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Banner of Truth Conference (III)
May 28, 2008
This evening’s session was based around a talk given by Iain Murray and entitled “Our Present Needs.” It was a message that felt like an older pastor lovingly exhorting younger pastors. He covered three great needs for pastors (he spoke in the first person plural and I will do the same even though the “we” doesn’t really apply to me as a layperson!).
Our Need for Less Self Confidence
Calvin’s Institutes begins with by saying that sound wisdom begins with two parts—the knowledge of God and of ourselves. When we are young we pursue the knowledge of God but often omit the knowledge of ourselves. We assume that the knowledge of ourselves is a comparatively easy study but this is really an expression of our self-confidence.
He showed a few ways that we inadvertently display our self confidence.
First, we set out in our work, find difficulties, and tend to think that they are not insurmountable; if we give ourselves to it we shall overcome and win. But we come to find that there are difficulties that can be overcome and we tend not to anticipate this. We do not realize the importance of spending time in the school of failure. We have to learn our inability.
Second, we show our self-confidence in our prayer lives. We all confess there is a discrepancy between what we believe about prayer and what we actually do. We could offer many reasons that this is so. God has given us great promises and yet we pray in secret so little.
A third illustration of self-confidence is in the satisfaction we have with our theology. The Lord has taught us certain great truths and we should love and honor these. Among these truths we hold fast to the doctrines of grace and in the past fifty years there has been a remarkable recovery in these doctrines. But the danger comes that when men think they’ve ascended to these heights they feel they’ve mastered any point of theology. There can be a satisfaction in theology that is warranted in the Scriptures, but we do well to remember that the most advanced in the school of Christ are still but little beginners. There is so much we do not know and do not understand. The man who thinks he knows anything knows nothing. “We are called to preach far more than we understand.”
Our need of increased and persevering faith in God
When we consider our weakness and our inability, is it not amazing how many have done such great things for the cause of Christ? Faith is the mainspring of the Christian life and ministry. With all that the Bible says about faith and the importance given to it, it is no surprise that our faith is the main point of Satan’s attack. There is such a thing as being an “unbelieving believer.” In a real sense this applies to all of us.
We need an increase in faith in Scripture as the Word of God. Such is the perversity of our nature that we can become hardened even during the exercise of studying the Bible week after week, day after day. One can study Scripture and be dry as a bone. We can become people who feel nothing for the Word we preach.
We need an increase in faith in all of God’s attributes but particularly in His goodness and love. The first temptation of Satan was to tempt Eve to doubt the goodness of God. The message of the Bible is that God is benevolent and that He is friendly-minded towards sinners. Murray offered two reasons that this area needs to be strengthened: our spiritual happiness depends upon it and the recovery of the orthodox faith depends upon it. We can err in giving the impression sometimes that God is just interested in a small number of people whom He favors while the rest of mankind is outside of His compassion and interest. The way to counter this is to show God’s love for sinners. We can also fall into the trap of repeating truths but ones that have not been properly digested and meditated upon. For many people the intellectual priorities are too high while the priority of reaching the lost and serving the church is too low.
Our Need for Guidance on the Best Use of Our Time
When we first became Christians we became aware of the fact that time is precious; time is short. But as we get older it is a solemn reality that there is a divine inspection before us. We will all stand before the Judgment Seat to give an accounting. Only what Christ does in and with and through us will last; only that is of spiritual value. Should we not dedicate our time to those things? We need guidance about the best way to use the time we’ve been given. We need guidance to do the things we’re called to do and to leave aside the things we’re not called to do.
Here he offered six points directed especially to young men:
- It has been the practice for many ministers to be away from the routine and to look closely at our lives in the light of eternity. This is a valuable practice—taking a day per month or a few days per year.
- Watch your own temperament. If you love being out and about you probably need to be in your study more; if you love to be in your study you may need to be out and about more.
- Read the best books and only the best and read them with a pencil in your hand or with some other system so you can recall even years later what you’ve learned.
- Be sure you do not let emails and web sites control your priorities.
- We need very carefully to avoid losing time on controversies. Sometimes it is necessary but most often it is not.
- Do not “see” in your churches what you cannot change. In most churches there are things we’d like to see changed but that we can’t change. Sometimes it is good not to see such things—to just ignore them. It is better not to see a disputable matter that can disrupt the whole church.
The Need to Pray for a Great Awakening
We can become so accustomed to the status quo that we stop anticipating great change. The keenness of our expectation slowly disappears. Very few ministers keep up the edge on their spirit that was there at first. There is a sense in which being dissatisfied with the present is sinful, but we can still eagerly anticipate God’s works. The extraordinary is not ordinary and there is a real sense in which we need to be satisfied with what God is doing now. But at the same time it is true that we need to expect great things from God.
Murray’s final exhortation was this: we may not see a revival in our lifetimes but we have a present duty to be filled with the Spirit. There is a great danger that we’ve lost the awareness of the changes in our ministries if God was to fill us with the Holy Spirit.
This was a wonderful message and one that seemed to move the men in attendance. If you can find the audio, listen to it!