Jeremy Walker

The Worshipper

There is only One who is truly worthy of worship. The instinct to worship is ripe and robust in the hearts of fallen men and women. Why does it seem to be diluted in the hearts of the saints? Why is it that the worship of the world puts to shame the worship of the one true and living God? Should not the glories and beauties of Christ capture and enrapture our hearts more than the fading glories and flawed beauties of this world? 

There is no doubt about his worship. Everyone knows the object of his worship, because he cannot stop talking about it. Even the way he dresses and behaves declares his commitment to his cause. On a Monday morning he is full of the activity of the previous day, recounting everything that took place in the recent worship.
Actually, his whole week revolves around worship. To be honest, it’s his whole life! His planning is meticulous, his preparation never lacking. Days and even weeks and months ahead he is making things ready to be where he belongs. No time is too early, no requirement is too demanding, no forethought is too extreme. He intends to worship, and he will do whatever it takes to be there. It it clear that worship is his absolute priority, and nothing gets in the way.
He also exhorts and encourages. It is wonderful to see how he is concerned not only for his own worship, but for the worship of others. If zeal is lacking, he is the first to draw alongside. If someone needs help to be at worship, he is quick to offer his. You can often see him rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep—so quick to share the delights of worship, so ready to put an arm around the shoulder of those who are cast down. He is very ready to remind people of glories past, and to point to the hope of future glory. He loves his fellow-worshippers with ardent love; they know that he has got their back. His wife knows what has the first place in his heart, and he’s been bringing his children to worship since they were babes-in-arms. They certainly won’t miss any opportunity to worship, and nothing and no-one is allowed to encroach on their family commitment, either.
And he supports and invests. He is always in his place. You know that if he is not present, it must be a real problem or a real sickness. Otherwise, there would be no excuse. People still laugh about the time he broke his leg and made special arrangements to be present. There is even a rumour that he nearly missed the birth of his first child because he wanted to be worshipping! Even his spending is arranged around his worship: the first portion of his salary is invested in worship. A certain amount is set aside, in addition to which he makes a number of freewill offerings and thank-offerings during the course of the year. And if there were a need, he would always be ready to sacrifice even more.
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A Pastoral Mistake

If I am God’s servant bringing God’s rule to bear in God’s church for God’s glory and the good of his beloved children, if I am a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ for the complete salvation of sinners, if I am a man who knows and trusts the influences and operations of the Holy Spirit bringing to bear the very truth he has made known, I need to be a man of the word, and we need to be a people of the Book.

I often make the same pastoral mistake. It is not deliberate, it is often well-intentioned, sometimes it is even hopeful. It is this: to presume upon the biblical knowledge of the people to whom I speak. I do not at all mean by this to deliver a backhanded insult, appearing to confess a shortcoming of my own while really assaulting the failings of others. If I am teacher, if am called to preach the word, to be ready in season and out of season, to convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching (2Tim 4:2), then I cannot presume upon the understanding of the saints. I cannot say things, even true, biblically-based, and scripturally-sound things, and assume that everyone picks up the quotation of God’s Word or makes the connections of various texts-in-context that may be hanging in my mind. Not everyone is thinking of the chapter where that is taught, or instinctively arriving at the same point in redemptive history on the basis of what has gone before, or seeing the types and shadows fulfilled, or ticking the box of a certain conclusion in systematic theology.
I need to remember this in a variety of settings. I need to remember it when I am preaching, so that I more regularly quote the Scriptures, and—when appropriate and helpful, and probably more often than I do—to turn people to a particular portion or passage, so that they can see it for themselves. I need to remember this in teaching, publicly or more privately, when I may be discoursing on some scriptural theme or principle which I assume is evident to all, but which may be entirely in shadow for someone who has not read or understood that portion of God’s Word, or who has only just come to faith, or who has never been taught these things before. I need to remember it in church members’ meetings, when there are, perhaps, complex or thorny matters of church polity and practice to address, some of which may be alien in principle and in practice to some of the members. I need to remember it in evangelising—not that I can ask open-air listeners to look at their Bibles, or even that I can always put a Bible in front of someone with whom I am speaking more informally, but rather that I can both emphasise that I am speaking from the Bible and encourage them to check.
I need to remember all this not just for unbelievers who may never have been exposed to the Scriptures, but for both new believers and for older Christians as well. Even new believers who have been for years under the sound of the gospel, perhaps under the soundest of ministries, or who were raised by godly parents in a well-ordered home, are likely to be encountering much as if for the first time. The Spirit of Christ has opened their eyes, and they are like people who have never really read their Bibles before! To be sure, we are hoping that the new life they have will vivify the entire framework of truth which they have been taught, but there are lively perceptions and lively connections which they have not yet made, and will not without someone to guide them. And older Christians, too, for various reasons, may be marked by confusion, suspicion, or accusation. I have heard saints of many years standing assure me that the plain teaching of the Bible is wrong, or claim some obscure (or even well-known) verse, poorly interpreted and carelessly handled, as trumping the clear instruction of the more obvious portions of the truth. Some do not so much manhandle as manipulate or even mutilate a text, making it mean what they wish or expect, in danger perhaps of twisting it even to their own destruction. (Now, do I leave that hanging, or do I refer to 2 Peter 3:16, so that people know where I got that language?) Some listen to a preacher or teacher (more often than not, online) with a novel interpretation, or have perhaps come from a religious background marked by ignorance or flawed, if not false, teaching, to which they cling. Some have been bruised by bad teaching in the past. Some just don’t read or engage with their Bibles—some are scared of portions of it, or seem to have spent a lifetime with their eyes going over the page but little truth penetrating the mind. Some are (perhaps natively) marked by suspicion and aggression, quick to accuse and slow to trust, often ready to impute something ugly, perhaps because they have never heard of it or thought of it before. Often people have had little training in basic thinking and learning, or have their own particular limitations.
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Pastor, Preach Repentance

Much contemporary preaching demands faith. This is right insofar as it goes, but it is not all. Preachers should not demand faith only. We are saved by faith in Christ, yes, but Christ saves us, through faith, from sin. He was called Jesus (literally, Savior) because he was going to save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). If the preaching of salvation through Christ has no reference to sin, then the people to whom we preach are robbed of the whole context of sin which gives penitent faith in Christ its significance. It is easier, even pleasant, to preach faith in Christ as the only necessary response to the proclamation of gospel truth, but it is sin to which sinners are attached.

True repentance grows in the gospel soil of God’s sovereign grace. Its roots comprise both biblically-informed grief over sin and biblically-informed apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ. Its trunk and branches are turning from sin and turning to God. Its fruit is the endeavor for new obedience in full dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
All this we have gleaned so far from looking at chapter 15 of the Second London Baptist Confession. The chapter now concludes by examining the necessity of preaching repentance in the light of what we know about sin:
Such is the provision which God hath made through Christ in the covenant of grace for the preservation of believers unto salvation; that although there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation; yet there is no sin so great that it shall bring damnation on them that repent; which makes the constant preaching of repentance necessary.
No Sin So Small
The Confession completes its treatment of repentance with some particular and searching counsel about the necessity of preaching repentance in the light of what we know about sin. As we noted when we began, every sin is grievous, and the “least” sin (as men perceive it) is sufficient for the condemnation of any man. However, that God is willing to forgive the sins of those who come to him in faith and repentance is the hope of the sinner, and must therefore be preached to sinners fully and freely.
Never underestimate sin. There is no sin so small but it deserves damnation. The wages of sin — all sin, each and every sin — is death (Rom. 6:23). In this sense, no sin should be considered small, as it brings so great a condemnation. The holy law of God is like a great and fragile object, perhaps a beautiful window or some other work of art, all made of one piece. If I make a crack in this great and fragile thing, no one accuses me of breaking only a part of it. The entire object is no longer whole. Thus it is with the law of God: to break it at all is to break it all (James 2.10). To stumble in any point is to become a lawbreaker, and therefore to be guilty, and deserving of punishment.
When David cries out for forgiveness in Psalm 51, there is a comprehensiveness in his desperate request. David is concerned for particular sins, yes, but with every particular sin also. He wants God to cleanse him from sin in its totality and sins in their plurality. He desires a complete cleansing (for example, Ps. 51:2, 7, 9), because he knows that one sin is fatal to peace with God. All this means that when we look at any man or woman, boy or girl, we are looking at someone who is a lawbreaker, who has offended the gracious and holy God, and is therefore liable to the just and fearful punishment of that God for the transgression of his revealed will. That proper and righteous punishment is death and hell. This is the horror of sin.
No Sin So Great
We should not underestimate sin, yet neither should we underestimate the Christ who saves us from sin. Here is cause for great praise and thanksgiving! Such is the provision which God has made through Christ in his covenant of grace for the preservation of believers unto salvation, that there is no sin so great that it shall bring damnation on them that repent.[1] The blood of Christ is sufficient to wash away the deepest stain of iniquity — his blood can make the foulest clean. The gospel offer, the gospel provision, for repenting sinners is that those whose sins are like scarlet shall be made as white as snow through the blood of the Lamb; though our sins are red like crimson, they shall be as pure new wool (Isa. 1:18).
All upon whom God has set his love are so provided for by the atoning blood of Christ in his propitiating sacrifice that each sin, all sin, and every sin can be covered, transgressions swept away as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). Again, this is no ground for sinning with impunity, but is rather the great motivation to holiness of life and fleeing every sin.
We should also be very clear in our minds and hearts, and in our preaching, about the certainty of forgiveness where true repentance is demonstrated. As we should ourselves repent with an “apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ,” so we should preach to others.
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