From Harry’s Desk…2016
The following articles were posted in 2016 and are listed in descending order.
- December: Leaving America – some reflections on 30 years from June’s pen
- June: John Newton – an overview of his life with extracts from his own writings.
- March: A meditation for Easter on the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, “It is Finished.”
This month June writes…
On October 14, 1986, Harry and I landed at Philadelphia airport in the United States of America to begin a new life and ministry in Wilmington, Delaware.
Thirty years later, on October 18, 2016, we disembarked from the Queen Mary 2 in Southampton, United Kingdom, to rejoin those members of our family we left in 1986, and to spend our final days back in our homeland serving the Lord, as we have done since we first met 60 years ago, so long as He gives us strength.
What an eventful 30 years in the United States they have been. In the first three years two of our four children joined us, were university educated in the University of Delaware and one went on to Harvard Law School. Now both are married, and raising families in Wisconsin and New York. We have lived in Delaware, Washington DC, South Florida and Central Florida.
We have been privileged to travel widely and to experience some of the natural beauties and wonders of this great land.
We have made friendships over the years which we will treasure until our dying days.
President Reagan was in office when we arrived in America. We have lived through the Presidencies of George H.W. Bush; Bill Clinton; George W. Bush; and Barack Obama.
We also lived through the tragedy of 9/11 and will never forget the horror of watching the events of that day unfold in New York from our home in South Florida. How relieved we were when we heard Richard’s voice on the phone that he had not had to go to the World Trade Center that day and was safe, though shaken, in his office in Manhattan.
We became U.S. citizens in 1997 and are privileged to hold dual nationality. We were sworn in at the Miami Convention Center together with 3,000 others from more than 60 nations. The new citizens from each nation in turn were asked to stand. We were the only two from England.
In our immediate family there have been the joys of the weddings of three of our children, and the births of six grandchildren; and the sorrows of the losses of June’s mother and brother-in-law, and Harry’s stepmother, brutally murdered in 1994.
30 years is a long time in anyone’s life. Joys and trials are a part of everyone’s life and we are no exception. How we react to them defines who we are. Harry and I can testify, as the old hymn says, “Through all the changing scenes of life, in trouble and in joy, the praises of my God shall still my heart and tongue employ.”
As well as two pastorates we were enabled to launch a radio ministry, Kerygma, broadcasting on stations up and down the eastern seaboard of the U.S. for nearly 20 years; engaged in itinerant preaching and writing; and most recently in the creation and running of this website.
We wept as we said goodbye to America and our two American families, and steamed out of New York harbor on October 11; but as we look back and reminisce about 30 wonderful and eventful years in the United States, we also look forward to what the Lord has for us in the future as we settle into our new home in Poole, Dorset – re-kindle old friendships – and to our final Homecall to Heaven which cannot be too distant now.
“‘Tis Jesus the First and the Last, Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home;
We’ll praise him for all that is past, We’ll trust Him for all that’s to come.”
For your reading this month we have selected something a little different. June is at present reading “The Collected Letters of John Newton” edited by Halcyon Backhouse. On a recent evening she asked me to listen as she read to me an extract from John Newton himself. I was so blessed to hear it, I exclaimed, “We must put that on our website.”
I have asked June to take care of that and also give some short account of the life of this great preacher and hymn writer: This, for those unfamiliar with the story of Newton.
The life and conversion of John Newton makes gripping reading. He was born in London in 1725, and also died there in 1807. The quotations from John Newton’s own writings, printed below in maroon italics, are what I read to Harry that so moved us both. They are taken from the Editor’s Introduction to the above referenced book
Of his early life with his mother, who died shortly before his 7th birthday, John Newton writes:
“The tender mercies of God towards me were manifested in the first moment of my life. I was born as it were in His house, and dedicated to Him in my infancy. My mother (as I have heard from many) was a pious experienced Christian… I was her only child; and as she was of a weak constitution… almost her whole employment was the care of my education. I have some faint remembrance of her care and instruction. At a time when I could not be more than three years of age, she herself taught me English; and with so much success (as I had something of a forward turn) that when I was four years old I could read with propriety in any common book that offered. She stored my memory, which was then very retentive, with many valuable pieces, chapters, and portions of Scripture, catechisms, hymns and poems.”
John Newton first went to sea with his father when he was eleven years old. In 1743 he was press ganged into service aboard one of His Majesty’s ships as a midshipman. He tried to desert but was captured after two days, publicly humiliated, flogged, and demoted to the rank of an ordinary seaman. He writes:
“The small party of soldiers brought me back to Plymouth; I walked through the streets like a felon – my heart was full of indignation, shame and fear. I was confined two days in the guard-house, then sent on board my ship, kept a while in irons, then publicly stripped and whipped; after which I was degraded from my office and exposed to the insults of all. Whether I looked inward or outward, I could perceive nothing but darkness and misery.”
Some time later he transferred to a slave ship and was abandoned by the crew in Sierra Leone, West Africa, in the hands of a slave dealer who gave Newton to his wife to be one of her slaves. He endured a great deal of brutal treatment. Of this time he writes:
“My distress has been at times so great, as to compel me to go by night, and pull up the roots in the plantation (though at the risk of being punished as a thief), which I have eaten raw upon the spot, for fear of discovery.”
Newton was rescued from his slavery early in 1748 by a sea captain who had been asked to look for him by his father. He was returning home to Britain on a merchant ship when they ran into a severe storm off the coast of Ireland. With death staring him in the face he cried out to God. Of the experience he writes:
“I went to bed that night in my usual security and indifference: but was awakened from a sound sleep by the force of a violent sea, which broke on board us. The sea had torn away the upper timbers on one side, and made the ship a mere wreck in a few minutes. Taking in all the circumstances, it was astonishing, and almost miraculous, that any of us survived to relate the story. We had immediate recourse to the pumps; but the water increased against all our efforts: some of us were set to bailing in another part of the vessel, that is, to lade it out with buckets and pails. I continued to do this till noon, with almost every passing wave breaking over my head: but we made ourselves fast with ropes, that we might not be washed away.
Although I dreaded death now, I thought, if the Christian religion was true, I could not be forgiven. The next day I began to pray. My prayer was like the cry of the ravens, which yet the Lord does not disdain to hear. I now began to think of that Jesus whom I had so often derided: I recollected the particulars of His life, and of His death: a death for sins not His own, but, as I remembered, for the sake of those who in their distress should put their trust in Him. My companions in danger were either quite unaffected, or soon forgot it all: but it was not so with me; not that I was any wiser or better than they, but because the Lord was pleased to vouchsafe me peculiar mercy. I had a New Testament and was struck particularly by Prodigal, Luke chapter 15. Before we arrived in Ireland I had a satisfactory evidence in my own mind of the truth of the Gospel, as considered in itself, and its exact suitableness to answer all my needs. I saw that, by the way there pointed out, God might declare, not His mercy only, but His justice also, in the pardon of sin, on the account of the obedience and sufferings of Jesus Christ. My judgment at that time embraced the sublime doctrine of ‘God manifest in the flesh, reconciling the world to Himself’ “.
By the time the ship reached Britain John Newton had trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, and marked the date, May 10, 1748, for the rest of his life. In 1750 he married his childhood sweetheart, Mary Catlett. Over the next 14 years, Newton first became master of a slave-ship before leaving the sea-faring life to devote himself for nine years to studying theology.
During his time as a surveyor at the port of Liverpool he came under the influence of Wesley and Whitefield. In 1764 he was ordained to ministry in the Church of England and appointed to the living of Olney, Buckinghamshire. He spent 15 years in ministry there during which time he counseled the poet, and famous hymn-writer William Cowper. William Cowper periodically suffered from episodes of mental health problems. In order to help him Newton suggested they collaborate in producing a hymn book. It was called “Olney Hymns”. Cowper wrote sixty-eight hymns, and Newton two-hundred-and-eighty. Two of the most famous of Newton’s hymns are, “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear…” and “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…”
Newton’s ministry in Olney was so blessed that a gallery had to be added to the church to accommodate the crowds who flocked to hear him. His pastoral care was also a characteristic of his ministry, as evidenced by his many letters that have been preserved to this day.
In 1779 he was invited to become the Rector of St Mary Woolnoth, Lombard Street, London, where he remained until his death on December 27, 1807. Towards the end of his life, plagued with ill-health and failing eye-sight, Newton was being encouraged to give up preaching. His response, “What, shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak!”
His experiences in the slave trade led him eventually to join forces with Wilberforce as a powerful advocate for the abolitionist movement.
The town of Newton in Sierra Leone, West Africa, is named after John Newton and to this day the town of Olney is involved in philanthropy with the town of Newton as evidenced in the recent Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone (see www.olneynewtonlink.org.uk).
John Newton wrote his own epitaph, which can still be seen on the wall in St. Mary Woolnoth. He directed that it should be inscribed on a plain marble tablet.
John Newton, Clerk,
Once an infidel and libertine,
A servant of slaves in Africa:
Was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour,
Preserved, restored, pardoned,
And appointed to preach the Faith
He had long labored to destroy,
Near sixteen years at Olney in Bucks:
And twenty-seven years in this Church.”
Both John Newton and his wife, Mary, were originally buried in the vault below St. Mary Woolnoth. In 1893, however, they were both reinterred in the churchyard of St. Peter and St. Paul in Olney where his self-penned epitaph can be seen engraved on a stone marking the burial site.
The book “Collected Letters” referenced above was published in 1989 under the label “Hodder and Stoughton Christian Classics.” It can still be obtained through Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
The hymn mentioned above by John Newton, “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear…” is one of Harry’s favorites. Here it is sung by Praise Gathering in a recording made in the early 1990s. Audio
“IT IS FINISHED
“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’”
The words, “It is finished,” translate one word in the original language, “Tetelestai.” It means more than just that it has come to an end. It means “accomplished!”; “fulfilled!” And so in this message we are going to consider: what was finished, what was accomplished, and to what was He referring when He said this?
The Suffering God gave Him to endure
The Prophecies God gave Him to fulfill
The Life God gave Him to live
The Work God gave Him to do
The Death God gave Him to die
The Battle God gave Him to fight
In this message we will focus on four of the above.
First: THE LIFE GOD GAVE HIM TO LIVE
The death of the Lord Jesus Christ is very important. Of course it is. It is all important. And yet, so also is His life. Thirty-three very significant years of human life. From the womb to the tomb. Many Christians have never considered why the life of Jesus is important so allow me to mention some reasons. What did He come to do in His life? Why is it important?
a. He came to show us God
Sometimes around Christmas we speak of “The Incarnation,” His becoming flesh.
Who became flesh? Almighty God became flesh.
Jesus’ disciple, Philip, expressed a wish to see God.
Jesus responded, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9).
“In Him,” we read, “dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9).
How can we know God? How can we see God? What is God like?
The Son of God came to make Him known.
Remember, Jesus shows us the heart of God. How often we read of Him “moved with compassion.” Children, prostitutes, criminals, traitors, the riffraff, the worst, He reached out and He hugged them and said, “Come unto Me.” And that is the heart of God.
I sometimes say to children and young people: if you forget everything else always remember this; Jesus came for two reasons, to SHOW us God, and to BRING us to God.
b. He came to provide for us a perfect life
His life is also important because He came to provide for us a gift from God. The gift of His righteous life. You and I need a righteous life credited to us because we do not have one of our own, do we? The Bible says on the righteous can enter heaven. But the Bible also says, “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10).
Whose righteousness is God going to credit to us? Adam’s? Abraham’s? Moses, David, Micah the prophet, or Paul, or Silas, or Peter? No. They were all un-righteous like you and me. So God looks about in the heaven and on the earth, and there is no human life He can credit to us. But there is His Son.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God“ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
So, you see, if you and I worship him imperfectly, and we do; it is His perfect worship which is credited to us. If you and I entertain impure thoughts, it is His pure mind that is credited to us. If you and I sometimes sin with this little member, the tongue, and say wrong things; it is His perfect, loving speech which is credited to us. If we are selfish sometimes, it is His selflessness which is credited to us. That is why His life is important.
c. He came to demonstrate to us the kingdom of God
He came not only to show us the nature of God, but to demonstrate to us the kingdom of God. Why did He feed some but not abolish hunger altogether and end starvation? Why didn’t He do that? Why did He heal some but not abolish and end sickness forever when He could have? Why did He still a storm and yet allow others to continue to the present day? Why did He raise the dead but, so far as it is recorded, only three? And so we continue to go to the grave side and weep.
The answer is because the end is not yet. One day He is coming again and He will abolish all these bad things, all destructive forces, everything that came in with the Fall. All sickness forever will be gone. All hunger will be gone. Death, the last enemy, will be no more. But the reason why He did those things when He was on the earth was because He was giving a glimpse of His kingdom and what it will be like when the King comes.
It is as if Jesus is saying let me give you a glimpse of some of the things that are going to happen at the end. Just so you will always know through this dispensation that I can do it, and I will when I return.
So, these are some of the reasons why His life was important. Now, that beautiful God-revealing life is coming to an end. It is finished.
Second: THE WORK GOD GAVE HIM TO DO
A most significant aspect of Jesus’ life was his ministry – that which He called His “work”. John 4:34, “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.“ That word, “finish” comes from the same root word as “tetelestai,” the same word He now uses on the cross. “My purpose for living,” He says, “is to do that work which God gave me to do.” And here on the cross He says, “I’ve done it. Now I’ve accomplished it.” (See also John 17:4)
What will you say at the end of your life?
May I just pause and ask you something rather personal? What is your meat and drink in life? I mean, what is your purpose? What is your food? What sustains you and drives you on? Why do you live?
Jesus said, “I came not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me.”
Do you know we were all sent into this world? Jesus was sent into it, but there is a sense in which you were sent into it and I was sent into it. If somebody said, “Why was Harry Kilbride sent into this world?” I suppose you would say, “To be a pastor and a preacher and a writer.”
Why were you sent into it? Are you living to be what God wants you to be and to do what God wants you to do, wherever that is and whatever it is? Or, have you never found that out? Young man and young woman, don’t waste your life so at the end you can have no “tetelestai.” Only regrets.
Now someone in their older years says, “Harry, you are too late.”
No! Not so. Do you know, I believe in a miracle working God and, even if you are in your retirement years and you give Him whatever is left, He is so wonderful that He can somehow accomplish everything through those days before He calls you “home”.
Take June and me, for example, here we are in our late seventies and early eighties respectively, and the Lord has given us this website ministry which, through modern communications, has the potential to be accessed worldwide. Who would have thought that sermons preached more than thirty years ago could be made available to a new generation of listeners?
“He will restore unto you,” says the Bible, “the years which the locusts have eaten.”
Remember, Jesus’ public ministry of teaching and healing lasted but three years. He did not do all He might have done; He did fulfill all He was given to do.
Third: THE DEATH GOD GAVE HIM TO DIE
Of course, Jesus came to live the life we have spoken of but then to die. And His death was the culmination of it and the climax of it. Why did He die?
Well, He told us quite plainly.
“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many“ (Mark 10:45).
The Apostle Peter also told us quite plainly, “For Christ died for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God” (1 Pet 3:18).
The Apostle Paul also told us quite plainly, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God“ (2 Cor 5:21).
Just as Christ’s life is reckoned to us so our sins were reckoned to him and punished there on the cross. O sweet exchange! The Bible says He became a curse for us for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanging on a tree.”
Don’t be vague about the cross. C.H. Spurgeon, the Baptist preacher of the nineteenth century, said that there were those who just have this vague notion that the Lord Jesus did something or other, which somehow or other, was in some way or another connected to our salvation. You do not need to be vague about it. You are a sinner, my friend, and so am I. We have offended against the Holy God more than we could ever calculate. “…and the Lord has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:6).
Do you know the cross is at the very center of the Christian Gospel? One-third of the four Gospels are about the Cross. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). Why did he not say, Jesus Christ incarnate, or teaching, or working miracles? Because the Cross is central. He wrote to the Galatians, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14).
The Lord Jesus commanded His followers to keep often the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion) so we never forget the cross.
We have to explain the cross. We must explain what was taking place when Jesus cried that awful cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” And the sun went black at midday.
One reason churches have neglected to preach the cross, I believe, is that they do not preach about the holiness, justice, and wrath of God anymore – and certainly not about hell. Such truths are foundational in the Bible yet many who profess to believe the Bible omit to preach them.
“O,” they say, “to talk about God’s wrath and about hell is offensive to non-church people in this day and age.”
I say, “When has it ever been anything else but offensive in any day and age?”
Sinners do not want to hear that God is just and must punish their sin. Sinners just want to hear that God loves them and turns a blind eye to any bad things they do and say and that when they die they will go to heaven anyway.
Of course, if there is no judgment to come; if there is no hell; if God will not punish the sinner; then there is no need for the cross. Jesus need never have come from heaven to die. The cross was His destiny. The crib led to the cross. Why? Because there was no other way whereby guilty sinners could be saved and go to heaven, “saved by His precious blood” as the old hymn puts it.
What does the Bible say? What is the true Gospel?
The Bible says, “Just as man is destined to die once and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people…” (Hebrews 9:27).
Jesus said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36).
Some say: “But we must preach a message that is attractive and ‘seeker sensitive.'” We do indeed want unsaved people to come and hear the Christian message and we should indeed preach it sensitively. But what message? We have no right to water it down or alter it. The Bible warns that preachers who do that are under the severe condemnation of Almighty God (Galatians 1:8,9).
It is God’s Gospel not ours. As his ambassadors we have it in trust.
And so Jesus says, “Tetelestai.” It is accomplished. I have done it. I have paid the price for the redemption of all who will come and put their trust in me. We have found business documents dating from Jesus’ time. They show that when somebody paid off his account the businessman would stamp across the invoice “tetelestai,” this word. And it means – paid in full. Is that the word that is stamped across your account in the record books of heaven? Tetelestai: “PAID IN FULL.”
Sinner friend, if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ and come to the cross, there is nothing that you have ever done, or will ever do, that can alter that once-for-all accomplishment of your Savior on the cross. Sin has been punished to the full; now it can be pardoned to the full. Is that not a wonderful Gospel?
Last of all:
Fourth: THE BATTLE GOD GAVE HIM TO FIGHT
Here are the points again. The life God gave Him to live; the work God gave Him to do; the death God gave Him to die. All accomplished. All finished.
And finally, the battle God gave him to fight. As Jesus approached the cross he said, “Now is the time for the judgment on this world. Now the prince of this world will be driven out . . .” (John 12:31).
What does He mean? Well, He means that the crucial battle of all eternity is about to be fought. And it is about to be fought on the cross. Since the beginning of time and the creation of man Satan has battled against God and all His works. Satan was thrown out of heaven because he usurped the place of the Son of the Morning, Jesus Christ. When he saw that God had made a man and a woman in his own image (Adam and Eve) to have special friendship and relationship with Him and to live in His paradise forever Satan was jealous and envious and hateful.
Ever since then he has been trying his best to thwart the purposes of God and destroy God’s creation. He can never succeed but he keeps on trying. There must have come a point during World War II when Adolf Hitler knew that it was all up for him. He and his Nazi regime could never win. Yet he kept on fighting and trying to the bitter end. Satan organized every demon to gather from the far corners of the world to attack the Son of God. That is why there was so much demon possession at that time during Jesus’ earthly life.
Satan tried to destroy Jesus in the crib through Herod the king who murdered all the babies under the age of two in Bethlehem. He tried to destroy Jesus even by His own people with whom He had grown up who tried to throw Him off a precipice. Satan tried to destroy Him, I believe, by an unusually ferocious demon-possessed storm on the Sea of Galilee, like hardened fishermen had never seen before.
And now as Jesus hangs on the cross Satan thinks he has won the victory when, in actual fact, it was the other way around. The Apostle Paul writing to the Colossians says, “Having disarmed the powers and the authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them on the cross“ (Colossians 2:15).
See the wonder of that text. It must have seemed that Satan had made a public spectacle of Jesus Christ as He hung there naked and helpless, pinned like a moth to a piece of wood. But in actual fact Jesus won the victory and saved an innumerable number of sinners, more than the stars in the heavens and the sand on the seashore. By His death Jesus snatched them from the possession and power of Satan.
There is a note of triumph in that word: tetelestai. It is not a word just of relief, “Oh, I am relieved that it is over.” No, that was not it. That may have come into it . . . but that was only the beginning. That was only the smallest thing. It is a note of triumph and of victory. “Tetelestai!” And then He gives His spirit to the hands of His Father.
Ebenezer Wooten was an evangelist to rural villages and towns of some years ago. He used to take a tent around with him and hold meetings in the tent. In those days evangelists had to do everything themselves; put the hymn sheets out, take them up again, put the tent up, take it down again.
One night when everyone had gone he was taking his tent down. As he was pulling out the tent pegs a young man came up to him and said, “Mr. Wooten, what must I do to be saved?”
And the evangelist, who was slightly eccentric, said, “It is too late.” And he continued pulling out the tent pegs.
“Oh, Mr. Wooten, don’t tell me that because the meeting has finished, and you have closed the meeting and are taking down the tent that it is too late for me to be saved.”
And the evangelist said, “It is too late for you to do anything to be saved because Jesus did it for you two thousand years ago on Calvary’s cross. It has all been done. You have just to come before him, and trust him, and receive that salvation.”
And the young man did.
Is someone reading this message and you are not saved? You have never put your trust in Jesus Christ. Perhaps someone who loves you has urged you to visit this website and read this message.
Consider this: eternity is a long time. It is for ever and ever. Where will you spend it? Heaven or hell?
Jesus died and rose again that by trusting in Him you might spend it with Him and all the redeemed in heaven for ever. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Do not put off trusting Him a moment longer. The days and weeks and months are hastening on. Sometimes it seems at breakneck speed.
The Bible says, “Right now God is ready to welcome you. Today He is ready to save you” (2 Corinthians 6:2 Living Bible).
Have you ever done that? Why don’t you do it right now where you are reading this.
Lifted up was he to die
It is finished, was his cry;
Now in heaven exalted high
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
If God has spoken to your heart through the words written here, why don’t you write through our contact page and tell us about it. It would be a great encouragement to us.