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February 4, 2021 12:01 am
In turbulent times, we must recapture our confidence in the power of the Word of God. Recorded during a panel discussion in December, Sinclair Ferguson, Steven Lawson, and Stephen Nichols join Ligonier's president, Chris Larson, to discuss how the Lord has brought awakening when the Bible is faithfully proclaimed.
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Today on Renewing Your Mind. No one on planet Earth will ever be saved. Apart from the word of God, and no one will ever be sanctified apart from the word of God and so there is the sufficiency of the Scripture as we carry it to the nations.
God will do his work into a special illusion of Renewing Your Mind when almost a full year global health crisis. We still see plenty of fear and uncertainty produced economic, political, and cultural turmoil, but it's in times like this that we need to be confident in God's word. With that in mind like for you to hear an online conversation that would your president Chris Larson recently had with three of our teaching fellows each from their home bases for ministry.
Drs. Sinclair Ferguson, Stephen Lawson and Stephen Nichols destroyed the mill Dr. school would say as he taught from Romans chapter 1, where he emphasized that the gospel is God's possession.
God owns it.
It's his message. It is good news about the proclamation of the person and work of Jesus Christ, and of course, and how that is applied and appropriated to us and throughout the ages. God's people have continued to put their confidence in proclaiming the gospel and you men have done such great work in celebrating the move of God's spirit through the preaching and teaching of the word of God and the testimony about who Jesus Christ is and helping Christians today to really rediscover the strength that they can have, to be able to stand with conviction like some of these men have done in the past even thinking just after those first few years Dr. Nichols when we think of Christians in the Roman empire and you think of Polycarp's great stand there and his bold defense of the gospel. Maybe you all could just begin with a little bit of a framework of why the gospel and Dr. Nichols maybe take us back there to that first century situation in which Christians had to figure out how they were to proclaim the gospel in the midst of a very difficult situation politically and socio-culturally know we see this before we even get out of the pages of the New Testament we see the hostility that was there culturally towards the gospel and towards the center of the gospel towards Christ himself and his followers. Christians, we see that in the pages New Testament. We certainly see that in the early centuries of the church you mentioned Polycarp who is just this towering figure in the early church, a bishop, he wrote his own letters to the churches to encourage them full of biblical wisdom, and the application of that biblical wisdom to that moment where they found themselves. This was a time of the power of the Roman government and in one sense I was in constant to those early centuries but at various times, it was as if the full weight of that power was brought to bear to stamp out Christianity. That was the intention of the persecution to remove Christianity from the Empire and it had the absolute reverse effect.
It puts steel in the spine of Christians. It brought new converts to Christianity in much of that was through the testimony of the faithful proclamation of the gospel in the lives of these early martyrs and in the faithful proclamation of hope in Jesus Christ in their death.
When Polycarp's martyrdom ends course, he records his own time in prison in the time leading up to his martyrdom and is recorded by those that were there and witnessed it and circulated among the early church and at the end of that epistle of Polycarp's martyrdom is martyrdom references the various proconsul's in the Caesar and then it says and when Jesus Christ was ruling as Lord of the universe and that was the perspective, the early church had the proper perspective that Rome's power was just an apparent power that the true ruler of the universe was her trying God so they had faith in the gospel of God, and they also had faith in the God of the gospel. It was that perspective that enabled them to withstand the sentries persecution and the stand is great testimony to us today. Millennia later Dr. Ferguson ends as the church continue to expand around the Mediterranean.
There we think of another towering figure in Augustine and tell us a little bit about how he approached his ministry as an offense that a pastor of a flock yeah you know I think there's a great lesson in accustomed to and discerns, but at least as I understand him soundly on life influence in positions of influence are very important to them and he ended up.
You remember Kristin Malan really in August to enhance his abilities in order that his influence might come to its full fruition unto him, they are he listened to the bishop of Milan Ambrose, who was one of one of the great preachers of the ancient truck and when he he still acquires is on him in his confessions he talks to him was that while the boys not live. He talks to auntie, since this amazing saying that he had gone to listen to Ambrose not because of his teaching because he didn't expect to find great teaching in the Catholic Church but is the tchotchke he essentially could come to despise Christianity as lowlife, intellectual, lowlife, unbending input to me is hosting an amazing thing. He says of the end of the day.
Actually it wasn't just your teaching but touched me.
It was you were kind to me and I think this is one of the things that really stood out in the alley Christians really unafraid. I mention of life, personal life, family life, modded life, social life, relationships that may in business for the layabout at the top end of the bottom the lives had been transformed by the power of the water under the end of the day, they realize, but it was the want of God would be the start of the spirit to deflect all opposition us if you think of the influence that Augustine's had in the world amid cystic stroke, but he is he is one of maybe five major influences in the Western world. And yet, what was he doing she was. He was reading the Bartee was preaching the word. He was pastoring the falcon he was writing about the gospel on so you sent I think is another great illustration of the principle but it's the want of God itself in the part of the spirit bites proclamation that does the mark and I think that's something, but he bequeathed to the whole Augustinian tradition and you see it right through the Reformation bond into the reformed tradition the central emphasis that it's not just that the water screeched and we do the walk is the largest preached in the power of the spirit of the warrant does the work and when the warrant does the white people's thinking is transformed from cottages to into the is not what they what Expletives brought diving into the unlikely you can see that again began in the history of defendants to tremendously it's it's an encouraging thing to see a subject for us today, and really, as a Dr. Lawson as the word does its work.
The word has content, it seems like we hear the word gospel attached as an appendage to so many different initiatives and and even write concerns. Yet the gospel has a very defined and specific content.
I even going to Peter's message there at Pentecost. From the earliest days of that that early church.
There was an animating purpose to be able to proclaim a particular message take us into that moment and into the very content of the gospel. I think in many ways Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost servers really is the greatest example of apostolic preaching from the first century is on the day of Pentecost, Peter just unleashed the power of the word of God as it was accompanied by the spirit of God, and it was the preaching of the person and work in terms of Christ.
Peter preached the person of Christ that he was attested by God by miracles and signs and wonders. He preached the death of Christ that they put him to death. According to the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, and Peter preached the resurrection of Christ. But God raised him from the dead and then he supported that with Scripture Psalm 16, verses eight through 11. Then he went to Psalm 132 verse 11. Then he came back to Psalm 16 verse 10 because the Psalm 110 verse one initiate Scripture after Scripture after Scripture and Peter lifting up his voice and proclaiming the person and work of Jesus Christ.
And then they were it says they were cut to the heart is a Greek word continuity so that means it sounds like a butcher knife that would slay the sacrificial animal, and they were cut to the bone. They said, brethren, what shall we do, they actually interrupted the sermon, Peter wasn't even finished preaching and they render such deep conviction as sin.
As I had been charged with the first-degree murder of the second person of the Godhead. What must we do and Peter said repent, and that's what her Jesus preach for those 3+ years of accompanying him in his public ministry that he preached exactly like Jesus preached in the Scripture says that there were 3000 souls that were converted that day and I think it points back to the power of the word of God and the power of the spirit of God to accompany the word when it is preached and to cut deeply into the hearts of men and women so I think we need to recapture our confidence in the power. The word of God and recapture our trust in the power the Holy Spirit to do his work to convict to call and to regenerate as the word is preached, that a lot of that's a really helpful example about the power of preaching and the convicting effect that it has Dr. Nichols you've been working in Dr. Sproles life and ministry as you've been producing a new biography and you really got into seeing some of those pivotal moments where doctoral was being awakened himself to the sense of God's holiness and help us to understand that theological emphasis and its relationship to awakening that which we long to see in many different lands be glad to Chris and you know so many of us know about these moments already in Dr. Sproles life because they always came out in his teaching, and those that are familiar with the very first of the holiness of God.
Teaching series he so well tells that story of what he calls his second conversion.
He had his first conversion as a college student to the gospel and I was thinking about what you are saying.
Dr. Ferguson is in terms of that horizontal focus and the temptation is for the church to go along with culture and just keep the people in the pews eyes on the horizontal and never see the vertical and this was Dr. Sproles.
He grew up in church.
He was in church every week.
It was in the choir with Vesta. Of course, and he never heard the gospel. His eyes were never taken off the horizontal and shown the vertical but he goes to college and these converted and that's a great story and of itself, of reading a very unlikely conversion text from the book of Ecclesiastes talks about that midnight walk and he talks about how he's in his dorm room and he felt compelled to get up and walk across campus and he so vividly portrays that moment to any talks about his feet crunching on the snow underneath and that Chris ice that had formed across the freshly fallen snow and arriving there at the chapel on the campus of Westminster College in being led write down the nave and write to the front of the church and recognizing the holiness of God and being in the grip of the holiness of God.
He talks about the first time as a young Christian, just devouring the Bible and reading through the Old Testament, and as he goes through that experience he he said this so many times he came to the realization that this is a God who plays for keeps.
And so here is his college students fresh conversion to Christianity and yet here is this really central idea that he preached for the next five decades and is at the center of follicular administration or even what we do here Reformation Bible college, but there it is. As a college student being confronted with the holiness of God and we all read about it in the book, but it really marks and becomes the hallmark of that ministry and it is ultimately that solution that vertical solution that is that fundamental relationship of our relationship to God and what that did for him was that drove him all the more to the gospel to recognize that if God is holy and I am in a sinner than a recognize my utter need for my substitute of Christ as my Savior and that of course is the message that must be preached and that is what leads to awakening in one of his favorite figures from church history courses. Jonathan Albertson, one of his favorite Edward sermons was God glorified in man's dependence and that realization that as a sinner, there is actually nothing that I could do about it that I am actually dependent upon what Christ is done for me and that's the triumph of grace.
That's the triumph of grace in our lives and we only see it when we see ourselves as sinners and we see God is holy and that you can easily see at the center of Dr. Sproles ministry in an animated his preaching and his writing for the decades to come. Dr. Lawson, we long for revival and we long for Reformation here in these United States. But in every land among every people and we have to look back and even as we see the primary means of communicating the message of salvation is through the gospel.
Does God always bless faithful preaching with awakening.
Well, I don't know that we can say always with revival and what we normally would think of a widespread movement of the Spirit of God that extends deep as well as far and wide. However, we don't always see as God sees and God will honor the man, the church, the ministry that honors his word and when his word goes forth God's spirit accompanies the ministry of the word of God and God is so often pleased to bring about what we would call up a corporate revival that they would even have national consequences and cultural consequences, and perhaps the greatest example of that is the great awakening of the 1730s and the 1740s that took place not only here in the colonies before America was formed as a nation, but also on the other side of the Atlantic in what is known as the evangelical awakening so at the same time in history. There was a significant awakening that shook both continents. At the same time and what was the unifying factor was the preaching of the word of God by men who stressed everything that we've just heard to take it even a step further, there was the relentless preaching of the new birth, that you must be born again and bleeding that was the strong voice of the greatest evangelist of that era may be of any air. George Whitfield, so it would be a glorious thing in this day for us to hear again in her ears. The powerful preaching that you must be born again and so you know Chris. May the Lord bring to us.
Another spirit infused awakening in our day and no matter how dark the day he may same as we look around God's yet greater in the light extinguishes the darkness for those of you who perhaps even need some encouragement, or guidance in knowing how to pray for awakening. Later ministries produced a prayer guide and it's a prayer guide for each week of the year. You can download it for email@example.com and it's something that can be used for private devotion and your family within your church people share with neighbors. One last question.
Dr. Nichols then certainly open to others jumping in here but in what way should Christians today strive to have confidence in God's word in their daily lives. I think that's such an important question for us to come back to and recognize that we have this eternal abiding true word of God and will for us.
We we live in an age group which is surrounded by Bibles. I think I might shelf over here at about 15 and were just so surrounded by the Bible, but it's also easy for us to neglect or is easy for us not to devote the time and attention to it that we should and you go back whether you go back to Augustine you go back to Luther, you go back to Edwards. Edwards talk about a miser finding gold. What he said about the word of God. The whole treasure chest of gold and you think of the impact that just being in the Bible had on Luther.
So from 1510 1215 he's in the Psalms. He's in Galatians.
He's in Romans. He's reading these for himself and he's teaching these to a student and what comes of that.
What comes of that is the most significant moment in Western history in the 16th century, not just church history, but for all of the Western world, and it all comes back to that commitment to reading God's word and to allowing God's word to become part of our thinking and it's so easy for us.
We are bombarded with so many voices in our moment. We have so many opinions coming at us.
It's even difficult in this moment to find out what true news is we just feel overwhelmed with thanks, were not sure what to make of things and how to navigate these waters that we find ourselves, and we have a sure word we have the firm in certain insurer word and it's the word of God and it's the only thing that God promises to bless this word in our lives and the truth is that God's word never returns void.
I loved what Steve said when he was talking about the awakenings and say well from God's perspective and that's true of the word of God. We need to recognize that as we pour ourselves into God's word as we as we know God's word and as we study God's word.
As we seek to obey God's word and God will bring about the promises of that word in our lives and he will be faithful to us and so we just need to commit ourselves to that, we need to commit ourselves to that, as the people of God and asked the Church of God and as that Bible becomes part of who we are and as we proclaim it and live it. That is the best thing we can do for our neighbors and for the culture and for this moment that we find ourselves in.
I would love to piggyback on what Dr. Nichols has just said no one on planet Earth will ever be saved.
Apart from the word of God, and no one will ever be sanctified apart from word of God and so there is the sufficiency of the Scripture as we carry it to the nations. God will do his work. Isaiah 40 verse eight at the grass withers, the flower fades away, but the word of our God abides forever cultural trends, political movements, ideologies they will all pass away. There is only one thing that will endure both in this life and in the life to come, that will come out of this world and that is the written word of God. So let us pour ourselves into the ministry of the word in every way that we can spread it far and wide angle watch God do his work that she would get her teaching fellow Dr. Steven Lawson as he joined Sinclair Ferguson and Stephen Nichols in a conversation with Wigner Pres. Chris Larson thank you for joining us today for this special edition of Renewing Your Mind.
I also want to thank you for your faithful gifts in support of this program. As you continue to think about how were to live faithfully in this fallen world. Let me commend three helpful resources to you. The first is Dr. RC Sproul's book that addresses the very question were talking about today. How should I live in this world. The resource is Dr. Stephen Nichols DVD series, a time for confidence. Also, Dr. Derek Thomas's paperback book titled strength for the weary. We like for you to have all three of these resources for your donation of any amount to later ministries will be glad to send them your way. You can make a request to give your gift by calling us at 800-435-4343 or if you prefer, you can donate online at Renewing Your Mind God word by the way, if you'd like to view or listen to the conversation we just heard in its entirety. It is available on litigators YouTube channel and is titled, confident in the word of God. I do hope you're taking advantage of all of the resources rebate available online. You can always visit our archive of past Renewing Your Mind programs and listen for free and easy way to do that is with our free legionnaire app to find audio and video clips, articles, daily devotionals, and much more to search for Ligonier in your app store and I do hope you make plans to join us again tomorrow for Renewing Your Mind. The listener supported a lovely dinner ministries