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By Ted Schroder
May 4, 2019

I have just finished reading Iain Murray's biography of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981). Lloyd-Jones was a Welsh physician who was called to pastor Westminster Chapel, the cathedral of the English Congregational Church. He was raised in the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church (a seeming contradiction) which was also called the Welsh Presbyterian Church. Westminster Chapel was located near Buckingham Palace, London and is still an active church. It was built in 1865 and can accommodate 1,500 on the ground floor and two balconies that wrap around the interior. Hundreds flocked to hear Lloyd-Jones during his tenure of thirty years (1938-68). When I arrived in London in 1964 on my way to Durham University I made a point of worshipping there so that I could hear the celebrated preacher.

What was his appeal? In an era when many preachers entertained their congregations with anecdotes, stories, personal testimony and illustrations from their experience and reading, Lloyd-Jones expounded the Biblical text. He upheld the greatness of God, the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and the converting and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the soul of man. He preached to the needs of the human condition, to the loneliness and estrangement of the sinner from God and the divine remedy in the salvation of Christ.

As a medical doctor he was able to speak to the problems facing every human being. One reason he left the medical profession for the pastorate was that he felt that he was called to minister to deeper problems than the physical. He saw the futility of human success and health when people were seeking peace and spiritual fulfillment which could only be found in the gospel. Working with patients who came from the wealthy, successful and educated classes he discovered that 70 per cent of their problems were not medical nor intellectual but the result of moral emptiness and spiritual hollowness. They reflected the pagan agnosticism of their generation which could not be cured by medicine.

In contrast his estimate of his whole life changed when he was twenty-three. He realized the ruling principle of self-centeredness and self-interest in his own heart and his need of a Savior. He did not want to be improved so much as to be transformed by the grace and mercy of God. His experience resonated with my own when he said, "If you were to ask me to give a definition of a Christian I should say that he is one who, since believing in Christ, feels himself to be the happiest man in the world and longs for everyone else to be equally happy."

The sermons of his contemporaries were long on psychology and social reforms as the means of improving the lives of their listeners. There was little exposition of the doctrines of Christianity: the centrality of Christ, the efficacy of his death on the Cross as the atonement for our sins, and the power of the resurrection. As a result there was a great deal of moralizing, of urging people to dedicate themselves to doing better but without the good news of God's reaching out to us and providing us with the means of salvation.
Is today any different? I hear interesting sermons, full of the preacher's personal experiences, calling his hearers to greater commitment, but little about the power of the gospel, the undeserved gift of God in Jesus expounded from the Scriptures. Consequently the sermon is full of hot air and sentimentality that will never minister to the profound spiritual needs of the hearers.

St. Paul's words to Timothy need to be heeded:
"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word, be prepared in season and out of season: correct, rebuke and encourage -- with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry." (2 Timothy 4:1-5)


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