I used to find it really helpful at the New Year, not only to reflect on the Year that is past, but also to make ‘resolutions’ for the year that lies ahead. The usual ones (lose weight, exercise more, be more organised, manage my finances better, be nicer on social media, get off social media!) seldom lasted beyond the end of January. This year I am not making a list – instead there is just one wish/desire/prayer that I have.
John Newton writing to a friend in 1776 observed about his own situation, in words that reflect mine in 2018.
“I am still supported, and in some measure owned, in the pleasing service of preaching the glorious gospel to my fellow sinners; and I am still happy in an affectionate, united people. Many have been removed to a better world, but others have been added to us; so that I believe our numbers have been rather increased than diminished from year to year”.
Yesterday in St Peters we ended the year, as we usually do, with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. We had the privilege of welcoming into our fellowship a new member who a couple of years ago was not even attending church. As I listened to her give her testimony in her own words to the elders, it was a moving and joyful occasion. My desire for the New Year is simply to ask the Lord ‘more please!”. I long to see people being brought from darkness to light, from deadness to life, from despair to hope, from hatred to love, from trust in self to faith in Christ.
When you see people being genuinely converted/reborn/renewed it is a wonderful and joyful thing. It’s not just the angels in heaven who rejoice over one sinner who repents – it’s also the saints on earth. I want to see the world changed. I want to see my city changed. I want to see God glorified. And the best way for those things to happen is for the dead (in sins and trespasses) to be raised to newness of life.
Robert Murray McCheyne once argued that he would rather beg for bread than want success in the preaching of the Gospel. By success he did not mean a large church or great reputation – he simply meant people coming to know Christ. I understand that totally. It is also my desire. Over the years I have been privileged to see the power of God at work through his gospel and to see a good number come to know the Lord. This is not a boast. How could it be? I have no ability whatsoever to make people believe. I cannot convict, convert or change anyone – that is the work of the Holy Spirit. But that doesn’t mean I sit back and wait for him to get on with it. Its because I believe in his power that I can work confidently in the knowledge that the Word of God will not return to him empty, but will always accomplish the purpose for which it was sent.
I was prompted to reflect on this, not only by our new member, but also by coming across this message I received a couple of years ago:
“About three years ago I was given your book (The Dawkins Letters). When I read it David it had a huge impact. I hadn’t read The God delusion. Your reasoning / arguments were good, although I was thinking of some counter responses as I read it. But what really made a difference for me was by the time I had finished reading it I realised what you had that Dawkins (and I) didn’t. Love. Meaning. Purpose. Hope. That came across really clearly to me- Christianity has the answers that really matter. You showed love in the way you replied to Dawkins. And I sensed it- not just answers/theories, but something real. On the heels of reading your book God worked in my life in various other ways, until by His Grace He restored me in a wonderful way into a right relationship with Him. Hallelujah! Our God is an awesome God!”
O Lord God Almighty, grant that through the proclamation of the glorious Gospel of your Son Jesus Christ, by the power and working of your Holy Spirit, many may this year be reborn and brought into newness of life, given the gift of your Spirit and be added to your Church, for your glory. Amen.