This was the title for the sixteenth annual ‘God’s Glory: Our Joy’ Conference, held in Warrington on 10th October.
The subject is rapidly becoming more relevant, and this was certainly demonstrated during the day. Persecution is far worse for many believers in other countries, but we shut our eyes to what is happening in the UK at our peril.
All Christians need to be aware of the perils which evangelical believers are increasingly facing in the UK today.
It is impossible here to give a sense of the unusual quality and depth of the teaching we received. God was speaking to his people. This teaching needs to be heard by all believers. Listen for yourself at www.ggoj.org.uk.
Three of the four sessions were biblical exposition and preaching. In two of these, Andrew Swanson centred on the Lord’s teaching in Matthew 5 and 10. All Christians expect persecution, even if this is only on the level of personal criticism, ostracism and verbal abuse.
Many experience this in their streets, families or workplaces. It is the badge of being in God’s kingdom. Those who will live godly lives in Christ will be persecuted. We must watch and pray, and rejoice if counted worthy to suffer for Jesus’ name. Nor are we to fear the consequences; death is not something those who fear God should fear.
Bill Hughes preached also on Matthew 5:10-12. Christ’s describes in the Beatitudes a Christians’ character, and then what happens to those who display this. God’s people have always been persecuted for their worship and witness and obedient lives of righteousness. God will reward such with his kingdom.
We must not seek persecution. But if it comes, we must avoid self-pity and bitterness. Rather, we should rejoice.
In many ways the highlight, because of the subject matter he was asked to cover, was the paper given by Mike Judge, pastor at Chorlton, Manchester, but previously working at the Christian Institute.
He outlined in detail the chilling progress of persecution against Christians in the UK since 1960 and said that certain themes can be discerned behind recent UK legislation, including attempts by militant feminists and their allies to destroy the biblical ideas of family and gender; and concerted attempts to prevent Christians doing anything to express their faith except to meet in church buildings on Sundays and keep certain ideas privately in their heads.
Increasingly, the Bible is being vilified as extreme, and preaching its application concerning sin or other religions is being persecuted. Christian preachers, schoolteachers and parents will bear the brunt of the government’s wrath for daring not to toe the politically correct line.
Education, whether within schools or by the church, appears to be the next big battleground. Christian schools are already being targeted. Sunday schools, Christian camps and teachers who will not promote homosexuality could be next.
The Christian fellowship at this conference was, as always, excellent. A novel feature was a follow-up meeting on the Friday afterwards, for church leaders to discuss how their churches might help one another in the days ahead.
The teaching given at this conference would benefit far more believers than the 120 or so present in Warrington in October. Could other such conferences be arranged elsewhere in the UK?