A PDF copy of this address is avilable here.
Address given Mr. Laurie Waller of Hull on Saturday 19 September 2009 at the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the opening of Cromwell Hall, Marshall Road, Levenshulme, Manchester.
Looking back is not what I am about. I think we want to be looking forward. As the hymn puts it, "Looking back we can but bless Thee, looking forward but adore." (Miss CH von Poseck 1859-1953) I have laid on my heart for this meeting, five points on which we might look into the future. And there are only three words in any of them, so there are only fifteen words for you to remember on this fiftieth anniversary.
Yes, there will be some here now who will be here in 2059 and we must ask ourselves the question "What can we give and what are we giving to younger people to sustain them through the next fifty years that has so evidently sustained us in the past fifty years?" And I think it is all Fellowshipd and comes down in a final issue - it's all to do with the Person of Christ. Who He is, what He has done, where He is and what He is going to do are matters which should be occupying us for the rest of our lives or until Jesus comes.
Where is He?
The first point I would make, and I've borrowed this one, I've bent the rules of Scriptural interpretation slightly for this - are in those wonderful words that the Magi brought when they came to see the young Child at Bethlehem. They said, "Where is He?" (Matthew 2:2, King James Version)
I'm sure many of you have been in gospel or other meetings where, "Where is He?" has been aligned against "Where art thou?" in Genesis 3:9 - the first question of the New Testament and of the Old - but it seems to me a wonderful question for us all at this fiftieth anniversary to ask ourselves in our hearts and lives, "Where is He?"
We can look back over fifty years, or most of us can, and the Lord has blessed us materially, circumstantially, economically, spiritually, but where He is in our lives is the matter which is of the utmost importance and a wonderful opportunity for us as we rightly rejoice, give thanks, and catch up on all the past news, and nostalgia sets in. But where He is in our hearts and lives seems to me to be the prima facie call for the hour.
Where He is in the eyes of God, God has set His King upon His holy hill of Zion (Psalm 2:6) A matter of what is happening to our Lord Jesus Christ, where is He in the plan of God? He is where God wants Him to be - at the Fellowship of all judgement, the Fellowship of all counsel, the Fellowship of all worship our Lord Jesus established on His holy hill.
Where is He as far as the world is concerned? He is rejected and neglected and despised. "Away with this Man" (Luke 23:18) was true 2,000 years ago, it will be true in 2059 - the world will still be saying, "Away with this Man!"
"Where is He in the assembly?" is a question we might well ask ourselves. Have we let go principles, truths and habits concerning the assembly? Some have needed to be let go, but let us ask ourselves, "Is He, according to Ephesians 1:22 Head of all things to the church? Is our Lord Jesus Christ the Head of the assembly, wherever, however, we may meet and gather, not only in Cromwell Hall, but Jesus is Lord, is one thing, but He is also the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18), the beginning. There is an order in the church - it doesn't include worship leaders, it doesn't include many things. So where He is in the church is something of cardinal importance. We must ask ourselves at this juncture.
Finally: Where is He in my heart and life? This is not a gospel meeting, but every meeting can be a gospel meeting. Let me ask you; is the Lord Jesus in your heart and in your life? Do you know Him, love Him, and confess Him, as your own living personal Saviour? If I tell you that the most important thing you can do in your life is to know that the Lord Jesus is your Lord and your Saviour, your Friend and Guide from death.
So "Where is He?" are the first three words I want you to remember. I would like to think as my contribution towards the effort at Cromwell Hall that you will in the succeeding days of life and in discussion of the problems that arise and in joys that flow in decisions that you have made that with your wife and family or with your husband and family or in your own home, you will from time to time say to the Lord, "Where is He?" So easy for us to be borne along in the rapid pace of 21st century living to think that we have all the answers. It has been manifestly proved in recent weeks that we certainly have not got all the answers - but here is One who has - our Lord Jesus Christ. I ask you to take these five points and to use them in your life to say "Where is He?" Perhaps you are a young couple deciding where to live - where is He in this matter? Perhaps you are a young man courting a young lady (a delightful occupation I remember it well!) - don't forget to ask, "Where is He?" in this matter. How many marriages have we seen break up, things have fallen apart that would have never happened if both had resolutely and faithfully said, "Where is He in this matter?" because Christ is the head of the house, Christ is the Head of the church, He is the Head of all things as far as God is concerned. So please take these words, not just as pegs to hang thoughts on, but as practical application and usefulness in your heart, in your life, and that of your family.
There is a hymn I would like to read to you:
O the bitter shame and sorrow,
That a time could ever be,
When I let the Saviour's pity
Plead in vain, and proudly answered,
"All of self, and none of Thee!"
Yet He found me; I beheld Him
Bleeding on the accursèd tree,
Heard Him pray, "Father, Forgive them,
And my wistful heart said faintly,
"Some of self, and some of Thee!"
Day by day His tender mercy,
Healing, helping, full and free,
Sweet and strong, and ah! so patient,
Brought me lower, while I whispered,
"Less of self, and more of Thee!"
Higher than the highest heavens,
Deeper than the deepest sea,
Lord, Thy love at last hath conquered:
Grant me now my supplication,
"None of self, and all of Thee!"
"Where is He?"
Hear Ye Him
The second phrase I would like to bring to you is in Matthew 17:5, from where we are going to extract only three words. The occasion is the Mount of Transfiguration where out Lord Jesus is manifesting His glory. Peter James and John are there. There are these wonderful words, "Let us make three tabernacles for you and for us", and the voice came from God didn't it, "Hear ye Him."
We have many voices appealing to us today. There is no-one equal to our Lord Jesus Christ, no Moses, no Elijah, no John the Baptist, though he was the greatest born amongst women according to the Lord Jesus (Matthew 11:11), but here we have in Scripture, all that is necessary, not just what people think, but what the Scripture says, and the Scripture says, "Hear ye Him"
It is a common thing in the established church these days for them to read the Scripture for the day and to say at the end of it, "This is the Word of the Lord." I'm going to quote for you know from the July 2009 issue of one denominational paper and the article is written by the former President of the Conference in his eleventh Bible Study, aiming to expand out visionary, shape our spirituality and empower our mission. He writes this. "I finished the Old Testament [reading] with the 'This is the Word of the Lord'. He then read about Christian marriage in Ephesians 5:22 and added the sentence, 'This is definitely not the word of the Lord.' The writer writes, "I can quite see why this passage which exhorts the wife to be subject to the husband can cause offence. Further, the very patriarchal idea of a husband being the head of a wife has no longer a place in our Western free democratic society. Though the believer still persists in an oppressive fundamentalist regimes and religions. (That's us by the way!) The next injunction about slaves and masters gives the game away, by showing that these ethical demands come from a time and place very different from our own." Listen to this, "We can therefore dismiss the lot as being irrelevant for today." That's by the former President of the Methodist church. It is one of a long string of attacks on the Holy Scriptures where "Hear ye Him" and what He has to say is brought to us in unequivocal language, that men have taken it upon themselves to take this Wonderful Book, to carve it, to chew it and dismiss it, and all that they want with it as long as it suits their needs.
Thank God for the testimony raised here in Cromwell Hall, and for many halls represented in this room today, "Hear ye Him" has come to us. We look upon this Book as the incontrovertibly infallible Word of God. (Incapable of error, infallible means.) Men and women gave their lives that we might have it in our hands today and it shouts to us in our generation and in the generations to come it shouts, "Hear ye Him." Again may I ask you in your lives, in your families, in your assembly, in your business, will you put the words, "Hear ye Him" across the daily ground of life to hear what He would say? Don't take any notice of the enlightenment or the modern teaching or the chewing of the Scriptures or the dispelling of Christian fellowship. Do you know that in the year 2030, it is predicted that 25% of people in the "Eurozone" will be Muslim? We will be in it by then. What will they be listening to? They will be listening to a regime and teaching that teaches them to blow each other up to get in to paradise, that teaches them to kill the Christian as fast as they possibly can. These are terrible things brethren, these are things that ought to alarm us to the fact that it is time that we rested of the basics of Christianity as given to us, as taught to us by our fathers and grandfathers, which has been handed to us by faithful men that we hear our Lord's voice unmistakably in the decisions we make and the actions that we do in the causes that we serve.
There are some strange voices coming from the established churches. Here's one from the Bishop of Durham, long since gone, the Rev. David Jenkins, in a radio broadcast on 15 May 1991, said the he did not believe that Christ will return to the earth in person. The Rt. Rev. David Jenkins told the BBC, "I think we have to understand that the imagery of the end of the world is symbolic and this notion of somebody descending in clouds is not to be taken literally." Some pastor, some shepherd, some idea of the truth! Or listen to the Rev. Dr. Leslie Weatherhead, he's one of three Methodists divines. Dr. Weatherhead himself loved men. Another was an able and gifted evangelist, Dr. Sangster, who loved souls and loved God. The third was Dr. Donald Soper, who loved an argument and nothing much more! Dr. Weatherhead, a past President of the Methodist conference said, "The doctrine [that is of the Virgin Birth and Conception], in any case is never unimportant - Christ never mentioned it, and it formed no part of the message of the early church." "In Hebrew and Greek," adds Dr. Weatherhead, "a virgin simply meant a mature young woman."
These are the sort of things, brethren, which have seeped into good Christian companies of people, where brick by brick radical Christianity has been dismantled in our life time, and we witness today a broken image." Let us not fear, because the Lord Jesus said at the founding of the church, that the gates of Hades would not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18 New King James Version) In God and in His Word we trust. Hear ye Him. The false prophets and the wrong voices of the day in which we are serve, as if nothing else, as a warning to us to be on our guard, lest certain men creep in unawares and cause havoc in the churches of which we attend. (jude 4, Acts 20:29-30). Hear ye Him.
It Is Finished
We have had, "Where is He?", "Here ye Him," and thirdly, wonderful words from the Gospel of John, chapter 19 and verse 30. Jesus cried with a loud voice, "It is finished."
This is the very bedrock of Christian preaching - the message that we have to proclaim is based on and worked by the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary's cross. This was no mere final gasp by the Lord Jesus; this was not some kind of collapsing or yielding to greater powers; it was a triumphant cry. The writers of the gospels make it plain that when Jesus spoke, He said with a loud voice these things, "Finished!" (Compare Matthew 27:50)
"Finished!" the word should be on its own but the three are put in for harmony's sake.
Finished! The long life of prophecies and the Scriptures fulfilled.
Finished! The types of shadows of Jewish ritual
Finished! The work that His Father gave Him to do
Finished! The pathway of an obedient earthly life
Finished! The work of man's redemption.
Finished! Let the word roll in volumes of triumphant melody cascading down the centuries in all its life-giving power.
It is finished. This strikes at the very heart of what is being dismantled in the day in way we live. Salvation is being portrayed as a reward for 'do-gooders' or something that we come to us if we wait long enough. But salvation is something, according to the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:3) which was brought to us by the work and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary's cross. We must never get away from this.
"It is finished was his cry, Now in heaven exalted high, Hallelujah! HALLELUJAH! What a Saviour!" (PP Bliss 1838-1876) That it is finished is a work and thing that we should never forget.
I never tire of trailing through the tenth chapter of Hebrews, and there reading, marking and delighting in the words that are written there, "that there remaineth [now therefore] no more sacrifice for sins" (Hebrews 10:26); No more offering for sins (Hebrews 10:18); No more conscience of sins (Hebrews 10:2) because the work of our Lord Jesus is complete. It can neither be added to nor taken away from and it is complete because He did it, bringing glory to the Father, blessing to men, honour to His Name, defeat to the devil and triumph to all who believe in His wonderful work. "Lifted up, was He to die" is how the verse starts (PP Bliss 1838-1876). "It is finished was His cry."
How we thank God for the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ. We didn't see these things, these things have come to us by faith and I would like to read to your some verses from another hymn. Just in case you thought a few moments ago that I had something against the Methodists, let me hasten to say that I don't. I was brought up in the Methodist family, and I'm reading to you from a Methodist hymn book, a book that begins with the wonderful words, "Methodism was born in song." And a more wonderful collection of hymns is difficult to find. But listen to this because it is helpful to us thinking that all these things may have happened long ago, but by faith we can enter into the good of these things.
We saw Thee not when Thou didst come
To this poor world of sin and death;
We ne'er beheld Thy humble home,
In that despisèd Nazareth.
But we believe Thy footsteps trod
Its plains and hills, Thou Son of God.
We did not see Thee lifted high,
Amid that wild and savage crew;
Nor heard Thy meek, imploring cry,
"Forgive, they know not what they do!"
Yet we believe the deed was done,
That shook the earth and veiled the sun.
We stood not by the empty tomb,
Where late Thy sacred body lay;
Nor sat within that upper room,
Nor met Thee in the open way.
But we believe that angels said,
"Why seek the living with the dead?"
We did not mark the chosen few,
When Thou didst through the clouds ascend,
First lift to Heaven their wondering view,
Then to the earth all prostrate bend;
Yet we believe that mortal eyes
Beheld that journey to the skies;
And now that Thou dost reign on high,
And thence Thy waiting people bless,
No ray of glory from the sky
Doth shine upon our wilderness;
But we believe Thy faithful Word,
And trust in our redeeming Lord;
These things beloved brethren are at the very heart of our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. They transcend personalities; they transcend lives that have interwoven with ours; they transcend every ambition and ideal that we have because they are Fellowshipd in the Person that God has set about all other persons, His Son, His only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
He Is Risen
Where is He? Hear Ye Him. It is finished. That automatically leads us on because we must read now from 1 Corinthians 15, because the words from Mark's Gospel, "He is risen" (Mark 16:6)
He is risen! HE IS RISEN! Amen! Thanks be to God. Let's read 1 Corinthians 15 1-8.
"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, He was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time." (King James Version)
If you look down that passage, you will see how Paul put the argument from verse 12, if Christ be preached… etc, if Christ be not raised we are of all men most miserable (verse 17) we are … false witnesses (verse 15), we are yet in our sins (verse 17). Those who have died have been forever lost. (verse 18) Everything revolves round verse 20, "But now is Christ [Jesus] risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept." To try in the confines of our time and business here today, it is impossible to enter upon anything lengthy about the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, but sufficient to say in the words of the chorus, "We serve a risen Saviour" (AH Ackley 1887-1960). Surely is anything charms and thrills and motivates our hearts and lives it is the fact that we are not looking into the grave of some erstwhile holy man; we are not looking at some ideal or alleged prophet sent down from heaven or someone who had dug up some golden tablets in a mountainside or any other falsified things such as that, we are talking about a risen, living, precious, coming Saviour.
The fact that Christ has died, buried and rose again is the absolute authorisation for all our faith, for all that we believe, for all that we trust for, for the judgement of wrong and wicked men in the giving out of what is good for the righteous, are all underwritten and authorised by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. [It] stands there as the assurance that God will yet judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained because He has appointed a day into which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He has raised from the dead, our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 17:31)
There resurrection of our Lord Jesus is there. He says "I was dead, but is now alive again for evermore" (Revelation 1:18). We are not serving a dead Saviour, we are not serving a god, we are not serving an idol or an image, we're serving a living Saviour. Furthermore, He is living in the presence of God at this moment as a Man. "He lives as Man before Thee, in cloudless light above" we sing (A Carruthers 1860-1930) and the fact that the Lord Jesus is risen, living again, not just living again, but living for evermore, I am alive for evermore says the Scripture (Revelation 1:18). We bless God and thank Him for His Son, our Risen, Living Saviour.
That brings us down our list. Where is He? He is in our hearts and lives. Is He the Head, is He the subject of all our conversation? Is He the One that matters when it comes to making up our minds? We have though a little about listening to Him, not His voice we saw Thee not when Thou didst come, (Anne R. Richter (d. 1857) modified by John H. Gurney (d. 1862)) but we hear His voice in the Word. Dr. Weatherhead, Dr. Jenkins and a whole host of other Doctors may do their best or do their worst as the case may be - they will not negate the power of the Word of God - it is alive for evermore. "Heaven and earth," Jesus said, "shall pass away, but my word abideth for ever (Matthew 24:35 and 1 Peter 1:23). We've delighted to think again of that fact that it is finished. "It is finished was His cry" (PP Bliss 1838-1876), and no more sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10:26). We've seen that He is risen. Risen no more to die, and the firstfruits of them who slept (1 Corinthians 15:20). We're the second fruits, we're the second at His coming we shall share. I think of the old hymn we used to sing, sadly no longer in any books I find these days with the verse,
And when He comes in bright array,
And leads the conqu'ring line,
It will be glory then to say,
That He's a Friend of mine.
I trust that He is your Friend too.
This Same Jesus
That brings us to almost the culmination of what I want to say to you, save that the fifth phrase we find in the opening chapter of the Acts. Remember that they, the dispirited few, the early disciples had gone out and they had heard the Word from the angel, Acts 1:8-11)
"But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you … And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This Same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven."
This Same Jesus (Acts 1:11). Does that thrill your heart? Does that make you feel glad that you are a Christian? Not only is He alive for evermore, He's coming back!
He's coming soon! He is coming soon!
With joy we welcome His returning,
It may be morn, it may be night or noon -
We know He is coming soon
He is not sending an angel - He is coming! This Same Jesus. Same should have a capital "S" - no lesser an authority than Mr. JN Darby himself says so, in his commentary. This Same Jesus is the same Jesus that we read of in the pages of the Gospels, the One who healed the leper; the One who brings to life Jairus' daughter; the One who heals the widow of Nain's grief and anguish; the One who puts the children on His knee. This Same Jesus, not a reinvented twenty-first century model of Him, not an angel, not a new power, not something dressed up. It is the Same Person, the Same Jesus who brought grace and truth in equal qualities.
The Acts of the Apostles is a most remarkable book. Luke has been called the greatest historian that ever lived (Sir William Ramsey). He covers 75 people and 54 places in his writing in the Acts, but it all begins with this Same Jesus. From this Same Jesus Who is coming again, the message of Christ's death and resurrection rolls out almost like a rocket. You know at Cape Canaveral, and other such places, they have the rockets stood there, and after they have had the countdown and all other things they have to do, someone lights it at the bottom, not quite a bad as that I'm sure, but suddenly there is a terrific "whoosh", as the mass is brought from stillness into movement to penetrate the atmosphere. That is really what the opening chapters of Acts are like, a tremendous "whoosh" that pushes the church out from its inconspicuous humble beginnings, a few men on a mountainside with some sisters with them, praying that God would bring blessing, and the Holy Spirit in a power incalculable and unrecognisable by man forces the message of the Gospel. Read about it from the resurrection right through the pages of the Acts, certainly up to Chapter 17 when Christ and the resurrection was preached people were saved.
So this Same Jesus Who went up in like manner will come again. What a wonderful blessed hope (Titus 2:3) this is. In the uncertain economical world in which live, what a privilege God has given us by His grace to be called His children and to be followers of our Lord Jesus Christ. The many voices that bid for out attention, our economical contribution, and our lifestyle today, they are wanting us to have this, that and something of everything, but we have a treasure that is beyond calculation, which is undying, and which will see us through time and into eternity, even our Lord Jesus Christ. We thank God for the blessings and encouragement and help He gives us as we seek to follow Him and as we seek to be witnesses for Him here "in Judaea, in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
As we draw to a close, I would like to direct our thoughts to 2 Timothy 4:8, the closing scenes of the great Apostle Paul's life, just after he speaks about having fought the fight and keeping the faith. He puts at the end a little clause that I think suits the occasions wonderfully today, and all those who love His appearing. To be those who love his appearing, fifty years has the message of our Lord Jesus coming again been preached in this hall. If the hall is here in another fifty years, may it be that the message of the coming of our Lord Jesus will be uttered, preached and spoken of enfolded, sung about, composed about because Jesus is coming again. Amen! Jesus is coming again. It is this Same Jesus, not a replica, by the Same One who loved and lived in this world, and may when He comes, He find our hearts waiting, expecting Him.
Do you expect Jesus to come today? Have you made your plans, if God wills? Or do you think, "It has to happen because I made it so?" Jesus is looking for those who love His appearing, who want Him to come. In 2 Thessalonians 3:5 Paul says, "The Lord directs your hearts into the patience of Christ" (JN Darby Translation. If we are waiting, what do you think that He is waiting for? But to have with Him the Bride of His choice and His making - the Church which He loved and gave Himself for.
We say to the lady preacher, who preaches the Word to both men and women, "This is not the word of the Lord." We believe it is the Word of the Lord that Jesus will come again and may we be found ready and waiting for Him.
For His Name's sake. Amen.
A PDF copy of this address is avilable here.