Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? (Ps. 85:6)

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Reformation and Revival Fellowship

R. R. F. Conference 2008
 

Jim Wood the Chairman of RRF welcomed us. He said how his son Marcus Wood sent a text to his mother from Fulton Street in New York asking if she could find out the location of the Dutch church. That building was the heart of the 1859 Revival when Jeremiah Calvin Lamphier began to pray. It was another time of financial meltdown in that great city as it is facing today. Jeremiah prayed by himself in the Dutch church, growing disheartened, but then he felt the power of the text urging us not to become weary in well-doing. He returned the following week, and slowly others joined him and they prayed each day, humbly and earnestly, until over 100 were meeting. They humbled themselves before God, and soon prayer meetings spread across New York. It is chronicled in the book The Power of Prayer (Banner of Truth). John Wesley once said that God does nothing here except his people pray.
 

FIRST SESSION      - Sandy Roger (1)  WHEN GOD WORKS IN REVIVAL

SECOND SESSION   - David Allen THE MOW COP REVIVAL

THIRD SESSION      - David Carmichael (1)  THE SUBSTANCE OF DAVID’S MESSAGE

FOURTH SESSION   - Sandy Roger (2)  WHEN GOD MAKES HIS MOVE

FIFTH SESSION      - David Carmichael (2)  THE SUBSTANCE OF JONAH’S MESSAGE

SIXTH SESSION      - David Lambert  UP TO DATE NEWS OF THE CHURCH IN CHINA

SEVENTH SESSION  - Sandy Roger (3)  THE NEED OF THE HOUR

EIGHTH SESSION    - David Carmichael (3)  THE STYLE OF JONAH’S MINISTRY

 

FIRST SESSION

WHEN GOD WORKS IN REVIVAL. Sandy Roger (1)

Psalm 119:126.
It is time for you to act, O LORD; your law is being broken.
In this verse we read those great words that it is time for the Lord to act for his law is being broken. The psalmist is showing his high regard for his law throughout the psalm. The more we are enraptured with God's works and promises the more it puts into sharp relief the situation facing the church and the nation. The psalmist despairs of finding a solution among men and so turns and pleads with God. There are two inter-related themes, first that the people had emptied the law of all its meaning. The law had become null and void. The psalmist has a strong desire that God arise in his glory and vindicate his name and cause. Those are the two key elements in every study of revival. The Westminster Assembly of divines said that there was a time for God to act and provide a remedy; God helping in revival is his own wonderful remedy for what sin has done.

1. In what sense do people break or make void God's law?
That period displayed a more than ordinary sinfulness. There was something in society around that caused the psalmist to bring the world to God earnestly. Things had got so bad - as today and surely it is now time for God to make a move. To 'make void' is to annul, to destroy the force of something, and make it ineffective. The people of the psalmist's day had passed a law that made God's law ineffective.

How did this come about? It is because the authority of God's law has been denied. He is the author of the law and what he expresses in it is entirely in keeping with his attributes. His character is bound up with his law. Also God's law is broken when the meaning is obscured. People do not attack the law outright but they neutralize it by distorting its understanding and interpretation. Their own opinions become the interpreter of God's law. Then the law becomes null and void and people will not submit to it, they having their own interpretation up their sleeves. God's law is broken when its authority is denied and the meaning is obscured, and the teaching is greatly weakened. Jesus said to the Pharisees that they had made the commandment of God of no effect by their traditions. All religious systems are weak by human authority being set against divine law. So his law is robbed of its authority and thus the conscience of society falls into a stupor.

2. Is There Any Hope in Such a Situation?
When God's law is denied, obscured, and weakened by the people of God and society then where is any hope in such a situation? It is only in God acting. All over the country there are ministers of the gospel who are dispirited and disheartened in spirit. The church continues to decline numerically. In spite of the best efforts of religious organizations iniquity seems to have increased. Many Christians have been misled and diverted from their real work and they have translated their passion into central causes. If anything is to be done then God must do it by taking the work back into his own hands. We have spoiled it and God must now act, but how? Both in providence and in utterly unexpected ways he must work. We must learn to see the barrenness of the age as under his sovereign control. In our praying we must see that the church's spiritual lethargy to be a platform for God to act. God used various means and we must be prepared to see all of them active.

An insignificant member of the church praying in the secret place can be the instrument God uses. In the history of the church God has used a sermon in ways that you never imagined. The treasure is in you, an earthen vessel, yes, so that the power be of God. The Spirit blows where he wills, of course.

The text we need to hear is "
Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." It is faithfulness God takes up and uses.

3. Why does God leave it so late?
When things are at a low ebb then God works. Why? You would expect God to act earlier, or that he pour out his wrath, but instead, he pours out mercy.
In the O.T. there was great reform under Asa after a time of unparalleled iniquity, but then, instead of wrath God came in blessing. Again in the time of Ezra, and in the time of Josiah God acted in mercy. The dead situation came to life. Why should we think it incredible that God should raise the dead?

He works late in the day to show that it is the work of God, not human agency. He alone can pour out his Spirit when he will. He demonstrates that he is God. He seems to wait, to utterly destroy human pride. He is humbling us as we have that tendency to rob God of his glory and allow others to exalt us. Out God is jealous in the way revival begins, and the instruments he uses and in the course the revival follows. Think of the men despaired of whom God converts at a time of revival.

4. Why is this fervent prayer of the psalmist essential?
A] To raise up a standard against iniquity. We pray in accordance with what he desires. B] To vindicate God's holy law which lies in the dust under the feet of the enemy. The consciences of the unconverted tell them that the law is right. C] It manifests the divine glory. The deeper the darkness the more light is needed. D] To reinstate the church to its proper function in society. Our hands are often unclean and so society ignores the church.
What the psalmist says here is a powerful incentive, teaching us our duty in times of decline, challenging us to asses the seriousness of the time in which we are in. Calling to God for revival is our increasingly clear duty. So we must ask ourselves whether we are like Jeremiah in chapter nine where he expresses his longing for his head to be full of waters and he was weeping for the daughter of his people slain.

 

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SECOND SESSION

THE MOW COP REVIVAL. David Allen

The Mow Cop revival was powerfully blessed. The statistics for the growth of Primitive Methodism are impressive. A revival is a special season of mercy, a work of the sovereign God.

1. The Men God Used at the Revival.
1] Hugh Bourne (1772-1852). Helped by some books such as a copy of the letters of Fletcher, Wesley on the Trinity, and Baxter's Alarm. The sermon on the Trinity helped him; it is a very ordinary sermon, with nothing special in it at all. Yet God used that message to awaken Bourne. He then joined the Methodist society. 2] William Clowes (b. 1780). Like Bourne's mother his mother was also educated, moral and an attender of the Church of England. As a boy he came under conviction of sin and came under the influence of a woman called Nancy Wood, but he drifted, delighting in dancing and riotous living. Then there came renewed conviction, and, responding to an invitation to a preaching service, he was converted in January 1805. His zeal was extraordinary; his old religious companions thought that his Christian life would not last very long.

2. The Preparation for the Meeting in Mow Cop.
Hugh Bourne came by way of his business to the Mow Cop area and saw how dark the spiritual state was. In 1800 he spoke to a number of men who were converted and this turned into numbers of religious friendships. Many more were converted. Prayer Meetings were begun and many attended; there were complaints about the shortness of their duration. In other areas nearby the growth of the work was negligible. Then they read of Tent Meetings in the USA and that stirred them up. Then Lorenzo Dow arrived from the USA in the country. He was an eccentric who was also tireless in his boldness and labours. His ministry and testimony had profound influence on Bourne and Clowes.

In 1807 there was a parish feast/wake planned and the history of these occasions was one of excess and immorality. So these two men decided to organize meetings on the nearby hill of Mow Cop at the same time, lasting a few days.

3. The First Class Meeting at Mow Cop.
The date was fixed for some secluded communion with God in prayer - not for evangelising those attending the parish wake. May 31 1807 dawned and it rained; Bourne felt there would not be such a meeting, but Clowes and hundred others came. There was a time of prayer, and a sermon, and more community prayer, and then preaching, and prayer and so on. Grace descended and the people of God were increased in number. Many were drawn there and a second preaching stand was set up. The first man came under conviction, and then as the days went by many others were saved.

Thousands of people stretched out in all directions- between 3000 and 5000 - a sight of godly grandeur. A fourth preaching stand was set up and four sermons were preached at the same time in neighbouring fields. This went on to 4 p.m. and then by 6 p.m. there was just one preaching service, and finally the day ended with some children's meetings. Bourne had not been present when the meetings began and he did not preach through the day. There was no predetermined plan, but Clowes preached, prayed, and counselled for 14 hours.

4. The Progress of those Camp Meetings.
The second meeting on Mow Cop was planned for two months later, but opposition grew. The Methodist Connection opposed these meetings being held again. The Conventicle Act was even invoked by some preachers to prevent the next meeting and even Bourne was tempted to cease holding the meetings, but necessity was laid upon him. He walked 40 miles to obtain a license for the next meeting, but the magistrate demanded a building be set up. Bourne did this, erecting a large wooden building, largely by himself, as well as an additional three tents. Then he went to the magistrates and got a license for the preaching on that day. Bourne prepared everything for the meetings' success.

After much anxiety he saw the meetings beginning on the Saturday with a day of prayer and the next Lord's Day many gathered (though some stayed away because of the opposition) and many more were converted. Vast numbers attended that meeting for three days. It was one of the greatest open-air meetings in England since the time of Whitefield. Yet there was strong opposition, and the Methodist Conference opposed it and told their preachers to speak earnestly against it. Yet they went ahead with the August meetings and on 23rd August, a Lord's Day, in rain, the congregation gathered, getting larger and larger. However, the preachers were discouraged, and then Paul Johnson of Dublin arrived and preached. His voice was like a bell and his preaching that day and the next moved the whole congregation. Again many were converted to the Lord.

5. The Opposition Movement.
Handbills were printed by the Mow Cop opponents and distributed throughout the area. All the Methodist preachers were put under an interdict not to attend nor to permit their congregations to attend, and some of Bourne's friend complied, even Clowes. Bourne was put out of the Society. He was finally excommunicated because of his advocacy of the Open Air preaching.

This occurred a mere sixteen years after the death of Wesley - with mutters of "highly improper in England, if it is all right in America." He gave himself to evangelism, but the new converts were not allowed to join the Methodist Connection. So Bourne had to pastor them, but soon Clowes was also excommunicated. This was the beginning of the Primitive Methodist Connection consisting of people largely converted from the world. The term 'Primitive' was used to distinguish them from their fellow Methodists. It was an old phrase in Methodist circles going back to 1734.

So that Methodist revival, which began on Mow Cop, went on for forty years and grew to 104,000 members by the time Hugh Bourne died.

6. Characteristics of these Primitive Methodist leaders.
They were obedient to the Word of God.
They knew a powerful experience of the life of God, and lived a holy life.
They were rigorous in self-denial. They preached the substitutionary death of Christ as the heart of the gospel.

7. Lessons from this Revival.
They believed in the necessity of Prayer.
They knew the tangible overwhelming presence of God.
They knew opposition from those one expected to be its main supporters.

8. Conclusion
To cry to the Lord.
Wilt thou not revive us again? Wilt thou be angry with
us forever?

 

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THIRD SESSION

THE SUBSTANCE OF JONAH'S MESSAGE. David Carmichael (1)

Jonah 3:1-5 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: 2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you." 3
Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city - a visit required three days. 4 On the first day,
Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh
will be overturned." 5 The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast,
and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.


Jonah is a book of autobiographical revelation in order that we avoid the mistakes he made and that we live in the way and have the ministry that advances the will of God. Jonah had been given a command that he defied. We too have defied God. Then storms came into his life as they have come into our own lives. He was a man far from God, an embarrassment to himself. Then God does a miracle through the great fish and he prays. God is in strategic control of his life. Then he accomplishes his mission by going into Nineveh and that incredible change that took place in the city.

There are three things we are going to touch on, those elements we want to see in our day: the truth about Vision for our mission and men. Then, Veracity as we look at our message in its integrity. Then we have to look at Voice as we consider the declaration of the message.

1. The Scope of his Mission.
In verse two 2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you." He was not to seize on one group a target group who will find it attractive. No, he was to speak to all the people the very truth he preached they were all to hear because they all needed it. His message was for all the people of Nineveh. Don't worry about those things.
They all need the message of God. They are dead in sin and need to hear the divine diagnosis and cure. Don't become ashamed of the gospel. The world is dark and depressed and we pray that the world will be saved. The wonderful thing about the amazing grace of God is that he comes a 3rd and 4th and 5th time because his grace is amazing - as we see in the OT.

2. The Commission He Received.
He preaches the message God gave him in Nineveh having been solemnly commissioned by God. We cannot produce preachers. God calls and equips a man. We can help him but we cannot produce preachers. When the battle gets tough we need men who will stand tall and true until God takes them somewhere else. We don't want Bible studies, we want men who can preach the gospel, the heart of the message; too many clones are on the go. We need men called and commissioned by God.

3. The Counsel He Heard.
"Go to the great city of Nineveh," God said. That spelled out the difficulty of the moment. The city was great, this was no walk in the park; it was a hostile environment with violent reaction even the taking of his life. God would not downplay the difficulty. They hated the people of Israel. The city was dark, depraved, and brutal. "Woe to the city of blood," the later prophet would say about it. It was a vicious city, but no different from any big city today. All the cities of the world are depraved cities. Nineveh turned its focus on satisfying its lusts. It was not a city that would put out a welcome mat for a prophet preaching a message of judgment. It would be a moment in life for Jonah of great danger.

God had said to him "Go to the great city and preach against him because its wickedness has come up before me." God would in due course send judgment.
But in chapter three, that had become "the message I gave you," and that in 40 days God's judgment would fall. God knows our wickedness today. He sent Jesus a Saviour, but when he comes the second time it is to set up the throne of judgment.

4. The Demand on the Man.
Jonah was being counselled to go forth and preach his word, facing up to the difficulty of the moment. You must go as a God-reliant man, trusting in Him, or you will never survive. He is sending him into the darkness but with all his hope in God. It was mission impossible, but God was bringing him to the place where he would have to cast his cares on God. Jonah trembles in his weakness and humility and is utterly reliant on God. There is nothing we can do to save the day but to cast ourselves on God. We are dependent on God as the prince of evil continually moves against us. How are we to go on? In the power of God. Go, trusting in him as we live in our Ninevehs. Wisdom and security and strength and protection are all found in God and we need to live out that truth. The Lord is our light and salvation, whom shall we fear?

5. The Design of the Mission.
The citizens were to be warned that judgment was on its way. Consider preaching to your neighbours knowing that in less than 6 weeks they were going to be swept away. You would not be fearful as you pleaded with family and friends. In 40 days they were going to die. We need preachers who are urgent; how desperately we need them in our day.

6. The Status of his Mission.
Notice the call he knew, "Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:" to a man who had defied God the first time and had he not forfeited the right to become a child of God. Then a miracle of deliverance had come into his life and he was a man unworthy of God, and yet God rescued him. He had been forgiven but would he ever again be trusted to give service to God?
But on a second time God spoke to him. He found himself on the receiving end of God's grace. Who are those who shoot their wounded? Not God. He came in mercy to Jonah, and soon he was preaching in Nineveh.

7. The Command he Obeyed.
"Proclaim the message I give you," said God. It was a command full of provision. Jonah did not think that this was 'a message that would go down well and make him a celebrity.' He had a defined message and he preached that. If we all preached that then there would be no hiding place for them because they were all preaching the message God gave them. Now is the time for preaching, for now is always the time for preaching. It is the means by which God calls people to their senses and prepares them for glory. Men who have vision are what are needed. Grant us more! God has given His church a message for his age and as we preach it then it will do the bidding of God.

It was a command-fashioning word. Heeded, it changed men; defied, it condemned them.

 

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FOURTH SESSION

WHEN GOD MAKES HIS MOVE. Sandy Roger (2)

Psalm 119:126 "
It is time for you to work O Lord..." There are times when a remarkable work of God begins. Numbers increase and conversions multiply; a tent is hired for the crowd and put up outside the little church building. Reconciliation and restitution become commonplace. There can be such 'local awakenings.'

A revival is an extraordinary work of God and we stand back in amazement.
This does not diminish the normal means and timing of God. We are not to make the normal means of grace as inefficient. Nothing actually happens in times of revival that is not happening in times of ordinary church-going life. What is happening? God's people are gathering, and they are praying, and sinners are being converted; that is normal church life. In revivals that is just the same. The psalmist's passionate plea for God to act is not
assuming that God is idle at non-revival times. Revival is God accelerating, intensifying and extending the work of grace that is going on in every Christian's life. What happens in revival is that God's work, that never ceases, is revived in those ways. So God has 'normal' activity and extraordinary works.


1. Revival Is An Acceleration Of The Work Of God.

In all revival history what seems to have taken years to develop happens in an instant. What would take a month of Sundays God does suddenly. This, of course, is where the sociologist has difficulty in understanding the phenomenon. God can change his process by speeding it up. The whole process of the spreading of the gospel becomes a vital living matter. There is no difficulty in finding volunteers. The mission field has new candidates. It is nothing spectacular; it is God's normal work only it is accelerated and it is manifest. Even in the darkest times God never takes his hand off his own handiwork.

2. Revival Is An Intensification Of The Work Of God.

It is seen in two main areas. There is an intensification of conviction. People are gripped by an awareness of their status in the eyes of a holy God. It does not happen normally because of the absence of the preaching of the law. The Spirit of God goes out into the world with the hammer and the chisel of the law and using them to bring people to Christ. To break God's law is to offend God's nature and character. People cannot evade the immediacy of what God is demanding from them. God will not let them go until they let go of their sin. Surely you have been told of the deacon who told off Evan Roberts for missing a meeting; "What if the Holy Ghost had come?"
There is an intensification of God's work in revival so that we know God is there. In praying and in the conviction of sin there is an intensification. For example, prayer meetings begin, and they can go on for many years.


3. Revival Is An Extension Of The Work Of God.

The most powerful evangelism is the overflow of revival. The Spirit and the bride say come, and him that hears says come, and let him that is athirst come and drink the water of life freely. The Spirit saying 'Come' is revival, personal renewal is ourselves saying 'Come', and many sinners coming and seeking the Lord is the fruit of revival.

4. Revival Is The Continuance Of The Work Of God.

There is the ongoing steady plodding work of giving ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word. If you are in the ministry today and all that you are hoping for is that somehow, at the end you will see God move then you are not being true to your calling. You have a ministry to perform day by day for what God intends you to do is to pray and preach the world. That is the continual work of God. God never stops working, and he chooses to work through our regular ministries. M'Cheyne was asked if his meetings were ever advertised as 'revival' meetings. M'Cheyne replied that none of the preachers who were engaged in the work of God ever used the word 'revival.' All the meetings were used simply to revive godliness in the congregation.
Sometimes God works at a quicker pace and extends his work, but it is the same work that continues all the time. We long to experience the powerful invasion of God in revival. It is not that he is not acting and working; all we are trying to reflect on is this, "Is it time for us to stand back and for God to take the field."

 

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FIFTH SESSION

THE SUBSTANCE OF JONAH'S MESSAGE. David Carmichael (2).

Jonah preached that in 40 days Nineveh would be overthrown. What pursuing grace he had known as he ran away, and preserving grace in the fish, rescuing grace as he came to dry land, surprising grace recommissioning him as a prophet of God. What amazing grace from God, the one who does not fail or forsake his people. So here God sends him again to Nineveh even though he had let him down. God is the one who sees our regret, renews us, and sends us back into the world. God's grace is amazing, and we need to be at the end of it receiving it, especially when we stumble and fall. At the beginning of the commission in chapter one the emphasis is on his being God's servant.

Then in chapter three he is told he must be the preacher of the word God has given him. We, like him, must not superficialise it or trivialize it; we must not omit the blood of atonement. We must not deny the fundamentals; there is no other message. People who are changing the message were once changed by that message they are now seeing to change. People say, "I was lying in bed and I got this message from God." Back to bed! Take your message with you! Preachers have no need to be innovators of new truth. What arrogance in those men today, who claim that for 2000 years the church has got the doctrine of justification wrong. A mother-in-law in his congregation was telling a daughter-in-law that she needs to be saved to get to heaven, and the younger woman is very upset with a woman she loves. Yet that was true and needed to be said. Why wouldn't people go to the Saviour unless they were wounded?

1.The Substance Of Jonah's Message Had To Do With Warning - the warning of judgment to come (v.4) in 40 more days. He certainly did not repeat that phrase of 8 words over and over again. That would have grated on the ears of his hearers. Jonah said much more; the message would have been contextualised; there was wickedness and he exposed it. His message was earthed in the character of God and the depravity of the city. Such emphasis is given to those eight words because they were the heart of Jonah's message. Today we are urged to ignore that theme. None of that compromise occurred in the preaching of Jonah. Nothing was done to win their hearing. The thought strikes me that Jonah today would have been urged to go and learn at some contemporary school of evangelism. "Back to school Jonah!" Yet there was no sense of hiding the truth of judgment away. If men are going to be truly saved they need to hear the warning of the judgment to come. When the Spirit comes people will come looking for God.

The judgment to come would be humiliating. Nineveh was going to be overturned. They would be humiliated at the hand of God. Jonah believed in his message, that it was of God, and he preached it with that conviction. How we need that, such a confidence in that conviction. He believed his message and that Nineveh would be humiliated. There was something in the message that unsettled the people. How could such a thing happen in Nineveh? It was a wealthy city. So his preaching took them by surprise. The burning
conviction of his bold words did more than his hearers thought possible.
They had gathered to mock him and suddenly they found it challenging. He knew a focused concentration; he knew confidence born of God's word. There was raw power in his words: "Nineveh will be overturned," again and again it was hammered home. The word of God made that clear over and over again.

We have to preach so that men tremble under it so that there will be no hope unless they know mercy. We have to preach so that Christ is exalted and men and women are humbled before him. I don't mean that preaching on judgment is our exclusive message, but that there is in our ministries the message of warning and the fact that the time is running out. 'Love' and 'mercy' and 'grace' all mean nothing unless there is the message of judgment.

Jonah also told them that the judgment would be terrible. They would 'overturned.' It was not that some buildings would fall but that all the city's buildings would fall. The place would be left in a state of dereliction. The rest of the world would hardly remember the location of the place called Nineveh.

The Judgment Would Also Be Solemnizing. In only 40 days it would come. They deserved God's judgment because of their wickedness, but by an action of God's grace they could be warned, given 40 days to straighten their lives, and come to the place of repentance. It was 40 days more than they deserved. Has God used you to save souls? Tell men that time is running out. We are living in days of financial ruin and decline. Who would have thought that such a day would have come self-assured Britain? But come it has. Time is running out. People have been let down by those they entrusted with their money and pensions. Despite all their rank and cleverness they will be judged. They will be taken completely by surprise. There are signs of decay everywhere in our world and when God judges many lives will be overturned. You will face an eternity of regrets,
and if you turn from Jesus you will face God without a Saviour. World! You have 40 days. Be solemnized by the word of truth by the substance of Jonah's message.

2 Jonah Also Approached Them With A Wooing. Many preachers say nothing today on the holiness of God. God is not a big cuddly teddy bear. He is holy and yet he announces that he may woo men and women to himself. We know of these celebrity preachers who emphasize everything except the holiness and righteousness of God.

Jonah was in the centre of the city preaching a message that many do not preach today. That message is of pressing terrifying judgment. When a preacher speaks of judgment then it is to his credit and to the benefit of his hearers. As we expound Scripture's message we awaken people.

While Jonah warned Jonah also wooed. Where there is warning there is wooing and where there is wooing there is warning. To warn is to say to people, “Will you not turn from your sinful ways? Let your 40 days be used well.” and the people will be saved. Let the preacher's model for evangelism be Jonah, or our Lord, and let us warn as they warned. In the NT there is little difference. Peter at Pentecost warned and pleaded with them; "With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them," (Acts 2:40). That is wooing, and yet Jesus let the rich young ruler go! The talk of judgment has
disappeared in our day, and talk of the fear of God has also gone. This is the God we present to people as we come to woo them. In warning there is wooing, and in wooing there is warning. Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh and see the city saved, but God did. By the preaching of a warning wooing message people today should be presented with their God.

 

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SIXTH SESSION

UP-TO-DATE NEWS OF THE CHURCH IN CHINA. Tony Lambert

The church in China should have died out 40 years ago, and if human logic reigned that would have been the case, but from Psalm 2 we know that Christ is the king of the nations. He laughs, the one who is enthroned in heaven.
My wife and I have been with OMF for 26 years. We are still in mission because of the promise of God the Father to the Son that he has given him the ends of the earth for his inheritance. Is our world view as believers too constrained? We can become too antiquarian and look at the past. What about now?

There has been the most tremendous explosion of the gospel in the last 200 years. Carey got the missionary vision and call, and in 1807 Robert Morrison was the first Protestant missionary since then to go to China. The earlier missionaries had never translated the whole Bible into Chinese but Morrison did, and the contemporary Bible is largely his work. As he got on board the ship for China (in the teeth of the English government's opposition to him becoming a preacher) the British captain sneered at him. "How do you think you can single-handed convert the Chinese Empire?" said the captain, "I cannot but God can," he answered.

There were in those days few missionaries around the world but today with a few exceptions like North Korea there are gospel churches in every country of the world. Philip Johnson has written a book about the spread of the gospel worldwide. The balance has tipped in the last ten years to Asia, Africa, and South America where the majority of Christians live and most of them are under 35. There has been enormous growth. Consider that narrow band under the eclipse of the sun while the rest of the world is in the sunlight.
So while we are in darkness in the UK for many countries in Asia and Africa and South America it is the era of gospel light. Outside of our benighted island we see much evidence of growth. To go to Seoul in South Korea is to discover a large church building almost every 200 yards. So we must get our perspectives right. The gospel call is going out into the world and many are turning to Christ in repentance and faith.

China comprises one fifth of mankind. Almost a thousand missionaries left China over fifty years ago and the church was left on its own. The communists squeezed the life out of the church imprisoning many pastors, and by 1958 most of the churches were closed down and were involved in the 3-Self movement. Faithful believers met in their homes and that was dangerous. In 1966 the Red Guard demolished churches, temples, and every place of worship. There were just four left in Beijing - there had been 64 - and the 200 in Shanghai were finally all closed down. Many church leaders were packed off to the frozen lands of north-eastern China without a hut to sleep in. In 1966 all the churches were closed and until 1979 no buildings were open. Even Russia never did this. Mao's wife boasted that they had put Christianity into a museum. The liberals of the WCC in 1972 said that Mao is fulfilling the kingdom of God in China. That was the theology emanating from Geneva at that time. The Lord held them in derision. Today the intellectuals in China are studying Christianity, interested in how it was during the Industrial Revolution the Christian faith spread throughout Europe.

So in China all denominations were swept away, and no buildings were left, and of course there were those who fell away, especially those who more social gospellers in their orientation. But the conservatives stood for Christ and suffered. In 1949 there had been a million Protestants in the country. Resurgent Maoism seemed to demolish all Christianity, but the Holy Spirit kept the faith alive in the hearts of believers, and most of them were ordinary working class people, peasants, and miners. So the faith continued in secret in that dark period. Christians had no contact with the outside world. "Lord how long?" Christians prayed.

After Mao's death things changed. The leadership realized how Mao had destroyed the culture and economy of the country. Today I have seen in this week's Economist the question is being asked "Can China Save the World?"
What a contrast with fifty years ago. There seemed to be no Christians left, and then in 1979 they were given permission to open churches again and since that time there has been a huge momentum of gospel work spreading out and out. The church has grown, and the preparatory time had been in the 60's and 70's when they met in houses in informal fellowship in homes or in fields. In 1979, "Let there be religious freedom" said the government, and 30 years later there are now 55,000 Protestant churches open in China today. These are registered legal churches. In January this year there was a survey or two published of Christians and they judged that 40 million Protestants were in existence. China has endured the greatest persecution since Nero and yet the church has thrived. In the Economist on October 2 this year a government official estimated that there are 120 million Christians in China. That is probably an exaggeration. There are certainly more Christians than members of the Communist Party. There may well be more active Christians in China than any other country, judged the Economist.

What is the Christianity that has emerged from this maelstrom of persecution? It is a kind of Bible-believing fundamentalist evangelicalism. This church must not go off the rails because in God's providence there are huge churches that have lines of people waiting to get in. The sermons are Christ-centred and long, up to an hour in length, with yuppies following with notebooks. I was in a service this year and as an additional surprise the pastor announced that there was to be a baptismal service. The candidates were asked to stand and 134 people rose, came to the front and were baptized All over China there were tens of thousands of people also baptized that day and they are constantly being baptized. There are raids on house churches and people are sent to jail - 21 earlier this year – to endure 2 or 3 years in a labour camp; nasty things are happening to Christians. There is much good being done in the state church; house churches are largely evangelical with the additional cult emphases of health and wealth and tongues here and there (although the tongues are quiet; in my experience I have hardly ever been in a loud Pentecostal service in China).
The church is conservative in theology and practice. How do you train theologically, these people? There are 23 centres training men for the ministry. Yet there are constant periods of training - weeks of special instruction.

The church is changing in the cities, but the young people still have their freshness of approach, though now these yuppies are living in nice modern flats and houses. Still the persecution is still a threat. There is also growing missionary outreach especially to the peoples within its borders like those in Tibet. There is also the diaspora, the Chinese who are all over the world, and in the UK there are dozens of Chinese churches. The time
is short and God's judgment is hanging over us. In the 1920's two Chinese were in Paris and soon they became leaders of the Marxist party in China.
What would have happened if there some evangelicals had invited them home and told them the gospel?

[The last two messages, one each from Sandy Roger and David Carmichael,
were given on the final morning, but I was unable to stay at the Conference
for these final sessions.] (see below)

GEOFF THOMAS

[I'd like to thank Geoff for his detailed report. Here is a resume of the last sessions – you need to get the CD’s and hear them. Ray]

 

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SEVENTH SESSION

THE NEED OF THE HOUR. Sandy Roger (3)

In his last address Sandy Roger brought to our attention the Need of the Hour.
Psalm 119 was written under the inspiration of the Spirit by a man who loved God and sought to give testimony to the exalted nature of God’s Law. He can’t understand why the people devalue it. He uses so many expressions that it seems he has “ransacked the dictionary” to describe the multi-faceted nature of God’s Law. Here was a Bible man and a Burdened man. Is that true of you?

There is no greater definition of revival than it is “God acting and working”. Only God can raise the dead; only God can revive those whose spiritual lives are flagging. The Psalmist was a Jew and they saw God’s mighty acts in (i) Creation, and (ii) in Redemption (the Exodus). Revival is both a creative and redemptive act (Eph. 1:14). It is also sanctifying. As far as sanctification is concerned A W Tozer said, “Too many Christians are content to let Christ do all the dying”. We must allow our idea of revival to go higher, deeper, and wider than our present thoughts and understanding. We need to see Revival from God’s perspective. The Psalmist felt in his day the same we do today “It is time…” There is always a right time to act. The Jewish idea of time is linear; the Greek idea of time is cyclical; but in the New Testament we find time is a point: “Now”. As praying, believing people we can pray “Now”.

Our nation is spiritually bankrupt; European civilisation has sold it’s birthright for a mess of potage – and WHAT a mess. The dignity and sanctity of life, marriage, and the home is being undermined, there is a mad craze for pleasure, armaments are being built up, and there is a declension of religion. The Church often has a form of godliness but is lacking power. Is this why Islam has risen to such prominence – and could this be the instrument of judgement by God? It is not only time for God to act but it is long overdue.
When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do? (Ps 11:33). We cannot; GOD CAN.

The root cause of the problem is that God’s Law is being broken. Verse 126 can be legitimately translated “It is time to work for You, O Lord”. What is our work to be to bring about Revival? It can only be by PRAYER. The Psalmist is putting our feeble prayer on a par with the MIGHTY ACTS OF GOD. The Psalmist takes his responsibility seriously!! The mighty work of prayer – the means by which God’s creative and redemptive work can be brought to bear. The people of God need to UNITE in Prayer. Will you join with us in praying for Revival in this desperate hour?

 

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EIGHTH SESSION

THE STYLE OF JONAH’S MINISTRY. David Carmichael (3)

In his Third address, David Carmichael spoke on The Style of Jonah’s Ministry. If men and women are to learn what God requires of them we need men who will preach and teach the gospel. Pray that God will raise up men who know what God expects of them and will preach that Word as it deserves to be preached. Preaching should be dynamic and alive. It should grip us. We need to find ourselves stirred. Therefore we need our preachers to be filled with the Spirit of God and the Word of God. That’s what happened to Jonah. He was God’s man and knew it. He had no fear of man and the result was that Nineveh became the Old Testament equivalent of Pentecost in the power and effect caused by one man’s preaching. It was a supernatural outpouring of the Spirit of God as one man, under the Word, gave himself to the faithful and fearless preaching of the Word. Setting forth the Word of God plainly, he proclaimed that men are lost in sin and dead in sin but by the almighty saving grace of God they can be saved.

 

1. His preaching was purposeful. His preaching was according to God’s will. Previously he had been commanded and commissioned to preach, and expected nothing. God’s discipline worked to bring Jonah back into God’s will – and it is the same for us. Now he was restored and recommissioned, Jonah expected blessing. He didn’t consult church growth books but preached the Bible. He didn’t use speculation or theories but gave the plain meaning. Yet there was nothing dull about Jonah’s preaching; there was fire and power in it. He wasn’t overwhelmed by Nineveh’s walls, or riches, or sinfulness but by God’s presence and Word.

 

2. His preaching was pertinent. Jonah didn’t waste time. He had a message that dying people need to hear. There was no airing of favourite subjects or attempts to increase his popularity but only preaching what God said they need to hear. He pressed their need to be saved (as we must press folk to recognise their need for Christ).

 

3. His preaching was penetrating. Jonah’s experience was part of his message – God will save you as He saved me! He may have cut a comical figure to the Ninevites, being mocked and heckled, but they soon listened as the Word of God penetrated their minds and hearts! Even scorners will be converted under the power of Spirit-filled preaching! O Lord may it happen. O Lord, anoint my preaching!

 

4. His preaching was passionate. He believed it and he preached it for all he was worth. He wasn’t casual about the message but told the people the truth they needed to hear – that life will not carry on like this forever. “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned” (3:4) was his message, which gave it a necessary urgency. His preaching was far from being dull, boring, or complicated.

 

5. His preaching was powerful. Nineveh was a wicked city – no different from all cities today, but the power of God can work through His preached Word like an exocet missile. It was not miracles and techniques that pierced their personal defences. The Ninevites believed God, not Jonah, and it was to Him they bowed. That is why we need the unction of the Holy Spirit – to make our spiritual sight sharper, to make our thinking clearer and know the power from on high. Such Spirit-filled words give shape and sharpness to truth, and raise men and women from the dead. Lord, send Your Spirit so that people will be aware of the voice behind the preacher. Lord, give us preachers who can storm the Citadel of Satan.

 

6. His preaching was productive. Nineveh was, without doubt, the most unlikely city to respond to such a message. Yet respond it did by believing God. There is no city and no heart that God cannot change. The Word of God preached in this way brings people to faith in Him. The power of Almighty God accomplished this in the Ninevites, and may He accomplish such wholesale turning to Him through preachers modelled on Jonah today.

 

 

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The sermons from the conference are available to listen or download from here.

Alternatively, CDs are available for each session at £2.50 each from:

Jim Lawson, 12 Rutherglen Walk, Eaglescliffe, Stockton-on-Tees, TS16 9HE    Tel: 01642 648512 Email: jim.lawson@ntlworld.com