As the world frightened itself in the darkness of Halloween, the Church of Jesus Christ has marked the 500th Anniversary of the ‘start’ of The Reformation. On 31st October 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door of Wittenberg. This sparked a discussion which was to lead many across Europe to a renewed understanding of the Bible Truths that underpin our faith.
In November we, as a church, will mark the 40th anniversary of the opening of our new church building. As you know, last year we marked the starting of the witness that became known as Alma Street Baptist Church. It is good at these times to remind ourselves of what was said by key people at those times. Mr Harrison, in his vote of thanks at the church dedication service, mentioned various people, but most significantly said,
“Above all we would render praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God under whose providential care all this provision has been made. It is our desire to use that which He has entrusted to us for His glory. In an age of uncertainty, confusion and despondency He calls us to make known the unchanging message of the everlasting gospel that is always man’s only hope. His Word, the Bible, is our authority, and its message of salvation for sinners by His grace and through faith in His eternal Son, the Lord Jesus Christ is the message that we shall endeavour to proclaim in and from our new home.”
Similarly Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, preaching from Joshua 4, asked the question “What mean these stones?” This was a popular question with Dr Lloyd-Jones and the subject of his final sermon when he preached at the opening of Barcombe Baptist Chapel in 1980.
I don’t want to regurgitate his sermon, but would like to draw out some principles from this passage. Notice that children form a significant part of Joshua’s teaching. It is they who ask the question in v.21. We should be open to the questions of children, because we have a responsibility to fill their minds with good things. Notice too that the question is addressed to fathers. As parents, particularly fathers, we are to be ready to answer the questions of our children. Our Lord has time for children, even when people thought that they should not bother him. Let us never tire of the great gift of children in our families and in our church.
Joshua was concerned that a rising generation should be able to relate the great works of God on behalf of His people. In verse 23 he refers to both the crossing of the Jordan as well as the earlier crossing of the Red Sea. These events were separated by 40 years, because God’s own redeemed people had not been willing to trust Him to lead them into the Promised Land that He had already prepared for them. As God’s people we must acknowledge that daily God calls us to trust Him and that is not always easy, but faith demands trust.
Joshua however was not only concerned with historical events, but ultimately he was concerned “that
1. all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty,
2. that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (v.24)
This two-sided vision is good for us to focus on as we celebrate another anniversary. At a time when our God is despised by many in the public arena, it would be good for us to remind them of how God has provided our building and has kept it open these forty years. Not only has he done that, but he has used the members of this church to spread this message to many other countries of the world, through our own missionaries, but also others that we have supported. Also we can tell people of the power of our God in saving many through the work of the church. Even though they may have moved away for work of other reasons yet they still walk with God.
The second side of this vision relates to us as God’s people. We are to live in holy reverence for God all the days of our lives. It is all too easy to emphasise the great teaching of grace, but our god is holy and we too are to be a holy people. As we move into another decade together may we do so conscious that we are to honour Him in all things.
Your grateful pastor,
Bernard Lewis November 2017