Words for the World: Rejoicing in God’s Global Use of Christian Literature

Desiring God 2007 Conference for Pastors | Minneapolis

There was a little boy walking on the beach with his father, and he saw the beautiful seascape and he saw the people enjoying themselves on the beach, and he saw a donkey. And he said to his dad, “Dad, do see that donkey?” His dad said, “Yeah.” And he said, “Dad, that donkey must be a Christian donkey.” His dad said, “A Christian donkey? How is that?” He said, “Well, it’s got such a long face.” I tell that story because on Sunday night at Bethlehem, there were two guys there from the Dominican Republic speaking and they said something which has influenced me and I think has changed me, I hope so anyway.

The pastor got up and he said, “I was a Fundamentalist Baptist. Now after that I became a Reformed Baptist. And now, I’m a joyful Reformed Baptist.” So he has formed a new denomination and I’m going to call it the JRBs, and I hope that I’ll join another denomination called the JRPs, the Joyful Reformed Presbyterians.

Can we read a few verses from Scripture, and if you would like to stand with me for that, it’s in Psalm 67. It’s one of the great Psalms, a great prayer from the Old Testament. Please hear God’s word from Psalm 67:1–7:

May God be gracious to us and bless us
     and make his face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known on earth,
     your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
     let all the peoples praise you!

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
     for you judge the peoples with equity
     and guide the nations upon earth.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
     let all the peoples praise you!

The earth has yielded its increase;
     God, our God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us;
     let all the ends of the earth fear him!

Only One Book

Sir Walter Scott, the great Scottish novelist was on his deathbed in Galashiels, Scotland. His nurse was at his bedside and he said to his nurse, “Read to me.” He was dying on his deathbed, in his library. She replied, “What book will I read to you? This room is full of books.” And Sir Walter Scott replied, “There is only one book.” And as a backdrop to everything I say that is important, there is only one book. It must be first and last. We need it here to study it. We need it here to be under it, and we need it here to have it in our hearts. “Your word I have hid in my heart.” It’s the Psalmist in 119:92 who says, “Unless in your word I found delights, I would’ve perished.”

John the apostle was in rocky Patmos. He was old, he was suffering. He was the last surviving apostle. He was lonely, his friend Antipas had been killed. But then he heard a voice behind him and he turned and he saw one like unto the Son of Man. The consequence was he fell at his feet as dead. But what happened next? Can you remember what happened next? The Lord laid his right hand on him and said essentially two things, “Fear not and write.” Writing is important to God. The phrase “as it is written” appears 400 times in Scripture. Remember the rest of the letters to the seven churches of Asia as it is he was told to write to them.

Spurgeon, on speaking in that passage in Timothy says, “Paul was old. Paul was about to die. He was imprisoned in Rome and yet he was saying, ‘I’ve written most of the New Testament, I’ve preached for 30 years, but bring me my books.’” Books are important. Are they important to you, as important as they should be? And that’s my objective today, to encourage you to see what can be done with Christian literature.

My outline is some observations about our world today from my perspective. Secondly, ways in which God has used Christian literature in the past. Thirdly, ways in which he’s using it today. And finally, three challenges: books for the preacher, books for the congregation and from the congregation, and literature for children.

Observations on the World

Firstly, some observations on our world. The population of the world when William Carey went to India was 750 million, which is less than the population of India today. How does it affect me? That’s the question we must ask ourselves that multitudes are passing from time to eternity and have never heard about Jesus. There’s a story about John Welsh, John Knox’s son-in-law, in France. His wife was concerned to see he wasn’t sleeping. She said, “John, what’s wrong?” He said, “I have 3,000 souls and I do not know how it is with every one of them.” Do you know how it is with everyone in your congregation? Do you know how it is with everyone in your community?

We heard the verse mentioned yesterday. It’s powerful and precious to me. It says, “Rivers of water from mine eyes did run down when I saw how wicked men run on in sin and do not keep thy law” (Psalm 119:136). Have you and I wept over our cities and our communities? Political correctness is overcoming the Western world. Our prime minister, Tony Blair, takes with him the Bible. That’s wonderful, isn’t it? But he also takes the Quran. One of our leading Anglican bishops recently said, “I’m not sure if God exists.” Robin Cook, a member of the British cabinet who died recently wanted it to be told at his funeral that he was a Presbyterian atheist. You’ll be glad it wasn’t a Presbyterian Baptist, won’t you?

Melanie Phillips, a journalist of some standing in Britain recently wrote asking the question, “Will it soon be a crime to be a Christian? Yes, even the Muslim will see Jesus is top of the class.” Absolute rubbish. He is not top of the class. He is in a class of his own. Richard Dawkins, we’ve heard of him already this week, the author of the book The God Delusion, says in that book, “The worst form of child abuse is teaching Christianity to children.” Richard Dawkins is considered to be one of the three leading intellectuals in the world. He won the Michael Faraday prize for his efforts from the Royal Society. He is the professor of public understanding in Oxford. The following is one paragraph out of his new book, The God Delusion. It has sold a million copies in Britain and is expected to sell four to five million copies in North America. I struggled about deciding whether to read this paragraph to you because it’s so terrible, but I thought I should. I thought we must know what’s going on in our world today. This is what he says:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character of all fiction — jealous and proud of it. A petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak, vindictive, bloodthirsty . . .

I can’t carry on. It annoys me intensely and saddens me. And you say that’s bad enough and I agree, but what’s worse is what’s on the back of that book. Philip Pullman writes there. And the children of the world are reading Philip Pullman’s books. He says, “Children deserve to read it. This book should have a place in every school library, especially in the library of faith schools.” That’s the culture to which you are bringing God’s word.

The State of the Church

What is happening in the church? Thankfully there is growth in many parts of the world, but sadly not in the Western culture as I see it. There is an uncertain note being declared from the church. We are riddled with errors. We have for 100 or 150 years been drifting. Now, drifting is a very easy, gentle thing. You just drift a little at a time. We’ve drifted so far that a leading — I do not call him an evangelical anymore — British evangelical has published a book recently in which he says that our understanding of penal substitution is nothing less than “cosmic child abuse.” Did you hear what he said? And are you not weeping in your heart that that’s coming from a Christian publisher? We have been accommodating the world around us. The church is in danger of saying, “Come to us and your financial and health problems will be resolved. Come to us because you’ll feel good, you’ll look good, and you’ll sound good.”

I think there are three models of church in the world today. The first is the entertainment model. I’m all for out with the glam and in with the sun, and now I’m a JRP, remember? But worship is not a performance, it’s participation. I thought in America I would get an amen for that. The second model is the service station. It’s a clinic where I get my needs met. Sure, God does care deeply about our needs. He heals the brokenhearted, but worship is not navel gazing. The third model is the lecture hall, and I think in the evangelical Reformed community, this is possibly the most serious one. Out come the pencils and out come the notebooks. Worship is about learning, about Bible knowledge. No, it’s about adoration. Oh, come let us adore him. Son, daughter, give me your heart, not your pen. The main Protestant denominations in Britain are divided over civil partnerships. Practicing homosexuals are in the pulpits of Britain, and I think of the pulpits here too, as far as I can judge.

Eric Alexander has warned of the dangers of consumer worship, people choosing what pleases them. Eric said, “I’m all for consumer worship, provided you recognize who the consumer is.” Who’s the consumer? God. Objective truth and clear statements of doctrine are out of fashion. The Bible has become a recipe book. It’s not a recipe book. People think when you want to do something you go to it and you get it and you refer to it. The Bible is food and meat and drink and milk. I need it every day, all day, all the time. Remember Jeremiah, he said, “Your words were found and I did eat them, and they became the joy and rejoicing of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16). This was the prophet who had a congregation of three who was told, “You mustn’t go to parties,” and yet wrote the largest book in the Bible. I don’t think many of us publishers would want his manuscript.

Endless Searching

Our society is desperately searching. The words of the Rolling Stones lyric reflect my lifetime, “I have an emptiness deep inside.” The family is decaying. Fifty percent of the children born in North America are out of wedlock. There are 31,000 suicides in North America every year. Where are the temples of your cities? You know what they are. They’re the sports stadium. It’s the Mall of America. Go to the Mall of America. Os Guiness had it right when he said, “We are now living in a generation who would like a fit body but are quite content with a fat mind.”

The media is all aspirational. They’ve learned it all, and it’s amazing how good they are at it. It’s the most religious thing around today. It’s the advertising. The next cruise will meet your deepest needs. And I’ve noticed just even since I came here, most of the advertising for cosmetics is for 40 to 50-year-olds. There’s nothing as far as I can see for people over 60 like me. Andrew Carnegie for Carnegie Hall was once asked, “How much money does it take to make a man happy?” And he said, “A little more.” How different from the biblical reminder to live in the light of eternity to take up the cross. You are sent out as sheep amongst wolves.

There’s a disease in Britain that’s been in the news since I came here too that we are worried about, and I think the world has reason to worry about it, it’s called Asian bird flu. From this disease, 200,000 turkeys were destroyed this week in England. You haven’t got it yet, but you’ve got a far worse one. And I’ve got the same disease, I’ve got it too. I call it affluenza. I struggle with it. How I need Christiana’s prayer. Do you remember Pilgrim’s Progress Volume 2, Christiana’s prayer? You see the picture of the guy with the muckrake and the crown above his head. Christiana’s prayer was, “Oh, deliver me from this muckrake.” Are you and I raking in the muck of this world when, as Charnock said, “Nothing less than Christ will satisfy. And when you find him, nothing more could be desired.” Is that right?

A Great Blinding Work

Friends, there is a battle for the hearts and minds of the human race. We are told in Corinthians that the God of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers. What has happened despite all our technological advancements, we have less time for what is important, be it our God, our family, our community, or our soul.

How much time is spent watching television? Well the UK figures are that those under 60 are watching 25 hours a week and those over 60 are watching more. Rubbish in, rubbish out. It’s just possible that many in your congregation are spending more time on television by far — 25 times or 30 times more time — than they are listening to your message. How about putting this verse on your television set? Psalm 119:37, “Turn thou away my sight and eyes from viewing vanity.”

There are $137 million of takings in the last two months for the film Borat. Utter rubbish. Your people are watching it, your young people are watching it, and ministers are watching it. I’ve spoken to two ministers not so long ago who thought it was hilarious that evangelical ministers turn away our sight and eyes from viewing it.

We are challenged to redeem the time because the place that now knows us now will soon know us no more forever. Don’t build your nest in the forest of this world for God has given the forest to death. If you and your people spend 15 minutes — did you hear what I said? — reading good Christian books, they will read 20 average books in a year, a thousand books in a lifetime. As we look at our world, its politics, the church, and society, I am disconcerted. And how glad I am that the battle is not ours.

He has said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Oh brother, lift your eyes and see that the fields are white and ready to harvest and bring to our world your good news. We sang it so lovely this morning already, “Your God reigns.” That’s a little bit of our society as I see it, you’ll have your own views on it.

The Legacy of Christian Literature

Secondly, how God has used Christian literature in the past. John Wesley was definitely the most traveled individual of the day. He covered in all the equivalent of 10 times around the world, most of it on horseback. In all their travels, he and his brother Charles preached 40,000 times. How did it all start? He was 35 years old on the 24th of May 1738 he writes:

In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where someone was reading. Luther’s preface to the epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I trusted in Christ — Christ alone for salvation — and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death. The next day, I awakened. Jesus, master was in my heart and in my mouth and I found all my strength laying, keeping my eye fixed on him and my soul waiting for him.

God used a book for Wesley. George Whitfield said:

When I was 16 years old, I fasted twice a week for 36 hours at a time. I prayed all the time. I didn’t know what it was to be born again. I bear testament to my friend Charles Wesley. He put a book into my hand called the Life of God in the Soul of Man, where God showed me that I must be born again or damned. I know the place, I cannot help running to that place where Jesus first revealed himself to me and gave me the new birth. “Lord,” I said, “if I’m not a Christian, if I’m not a real one, God for Jesus’s sake show me what Christianity is, that I may not be damned at the last.” Oh. What ray of divine life did then break in upon my poor soul.

God used a book for Whitfield. Have you read that book? Who’s read that book, The Life of God in the Soul of Man? There’s not 50 of us here that have read that book. That is one of the most significant books. It was written by Henry Scougal. He died at 27. He was a professor of theology in Aberdeen. It was virtually the only thing he ever wrote. In his preaching, he made ejaculatory shouts to heaven for help. He was concerned that what he preached impacted his own life before he brought it to others. And you know what Whitfield did.

Books That Inspire Books

Come now to Jonathan Edwards, your great theologian. Something good was sent to him from Scotland, 500 copies, a short document, anonymous from a group of Scottish pastors. This deeply impacted Edwards and it led him to write a book. It has three different titles. The first one has 145 words, I’ll not take up your time with that. The second one has 43 words, I’ll not take up your time with that. But the third one is A Call to United Extraordinary Prayer. How many of you have read that? That’s worse. This book did little in Edwards’s lifetime. Three years after he wrote it, he was dismissed from his church. And seven years later he died. Was that the end of the story? Far from it. It became the manifesto of the Great Awakening — A Call to United Extraordinary prayer.

The next paragraph I’m going to read because I can’t get it right without reading it. Richard Sibbes, a Puritan, wrote a book called The Bruised Reed. It was picked up by a tin peddler who gave it to a boy called Richard Baxter, who through reading it became the saintly Richard Baxter of Kidderminster. Eventually he was to write a book called A Call to the Unconverted. This inspired a man called Philip Doddridge who in turn wrote a book called The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul. This went into the hands of William Wilberforce, changed his life, who became the great campaigner against slavery. His book, A Practical View of Christianity, lit up the soul of Lee Richmond, whose subsequent book, The Dairyman’s Daughter, not only became the chief influence in the life of Queen Victoria, but was influential in the life of Thomas Chalmers, whose preaching impacted the world, and who in a period of about eight years built 216 churches.

It started with a little book. The chain is amazing and all through history the incidents of literature being used are amazing and an encouragement to the ministry in which I’m engaged and to which you are also called. Let us be up and doing while it is called today.

Christian Literature in the World Today

Here’s a little bit about how God is using literature in the world today. An inmate from Virginia Penitentiary wrote to our office, the envelope was stamped with the prison’s name. It was from a man called John Haynes and this is what he said:

I was put in solitary confinement and I deserved to be there. At 5:30 a.m. there was nothing to do. I found a tattered, mildewed copy of a book, so I started to read it. I had never read a Christian book in my life before. At half past two the following morning I gave my life to the Lord Jesus. Since coming out of solitary confinement, I have shared my experience and story with 100 other inmates. We now have a daily Bible study for 19.

What was the book? It was a book that was written hundreds of years ago by John Owen, The Mortification of Sin. Jim Packer says that he owes more to that little book than to any other book apart from the Bible. I’m not going to embarrass myself or you by asking how many of you have read it. Books work when you cannot.

A mother gave a copy of a book to her wayward son, Ian, hoping it would affect him and that he would read it. He didn’t and she died. A number of years later, having nothing better to do on a Sunday evening, he said, “I’ll take this book off the shelf.” He did. He took it off, and both he and his wife were converted that evening. He is now a minister of the gospel. He visited us. I took him into the warehouse and he picked the book off the shelf and he said, “That’s it.” And I said, “What do you mean that’s it?” He said, “That’s the boot that led me to Jesus.” What was the book? It’s called Around the Wicket Gate by C.H. Spurgeon.

All of us rejoiced at what happened when the Berlin Wall fell and remarkable things have been happening in Eastern Europe since. I could spend an hour telling you what’s happening in Eastern Europe. Two weeks ago I had an email from a lady in Albania who runs a children’s ministry. Her ministry is with young people. Her name is Bessa. This is what the email says:

Yesterday, 16 teenagers committed their lives to Jesus during their time together studying the book 40 Days with Jesus by Dominic Smart.

This book was done simultaneously in six languages, and 50,000 copies of it went to Eastern Europe. We are aware of the problems in the Arab world. How encouraging to know that a group of Jordanians have arranged for some little books of ours, hundreds of thousands of them, to go to the children of the Arab world. They said the children in Iraq, it’s gray because there’s going to be a bomb or it’s black because there is one. They arrange for the production and distribution through churches in Iraq just before Christmas.

Great Influence Through a Small Means

Jenny is an MS sufferer, terminally ill with cancer and she is a paraplegic. She has Scottish roots. She made her last visit to Scotland some three months ago and is expected to die. She lives on the Swiss-French border. At a church conference, I had 50 copies of a little piece of literature and I threw them out into the audience. Somebody picked one up, a Christian lady, and she put it in her pocket. She was meeting Jenny and taking her to the airport. Jenny is a Christian and she handed her the little piece of literature.

Jenny got onto the British Airways plane and her morphine pump came out. She passed into a coma. She was taken back to Switzerland, and was in a coma for 10 days. The hospital there advertised for a speech therapist when she came round. An Australian girl was in a shower, she was on a world trip in the shower, she heard the advert on the radio, and she said, “I could do with the money.” She applied for the job, she came to help Jenny get her speech back. But Jenny couldn’t speak to her. She took out the little booklet and handed it to this Australian girl, and the Australian girl was converted.

And the first I knew about it was the Australian girl phoned our office for 100 copies of it and she’s done that almost every week since. There are 100 people she’s been in touch with every week since. How many people have you been in touch with? That story doesn’t finish there. She had a Moroccan nurse. She gave to the Moroccan nurse a Muslim’s Pocket Guide to Christianity. The nurse was converted. The nurse was concerned about her children in Morocco. Jenny arranged for the children from Morocco to come to Switzerland. And the story goes on. It is a long, long story. God’s still using literature.

Books for the Preacher

Three areas of challenge, books for the preacher. Here’s John Wesley addressing you. He’s known you for 10 years and he’s visited your congregation, and this is what he says:

What has exceedingly hurt you in time past and I fear to this day is a want of reading. I scarce ever saw a preacher who read so little, and perhaps by neglecting it you have lost a taste for it. Your talent in preaching does not increase, it’s just as bad as it was seven years ago. It’s lively, but it’s not deep. There is no compass of thought. There is no variety. Reading only can supply you with this with meditation and daily prayer.

Are your people fed or fed up? Your primary responsibility is to feed the flock. You’re not a CEO, you’re not a cab driver, you’re not an administrator, you’re not to entertain them. Give attention to prayer and to the ministry of the word, and do it in utter dependence on the Holy Spirit. Have you ever been on a diet? Have you? Sure we have. Do we take due diligence to prepare what we give to our people as to what we would give to our guests at home? I would like most of the ministers to take on a new title. All of them should have the same title as the one in Pilgrim’s Progress. The one that’s referred to. Do you know what he was called? “Mr. Taste What is Good.” Taste what is good and give what is good.

How much time do you spend studying? One survey I was involved in the United Kingdoms showed that church leaders acknowledge they spend three minutes a day in Scripture and three minutes a day in prayer. Is that enough? John Stott says, “I read one hour a day, one afternoon a week, one day a month, one week, a year, and all I have learned is by standing on the shoulders of others.” John Wesley would disagree with him. Do you know what John Wesley would say? “You should read five hours a day.” That’s what he said. The book allows us to follow what’s important for us at the time. It’s not disturbing anybody. It doesn’t break down, it is not interrupted by adverts and so on.

But let not your sermons become a lecture. The late professor John Murray was a very good friend and he was in our house on one occasion. He was over 70, and I was recently married. Carine and I were 26, and I said, “Mr. Murray, I’ve got two pieces of news for you.” “Oh,” he said, “that’s interesting. What are they?” And I said, “Well, first of all, Carine and I are expecting our first child.” And with a wry smile, he said, “And so are we.” And I was also to give my first sermon the following week. He said, “Oh, that’s good. That’s good, William, I hope you get on well. There are three things that make the difference,” he said, “between a sermon and a lecture. What are they?”

And I said, “Well, there’s preparation.” He said, “No, no, no, no, no.” I said, “Well, there’s prayer.” He said, “No, no, no, no. You can pray about a lecture too.” He asked, “What are the three Ps that make the difference between a sermon and a lecture?” And he kept me hanging for five minutes, and I haven’t got the time to do that. What are the three Ps that make the difference between a sermon and a lecture? Eventually he replied and he said, “It’s this, William — a personal passionate plea. I pray you in Christ’s stead be reconciled to God.” He said, “I go around the world and I hear lectures. I know where they’ve come from because I’ve read the books.” That was 30 years ago. What you read and what you benefit from must take root in our own hearts. We must become meditators. Resolve with David, “I will make your word my meditation.” Blessed is the man who meditates on these things. Tell your congregation when they ask you, “What were you doing this week?” You can say, “I was meditating.” What kind of reaction will you get there?

Reading Wider

We should read wider. Also, if your prayer life is wilting, read Delighted in God by Roger Steer. It’s the Story of George Müller. If you’re discouraged in your ministry, read David Livingston’s biography. He had three converts. He was sure about two of them but not the third, and he’s the most popular guy in Africa today. If you’ve left your first love, read M’Cheyne. He was hanging on the cross and everything he said. He wept as he preached. Read about doctrine. How is it that John Stott’s great book on The Cross of Christ sells so few copies in comparison to the staggering numbers about some of the productions from America. How would the title, The Cross-Driven Life sell? Obviously, there’s a market for you here, John. And that’s so important, friends. Isn’t it Luther’s 92nd thesis, “Blessed are the prophets who say to the people of Christ, ‘The cross. The cross.’”

Spurgeon said, “People will preach on the first part of this verse but not the last part of it: ‘I am determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ.” That’s fine, but they leave out the last bit, ‘and him crucified.’” We need to read secular books too preachers. Dick Lucas was with us at Christmastime, and he said in his sermon, “I was reading ‘Country Life’ magazine yesterday and there was a bit about Cheltenham Cathedral, their mission statement, and I thought it was very good. The church was designed and made for the following purpose: worship, welcome, and witness.” And Dick said, “I thought that was quite good.”

Then I said, “There’s one W missing. Worship, welcome, and witness.” What’s missing? That’s it — word, worship, welcome, dand witness. We need to be like Daniel, informed by the culture but not influenced by it. It’s Spurgeon who said too many ministers are working with slender apparatus. They have far too few books. This should never be. Churches should see to it that the minister’s study is supplied with books. Do you want to distribute that amongst your elders?

Derek Prime, a highly respected senior Baptist minister in Scotland read Spirit Empowered Preaching and said to me after reading it, “I wanted to start my ministry all over again because I saw that Mr. Spurgeon on every step of the pulpit was saying this, ‘I believe in the Holy Ghost.’” Do you go into the pulpit like that?

Books to Underscore Preaching

Books for others and from the congregation. Some will say, “Well, people can’t read.” Well, that’s an opportunity for you, teach them to read. There’s congregations everywhere teaching people to read. Immigrants, why not start a reading class? Others will say, “Well, people haven’t got time to read.” Well, that’s utter rubbish. It’s wrong, they need leadership in that. Some will say they’re too dear. That’s nonsense too, just ask them if they have bought a hamburger? A book is the same price as a hamburger. It’s Erasmus who said, “Whenever I have a little money, I buy books. And if I have any left, I buy food.”

Encourage people to purchase books to underscore preaching. What has happened? They have a half-hour sermon out of 112 waking hours in the week. I remember being in Seoul, Korea and everybody in the trains and buses, they were reading Christian books. Personal contact with your flock is important to you. Can you give a book to someone who’s bereaved or newly married? Surely that is an opportunity to give a Christian book. Could your congregation start a book of the month club? There are some months in All Souls in London that we have sold a thousand copies of one book in the one congregation.

The first book of the month club I ever heard of was in a sermon from Hugh Latimer, about Luther’s books coming into Cambridge hidden in bales of cloth. What about the example of Horatius Bonar, the hymn writer? He always had free books at the back of the church. Visitors and anybody coming to the church could take a book. It might be the only time they’re ever exposed to that opportunity. It’s Lennon who said, “I would rather write a pamphlet than speak at 20 mass rallies.” Bill Bright said, “If I had to choose between writing and speaking, I’d choose writing.”

What gifts have you given in the last year? Chocolate, wine flowers? Where are these gifts now? I want wine sales to go down and not just because of obesity, and not because you’re Baptist largely . . .

Books for Children

Finally, books for children. Here’s a verse that breaks and cuts me up. Lamentations 2:19 says:

Arise, cry out in the night,
     at the beginning of the night watches!
Pour out your heart like water
     before the presence of the Lord!
Lift your hands to him
     for the lives of your children,
who faint for hunger
     at the head of every street.

Have you been lying awake at night, praying for the children of your family, of your congregation? I often hear the comment that children are the church of tomorrow. How wrong that is. J.K. Rowling, the author, said, “The day is fast approaching when every child in the world will know the name of Harry Potter.” Is that a challenge to you? Jesus says, “Allow the children to come unto me” (Matthew 19:14). Here’s a quotation from the Wall Street Journal: “What America needs is a religion that counts it good business to take time for a family worship each morning, even in the middle of harvest.”

It’s a religion that made men quit work half an hour early on Wednesday so that the whole family could be together at the prayer meetings. What’s happened to prayer meetings? I don’t think that was written in the last 10 years. My little granddaughter, Lydia, phoned Carine one day and said she had been listening to Sinclair Ferguson’s 50-minute sermons regularly, and she was four. People find that funny, don’t they? It’s the accent, that’s what it is. She phoned Carine and said, “Granny, the minister asked me from the pulpit yesterday, ‘Is your Jesus the real Jesus?’ And granny, I want to ask you that question.”

Listen to Deuteronomy 6:6–9:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Remember Joshua was asked to make a pile of stones so that the generations to come would ask the question, “What do these stones mean?” Do you notice the mistake I’ve made? I’ve misquoted Joshua. I misquoted that verse. It’s “what do these stones mean to you”?

Feed My Lambs

We should be challenged by new statistics, just out. It says 43 percent of Mormon teens see their faith as important, know what they believe, and why and make it shape their lives. The number for conservative Protestants is 29 percent. Are the Mormons doing a better job than you are?

As John mentioned, I am in part a farmer. We have a breeding flock of ewes, 800 of them. And at lambing time, I visit the lambing shed and speak to the shepherd and I have one question for him, “Is there milk, and are the lambs drinking?” If the lamb doesn’t get its mother’s milk in the first few hours, it’s never a good lamb. It doesn’t grow the same. It’s more subject to disease. I ask, “Is there milk and are they drinking?” Well, there is milk, the milk of the word. Are they drinking? Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock. Feed my lambs. He shall gather the lambs in his arms.

Joel 1:3 says:

Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children to another generation.

It’s to the fourth generation. Some will say, “Kids can’t take it in.” That’s nonsense. John Cahoon was a friend of mine, he was in ministry, he’s now dead. When he was six, in school he was taught this question and answer. They asked, “What is effectual calling?” How many of you can answer that question? What is effectual calling? Well, you need to know. What is effectual calling? He said, “It is a work of God’s Spirit whereby convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds and in knowledge of Christ and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to us in the gospel.” He was six and it was the means of his conversion.

John Flavel, preaching in Falmouth finished his service one day and said, “How can I pronounce a blessing on those who reject the free offer of the gospel?” Luke Sharp was 18 years old. He was leaving the next day for America. When he was 96, Flavel’s words came back to him, were the means of his conversion, and for 10 years he witnessed about his Savior. Children love books and they need books. If you can do one thing today as a result of my talk, please teach the children the doctrines of the faith from their earliest years.

Tell them this message, please. Use five fingers. Romans 5:6 says, “Christ died for the ungodly.” It’s the connection between me and Christ. Christ died for the ungodly.

A Flood of Christian Literature

Can I finish by quoting the Scottish metrical Psalm, Psalm 78:

His testimony and his law Israelhe did place, And charged our fathers it to show to their succeeding race;

That so the race which was to come might well them learn and know; And sons unborn, who should arise, might to their sons them show:

That they might set their hope in God, and suffer not to fall His mighty works out of their mind, but keep his precepts all:

And might not, like their fathers, be a stiff rebellious race; A race not right in heart; with God whose spirit not steadfast was.

I long for a flood of Christian literature to reach the families of the world. I encourage you to do your part in it for two reasons: that there would be joy in the presence of the angels over sinners repenting. What is the presence of the angels? I would rather say who is the presence of the angel? And the second reason, if this is possible, is that your life and your eternity would be better. Samuel Rutherford had a small congregation in Anwar, and this is what he said:

If one soul from Anwar meets me at God’s right-hand, then shall my heaven be two heavens.

Thy kingdom come.