BIBLICAL GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY

Issue No. 31

18 - 24 August 2008

A GOOD BOOK

Feeling rather spiritually depressed and flat recently (Yes, that’s what I said: it happens quite often, though arguably it should not); feeling (to repeat) rather spiritually depressed and flat recently, I happened to come across a reference to a book first published in 1965 and reprinted a number of times since, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965). I remembered a joking comment once made by a friend that ‘many people have read that book and ended up very depressed’, but decided to ignore it, found the book in BGST Library and started reading. I am glad that I did.

Lloyd-Jones was a noted preacher, for many years pastor of Westminster Chapel, London. This book originated in a series of sermons he preached there. The twenty-one chapters of this book are in fact little more than transcripts of these sermons, preached on a variety of texts mainly taken from the New Testament. The titles of the sermons include: ‘The True Foundation’; ‘Mind, Heart and Will’; ‘Vain Regrets’; ‘Fear of the Future’; ‘Feelings’; ‘Where is Your Faith?’; ‘The Spirit of Bondage’; ‘Weary in Well Doing’; ‘Discipline’; ‘Trials’; ‘In God’s Gymnasium’; ‘Learning to be Content’.

I suppose one of the attractions of these sermons for me is that they are, in a sense, period pieces. Being in my sixth decade I find myself drawn to Lloyd-Jones’ style and approach, which by now unmistakably evokes a bygone period: a clear and detailed exposition of the biblical texts in simple, dignified English (he quotes the Bible in the AV), with a leavening of illustrations and anecdotes but absolutely nothing in the way of crowd-pleasing gimmicks. At a rough guess most of these sermons must have lasted 45–50 minutes (no theological ‘quick fixes’ here), and I should imagine the congregation’s attention was held from beginning to end. Would that happen in most churches today?

But, laying aside the prejudices of the middle-aged (myself), this book handles an issue of central importance to the life of the believer and to the witness of the church, and it does so with great pastoral and theological insight. Listen to the author as he sets out the issues in the opening sermon (pp. 10, 11): 

“…there are large numbers of Christian people who give the impression of being unhappy. They are cast down, their souls are ‘disquieted within them’ [Ps. 42:5, 11], and it is because of that that I am calling attention to the subject…. In a sense a depressed Christian is a contradiction in terms, and he is a very poor recommendation for the gospel. We are living in a pragmatic age. People today are not primarily interested in Truth but they are interested in results. The one question they ask is: Does it work?” That last sentence applies to contemporary Singapore with absolutely no need for updating!

I believe this book cannot fail to benefit any Christian reader, particularly a believer suffering from one or more of the spiritual pathologies which the author analyses. I like the honesty and realism of Lloyd-Jones’ approach: no attempt here to ‘massage’ the facts in order to give a more ‘upbeat’ presentation. I like the diagnostic skill with which the author treats the different aspects of his topic. (Lloyd-Jones was a doctor before he became a pastor.) I like the author’s common-sense approach, which means that he is perfectly willing to admit that there are ‘natural’ factors in depression such as temperament and over-work, and that these may be as important as more overtly ‘spiritual’ factors. Or hear him on ‘sins of the flesh’ (p. 173): 

“Constantly I find myself having to ask people this question – they come to me about some problem or difficulty and they say: ‘I have been praying about this’, and I say: ‘My friend, do you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?’ That is the answer. I say it again at the risk of being misunderstood, but such friends in a way need to pray less and to think more. They must remind themselves that their bodies are ‘the temples of the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us’. Prayer is always essential, but thought is essential, too, because prayer can be just an escape mechanism, almost at times a cry in the dark by people who are desperate and defeated.” Less prayer and more thought? A true insight, and not one I recall hearing recently in a sermon!

Or again, on ‘middle age’ (p. 192): “…I am perfectly convinced that the most difficult period of all in life is the middle period. There are compensations in youth and there are compensations in old age which seem to be entirely lacking in this middle period. It is something we all have to encounter. As we get older, our resilience and our vigour tend to go and we are aware of a slowing down and a slackening in our powers.” Now are you interested in reading further?

Most of all, though, I like this book for its theological solidity. It constantly points the reader back to key biblical truths: to the finished work of Christ on the cross; to the glory of God’s grace; to the dignity and blessing of the Christian calling; to the hope of heaven; and to the wiles of the devil, whose aim is to prevent us fixing our minds on these truths. This book is nothing other than a call to a wholehearted, biblically based spirituality. In that sense is entirely contemporary, and I commend it to you.

(PES)

Note: I regret that last week’s Good Book, Evil and the Justice of God, by N.T. Wright (London: SPCK, 2006) is not yet available in BGST Library: my mistake. A copy has been ordered, and I am told that it should be available in two weeks’ time. (I would donate my own copy, but at present I need it for a paper I am writing.)

Introducing Our Recent Graduates ...

Dr Tony K. Y. Chan (Grad Dip CS 2008, Cum laude)
Tony spent twenty years in the electronics and computer industry, and after that another fifteen years teaching computer engineering at Nanyang Technological University. Over the last two years, together with his wife, he is serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators in the East Asia field. He is an Elder of Grace Baptist Church and serves on the board of Discipleship Training Centre, OC Singapore, as well as the executive council of the Baptist Convention. He plans to continue at BGST in life-long learning. His key verse is Matt 6:33: ‘But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.’

Mr Koh Chin Kok (Grad Dip CS 2008)
Chin Kok spent 3.5 years in the chemical industry as a Process Technician and then another 7 years as a Process Engineer after acquiring the degree in UK. He has been recently appointed as Area Leader of Church of Singapore (Marine Parade), where he is now working fulltime. He intends to study towards a cross-cultural program with DTC with his wife as part of their preparation to be missionaries. His life verse is Matthew 4:19: ‘“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”’

Weekly Highlights

Chapel This Week. Chapel speaker for 20 August will be one of this year’s Dip CS graduate Pastor Lam Yuen Foong, do come and join us.

Course Schedule. The course schedule for Jan - May 2009 is now available on the website at http://bgst.edu.sg/pdf/2008-2009sem2.pdf.

New programme student - Master of Divinity. Mr Chinnappa Nelson David is a Graduate of Trinity Christian College in India.is a Permanent Resident serving in a church in Singapore.

Registration for Bible Lands Study Tour is now open!! 

Tour #5 - Grandeur of Jordan & Israel, 23 Sep to 03 Oct (11 days), S$3,950 (all inclusive on twin-sharing full board basis).

Tour #6 - Quest for Eternity: Grand Tour of Ancient Egypt, 20 to 31 Oct (12 days), from S$3,840 depending on group size. 

Closing date: 22 Aug 2008

Please call Serene Woon at Tel: 62276815 if you are interested to join either of these tours led by Dr Quek Swee Hwa.

BGST 2nd Fundraising Dinner

Date : 21 Nov 2008 (Friday)
Time : 6pm to 10pm
Venue: Pioneer Spring Restaurant,
Safra Mount Faber

As the Dinner Organizing Committee 2008 plans for the coming event, we covet your prayers & support.

Background:
The DOC was set up with the purpose to raise $1 million for the school's General Funds to repay building loans and operational expenses to promote higher visibility among churches through roadshows and dialogue sessions with pastors on BGST's missions to equip lay people to better serve their home churches locally and overseas. We are mindful that there will be more faculty members returning from overseas to buttress our level of services for the equipping community.

Prayer Pointers:

1.     That God will bless this enterprise of the School.

2.     All the Faculty Board, the Council, the Alumni and staff will be energised to work toward this project. We hope that each of us will co-host one table or part thereof.

3.     As we look at the classic example of Nehemiah, the power of prayer is very significant. In the fundraising matter, we hope all members associated with the school will intercede before the Lord on important event.

4.     The event of 2007 achieved a high level of success. So we continue to look to God for His blessings.

5.     Pray that the invitation will be received with much encouragement. Even before the news is flashed out to our constituencies, one of our friends affirms us by taking up a table as a co-host.

6.     We pray for a good theme from the speaker Dr Daniel Block, Gunther H. Knoedler Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College, Chicago.

Co-labouring with all in the DOC,
Lim Chin Keng
Prayer Director

31 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088454. Tel: 62276815 Fax: 62276816 
Email : bgst@pacific.net.sg
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