Apologetics

John Knox on Prayer

John Knox Wikipedia ImageWhen John Knox, the Scottish Reformer, was laid to rest in his grave, the Regent of Scotland said of him ‘There lies he who never feared the face of man.’ This reminds us of the paraphrase of Psalm 34: 9, which reads:-

Fear Him (that is, God) ye saints and you will then

Have nothing else to fear

Make you His service your delight

Your wants shall be His care.

I came across the following gem of a quote from John Knox. It concerns John Knox’s view of prayer. John Knox defined true prayer as:-

 

An earnest and familiar talking with God, to whom we declare our miseries, whose support and help we implore and desire in our adversities, and whom we laud and praise for our benefits received (cited in the Evangelical Times book review of August 2015).

 

Let us ponder and unpack this definition a little further:-

 

Talking to God

 

Prayer is ‘An earnest and familiar talking with God …’ said Knox. If that is true, it is indescribably wonderful and astonishing. If relatively few of us are granted the privilege of an audience with the Queen or the Prime Minister, how on earth can we ever get the ear of Almighty God – He who is the highest, unsurpassed and unsurpassable Authority of all? The Bible’s answer is that we can ‘through Jesus Christ our Lord’ – specifically ‘through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have now received our reconciliation’ (Romans 5:11). Jesus, by His death on the cross for our sins has reconciled all who believe in Him to God Himself. He has dealt with the enmity and alienation which separated us, namely our sin. ‘He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree’ (1 Peter 2:24). Amazingly, ‘through Him we … have access in one Spirit to the Father’ (Ephesians 2:18). Perhaps even more amazingly, through Christ, we are able to know and address God as ‘Father.’ ‘Adoption’ is one of the Bible’s many synonyms for Christian salvation:-

 

Adoption is an act of God’s free grace whereby we are received into the number and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God (Shorter Catechism).

 

One of the Christian’s ‘adoptive privileges’ is being able to talk to God in prayer, coming to Him confident in His love, just as an earthly child comes to its father.  Prayer then is, as Knox said ‘an earnest and familiar talking with God.’ Christians know Him as ‘Father.’ The word ‘Father’ connotes authority, and the word ‘Father’ also connotes dependence, intimacy, affection and love. The God of the Bible is never reluctant to hear His children’s prayers!

 

Receiving from God

 

Secondly, according to Knox, in prayer ‘we declare our miseries’ to God and ‘implore and desire His support and help in our adversities.’ John Know himself certainly lived through difficult – even perilous – times and circumstances. But he turned to God in his difficulties and knew His help, support and mercy in and through them. Every Christian will also know difficulty and experience troubles. Ease is guaranteed in the next life, but not this life! It is ‘through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God’ (Acts 14:22). Yet in all our difficulties and troubles, we have a God to whom we can turn for help and support. His wonderful invitation still prevails: ‘Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify me’ (Psalm 50:15).

Our God and Father is more than able to deliver us from whatever ails us. If though, in His superior wisdom, He sees fit not to do so, He will surely give us grace to live within the boundaries of the providence He has ordained for us. He has promised ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ (2 Corinthians 12:9). Prayer is a chief means of ‘tapping in’ to the all-sufficient sustaining grace of God. Finally, according to Knox, true prayer is also a matter of:-

 

Giving praise and thanks to God

 

When Knox states that prayer entails ‘lauding and praising God for our benefits received’ he was reiterating the teaching and exhortation of Scripture. The Psalmist wrote ‘Bless the LORD O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits’ (Psalm 103:1,2).

If we were to write down on paper all the benefits which almighty God, the ‘fount of every blessing’ bestows on us, we would be in danger of clearing the world of trees! Our God has given us life. Our God has sustained our lives to the present moment. He has fed us, clothed us, protected us and led us. He has bestowed on us infinite earthly blessings – and if we are Christians, we know that He has bestowed on us eternal blessings: the ‘solid joys and lasting treasures which none but Zion’s children know.’ We refer here to ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ’ (Ephesians 3:8) – the benefits which accrue to us by the death of Christ at Calvary: the forgiveness of sins, His imputed righteousness, peace with God, the sure hope of eternal life ET CETERA! God Himself is the one ‘whom we laud and praise for our benefits received.’ And when we numerate our blessings, we realise that we have just cause for doing so.

John Knox then knew a thing or two about prayer. His definition is not the final word on prayer, but it is well worth weighing and pondering. Let us have it in full again. True prayer is, he said:-

 

An earnest and familiar talking with God, to whom we declare our miseries, whose support and help we implore and desire in our adversities, and whom we laud and praise for our benefits received.

 

© Timothy Cross

 

 

Posted by Site Developer in Apologetics, Prayer, Reformation, Worship, 0 comments

September 11th

‘9/11’

 

Who could ever forget September 11th, 2001? ‘9/11’, as it is widely known, was the day when three thousand and forty five people suddenly lost their lives in a cruel, calculated terrorist attack in New York. The ramifications and repercussions of the day are still with us. It was a day which changed the world. The very mention of 9/11 triggers off in us our recollections of where we were and what we were doing at the time, and the mixed emotions of disbelief, numbness, sadness and outrage we then felt.

Writing as a Bible-believing Christian, and not as a politician, I ask the question: Does the Bible cast any light on that black day in the autumn of 2001? It does indeed:-

 

The Sovereignty of God

 

The Bible encourages us to see God’s providence behind absolutely everything that happens, with no exceptions. Behind ‘secondary causes’ – even the evil intentions of wicked men – there yet lies the sovereign will of God. The Shorter Catechism  reminds us that ‘The decrees of God are His eternal purpose, according to the counsel of His will, whereby, for His Own glory, He has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.’

We are forced to admit our limitations here. In fact, confessing our ignorance is a mark of intelligence. God’s ways are sometimes beyond us. After all, He is God! We, being finite creatures cannot always comprehend the infinite God. We can say though that He knows what He is doing, and He is worthy of our trust. ‘‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD’ (Isaiah 55:8). ‘How unreachable are His judgements, and how inscrutable His ways’ (Romans 11:33). God is infinitely different. ‘There is none holy like the LORD, there is none besides Thee’ (1 Samuel 2:2).

 

The Sin of Man

 

            The Bible diagnoses all the sorrow and disharmony of the world as being the result of human sin. Sin puts us out of fellowship with our Maker and each other. Sin manifests itself in myriads of painful, destructive ways. Romans 3 tells us that ‘all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin’ (v.9), and then – as we remember 9/11 – goes on to say that one of the consequences of sin is this: ‘Their feet are swift to shed blood, in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they do not know’ (vv. 15,16).

As sinners, we are all in need of salvation. And it is the Christian Gospel which ‘is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith’ (Romans 1:16).

 

The Fragility of Life

 

            Days such as September the eleventh remind us that life is brief and fragile, eternity is ever near, and this world is, at best, very uncertain. ‘You do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes’ (James 4:14). The shocks of this world can act as a wake-up call to us. We cannot assume a tomorrow or a next week. How vital it is therefore to be right with our Maker, as we could face Him at any time. The only way to be right with our Maker is to know that our sins are forgiven. The only way to be sure that our sins are forgiven is to trust in the Lord Jesus, God’s Son, the Saviour of sinners. Decisions in time affect eternity. Decisions on earth affect whether we will spend eternity in heaven or in hell. Hence 2 Corinthians 6:2: ‘Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.’

            In Luke 13, the Lord Jesus was asked about a certain tower which fell on eighteen people, killing them instantly. Jesus here refused to get involved in the kind of theological speculation and debate which 9/11 brought in its wake. Instead, He gave the stark warning: ‘Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish’ (v.5).

 

The Comfort of God

 

            Amidst the difficulties, perplexities, disappointments and even the devastations of this life, Christians have a resource of which the world knows nothing. We have a God to Whom we can turn. ‘The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows those who take refuge in Him’ (Nahum 1:7). ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though the waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult’ (Psalm 46:1-3).

 

The Promise of Peace to Come

 

            Christians know – on the authority of the Bible – that this world will not remain the way it is now for ever. One day, God will right all wrongs. He will punish evil doers eternally, and bring in His Kingdom of everlasting righteousness and peace. We pray for this future blessing every time we pray ‘Thy Kingdom come.’

            The ultimate goal of all history is the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. And when He comes again, there will be cosmic redemption. ‘According to His promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells’ (2 Peter 3:13). ‘They shall beat their swords into plough shares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more’ (Isaiah 2:4).

September the eleventh – 9/11. It is a day which will be for ever etched upon world history and in our minds and memories. Strange to report, but I have heard unbelievers audaciously railing against Almighty God for that human tragedy. How we react to devastation reveals much about the state of our souls. We either turn against God, or we seek Him more earnestly – cleaving to His promises and asking Him for help and comfort, being reassured from the Bible that He is actually working all things out for our good, and that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

As you read this though, I am aware that you may have your own version of 9/11 – a particularly sad and devastating day when your circumstances changed suddenly, and your whole world caved in. If so, may the following be balm to your troubled soul:-

 

O Child of God, this grief

That bows your spirit low

Is yours but half, for Christ Himself

Still shares His people’s woe

 

His wisdom planned it out

Then bore it on His heart

Till gently on your untried back

Love laid the lesser part

 

So take it with all joy

Together bear the cross

For while you suffer, He distils

A heaven from your loss

 

Beneath His secret will

Subscribe with ready pen

Add to this sorrow God has sent

A resolute ‘Amen’

 

Each day spend out in faith

Nor prove His labour vain

Cast still on Christ the pressing weight

Who only can sustain.

 

Article Copyright Timothy Cross

Posted by Site Developer in Apologetics, Providence, 1 comment

Tolerance

TOLERANCE: A CHRISTIAN VIRTUE?

 

In 1 John 4:1, the Apostle John – an intimate of the Lord Jesus – gives the following exhortation and warning to Christians: ‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.’

In our 21st century, multi-cultural, multi-faith, multi-lifestyle society, ‘toleration’ is definitely one of the spirits of the age. It is enjoined as a good, even a ‘Christian’ virtue. Thus one Nick Pratt (sic) is quoted in the Metro of 19/10/12 as being very angry when his son George was prohibited from joining the Scouts due to his professed atheism. Said Mr Pratt: ‘Christianity is meant to be about being tolerant, forgiving and understanding …’ But is a blanket ‘tolerance’ truly ‘of God’? What happens when we ‘test the spirits’?

 

  1. Consider the Person of God

 

Contrary to common belief, the God of the Bible is actually revealed as an intolerant God. He brooks no rivals for He has no rivals. Idolatry – that is, giving worship and honour to anyone or anything other than the one true God – is condemned in the Bible throughout its pages. The God of the Bible is jealous and zealous for His own glory. Thus in Exodus 34 He commanded His people to break down the altars and pillars of the false gods found in the land of Canaan. His reason for this was Himself. He affirmed ‘you shall worship no god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God’ (Exodus 34:14). The true God therefore is not tolerant but jealous. He demands, requires and is worthy of our exclusive obedience, allegiance and worship. He alone can affirm ‘I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other’ (Isaiah 42:8). And in the very first of the Ten Commandments – the summary of the moral law – God commands: ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3). The Shorter Catechism explains:-

 

The first commandment requireth us to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God and our God, and to worship and glorify Him accordingly.

 

The first commandment forbiddeth the denying or not worshipping and glorifying the true God as God and our God; and the giving of that worship and glory to any other which is due to Him alone.

 

  1. Consider the Law of God

 

The God of the Bible exercises no tolerance at all when it comes to the breaking of His law. As God our great creator, He has the right to lay down His law and demand obedience to it. Breaking His law is serious solely from the fact that it entails a rebellion against Himself – treason against the King of kings.  So in Galatians 3:10 we read ‘it is written ‘Cursed be every one who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law and do them.’’ So the God if the Bible is completely intolerant when it comes to punishing law breakers. They are liable to His ‘curse.’ Non Christians who rebel against God can expect His merciless judgement in the life to come. And even Christians who lapse and flout God’s law, can expect His chastisement in this life, for the God of the Bible is inflexible when it comes to the law He has laid down. The slightest infringement brings punishment: ‘For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it’ (James 2:10).

Will God punish all who have broken His law? Yes. But the Good News of the Gospel is that sinners may be pardoned and escape from the punishment they deserve, for in His wisdom and mercy, God devised a way whereby sinners could be justly pardoned. In sending His Son to die in the sinners place, and take their punishment, God was true to both the justice and love which lies at the heart of His nature. Calvary was the supreme demonstration of both God’s love and wrath – wrath in condemning sin, and mercy in pardoning the believing sinner: ‘to prove at the present time that He Himself is righteous and that He justifies those who have faith in Jesus’ (Romans 3:26). Which leads us to:-

 

  1. Consider the Salvation of God.

 

The Bible is intolerant when it comes to salvation, for according to the Bible, the salvation Christ procured at Calvary is an exclusive one – there is no other pardon for sin and there is no other way of salvation apart from the sacrifice of Christ on the cross: ‘And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under haven, given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12).

There were those in the province of Galatia who preached an alternative way of salvation from the cross of Christ. They ‘did it their way.’ In response, far from enjoining toleration, the Apostle Paul expressed his indignation and wrote one of the most intolerant letters of the New Testament. It is doubtful whether Galatians pass the censors today. Paul was gripped by the necessity of the cross –  its indispensibility for our salvation and the futility of seeking salvation anywhere else. ‘If justification were through the law (that is, our own efforts) then Christ died to no purpose’ (Galatians 2:21), he wrote.

 

So the exclusive nature of the Christian Faith does not sit easily with the current spirit of the age. Christian belief and behaviour are contrary to the current tide and world view which promotes ‘tolerance’ whilst, paradoxically, is increasingly intolerant of the Christian Faith. The words of the Saviour however still remain: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me’ (John 14:6).

Having considered something of the intolerance of the God of the Bible, along with the intolerance of His law and His salvation, the question is begged as to why He does not intervene straight away in fearful judgement. Isn’t our current world a total affront to Him? The answer is as follows. Paradoxically, again, the Bible reveals that almighty God is long-suffering as well as intolerant. In His great mercy, He tolerates sinners for a while. He exercises His patience with them so that they may come to Christ and be saved. Yes, intolerance is part of His holy nature. But He amazingly has His elect people, destined for eternal glory. So although He will surely intervene one day, He withholds His final judgement so that Christ’s church – the church of the redeemed – may be built. As Peter explained: ‘The Lord is not slow about His promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9). So whilst God’s intolerance is to be revered, His forbearance is fuel for our praise. Apart from the latter, we would not have come to saving faith in Christ.

 

Timothy Cross

Posted by Site Developer in Apologetics, Bible, Worship

Christianity is No Myth!

Christianity is no myth

 

I suspect that Dan O’Neill’s column concerning the ‘myth of Christ’ was written with his tongue firmly in his cheek (Echo, December 12th). The historical reality of the One born at Christmas  is confirmed every time we write the date. We currently live in the year 2012, or more fully, 2012 AD – that is, the ‘Year of our Lord’, 2012 years after the birth of Christ.

Dan also states that Matthew’s account of Christmas is based on ‘myths predating Christianity.’ This is not so. Matthew himself was one of the twelve disciples of the Lord Jesus. The information for his Gospel was thus gained first-hand, ‘at source.’ As a former tax officer, Matthew was used to the careful handling and presentation of hard facts. Matthew’s account of the first Christmas is complemented by Luke’s Gospel. Luke himself was a medical doctor. He was thus a scientist who only dealt with empirical evidence – and this he wrote down in his Gospel, after careful research.

What next of the aspersions Dan casts on Christ’s ‘virgin birth’?  The virgin conception of Christ is revealed in the Bible as a matter of fact, and  contained in all the historic creeds of Christendom. Whether this is believed or not depends on our presuppositions. If we believe in God, miracles such as the virgin birth of Christ present no difficulty, as the Almighty is not subject to our human limitations – ‘For with God nothing will be impossible’ (Luke 1:37). Interestingly, the fullest account of Christ’s virgin conception is contained in Luke’s Gospel. Dr Luke was not incredulous. The likelihood is that he gained the intimate details from Mary herself when he gained her confidence and, as it were, ‘took her into the surgery.’

All the above, of course, is of no concern to many, as the recent census reveals a decline in religious affiliation. A significant Christian minority however is still with us. These alone know the joyful reality behind Christmas –  the ‘Good News of a great joy … a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:10,11). A cursory scan of the Echo shows that we all need a Saviour. The Christian Gospel proclaims that the Christ Who was born at Christmas is God’s own gracious provision for our deepest need.

 

Dr Timothy Cross

18 Virgil Court

Grangetown

CARDIFF CF11 6PE

 

Tel. 02920224856

 

 

Posted by Site Developer in Apologetics, Bible