The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘family

Reformation-Resurrection Conference 2015

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Several years ago I had the privilege of preaching in Denmark at the Reformation-Resurrection Conference. The invitation came out of the blue, hanging upon the absence of another brother whose health prevented him from serving. I went a little tentatively, not knowing what I would find, not least because Denmark is hardly known as an epicentre of biblical faith and life.

You can imagine my delight when I discovered a conference organised by a small but vigorous Reformed Baptist church, gathering together saints of like mind – many of them in far-from-ideal spiritual circumstances themselves – for a week of concentrated scriptural Bible teaching and warm fellowship among believers of the same spirit. People had gathered not only from Denmark but also from Norway, Sweden, Germany and even further afield to worship God together and enjoy a time of spiritual refreshment. Unfortunately, when they all arrived they discovered that the man they had hoped to hear was absent, and yours truly was the sorry substitute. Nevertheless, the Lord undertook for us, and it was his truth that went forth to the glory of his name.

All of which to say that the brothers in Denmark have been kind enough to invite me back again this summer when, God willing, my topic will be The Christian Family: God’s Grace in the Heart and in the Home. The conference is due to be held in mid-July at a school in Mariager, between Aarhus and Aalborg in the north of Denmark. They have asked me to draw this to the attention of interested friends, who can find out more at the conference website (Danish/English). Perhaps I will see you there?

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 2 January 2015 at 15:08

Blessings with hindsight

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I distinctly remember it. I was sitting among a group of young people, some of whom were professing Christianity, some of whom were wrestling with God, and some of whom were neither. We were, most of us, in our mid-teens, and many of us had come from homes in which we heard and saw the gospel more or less clearly, more or less often. I cannot remember how the conversation turned as it did, but at one point a clear consensus quickly arose. Pretty much everyone who had been brought up under some degree of genuine Christian influence was wishing that they had lived utterly apart from God. A lot of this had to do with assurance: I think that the feeling was that when you have lived under a degree of restraint, knowing the truth by intellectual instruction if not by spiritual apprehension, there was a felt reduction in the degree of conviction of sin and a corresponding difficulty in discerning the transition from darkness to light. So far, so fascinating (perhaps).

I have learned some things, I hope, over the years since. Among them is the fact that outward restraint is no measure of heart sin, and that there is more than enough iniquity in the heart of the child trained up in a Christian home under the gospel to breed more than enough conviction of sin. The person who thinks otherwise merely needs a more accurate, Spirit-wrought sense of sin: the problem here is not so much reality as perception. I have also learned that the reason why some of us were confused is because not all of us who spoke were genuinely converted: some of those present were discussing the validity and reality of what they had never actually experienced or still needed to experience, as subsequent history has revealed.

But the point I wish to make runs along a different track. There we were, possessed of the incalculable blessings of growing up with parents who sought to teach us of Christ, who trained us and restrained us, holding back some of the worst excesses of our unregenerate hearts, who sat week by week under the faithful preaching of the gospel of Christ Jesus, who had pastors and other mature saints who taught and demonstrated the truth as it is in Jesus . . . and we were complaining that we wished we had been utterly destitute of any such influences, allowed to run in our own way absolutely, given over to sin.

Honestly, I understand the wish, but it is misguided. As I say, there is no need for us to live an outwardly, utterly Godless life in order to know ourselves sinners. Furthermore, I now thank God for the fact that I was so restrained, that my personal history is not more littered with extravagant external sins (there are more than enough), that the Lord removed at various times either the inclination or the opportunity, and laid upon my heart some of those constraints which – though substantially external in themselves – nevertheless were the means of keeping me from greater wickedness.

Then, another, more recent and positive memory: as I read books and blogs and watch videos and attend conferences and so on, I am sometimes struck by the apparent simplicity of a point being made (and subsequently applauded as profound), by the apparent confusion that reigns about points of doctrine which seem to me to be obvious, by the sense of novelty that surrounds material that I consider to be eminently familiar. Error may be no less enticing and engaging, but at least the truth is already in place by means of which to identify and expose the errors. These benefits hit me forcibly a few weeks ago, for example, during a discussion on the Trinity. It was not that it seemed ‘old hat’ to me; rather, as the speaker progressed, I had the sense of being on ground both common and familiar, and – when the time for discussion came – I found myself slightly ahead of the game, my point of departure different from at least some of the others participating. Or, more recently, I was left staggered at the theological naïveté of some of those participating in conversations to do with the Elephant Room. Were the issues not clear? Was the truth not known?

Does this mean that I am unusually brilliant? Am I blowing my own trumpet? Should I thank God that I am not like other men? Not a bit of it. I wish, rather, to record my gratitude to God for three particular blessings which were a means of laying such a foundation, and to encourage others to value and extend them.

The first is the blessing of godly parents. The value of the instruction and example of godly parents is too easily overlooked by those who are growing up under that influence, and who are often inclined to kick against the goads. Parental government may feel oppressive, aggressive, restrictive, excessive. Family worship, reading the Bible, prayer, catechesis, responsibilities required and restraints imposed, facing sin and resolving tensions – all may seem utterly burdensome and unnecessary. Nevertheless, if the Lord God is pleased to work salvation and apply the blood of Christ to the heart of such a child, the perspective ought to shift. All of a sudden, that framework of knowledge is imbued with a genuine (though incomplete) understanding. Those heavy chains of restraint are perceived in time to be God’s gracious means of keeping us from wickedness and even death. That drip-drip-drip of accurate and faithful instruction has laid a foundation all unnoticed, and provided a basis for further study and deeper appreciation which is hard to replicate except by the most eager latecomers to the gospel (sadly, there are many such who quickly outstrip those whose privileges ought to provide for their fast and straight progress in godliness, both doctrinal and practical).

The second is the blessing of faithful churches. Notice that they are not perfect churches. How I used to buck at some of the hypocrisy and shallowness that I saw growing up in a faithful church! How I used to wonder at the gravitas some people assumed in public and around “grown-ups”! Those people would often forget a child was watching and listening, and could see what they were really like in the attitudes, actions, antics and allowed life of their homes (I still know people whose boast of high standards of conviction and behaviour practiced in their homes, when I remember something very different, is grievous). But such – although they provide much fuel to the cynical fires of jaded youth – are not all that the church is. Again, we should not underestimate what is taking place as the Word of God is faithfully expounded Lord’s day by Lord’s day, morning and evening, in a particular place; as truehearted believers welcome children into their homes and hearts, and love them and care for them and teach them; as various workers labour to communicate something of Christ’s saving excellence to those under their care. Again, that inheritance – which may lie fallow for years or even decades – provides a phenomenal head-start if the Lord God is pleased to bring it to life by his Spirit. A bedrock is in place upon which future building can immediately take place.

The third is the blessing of good books. You do not need to be a great reader to benefit from the availability of the rich resources of good Christian publishing. Recognising that not everything is good, and that a sifting and selecting process has gone on even in providing that which is good, nevertheless the wealth of instruction and admonition and exhortation and correction to be obtained in reading is unimaginable. The man or woman who reads – and particularly who reads faithful old books – has an advantage, for there is nothing new under the sun, and the experience and understanding of those who have gone before is made readily available to anyone with the inclination to find or make the time and expend the energy on obtaining it. Why learn all your own lessons all over again when you can take a shortcut and learn them from wise men who walked the same paths in previous generations? This is not an argument for unthinking assimilation, but for aggressive engagement and interaction with the best of the past as a way of understanding and navigating the present. As Samuel Davies said, “I have a peaceful study, as a refuge from the hurries and noise of the world around me; the venerable dead are waiting in my library to entertain me, and relieve me from the nonsense of surviving mortals.” To have walked these ways in the company of faithful guides equips the saint today to serve God with a readiness and insight not available to those who have been deprived of the riches of a library.

Are there dangers here? To be sure. It is all too easy to be like a crown prince who has become accustomed by long exposure to the beauties and glories of the palace royal, but who has thereby lost his appreciation of the excellence of its galleries and the effectiveness of its armouries, and has so failed to value them accordingly. When he comes of age, he is all too inclined to cast away what his forefathers won with blood, sweat and tears. This is a travesty. We ought to be appreciative inheritors, not losing our sense of joy and the stimulating freshness of discoveries of fresh depth, but neither confusing that with an obsession with novelty.

But are there lessons here? I hope so! First, to parents: invest in your children. Do not make them little Pharisees, by any means, but model God’s grace in Christ and pour into them those truths and train them in that conduct which, enlivened by the Holy Spirit, will equip them for godly life in a fallen world. Second, to churches: keep preaching and teaching. Do not fall prey to all the fads and fashions that sweep the evangelical world, but go on drip-feeding and praying for those who may, under God, provide the future membership and leadership of faithful churches. Hammer home saving and sanctifying truth week by week and day by day: never underestimate the deposit that is being built up in the hearts even of your youngest hearers. Thirdly, to all: get some good books and read them. Read them in family devotions, at the bedside, in an armchair. Read them in the mornings and evenings, alongside and with your Bible to illuminate and explain and apply. Read them on the train. Read them (carefully) in the bath. Provide them and recommend them to others. Start libraries. Lend them and give them. Read them together and alone. Read them with pencil in hand. Read them actively: engage and argue with them, and learn from them. Mine the past in order to provide for the present.

These are not, for the most part, blessings which we get for ourselves. We do not appoint the families into which we are born, the churches in which we might grow up, or the books made available to us in our youth. We only realise in later life the blessings that our heavenly Father intended for us. That is why we cannot boast: “For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1Cor 4.7).

So, we cannot get them for ourselves, and we do not merit them by our own efforts, but we can give them, and we can – with hindsight – learn to appreciate what we ourselves were given before, and how to pass them on to others.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 10 February 2012 at 13:36

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God’s family on earth

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How glorious is the thought that there is a family even upon earth of which the Son of God holds Himself a part; a family, the loving bond and reigning principle of which is subjection to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so embracing high and low, rude and refined, bond and free, of every kindred and every age that have tasted that the Lord is gracious; a family whose members can at once understand each other and take sweetest counsel together, though meeting for the first time from the ends of the earth – while with their nearest relatives, who are but the children of this world, they have no sympathy in such things; a family which death cannot break up, but only transfer to their Father’s house! Did Christians but habitually realize and act upon this, as did their blessed Master, what would be the effect upon the Church and upon the world?

David Brown, The Four Gospels (Banner of Truth), 76.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 28 May 2011 at 11:17

The simple parent

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Kevin DeYoung suggests that we may have overcomplicated our parenting, focusing too much on the minutiae of what we do (on the basis of having read that book or heard that sermon series or found that system – you know, the one that really works) and overlooking the vital significance of who we are. It is encouraging and yet demanding stuff. He also records the gospel-rich communication that many parents wish might be the standard of their interaction with their children alongside the conversation that most of us have, which is worth reading in itself.

Could it be we’ve made parenting too complicated? Isn’t the most important thing not what we do but who we are as parents? They will see our character before they remember our exact rules regarding television and twinkies.

I could be wrong. My kids are still young. Maybe this no-theory is a theory of its own. I just know that the longer I parent the more I want to focus on doing a few things really well, and not get too passionate about all the rest. I want to spend time with my kids, teach them the Bible, take them to church, laugh with them, cry with them, discipline them when they disobey, say sorry when I mess up, and pray like crazy. I want them to look back and think, “I’m not sure what my parents were doing or if they even knew what they were doing. But I always knew my parents loved me and I knew they loved Jesus.” Maybe it’s not that complicated after all.

Read it all.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 17 May 2011 at 05:51

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Adoption in Africa

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Conrad Mbewe gives us some cultural insights into family life in Zambia (and Africa more widely), using it as a springboard for recommendations about approaching adoption in Africa:

My Western friends should consider empowering homes where younger or older “fathers” and younger or older “mothers” are looking after children of their deceased siblings as a viable way to care for orphans. It may be totally foreign to the Western mind, but it is the most natural way for us as Africans to look after orphans. It is not either-or but both-and.

It’s worth reading, not just for the thoughts on adoption, but also for some cross-cultural insights and challenges into family life, both for blood relatives and in the kingdom of heaven.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 24 November 2010 at 09:01

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Loneliness in the world of a thousand friends

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The point has been made before on this blog about the limitations of Facebook and other social networking sites as a means of gaining and keeping true friends (see here and here, or Carl Trueman here).  I am also aware of the countless exceptions to this general rule, whereby existing friendships are maintained and strengthened, and some genuine new ones formed, by means of these media, not least for some who would have little access to these relationships normally.

Nevertheless, a new study reported by the BBC suggests that loneliness is an increasing problem in the modern West.  While new technology may at times be a blessing, it can also be a curse:

. . . there are also concerns that technology is being used as a replacement for genuine human interaction.

Nearly a third of young people questioned for the report said they spent too much time communicating with friends and families online when they should see them in person.

One charity states:

The young people we work with tell us that talking to hundreds of people on social networks is not like having a real relationship and when they are using these sites they are often alone in their bedrooms.

The issue here is not so much pro or con social networking, but rather the gospel opportunity that such alienation creates.  Multitudes are alienated both from God and from other humans: they are part of no people (compare 1Pt 2.10), and there is a natural need and desire that Christians – in doing good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith – can use as a means of bringing the good news to those seeking true friendship.  Jesus was accused of being the Friend of sinners (Mt 11.19), and Matthew reminds us there that “wisdom is justified by her children.”  Are not these ideal circumstances for us to communicate to the lost and wandering by both words and deeds that there is a Friend for sinners, and that there is a family of God which warmly embraces all who belong to her?

On two occasions the apostle John emphasised that, for all the pen-work and ink-spilling, he wanted to see and speak with at least two of his correspondents – his friends – face to face, in order that his joy might be full (2Jn 12, 3Jn 13-14).  One of the buzzwords in the missional movement is how ‘incarnational’ we ought to be.  Is this, then, not one of the points at which the rubber must meet the road?  Friendships function fully in the body, with as many of the dynamics and dimensions of full interpersonal relationships exercised and cultivated as opportunity provides.  Our relationships as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ ought to be of an order that others, looking on, desire: under God, we can stir up a holy jealousy in men to be part of the family of God.  Our relationship with our elder Brother and truest Friend, Christ, and with his Father and ours, ought to spark a growing desire in those who are spiritually lost and lonely to have such a Brother, such a Friend, such a Father.  And, our relationships with our neighbours, colleagues, family members, and – yes – our friends, ought to be of a kind that preaches the good news in our attitudes, our words, and our deeds.  “So let our lips and lives express / The holy gospel we profess,” indeed.  If a man who has friends must himself be friendly (Prv 18.14), how much more the man who would win friends, to himself and through him to his great Friend and Redeemer, the Lord Christ (Mk 2.1 ff.)?

It will take time and it will cost much, but it will gain much.  An incarnational ministry always does.  Just ask Jesus Christ.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 25 May 2010 at 09:32

Things various

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A few bits from around the web:

  • Parents, obey your children? Al Mohler draws on and responds to an interesting article about the portrayal of parents generally, and – specifically – their relationship to their children, in popular children’s literature.
  • John Piper’s call to the ministry.  Justin Taylor gives the details at some length.
  • English Language Day.  Actually, this was yesterday (13 October).  Is this an American thing?  Surely not!  Still, I don’t know how else I would have found out about it.  Apparently, it marks the date in 1362 when a Chancellor opened Parliament with a speech in English.  Neat.
  • Er . . . that’s it, actually.  I thought I had more interesting things in the reader than that, but it’s funny how the discipline of reading and weeding convinces one that perhaps 75% or more of the stuff that flows down the feeds is tripe to be bypassed.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 14 October 2009 at 15:20

Jonathan Edwards the parent

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Z tells us about someone else enjoying Marsden’s biography of Jonathan Edwards, quoting from chapter 20 on aspects of his family life:

The first impression a visitor would have upon arriving at the Edwards home was that there were a lot of children. The second impression would be that they were very well disciplined. Jonathan aided Sarah in disciplining the children from an early age. ‘When they first discovered any considerable degree of will and stubbornness,’ wrote biographer Samuel Hopkins, ‘he would attend to them till he had thoroughly subdued them and brought them to submit with the greatest calmness, and commonly without striking a blow, effectively establishing his parental authority and producing a cheerful obedience ever after.

Care for his children’s souls was his preeminent concern. In morning devotions he quizzed them on Scripture with questions appropriate to their ages. On Saturday evenings, the beginning of the Sabbath, he taught them the Westminster Shorter Catechism, making sure they understood as well as memorized the answers.

Edwards also believed in not holding back the terrors of hell from his children. ‘As innocent as children seem to us,’ he wrote, ‘if they are out of Christ, they are not so in God’s sight, but are young vipers….’ At the judgment day unregenerate children would hardly thank their parents for sentimental tenderness that protected them from knowing the true dangers of their estate. Always looking for opportunities to awaken the young to their condition, he had taken the children to view the remains of the Lyman house fire that claimed two girls’ lives.

By far the greater burden of childrearing fell to Sarah….On one occasion, when she was out of town in 1748, Jonathan was soon near his wits’ end. Children of almost every age needed to be cared for. ‘We have been without you,’ Jonathan lamented in a letter, ‘almost as long as we know how to be!’ (George Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life, 321-323)

How I should love to sit down and ask Edwards for practical advice as to how a father goes about securing such a spirit among his children as is described in the first paragraph.  I admit that I do not recognise much of that in myself.  I recognise a little more of the next two paragraphs, though I need more of a servant spirit in seeking to cultivate such an environment in my home.  The final paragraph is the one where I think, “Ah! I am like Jonathan Edwards.”

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 7 August 2009 at 08:57

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Trusting in Christ – past, present, future

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Yesterday morning I completed the current segment of our studies in the Christian family by wrapping up some issues of training our children with regard to their social and cultural development.  Beginning with Luke 7.36-50 we noted that our Lord criticizes Simon (a comparative criticism, contrasting him with “the woman of ill repute”) for being rude – he was a poor host, running contrary to God’s will, and so sinned.  The lack of social grace is an indicator of a much more substantial absence of grace.  While we recognise a difference between Scriptural absolutes and cultural standards (the holy kiss will not get you very far in the typical British congregation), there is an application of the absolutes taking into account the culture in which we live.

We therefore looked at some of the issues that social and cultural development must address, both in terms of our relationships to other people and our ability to contribute to the society and culture in which God puts us.  It was a very cursory glance, but an attempt to at least sketch out some of the issues.

I closed by urging parents not to miss the mark: we do not aim at our own reputation as ‘good parents’ with ‘good children’; not social acceptability by eradicating the worst excesses and expressions of sin; not good citizenship in terms of civic responsibility and awareness and contribution; not even good churchmanship, as if we should teach behaviours that get children under the radar of even thoughtful churches; but genuine conversion.  This is about Jesus, about pointing our children – even by means of these things – to the Saviour of sinners and model for righteousness.

In the morning service, we continued to look at the marks of a true Christian.  Having exposed some inconclusive indications of a genuine work of grace last Lord’s day, I dealt with the first two indispensable indicators of a genuine conversion – those things which, according to the apostle John, must be present for a man to know himself saved, even if they are not perfect.

The first is a humble and wholehearted embrace of the divine diagnosis of and remedy for sin.  A Christian man has an accurate view of himself as a sinning sinner.  He acknowledges God’s just judgments; Spirit-wrought conviction leads to genuine repentance; with repentance is joined faith in Jesus as presented in the gospel.

The second is a humble reverence for and joyful devotion to God and his glory.  A radical reversal of priority has occurred: the idol Self is toppled and God reigns in the heart.  Gratitude for grace received and delight in God himself issues in joyful service of the Lord of glory.  The testimony of such a man’s heart is “Whom have I in heaven but you?  And there is none upon earth that I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps 73.25-26).  He believes it, knows it, pursues it, and repents afresh because he does not know and feel and prove it more.

Two more will follow, God willing.

In the evening, I sought to use our celebration of the Lord’s supper to point forward to Christ’s return, in accordance with Christ’s command and promise.  From 1 Peter 1.13 we considered Hoping in Christ’s revelation.

What should a Christian be expecting? Grace, as the complement and completion of grace already received: the crowning glories of God’s undeserved and unmerited goodness – the incorruptible inheritance received, perfected salvation enjoyed, total vindication granted, and incomparable glory bestowed.

When shall we receive it? Grace is not a distinct commodity, but is bound up in Jesus, and this grace is being brought to us at Christ Jesus’ revelation.  Our expectation is connected with the coming of Christ in glory.  All the grace we anticipate is in and with him, and our blessings are entirely tied up in the person of Jesus.

What should be out attitude? A settled and vigorous frame of spirit that rests entirely in God’s promised grace in the risen, reigning, returning Christ the Lord.  The command to rest our hope fully in this grace being brought to us at Christ’s unveiling is a call to a fixed perspective, a complete dependence, a certain assurance, a joyful expectation, a constant encouragement, and should issue in a childlike obedience.  Christ is coming, and we should live in the light of it.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 6 April 2009 at 09:25

For parents seeking to be faithful to God and to their children

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My friend Alan Dunn gives a moving framework for spanking evangelism.  Parents would do well to read this to correct the cruel excesses both of empty sentiment and of angry thoughtlessness.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 1 April 2009 at 11:38

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A tale of two Sundays

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A bit of catching up . . .

I have begun a series on Becoming and being a Christian.  I started it a couple of weeks ago with a sermon on Isaiah 45.22 on Looking to Jesus.

Afterwards we looked at 2 Corinthians 5.17, on being A new creation in Christ.  In dealing with that we looked at what Paul says about our position: “If anyone is in Christ.”  Many are without Christ, which makes every other good and privilege to be ultimately dust and ashes in our mouths.  There are those who are with Christ, and they are enjoying the blessings of being in the very presence of the risen Jesus.  But no one will be with Christ without being first in Christ – united to him by a saving connection, enjoying new life in him.

Then there is the matter of our condition: “new creation.”  This speaks of a radical, thorough, divinely-worked reality, in which the Almighty works not with nothing but against everything in us to change our antagonism and give us a new heart.  Men try to rehabilitate, but only God can regenerate.  We must be a new creation before we can live as one: we cannot earn new creation by trying to live like Christians.  Salvation comes first.

Finally, Paul offers an explanation: “the old has gone and is gone for good; look! the new has come and keeps on coming.”  The old nature has been dethroned and Christ reigns.  A transformation has taken place – the Christian has new light, understanding, will, desire, purpose and destiny.  There is a note of wonder as the persecutor-turned-preacher marvels at God’s grace in Jesus Christ in saving sinners from the darkness and bringing them into his marvellous light.

Last Sunday, we came on to the subject of A true Christian.  How can I know if I am a new creation in Christ?  Am I a true child of God?  The apostle John wrote his gospel so that we might know that Jesus is the Christ, believe, and be saved (Jn 20.31).  He wrote his first letter so that believers might “know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1Jn 5.13).  I had intended to show the things that the world and many religious people assume are certain marks of true Christianity, but which fool many and which will fail those who rely on them when trials come, things which are no sure mark of a genuine conversion, before moving on to the positive indications of genuine saving faith.

However, the sermon took off in the first moments, and I spent the hour dealing with seven things (developed from headings in Gardiner Spring’s excellent The Distinguishing Traits of Christian Character or here [or, for Logos users, here] – sorry, not too many hard copies around!).  Visible morality, head knowledge, the form of religion, eminent gifts, conviction for sin, strong assurance, and a memorable or notable experience of alleged conversion, individually or in combination, do not indicate the genuine nature of a professed work of grace.  Unbelievers who assume they are saved on this basis are being fooled; believers who build their assurance on this flawed foundation will find it fails when they need it.  I got no further, closing by urging sinners to acknowledge their need and flee to Jesus, and calling upon the people of God to hold fast to the finished work of Christ, the promises of God, and the reality of the Spirit’s renovating work.  I hope to go on to the four positive indications of genuine saving grace, as spelled out by the apostle John, next Lord’s day.

Over the last few lessons of our adult Sunday School we have been working from Luke 2.52: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”  We have used this as a framework to consider the parents’ responsibility to train their children with regard to intellectual, physical, spiritual and social or cultural development.  We hope to finish off this section next week before the Easter break, picking up afterwards with the training and admonition (required primarily of fathers as heads of households) commanded in Ephesians 6.4.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 31 March 2009 at 13:47

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The gospel and the family

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Voddie Baucham preaches a powerful, engaging, effective and shaming sermon, in which he sets out the case for family-centred gospelling and discipling.  While he may be slightly overstating his case at points – or perhaps its the context in which he preaches that demands certain emphases – there are many of us who would do well to listen to many of the specific challenges of Pastor Baucham’s sermon for our churches and families.

HT: Dave Bish.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 5 March 2009 at 07:59

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Shocking insights

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David Anderson explains why smacking a child is not the moral equivalent of using an electric fence to control an animal’s behaviour.

Bogus “moral equivalence” arguments are one that liberals have been using, quite effectively, over recent decades in their attempts to undermine the Christian foundations of Western society. “This” is equivalent to “that”, and we all know “that” is evil, therefore “this” has got to go. This is silly reductionism.

He goes on to demonstrate how such foolish reductionist arguments lay a foundation for moral erosion.

PS I am not persuaded that one can lay a foundation for erosion, but it’s late, I’m tired, and you know what I mean!

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 11 February 2009 at 22:47

Posted in While wandering . . .

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Equipping families

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I have not listened to the address, but this review of a seminar by a  gentleman named Tim Jones certainly whets the appetite.  A taster:

What are the problems in the church with family ministry:

1) Parents, especially fathers, have become disengaged from the task of discipling children.

2) Most churches have not consistently expected or prepared parents to disciple their own children.

3) Adolescence is perceived as a developmental ideal instead of as a period of preparation for mature adulthood. It’s a recent social construction in which responsibility is minimized and indulgence is maximized, and a lot of our church models have been built around it.

Mr Jones (who is writing a book on the subject) provides his preferred solution, and it sounds a good one.

Read it all.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 4 February 2009 at 09:17

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The unthinking thought police

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Two nice news stories for this morning.

In the first, a Christian nurse has been suspended for offering to pray for a patient.  After offering to pray for one patient.  The patient declined, and the nurse, Mrs Petrie, apparently let the matter drop.  The patient- though allegedly not offended herself – contacted the Trust for which Mrs Petrie worked.  Mrs Petrie was subsequently suspended for an investigation.  Just recently, government minister Steven Timms made the case that faith ought not to be relegated to the private sphere.  In other words, we are entitled to be Christians in public – hardly a shocking thought, you would have imagined.  There are lots of people who serve me in various ways who don’t pray for me every day; I wonder if I can have them suspended because I don’t like the way their lack of faith in God impacts on the way that they relate to me?

In the second, we are informed that the aggressive pursuit of personal success by adults is now the greatest threat to British children.  Hyper-individualism is wrecking young lives, reports the BBC, who say that a significant independent report

calls for a sea-change in social attitudes and policies to counter the damage done to children by society.

Family break-up, unprincipled advertising, too much competition in education and income inequality are mentioned as big contributing factors.

A panel of independent experts carried out the study over three years.

The report, called The Good Childhood Inquiry and commissioned by the Children’s Society, concludes that children’s lives in Britain have become “more difficult than in the past”, adding that “more young people are anxious and troubled”.

According to the panel, “excessive individualism” is to blame for many of the problems children face and needs to be replaced by a value system where people seek satisfaction more from helping others rather than pursuing private advantage.

Reading that last paragraph, one might almost be foolish enough to imagine that mature Christian parents, members of a healthy church, cared for by faithful pastors, serving after the pattern of Christ himself (Phil 2.3-8) would provide an excellent environment for bringing up much-loved, well-adjusted, happy and confident children.  Of course, that would be nonsense.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 2 February 2009 at 10:46

Special subject: the blindingly obvious

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Gene Veith points us toward evidence that children raised by both parents in a family that goes to church have fewer problems.  The study he refers to apparently indicates that

children in an intact religious family “are more likely to exhibit positive social behavior, including showing respect for teachers and neighbors, getting along with other children, understanding other people’s feelings, and trying to resolve conflicts with classmates, family, or friends.”

Well, I never . . .

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 12 January 2009 at 17:13

More on parenting, much of Christ

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It’s the end of a longish Monday after a surprisingly wearying Lord’s day yesterday – I am not sure why, I just know I was tired by the end of the day.

In the adult Sunday School class, I finished looking at the mediatorial functions of parents, considering what it means to be priests and kings in relation to our children.  The priestly function has nothing inherently salvific about it: we cannot atone for our children’s sins, we cannot repent for them, nor believe for them, and we do not need to feel guilty because we cannot.  Nevertheless, we can sympathise with them – not as our sinless High Priest – but as human priests “beset by weakness” (Heb 5.2).  And, like Job, we can intercede for our children, pleading with God on their behalf (not instead of them): we can bear them on our hearts, and plead for their salvation.  As kings we are governors, shepherds, exercising a God-given authority, a delegated authority, not as the biggest, strongest, and fastest, but as loving heads of the home.  We have only one more lesson this term, before we take a summer break, and I hope to complete this section next Lord’s day by looking at some particular examples and applications.

In the morning worship we were once more in Colossians, this time in chapter 2, verse 6: “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.”  Our title was Receiving and walking in Christ, and I had three headings.  The first was a past experience: a gracious, decisive and concrete experience in which we embraced Jesus Christ as offered to us in the gospel.  Paul uses a title that is effectively shorthand for all that he has already spoken of Christ in endorsement of the gospel preached by Epaphras: it speaks of Jesus’ relationship to God and to men, and his exclusive and absolute rule over the first and new creations.

Then there is a present activity: “so walk in him.”  Paul commands those who have so received Christ to live so as to reflect our union with him.  Indeed, we cannot so walk without union with Christ – sinners do not earn grace by obedience, they obey because they have received grace.  We might as well tell a pauper to live like a prince in order to be adopted into the king’s family; it only demonstrates his inability.  But tell a pauper adopted by the king to live like a prince, and the command makes sense!  The power for such a life comes from our union with Christ (Jn 15.4-5) and the character demonstrated is Christlike (1Jn 2.6).  An unChristlike Christian is a contradiction in terms.

Finally, we observe a permanent connection:  “as . . . so . . .”.  We must go on and end as we began, and that can never be apart from Christ.  We first came to him urgently, unreservedly, humbly, effectually, and gratefully, and so we must always come – never imagining that we can advance without him, go on apart from him, remembering that our life, strength, righteousness, acceptance, and holiness are bound up always and entirely in him.

Have you received this Jesus in this way?  You need not refuse him to be cast into hell, you only need not bother to receive him, to turn away from him, and the mercy, life, and hope in him.

If we have received Jesus, let us walk in him.  The further we are from Christ, the less godly we will be, the less Christlike, the less useful, the less fruitful, the less assured.  We need to fix our eyes on the same Lord Christ if we are to live lives that bring honour and glory to our Saviour.

In the evening my father preached, and I was on ‘child duty’ so that my wife could concentrate on and enjoy the sermon and the Lord’s supper.  I knew I was in for a rough evening when my son spotted the communion table set out and bellowed, “G’ampa’s tea[1]!”  We didn’t last long in the main hall, sadly.

Today was a little R&R for us: we visited Pastor David Last and his family in East London.  David serves Forest Baptist Church in Leytonstone.  He and his wife Christine and their six delightful sons hosted my family, and we had a fun day playing table tennis, bowling a few cricket balls (amidst regular updates of who might replace Michael Vaughan as England captain), eating lunch together, and generally catching up and chatting.  We trundled home in the afternoon and spent the rest of the day with my parents and one brother-in-law/sister/neice combo who are visiting from Carlisle.  We ate Chinese together, and then we drifted home.  Bed is, if not quite beckoning, at least beginning to clear its throat in the background.

[1] i.e. supper.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 4 August 2008 at 22:09

J. I. Packer’s counsel

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Mark Driscoll records counsels from J. I. Packer to young Christian leaders concerning regeneration, God-centred theology, domestic godliness, and the Trinity here.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 30 July 2008 at 19:16

Conflict for the Colossians

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This weekend we had friends from Texas staying at our home.  Five of the Simpson family were with us from Friday, leaving early this morning for Edinburgh.  On Friday I gave them the breakneck theologico-politico-historical tour of London, cut slightly short due to extreme weariness and the fact that they were going back into London themselves on Saturday.

Yesterday we continued our adult Sunday School classes on the Christian family, still looking at a husband’s love to his wife, and concentrating on the activities of love (nourishing and cherishing) and the tools of love (words backed up by deeds).  We briefly considered the created order (Adam as the definer and steward of words) and the redemptive pattern (God in Christ as the great Revealer and Communicator to and with his people) and began a brief tangent in which we hope to consider some principles for godly communication as husbands to our wives.

I had the evening service, in which I returned to the series on Colossians.  In Colossians 2.1 Paul opens a window on his heart so that the Colossians saints might understand his pastoral affection for them, the particular application of his labours on their behalf – Paul’s conflict for the Colossians.  We saw the apostle’s warmth of heart (contending, striving, agonising on behalf of God’s people), the concerns of his heart (those with whom he shares true spiritual unity and affinity, regardless of distance or intimate personal acquaintance), and the activity of that heart (manifesting its affection by every legitimate means, and particular through wrestling in prayer with God, against the devil, for the saints).

In Paul’s example we find a vivid portrait of a true pastor’s heart (love declared and demonstrated paving the way for exhortation and admonition), a suggestive portrait of a true Christian’s heart (concern for the wider church manifested in earnest prayer and potent petition to God), and a faint portrait of Christ’s heart, the great Pastor of the whole flock.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 23 June 2008 at 11:26

Being a boy

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As the father of a 21-month-old son who managed to climb out of his cot at just after midnight and hurl himself to the floor for the first time last night, I enjoyed this.

Does your son act too much like a little boy?
Is he fidgety and rambunctious?
Does he have trouble listening or have a puerile sense of humor?
Is he easily distracted?
Does he have a propensity to get dirty?
Does he enjoy playing with violent toys?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then it might be time to medicate your son. Even if he doesn’t have ADD or ADHD, you’ll most certainly agree that he’s annoying.

Well, now you can curb the boyish tendencies in your son and make him almost comatose in the process. E-MASQL8 Plus has been clinically proven to remove in boys all signs of unwanted boyishness. You’ll never have to deal with snips, snails, or puppy-dog tails again.

E-MASQL8 Plus: A Cure for the Common Boy

Justin Taylor draws attention to it here, Salvo Magazine (the original source) has an article here, and Amanda Witt has a good boy story about it here. My wife would probably point out that not all boys grow out of all these characteristics. Mea culpa.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 14 June 2008 at 07:37

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An Italian odyssey I

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I returned from Italy with my family last Monday evening, having been away for almost a couple of weeks. It was a busman’s holiday of sorts, trading off hospitality from friends for preaching engagements.

We arrived at Milan’s Malpensa airport on Wed 28 May, and were collected by Pastor Andrea Ferrari of Chiesa Battista Riformata Filadelfia. We went to his home overnight, before being sent away to Venice for a two day break. The Eurostar train took us from Milan (Milano) to Venice (Venezia) in good time, and we spent two wonderful days wandering through the city (although pushchairs and canal bridges are not the best of combinations), travelling around and about the island by boat (including a visit to the famed Island of Murano, where much glass is blown).

From Venice, we returned late on Friday night to Milan, and stayed with the Ferrari family (Andrea & Cristina, and their lads Simone and Daniele) until the following Wednesday. On the Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, the church had organised a family conference, originally due to be held in Turin (Torino). However, by the time we had returned, persistent heavy rain in the Turin area had caused the cancellation of these plans, and so some swift re-jigging led to our meeting in their church building (they have been meeting there for only a few months). The topic of the conference was “The Christian family.” With such a large topic, I could only deal with some basics, and concentrated on the relationship between the Lord God and a husband and wife, issues that we have recently covered in our adult Sunday School. I did this under five headings, drawing heavily on material by Albert N. Martin from old Banner of Truth magazines, and also bringing in material from Alan Dunn‘s Headship in Marriage in the Light of Creation and the Fall.

We considered the Scriptural approach – how do we serve God in our families? Where do we begin? Concentrating on the foundation and the framework, we assessed four flawed foundations and one firm foundation. The four flawed foundations are: rationalism (making human reason the ultimate authority); traditionalism (doing what has always been done, either unconsciously or deliberately); pragmatism (doing what seems to work, usually a series of short-term fixes with no long term goals); and, fatalism (can we really know what can be done, and is there any point anyway). Opposed to this is Biblicism – taking the Scriptures as our rule of faith and life. Here we went back to the gospel dynamic that governs our entrance into and progress in true Christian living. We can do nothing apart from Christ, and it is in the tension between Biblical idealism and Biblical realism, resolved by the grace of God in the forgiveness of sins and grace for cheerful obedience, that we make progress in this struggle.

We moved on to look at the essential equality that exists between men and women. Many texts in Scripture say that men and women are different to each other, none say that one is better than the other. Men and women are equal in their created dignity (both are made in the image of God), their native depravity (both are equally fallen, both are equally lost), and in redemptive reality (both are equally saved by the same Christ, and receive the same redemptive privileges). There are four consequences of this equality: a joint commission together to be fruitful, to multiply, to have dominion; a genuine correspondence (men and women were made to complete and complement each other); a profound cleaving (the intimacy of the one-flesh union of marriage, true togetherness); and, a total commitment to one another within the bonds of marriage.

From there we went on to consider the distinctive roles, looking first at women of God. Our four key texts were 1Cor 11.3-16, Eph 5.22-33, Col 3.18-19, and 1Tim 2.8-15, where we observe the created order and the redemptive pattern. On these two pillars the distinctives stand, without denying or negating the essential equality. The keynote for women is submission, a positive and active yielding of her gifts to her husband and employing them for him. The particular nature of this submission is religious – “as to the Lord”: it is an expression of our attitude to God. We saw its broad extent: “in everything” – it is extensive, not occasional or selective. Nevertheless, it is not absolute. She is to submit in everything except when her husband requires what God forbids or forbids what God requires. We also looked at some of the distortions and perversions women must labour to avoid: effacement on the one hand, and domination/manipulation on the other.

From there we moved to the distinctive role of Christian men. We used the same key texts and observed the same order and pattern. The keynote for men is love. We considered the character of this love: it is Christlike – it is intelligent, realistic, sweet and (above all) sacrificial. We looked at the quality of this love: it is purposeful – it seeks a wife’s highest development and greatest blessing. We identified the anchor of this love: union – it is grounded in a husband’s being one flesh with his wife. We then looked at the activity of this love: “nourishing and cherishing” – a profound tenderness and principled care. There are also distortions and perversions here for men to avoid: abdication on the one hand (a failure to lead lovingly) and tyranny on the other (a failure to love in leading).

In the final address we considered the Christian family as the living sermon – does my home, my relationship, preach Christ and his church to those around me? What does my relationship to my wife say to others about how Christ acts toward his church? What does my relationship to my husband say about how the church acts toward Christ? A Christ-exalting marriage is full of gospel blessing. We find blessing for ourselves when true happiness and harmony are established in the home. We bring blessing to our families by our testimony to gospel realities, and in providing a model for Christian homes. We bring blessing to our churches, for a healthy Christian home is a vital building block in a healthy congregation, and an example of grace and a centre of ministry to others. We also bring a blessing to our societies – both common blessings (good citizens having an influence) and saving blessings (true Christians testifying of Jesus and enjoying God’s favour). But we must pursue gospel transparency rather than entertain gross hypocrisy. The kind of Pharisaic hypocrisy we see in Matthew 23 will destroy all blessing. Reality matters more than appearance and performance. We must face the facts of sin, embrace the Christ of grace, and go in the strength of gospel grace along the way of gospel obedience in the exercise of the gospel dynamic.

With this, the conference closed. Andrea translated throughout, and we were both weary. The church then watched the film The Pursuit of Happyness, and there followed a discussion about the particular roles and values demonstrated in the film in the light of the material delivered from the Scripture. We looked at what we might learn positively and negatively from the examples we saw.

With that, we went home and slept. On the Tuesday we had our next rest day, wandering round an open market before a relaxed afternoon, then packing our bags for the next leg of the trip – south to Sicily.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 13 June 2008 at 12:55

Fatherhood and the future of civilization

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Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 13 June 2008 at 10:18

Gospel ministry and gospel confidence

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My father and fellow-pastor was away this past Lord’s day, taking a well-deserved holiday. As a result, I had the privilege of all three ministries.

In the Sunday School hour, we continued to consider the distinctive roles of men and women. As we completed our consideration of the role of women, we paused at the point of transfer to studying out the role of men to look at the various abuses of male headship and female submission to which we are prone. Because the distinctive roles of men and women are grounded upon their essential equality (in terms of created dignity, native depravity and redemptive reality), there ought to be no sense of inferiority or superiority engendered by considering what man is as man, and woman as woman, and what they are in relation to each other. However, men – in the exercise of loving leadership – should not err either by abdication nor tyranny, and women – in the pursuit of positive submission – should not err either by way of domination nor effacement. In considering this, I basically employed material from my friend and mentor Alan Dunn, drawing from his excellent and insightful if occasionally technical little volume, Headship in Marriage (in the Light of Creation and the Fall).

Then, in our morning worship, I continued a long-standing series in Colossians. We are now in the last two verses of the first chapter. Here, we see Paul as a fellow-labourer with God. As one would expect from such a man, there exists a full and precise correspondence between Paul’s activity and God’s stated purposes.

In Colossians 1.28-29, Paul identifies the gospel minister’s tools, task, and toil. The first sermon was on The gospel minister’s tools, which he uses constantly, comprehensively and specifically. The first tool is proclamation. This is the authoritative declaration of Jesus Christ, his glorious person and saving work.
This mighty river contains two currents, two subsidiary tools: admonition and instruction. The first is putting something in the mind of men, getting something laid to their hearts, driving into the will and affections, to awaken and arouse, stimulating reflection and promoting action. The second works on the understanding, definite truth and clear direction being imparted to the inquiring mind, guiding sinners to Christ and directing the child of God in faith and life to the glory of Christ. I hope to go on to consider the task and the toil in due course.

Then, in the evening, we celebrated the Lord’s supper. With the aim of preparing our minds and hearts, I preached on Romans 8.34, under the title, Uncondemnable! We set out the four pillars of Christian confidence, upon which a Christian can stand and ask heaven and earth and hell, “Who is he who condemns? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Paul offers four answers, any of which is sufficient, all of which together are simply unassailable: it is Christ who died; it is Christ who furthermore is also risen; it is Christ who is even at the right hand of God; it is Christ who also makes intercession for us. It was, I trust, a good day in the house of God, with the morning’s message more of a challenge, and the evening’s more of a consolation.

One particular pleasure in the evening was to have Andy and Sallyann Owen visiting with us. Apparently, my parents had been God’s means of doing good to Sallyann before she was married, and they had hoped to catch up with her. Andy heads up a ministry to the Deaf at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Andy has also authored three books assisting in this work: Signs of Life, Not Hearers Only, and Jesus Used Sign Language (all of which can be ordered through the Tabernacle Bookshop). Having recently taught through Christ’s healing of a deaf and mute man in Mark 7 at our Stepping Stones bible study, having had a substantially deaf father, and having had the privilege of being interpreted for the Deaf by a man with whom I subsequently have had fascinating conversations, it was a delight to speak with Andy and to gain some of his wisdom and insight into this challenging yet rewarding sphere of ministry.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 5 May 2008 at 20:39

A message for a marriage

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A friend is getting married today, and unfortunately I was not able to attend. However, I was asked if I could provide a message of sorts, a kind of glorified telegram, to be read out at the reception. Below is the anonymised version, drawing on some of the material we have been studying recently on The Christian family in our adult Sunday School.

“Dear ______ – Together with ______ (and those words now hang over your whole life, as one joined to her) you are embarking on the most significant and most responsible relationship that you will know with a fellow creature. Nothing can prepare you for it, nor keep and prosper you in it, but Christlikeness. You do not need to be a rich man, a clever man, a handsome man, or a popular man, in order to be a good husband. You need to be like Jesus Christ. Only in him, through his Spirit, will you find the grace and strength to be what God calls you to be. To that end, God in Christ must be first in all things to you both. Unless you hold him above all and anyone else – above even each other – you cannot properly love one another. The loving, sacrificial headship of a husband, and the loving, positive submission of a wife lie outside the capacity of all but those who are truly joined to Jesus Christ by faith, and who walk with him, and who make willing obedience to him their first concern. Put the crucified Christ at the centre of your life and of your home. Govern your life and home not in accordance with what you think, or imagine, or hope, or would like to be true, but by the truth God reveals in his Holy Word, the Bible. Attachment to Christ and obedience to his truth will keep you attached to each other: unless you are living as those crucified to yourself and to the world, you will never be willing nor able to serve one another with selfless love. A few months after I was married, a good friend asked me, “Have you discovered yet what a miserable, stinking, selfish worm you really are?” You will surely have to give the unpleasant answer to that question before long. Marriage will reveal more potential and actual sin in you than perhaps you ever thought you had in your heart. However, that also makes it the platform for God to reveal more grace in Christ than perhaps you ever thought you needed or might know. In this way, your marriage and your home can become a living sermon of God’s love in Christ. It is my earnest prayer that God will make you and ______ happy with the happiness that the world cannot know, full of a love that the world cannot feel, governed by a God whom the world does not want, and therefore made a true blessing to one another and to others around you through many delightful years to come.”

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 3 May 2008 at 09:09

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Abortion 40 years on

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Following on from the conference on Saturday, I had two ministries yesterday. In our adult Sunday School class, I continued our studies in the Christian family, as we consider the distinctive roles of men and women.

Then, in our morning worship, I preached in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the implementation of the 1967 Abortion Act on 27 April 1968. Since that time, nearly 7 million unborn children have had their lives taken, some 98% of those abortions having been carried out for what are designated “social reasons.” 550 children a day are being destroyed, and currently 1 in 5 recorded pregnancies in the UK come to an unnatural end (not even taking into account such things as the morning-after pill). In a sermon entitled Abortion: the blood cries out, I tried to identify the issues and suggest a Biblical response.

Firstly, we considered the essence of the sin: it is murder, the unlawful taking of the life of a child made in the image of God.

Secondly, we considered the aggravations of the sin: its defenceless victims; its gross unnaturalness; its wicked motives; its awful brutality; its vast scale; and, its fearful high-handedness.

Thirdly, we looked at the effects of this sin, tearing at the social fabric of the UK, including: the hardening of the nation’s heart; the cheapening of all life; the scarring of individual consciences; and, the incurring of dreadful guilt and divine, righteous punishment.

Fourthly and finally, we sought to ask what our response ought to. We must commit to the sanctity of life in God’s image; we must seize every legitimate opportunity to defend and promote the sanctity of life; we must practically demonstrate our commitment to God’s plan and purpose as families in our society (Rom 12.1-2); we must mourn over, repent of, and turn from our national sins; we must pray that God would raise up a Wilberforce to take the lead in overturning this legislation; and, we must minister with Christlike compassion and sacrificial love to those who have been and are enmeshed in this sin.

In preparing this sermon I found helpful statistics, quotes and insights at the Christian Institute here and at Albert Mohler’s blog here and here. Thanks also to Gary Brady for a post that sparked some fresh thoughts.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 28 April 2008 at 14:51

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