Yesterday a group from our church went to the London Men's Convention at the Royal Albert Hall. This year was on being men of the Spirit. I'll give a few reflections on the day but it looks like Nathan Burley is going to give some more detailed notes so I recommend you read his blog.
The Spirit of LifeSome comment on large gatherings being a vision of heaven. I'm not sure that's really the point! However, when God's people gather and have their attention fixed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, then we do indeed have a glimpse of eternity!
1. Pete Woodcock on Romans 8. No condemnation. This is the song of the Christian. And all Christians have the Spirit. There is no such thing as a Christian without the Holy Spirit. And we should be Spirit-led. What does that mean? The Spirit leads us into battle against sin.
The Spirit of Truth
2. Dick Lucas on the Spirit and the Bible from John 16. This was the first time I'd heard Dick Lucas speak. He is warm, rigorous, careful and applied. In passing he very helpfully reminded us that Jesus isn't speaking to us in John 16, but to the disicples. And what Jesus says gives assurance that the Holy Spirit is the one who gives us the New Testament through the disciples. We cannot divide the Spirit from the Word. Dick observed that if he were the devil (which he isn't) then he'd "want to disarm the Holy Spirit but taking away his sword... suffocating the breath out of the Spirit". So, there is no separate gospel of the Spirit for the saints (as opposed to a gospel of Christ for sinners), there is no disjunction between Jesus and the apostles teaching: only one gospel. And there is no Christian Spirituality without a commitment to truth.
3. The panel was John Benton, Mark Birkill, David Peterson, Vaughan Roberts and Tim Thornborough. They tackled with clarity and brevity questions about prophecy, tongues and grieving the Spirit. John Benton spoke of his own experiences of the Spirit as a student. He spoke of how he had to search God's word to explain his experience - and concluded it was not the conversion experience of Spirit-baptism, but rather Spirit-filling. Further, he reminded us that not all speak in tongues, whilst saying that he himself does. Vaughan spoke well about prophecy in the local church. He observed that it does happen in small groups at St Ebbes and in their church council. However, he also said that he thinks we should focus on the sure word of God from the Bible in services (not sure I agree entirely). David Peterson was very helpful in speaking about worship in all of life, and also in terms of music. There was also comment on the apparent absence of joy in church music. The answer was mostly culture which I'm not sure really convinces me. Sure people can have "deep joy" but sometimes it needs to overflow doesn't it?
(Seminars ran at the same time as this giving more attention particular questions)
The Spirit of Holiness
4. Richard Coekin on Galatians 5. Very struck again by the reality that living by the Spirit is a battle.... the Spirit leads us into war against our sinful nature. I'm challenged to keep fighting. We were invited to daily delight in God's word... and to have absolute surrender to the will of God.... whilst remembering that there is no total victory over sin now. The sinful nature is condemned, the Holy Spirit would have us remember Christ.
Next year: Godliness from Titus.
We didn't sing it (though a delay meant we missed the first time of sung worship) but it was cool to see Grace Unmeasured in the songbook. Brilliant song. Still, we did sing This the power of the Cross which is a great song.
The little picture of Nigel Beynon in the programme is the one I took of him at Reading University Christian Union last May, borrowed from beginningwithmoses.org. On the other side of things our picture of Peter Sanlon is what they made the big blue banner out of.
Cool to see Garath "Mallangong" Batten in a suit.... similarly attired was Dave Gobbett with his number 2 board. Around the corridors I saw Skully, Mike Kendall, Mark Arnold... several ex-Relays and lots of people I don't know.