's grace in peace, love and truth.

Psalm 39:9 reads: "I am mute; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it".

Thomas Brooks writes against this sin with 12 headings (Works, Volume 1, pages 334-341):

1. First consider that murmuring speaks out many a root of bitterness to be strong in your soul.

2. Second, consider that the Holy Spirit has a set a brand of infamy among murmurers. He has stigmatised them for ungodly persons.

3. Third, consider that murmuring is the mother-sin; it is the mother of harlots, the mother of all abominations; a sin that breeds other sins.

4. Fourth, consider that murmuring is a God-provoking sin; it is a sin that provokes God not only to afflict, but also to destroy a people.

5. Fifth, consider, that murmuring is the devil's image, sin, and punishment.

6. Sixth, consider, that murmuring is a mercy-embittering sin, a mercy-souring sin.

7. Seventh, consider that murmuring is a mercy-destroying sin, a mercy-murdering sin.

8. Eighth, consider that murmuring unfits the soul for duty.

9. Ninth, consider that murmuring unmans a man; it strips him of all reason and understanding.

10. Tenth, murmuring is a time-destroying sin.

11. Eleventh, consider this Christians, that of all men in the world, you have least cause, yea, no cause, to be murmuring and muttering under any dispensation that you meet with in this world.

12. Twelfth, and last, consider that murmuring makes the life of man invisibly miserable.

If you are convicted of this sin, then why not come to Christ Jesus the mediator and ask for forgiveness but also for mercy. Forsake this wretched sin and drink from the living waters offered in the gospel.

John 7:37-39 "On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified".