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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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John Stott Died Last Week. . . .

John Stott died last week at the age of ninety. When John Stott began his ordained ministry, evangelicals had little influence in the Anglican Church hierarchy. He often bemoaned the anti-intellectualism apparent in some Christians. Stott believed that most evangelical Christians were not integrated in their daily living. He saw a tendency among Christians to exclude certain areas of their life from the lordship of Jesus; it might be their business life and work, or their political persuasion.

Concerning preaching, Stott, when speaking to the Langham Partnership International said:

The church is growing everywhere of course, or nearly everywhere, but it’s often growth without depth and we are concerned to overcome this lack of depth, this superficiality, by remembering that God wants his people to grow. Now if God wants his people to grow into maturity, which he does, and if they grow by the word of God, which they do, and if the word of God comes to them mainly through preaching, which it does, then the logical question to ask is how can we help to raise the standards of biblical preaching?

John Stott

John Stott’s best-known work, Basic Christianity, has sold two million copies and has been translated into more than 60 languages. Other titles include The Cross of Christ, Understanding the Bible, The Contemporary Christian, Evangelical Truth, Issues Facing Christians Today, The Incomparable Christ, eight volumes in The Bible Speaks Today series of New Testament expositions, and most recently Why I Am a Christian. Billy Graham called John Stott “the most respected clergyman in the world today,” and Christian author John Pollock described him as “in effect the theological leader of world evangelicalism.” Chuck Colson recently wrote in an article titled “John Stott: Will Evangelicals Continue His Mission?” the following:

In 1967, at a time when most Evangelicals were content to remain safe behind the walls of their churches, ignoring the larger world around them, Stott wrote a book entitled, Our Guilty Silence.

In it Stott made the case that because the Gospel is “Good News” we are under an obligation to share it with others. This sounds obvious, but in 1967 this kind of witness, and that kind of engagement with the larger society, was the

John Stott

last thing many Christians wanted to do. They much preferred their comfortable worship and cultural isolation.

Among its many benefits, this isolation didn’t require them to think too much, especially when it came to matters of faith. So five years later, Stott wrote Your Mind Matters, a book whose title could serve as a mission statement for this broadcast.

In it Stott criticized the “spirit of anti-intellectualism” that pervaded Evangelicalism at the time. This “spirit” often produced “zeal without knowledge” that was mistaken for Christian maturity. True Christian maturity is impossible without understanding what it is we believe and how it applies to our lives.

It is true. John Stott will be sorely missed. The question, “Will evangelicals continue his mission?” is an important question and it will have to be decided by each of us.

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Westminster Confession of Faith: Chapter II – OF GOD, AND OF THE HOLY TRINITY

Westminster Assembly

In 1643, the English “Long Parliament” convened an Assembly of Divines at Westminster Abbey in London. Their task was to advise Parliament on how to bring the Church of England into greater conformity with the Church of Scotland and the Continental Reformed churches. The Westminster Assembly produced documents on doctrine, church government, and worship that have largely defined Presbyterianism down to this day. These documents included a Confession of Faith (1646), a Larger Catechism (1647), and a Shorter Catechism (1647), often collectively called “the Westminster standards”:

CHAPTER II

1. There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal, most just, and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.

2. God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them. He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever himself pleaseth. In his sight all things are open and manifest, his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to him contingent, or uncertain. He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands. To him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience he is pleased to require of them.

3. In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost: the Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.

Procuring Acceptance Of Our Prayers

Thomas Boston

Why Must We Pray in the Name of Christ? We pray in the name of Jesus because we are sinful creatures with no access to God. Sin has set us at a distance from God. His justice rejects the criminal, his holiness the unclean sinner, unless there is an acceptable Mediator to go between Him and us. Christ alone is our great High Priest. None but he has satisfied justice for our sins. Thomas Boston explains in more detail how this works:

To pray in the name of Christ is to pray, first, at his command, to go to God by his order, John 16:24, “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive.” Christ as God commands all men to pray, to offer that piece of natural duty to God; but that is not the command meant. But Christ as Mediator sends his own to his Father to ask supply of their wants, and allows them to tell that he sent them, as one recommends a poor body to a friend, John 16:24, just cited. So to pray in the name of Christ is to go to God as sent by the poor man’s friend. So it implies, the soul’s having come to Christ in the first place, John 15:7, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. . . .”

The soul’s taking its encouragement to pray from Jesus Christ, Heb 4:14, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

The way to the throne in heaven is blocked up by our sins. And sinners have no confidence to seek the Lord. Jesus Christ came down from heaven, died for the criminals, and gathers them to himself by effectual calling. He, as having all interest with his Father, bids them go to his Father in his name, and ask what they need, assuring them of acceptance. And from thence they take their encouragement, viz. from his promises in the word. And he gives them his token with them, which the Father will own, and that is his own Spirit, Rom 8:26-27, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. . . .

Praying Christ’s name is depending wholly on Christ’s merit and intercession for access, acceptance, and a gracious return:

1. Depending on Christ for access to God, Eph 3:12, “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.” There is no access to God but through him, John 14:6 “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” They that attempt otherwise to come to God will get the door thrown in their face. . . .

2. Depending on him for acceptance of our prayers, Eph 1:6 “He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” Our Lord Christ is the only altar that can sanctify our gift. . . .

3. Depending on him for a gracious answer, 1 John 5:14, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. . . .” (“Praying in the Name of Christ”)

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