When the Potter is for Us

“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?” (Isaiah 45:9)

The majesty of God is magnified when we see him through the lens of creation out of nothing. He commands nothingness, and it obeys and becomes something.

Out of nothing he makes the clay, and out of the clay he makes us — the pottery of the Lord (Isaiah 45:9) — his possession, destined for his glory, in total dependence on him.

“Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3). It is a humbling thing to be a sheep and a pot that belong to somebody else.

There is another amazing statement about God’s majesty, which, when you put it together with God’s absolute power and rights as Creator, explodes with good news for us.

Isaiah 33:21! It says, “The Lord in majesty will be for us!”

For us! For us! The Creator is for us and not against us. With all the power in the universe and with absolute right to do as he pleases with what he made — he is for us!

“No eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him” (Isaiah 64:4). “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

Can you think of anything (I mean anything) that is more comforting and assuring and delighting than that the Lord in his majesty is for you?

– John Piper

Jesus is God’s Amen

All the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (2 Corinthians 1:20)

Prayer is the place where the past and future are linked repeatedly in our lives. I mention this here because Paul links prayer with God’s Amen in this verse in a striking way.

In 2 Corinthians 1:20, he says (with choppy Greek that comes through in choppy English), “That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” Let’s try to smooth that out.

Here’s what he is saying: “Therefore, because of Christ, we say Amen to God in our prayers to show that God gets the glory for the future grace we are counting on.”

If you’ve ever wondered why Christians say Amen at the end of our prayers and where that custom comes from, here’s the answer. Amen is a word taken straight over into Greek from Hebrew without any translation, just like it has come into English and most other languages without any translation.

In Hebrew, it was a very strong affirmation (see Numbers 5:22; Nehemiah 5:13; 8:6) — a formal, solemn, earnest “I agree,” or “I affirm what you just said,” or “This is true.” Most simply, “Amen” means a very earnest Yes in the context of addressing God.
Now notice the connection between the two halves of 2 Corinthians 1:20. The first half says, “All the promises of God find their Yes in him.” The second half says, “That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”
When you realize that “Amen” and “Yes” mean the same thing, here’s what the verse says: In Jesus Christ, God says his Yes to us through his promises; and in Christ we say our Yes to God through prayer.
– John Piper

Judgment–The Doctrine Lost to the Modern Pulpit, Pt 2

ENTERTAINED BY VIOLENCE
We should also recognize that our present world has de-sensitized itself against the terrors of hell by creating horrors of its own, both real and in the name of entertainment. Death and violence are shown on television and in films in such horrific ways as to become unreal, particularly to the young. Terrors must become even more shocking to have any impact at all. Those who live in the twentieth century are tending to become increasingly more blase and fearless towards all authority, law and order. In turn this breeds attitudes toward God of either total apathy or open rebellion.
This is not to suggest that we should ‘play the world at its own game’ and try to shock by drawing lurid word-pictures of what we may conceive hell to be like. Nothing less than the powerful conviction of the Holy Spirit working through faithful preaching of his Word will shake men from their present false sense of security. Our preaching needs to regain a proper balance between God’s law, judgement and eternal retribution for sin with the loving offer of God’s gracious pardon through Jesus Christ to hell deserving sinners.
Just as the joys of heaven are quite beyond our present imagination, so hell must be infinitely worse then our minds can grasp. The images of fire, darkness, chains, separation from God, are all suggestive of terrible prospects. Who among us can begin to fathom what an eternity of conscious remorse for sin and refusing Christ must mean? Truly Jesus says: ‘There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matt. 13.50). He warns, ‘ What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’ (Mark 8:37). In hell there is simply no respite. The occasional ‘glimpses’ we may catch of it are enough to convince us that this is a place of utter despair.
Thomas Boston, the 18th century Scottish divine, deals movingly with the awful tragedy of those who are still unregenerate, spiritually blind and hell-bent. In his book Human Nature in its Four-Fold State he writes:
If you knew your case, you would cry out: ‘Oh! darkness! darkness! darkness! The face covering is upon you already as condemned persons, so near are you to everlasting darkness. It is only Jesus Christ who can stop the execution, pull the napkin off the face of the condemned malefactor, and put a pardon in his hand.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne felt the urgency of this doctrine. On one occasion when journeying on his pony he took shelter from the rain in an engine house of a quarry. He simply pointed to the fire of the furnace, and said: What does that remind you of?’ Some time later the man who had been tending the furnace came and told M’Cheyne how God had used that ‘word in season’ to his own salvation.
M’Cheyne would often visit dying parishioners on Saturday afternoons. He said that before preaching he ‘liked to look over the verge!’ He was like Richard Baxter of Kidderminster of whom it was said that ‘he preached as a dying man to dying men’. We need this urgency in preaching today!
A MESSAGE FOR US TODAY
Yet what immense difficulties we confront. How may we preach this terrible truth to men? For a start, does the world we live in not seem remote from all this? Do not so many people around us today live in nice homes, wear fashionable clothes, hold educational qualifications and enjoy respectable positions in life? We may more easily envisage heaven. Are we therefore fools to feel concerned that hell is real and judgement will come?
We must remember that Jesus said: ‘As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away’ (Matt. 24:37-39). It is only faith that sees beyond this present world and only faith in God’s Word that holds us in the knowledge that these things are irresistibly certain and will come to pass in the end.
Of all truths we must first preach this to our own hearts. We need to feel and see the utter tragedy of countless multitudes who rush blindly on to perdition. Never will we preach it unless we first believe it ourselves.
But believe it we must, and preach it we must! Not as ranters, but earnestly, lovingly, persuasively, calling young and old alike to escape from God’s righteous anger against sin and to flee to Christ whose blood was spilled to save all who in faith will call upon his name. We must study how we may restore this note of warning into our regular evangelical preaching and to correct the distortion and imbalance brought upon the preaching of the gospel over this past century.
John Bunyan is still true to life in our day and age when he has the family and neighbors of Pilgrim mock his warnings to escape from the City of Destruction. ‘He is mad! Put him to bed’ is the only response they can make. We are likely to receive similar ridicule from many quarters today if we speak of hell.
Yet we should remember that we stand in the best of company — alongside Enoch and Noah, John the Baptist, the apostles — yes, and even in company with our Lord himself. May God raise up faithful preachers of his Word who will courageously and graciously declare this difficult but necessary truth to a careless, dying world.
– Howard Davies

Judgment: The Doctrine Lost to the Modern Pulpit, Pt 1

In John Bunyan’s book, The Pilgrim’s Progress, the story begins with Christian discovering news which causes him great alarm. Clothed in rags and with a burden upon his back, he is distressed to learn from a book he has been reading that the city he lives in is soon to be destroyed by fire from heaven. He tells his wife and children of their terrible danger. They must immediately try to escape.

But the response of his family is to think he has gone mad! As night is coming on, they hasten to put him to bed in the hope that he might recover his senses by morning. However, the next day they find him even more troubled. He wanders alone in the fields, sighing and reading from the book in his hands. Occasionally he is heard to cry out: ‘What must I do to be saved?’

In days of great spiritual darkness those called by God to preach the gospel have a sobering task. Our present world is still as Bunyan saw it. It is the City of Destruction. Mankind lies under the same certainty of coming judgement from heaven. Yet tragically, the clear note of warning in preaching has all but disappeared. The truths of final judgement and hell have long been omitted from most modern preaching. Hell has become the forgotten doctrine of the twentieth century.

FALSE PHILOSOPHY

This change can be traced back to the late 18th and 19th centuries and the so-called ‘age of enlightenment’. Attacks upon the inspiration of Scripture sprang from claims that human reason was above the Word of God. The outcome of this view was that anything in Scripture which seemed unreasonable or unpalatable to man’s natural mind began to be disputed and rejected.

While the Church from the beginning had taught the certainty of hell and eternal punishment view which denied this teaching began to creep in. Annihilation, conditional immortality and universalism are all deviations which fly in the face of Scripture. As J. I. Packer has pointed out, each it a variation of the theme that either ‘God is too good to damn men’, or that ‘men are too good to be damned’. Such views have made deep inroads into the Church, causing the virtual disappearance of the doctrine of hell in preaching. This omission is far more damaging than most writers realize.

FIERY PREACHERS

General William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army, was most forthright in preaching the doctrine of hell. His sermons show how often he took up this theme and how lovingly he warned men and women to turn to the only Savior of mankind. Perhaps best known of all his sermons is ‘Who cares?’ (published in The War Cry of June 20, 1885) in which he graphically depicted his vision of a Rock in the midst of a raging sea where men, women and children were everywhere perishing. Nearly twenty years later, when his life was nearly ended, Booth had not weakened in his preaching of this truth. In 1904 he urged his officers to–

“Make people fell the truth as regards judgement, heaven and hell. All around you there is growing up a great peril of unbelief on these questions. You must fight it! … Men sleep on the verge of hell. You must fight to awaken them! You must startle them out of the fatal stupor in which they stand all unheeding on the brink of a burning hell!”

Perhaps the most remarkable sermon on hell was preached by Jonathan Edwards at Enfield, North America, in 1741. The sermon was called ‘Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God’ and was based on the text: ‘Their foot shall slip in due time’ (Deut. 32:35). Using most dramatic language, Edwards pictured natural man held by life’s thin thread over the pit of hell. Although many have criticized Edwards for what they consider to be ‘exaggerated descriptions of hell’, his motivation was correct. Edwards recognized the eternal issues at stake. He concluded his sermon by saying–

“This is an awful subject! May it be blessed for the awakening of unconverted souls to the conviction of their danger!… Let everyone who is out of Christ now awaken and flee from the wrath to come! The wrath of God is now undoubtedly hanging over this nation, or even over many in church congregations. Heed the angel’s message to Lot in Sodom:’Escape for your life! Do not look behind you. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.”

Bunyan would have approved. Indeed, the one whose approval counts above all others was himself the most awesome preacher of this doctrine. The terrible warnings of hell given by Jesus in the gospels must be forgotten.

In this ‘enlightened age’, all who preach God’s Word are under pressure to adopt wrong attitudes towards the doctrine of final retribution. The fact that this doctrine is so rarely mentioned gives hearers the impression that hell is nothing more than a curious idea from earlier centuries now made irrelevant by modern sophistication. To most preachers, hell has become a subject of embarrassment rather than a terrible and certain reality.

This has led to the doctrine of hell being isolated from all other doctrines. Failure to recognize that Christian doctrine must be viewed as a complete and integrated unit, rather than individual, loosely-related truths, always has a debilitating effect upon preaching. Not to preach and teach the awful reality of hell progressively weakens the doctrines of sin, law, judgement, the wrath of God, and the atoning blood of Christ. Indeed, even the character of God is impugned. Does God not mean what he says?

When the doctrine of hell is omitted, it follows that the terms ‘saved’ and ‘salvation’ become meaningless. This is why modern man neither sees nor feels the slightest need to come to Christ. And why should he? He feels no danger. What has he to fear? Certainly nothing from the ‘God of love’ so blandly promised by many today. Hearers are too easily assured. Many now preach as if all in congregations are assumed to be saved, and emphasis has swung away from need for the powerful inner work of regeneration by God’s Spirit alone to calls for ‘re-dedication’.

On one occasion when George Whitefield was in America, he sat under the thorough preaching of Gilbert Tennent. Whitefield later said: “I never before heard such a searching sermon. Hypocrites must soon be converted or enraged at his preaching! I fear I have brought comfort too soon!”

All this is a far cry from much evangelism today. Nowadays the typical example of ‘a successful growing Community church’ boasts of worship styles described as ‘fun!’ Because the goal is numbers, those who attend must always leave feeling good about themselves. This requires that ‘negative words and concepts’, such as law, wrath, judgement and hell must be studiously avoided in the rush for success.

Not surprisingly, modern-day conversions too often lack evidence of deep heart-conviction or mourning over sin. Many now vaguely speak of being ‘saved from their sins’ or even of ‘what Jesus has added to their lifestyle’. Most have no consciousness at all of having been saved from judgement and the awesome finality of eternal hell. It never seems to enter their head. And little wonder, for who has bothered to tell them? If the doctrine of hell is no longer part of the gospel, then surely we must question what the term ‘salvation’ means.

Should God graciously permit true revival to come again in these last days, there is one characteristic we may expect to find. It is that men, women and children will all receive a deep sense of the awe and greatness of God. In revival, men realize how dreadful is the nature of sin and how righteous is God. In revival, men begin to see how terrible it is to be eternally lost and how certain is divine judgement. A study of revivals show that ‘the fear of God’ is always present. That there is so little fear and awe of God in the churches today is sobering evidence against the claims of some who seem to confuse revival with noise and numbers.

to be continued–

Howard Davies

What I Have Learned from Charles Spurgeon

On Sunday morning, August 5, 1855, 21-year-old Charles Haddon Spurgeon stepped behind the pulpit of New Park Street Chapel, London, to challenge his congregation to follow the example of one of the saints who had inspired his ministry, the apostle Paul. ‘As a preacher of the word,’ Spurgeon said of Paul, ‘he stands out pre-eminently as the prince of preachers and a preacher to kings.’

Young Spurgeon’s description of Paul was prophetic of his own future ministry. Within a few short years of that Sabbath morning, Spurgeon also earned the nickname ‘the prince of preachers’ as he proclaimed God’s word to congregants from every stratum of society. The boy preacher from humble beginnings even became the ‘preacher t kings’ as members of the British royal family filled his pews.
LESSONS FROM THE PRINCE OF PREACHERS

‘Spurgeon approached the Bible on his knees.’ I first heard the name ‘Spurgeon’ as a young boy in Scotland. However, when I became a man, and began to read his sermons and writings, he endeared himself to me even more. Today, as a minister, I find in his work and life a wonderful example of what it means to be a preacher of the gospel.

1) Preach the Word. As Spurgeon stood before the congregation of New Park Street Chapel that same August Sunday to discuss what it means to preach the word, he pointed his listeners to the veracity and sufficiency of the Scriptures. ‘Am I to take God’s Bible and sever it and say, “This is husk and this is wheat?”‘ Spurgeon said, ‘Am I to cast away any one truth and say, “I dare not preach it”? No — God forbid!’
Throughout his ministry, Charles Spurgeon maintained an unwavering commitment to the word of God. Over time it became apparent that whether he was preaching in the Crystal Palace, before thousands in the Metropolitan Tabernacle, or with his students, Spurgeon was a man of integrity. His integrity, however, extended beyond his own personal life to encompass his concern for the gospel and theology. His preaching was forever crystal clear and Jesus-centered — qualities that have chased me down through the corridors of time to make me an unabashed fan of Spurgeon.

2) Cultivate the Heart of a Shepherd. Following the example of his Good Shepherd, Spurgeon was filled with compassion for sinners and longed to see them safely returned to the fold of God. Spurgeon firmly believed God lovedsaving the lost. It was a conviction that fueled his ministry. His tremendous longing to see men and women respond to the offer of the gospel was only matched by his intolerance for those who tainted the gospel of grace with the fallacy of works.

‘I find a great many preachers are preaching that kind of doctrine,’ Spurgeon said. ‘They tell a poor convicted sinner, “You must go home and pray and read the Scriptures; you must attend the ministry.” Works, works, works — instead of, “By grace are you saved through faith”‘ (see Ephesians 2:8).

‘It is easier to spend five hours preparing for a sermon that to consecrate five minutes to prayer for our people.’

Spurgeon was also committed to tenderly feed his flock. Although he had very little formal education, there was something of genius about him. He read the primary sources of theological works, then took those incredibly complex concepts and distilled them down in a way that ensured the youngest person and the least educated person in the room could understand them. His clear and simple sermons are a shining example for all modern preachers to emulate.

3) Seek Godliness over Giftedness. Spurgeon was an absolute sensation in his time, preaching to over ten million people. During each service, stenographers recorded his message. At the end of evening, the sermon was sent to print to be sold in shops and rail stations the next morning. Yet, for all his gifts and influence, Spurgeon was a humble man.

There was nothing superficial or showy about him. He approached the Bible on his knees. He seemed to have a deep awareness that he had been called by the grace of God, and that it was that same grace which empowered and equipped him for the privilege of ministry. This genuine humility of heart allowed him to realize he could plant and water, but only God could make things grow. ‘Remember,’ Spurgeon admonished the congregation of New Park Street Chapel, ‘both trowel and mortar must come from him. The life, the voice, the talent, the imagination, the eloquence — all are the gifts of God!’

Spurgeon was convinced that the dangerous sin of pride could find him anywhere, even in the pulpit. Perhaps today’s ministers are even more vulnerable to hubris than in Spurgeon’s day. With the advent of social media in which ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ are the baseline for success, it is all too easy for a pastor to lose sight of the life of sacrifice to which he has been called.

As shepherds of God’s people, we are to give ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word, but it is far easier to spend five hours in preparation for a sermon than it is to consecrate five minutes to prayer for our people. We think the congregation needs our giftedness, but the truth is, what they really need is our godliness.

God has called us to be servants, not celebrities. It is important for us to be in the hospital visiting the sick, and at the bedsides of those facing death. When we allow ‘the weed of pride’ to take root in our ministries, we soil the reputation of the gospel by embracing a double standard that allows us to proclaim certain truths without living in the light of the very messages we proclaim.

Let’s not kid ourselves. It is not what people say about us or what we say about ourselves that matters, but what God says about us.
Jesus is the chief Shepherd: we are the under shepherds. It was this pattern of ministry that Spurgeon exemplified for me. May I, along with all of God’s servants who endeavor to preach the gospel, hold firmly to the pattern set before us, fulfilling our call to ministry with holy reverence. May we all say with the apostle Paul and with Spurgeon, ‘Woe unto us if we preach not the gospel!’

– Alistair Begg

God Works Through Good Resolves

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power. (2 Thessalonians 1:11)

Seeking the power of God to fulfill our good resolves does not mean that we don’t really resolve, or that we don’t really use willpower.
The engagement of God’s power never takes the place of the engagement of our will! The power of God in sanctification never makes us passive! The power of God engages itself beneath or behind and within our will, not in place of our will.

The evidence of God’s power in our lives is not the absence of our willing, but the strength of our willing, the joy of our willing.
Anyone who says, “Well, I believe in the sovereignty of God and so I will just sit back and do nothing” does not really believe in the sovereignty of God. For why would someone who believes in God’s sovereignty so blatantly disobey him?

When you sit back to do nothing, you are not doing nothing. You are actively engaging your will in a decision to sit back. And if that is the way you handle sin or temptation in your life, it is blatant disobedience, because we are commanded to wage a good warfare (1 Timothy 1:18) and resist the devil (James 4:7) and strive for holiness (Hebrews 12:14) and put to death the sinful acts of the body (Romans 8:13).

Second Thessalonians 1:11 says that it is by the power of God that we will fulfill our good resolves and our works of faith. But this does not nullify the meaning of the word “resolve” and the word “work.” Part of the whole process of walking worthy of God’s call is the active engagement of our will in resolving to do righteousness.

If you have lingering sin in your life, or if you keep neglecting some good deed just because you have been waiting around to be saved without a fight, you are compounding your disobedience. God will never appear with power in your will in any other way than through your exercise of that will; that is, through your good resolves — your good intentions and plans and purposes.

So, people who believe in the sovereignty of God must not fear to engage their wills in the struggle for holiness. “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24). Only strive in the faith that in and through your striving God is at work to will and to do his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
– John Piper

Real Truth Matters’ Major Announcement!

Real Truth Matters Ministries is moving to the Lone Star State! RTM is relocating to Texas. After a series of providential events and much prayer, we’re moving our ministry to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. And because RTM believes that all ministries should be based out of a local church with local church accountability, our ministry will be a part of Providence Chapel, a church located in Denton, Tx.

RTM’s direction will not change just because we change location. We believe this move will help us better fulfill our ministry objectives. The Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex offers a host of resources, but one is extremely important for RTM—the DFW International Airport. Having access to the fourth busiest airport in the US will be such a blessing. The primary ministry outreach of RTM is my preaching ministry. This year we have many overseas preaching events. Already on our schedule for 2018 is preaching in the countries of Canada, Cambodia, Jordan, Romania, and the Republic of Moldova. Not only will this help in international travel, but from DFW we have direct access to most cities in the US.

We ask that you will continue to pray and support this ministry as you have in the past. We are a faith-based ministry. We do not make appeals for offerings or help. We share our needs with the Lord only and desperately depend on Him for all provision. He has never failed us, and we know He never will.

We are also updating the website, to be revealed later this spring. We are investing in professional recording equipment that I can take with me in small luggage so we can start recording my sermons and publish them on the website. This has been difficult to do during 2017 relying upon churches and their recording devices. That is why we posted so little on the web from last year’s preaching.

I want to thank Sophie McDonald, assistant editor for the RTM magazine, for her outstanding years of service to this ministry. Sophie will not be making the move with us. She has developed the magazine to be one of the premier Christian web-based magazines. We will miss her. The magazine will continue with four issues a year.

Lastly, we hope to be in Texas starting March 13. Our temporary mailing address will be:

Real Truth Matters
800 Silvermoon Dr.
Little Elm, Tx. 75068.

Thank you for all you do for us. We pray you enjoy the Lord’s presence and fellowship in ever increasing ways.

Where Our Comfort Comes From

He [Pilate] entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” (John 19:9–11)

Pilate’s authority to crucify Jesus did not intimidate Jesus. Why not?
Not because Pilate was lying. Not because he didn’t have authority to crucify Jesus. He did.
Rather, this authority did not intimidate Jesus because it was derivative. Jesus said, “It was given to you from above.” Which means it is really authoritative. Not less. But more.
So, how is this not intimidating? Pilate not only has authority to kill Jesus. But he has God-given authority to kill him.
This does not intimidate Jesus because Pilate’s authority over Jesus is subordinate to God’s authority over Pilate. Jesus gets his comfort at this moment not because Pilate’s will is powerless, but because Pilate’s will is guided. Not because Jesus isn’t in the hands of Pilate’s fear, but because Pilate is in the hands of Jesus’s Father.
Which means that our comfort comes not from the powerlessness of our enemies, but from our Father’s sovereign rule over their power.
This is the point of Romans 8:35–37. Tribulation and distress and persecution and famine and nakedness and danger and sword cannot separate us from Christ because “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
Pilate (and all Jesus’s adversaries — and ours) meant it for evil. But God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20). All Jesus’s enemies gathered together with their God-given authority “to do whatever [God’s] hand and [God’s] plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:28). They sinned. But through their sinning God saved.
Therefore, do not be intimidated by your adversaries who can only kill the body (Matthew 10:28). Not only because this is all they can do (Luke 12:4), but also because it is done under the watchful hand of your Father.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6–7)

Pilate has authority. Herod has authority. Soldiers have authority. Satan has authority. But none is independent. All their authority is derivative. All of it is subordinate to God’s will. Fear not. You are precious to your sovereign Father. Far more precious than the unforgotten birds.
– John Piper

The Perfect City

He has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:16)

No pollution, no graffiti, no trash, no peeling paint or rotting garages, no dead grass or broken bottles, no harsh street talk, no in-your-face confrontations, no domestic strife or violence, no dangers in the night, no arson or lying or stealing or killing, no vandalism, and no ugliness.

The city of God will be perfect because God will be in it. He will walk in it and talk in it and manifest himself in every part of it. All that is good and beautiful and holy and peaceful and true and happy will be there, because God will be there.

Perfect justice will be there and recompense a thousandfold for every pain suffered in obedience to Christ in this world. And it will never deteriorate. In fact, it will shine brighter and brighter as eternity stretches out into unending ages of increasing joy.

When you desire this city above everything else on the earth, then you honor God, who, according to Hebrews 11:10, is the designer and builder of the city. And when God is honored, he is pleased and not ashamed to be called your God.

– John Piper

Conrad Murrell (1928-2018) : The Passing of One Valiant for Truth

The passing of a man of God always brings special memories and attention to those who knew that man. With some of God’s servants, it really can be called the end of an era or at least, the end of something very special.

This is the case with the home call of Herbert Conrad Murrell on Friday mid-afternoon in Bentley, Louisiana at the age of 89 years. I think of Conrad’s own words he spoke about his own father’s death, “Forever with the Lord!” Now it is true of him–forever with the Lord. His life and ministry, ever since his conversion at age 25, has been a fragrance of Christ to countless numbers of people. That is always a tribute to the mercy and grace of God toward his child. Nothing good is of ourselves, but only comes to us from above.

Every generation seems to have a special man of God (or several simultaneously) arrive on the scene at the right time in God’s kingdom to serve uniquely as a prophet or anointed preacher of God’s truth, to impact their generation in a special way, well beyond the norm. Only God can raise up such men–Elijah, Daniel, John the Baptist, Luther, Knox, Whitefield, and others. R. C. Sproul, who departed this life also around nine weeks ago, seemed to be just such a man, whose impact widely would far exceed what the man himself probably envisioned. Conrad was in such a category himself. It is my opinion that, while he did not have as wide or as large a ministry as many great men have–C. H. Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones or Sproul–those men had nothing on Conrad Murrell. His was an equal intellect, equal spiritual gifts, equal godliness, and an equal powerful ministry.

Frank Bartleman, in speaking of men of God in history, said–

In the various crises that have occurred in the history of the church, men have come to the front that have manifested a holy recklessness that astonished their peers . . . . so it has been in all ages. When the religious condition of the times called for men who were willing to sacrifice all for Christ, the demand created the supply; there have always been a few who have been willing to be regarded reckless for the Lord. An utter recklessness concerning men’s opinions and other consequences is the only attitude that can meet the need of the present times.

Conrad was just such a man. He was marked by fearless courage fueled by the fear of God, and no sense of self-importance. He could preach to well-known or “important” people of this world and have no desire at all to impress them, then turn around and share a meal with a simple unknown person, and treated them with the same loving respect he would anyone else.

His health caused him to cease from public ministry in the fall of 2014, but his life continued to bless those he was around, and those who came to visit him. It reminds me of what Luke says of Paul in Acts 28:24–“He [Paul] dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him.” That was how Conrad finished his race, in his own home, receiving all who came to him, loving them, and enjoying time with them as long as his health allowed, until he could no longer hold conscious fellowship with anyone except God. But who knows what he heard, thought, and felt in the hidden man of the heart, as he waited his departure time?

He was a beloved brother, a faithful friend, a fearless preacher, a loving pastor, a real shepherd, a teacher with advanced intellect and gifts, a wise man above his peers, a teacher and mentor to many preachers, and one who was truly valiant for truth.

When our mutual friend, Al Whittinghill, heard of Conrad’s gain in death, he thought of Isaiah 57:1–“The righteous man perishes, and no man takes it to heart . . . . he shall enter into peace.” Bentley, Louisiana was graced with a prophet of God in their midst for over fifty years, and few there even knew it, and most of those who did, did not choose to sit under his ministry. Many today in Grant Parish have no idea that one of the finest and godliest men of their generation in the nation just passed to heaven right near where they live. No one takes it to heart. But may those who did know him, hear him, profit from him, and love him, take his death to heart today.

He is loved, is missed, will be remembered with love, and the fragrance of his life and legacy will continue. He being dead, yet speaketh. That voice points us not to Conrad, but to the Savior he so wonderfully preached and served. Take heed, brethren . . . . God sent him to us to profit withal. What a gift and what a blessing Conrad Murrell was and is–forever with the Lord!

– Mack Tomlinson