Sabbatical Day Two: The EMA at the Barbican


Over 1200 preachers from 30 nations gathered today at the Barbican in London for the first of three days of encouragement to keep going. The conference is called “Leaders who Last”, which is a great subject for a weary pastor on day two of his sabbatical.

I caught up with friends from college days, and some from before and after those days. It’s always good to see others persevering in Christian ministry.  Oh, and two Tweetups, with Dave Bish and Gary McMurray, who I only knew through Twitter before today.

Church of Ireland minister, Gary McMurray, who I met today for the first time.

Church of Ireland minister, Gary McMurray, who I met today for the first time.

I’ll post my notes below, but first, here’s the scorecard from my round at Finchley Golf Club this evening.  A few hours of solitude in the summer sun, praising God for creation, especially the green woodpecker which flew across a fairway, was a great tonic after being surrounded by so many folk today.

Notes from the EMA today:

Simon Manchester Day 1 Session 1 Exodus 34

Moses persevered when the people of God turned their back on their Saviour and Lord.

The disobedience

The people ask for a visible God, representation if Yahweh. They want to domesticate God.

National idolatry leads to national immorality and revelry.

Increasing strangers to God follows from increasing idolatry.

The mediation.

God speaks with Moses and feeds him the lines he will say.

God provides a gap for Moses to stand-in. It was only Jesus who could stand in that gap. A gap of intercession, mediation and substitution.

  1. Moses asked God to relent
  2. Moses appealed to the promises of God
  3. God forgives the sins of his people for another’s sake. Moses could not sacrifice himself, God would not bloke home out, but someone someday would be bnloked out for his people.
  4. God reveals his glory
  5. God shows that he will persevere with his people as sinners as he prepares them for eternal glory.

God is utterly compassionate and is utterly just (Ex 34:6-7)

Like Moses, we can look down as pastors and be discouraged by the sinfulness of his people and become easily convinced of our own failure and abounding sin: our own pride, impurity, anger, feebleness in prayer and ineffectiveness.  We need to know and experience the character, purposes, forgiveness, mercy and perseverance of God. Beware of having an imbalanced knowledge of God’s character. His promises and purposes will not fail.  He will persevere.

Vaughan Roberts Day 1 S 2

John Newton – how to last in ministry – here’s a man who had lived in the deepest pits of wickedness and immorality, converted and backslidden to deeper immorality than his pre-conversion. Yet, he learned to depend on Christ through discouragements, sins, struggles and failures and was sanctified and greatly used by the Lord.

  1. Never stop delighting in God’s grace.
  2. Keep focused on Christ and his cross.
  3. Be disciplined in devotion. Keeping focused on Christ is the greatest struggle in ministry. Coldness must be avoided by devotion, not cold theology. Devote the morning to reading and prayer and an hour in the evening. Daily hungering and thirsting after Christ, longer on Saturday evening.
  4. Maintain close relationships.  John Newton’s wife, Mary, was his close companion.  He thought he needed to work harder, she thought he overworked.  Colleagues and friends within the church, people he easily gathered to share fellowship.  Don’t end up isolated. Married or unmarried, maintain close relationships.
  5. Suffer well.  Suffering can be used by God to expose sin, like a nest of snakes disturbed within us, which hiss and raise their heads.

Don Carson Preaching John’s epistles.  EMA D1 S3

Some scripture has shades of grey. (e.g. Judges)

Some is absolutist (e.g. apocalyptic)

John is both absolutist (1 John 2:9ff) and grey (1 John 1:8ff)

Background. Preach the text, not the background, but the background can influence our reading.

Is the background antagonism proto-gnosticism or anti-resurrection. The protagonist voice, the way we preach, depends, to some extent, on which school of thought John was addressing. The epistle is true either way, but this point stands.

There are cycles in 1 John which would be repetitious if you were not aware before preaching. Second cycle, pick out the differences whilst reinforcing the original points.

Reserve the surprises for the end of the preaching series. Don’t give everything away. Have a scheme in mind before starting.

3 tests for church discipline and exclusion.  Gross moral breach. Major doctrinal deviation. Schismatic activity and personality.

1 John makes an important contribution to Christian assurance. We know that we have come to know him…(2:3, 3:19, 5:13).

Faith increases as clarity of the object of faith increases.

Work hard a certain challenging texts in 1 John.  “You do not need anyone to teach you.”  Is John saying “only I can teach you.) Or is this a reference to Jer 32?  Part of the priests’ job was to feed the flock on the truth of Scripture.

Gnostics saw themselves as superior to everyone else in church and so demanded that people listen to them. They claimed to know God’s voice when in fact they used this line of argument to gain power and influence. John is clear that all believers have received the Spirit of God and so know the truth (1John 4:1ff).

Chewing gum in class is prohibited. It makes no sense to say “ontologically speaking, you’re wrong because I am chewing gum.” Sin is not allowed. It is prohibited. We can’t excuse it. That is why we need a mediator, propitiary work of Christ.

1 John sets out our connection with the apostolic gospel.  Fellowship ISA working relationship.

Devote some attention to the eschatology of 1 John.  The anti-Christ is coming and there are many anti-Christs, as there is already a Christ.  (4:3, 2:28, 3:1-3). eschatology functions as moral and faith incentive.

Save the last line of 1 John until the last word of the sermon series. If you distort the revelation about Jesus, then you create an idol.  Teach the truth.

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