As you know, I had the great joy of bringing two of the four sessions in the 2011 Ashford Bible Conference, of which the topic was Christ in the Old Testament. Brother/pastors Anthony Forsyth (about whom more, later) and Tom Drion (who serves God in His Word in London) brought the Word in the other two sessions.
Pastor Anthony Forsyth invited me and, what's more, hosted my dear wife, two youngest sons and myself. We all absolutely loved the Forsyth family (wife Jenny and children Joseph, Lydia, Phoebe, Timothy and Chloë), and loved our time with them in their stately mansion. Had a terrific time with them, trading accent-teases, as well as meeting first another American house-guest (Jeremy, music-guy), and then an Irish brother (Jonathan, media-guy).
Anthony even graciously encouraged my efforts to speak, you know, English. Nonetheless, I felt it wiser to teach and preach in American, with Anthony standing by to translate as necessary.
I'd been very anxious in my preparations over the many months since Anthony invited me to speak, poring over reams of volumes and articles on Messianic prophecy, as well as reviewing the Scriptures themselves. How to approach it? How even to touch such a massive, vital topic, over which my betters have labored for millennia with such varying results and degrees of success?
Through it all, my fundamental driving conviction came from passages such as John 5:39-40, 45-46 —
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. ...45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”You could say this is a subsection of my overall conviction, based on passages such as Hebrews 1:1-2, that the Bible is not a secret codebook. It is a communication, from God, to His people, commencing (always) with the original authors and hearers.
These and other passages give me the very strong impression that our Lord believed that the OT, in and of itself, bore witness to Him so directly and overwhelmingly that to reject that witness is to damn oneself. Never does He say anything even approaching, "You know, boys, I can't really blame you for not recognizing Me. Nobody could! The OT is a book of impenetrable mystery. In fact, nobody could fairly be expected to see Me in it. But just you wait: after Pentecost, the Spirit will help My guys read Me into it. Then we'll have a whole different ballgame."
Rather, in saying that Moses himself would condemn His rejectors, He is clearly asserting that Moses knowingly wrote of Him. Not wrote-of-something-else-that-later-was-deflected-to-Him, but of Him, Jesus.
So my challenge was multifold:
- How to read the Scripture as it should be read; which is the same as saying...
- How to read the Scripture as Jesus read it.
- How to show that the Scripture in its entirety pointed to Him.
- How to set this forth intelligibly in two sessions of finite length.
- How to do all this freshly, persuasively, accessibly, helpfully, and memorably.
In the first talk, I introduce the entire subject of Messiah and of Messianic prophecy, and endeavor to show (in one talk!) how the whole OT points to Jesus Christ. My dear wife says I talked too fast, and I'm sure she's right. My excuse is that I had a truckload to say, and leaned on the fact that folks could (if they wished) listen to the recording or watch the video. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
In keeping with my conviction, I approached the session not by expounding NT passages with talked about Messianic prophecy, but by going straight to the OT text itself, literally beginning at the beginning.
The second talk was really a continuation of the first, and a specific demonstration of ways in which one particular book (Genesis) points to Christ.
My third message in Ashford was a Sunday morning sermon focusing on Colossians 3:16 and speaking of the church's vital center. Then in the evening service, I returned to Christ in the OT, particularly speaking (surprise!) of Christ and Proverbs — because Pastor Forsyth had asked me to.
An aside: when Anthony and I met at his house, he asked "Have you ever seen this?" — and held up my Proverbs book. I hadn't! It was quite a surprise. Last I heard, the book would not be out in time for the conference. But Anthony had been persistent, publisher Eric Kress had done some magic, and the book had preceded me.
That book does contain material and an appendix that relates to Christ in Proverbs, and how to teach and preach Proverbs. However, this sermon takes a somewhat independent approach from the focus of the book.
Anthony also had ordered a large quantity of The World-Tilting Gospel, which he handed out to each family in attendance. Say, what a great conference idea. He also sees the book as a ministry-tool, extending Gospel preaching and grounding to all of the families under his care, and I believe he'd commend it to others for the same purposes.
Staying with that subject: Anthony is involved in two ministries now, an ongoing ministry Sunday afternoons in Medway, and a new church-plant in Ashford. You can see some more about it here, with more planned in approaching weeks. He would appreciate all of your prayers, and I would commend him to you. England is a land of thrilling history and a dark spiritual present. Any emphatically Gospel-preaching, Bible-teaching ministry will face trials and Satanic opposition, and Anthony's is no exception. Pray for his own walk and ministry, and for his family; and pray for the unity, growth, and evangelistic outreach of his church.
There. That should keep you busy and out of trouble for awhile.