Alan Richardson - Pukekohe II Convention - Sunday, December 22, 2013

My grandfather listened to Adam Hutchison preach the gospel in Northern Ireland, probably about 1903 or 1904. In those days in Northern Ireland, many villages had mission halls and preachers of any denomination could use those mission halls. That’s where Adam and his companion had their meetings. At the close of one meeting, Adam gave opportunity to those who wanted to follow Jesus. He asked them to stand to their feet. A number of young men, just rascals really, they nudged each other and said, “We’ll get up,” and they got up and left. My grandfather knew that there was no sincerity in it. He was very interested to see what Adam would do the next night. The next night’s meeting Adam got to his feet and said, “I’ve preached in the highlands of Scotland and I’ve preached in the bogs of Ireland, and in both Scotland and Ireland, I have found people who are very insincere rascals." Then he began to preach very directly and at the close of that meeting, he gave opportunity again and said, “I want every person who stood to their feet last night to stand to their feet again tonight, if they really mean it,” but this time there was no response. I don’t know what my grandfather thought at that time; he didn’t make his choice. I think myself that maybe he was too involved in the politics of Northern Ireland. It was only once he came out to New Zealand that he got freed from that. He was in New Zealand about 1918 when Adam Hutchison visited New Zealand.

Back in Ireland about 1905, Adam Hutchison went to a Sunday morning fellowship meeting. It was in the home of the parents of another gospel worker, Sam Jones, in a place called Portadown. After the meeting on Sunday morning, several stayed for lunch and Adam got talking to some of the people there. There was a Mr. and Mrs. Taylor. He asked them about their children. They said, “We have a son and daughter in New Zealand. They are living in the South Island in a place called Oxford.” Adam said, “Well, there has been some talk that I might go to New Zealand to labour and if I do, I’ll look them up and get them saved,” and that is what happened. Adam went to New Zealand in later 1905. He landed at the port of Lyttleton and made his way up to the town of Oxford and had a successful mission there. Several of the Taylor and xx connections made their choice. They were related.

In 1918, Adam came to Palmerston North. There was a young professing woman there. She had no xxx, so she took Adam along to the place where my grandfather worked. Adam said, “I’ll wait outside while you go in and speak to Mr Richardson.” In she went and my grandfather came out. As soon as he saw Adam, he recognised him. He said to Adam, “Did you preach in the highlands of Scotland and in the bogs of Ireland?” Adam said, “I think you have met me before.” That was the beginning of days for my grandparents.

My grandmother was possibly more deeply spiritual. The time came when they stopped going to gospel meetings. One of the older friends, Mr. Dick Ireton, went around to visit my grandmother. At the conclusion of the visit, he was on his way to the gospel meeting, at the conclusion he said, “Well, Mrs. Richardson, it’s your choice whether you continue going to these meetings or not but you must be sure of this:  God will bring you into judgement." My grandmother began to think, "If what Mr Ireton says is correct, if God is going to bring me into judgement because of these meetings, it is a serious thing. I’ll have to listen, but oh, where is my hat?" In those days, you never went out without a hat. The end of the story was very successful. I sometimes ask myself what would have become of me if I had been brought up in a home that wasn’t serving God. I know the answer. I’m glad that I have been brought up in a home with an appreciation of the things above.

I’m going to read from Ezekiel 33:7-9, "So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, 'O wicked man, thou shalt surely die;' if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, 'If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?'"

Ezekiel 33:11, "Say unto them, 'As I live,' saith the Lord God, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?'"

And another verse in I Peter 1:14-16, "As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, 'Be ye holy; for I am holy.'"

In the meeting this afternoon, I am going to speak a bit differently from how I normally speak. In fact, I’m going to share with you some of the burdens that I carry. I was 30 years of age when I offered for this gospel work. I don’t think I could have imagined for a moment at 30 years of age what that decision to offer for the work was going to mean to me now. I could never have imagined. But I always wanted to do what the Lord asked me to do. So it was a voluntary decision in the first place to offer for the gospel work.

And then a few years later, I was present in Beckett’s home at Huntly. Walter Frank my companion was there, and also Willie Phyn was down to see Walter, two senior brother workers. So that was an opportunity to do something that I had been thinking about for some time. So I asked Willie Phyn could I have a private visit with him. So I said to Willie, “If you ever want or would like to send me to an overseas field of labour, I would be willing.” Afterwards, I wondered whether I had done the right thing, whether I was suitable for that. But I had offered quite freely and willingly at that time to go overseas.

When I came back to New Zealand to labour, it wasn’t what I would want. When I came back to New Zealand to labour I was conscripted, I was asked and told that I was needed. My reply when the question was put to me was this:  when I first went in the work I was prepared to go in the work to any place with any companion at any time and I still felt the same way. My reply must have been considered favourably as it wasn’t long before I found myself back in New Zealand. This year has been a year with a number of responsibilities and a number of almost burdens. But I’m glad to say that I wouldn’t want to be in any other place.

When we think of meetings like these, we have to be very careful what we think. It is not only that we want our message to be in harmony with other messages, but we want our messages to be in harmony with God. There would be a real danger for me to speak purely what comes from my own thoughts but there is freedom and safety to be able to speak what the Lord lays upon one’s heart.

A lady came to me one time and what she said was a little unwise – unwise in the sense that she questioned what God had done. I don’t really think that any of us should ever question what God has done. What she said was this, “I feel God was very hard on Moses." She said, “All the good things that Moses did and the one xxx that xxx wants to be the Old Testament kingdom, yet for one error, one mistake, God deprived him of going into the promised land.”

In Numbers 20, the Lord had to tell Moses, “You spoke to the people. You spoke of My Name. What you said wasn’t holy. You didn’t sanctify, you didn’t uphold My holiness, you didn’t uphold My sanctity before the people.”

God held Moses responsible for that. In Psalm 106, it says the people provoked Moses so that he spoke inadvisedly with his lips. I think the problem was he was angry. It was inadvisable because he spoke in an angry moment. That’s the truth of the matter. We have to be very careful what we say, the way we put it, the words we that use to uphold the holiness and sanctity of God.

I said to that lady, “God took one privilege away from Moses but He reserved a far greater privilege for him. Of all the notable men in the Old Testament, there were only two, Elijah and Moses, who He chose to appear with the Lord." God took one privilege away from Moses but He gave him a far greater privilege. We can just say that God’s mind is so much greater than ours. His mind is so far seeing. We human beings are sometimes short sighted in a physical sense. Very often we are short sighted in a spiritual sense in the choices and decisions we make. We don’t look very far ahead. God wants to lengthen our vision. He wants us to see the value and worthwhileness of seeing what can be afar off.

A few weeks ago I was visiting a couple, quite a distance away from here. The man spoke to me about something which he had heard. If it were true, it certainly did indicate a worrying thing that certain of the unGodly standards of this world were creeping in amongst the people of God. A worrying thing. At the same time I had to recognise that really what had been reported to me was hearsay and gossip in the sense that possibly it was half true or biased before it came to me.

Then he added something else which was possibly more serious, that another person who knew about the problem had made the comment, “You can’t blame those people too much because the matter has never been spoken from the platform.” My answer to that was this, “In all the years of my youth, I have never heard that matter spoken from the platform but we knew what was right and wrong on that matter. Our parents instructed us, they told us, we knew it was wrong.” That was my answer to that person.

Now when people speak to me about things like that I have to be approachable, but all the same I have to listen carefully, recognising the limitations of what is told, not allowing it to affect my judgement and to affect what I may say in the meeting. But then of course, I went on thinking about the matter and sought God’s guidance on it. A deeper and deeper conviction came on me that maybe it was time that something was said. The matters I want to talk about are not very nice matters and for that reason I mention the importance of sanctifying the name of God in what is said.

Now marriage is a very venerable Christian institution. Marriage is something that was ordained by God. We read about it in various chapters of the bible. Genesis 2 tells how God made a wife for Adam. The reason given was that it was not good for Adam to be alone. Now he was alone in every sense of the word. The only living creature at that time. He was alone in every sense of the word. God must have given considerable thought to the right type of person to be a companion of Adam. After thought, God made Eve. He made her in such a way that He used part of Adam, so Adam would care for her just as much as he would care for himself. Her welfare would be just as important to him as his own welfare. God made them in such a way. God gave them complementary, God made the male and the female complementary so that one would complement the other. God gave them certain desires for each other, healthy desires in the marriage sense. God’s purpose in that was that he wanted to have children. He wanted Adam and Eve to have children. I think that is mentioned back at the end of the Genesis 1.

27-28, "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, 'Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.'"

And the reason was because God wanted peace among the naturally created things in Genesis 1. It refers to a conversation. It says, "Let Us create man in Our image." The words "Us" and "Our" indicate that there were two people, in fact, at least two but I believe it was two. I believe it was God and Jesus. The conversation took place between them. "Let’s create man in Our image." The reason they needed to be created in Their image was so they could have fellowship, so they could have something in common. God’s development of the human person was somebody with whom He could have an extended fellowship. He could be like a father to them and they would be like His children. They would be able to go to Him and approach unto Him and when He needed He could approach unto them. I wonder if you have that relationship with God. I’d like you, as you go from this meeting, to ask yourself this question, “Do I have the fellowship with God that God would like to have with me? Do I?” It’s most important. And then when you need to go to God, you have a freedom, because of your relationship with Him, to make your requests known unto Him. And when God wants to say something to you, to give you some words of counsel and advice, even maybe correction, He will go and give what He needs to, by way of advice to you, knowing that you will listen and you are going to value it. I hope and trust that you will have a relationship with God even like that.

So that was God in the beginning ordaining marriage. Now marriage as we know it in New Zealand has a lot of laws and rules. You have to start off by getting a marriage licence. You apply for that at the registrar of the court. And then there has to be a celebrant, an authorised celebrant, to conduct the marriage ceremony. And then registers have to be kept, a record of what takes place has to be recorded in that book, the register. Now it wasn’t always so in the days of the Bible. About all you can say regarding the marriage of Adam and Eve, there weren’t any witnesses on earth, it wasn’t possible, but they had the most important witness of all. That was the witness of the God of heaven looking down from above. That is the most important witness whenever a marriage is entered into that has the blessing and approval of God. That is the one most important issue of marriage, that it has been ordained and approved and blessed by the God of heaven. Now if you want to be married, you are contemplating marriage, and you want your marriage to be blessed by God, you have really got to go and ask Him, haven’t you? You have got to ask Him first of all if this is what He wants you to do, and is it the right person and the right timing? You really have to go and ask the God of heaven.

Now Adam did. It sounds to me like God’s words, it says in Genesis, I suppose Adam was expressing what God had told him. It says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” That’s what Adam said. Jesus certainly approved of those words. In Matthew 19:4-6 it says, “Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, 'For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they two[1] shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more two[2], but one flesh. What therefore God has[3] joined together, let not man put asunder.'”

"What God has joined together," that is a very important far-reaching statement regarding marriage. It should be a matter that God has joined together. God has been consulted; He has been considered and the result of all that is God has joined them together.

Now there are certain privileges which God has ordained for married couples. They are necessary things, but they belong to married couples only. The Bible back in the Old Testament makes it very clear that if any two people who are not married do things which God intended only married people would do, that is a very serious thing. Both the Old Testament and the New make that very very clear. The New Testament word for it is fornication. I don’t need to give you an exact definition of that. If you are concerned with knowing an exact definition you can look it up for yourself in an English dictionary. Basically it means that two people who are not married are doing things which God intended only to be done by married couples.

Now the way it is quite often expressed in the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New make it quite clear that God expects a young couple to be virgins when they are joined together in marriage. I think Jesus made that quite clear when he spoke the parable in Matthew 25 about the five wise and the five foolish virgins. That He chose the word "virgins" indicates to me that He expected that young unmarried people should be. He could have chosen the words "young women," five wise young women or five foolish young women, but He didn’t. I believe very carefully and selectively He indicated His expectation for unmarried people that they would be virgins. Just indicating purity of love. What applies to the young woman also applies to the young man. Purity of life is expected of young men before marriage, also. So I don’t need to go into that in any more detail. I could mention a lot of verses.

Perhaps I could mention what is written back in the Old Testament in Leviticus. There are two chapters in the Old Testament that speak substantially about these matters, Leviticus 18 and Deuteronomy 22. Leviticus 18 speaks about wrong relationships. At the conclusion of that chapter, it says that was the way the people in other nations were living, and because of God’s disappointment with those nations and the way that they were living, He would cut them out of the promised land. He said, His own words were, “I have spewed them out of the land.” Those were God’s words. Because of their wrong, immoral manner of living. God told the children of Israel on that occasion in Leviticus 18 was a plea that they would know what’s right and what’s wrong, they they would be able to live and enjoy themselves in the promised land of the Old Testament. That was God’s plea for them.

In an earlier chapter of Leviticus 10:10, He gave them instructions, “And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean.” Now those verses in context apply just to the priest but if you follow it through to Leviticus 11, the last verse there is speaking to all the children of Israel. It says, “To make a difference between the unclean and the clean.” That would be the purpose of all the Old Testament instruction. We have to remember that when God was dealing with the Old Testament people, He was dealing with a people who were not yet sufficiently prepared for the coming of Christ. He gave them instructions, dos and don’ts, commandments written on stone and commandments written down in a book, all for the purpose that they would know the difference in the sight of God in what was clean and unclean in His sight, what was holy and what was unholy. In the hope I believe, that He was producing a people instructed in those ways of wisdom, that the people would be better prepared for the coming of the Lord Jesus himself. When the Lord Jesus would come Himself, He would bring more spiritual teaching. He would bring the possibility of being born again. There was always the possibility in the history of the Old Testament but there seemed to be few who followed the path of being born again. Jesus brought it much more into focus as an all important aspect of the Christian life, saying, "You must be born again." It is the spirit of Christ dwelling in the life of the person, teaching them what is right and what is wrong, what is clean and what is unclean, making a difference between those things. In the New Testament days, it is the spirit of God that does that role. I hope that you will allow the spirit of God to work in your life and in your heart.

Now you may wonder, maybe there is some person who has made a mistake. In the past, they have made a mistake, they haven’t kept true to the teachings of Jesus Christ. They haven’t kept their life as holy and clean as it should have been. What’s the situation? Well we heard about that in recent meetings. God wants us to be clean. He wants us to be freed from sin. Sin can stop the work of God in our lives. It can bring it to a halt. We can’t really allow that to happen. The answer in a situation like that has to be sincere repentance before the face of God. In Proverbs it puts it this way: He that confesseth and forsaketh his sin shall find mercy[4]. I think the 2 aspects of that are important – confessing and forsaking. Now the problem with sin at any time is that sin is a deceitful thing. Satan doesn’t hesitate to make it so.

All the unfortunate experience I have had over the years with sinful situations, I have found it very difficult for some people to admit that they have done wrong.  I was even told by a man amongst our friends who used to visit prisoners in jail, he was part of a prison visiting service. He visited prisoners there at different times. He said, “I have never met one prisoner yet in jail who admits his guilt. They always blame somebody else. If somebody hadn’t done this to me, I wouldn’t find myself in the situation I find myself in now.” That really is the deceitfulness of human nature and the deceitfulness of sin. That’s why it is important when sin does occur, that there has to be not only forsaking but there has to be a sincere repentance, it has to be from the heart and it has to be before the God of heaven.

Now you might wonder about the matter of confession. You have probably read that verse in James 5:16, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."

What does confession mean, and to whom should we confess?

Well, on one side of the story, you could say it is quite clear that if you have sinned against some other person and they know about it, you have got every responsibility to go and talk to that person and confess to them the wrong you have done. That’s on one side of the equation, that is quite clear. If you have done something against somebody else and they know you that have done it, it is your responsibility.

On the other side of the equation, there could be sins that are really only between you and God. Sins that are between you and God only, are confessed to God only. There are some churches in this religious world that practice open confession in their assembly before fellow men but they say it is nothing edifying to hear some of the worst sins poured out publicly in full detail in front of grownups and the children present. We never want to be like that. There was a man down in the South Island a number of years ago. I was called in by Les Hill to accompany him on a visit to this man. This man had been involved in quite a serious sin. It was just before convention time at Winchester and I noticed in testimony time that the man was standing to his feet. I was very impressed by how he began. He began with the words, “I stand before God today as a sinful man.” Now he didn’t need to say more. It was probably better that he didn’t say more. I knew what he meant. Les Hill knew what he meant and certainly God knew what he meant, but I did appreciate the honesty in that man. “I stand before God today as a sinful man.”

So on the one hand, sin should be confessed to other people and on the other hand sin should be confessed to God only. But confession, as I say, is very good for the soul.

Now one other complication of sinful situations sometimes is it can reach the degree of criminality. Now we appreciate all the people in our fellowship. We appreciate the old ones, we appreciate the middle aged ones and the young ones, too. The children are the future of the kingdom. Children need affection but it has to be appropriate affection. I ask you parents to tell your children, to instruct them, what is appropriate affection and what is inappropriate.

If a case of serious inappropriate attention does evolve, the matter of going to the police will need to be considered. The police are much better at sorting these situations out than they used to be, they know how to handle those situations. There is nobody better equipped than them to know when behaviour is criminal and when it is not. There are some situations where it is advisable to be put in the hands of the police. Now this is not a command from me. I couldn’t command on a matter like that but it is a matter which needs to be given consideration. In many different ways, there could be situations where there is criminality involved. If crime should occur amongst us, we don’t want it to be covered up, we don’t want it to be hidden. Better judgement if it is brought out in the open. Otherwise, it can become like a festering sore. You know what a festering sore is like. Eventually it needs to be lanced. And probably it needs to be lanced sooner rather than later.

So I am just giving, talking about things that I have been giving thought to now for some considerable period of time. It is all with this purpose, that we would come to learn and appreciate the difference between what is clean and unclean in the sight of God. What He finds holy and what is unholy in Him. For a person’s ending to be holy unto God and consecrated, he needs to be separated.

There is cleansing by water, that’s in the Old Testament and the New, cleansing by the blood, and there is cleansing by separation. Those provisions existed in both the Old Testament and the New. All the guilt of the past, its only forgiveness can be found through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Cleansing by the water, which in the New Testament is the cleansing by the water of the word, if we apply it to ourselves we can be clean. If the teachings of the Lord Jesus are applied to every aspect of our lives, they will help us to keep clean with God. Sometimes, despite our best intentions we might find we have made a little mistake. We come to the end of the day and we feel unclean. We don’t have to wait until convention to get it cleaned. We don’t have to wait to baptism to get it cleaned. We don’t even have to wait until the Sunday morning meeting to get clean. The time to get cleansing from God is that same night. To go to the God of heaven on your knees and confess to Him what matters and ask for His forgiveness and ask for help tomorrow so tomorrow can be a better day than today has been.

Now I have only been just touching on the wide expanse of some of these issues, just a few thoughts that God has given me I’d like to share with you so we can all better appreciate God’s mind on the matter.

[1] KJV actually "twain"

[2] KJV actually "twain"

[3] KJV actually "hath"

[4] Proverbs 28:13, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy."