Christians from a number of churches gathered as usual on the second Saturday in October at the Emmaus Christian Centre in Warrington (kindly lent). They were there for the 17th annual ‘God’s Glory: Our Joy’ conference.
This years theme was ‘Waiting and Working for Christ’s Return’. The main speaker was David Last of Forest Baptist church in Leytonstone. In two sessions he provoked our thoughts and inspired our hearts. As God made Eve from Adam’s side at the cost of blood, so Christ has purchased the church with his own blood to be his bride. God has always planned a marriage between himself in Christ and the new humanity in Christ- the groom and bride. He challenged us- are our churches full of hope, and rejoicing, and love, in the light of this? Does the way we celebrate the Lord’s Supper sound the joyous note of ‘Until he comes’?
How is the bride to prepare for her wedding-day? We are first of all know that we are part of, united to, Christ- his co-worker in the New Creation, here, as we gather in those who will be his perfect bride. We will be clothed on that day with ‘the righteous deeds of the saints’ (Rev. 19:6). We are not to obsess, as any bride should not, about our size and weight, if our Bridegroom considers us beautiful!
Crawford Gribben lectures in history at Queen’s University, Belfast. He flew over to give us a meaty and enlightening paper on John Owen’s eschatology. Owen spent much of his life trying to fit Biblical prophecy in Revelation to the events of his day. While the Puritans were in the ascendancy, this seemed possible. When they were defeated at the Restoration in 1660, he had to have a major rethink. In the end, he concluded that we must look forward to Christ’s return as the purpose of all prophecy. It is sobering how a man who could write with such close and measured judgement about many deep theological truths could be so haywire on eschatology.
Stephen Rees of Grace Baptist, Stockport, concluded the conference with a sermon on 1 Cor. 3. As we seek to build churches, we must correctly answer four questions. What is the church for? It is the place where God lives by his Spirit. Where do we start in building it? With Christ, he binds all together. What does it cost to build a church? Much more if we want it to endure, rather than to have it all burnt up on the Last Day. How do we keep from discouragement in the work? By knowing that what we do for Christ will last for eternity.
This was as always a heart-warming time of teaching and fellowship. Come to next year’s if you can! In the meantime, why not listen to the talks? There was also a follow-up time on the following Friday, for church leaders, giving a useful opportunity for practical consideration of some of the issues raised.
John Palmer (Leigh)