2003: Servants of the Living God

2003Somewhere between 100 to 200 people gathered at Milnrow for the ‘God’s glory, our Joy’ conference this year, held on a Friday evening, and all day Saturday, in October. Below are brief tasters of the Saturday of the conference.

Neil Richards was the first on the programme. A retired pastor, he gave us the benefit of his experience speaking on True and false conversion. He first spoke about true conversion, giving the two ‘ingredients’ as repentance and faith, and defining these two. He firmly asserted that repentance and faith are all of grace, being a fruit of the prior divine work of regeneration in the soul.

He then went on to look at false conversion, using Charles Finney as an example of how defective theology leads both to defective methodologies and to false spiritual experience.

Finally, drawing on Jonathan Edwards, he touched on the evidences of conversion and what should/should not convince us of the genuineness of a profession of faith:

“Conviction of sin always includes conviction of sins”

“Faith is not the saviour. It is the hand stretched out for the gift, the eye that looks to Christ. Christ is the saviour”

“Faith is not a work. It is ceasing from our own works and trusting to Christ”

“The Bible looks not for the consciousness of a conversion experience, but evidence of a converted state”

Daniel Webber (director of the EMF) was in magisterial form, talking on a subject about which he ought to know a great deal- The importance of mission. He showed us from history that the advance of the Gospel has always been the work, and the great concern, of a sovereign God. He then argued that God’s chief instrument in this work is the local church. From these two premises, he concluded that the local church should make a priority of evangelistic work.

“Whom did God send as missionaries? I could sing it, but I’ll spare you that… God sent ‘simply the best’. Paul, Barnabas, Carey, Martyn, Hudson-Taylor”

“Mission is tough work. The missionary often wants to leave his post. If of a stoical disposition, he may get away with only feeling an overwhelming compulsion to leave it once a month”

Walter Johnston (pastor of Chorlton Evangelical church) spoke in his usual straightforward manner on Christian service: knowing the will of God- about how we know what God wants us to do in order to serve him. His answer to the question was very simple. To attempt to summarise his message in a sentence, we are bound by the doctrines, commands, prohibitions, and principles of the Word of God, and beyond that, we are free. He held Jesus up as our example, as one immersed in the Scriptures and living according to the will of God by submitting to their teaching.

“The will of God is found in the word of God”

“The Bible is like Ronseal. It does what it says on the tin. It will equip the man of God for every good work (2 Tim 3:16)”

Daniel Grimwade (pastor of Thornhill Baptist church) was well worth hearing. His subject was Serving God in the local church. He first pressed home the importance of Christian service, and the privilege it is to serve a master like ours. He then moved on to say that service should be done for the building up of- and as members of- the local church, and to show how this affects the character of our service. Memorably, he drew several vivid pictures of people we recognise in others and ourselves- Mr. Free-Wheeler, Mr. Come-to-Listen, Mr. Big Ego, Mr. Martyr, and Mr. Worm.

“When God calls, he calls nobody to idleness”

“Serving God is not for the casually interested. It is a priority, not a past-time”

“To paraphrase JFK, ‘ask not what your church can do for you, ask what you can do for your church’”

“If you are a ‘lone ranger’, then this is meant to make you squirm”

Naphtally Ogallo (co-pastor, Trinity Baptist church, Nairobi) closed the conference with a compelling sermon from 1 John 2:15-17. ‘Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions- is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.’

Only attending for the Saturday of the conference, I missed Naphtally Ogallo’s opening address on “Fervent in spirit, serving the Lord”. If was as good as his closing sermon, then it would be well worth getting the tape. He preached about how the world will try to stop our service, choke our zeal, seduce us away; and of how foolish we would be to allow that to happen, since nothing the world offers will either last or truly satisfy, whereas the love of God in Christ satisfies fully and lasts forever.

“My son has an embarrassing habit of checking the best-before dates on gifts of food we are given. He wants to ensure that the gift is fit for us to eat. Why should we be less careful with our never dying souls? Reject the short lived love this world offers. God’s love lasts. The best-before date is ‘good forever’”

James Goodman

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