My Golden Anniversary
an edited version of an address given at Carey Baptist Church, Reading on Sunday 22 May 2016.
me take you back to 1966, the last time that England won
the World Cup, when Barclays launched the UK’s first
credit card, and when Bob Dylan went from acoustic to
electric – but that’s another story.
Let me take you back to Sunday 22 May 1966, exactly 50 years to this very day that I was baptised here. Now I know what you’re thinking – when did Carey ever baptise infants? The answer is never – I’m just older than I look.
I first started coming to Carey, as a Reading School boy, about a year or two before at the initial invitation of two Abbey School girls. It was all so startlingly new to me – the choir, hymn books, Bibles, people, smiles, prayers, welcomes, the notices advertising meetings about which I had no idea.
And above all, there was this man who stood in the pulpit. He seemed quite old, he wore a dog collar, but I could tell that he genuinely believed every word he spoke. His name was Harold Owen. Moreover, do you know, that week after week, he had the audacity to tell me, a Reading School boy, that I was separated from God, that I was a lost sinner, who needed rescuing, who needed a Saviour.
Well, I started to read the Bible and I discovered, quite disarmingly, that it was the Book that knew me. It told me that there was something not right with me and the world. And slowly I began to realise there was a barrier between me and my Maker. In fact, the barrier was a huge gap, miles wide and deep, and furthermore, God was angry with me, disobedient me.
What I needed was a go-between, a mediator, someone to reconcile me to God. As I cycled along the Oxford Road every day on my way to school, I passed the Salvation Army Hall with a huge text outside – 1 Timothy 2:5, For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. It all began to click together – truth informed my head and warmed my heart.
But how I still squirmed at the preacher’s weekly call to repent and believe. I was still that stubborn teenager, still full of adolescent angst.
Then, I guess, during the winter of 1965, I finally gave in, Christ’s love won me over. It was at a Youth for Christ rally in the Salvation Army Hall in St Mary’s Butts, Reading. There is no blue plaque there to mark the spot. Indeed, the building has since been pulled down and replaced by a Burger King, but for me, it remains a sweet spot in Reading. It was there that I experienced that threefold truth – God made me. Sin ruined me. Jesus Christ rescued me.
So what have I learned in 50 years? Not as much as I should have. After all, I‘ve heard about 5,000 Sunday sermons. Thankfully, it’s not all about me – it is about God and His grace in Christ, His undeserved favour to me.
And there are
three attributes of God to which I can testify:
1] God is great. He is the infinite, personal God. To know something of His omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotency, omnibenevolence and so on, is mind expanding, life expanding. He is beyond human thought, yet still sufficiently graspable and knowable. I still find that exciting.
2] God is patient. I’ve been slow to learn, disobedient and ungrateful, yet God has been so long-suffering and kind – what a Father!
3] God is faithful. For me, one of the greatest themes of Scripture echoes from Deuteronomy 31:6 through to Hebrews 13:5, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. What comfort in the best of times and the worst of times. It give me warm hope for the future.
So what can I say? To you who are still unbelievers, not yet convinced of Gospel veracity, who are still in the dominion of darkness, still squirming in your seat, like I did, whenever the call to repent and believe is given. I say come, give in, and embrace the love of this Saviour. What are you waiting for? Some sermon, some experience that sends tingles up and down your spine? You already know enough to come to Christ.
And to you believers? Let me put it this way, with a little acrostic or mnemonic. We all have mobile phones and some of you are on the O2 network. Its latest advert has that annoying and obscure catchphrase, ‘Be More Dog’.
I want you and me to be more CAT – it’s a great mark of Christian maturity and something I’m consciously trying to exercise and apply.
C is for CONTENT – be content with your providence, where God has put you, what He has given you, what He has denied you. Philippians 4:11, … for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. It’s a great Gospel consolation, it’s the path to happy service.
A is for And.
T is for THANKFUL – be thankful for His greatness and patience and faithfulness to you and me. We are such undeserving, rebellious little men and women, yet we are eternally indebted to this wonderful God. Colossians 3:15, ….And be thankful.
May it be so for all of us. Gloria Dei, to God be the glory.