A fair sized crowd of folk gathered in Liverpool for this year’s “God’s Glory, Our Joy” conference. There were a mere 5 sessions over the two days (down from 6 last year), the idea being to encourage informal fellowship between the papers. As in previous years, the papers given were broadly based around the theme of “Building Biblical Churches for the 21st Century”.
Oliver Allmand-Smith kicked off on Friday evening, speaking on “The Church around the Word” from Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae. Taking Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…” as his text, he spoke about the proper focus of our meetings (the word of Christ), and the proper means to attain that focus (teaching and admonishing). He gave a strong call to centralise Scripture, and a searching exposition of what makes up good preaching, and how to listen to it.
- “The regulative principle is not a concept best left to the theologians. If we let it go, it won’t be long before we no longer gather around the Word. We will split up into cell groups, meet up for a coffee and a cosy chat, someone will share something with the group- some way in which God has blessed him this week, we’ll have a few more coffees, and go home. You might as well go to the golf club, really”
- “To ‘admonish’ is to ‘get in the face of’. It goes against personal autonomy and freedom, against the ‘It’s my life’ attitude. The church has the duty to stick its nose in. The Word must be applied personally from the pulpit”
- “Fathers; you are to admonish your children. If you refuse to humble yourself under the preacher, how can you hope that they will humble themselves to you?”
- “If the word of Christ is in our meetings, we will be admonished. Arrows will be aimed at our hearts, not over our heads… We want to be transformed by the preaching, and of course it will hurt, because we’re sinners.
Gerard Hemmings spoke on 1 Timothy 3:15- “The Church: Pillar and Ground of the Truth”. He asked and pithily answered three questions:
“What is this truth?” (Answer: 1 Timothy 3:16), “What is the Church?” (The one institution entrusted with this truth, to preserve and spread it), and finally applied these things- “What about us?”.
- “Paul did not go about planting C.U.s, publishing houses, or trust funds. He planted churches. Churches are where believers are made and nourished… God has married the Gospel and the local church. If the church flourishes, the Gospel goes forth. If the church perishes, the Gospel goes.”
- “First things first- are you a member of a local church? If not, how can you say that you love the truth? The truth and the church go together.”
- “Do you undermine the church? When you become a member, you are given a sword and a trowel. Not an axe to grind.”
- “The church is not just a convenient way to live Christian lives. It is God’s masterpiece. It is not on to invest in anything else.”
After a break for coffee, served in Calvary Chapel’s own embossed crockery, Nigel Lacey spoke clearly and intelligently on “Repent and be baptised!”– mainly on “Repent” from Acts chapters 2 and 11.
- “Repentance is a gift of God, not created by oneself, but by the Holy Spirit. It is crucial to salvation. It is not a reason or merit for salvation… but the work of Christ is made effective through repentance and faith”
- “A guilty conscience is not the same as repentance. These people were ‘cut to the heart’ but Peter still urges them to repent… It is not just sin on the conscience that separates from God- that is only a window into the heart. Feeling ashamed is not the same as recognising that you are a rebel sinner through and through. One sin is symptomatic of the deeper disease… And that is not repentance either. The sinner must not only know that he is thoroughly ungodly, but must give up their ungodliness. Some see the truth, but cling to their sin.”
We broke for lunch (at the chippy praised by London dweller Gerard Hemmings for giving proper sized portions), and then Ian Harrison spoke on “The Church at Prayer”. He had three points- the nature, the corporateness, and the content of prayer. I found this paper most helpful and practical, particularly his survey of the content of prayers in the New Testament, showing an overwhelming emphasis on spiritual needs.
- “Corporate: (adjective) Legally united into a body so as to act as an individual. The church prays corporately. When we meet, we should pray together; so that at the end, all of us have prayed, even if only the elder has spoken aloud”
- “Prayer is not an organ recital- Mrs. Jones’ heart complaint, Mr Smith’s kidneys… How easily a prayer meeting becomes a news exchange forum. the ‘If we don’t know, we can’t pray’ mentality is not there in the Bible”
- “Look at the prayers of the New Testament. It is easy to make the case that our prayer meetings show a love of this world.”
Gerard Hemmings preached a closing sermon from the accounts in the Gospels of Jesus and the rich young ruler. He began by describing the costliness of following Christ, with a vivid picture of a day in the life of “Andrew” and Andrew’s “Self”. In conclusion, he told us why it is worth any amount of suffering, bringing blessings now and eternally.
- “Andrew awakes. Self wants to sleep, but he gets up to pray…
- At lunch with his colleagues, Self says ’Shut up. You don’t want to be any more unwelcome than you already are’ But self is crucified, and Andrew speaks up….
- At the prayer meeting (Andrew, unlike Self, loves the prayer meeting) there are a needy young couple. Although Self finds them dull and irritating, Andrew invites them round for coffee.”
- “Devotion to family is conditional. Devotion to Christ knows no bounds. But such sacrifices are repaid now… Apart -for Jesus’ sake – from natural family, we are bound by deeper bonds to our spiritual family… We are richer than any others.”
- “The earth is passing away. Home, furniture, gadgets, ambitions, even relationships- one day they all go on the big bonfire. Why live for ashes when you can have treasure in heaven? “
- “Lot lingered. He couldn’t quite believe that all he had worked for would be gone. He barely escaped with his life… Be wholehearted about following Christ. Remember. Lot’s. Wife.”