Manton Monday — Insights from Puritan Thomas Manton
“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:19-20 esv
The promises of God’s word are precious, especially those related to prayer. One promise found here in Matthew 18 leads us to believe that there is a greater ‘impact’ (for lack of a better word) when groups of believers pray together. Listen to the commentary of Thomas Manton on this Scripture (written while discussing another verse about praying in private).
“When they shall agree in one public prayer, it seems to have a greater efficacy put upon it — when more are interested in the same prayer — when, with a combined force, they do as it were besiege the God of heaven, and will not let Him go unless He leaves a blessing. Look, as the [civil or legal] petition of a shire and county to an authority is more than a private man’s supplication, so when we meet as a church to pray, as as a family, there is combined strength. And in this sense, that saying of the schoolmen is orthodox enough — viz., that prayer made in the church has a more easy audience with God. Why? Because of the concurrence of many which are met there to worship God.”
In a sermon summarizing the book of JUDGES, Mark Dever included this wonderful quotation from the late Dr James M. Boice, which explains our culture today — as well as our often unrealistic expectations of it….
“No people ever rise higher than their idea of God, and conversely, a loss of the sense of God’s high and awesome character always involves a loss of a people’s moral values and even what we commonly call humanity. We are startled by the disregard for human life that has overtaken large segments of the western world, but what do we expect when countries such as ours openly turns their back upon God? We deplore the breakdown of moral standards, but what do we expect when we have focused our worship services on ourselves and our own often trivial needs rather than on God? Our view of God affects what we are and do…“
(taken from Dr Boice’s sermons on Psalms, Vol. 3, p. 912)
Many good reflections about the nature of pastoral ministry in a local church, have emerged in connection with the retirement of John Piper from Bethlehem Baptist Church (Minneapolis, MN) after 30+ years there. He wrote a ‘Final Open Letter to My Flock’ in which he expressed his thankfulness for blessings received as a shepherd of the Lord’s flock there. Excerpts include these:
As far as I know every biblical blessing that a flock owes its shepherd you have given to me during our life together.
• You received my preaching as the word of God; it became active in you, and transformed our life together (1 Thess. 2:13).
• You responded supportively to my leadership knowing I would have to give an account for your souls, and you helped me do this ‘with joy and not with groaning, for that would have been of no advantage to you’ (Heb. 13:17).
• I have spoken freely to you, and opened my heart to you, and been vulnerable with you; and you have cared for me, and opened your hearts wide to me also (2 Cor. 6:11–13).
• You have never assumed that I was above the need for encouragement, and have turned this church into a place where we have been ‘mutually en- couraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine’ (Rom. 1:12).
• You have not muzzled this ox, but have shared all good things with him who teaches. I have never been in need (1 Tim. 5:18; Gal. 6:6).
• You have multiplied my joy with your biblical faithfulness, for ‘I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth’ (3 Jn 1:4).
• You have treasured Christ and become the mirror of his worth. And for that you are my ‘hope and joy and crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming’ (1 Thess. 2:19).
Almighty God, our Father in heaven, We praise You as Creator of heaven and earth, the Maker of every living thing.
We worship You as those whom You have redeemed by the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We thank you for this company of believers, and for a new year in which to serve and glorify You.
We pray, Father, that we would know the meaning of ‘being in the world, but not of it’ and that we’d live to please You in all things. We pray, Lord, that Your people would see what love and justice demand of us regarding the sanctity of life, and the defeat of abortion in our land.
Protect every unborn child we pray!
Stir Your people to lives of action and deeds of compassion.
To that end, give us a fuller measure of Your Holy Spirit we ask.
In all things, Lord, keep us faithful to Your Word, and in step with Your Spirit.
In Jesus’ name we pray,
What a blessing to be given a new year. May we each be grateful to God, and intentional in making the most of our time (Psalm 90:12 & Ephesians 5:15-16).
As for “celebrating” — I’m glad we do so! Here is a bit of timely background from Dr George Grantfrom his blog:
The celebration of the New Year did not occur on the first day of January until after the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582—and even then only in France, the northern Italian city states, Portugal, and in the Spanish nations of Castile and Aragon. The new calendar was not accepted until 1600 in Scotland and 1752 in England and America.
From the earliest days of the Roman imperial calendar the New Year was celebrated on March 25—which is why September, October, November, and December are derived from the Latin words septem (seven), octo (eight), novem (nine), and decem (ten).
Throughout Christendom, January 1 was instead celebrated as a day of renewal midway through the Yuletide season—it was thus a day for vows, vision, and vocation. It was on this day that guild members took their annual pledge, that husbands and wives renewed their marriage promises, and that young believers reasserted their resolution to walk in the grace of the Lord’s great Epiphany.
In Edinburgh beginning in the seventeenth century, revelers would gather at the Tron Church to watch the great clock tower mark the last hours of Christmastide—which was the inspiration behind the much more recent Times Square ceremony in New York. In Edinburgh, of course, the purpose was not merely to have a grand excuse for a public party, but was a way for the whole covenant community to celebrate the grace of Epiphany newness.
“…for the pulpit is ever this earth’s foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the world. From thence it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favorable winds. Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.”
What’s your ambition in life? If you are a Christian, is your ambition tied to that of your Lord Jesus Christ? Or is it the sad case that you are not ambitious at all, simply adrift?
Consider the powerful declaration of Jesus to Peter as a glimpse at Christ’s ambition:
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. ~Matthew 16:13-18 esv
Jesus does not stop at the conversion of men. He aims to call men out of the world to Himself (“church” comes from the Greek world for ‘called-out-ones’), and build them up. It is His ambition to build the church — and He will work to that end, and nothing will stand in His way.