The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

The turn of the year

with 4 comments

The turn of the year is a good time to look back and to look ahead. In times past, many healthy Christians would use significant seasons – the new year, for example, or a birthday, or the anniversary of one’s conversion (if known) – to pause and to ponder the course of their lives. It was for them, and could be for us, a season of searching self-examination. It was a means of doing their souls much good. There are sermons and books by men like Stephen Charnock, Henry Scudder and Jonathan Edwards, designed to prompt and assist in this process.

It is unlikely that you will simply find the time to engage in such activity. You will have to make the time. You will need deliberately to think about your ways and turn your feet back to God’s testimonies (Ps 119.59). I would encourage you to make and take the time necessary, to invest the energy required, in such a season. The following outline might help.

To begin with, there must be review. Those who keep a diary or journal might find that flicking through the entries helps refresh the memory. For others, it might be as simple as looking back over a year of calendar entries. We ought to look beyond a mere record of activity, and think about the ebbs and flows of the year, the spiritual realities that underpin the outward engagement. Where was I? What was I doing? How was I doing? What battles did I fight? What defeats did I suffer or what victories did I win? In what service did I engage? But there are also plans for the future. What lies ahead? Perhaps more of a preview, this, or at least a review of your intentions and expectations. What are the opportunities before you? What distinct challenges or particular privileges do you anticipate? What battles must you fight? Where have you been beaten back but intend to forge ahead?

This element is not mere rehearsal. We must also reflect on our life. We must think over those questions. We must ponder carefully the manner and motives of our walking through this fallen world. What are the high points and the low points? Have we made progress? Are there patterns of sin that have been entrenched or besieged? Will you, in future days, assault such sins? If so, when and how? Are there habits of righteousness that have been strengthened or undermined? Will you, in the coming year, pursue such habits? If so, by what means and with what strength? Like John Newton, we have come through many dangers, toils and snares, and many more lie ahead. What has been and what will be the overall tenor of my life? How has the Lord dealt with me, and how have I dealt with the Lord? How could or should that change, from my side, in the days ahead. Consider that you are a year closer to death, and every day carries you closer to the giving of an account and, for the saints, a reward. Are you stepping, day by day, closer to glory?

With such substance in your heart, you will find much in which to rejoice. It is vitally important that you do so. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1Thes 5.16-18). Perhaps it has been a year of serious trials. If so, Christian, God has never left you or forsaken you. You have never been separated from him; you have not fallen out of his hands; he has made all things work together for good for you. Perhaps there have been painful chastisements. If so, believer, it is because God loves you and treats you like a son. If you have been wise, you will have learned God’s statutes through your affliction. No doubt there have been incalculable blessings, measured first against your true deservings. As creatures, you have been given life and breath and all things. As sinners, God has not removed his grace from us. As sons, he has lavished good things upon us in measures that the most generous earthly father cannot begin to match. How good God has been to us! What mercies has he shown to you? What blessings have been poured out? How much pain and sorrow has been withheld from you, how much of pleasure and profit has been dispensed? If you are not a believer, you have been spared death and hell, and – even by virtue of reading such an article as this – have been reminded that the Lord is patient and longsuffering, and now calls all men everywhere to repent, holding out Christ to the repenting sinner.

And we must repent. The finest saint you know is a mass of corruption. Whatever progress you have made this year, you have not attained perfection. Far from it! Your reflective review, if honest, must reveal a host of sins of omission and a horde of sins of commission. By the first, we refer to all those things that you should have done but have failed to do. By the second, we mean all those things you ought not to have done but nevertheless have done. What a fearful catalogue of transgression is the best life! Now is a time to heap up all your sins and iniquities and transgressions and come again to the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness, to the cleansing flood which makes the foulest clean. We must come to the God who says that though our sins are scarlet, he can make them as white as snow. It is the blood of Jesus Christ which cleanses us from all trangression. Now is a good time for deep and honest soul-searching, to examine ourselves in the mirror of the Word and come humbly and honestly before the Lord, seeking mercy and forgiveness. Such a spirit is itself a test of our spiritual state: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1Jn 1.8–10)

It is also a good season to reorient ourselves. We are fools if we imagine that our sense of eternity is not constantly being eroded in a world which lives for the here and now. A flood of distractions and diversions constantly demands our attention, and we lose sight of the things which are eternal. We hear, each day, countless carnal sermons. The world is badgering us to think, speak and act in a way acceptable to the unconverted crowd. Now is a good time to draw back a little from that rushing tide, to slip into an eddy and ask about the direction of our lives. What principles guide us? What precepts govern us? What patterns do we follow? Again, the psalmist thought about his ways and turned his feet back to God’s testimonies. There was a sense not only that he had, at points, departed from the way, but that he intended to get back into the way. Have you been listening to much to the voices that charm but deceive? By what standards will you now judge and by what system will you now travel?

Then, with all this in mind, resolve to walk with God and work for God. This cannot be a matter of mere human strength. It must be a dependent determination. Think again of how often the poet of Psalm 119 weaves together his absolute dependence on God and his absolute determination in God. Consider some sample statements: “With my whole heart I have sought You; oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!” (v10); “I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart” (v32); “Revive me according to Your lovingkindness, so that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth” (v88). Will you blend such elements in your heart and life? Will you cry out to the Lord to make his Word a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (v105), and commit to restrain your feet from every evil way, that you may keep his word (v101)? Too many will enter upon the new year with vague desires that perhaps the Lord will make things better. Many are marked by a pietistic passivity that wishes to be holy but will not work for holiness. The true child of God recognises that without Christ he can do nothing, but that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him. We must abide in Christ to bear fruit. We must seek the fruit of the Spirit as we abide in Christ.

You can see that such a process is not the matter of a moment. We need to set aside time for such an engagement, to review from our Bibles our way in and through this world. We must wrestle to look at time – past, present and future – through the lens of eternity. We must be rigorously honest, however painful such honesty might be. We must be profoundly humble, however troubling such humility might be. We must turn again to God in Christ, and gaze upon him until we see things as they are, and not as we or others might wish them to be. If we do this, we should not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2Cor 4.16-18). With such a perspective, we can sing with the old poet, Augustus Toplady,

Kind Author, and Ground of my hope,
Thee, Thee, for my God I avow;
My glad Ebenezer set up,
And own Thou hast helped me till now.
I muse on the years that are past,
Wherein my defence Thou hast proved;
Nor wilt Thou relinquish at last
A sinner so signally loved!

Written by Jeremy Walker

Sunday 31 December 2017 at 09:43

Posted in Christian living

Tagged with ,

Selfies at Niagara

with 4 comments

IMG_3917There are some things that I could simply stand and stare at for hours. A natural fire. A storm-tossed sky. A coursing stream. Niagara Falls would drop into the category. It is an instantly and constantly fascinating sight, a stable flow of endless variety, an infinitely interesting glory of God.

I had the opportunity to be there again recently, watching from the Canadian side where you get the most immediate views of the falls. I love the great tumble of rocks at the foot of the American falls that churns the waters as it falls. I love the power of the water that pours over and the swirl of the cloud that boils up from the Canadian falls. Give me a little space and a little peace, and I could gaze endlessly.

As I strolled among the tourists, I was struck by the number of people who were not actually looking at this wonder of creation. Of course, the vast majority were looking at it largely through a screen. What struck me particularly, though, were the number of people who were not looking at it at all. In some spots, about a third of the crowd had their backs to the water. With arms or sticks extended, they were trying to angle their bodies so as to get themselves front and centre in a photo or video of themselves with Niagara in the background. I will barely mention the gentleman who was standing on the path with a high end camera concentrating on a series of shots of … the Marriott hotel blocks towering alongside the river!

I know many love to complain at the way we view the wonders of this world through a lens or a screen. But this was something else. Given the opportunity to drink in something of the majesty of the Creator’s work, the concern of so many was to get themselves into the picture. As one friend asked, “Exactly how do they think that their face is going to make that picture better?”

We do much the same with the Creator himself. For most, he is not to be personally adored, but the imposing subject of a passing snapshot rather than the enduring object of deep engagement. For far too many, even Christians, our ideas of dealing with God are like the person at Niagara with the camera in hand, or attached to the end of that glowing wand of Narcissus. We are impressed by God, but he is in the background of a picture of me. We see him in the Bible, but we need to be the central character in the narrative. God is my backdrop. It is our presence in shot that makes him relevant. It is profoundly selfish, blindingly self-centred, genuinely tragic. We have not known him as we should.

There are all the infinite glories of his majesty by which to be entranced. There is the heaven-praised splendour of his glory instantly and constantly passing before us. There is an unchanging flow of endless depth, the infinitely interesting glory of God. And we, even if not taking pictures of the hotels, so often have our backs to God, angling to get ourselves front and centre.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 14 October 2017 at 11:04

Posted in General

Tagged with , ,

Reformation 500

leave a comment »

Knox, JohnTrading hard on the connections of John Knox with Newcastle is the Reformation 500 conference. It runs from 12-14 October this year, and includes addresses from such luminaries as Joel Beeke, Ian Hamilton and Geoff Thomas. More information is available on the website,  including registration details. Interestingly, the further through the website you travel, the more impressive the beards become, until Luther spoils the progression.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 15 September 2017 at 10:57

The Westminster Conference 2017: “God With Us and For Us”

leave a comment »

The Westminster Conference meets for two days each year, usually in December. During the conference, six papers are presented, three on each day, examining the history, doctrine and practice of people, events and churches associated with the Puritans, their forebears and successors. The perspective is that of evangelical and reformed Biblical Christianity, focusing on central gospel themes such as grace, faith, atonement and justification and the outworking of the gospel in the lives of believers.

The title of the conference this year is God With Us and For Us. If you are interested in attending, you can download the booking form or book online directly.

The speakers and their papers are as follows.

Tuesday 5th December

THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE HUMAN HEART (STEPHEN CLARK)
To understand the work of the Spirit in the heart of man is to start to become a true physician of the soul. But the work of the Holy Spirit is intertwined with the ministry of the Word of God. How, then, does the Holy Spirit work in and through the Word? Is he bound to the Scriptures in some way? If so, how? Such questions, and their answers, provide us with both challenges and comforts as we seek to be ministers of the Word and Spirit.

A CHILD OF LIGHT WALKING IN DARKNESS: THE FELT PRESENCE OF GOD (GUY DAVIES)
What does it mean to know the presence of God with us? Should we expect it? Can we lose it? How can we regain it? Concentrating on key works of Thomas Goodwin and John Owen, this paper will look particularly at the loss and recovery of such a sense of divine sweetness, comparing and contrasting the convictions, explanations and applications of these two theologians of the Holy Spirit.

CALVIN – WORSHIP AND PREACHING (ANDREW YOUNG)
The way or ways in which we worship the Lord so as to honour and glorify him remains a topic of vigorous and often heated debate. This is no new thing. Andrew Young will consider Calvin’s approach to this topic, including his doctrine of worship, his approach to liturgy, and his preaching and teaching ministry. Such assessments should assist us to ask the right questions in the right spirit as we move toward answers grounded in something more than preference.

Wednesday 6th December

JACOB ARMINIUS (1560-1609) (PHIL ARTHUR)
Theological labels are quick to apply, and provide us with easy targets. Particular theologians are relatively easy to demonise. Jacob Arminius has given his name to a theological system that is defended by supporters and assaulted by opponents with equal ardour. It is profitable for us to understand who Arminius was, what he believed, and how his name became connected to this system. Phil Arthur will introduce us to this man, and guide us through his life and thought.

THE SYNOD OF DORT (1618-1619) (BENEDICT BIRD)
In November 1618 the Dutch Reformed Church convened a synod at Dordrecht in the Netherlands. With representatives of Reformed churches from around Europe, the synod debated the tenets of the Remonstrants, who disputed the Calvinistic understanding of the plan of redemption. Politics and theology intertwined as they wrestled to address the controversy over Arminianism. This paper will help us understand this critical event and its relevance today.

WILLIAM WILLIAMS, PANTYCELYN (1717-1791) (MARK THOMAS)
William Williams is best known among evangelicals as ‘the sweet singer of Wales’ on account of his hymnody, combining a rigorous commitment to truth and a profound experimental sense. However, he is also recognised as a towering figure in the literary and spiritual spheres of his native Wales. Mark Thomas will help us to understand the character and context of this man, and how the Lord used him during and after his lifetime.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 31 August 2017 at 22:10

The social means of grace

leave a comment »

John Ashworth on the blessing of the various gatherings of the saints of God, not least the midweek meetings:

In all churches a love for the social means of grace is one sign of spiritual health in either rich or poor; and those that are the most anxious to increase their spiritual strength will esteem these most highly. When we try to find arguments against class meetings, church meetings, prayer meetings, &c., it is an indication that we are not very fast growing in grace: we need these helps by the way. The world daily rolls in uponus, and we need a strong arm to roll it back, to keep it in its proper place. Means are required, and the week-day means are often a powerful check.

So, will you make a happy priority of church attendance tomorrow?

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 12 August 2017 at 18:31

Posted in Christian living

Tagged with ,

William Perkins Conference media

leave a comment »

A few weeks ago I mentioned the William Perkins Conference on 19 and 20 May at the Round Church in Cambridge. Said conference went ahead as planned. The first address by Sinclair Ferguson on Perkins as “a plain preacher” is online, and the others are due to follow shortly:

The first four volumes of Perkins’ collected works (the exegetical works) are available for a substantial discount at heritagebooks.org.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 8 June 2017 at 14:58

Family Conference 2017 in Louisville

leave a comment »

For those who are or can get within striking distance of Louisville this summer, you might be interested in the Reformed Baptist Family Conference 2017. It is hosted on the campus of Southern Seminary and runs from Tuesday 4th through Friday 7th July. There are a good number registered, with a few weeks still to go until the general registration deadline of 26th May. In addition, there are at time of writing still rooms remaining at the Legacy Hotel on the SBTS campus.

There will be preaching and teaching from Savastio, Hueni, Grevious, Hughes and Walker. If that doesn’t put you off, and you have an appetite for some sweet fellowship with God’s people, resting and being refreshed, please have a look at their website for more information.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 5 May 2017 at 08:43

Posted in General

%d bloggers like this: